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Queer celluloid

Festivals, docs, features, retrospectives, contests and more among local spring film season



film, Val Lauren, Christian Patrick, Interior. Leather Bar., gay news, Washington Blade
film, Val Lauren, Christian Patrick, Interior. Leather Bar., gay news, Washington Blade

Val Lauren and Christian Patrick in the controversial ‘Interior. Leather Bar.’ (Photo courtesy Strand Releasing)

The spring film season in Washington starts with a bang with “Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me,” a comic and poignant documentary by Chiemi Karasawa that captures the legendary performer’s days in New York City. The film interweaves footage from Stritch’s professional life (teasing Alec Baldwin on the set of “30 Rock” and struggling to remember the tricky lyrics of Stephen Sondheim for her final show at the Café Carlyle) and personal life (medial crises and packing for her move from Manhattan to Michigan). “Shoot Me” opens at West End Cinema on March 14.

The works of groundbreaking gay writer Tennessee Williams will be among those featured at the AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring this spring. A celebration of Vivien Leigh’s centenary will include “The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone” and Leigh’s iconic performance as Blanche DuBois in “A Streetcar Named Desire.” A retrospective on the career of Burt Lancaster will include his sizzling performance opposite Oscar winner Anna Magnani in “The Rose Tattoo,” as well as his powerful appearance in the classic “Come Back, Little Sheba” by gay playwright William Inge. Details at

Samantha Master, The New Black, film, gay news, Washington Blade

Samantha Master in ‘The New Black.’ (Photo by Jen Lemen)

Two documentaries about anti-gay campaigns will be released on DVD this spring. Michael Lucas’ “Campaign of Hate: Russia and Gay Propaganda” will be available on April 1 and finds the gay porn legend continuing his branching out into non-porn terrain. Yoruba Richen’s documentary “The New Black” examines how the black community is grappling with the issues of marriage equality and civil rights, and how the Christian right is exploiting anti-gay sentiment in black churches. It comes to home formats in June after it is broadcast on PBS as part of its Gay Pride Month celebration.

April 1 is also the DVD release date for the documentary “I Am Divine,” which explores the transformation of mild-mannered Baltimore native Harris Glenn Milstead into Divine, a “cinematic terrorist” and legendary international drag icon. Filmmaker Jeffrey Schwarz combines interviews with Milstead’s mother and Divine’s cinematic collaborators to create a complex portrait of a fascinating artist.

On a lighter note, the trend of female buddy movies continues with “The Other Woman,” a comedy featuring Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann and Kate Upton as three women turn the tables on the man who cheats on all three of them. The movie, which opens in wide release on April 25, also features a performance by pop singer Nicki Minaj.

B’more QFest (formerly/formally known as the Baltimore Queer Film and Media Festival) strives to “bring unity to the community” by bringing quality LGBT film to Charm City. Upcoming events include a double bill of “Sordid Lives” and “Southern Baptist Sissies” with screenwriter Del Shores on April 6 and Leslie Jordan (“Sordid Lives” and “Will & Grace”) performing his one-man show “Fruit Fly” on June 10-11. Details at

Pierre Deladonchamps, Stranger by the Lake, film, gay news, Washington Blade

Pierre Deladonchamps in ‘Stranger by the Lake.’ (Photo courtesy Strand Releasing)

Stranger by the Lake,” the gay erotic thriller that won the Queer Palm (an independent award given to entries made to the Cannes Film Festival) and was named one of the top films of 2013 by the influential Cahiers du Cinema is still looking for a venue in D.C. If all else fails, this steamy tale of murder and sexual awakening set by a scenic lake in rural France will be available on DVD May 13.

Interior. Leather Bar.,” inspired by the mythology surrounding the 1980 film “Cruising,” will be released on DVD on April 15. Filmmakers James Franco and Travis Mathews (“I Want Your Love”) reimagine the “lost footage” from the controversial film as they document their own challenges with shooting sexually explicit material.

LGBT filmmakers will have a chance to strut their stuff in the annual 48 Hour Film Fest. From 7:30 p.m. on May 2 to 7:30 p.m. on May 4, teams of local artists will create original short films. The films will be screened the following weekend at AFI Silver Theatre and the winner will advance to the national competition. Teams can register at

Although the D.C. Shorts Film Festival won’t be held until September, the staff and volunteers, under the direction of founder Jon Gann, an openly gay director, will host a variety of events this spring. In March, the Mentors program will offer a series of workshops for filmmakers of all skill levels. On June 13-14, the D.C. Shorts Laughs will offer evenings that combine funny short films and stand-up comedians. And most importantly, the Festival is now accepting entries from both directors and screenwriters. For more information, visit



PHOTOS: DCGFFL 25th Anniversary Party

Gay flag football league marks milestone at Penn Social



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

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



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

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



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

Through Sept. 24
Round House Theatre
4545 East-West Highway, Bethesda, MD 20814

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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