The coronavirus pandemic has changed everything, from telework to dining out, but D.C.’s singles scene perseveres with outdoor dates, igloo dinners, and Zoom meetings.
This is the seventh annual Washington Blade Most Eligible LGBT Singles issue. It began with reader nominations; from that list, our staff chose the most eligible with an eye for locals with interesting stories, those doing compelling work and yes, those who are easy on the eye.
This year’s crop of top singles agree that confidence is a turn on and bad breath is a deal breaker. Meet D.C.’s Most Eligible LGBTQ singles for 2021.
Aramis Angleró, 31, Accountant
How do you identify? Gay
What are you looking for in a mate? I’m looking for someone who challenges me and motivates me to try new things. Someone who has a great smile, knows what he wants and is driven by his passions.
Biggest turn off: Dishonesty, rudeness, someone who thinks they know it all and is not willing to grow and hear someone else’s perspective.
Biggest turn on: Someone confident in their own skin that they can hold a conversation and an active guy in sports or fitness.
Hobbies? Competitive volleyball is my passion (I play in the local league DCPVL), picked up running in 2020 and love live musicals and comedy shows.
How has COVID impacted your dating life? It’s been difficult. I normally connect with a guy face to face, which makes the interaction more organic. However, during COVID I’ve used dating apps but it sometimes feels forced.
Pets, kids, or neither? I would love to have a dog but I know it’s a lot of responsibility so co-parenting would be a plus. Kids? Well, I’m not there yet but open to the conversation if we both feel ready.
Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? Simple answer: No. I’m open to having a conversation as long as it’s respectful and the values where we differ aren’t extreme.
Celebrity crush: Darren Criss
Name one obscure fact about yourself: One would think being Latino from Puerto Rico I would enjoy the summer weather but I hate sweating so unless I’m in a pool or at the beach, I enjoying being in A/C.
Craig Cipollini, 53, Director of Marketing
How do you identify? Gay male
What are you looking for in a mate? Someone with a sense of humor (!!!), passionate, focused, confident (but not arrogant,) responsible, caring, comfortable, relaxed, someone who loves the performing arts, someone I find physically attractive, and a sense of fun.
Biggest turn off: Arrogance
Biggest turn on: Confidence
Hobbies? Artwork, working out, dance, movies, hanging with friends
How has COVID impacted your dating life? Where to start LOL … Haven’t really been able to date or meet people, so I’ve just been hanging with my friends. I’ve tried a few dating apps and had a few dates (mostly Zoom calls) but not much dating really.
Pets, kids, or neither? No pets or kids (but I love dogs!)
Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? Possibly. It would really depend on how different their political views were from mine.
Celebrity crush: Can I list more than one? Chris Evans, Sebastian Stan, Marwan Kenzari, Regé-Jean Page, Simu Liu, Jonathan Bailey
Name one obscure fact about yourself: I’ve performed on live national television.
Maria Miller, ripe 29
Occupation: You name it, I’ve probably done it.
How do you identify? DYKE
What are you looking for in a mate? Someone to finish Patsy Cline lyrics when I’m singing terribly.
Biggest turn off: Bad tippers and people who are rude to ANY sort of service industry staff.
Biggest turn on: Kind and genuine people.
Hobbies? Community organizing, painting, making jewelry, wine.
How has COVID impacted your dating life? It’s literally non-existent.
Pets, kids, or neither? I love pets and kids, I have none.
Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? Why would I?
Celebrity crush: Ciara and Selena (not Gomez)
Name one obscure fact about yourself: I still have two baby teeth.
Derrick Johnson, 35, Chief Diversity Officer & Director of Event Strategy
How do you identify? Gay (Pronouns: he/him/his)
What are you looking for in a mate? I’m looking for a man who is confident, thoughtful, goal-oriented, philanthropic, open-minded, and makes me laugh. He must have a sense of humor and be driven by impacting the lives of others.
Biggest turn off: Entitlement (i.e. being rude to servers)
Biggest turn on: A man who dances like no one is watching.
Hobbies? Music touches my soul; flag football and fitness classes keep me in physically good shape; video games distract my mind; traveling expands my awareness; volunteering makes me feel good.
How has COVID impacted your dating life? COVID has limited my ability to meet people while doing the things I love. It has shown me the importance of cultivating relationships and the value of maximizing moments in life.
