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By Mikkel Hyldebrandt

 

Karamo Brown’s TV career launched suddenly and in full force in 2004 on The Real World as the first African-American out gay man on the show. Or on TV in general. Now, he is back on TV as the charismatic leader of a super-powered pack of gays on the reboot of Queer Eye which launched early February on Netflix. Goliath got a chance to talk to Karamo about his journey to become the man he is today – and how QE is shaping up to be a voice of reason in our time.

 

When Karamo Brown participated in The Real World in 2004, he didn’t expect the rollercoaster ride that was set off by him being the first out gay African-American on the show. Although he experienced immense support, he also let the sudden rise to celebrity get the best of him, so when the show stopped airing, he started partying like the best of them, and pretty soon his phone stopped ringing – because who would want to work with talent that had clearly lost his way? Now, Karamo is back on TV with the reboot of Queer Eye and is part of the new Fab Five; and after over a decade away from television, perspectives have indeed changed for Karamo. “This time, I have a clear purpose, and a vision of what I want to do,” he explains,”and I know that show business has two components – show and business. Last time, I forgot about the business and was all about the show. That’s certainly different now.”

 

After auditioning alongside more than 10,000 candidates across the world, and after making it to the final top 100, Karamo was locked down with the other candidates for the equivalent of speed dating, so producers could determine what cast would work best together off and on screen. Karamo instantly became friends with Tan (fashion) and Bobby (design), and later they were introduced to Jonathan (grooming) and Antoni (food), and the group instinctively stayed together until they were all finally cast as the new Fab Five.

 

The show, which aired on Netflix early February, has already made plenty of waves and has received acclaim for their new take on the original concept of making over clueless straight guys (and even a gay one) in their own environment. But although the QE reboot, which has let the ‘for the straight guy’ go to be even more inclusive, follows the original’s premise, it is also wildly different. While the first version would focus almost entirely on the makeover, the new QE introduces a surprising and very honest emotional depth, not only for the ‘victims’ but also for the hosts. “I have participated in reality TV before, so I really wanted to put that emotional depth forward in the show”, Karamo explains, “I had conversations with myself, with the guys, and with the producers to make sure that when we approach our heroes we not only fix the outside, but we also give them the tools to fix the inside. We all wanted it to be as authentic and emotional as possible, not only for the heroes but also for us. It was important to all of us to build that deeper connection.”

 

The result is a reality TV show that boldly and quite surprisingly takes on issues like homophobia, religion, politics, racial tensions, and even police brutality; and does so in an honest and deeply emotional way that not only displays the feelings of the makeover victims but also lays bare the experiences of the hosts whose personal stories of religious upbringing, rigid family structures, and racial disparities serve not only as moments of personal growth but as learning lessons of perspective to the people that receive the makeover – and to the world.

 

One episode particularly displays the innate strength and transformative power of the show: The fab five are pulled over by a police officer as a prank on their way to see their next makeover guy. For Karamo, the incident takes on a highly personal and intimidating aspect that happens to spark a much broader conversation about race and police brutality in today’s America. The outcome is an incredibly touching moment between the two where mutual understanding and respect is suddenly the standard and not the exception for their interaction, and it even seems to create a possible pathway to a common ground. Who would have thought that of a makeover reality TV show? “Every week, we receive a piece of paper with an overview of the person’s background, and that’s it,” Karamo tells us, “so, we have to figure it out organically, and luckily, we were able to connect with all of them, so it happened very organically, and we could get to what was really going on.”

 

That connection and the ability to get to the root cause of things is also what will undoubtedly determine the legacy of the new QE. Tan (fashion) mentions in the first episode that the first version was about tolerance, about getting gays on TV, and now it’s about acceptance and tolerance. Karamo hopes that the show’s legacy will be about respect: “At the end of the day, you must respect your fellow man and woman. I get messages from people that are very right-wing telling me how impressed they are, and how they feel that the show is helping them have a better conversation.”

 

Karamo is also hoping that the same respectful conversation can be transferred to the current debate on gun control measures. As a former student of Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Karamo was devastated to see the school where he attended 10-12 grade and graduated from was the scene of another horrific mass shooting. “I had my high school reunion there, and to see the hallways and school grounds where I used to roam now being a place where kids were in harm’s way is heartbreaking,” Karamo says and continues, “As a father of two boys, I can’t accept a world where schools have become war zones and need metal detectors. But I also think the conversation starts somewhere else.” Much like his own experience of being able to bridge a seemingly abysmal gap between people, Karamo thinks the solution is starting a sensible conversation that focuses on understanding both sides instead of just yelling your standpoints. As he says: “We need to wake our asses up. This is the point where we ask to see the manager and bring them in the room to have a face-to-face, and we hear both sides of the table. We’re the adults here.”

 

There is no doubt, with the overwhelmingly positive reception of Queer Eye, that the show is well on its way to garnering the same lasting impact as the original. And it is also clear that the impact could have a far wider reach than the original. Karamo hopes that there are at least three to four more seasons of QE in the future – and then he has his eyes set on getting a daytime talk show! “I think there is a spot for a gay black man in daytime TV right now – and I’d like to be the one to fill that,” he muses – and we would definitely be here for Karamo putting his makeover superpowers to work on daytime television as well!

 

 

Karamo’s 6in10.org nonprofit organization

Karamo is the founder of 6in10.org, an HIV awareness organization with a dedicated mission to eradicate the 6 in 10 HIV statistic plaguing gay and bisexual black men; a statistic that has sadly only worsened over the past years which now means that 1 in 2 gay or bisexual black men will be affected by HIV before 40. The organization provides tailored mental health support through viral campaigns and community engagement. Learn more at 6in10.org.

By Tyler Scruggs

 

Are you as exhausted as me from constantly cruising Netflix’s and Hulu’s LGBT film and television section hoping to find something compelling, sexy, or just plain good? We’ve all done it. We scroll through their admirable but lackluster selection in hopes of seeing ourselves on screen. Not just people who look like us, but people who behave and engage in situations we can deeply relate to. Films depicting straight lust and romance and far more bountiful, and sure, we can identify with their struggles, but often it’s just not enough.

 

Luckily, Dekkoo is here to save the day by being the only streaming service that caters exclusively to LGBT content, and there’s a ton. Thankfully, there’s an app available for your Roku, Apple TV, and more. After browsing through for the past couple days, no, you won’t find many major studio queer films here like Brokeback Mountain or Call Me By Your Name, but you won’t really notice their absence. I’ve been impressed with the sheer amount of content they’re hosting, ranging from forgotten gay films from the 70s and 80s, and new releases from notable indie LGBT film distributors like Breaking Glass and Wolfe. Obviously, I haven’t been able to catch and consume everything Dekkoo has to offer, but I did manage to catch some of their offerings, and some of their exclusive Dekkoo original series. Though there are certainly some genres you won’t get to see from Netflix or Hulu, like ‘Affairs and Love Triangles’ and ‘Erotica’ Here’s what I’d recommend you check out:

 

The Gay And Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo / The World of Brian Jordan Alvarez

Perhaps my favorite Dekkoo offering is The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo, a short-form series from acclaimed writer Brian Jordan Alvarez. Previously released on YouTube, Caleb Gallo follows the gay and wondrous titular character as he navigates life in Los Angeles. Pretty basic, right? It would be if it weren’t so sharply written and funny. The show uses jump cuts and phone calls that would be otherwise mundane and transforms t into the laugh-per-minute craziness that borders on 30 Rock level hilarity. Watch it for Freckle alone. Trust me.

 

Dekkoo also hosts The World of Brian Jordan Alvarez, a series of short films by him that basically amount to memes manifested in short film. They’re short, usually clocking in at under two and a half minutes, but carry heavy punches and huge laughs.

 

It’s Fine: A Dekkoo Original Series

Similar to Caleb Callo, It’s Fine also chronicles the tales of the tragically-West-Hollywood problems of a diverse cast of characters. I managed to binge the first season in one sitting, and I’m sure you’ll be too. You may be turned off by the hindered, low budget sound quality, but you’ll be surprised at how crisp and finely tuned the scripts are, and they only get better as the show progresses. It’s Fine released its second season this year, and you best believe I’ll be binging that similarly in hopes the budget got beefed up.

 

Home From The Gym

I wanted to mention this short film because it was the first thing I watched in the ever-alluring Erotica section, and it made me take note of a slight criticism I have for Dekkoo. You see, as hot and bothered as Home From The Gym made me, it was surpassingly short, only five minutes long. It’s kinda exactly as it sounds: it’s a short, erotic film about a sweaty, muscular, well-endowed man coming home from the gym and stripping his tight under armor clothes piece by piece. It was hot! But very short. Which led me to the realization that Dekkoo doesn’t list its content’s runtimes like any other streaming service. It’s an odd UI decision, but it might have something to do with the large amount of short films on the site. I generally don’t mind that some of the content is shorter than feature-length, but it’s important to list runtimes in the title splash screen, so people know exactly what the time commitment is for a given title. Just a small criticism!

 

Love is Blind: A Dekkoo Original Series
My last recommendation is the corny, but sweet Dekkoo original reality series Love Is Blind. And much like Home From The Gym, this title is similarly on-the-nose. It’s a reality show where gay men are set up on blind dates and are forced to endure strange-but-intimate group activities like wrestling, or sharing a dessert. It’s awkward, forced, and features an annoying host that merely makes fun of the couple on the date from the comfort of his green screen studio, but it has its charm. I look forward to more, and I look forward to Dekkoo maturing and growing into a strong player in the streaming realm. Give them a try; they cost no per month more than two random rentals from iTunes — a risk you know we’ve both taken in the past. Consider me Pro-Dekkoo.

By Mikkel Hyldebrandt

 

Photos: PR

Source: Out.com

 

Whether it’s because gay filmmaking has gone ’mainstream’ or because the quality of queer cinema is advancing gay films without being labeled as ‘different’ is hard to say. One thing is certain: some of the best films of 2017 were indeed gay-themed.

 

While not receiving the most media attention, these movie picks pioneered in each their own way to cast light on the gay experience in a completely non-condescending way. So, when you celebrate love this Valentine’s Day (or on any other given day!), and if you missed these in 2017, why not put on one of these picks on? Each of these superb films will no doubt provide you with the opportunity to learn a little bit more about yourself – and maybe about each other?

 

Dream Boat

The documentary about a gay pleasure cruise is a sensitive and surprisingly revelatory reflection on the gay male that discloses the innermost feelings and desires of its subjects. Abs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ornithologist

Paul Hamy plays a scientist who embarks on a journey through a wilderness that turns surreal and metaphorical of his own erotic exploration and religious revelation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tom of Finland

The biopic about the gay erotica icon (played by Pekka Strang) tells the story of how Touko returns from war only to find himself struggling with his sexuality. Once stateside he realizes his sexual desire through his now iconic artwork.

 

BPM

The movie takes you on an emotional journey through the time of AIDS activism in ‘80s Paris. Both tragic and euphoric it displays fears, emotions, and politics at a particularly fragile time in gay history.

