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Thousands attend memorial service for Orlando massacre victims

Pulse Nightclub co-owner, activists, elected officials spoke



Two women hold candles outside the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center in Orlando, Fla., on June 13, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Two women hold candles outside the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center in Orlando, Fla., on June 13, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

ORLANDO, Fla. — Thousands of people on Monday paid tribute to the victims of the Pulse Nightclub massacre during a memorial service in downtown Orlando.

“Our city and our very way of life was attacked,” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer told those who gathered outside the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center near Orlando City Hall. “Someone purposely sought out men and women of our LGBT community and took the lives of 49 of our neighbors and loved ones and injured dozens more.”

An emotional Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs echoed Dyer.

“This act of hatred, of violence will not define us,” said Jacobs.

The crowd cheered enthusiastically when Ron Legler and Barbara Poma, the co-owners of Pulse Nightclub, and several members of their staff took the stage.

“We love Orlando,” said Legler. “We opened Pulse…to be a place of pride, a place where you could feel that you belong, a place where you feel safe.”

“We’re going to rebuild that Pulse,” he added.

Gay massacre victim ‘loved by a lot of people’

Many of those who attended the memorial service sobbed as the names of the 49 victims were read aloud.

The bell of the nearby First United Methodist Church rang 49 times in honor of each of those who died inside the nightclub. The memorial service ended with a candlelight vigil.

“We grieve with other places, but now it’s my place,” Lisa Cherrie of Casselberry, Fla., told the Washington Blade before the names of the victims were read aloud. “And I’m mad.”

Axel Rodríguez, an Orlando resident who was born in Puerto Rico, held a large Puerto Rican flag in rainbow colors throughout the memorial service.

Xavier Serrano Rosado, a 35-year-old gay man who Rodríguez described to the Blade as one of his “dearest friends” during an emotional interview, was dancing at the nightclub when Omar Mateen of Fort Pierce, Fla., opened fire shortly after 2 a.m. on Sunday.

Rodríguez said he found out at 4 a.m. on Monday that Serrano had died.

“We thought he was one of the survivors, but he wasn’t,” he told the Blade.

Axel Rodríguez of Orlando, Fla., holds a Puerto Rican flag with rainbow colors on it during a memorial service on June 13, 2016, that paid tribute to the victims of the Pulse Nightclub massacre. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Axel Rodríguez of Orlando, Fla., holds a Puerto Rican flag with rainbow colors on it during a memorial service on June 13, 2016, that paid tribute to the victims of the Pulse Nightclub massacre. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Rodríguez said he does not know whether Serrano’s boyfriend, who was also at the nightclub when the gunman opened fire, survived the massacre.

He told the Blade that his friend leaves behind a 6-year-old son.

“He was loved by a lot of people,” said Rodríguez, referring to Serrano.

A woman who declined to give the Blade her name was holding a poster that had several pictures of Jonathan Camuy, her friend who worked on “La Voz Kids,” a Telemundo program that is similar to NBC’s “The Voice.”

A picture of Camuy, his boyfriend and a female friend that was on the woman’s poster was taken inside the nightclub less than an hour before the gunman opened fire. The woman told the Blade that the friend did not survive, even though Camuy’s body fell on top of her.

The woman said Camuy’s boyfriend survived and is in Miami.

“He was a great friend,” the woman told the Blade, referring to Camuy. “He loved to dance.”

Gunman ‘targeted minority communities’

Police say the gunman opened fire at the nightclub — which is less than two miles south of Orlando City Hall — shortly after 2 a.m. on Sunday.

A SWAT team entered the building shortly before 5 a.m. to rescue 30 hostages who were trapped inside. Officers killed the gunman — who had pledged his alliance to the so-called Islamic State in a 911 call when the shooting began — after they exchanged gunfire with him.

Media reports indicate that the gunman had previously visited the nightclub and used Grindr and other gay hookup apps. His father said that his son recently became “very angry” when he saw two men kissing in Miami.

