Capital Pride and all Pride events have always been — historically and to this day — a place to let one’s hair down and for LGBT folks to be unabashedly themselves.
Washington, widely seen as a more “buttoned-up” town than, say, New York or Los Angeles, was perhaps not as freewheeling as other cities, especially in the early years of Pride here when it was a one-day block party just off Dupont Circle beginning in 1975, but it’s grown hugely over the decades and for many years we’ve had all the revelers one would expect — scantily clad dancers gyrating around on parade floats, drag queens, leather daddies (sometimes in ass-less chaps), dykes on bikes (some topless) and more.
Conversely, the image the movement presented in the marriage wars and with LGBT people seeking elected office, was much different. Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin dressed as conservatively as their counterparts on Capitol Hill, there was never anything outré about plaintiffs like Edith Windsor and Jim Obergefell and not-so-surprisingly, current “it” boy wonder, presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg, is a young, heteronormative-type white gay guy who’s from the Midwest and goes to church.
The dichotomy has always existed as far back as the late Frank Kameny and the late Barbara Gittings demonstrating (pre-Stonewall) at the White House in skirts (for women) and suits (for men) while the gay masses — practically none out pre-’69 — tended to glom on more to the hippies than the Ozzie and Harriets. One of the organizers of the 1993 Gay March on Washington drew criticism from within LGBT circles for wearing leather to the White House to meet Bill Clinton.
But given the mainstream media’s penchant for televising more flamboyant factions in its Pride coverage and political enemies on the right painting Pride gatherings as dens of debauchery, what kind of tension existed between the two extremes? And now 50-some years down the road, did any of it matter? Might we have gotten further faster if we’d somehow reined in our Pride season excesses?
Many folks say either no, it’s a self-hating query or it’s irrelevant.
Or perhaps we needed both?
That’s what Cathy Renna, a long-time PR and media LGBT expert formerly of GLAAD, says.
“We need all of it. Why? Because we are all of it,” Renna says. “Our community is all of it and I think it’s disingenuous to even try to divide people over this. Why are we always trying to divide each other all the time? There are always gonna be folks out there going to Pride because they just want for that one day or one week out of the year, to let their hair down and celebrate, and when I say celebrate, I don’t mean just have a party and get drunk. I mean celebrate our community,
Renna, GLAAD’s national news media director from ’95-’02 and a volunteer for several years prior, says the issue has ramifications in how it plays out among LGBT people and outside that sphere.
As for the latter, Renna says historically it wasn’t so much about the media playing up “debauchery,” so much as it was looking for the most visual, arresting images.
“It was as much about their need to take a photo or shoot video of something different and interesting and highly visual than it was about homophobia or transphobia or wanting to find the more quote-unquote — and please include that because I don’t consider this to be true — but extreme parts of our community. Yes, drag queens and leather people are far more interesting than me and … what we fought for and I think eventually successfully achieved was a diversity of representation without diminishing, demeaning, minimizing or criticizing the parts of our community that are, to use the word of the day, flamboyant.”
Renna says drag queens and leather daddies at Pride deserve respect.
“They were the ones who were brave enough to be themselves and who were raising money for VD clinics before AIDS was even an issue,” she says. “People used to say, ‘But that doesn’t represent me.’ Well guess what — you don’t represent them. We’re a diverse community and this is really about two things — the media’s role and how the media works, which a lot of people don’t understand, and how we within our own community have our own isms — our own internalized homophobia, racism, sexism and transphobia and how it plays out.”
But look at the plaintiffs in the marriage cases and various successful LGBT elected officials, the images they project and it’s not a huge leap to imagine there was some vetting and grooming going on behind the scenes. Sure, those arenas are much different than a Pride event, but even so, one imagines movement gatekeepers would have only been doing their due diligence in monitoring plaintiff or candidate deportment at critical times.
Chuck Wolfe, former president/CEO of the Victory Fund from 2003-2015, says not really.
“I never participated in any conversation like that,” he says. “We had kind of an operating opinion at Victory when I was there that all is fair and it takes every part of our community moving the ball forward and one of the reasons we were successful as fast as we were is because there was no one controlling entity saying, ‘You have to do this,’ or, ‘You can’t do this,’ or, ‘You can’t do that.’ Everybody was doing their part whether it was at a Pride event, testifying on Capitol Hill — all of it mattered, every bit of it.”
Patrick Wojahn, out mayor of College Park, Md., who with his partner Dave Kolesar was one of the couples in the 2006 ACLU/Equality Maryland state marriage case, says it was made clear to him and other plaintiffs to be mindful of their status as representatives.
