Gay What ?
Rest of site back up shortly!

Celebrating silver in style

Mitchell Gold, Bob Williams, furniture, design, home, gay news, Washington Blade

Mitchell Gold (left) and business partner Bob Williams at their Washington store for an event in 2013. (Washington Blade file photo by

Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams

25th anniversary event

A benefit for Sitar Arts Center

Wednesday

6-9 p.m.

Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams Washington location

1526 14th St., N.W.

mgbwhome.com

RSVP requested

rsvpdc@mgbwhome.com

202-332-3433

Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams, co-owners of the eponymous furniture company, didn’t originally intend for their company to be as big as it is today.

Gold says they were originally thinking of a modest business model in which they’d work four days a week, have a small stable of customers and do about $5 million a year in sales.

“We didn’t have to make that much money,” Gold says. “It was just the two of us living down South, it’s much less expensive to live here, and we thought we would just have this nice little company. … But as Bob often tells people, ‘It’s not that Mitchell lied — it’s just that he can’t count.’”

Started in 1989 with about $60,000, things took off rather quickly. They sold about 800 dining tables and 5,000 chairs before they started making any of the pieces. Gold, who’d been fired from the furniture company he’d worked for, had connections with major retailers like J.C. Penney, Crate & Barrel and others, which he visited armed with sketches and fabrics Williams had made. They were profitable the first year they were in business.

“We had fabrics that were different and unusual for the time,” Gold says. “So we were able to show retailers, ‘This is how this will look in your store.’ And they bought it right away. People have said I’m not a bad salesman, so I was able to close the sales and get the production going quickly.”

The two, who’d been together as domestic partners about two years before, had moved to Hickory, N.C., from New York and were interested in going into business together.

“We just thought we could do it better than traditional manufacturers,” Gold says. “We thought we could make a better commitment to customers, ship it more quickly and with Bob’s sense of style, you know, I certainly felt we could offer people a more stylish look for a better price.”

Williams worked for a small ad agency and gradually cut back his time there as he spent more and more with the company, then known as the Mitchell Gold Company (it was changed to its present name in 2002).

Now they’re celebrating 25 years and have more than 700 employees, a stable of celebrity clients, 17 stores and plans to open four more by year’s end and a 600,000-square-foot factory and home base in Taylorsville, N.C.

Several spoke at a company event two weeks ago where 11 of their original 21 employees who are still with the company were recognized. It appears, from a transcript of comments, that morale there is strong.

Ken Hipp, the company’s senior vice president of retail stores and merchandising, has been with them for seven years and calls Gold and Williams “wonderful mentors.”

“It’s been quite a ride,” says Hipp, who’s also gay. “I can’t imagine my career or my life without them.”

Known for a style they call “quintessentially American,” their products are designed to be stylish, yet comfortable. Interior designer Brian Patrick Flynn of TBS’s “Movie & a Makeover” show has called their products “custom-looking pieces at medium-to-high price-points” and says it’s a “genius brand” he and his clients “can’t get enough of.”

On Wednesday, the two will be in town for an event at their D.C. store at 1526 14th St., N.W., an anniversary event that will benefit the Sitar Arts Center. It’s one of a series of events they’re having at their various locations throughout the year.

In a country where just 25 percent of new employer firms are still in business 15 years or more after starting according to the Small Business Administration, theirs is a nearly unfettered success story.

It hasn’t all been easy going, though. Williams remembers many long hours in the early years, though he also says those were some of the most “exhilarating times of my life.”

They recall years of working what felt like round-the-clock schedules and didn’t take a vacation until two years into it, but were gratified by strong out-of-the-gate sales.

“Customers liked what we were doing immediately,” Williams says. “We never had to go call on people. The more they heard about us, the more we had people wanting to buy from us.”

They broke up on the personal side about 12 years into the business, though they’re wholly comfortable working together and are each married and have been with other men for years — Gold has been with Tim Gold for seven years; Williams has been with Stephen Heavner for 11 years.

Might their relationship have lasted if it weren’t for the company? It’s a thorny question they don’t wish to dwell on.

“We don’t give much thought to it,” Williams says.

“It takes a lot of time and energy to go back and visit the past,” Gold says. “We’re more focused on the future.”

They acknowledge there were “a few little awkward moments, but not too much,” as Gold says. Keeping the company strong was chief among their priorities as always, they say.

The only time they had any significant downsizing was in 2008. Gold says it was a hard, but at the time necessary, decision in the face of a huge recession.