Pets, kids, or neither? Dog(s) and kid(s)
Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? Political views, yes. Humanitarian views, no.
Celebrity crush: Brendon Urie (the talent…woof)
Name one obscure fact about yourself: I almost went to Mars #marsone
Amanda Haverkamp, 25
Occupation: Just started work in the cybersecurity sales arena after spending three years in the U.S. Senate.
How do you identify? Lesbian
What are you looking for in a mate? I’m looking for someone who can be my biggest cheerleader in all areas of life, and who will welcome me to be the same to her in return. I’d like my person to appreciate the grandiosity of how I show affection, but also recognize the simplest moments and be able to appreciate those together. Must haves: a strong personality, a grasp on her “story,” and a little bit of hopeless romanticism.
Biggest turn off: A “floater,” which is what I call those who don’t know what they’re looking for.
Biggest turn on: Charisma, decisiveness, sense of humor
Hobbies? Cars and mural-hunting! I’ve loved cars since I was a kid. There are several childhood pics of me with Hot Wheels in my hand or playing with toy trucks on the beach. In college, I focused in on German performance cars, and have never looked back! Flying through the backroads and going on road trips are my favorite activities. As for murals, whenever I visit a new city, I make it a point to scout out the street art. In fact, a lot of my Instagram is dedicated to combining these hobbies through car photography. I’m super nerdy about it, but if you think you can handle it, drop me a line (or a like) @semperamanda.
How has COVID impacted your dating life? The pandemic has led me to go on a lot more outdoorsy dates, which is awesome. Hikes, beach walks, picnics, boating, and scenic drives are some of my favorites.
Pets, kids, or neither? Neither at the moment, though my three-year plan involves adopting a cat! I’m open to pets 100%.
Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? This is such a Washingtonian question! Haha. I’ve done this in the past, and it hasn’t worked out, though I do believe that if the issues that a couple disagrees on are not pivotal to the point of negatively affecting others in any way, shape, or form, then it can be discussed. Definitely very case-by-case.
Celebrity crush: Jessica Chastain
Name one obscure fact about yourself: When I was in the Coast Guard stationed on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, I did my Search and Rescue swim test in the harbor where they filmed the movie “Jaws” — during the peak of great white shark mating season.
Mike Reddy, 33, Director of Advocacy at Marketing for Change
How do you identify? Open to all types of humans, except for adult fans of those Minion characters.
What are you looking for in a mate? I’m not a very “online” person, so someone who wants to do lots of stuff in the real world. But not hiking. If you enjoy hiking, I’m sure there’s someone else on this list for you.
Biggest turn off: Hiking
Biggest turn on: Hill staffers. Tell me about your proximity to power, baby.
Hobbies? Cooking Indian food
How has COVID impacted your dating life? Peace and stability are my biggest motivations right now. It’s a wild world out there!
Pets, kids, or neither? I’ve got an unruly Pitt-mix pup. And I’d love kids, but honestly I’m just so tired.
Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? Sure! But I’m not generally compatible with people at the far ends of the spectrum.
Celebrity crush: Jacinda Ardern
Name one obscure fact about yourself: I used to take Richard Simmons’ workout class when I lived in LA.
Ari Schwartz, 34, Attorney
How do you identify? Lesbian, Jewish, Feminist
What are you looking for in a mate? Romance, kindness, vision, a ride or die, and Big Dyke Energy — a lesbian who is joyfully settled in her life and is also making it a priority to meet her last LTR and future wife/baby mama. I’m looking for a witness to my life and the opportunity to fall in love all over again every single morning with the same woman. Do you want to dance at your 50th wedding anniversary, too? Let me know via IG @apschwartzesq.
Biggest turn off: Someone who doesn’t know who they are. Know what you want and need. If you know how to ask, I’ll know how to answer. Be an active participant in every moment of the creation of your life, please.
Biggest turn on: Stability, ambition, unapologetic laughter, a big bright smile, strong hands, power lesbians.
Hobbies? You can catch me at your local plant nursery every weekend with an oat milk latte in hand. Big houseplant enthusiast, re-teaching myself piano, reconnecting with my ancestral roots by actively learning Hebrew, building lesbian community and campfires, daily REDFIN scrolling, and pretending to understand my growing crystal collection beyond their aesthetics. I’d always rather be at the beach.