“One thing we were cognizant of and they made sure we understood was that we were representing the entire LGBT community and we were kind of the face of that,” Wojahn says. “We weren’t supposed to stand in for every single LGBT person out there, but when people saw us, it was understood that how LGBT act, for better or worse, and the political success or failure of what we were doing had a lot to do with how people perceived the LGBT community. It’s true in politics as well. It’s great to have places like Pride where people can act like freaks and do whatever comes upon them to do, but that’s a very different world than say politics where you have to come across as relatable to the people you’re trying to advocate for. It’s best in political situations if you don’t have to overcome that barrier of relatability. If you’re trying to sell people on the idea that we’re entitled to respect, it’s first helpful if they can relate to you on a personal level.”
Wojahn says he doubts there was ever much hand-wringing behind the scenes about Pride behavior, but says it’s become less and less of an issue over the years if it ever was one.
“Maybe this is just my skewed perspective of living in the D.C. metro area, but I think there’s been a growing recognition that not all gay people who live next to you are necessarily like the ones out dancing on the floats,” he says. “We’re just as diverse as straight and cisgender people. We have a lot of different things we’re interested in and do a lot of different things. Not all straight people do crazy things. … It’s important to have all different types of people out there being visible.”
Not everyone sees it that way, however. Lloyd Shipley, a longtime 17th Street, N.W. resident, is 70, speaks with a deliciously gravelly voice and prides himself on being a sort of D.C. gay resident curmudgeon type. He’s been attending Capital Pride for 21 years since coming out of straight life (he was married twice to women) and says both Pride and LGBT people in general have gone increasingly downhill over the years.
“This is just my opinion — I believe in opinions and we can have different ones — but I’m so tired of everything being so sexualized in the gay community,” Shipley says. “I feel like Pride has forgotten what Pride is about. You ask nine out of 10 people on Sunday what the theme is this year, they won’t know. But ask them what the best party was, they’ll all know that. I remember my first Pride, I was in Dupont Circle by myself because I didn’t know anybody and I saw float after float and I just cried because they were so meaningful. We should be proud of our accomplishments. Can we knock off the sex shit? Make the floats something to remember. Honor Frank Kameny. Honor Stonewall — not a bunch of guys walking around with their asses hanging out with squirt guns.”
Shipley says it’s not just a Pride problem, but overarching issues he considers rampant among D.C. gays just end up getting writ large there because of the size of the gathering. He says friends in his age bracket are equally fed up.
“I know a lot of older people who say, ‘You know what? I’m done with it. We haven’t been in 15 years.’”
He used to open his home to friends to watch the parade but got tired of ending up with a houseful of 50 people half of whom he says he didn’t know. It took the cake the year he says he found two guys he didn’t know having sex in his bed. This year he’s just inviting a few friends over. They may or may not watch the parade.
“It’s so disorganized,” he says. “It goes on and on, there are huge gaps in the flow, you’ll see float after float after float and none of them reflect the theme whatsoever. It’s gotta mean something. It can’t just be a bunch of half-naked guys throwing beads and squirting people. … I’m gonna write a book someday called ‘Thine Own Worst Enemy.’ We moan and groan about how things are but how much of it is our own damn fault?”
Renna says sensationalizing or using Pride footage as a scare tactic for Middle America may have worked in the short term here and there, but ultimately wasn’t successful.
“I think it did us a favor in that it pushed our visibility,” Renna says. “We pushed through it and it taught us that we need to be better at showing the full diversity of our community. It’s not about don’t show drag queens and leather people, it’s about don’t just show drag queens and leather people.”
Renna says the issue came up constantly in her years of media training. LGBT activists, especially, she says, in smaller markets, lamented the attention the drag queens and go-go boys would get.
“It’s because they’re interesting,” she says. “Be creative, do something interesting. I used to tell GLSEN chapters, rent a school bus, fill it with people, get creative, dress as crossing guards, be fun, be visible. People walking down the street in khakis and T-shirts? Not interesting!”
Wojahn says the whole thing can be touchy.
“If you’re trying to sell people on the idea that we’re entitled to respect, it’s first helpful to relate to them on a personal level,” he says. “You may be taking on a bit more than you can chew when you say, ‘I want you to accept that I’m LGBT, am in a committed relationship and want legal representation with this person, but I also want you to deal with the fact that I’m standing here topless with piercings.”
We asked some early Capital Pride participants for their thoughts.
