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June 2015

The Wide Chasm in Worldwide Acceptance of Homosexuality

Gay.execution Twogrooms.oncakeWith the addition of the United States, one out of eight persons worldwide now live in countries where same-sex marriage is legal (accounting for more than 900 million of the world's 7.1 billion population).  The countries where it is legal are largely in Europe, North America and South America (two outliers are South Africa and New Zealand).  This has all happened in just the past 15 years.  However, resistance to homosexuals is still frighteningly widespread as 2.8 billion people live in countries where homosexuality is outlawed.  These virulently homophobic nations are found throughout Africa, the Middle East and Asia and comprise nearly 40% of the world's population. 


Supremecourtdecision.samesexmarriageSo while there may be comfort in the fact that nations with anti-gay laws are thousands of miles away, and that same-sex marriage is sweeping the Western world, the fact is there are still plenty of Americans who would like laws here that outlaw the practice of homosexuality (as they salivate at the prospect of living under a theocracy).  So, despite celebrations over the Supreme Court's pro-gay decision, vigilance is still advised.




Nations Where Homosexuality is Illegal (courtesy of 76crimes.com)

TV's Most Annoying & Most Entertaining Gay Characters

Andre.braugher.brooklyn99 TV series with gay characters are now commonplace and include popular shows such as  Modern Family, Empire and Downton Abbey.  But before 2000, shows such as Roseanne and Will & Grace also exposed viewers to gay characters (and drew considerably larger audiences than today's hit shows).  Of course, not every gay character is memorable, so for this post I've focused on those who are (of the shows I've watched), grouping them by most annoying and most amusing.  Twenty-five shows are represented, with four of them - Modern Family, Looking, Queer as Folk and Will & Grace - having characters on both lists.



Stefon (Sat. Night Live/NBC) - I tired of him after three appearances, but he appeared for five seasons (2008-2013).




Brian Kinney (Queer as Folk/Showtime/2000-2005) - I rolled my eyes at how he was portrayed as the hottest piece of meat in Pittsburgh since Polish kielbasa.




Will Truman (Will & Grace /NBC/1998-2006)- Too whiny.




Cameron Tucker (Modern Family /ABC/2009-present) - Although he does give me an occasional chuckle, a little of him goes a long way.




Patrick Murray (Looking/HBO/2014-2015) - I found this main character from the HBO drama (cancelled after two seasons) too self-centered.




Kurt Hummel (Glee /Fox/2009-2015) - A sweet kid who stood up for himself, but he got on my nerves because he was too "light in the loafers" for my taste.




TJ Hammond (Political Animals /USA Network/2012) - A drugged-out mess (unlike his hunky, straight-laced and hetero twin brother Douglas, played by the scrumptious James Wolk).




Kevin Matheson (Looking/HBO/2014-2015) - I was bothered by the fact that he was partnered while carrying on an affair with Patrick.  I also found his little ears distracting.





Pepper Saltzman (Modern Family/ABC/2009-present) -  Played by Nathan Lane, his occasional appearances always added some additional spark.  Another friend of Cam and Mitchell's I liked was Longinus - largely because of his name.




Mitchell Pritchett (Modern Family/ABC/2009-present) - A great foil to hubby Cameron, actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson should have won one of Eric Stonestreet's Emmys for this role.




Michael Novotny & Ben Bruckner (Queer as Folk /Showtime/2000-2005) - Sweet and puppy-like, Michael could be a bit of a dim bulb.  He carried a torch for Brian but then partnered with hunky and loving Ben (the taller of the two, below).




Tim Gunn (Project Runway /Lifetime/2004-present) - Classy and avuncular, Gunn played himself as a fashion expert on this competition show.  The phrase he made popular, "Make it work!", will probably be on his headstone.




Sal Romano (Mad Men/AMC/2007-2015) - A closeted art director at the Sterling Cooper ad agency, Sal was unjustly fired after rebuffing the homosexual advances of the agency's biggest client.  I delighted in his rendition of Ann-Margret singing Bye-Bye Birdie (below) as well as his excitement watching Jackie Kennedy's televised tour of the White House.  I could feel the anxiety he experienced working in such an oppressively conformist, homo-unfriendly era. 




Bob Benson (Mad Men/AMC/2007-2015) -  A few seasons after Sal's departure another gay character, the mysterious Bob Benson (played by hunky James Wolk) was introduced for a few seasons.  He wanted Joan to be his beard but she declined.




Lloyd Lee (Entourage/HBO/2004-2011) - Agent Ari Gold's whip-smart and loyal assistant who endured Ari's demeaning comments about his sexual orientation and eventually rose to become an agent himself. 