How has COVID impacted your dating life? While I no longer have the chance encounter at Trader Joe’s or Home Depot, or a first-date at an arcade playing air hockey, I still make dating a priority in my life. All it takes is one moment, one person, and one decision to change the entire trajectory of your life. Don’t let COVID stop you from meeting someone that makes every nerve in your body send a shockwave through your soul each moment you’re near her (even if it’s outside from six-feet apart).
Pets, kids, or neither? I definitely want both kids and a dog. The con in dating me is that I am allergic to cats. But I’ll take Claritin for the right woman.
Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? As long as our core values still align, and the difference isn’t rooted in challenging my right to exist.
Celebrity crush: Bette Porter 4eva
Name one obscure fact about yourself: My playlists jump from country pop to trap music within seconds.
Murray Penner, 59, U.S. Executive Director, Prevention Access Campaign/U=U
How do you identify? Gay
What are you looking for in a mate? I’m looking for an independent, easy-going, family-oriented, trustworthy, fun-loving man who is looking for someone to complement his life.
Biggest turn off: Clingy people
Biggest turn on: Confidence
Hobbies? Travel, movies, dining out, spending time with family/friends
How has COVID impacted your dating life? I’ve mainly stayed home and haven’t dated at all during COVID, which wasn’t much of a change from pre-COVID. I’m just now getting back into dating, but I take COVID very seriously so dates will mainly be outdoors. I’m also fully vaccinated now so I will feel safer re-entering the dating life.
Pets, kids, or neither? Dog, cat and two adult children (20 and 24 years old)
Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? This is a very important issue for me. In the past, I would say yes. But in this era, I would say most likely not. Because of the polarization of political views that has occurred over the last four years, I would need to be sure that the values one has for fundamental respect and rights of all people are aligned with mine, and that who they support politically also has similar values. That would be the determining factor if I would date someone, not their political views alone.
Celebrity crush: Steve Kornacki
Name one obscure fact about yourself: People see me as outgoing and personable, but I’m incredibly shy and introverted.
Stephanie Schweitzer, 32, Graphic Designer
How do you identify? Lesbian
What are you looking for in a mate? Someone who likes adventure, traveling, and being active, while also perfectly thrilled with nights in. The counterbalance is important to me. Paired with someone who also values family, whether it’s blood related or chosen family.
Biggest turn off: Passing judgement too quickly.
Biggest turn on: Confidence. Someone who truly knows who they are at their core and isn’t intimidated by the confidence of their partner. And patience.
Hobbies? Indoor skydiving, cars/motorcycles, volunteering with animals, stuffing my face with food/drinks from new restaurants I discover. Anything art related.
How has COVID impacted your dating life? Before the pandemic, I lived a busy life; end-to-end each day with work and hobbies. COVID has forced me to slow down and focus my attention on what the next phase of my life looks like. While work and hobbies are still a huge part of that next phase, finding someone to share my life with has become more of a priority.
Pets, kids, or neither? Have pets, want kids eventually.
Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? Sure, as long as we can meet at the understanding that difference of opinions can be a positive thing.
Celebrity crush: Rachel McAdams, Jennifer Lawrence, Chelsea Handler, Betty Who
Name one obscure fact about yourself: I’m a sculptor.
Joe Kozel, 38, Fifth Grade Teacher
How do you identify? Gay
What are you looking for in a mate? In an ideal world, I’d find someone who is honest, driven, and athletic. In the real world, I’d find someone with a cute dog.
Biggest turn off: My biggest turn off is gas lighting — and bad breath.
Biggest turn on: My biggest turn on is someone with a cute smirk and hair I can run my hands through.
Hobbies? My most recent hobbies are getting ignored on Grindr, and trying not to become popular on @gaysovercovid. Other hobbies include reading, playing chess, working out, and pretending I can cook.
How has COVID impacted your dating life? What dating life?
Pets, kids, or neither? DOGS
Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? It depends on the views, and where they are on the political scale. So … maybe?
Celebrity crush: Ricky Martin
Name one obscure fact about yourself: I have run five marathons.
Drew Kelly, 28, Attorney
How do you identify? Gay
What are you looking for in a mate? Easy-going guy who enjoys nights out on the weekends and documentaries after work on the weeknights — and a guy who likes my eclectic taste in music and who prefers the beach to anywhere else.
Biggest turn off: Arrogance and guns and boat shoes.