Ella Fitzgerald, drag queen
Being a drag queen decade after decade ain’t easy. Just ask Ella Fitzgerald (aka Donnell Robinson), arguably Washington’s most veteran and highly regarded queen.
She remembers her first Capital Pride in 1986 and says it was a much different experience than it is today. Riding with a contingent of Academy of Washington queens in a convertible through Adams Morgan, she remembers being harassed.
“There were straight Latinos giving us the sign language of death signs,” she says. “They harassed the girls on the bikes with their tits out and all that. We’ve definitely come a long way since ’86. It’s much more accepted now. People understand the whole drag thing, the leather community. It’s very diverse now and I remember back in the ‘80s, even in our own community, there was so much discrimination between the drag, the leather and the lesbians. Yes, we still have a long way to go, but we have become much more accommodating of each other’s differences.”
Fitzgerald, 64 and a hairdresser by day, says she was never concerned about being filmed in an early Pride parade or festival. She says she was the first drag queen featured in Washingtonian magazine in 1984 and was happy for the coverage.
She says things have, in her opinion, gotten a bit unnecessarily wild at times over the years.
“The gays who are more flamboyant and make it very obvious, I feel at times that has put a damper on everything we’re trying to achieve,” Fitzgerald says. “How do I say this? There are gays out there on a different level. More class, more sophistication and the younger kids, they’re like wild kids that have been let of a cage and they just act like, ‘I’m gonna do and say whatever I feel at the moment,’ going around in shorts and a T-shirt, ‘cause I want to be seen and I don’t care, this is me and if I want to marry a woman or a man — it’s a lot.”
On the other hand, she doesn’t believe in reining anything in just to be more palatable to straight people.
“Of course not,” she says. “We absolutely need all aspects of the rainbow. I grew up in the ‘70s and it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come in 40-some years. It makes me wonder what the future’s gonna be.”
Margaret McCarthy, Outriders
Margaret McCarthy’s Capital Pride experience has evolved over the years.
She came out in the mid-‘80s and has been going to Capital Pride since about ’86 or ’87. She was a member of Open Door Metropolitan Community Church, a sister parish of sorts to MCC-D.C., and participated for years with other parishioners in the Pride parade.
She got into motorcycles around 2009 through a former girlfriend and started riding in Pride with Dykes on Bikes around 2013. A break-off group called Outriders kind of took over a year or so later and eventually McCarthy joined their contingent. They usually have between 40-60 riders each year. Most are members but some join them just for the day.
She agrees with Cathy Renna that a diversity of representation is needed at Pride and in the world in general.
“There are all kinds of people that are part of the gay community — the fairies, the drag queens and all that and that’s part of my community,” says the 54-year-old Montgomery County Police service aide for the 6th District Station in Gaithersburg. “I don’t have to necessarily get it or understand it. I love them and they are part of my community.”
McCarthy says sometimes PDAs get a bit much but it’s not really an LGBT thing.
“I’ve done it. I’ve been walking at Pride and grabbed my girlfriend for a kiss or whatever,” she says. “If you see a couple making out on the Metro or Pride or wherever, I don’t care if they’re gay or straight, I don’t think that’s appropriate. But at a Pride festival, absolutely, it’s about letting go. It’s the one day you can really let your hair down and be totally who you are.”
As for Pride images getting manipulated by political enemies, McCarthy agrees it happens but says LGBT revelers shouldn’t let it dampen their spirits.
“They make it look like it’s all about depravity and sex and stuff and yeah, it makes me mad because that’s not who we are and unfortunately, there are people who may not know gay people and think that’s the whole spectrum. They see that and say, ‘Well look at those faggots and dykes, they’re scum,’ so yeah, it makes me mad. But it’s just one part of our community, it’s not the whole community.”
How has it changed?
McCarthy says she remembers getting harassed at early D.C. Pride events.
“They would see we were with a church and they’d say, ‘How can you be Christian and gay, you’re totally violating the Bible.’ I don’t know if it was Westboro Baptist or who it was, but yeah, there was some of that in the early years.”
McCarthy had protections in writing at her job so she was never worried about being recognized at Pride. She was fully out by her mid-20s.
She says a few Outriders go topless or cover just their nipples.
“I just kind of shake my head and go, ‘Whatever.’ It doesn’t offend me. I don’t really get it — they must get horrible sunburn, but yeah, not many of us do it.”
Kenneth, go-go dancer
Our scantily clad dancer of yore, Kenneth, declined to give his last name. He danced nude at Secrets starting at age 18 from 1996-1999 but is in business now and says he prefers his clients today not know of his past work.
