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Prolific producer Craig Zadan, an appreciation

Zadan and Neil Meron produced ‘Footloose,’ ‘Hairspray,’ the Oscars and more

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Craig Zadan (left) and Neil Meron (Photo courtesy Zadan Meron Productions)

The entertainment world was shocked to learn that prolific gay producer Craig Zadan died Monday night, Aug. 20, at his home in the Hollywood Hills of complications from shoulder replacement surgery. He was 69. 

Zadan and Meron productions have earned six Oscars, 17 Emmy Awards, two Tony Awards, two Peabody honors, and a Grammy, Variety reported. The team’s “Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert” for NBC on Easter Sunday is nominated for 13 Emmy Awards, as is their Lifetime TV movie “Flint,” produced with and starring Queen Latifah, about the water contamination crisis in Flint, Mich.

I met Craig and Neil in 1995 to talk about their NBC movie “Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story,” about a respected Washington National Guard Colonel who was forced out under the gay military ban. The film was co-produced by Barbra Streisand and the film’s star, Glenn Close, and co-starred Judy Davis.

They were genuinely attentive, ebullient and passionate. Craig’s broad smile buoyed his description of their mission: 1. bring back musicals; 2. elevate biopics; 3. unapologetically infuse diversity into all their endeavors.

And they did, with soul. In 1997, they produced Disney’s “Cinderella” for ABC with singer/“Moesha” actress Brandy as Cinderella, co-producer Whitney Houston as the Fairy Godmother, Bernadette Peters as the evil stepmother; Filipino actor Paolo Montalban as The Prince, Whoopi Goldberg as his mother and Victor Garber as his father. It was groundbreaking.

“Seeing a princess with box braids like mine and a fairy godmother like Whitney, who could have been my own mother or any one of my aunties, gave me and girls who looked like me a glimpse at an early age of why it is necessary to demand representation of all types of people playing all times of roles in films,” Martha Tesema recalled on Mashable in 2017.

Craig and I stayed in touch periodically via email, important during controversies such as when CBS refused to air “The Reagans” in 2003. A leak revealed a scene with President Ronald Reagan (James Brolin) turning to wife Nancy (Judy Davis)—who suggested helping people with AIDS—and replies: “They that live in sin shall die in sin.” There’s no evidence Reagan actually said that—but he might have. The TV biopic aired on Showtime.

“By being out and proud, Craig Zadan helped blaze a path for so many others in Hollywood to follow,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin. “He was a truly visionary leader who spoke to our hearts and souls through his prolific and profound work…[O]ur hearts go out to all who loved Craig, especially his life partner, Elwood Hopkins, and his producing partner, Neil Meron.”

“We met when Craig was doing Cinderella in the nineties and geeked out over all things musical,” friend Brad Bessey, former executive producer for Entertainment Tonight, told the Los Angeles Blade.

“Craig’s gift was that it was never about him, it was always about honoring the material, the music, the artists, the legacy, and the audience. Being the ultimate fan made him the ultimate creator.”

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DC Center to host Alzheimer’s awareness event

‘Seniors & Cognition’ talk to explore warning signs, healthy brain practices

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The DC LGBTQ+ Community Center, the DC Department on Aging and Community Living, and the Alzheimer’s Association are joining forces to host “Seniors & Cognition with the Alzheimer’s Association” on Thursday, July 25 at 2 p.m. on Zoom. 

Guest speakers will walk the audience through understanding Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, their warning signs, healthy brain practices, and more. The lecture series will consist of three 1.5-hour sessions, with the others set to take place in August and September. 

To register, visit the DC Center’s website

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Sports

Brittney Griner and wife celebrate birth of their son

Cherelle Griner gave birth to healthy baby boy earlier this month

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Brittney Griner (Screen capture via Instagram)

It’s a boy for Brittney and Cherelle Griner. The Phoenix Mercury center revealed the news in interviews with CBS Sports and NBC News. 

“Every minute I feel like he’s popping into my head, said Griner. “Literally everything revolves around him. And I love it.”

The couple officially welcomed the baby boy on July 8. He weighs 7 pounds, 8 ounces.

“That’s my man. He is amazing,” Griner told CBS Sports. “They said as soon as you see them, everything that you thought mattered just goes out the window. That’s literally what happened.” 

Griner, 33, corrected the CBS News correspondent who said, “You’re about to be a mom!” She told her Cherelle, 33, had already delivered the baby and that she preferred to be called,“Pops.” 

Griner told NBC News correspondent Liz Kreutz they chose to name their newborn son, “Bash.” 

The WNBA star said she is Bash’s biggest fan and is constantly taking photos of him. “My whole phone has turned into him now,” Griner told CBS Sports.

