Category Archives: Entertainment

Bea Arthur – We Loved You.

I was sad to read that Bea Arthur passed this weekend. Over the years I've heard rumors that she was a Lesbian, and it isn't hard to believe. But I don't know it for a fact. It would fit, though, with my remembrance of this strong, smart, brave woman. I had personal history with her.

In 1976 I moved to Los Angeles from San Francisco, where I had just been "the naked guy" in Clint Eastwood's The Enforcer. I had no lines, but because I was required to be naked in the scene, I was given my Screen Actors Guild card, the holy grail for a budding actor. Much to my chagrin, you won't find me in the credits, but I'm the naked guy on the bed in the scene when the bad guy, whose being chased by Dirty Harry, falls through the skylight and crashes into the midst of a porn movie being shot. My mother was so proud. All I see when I watch it now is that I once had a beautiful head of hair.

But I digress…I moved to Los Angeles (as crew with A Chorus Line, another story), and, as is my wont, got involved with SAG union activities. I was serving on the SAG Morals & Ethics Committee in 1977 when Anita Bryant announced that she was bringing her pitiful, small-minded ignorance, intolerance and fear to California in the form of support for State Senator John Briggs' Proposition 6, the Prop 8 of the day, that would have forbid Gay people…or any of their supporters…from holding teaching jobs in California. Nice, huh?

I decided that the Screen Actors Guild needed to be the first industry union to come out against Prop 6, and that the only way to accomplish that was to get some big star power to appear before the Morals & Ethics Committee and demand it.

Beatrice-Arthur Enter Bea Arthur. Ms. Arthur had just made a splash in Norman Bea Arthur - Mame  Lear's Maude, and would receive the first of two career Emmy's (the other for Golden Girls) that year for her groundbreaking work as the title character. On television, there just wasn't a bigger star. And if the only role she'd ever played was Vera Charles opposite Angela Lansbury in Mame, she would forever be a star in my firmament, (and opposite Lucille Ball in the film even if Lucille Ball was miserably miscast).

But I digress, again…It was just about this time of the year that I sat down and wrote a letter to Ms. Arthur, outlining my idea. I mailed the letter and didn't think anything more about it. It was a shot in the dark.

Weeks later, May 16th was my birthday, and I was getting ready to go out on the town with friends. Literally, just as we were heading out the front door, the phone rang (cell phones were still a Dick Tracy fantasy…I could still decide whether or not I was going to stop and answer). I picked up, said hello, and heard the unmistakable, gravelly contralto of Bea Arthur,

"Is Bo Young there?"

"Speaking," I said, my heart pounding out of my chest, my wide eyes popping out of their sockets as I pantomimed to my friends at the door, who were wondering what was going on.

"Well hello," she growled on, "I just wanted to let you know that I received your letter and I wanted you to know I'll do whatever you want me to do."

To which I responded, with breathless gratitude, "Oh god bless you Ms. Arthur!"

To which she responded, "What's this 'god bless you' shit?…I didn't sneeze."

The surprise was finding out, later, just how shy a woman this powerhouse actor was. When I met with her she insisted that I write something for her to say when she came before the committee because she was sure she would become tongue-tied and not be effective. Maude. Not effective. Right. She did everything I asked, just as promised, to perfection. Reading my lines to the committee, which immediately came through with the required vote, which then went on to the larger Steering Committee of the Screen Actors Guild, which was the first industry union to oppose the Briggs Initiative. As a result I was brought into the campaign as "assistant state press secretary" to Sally Fisk.

Later, I had cause to call Ms. Arthur again, to see if she would appear at a fundraiser we were holding for No On Six. Unbeknownst to me, she had undergone a face lift just weeks before, and as a result her face was still puffy and black and blue.

She still had bandages on her face, albeit small ones…and she appeared at our fundraiser.

She said it was more important than what she looked like.

That's the kind of person Bea Arthur was.