The company prides itself on the health care package it offers, on-site day care and cafeteria and unabashed LGBT advocacy work.

They say providing such amenities pays off in the long run.

“I think what we have proven is that you can be profitable and do the right thing,” he says. “When you have people who aren’t sick, they’re being more productive and that makes things more profitable. With our day care, if little junior has a problem, somebody goes and takes care of it and is back in 15 or 20 minutes, not the three hours it would take to go across town.”

They guess about 15 percent of their employees are also LGBT and estimate between 15-20 percent of their clientele is as well. Gold says it’s “certainly higher than other furniture retailers.”

Gold, who wrote a book called “Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing up Gay in America” in 2008, says being open about such things is a central component to the company.

He relishes telling of a celebration dinner they had with loan officers after paying back a $25 million loan they’d used to expand. Several of the bank execs told him how reading “Crisis” had given them new compassion for LGBT issues, from one man who stepped up his giving at a homeless shelter to another whose wife came out.

“One by one, they went around the table and told us how much our advocacy work had meant to them,” Gold says.

Coming from a staid banking environment, Hipp says finding a place he could be out on the job was a revelation.

“I thought I loved banking but I realized banking did not love me,” he says. “I was very uncomfortable and very conflicted over my future and I was met with some very harsh realities. I could not believe that someone of my age, I was in my early 20s at the time, could actually go to work someplace where it was OK for me to be who I was. I didn’t have to tuck any part of myself under my sleeve. I could actually say that I was gay and it didn’t matter. … I was just a kid from the south and I thought that was the best it would get.”

Some of the 25th anniversary events will benefit LGBT and AIDS causes. Gold next plans an open letter to the Pope urging him to change Vatican teaching that homosexuality is sinful behavior.

“When you get down to it, that’s really the seminal reason why people think gay people should not have equality,” Gold says. “The whole issue of sin is really the crux of why people are against it.”

But has there been backlash or lost sales along the way?

“Our business just keeps going at such a pace that’s ahead of the industry with sales and growth and things like that,” he says. “You know, we can’t worry about the one or two people who aren’t going to buy from us because we’re gay and outspoken.”

 

Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams on:

 

Mitchell Gold, Bob Williams, furniture, design, home, gay news, Washington Blade

Bob Williams (left) and Mitchell Gold in the early years of their business. (Photo courtesy of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams)

• Their all-time favorite products:

GOLD: Leather club chairs they designed after spotting vintage pieces at a Paris flea market.

“If something sells that well and looks pretty, I sure do like it,” he says.

WILLIAMS: “Our slipcovers are great because they’re just so versatile — you can dress them up or down, change the style and they just give off this great ambience of relaxed, casual comfort.”

 

• How practical the whites and neutrals they use so often are for everyday

GOLD: “Today’s fabrics are a lot different from what you saw 20-30 years ago. They’re much friendlier to live with and stain resistant.” And if you spill red wine? “In a lot of the fabrics, yes, it will come out. But you have to get it quickly, not let it sit there a day.”

 

• Nate Berkus

GOLD: “We love Nate Berkus.”

WILLIAMS: “He has great hair.”

GOLD: “Yes, he has great hair, he’s cute and adorable and we’re fairly friendly with him. I like his work a lot.”

WILLIAMS: “His last book was great.”

 

• Thom Filicia (of “Queer Eye” fame)

GOLD: “Sweet guy and talented. We were at a design kind of home in South Hampton and his room was really a standout.”

 

• 2013 sales?

GOLD: “Over $100 million.”

 

• Lulu, the company mascot

GOLD: “She’s resting in peace. She was 12 and a half and she will be the mascot in perpetuity. The thing about bulldogs is once they decide on something, that’s it. They figure out a way to get it. She came to work with us everyday and loved walking around and saying hi to everyone.”

21
Feb
2014


Queery: Joe Bello

Joe Bello, Capital Pride Symphonic Band, gay news, Washington Blade

Joe Bello (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

When Joe Bello was in elementary school, he saw a euphonium demonstration and was hooked.

“I just fell in love with the sound and decided what’s what I wanted to do,” says the 36-year-old Naperville, Ill. native, who started playing at age 8.

It’s been a rich life for the most part. Since 1998 he’s played with the United States Air Force Concert Band. He’s retiring in August.

And a concert Saturday night with the Capital Pride Symphonic Band, which he’s conducted for the past six years, is his swan song with that group.