The baby comes as Griner gets set to play in Saturday’s WNBA All-Star Game and then head to Paris with Team USA to compete for their 8th straight gold medal at the Summer Olympic Games. 

“It kind of sucks because I have to leave, but at the same time, he will understand,” said Griner. 

Her time in Paris will mark the first time since the basketball star was released from a Russian gulag, where she was held on drug charges for nearly 10 months in 2022.

“BG is locked in and ready to go,” Griner told NBC News on Friday. “I’m happy, I’m in a great place. I’m representing my country, the country that fought for me to come back. I’m gonna represent it well.”

Griner also spoke with NBC News about her hopes the U.S. can win the freedom of imprisoned Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was sentenced to 16 years in a Russian maximum security prison on Friday. 

“We have to get him back,” she said. 

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Calendar

Calendar: July 19-25

LGBTQ events in the days to come

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Friday, July 19

“Center Aging Friday Tea Time” will be at 2 p.m. on Zoom. This is a social hour for older LGBTQ+ adults. Guests are encouraged to bring a beverage of choice. For more details, email [email protected].

Go Gay DC will host “LGBTQ+ Community Happy Hour” at 7 p.m. at Puro Gusto. This event is ideal for making new friends, professional networking, idea-sharing, and community building. This event is free and more details are available on Eventbrite.

Saturday, July 20

Go Gay DC will host “LGBTQ+ Community Brunch” at 11 a.m. at Freddie’s Beach Bar & Restaurant. This fun weekly event brings the DMV area LGBTQ+ community, including allies, together for delicious food and conversation. Attendance is free and more details are available on Eventbrite.

“LGBTQ People of Color Support Group” will be at 1 p.m. on Zoom. This peer support group is an outlet for LGBTQ People of Color to come together and talk about anything affecting them in a space that strives to be safe and judgment free. For more details, visit thedccenter.org/poc or facebook.com/centerpoc.

Sunday, July 21

Go Gay DC will host “LGBTQ+ Dinner” at 6:30 p.m. at Federico Ristorante Italiano Freddie’s Beach Bar & Restaurant. Guests are encouraged to come enjoy an evening of Italian-style dining and conversation with other LGBTQ+ folk. Attendance is free and more details are available on Eventbrite.

Go Gay DC will host “LGBTQ+ Funday Social and Games” at 3 p.m. at Moxy. This event is ideal for making meaningful new connections and informal community building, or just to unwind and enjoy the group happy hour. There will be Monopoly, chess, checkers, Jenga and many other games. Attendance is free and more details are available on Eventbrite.

AfroCode DC will be at 4 p.m. at Decades DC. This event will be an experience of non-stop music, dancing, and good vibes and a crossover of genres and a fusion of cultures. Tickets cost $40 and can be purchased on Eventbrite.

Monday, July 22

Center Aging: Monday Coffee & Conversation will be at 10 a.m. on Zoom. This is a social hour for older LGBTQ adults. Guests are encouraged to bring a beverage of their choice. For more details, email [email protected].

“Queer Book Club” will be at 6:30 p.m. on Zoom. The club meets on the fourth Monday of the month to discuss queer books by queer authors. This month’s read is yet to be announced. For more details, email [email protected].

Tuesday, July 23

Pride on the Patio Events will host “LGBTQ Social Mixer” at 5:30 p.m. at Showroom. Dress is casual, fancy, or comfortable. Guests are encouraged to bring their most authentic self to chat, laugh, and get a little crazy. Admission is free and more details are on Eventbrite.

Coming Out Discussion Group will be at 7 p.m. on Zoom. This is a peer-facilitated discussion group and a safe space to share experiences about coming out and discuss topics as it relates to doing so. For more details, visit the group’s Facebook page.

“Genderqueer DC” will be at 7 p.m. on Zoom. This is a support group for people who identify outside of the gender binary, whether you’re bigender, agender, genderfluid, or just know that you’re not 100% cis. For more details, email [email protected].

Wednesday, July 24

Job Club will be at 6 p.m. on Zoom. This is a weekly job support program to help job entrants and seekers, including the long-term unemployed, improve self-confidence, motivation, resilience and productivity for effective job searches and networking — allowing participants to move away from being merely “applicants” toward being “candidates.” For more information, email [email protected] or visit thedccenter.org/careers.

“Asexual and Aromantic Group” will meet at 7 p.m. on Zoom and in person at the DC Center for the LGBT Community. This is a space where people who are questioning this aspect of their identity or those who identify as asexual and/or aromantic can come together, share stories and experiences, and discuss various topics. For more details, email [email protected].

Thursday, July 25

Virtual Yoga with Charles M. will be at 7 p.m. on Zoom. This is a free weekly class focusing on yoga, breath work, and meditation. For more details, visit the DC Center for the LGBT Community’s website.

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