Jack Wrangler is Dead

Jackwrangler What to write about Jack Wrangler? In my memory, he was the first Gay porn star to hit the mainstream. How was that possible back in the early 80s? Somehow he reached my consciousness.

First there was the name. Jack Wrangler. Could it have been any more macho? The name was sex itself.  Reading his obituary this morning, I'm struck at how his birth name had a bit of insistence to it. Jack Stillman.

But as is often the case with the image and the filmname, there was more to the story. Wrangler married a woman and had a very happy marriage with her. His wife, now widow, was Margaret Whiting, a music star in the 40s and 50s who was twenty years older than him. Her father Richard Whiting was the songwriter of a long list of songs including "Till We Meet Again", "Ain't We Got Fun?", "Hooray for Hollywood", "Beyond the Blue Horizon", "On the Good Ship Lollipop", "Too Marvelous for Words" (music only; words by Johnny Mercer). When Bo read me the list over the phone, I found myself humming along or singing the lyrics.

But back to Wrangler. What was interesting about his choices in his life after the porn career, was that he continued to describe himself as Gay. What to make of this? I don't know. He clearly made his choices and enjoyed his life. We mark his passing as an image that provided a sense of beauty and sex at the beginning of Gay consciousness for many of us.


Some Community News

  The Gates and The Sisters The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have been a colorful and important part of the LGBT community on both coasts for three decades. Now the divine theater of these highly effective and colorful provocateurs will be officially enshrined in a special exhibit at the San Francisco Public Library.

Entitled "Under a Full Moon: 30 Years of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence," the show traces the sacred and profane activities of these men in nun's habits. The display features photographs, internal records like their holy vows and "Pink Saturday Handbook," and artifacts like the habit of founding member Sister Missionary Position (now known as Sister Soami).

The Sisters began in 1979 with three men borrowed habits from retired nuns and ventured out into the Castro District on a moonlit eve. Since then, the group has grown to include 600 sisters in eight countries. They have raised money to fight AIDS with bingo games and other theme events, served as security guards at the Castro District's Halloween fete, combatted hate crimes and promoted safe sex. In 2007, they drew the ire of right-wing talk show hosts when two members in full drag received the Eucharist from Archbishop George Niederauer.

I love how, in this video, they are identified as "mocking" the Catholic Church (as if!). Watching it, it seems like they are nothing less than quite respectful to this observer. Their avowed mission: to "promote universal joy and expiate stigmatic guilt." Their motto: "go forth and sin some more."

Along the way, they have become an indelible part of San Francisco. The show runs March 20 through May 7 at the James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center, Third Floor, Main Library.

HarryHayApril1996AnzaBorego And on Another Coast altogether, some interesting news involving Ugly Betty actor, Michael Urie, who  Michael%20urie plays "Marc St. James," the catty, ambitious and hilarious assistant to Vanessa Williams delicious "Wilhemina Slater"…word in today's papers that he will star in The Tempermentals, a play by Jon Marans starting April 30 at the Barrow Group Studio Theater. The play is about the origins of the Mattachine Society, started by Harry Hay in 1950 when "tempermental" was a code word for Gay.

The Temperamentals tells the story of two men – the communist Harry Hay and the young Viennese refugee and designer Rudi Gernreich, weaving together the personal and the political to tell a sadly relatively unknown (to some) chapter in Gay history. It explores the deepening love between two complex men, while they build the first Gay rights organization in the United States pre Stonewall.

If I am not mistaken, we actually saw an early version of this play as part of a small theater festival featuring new work a couple of years ago. It was wonderful then. Maybe, like the rest of us, it's only gotten better with age?

That's all the word we have on it. Will report more when we know it!

And now…a little history courtesy of the Sisters:

Jon Stewart for Recovery Czar

If you didn't see Jon Stewart eviscerate "mad money guru" Jim Cramer, and the rest of the "financial media" (or at least CNBC) on the Daily Show last night, do yourself a favor and go to Hulu and watch the whole thing. It is the most gratifying television…nay, the most gratifying JOURNALISM…since we all fell into this financial pig sty, I have seen. Stewart's genius is only exceeded by his bravery and flat out GUTS.

