Monday, March 19, 2018

Family Equality Council Honor 'Nate & Jeremiah' At Gala

Jeremiah Brent and Nate Berkus -- Photo by Vivien Killilea/gettyimages

The stars of TLC’s Nate & Jeremiah, were honored by the Family Equality Council at the group’s annual gala over the weekend. 

The Hollywood Reporter reports:

[Nate] Berkus and Jeremiah [Brent] delivered an emotional acceptance speech about how their show isn’t just about design. “What does it feel like for a young gay, transgender or bisexual child to watch a family that looks like them, living openly on television?” Brent asked. “It is not lost on us. It is not lost on us how lucky we are to be a gay family at this moment at this time…We know that we now have a responsibility to love visibility.”

Berkus said, “We meet different families from all different walks of life and through the exercise of home makeovers we try to break down the barriers and normalize the way our family looks and the way our family loves and copes and exists to the people in the middle of the country that may not know a family with two dads at the heart and at the helm.”

The two also told The Hollywood Reporter that they regularly hear from LGBT young people thanking them for their show. “The nicest things that a kid said to us once was, ‘It’s so nice to watch a show where two men could kiss that’s not about two men kissing,’” Brent said. “The normal of our story was the intention behind our show." Hosted by funny man Alec Mapa, the evening raised close to $378, 200 for the Family Equality Council. Olivia Holt presented the Impact Award to Johnson & Johnson for the health and beauty company’s LGBT Care with Pride initiative.

See full story here.

'Last Week Tonight' Takes On VP Pence's Opposition to LGBT Rights

Last Week Tonight created a children's book about Pence's pet rabbit, Marlon Bundo, a gay version of a book written by the Pence family. This version raises money for the Trevor Project and AIDS United.

Time Magazine reports:

John Oliver turned his attention on Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday night’s Last Week Tonight. Or more specifically, he turned his attention to Mike Pence’s pet rabbit. Pence, according to Oliver, is “vice-president of the United States and the exact opposite of whatever a silver fox is.”

Pence is the one person in the Trump administration that cannot be fired, and for Oliver that is problematic, because Pence holds many extreme positions. For instance, in the past Pence has said that neither women nor gay people should be able to serve in the military and and has stated opposition to LGBT rights, including marriage equality and, per Oliver, possibly supporting so-called gay conversion therapy.

Over all, according to Oliver, Pence is much more unlikable than his pet rabbit, “Marlon Bundo,” which it kills Oliver to note is an objectively good name for a bunny. Marlon Bundo has been at official press conferences, has an Instagram account documenting his life with the vice president, and now stars in a new children’s book written by the Pence family — and one by Oliver. “In a complete coincidence, we have also published a book about Mike Pence’s rabbit,” announced Oliver.

See full story here. Click here to buy A Day In the Live of Marlon Bundo.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

'The Riddler' Actor Cory Michael Smith Comes Out

In a recent article about the new movie, 1985, that just premiered at SXSW, actor Cory Michael Smith came out as queer. In the film, he plays a closeted man with AIDS, Adrian, who returns home to Texas at Christmas.

The Daily Beast reports:

When we meet Adrian, his partner has recently died of AIDS. He himself is sick. We watch his pilgrimage, leaving his community in New York City for his family home in Texas, and perhaps expect to see a coming out story. But in many ways, [
Writer-director Yen ] Tan says, 1985 is a film about not coming out. There’s an added layer to the tragedy: the desire to be truly known by the people you love, especially before your death. And the emotional burden you carry when they don’t.

That notion in particular struck Cory Michael Smith, who plays Adrian in the film. The 31-year-old actor, who has starred in Carol and HBO’s Olive Kitteridge miniseries, is best known for playing Edward Nygma, aka The Riddler, on Fox’s Gotham. “There’s something special about telling a story that feels closer to home,” Smith, who identifies as queer, tells The Daily Beast. “I’m not exactly like The Riddler in real life.

“I’m from Middle America,” he says. “I’m from Ohio. I’ve been living here [in New York] for a while, and there are stretches when I don’t see my family often. Going home and that whole charade is very familiar. The first family dinner after a while. Coming out to a family, the fear of that.”

