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Queery: Wayne Turner

The attorney and AIDS activist answers 20 gay questions

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Wayne Turner (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Wayne Turner remembers crying on the first day of school — although it was law school at UDC David A. Clarke School of Law and he was 40 years old that day in 2005.

“The founding professor, Edgar Cahn, was there telling us in this big orientation that their mission was to take bad-ass activists and unleash them on the world,” Turner says. “He said, ‘You’re not just here alone, you’re on the shoulders of everyone who’s come through here before.’ It was about seven years since my partner had died and I thought, ‘Yes, I have found my home.’ The tears just started streaming down my face so there I was, crying on the first day of school.”

Turner and his late partner, Steve Michael, who died of AIDS at age 42 in 1998 (Turner took Michael’s body to the White House as a gesture of protest), had what Turner calls a “roller coaster” seven-year relationship in which they dedicated themselves solely to activism and lived “a very hand-to-mouth existence. We were always changing residences, changing phone numbers. We lived a very mission-focused life and it was just like, ‘We gotta do this stuff.’ It was an issue nobody wanted to deal with.” Turner was a founding member of the AIDS advocacy and protest group ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power).

Turner, a Culver City, Calif., native, went to college in Portland, spent time in Europe, then lived in Seattle for about five years where he met Michael. They moved to Washington in 1993 with the express goal of “keeping Bill Clinton accountable” for his AIDS-related campaign promises.

Turner, who remains HIV negative, says going to law school — he earned full scholarships and graduated with honors — was perfect for him.

“I think of it as activism on steroids,” he says. “You gain so much clarity of how things work and how things are supposed to work. I highly recommend it to anyone who is active and involved. It’s like opening up a clock and saying, ‘Oh, that’s how that works.’”

Turner says he now has “his dream job” as a staff attorney at the National Health Law Program focusing on health care quality and access for low-income and disabled individuals enrolled in Medicaid.

He’s single, lives on the H Street corridor in Northeast Washington and enjoys camping and hiking with his dog, Mister, in and around Shenandoah National Park. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

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

After the first year of college, my high school friend Robert and I came out to each other.  We were just stating what was plainly obvious to each of us (and everyone else), but we had never talked about it before.

Who’s your LGBT hero?

My late partner Steve and the other amazing frontline AIDS activists, living and dead, who struggle and sacrifice so that others might live.

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

Otter Crossing at the DC Eagle.

Describe your dream wedding.

One where DOMA has been overturned by the Supreme Court so that same-sex marriages are legally recognized by the federal government and in all 50 states.

What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?

Single payer health care. It means getting better care for less money from cradle to grave — what’s not to like about that?

What historical outcome would you change?

I wish Mario Cuomo went to New Hampshire in 1992. He would have won the primary, won the Democratic nomination and won the White House. We wouldn’t have had the disaster known as the Clinton administration with DOMA, DADT and the HIV immigration ban and travel restrictions. We might even have seen a Manhattan Project for AIDS, and could very well have a cure by now.

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

Probably when Tinky Winky came out. I mean, we all knew, what with that red purse and all.

On what do you insist?

Punctuality

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?

“YES WE CAN!” celebrating the Supreme Court decision upholding Obamacare. It is a huge victory, particularly for people with HIV who can qualify for Medicaid without having to wait for an AIDS diagnosis, and can’t be denied health coverage because of a pre-existing condition.

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

“Fasten your seatbelts,” because it has been one bumpy ride.

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

Find Ben Cohen.

What do you believe in beyond the physical world? 

There’s something besides the physical world?  I’ll believe it when I see it.

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?

Too many so-called leaders seem to mistake photo-ops and cocktail party receptions for actual accomplishments. On-the-ground activists are providing the real leadership. Look at marriage equality — activists in Massachusetts propelled that issue forward in 2001 with Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health. The national groups have been playing catch up ever since.

What would you walk across hot coals for?

Nothing. I have nice feet.

What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?

Victimhood. It perpetuates the perception that we are weak. Pity is no substitute for demanding respect and dignity.

What’s your favorite LGBT movie?

“Carrie,” the original with Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie. It shows us that the best way to deal with high school bullies is to turn a fire hose on them.

What’s the most overrated social custom?

Saying “bless you” when someone sneezes. (See “physical world” response above).

What trophy or prize do you most covet?

Raphael Nadal.

What do you wish you’d known at 18?

That Apple stock would have been a really good idea.

Why Washington?

Sometimes at night I walk the dog around the Capitol. I’ll sit on the West steps and look out over the city, with stars and the moon and the Mall and the monuments and the glistening city lights, and I think “this view, at this moment almost makes up for the excruciating summer heat and humidity.” Almost. Actually, I really love D.C. I just wish I had a couple of senators and a representative.

