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Oscars 2020 surprises with diversity, a queer opening

From Monae and Porter, Judy and Elton



The 92nd annual Academy Awards started off with a bang, with gender fluid, pansexual singer/actress Janelle Monae and the illustrious gay actor/singer Billy Porter killing it in their opening duet. Amid performers dressed as characters from snubbed films, she sang: “It’s time to come alive, because the Oscars is so white!”

Watching the extraordinary Monae perform, the influence of Prince on her music is evident. “I’m so proud to stand here as a black, queer artist, telling stories,” she noted.

Another highlight during the evening was the eloquent Joaquin Phoenix, accepting his award for Best Actor in “The Joker.”

“I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the distressing issues that we are facing, collectively, and I think at times we feel or are made the feel that we champion different causes,” he asserted. “But for me, I see commonality,”

Phoenix continued: “I think whether we’re talking about gender inequality, or racism or queer rights or indigenous rights or animal rights, we’re talking about the fight against injustice. We’re talking about the fight against the belief that one nation, one people, one race, one gender or one species has the right to dominate, control and use and exploit another with impunity.”

Renee Zellweger, who won Best Actress for her portrayal of Judy Garland in the film Judy, was circumspect in her acceptance about Judy’s iconic stature in the gay community, mentioning only that Judy was accepting of people. It was evident though she had intended a more full inclusion.

“Judy Garland did not receive this honor in her time,” the actress continued. “I am certain that this moment is an extension of the celebration of her legacy that began on our film set and is also representative of the fact that her legacy of unique exceptionalism and inclusivity and generosity of spirit, it transcends any one artistic achievement. Ms. Garland, you are certainly among the heroes who unite and define us and this is certainly for you. I am so grateful.”

GLAAD live-tweeted the awards

“@TaikaWaititi, who won adapted screenplay tonight at #Oscars, is next going into an adaptation of the documentary “Next Goal Wins” about the Samoan soccer team who made history. And then into “Thor: Love and Thunder” where Valkyrie will “find her queen.”

Elton John Wins!

Elton John was excited to win Best Song for “Rocketman,” the film that’s based on his life.

“This is for my partner of 53 years,” he said in the pressroom. “Without him, I wouldn’t be here. He starts the process. He gives me the lyrics, and then I go ahead. Without the lyrics, I’m nobody. This is the man who started the journey, and we are still together after 53 years. I have one of these already, but I so wanted to get one for everybody involved in the film.”

He added: This film has taken 12 years together. David, my husband, has been on and on about 12 years trying to get this made. In the end, we got it made the right way, the way we wanted to. I’m so thrilled for him, because I love him so much. And Taron Egerton especially — he should have been in the the nominated category, as one of the best actors. For me, his was the best performance this year.”

At Elton John’s annual AIDS fundraiser for his foundation, celebrity chef Wayne Elias, one-half of the team behind Crumble Catering and Rockwell Table & Stage in Los Feliz, was hard at work creating amazing, unique dishes for party attendees.

“We keep the menu current to healthy trends; I like to include Asian and French Cuisines and consider them classic meals that will also exist,” Chef Elias told Los Angeles Blade.

“In order to create a menu that encompasses every guest, I do not use any nuts in any of the dishes, in case of an allergy and source the best ingredients and produce from local farmers in California,” Elias said.

There were some fun items for the party menu, like zucchini fritters with tahini yogurt and espellette oil for starters, following with a parsnip and Granny Smith apple soup, a vegan option.

“We served a soup that is topped off with kale chips and lemon zest oil,”said Elias. “Guests could choose between a roasted branzino with cauliflower puree and watercress emulsion entree or short rib with caramelized yams, celery root mash, beech mushrooms and dijon shallot sauce.”

An arugula salad served with manchego cheese and citrus vinaigrette, while a pear raspberry tart with pear mousse, raspberry cream and matcha ice cream finishes off the dinner.

Elias knows he must serve Elton John’s very favorite dishes . “Top of the list is the beloved Grilled Cheese, a favorite throughout the years. It’s what I call an Adult Grilled Cheese, as it’s prepared on raisin bread and served with mascarpone cheese, crumble blue cheese and Asian pears. Simply rich and delicious!”

