December 30, 2020 at 4:27 pm EST | by Joey DiGuglielmo
Pop culture countdown: Iconic and ignominious
2020 pop culture, gay news, Washington Blade

Hollywood was not immune to the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused studios to postpone major releases and to rethink how it does business. Here are the Blade’s top 10 stories in arts and entertainment for 2020.

10: Father knows best

Anderson Cooper and son Wyatt. (Photo via Instagram)

Out CNN anchor Anderson Cooper announced on the air April 30 that his son Wyatt Morgan was born on April 27.

“I am beyond happy,” he told People Magazine.

Cooper, 53, host of CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360,” named the baby, born via a surrogate, after his father, Wyatt, who died when Cooper was 10 days old. Cooper’s mother was the late Gloria Vanderbilt, who died last year at 95.

Cooper, who finally came out in 2012 after years of speculation, plans to co-raise the baby with his ex, Benjamin Maisani, according to various sources. They broke up in 2018.

9: Pride goes global

Adam Lambert performs at Global Pride in June. (screen capture via live broadcast)

Stymied by COVID-19 restrictions on their usual events, Pride organizers around the world united for Global Pride, an online event on June 27 organized by InterPride and the European Pride Organizers Association.

Performers included Olivia Newton-John, Deborah Cox, Kristine W, Thelma Houston, Steve Grand, the Chicks and more. Manvendra Singh Gohil, a gay Indian prince, was among the speakers.

The theme was “exist, persist, resist” and about 57 million watched the 24-hour virtual event. Todrick Hall hosted. Adam Lambert performed “Mad World.”

8: Hardly Schock-ing

Aaron Schock, Steven Petrow, gay news, Washington Blade
Former Rep. Aaron Schock has come out as gay. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

After years of speculation, former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.), came out as gay and was not exactly welcomed into the LGBTQ world.

Schock, 39, was elected to Congress at age 27 in 2008 and was once seen as a rising star in the GOP. He resigned in 2015 amid criticism for lavish spending including a redecorating effort of his Capitol Hill office. He was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2016 on 24 counts including wire fraud and theft of government funds but federal prosecutors reached an agreement in 2019 and charges were dropped. Schock vowed to pay back taxes and reimburse his campaign.

Schock, a gym rat almost as famous for his thirsty shirtless pics as his political career, came out in a March 5 blog on his website aschock.net that began simply “I am gay.” He maintains his innocence, said he regrets not coming out sooner but said he assumed his constituents knowing would “not go over well.”

“I also, in retrospect, realize that I was just looking for more excuses to buy time and avoid being the person I’ve always been,” he wrote.

He did not apologize for his anti-gay voting record which included votes against same-sex marriage and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He had a zero rating from HRC. He did say he’d support LGBT rights “in every way I could” if he were still in Congress.

Reaction was largely negative. Gays as varied as “Queer Eye’s” Jonathan Van Ness to Michelangelo Signorile called him out for hypocrisy.

7: Ho-hum Oscars

Elton John (left) with longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin at the Academy Awards. (Screen capture via ABC broadcast; courtesy AMPAS)

The 92nd Academy Awards were one of the last major events to unfold as usual before COVID restrictions kicked into high gear. Held Feb. 9 in Hollywood, it wasn’t a particularly strong year for LGBT themes. “Parasite” took the top prize and “Joker,” Joaquin Phoenix’s tour de force, had the most nominations. “1917,” “Ford v. Ferrari” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” also won multiple awards.

Of the 20 acting nominees, none were LGBT although two played LGBT characters. “Pain and Glory,” from out director Pedro Almodovar, snagged two nominations.

“If 2019’s record year of inclusion for LGBTQ and LGBTQ-themed nominees was a small step forward … then nominations for Oscar 2020 are a giant lap back,” wrote Blade critic John Paul King.

It was slightly gayer at the ceremony itself. Janelle Monae and Billy Porter performed in the opening. Elton John won Best Original Song with longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin for “(I‘m Gonna) Love Me Again,” from his biopic “Rocketman.”

6: Rom-com representation

Kristen Stewart (left) and Mackenzie Davis in ‘Happiest Season.’ (Photo courtesy Hulu); Blake Lee (left) and Ben Lewis in ‘The Christmas Setup.’ (Photo by Albert Camicioli, courtesy Lifetime)

We may have been largely a bust at the Oscars, but in other branches of filmdom, there were major surprises. The New York Times rounded up six holiday-themed gay rom-coms with out with LGBT characters.

Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis starred in the Clea DuVall-helmed (DuVall is gay) lesbian coming-out comedy “Happiest Season,” which premiered on Hulu on Thanksgiving Day.

Brandon and Jake race to adopt a baby by Christmas in “The Christmas House” on the Hallmark channel. Real-life husbands Ben Lewis and Blake Lee star in “The Christmas Setup” on Lifetime, “Dashing in December” is a drama from Paramount about two men who fall in love on a ranch while Netflix has “A New York Christmas Wedding” with a bi woman in the lead and “I Hate New Year’s,” an on-demand lesbian romance set in Nashville.

Complete with same-sex kisses (!), the Times calls the deluge “a sea change for Christmas cinema, a conventionally heterosexual universe with more stories about puppies than gay people.”

5: Elliot’s new day

Elliot Page (Photo via Page’s Facebook page)

Elliot Page, a Canadian actor and producer known for roles in TV shows “Pit Pony,” “Trailer Park Boys,” “ReGenesis” as well as the 2005 film “Hard Candy,” came out as transgender last month.