He says his family handled his coming out with “a lot of love,” though it took “a lot of time.” It wasn’t hard for him to imagine the pain Adrian feels as he goes through his last holidays with his parents (played by Virginia Madsen and Michael Chiklis). The fear of coming out is compounded by a disease that no one knows much about, that is killing his community, that killed his boyfriend, that he knows will probably kill him, too. This will probably be his last Christmas, and he knows it.

See full article here.

Born Today In 1886, Comic Actor Edward Everett Horton

Edward Everett Horton was born today, March 18, in 1886.  He was usually a comic actor who had a long career in film, theater, radio, television, and voice work for animated cartoons.

Horton was born in Brooklyn, New York (then an independent city). He attended Boys' High School, Brooklyn, and Baltimore City College, where he was later inducted into their Hall of Fame.

He began his college career at Oberlin College in Ohio. However, he was asked to leave after he climbed to the top of a building, and after a crowd gathered, threw off a dummy, making them think he had jumped. 

Horton began his stage career in 1906, singing and dancing and playing small parts in vaudeville and in Broadway productions. In 1919, he moved to Los Angeles, California, where he began acting in Hollywood films. His first starring role was in the silent comedy Too Much Business (1922).

Horton soon cultivated his own special variation of the time-honored double take (an actor's reaction to something, followed by a delayed, more extreme reaction). In Horton's version, he would smile ingratiatingly and nod in agreement with what just happened; then, when realization set in, his facial features collapsed entirely into a sober, troubled mask.

Horton transferred to talkies and starred in many comedy features in the 1930s, usually playing a mousy fellow who put up with domestic or professional problems to a certain point, and then finally asserted himself for a happy ending. He is best known, however, for his work as a character actor in supporting roles. These include The Front Page (1931), Trouble in Paradise (1932), Alice in Wonderland (1933), The Gay Divorcee (1934, the first of several Astaire/Rogers films in which Horton appeared), Top Hat (1935), Danger - Love at Work (1937), Lost Horizon (1937), Shall We Dance (1937) Holiday (1938), Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941), Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), Pocketful of Miracles (1961), It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), and Sex and the Single Girl (1964). His last role was in the comedy film Cold Turkey (1971), in which his character communicated only through facial expressions.

Horton continued to appear in stage productions, often in summer stock. His performance in the play Springtime for Henry became a perennial in summer theaters.
From 1945-47, Horton hosted radio's Kraft Music Hall. An early television appearance came in the play Sham, shown on The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre on December 13, 1948. During the 1950s, Horton worked in television. One of his best-remembered appearances is in an episode of I Love Lucy, in which he is cast against type as a frisky, amorous suitor, broadcast in 1952. In 1960, he guest-starred on the sitcom The Real McCoys as J. Luther Medwick, grandfather of the boyfriend of series character Hassie McCoy (Lydia Reed). In the story line, Medwick clashes with the equally outspoken Grandpa Amos McCoy (played by Walter Brennan).

He remains, however, best known to the Baby Boomer generation as the venerable narrator of Fractured Fairy Tales in The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show (1959–61), an American animated television series that originally aired from November 19, 1959, to June 27, 1964.

In 1962, he portrayed the character Uncle Ned in three episodes of the series Dennis the Menace. In 1965, he played the medicine man, Roaring Chicken, in the ABC sitcom F Troop. He echoed this role, portraying Chief Screaming Chicken, on Batman as a pawn to Vincent Price's Egghead in the villain's attempt to take control of Gotham City.

Gavin Gordon

Horton's companion for many years was actor Gavin Gordon, who was 15 years his junior. They both appeared (but shared no scenes) in only one film, Pocketful of Miracles (1961). They also appeared together in at least one play, a 1931 production of Noël Coward's Private Lives.Horton died of cancer at age 84 in Encino, California.

Horton died on September 29, 1970, of cancer at age 84 in Encino, California.