Their program, dubbed “Dances!,” is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Columbia Heights Education Campus Auditorium (3101 16th St., N.W.) and will feature everything from polka and tango to what Bello calls “slower, lyrical-type pieces” and more. Tickets are $20 ($10 for students/seniors; 12 and under free with an adult). Details are at dcdd.org.

Bello has been in Washington for 16 years and lives in the Navy Yard section of town. He plans to move to Chicago in August to enter a doctoral program at Northwestern University. He hopes eventually to be a university band director.

Bello is single and enjoys triathlon training, cycling, wine, friends and traveling in his free time.

 

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

I came out when I was 16 in high school back in 1994. The hardest person to tell was my mother.

 

Who’s your LGBT hero? 

Greg Louganis

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

Nation

 

Describe your dream wedding. 

I would have a small chamber orchestra playing some of my favorite classical music on the beach or somewhere near water.

 

What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about? 

Hmm — not into politics.

 

What historical outcome would you change? 

The Holocaust.

 

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

Realizing Ricky Martin was gay!

 

On what do you insist? 

That music education continues to be taught in schools and to advocate for the importance of symphony orchestras in our country.

 

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet? 

My last Facebook post was about the Air Force approving my early retirement.

 

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

“Gay and Reckless”

 

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

Stay just the way I am.

 

What do you believe in beyond the physical world? 

I believe in spirituality and that our souls will migrate to something or someone else.

 

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders? 

Stay strong and committed.

 

What would you walk across hot coals for? 

The man of my dreams, oh and a bag of spicy potato chips.

 

What LGBT stereotype annoys you most? 

Sexual preference in the bedroom.

 

What’s your favorite LGBT movie? 

“Mommie Dearest”

 

What’s the most overrated social custom? 

Hand shaking

 

What trophy or prize do you most covet? 

The opportunity to solo with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on television when I was 16.

 

What do you wish you’d known at 18? 

That people are not always as they seem from the outside.

 

Why Washington? 

I wanted to play my instrument professionally, and the military bands are the only place I’m able to do that.

26
Mar
2014

Gay Men’s Chorus director stepping down

Jeff Buhrman, Gay Men's Chorus of Washington, gay news, Washington Blade

Jeff Buhrman (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Jeff Buhrman is going out with a bang — his final show with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, where he’s been artistic director for the last 13 years and involved with for more than 25, will be “A Gay Man’s Guide to Broadway” at the Kennedy Center in May.

The Chorus announced his impending departure last week. He will remain artistic director emeritus through the end of 2014. A search committee has just formed to find his successor, which, in a perfect world, they’d like to have in place by summer, though they’re not rushing.

“We’ll see how it goes,” says Chase Maggiano, in his first year as the Chorus’s executive director. “We could imagine having an interim director if we feel the need to, but we’ll see.”

It’s a time of significant change for the Chorus. Maggiano succeeded David Jobin last year. Emery Grant, former director of marketing and communications, also left last year. Long-time choreographer Craig Cipollini has been doing more marketing work in recent months. The Chorus, whose membership varies between about 225 and 250 singers, employs four full-time employees and two part time. It has an annual operating budget of about $1.1 million. It’s in its 33rd season.

Everyone involved says Buhrman will leave big shoes to fill.

“I heard the Chorus several times back in the ‘80s and ‘90s and then went through a period between about 2000 and 2007 where I didn’t,” says Mark Hegedus, a member since 2008. “I heard them again in 2007 and was really blown away by the musicality of the ensemble. That’s what convinced me to audition. I could just really hear how much improvement there had been under Jeff Buhrman’s leadership.”

“I have only worked with him a short time but he and I get along really well,” Magianno says. “He has a strong personal connection with the singers and has kept the music at a really high level. He’s definitely set the bar very high.”

Thea Kano, a straight ally and the Chorus’s associate music director (she also directs the Rock Creek Singers, a smaller ensemble of GMCW singers), says she and Buhrman have enjoyed “an absolute partnership.”

“We’ve joked since day one we must have been separated at birth,” Kano says. “Our priorities at any given rehearsal may be slightly different — his number one might be my number three or something — but at the end of the day we’ve always had the same vision and it’s been a phenomenal partnership. … I’m not sure how rare that is, but it’s definitely been a gift.”

The only person not saying much about the decision is Burhman himself. When reached by phone, he asked for time to consider how he wanted to answer questions then did not return follow-up calls. A press release issued by the Chorus last week did not address Burhman’s reasons for stepping down.