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Photos

PHOTOS: DCGFFL 25th Anniversary Party

Gay flag football league marks milestone at Penn Social

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The D.C. Gay Flag Football league held a party celebrating their 25th season at Penn Social on Saturday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. Gay Flag Football League (DCGFFL) held a 25th season anniversary party at Penn Social on Saturday, Sept. 23. Proceeds from the event benefited the LGBTQ youth services organization SMYAL as well as the D.C. Center for the LGBTQ Community.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Books

New book goes behind the scenes of ‘A League of Their Own’

‘No Crying in Baseball’ offers tears, laughs, and more

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(Book cover image courtesy of Hachette Books)

‘No Crying in Baseball: The Inside Story of ‘A League of Their Own’
By Erin Carlson
c.2023, Hachette Books
$29/320 pages

You don’t usually think of Madonna as complaining of being “dirty all day” from playing baseball. But that’s what the legendary diva did during the shooting of “A League of Their Own,” the 1992 movie, beloved by queers.

“No Crying in Baseball,” the fascinating story behind “A League of Their Own,” has arrived in time for the World Series. Nothing could be more welcome after Amazon has cancelled season 2 of its reboot (with the same name) of this classic film.

In this era, people don’t agree on much. Yet, “A League of Their Own” is loved by everyone from eight-year-old kids to 80-year-old grandparents.

The movie has strikes, home runs and outs for sports fans; period ambience for history buffs; and tears, laughs and a washed-up, drunk, but lovable coach for dramady fans.

The same is true for “No Crying in Baseball.” This “making of” story will appeal to history, sports and Hollywood aficionados. Like “All About Eve” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “A League of Their Own” is Holy queer Writ.

Carlson, a culture and entertainment journalist who lives in San Francisco, is skilled at distilling Hollywood history into an informative, compelling narrative. As with her previous books, “I’ll Have What She’s Having: How Nora Ephron’s three Iconic Films Saved the Romantic Comedy” and “Queen Meryl: The Iconic Roles, Heroic Deeds, and Legendary Life of Meryl Streep,” “No Crying in Baseball,” isn’t too “educational.” It’s filled with gossip to enliven coffee dates and cocktail parties.

“A League of Their Own” is based on the true story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). From 1943 to 1954, more than 600 women played in the league in the Midwest. The league’s players were all white because the racism of the time prohibited Black women from playing. In the film, the characters are fictional. But the team the main characters play for – the Rockford Peaches – was real.

While many male Major and Minor League Baseball players were fighting in World War II, chewing gum magnate Philip K. Wrigley, who owned the Chicago Cubs, founded the league. He started the AAGPBL, “To keep spectators in the bleachers,” Carlson reports, “and a storied American sport–more important: his business afloat.” 

In 1943, the Office of War Information warned that the baseball season could be “scrapped” “due to a lack of men,” Carlson adds.

“A League of Their Own” was an ensemble of women’s performances (including Rosie O’Donnell as Doris, Megan Cavanagh as Marla, Madonna as Mae, Lori Petty as Kit and Geena Davis as Dottie) that would become legendary.

Girls and women  still dress up as Rockford Peaches on Halloween.

Tom Hanks’s indelible portrayal of coach Jimmy Dugan, Gary Marshall’s depiction of (fictional) league owner Walter Harvey and Jon Lovitz’s portrayal of Ernie have also become part of film history.

Filming “A League of Their Own,” Carlson vividly makes clear, was a gargantuan effort.  There were “actresses who can’t play baseball” and “baseball players who can’t act,” Penny Marshall said.

The stadium in Evansville, Ind., was rebuilt to look like it was in the 1940s “when the players and extras were in costume,” Carlson writes, “it was easy to lose track of what year it was.”

“No Crying in Baseball” isn’t written for a queer audience. But, Carlson doesn’t pull any punches. 

Many of the real-life AAGPBL players who O’Donnell met had same-sex partners, O’Donnell told Carlson.

“When Penny, angling for a broad box-office hit chose to ignore the AAGPGL’s queer history,” Carlson writes, “she perpetuated a cycle of silence that muzzled athletes and actresses alike from coming out on the wider stage.”

“It was, as they say, a different time,” she adds.

Fortunately, Carlson’s book isn’t preachy. Marshall nicknames O’Donnell and Madonna (who become buddies) “Ro” and “Mo.” Kodak is so grateful for the one million feet of film that Marshall shot that it brings in a high school marching band. Along with a lobster lunch. One day, an assistant director “streaked the set to lighten the mood,” Carlson writes.

“No Crying in Baseball,” is slow-going at first. Marshall, who died in 2018, became famous as Laverne in “Laverne & Shirley.” It’s interesting to read about her. But Carlson devotes so much time to Marshall’s bio that you wonder when she’ll get to “A League of Their Own.”

Thankfully, after a couple of innings, the intriguing story of one of the best movies ever is told.

You’ll turn the pages of “No Crying in Baseball” even if you don’t know a center fielder from a short stop.