Brian & Steven (The Sarah Silverman Program/Comedy Central/2007-2010) - A lovingly schlubby gay couple who lived next door to Silverman.




Richie Donado (Looking /HBO/2014-2015) - A sweet, sexy and loving character.  Although he was the youngest, he was perhaps the most grounded of all the characters.




Thomas Barrow (Downton Abbey /PBS/2011-present) - He came close to being placed in the Most Annoying group.  On the one hand, he's a schemer with a chip on his shoulder, but on the other, perhaps it's because of what he had to deal with as a gay man in the 1910s and 1920s.  (Not everyone back then could be Noel Coward or Oscar Wilde.)  It's this latter consideration that held sway so I put him here (although I'd hardly call him entertaining).




Captain Ray Holt (Brooklyn Nine-Nine /Fox/2013-present) - I'm not a big fan of the show's star, Andy Samberg, but I decided to watch the show when I read that Andre Braugher was in a sitcom - and playing this gay character.




Oscar Martinez (The Office/NBC/2005-2013) - Quiet and private, his annoying boss Michael Scott (played by Steve Carell) would find ways at staff meetings to tactlessly bring up the fact that Oscar was gay.




Devin Banks (30 Rock/NBC/2006-2013) - Jack Donaghy's nemesis.  Besides being devious and delightfully campy, Devin (played by Will Arnet) also had the hots for Jack (played by Alec Baldwin) - who got a charge flirting with and teasing Devin.




Buddy Cole (Kids in the Hall/Comedy Central/1988-1994) - An over-the-top, tell-it-like-it-is bar fly.  At the time this type of gay representation was considered transgressive.




Jack McFarland (Will & Grace/NBC/1998-2007) - I considered putting him in the annoying group alongside Will Truman but I always laugh when I watch reruns of this groundbreaking Thursday night sitcom, and it's largely because of his scenes with Karen.




Lt. Jim Dangle (Reno: 911/Comedy Central/2003-2009) - A sight to behold in his short shorts, he had a crush on straight fellow officer Deputy Jones and was constantly frustrated by his inattention - until one episode Jones obliged him and Lt. Dangle had trouble walking the next day (but he was a happy camper).




Kip Wallace (Web Therapy) /Showtime/2011-present) - The closeted husband of Lisa Kudrow's self-centered main character, Fiona.  Apparently they never had sex in 15 years of marriage.  Victor Garber played Kip and I enjoyed seeing him in a comedic roll (and I told him so when I saw him waiting for the uptown 1 train at the 14th St. station a number of years ago.)




Blaine & Antoine (Men on Films/Fox/1990-1994) - MOF was a regularly occurring segment on Fox's Sunday night comedy sketch show In Living Color.  Blaine, played by Damon Wayans, usually wore a tiny hat.




Anthony Marentino (Sex & the City/HBO/1998-2004) - He was great as Charlotte's advisor on all matters concerning fashion and sex.




Nancy Bartlett (Roseanne /ABC/1988-1997) - Nancy was introduced back in 1992, becoming TV's first regular lesbian character.  The show would also have another gay character, Roseanne's boss, Leon, at the luncheonette (played by Martin Mull).




Craig Middlebrooks (Parks & Recreation/NBC/2009-2015) - A high-intensity employee of the Parks department (added in the show's last two seasons), this was a perfect role for Billy Eichner.




Marc St. James (Ugly Betty/ABC/2006-2010) - This ABC sitcom took off like a rocket but then fizzled out in its second, third and fourth seasons.  The character development of Marc St. James, however, went in the opposite direction, from sarcastic and mean-spirited to a more caring, well-rounded individual.  But still wide-eyed and ditzy. 




Carson Kressley (Queer Guy for the Straight Guy /Bravo/2003-2007) - Like Tim Gunn, Cressley is a real person.  Although flamboyant I liked him because he wasn't a bitchy queen.  Instead, he came across as a caring individual as he advised clueless hetero men how to dress with flair.




Waylon Smithers (The Simpsons/Fox/1989-present) - Or simply "Smithers", he's devoted to Mr. Burns and fantasizes about him in his dreams.




Jonathan - (30 Rock/NBC/2006-2013) - A character with no last name, he played Jack Donaghy's overly devoted and protective executive assistant.  A human version of Smithers?




Besides portraying characters who are gay, more than half of the actors on these two lists are openly gay in real life.