“Tonight we gather to memorialize those we’ve lost and to pray for those who are still fighting for their lives,” said Joe Saunders, a former member of the Florida House of Representatives who works for the Human Rights Campaign, at the beginning of the memorial service.

The White House announced shortly after the memorial service ended that President Obama will travel to Orlando on Thursday.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Monday reiterated his call to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the U.S.

The billionaire said in a speech he gave in New Hampshire that he would suspend immigration from areas “when there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe and our allies.” Trump also claimed that presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton cannot claim she advocates on behalf of the LGBT community if she backs immigration from Muslim countries.

HRC President Chad Griffin, Equality Florida CEO Nadine Smith, GLBT Community Center of Central Florida Executive Director Terry DeCarlo and other activists who spoke at the memorial service did not mention Trump by name. They also did not specifically reference Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who has come under fire for not mentioning the LGBT community in his public comments about the massacre.

“We can recognize that when we say we are the targets of a culture war, those words are no longer metaphorical,” said Smith. “We have to uproot the hatred at the core of what happened.”

Rev. Gabriel Salguero, founder of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, said it is “not lost on us” that the gunman “targeted minority communities.”

Imam Muhammad Musri, president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, said his organization is “united as Americans when it comes to standing with the LGBT community and their rights to live freely and to practice their lives here.” He and many others who spoke during the memorial service expressed their support of a ban on assault weapons in the wake of the nightclub massacre.

“We don’t want any more Sandy Hooks,” said Musri. “We don’t want any more massacres like Charleston. We are tired of massacres like San Bernardino and we are surely (tired) of the massacre like Orlando.”

“We want peace,” he added.


Celebrity News

Anne Heche dies after removal from life support

Actress dated Ellen DeGeneres in late 1990s



(Screenshot/YouTube Inside Edition)

Actress Anne Heche died after she was removed from life support on Sunday, nearly two weeks after her Mini-Cooper crashed through a two-story house in Los Angeles’ Mar Vista neighborhood. Investigators with the Los Angeles Police Department believe she was intoxicated at the time.

She sustained a severe anoxic brain injury along with severe burns and was being treated at the Grossman Burn Center at West Hills Hospital, near Chatsworth in the San Fernando Valley.

The 53-year-old actress who was a star of films like “Donnie Brasco,” the political satire “Wag the Dog” and the 1998 remake of “Psycho,” had been declared legally dead under California law on Friday, however, her family kept her alive long enough to be an organ donor.

In a statement Friday, the LAPD announced that: “As of today, there will be no further investigative efforts made in this case. Any information or records that have been requested prior to this turn of events will still be collected as they arrive as a matter of formalities and included in the overall case. When a person suspected of a crime expires, we do not present for filing consideration.” LAPD detectives had previously made public that investigators into the crash found narcotics in a blood sample taken from Heche.

The actress’s family released a statement on Friday:

“Today we lost a bright light, a kind and most joyful soul, a loving mother, and a loyal friend. Anne will be deeply missed but she lives on through her beautiful sons, her iconic body of work, and her passionate advocacy. Her bravery for always standing in her truth, spreading her message of love and acceptance, will continue to have a lasting impact,” the statement added.

Heche was married to camera operator Coleman Laffoon from 2001 to 2009. The two had a son, Homer, together. She had another son, named Atlas, during a relationship with actor James Tupper, her co-star on the TV series “Men In Trees.”

Laffoon left a moving tribute on an Instagram reel in which he also gave an update on how their 20-year-old son Homer Laffoon is coping with the loss of his mother.

“I loved her and I miss her, and I’m always going to,” he said adding: “Homer is okay. He’s grieving, of course, and it’s rough. It’s really rough, as probably anybody can imagine. But he’s surrounded by family and he’s strong, and he’s gonna be okay.”