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Theater

Rupert Murdoch’s powers on full display in ‘Ink’

Media baron helped pave the way for Brexit, Prime Minister Thatcher

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Cody Nickell (Larry Lamb) and Andrew Rein (Rupert Murdoch) in ‘Ink’ at Round House Theatre. (Photo by Margot Schulman Photography)

‘Ink’
Through Sept. 24
Round House Theatre
4545 East-West Highway, Bethesda, MD 20814
$46-$94
Roundhousetheatre.org

Yes, Rupert Murdoch’s loathsome traits are many, but his skills to succeed are undeniably numerous. 

In the first scenes of John Graham’s West End and Broadway hit drama “Ink,” an exciting year-long detail from the life of a burgeoning media baron, Murdoch’s powers of persuasion are on full display.

It’s 1969 London. Over dinner with editor Larry Lamb, a young Murdoch shares his plan to buy the Sun and rebrand the dying broadsheet, replacing the Daily Mirror as Britain’s best-selling tabloid. What’s more, he wants to do it in just one year with Lamb at the helm. 

Initially reluctant, Lamb becomes seduced by the idea of running a paper, something that’s always eluded him throughout his career, and something Murdoch, the outsider Australian, understands. Murdoch taunts him, “Not you. Not Larry Lamb, the Yorkshire-born son of a blacksmith, not the guy who didn’t get a degree from Oxford or Cambridge, who didn’t get a degree from anywhere. Not you.”

Still, Lamb, played convincingly by Cody Nickell in Round House Theatre’s stellar season-opener, a co-production with Olney Theatre Center, remains unsure. But Murdoch (a delightfully brash Andrew Rein) is undeterred, and seals the deal with a generous salary. 

Superbly staged by director Jason Loweth, “Ink” is riveting. Its exchanges between Lamb and Murdoch are a strikingly intimate glimpse into ambition involving an ostensibly average editor and a striving money man who doesn’t like people.  

Once on board, Lamb is trolling Fleet Street in search of his launch team, played marvelously by some mostly familiar actors. He makes his most important hire — news editor Brian McConnell (Maboud Ebrahimzadeh) — in a steam bath. The remainder of the Sun’s new masthead falls handily into place: Joyce Hopkirk (Kate Eastwood Norris) the women’s page editor whose forward thinking is marred by her casual racism; Zion Jang plays Beverley Goodway, an awkwardly amusing young photographer; persnickety deputy editor Bernard Shrimsley (Michael Glenn) who learns to love ugly things; and an old school sports editor who proves surprisingly versatile, played by Ryan Rillette, Round House’s artistic director. 

At Lamb’s suggestion, the team brainstorms about what interests Sun readers. They decide on celebrities, pets, sports, free stuff, and —rather revolutionarily for the time —TV.  Murdoch is happy to let readers’ taste dictate content and the “Why” of the sacred “five Ws” of journalism is out the window. 

Murdoch is portrayed as a not wholly unlikable misanthrope. He dislikes his editors and pressman alike. He particularly hates unions. His advice to Lamb is not to get too chummy with his subordinates. Regarding the competition, Murdoch doesn’t just want to outperform them, he wants to grind them to dust. 

Loewith leads an inspired design team. Scenic designer Tony Cisek’s imposing, inky grey edifice made from modular walls is ideally suited for Mike Tutaj’s projections of headlines, printed pages, and Rein’s outsized face as Murdoch. Sound designer and composer Matthew M. Nielson ably supplies bar noises and the nonstop, pre-digital newspaper clatter of presses, linotypes, and typewriters.

From a convenient second tiered balcony, the Daily Mirror’s establishment power trio Hugh Cudlipp (Craig Wallace), Chris Lee Howard (Chris Geneback) and Sir Percy (Walter Riddle) overlook all that lies below, discussing new tactics and (mostly failed) strategies to remain on top.   

Increasingly comfortable in the role of ruthless, sleazy editor, Lamb is unstoppable.

Obsessed with overtaking the Daily Mirror’s circulation, he opts for some sketchy reportage surrounding the kidnapping and presumed murder of Muriel McKay, the wife of Murdoch’s deputy Sir Alick (Todd Scofield). The kidnappers mistook Muriel for Murdoch’s then-wife Anna (Sophia Early). Next, in a move beyond the pale, Lamb introduces “Page 3,” a feature spotlighting a topless female model. Awesta Zarif plays Stephanie, a smart young model. She asks Lamb if he would run a semi-nude pic of his similarly aged daughter? His reaction is uncomfortable but undaunted. 

For Murdoch’s purposes, history proves he chose well in Lamb. By year’s end, the Sun is Britain’s most widely read tabloid. Together they give the people what they didn’t know they wanted, proving the pro-Labour Daily Mirror’s hold on the working class is baseless and paving the way for things like Brexit and a Prime Minister Thatcher. 

“Ink” at Round House closes soon. See it if you can.

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