He’d come out as a gay woman in February 2014. Page was nominated for an Oscar in 2008 for his role in “Juno” and is also the star of Netflix’s “The Umbrella Academy.”

“Hi friends, I want to share with you that I am trans, my pronouns are he/they and my name is Elliot. I feel lucky to be writing this. To be here. To have arrived at this place in my life. I feel overwhelming gratitude for the incredible people who have supported me along this journey,” he wrote.

4: Queer streaming galore

Boys in the Band, gay news, Washington Blade
Jim Parsons and Matt Bomer in ‘Boys in the Band.’ (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

Movie theaters were closed but that only pushed the streaming rage further into the forefront of the entertainment ecosystem. And if there was any gay angle to it, there’s a good chance Ryan Murphy was involved.

The full cast of the 2018 Broadway debut of Mart Crowley (who died in March at age 84) classic “The Boys in the Band” reunited for a film version that debuted on Netflix in late September. The Blade called it a strong adaptation that “preserved in full” the “strength and dignity” of the source material. Murphy produced.

The seven-episode miniseries “Hollywood” debuted in March on Netflix with Patti LuPone helming this saga about a group of aspiring actors in filmmakers in post-WWII Tinseltown. Several gay characters and themes abounded including nods to Scotty Bowers and Rock Hudson among others. It drew mixed reviews but 12 Emmy nominations. Janet Mock directed two episodes. Murphy directed just one but was creator, executive producer, and writer.

And in December came “The Prom,” a Murphy-directed musical comedy based on the 2018 Broadway musical with Meryl Streep, James Corden and Nicole Kidman about Broadway actors who head to Indiana to fight a ruling that a high school prom is being cancelled because one female student wanted to take a girl as her date. Chaos ensues.

The Blade called it a “frothy mix that exists on the thin line between camp and hokum.”

And one you may have missed (again, with Murphy involvement) is “A Secret Love,” a documentary about Terry Donahue and her partner Pat Henschel who finally go public and get married after keeping their relationship a secret from their families for six decades.

3: Epic catfight  

Joe Exotic showed the world he’s no shrinking violet. (Photo courtesy Netflix)

And then, of course, we had “Tiger King,” one of the increasingly rare shows that became a true cultural phenom.

The outrageous, seven-episode Netflix docuseries tells of zookeeper Joe Exotic (who sports a peroxide mullet) and his feud with Carole Baskin who accuses him of abusing and exploiting wild animals. Watched by 34.3 million people over its first 10 days of release, it’s been called “one of” Netflix’s most successful releases ever.

Adding to the color is Exotic’s unofficial same-sex throuplehood with Travis Maldonado and John Finlay and his relationship with future husband Dillon Passage.

He’s currently serving a 22-year prison sentence for, among other things, planning to have Baskin killed.

2: Cancel Ellen!

Ellen DeGeneres (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

“The Ellen DeGeneres Show” was the subject of an internal third-party investigation by Warner Media after reports that the long-running hit daytime talk show was a toxic workplace behind the scenes.

In the spring, Variety reported on alleged mistreatment of long-time crew members and in July BuzzFeed published a report alleging racism and intimidation.

After delaying her 18th-season opener, DeGeneres, 62, addressed the situation in her opening monologue on Sept. 21. “I learned that things happened here that never should have happened,” she said. “I take that very seriously and I want to say I am sorry to the people who were affected.”

She acknowledged being in a “position of privilege and power.” People magazine, citing an unnamed source, said her perfectionist tendencies “ can be difficult. … She is looking at herself to make changes.”

She vowed to “start a new chapter” with the show’s 270 employees, People reports.

Following the internal investigation, in August DeGeneres apologized to her employees via video conference and confirmed that three top producers were leaving the show. The crew applauded.

DeGeneres said in December she would be back after the holidays after testing positive for COVID-19.

1: COVID disrupts

There wasn’t a single facet of the entertainment industry spared the disruptions related to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions from drag queens to touring musicians to theater producers and performers to the entire movie and TV industry, which soon ran out of “in the can” content to air or stream.

Although the competition part of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” season 12 was already taped and airing, the reunion and finale were taped — and cleverly edited — via Zoom.

Queer artists as diverse as Billy Gilman, Melissa Etheridge and the Indigo Girls offered living room concerts. Some were free, others moved to a subscription model.

With movie theaters closed for much of the year, release dates were bumped. Box office revenue reached lows not seen in 20 years and Cineworld, the world’s second-largest chain, closed in October. Many films that had planned theatrical releases were streamed instead and the bodies that govern the Golden Globes and the Oscars have made eligibility allowances. Perhaps the most prominent film to be postponed was “Wonder Woman 1984,” which will stream Dec. 25 on HBO Max, the same day it hits theaters in a move that has outraged some in the industry.

Some production units formed set bubbles in which cast and crew, subject to daily temperature checks and frequent COVID tests, quarantine from the outside world during shooting.

Resuming was a necessity and not just so people have stuff to watch coming through the pipeline. Colleen Bell, executive director of the California Film Commission, told NBC News the industry supports 700,000 jobs in California alone that accounts for $16 billion in wages.

Joey DiGuglielmo is the Features Editor for the Washington Blade.

Comments are closed
© Copyright Brown, Naff, Pitts Omnimedia, Inc. 2021. All rights reserved.