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Antoni Porowski shared food and laughter at Bentzen Ball Comedy Brunch

The event raised funds for Whitman-Walker Health

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Antoni Porowski at Lyft’s Bentzen Ball Comedy Brunch (Washington Blade photo by Mariah Cooper)

Lyft’s Bentzen Ball Comedy Brunch “Belly Laughs” brought plenty of food, laughter and thought-provoking conversation led by co-hosts “Queer Eye” food and wine expert Antoni Porowski and comedian Michelle Buteau at the Eaton DC on Sunday.

The charity brunch was presented in partnership with the ride-sharing app, Lyft. It raised funds for the non-profit organization and community health center serving the LGBT community, Whitman-Walker Health, which marks its 40th anniversary this year. Lyft also made a special $10,000 donation to Whitman-Walker Health in honor of LGBT History month.

Fans were only able to receive access to the brunch by applying the code “AVOCADO,” a known Porowski food favorite, into the Lyft app. Winners were then selected to participate in the private brunch.

The event kicked off with mingling as attendees sipped on Bloody Marys and orange juice and vodka courtesy of Smirnoff Vodka. Soon after, Buteau took the stage for a brief stand-up comedy set before bringing Porowski to the stage.

Porowski gave a cooking demonstration for a carrot and date salad, which he said was a recipe inspired by his father. The demonstration got interactive when Porowski chose a participant from the audience to assist with the recipe. Buteau pitched in as well, cracking jokes and banter with Porowski throughout the demonstration, and everyone in the audience received the salads for their own taste test. Porowski finished up by showing the crowd how to make his version of a Bloody Mary.

After a brief intermission, and some more food including tacos, Porowski and Buteau returned to the stage for a Q&A with the audience.

One member of the audience asked what are some of the perks of having a platform to use their voice on issues they care about.

For Buteau, it was important for her to make a positive impact on someone’s day.

“As a woman of color I’m realizing now more than ever what a social media platform is for and what kind of good it can do. Whether it’s reminding people to vote or helping people do whatever that is. At the end of the day what I love is when people slide into my DMs and they’re like ‘I was having such a shit day. Thank you so much for just putting a smile on my face,’” Buteau said.

Porowski noted that his fame has caused him to look at speaking up on issues in a different way.

“For me I think the greatest perk is a forced education on a lot of topics. I tended to be more quiet and private about a lot of things. But with the current climate it makes it more and more challenging not to say anything,” Porowski said.

He also revealed his view on Pride celebrations changed after he was invited to Montreal Pride by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this past summer. Porowski shared that despite growing up in Montreal he had never attended Pride.

“Pride was something that when I was in my first relationship with a guy I always stayed away from because I associated it with parties and a lot of excessive drug use. It wasn’t at all the way that I look at it now,” Porowski said.

After a fan from Poland reached out to him on social media thanking him for attending Pride because “it’s so nice to just see somebody who is able to celebrate freely,” Porowski says he felt like a “brat” about his previous views on Pride.

Now, Porowski encourages people to look for the positive things during the current political climate.

“What I still try to do is instead of focusing on all the negative that’s happening and going after He Who Shall Not Be Named [Trump] is focus on all the positive things that are happening because I think we still really need to remember that. It’s very easy to just fall in a hole of ‘What the fuck did he do today?’ and that becomes the new normal, that becomes acceptable. I think it’s important to remember that, we need to shed light on that, because with all the bad that’s going on there’s still a lot of good as well,” Porowski said.

It’s a sentiment that seemed to reflect throughout Bentzen Ball’s numerous comedy shows this weekend. Fellow “Queer Eye” star Jonathan Van Ness hosted three live shows of his “Getting Curious” podcast over the weekend including one conversation with Mara Keisling from the National Center for Trans Equality and another conversation with House of Representatives minority leader Nancy Pelosi.

Brightest Young Things co-founder Svetlana Legetic told the Washington Blade the goal of the comedy weekend was to get people laughing but also mobilized for action.

“Bentzen Ball is supposed to be four days where you forget about everything but you leave energized to do something,” Legetic said. “You go there and see these people who are incredibly busy and doing all this stuff and they’ve taken the time, they really care, they’re really passionate. And people say ‘Yes, I’m going to vote. Yes, I’m going to say something. Yes, it’s hilarious but I am a 100 percent voting.’”