Here is the first part of the interview. Cramer is clearly clueless.


Mark Morford Rocks

Mark MorfordI only wish Mark Morford, a regular columnist for the SF Gate, part of the probably soon to be bankrupt San Francisco Chronicle, wrote for White Crane. This morning's offering is so on the money it makes me want to cheer. 

The piece isn't particularly about anything LGBT, though he is always sure to reference our community and always in the most favorable ways. He has never failed to urge the passage of Gay rights, never failed to support equal rights for LGBT people, and is precisely the kind of sex-positive, straight-not-narrow ally we love.

Jews have The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous. Maybe it's time for LGBT people to have some similar recognition for our straight allys? 

I nominate Mark Morford.

I’m Hip…and I’m sad…

Blossom Somehow it is appropriate that she would leave this world the night before the Grammy's. I don't think she ever won one, which says more about the Grammy's than it does about Blossom. Anyway, she would never be bothered with such folderol. She had songs to sing.

She wasn't Gay gay…but she was a delicious throwback to the time when gay meant gay…light, witty, charming. A soubrette…a chanteuse…even into her 80s…But a Gayer icon there never was. And you've just got to love a woman who hated Andrew Lloyd Webber.

So it is with a sad heart that we report and mourn the passing of Margeurite Blossom Dearie…the inimitable, the one, the only Blossom Dearie.

There was no one like her. Singing her jazz in her kittenish, sly voice, she ruled the roost at Danny's Skylight Lounge (now also gone.) She could go funny, hip, romantic, smart and sexy with the flick of a wrist on her keyboard. [click on any one of those links to get a taste of the lady's wares.] Stephen Holden, in the New York Times, called her rendition of Antonio Carlos Jobim's Wave "definitive." [You can buy it at Amazon if you click that.]

If you came to New York and didn't see Blossom Dearie…you didn't really come to New York.

Some thoughts on the Inauguration…

ArethaOK…is it just me? Sylvester

…or is Aretha Franklin sounding more and more like Sylvester these days?   

Obama's inaugural address is one that bears repeated readings and/or listenings, I'd say. This was a wake-up call for sobriety, to a nation that's grown drunk on celebrity and wealth.

I hear a lot of people expressing disappointment…not enough this, not enough that…much of the same sort of thing we heard early on in this intriguing man's campaign…not "black enough" "not experienced enough"…it's time to stop bringing our expectations to this man and trying to fit him into them, and let him do what we put him there to do. Some people expected more reference to Martin Luther King…missing, I think, the point that this is not just the first African American President…with no diminishment for all that means…this is The President. And I think that's what he was letting everyone within earshot know. And is this the first time a President has acknowledged "non-believers"? How refreshing.

It has been noticed that, within seconds of President Obama's swearing in, the official home page of the White House was updated with a lengthy list of commitments to further LGBT rights. It doesn't go far enough and we will see if he is really committed to it, but there's an opening. Perhaps the only way you aren't going to be disappointed by this man is if you are looking for disappointment. There he will not disappoint.

That said, the expectations for this man are so high, and one suspects so unreasonable, that it is inevitable that he will disappoint: he's already disappointed me with the Gene Robinson snub. I don't care who's decision it was to censor him, the buck still stops on Obama's desk. This wouldn't (and obviously didn't) happen to Rick Warren.

Warren's Christ-centric blather seemed to be generally ignored, to my ears, with nary an "Amen" joining in from any corner at the end, that I could hear. Reverend Joseph Lowery was sweet and funny…though, as my friend Ellen pointed out, after "the black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around … when yellow will be mellow … when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right"…he left out "And Gays will have their day."

Wow…Gays were left out. What else is new? President Obama is asking us all to "rise above" and leave childish things behind (Are you listenting Senator John Cornyn?…what a numbnuts.)

