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This could be a game changer

George William Hall, Jack Hall, HBO, Prison Terminal, gay news, Washington Blade, Edgar Barens

George William Hall (Jack Hall), the subject of ‘Prison Terminal,’ which will screen later this month on HBO. (Photo courtesy HBO)

With Hollywood’s elite ready to celebrate at the Academy Awards this Sunday, names like Cate Blanchett, Jared Leto and Jennifer Lawrence are predicted by many to take home Oscar gold.

One name up for an award who probably isn’t familiar to many is documentary director Edgar Barens, a gay filmmaker whose film “Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall” is up for Best Short Documentary this year.

“I was just hit by a wall of emotion and started crying when I heard. I never sought the Oscar thing but when it happened, I was just overwhelmed,” Barens says. “This could be a game changer.”

Growing up in Chicago with European parents, Barens was exposed to the cinema at a very young age.

“I was always immersed in film. As a kid, my brother and I would go to film screenings and foreign films all the time,” he says. “By the time I got to college, I had no idea you could study film, and I was hooked when I saw the classes.”

Barens received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in cinema and photography from Southern Illinois University, but found that it wasn’t the easiest thing to make a living as a filmmaker.

“My dad was an artist and always had projects he was working on and I got his work ethic. No matter what dead-end job I was working at, and I had many of them — such as a phlebotomist when making this film — I was always working on something on the side,” he says. “What I found was many of these temp jobs ended up blossoming into film jobs.”

Barens did company films, short documentaries and any project a company would need a camera and story for. The 53-year-old took most of his savings to invest in making his Oscar-nominated film and HBO came along with funds to finish the project.

“Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall” follows the terminally ill Jack Hall, jailed in maximum-security prison at the Iowa State Penitentiary, as he faces his final days with the assistance of hospice care provided by workers drawn from the prison population.

“For me, I was giving a voice to the prisoners who don’t often get heard,” Barens says. “I was celebrating a program that was developed in their benefit to show people that even though they have done terrible things, at the end of the day, we have to be better than they were when they committed their crimes and show them dignity in their deaths.”

Barens spent six months shooting footage behind the walls of the Iowa State Penitentiary and has put together a poignant account of how the hospice experience can profoundly touch even the forsaken lives of the incarcerated.

It was a topic that wasn’t a new one for Barens, who had done a much smaller film about hospice care in a prison in Louisiana earlier in his career. That was just a two-week shoot about setting up a hospice in a prison, and he always hoped to take a much more elaborate look at the subject.

Going in, he didn’t know exactly what story he was going to tell, but fate turned the attention of the film to Hall, a decorated soldier who went to prison for 21 years for murdering a drug dealer.

“Two months into my stay, Jack started to get sick and it became a no-brainer that he was the guy I was going to follow,” he says. “It’s a hybrid cinema verite. I wanted to make it observational, but I needed information from people so the verite provides a buffer between the talking heads and the observational footage. People lose track that they are in a prison, but you get these little reminders, like when Jack is shackled.”

George William Hall, Jack Hall, HBO, Prison Terminal, gay news, Washington Blade, Edgar Barens

Gay documentary filmmaker Edgar Barens invested most of his savings to make ‘Prison Terminal: the Last Days of Private Jack Hall.’ (Photo courtesy of HBO)

Barens says he has plenty of footage about the workers, the hospice and the prisoners that didn’t make it into the finished film, and is working on a web-based media project that will let viewers learn more about what they see in the film.

The out filmmaker doesn’t think it’s necessary that his documentaries only deal with LGBT issues but neither does he shy away from the subject, even shooting a series of anti-homophobia public service announcements.

“Being gay is a big part of my life but I don’t think everything film-wise has to have a gay theme,” he says. “I would never shy away from it. I know some ideas of mine coming down the pike have a major gay theme, but not everything has to have that theme.”

A few days after learning of his award nomination, Barens flew to Sundance and learned from past nominees that regardless of whether he wins or not, his film career will probably be an easier ride.

“Just with the nomination they told me to expect not having to worry about how difficult it is to get funding for my next film, because people will recognize the nomination,” he says. “Not that people will throw money at me, but it should help greatly. I’m prepping myself for a big change, but you never know.”

Turning to Sunday, Barens will be dressing to the nines and bringing his mom as his date, and is looking forward to walking the red carpet with the star-studded guest list.

“I would like to wing it, but there are a few names I absolutely have to mention but there is a chance I may not even know who I am,” he says. “I’ll have a cheat sheet with some names and just let the rest come from my heart. That’s if I am lucky enough. It’s pretty nice to be nominated and I feel good for that accomplishment.”

“Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall” will air on HBO at 8 p.m., March 31.

27
Feb
2014

‘Golden’ gay themes

Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof in 'Dallas Buyers Club.' (Photo courtesy Focus Features)

Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof in ‘Dallas Buyers Club.’ (Photo courtesy Focus Features)

From the opening monologue when hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler welcomed all “women and gay men watching at home,” it was a pretty gay Golden Globes.

The 71st annual Golden Globe Awards were presented Sunday night at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. The LGBT-themed winners were:

• “Behind the Candelabra,” a Liberace biopic, for best mini-series or motion picture made for television
Michael Douglas (who’s straight) for best actor in a mini-series or motion picture made for television for his role as Liberace in “Behind the Candelabra.”
Matthew McConaughey (also straight) who played an AIDS patient in “Dallas Buyers Club” for actor in a motion picture, drama
Jared Leto (also straight) who played a trans character in “Dallas Buyers Club” for supporting actor, motion picture
Douglas in thanking co-star Matt Damon, said “The only reason you’re not up here is because I had more sequins.”
The New York Times has a complete winners list here.

 

 

13
Jan
2014

A milestone in the hourglass

Will Horton, Sonny Kiriakis, Marlena, Deidre Hall, Freddie Smith, Guy Wilson, Days of Our Lives, soap opera, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, Salem, gay news, Washington Blade

Guy Wilson (left) as Will, Deidre Hall as Marlena and Freddie Smith as Sonny on ‘Days of Our Lives.’ Will and Sonny made history this week as the first same-sex male wedding on a daytime soap. (Photo by Howard Wise, JPI Studios)

Long-running NBC daytime soap “Days of Our Lives” made history this week when characters Sonny Kiriakis (son of Justin and Adrienne) and Will Horton (son of Lucas and Sami) were united in marriage by Dr. Marlena Evans (Deidre Hall), Will’s grandmother. They’re not the first ever same-sex couple (“All My Children” had a 2009 lesbian wedding) but they’re the first male soap power couple and first same-sex male wedding.

Actor Guy Wilson, who took over the role of Will in episodes airing in January (actor Chandler Massey won two Daytime Emmys playing Will starting in 2010), caught up with the Blade during a break in filming this week. The Los Angeles-based actor, who, along with co-star Freddie Smith who plays Sonny, is straight, says it’s been an honor to work on the show in a groundbreaking storyline.

“I’ve had to pinch myself,” the 28-year-old San Francisco native says. “You know, part of my interest in going into entertainment at a young age was to hopefully make a difference in life. And I feel at 28, which I still feel very, very young, so to be part of something so special at a young age and that I care about on a personal level, it’s a blessing. It’s part of why I was so excited back in August when I heard I had a chance of getting this part, to see it now come to fruition and to get to do what I love everyday, it’s all I need to be happy.”

Wilson, who met his predecessor Massey a couple times in 2011 when Wilson had auditioned for two other roles on the show, says he and Smith have “found a really comfortable place.”

“We’re obviously friends but playing roles that are so emotionally intimate, you know, we’ve definitely developed a special kind of bond. It’s almost too simple to say he’s one of my best friends because we’ve shared this emotional journey together for the last almost seven months. … He’s definitely one of the most important people in my life.”

Wilson, who’s also had roles on “NCIS,” “Castle,” “Bones” and “Breaking Bad” says the fast shooting schedule in daytime has been a challenge with most scenes shooting after one quick rehearsal, but he’s growing accustomed to the pace. The wedding scenes were shot about four months ago, which is typical.

Working with soap parents Bryan Dattilo (Lucas) and Alison Sweeney (Sami), both longtime vets of the show, has been grounding. He says Hall has gone above and beyond in her efforts to make him feel welcome and get him up to speed.

“She never hesitated at any point to share all of her knowledge and all of her experience with me and to be really detailed with that information and with that level of specificity made it so much easier to continue the relationship between Will and Marlena, which is very important to the show.”

And long-time executive producer Ken Corday whose parents started the show in 1965? Wilson isn’t sure if he was around when he auditioned, but says he’s seen him “a few times” on the set.

“I really like that man,” he says. “He’s very cool.”

Wilson laughs when asked if Salem, the show’s fictional base town, has a gay bar.

“If there are, I haven’t been to them,” he says with a chuckle.

Of course, given the medium, it’s inevitable that Will and Sonny will have many ups and downs if they stay on the show. Wilson says as an actor, he looks forward to that.

