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Teen pleads in principal murder, Gansler says Md. marriage not imminent and more



Brian Betts was found shot to death in April. (Blade file photo)

Teen pleads guilty to murder of gay principal

A 19-year-old D.C. man pleaded guilty Monday to first-degree felony murder in connection with the April 14 shooting death of gay D.C. middle school principal Brian Betts.

Alante Saunders, one of four teenagers charged in Betts’ murder, agreed to a plea bargain agreement offered by prosecutors that is expected to result in a sentence reduced from life in prison to 40 years. The plea took place during a hearing before a Montgomery County Circuit court judge in Rockville.

Betts was found shot to death April 15 in his Silver Spring, Md. house.

Montgomery County Assistant State’s Attorney Sherri Koch told Judge John Debelius in a hearing that evidence shows that Saunders shot Betts to death in the second floor bedroom of his house after meeting the popular middle school principal through an Internet chat line.

Sources familiar with the case have said the chat line where the two met caters to gay men seeking to meet other men for sex.

In details of the case that had not previously been disclosed, Koch told the court that Betts told Saunders that the door to his house would be unlocked and instructed him to enter and walk upstairs to his bedroom upon his arrival.

Police and prosecutors have said Saunders and three other men, one 19 and two 18, hatched a plan to meet someone on the chat line for the purpose of committing a robbery. Saunders’ lawyer, David Felsen, and Koch agreed that Saunders and the others charged in the case did not intend to kill Betts.

“This was, for want of a better word, a robbery that went bad,” said Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy at a news conference following the guilty plea.

“This case should serve as a reminder to all those in the community who use chat lines that there are dangers,” he said at the news conference.

Neither McCarthy nor Koch, in her courtroom remarks, mentioned that Betts was gay or that the youths charged with his murder met him through a gay sex chat line.

Court observers believe the State’s Attorney’s office is negotiating with attorneys representing the other defendants over possible plea bargain agreements that would avoid the need for a trial. The others charged in the case are Joel Johnson, 19; Sharif Tau Lancaster and Deontra Gray, both 18. Each is charged with murder, even though authorities believe they may not have been in Betts’ house at the time of the shooting.

Police have said some or all of the other three men entered the house at some point after the shooting to help Saunders steal Betts’ belongings, including credit cards and his car.

Saunders is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 23.


Md. attorney gen’l: No marriage bill in 2011

Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler told a gay business group this week that he doesn’t expect lawmakers to pass a same-sex marriage bill next year.

“We won’t get marriage equality in the legislative session this year,” Gansler told the Maryland Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. “It will happen through the courts.” He cited a coalition of Republicans, Catholics and certain older black lawmakers who oppose same-sex marriage as the reason for the lack of movement.

A marriage bill is among Equality Maryland’s top legislative priorities and hopes for progress were high after three gay and lesbian candidates joined four openly gay incumbents in winning last week’s elections. Maryland now has seven openly gay and lesbian state lawmakers.

“Attorney General Gansler stated that a marriage equality bill is unlikely to advance in the General Assembly due to lack of support from certain constituencies,” said Charles Butler, Equality Maryland’s board chair, in a statement to the Blade. “We appreciate the AG’s unequivocal support for marriage equality, but respectfully disagree with him on his recent statement. Maryland voters just embraced two important pro-marriage candidates in re-electing Gov. O’Malley and the AG. … With this kind of support for equality, we believe the Legislature will do the right thing, honor the trust that the electorate has placed in its members, and enact marriage equality legislation during the upcoming session.”


Gay bar Mova files for bankruptcy in Florida

The owner of the D.C. gay bar Mova filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Oct. 20 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Miami, Fla., according to court documents.

Mova owner Babak Movahedi filed the bankruptcy documents through Logan Circle Spectrum, LLC, the company that owns Mova bars in both Washington and Miami Beach. Movahedi is the sole shareholder of the company, according to bankruptcy documents.

Chapter 11 bankruptcy allows companies unable to pay creditors to reorganize and make arrangements to pay off the debt over an extended time period without going out of business. Movahedi has said he intends to keep his Mova bars open.

The bankruptcy filing shows that Logan Circle Spectrum, which is headquartered in South Miami Beach, has liabilities totaling $874,817 and assets totaling $72,507. The largest single creditor is PNC Bank, which is owed more than $560,000, according to the filing.

