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Kevin Hart steps aside as 2019 Oscar host after protests

In the age of #MeToo, a controversial host is toast



Kevin Hart. (Photo Facebook)

UPDATE: Comedian and actor Kevin Hart says he has stepped down from hosting the 2019 Oscars following a controversy over homophobic tweets and comments from his stand up act from as far back as 2009.

Hart said he does not wish to be a distraction and that he is “sorry he had hurt people” after calls for the Academy to drop him went viral.

Hart had said hosting the Oscars was “a goal on my list for a long time.”

On Thursday, Hart initially responded to outcry over his being named by the Academy as host of the ceremony with a video posted on Instagram, in which he said, “Guys, I’m nearly 40 years old. If you don’t believe that people change, grow, evolve as they get older, I don’t know what to tell you. If you want to hold people in a position where they always have to justify the past, do you. I’m the wrong guy, man.”

This was followed later on Thursday evening with another video, in which the comedian told followers the Academy had called him and offered him an ultimatum: apologize for the tweets or step down as host.  He refused to apologize, saying he had “addressed this several times.  This is not the first time this has come up.  I’ve addressed it.  I’ve spoken on it.”

Finally, late in the day, Hart announced via Twitter that he had chosen to step down “because I do not want to be a distraction on a night that should be celebrated by so many amazing talented artists.”

“I sincerely apologise to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words of the past,” he said.

As its much-criticized (and now recanted) decision to add a “Best Popular Film” category to its awards roster earlier this year clearly revealed, the Oscars are desperate to increase their ever-declining ratings.

Has the Academy Award lost its way? That question is increasingly being asked.

For the broadcast of the Academy Awards’ 90th annual ceremony in 2018, viewership was about 26.5 million people – around 20% lower than the previous year, it was the first time the figure had dropped below 30 million and the lowest number since Nielsen started tracking Oscar ratings in 1974.

The Hart fiasco was born of a reckless effort to boost its relevance and regain audience.

At first glance, it seemed like the perfect solution to their problem. Hart is immensely popular, performing to sell-out crowds in huge venues like the 69,000-seat Lincoln Financial Field in his hometown of Philadelphia. He topped Forbes’ 2016 list of the highest-paid comedians, and he’s proven his appeal to movie crowds with box-office hits, like this year’s “Night School” and “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.”

His films have grossed $3.5 billion worldwide, and his social media presence (35 million followers on Twitter, 65 million on Instagram) is impressive. The chance to see what he does as an Oscar host obviously had the potential to draw a lot of viewers that wouldn’t normally tune in.

In addition, Hart had been vocal about his desire to host the Oscars for several years now.

It’s a job that has proven thankless for many celebrities who have done it in the past – from Chevy Chase to David Letterman to Seth McFarlane, the ceremony has been fronted by a long list of popular comedians who were deemed to have failed spectacularly, and there’s an even longer list of personalities who have been asked and turned it down (as detailed in a recent piece by the Hollywood Reporter).

But Hart had actively been after the gig since at least 2015, when the Los Angeles Times reported him as saying, “If I can start the campaign now and get them into it, I’m all for it. I would just jump at the opportunity.”

Lastly, as only the fourth African-American person ever to host the ceremony (following Richard Pryor, Chris Rock, and four-time host Whoopi Goldberg), Hart would potentially have helped to smooth over the lingering criticism stemming from the #OscarsSoWhite controversy of two years ago, when the lack of diversity among the Academy’s award nominations – and onstage at its ceremony – underscored the inadequate representation of non-whites within the content produced by the Hollywood film industry. In a year when most of the apparent front-runners seem, yet again, to be white, having a black host might be a way to stave off any resurgence of backlash.

Unfortunately, this solution failed to take into account the messaging it sent on another front.


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Stop looking for reasons to be negative…Stop searching for reasons to be angry….I swear I wish you guys could see/feel/understand the mental place that I am in. I am truly happy people….there is nothing that you can do to change that…NOTHING. I work hard on a daily basis to spread positivity to all….with that being said. If u want to search my history or past and anger yourselves with what u find that is fine with me. I’m almost 40 years old and I’m in love with the man that I am becoming. You LIVE and YOU LEARN & YOU GROW & YOU MATURE. I live to Love….Please take your negative energy and put it into something constructive. Please….What’s understood should never have to be said. I LOVE EVERYBODY…..ONCE AGAIN EVERYBODY. If you choose to not believe me then that’s on you….Have a beautiful day

A post shared by Kevin Hart (@kevinhart4real) on

The Academy – in typically tone-deaf fashion – may have chosen a host who checks off several important boxes for image-conscious Hollywood, but in doing so it ignored Hart’s problematic history of homophobia.

And as you can see from the Instagram post above, Hart is now positioning himself as a victim of PC culture run amok.