“With conflict comes growth,” he says. “One thing that’s been very satisfying about the whole WilSon (as fans have dubbed it) storyline is they do a really good job of communicating with each other. I actually think they have one of the healthier relationships on daytime TV. … But with adulthood comes adult problems so as an actor I’m very excited to tackle those.”

02
Apr
2014

Queery: Kelly Moss Southall

Kelly Moss Southall,The Dana Tai Soon Burgess, dance, gay news, Washington Blade

Kelly Moss Southall (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

When Kelly Moss Southall came to D.C. back in 2006, he started rather modestly.

The 31-year-old Chillicothe, Ohio resident had just finished college at Ohio University and came to the District to accept what was essentially a part-time position with the Dana Tai Soon Burgess Dance Company.

Though he would eventually get a master’s degree and teach dance at George Washington University as well as work a “day job” in real estate, the allure of joining Burgess was enough to get him here.

“I just kind of thought I should dance now while I can and the rest is really history,” the company’s associate artistic director says. “Dana has a real gift for seeing potential in people and honing in on other skills that might be useful, so I’ve been able to do a lot of things with costume design, lighting design and sets that’s overall felt very artistically satisfying.”

Tonight (Friday) and Saturday, the company will present “Four By Burgess,” at the Kennedy Center (2700 F St., N.W.) to celebrate its 22nd season. Tickets are $21-35. Visit kennedy-center.org for details. The company, which critics have called a “national dance treasure,” also has an exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery through July. Visit dtsbdc.org for details.

Southall is in the midst of planning a wedding with his partner, Sergio Herrera. They live in Brookland with two cats and a dog and also run Scout Properties, a residential real estate company, together. Southall enjoys decorating, gardening, shopping, dancing and playing the piano and accordion in his free time.

 

How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?

I came out the summer between my senior year of high school and first year of college. The first person I told was my sister. We were driving home from a family event on the Fourth of July. In a way she was the hardest to tell, simply because she was the first, but her reaction was so supportive and joyful that any awkward feelings I had were quickly brushed aside.

 

Who’s your LGBT hero?

My good friend Terry Penrod. At a time when I was trying to figure out my future plans beyond college, it was great to have a friend/mentor who taught me about gay culture, history, dating and more.

 

What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present? 

Wonderland Ballroom in Columbia Heights

 

Describe your dream wedding.

One that I don’t have to plan! Sergio and I have been planning our wedding since he proposed last June. There have been many variations but nothing is set as of yet. I want a private ceremony and a big party for friends and family. Sounds easy? Trust me, it’s not.

 

What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?

My top two are animal cruelty and research for non-fossil fuel energy sources.

 

What historical outcome would you change?

Temporal Prime Directive! I wouldn’t change any historical outcome.

 

What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?

“Wardrobe malfunction” during the halftime show at Super Bowl XXXVIII is the first moment that comes to mind.

 

On what do you insist?

The house must be spotless before company arrives!

 

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?

A flier for our Kennedy Center performance this weekend.

 

If your life were a book, what would the title be?

“The Life & Times of Mr. Kelly”

 

If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?

I would probably read about it on Facebook, think it’s a post by The Onion and continue scrolling down.

 

What do you believe in beyond the physical world?

After the lights go out, the show’s over, so make it count!

 

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?

Keep up the amazing work!

 

What would you walk across hot coals for?

A cure for cancer, to save a member of my family from injury or death, if my friends dared me to or to see how it felt.

 

What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?

None. Stereotypes exist because it is in our nature to identify, compare and categorize.

What’s your favorite LGBT movie?

Oh there are so many! I’ll go with classics like “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar,” “The Birdcage,” “Flawless,” “Hedwig & the Angry Inch” and “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert.”

 

What’s the most overrated social custom?

Punctuality

 

What trophy or prize do you most covet?

A small collection of items from my mom’s father. He passed away before I was born, so I never had the opportunity to know him. I have two sets of cufflinks, a tie bar and his pearl-inlayed pocketknife.

 

What do you wish you’d known at 18?

Hard to say. I don’t have any regrets.

 

Why Washington?

After graduating from college in 2006, I went to Pittsburgh to audition for a dance company (I ended up not getting the job). While I was there I met Jan Tievsky, the board president for Dana Tai Soon Burgess Dance Company. She noticed my potential and mentioned Dana’s company. When the company came back from its tour to Peru, Dana gave me a call and invited me down from Ohio to audition. After three days of dancing with the company, he offered me a position and I never left.