“Rest In Peace, Mom, I love you, Homer,” the actor’s 20-year-old son, Homer, said in a statement after Heche was declared legally dead on Friday.“ My brother Atlas and I lost our Mom,” read the statement. “After six days of almost unbelievable emotional swings, I am left with a deep, wordless sadness. Hopefully, my mom is free from pain and beginning to explore what I like to imagine as her eternal freedom. Over those six days, thousands of friends, family, and fans made their hearts known to me. I am grateful for their love, as I am for the support of my Dad, Coley, and my stepmom Alexi who continue to be my rock during this time. Rest In Peace Mom, I love you, Homer.”

Tupper, a Canadian actor who starred alongside Heche in “Men in Trees,” had a 13-year-old son, Atlas, with her. “Love you forever,” Tupper, 57, wrote on his Instagram post’s caption with a broken heart emoji, which shared an image of the actress from Men in Trees.

Between 1997 and 2000, Heche was also in a relationship with talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.

“This is a sad day,” DeGeneres posted on Twitter. “I’m sending Anne’s children, family and friends all of my love.” The year after her break-up with the comedian, in September 2001, Heche recounted in her memoir “Call Me Crazy,” about her lifelong struggles with mental health and a childhood of abuse.

KTLA’s entertainment reporter Sam Rubin noted that over the past two decades, Heche’s career pivoted several times. In 2017, she hosted a weekly radio show on SiriusXM with Jason Ellis called “Love and Heche.”

In 2020, Heche made her way into the podcast world. She launched “Better Together” which she cohosted alongside Heather Duffy Boylston. The show was described as a way to celebrate friendship. 

She also worked in smaller films, on Broadway, and on TV shows. She recently had recurring roles on the network series “Chicago P.D.,” and “All Rise” and was a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars.”

People magazine reported that several of Heche’s acting projects are expected to be released posthumously.

These include “Girl in Room 13,” expected to be released on Lifetime in September, “What Remains,” scheduled to be released in 2023, and HBO Max TV series “The Idol,” created by Abel Tesfaye (The Weeknd) and Euphoria creator Sam Levinson.

In her Instagram post from earlier this year Heche stands between her sons Atlas, 13 and Homer, 20.

From KTLA:

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Celebrity News

‘Star Trek’ actress Nichelle Nichols dies at 89

George Takei tweets ‘we lived long and prospered together’



(Screenshot/YouTube The Smithsonian Channel)

She was a groundbreaking cultural icon who broke barriers in a time of societal upheaval and battling for the civil rights of Black Americans. An actress, a mother and thoroughly devoted to the legions of fans of “Star Trek,” Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek’s Lt. Nyota Uhura, has died at 89.

The announcement on her Facebook page by her son read:

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Friends, Fans, Colleagues, World

I regret to inform you that a great light in the firmament no longer shines for us as it has for so many years.

Last night, my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to natural causes and passed away. Her light however, like the ancient galaxies now being seen for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn from, and draw inspiration.

Hers was a life well lived and as such a model for us all.

I, and the rest of our family, would appreciate your patience and forbearance as we grieve her loss until we can recover sufficiently to speak further. Her services will be for family members and the closest of her friends and we request that her and our privacy be respected.

Live Long and Prosper,

Kyle Johnson

Nichols was born in Robbins, Ill., in 1932, according to her IMDb page. Legendary composer Duke Ellington “discovered” Nichols and helped her become a singer and dancer. She later turned to acting, and joined Gene Roddenberry’s “Star Trek,” where she played Uhura from 1966 to 1969.

Out actor George Takei who played ‘Sulu’ on Star Trek the original series with Nichelle Nichols who played Lt. Nyota Uhura, at a Star Trek convention in this undated photo. (George Takei/Twitter)

It was in that role of Uhura that Nichols not only broke barriers between races, most famously her onscreen kiss, the first between a Black person and a white person, with castmate William Shatner, who played Capt. James T. Kirk, but she also became a role model for young Black women and men inspiring them to seek out their own places in science, technology, and other human endeavors.