He participated in several Pride parades on the Ziegfeld’s/Secrets float with Ella. The dancers would typically wear matching short shorts and Secrets tank tops.
“I don’t know what the rules are now, I think it’s relaxed a little, but we weren’t ever in thongs or bikinis or things like that,” he says. “We kept it a little more covered back then.”
He was fully out at the time and not fearful of being seen. He says most of the dancers then who were gay were out and not fearful of being seen. A few dancers were straight, he says, but “didn’t seem concerned about” being in a Pride parade.
Now 40, he remembers those years fondly.
“It was a very interesting thing to do when I was 19 or 20. I got to sew my wild oats and it was good experience overall. I learned a lot.”
Kenneth says it’s probably a non-issue today but he suspects more scandalous Pride behavior probably did work against LGBT rights in years past.
“There was a lack of exposure then so if all you saw through the ‘70s to the ‘90s was how they televised it, then you only knew part of the story. I think once there was more exposure, people understood that was only one aspect of the community.”
He says Pride was a much different experience for everyone 20-30 years ago.
“For a lot of people, that was the only time they could be gay,” he says. “They weren’t able to dress and behave the way they wanted to the other 364 days of the year, it was back to their normal attire and behavior, so I would say it’s died down some because we can be ourselves more year round now. If you could only do that during Pride, people tended to go more over the top.”
John Watson, leather enthusiast
Gay leather enthusiast John Watson says he first got into the D.C. leather scene at age 16 when he and two male friends his age, who lived in Arlington, began going to the D.C. Eagle, the city’s only leather bar, around 1974.
It was a time when the city’s bars and nightclubs, both gay and straight, didn’t consistently require ID checks for young-looking customers, Watson says.
About one year later, in June 1975, shortly after he turned 17, Watson and his two gay friends attended D.C.’s first Gay Pride event, which consisted of a block party on 20th Street, N.W., near Dupont Circle.
Although the three were getting more and more into the leather scene and drove into D.C. nearly every weekend to go to the Eagle, neither of them wore leather at that first Pride block party, Watson says.
“We had on shorts and tank tops, which of course we took off and were shirtless,” he says. “But with the leather scene back then, people didn’t want to appear out in public in it. And thinking back, I don’t remember seeing anybody that first time in leather. There may have been, but I don’t remember seeing anybody in leather.”
It wasn’t until around 1980, Watson thinks, when the D.C. Pride festival had moved from 20th Street to the grounds of Francis School next to P Street Beach Park, that leather enthusiasts began attending Pride wearing leather clothes and gear.
“As it progressed more and more you saw more leather,” he says. “It was when people got to the point where they really weren’t scared, more or less around 1980. People got tired of being in the closet.”
Watson recalls that in the earlier years he and his friends, along with many others in the leather scene, were fearful of the possible repercussions of being publicly identified as leather guys. Being so identified would automatically out you as being gay, he says, as well as out you — even among gays — as being weird or odd.
“It was what you would call an underground community,” he says. “A lot of people felt it was not only strange but perverted, to be honest. If you were into that, you kept your mouth shut most of the time because you didn’t want anyone to know. Even the regular gay people were, ‘Oh, wow, that’s perverted.’ It wasn’t until the 1990s that I began to wear leather in public. Before that I would take it with me and put it on inside the clubs.”
Thankfully, Watson said, attitudes began to change as the LGBT rights movement became more visible and assertive in the 1980s and 1990s. He recalls seeing far more leather folks at D.C. Pride events in those years, possibly even more than what is seen in more recent years as the Pride events have become more “corporatized.”
Watson, who works in insurance, says he managed to keep his interest in leather separate from his work other than times he has worked at the Eagle. Among his most interesting “day work” jobs, he said was a stint from 1983-1988 as an assistant clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Among other things, he gave private tours at the court to gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny and then-Washington Blade News Editor Lisa Keen.
LOU CHIBBARO, Jr.
Final season of ‘Pose’ is must-see TV that matters
Groundbreaking FX drama has left its mark
When the COVID pandemic hit in the early months of 2020, there were certainly more pressing and essential worries for us to grapple with than how it would impact the next season of a TV show. Yet it’s a testament to the power of “Pose” that many among its legion of fans were at least as concerned about the show’s disruption as they were about the possibility of running out of toilet paper.
