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November 2014

The Gay Storyline of the Movie "Philomena" (November 22, 2013)

PhilomenaI've written previous posts about two movies with gay storylines I was unaware of - Valentine's Day (2010) and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012).  Now I can add a third to this list - Philomena, the Oscar nominated movie about a woman's search for the son she gave up for adoption 50 years earlier.  And although I didn't get around to seeing the movie until ten months after its release (on Nov. 22, 2013), and despite the fact that friends and family saw the film months ago, and I had read reviews in Entertainment Weekly and the New Yorker, I was taken completely by surprise by the gay storyline, i.e. Philomena Lee's son was gay and died of AIDS.




Philomena.gravestone Michael.hessI enjoyed the movie, shed a good amount of tears.  However, although it was based on a true story I was skeptical about Philomena (played by Judi Dench) not being shocked when told that her son Michael was gay.  She confided that she wasn't surprised and took the news in stride because he was a sensitive little boy.  Still, since Philomena was a product of the mores of the 1940s and 1950s, her enlightened attitude didn't ring true for me.


Philomena.oldnun DickcheneyNear the end of the movie there was a confrontation between the journalist helping Philomena find her son (played by Steve Coogan) and the elderly nun who knew the truth about his adoption.  The nun, in her appearance and self-righteous anger, bore a disturbing resemblance to Dick Cheney.



The "Closet Case" - Still Not an Endangered Species

Kevin.spacey Queen.latifahWhen I set out to write this post my idea was to discuss how celebrities who are in the closet are becoming an endangered species, but as I did research it became apparent that there are still plenty of celebrities to keep Kevin Spacey and Queen Latifah company.  Yes, in this day and age it seems curious, but it's a reality.  However, statements these individuals make such as, "I love women" (or talk about their crush on Tom Cruise as Rosie O'Donnell used to do) or, "My private life is no one's business" aren't fooling nearly as many people as they did a generation ago.


Aaron.rodgers For better or worse, social media has become a 24/7 rumor mill, with nearly everyone's sexual orientation open to speculation.  For some closeted names the tongue wagging has been going on for so long that the public already thinks they are out (e.g., Barry Manilow, and Anderson Cooper in the not too distant past).  As last year drew to a close, it appeared that a big coming out was going to be Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers after his personal assistant stated that they were boyfriends.  But then the story disappeared, suggesting that a boatload of cash shut him up. 


The late Liberace holds a special place in the closet hall of fame because, instead of coming clean with the public as Rock Hudson did before dying of AIDS, he died in his ermine lined closet.  However, before his body was even cold he was being outed.  (In his 1986 autobiography, published shortly before his death, Liberace reminisced that figure skater Sonja Henie was his one true love).





Then there are those who never were really closeted, or if they were, it was for a relatively brief time.  This group includes Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters; MSNBC's Rachel Maddow; Emmy Award winning actor Jim Parsons (Big Bang Theory); figure skater Johnny Weir; Broadway actor, playwright and director Harvey Fierstein, Modern Family's Jesse Tyler Ferguson; blogger/journalist Andrew Sullivan and playwright/activist Larry Kramer.


Jake Shears


Rachel Maddow


Andrew Sullivan



And there are a few I wonder about, but am not really certain, including the late Cary Grant; Hugh Jackman; Republican congressman Aaron Schock; NBC News foreign correspondent Richard Engel; Eric Stonestreet (in real life, just as much of a flame as he is on Modern Family); former Dallas Cowboys quarter Troy Aikman; singer Bruno Mars; and twenty-something actor Zac Efron.


Aaron Schock


Bruno Mars


Zac Efron


Finally, there are those who went through the gauntlet of speculative fire yet may be straight after all:  Ron Reagan, Jr.; former baseball player Mike Piazza; Olympic track star Carl Lewis; former US senator from Florida, Charlie Christ; actor Richard Gere and songwriter Richard Carpenter.


Tom Cruise Actor
Barry Diller Entertainment Exec
Matt Drudge Political Blogger
Lindsay Graham Politician
Jake Gyllenhaal Actor
Tom Hardy Actor
Queen Latifah Singer, Actress
Taylor Lautner Actor
Barry Manilow Singer
Tyler Perry Director, actor
Aaron Rodgers Football player
Ryan Seacrest TV Show Host
Richard Simmons Fitness Instructor
Will Smith Actor
Kevin Spacey Actor
Harry Styles Pop Singer
John Travolta Actor
Oprah Winfrey TV Host




Pondering the Treatment Link Between ADHD & Homosexuality

Ritalin AdderallIn an opinion piece that ran in the "Sunday Review" section of the New York Times on Nov. 3, Richard A. Friedman, professor of clinical psychiatry/director of pharmacology at Weill Cornell Medical College wrote that he was in favor of not treating ADHD with prescription medications like Ritalin or Adderall.  He argued that many of the children diagnosed with hyperactive disorder are naturally hard-wired for excitement or novelty seeking and aren't getting sufficient stimulation at school or home.  He posited that these kids aren't defective; rather, they just happen to possess behavioral traits that don't match the expectations of contemporary culture.  Long ago their hyperactivity would have given them a distinct advantage in societies that prized hunting and constant physical activity. 