In numerous interviews over the years Nichols often recalled how the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a fan of the show and praised her role and personally encouraged her to stay with the series.

When the first series ended Nichols went on to become a spokesperson for NASA, where she “helped recruit and inspire a new generation of fearless astronauts.” She later reprised her role in several successful “Star Trek” films and continued to advocate for the advancement of Black Americans especially in the areas of science and technology.

Formerly a NASA deputy administrator, Frederick Gregory, now 81, told the Associated Press he once saw an advertisement in which Nichols said “I want you to apply for the NASA program.”

“She was talking to me,” he recounted. The U.S. Air Force pilot would apply and later become the first African American shuttle pilot.

President Joe Biden weighed in Sunday afternoon on her passing in a statement issued by the White House:

In Nichelle Nichols, our nation has lost a trailblazer of stage and screen who redefined what is possible for Black Americans and women.
A daughter of a working-class family from Illinois, she first honed her craft as an actor and singer in Chicago before touring the country and the world performing with the likes of Duke Ellington and giving life to the words of James Baldwin.
During the height of the Civil Rights Movement, she shattered stereotypes to become the first Black woman to act in a major role on a primetime television show with her groundbreaking portrayal of Lt. Uhura in the original Star Trek. With a defining dignity and authority, she helped tell a central story that reimagined scientific pursuits and discoveries. And she continued this legacy by going on to work with NASA to empower generations of Americans from every background to reach for the stars and beyond.
Our nation is forever indebted to inspiring artists like Nichelle Nichols, who show us a future where unity, dignity, and respect are cornerstones of every society.

Nichols son said that services will be private for family members and her closest friends.

In 2008 the actress at a news conference, coordinated by the filmmakers of the motion picture “TRU LOVED,” in honor of the more than 900 students at Los Angeles’ Miguel Contreras Learning Complex’s School of Social Justice who participated in the GLSEN Day of Silence.

Nichelle Nichols speaks on LGBTQ rights:

Her fellow castmate and life long friend, openly Out actor George Takei shared his sadness on hearing of Nichols’ passing on Twitter:

From the September 2016 edition of the Smithsonian Channel: “Star Trek’s decision to cast Nichelle Nichols, an African American woman, as major character on the show was an almost unheard-of move in 1966. But for black women all over the country, it redefined the notions of what was possible.”

Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols on Uhura’s Radical Impact:

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Emma Corin becomes first nonbinary person featured on cover of American Vogue

The star of The Crown opened up about their identity.



Emma Corrin Jamie Hawkesworth/Vogue

Emma Corin was announced as the cover star of the August edition of Vogue. It’s the first time a nonbinary person is featured on the cover of American Vogue.

Corin posted the cover photo and wrote, “My grin really says it all! A huge honour to be your August cover.”

In early 2021, Corin quietly came out as a queer and nonbinary, changing pronouns to “she/they” in their instagram bio. Currently Corin sticks to pronouns “they/them.”

“I feel much more seen when I’m referred to as ‘they,’ but my closest friends, they will call me ‘she,’ and I don’t mind, because I know they know me,” Corin explained during the interview with Vogue.

Corin stated that they’ve still gone on dates with various kinds of people and set no limit on who they date. “I like people,” they simply said and shrugged.

Corin also shared some of their dating experiences. “My first date with a girl, they were like, Oh! You’re a baby queer!” Corin said, “It was amazing. We actually didn’t end up seeing each other again, but she really gave me the lowdown.”

Besides, Corin was frank about their conflicting feelings towards gender and sexuality issues. “I’m working out all this complex gender and sexuality stuff. And yet, I’m seeing a guy? That feels very juxtaposed, even if I’m very happy.”

Corin is known for playing Diana on the Netflix series The Crown.

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