Kelly Moss Southall,The Dana Tai Soon Burgess, dance, gay news, Washington Blade

Kelly Moss Southall (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

04
Feb
2014

Pink Dollars

28
Feb
2014

Queery: Chris Dinolfo

Chris Dinolfo, gay news, Washington Blade

Chris Dinolfo (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

For Chris Dinolfo, acting is “kind of like a drug.”

Though he keeps a day job “so I can pay my rent,” acting, for him, is essential.

“You kind of get addicted to the adrenaline of it,” he says. “The other part of it is that when you get in a good show and you start to realize you’re telling a really important story … you want to share that with more and more people. It keeps me sane. In some ways it seems counterintuitive — most people I know in the theater are batshit crazy, but I just know I belong in the arts. When I’m not acting, I start to go a little stir crazy.”

He’s currently in the Sarah Ruhl play “Late: A Cowboy Song” at No Rules Theatre Co. (4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington/norulestheatre.org) where he plays Crick, a “controlling, asshole of a character” Dinolfo says he’s “tried to infuse with as much humanity as possible.” Go now if your interest is piqued — the show (which has been called a “quirky … urban fairytale”) closes Sunday.

Dinolfo, a 20-something Fairfield, Conn., native, came to Washington for school 12 years ago and stayed. He works by day in Friendship Heights in admin at a health care clinic. He lives in Kalorama with his boyfriend and enjoys paddle boarding, theater and going to Good Wood on U Street in his free time.

 

How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?

Since college. My girlfriend.

 

Who’s your LGBT hero?

There are several LGBT people I truly admire for their courage, activism and just downright moxie: Larry Kramer, who wrote “The Normal Heart,” for saying and writing the things no one wanted to hear at the time about AIDS and how it affected our community. Ellen DeGeneres for being funny, resilient and successful. Harvey Milk for his bravery, optimism and sacrifice. RuPaul. Thank God for RuPaul. Also, any sports figure who comes out.

What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?

“Peach Pit” at DC 9 with DJ Matt Bailer. Black Cat, 9:30 club and Nellie’s also get my vote. Also, the Blagden Alley Social Club — Google it. And I do wish I had been around to have experienced Tracks.

 

Describe your dream wedding.

Provincetown

 

What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?

How our government doesn’t subsidize the arts.

 

What historical outcome would you change?

This question is too difficult so I’m gonna go with Drew Barrymore’s dress at the Golden Globes.

 

What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?

Hanging out with Jason Sellards (Jake Shears) and driving him to JR.’s after a Scissor Sisters concert. Much drinking ensued.

 

On what do you insist?

A sense of humor. And good hygiene.

 

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?

Publicity for the play in which I am currently performing — “LATE: A Cowboy Song” (Come see it!)

 

If your life were a book, what would the title be?

“Privileged Poor”

 

If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?

Cry. I don’t want science to screw with what I want to screw.

 

What do you believe in beyond the physical world?

The non-physical world. (But seriously, I do believe in a non-physical world.)

 

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?

America isn’t the country we claim it to be as long as LGBT people are denied rights that are inherently given to heterosexual people. Keep on fighting the good fight: Equality for all!

 

What would you walk across hot coals for?

My nieces and nephew.

 

What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?

Twink

What’s your favorite LGBT movie?

Official LGBT movie: “Paris is Burning.” Unofficial: “Beaches”

 

What’s the most overrated social custom?

The high school prom.

 

What trophy or prize do you most covet?

Powerball

 

What do you wish you’d known at 18?

Parents are people, too; flawed and full of dreams. That, and the foresight to study coding and get in with an ambitious start-up company called Facebook.

 

Why Washington?

Aside from family living here, boyfriend and all the acting opportunities? Because New York is officially for wealthy people. I know that because the Huffington Post told me.

Chris Dinolfo, Late: a Cowboy Song, gay news, Washington Blade

Chris Dinolfo in ‘Late: a Cowboy Song.’ (Photo by Second Glance Photography)

15
Jan
2014

Queery: Torey Carter

Torey Carter, gay news, Washington Blade

Torey Carter (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

When Torey Carter joined the Victory Fund staff four years ago, he says the organization’s singularity of focus was the main draw.

“The thing that strikes me is that we’re now seeing victories in places where you don’t readily or quickly think of there being LGBT officeholders,” the 37-year-old Hertford, N.C., native says. “I’m not talking about California or New York but in the heartland and in the South, I have the opportunity to work for an organization that works to get people elected in the kinds of towns like where I grew up. It hasn’t happened there, but it’s a reality that’s completely possible now and it wasn’t then. That’s why I still come to work every day.”