It’s not all that different from the notorious comedy routine for his 2010 TV special, “Seriously Funny,” Hart joked that as a parent, “one of my biggest fears is my son growing up and being gay.” After quickly adding that he had “nothing against gay people,” he went on to say that “as a heterosexual male, if I can prevent my son from being gay, I will.” He went on to joke that every kid has a “gay moment… but when it happens, you gotta nip it in the bud.”

In a 2015 interview with Rolling Stone, Hart confessed that he “wouldn’t tell the joke today.” His reasons, however, had nothing to do with the obvious anti-gay bias involved; instead, he deflected by saying, “the times weren’t as sensitive as they are now. I think we love to make big deals out of things that aren’t necessarily big deals, because we can. These things become public spectacles. So why set yourself up for failure?”

He also responded in an interview with Parade, by saying, “I had one gay joke in my career and it was about my son at a birthday party, and it was before things got as PC as they are now.”

In other words, his only remorse was over how it affected his image.

Blaming the current #MeToo movement for creating this atmosphere is not a show of remorse. Neither is saying it’s something he’s sorry about while he keeps doing it.

Apparently, that remorse has not been strong enough to keep him from making more homophobic comments. His Twitter feed has been laced with them throughout his career – things like “Yo if my son comes home & try’s 2 play with my daughter’s doll house I’m going 2 break it over his head % say n my voice ‘stop that’s gay.’”

In one particularly offensive tweet, he called out another Twitter user by saying their profile picture looked “like a gay billboard for AIDS.”

He has repeatedly used phrases like “no homo” and “no homo gay,” and lambasted his critics by calling them such names as “f*g boy,” “gay face,” “fat faced f*g,” and “man bitch.”

According to an article published by Queerty just this morning, Hart had been deleting many of these posts – most of which had already been re-Tweeted in protest by thousands of Twitter users after news broke of his Oscar gig.

There’s also the matter of his treatment of ex-wife Torrei Hart, to whom he admitted being physically abusive in his 2017 memoir, “I Can’t Make This Up.” He also confessed in a radio interview last year to having cheated on his current wife, Eniko Parrish, just a few months earlier – while she was pregnant.

With LGBTQ-focused films like “Boy Erased” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” predicted to be in the running, as well as “A Star Is Born,” which features gay icon Lady Gaga, this year’s Oscars are shaping up to have a strong queer presence. With this in mind, placing Hart in the center of the proceedings – when his long track record of homophobic remarks was already well-documented and should have been taken into account by the Academy before offering him the job – was always a bad idea.

Whether or not the comedian really believes the homophobic viewpoints he has projected in his comedy – which, for the record, he has repeatedly insisted he does not – his selection as host sent a mixed message from the Academy to its membership and to its millions of avid followers, many of whom are either LGBTQ or allies.

It’s not the first time the organization has faced this issue.  In 2011, Brett Ratner was forced to resign as producer of that year’s Oscar ceremony due to his record of homophobic slurs.

As for the Hart debacle, the Academy has yet to issue a statement.



More queer books we love

Bellies: A Novel, Time Out and more for your gift list



(Book cover images courtesy of the publishers)

For the person on your gift list who’d love a boy-meets-boy story, wrap up “Bellies: A Novel” by Nicola Dinan (Hanover Square Press), the tale of a playwright and the man who loves him wholly, until a transition threatens to change everything.

If there’s a romantic on your list, then you’re in luck: finding a gift is easy when you wrap up “10 Things That never Happened” by Alexis Hall (Sourcebooks), the story of Sam, whose job is OK, and his boss, Jonathan, who should have never hired Sam. Too late now, except for the romance. Wrap it up with “Time Out” by Sean Hayes and Todd Milliner with Carlyn Greenwald (Simon & Schuster), the story of a basketball player who’s newly out of the closet, and a politically minded boy who could easily get his vote.

For the person on your list who likes to read quick, short articles, wrap up “Inverse Cowgirl: A Memoir” by Alicia Roth Weigel (HarperOne). It’s a collection of essays on life as an intersex person, and the necessity for advocating for others who are, too.

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Our favorite books for holiday gifts

Hitchcock, Britney, Barbra, and more!



(Book cover image courtesy of G.P. Putnam's Sons)

When it gets dark early, it’s cold outside and you want to spice up your life, what’s more intriguing than a book? Here are some holiday gift ideas for book lovers of all ages.

Who isn’t fascinated by the dark, twisty, sometimes, mordantly witty, movies of Alfred Hitchcock, or by Grace Kelly, Tippi Hedren, Ingrid Bergman and the other actresses in his films? Hitchcock’s Blondes: The Unforgettable Women Behind the Legendary Director’s Dark Obsession by Laurence Leamer, author of “Capote’s Women,” is an engrossing story not only of Hitchcock, but of the iconic “blondes” he cast in some of his most beloved movies from “39 Steps” to “Rear Window” to “Vertigo” to “Psycho.” $29. G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

Reading about Hitchcock, no matter how intriguing the book, is never as good as watching his films. Alfred Hitchcock: The Essentials Collection (Blu-ray $39.96. DVD: $32.40) features “Rear Window,” “North by Northwest,” “Psycho” and “The Birds.”