ElectroshocktherapyThe Times article continued that nearly 11% of kids between the ages of 4 and 17 are now diagnosed with hyperactivity disorder at some point in their lives.  This got me thinking about how medical solutions were also once sought to treat homosexuality.  Fortunately there were medical professionals similar to professor Friedman who came to our defense, claiming that just because homosexuals didn't conform to the norms of society didn't mean they were defective.  In other words, even if it wasn't very prevalent, homosexuality is a naturally occurring phenomenon.  And their outlier status was the reason some societies held homosexual individuals in high regard, anointing them as healers or shamans.


Ritalin2Although stories abound about homosexuals undergoing lobotomies, electroshock, even castration, these widespread medical solutions weren't instituted.  With hyperactive children, however, it's a different story since they're too young to push back if their parents decide to go the pharmaceutical route.  Parents who don't want their children running around uncontrolled brings to mind those individuals, even today, who frown on sashaying, flamboyant homosexuals.






The Low Profile of Gay Games 9 in Cleveland

Gay.games.cleveland.2014A number of years ago I wrote a post about the first Gay Games in San Francisco and in it I made reference to the 2014 Gay Games planned for Cleveland.  However, earlier this week,  I Googled the event to make sure it actually took place because I didn't come across any coverage during the summer.  According to Wikipedia it did take place.  Granted, July and August's headlines were dominated by stories such as ISIS, the downing of the Malaysian jet over Ukraine, the Israeli-Gaza conflict and the overturning of same-sex marriage bans across the US.  However, I was still surprised by the dearth of coverage since the news media always seem to have bandwidth to cover stories with a LGBT angle - but not this one.


Opening ceremonies on August 9


Of course, the 10,000 who participated, along with their friends and families  were well aware of the event but their enthusiasm didn't go much beyond northeastern Ohio. (And President Obama addressed the crowd by video at the opening ceremonies.)  It's a pity that a cable network such as LOGO didn't carry some of the Games' events. However, LOGO probably figured it already airs a Gay Games competition of sorts, RuPaul's Drag Race.


Perhaps because more and more gay athletes are making their presence known in established sports (e.g., Michael Sam, Jason Collins, Matt Mitcham, Tom Daley, Danell Lleyva, Martina Navratilova, Billy Jean King, Johnny Weir, Darren Young, Sheryl Swopes, Robbie Rogers, to name a few), a conclave of largely unknown gay athletes isn't newsworthy.  Anyway, the Gay Games are more of a jamboree than a bona fide athletic competition since anyone can choose to participate.  Also, there's been confusion ever since a competing World Gay Games began in 2006.


So, in closing, if a Gay Games is held in Cleveland and no one is around to hear about it, does it make a sound?  (Truth be told I don't remember much coverage for past Gay Games either.)  Perhaps the 2018 Gay Games in Paris will have a bit more cachet and attract more attention. 

Terrence McNally's Play "Lips Together, Teeth Apart" Opens (May 28, 1991)




Straight couples in the Pines?  Nowadays they're no longer a novelty (nor are gay couples with kids), but 25 years ago they were.  The play Lips Together, Teeth Apart, written by esteemed playwright Terrence McNally, looks at two such couples spending the 4th of July holiday in the Pines in 1990.  They're staying at the house formerly owned by David, the gay brother of one of the women.  He recently died of AIDS, and she inherited the house.  Not only is neither couple familiar with the Pines, but with gay life in general, and with AIDS.  Lips Together opened off Broadway on May 28, 1991 during some of the worst years of the AIDS crisis in terms of deaths (and a few years before protease inhibitors transformed AIDS from being a death sentence to more of a chronic, manageable scourge).




The cast of four was comprised of Christine Baranski, Swoozie Kurtz (the sister who inherited the house), Nathan Lane and Anthony Heald.




Lips Together was staged two years after McNally's production of The Lisbon Traviata and three years before Love! Valour! Compassion!  All three had Nathan Lane in their cast.  (He portrayed gay characters in Lisbon Traviata and Love! Valour! Compassion!, but played a straight blue collar type in Lips Together.)  I saw both of those plays, but not the original production of Lips Together.  I did see a revival of it, however, in the fall of 2014.




The action takes place out on the deck of the house and it's a perfect reproduction of a Pines beach house, i.e., the architecture, sliding doors, pool, outdoor shower, house flag, kite and even a bug zapper.  And although there is unenlightened conversation about AIDS and gay men, much of the play delves into the the four personalities and the struggles they are going through with their own lives.  And although it had constant moments of levity, overall it was a downer as it addressed subjects such as AIDS, prejudice, infidelity, cancer and death by drowning.


This show is especially interesting if you've spent time out in the Pines.  However, one aspect of the production that was unrealistic for me was that neither of the neighboring houses on either side ever played disco music, just classical or jazz.  Speaking of music, there's a funny scene in which the characters bicker over the title of the show tune, There's No Business Like Show Business.  Of course, because the play takes place in 1990 they weren't able to use Google to end their argument! 


Finally, a flag waving scene brought to mind Little Edie in Grey Gardens, while at the end of the play the cast watches a shooting star, which brought to mind the star gazing scene on the rooftop at the end of Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along.


Cast from 2014 revival at 2nd Stage Theater in NYC