Victory Fund has its champagne brunch, one of its key annual events, Sunday at 11 a.m. at the Washington Hilton Hotel (1919 Conn. Ave., N.W.). Individual tickets are $250 and several sponsorship brackets are available. Several LGBT elected officials such as Maine’s Rep. Mike Michaud and Rep. Jared Polis will speak. Tickets are still available at victoryfund.org.

Carter has been in the D.C. area for about 25 years and worked many years as an accountant before joining Victory Fund.

Carter and partner Mike Conneen live together in Washington’s Takoma neighborhood. Carter enjoys home improvement projects, gardening, cooking, exercise and playing with Rex, his 6-year-old Quaker parrot, in his free time.

 

How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?

I’ve been out about 15 years. It was hardest to tell my grandmother because her health at the time was poor and I worried it would add to her worries. But she welcomed my truth and embraced me with unconditional love.

 

Who’s your LGBT hero?

Bayard Rustin was a man ahead of his time.

 

What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?

Nothing compares to standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, gazing out at the stars over the reflecting pool with the Capitol Building in the distance, reflecting on the history that unfolded at that site.

 

Describe your dream wedding.

Matching suits, family, friends and lots of Beyonce on the dance floor.

 

What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?

Every child deserves a quality education. It’s the best resource for folks that come from a place like me to level the playing field.

 

What historical outcome would you change?

I’d change who shot J.R. It would have been more interesting if one of the main characters, like Sue Ellen, had done it. And I’d make sure the Bible was properly translated.

 

What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?

I’ll never forget where I was when I found out who shot J.R.

 

On what do you insist?

No pork, no chocolate, no diet soda.

 

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?

“What is this white stuff falling from the sky???” (Sunday, March 30, 2014)

 

If your life were a book, what would the title be?

“Torey Carter: A Model Life”

 

If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would

you do?

I would welcome all newly converted straight people to the gay community.

 

What do you believe in beyond the physical world?

I was raised Baptist and I believe in a just but loving God. I also still believe Pluto is a planet, regardless of what scientists say.

 

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?

The momentum is in the blue states. But the laws, minds and hearts to change are in the red states.

 

What would you walk across hot coals for?

My future children, and my children’s future.

 

What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?

That gay men and lesbians don’t/can’t get along.

What’s your favorite LGBT movie?

“Broken Hearts Club” has a special place in my heart.

 

What’s the most overrated social custom?

Family-style portions are excessive. And second and third place are unnecessary; there’s only one winner.

 

What trophy or prize do you most covet?

I should win an Oscar for my ability to impersonate select reality TV stars.

 

What do you wish you’d known at 18?

My father — I wish I would have known that we only had 10 years to fix almost 30.

 

Why Washington?

Washington is an international symbol of freedom and democracy. But when my mom and I moved here from North Carolina (at age 12), it was also a city of hope and opportunity. And it still is.

03
Apr
2014

Jasmine Guy’s world today

Jasmine Guy, gay news, Washington Blade

Actress Jasmine Guy says her passion for black culture in the early 20th century has kept her doing ‘Raisin’ Cane’ for five years. (Photo by Calvin Evans)

‘Raisin’ Cane: A Harlem Renaissance Odyssey’

Starring Jasmine Guy and the Avery Sharpe Trio

Saturday, 8 p.m.

Publick Playhouse

5445 Landover Rd.

Cheverly, MD

$55 VIP (includes pre-show reception)

$40 general

301-277-1710

Actress/singer Jasmine Guy will be in the D.C. area this weekend for a one-night-only performance of “Raisin’ Cane: a Harlem Renaissance Odyssey.”

We caught up with her by phone from her home in Atlanta where she answered questions about the show, gay rights, her work on the hit ’87-‘93 sitcom “A Different World” (she played spoiled Whitley for the show’s entire six-season run) and more. Her comments have been slightly edited for length.

 

WASHINGTON BLADE: Tell us about “Raisin’ Cane.”

JASMINE GUY: I’ve been doing the show over the past five years in various places all over the country. It grows and changes and morphs every time we do it. I do it with three other musicians — a jazz violinist, a percussionist and our composer, Avery Sharpe and we cover the decade between 1919 and 1929 of the Harlem Renaissance, right after World War I but just before the Great Depression when there was a lot of money flowing into Harlem and a lot of artists were flourishing. Painters, poets, writers, philosophers, so it was a pretty rich time in our American history. A lot of what has come down to us as Americans has come from that period as far as ways of thinking and ways of articulating our needs.