In 1925, Horton purchased several acres in the district of Encino and lived on the property at 5521 Amestoy Avenue until his death. He named the estate, which contained Horton's own house and houses for his brother, his sister and their respective families, Belleigh Acres. In the 1950s, the state of California forced Horton to sell a portion of his property for construction of the Ventura Freeway. The freeway construction left a short stump of Amestoy Avenue south of Burbank Boulevard and shortly after his death, the city of Los Angeles renamed that portion Edward Everett Horton Lane.

Edward Everett Horton Lane ends at Burbank Boulevard, and begins in the shadow of the Ventura Freeway. On the other side of the boulevard is a bus stop also named for Edward Everett Horton, between bus stops at Aldea and Balboa. The borderline of Anthony C. Beilenson Park is directly across the street from the corner of Burbank Boulevard and EE Horton Lane. The opposite end of the lane leads to a foot bridge that overlooks the Ventura Freeway and ends up on the Amestoy Avenue side.

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Horton has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6427 Hollywood Boulevard.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Born Today In 1912, Civil Rights Activist Bayard Rustin

Bayard Rustin was born today, March 17, in 1912.  He was an American leader in social movements for civil rights, socialism, nonviolence, and gay rights.

In the pacifist groups Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) and the War Resisters League (WRL), Rustin practiced nonviolence. A member of the Communist Party before 1941, he collaborated with A. Philip Randolph on the March on Washington Movement in 1941 to press for an end to discrimination in employment. He was a leading activist of the early Civil Rights Movement, helping to initiate a 1947 Freedom Ride to challenge, with civil disobedience, the racial segregation issue related to interstate busing. 

He recognized Martin Luther King, Jr.'s leadership, and helped to organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to strengthen King's leadership. Rustin promoted the philosophy of nonviolence and the practices of nonviolent resistance, which he had observed while working with Mahatma Gandhi's movement in India, and helped teach Martin Luther King, Jr. about nonviolence.

Rustin became a leading strategist of the Civil Rights Movement from 1955 to 1968. He was the chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which was headed by A. Philip Randolph, the leading African-American labor-union president and socialist. Rustin also influenced young activists, such as Tom Kahn and Stokely Carmichael, in organizations such as the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

After the passage of the civil rights legislation of 1964–65, Rustin focused attention on the economic problems of working-class and unemployed African Americans, suggesting that the civil-rights movement had left its period of "protest" and had entered an era of "politics," in which the black community had to ally with the labor movement. 

Rustin became the head of the AFL–CIO's A. Philip Randolph Institute, which promoted the integration of formerly all-white unions and promoted the unionization of African Americans. The Institute under Rustin's leadership also advanced and campaigned for (from 1966 to 1968) A Freedom Budget for All Americans, linking the concepts of racial justice with economic justice. Supported by over 200 prominent civil-rights activists, trade unionists, religious leaders, academics and others, it outlined a plan to eliminate poverty and unemployment in the United States within a 10-year period. 

Rustin became an honorary chairperson of the Socialist Party of America in 1972, before it changed its name to Social Democrats, USA (SDUSA); Rustin acted as national chairman of SDUSA during the 1970s. During the 1970s and 1980s, Rustin served on many humanitarian missions, such as aiding refugees from Communist Vietnam and Cambodia. At the time of his death in 1987, he was on a humanitarian mission in Haiti.

Rustin was a gay man who had been arrested throughout his early career for engaging in public sex with white male prostitutes. Rustin's sexuality, or at least his public criminal charge, was criticized by some fellow pacifists and civil-rights leaders because it detracted from his effectiveness. Rustin was attacked as a "pervert" or "immoral influence" by political opponents from segregationists to conservative black leaders from the 1950s through the 1970s. In addition, his pre-1941 Communist Party affiliation when he was a young man was controversial, having caused scrutiny by the FBI. To avoid such attacks, Rustin served rarely as a public spokesperson. He usually acted as an influential adviser behind the scenes to civil-rights leaders. 

In the 1980s, he became a public advocate on behalf of gay and lesbian causes.