 

 

My Life as a Zucchini

The story of a boy’s self-awareness and innocence when it comes to being gay is the foundation for this wonderful animated film that is simply a must-see whether you like animation or not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Assignment

Michelle Rodriquez shines as the hit-woman formerly known as hit-man after a crazy scientist performs gender reassignment surgery on her. A thrill ride that also explores gender controversy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paris: 05:59: Theo & Hugo

A love story set in the PreP-era with a renewed consciousness and new take on emotional intimacy wonderfully portrayed by the two main characters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

God’s Own Country

A Yorkshire shepherd is on a destructive path until a Romanian immigrant enters his life to set him on a new path, but not without twists and turns.

 

A Quiet Passion

This sexually discreet biography of poet Emily Dickinson played by Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City) connects to director Terence Davies’ own spirituality of his gay experience.

 

Staying Vertical

A casual fling, an unexpected pregnancy, and child challenge a gay man and the society around him to revise desires and wishes for the future intermixed with sexual identity.

ON THE ATL AGENDA

 

More to Love

Leading up to Valentine’s Day, More to Love kicks off the day of hearts with their Dangerous Liaison event on February 9 at Amsterdam Atlanta. The event will celebrate love in all shapes and forms and while raising funds for Lost-n-Found Youth. With a Marie Antoinette theme, the night will bring you a riveting performance by Penni Posterior and beats by DJ Chris Gris.

 

Love on the Rocks

The Wimbish House on Peachtree will host the annual Love on the Rocks Valentine’s cocktail party on February 18 that raises funds for Joining Hearts. Your $45 admission gets you specialty Tito’s cocktails, delicious bites and dessert by Sun in My Belly, and a special performance by Atlanta’s own Peaches.

joininghearts.org

 

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Share the love and discover how dance reveals our deepest humanity and capacity to endure. The Ailey company returns to the Fox Theatre for one week only February 14-18 with a selection of their most inspiring pieces.

 

 

 

 

Diana Krall: Turn Up the Quiet

Multiple Grammy Award-winning jazz pianist and world-renowned singer, Diana Krall will return to Atlanta Symphony Hall on Friday, February 9 for her “Turn Up The Quiet World Tour.”

 

 

 

Deep South Presents Horse Meat Disco

For the first time in Atlanta Vicki Powell and Deep South present London-based Horse Meat Disco on February 17 at the Heretic. The popular disco party has revived the carefree music style and brought it back to the dancefloors all over the world.

 

 

 

Steamlounge Oysterfest

The corner of Peachtree and 12th Street is the new venue of this year’s Oysterfest on February 24-25 where you buy buckets of roasted or chargrilled oysters and eat away in a communal style social setting. Great fun and delicious but messy eating.

 

 

Joris Laarman’s Lab: Design In the Digital Age

On February 18 through May 13 the High Museum will feature the first museum survey for the Dutch designer, Joris Laarman, and his progressive design lab whose work redefines the boundaries between art, science, and technology. The exhibition will comprehensively explore Laarman’s creative prowess, and curiosity through a range of furniture designs applied projects and experiments that blend emerging technologies with skilled craftsmanship.

 

 

By Gregg Shapiro

 

Gay filmmaker Todd Haynes (Carol, Far from Heaven, and others) daringly and successfully enters new and exhilarating territory with his latest film Wonderstruck (Amazon Studios). Based on the book by gay young adult author and illustrator Brian Selznick, Wonderstruck tells two seemingly unrelated stories, fifty years apart. One, shot in black and white and set in 1927, is about Rose (Millicent Simmonds), a young, deaf girl obsessed with silent movies (and one actress in particular), whose world is about to change dramatically with the birth of the talkies. The other story, shot in color and set in 1977, deals with Ben. Following the sudden death of his single mom, Ben embarks on a journey to New York where he attempts to track down the father he never met. I spoke with Haynes in October of 2017.

 

Gregg Shapiro: Todd, if you don’t mind, I’d like to begin with the most obvious question. What was it about writer/illustrator Brian Selznick’s young adult novel Wonderstruck that made you want to adapt it as a movie?

Todd Haynes: I didn’t read the book first, I read the script. The script had already made a major move towards cinema. It demonstrated somebody bitten by the bug of how to really evoke, use and consider all the components of movies in the storytelling through cinematic language. Cinematic language without words that goes beyond words. It’s not a story that’s driven by dialogue. He already was considering sound and the edit and all the things at the sinew of cinema storytelling. That was infectious. Maybe other directors would be like, “That’s my job! Back off, dude!” I was thrilled by that.

 

GS: Do you think it was because it was his own book that he adapted that he could see it cinematically?

TH: John Logan, the screenwriter from Hugo (Martin Scorcese’s 2011 screen adaptation of Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret), had said to him to enter the process and not to show it to anyone until he felt like he’d gone deep into that process, of thinking about it as a film. He did that! It’s not just bringing his drawings to life. It’s something very much about cinema. Cinema is in the content; it’s not just in the form. The little girl is a lover of movies and a follower of this actress. We don’t know all the reasons why. Also, what the change from silent pictures to sound indicates for this deaf child is an observation of profound magnitude.

 

GS: That comes across in the powerful scene when Rose (Millicent Simmonds) is leaving the theater, and she sees the signs about the renovation and the arrival of talkies.

TH: And it’s really powerful for deaf audiences.

 

GS: W.C. Fields had a famous quote about never working with children or animals. What can you say about your experience of working with children?

TH: Everything that one says about children in this film has to be contextualized because the children are always changing as they grow up and different ages of childhood are so different. The age of 12, which all three kids are scripted to be around, is its own kind of child. A level of sophistication, wisdom, and knowledge about the world that has not yet been contaminated by the hormonal explosion. Right? That renders a kind of wisdom and depth and clarity, I think, that we may never match in life. I found this age to be an exception in almost every way, or at least in heightened moments. Almost parallel to how I felt about cinema in the moment before sound comes in. Reaching a level of sophistication and new ideas and innovations that was remarkable. It’s like what happens with kids right before puberty. It’s a unique moment. These two ideas join in this film. The actors that I cast demonstrated that to me in many ways.

 

GS: How much time would you say that you spent in museums as a child?

TH: I spent a lot of time in museums. I grew up in Los Angeles, so I spent more time in art museums than in museums of science. I didn’t have the Museum of Natural History as a location in my childhood the way these kids do in Wonderstruck and the way that many of the people with whom I worked on Wonderstruck did. Brian Selznick lived in New Jersey and would visit New York and go to the museum. Mark Friedman, my production designer, spent countless hours at that museum. In fact, both Oakes (Fegley, who plays Ben), who is from outside Philly, and Jaden (Michael, who plays Jamie), who is a New York City kid, spent a lot of time at the museum when they were kids.

 

GS: Wonderstruck is your first PG-rated movie, as well as being based on a novel with a young adult readership, which means that, as a filmmaker, you are going to be reaching a whole new generation of moviegoers. What does that mean to you?

TH: It means everything to me. That’s why I made the film. I wanted this to be a special gift to kids today, and be a film that embraced kids making things with their hands, building little buildings. Ideally, kids getting off their phones and doing things that we all did as kids, that I think kids still do. Having glue and tape, and marker stains on their fingers, and wanting to make things. In the stories of both kids, those creative practices and hobbies and interests are the very things that take them through life and let them figure out who they are and get to where they need to be. That’s absolutely true of the Rose story, where we see the before and after. One suspects that Ben is going to be just fine, given his curiosity and interest in doing things creatively.

 

GS: With the exception of Safe, your feature films have all been set in time periods of the past. Can you please say something about your interest in bringing the past to the screen?

TH: I think the past, at a really selfish level, demands of me to continue to be a student of history and cinema and to continue to learn. One could apply those same interests and drives to contemporary stories, but I think I feel like I get to time-travel myself in making these movies. To feel like I have touched something tactile about the eras in which I have made films. I also think it sets up a frame for the audience to think about their own lives and their present lives in relation to the past. All films have frames around them, but some of them are made explicit. I think a period film makes that explicit. A question that the film is asking you.

 

GS: You once again worked with Julianne Moore on Wonderstruck. What makes your working relationship special?

TH: Our working relationship is special not because she only does her best work with me. Speaking for myself, I appreciate her remarkable talents, from film to film to film, whether I’ve made them or not. I’m so continually bowled over by how well she knows the medium of film. How risky she remains as an actor. How unobsequious she is with the audience. She doesn’t need to be liked to feel induced to do a project. That’s not what motivates her; a kind of affection for the character or to make an audience melt by her charms. She’s interested in something else, and it’s riskier and continually intellectually challenging. She’s an insanely brilliant person. I think a lot of this happens at her core, in some weird chemistry that she has with the medium of film.

 

GS: Wonderstruck has already won one award – the ICS Cannes Award for best director. What would it mean to you if it won a Best Picture Oscar?

TH: It’s hard for me to think about things like that. It ultimately gets in the way of why I make movies and how the movies are valued over time. I’ve been very lucky to feel like my films retain interest for people well beyond the years of the awards season. We all talk about it; we’re all aware of it. We do campaigns for our movies with those goals in mind. But there’s a part of me that needs to try as much as possible not to think about it. I have too many other things to do to talk about the movie, so I don’t fixate on stuff like that.

 

The Wonder of it all: an interview with Todd Haynes

By Gregg Shapiro

 

Gay filmmaker Todd Haynes (Carol, Far from Heaven, and others) daringly and successfully enters new and exhilarating territory with his latest film Wonderstruck (Amazon Studios). Based on the book by gay young adult author and illustrator Brian Selznick, Wonderstruck tells two seemingly unrelated stories, fifty years apart. One, shot in black and white and set in 1927, is about Rose (Millicent Simmonds), a young, deaf girl obsessed with silent movies (and one actress in particular), whose world is about to change dramatically with the birth of the talkies. The other story, shot in color and set in 1977, deals with Ben. Following the sudden death of his single mom, Ben embarks on a journey to New York where he attempts to track down the father he never met. I spoke with Haynes in October of 2017.

 

Gregg Shapiro: Todd, if you don’t mind, I’d like to begin with the most obvious question. What was it about writer/illustrator Brian Selznick’s young adult novel Wonderstruck that made you want to adapt it as a movie?

Todd Haynes: I didn’t read the book first, I read the script. The script had already made a major move towards cinema. It demonstrated somebody bitten by the bug of how to really evoke, use and consider all the components of movies in the storytelling through cinematic language. Cinematic language without words that goes beyond words. It’s not a story that’s driven by dialogue. He already was considering sound and the edit and all the things at the sinew of cinema storytelling. That was infectious. Maybe other directors would be like, “That’s my job! Back off, dude!” I was thrilled by that.

 

GS: Do you think it was because it was his own book that he adapted that he could see it cinematically?

TH: John Logan, the screenwriter from Hugo (Martin Scorcese’s 2011 screen adaptation of Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret), had said to him to enter the process and not to show it to anyone until he felt like he’d gone deep into that process, of thinking about it as a film. He did that! It’s not just bringing his drawings to life. It’s something very much about cinema. Cinema is in the content; it’s not just in the form. The little girl is a lover of movies and a follower of this actress. We don’t know all the reasons why. Also, what the change from silent pictures to sound indicates for this deaf child is an observation of profound magnitude.

 

GS: That comes across in the powerful scene when Rose (Millicent Simmonds) is leaving the theater, and she sees the signs about the renovation and the arrival of talkies.

TH: And it’s really powerful for deaf audiences.

 

GS: W.C. Fields had a famous quote about never working with children or animals. What can you say about your experience of working with children?