Biggest turn on: Someone who is comfortable around others, and who makes others comfortable around them. Also good teeth.
Hobbies? Drinking rum and Cokes with friends, running, and stalking online real estate sites. Also anything water-related: boating, paddle boarding, kayaking, waterskiing.
How has COVID impacted your dating life? It has slowed things down quite a bit, but made more time for me. Hopefully when we come out of this, we all know ourselves a bit better.
Pets, kids, or neither? If my guy wants them, I want them.
Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? Political views? Maybe. Morals and ethics? No.
Celebrity crush: Cal Shapiro, Robbie Rogers, Dacre Montgomery, Faith Hill
Name one obscure fact about yourself: My favorite restaurant is Wawa.
Jasmine “Jazzy” Garcia, 29, Scheduling Coordinator
How do you identify? Lesbian
What are you looking for in a mate? You absolutely have to make me laugh because life is too short to take so seriously. Let’s make each other laugh about anything and everything.
Biggest turn off: JEALOUSY. If I’m yours, I’m yours. I also hate tardiness. Be ready and be on time.
Biggest turn on: I’m turned on by confidence. Standing strong in who you are and your convictions is just so sexy to me (as long as your convictions do not harm a person or group). Someone who is open, optimistic, easy going, 420 friendly and a person who is spiritually connected with who she is.
Hobbies? I play a lot of video games (especially in quarantine). Before COVID, you could find me at Flash nightclub. I take my dog on hikes and when the world isn’t in shambles, I love traveling. The beach is my happy place.
How has COVID impacted your dating life? COVID has completely halted my dating life. Meeting new people right now is impossible. I tried dating apps and I delete them within a week.
Pets, kids, or neither? REGGIE! My four-year-old pitbull/beagle mix is my whole life. I take him everywhere if he’s allowed. Sometimes I’ll decline an invite if he can’t come along. He is my furry child. As of right now I have zero interest in children.
Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? Absolutely not. Trump supporters need not apply.
Celebrity crush: Katherine Moennig (duh!), Samira Wiley and Snow tha Product.
Name one obscure fact about yourself: I am the creator and admin of Lesbians in DC Facebook group! I am also starting a podcast for queer women with a friend, so join my Facebook group for the official launch.
Nikki Goldschein, 27, PAC Manager
How do you identify? Lesbian, Gay, Queer
What are you looking for in a mate? Someone who is outgoing and has a strong sense of humor. Liberal, duh. A person who gets excited about a good drink or fun activity. Affectionate. A woman who is DOWN (ex. we’re hosting a dinner party tonight, great! We’re going to a costume party, let me grab my wig. I need some space tonight, see ya).
Biggest turn off: Cats and someone who is super messy.
Biggest turn on: Someone ambitious and passionate about their work or hobbies. Good cooks. Someone living their life loud and proud. Someone who has been around the sun a few more times than I have.
Hobbies? Cooking and baking. Being outdoors: beach and mountains. Road tripping. Newly into tennis.
How has COVID impacted your dating life? Woof. It’s been, uh, tough.
Pets, kids, or neither? Don’t have either but hoping for both
Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? Hard to imagine in this day and age, especially since my politics and work life are so deeply intertwined. Plus, the right has really gone off the deep.
Celebrity crush: Toni Collette, Rosario Dawson (sorry Cory) and Aubrey Plaza (like most other gays on Twitter this year)
Name one obscure fact about yourself: I was president of my high school’s GSA.
Calvin Seino, 31, IT Delivery Manager
How do you identify? Gay
What are you looking for in a mate? Someone who is true to who they are, that goes to therapy, and takes vacations.
Biggest turn off: Not having drive or ambition
Biggest turn on: Drive and ambition
Hobbies? Cooking, listening to music, going to concerts, working out, and reading tech/car blogs.
How has COVID impacted your dating life? I prefer to meet people organically, ideally while doing things we both enjoy. COVID has forced that interaction to happen online. I find it extremely difficult to read personality via a screen.
Pets, kids, or neither? I have a beautiful Goldendoodle named Belair. Kids are on my life vision board.
Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? I try to give people room to be individuals in thought and even embrace/explore differences. I actually prefer to not date people who are too similar in thought as it stifles each other’s growth. However, there is a hard line with social injustice, and systematic issues.
Celebrity crush: Regé-Jean Page
Name one obscure fact about yourself: I think capers can go in almost any dish.
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.
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