The powerhouse FX drama — which spotlights the legends, icons and ferocious house mothers of New York’s underground ball culture in the late 1980s — had already made history. Not only did it feature the largest cast of transgender actors in regular roles, it boasted the largest recurring cast of LGBTQ actors ever included in a scripted series. In its first two seasons, the show racked up accolades and honors (including a Primetime Emmy for Billy Porter as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series) while breaking new ground for the inclusion and representation of queer people — and especially transgender people of color — in television, both in front of the camera, and behind it. With the end of its second season in August 2019, fans were hungry for a third — but thanks to COVID, its future was suddenly in question.
So, when word came that the show’s third season would have its debut on May 2, it was the best news since finding out the vaccines were finally going to start rolling out. But it was bittersweet: Along with confirmation of the series’ imminent return came the sad revelation that the new season would also be the last. “Pose” would be coming to an end with a final, seven-episode arc.
As any viewer of show can attest, there were a lot of threads left hanging when last we saw its characters. That means there’s a lot of ground to cover in these last chapters in order to give everyone — characters and audience alike — the closure they deserve.
The show’s official synopsis goes like this: It’s now 1994 and ballroom feels like a distant memory for Blanca, who struggles to balance being a mother with being a present partner to her new love, as well as her latest role as a nurse’s aide. Meanwhile, as AIDS becomes the leading cause of death for Americans ages 25 to 44, Pray Tell contends with unexpected health burdens. Meanwhile, a vicious new upstart house is emerging in the ballroom world, and the members of the House of Evangelista are forced to contend their legacy.
Obviously, there are a lot of details left hidden in that broad overview, and fans are undoubtedly full of questions about what they can expect to see.
Fortunately, the bulk of the show’s main cast convened on Zoom last week (along with show co-creator and Executive Producer Steven Canals and Executive Producer Janet Mock) for a press conference to discuss their “Pose” experience, and while they didn’t exactly give away any spoilers, they definitely dropped some tantalizing hints about what’s in store for audiences in the farewell season.
In truth, most of the discussion was dominated by reminiscences and expressions of mutual appreciation, sure signs that the feeling of family we see onscreen is something that has taken hold off screen, as well. But in between the affectionate banter, the cast and creatives addressed several questions that might be most on viewers’ minds.
Perhaps the most pressing of these — why, after only three seasons, is the critic-and-audience-acclaimed show calling it quits? — was taken on by Canals, who explained:
“I always knew what the beginning and what the end of the narrative would be. And when Ryan Murphy and I first met in September of 2016, we felt really strongly that that particular narrative made sense. And so, while we certainly could have continued to create narrative around these characters and in this world, and we certainly had a conversation in the writers’ room about it … I think we all agreed that it just made sense for us to ‘land the plane,’ if you will, comfortably — as opposed to continuing to give an audience story that just simply didn’t have any real core intention or a real thrust towards specificity.”
Also of interest was the obvious subject of how the parallels between the current pandemic and the AIDS crisis that looms over the show’s narrative might be reflected in the new episodes. While he didn’t hint at any direct connections in “Pose,” Porter used the subject to underscore a theme that has always been one of the show’s most important elements:
“I think the parallels are quite profound. I know that as a Black gay man who lived through the AIDS crisis, I have been dealing with a lot of PTSD during this COVID time. It’s very reminiscent of what it was like then. The best news about that is that I survived. We got through it, and there is another side to it. We can get to the other side.
“I feel like that’s what ‘Pose’ really accomplishes this season, reminding the public that it’s when we come together and when we lead with love [that] we get to the other side.”
Mock elaborated on the theme of resilience by discussing the importance of showing the strength of House mothers like Blanca and Electra (Dominique Jackson), who hold together — and lift up — their entire community:
“It’s that matriarchal power and lineage that I think the ballroom is, and what trans women are to one another, that then feeds everyone else and enables them to shine and have all the things that they want in the world. For me, it is [about] that celebration […] of Black trans women — that they’ve created this space, that they brought everyone else in with them, and that, at the end of the day, they are often the ones most often forgotten.
“I think with this season, I want everyone across the industry, the audience, to realize that. I think it’s essential, and it’s important.”
Mock also talked about the way “Pose” focuses on the small, day-to-day lives of its characters as much as it does the larger-than-life splendor of the ballroom culture in which they participate:
“We wanted to ensure that we show the everyday, mundane moments, as well as the great, grand celebrations. The ballroom is are presentation of what it means to congregate and share testimony and to love on each other, and our show is a celebration of the everyday intimacies. So, for us, while we were plotting these big, grand moments […] we wanted to bring in traditions — weddings, matrimony, all this stuff — that our characters get to engage in. We wanted to be a part of the tradition of that, and all the moments that a family shares together. We wanted to make sure that all of those things were celebrated in this.”