Gay D.C. businessman and drag performer David Lett and Lett’s company, Harlet Enterprises, Inc., holds the primary lease to the building in which Mova D.C. is located at 1435 P St., N.W. The bankruptcy filing records show that Mova owes Harlet, Mova’s landlord, $77,745.

It says the money owed to Lett and Harlet Enterprises is for “leases, permits, agreements, personal property, furniture, fixtures, equipment and all other assets located in or upon the premise or used in connection with the business conducted in the premises.”


LGBT program at Univ. of Md. wins award

The University of Maryland’s One Project won the 2010 National Orientation Directors Association’s Innovative Program Award.

The One Project is the First-Year Experience program for LGBT and ally students at the university developed by Dian Squire, assistant director of orientation. It is a joint effort by the Office of LGBT Equity ( and the Orientation Office (

“We’re just really looking to connect students to other students … and the community at large,” Squire said.

The award gives the program a professional stamp of approval because it comes from an association that specializes in these types of programs, he said.

“The criteria for the award is, one, it’s innovative, and two, that the NODA board sees that the program can be taken and used anywhere in the nation,” Squire said.

The program is meant to help students make a smooth transition to college and “represents a hope that the LGBTQA community can come together in an intellectual, social and civically minded way to support each other through the first year of college.”

“I went to Luke Jensen [director of the Office of LGBT Equity] and asked if there was something I could do,” Squire said as to why he developed the One Project. “He said ‘Why don’t we start a first year program?’ and I took that small seed and ran with it.”

The award will be presented at the association’s annual conference, Nov. 6-9 in St. Louis.

For more information on the One Project or NODA, visit their respective websites, and


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  1. Bill

    November 11, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    @Brian Betts – A robbery gone bad without any intention to kill Betts? Bull!! What was Saunders doing with a gun in the first place if he wasn’t intending to harm Betts. Forty years isn’t neither enough, why hot the death penalty?

  2. stan James

    November 12, 2010 at 3:00 am

    I’ll be glad to donate my time and effort to put this creep out of circulation for good. the maggots are waiting.

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Out & About

Studio House, Visual AIDS partner for educational program

Day With(out) Art 2021 to be held at Lamont Plaza



One Tent Health, gay news, Washington Blade
World AIDS Day is next week.

Studio House and Visual AIDS will join forces for “Day With(out) Art 2021” on Tuesday, Nov. 30 at 6 p.m. at Lamont Plaza. 

This event is a community outdoor screening of “Enduring Care,” a video program that highlights strategies of community care within the ongoing HIV epidemic followed by a discussion about the video.

There will be an open house in the neighborhood at the David Bethuel Jamieson (1963-1992) Studio House and Archives featuring newly commissioned work by Katherine Cheairs, Cristóbal Guerra, Danny Kilbride, Abdul-Aliy A. Muhammad and Uriah Bussey, Beto Pérez, Steed Taylor, and J Triangular and the Women’s Video Support Project.

For more information, visit Eventbrite

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‘Tick, tick… BOOM!’ explodes with the love of Broadway

A perfect film for fans of musical theater



Andrew Garfield shines in ‘Tick, Tick… BOOM!’ (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

If you are a person who love musical theater – or if you know someone who does – then you know there is something about this particular art form that inspires a strong and driving passion in those who enjoy it, often to the point of obsession. For this reason, perhaps it’s no surprise that those who work in musical theater – the creators, performers, and all the other people who make it happen – are often the biggest musical theater lovers of all.

Because of this, “tick, tick… BOOM!” (the new film directed by Lin-Manuel “Hamilton” Miranda and written by Steven “Dear Evan Hansen” Levenson) might be the most perfect movie ever made for such fans. Adapted from an autobiographical “rock monologue” by Jonathan Larson, it follows the future “Rent” composer (Andrew Garfield) for a week in the early 1990s, when he was still an unknown young Broadway hopeful waiting tables in a New York diner. He’s on the cusp of turning 30, a milestone that weighs on his mind as he prepares for a showcase of a musical that he hasn’t quite finished – even though he’s been writing it for eight years. With limited time left to compose the show’s most crucial number, his race against the clock is complicated by major changes in his personal life; his lifelong best friend Michael (Robin de Jesús) has quit acting in favor of a five-figure career in advertising, and his girlfriend Susan (Alexandra Shipp) is moving away from the city to accept a teaching job and wants him to come with her. With reminders everywhere of the ongoing AIDS epidemic still raging in the community around him, and with his own youth ticking away, he is inevitably forced to wonder if it’s time to trade in his own Broadway dreams for a more secure future – before it’s too late.