On The Carpet

Gay celebrity stylist Michael O’Connor talked with Los Angeles Blade about all the Oscar red carpet excitement. “I am loving the richness of color; the jewel tones are always the most flattering to skin tones and striking to see. Examples of this are in Sigourney Weaver wearing emerald green, America Ferrera in garnet and Idina Menzel in fuchsia. Christy Metz also looked incredible in ruby red.”

O’Connor loved how glamorous the red carpet was. “I loved Salma Hayek with her Grecian Goddess inspired look, complete with a bejeweled laurel hair ornament. Rebel Wilson looked SO exquisite. I really enjoyed her swept over hair with jeweled clip. Jason Woo gown and Vintage Pomellato jewelry.”

Billy Porter on the 2020 Oscar Red Carpet. (Photo Porter’s Twitter

Many of the male celebrities at the Oscars were a fantastic sight to see too. “I thought Spike Lee looked great wearing his amethyst and golden tux. We are starting to see more jewelry on men, lapel pins being a very popular trend on the red carpet. Antonio Banderas is wearing a really nice ‘man brooch,’ O’Connor enthused.

The veteran stylist is thrilled that Hollywood in embracing more jewelry. “I love the bling; it adds so much glamor and completes a look. We are also seeing a lot more necklaces, which I really like. Julia Louis Dreyfus is wearing a lovely statement necklace. And Janelle Monae was so amazingly sparkly with her bejeweled dress and choker necklace. I LOVED the look!”

Still, O’Connor did see a few fashion faux pas. “I have to say, that as a gay man, Billy Porter’s outfit is so over the top that it makes me nervous. I realize that the pendulum sometimes needs to be pushed hard to get it into a right place, but I feel that his golden bird feather top and patterned skirt is just too contrived and over the top.

“I know that men’s fashion needs a push, but don’t push it off the cliff!” O’Connor quipped.

Gift Bags

Distinctive Assets indulged the major Oscar® nominees with the annual “Everyone Wins” Nominee Gift Bags, which have become the most buzzed about swag in history. This year’s gift bonanza features Soma’s Sensuous Silk Kimono Robes along with SOMAINNOFIT™ smart-fit bra; a one-of-a-kind private in-home cannabis-infused chocolate culinary experience by Coda Signature; gold and silver signature Moon bead bracelets from Officina Bernardi; health, nutrition and longevity programs from ProLon; and a discovery voyage aboard the ultra-luxury Scenic Eclipse expedition yacht.

“One of the greatest joys in life is to do something you love,” said Lash Fary, the company’s gay owner. “I have been so fortunate to do just that for 21 years now. In recent years, I have been able to use my access to talent and brand relationships to help organizations doing good in the world to amplify their messages.”

Lash Fary’s Gift Bag offerings. (Photo by Susan Hornik)

Fary loves to have gifts for celebrities that give back in meaningful ways. “I am able to publicize PETA’s incredible efforts to increase awareness about the connection between animal agriculture and climate change, through partnerships with DIFF Charitable Eyewear and Veestro Plant-Based Meals.”

So much detail goes into creating these gift bags, Fary said. “I often feel like a kid in my own candy store, as i go through the gift bags my team creates. I genuinely use and love so many of the items I share …like the ProLon fasting mimicking meal program, Instytutum Result Driven Skincare, Flora Farms field to table restaurant in Cabo, and Soma’s Sensuous Silk Kimono Robe.”

One of the exciting items in Fary’s gift bag is Origin Stretch Spa, which is owned by a gay couple, and are gifting a day of pampering.

“I’m excited to participate in the ‘Everyone Wins” Nominee Gift Bags because it gives me the opportunity to educate even more people about the benefits of IV Therapy,” said owner Garrett BellRios.

“Actors – much like athletes and performers – are always on the go and their systems get run down, BellRios noted. “They’re not getting enough sleep, working too much, always on airplanes and breathing recycled air. Through IV Therapy and vitamin injections, I can customize their protocol using European homeopathic remedies and treat their specific symptoms. So many of my clients now tell me, ‘I haven’t been sick in ages.’ And my treatment is mobile, can be done anywhere and they often feel better immediately.”