 

BLADE: Are you playing a specific character?

GUY: I’m like a teacher taking you through this journey. Along the way, whatever lesson needs to be taught, that’s what I do. I either reenact a scene or become another character or I dance or sing or tell a story or recite a poem — there’s a lot of all of that involved in the show.

 

BLADE: How did you come to the work?

GUY: Avery Sharpe and I have been friends for over 30 years and when he brought the piece to me, it started as a reading and an experimental piece to see where the interest was with people and over the last five years, it’s just continued to grow and grow. I stayed involved because of my passion for that decade and what was happening politically and historically in that time as well as artistically. It was such a fun and exciting time where jazz was birthed and we had poets like Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston and painters like Aaron Douglas and philosophers like W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington and Marcus Garvey who were claiming freedom in their own way.

 

BLADE: African-American themes are recurring in your body of work. To what degree have you sought them out versus had them come to you?

GUY: Sometimes they intertwine. There are the roles that we pick and the roles we kind of cross paths with and we don’t really know why. There have been certain projects where I feel like I’m part of telling the truth, whether it’s “A Different World” or “Queen” (“The Story of an American Family”), or “Stompin’ at the Savoy” or “Dead Like Me,” there seems to be a certain truth to the quality of the work we’re doing at the time and I think that truth is what draws me in. I love that we tell stories that haven’t been told yet and that I’m able sometimes to get an audience to think as well as to laugh. I’m not sure which is more important, but I like that I can do both.

 

BLADE: Some have said gay activists who draw parallels to the Civil Rights movement are overreaching. Is that a valid line of reasoning in your opinion?

GUY: I have had friends over the years who have resented the comparison. … I think what we really all want is to be treated equally and have the right to make our own choices in our lives and in that respect, both gay rights and African-American rights have been stifled in this country and we’ve had to fight for those rights. We are still fighting in certain ways for those rights. … For some … the fight has shifted. I mean, we’re able to vote legally, we’re able to integrate, but there are still very specific things that are disproportionate in this country. There’s a huge class difference and whether you’re black or gay, there are still things we need to speak up for because in principle, it’s all the same principle. We are really all fighting for the same thing.

 

BLADE: With all your work in the entertainment industry, you must have worked with a lot of gays over the years. True?

GUY: Oh absolutely. I mean, you know, my world is full of gay people. I’ve been so entrenched in the gay community that it has never been a second thought to me. We are all family and because of that, I’m even more sensitive to what my gay friends go through. I’m 51, so I lived through AIDS and although I was very young when AIDS came to be, that’s when I first realized how segregated the gay community was for the rest of the world. Sometimes you forget that the world is not accepting and it takes something bad like the AIDS epidemic for you to realize. That’s when I started to realize my gay friends were heroes in their own right for having the courage to live the lives they know they want and the need and fight for the right to do that. And I don’t use that word fighting lightly, you know. I have friends who have fought all their lives, physically and emotionally. Some who have not had the support of their families. I don’t think people really understood what it means to be gay until very recently, in the last decade or so, whereas for me, it was just always a part of what I knew and understood.

 

BLADE: You’ve done so much work on stage, film and TV over many years and stage work, of course, by its nature is very ephemeral and fleeting. You can be on a hit show like “A Different World” that was seen by 20 million people each week, yet in some ways, it’s a small part of your overall body of work. Has that ever been a source of frustration for you?

GUY: That was frustrating for me at the beginning. I started as a dancer with the Alvin Ailey Company and yeah, I felt that, you know, my best work is probably the work that most people haven’t seen. I did have to come to terms with that because I mean, just the sheer degree of difficulty of being a dancer and being a gypsy as I was for eight years before I got “A Different World,” compared to the relative ease of being on a hit TV show, I used to think, “OK, I’ve got to make sure everybody knows that these other things are so much more worthy.” I felt it was my personal cause to let people know that, yes, I’ve worked with Judith Jamison and I know Debbie Allen and worked with Courtney Vance in “Six Degrees of Separation” and so and so. … I’ve really been surrounded by greatness and amazing talent and I’ve been in the wings of so many performances where I saw that happen before my eyes and that’s not something we’ve always been so great at being able to recreate on television. … But things are so different now and we have access to everything in a way we did not have before. That was a real turning point for me to realize that. We can say things now we could never say before on a major, major scale and we can create our own audience. It’s always interesting to me when people come up to me, what they come up to me for. I guess I’ve had enough people say, “Oh, I saw you in ‘Chicago,’” or “I remember you years ago on the Academy Awards — I didn’t know you could dance.” They might have seen that thing I thought nobody was watching. Of course, that’s nothing compared to the 20 or 30 million people that watched “A Different World” every week, but I am also proud and happy to have been part of that, too. But these other little sidebars, enough people have commented that I’ve been able to say, “OK, there’s somebody out there who’s seeing the other stuff too.”