When discussion turned to the unprecedented level of support and collaborative inclusion with which the show’s queer cast were bestowed by Ryan Murphy and the rest of the creative staff — from the presence of trans women like Mock and Co-producer Our Lady J in the writers’ room to the extensive reliance on the insights and talents of real-life members of the ballroom community — Jackson was quick to add that besides giving the show its ferocious authenticity, it gave her an increased recognition of her own worth:
“I will never, ever, ever walk into a space thinking that I need to impress them […] I will never walk into a space being fearful of my identity stopping me from anything. Because of this journey, when I walk into spaces now, my identity is not because I’m an abomination. My identity is a plus. My identity is my value. So, when I walk into spaces now,they need to impress me. You can be the biggest Hollywood director, producer, whatever, but you’re not going to take my story or relay stories that are reflective of my life or my existence and make them into anything you want, because of ‘Pose,’ because of Ryan, because of Steven, because of Janet and Brad [co-creator/executive producer Falchuk), because of Our Lady J, because of my cast members.
“I will never walk into spaces or live a life or an existence thinking that I need to impress anyone.”
Porter concurred, adding:
“There was never, ever a space in my brain to dream what‘Pose’ is, what Pray Tell is. I spent the first 25-plusyears of my career trying to fit into a masculinity construct that society placed on us so I could eat.‘Pose,’ and Pray Tell in particular, really taught me to dream the impossible […] the idea that the little, Black church sissy from Pittsburgh is now in a position of power in Hollywood in a way that never existed before. You can damn sure believe that I will be wielding that power and there will be a difference and a change in how things go from here on out.”
If the cast members themselves have found themselves feeling more empowered thanks to “Pose,” so too have the millions of LGBTQ people — and allies — who have tuned into it since its premiere in 2018. The show is one of those rare entries into the cultural lexicon that simply allows its queer and trans people to live authentic lives, giving long-withheld representation to countless viewers who were able to see themselves reflected back from the screen for perhaps the very first time. It’s that powerful sense of validation provided by “Pose” that keeps it standing tall in an entertainment market now providing so much LGBTQ inclusion that it’s becoming dangerously easy to take it for granted.
Whatever moments of heartbreak, joy, and celebration “Pose” brings us as it plays out its final act — and there are sure to be many — we can all be sure it will leave us with a message expressed through an oft-heard line of dialogue that Mock says she found herself writing “over and over again” during the series’ run:
“You are everything, and you deserve everything this world has to offer.” It’s that nurturing sentiment the “Pose” has been instilling in us from the beginning, like a mother to us all.
And that’s why so many of us can’t wait until the first two episodes of its final season air at 10 p.m. (both Eastern and Pacific), Sunday, May 2, on FX.
At 75, John Waters has no plans to retire
‘I’d go nuts if I didn’t work’
When writer and filmmaker John Waters turned 70 five years ago, he said he took six friends on a first-class trip to Paris for his birthday and “we had the best time.”
This year, for his 75th birthday on April 22, he was going to take his friends to Rome but the COVID-19 pandemic got in the way and they couldn’t all travel.
Instead, a friend is having a small dinner party for him in New York City, and he’s going with a friend. “Everybody has had their shots, and that’s what I’m going to do…It will be low-key this year.”
The older he gets, he said, the less he cares about making a big fuss out of every birthday anyway.
“What difference does it make? Old means old. It doesn’t matter which one.”
Though he’s taking some time to celebrate his 75th birthday, Waters has no plans to retire.
“No, God no,” he said last weekend while on a Zoom call with fans from London. “I jump out of bed every morning. It hurts to jump out of bed. I have aches and pains. But no, I’d go nuts if I didn’t work.”
That’s probably just as well because he has a lot going on. Between shooting episodes of “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” getting ready for film festivals in several cities, planning a guided tour in Provincetown, and preparing for an exhibit of his private art collection at the Baltimore Museum of Art, he’s staying busy.
The ultimate multitasker, he didn’t even stop working when he went for a COVID vaccination recently.
“I signed an autograph when I was getting the shot,” he said. “Well, not at the moment, but right before.”
In a Zoom session organized by London’s Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities — an early birthday present of sorts because it drew fans from at least three continents — Waters announced that he just last week finished the book he’s been writing for the past three years, “LIARMOUTH,” a novel about a woman who steals luggage at the airport. It’s due out next year from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
He also expressed optimism that some events that had to be cancelled in 2020 because of the pandemic will be back in 2021, including his Camp John Waters “sleepaway” weekend for superfans in Kent, Conn., and a new, renamed iteration of the Burger Boogaloo punk rock music festival that he hosts in Oakland, Calif.