As every musical theater fan knows, the young composer’s obsession with time (hence the title) is laced with bittersweet irony in the context of what eventually happened in his real life: the day before “Rent” opened on Broadway and became a smash hit that reshaped and expanded the boundaries of what musical theater could be, Larson died of an aortic aneurysm at the age of 35. He never lived to see the full fruition of all those years of hard work, and that tragic turn of events is precisely what makes “tick, tick… BOOM!” relevant and provides its considerable emotional power. In that light, it’s essentially a musical “memento mori,” a reminder that the clock eventually runs out for all of us.

That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s not also a celebration of life in the theater, and Miranda is probably better suited than anyone to make us see that side of the coin. Now unquestionably in the highest echelon of status as a Broadway icon, he came of age in the era of “Rent,” and he takes pains to make his depiction of Manhattan in the ‘90s as authentic as possible.

Capturing the era with touches like Keith Haring-inspired murals and the use of “Love Shack” as a party anthem, his movie keeps Larson’s story within the context of his time while drawing clear connections to our own. His reverence for Larson – whom he cites as a seminal inspiration for his own future work – manifests itself palpably throughout. Yet despite that (or perhaps because of it), so does an infectiously cheery tone. Yes, things get heavy; there are hardships and heartbreaks at every turn, because that’s what a life in the theater means. But at the same time, there’s just so much fun to be had. The camaraderie, the energy, and the joy of simply living in that world comes leaping off the screen (often thanks to the enthusiastic choreography of Ryan Heffington) with the kind of giddy, effortless ease that might almost make us jealous if it didn’t lift our spirits so much. No matter that the lead character spends most of the movie second-guessing his path; we never doubt for a moment that, for him, the rewards of following his passion outweigh the sacrifices a thousand times over.

That’s something Miranda also understands. His movie drives home the point that the joy of doing theater is its own reward, and he’s willing to prove it by turning up in a bit part just for the sake of being a part of the show. And he’s not the only one. The screen is littered with living legends; in one memorable sequence alone, a who’s-who of Broadway’s brightest stars – Chita Rivera, Bernadette Peters, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Andre DeShield, Bebe Neuwirth, Joel Grey, and at least a dozen more – serve as a high-profile backup chorus of extras for a song at the diner, but there are blink-and-you’ll-miss-them cameos in almost every scene. It almost feels like a gimmick, or an effort to turn the movie into a “spot the star” trivia game for hardcore fans – until you realize that these are the best and brightest people in their field, who have willingly chosen to show up and participate even though they did not have to. They are there purely for love, and you can see it in their faces.

Miranda scores big across the board as a director – this is his feature film directorial debut, which confirms the standing assumption the man can do anything. But “tick, tick… BOOM!” is a star turn for its leading player, and full credit must also go – and emphatically so – to Garfield, who surpasses expectations as Larson. The one-time “Spiderman” actor trained extensively to be able to master the demands of singing the role, and it shows; he comes off as a true musical theater trouper, worthy beyond doubt of sharing the screen with so many giants. Even better, he integrates that challenge into the whole of a flamboyantly joyful performance that makes Larson endearingly, compellingly three-dimensional. It’s a career-topping piece of work.

The rest of the principal cast – a refreshingly inclusive ensemble that reminds us that Larson was instrumental in making Broadway a much more diverse place – are equally fine. De Jesús gets a long-deserved chance to shine as Michael, and Shipp brings a quiet calm to the easily-could-have-been-overshadowed Susan that makes her the perfect balance to Garfield’s high-octane energy.

Joshua Henry and Vanessa Hudgens contribute much more than their stellar vocal talents to their pair of roles as Larson friends and collaborators, and there are delicious supporting turns by Judith Light and Bradley Whitford – who gives an affectionately amusing and dead-on accurate screen impersonation of Broadway legend-of-legends Stephen Sondheim, one of Larson’s (and Miranda’s) biggest influences and inspirations, who accordingly looms large in the story despite his relatively short amount of screen time.