TH: Everything that one says about children in this film has to be contextualized because the children are always changing as they grow up and different ages of childhood are so different. The age of 12, which all three kids are scripted to be around, is its own kind of child. A level of sophistication, wisdom, and knowledge about the world that has not yet been contaminated by the hormonal explosion. Right? That renders a kind of wisdom and depth and clarity, I think, that we may never match in life. I found this age to be an exception in almost every way, or at least in heightened moments. Almost parallel to how I felt about cinema in the moment before sound comes in. Reaching a level of sophistication and new ideas and innovations that was remarkable. It’s like what happens with kids right before puberty. It’s a unique moment. These two ideas join in this film. The actors that I cast demonstrated that to me in many ways.

 

GS: How much time would you say that you spent in museums as a child?

TH: I spent a lot of time in museums. I grew up in Los Angeles, so I spent more time in art museums than in museums of science. I didn’t have the Museum of Natural History as a location in my childhood the way these kids do in Wonderstruck and the way that many of the people with whom I worked on Wonderstruck did. Brian Selznick lived in New Jersey and would visit New York and go to the museum. Mark Friedman, my production designer, spent countless hours at that museum. In fact, both Oakes (Fegley, who plays Ben), who is from outside Philly, and Jaden (Michael, who plays Jamie), who is a New York City kid, spent a lot of time at the museum when they were kids.

 

GS: Wonderstruck is your first PG-rated movie, as well as being based on a novel with a young adult readership, which means that, as a filmmaker, you are going to be reaching a whole new generation of moviegoers. What does that mean to you?

TH: It means everything to me. That’s why I made the film. I wanted this to be a special gift to kids today, and be a film that embraced kids making things with their hands, building little buildings. Ideally, kids getting off their phones and doing things that we all did as kids, that I think kids still do. Having glue and tape, and marker stains on their fingers, and wanting to make things. In the stories of both kids, those creative practices and hobbies and interests are the very things that take them through life and let them figure out who they are and get to where they need to be. That’s absolutely true of the Rose story, where we see the before and after. One suspects that Ben is going to be just fine, given his curiosity and interest in doing things creatively.

 

GS: With the exception of Safe, your feature films have all been set in time periods of the past. Can you please say something about your interest in bringing the past to the screen?

TH: I think the past, at a really selfish level, demands of me to continue to be a student of history and cinema and to continue to learn. One could apply those same interests and drives to contemporary stories, but I think I feel like I get to time-travel myself in making these movies. To feel like I have touched something tactile about the eras in which I have made films. I also think it sets up a frame for the audience to think about their own lives and their present lives in relation to the past. All films have frames around them, but some of them are made explicit. I think a period film makes that explicit. A question that the film is asking you.

 

GS: You once again worked with Julianne Moore on Wonderstruck. What makes your working relationship special?

TH: Our working relationship is special not because she only does her best work with me. Speaking for myself, I appreciate her remarkable talents, from film to film to film, whether I’ve made them or not. I’m so continually bowled over by how well she knows the medium of film. How risky she remains as an actor. How unobsequious she is with the audience. She doesn’t need to be liked to feel induced to do a project. That’s not what motivates her; a kind of affection for the character or to make an audience melt by her charms. She’s interested in something else, and it’s riskier and continually intellectually challenging. She’s an insanely brilliant person. I think a lot of this happens at her core, in some weird chemistry that she has with the medium of film.

 

GS: Wonderstruck has already won one award – the ICS Cannes Award for best director. What would it mean to you if it won a Best Picture Oscar?

TH: It’s hard for me to think about things like that. It ultimately gets in the way of why I make movies and how the movies are valued over time. I’ve been very lucky to feel like my films retain interest for people well beyond the years of the awards season. We all talk about it; we’re all aware of it. We do campaigns for our movies with those goals in mind. But there’s a part of me that needs to try as much as possible not to think about it. I have too many other things to do to talk about the movie, so I don’t fixate on stuff like that.

 

The Wonder of it all: an interview with Todd Haynes

By Gregg Shapiro

 

Gay filmmaker Todd Haynes (Carol, Far from Heaven, and others) daringly and successfully enters new and exhilarating territory with his latest film Wonderstruck (Amazon Studios). Based on the book by gay young adult author and illustrator Brian Selznick, Wonderstruck tells two seemingly unrelated stories, fifty years apart. One, shot in black and white and set in 1927, is about Rose (Millicent Simmonds), a young, deaf girl obsessed with silent movies (and one actress in particular), whose world is about to change dramatically with the birth of the talkies. The other story, shot in color and set in 1977, deals with Ben. Following the sudden death of his single mom, Ben embarks on a journey to New York where he attempts to track down the father he never met. I spoke with Haynes in October of 2017.

 

Gregg Shapiro: Todd, if you don’t mind, I’d like to begin with the most obvious question. What was it about writer/illustrator Brian Selznick’s young adult novel Wonderstruck that made you want to adapt it as a movie?

Todd Haynes: I didn’t read the book first, I read the script. The script had already made a major move towards cinema. It demonstrated somebody bitten by the bug of how to really evoke, use and consider all the components of movies in the storytelling through cinematic language. Cinematic language without words that goes beyond words. It’s not a story that’s driven by dialogue. He already was considering sound and the edit and all the things at the sinew of cinema storytelling. That was infectious. Maybe other directors would be like, “That’s my job! Back off, dude!” I was thrilled by that.

 

GS: Do you think it was because it was his own book that he adapted that he could see it cinematically?

TH: John Logan, the screenwriter from Hugo (Martin Scorcese’s 2011 screen adaptation of Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret), had said to him to enter the process and not to show it to anyone until he felt like he’d gone deep into that process, of thinking about it as a film. He did that! It’s not just bringing his drawings to life. It’s something very much about cinema. Cinema is in the content; it’s not just in the form. The little girl is a lover of movies and a follower of this actress. We don’t know all the reasons why. Also, what the change from silent pictures to sound indicates for this deaf child is an observation of profound magnitude.

 

GS: That comes across in the powerful scene when Rose (Millicent Simmonds) is leaving the theater, and she sees the signs about the renovation and the arrival of talkies.

TH: And it’s really powerful for deaf audiences.

 

GS: W.C. Fields had a famous quote about never working with children or animals. What can you say about your experience of working with children?

TH: Everything that one says about children in this film has to be contextualized because the children are always changing as they grow up and different ages of childhood are so different. The age of 12, which all three kids are scripted to be around, is its own kind of child. A level of sophistication, wisdom, and knowledge about the world that has not yet been contaminated by the hormonal explosion. Right? That renders a kind of wisdom and depth and clarity, I think, that we may never match in life. I found this age to be an exception in almost every way, or at least in heightened moments. Almost parallel to how I felt about cinema in the moment before sound comes in. Reaching a level of sophistication and new ideas and innovations that was remarkable. It’s like what happens with kids right before puberty. It’s a unique moment. These two ideas join in this film. The actors that I cast demonstrated that to me in many ways.

 

GS: How much time would you say that you spent in museums as a child?

TH: I spent a lot of time in museums. I grew up in Los Angeles, so I spent more time in art museums than in museums of science. I didn’t have the Museum of Natural History as a location in my childhood the way these kids do in Wonderstruck and the way that many of the people with whom I worked on Wonderstruck did. Brian Selznick lived in New Jersey and would visit New York and go to the museum. Mark Friedman, my production designer, spent countless hours at that museum. In fact, both Oakes (Fegley, who plays Ben), who is from outside Philly, and Jaden (Michael, who plays Jamie), who is a New York City kid, spent a lot of time at the museum when they were kids.

 

GS: Wonderstruck is your first PG-rated movie, as well as being based on a novel with a young adult readership, which means that, as a filmmaker, you are going to be reaching a whole new generation of moviegoers. What does that mean to you?

TH: It means everything to me. That’s why I made the film. I wanted this to be a special gift to kids today, and be a film that embraced kids making things with their hands, building little buildings. Ideally, kids getting off their phones and doing things that we all did as kids, that I think kids still do. Having glue and tape, and marker stains on their fingers, and wanting to make things. In the stories of both kids, those creative practices and hobbies and interests are the very things that take them through life and let them figure out who they are and get to where they need to be. That’s absolutely true of the Rose story, where we see the before and after. One suspects that Ben is going to be just fine, given his curiosity and interest in doing things creatively.

 

GS: With the exception of Safe, your feature films have all been set in time periods of the past. Can you please say something about your interest in bringing the past to the screen?

TH: I think the past, at a really selfish level, demands of me to continue to be a student of history and cinema and to continue to learn. One could apply those same interests and drives to contemporary stories, but I think I feel like I get to time-travel myself in making these movies. To feel like I have touched something tactile about the eras in which I have made films. I also think it sets up a frame for the audience to think about their own lives and their present lives in relation to the past. All films have frames around them, but some of them are made explicit. I think a period film makes that explicit. A question that the film is asking you.

 

GS: You once again worked with Julianne Moore on Wonderstruck. What makes your working relationship special?

TH: Our working relationship is special not because she only does her best work with me. Speaking for myself, I appreciate her remarkable talents, from film to film to film, whether I’ve made them or not. I’m so continually bowled over by how well she knows the medium of film. How risky she remains as an actor. How unobsequious she is with the audience. She doesn’t need to be liked to feel induced to do a project. That’s not what motivates her; a kind of affection for the character or to make an audience melt by her charms. She’s interested in something else, and it’s riskier and continually intellectually challenging. She’s an insanely brilliant person. I think a lot of this happens at her core, in some weird chemistry that she has with the medium of film.

 

GS: Wonderstruck has already won one award – the ICS Cannes Award for best director. What would it mean to you if it won a Best Picture Oscar?

TH: It’s hard for me to think about things like that. It ultimately gets in the way of why I make movies and how the movies are valued over time. I’ve been very lucky to feel like my films retain interest for people well beyond the years of the awards season. We all talk about it; we’re all aware of it. We do campaigns for our movies with those goals in mind. But there’s a part of me that needs to try as much as possible not to think about it. I have too many other things to do to talk about the movie, so I don’t fixate on stuff like that.

 

 

By Gregg Shapiro

 

Few gifts are as reliable as books, especially during the holiday season. The following recommended titles are by LGBTQ authors in the fiction, poetry and non-fiction genres.

 

For Music Lovers

 

Almost everything you need to know about Breaking Down the Walls of Heartache: How Music Came Out (Backbeat Books, 2017) by Martin Aston can be found in the title, as the author traces “the sound of lavender” from the 1920s to the 21st century, and includes a multitude of black & white and color photos.

 

The second such comprehensive history of LGBTQ music to be published stateside this year is Darryl Bullock’s, David Bowie Made Me Gay: 100 Years of LGBT Music (Overlook, 2017), which begins with the tragic losses of talent in 2016 (including those who died at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando), and then ventures back to New Orleans in the nineteen-teens before spinning forward, like a record, to the present day.

 

Award-winning, Grammy-nominated, Guggenheim fellow and composer/pianist/activist/ educator Fred Hersch has many notable achievements to his name, not the least of which is being an openly gay, HIV+ man in the world of jazz. He writes all about it in his memoir Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In and Out of Jazz (Crown Archetype, 2017).