There’s even a chance he’ll make another movie. Waters told his fans there’s still interest in “Fruitcake,” the children’s Christmas film that he’s been trying for years to make. “There is new possibility,” he teased. “That’s all I’ll say. I’m not going to jinx it.”
He’s waiting to hear about the several dozen spoken-word shows he performs around the country every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas. “I think a lot of those decisions are going to happen in September.”
Most of all, he said, he’s just eager to make in-person appearances after a year in lockdown. Some of his engagements that were cancelled due to COVID have been rescheduled for the coming year, including appearances in New York, California, and Pennsylvania, and he’s adding others.
“I’m dying to get back on the road,” he said last weekend. “I’m still amazed that 20-something-year-old kids know who I am. I want to see what they look like.”
He’s wondering whether Meet-N-Greets – the sessions where he signs autographs and poses for photos with fans after a performance – will be possible in a post-pandemic world.
“Even before this, when I did the Christmas tour, I had Meet-N-Greets for usually 50 people” after a show, he said. “I’d always get sick because you have to hug everybody and then get on an airplane the next day. So I think Meet-N-Greets might never come back. I don’t know how they’re ever going to do that safely.”
On a personal basis, too, he’s yearning to get out and travel more.
“I want to go to a movie theater. I want to go to a concert,” he said. “I want to be able to have even a dull day out with other people.”
This year’s Oscars might be historic — but does anyone care?
Diverse nominees lacking LGBTQ representation
It’s Oscar weekend. Are you excited?
Unless you’re actually one of the nominees, odds are pretty good that you’re not – but the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which is geared up to present its prestigious annual film awards for the 93rd time on Sunday night, really, really wants you to be. Why else, a week ahead of the Big Night, would they roll out the show’s producers for a press conference to drop hints that the upcoming broadcast would “look like a movie” and incorporate satellite hookups from “multiple locations?” It was a clear bid to drum up excitement.
More details came Monday, when a letter from that same trio – producer Steven Soderbergh (himself an Oscar winner for directing “Traffic” in 2000) and co-producers Jesse Collins and Stacey Sher – went out to the nominees. As it turns out, the ceremony will be held at LA’s historic Union Station (site of Saturday’s press conference), which will be treated “as an active movie set” in terms of COVID-related safety protocols, with “additional elements” of the show being incorporated live from Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre via satellite hook-up.
More interestingly, the letter revealed, “The first—and most obvious—point we want to get across with this year’s show is STORIES MATTER.” In keeping with that theme, nominees are requested to submit to a brief interview to “tell the story of your path to April 25,” as part of an effort to “highlight the connections between all of us who work in the movies and show that the process is uniquely intimate, collaborative, and fun.” The emphasis on “story” was further reflected by instructions about messaging in the speeches (“If you’re thanking someone, say their name, not their title… make it PERSONAL”) and a dress code described as “a fusion of Inspirational and Aspirational.” Whatever Soderbergh and crew have planned for the show, their letter leaves little doubt they intend to tightly manage the narrative it presents.
That’s not surprising, of course; Hollywood is in the business of creating narratives, and the one it takes most seriously is the one it creates about itself. Nevertheless, it’s particularly telling that the story it is working so hard to tell seems designed to brush its problem with inclusion comfortably into the background.
This year, the organization might well feel that when it comes to diversity, the nominations speak for themselves. For a year in which tremendous social upheaval has brought Black experience in America to the forefront of the public conversation, the Oscars have chosen an impressive number of Black-led films and Black artists among an overall slate that offers the most diverse lineup of nominees in its history. Women are also represented, thanks to the inclusion of Emerald Fennell’s “Promising Young Woman” among the Best Picture contenders and the first-ever two nominations for women – Fennell and Chloé Zhao (“Nomadland”) – as Best Director. Additionally, Zhao, who is Chinese, is the first woman of color ever nominated in that category, Steven Yuen (“Minari”) became the first Asian-American to receive a Best Actor nod, and in the same category, Riz Ahmed (“The Sound of Metal”) became the first person of Pakistani descent to be nominated in any acting category.