It should be obvious by now that “tick, tick… BOOM!” is a delight for people who love musical theater. But what if you’re not one of those people? The good news is that there is so much to enjoy here, so much real enjoyment, so much talent, so much hard work on display that nobody will have any reason to be bored.

Even people who DON’T love musical theater.

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James Ivory on movies, beauty — and a love of penises

If you enjoy film and wit you’ll love ‘Solid Ivory’



(Book cover image courtesy of Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

‘Solid Ivory: Memoirs’
By James Ivory
C.2021, Farrar, Straus & Giroux
$30/399 pages

Few things have been more pleasurable to me during the pandemic than Merchant/Ivory films. COVID becomes a dim memory as I ogle the costumes, beautiful vistas from Italy to India, music and spot-on dialogue of “A Room with a View,” “Maurice,” “Remains of the Day” and other Merchant/Ivory movies.

For decades, fans from gay men to grandmas have enjoyed these films, directed by James Ivory and produced by Ismail Merchant in partnership with the writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.

In “Solid Ivory,” Ivory, 93, gives us his memories of movie making, growing up gay, his decades-long romantic and professional partnership with Merchant and (you’re reading this correctly) the penises he has known.

If you believe that elders don’t enjoy sex, Ivory’s memoir will blow your ageism to smithereens.

From watching the movies he’s directed and knowing his age, you might think (as I did) that Ivory would be shy about talking of his sexuality. Wow, was I wrong!

Ivory appreciates penises as a sommelier savors fine wine.

Ivory knew that he liked boys early on. Ivory recalls playing at age seven with a boy named Eddy. He and Eddy were “putting our penises into each other’s mouths,” Ivory writes, “…I made it clear that Eddy’s dick must not touch my lips or tongue, nor the inside of my mouth. I had learned all about germs at school by then.”

Though Ivory and Merchant were devoted partners, they each had other lovers. Bruce Chatwin, the travel writer who died from AIDS, was Ivory’s friend, and sometimes, lover.

Chatwin’s penis was “Uncut, rosy, schoolboy-looking,” Ivory writes.

Ivory’s memoir isn’t prurient. His sexuality doesn’t overpower the narrative. It runs through “Solid Ivory” like a flavorful spice.

The book is more an impressionistic mosaic than a chronological memoir. Ivory, often, tells the stories of his life through letters he’s written and received (from lovers, friends and professional contacts) as well as from diary entries.

Many of the chapters in the memoir were previously published in other publications such as The New Yorker.

“Solid Ivory” was originally published in a limited edition by Shrinking Violet Press. The Press is a small press run by Peter Cameron, a novelist, and editor of “Solid Ivory.” Ivory grew up in Klamath Falls, Ore. He was originally named Richard Jerome Hazen. His parents changed his name when they adopted him.
Some of the most engaging moments of the memoir are when Ivory writes about what life was like for a child during the Depression.

Ivory’s father lost his savings when the stock market crashed, and his mother frequently gave food to “tramps” who came to the door.

His “eating tastes were definitely formed during the Depression,” Ivory writes.

Since that time, Ivory has lived everywhere from England to Italy. “But although I consider myself an advanced expert in the more sophisticated forms of cuisine,” Ivory writes, “My gastronomical roots remain dug deep in the impoverished soil of the American Depression.” Ivory became smitten with movies when he saw his first picture when he was five.

He and Merchant, a Muslim from India who died in 2005, fell in love when they met on the steps of the Indian consulate in New York in 1961. I wish Ivory had written more about the 30+ movies that he made (mostly with Merchant and Jhabvala, who died in 2013).

Yet, he provides tantalizing recollections of filmmaking, actors and celebs.

The chapters on “Difficult Women like Raquel Welch and Vanessa Redgrave” are fun to read.

Welch, a bombshell brat, doesn’t want to play a love scene in “The Wild Party.” During the filming of “The Bostonians,” Boston is captivated by the drama of Redgrave’s off-screen politics.

Ivory isn’t that impressed when in 2018, at age 89, he becomes the oldest Academy Award winner when he receives the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for “Call Me By Your Name.” “Its fame eclipses even Michelangelo’s David and the Statue of Liberty,” Ivory says, with irony, of the Oscar statue.

If you enjoy the movies, beauty and wit, you’ll love “Solid Ivory.”

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