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Books: Hot gay page turners

Spring book release schedule chock full of LGBT content

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Decadence, Eric Jerome Dickey, Gypsy Boy on the Run, Mikey Walsh, Prarie Silence, Melanie Hoffert, books, gay news, Washington Blade
Decadence, Eric Jerome Dickey, Gypsy Boy on the Run, Mikey Walsh, Prarie Silence, Melanie Hoffert, books, gay news, Washington Blade

‘Decadence’ by Eric Jerome Dickey, ‘Gypsy Boy on the Run’ by Mikey Walsh and ‘Prairie Silence’ by Melanie Hoffert, just three of many gay-themed books slated for release in the coming months. (Photos courtesy the publishers)

The spring publishing season is full of gay reads, especially if you like memoirs.

Mikey Walsh gifts us with a sequel to last year’s “Gypsy Boy” (one of my favorite books of 2012) with his new book “Gypsy Boy on the Run.” This book picks up where the first book left off — Walsh has just escaped his father’s abuse and the Romany culture in which he grew up — and off we go. Which is great, since the first book practically begged for an update. His being gay is a major reason he was shunned by his culture of origin.

What would you do if you hailed from a place where you being gay was the farthest thing from your neighbors’ minds? In “Prairie Silence,” author Melanie Hoffert tackles that, coming from her home state of North Dakota. This is a beautiful book, almost bucolic, and filled with a quiet sense of calm and crops.

“Letters from the Closet: Ten Years of Correspondence That Changed My Life” by Amy Hollingsworth is a bit of a unusual memoir: it’s about a teacher who was not “out,” his favorite student and letters that he wrote to her that she kept until his death, years later. It’s a powerful story of secrets that aren’t so secret, from a Christian writer.

Speaking of church, “Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church” by Lauren Drain is the true story of the organization and a little girl whose father got so caught up in his examination of the church that he moved his family to Kansas and into the fold. It’s also the story of a girl who examines her conscience and realizes that her former beliefs were wrong. Controversial? You betcha, but oh-so-interesting, too.

“Plane Queer” by Phil Tiemeyer is a book about male flight attendants from the 1920s to about a decade ago, their work in a female-dominated career, the discrimination they faced and how AIDS has tied into their area of the industry. There’s a lot to learn here (because — did you know this? — they were in the forefront of an important civil rights law), so this book isn’t just a scandal-filled, juicy read.

Local gay author Garrett Peck continues his historical explorations with “The Smithsonian Castle and the Seneca Quarry.” This is somewhat of a sequel to Peck’s last book and explains how some of D.C.’s best-loved sites are tied together in an unlikely way.

California-based gay author and pop culture historian Mike Pingel is out with another tidbit-crammed page turner. “Betty White Rules the World” traces the legend’s career from “Life With Elizabeth,” “Mary Tyler Moore,” “The Golden Girls,” “Hot in Cleveland” and more. As with previous books on everything from “Wonder Woman” to “Charlie’s Angels,” Pingel keeps the pace moving — pullout boxes and mini-chapters are well-chocked with interesting factoids that keep the pace moving.

So you’re clamoring for a novel. Just a good story, that’s all you want.

And then you want “The Beauty of Men Never Dies” by David Leddick.

Blending fiction with memoir, this book is about aging and falling in love later in life. It’s a whirlwind trip from America to Europe, from one fabulous job to another, and from love lost to love gained. How much is true and how much is not?  I’m not saying. Read the book.

Gay author Brent Hartinger will release “The Elephant of Surprise” from Buddha Kitty Books on March 31. It’s the fourth book in the “Geography Club” series, the first entry of which has been adapted into a film starring Scott Bakula and Nikki Blonsky. In “Elephant,” Russel and his friends Min and Gunnar laugh about a phenomenon referenced in the title — the tendency of life to never turn out as expected. Russel becomes involved with Wade, a hot-but-homeless activist, just as his old flame Kevin returns to his front burner. And Min is learning surprising things about her girlfriend Leah. Hartinger, a former Blade contributor, has earned kudos for his well-crafted depictions of gay teen life.

Finally, if you just want something fun, hedonistic and so hot you’ll need oven mitts, then look for “Decadence” by Eric Jerome Dickey this spring. Nia Simone Bijou (she of 2008’s “Pleasure”) is back and looking to hone her “gifts” of love by stepping into a pleasure palace for awhile.

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PHOTOS: Not Another Drag Show

‘Blackout Edition’ celebrates musical artists of the 1990s

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Drag performer Tiffany D. Carter hosted “Not Another Drag Show: Blackout Edition” at Dupont Italian Kitchen Bar on Monday. Performers included Carter, Nubia Love-Jackson, Uju Betta and Echinacea. The show featured the songs of Black artists popular in the 1990s.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Music & Concerts

Janet Jackson doc premieres this weekend

Remembering 10 times iconic singer was there for LGBTQ community

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Janet Jackson’s two-part, four-hour documentary debuts this weekend. (File photo by Shilla Patel)

Iconic singer Janet Jackson, a longtime LGBTQ ally, unveils her long-awaited documentary simply titled “Janet” on Friday, Jan. 28. It concludes the following night; each installment is two hours long. 