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Books

Two new books celebrate Old Hollywood glory

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Liz Taylor and Montgomery Clift, who was gay, had a long, close friendship. (Photo courtesy Kensington)
‘Elizabeth and Monty: The Untold Story of Their Intimate Friendship’
By Charles Casillo
c.2021, Kensington
$27.00/389 pages

‘The Twelve Lives of Alfred Hitchcock’
By Edward White
c.2021, W. W. Norton & Company
$28.95/379 pages

If you’re queer, especially if you’re of a certain age, old Hollywood is embedded in your DNA.

For those of us besotted by classic movies — there can never be too many books about Tinseltown.

Two new books — “Elizabeth and Monty” by Charles Casillo and “The Twelve Lives of Alfred Hitchcock” by Edward White — will satisfy your old Hollywood jones.

“Elizabeth and Monty” is the riveting story of the intimate friendship of Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift.

Few people are loved more by the LGBTQ community than Elizabeth Taylor. Who will ever forget Taylor as Martha in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” or as Maggie in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof?”

Taylor raised millions for AIDS research long before any celeb or politico even said the word “AIDS.” People with AIDS weren’t objects of charity to Taylor. She had many queer friends and hung out at gay bars.

Montgomery Clift, who lived from 1920 to 1966, was a talented actor. Because of the time in which he lived, he had to be closeted about his sexuality. Because of the homophobia in the society and Hollywood then, the support of friends was crucial to Clift and other LGBTQ people of that era.

For much of his life, Clift had health problems that caused him pain. Partly as a result of pain, he had issues with drinking and drug addiction. His behavior could be erratic and uncouth.  (He had a penchant for eating food off of other people’s plates.)

Despite Clift’s troubles, you become transfixed by his brooding intensity – whether you’re watching him in “The Heiress,” “From Here to Eternity” or “Red River.”  

If you have a heartbeat, you’ll feel the chemistry between Clift and Taylor when they’re on screen together in “A Place in the Sun.”

Though Clift was queer and Taylor was hetero, they were the closest of friends.

From the prologue onward, Casillo draws you into their friendship. The book opens on the evening when Clift, driving home from a party, was in a terrible car accident. He’d crashed into a telephone pole. 

Taylor went to Clift who was lying bleeding on the road. “Realizing he was choking on his teeth,” Casillo adds, “she instinctively stuck her fingers down his throat and pulled out two broken teeth, clearing the passageway.”

Taylor stuck by Clift when many of his friends distanced themselves from him.  

Taylor insisted that Clift be cast in “Reflections in a Golden Eye.” She put up her own salary as insurance for Clift when no one would insure him (because of his health and substance abuse issues).

It’s clear from “Elizabeth and Monty” that Clift was as important to Taylor as she was to him. Their relationship wasn’t sexual, writes Casillo, author of “Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon” and “Outlaw The Lives and Careers of John Rechy.” Yet, there was an emotional intensity – a romantic quality – in their friendship.

Clift nurtured Taylor. He coached Taylor, who he called Bessie Mae, on her acting. He thought Taylor was beautiful, yet understood what it was like for Taylor when people only saw her for her beauty.

“Monty, Elizabeth likes me, but she loves you,” Richard Burton is reported to have said to Clift.

There are good biographies of Taylor – such as William Mann’s “How To Be A Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood” and of Clift – most notably Patricia Bosworth’s “Montgomery Clift: A Biography.”

Even so, “Elizabeth and Monty” sheds new light on the intense friendship of two queer icons. Check it out. It will imbue you with renewed love and respect not only for Taylor and Clift but for your own friends.

Without Alfred Hitchcock, I’d never make it through the pandemic.

The COVID vaccines are wonderful! But, I’d never get out of my sweatpants without the suspense and glam of Hitchcock’s movies.

Nothing is more comforting than watching serial killer Uncle Charlie in “Shadow of a Doubt” or, with Grace Kelly, James Stewart and Thelma Ritter, observing the murderer in “Rear Window.”

What is more pleasurable than ogling the gorgeous mid-century apartment where a murder has been committed in “Rope?”

Of course, I’m far from alone in loving Hitchcock. Hetero and queer viewers are Hitchcock fans.

Everyone from your straight, straitlaced granny to your bar-hopping queer grandson has had nightmares about the shower scene in “Psycho.” Or had a crush on Cary Grant or Eva Marie Saint in “North by Northwest.”

From the glam in “Rear Window” to Bruno and Guy in “Strangers on a Train,” it’s clear that Hitchcock’s movies have a queer quotient and a special appeal to LGBTQ viewers.