“I think maybe he and his husband, Roger, want to try some different things,” Hegedus says. “I certainly get that.”

Maggiano says it’s a good time for the Chorus to think about where it wants to go next. The Chorus has always seen itself as advocates for LGBT rights — simply a group that spreads its message in musical ways.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations … about what it might be like to expand our direction and really be a voice of equality for all communities,” he says. “That doesn’t mean we’ll be any less gay. But being gay is not a big deal anymore in a place like Washington so I could imagine ways we could play that up more and have fun with it. It’s a great opportunity for us.”

Jeff Buhrman, Gay Men's Chorus of Washington, gay news, Washington Blade

Jeff Buhrman (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

30
Jan
2014

Queery: Tamara Pincus

Tamara Pincus, gay news, Washington Blade

Tamara Pincus (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Tamara Pincus has been out as bi since she was a teen. It took her many more years, though, to embrace her polyamorous side.

She and husband Eric have been married 11 years but she’s also had relationships with women. She also has a partner named James she’s been with two years. Eric has another partner as well.

Pincus, 37, was born in Seattle but grew up in Massachusetts and New York. She’s in private practice as a psychotherapist and sex therapist (tamarapincus.com) and also leads a monthly poly discussion group at the D.C. Center. It usually meets on the third Thursday of each month, though the March meeting will be March 27 because of a prior commitment. She came to Washington 16 years ago.

She says the LGBT movement should be open to less “heteronormativity.”

“I understand why the gay marriage movement has tried to make it look like we’re all just like you with two very normal looking white men with this happy little family, but we also need to be accepting of people who are different too,” she says. “You silence a lot of voices when you say, ‘We’re all just like you.’”

Pincus has two sons, ages 5 and 7 and lives in Alexandria. She enjoys board games and spending time with her family in her free time.

 

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

I came out as bi at 16 and as poly three years ago. The hardest people to tell were definitely parents of my kids’ friends, one of whom ran into my husband when he was on a date with someone else. It hasn’t really been hard to tell people I’m bi.

 

Who’s your LGBT hero?

Buck Angel, Diana Adams, Anita Wagner Illig I could go on. I have a lot of heroes.

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

My house.

 

Describe your dream wedding.

Well, I had a big wedding at a resort in Leesburg complete with my red velvet dress. My grandmother said I looked like I belonged in a bordello. I don’t think I would want to get married again.

 

What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?

I am working really hard to make a more sex-positive world. I think accurate sex ed covering issues like consent would go a long way to ending child sexual abuse. I think addressing sexual shame would decrease so-called sex addiction and other problematic sexual behaviors. There are so many places where our culture’s being completely shut down around sexuality is harming us. Abortion rights for instance? Access to birth control? I could go on and on.

 

What historical outcome would you change?

If you change history then you change the present and I have no idea where we would be if what has happened hadn’t. Still if I had to pick one it would be nice if the Holocaust hadn’t happened.

 

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

No idea. I would say some big influences have been “The Princess Bride” and “Rocky Horror.”

 

On what do you insist?

Consent! For instance I recently had to stop a stranger at a party from tickling my child without consent.

 

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?

I took the Muppet quiz and found out that I am Kermit. Usually I post a lot of articles about trans issues, poly issues and sex worker rights.

 

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

“Lately, Coming Out Poly.” (Which, as it turns out, is the title of the book I’m working on with my brother-in-law — formerly my brother-out-law. Thanks, legalized gay marriage in New York.)

 

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

I love being able to love everyone. I wouldn’t change it.

 

What do you believe in beyond the physical world? 

I believe there are energies that science has not quite gotten a grip on yet.

 

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?

The more inclusive the better. I’ve felt kind of left out in a lot of ways even though I was very active in the LGBT movement in high school and college.

 

What would you walk across hot coals for?

World peace? A person I love? Who comes up with these scenarios?

 

What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?

The stereotypes about bi women that they will have sex with everyone or that they are just here to provide sexual entertainment for straight men.

 

What’s your favorite LGBT movie?

It’s a toss up between “But I’m a Cheerleader” and “The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls In Love.” There has yet to be a movie that comes close to covering the queer poly kinky world in which I live.

 

What’s the most overrated social custom?

All the ones where you try to look like everyone else or portray “normal” are highly overrated.

 

What trophy or prize do you most covet?

The “Vicki” Sexual Freedom Award given to individuals or organizations whose work and/or life embodies the mission and vision of the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance to affirm sexual freedom as a fundamental human right.