 

 

 

For Memoir Lovers

 

Bill Hayes’ breathtaking Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and Me (Bloomsbury, 2017), interweaves essays with journal entries, photos, and poetry, to tell the story of the writer’s romantic relationship with the late writer and scientist Oliver Sacks. Speaking of Oliver Sacks, his just-published 10-essay collection The River of Consciousness (Knopf, 2017) is one of two books he was working on at the time of death in 2015.

 

Logical Family: A Memoir (Harper, 2017), the long-awaited memoir by Armistead Maupin, the beloved author of the Tales of the City series, is a revealing chronicle of the gay writer’s journey from the deep South to Vietnam to San Francisco.

 

The unpublished manuscript that became Arch Brown’s A Pornographer: A Memoir (Chelsea Station Editions, 2017) was discovered in 2012 following Brown’s passing, and recounts his interviews and interactions with the actors in the audition process for his erotic films.

 

With the controversial proposed ban on transgender personnel serving in the military on everyone’s mind at the time of this writing, Tell: Love, Defiance and the Military Trial at the Tipping Point for Gay Rights (ForeEdge, 2017) by Major Margaret Witt with Tim Connor takes readers back to the 1993 passage of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy and its 2011 repeal.

 

For Poetry Lovers

 

Half-Light: Collected Poems 1965-2016 (FSG, 2017) compiles the work of lauded gay poet Frank Bidart in one stunning setting, including the new collection Thirst, featuring outstanding poems such as “Ellen West”, “Herbert White”, “In Memory of Joe Brainerd”, “The Second Hour of the Night” and “For the AIDS Dead”.

 

Things are lost (weight, memories, causes) and found (a drag queen, and birds, lots of birds) in award-winning lesbian poet Cheryl Dumesnil’s lustrous poems in Showtime at the Ministry of Lost Causes (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016).

 

Prolific, young, queer Native American poet Tommy Pico’s first poetry collection IRL was published in 2016. Nature Poem (Tin House, 2017) Pico’s second, book-length epic poem merges poetic and texting language for an unforgettable read.

 

 

 

 

For Fiction Lovers

 

It’s no exaggeration to say that you’ll never read anything quite like St Sukie de la Croix’s slim, sexy, shocking and sparkly new novel The Blue Spong and the Flight from Mediocrity (Lethe Press, 2017), even if you are familiar with his historical writing, including 2012’s critically acclaimed Chicago Whispers or his humor/commentary columns in sundry LGBTQ outlets.

 

In Marriage of a Thousand Lies (Soho, 2017), the dazzling debut novel by SJ Sindu, we meet Lucky and Krishna, a married Sri Lankan-American couple who are, in reality, actually a lesbian and a gay man. The pair’s sham marriage is threatened when Lucky reconnects with her first lover Nisha, who is preparing to enter an arranged marriage.

 

There’s no shortage of the titular characters to be found in Difficult Women (Grove Press, 2017), the short story collection by award-winning bisexual Haitian-American novelist/essayist/memoirist Roxane Gay.

 

Queer actor and writer Tara Jepsen’s debut novel Like a Dog (City Lights, 2017) follows 30-something skateboarder Paloma as she rolls through life in the Central Valley, looking after her opiate-addicted brother and finding meaning in stand-up comedy.

 

The follow-up to Dale Boyer’s 2016 debut novel The Dandelion Cloud, Thornton Stories (OhBoy Books), subtitled “Tales Out of School,” returns readers to the town of Thornton, Illinois through a series of interconnected tales in which the characters attempt to “make sense of loneliness and love.”

In season full of LGBT fare, venue tells true tale of gender, courage and love in its season-opening play

By Matthew Holley

Get ready, LGBT Atlanta. This month, Theatrical Outfit embraces a multifaceted, intricate journey of discovery in the Southeast premiere of Boy.

The play, a recent Off-Broadway hit by Anna Ziegler, was inspired by one man’s true story of gender reassignment that hearkens and exposes issues currently playing out on America’s public stage. The real-life journey was documented by Oprah and BBC, with further details explained in the best-selling biography, As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised As A Girl, by John Colapinto.

Set in the years 1968-1990, Boy begins when a celebrated doctor influences parents of a male infant to raise their son as a girl after an accident to the child’s genitals. Having his gender picked for him, years later, the penalties and harsh certainties of that choice unfold with deep consequences surrounding identity and self worth.

The play does not shy away from drama, but it’s written with humor and sweet moments as well that create an emotional roller coaster ride. The story covers big ground as the main character learns to love himself and others, all the while rediscovering who he truly is.

Boy features Tom Key, Theatrical Outfit’s Artistic Director and Clifton Guterman, its Associate Artistic Director, with direction by Melissa Foulger. It runs September 28 – October 15. In anticipation of a particularly LGBT-inclusive season at the venue, Goliath Atlanta speaks to Guterman, who takes on the starring role, about the Boy’s compelling journey.

What made you decide to take on Boy?
It’s the role of a lifetime. I followed the New York production very closely, then I got a hold of the script. We did it last January in a public reading here at the theater as part of a festival. We got a great deal of positive feedback about the script, I worked on it, I played the role in the reading.

Our artistic director was able to watch it, and together we just decided that it was something we really wanted to do at this time in 2017, with a great deal of discussion about gender identity and loving who you feel on the inside you were always meant to love, and being who you feel on the inside.

What do you hope the audience takes away from the show?
The big question that the show asks is, Does nature or nurture determine who and how we love? Are we inherently one thing or are we shaped by our society around us? Can people really be altered into being someone else?

There’s a lot of debate about that, but the real question I think is sort of listening to our children and listening to our inner self and letting young people be who they really, really feel that they are.

Does the play ultimately explain the complex true story?
This particular case was very important in terms of its failure in a way in which they were convinced that they should raise the child as a girl. They tried for a long time, and it didn’t work out.

Now, the general practice in the medical community rarely reassigns gender to a child who’s had trauma or born intersex or damaged in some way. They wait until puberty or until the child is able to make the decision and have free will and be a part of that choice. I think the audience will identify with that.

Want To Go?
What? Boy
When? September 28 – October 15
Where? Theatrical Outfit
84 Luckie St. NW
More info: theatricaloutfit.org
Theatrical Outfit principal rocks an Atlanta stage resume all the way to an LGBT-inclusive fall season.
By Mike Fleming

Gay Atlanta theater buffs of any tenure already know the name Clifton Guterman. The Georgia-born actor and associate artistic director has seen steady work on stage and off with companies from New York City to Atlanta’s own Actor’s Express, Alliance Theatre, and now Theatrical Outfit.

After memorable roles in all those places, it’s the latter company, which has had the privilege of his know-how since 2012, that brought him to our attention yet again as the theater gears up for its fall season. Always gay-inclusive in its staffing and its productions, Theatrical Outfit redoubled its efforts to present LGBT fare as part of its 2017-2018 roster of shows.

As Associate Artistic Director, Guterman is integral to the process. With both Anna Ziegler’s Boy and Topher Payne’s Perfect Arrangement in the lineup, the 41-year-old Ormewood Park resident took some time to tell us a little about the theater, as well as a few tidbits about his personal version of living out and proud in the ATL.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’ve lived in Atlanta off and on since 1994, and I’m from teeny-tiny Iron City, Georgia, population 350 (or so). I’m married to my best friend, Chad, since 2013, and we’ve been together since 2008.

Give us a brief rundown of the resume that got you to Theatrical Outfit.

I obtained a B.A. in Drama from UGA and an M.F.A. in Performing Arts from SCAD. I’ve lived in New York, traveled the country doing regional theatre, and have worked on the artistic staffs of Actor’s Express, the Alliance Theatre and now Theatrical Outfit. I’ve always had an administrative job in the arts alongside acting work, luckily. 

Tell us about your role at Theatrical Outfit.

As Associate Artistic Director, I manage our casting and work very closely with our Artistic Director, Tom Key, on season planning, literary management and community engagement. I also contribute to the marketing efforts for our programming.

What’s on tap for the fall season?

Our Season of Character is thrilling, with all shows featuring protagonists who might be labeled “other” in some way. Two plays will speak directly to the LGBTQ community and put “us” front and center. Boy, this fall, is based on a true case about a child born a boy but raised a girl after an accident, and the complexities around gender identity in adulthood that unfold. It’s tender, humorous and oh-so-timely. I’ll play the lead, and I cannot wait to share it with Atlanta.

In late winter, we’ll present beloved local playwright Topher Payne’s Arrangement, a Mad Men-era comedy about four neighbors, a gay couple and lesbian couple, who pass as each other’s spouses under the chilling glare of the Lavender Scare of 1950s Washington politics. Expect high style, gorgeous decor and costumes and cocktail party quips. And a big dose of poignant realism too!

What is it about Theatrical Outfit that makes it so special.

Entering our 41st season, we’re Atlanta’s second oldest professional theatre company. We’re nestled in the heart of downtown in the old Herren’s restaurant building – the first Atlanta restaurant to voluntarily de-segregate in 1962. Inclusion is literally in our facility’s bones.

Our contemporary bowl shaped theater is 200 seats and cozy. Our production values are top notch, and we attract and hire Atlanta’s top actors, directors and designers. We aspire to create a compassionate, joyful and just community by producing world-class theatre that starts the conversations that matter. We produce soul-stirring art that entertains and not simply entertainment. 

What other affiliations do you have outside Theatrical Outfit?

I’m an Associate Artist with Actor’s Express, serve on our local Actors’ Equity Association liaison committee, am an adjudicator for the Georgia High School Musical Theatre Awards, and a Rainbros Peer Coach (and helped found its Gays for Plays). In addition to stage work, I’m also a film, TV and commercial actor represented by Atlanta’s Houghton Talent.

What do you do for fun?

Atlanta neighborhoods now have so many exciting restaurant choices. It’s hard to keep up! My husband and I love to dine casually at bars or chef’s counters because we met at one in NYC. We enjoy walking our Miniature Schnauzers, Baxter and Boris, to our very chill neighborhood dog park, and when we’re able, we escape the city and de-stress in quaint and gay-friendly Blue Ridge, Georgia.

If you were to die tomorrow, what would your legacy be?

I strive daily to make Atlanta theatre welcoming, compassionate, inclusive and celebratory. The performing arts can be so competitive, and in other cities that can breed anxiety, bitterness and, ultimately, jaded artists. It’s a business, but it’s made up of creative and brilliant souls. People first is my motto.

What else? Anything you want Gay Atlanta to know?

Atlanta’s arts scene is growing rapidly and deepening yearly. In this divisive political climate with threats to cut arts funding, non-profits need your support more than ever. Atlanta theatres need your beautiful butts in our seats. Subscribe to our full seasons. Serve on our boards. Donate to institutions whose work moves you. We come together and connect over universal truths, no matter our race, gender, sexuality, citizenship status or place of origin. And boy, do we need that unity now more than ever.

Theatrical Outfit is at 84 Luckie St NW. Visit theatricaloutfit.org

Local song and dance man Robert Ray brings it in Too Marvelous for Words
By Matthew Holley

Broadway vet and legendary Atlanta thesp Robert Ray is bringing back his critically acclaimed original show, Johnny Mercer…Too Marvelous for Words at Theatrical Outfit for two nights only this weekend.