In the midst of all this inclusion, however, the LGBTQ community – traditionally a stronghold for some of Oscar’s most ardent fans – has this year been largely left empty-handed, once again. Besides two Best Actress nods for women playing bisexual characters (Viola Davis and Andra Day, for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and “The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” respectively), there are no major nominations for films with significant LGBTQ content – though it’s worth noting that the aforementioned “Young Woman” features trans actress Laverne Cox in a prominent supporting role. While it’s not a problem for us to stand on the sidelines and cheer for the victories achieved by representatives of other marginalized communities, it’s becoming harder to ignore the nagging feeling that our willingness to forgive an institution that continues to disappoint and diminish us is really something akin to Stockholm Syndrome.
In any case, this year’s Academy Awards have the potential for making history. Nine of the 20 acting nominees are people of color, and at least two of them are considered frontrunners in their categories. Zhao could become the first woman of Asian descent to win the Best Director prize. And while the potential for those wins lends a kind of excitement to the proceedings, an inescapable feeling of “too little, too late” – coupled with a pandemic-induced awareness of the relative unimportance of awards like these in the greater scheme of things – makes it more difficult than ever, perhaps, to care.
With that in mind, here are the currently leading “official” predictions for the winners in the top six categories, based on a combination of Oscar history, industry buzz, review consensus, and plain old-fashioned gut instinct:
BEST PICTURE: “Nomadland” and “The Trial of the Chicago 7” are considered the front-runners, thanks to previous wins in the equivalent category at the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors’ Guild Awards, respectively. “Nomadland” is favored to win.
BEST DIRECTOR: Chloé Zhao, who has taken the directing prize at both the Globes and the BAFTAs, seems a sure bet for “Nomadland.”
BEST ACTOR: Chadwick Boseman, whose death in 2020 after a secret battle with colon cancer devastated fans and co-workers alike, would seem the inevitable winner for his performance in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” even without his already-racked-up wins at the Globes, Critics’ Choice, and SAG Awards. If he takes it – and it’s almost certain he will – it would make him only the second Best Actor winner to be awarded the prize posthumously (the first was Peter Finch, for 1976’s “Network”).
BEST ACTRESS: There are no clear front-runners here. With one high-profile win each under their belt Davis (SAGs), Day (Globes), Frances McDormand (BAFTAs for “Nomadland”) and Carey Mulligan (Critics’ Choice for “Promising Young Woman”) are all positioned as possible winners. However, with Davis already making history with this performance as Oscar’s most-nominated Black actress, the appeal of also making her the first to win in both Actress categories (her performance in 2016’s “Fences” earned her the Best Supporting prize) might just give her the edge.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Having won for his performance as slain Black Panther leader Fred Hampton in “Judas and the Black Messiah” at all the other major film awards, Daniel Kaluuya is the definition of a “shoo-in.”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: As is often the case, this category might be the most wide-open. Buzz has favored both Yuh-Jung Youn (“Minari”) and Maria Bakalova (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”), but her win at the BAFTA Awards puts Youn in place as the probable frontrunner. If she wins, she will be only the second Asian actress to win an Oscar, after Miyoshi Umeki (1957’s “Sayonara”).
You can find out the winners when the Oscars air on ABC, Sunday April 25 at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET. But don’t worry – if you don’t care enough to watch, you can always Google it afterward.
Bill to ban conversion therapy dies in Puerto Rico Senate committee
Salvadoreños LGBTQ marchan en el Día Internacional del Trabajo
El Código de las Familias será presentado en julio al parlamento cubano
Undocumented LGBTQ immigrants turn to Fla. group for support
State Department expresses concern over anti-LGBTQ bill in Uganda
Caitlyn Jenner: Transgender girls should not be allowed to play girls’ sports
Activists concerned over removal of D.C. AIDS office executive
Rehoboth Beach welcomes Christopher Peterson back
Another transgender woman’s murder sparks renewed outrage in El Salvador
Trans teacher, P.G. County schools face off in discrimination lawsuit
Sign Up for Blade eBlasts
homepage news5 days ago
Caitlyn Jenner: Transgender girls should not be allowed to play girls’ sports
homepage news2 days ago
Activists concerned over removal of D.C. AIDS office executive
Arts & Entertainment3 days ago
Rehoboth Beach welcomes Christopher Peterson back
homepage news6 days ago
Revised D.C. COVID bar restrictions to allow drag shows
homepage news4 days ago
Another transgender woman’s murder sparks renewed outrage in El Salvador
homepage news2 days ago
Trans teacher, P.G. County schools face off in discrimination lawsuit
a&e features6 days ago
Final season of ‘Pose’ is must-see TV that matters
News2 days ago
White House: Biden to use bully pulpit to back transgender youth