 

What do you wish you’d known at 18?

That it is really OK to be different and let others see your imperfections.

 

Why Washington?

Well, if there’s a place that needs sex therapists, this is it. But really it’s because the people I love are here and I wouldn’t want to leave them.

26
Feb
2014

New Year, New You

10
Jan
2014

Shake it up

protein shake, fitness, gay news, Washington Blade

It takes research and experimentation to find the protein shake that will optimize your workout efforts.

Hey D.C. this cold has been shaking a girls boots, but it looks like spring is on its way, just very slowly. I’m so ready to step outside for some of my workouts but I don’t really like the cold so I’ve been staying true to my indoor circuits. Hopefully you guys haven’t let the cold weather slow you down.

Today I want to move away from the workout tips and swing over to the place where all the real differences happen, the nutrition side. I get lots of questions about workouts and what to do to achieve your certain goals, but I think I get even more questions about nutrition and supplements. What’s good? What’s bad? And some people just want to know what they are. This is a great time to touch on one of the biggest topics I get questions about: protein shakes.

Proteins are macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats and proteins) found in foods that help the body build muscle. As it applies to building muscle and fitness, think about it like this: your workout breaks down your muscles while the protein you eat helps you build them back bigger and stronger. The most plentiful sources of proteins are found in meats like fish, chicken, game and steak, though you can also find smaller sources in various plant products. These whole food sources generally take longer to break down and absorb into the body than liquid forms and this is where protein shake supplements come into play.

So the simplest way to think of a protein shake is as fast absorbing “liquid chicken.” Toward the end and right after your workout your body is most receptive to absorbing proteins directly to the muscle, so this is the best time to get these nutrients into the body. Many experts debate about when is the absolute ideal time to take the shake, whether it be 10 minutes before you finish your workout or within 30 minutes post workout, but almost all agree that the recovery protein is important.

Generally speaking how much protein and calories you ingest throughout the day is really driven by your sex, weight, activity level and goals. As with all science, different scientists believe in different amounts, but an easy rule of thumb is if you are trying to really pack on the muscle, you can look to take between 1.0-2.0 grams of protein per pound you weigh.

On the low end, the USDA recommends around .37 grams of protein per pound of your weight. I think a good realistic goal is to shoot for at least 25 grams of protein at every meal. That’s the equivalent to a serving of chicken breast. When looking for a protein supplement shake, make sure it packs at least 20 grams of protein per serving and under 10 grams of sugar per serving. Some shakes have so much sugar in them that they could cause you to gain the wrong type of weight. When choosing a protein supplement, whey protein is the most common and is one of the quickest to absorb into your body’s muscles. Also make sure to check out the ingredients and try to find one that does not have artificial sugars or a lot of different additives. Sometimes they pack so many additives into the shakes that it may be doing more harm than good. I’ve found that when it comes to protein shakes, you generally get what you pay for.

Adding in protein supplements to the end of your workouts or as a meal supplement can help you maximize your results, by feeding your muscles the nutrients they need to recover and grow. Make sure you do your research before purchasing a certain brand to make sure you are getting the right shake for you. Overall try to add in more protein to your diet at each meal to go along with your workouts and your body will thank you.

01
Apr
2014

Russian rendezvous

Hudson Taylor, Athlete Ally, HRC, Human Rights Campaign, gay news, Washington Blade

Hudson Taylor started his LGBT advocacy work during his college wrestling career. He eventually started blogging about homophobia in sports and became a vocal advocate for gay rights. (Photo courtesy Athlete Ally)

Hudson Taylor, founder of Athlete Ally, has been granted a visa for travel to Russia where he intends to raise awareness for LGBT rights during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, which will be held from Feb. 7-23.

Athlete Ally has partnered with the Principle 6 campaign, which uses the language of the Olympic Charter to allow athletes and fans to speak out against discrimination during the Sochi Games without violating Russian anti-gay laws or the Olympic ban on political speech.

Principle Six is based on a convention of the IOC charter that states that any form of discrimination on the basis of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with the Olympic movement.

On Jan. 21, the first Sochi-related anti-gay arrest occurred when a Russian gay rights advocate waved a rainbow flag during the Olympic Torch relay.

The Blade caught up with Hudson Taylor, a straight ally, wrestling champion and coach (at Columbia University), before he departs for Russia.

 

WASHINGTON BLADE: What was the thought process behind planning a trip to Sochi?