The show follows the illustrious career of the Georgia born, award-winning composer, highlighting his greatest hits with accompanied dialogue and audience interaction. Now for those not in the know of Robert Ray, his incomparable career, or the powerful history of Johnny Mercer himself, have no fear, for Peach ATL has all the deets that every gay who’s any gay needs to attend this ‘Marvelous’ production.

Who is Robert Ray?

Ray is an experienced professional piano player, Broadway veteran, concert producer and all-around powerhouse entertainer. He is a local legend having starred in several productions on Broadway and while in New York City won awards as Best Cabaret Artist.

After a ten-year absence from the stage, he returned with critical praise in the lead role of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert at gay Atlanta theater Out Front last year. Ray was nominated by GaVoice readers as Best Actor for that tour de force performance.

But Ray’s talents far exceed the stage. He was musical director and writer for three sold-out productions of Heartstrings at The Fox Theatre, culminating in a national tour. Heartstrings helped to raise money in the fight against AIDS and support those who are affected by the disease. You may also catch him serenading patrons with his piano skills at the ever popular Campagnolo a few nights a week.

What is Johnny Mercer… Too Marvelous for Words about?

This Broadway style musical revue originally appeared at Libby’s Cabaret in 2002. Johnny Mercer was a native Georgian and accomplished singer/songwriter. Throughout his musical career, Mercer won four Academy Awards out of the impressive 18 Academy Award nominations he received for Best Song.

While some may not even know Mercer’s name, they are well aware of his music. Mercer is composer of some of his era’s most iconic classics. He helmed musical backdrop for the film Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which was set and filmed in his hometown of Savannah. He’s responsible for songs like “Too Marvelous,” of course, and other classics like “Moon River,” a song that immortalized the historic Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Too Marvelous for Words is a testament and celebration of Mercer. Ray has expertly selected two-dozen of Mercer’s best songs into an electric all-performing musical extravaganza featuring seven singers and a dynamic six-piece orchestra.

Who brings the show to life?

Too Marvelous for Words stars Ray and the cabaret’s original co-stars from 15 years ago, Marsha Dupree and Shawn Megorden, two of Atlanta’s dynamic leading ladies.

This time, Ray adds eye and ear candy for gay fans in the form of Truman Griffin, Forrest Flemming and Chris Saltalamacchio. While the original production only featured Ray and his two female counterparts, he tellsus that the insatiable talents of the male trio, as well as their bodacious bods would add the right amount of flavor.

The cast will perform Mercer favorites such as Mercer favorites as Goody Goody, You Must’ve Been a Beautiful Baby, Jeepers Creepers, Come Rain or Shine, Blues in the Night, Fools Rush In, I Remember You, PS I Love You, Skylark, In the Cool Cool Cool of the Evening, Satin Doll, One for My Baby, Days of Wine and Roses, Moon River and Accentuate the Positive.

Sold! Where and when?

Too Marvelous runs Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 4 and 5, at Theatrical Outfit, 84 Luckie St. NW Atlanta, GA 30303. Visit robertrayproductions.com.

How gay men can help themselves, and lead others, to repair fences in a divided world
By Mike Fleming

According to your social feed, you are so right so often that you must have the world by the tail. But with all the dissent that you hear about later, there must be a kink in that system somewhere.

Amid the preaching to the choir and affirming feedback when we log onto our social networks, why are we as a society so sharply polarized? And more importantly, what can we do about it? How can we affect positive change if we are unwilling to even see opposing opinions, much less discuss them?

The most recent presidential election is a prime example. How can a good solid half of your fellow Americans get something so wrong when you are so, so right so, so often? Are they that different from you? Surely they aren’t stupid, are they? Brainwashed? Are they just plain evil?

Of course not. Maybe. Well, most of them. Probably.

Closer to home, look at the runoff for Atlanta’s 6th Congressional District between espoused gay ally and Democratic dream boy John Ossoff, and the mixed bag at best, fair-weather Republican that is Karen Handel. Campaigns get ugly, lies disguise as truth, conversations get heated, and battle lines get drawn. By the time one of them wins, neither looks like an appetizing option, and you can’t even look at the neighbor or family member who dared vote for the “other” candidate.

Now, choosing your friends and associates based on beliefs, values and opinions isn’t a new phenomenon. It’s good and natural to keep the support of like-minded people in your life. What may be new is how convenient it is to avoid dissenting opinions.

Hide someone’s profile from your newsfeed, and avoid conflict. Unfriend them, and forget them. Block them, and you can virtually steer clear of them forever. That kind of digital distance allows us to vilify any opponents as “other” and build nearly impenetrable emotional walls against them, and their uncomfortable, irritating and infuriating opinions.

One nagging issue, though: Avoiding a problem doesn’t solve it. It perpetuates it. Ask generations of gay men who were unable to live openly. We know as much or better than most about ignoring a problem and building psychological walls against the pain. Railing against the opposition without engaging meaningfully with your detractors in the conflict yields nothing but philosophical masturbation that’s more whining than resistance.

Our gay forbearers lived life that way, until one by one, group-by-group, organization-by-organization, idea by idea, they started standing up for themselves. In the tiniest ways at first, and then in growing number and frequency, we learned to work within and against the system to come at the problem from all angles.

Over time, confronting issues is what works to effect change.

Boys in the Bubble

Of course the polarity goes far beyond politics. For gay men, what’s political is certainly also societal, but it’s also quite personal. Discrimination based on outdated opinions affects our lives, and evading dealing with it is even more personal, because it’s actually bad for us to avoid conflict and live in a vacuum.

If you live in a bubble – and so many of us do on curated social media over the real world, in Midtown over living outside the I-285 Perimeter, on Atlanta’s blue island in the red sea of Georgia – it’s jarring to realize that you’re not in the majority. It hurts to realize that you don’t speak for everyone, or even for most people.

When you’re self- protected from the opinions of outsiders, seeing everyone’s views as equal and valid feels like oppression. Nobody wants that feeling. But psychiatrists say we just might need it.

Discourse with those who would oppose us, and engaging respectfully in dissent over issues that matter, is uncomfortable, but in our best interest. It’s ultimately how we change hearts and minds. That holds true, even if it takes time and patience – a lot of both.

Break the Cycle

Something wonderful happens when we try to see issues from someone else’s point of view. It irritates the senses, but it also allows us to figure out ways to communicate with those people. Even if it doesn’t work in the moment, even if we have to come at it from different angles over and over, maybe, just maybe, we can finally reach them with an opposing thought.

And – gasp – maybe they can gain access to our carefully constructed walls and change us too, for the better. Maybe there’s a grain of truth that we can rescue from the bottom of their pile of opinions.

You’ve heard absolute power corrupts absolutely. The same is true in a world where we get everything we want. Life is ultimately about getting some of what you want and a lot of what you need. That way, you find balance, and both you and the world around you benefit.

Yes, life is more cozy and less scary in our little bubbles, but consider this: Engaging in the discomfort a bit at a time may be more effective, and it beats the hell out of the full-tilt culture shock when the reality of a polarized society slaps you.

We can vow to think about that the next time a “surprise” verdict is read, or the outcome of an election night shatters our expectations. What could we have done to expose ourselves to parts of life that make us uncomfortable, expand our understanding, and ultimately move the conversation forward?

And this goes for conflicts within our own community. Whether you engage in societal discussions as an agitator or an assimilator, your engagement is valid. The Civil Rights movement of the 1960s needed its peaceful MLKs and it’s resistant Malcolm X’s. The AIDS crisis needed the sad honors of The Names Project and the coffin-carrying rallies of Act Up. In the same way we engage with our biggest detractors, we can listen to each other better as well.

Bursting our bubbles may feel like a monumental task. That’s OK. Daunting is good, and due to our collective experience in the still-evolving LGBT rights struggle, our community may be uniquely suited to lead the way in reaching across the aisle to mend fences. 

Rules of Engagement

The unknown is scary, but it can also be just as exciting. Treat it like an opportunity. Once you steel yourself for the adventure, the next step is to remind yourself – early and often – that people are more alike than they are different, even if someone initially strikes you as your polar opposite.

Next remember that bursting your bubble is for your own good, and whatever resistance you overcome, both internal and external, will be worth it.

Here are a few tips, tenets and tricks to engage in productive conflict.

Perspectives Change Perceptions

Ask yourself: ‘If I thought about this from their point of view, would I still agree with myself?’

My Needs and Our Needs

Conflicts aren’t a competition. There are no winners and losers. There are two parties, and there is their relationship. Agree to argue from the “side” of the relationship. It takes practice and trust to allow other people to share their thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and perspectives with passion – and for us to just let them be.  

Power and Control

Conflicts can sway to the person with the most authority. Instead, ask ‘Is one person giving in too much? Does holding your ground come at the cost of insensitivity? Are we discussing who has the most power, or what the conflict is truly about?’

Embrace ‘And’

So often we get caught in either-or thinking that diminishes credibility on both sides. It’s sophomoric and limiting by nature, and doesn’t allow us to see or hear anything other than what we already ‘know’ to be ‘true.’

Make Peace with Ambiguity

Based on our fears and a desire to stay in control, we naturally resist uncertainty. Become comfortable with it and allow yourself to hang out in ambiguity. It’ll give you a sense of openness, patience, and perspective that allows creative solutions to emerge.

Seek Higher Ground

In a desire to escape conflict as fast as possible, we sometimes rush to come up with “solutions” or “compromises.” It works on the surface, but it doesn’t address the deeper issues. Actively look for higher-level solutions by remaining open instead of simply trying to “win” or end the argument.

Discern Intent

With issues that cut the core of sacredly held beliefs, we often vilify those who don’t agree with us. Once they become “those people,” they’re nearly impossible to connect via meaningful dialogue. Look for the positive intention and real fears of the other person to find the core of what’s really true, not just what our ego wants to argue about.

Elevate Others

We can and do have impact on other people. Elevate the conversation by focusing on being real, vulnerable, and honest. Focus on appreciating and empowering the other person. Acknowledge them and practice being grateful for who they are, no matter how difficult it is. When you manage to lift them up despite obstacles, you lift up yourself in the accomplishment and create the higher-level solutions you truly want.

The Truth Triangle

Remember the three parts of truth: Your truth, their truth, and the real truth (solutions).

Sources: dukepsychology.edu, intentblog.com

For all the talk of the fun in fundraising, some gay men in Atlanta just aren’t having as good a time as others.
By Mike Fleming

“Party with a purpose.” We hear the phrase often enough in gay Atlanta. It’s code for event fundraising, and at least on the surface, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s the perception and reaction that comes after hearing it where opinions split.

Are some events more party than purpose?

CMI_Survey_Digital_Male_300x250Without exception, every one of the community’s most beloved institutions puts one or more sure-bet moneymakers on the gay agenda by promising to put “the fun in fundraising.” And it works, to the tune of millions of dollars, as well as tens of thousands of in-kind donations and volunteer hours per year.

Sounds good, right? Well, it depends on who you ask.

It’s been over a decade since Hotlanta River Expo went down in flames of shame. Back then, a few organizers of what was billed as the oldest circuit party in the world reported others of their flock for misusing funds. Allegations included using event proceeds to pay for recreational drugs during the event.

These days, most organizations can and do report not only the money they raise, but exactly where it goes, often line by line. With rare reports of embezzlement by one person, or whispers of behind-the-scenes puppet masters and villains, the pressure to remain above board on accountability and transparency is high, and the vast majority take the obligation seriously.

