Category Archives: Current Affairs

A Brilliant Success!

Where 2 Start?!

Riseupand_shout_2_1 Rise Up and Shout! was a glittering evening at the beautiful Barnsdall Theater next to the exquisite Hollyhock House in Barnsdall Park. Seventeen wonderfully talented, young gay men and lesbians, ranging in age from 16 to their late-20s, danced, sang, read and otherwise entertained and regaled a packed house. Thai Rivera was the hilarious Master of Ceremonies. Already paying his dues across the country in stand-up comedy clubs, this young talent had a sharp and smart sense of humor that kept the evening moving. A year’s worth of work, headed by White Crane contributor and Advisory Board member, Mark Thompson (and his estimable partner, Malcolm Boyd) and the efforts of Don Kilhefner and the Los Angeles Men’s Medicine Circle, resulted in an inclusive rainbow of ethnicities and genders offering bright and shining acts that gave us poetry, opera, drag, the spirit of Tennessee Williams and dancing (that only made me wish my knees still worked that way!)

Let me see if I can recall it all (links are provided where available…some of the kids are so young and so new they don’t even have web pages….imagine that!)…musician, Richard Rocha, comedian Sandy Helen Bowles, actor Brionne Davis, folk singer Angie Evans, the Voices of G.L.A.S.S. (which, despite their name were dancers…G.L.A.S.S. is Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Social Services, one of the most important gay and lesbian services organizations in Los Angeles, providing shelter, food, therapy and other nurturing support to outcast gay and lesbian youth), rapper JenRO, filmmaker and poet Steven Liang.

Singer/songwriter Dan Holguin was followed by tenor Greg Iriart, pianist Peter Kirkpatrick, the glittering and outrageous John Quale, poet Elliott Reed and of course, being L.A., a line-up of actors including Corey Saucier, who did a wonderful reflection on aging in the gay community, Derek Ringold and a garage band, sLoW…I’m running out of breath!  The panoply of talent was masterfully directed by Broadway and Disney movie veteran, Jim Pentecost. And, as if this wasn’t fabulous enough, the whole evening was a benefit for White Crane Institute.

It was wonderful. Watch for these young people…some of them are surely going to be the rising stars of tomorrow. But more importantly, as Don Kilhefner put it in his heartfelt introduction that evening, this was an opportunity for us elders to bless these young talents and welcome them into the community. In an era when transitions are rarely noted, (if not reduced to mere marketing) it was an exciting and moving evening of "Generation Conversation." A full length documentary, due out Spring 2007, is being prepared after months of following the performers and organizers up to their stellar debut at the Barnsdall Theater.

On a personal level it was my pleasure to sit for a series of portraits by noted artist P1010018(and White Crane winter issue featured interview) Don Bachardy.

Bachardy, pictured at the left, works with almost breathtaking speed; each portrait takes under two hours (though try holding one position for that length of time and you’ll see it’s grueling work for a model). He works in acrylics and his gaze is like a laser scanner you feel taking in every inch of your face. He has pots of paints and an enameled cafeteria tray as a pallette and at times his brush simply sweeps across the watery splashes of color he’s pooled on the tray and picks up an opalescent array of colors on the brush.

P1010029_1Here’s Bachardy in a self-portrait at left.

At the same time, while he is working very quickly, sketching on the paper with the colors as he captures you, on some level it would be nice to be able to smile…you know, give the world your best, friendly face? But it is physically impossible to hold a smile for that perP1010032_1iod of time, and you end up with this deep, serious gaze being recorded, to say nothing of the actual interaction between you as the subject and Bachardy as the painter. The effect is, I will admit, slightly unsettling when you finally get to see what he has created. One person called his vision "Bachardy’s eagle eye."

You can see one of the amazing acrylic portraits of me here. We did five! 

My friends Robert Croonquist, Robert Rigdon and I also did the grand architectural tour of the booming downtown Los Angeles, specifically to see the spectacular Disney Music Hall which is P1010034everything and more that it has been cracked up to be.  We walked in and around the hall, climbing into some of the swooping titanium forms themselves, and in and around the truly amazing addition to Los Angeles. Imagine our delight and amazement as we were leaving to walk Grand Street to see the new R.C. cathedral, to run into none other P1010044_1than Frank Gehrey himself being photographed on the sidewalk!

The Catholic cathedral, Our Lady of Angels, was interesting, an almost blank wall to the community in the style of the old Spanish plazas and the missions encP1010045_1losure of various businesses. Inside is a very beautiful set of tapestries depicting the congregation of saints facing towards the altar. The "mission plaza" was a-buzz with people that Sunday. The cathedral has it’s own "Hollywood" touches, with the late Gregory Peck entombed in the mausoleum and the grand and heavy bronze doors and sconces in the cathedral created by Angelica Huston’s husband, Robert Graham.

Off to the Left Coast!