He testified on behalf of New York State's Gay Rights Bill. In 1986, he gave a speech "The New Niggers Are Gays," in which he asserted,

"Today, blacks are no longer the litmus paper or the barometer of social change. Blacks are in every segment of society and there are laws that help to protect them from racial discrimination. The new "niggers" are gays.... It is in this sense that gay people are the new barometer for social change.... The question of social change should be framed with the most vulnerable group in mind: gay people."
While there is a recurring tendency to describe Rustin as a pioneering "out gay man" the truth is more complex. In 1986, Rustin was invited to contribute to the book In the Life: A Black Gay Anthology. He declined, explaining
"I was not involved in the struggle for gay rights as a youth. ...I did not "come out of the closet" voluntarily—circumstances forced me out. While I have no problem with being publicly identified as homosexual, it would be dishonest of me to present myself as one who was in the forefront of the struggle for gay rights. ...I fundamentally consider sexual orientation to be a private matter. As such, it has not been a factor which has greatly influenced my role as an activist."
Walter Naegle and Bayard Rustin

Rustin did not engage in any gay rights activism until the 1980s. He was urged to do so by his partner Walter Naegle, who has said that "I think that if I hadn't been in the office at that time, when these invitations [from gay organizations] came in, he probably wouldn't have done them."

Due to the lack of marriage equality at the time Rustin and partner Walter Naegle took an unconventional step to solidify their partnership and protect their unification. In 1982 Rustin adopted Naegle, 30 years old at the time, in order to legalize their union. Naegle explains,

"We actually had to go through a process as if Bayard was adopting a small child. My biological mother had to sign a legal paper, a paper disowning me. They had to send a social worker to our home. When the social worker arrived, she had to sit us down to talk to us to make sure that this was a fit home."
Davis Platt, Bayard's partner from the 1940s, said "I never had any sense at all that Bayard felt any shame or guilt about his homosexuality. That was rare in those days. Rare."

President Ronald Reagan issued a statement on Rustin's death in 1987, praising his work for civil rights and his shift toward neoconservative politics over the years. 

On November 20, 2013, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Bayard Rustin’s partner Walter Naegle accepting the medal from President Obama. (Photo by Patsy Lynch)

Born Today In 1938, 'Lord of the Dance' Rudolf Nureyev

Photograph: BBC/IWC Media/Alexey Kostromin
Rudolf Nureyev was born today, March 17, in 1938. He was a Soviet ballet dancer and choreographer. He was director of the Paris Opera Ballet from 1983 to 1989 and its chief choreographer until October 1992.

Named Lord of the Dance, Nureyev is regarded as one of ballet's most gifted dancers ever.

In addition to his technical prowess, Rudolf Nureyev was an accomplished choreographer. He produced his own interpretations of numerous classical works, including Swan Lake, Giselle, and La Bayadère.

Nureyev had his early career with the Mariinsky Ballet in St. Petersburg. He defected from the Soviet Union to the West in 1961, despite KGB efforts to stop him. This was the first defection of a Soviet artist during the Cold War and it created an international sensation.

He went on to dance with The Royal Ballet in London and from 1983 to 1989 served as director of the Paris Opera Ballet.

Nureyev was born on a Trans-Siberian train near Irkutsk, Siberia, Soviet Union, while his mother, Feride, was travelling to Vladivostok, where his father Hamit, a Red Army political commissar, was stationed.

When his mother took Nureyev and his three older sisters into a performance of the ballet Song of the Cranes, he fell in love with dance. As a child he was encouraged to dance in Bashkir folk performances and his precocity was soon noticed by teachers who encouraged him to train in Saint Petersburg. On a tour stop in Moscow with a local ballet company, Nureyev auditioned for the Bolshoi ballet company and was accepted.

However, he felt that the Mariinsky Ballet school was the best, so he left the local touring company and bought a ticket to St. Petersburg. I
n 1958, Nureyev joined the Kirov Ballet (now Mariinsky). He moved immediately beyond the corps level, and was given solo roles as a principal dancer from the outset.
Rudolf Nureyev in 1961.

Before long Rudolf Nureyev became one of the Soviet Union's best-known dancers. From 1958 to 1961, in his 3 years with the Mariinsky, he danced 15 roles.

When the Mariinsky Ballet went on a tour to Paris and London, Nureyev was seen to have broken the rules about mingling with foreigners. He allegedly frequented gay bars in Paris, which alarmed the Mariinsky's management and the KGB agents observing him. The KGB wanted to send him back to the Soviet Union. On June 16, 1961, the Mariinsky group had gathered at Le Bourget Airport in Paris to fly to London. Sergeyev then took Nureyev aside and told him that he would have to return to Moscow, for a special performance in the Kremlin. Nureyev became suspicious and refused. Next he was told that his mother had fallen severely ill and he needed to come home immediately to see her. Nureyev refused again, believing that on return to the USSR he was likely to be imprisoned. With the help of French police and a Parisian socialite friend, Nureyev got away from his KGB minders and asked for asylum. Sergeyev and the KGB tried to discuss it with him but he chose to stay in Paris.

Within a week, he was signed up by the Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas and was performing The Sleeping Beauty. Soviet authorities made Nureyev's father, mother, and dance teacher Pushkin write letters to him, urging him to return, without effect.

Although he petitioned the Soviet government for many years to be allowed to visit his mother, he was not allowed to do so until 1987, when his mother was dying and Mikhail Gorbachev consented to the visit. In 1989, he was invited to dance the role of James in La Sylphide with the Mariinsky Ballet in St. Petersburg. The visit gave him the opportunity to see many of the teachers and colleagues he had not seen since his defection.

In 1982, Nureyev became a naturalized citizen of Austria. In 1983, he was appointed director of the Paris Opera Ballet, where, as well as directing, he continued to dance and to promote younger dancers. He remained there as a dancer and chief choreographer until 1989.

Despite advancing illness toward the end of his tenure, he worked tirelessly, staging new versions of old standbys and commissioning some of the most ground-breaking choreographic works of his time.

Rudolf Nureyev did not have much patience with rules, limitations and hierarchical order and had at times a volatile temper. He was apt to throw tantrums in public when frustrated. His impatience mainly showed itself when the failings of others interfered with his work.

Nureyev dances with 9-year-old Ricky Schroder at Studio 54 in New York in 1979. (AP Photo/Quinto)

He socialized with Gore Vidal, Freddie Mercury, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Mick Jagger, Liza Minnelli, and Andy Warhol. He occasionally visited the legendary New York discotheque Studio 54 in the late 1970s, but developed an intolerance for celebrities. He kept up old friendships in and out of the ballet world for decades, and was considered to be a loyal and generous friend.

Most ballerinas with whom Rudolf Nureyev danced, including Antoinette Sibley, Gelsey Kirkland and Annette Page paid tribute to him as a considerate partner. He was known as extremely generous to many ballerinas, who credit him with helping them during difficult times.
Nureyev painting by Jamie Wyeth
Depending on the source, Nureyev is described as either bisexual, as he did have heterosexual relationships as a younger man, or gay. He was known to frequent gay bathhouses. Nureyev met Erik Bruhn, the celebrated Danish dancer, after Nureyev defected to the West in 1961. Nureyev was a great admirer of Bruhn, having seen filmed performances of the Dane on tour in the Soviet Union with the American Ballet Theatre, although stylistically the two dancers were very different. Bruhn and Nureyev became a couple and the two remained together off and on, with a very volatile relationship for 25 years, until Bruhn's death in 1986.

In 1973 Nureyev met the 23-year-old American dancer Robert Tracy and a two-and-a-half-year love affair began. Tracy later became Nureyev's secretary and live-in companion. According to Tracy, Nureyev said that he had had sex with three women in his life, he had always wanted a son, and once had plans to father one with Nastassja Kinski.

When AIDS appeared in France's news around 1982, Nureyev took little notice. The dancer tested positive for HIV in 1984, but for several years he simply denied that anything was wrong with his health. However, by the late 1980s his diminished capabilities disappointed his admirers who had fond memories of his outstanding prowess and skill. Nureyev began a marked decline only in the summer of 1991 and entered the final phase of the disease in the spring of 1992.

Nureyev entered the hospital Notre Dame du Perpétuel Secours in Levallois-Perret in November 1992 and remained there until his death from cardiac complications at age 54 on January 6, 1993.