Anyway, while we're at it…how about putting homophobia on that list of childish things we leave behind?

(…I'm not a cynic, but it's only been three days and I am already finding and Oprah's "America's Song" insipid.)

Jesse’s Journal — In Praise of Books

I recently saw Mark Doty accept the National Book Award in Poetry for his book Fire to Fire: New and Collected Poems (Harper Collins).  During his acceptance speech Doty thanked his husband Paul; they Doty Fire to Fire were recently married in Massachusetts. Like Augusten Burroughs’s memoirs, and David Sedaris’s humor, Mark Doty’s poetry appeals to all readers regardless of sexual orientation. Needless to say, it is a great distinction for an out Gay poet to be honored, not as an "American Gay poet," but as an American poet, period. Doty’s honor was well-deserved. (He is, by the way, also the judge for the 2008 White Crane James White Poetry Prize, the winner of which will be announced in the spring issue of White Crane.)
Doty and dog Doty’s NBA acceptance speech was one of the most inspirational I have seen or heard in quite a while. Unfortunately, I had to go to the National Book Awards Web sit to see and hear Doty’s acceptance speech, and those of the other NBA winners. That is because, unlike awards ceremonies honoring movies, recorded music, television or theater, literary awards are never televised, except perhaps on C-SPAN (which, as the saying goes, “nobody watches”). The fact that literary awards are almost never televised is an indication of literature’s low standing in modern American society, gay or straight. While the major networks know that broadcasting the Oscars, the Grammys, the Emmys or the Tonys will win them large audiences, televising the National Book Awards would almost certainly be a ratings disaster and, even worse, drive away the advertisers.
There was a time, before recorded music, movies, radio and television, when literature was our culture’s most popular art form. Great writers like Voltaire, Goethe, Scott, Byron, Hugo, Dickens, Zola, Tolstoy and Mark Twain were celebrities in their own right, and their lives and loves enthralled the public the way that the antics of Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan do today. Today, of course, we have a wide variety of media to give books and their authors stiff competition.  Books have to compete with movies, television and recorded music for the public’s time, money and interest, and books generally lose. Only a few writers dominate bestseller lists and make fortunes from their works. J. K. Rowling (Harry Potter), Stephenie Meyer (Twilight), TV preacher and homophobe Rick Warren (The Purpose Driven Life) and, of course, Barack Obama are just four names in an all-too short list of popular and successful writers.
Xie - the MOMA Library 46-50 - oil on canvas For generations of Gay men, Lesbian women, bisexuals and transgender people, books were an important part of the coming out process. Books like Malcolm Boyd's Take Off the Masks, Radclyffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness, Donald Webster Cory's The Homosexual In America, Christine Jorgensen’s Personal Autobiography, Rita Mae Brown's Rubyfruit Jungle or Patricia Nell Warren's The Front Runner, helped many of us come to terms with our own sexual or gender identity. 
Sadly, interest in books and writers is not what it used to be, not even in the GLBT community. For many years GLBT bookstores served as de facto community centers. Today, there is only one GLBT bookstore left in Florida, Lambda Passages in Miami. Wilton Manors, Florida’s leading “gayborhood,” has many types of stores on Wilton Drive, but no book store. And while book reviews are still a major part of such publications as White Crane, the Lambda Book Report, the Gay & Lesbian Review and the online Books to Watch Out For, most mainstream GLBT publications have dropped their book columns altogether for lack of interest. (Most mainstream journals, Gay or straight, have done the same.)
At their best, books are an important part of our lives: they educate us, they entertain us, they enlighten us, they inspire us. Unlike most media, books do not require expensive equipment (unless you consider reading glasses to be “equipment”). Long before other media deigned to notice us, books spoke to us and about our lives as GLBT people. And books will continue to do so (I hope) when the other media are long gone. So I urge you to support good Gay books, writers, literary journals, book stores and book clubs, for they give us so much in return.
Jesse Monteagudo is a South-Florida based freelance writer and Gay book buff.  Write him and express your views at