I’m off to Los Angeles today to attend Rise Up and Shout! the special event on Saturday, September  9th, produced by the Los Angeles Gay Men’s Medicine Circle to benefit White Crane.
I’m really excited about it and the opportunity to visit with Malcolm Boyd and Mark Thompson, sit for a portrait with Don Bachardy and, later, work with White Crane Institute Advisory Board member, Robert Croonquist to produce an oral history video on the San Francisco Hula Palace with bon vivant and activist, Lee Mentley.

L.A. is my old stomping grounds, so it will be good to see old friends. Now if I could only remember how to drive on a freeway!

Eric Rofes

Attended the memorial service for Eric Rofes at the LGBT Community Center in Manhattan last night. I met earlier with Chris Bartlett, Eric’s partner in the Gay Men’s Leadership Academies to discuss the planning of the second Academy in September (if you haven’t registered go here) and then we made our way over to the Center for the service.

We had a little time to sit. Crispin Hollings, Eric’s handsome husband, was there and we visited a while. Then Perry Brass arrived so we all talked about his early organizing work.

The memorial service was inspiring and touching. The speakers included a childhood friend of Eric’s from Commack, David Klafter, who spoke lovingly of his friend, and Eric’s special gift for friendship. Suzanne Pharr,   the first director of the historic Highlander Research and Education Center in Tennessee. Richard Burns, Executive Director of the LGBT Community Center, and an old friend of Eric’s from his Boston days spoke movingly of Eric’s early role in lifting the then very localized gay movement to national standing and the organizing of the first March on Washington.

Equally importantly…shockingly…infuriatingly, Burns related the story of how the coroner’s office in Provincetown initially refused to acknowledge Crispin and Crispin’s wishes for Eric to receive an autopsy and be cremated. If there was any doubt of how tenuous our rights are as gay people…here is a man who had been one of the primary organizers of the GLBT Rights movement, who had the mayor, the executive directors of NGLTF, Lambda Legal and every imaginable power of attorney, piece of paper, domestic partner registration in hand…in a state where gay residents even HAVE the right to marry, and these authorities needed to be reminded of their own laws, and Crispin’s rights as Eric’s life partner.

We were serenaded not once, but twice by the inimitable New York City Gay Men’s Chorus, singing "Love Lives On" and "Sing Me To Heaven."

The speakers were a dazzling panel of bold names from our community: Urvashi Vaid, Jeff Montgomery from the Triangle Fund, Chris Bartlett, of course, and the brilliant humorist and monologist, Kate Clinton (who wryly, sadly noted, "Eric had one heart attack and dies. Dick Cheney has four and doesn’t even seem to be phased by it. Maybe there is no justice?") Clinton spoke of having had coffee with Eric his last morning in Provincetown…any town…and remembered how he insisted, always, on speaking of his erotic life; Insisting that we could not work to achieve sexual liberation and NOT talk about sex!

Crispin, still obviously mourning deeply, related his walk through Eric’s place in Provincetown that morning he arrived, seeking he said, some presence of Eric.  His grief was palpable, but the strength of the love these two men shared was right there, too.

Finally, Amber Hollibaugh read from Eric’s landmark Reviving the Tribe:

"We cannot bring the dead back to life…Finding ways to regain mental health and perspective will be challenging, but gay men are not alone in these tasks. We are part of a large and increasing population of Americans who somehow manage to face the bizarre psychic deformations and powerful existential questions which arise in the wake of extreme events. We stand alongside political refugees from Eastern Europe, immigrants who have survived the Cultural Revolution in China or terrorism in Central America, combat veterans… Our plight is shared by abused children and battered women, as well as people who live their entire lives victimized by poverty, gang violence and drugs. We are not alone in our suffering.

I hope to live my middle-age years with the ability to be present and engaged in a way I haven’t been able to be for most of the past decade…When I enter old age, I hope to be able to speak to people abou the worlds in which I’ve lived, and look back with a perspective that integrates anger and grief with appreciation and even humor.

To see men embrace and love each other in response to neither loss nor terror revives my dreams from a life long ago. To watch masses of men dance together, celebrating raw life-giving powers of music and desire, forces me to acknowledge that the human spirit is not easily subdued. When once again two men can kiss hard on the mouth, as neither victims nor survivors nor captives, then peace and order will settle over the tribe and life will again move forward."

We are so much poorer a people without this man and so much richer for his having been with us.

Rise Up and Shout!

I know it’s only the end of July, but that means it’s soon to be August, and before you know it, it will be September and the wonderful event, Rise Up and Shout! will be happening.

The brainchild of Mark Thompson, Malcolm Boyd, Don Kilhefner and the Los Angeles Gay Men’s Medicine Circle, Rise Up and Shout! will be a benefit for White Crane.

Rise Up and Shout! will spotlight emerging talent in a very special and innovative show to be held on Saturday, September 9, 2006 at the Barnsdall Theater, located adjacent to the historic Hollyhock House in Griffith Park, Hollywood. An audience of more than 300 people is expected  and discussions are underway to televise and videotape the event so it can be broadcast on gay cable television!

For more information, click on the links, or call Omar Minwalla at 323-874-9561.