Corona/Crown,” by D.C.-based queer poet Kim Roberts in collaboration with photographer Robert Revere, is a fab present for lovers of photography, museums, and poetry. Revere and Roberts were deeply affected by the closure of museums during the COVID pandemic. In this lovely chapbook, they create a new “museum” of their own. “This is what I learned when the pandemic struck,” Roberts writes, “when I couldn’t stop thinking about the artwork in all the museums, bereft of human eyes.” $21.25 WordTech Editions

Few things are as scary and/or captivating as a good ghost story. The Night Side of the River,” by acclaimed lesbian writer Jeanette Winterson, author of “Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?” and “Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit,” is a provocative and engrossing collection of ghost stories. These deliciously chilling stories feature spirits, avatars, a haunted estate, AI and, pun intended, lively meetings between the living and the dead. $27. Grove.

Blackouts,” a novel by queer writer Justin Torres that received this year’s National Book Award for fiction, is a breathtaking book about storytelling, queer history, love, art, and erasure. A perfect gift for aficionados of characters that become etched into your DNA. $30. Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

The Woman in Me,” the memoir by Britney Spears will be devoured by queers of all ages – from tweens to elders. Much of Spears’s story is known – from her youth in Louisiana to her rapid rise to fame to her conservatorship (when her father controlled her life). Yet the devil, as the saying goes, is in the details. In this riveting memoir, Spears reveals the horrifying and exhilarating aspects of her life: from how her father controlled what she ate and when she took a bath to the restrictions put on her ability to see her sons to her love of singing, dancing, and creating music. Spears writes of the queer community’s “unconditional” love and support for her.  $32.99. Gallery.

Few memoirs have been more eagerly anticipated than Barbra Streisand’s My Name Is Barbra.” In its nearly 1,000 pages, EGOT-winning (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony), divine, queer icon Streisand, 81, tells seemingly everything about her life. She quarreled with Larry Kramer over filming “The Normal Heart.” It didn’t work out: Streisand thought mainstream audiences would be turned off by explicit sex scenes. Marlon Brando and Streisand were good friends, she loves Brazilian coffee ice cream and her mother was a horror show. Contrary to how some lesser mortals see her, she doesn’t see herself as a diva. The print version of “My Name is Barbra” is fab. The audio version, a 48-hour listen, which Streisand narrates, is even better. $47. Viking. $45 on Audible.

Chasing Rembrandt,” by Richard Stevenson is a terrific gift for mystery lovers. Richard Stevenson was the pseudonym for Richard Lipez, the out queer author, who wrote witty, engaging mysteries featuring the openly gay detective Donald Strachey. Sadly, Stevenson died in 2022. But, “Chasing Rembrandt,” a novel featuring Strachey and his romantic partner Timmy, was published this year. The idea for the story was sparked by a real-life incident when paintings were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. “Robbers wreak havoc, smashing the glass covers protecting masterpieces and slicing paintings out of their frames,” Stevenson writes at the beginning of this entertaining story, “They make off with thirteen works, including three Rembrandts and a Vermeer, worth more than half a billion dollars and beloved in the world of art. It is arguably the greatest property theft in human history.”

With the repartee of Nick and Nora and the grit of Philip Marlowe, Strachey works to solve this mystery. $16.95. ReQueered Tales.

Some books never get old. “The Wild Things,” the beloved children’s picture book written and illustrated by acclaimed gay writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak, was published in 1963. Sixty years later, the Caldecott Medal-winning classic is still loved by three to five-year-olds, their parents, siblings, aunts, and uncles. A new digital audio version of “Where the Wild Things Are,” narrated by Michelle Obama, was released this fall. Who can resist the Wild Things, when they plead: “Oh, please don’t go–we’ll eat you up–We love you so!”? Widely available in hard cover, paperback and e-book format. Audio: $5.50.

What’s more fun than playing a festive album while you’re reading during the holidays? Deck the halls! This year, queer icon Cher has released “Christmas,” her first holiday album. Highlights of the album include: Cher singing with Cyndi Lauper on “Put A Little Holiday In Your Heart,” Stevie Wonder on “What Christmas Means to Me” and Darlene Love on “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)” and the rapper Tyga on “Drop Top Sleigh Ride.” The perfect gift for Cher aficionados.

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

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PHOTOS: Walk to End HIV

Over $550,000 raised at annual Whitman-Walker event



The 2023 Walk to End HIV was held on Saturday, Dec. 2. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Whitman-Walker Health held its 37th annual Walk to End HIV on Saturday, Dec. 2. Participants gathered in Anacostia Park in heavy fog to run or walk along the Anacostia River Walk Trail. A short stage program at the finish line was emceed by NBC4 Washington’s Chuck Bell and included speakers from Whitman-Walker Health, Gilead Sciences and AARP. Whitman-Walker Health CEO Naseema Shafi announced from the stage that over $550,000 had been raised to help fund programs and research to combat HIV.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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