So why do the biggest gay fundraising parties take so much flak from naysayers?

The multi-layered answer covers the gamut of gay subcultural issues, from cliques and substance abuse, to diversity and racism, from mere appearances and suspicions of impropriety, to differing priorities on how our collective money should be spent.

So is it all good – or no good at all? Or is it a matter of opinion?

Follow the Money

The HRC Atlanta Gala Dinner, which recently wrapped its 30th annual event, raises in the reported neighborhood of a quarter- to half-a-million dollars each year through ticket sales, donations and proceeds from a massive silent auction. Some 1,200 local LGBTs in tuxes and gowns are proud to donate those funds to help fight for our rights at the federal level and receive moral, strategic and volunteer support.

In 2016 alone and with an expanded mission to help more people, gay Atlanta stalwart Joining Hearts raised nearly $194,000 against HIV in Atlanta with its signature summer pool party and yearlong calendar of other events. Funds were split among eight beneficiary organizations, with Jerusalem House, Living Room, AID Atlanta and Lost N Found Youth leading the pack.

That doesn’t count additional funds at popular Joining Hearts events like Love on the Rocks and several satellite fundraisers peppering the calendar. In 30 years, the organization and its loyal patrons have been responsible for donating more than $2 million to fight a disease that has affected so many gay men.

In about half that time, For the Kid in All of Us, founded by gay Atlanta City Council Member Alex Wan, has distributed more than 40,000 toys and gift cards through the gay holiday tradition Toy Party, as well as 12,000 backpacks filled with school supplies during its Backpack in the Park. Their donations also include a whopping $475,000 in funds distributed directly to local agencies like Chris 180 and Childkind, among many others.

Several of the benefactors of those events also host their own big gay shindigs. In 2016, Goliath‘s sibling publication David Atlanta raised $50,000 for Joining Hearts with its annual Men of David contest and party.

Likewise, perennial beneficiary Jerusalem House hosts an annual October bash that’s considered the standard bearer for local gay Halloween parties. The themed costume party also sets the bar for funds, raising about $50,000 each year. That’s on top of other signature Jerusalem House events like the Stars Party, the auction mixer each spring.

In the gay rights arena, Georgia Equality’s Evening for Equality, which raises money with speakers and cocktails each June, drew in some $120,000 in 2016. For perspective, the statewide lobby and advocacy group reported an annual budget of about $350,000 in 2014. On a long list of projects, they lead the local fights for marriage equality and against so-called “religious freedom” backlash bills in Georgia.

If you’re keeping a running total, that’s a lot of good in the gayborhood, and it’s not even the tip of Atlanta’s fundraising iceberg. We’d be hard pressed to count the myriad socials, beer busts, theme nights, dine-outs, dance parties, drag shows and sporting events for every LGBT and allied organization in town. Your hard-earned party dollars go every week to causes from HIV to gay youth, and fund activities from gay softball to gay movie screenings.

Party Problems

It’s great to see the power of people coming together, and sometimes a little overwhelming to envision the sheer size of the gay dollar. Therein lies the rub when concentrated efforts turn into big money:

The vast amounts alone are one of the reasons people can be so sensitive to how the spoils get spent. The moment a fundraising effort starts to show big gains, comments start flying about how the money could be better spent.

As just one example, last year’s Atlanta Rainbow Crosswalks effort drew criticism from people who thought the money should go to making a real difference in people’s lives – like in healthcare, housing, or anti-discrimination efforts. Just as many people took umbrage to that line of thinking. They fired back that not only is the money the patrons own to spend how they see fit, but that giving to one cause does not preclude them from giving to another.

And while more than 1,000 people don their black-tie best to support the annual HRC Atlanta gala, another large contingent just as strongly opposes how much of the proceeds leave the state for good. According to one report, as little as 3 percent may go to local campaigns in actual dollars.

From HRC Atlanta’s perspective, doing Georgia’s part in national Human Rights Campaign efforts is generally a good thing. The organization’s national successes, while nuanced, are admirable.

It’s difficult to track the cost of intangibles like volunteer and strategy support when it’s time to, say, get out the vote to flip Atlanta’s 6th Congressional District, or to quash anti-gay legislative efforts in Georgia. It also costs money to include our state in annual HRC reports on LGBT fairness in corporations and municipalities. The local use of HRC dollars may be hidden in those ways.

This Time, It’s Personal

While debates over money roil, there are still tougher reasons why some gay men avoid Atlanta’s biggest gay events altogether: It’s their perception of issues like Body Shaming, Substance Abuse, Mean Girls Syndrome, Racism, Embezzlement, and Sexual Hypocrisy.

Well, that doesn’t sound like a party at all! Exactly.

Some people view gay fundraising parties as antithetical to the very causes they support. Critics point out that guests can overdo the party favors, so events are therefore complicit in feeding the substance abuse that disproportionately affects LGBTs.

Others say lowered inhibitions and throbbing beats combine after too many cocktails to facilitate behaviors that lead guys into less-safe sexual behaviors. Still others argue that we’re all adults, and each of us is responsible for his own behavior. And no organizer condones illegal activity or behavior that would put their guests in harms way.

Whether based in reality or in insecurity, or a little of both, another faction of the community doesn’t attend the biggest parties because they’re seen as exclusive only to guests who look a certain way – whether by virtue of their physical fitness, skin tone, economic status, or gender.

Rightly or wrongly, that can translate into a perceived cliquishness that turns would-be participants away, makes them feel less-than, or effectively bullies them into staying home.

What’s worse, potential donors can simply feel that their lives and concerns aren’t represented by the mission or the homogeneity of the organizers, so they feel unmotivated to participate without a place at the larger table.

Even if any of these concerns are only slightly true, think of the dollars left on the table for every person who finds popular gay fundraisers more intimidating or exclusionary than philanthropic.

If you want to influence how the money is spent, get involved. If you are already involved, influence ways to be more inclusive and effect even more change.

It’s worth keeping the conversation going about inclusion and priorities, because among all the contested viewpoints, one point is certain: “Parties with a purpose” are an integral, defining thread in the fabric of local gay culture, and they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Sources: Guidestar, Atlanta Journal Consitution, Project Q Atlanta, Georgia Voice

The lasting impact of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, as it hits Atlanta for the first time since becoming a Broadway blockbuster
By Matthew Holley

When a heralded transgender woman rocks like a superstar and pulls heartstrings like a broken ingénue, audiences take notice. When it’s a show that was a legend even before a Broadway run that rivals most any other rock musicals, gay Atlanta stands up and cheers.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch brings that magic to Atlanta in a limited run on April 4-5 at the Fox Theatre.

For those still uninitiated to Hedwig’s story after an off-Broadway cult hit, movie musical and smash run on the Great White Way in 2014-2015, Atlanta is in for a mind-bending trip of gender confirmation, story telling and good old rock and roll. The Broadway run included actors in the lead including Neil Patrick Harris and Darren Criss.

In short, Hedwig is a thumping musical about a rock and roll band fronted by transgender East German singer, Hedwig Robinson. The show follows the band on a B-grade American tour chasing Hedwig’s ex, a sexy and uber-successful rock god who stole Hedwig’s fame – and heart. The production is based on the original show written by and starring Joh Cameron Mitchell. On tour, Euan Morton plays the title role.

Throughout the story, Hedwig is assisted, yet also annoyed, by her back-up singer, guitarist and husband, Yitzhak. Leading lady Hannah Corneau, who plays Yitzhak with heart and humor, sat down with Goliath Atlanta to shed light on touring with the blockbuster.

Corneau reflects on her experience with the tour and the long-term importance of Hedwig, especially during a volatile time for trans issues in our country.

What’s it like to tour behind such a phenomenal smash hit?
It has been one of the biggest honors of my life thus far. To be a part of the Hedwig legacy is a dream come true. To be able to tell this poignant story and spread these special messages is a responsibility that I feel so very lucky to have taken on.

Were you nervous stepping into such an iconic role?
They were certainly big shoes to fill, but I felt so inspired and lucky to be able to step into his shoes. What an opportunity for me as an actress, but more importantly a human. The piece is such an exciting one to be a part of.

What preparations did you undergo for the role?
Initially, I really had to focus on the physicality and vocal range of the role. To make this man believable, vulnerable and extremely dynamic, I had to dig deep within myself to formulate this character within my mind and body.

Why do you think people are drawn to the show?
People go to the theater in hopes of resonating with characters. Hedwig gives them that opportunity and experience. You see these rich characters and you go on their emotional journey that I think the audience finds is not so different than their own. Everyone has experienced love, loss, regret and self-discovery. That is being human and that is what Hedwig is all about.

What do you hope the audience takes away from the show?
Self-exploration, love, understanding and acceptance is the key to life. It’s literally about life, legacy and love.

What are you most looking forward to about performing in Atlanta?
I performed at the Alliance Theater in 2014, and I love the spirit of Atlanta. Such warm people, a beautiful city and cultured minds. You’re going to eat it up!

Hedwig and the Angry Inch stages Tuesday, April 4 and Wednesday, April 5 at Fox Theatre. foxtheatre.org.

NYC Pride rolls out new entertainment options to up the wow factor on its June celebration
By Buck C. Cooke

The traditional Pride weekend at the end of June is just around the corner, so now is the time to make travel plans to hit up one of the destination Prides around the world. Naturally, New York City should be on your list, but this year NYC Pride makes an even more serious play for your gay travel dollars.

Come to the Big Apple for the three-day Pride Island on June 23-25, 2017, and experience the expansion of what was a one-day party on Pride Sunday into elevated and supersized musical and event offerings to reflect the diversity of the community.

“We really wanted to create this inclusive environment,” says Eboni Munn, NYC Pride Communications Manager. “Our 2017 theme, ‘We Are Proud,’ recognizes our diverse community, and particularly Pride Island, we’ve reimagined Pier 26 as a more inclusive space that people from all backgrounds can truly enjoy.”

On Friday, June 23, Pride Island, kicks off at Hudson River Park on Pier 26. It serves up soul legend Patti Labelle, gay dance favorite Deborah Cox, and DJ Lina. Saturday brings an even bigger lineup, featuring lesbian twins Tegan and Sara, British pop trio Years and Years with gay front man Olly Alexander, Roisin Murphy, Gallant, Dimitri From Paris, and Occupy the Disco.

Sunday brings DJs Scott Martin, Cindel and Chus + Ceballos, as well as a to-be-announced big-name headliner. Cher, Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, Jennifer Lopez, Fergie, and Ariana Grande have all anchored the event in the past, so expect a huge announcement in the coming weeks.

NYC Pride also offers enough parties to keep you occupied all hours of the day and night. On Friday, Fantasy: Men at Work offers a costume party calling for your favorite construction or uniform look with DJs Ralphi Rosario and Eddie Martinez at the Highline Ballroom. There are two parties on Saturday, including the 7th annual VIP Rooftop Party at Hudson Terrace, with DJs Alex Acosta, GSP, and Hannah. That same night, Masterbeat: Game Show hits the Hammerstein Ballroom with DJs Ivan Gomez and Micky Friedmann.

