Connect with us

Arts & Entertainment

Gay Venezuelan ‘artivist’ fights homophobia, discrimination



Daniel Arzola, gay news, Washington Blade

Daniel Arzola, gay news, Washington Blade

Daniel Arzola (Photo by Benjamin Araneda)

AMHERST, Mass. — A self-described gay “artivist” from Venezuela is using his art to fight homophobia and other forms of discrimination.

Daniel Arzola is behind the “I’m Not a Joke” campaign, which features a series of 50 posters that contain a sentence and a digital illustration.

The campaign — known as “No soy tu chiste” in Spanish — has appeared in the U.S., Venezuela, Brazil, Australia, Uganda, Russia and two dozen other countries around the world. Arzola’s posters have also been translated into English, Portuguese and 18 other languages.

“It’s about being different,” Arzola told the Washington Blade on April 14 during an interview at Amherst College where an LGBT student group had invited him to speak.

Katy Perry selected several of Arzola’s posters for Madonna’s Art for Freedom, a project for which she is a guest curator.

Arzola told the Blade that his life changed when Madonna tweeted a picture of one of them on Oct. 8, 2013.

“At that moment ‘I’m Not a Joke’ was not only for activists,” said Arzola. “I received a lot of interview (requests) from a lot of countries. And the people from Venezuela who hate me knew my work because Madonna made that tweet.”

“It’s a little cliché but Madonna changed my life,” he added.

‘They tried to burn me alive’

Arzola, 26, grew up in Maracay, a city that is roughly 70 miles south southwest of the Venezuelan capital of Caracas.

Arzola, who has an older brother, told the Blade that he was a “very shy” and “lonely” child. He said that he used “art to communicate with other people.”

“If I liked you, I preferred to give you (a drawing) than to talk to you,” said Arzola.

Arzola said he came out to his mother when he was 5, telling her that he liked a boy in his kindergarten class.

“I told her and she beat me,” said Arzola.

Arzola told the Blade that his mother, who is a teacher, is “not homophobic anymore.” He said she now wears a t-shirt that promotes his art in her classroom.

“She’s like my biggest fan all the time,” said Arzola.

Arzola said that three of his neighbors attacked him when he was 15.

He told the Blade that they took off his pants and shoes before tying him to a telephone poll with cables. Arzola said he was able to escape when one of his attackers tried to find gasoline to set him on fire.

He told the Blade that his assailants destroyed all of his drawings.

“They tried to burn me alive because that’s the way that some people in Venezuela react to the differences in another person,” Arzola told the Blade. “It’s not only if you’re gay.”

Arzola said he was unable to draw for the next six years “until one day I understood that my story is not the only story and I had the luck to escape and survive.” He told the Blade that an 18-year-old man from Maracay who was attacked because of his sexual orientation suffered burns over nearly 50 percent of his body.

“There’s a lot of people burning people alive or hurting other people in Venezuela for being gay,” said Arzola.

The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime notes that Venezuela has one of the world’s highest homicide rates. A deepening economic crisis has caused a shortage of basic goods, triple-digit inflation and growing political and social instability.

Tamara Adrián, a Caracas lawyer who is a member of Popular Will, a left-leaning party, in December became the first openly trans person elected to the Venezuelan National Assembly. Anti-LGBT violence and discrimination remains pervasive in the South American country in spite of this historic election.

Arzola, who studied graphic design and art in Venezuela, told the Blade that he wanted to use art as a way to challenge anti-gay violence and homophobia in his homeland.

“This is the way that artivism burns in my head,” he said. “I need to fight violence with other things and in Venezuela being gay is always in the media. People laugh about being LGBT, so I was wondering (about) when we start to laugh about tragedy, about the pain of others. In Venezuela people are always saying that, ‘We’re so cool because we find a joke in everything.’ But that everything sometimes includes the pain of others.”

“That’s where the name ‘I’m Not a Joke’” comes in,” added Arzola. “I want to talk with people like you and me, so I’m not your joke. I’m not a joke.”

Threats forced Arzola to move to Chile

Arzola told the Blade that he began to receive threats because of his art and advocacy.

“I had to leave Venezuela because of threats,” he said. “When ‘I’m Not a Joke’ started to be so famous I had the opportunity to talk to so many media, so I exposed the government and the homophobia in Venezuela.”

Arzola met Jaime Parada — a Chilean LGBT rights advocate who became the first out candidate elected to public office in the South American country in 2012 when he won a seat on the Providencia Municipal Council in Santiago — in 2014 during a trip to Buenos Aires.

Arzola moved to Santiago, which is the Chilean capital, in April 2015. He now lives in Providencia — a wealthy Santiago enclave — and works for the municipal government.

“I like Santiago,” Arzola told the Blade. “It’s the first time in my life I have experienced peace…and for me it’s something new. For me it’s very weird being in my bed without fear.”

“For me coming from the chaos in Venezuela and being in Providencia is like, ‘Oh yeah. I create all the time with chaos and now I am in peace. I’m like, what should I do now?’” he added. “I don’t know what to do with so much peace. I’m still creating.”

Daniel Arzola, gay news, Washington Blade

Gay Venezuelan “artivist” Daniel Arzola is behind “I’m Not a Joke,” a series of pictures that seek to combat homophobia, racism and other forms of discrimination. (Images courtesy of Daniel Arzola)



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)

Continue Reading


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.

The Blade may receive commissions from qualifying purchases made via this post.

Continue Reading


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.

Continue Reading

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade