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Actor Jussie Smollett sentenced to 150 days for lying about hate crime

As deputies led him from the courtroom, Smollett shouted “I am innocent,” raising his first- “I could have said I am guilty a long time ago”

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Actor Jussie Smollett reacting to his sentence in a Chicago courtroom. (Screenshot/WGN)

CHICAGO – Cook County Judge James Linn sentenced actor Jussie Smollett to 30 months of probation and 150 days in jail for lying to police about a racist and homophobic attack that he staged. Linn also ordered Smollett to pay $120,106 restitution to the city of Chicago and a $25,000 fine.

The Out actor and former ‘Empire’ star’s request for new trial was denied ahead of sentencing.

Smollett, who had made the afternoon appearance in Linn’s courtroom shortly after 1 p.m. when he walked into the Cook County Leighton Criminal Courts building surrounded by family members and his defense team, first sought to have the jury’s verdict overturned on legal grounds.

ABC7 Chicago’s Diane Pathieu reported that Judge Linn told Smollett and his defenders: “I do believe at the end of the day that Mr. Smollett received a fair trial, that he was proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury based on the evidence that was presented.” The Judge added “You committed hour upon hour upon hour of perjury.” 

Linn also took the actor to task telling him, “I’m going to tell you Mr. Smollett, I know that there is nothing that I will do here today that will come close to the damage you’ve already done to your own life.”

During the testimony prior to sentencing, Smollett’s 92-year-old grandmother, Molly Smollett, told the court; “I ask you, judge, not to send him to prison- If you do, send me along with him, OK?”

According to ABC7 Chicago, Special prosecutor Dan Webb asked Linn to include “an appropriate amount of prison time” when sentencing the actor for his conviction. Webb said he would not ask for a specific amount of time, leaving that to Linn’s discretion.

He also asked that Smollett be ordered to pay $130,000 in restitution to the city of Chicago.

The actor was offered the opportunity to speak, but declined, saying he agreed with his attorney’s advice to remain quiet. However as he was taken into custody by court deputies, Smollett insisted that he was not suicidal, suggesting that “if anything happens” in jail, he did not take his own life.

“If I did this, then it means that I stuck my fist in the fears of Black Americans in this country for over 400 years and the fears of the LGBT community,” Smollett said, standing up at the defense table as his lawyers and sheriff’s deputies surrounded him. “Your Honor, I respect you and I respect the jury but I did not do this. And I am not suicidal. And if anything happens to me when I go in there, I did not do it to myself. And you must all know that.”

As deputies led him from the courtroom, Smollett shouted out again.

“I am innocent,” he yelled, raising his first. “I could have said I am guilty a long time ago.”

WGN Clip from TMZ:

Today’s sentencing caps off a three-year-long series of investigations and two trials since the actor told Chicago police he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack in January of 2019. He was convicted of five of six felony counts of disorderly conduct for lying to police and had faced a maximum sentence of three years in prison for all counts.

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High flying and adored, Chita Rivera charts her path to heaven

D.C. native passed away on Tuesday at 91

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Entertainment Tonight interviews Chita Rivera on the red carpet at a 2018 event in New York (ET YouTube screenshot)

She never danced Evita, but she was still “high flying adored.” Today, Chita Rivera has left the stage, but she clearly will never dance out of the hearts of all who loved, admired and respected her.

Clearly, she was a talent no one could reckon. Born in 1933 as Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero, Chita Rivera’s rise to stardom began with ballet classes at the age of 11. Her undeniable talent led her from the School of American Ballet to the spotlight of Broadway, where she broke ground as one of the first Hispanic women to achieve leading roles in theater during a time when representation was minimal.

She is known in critical circles as “the greatest musical-theater dancer ever.” Jason Alexander has been one of the first Broadway voices to speak of her passing and said, “This extraordinary woman, the incomparable. Chita Rivera was one of the greatest spirits and colleagues I’ve ever known. She set the bar in every way. I will cherish her always. Dance in heaven, my friend.”

She was the original Velma Kelly in “Chicago” and racked up 10 Tony nominations and two wins. Her performances were life changing. In 2009, she was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contributions to American culture.

It is not a surprise that she was revered at her passing. What was shocking was that she passed at all. If there was anyone who you could anticipate had the spirit and will to live forever, it was Chita Rivera. She somehow seemed immortal. 

And she loved LGBTQ people.

It was a mere decade ago when Rivera chose to celebrate her 80th birthday by headlining a sold-out show, “Chita-A Celebration,” at the August Wilson Theater. The event benefited Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS.

“The roar for her was deafening,” they report. After six rapturous standing ovations, Rivera stood proud, having raised $413,660 for the cause in that single performance. “I had no idea celebrating my 100th birthday would be so much fun,” quipped the then 80-year old.

If Rivera was at all a diva, she was a generous one. “I’m not comfortable with just me, me, me. That’s boring,” she has said. Rivera was a publicly vocal advocate for LGBTQ rights. She was among the luminaries who supported many AIDS benefit concerts and took a firm stance for equality. Through her philanthropic efforts, Rivera contributed to nurturing acceptance and championing the visibility of LGBTQ individuals in the arts.

Rivera was personally touched by the AIDS crisis having lost dozens of friends to the disease. She spoke publicly about it when she was performing in “Kiss of a Spider Woman.” “It’s a very difficult role for me to play in these times, when you’ve lost so many friends, and suddenly you’re standing there and you’re playing ‘Death.’ And you’ve just heard about some friends (who have died), you know? Sometimes it’s really, really hard. But then I get all kinds of things from it: I get strength from having to go right through it. When Larry Kert (her “West Side Story” co-star) passed away, I thought I saw him in the balcony when I was singing “Kiss of the Spider Woman.” There’s a lot going on. It’s a serious play, an important play. And this a good time right now because we need all of these channels open. We gotta get them in there to get the message out there.”

GLAAD put out a statement at her passing on Tuesday, “Broadway legend Chita Rivera has sadly passed away at age 91. Rivera spent much of her long career advocating for LGBTQ people and people living with HIV and AIDS. Our hearts go out to everyone who loved her.”  

GLAAD President Sara Kate Ellis, wrote her own personal tribute, “So sad to hear about the death of Chita Rivera. I had the pleasure of spending time with her at Remember the Ribbon: A Tribute to World AIDS Day in 2022. She spent much of her life advocating for the LGBTQ community and people living with HIV and AIDS. Sending love to her family.”

Rivera observed of her own legacy, “Many of the shows I danced in don’t exist on film, but they do exist in the memories of those who were in the theater for that single moment in time. And nothing can replace that.”

She lived her life in single moments. The record of what she accomplished is imbedded in hearts, minds, memories and the forever told stories of Broadway. She will always be known by reputation and by legacy. As she makes her way up the red carpet, we can only hope she is greeted by her throng of angels, all those who passed before her. They know the exact name that we, who she has left, should have for her.

Legend.

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Queer nominees leave empty handed from disastrous Golden Globes

On the road toward a very ‘straight and narrow’ Oscar night?

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Matt Bomer was one of a few queer nominees but lost the Golden Globe. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

By now, even if you didn’t watch them, you probably already know that Sunday night’s presentation of the 81st Annual Golden Globe Awards was pretty much a debacle.

From its tense first few minutes, when host Jo Koy (seriously, how many people had to say “no” to the job before they got to Jo Koy?) took his opening monologue rapidly past “irreverent” to “disrespectful” as his audience squirmed uncomfortably, it was clear that the evening’s attempt at a free-wheeling but good-natured roast of Hollywood disguised as an awards show was not going to go as planned. Koy’s efforts at snark were met with palpable hostility from the celebrity crowd, most of whom looked like they would rather be anywhere else but in the audience at the Beverly Hilton, and things just got worse from there.

We could go on about the lackluster, often tone-deaf writing, or the poorly conceived “stunt pairings” of stars as presenters, or the general sloppiness that made the show feel precarious from beginning to end, but fortunately, there’s no need for us to relive all that here. The reason you’re reading this (since this is the Blade, after all) is to find out about the “queer take” on the Golden Globes; unfortunately, the only one we can offer is that there really was no queer take on the Golden Globes.

Going into the ceremony, which, as always with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s annual awards show, bestowed the organization’s honors for both film and television, there were only a handful of out queer acting nominees. Two of these competed in a single category (Best Male Actor in a Motion Picture Drama): Colman Domingo, nominated for his star turn in the title role of “Rustin,” and Andrew Scott, who was up for his widely acclaimed performance in Andrew Haigh’s ethereal gay ghost story, “All of Us Strangers.” Both lost the award to Cillian Murphy, the star of Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer.”

The other out nominee in the film acting categories, previous four-time Golden Globe winner Jodie Foster, was competing as Best Supporting Female Actor in Any Motion Picture for her performance in the Netflix biopic “Nyad,” but she lost to Da’Vine Joy Randolph of Alexander Payne’s “The Holdovers.”

On the TV side, out gay performer Matt Bomer, nominated as Best Actor in a Limited or Anthology Series or TV Movie for Showtime’s queer historical romance “Fellow Travelers,” lost to Steven Yuen in the Netflix smash, “Beef.” Natasha Lyonne – who identifies as straight but has always been open about her bisexual attractions – was up for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy Series as the star of “Poker Face.” That award went instead to Ayo Edebiri of “The Bear.”