But nightlife is just the beginning in the Big Apple during Pride Weekend. Sunday, June 25, contains two iconic LGBT events. PrideFest, a free street festival, takes place on Hudson Street between Abingdon Square and West 14th Street. Gay Atlanta will be familiar with the format of entertainers, vendors and sponsors welcoming visitors from all over the world.

The March, perhaps the largest Pride event in the U.S., steps off at 12 noon on Sunday from 36th Street and Fifth Avenue and concludes at the intersection of Christopher and Greenwich Streets. Over 30,000 people participated in 2016, and an estimated 2.5 million spectators watched the celebration of LGBT achievement and calls for equality.

Given the uncertainties and concerns over LGBT rights in the U.S. and across the world, this year’s March is expected to be just as large, if not bigger.

Since Atlanta Pride is in October, plan an exciting getaway to New York for NYC Pride, but act quickly, as tickets are going fast for the events.

Want to go?
NYC Pride
nycpride.org

Friday, June 23
7-10 p.m. Pride Island
11 p.m.-5 a.m. Fantasy: Men at Work

Saturday, June 24
2-10 p.m. Pride Island
2-10 p.m. VIP Rooftop Party
10 p.m.-9 a.m. Masterbeat: Game Show

Sunday, June 25
11 a.m.-6:00 p.m. PrideFest
12 noon The March steps off
2 -10 p.m. Pride Island

Atlanta Symphony’s LGBT Night rolls out the red carpet for you and yours
By Buck C. Cooke

Are you ready for some culture? No, not the music without words that is pots-and-pans house music. This is Classical, honey, and it’s going to be extra gay on April 27. Consider this your official invitation to the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s next LGBT Night.

CMI_Survey_Digital_Male_300x250The ASO’s quarterly theme nights started four years ago and are “a time for us to come together as a community to enjoy the fine arts and give patrons a chance to meet some of the musicians who are a part of the ASO,” says Christopher Stephens, ASO Corporate Sales Manager and proud gay Atlantan. “There is a diversity of attendees who come, so LGBT Nights are a great way to meet new people who enjoy the arts.”

The April performance features guest conductor Vasily Petrenko leading “Piano Concerto No. 1” by Mendelssohn, “Don Juan” by Strauss, and “Symphony No. 8” by Dvořák. The ASO is also joined by Argentinian pianist Ingrid Fliter.

“Whether you are a long-time supporter or a first-timer, these programs are very accessible,” Stephens assures.

Tickets include the symphony performance and post-concert reception where LGBT Night attendees mix and mingle with ASO musicians while enjoying drinks, light bites, and beats by Neon the Glowgobear. The reception is held at Twelve Eighty on the Woodruff Arts Center grounds by Symphony Hall.

Neon says attendees, of course, should expect music at the reception that’s far from the selections the symphony performs that night.

“Most people want to hear something different after hearing one kind of music for a period of time,” he says. “There will be some classic dance tracks, not classical music, that I’ve wanted to play for some time but haven’t yet because my sets tend to be high energy. I will hopefully use those during the reception because they’re fun tracks.”

LGBT Nights are just a part of the ASO’s “robust” commitment to the LGBT community in Atlanta, Stephens says.

“The ASO is a member of the Atlanta Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and regularly donates items to LGBT organizations for fundraisers, like the Human Rights Campaign silent auction at the upcoming Atlanta dinner,” he says. “The environment at the ASO is very inclusive, and they support my work with organizations like GLAAD and HRC.”

“Make sure and use the code ‘PROUD’ when purchasing tickets for April 27 in order to receive information related to programming for the LGBT Night,” Stephens adds.

Want to go?

ASO LGBT NIGHT
When: April 27, 8 p.m.
Where: Atlanta Symphony Hall
Dress: Cocktail attire
Tickets: atlantasymphony.org Promo code PROUD

Meet this HRC Atlanta volunteer for the scoop on this year’s gala, and find out how he manages to fit several worthy non-profits into an impressively busy schedule.
By Mike Fleming

The gay men of Atlanta play an integral part in our city’s rich cultural, corporate and philanthropic history. From public relations strategy to the intricate planning of this month’s HRC Atlanta Dinner and Silent Auction, 26-year-old Andrew Moon plays a part in all of those aspects of the city and more.

Originally from Commerce, Georgia, with a bachelor’s degree from UGA, Moon has been in Atlanta for five years now in a respected public relations firm that keeps him busy morning to night. We chatted with him about the 30th HRC Gala Dinner & Silent Auction coming on April 22, life in the big city, and what it means to give back to LGBT and other worthy causes.

CMI_Survey_Digital_Male_300x250Tell us about your day job.

I’m a Strategist with Edelman Atlanta’s digital group. I look across an organization’s target audiences – customers, employees, etc. – and help them identify which marketing channels (e.g., website, social media) are most appropriate. It’s challenging, but such an amazing opportunity to work with brilliant people around the world.

What associations are you most proud of outside of work?

I’m fortunate enough that Edelman recognizes that business and purpose can – and should – live together. This gives me flexibility, and other people within Edelman, to support a few non-profits around town like CHRIS 180 and the Georgia Center for Non-Profits. I also serve as the Communications Chair on the Human Rights Campaign Atlanta Steering Committee.

What’s makes this year’s HRC Atlanta Gala special?

I think most in our community are looking for a silver lining in today’s chaos. I actually started to feel a bit hopeless, but a quote from Meryl Streep, who was recently honored at the HRC New York Gala, put it well: “Because he will have woken us up to how fragile freedom really is.”

Following the marriage equality ruling, people lost sight of the other important battles to end workplace discrimination, achieve fair housing and ensure transgender individuals are recognized as equal. Our event, as it always has, helps advance these battles on a local, state, national and even global scale.

When you’re not working or volunteering, what do you do for fun?

I’m a true a cappella nerd. I started in the UGA Accidentals, and we competed in the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella, the same competition featured in the movie Pitch Perfect. Since moving to Atlanta, I’ve had the opportunity to sing with a few groups such as The Graduates.

If you could change one thing about gay Atlanta, what would it be?

I’ve never felt more connected to our community than in the aftermath of the Pulse shooting last year. In the face of incredible tragedy, people from all walks of life stood in solidarity to celebrate the lives lost and begin the healing process – together.

If I’d change anything, it would be to have our community realize that we have an immense opportunity to drive change when we unify – not just in times of crisis – around a common cause.

If you were to die tomorrow, what would you want your legacy to be?

That I left things in a better place than I found them.

Meet Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s corporate sales manager and find out how else he enhances gay Atlanta
By Mike Fleming

The rich diversity of Atlanta’s gay community touches on most every aspect of life in the city. Chances are if you are doing it, enjoying it, depending on it or supporting it in Atlanta, someone gay is helping make it happen.

This month’s Man About Town Christopher Stephens brings his particular skill set to the table at Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. At 31, this Augusta native with a Sports Management degree originally moved to Atlanta in 2007 to work for the Atlanta Hawks. He switched gears nearly two years ago to join Team ASO, and hasn’t looked back.

Stephens takes the time to let us in on his work there, the organization’s commitment to LGBT inclusion, as well as his other contributions to the many-faceted tapestry that makes up our community.

Tell us about your role at Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

The Corporate Sales Manager aides Georgia business and organizations with employee engagement, and one of my proudest accomplishments is starting our ticket fundraising program. I love that even with our ASO fundraising goals, we have begun helping others with theirs. I also negotiate our deal site contracts and guide BRAVO, our young professional group.

A highlight of my responsibilities is planning our ASO LGBT nights. These events are a great opportunity for our community to bond while enjoying an evening of fine arts. We provide this experience not only for those that love the Symphony, but also for those that have never been. Following the concert, we have a reception with ASO musicians, and the first drink is on us! The next one is April 27.

What affiliations do you have outside the Symphony?

In an effort to aid in the fight for equality, I’ve served on the Atlanta Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce board, volunteered with HRC and participated in GLAAD fundraiser events. I currently serve on the board of the Health Initiative, an LGBT-focused non-profit that provides health care referrals and guidance for anyone looking into health plans and services.

I love my Alma Mater, Georgia Southern University, and now I serve on the Georgia Southern Alumni Advisory Council. Always interested in nonprofit organizations, I’ve also joined the Georgia Center for Nonprofits to learn more about their internal operations.

What do you do for fun?

Since I’m at the Woodruff Arts Center so often, it’s natural that being a patron of the arts has become one of my favorite hobbies. Recently I’ve taken to creating my own paintings….Let’s just say they’re works in progress.

I come from an active, outdoorsy family, so I love getting together with friends for hiking or kayaking adventures – still novice level – and jumping out onto the tennis court. I also attend all the Atlanta festivals I can manage, a favorite being the Food & Wine Festival.

If you were to die tomorrow, what would your legacy to be?

I realized early in life that I was gay, and I knew it was unacceptable where I grew up. I hope that the boards I’ve served on, volunteer hours I’ve donated, and places I’ve worked will leave a path for others to feel comfortable in their skin much sooner than I did. I don’t need a legacy as long as my actions have a positive effect on our equality and internal acceptance.

Actress, comedian, singer and LGBT hero Sandra Bernhard shows us some love upon her return to Atlanta.
By Gregg Shapiro

Over the years, Sandra Bernhard has found a way to make us laugh and think, often at the same time. She began as a stand-up comedian and moved on to performing acclaimed one-woman shows that cemented her popularity with gay audiences.

She’s proven her mettle as an actress in movies and on TV, and she’s even established herself as a singer with a few albums to her credit. Known for her outspoken opinions, she’s an author, too, having penned three books, as well as the host of her own radio show, Sandyland.

Now Bernhard embarks on a series of concert dates for her latest live show, Sandra Monica Blvd: Coast to Coast, which hits Atlanta’s City Winery on March 10. She chats about what to expect during the performance, her influences, and her insight on all manner of current affairs.

What can we expect from Sandra Monica Blvd.: Coast to Coast?

It covers a lot of territory. Funny encounters with people on the subway. A little bit of looking back at my own personal history. It’s all interwoven with great music and pieces that weave throughout the music. It’s a wild ride on Sandra Monica Boulevard [laughs].

What’s your process creating a show like Sandra Monica?

I do Joe’s Pub here in New York during the holidays, so throughout the year, while I’m doing an existing show, I’m putting together new material for Joe’s Pub. It’s an ongoing process (that directly feeds into the current live show).

I’m also doing my daily show Sandyland on Radio Andy and Sirius XM, that’s also an incubator for me when putting together a show and new material. It keeps me on my toes.

Are you finding material in the current political situation?

No, I’m not. I find little to no humor in it. If anything, it’s verbatim. It’s diatribes, and I don’t like to do that in my shows. … The most important thing for what I’m doing is to lift up people, to bring smart, sophisticated material to my audience. To keep the conversation elevated.

You were at the Women’s March on Washington, and there’s an LGBT march scheduled for June. Is that something in which you would participate as well?

I’ll be participating in whatever marches go on from here on out! Absolutely! Whether it’s LGBT rights or the environment or women’s rights or health care, it affects the people we care about. We’re one people in this country. Everybody deserves the best of all of it.

You performed at Gay Days in Orlando a week before the Pulse Nightclub attack. What are your reactions?