Oscar Gifting Lounges

Doris Bergman’s 12th Annual Valentine Oscar Luxury Lounge & Party was held at Weho hotspot, Fig & Olive. There were lots of great gifts to choose from BeautyStat Cosmetics, Precious Vodka,, Pachamama, My Saint My Hero, Twisted Silver and Appletinis.

Gay hair expert Shann Christen with influencer Chadd Brittian at Doris Bergman Gifting Suite. (Photo by Susan Hornik)

In the spirit of giving back, guests and sponsors made monetary donations and/or donated unwrapped gifts for young adults (ages 13-18) for a Gift Drive benefiting ‘Wednesday’s Child’ — a weekly segment airing on KTTV FOX 11 News with anchor Christine Devine. Bergman always invites beloved foster children to join in on the festivities and experience what it feels like to be treated as a VIP.

Shann Christen, celebrity stylist and owner of a hair loss clinic and full service salon and ColorBar on Westwood Blvd, gifted his biology based, dual shampoo system, BioMethod.

“It was exciting to meet all the celebrities at this years event. Any day is a good day when you get your photo taken with Richard Grieco! Miles Tagtmeyer never fails to be charming and it was fun to do ‘boomerangs with the Social Media Guru.”

Business and lifestyle influencer and ambassador in the LGBTQ space, Chad Brittian, was happy to meet all the vendors attending. “I was quite impressed with the diversity and overall inclusion of brands. There were quite a few companies that I could see myself aligning with on an influencer branding basis.”

True Gold Honey’s line of all/natural honey was delicious and packaged in a beautifully designed and well-branded wooden box, Brittian noted. “No attention to detail was missed which I can really appreciate from a branding and marketing perspective. I also received a warm welcome from Bio Method and can appreciate the time, energy and passion Shann has for his products. I am thoroughly looking forward to a collaboration with his brand in the future.”

John Kelson with Jasika Nicole, The Good Doctor. Jasika was with her wife, checking out John Kelly Chocolates at GBK Productions’ Gifting Suite. (Photo by Susan Hornik)

At GBK Productions, Brittian met Dapper & Dashing custom clothing for men and women. “They had a beautifully designed area that was welcoming and really showcased their brand. I am hopeful to partner with them for future events and I definitely can see a lot if potential and look forward to seeing how this brand grows.”

Owned by a gay couple, John Kelly Chocolates also had a great time at the GBK gifting suite. “We have a fairly large celebrity clientele, being located in Hollywood, and it was nice to see some people who already know about us as well as make some new friends,” Kelly said.

At the suite, they gifted the 8-pc assortment box filled with their most popular flavors, inviting celebs to come visit them at their chocolate factory. “Our chocolate really is unique and has something special, and it was fun seeing celebrities have that visceral reaction when they tasted it.”

She Phillips, who owns Scenterprises, gifted numerous celebrities her unique perfumes. “Marcus Gay Harden chose a Woodsy and Spicy perfume and was excited by the combination of these lovely scents. I love this one as it has a hint of exotic spices.. soft…alluring and proactive”!

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New music documentary is ‘Velvet’ perfection

A piece of pure cinema that exemplifies its genre while transcending it



The Velvet Underground (Photo courtesy of Apple TV)

When it comes to great music documentaries – the ones that stick with you after you watch and make you want to come back to them again and again – there is one ingredient that stands out as a common thread: immediacy.

From D.A. Pennebaker’s fly-on-the-wall chronicle of young Bob Dylan’s 1965 tour of the UK in “Don’t Look Back,” to Martin Scorcese’s joyful document of The Band’s final concert performance in “The Last Waltz,” to Jonathan Demme’s thrilling cinematic rendering of the Talking Heads in performance at the peak of their creative genius in “Stop Making Sense,” all of these now-revered films have endured – indeed, even grown – in popularity over the years because they captured the talent, the personality, and the power of their subjects on celluloid and preserved it for the ages, allowing generations of audiences, fans and soon-to-be-fans alike, to feel as if they were there.