 

BLADE: That said, do you have a favorite episode of “A Different World”?

GUY: My memory of certain episodes is kind of from the inside out. Like I remember doing things more than the effect it may have had on other people. I wrote a couple, so of course I remember those and, hmmm, let me see. Oh my God — we had so many great shows. I tended to like the shows where we had guest stars.

 

BLADE: Like Gladys Knight — I remember her appearance so vividly.

GUY: Yes, that was huge. I was so excited to get to be a Pip and sing with her and meet her. On the set at one time we had both “Superfly” and “Shaft” because Ron O’Neal played my dad and Richard Roundtree played Charnele’s (Brown, who played Kim) dad. We had Diahann Carroll, Patti LaBelle, Jesse Jackson. We had the cast of “Sarafina!” on when we did a show about apartheid. Those were the most memorable moments for me. These people would come through and we would just sweep ‘em up because by that time we had a rhythm. We just kind of knew we could be funny no matter what we talked about and that was a good place to be for the show.

 

BLADE: So many iconic sitcom characters don’t work as lead characters. Garry Marshall said they knew better than to try to have Fonzie carry his own show. Other times they tried and it didn’t work — like Flo from “Alice.” I know “A Different World” was still an ensemble cast at heart, yet it seemed like the show really jelled in the second season after Lisa Bonet left and your character Whitley was much more in the lead spot. Why do you think it worked so well when traditionally that type of thing hasn’t worked?

GUY: Well, we certainly weren’t sure it was going to work. That first season, I always felt we weren’t gonna make it. I had never been on a show before but it just seemed kind of dysfunctional and I didn’t feel we were putting out our best product. I was kind of thinking, “OK, that isn’t gonna work, but at least I paid off my American Express.” Then as the show grew and we were picked up year after year and with the legacy of “The Cosby Show” behind us, I started to realize we were part of a wave, a real era of change on American television. I didn’t understand at the time we were at the end of that wave. I didn’t think it would just snap back and never be seen on TV again, you know with the number of female writers and the diversity we had on our show. …. I just thought there would be a whole lot more “Different Worlds” after our show and there really weren’t. … At the time, I think I was able to make that transition because I just did what was given to me to do. I just did what was in front of me. I never thought at the time, “Oh, if Lisa leaves the show, we can still continue if Dwayne and Whitley get together” — there wasn’t any of that. That was all Bill Cosby, Debbie Allen, NBC, the writers — you know this whole team of people that revamped that show and by the second season they had totally revamped it in a way that had more of a realistic HBCU (historically black colleges and universities) feel and they just capitalized on the actors that were already with the show. They brought in Cree Summer and Charnele Brown, but there was an absolute choice made to keep that show going based on what had and hadn’t worked that first season.

 

BLADE: That opening credit sequence from the second season on was really incredible the way it looks like it was shot in one continuous take with the camera moving from room to room left to right. It couldn’t really have been one take, though, right?

GUY: Oh no, it took like all day long. It was green screened and there were double images — like two of me in the same shot. It was before a lot of computer graphics and things we’re able to do now so yeah. That was the brainchild of Debbie Allen and it was an all-day-long thing — like 12 or 14 hours to do that.

 

BLADE: Thanks for your time and good luck in the show.

GUY: Thank you.

06
Feb
2014

Leto, McConaughey win Oscars for ‘Dallas’

With Ellen, a tribute to “Wizard of Oz” and a performance by Bette Midler, it was a pretty gay Oscars.

Most notably on the gay front, Jared Leto (who’s straight) won Best Supporting Actor for playing trans in “Dallas Buyers Club” and gave a shout-out to gays in his speech.  Matthew McConaughey (also straight) won Best Actor playing an AIDS patient for the same film.

The adult children of Judy Garland — Liza Minnelli, Lorna Luft and Joey Luft sat together for a tribute to the 75th anniversary of “Wizard of Oz.” Pink sang “Over the Rainbow.”