It was such a great vibe down there. I performed at Parliament House. It has a poolside stage and it was so fun. It was a sultry, fun Florida night. Everybody was in great spirits. (The shooting) was such a total shock on so many levels. …

I can’t say that it was influenced by international incidents. This guy was conflicted about his own sexuality and had been there (to Pulse) before. That doesn’t make it any better or worse. I’m just saying you have to be clear about how you couch things.

My point is that now, more than ever, people are able to disconnect emotionally and do terrible things that I don’t think we ever imagined possible. Horrible. Let’s hope these things are dwindling, but who knows? With what’s going on in the White House, all bets are off.

Atlanta Jewish Film Festival courts gay audiences with multiple screenings of four first-rate films

By Elijah Sarkesian

When it comes to LGBT representation at film festivals in Atlanta, we’re used to seeing our lives represented. With gay and allied festivals like Out on Film and the Atlanta Film Festival, our blue city in its increasingly less-red state knows how to treat its gay moviegoers.

It’s nice to know that the city’s premiere festival, the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, stands tall among them. Founded in 2000 by the American Jewish Committee, it took only 17 years to become the city’s largest single film festival, and the largest Jewish film festival in the entire world.

AJFF uses the power of cinema to showcase stories that bring together a diverse array of Jewish stories to examine their interconnectedness with other parts of Atlanta’s cultural, ethnic and religious landscape.

That dedicated outreach includes our vibrant LGBT culture.

For 2017, AJFF’s loyal 38,000+ attendees will find three gay-specific entries, plus a fourth that focuses on an infamous Broadway production created by a legendary gay man. Each film is scheduled to screen multiple times at different venues across Atlanta, and some are included as part of special events. Here’s a sneak peek.

Family Commitments
After dating for two years, David and Khaled (Maximilian von Pufendorf and Omar El-Saeidi, photo this page) are ready to shatter a taboo in their German society: a same-sex Jewish/Muslim marriage. The couple faces obstacles in the form of David’s overbearing mother, Khaled’s homophobic father, and an old acquaintance who comes from out of nowhere claiming to be pregnant with David’s child. Heartfelt hilarity ensues.

Saturday, Jan. 28, 9:30 p.m.
GTC Merchants Walk

Sunday, Jan. 29, 2:30 p.m.
UA Tara

Friday, Feb. 3, 12:40 p.m.
Regal Perimeter Pointe

Saturday, Feb. 4, 2 p.m.
Lefont Sandy Springs

*Saturday, Feb. 11, 8:40 p.m.
Woodruff Arts Center

*This screening presented American Jewish Committee’s young leadership division is reserved for festival attendees 40-years-old and younger. A pre-party starts at 7 p.m.

The Freedom to Marry
We already knew that same-sex marriage in the United States finally became a reality nationwide with 2015’s historic Obergefell v. Hodges case. What’s new is the behind-the-scenes strategy and maneuvers among those responsible for championing the case for marriage equality. Among them is this story focusing on openly gay attorney Evan Wolfson, whose roots in Pittsburgh’s Jewish community helped develop his passion for social justice, including in the creation of the now-ubiquitous national organization Freedom to Marry.

Thursday, Feb. 2, 2:30 p.m.
Regal Perimeter Pointe

*Sunday, Feb. 5, 7 p.m.
Regal Atlantic Station

Monday, Feb. 13, 7:50 p.m.
Lefont Sandy Springs

*Tuesday, Feb. 14, 7:50 p.m.
Woodruff Arts Center

*Gay Atlanta’s own Out on Film leads panel discussions following these screenings.

Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened
Legendary Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim is one of the most prolific in the history of the Great White Way. After composing a number of hits during the 1970s – A Chorus Line, Company, Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods, and more – it was a shock when his Merrily We Roll Along shuttered after only 16 performances in 1981. The musical, about the disillusionment of adulthood, confused audiences and critics alike with its unusual structure – the story unfolds in reverse – and the decision to cast unknown teens as adults. In this documentary from original cast member Lonny Price, audiences can now go behind the scenes of one of the Great White Way’s most legendary flops.

Sunday, Jan. 29, 11:15 a.m.
GTC Merchants Walk

Saturday, Feb. 11, 1 p.m.
Lefont Sandy Springs

Saturday, Feb. 11, 8:30 p.m.
Regal Atlantic Station

In Between
Laila (Mouna Hawa), a chic criminal lawyer, and Salma (Sana Jammelieh), a lesbian DJ, spend their nights hanging out in Tel Aviv’s underground bars. Their attitudes towards life and sex differ from their roommate Nour (Shaden Kanboura), a university student whose life is more religiously devout and conservative. The three work to stay true to themselves while also forging a bond of sisterhood as Palestinian women in Jewish society.

Friday, Jan. 27, 2:20 p.m.
GTC Merchants Walk

Monday, Jan. 30, 9:10 p.m.
UA Tara

Saturday, Feb. 11, 1 p.m.
Regal Atlantic Station

Tuesday, Feb. 14, 7:50 p.m.
Lefont Sandy Springs

Atlanta Jewish Film Festival runs through Wednesday, February 15. For a complete lineup, or to purchase tickets, visit ajff.org.

Real stories. Real people. Really blown attempts at gay seasonal gatherings in Atlanta serve as hosting lessons for the rest of us.

By Mike Fleming

Friends and family coming together for good cheer is such a warming thought this time of year. You’ll just invite some folks, you say. It will be rewarding, you tell yourself. It can be super low maintenance, you think.

Think again. Without some forethought and your head in the game as you make plans, your attempt at hosting the perfect holiday party could turn into one of the horror stories we discovered. These hosts ended up with tidings of anything but comfort and joy.

Never fear. We take a close look at the damage to create a list of lessons to learn as you head into your own cocktail or dinner party.

It’s Not About You
I attended an elegant affair at the home of a Morningside queen who had the house professionally decorated and staffed it from kitchen to bars to door. That’s fine, if impersonal, but he blew it when he stepped out an hour before start time so that he could arrive late in a grand entrance.”
Lesson Learned: If your event is about your glory and not your guests, don’t throw one. Ask how you can personally make each guest feel welcome.

Fool Me Once
This guy sends out engraved invitations every year to his ‘Stock My Bar’ holiday party. Not only does he want us to BYOB, but an extra bottle for him to keep. To make matters worse, he assigns liquors and brands and tells you what to bring. Adding insult to injury, there’s a “check in” at the door – because you are literally paying your entry with alcohol. I went one year to please a date. Neither of us left impressed, and I’ve never been back.”
Lesson Learned: You sate your guests, not the other way around.

Cheap Skate
One host is notorious for calling his event a ‘Tree Trimming Party’ but what he really wants is his friends to buy the decorations for the tree, bring a dish to share, provide the booze, serve as the bartenders, and stay to help clean up.”
Lesson Learned: If you want to throw a party, don’t call on friends to make it happen.

Hold Your Liquor
The worst holiday party I ever attended, the host didn’t pace himself. He started yelling half-inappropriate and half-incoherent rants pretty early, and was hurling in the bathroom by midnight. People were just drifting toward the door trying to figure out how to leave gracefully.”
Lesson Learned: You’re on duty at your own party, at least enough to temper your intake and help others have a good time.

Hands Free
When I was in my 20s, I went to the home of a retired local gay bigwig with a bunch of friends. We were honored to be invited, until the host used a ‘tour of the house’ ploy to put his hands all over me. When that didn’t work, he moved on to my next friend, and the next.”
Lesson Learned: “Your House, Your Rules” doesn’t apply to uninvited groping, Trumpy McGrabsalot.

High Martha
There was this party at a certain condo tower in Midtown where the host over-decorated in general, but specifically over decorated for every possible religion. Kitschy stereotypical tchotchkes in every nook and corner made people uncomfortable – especially when we figured out he didn’t mean it as a joke.”
Lesson Learned: If you want to seem inclusive, go neutral on the religion and keep decor simple. A few well-placed lights, candles and pretty colors go a long way.

Queer as Folk heartthrob Randy Harrison makes the iconic Emcee his very own when the revival of a Broadway classic hits Atlanta.

By Matthew Holley

The illustrious Broadway musical Cabaret lands in Atlanta to light up the Fox Theatre to kick off November with a bang. In honor of its 50th anniversary season, the national tour of theTony Award-winning revival hits town. The show and its accompanying glitz and glamour runs November 1-6.

As any theater queen can tell you, Cabaret is set against the backdrop of a pre-Nazi Berlin and the notorious Kit Kat Klub, home to the Emcee, single gal Sally Bowles and a boisterous loveable ensemble. Each night the eccentric performers claim the stage, enticing the crowd and encouraging everyone to leave all their worries at the door. The show features the iconic songs “Cabaret,” “Wilkommen,” and the fierce “Maybe This Time.”

Kander & Ebb’s Cabaret originally opened on Broadway in 1966, in London in 1968, and on film in 1972. It was in March, 1998, that the revival with the legendary Alan Cumming and Natasha Richardson started the whole fury over again before taking its final bow on January, 2004.

Ten years later, Cabaret returned with Cumming reprising his Tony-winning role as the Emcee. The likes of Michelle Williams, Emma Stone and Sienna Miller played Sally Bowles.

For the 50th anniversary tour, the magnanimously talented Andrea Goss makes Sally Bowles her very own. To celebrate the show’s grand entrance to Atlanta, Goliath catches up with the production’s newest Emcee, the handsome, critically acclaimed and native Atlanta actor Randy Harrison of Wicked and Queer as Folk fame.

What attracted you most to the role of the Emcee?

The role is iconic for so many reasons. The show is so good, and it’s an amazing opportunity for an actor to use all of themselves in bringing the role to life, so I was excited to be a part of the production. 

How rigorous was the audition process?

I auditioned with the song “Willkommen.” I had to do a work session with a lot of the introductory dialogue with the music and learning the steps with the choreographer, and repeat the process one more time. Therefore, the audition process wasn’t quite as rigorous as actually waiting to hear if I got the part. That took a couple of months of waiting to hear back.

Did actors who came before you in the role influence making it your own?

Absolutely! I am a huge admirer of all the legends who played the Emcee. Back in the day, I saw Alan [Cumming] play the role two to three times. I knew his take on the role very well, but I did watch it again: the film, YouTube videos and anyone I could in order to get ideas.

What do you hope first timers will take away from the show?

The show is harrowing and surprising and really intelligent. The finale is absolutely unforgettable. People know of it and the film, but the show is excellent at subverting audience expectations. It is a thrill and titillating, really hitting you in the gut. I think it will be especially powerful in Atlanta.

How tough is a national tour versus running in one location?

A tour is pretty grueling. I have been on the road for the better part of a year, moving from one hotel to the next, constantly packing and unpacking. However, it has been a wonderful way to see the country, especially during an election year. 

What’s one of your favorite things about doing the show night after night?

The audience is my scene partner, and to be in a setting where the front row is so close to the stage is very rewarding for my performance and me.

So many series have been revived as of late, is there any talk of a Queer as Folk reunion or revival?

The fans have been discussing it for years since the show ended. And I know myself and the rest of the cast would be up for it. As of right now though, there is no official talk of a reunion or revival.

What is next for you?

Rest and nesting, I miss my home! I also just developed and directed a new web series that I shot last fall called New York Is Dead. And I’m just looking forward to getting back in front of the camera again.

Want to go?
What: Cabaret
When: November 1-6
Where: Fox Theatre
Info: foxtheatre.org

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