But none, perhaps, have ever done it quite so viscerally as Todd Haynes’ “The Velvet Underground.” This is a remarkable feat when you consider that the films listed above, as well as most of the other highly regarded “rockumentaries” of the past, were all concert films, showing the performers at their center in the full bloom of their musical gifts, and Haynes’ film is not that. It’s something else, something singular, a piece of pure cinema that exemplifies its genre while transcending it entirely.

The basic outline of the band’s story is well known, now. Coalesced in the early ‘60s New York art scene around a pair of charismatic geniuses (John Cale and Lou Reed), the Velvet Underground was swept into the orbit and under the wing of Andy Warhol, who turned them into the house band at his famous “Factory,” added to their mix an exotic European chanteuse named Nico, and launched their record career by producing their first album – and designing an instantly iconic cover for it featuring a banana, to boot. They were, for a while, the darlings of the New York underground set, birthing a handful of additional albums across the latter years of the decade; but their sound, which was experimental, rough, and a far cry from the flower-power sound being embraced within the status quo of Middle American music fans, did not catch on. That, combined with the volatility of the relationships at its core, ensured an ignoble and unsung dissolution for the band; though its two front men went on to forge expansive solo careers on their own, the Velvets themselves remained a kind of blip, an ephemeral presence in the history of rock – and the history of New York – remembered by anyone who wasn’t actually on the scene as nothing more than a buzzy band they never actually heard with a catchy name and a familiar album cover.

As one of the voice-over interviewees in Haynes’ movie points out, however, the counterculture wasn’t actually the counterculture – it was the culture. The rest of the world just didn’t know it yet. Decades later the Velvet Underground is credited with, among other things, providing early inspiration for what would become the punk rock movement, to say nothing of influencing the aesthetic palate of (surely without exaggeration) thousands of musicians who would go on to make great music themselves – often sounding nothing like the Velvets, but somehow cut from the same raw, edgy, white-hot honest cloth, nonetheless. Yet in their moment, they were doomed before they had even begun to become a sideshow attraction, hurling performative realness in the face of a curious-but-disinterested glitterati crowd that was already embodying the superficial fakeness that would be so aptly monikered, both as an ethos and a watchword, as “Plastics” by Buck Henry and Mike Nichols in “The Graduate” barely a year after their first album was pressed.

Frankly, it’s the kind of story that makes for a perfect rock ‘n roll legend, and the kind of legend that deserves to be explored in a film that befits its almost mythic, archetypal underpinnings. There’s nobody more qualified to deliver that film than Todd Haynes.

Haynes, of course, is a pioneer of the ‘90s “New Queer Cinema,” whose body of work has maintained a consistent yet multi-faceted focus on key themes that include outsider-ism, dysfunctional socialization, and the fluid nature of sexuality and gender. Each and any of these interests would be enough to make him a perfect fit as the person to tell the story of the Velvet Underground, but what gives him the ability to make it a masterpiece is his ongoing fascination with music and nostalgia. Beginning with his controversial debut short “Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story,” the musical landscape of his formative years has been inseparable from his milieu, and films such as his glam-rock fantasia “Velvet Goldmine” or his post-modernist Dylan biopic “I’m Not There” have dotted his career like cornerstones. Likewise, his painstaking recreation of the past in period pieces like “Far From Heaven,” “Carol,” or “Wonderstruck” has proven his ability not just to capture the look and feel of a bygone era, but to transport audiences right back into it.

In “The Velvet Underground,” it’s more like he transports the era to the audience. His comprehensive chronicle is not just the story of the band or its members, but the story of the time and place that allowed them to exist, in which a generation waking up from the toxic artificiality of their parents’ “American Dream” took creative control of the future through an unprecedented explosion of art and culture. Art was a by-any-means-necessary endeavor that now demanded a fluency across various forms of media, and a blending together of any and every thing that worked to get the message across. And yes, sometimes the media itself was the message, but even within that depressingly superficial reality was room for an infinite layering of style and substance that could take your breath away.