HUDSON TAYLOR: I think Sochi gives us an enormous opportunity to raise awareness about what’s going on in Russia. And, what better way to do that than to be actually on the ground and ensure that this is a conversation that is taking place. I talked to the Athlete Ally board and weighed the risk and reward of going and I think we all agreed that the importance of the moment made it such that I needed to go.

 

BLADE: With all the vague guidance and broad interpretations coming from Russia, where is the line between raising awareness and staging a protest?

TAYLOR: For the Principle Six campaign we thought long and hard about the appropriate line. We are trying to make sure that athletes know that they can show support for Principle Six or the Olympic Charter. This is a way to show the world that discrimination has no place in sports and that the Olympic charter is opposed to what is going on in Russia. As long as we stay true to what the Olympic movement and the Olympic values are all about, we shouldn’t violate Russian law and we shouldn’t put athletes in a position to violate the Olympic Charter.

 

BLADE: Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter is written for the specific purpose of eliminating advertising, demonstrations and propaganda from the stadiums, venues and other competition areas. Since the athletes won’t be able to wear Principle 6 clothing at their venues, what is the plan for exposure of the clothing line?

TAYLOR: Where we have an opening to raise awareness is on how athletes speak out across social media. My hope is to engage athletes to wear Principle 6 clothing or to tweet photos of the language of Principle 6 out to their fans. It’s a great opportunity because social media is technically not an Olympic venue and it can be used to reach every corner of the world.

 

BLADE: American Apparel and Idea Brand were behind the manufacturing and branding of the Principle 6 clothing line. Where are the profits being donated?

TAYLOR: All of the profits will be donated to All Out and Athlete Ally. We in turn will be donating the proceeds to Russian-based LGBT organizations.

 

BLADE: What about the new hand gesture that has been popping up on social media? It consists of the peace sign on one hand and laying the pointer finger of the opposite hand on top of it to form a triangle. Will that be considered propaganda?

TAYLOR: The more opportunities an athlete has to speak out, the better. I think the hand gesture would definitely be construed as propaganda if it is used in the venues or on the medal stands. However, it is another viable and alternative way to speak out by posting it on social media.

 

BLADE: What will your itinerary consist of during your trip to Sochi?

TAYLOR: I will be in Sochi from Feb. 3-9 and I imagine that most of it will consist of reporting and commentating within the Olympic venues. I will probably take a day to visit one of the protest zones just to see what is going on and to ensure that I can report on it.

 

BLADE: The visa process for the Sochi Olympics is incredibly stringent. Were you concerned about your visa being approved?

TAYLOR: At first, when the multiple layers of the visa process were announced by the Embassy of the Russian Federation, there was certainly a cause for concern. Now that some security risks have appeared I think people are OK with the hoops and hurdles you have to go through to be on the ground in Sochi.

 

BLADE: Have the recent terrorist video threats changed anything for you in terms of keeping yourself safe in Sochi?

TAYLOR:  In everything I will be doing in Sochi, there will be a risk and reward calculation. We will figure out a way not to expose myself or the organization to any unnecessary risks while giving the appropriate attention to the human rights issues in Russia and how it is affecting the LGBT community there.

 

BLADE: What about the comments made by Putin linking the gay community to pedophilia? Do you think those comments will make the gay rights advocates more aggressive in their protests?

TAYLOR: For advocates who are passionate about these issues, it will certainly stoke a fire in them, especially in an Olympic situation where athletes under the age of 18 will be competing and who may in fact be LGBT. Putin’s comments only exacerbate or incentivize people to speak out against it. The stark contrast of how Putin sees the LGBT community versus how the rest of the world sees them will be very evident during the Sochi Games.

 

BLADE:  How hard will you be trying to get into the NBC Studios to chat with Bob Costas?

TAYLOR: Very hard (laughing). When you look at what athletes have the ability to do in terms of raising awareness, one area is social media and the other is the responses they give to the journalists who ask the questions. We will make sure that we are aware of all the journalists on the ground and have their contact information so that we can make ourselves available should they have an interest in covering this topic.

 

BLADE: Will you be attending any of the competitions?

TAYLOR: I will be attending the opening ceremonies but do not plan on buying any tickets to the sporting venues. While I am on the ground in Sochi, it will be important to keep an eye out for the statements and actions that are happening in cities around the world.  I think a lot of people will be demonstrating and coming together to support the LGBT community.  It will be pretty amazing to watch.

 

BLADE: Good luck Hudson. Be safe.

31
Jan
2014

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