There are more biographies and studies of Hitchcock’s life and work than you could count. Or would want to read.

Yet, “The Twelve Lives of Alfred Hitchcock” by Edward White is a good read.

In elegant, precise writing, White illuminates Hitchcock’s life and work by examining 12 aspects of his complex personality. As with all of us, the whole of Hitchcock’s self was more than the components of his personality. Any life, despite the most assiduous biographer’s investigations, remains somewhat of a mystery.

White explores how “Hitchcock” the phenomenon was invented as well as what made Hitchcock the person tick. He carries out this exploration by writing about Hitchcock as everything from “The Fat Man” to “The Murderer” to “The Dandy” to “The Voyeur” to “The Londoner” to “The Family Man” to “The Man of God.”

Hitchcock was a family man who loved his wife, yet, at times, gazed in, to put it mildly an unsavory manner, at some of the actresses such as Tippi Hedren, in his films.  

Impeccably dressed in a Victorian-era suite, he plotted films about murder and rape with his wife (and frequent uncredited collaborator) Alma at his side.

For a half century, “Hitchcock’s persona was the active ingredient in the most celebrated of his 53 films,” White writes, “the way Oscar Wilde’s was in his plays, and Andy Warhol’s was in his art.”

Hitchcock stands alone in the Hollywood canon, White writes, “a director whose mythology eclipses the brilliance of his myriad classic movies.”

The span of Hitchcock’s career was immense — from the time of silent films to the 3-D era. His work, White, a “Paris Review” contributor, writes, runs the gamut from thrillers to screwball comedy to horror to film noir to social realism.

Read “The Twelve Lives of Alfred Hitchcock.”  It’ll take you inside the mosaic of the fab filmmaker’s life and work. Then, break out the popcorn and “Dial M for Murder.”  

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Out & About

Northam declares June LGBTQ+ Pride month in Va.

Virginians encouraged to participate in events throughout the Commonwealth

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Ralph Northam, gay news, Washington Blade
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, shown here at NoVa Pride in 2018, announced a monthlong series of Pride events. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on June 4 officially declared June as LGBTQ+ Pride month to celebrate the commonwealth’s LGBTQ+ communities, their achievements and contributions, and their fight for inclusion and equality.

“This Pride month, we are reminded of the resilience of LGBTQ+ Americans and their fight for inclusion and acceptance and equal access to services and opportunities,” said Northam. 

Northam further encouraged Virginians to participate in Pride month activities that are to be hosted by his administration and community organizations taking place online and in-person throughout the Commonwealth. 

A comprehensive event schedule is available on the governor’s website.

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Arts & Entertainment

Colton Underwood, Greyson Chance+ more Amazon Live Pride Festival!

Greyson Chance and former Bachelor star, Colton Underwood, will be streaming live to discuss how they show their Pride, answer fan questions

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SEATTLE, WA. – Happy Pride Month! Amazon Live is hosting its first-ever Pride Festival this Thursday (6/10) and Friday (6/11) from 3-6pm ET. Your favorite celebrities and influencers, including recording artist, Greyson Chance and former Bachelor star, Colton Underwood, will be streaming live to discuss how they show their Pride, answer fan questions, and share their top Pride picks across fashion, beauty, books, movies, and TV.

Customers can watch HERE via desktop, mobile, or through the Amazon Live Shopping app on Fire TV. Customers can interact directly with the celebrities and influencers via live chat, and easily shop the products and brands discussed through a carousel that updates in real-time.

The scheduled events are as follows:

DAY ONE (6/10):

  • 3PM ET: Greyson Chance will perform from his upcoming EP Trophies, releasing on June 25, and share his curated selection of Pride merch.
  • 4PM ET: Jo Duree will stream a “get ready with me,” inviting viewers to do their makeup alongside her as she shows top tips and tricks.
  • 5PM ET: Pride House LA is throwing the ULTIMATE pride variety show! Featuring top products, you will be fully entertained with special guest performances and amazing talent!

DAY TWO (6/11):

  • 3PM ET: Colton Underwood will discuss his life, answer viewer questions, and share the products that help him show off his pride.
  • 4PM ET: Jake Warden will demo a Pride makeup look.
  • 5PM ET: Olga Von Light will discuss her coming out story, and share some favorite Pride related merchandise and why the products are meaningful to her. 

We’d love to have you join! Check out this blog post for more information about how Amazon is celebrating Pride Month.

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