That description of the era in which the Velvet Underground thrived, in which Andy Warhol turned the shallow into the profound (whether he knew it or not), in which music and film and photography and poetry and painting and every other form of expression blended together in a heady and world-changing whirlwind, is also the perfect description of Haynes’ film. Yes, there are famous veterans of the age sharing their memories and their insights, yes there is copious archival footage (including the godsend of Warhol’s filmed portraits of the legendary faces in his orbit), yes we get to hear about Lou Reed’s struggle with his sexual identity – and it’s refreshing that Haynes makes no effort to categorize or finalize that aspect of the rock legend’s persona, but merely lets it be a fact. But even though “The Velvet Underground” checks off all the boxes to be a documentary, it’s something much more. Thanks to Haynes’ seamless blend of visuals, words, history, and – always and above all – music, it’s a total sensory experience, which deserves to be seen in a theater whether you subscribe to Apple TV or not. It puts you right in the middle of a world that still casts a huge shadow on our culture today.

And it’s unforgettable.

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PHOTOS: Best Of LGBTQ DC party

Blade’s 20th annual awards celebrated at Hook Hall



Cake performs at the Best of LGBTQ D.C. Awards Party on Oct. 21. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Washington Blade presented the 20th annual Best of LGBTQ D.C. Awards at a party at Hook Hall on Thursday, Oct. 21. To view this year’s winners, click here.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Arts & Entertainment

First Trans Amazon introduced by DC Comics In ‘Wonder Woman’

DC Comics-Warner Brothers became more LGBTQ+ inclusive with the introduction of the character of Bia, a Black trans woman



Courtesy of DC Comics-Warner Brothers

BURBANK – The world of DC Comics-Warner Brothers became more LGBTQ+ inclusive this weekend as the venerable comic book franchise of Wonder Woman expanded with the introduction of the character of Bia, a Black trans woman, in the first issue of the series Nubia & The Amazons.

Earlier this month on National Coming Out Day, the canon of the Superman series changed for the life of Jon Kent, the Superman of Earth and son of Clark Kent and Lois Lane, taking a bold new direction. After initially striking up a friendship with reporter Jay Nakamura, he and Jon become romantically involved, making Kent an Out bisexual character.

In this latest offering, Stephanie Williams and Vita Ayala, writers and creators confirmed that Bia is a Black Trans woman. They stressed that she “isn’t a box to tick … [she] is important to her community. Just as Black trans women are important to us in real life.” 

Of special significance to the introduction of the character in the DC Comic worlds was the endorsement of actress Lynda Carter who played the title role of Wonder Woman on television based on the comic book superheroine, which aired on ABC and later on CBS from 1975 to 1979. Earlier in the week Carter tweeted her support of Trans women;

Writing for the DC Comics-Warner Brothers website blog, co-creator Stephanie Williams said;

It’s been a dream to work with the likes of Vita Ayala, a non-binary Afro-Latinx comic writer who has been making quite a name for themselves. And then there is the illustrious and widely talented and dedicated Afro-Latina artist Alitha Martinez who is already in the comic hall of fame for all-time greats. Her passion for Nubia is unmatched. It shows in every cover and panel from Nubia’s Future State story written by L.L. McKinney, her Infinite Frontier #0 story written by Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad, and now the Nubia and the Amazons miniseries written by myself and Vita Ayala.”

Courtesy of DC Comics-Warner Brothers

I’m so excited about the history we’re creating, adding to, and remixing. The foundation has always been there, but needed some TLC. As Nubia embarks on this new journey as Queen of Themyscira, I hope her rebirth will be met with open arms and the desire to keep her always at the forefront. Nubia, now being queen, is poetic in so many ways, but one that stays on my mind is the very personal connection I feel. As I help to add to her legacy, she’s opened the door wider to my own,” Williams said adding:

Long may Queen Nubia reign, forever and always.”

Nubia and the Amazons #1 by Stephanie Williams, Vita Ayala and Alitha Martinez is now available in print and as a digital comic book.

Along with co-writing Nubia and the Amazons, Stephanie Williams writes about comics, TV and movies for Check out more of her work on Den of Geek, What To Watch, Nerdist and SYFY Wire and be sure to follow her on both Twitter and Instagram at @steph_I_will.

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