It’s true that Billie Eilish – who was nominated alongside brother Finneas O’Connell for co-writing Best Original Song nominee “What Was I Made For?” from “Barbie,” an award that they went on to win – has identified publicly as being attracted to both males and females, something she recently reasserted in a Variety interview (before following up with an Instagram post commenting that “literally who cares” about her sexuality), so at least there was one winner from the queer community during the evening.

As for the movies and shows themselves, several of the nominated titles included queer characters and themes, with Best Picture nominees “Maestro” (about bisexual composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein) and “May December” (from pioneering “New Queer Cinema” filmmaker Todd Haynes) as the most obvious examples. Both films received multiple nods; neither walked away with a single win. In the TV division, several queer-oriented shows, from “Fellow Travelers” to “The Last of Us” to “Ted Lasso,” lost in their respective categories, and “Wanda Sykes: I’m An Entertainer,” the out lesbian comedian’s Netflix special nominated for the newly added Best Standup Performance category, lost to former Golden Globes host Ricky Gervais’ “Ricky Gervais: Apocalypse.”

There were few queer moments of note, in fact, during the event, though the presence of trans “Euphoria” star Hunter Schaefer onstage as a presenter was a welcome nod to inclusion. A more positive spin can be found by acknowledging the show of diversity – an issue around which the Golden Globes has long been deservedly criticized – among the winners. Several acting wins went to Black performers (Randolph, Edebiri) and performers of Asian descent (Yuen and “Beef” co-star Ali Wong), while Lily Gladstone became the first indigenous American performer to win a Golden Globe as Best Leading Female Actor (Motion Picture Drama) for “Killers of the Flower Moon.” (Note: Gladstone has identified as “middle-gendered” in subsequent interviews and uses she/they pronouns.) We can only be thrilled for these well-deserved wins.

Still, if the Golden Globes are – as they’ve long been considered – the official “kick-off” of Awards Season and an important (if not always accurate) indicator of the likeliest big contenders at the subsequent (and more prestigious) ceremonies to follow over the next few weeks, it looks like we might be on the road toward very “straight and narrow” Oscar night.

The complete list of nominees and winners can be found at the Golden Globes website.

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John Waters gets Hollywood Walk of Fame star

Baltimore native proclaimed ‘here I am … closer to the gutter than ever’

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John Waters receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (Screenshot/YouTube Variety)

Today, the famed Hollywood Walk of Fame became a little more rainbow than it had been before. With gilded star etchings depicting icons on every corner, the powers that be dedicated September 18 to a man who arguably helped thrust LGBTQ visibility into a culture that was probably not ready at the time to receive it. The modern-day fascists amongst us might even call him a “groomer.”

We call him John Waters.

Waters first arrived in Hollywood in 1970. He parked at Hollywood and Vine and received his first bit of Los Angeles recognition.

He got a jaywalking ticket.

Outspoken and brash, Waters introduced outsider culture and heralded gay and transgender visibility into American cinema when the Stonewall uprising was still a very recent memory. His 1972 film “Pink Flamingos” was brazenly trans affirming. It powerfully and glamorously flew in the faces of audiences while trans people only faced marginalization and were stigmatized in the Nixon Vietnam and Watergate era.

His film Hairspray was first a cult favorite and in later iterations, a hit Broadway musical, and a second mainstream hit movie. It featured LGBTQ characters and a leading character in drag. Waters has also written several LGBTQ themed books including “Shock Value” and “Role Models.”

Part of the charm of John Waters is his knack for not taking himself, or any of us, too seriously. His first words as he ascended the podium for the Walk of Fame honor: “Here I am…closer to the gutter than ever!”

“I hope the most desperate showbiz rejects walk over me here and feel some sort of respect and strength,” he said later paying tribute to his greatest inspirations: The underdogs.

Waters dedicated his star to his parents. Pat and John Waters, who had been horrified by his earliest films, but encouraged him to pursue Hollywood nonetheless. “What else could I do?” he mused.

All in all, Waters was “astonished” over the tribute.  He thanked Outfest for sponsoring the event and for thinking he was “gay enough to receive it.”

Ever the director, and thinking ahead, he took a moment to make a recommendation for whom he thinks should be Hollywood Boulevard’s next star recipient:

Divine.

Film critic and historian Leonard Maltin summed up John Waters this way: “John Waters is a national treasure, a unique and original voice in American cinema. His films are subversive, hilarious, and thought-provoking, and they have helped to change the way we think about outsider culture and LGBTQ+ representation.”

Now Waters has his day, and his star, immortalized forever on the famous Hollywood path. We can only hope his effect on American culture, where the “outsider” can stand tall, proves to be as solid.

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