Variety has a complete list of winners here.

03
Mar
2014

MAL-wear

MAL, Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather, Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend, gay news, Washington Blade

Last year’s Mid-Atlantic Leather festivities. (Washington Blade file photo by Tyler Grigsby)

Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend

Friday through Monday

Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill (host hotel)

400 New Jersey Ave., N.W.

MAL Full Run Package — $200

Limited number available at 3 p.m. Friday in the

registration area at the Hyatt

Weekend admission passes also available

Full weekend schedule and admission information

available at leatherweekend.com

It all began with a party and a cock ring.

That was the basis of the first Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend in 1976 and over the ensuing 37 years, the event has grown into one of the most popular and anticipated leather/fetish events in the world.

Friday through Monday, thousands of leathermen, skins, gearheads, kinksters and rubber freaks will descend on the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill for a four-day-long party of fetish fun.

“We have lots of things going on at the hotel 24-7 so to speak, such as MIR hosting a meet and greet on the Friday night, and they haven’t had an event with us before,” says Patrick Grady, chair of the event. “People need to just come out to the lobby and see the mass humanity of people. It’s the largest gay bar in the city over that weekend.”

Steve Ranger, past president of Centaur MC and Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather 2005, says the number of events in the hotel have expanded this year, including three new parties. Last year, several new dances made their debut and will return and this year’s new entries will see Sigma (once again sponsoring the dungeon parties) bringing a demonstration and instruction on safe practices. New parties include those thrown by the Boys of Leather and the Highway Men.

“A lot of the guests really like the ability to stay in the hotel and really enjoy themselves, so we have made a concerted effort to provide more events and themed parties,” Ranger says. “There’s a brotherhood and sisterhood and people just have a great time and people accept you for who you are.”

The heart of the weekend is the historic leather formal Saturday evening cocktail social, Leather Cocktails. This year marks the 30th anniversary that the Centaur MC has hosted the party and it will commemorate the event with specialty cocktails and 3-D miniature mock-ups of what the stage will be like for the event. Additionally, Leather Archives is bringing in an award that has been handed down over the years.

“The focus will be on the fact that this is a weekend that started from a simple cocktail party and has grown into what it has become and a big focus on the back-patch leather clubs in the District,” says Todd White, president of Centaur MC. “The Centaurs are honored and blessed that the community trusts us with their tradition and the weekend, and we appreciate that it’s a joint effort of all the clubs in the D.C.-area coming together. Without the parties planned by the clubs throughout the weekend, it just wouldn’t be the same.”

Some welcome news came in early January when the D.C. Eagle, a popular gay bar with many of the attendees in year’s past, announced that it would remain open throughout the weekend of the show, having previously thought it would be closed as it made way for construction of a new office building.

“We will have a shuttle bus for our package holders taking them to the Eagle and the Green Lantern,” Ranger says. “People who have come to Washington for many years are used to going to the Eagle, so this is a chance for them to say farewell.”

There’s been a lot of change in the region’s leather community of late.

Eagle co-owners Ted Clements and Peter Lloyd are working on transporting the venue to a three-story warehouse building at 3701 Benning Rd, N.E., proposing to operate as a tavern and restaurant and offer live entertainment, dancing, a rooftop “summer garden” and a small retail gift shop.

On New Year’s Eve, the L Bar, a popular leather bar in Rehoboth, closed its doors after 16 years and will reportedly reopen as a non-leather, non-gay bar.

The leather community also lost a dear friend and Centaur brother Jim Raymond before New Year’s, and many look to honor his memory at the celebration.

The Weekend also includes official events organized by weekend hosts, Centaur MC that include a bustling Leather Exhibit Hall, Sunday brunch, Mr. MAL Contest and the official Sunday night closing party, REACTION.

“This weekend is a time to see friends who come from all over the country, Canada, Europe and even Australia and socialize, enjoy cocktails and have one comfortable social environment filled with camaraderie,” Ranger says. “You can wear your clothes, your leather, your gear all around the hotel and it’s a very welcoming environment.”

The contest has changed a great deal since Ranger took home the award in ’05, with a much better prize package being offered and more people letting down their inhibitions and competing.

The hotel is already sold out and the pre-numbers that Centaur MC are seeing reflect possibly the biggest turnout ever.

“It’s definitely going to be one of our biggest ones in recent history,” Grady says. “There’s nothing to be afraid of. The leather community is very friendly. For those who want to come out or maybe are just curious, you should take advantage of it while you can because you don’t know when it could be your last.”

16
Jan
2014