Jackson has said she spent five years compiling footage and creating the documentary, which airs at 8 p.m. both nights on A&E and Lifetime networks. It was produced by Jackson and her brother Randy Jackson and it’s timed to commemorate the 40th anniversary of her 1982 debut album. 

An extended trailer for the film reveals Jackson will talk candidly about her brother Michael and the 2004 Super Bowl incident, including the news that Justin Timberlake reached out and asked her to join him during his widely panned 2018 Super Bowl return performance. 

Prior to the pandemic, Jackson announced a new studio album and tour titled “Black Diamond,” but both were postponed due to COVID. No official word about the status of either, but speculation is rampant that she will finally release the new album once the documentary airs.

“Musically, what I’ve done, like doing ‘Rhythm Nation’ or doing ‘New Agenda’ or doing ‘Skin Game,’ creating those bodies of work with Jimmy and Terry, I feel like I’ve laid a certain foundation,” Jackson tells Allure magazine in a new cover story this month. “I would hope that I’d be able to continue if I choose to. You know what I mean? But only time will tell.”

As Jackson’s legion of queer fans awaits this weekend’s premiere, the Blade takes a look back at 10 times Janet was there for the LGBTQ community. 

1. “The Velvet Rope” project. In 1997, Jackson released her critically acclaimed sixth studio album “The Velvet Rope,” an introspective and deeply personal collection of songs that touched on her depression, but also tackled LGBTQ issues. On the track “Free Xone,” she spoke out forcefully against anti-LGBT bias. She also covered Rod Stewart’s “Tonight’s the Night,” without changing the pronouns in the love song, prompting speculation about her sexual orientation. But it was her international No. 1 hit “Together Again” that continues to resonate with LGBTQ fans. An upbeat, joyful dance song, it was conceived as a tribute to Jackson’s friends who died of AIDS.

2. GLAAD award. In 2008, Ellen DeGeneres presented Jackson with the Vanguard Award at the 19th annual GLAAD Media Awards. GLAAD’s president said, “We are delighted to honor Janet Jackson at the 19th annual GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles as such a visible, welcoming and inclusive ally of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Ms. Jackson has a tremendous following inside the LGBT community and out, and having her stand with us against the defamation that LGBT people still face in our country is extremely significant.”

3. Ebony magazine interview about her sexuality. In 2001, Jackson gave an interview to Ebony magazine in which she was asked about her sexual orientation. “I don’t mind people thinking that I’m gay or calling me gay,” she said. “People are going to believe whatever they want. Yes, I hang out at gay clubs … I go where the music is good. I love people regardless of sexual preference, regardless of race. No, I am not bisexual. I have been linked with dancers in our group because we are so close. I grew up in a big family. I love being affectionate. I love intimacy and I am not afraid to show it.”

4. Video support for It Gets Better, Trevor Project. In 2010, Jackson recorded a video for the Trevor Project and later appeared on CNN’s “Larry King Live” to promote awareness of youth suicide. “If you’re LGBT you’re probably thinking you’re all alone, but you’re not,” she said in the video. “I can relate because I was one of those kids who internalized everything.”

5. “State of the World Tour.” Jackson’s LGBTQ support continued in 2017. Her tour’s opening sequence highlighted a range of problems facing the world, from famine and war to police brutality and included a call for justice and for LGBTQ rights.

6. “The Kids.” Jackson has always employed a diverse crew of professional dancers for her videos and tours. Some of her closest friends and collaborators over the years have been prominent out gay and lesbian choreographers, singers, dancers, makeup artists and designers. She lovingly refers to her backup dancers as “the Kids.”

7. NYC Pride performance. In 2004, Jackson performed for a packed audience at Pride Dance NYC at Pier 54.

8. “Will & Grace” cameo. In 2004, Jackson made a memorable cameo on “Will & Grace,” judging a dance-off between Jack and another dancer.

9. HRC, AIDS Project Los Angeles awards. In 2005, Jackson was honored by both the Human Rights Campaign and AIDS Project Los Angeles for her work raising money for AIDS charities.

10. Janet’s Blade interview. In 2006, Jackson granted an exclusive interview to the Washington Blade. It was one of the rare times she touched on the Super Bowl controversy and her brother Michael’s acquittal on child molestation charges, telling Blade Editor Kevin Naff, “I got all of that out of my system, that’s not what I’m feeling right now. I wrote about [those controversies] but I didn’t choose to put it out there on the album.” In the interview, Jackson also reiterated her support for marriage equality, said she’d never had a sexual relationship with a woman and revealed that she’d never met Madonna.

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Out & About

International Women Club set for Jan. 24

Event at National Harbor

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International Women United Organizer will host “Multicultural International Women Club” on Monday, Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. at National Harbor.

The goal of this event is to bring together women from different countries and cultures for friendship, support and community. Guests will get to share interesting facts about their country, talk about their culture, values, styles, and differences with others while learning from others and making friends from all over the globe. Those who speak English as a second language are welcome to attend.

This event is free and more details are available on Eventbrite.

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