Actor Show Character Played
Bryan Batt Mad Men Sal Romano
Sandra Bernhard Roseanne Nancy Bartlett
Mario Cantone Sex & the City Anthony Marentino
Chris Colfer Glee Kurt Hummel
Billy Eichner Parks & Rec Craig Middlebrook
Jesse Tyler Ferguson Modern Family Mitchell Pritchett
Robert Gant Queer as Folk Ben Bruckner
Victor Garber Web Therapy Kip Wallace
Jonathan Groff Looking Patrick Murray
Tim Gunn Project Runway Himself
Sean Hayes Will & Grace Jack MacFarland
Carson Kressley Queer Eye Himself
Nathan Lane Modern Family Pepper Saltzman
Rex Lee Entourage Lloyd Lee
Maulik  Pancholy 30 Rock Jonathan
Scott Thompson Kids in the Hall Buddy Cole
Russell Tovey Looking Kevin Matheson
Michael Urie Ugly Betty Marc St. James







Arriving Late to Singer Matt Alber's Fan Club

Matt.alber.endoftheworldOne Friday not long ago I was having a cocktail after work with my friend Maury at our neighborhood haunt, the Monster, when a music video got my attention.  (It came in the middle of a string of dreadful videos from the 80s.)  In it a weary looking, but sexy, male singer is settling into a barber's chair.  Near the end of the video a handsome man in a suit enters the barber shop and the two of them proceed to do a beautiful slow dance together, ending with the stranger dipping the other and they kiss softly.  Maury told me the song, End of the World, was from 2008 - and the singer was openly gay.  His name was Matt Alber and he used to sing with the all-male choral group Chanticleer.  He reminded me of a hunkier version of Jeremy Piven.




Because the sound of the video at the bar was muted (the show tune queens gathered around the piano wouldn't stand for audio competition!) I went onto You Tube when I got home and listened to End of the World, which was heartachingly beautiful.  I also watched his live performances and some other videos.  I especially liked Handsome Man and Tightrope (dance re-mix).  With a sweet face, friendly eyes, and lightly bearlike physique, Alber has a mellow, plaintive voice that brings to mind a cross between kd lang and Rufus Wainwright.  He also has a very approachable demeanor. 


Although Alber has recorded four CDs, he's pretty much under the radar, perhaps because his last two album were produced and distributed independently.  (His most viewed video, Handsome Man, has generated less than 500,000 views, making it practically unwatched by You Tube standards.)  This is probably the reason he's not as well known as other gay artists such as Jake Shears, Sam Smith or Adam Lambert.  In fact, in a blog post about "50 Great Gay Music Artists" on The Backlot from earlier this year, Matt wasn't counted among them (however, one commenter protested his exclusion).  But a few years earlier he was one of Out Magazine's "Hottest 100 Out & Proud Celebrities."  And he's developed a following in the bear community.  I think that the fact that he's not widely known adds to his appeal.  


"Handsome Man"


2015 Tony Awards Fall Flat Without Neil Patrick Harris or Hugh Jackman

Alancummings.kristenchenoweth.tonyawardsI've groused in previous posts about the ubiquity of Neil Patrick Harris and Hugh Jackman at awards shows, but I must admit they were sorely missed at this year's Tony Awards (on CBS, as we were annoyingly reminded before each commercial break).  The silly banter between hosts Kristin Chenoweth and Alan Cumming was cringe worthy.  I wanted to swat them away like flies.  Alan Cumming on his own may have been fine (although he was sometimes hard to understand); the hyper-caffeinated Chenoweth, on the other hand, was exhausting to watch (bringing to mind Anne Hathaway when she hosted the Oscars back in 2009).  


Perhaps one of the low points in the history of the Tonys?




  • At the beginning of the On the Town number, nominee Tony Yazbeck presented Anna Wintour, sans sunglasses, with flowers.  (Remind me again, what show was she in that got her seated in the VIP section?)


Anna Wintour smiles!


  • Fun Home's musical number Ring of Keys was so moving, it got me all choked up.  And to think this was sung by a child!




  • Although Tommy Tune's lifetime achievement award wasn't part of the telecast, the 30-second clip that was shown had a great quip by him in which he said,  "Every Texas father dreams for their firstborn sons to leave Texas, go to New York and dance in the chorus of a  Broadway show!"




  • What in the hell was Ashley (High School Musical) Tisdale wearing?  It looked like someone stole the top piece from a nun's habit or a burka.  And why was she presenting an award?  (The same could be asked of Jennifer Lopez.)




  • Matthew Morrison looked hot, and very un-Glee like, when he tore open his shirt during his number from Finding Neverland.




  • The powerful performance by Lisa Howard from It Shoulda Been You (not even nominated) brought to mind Jennifer Holiday's from the 1982 Tonys when she bulldozed through And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going from Dreamgirls.




Jennifer Holiday, 1982 Tony Awards


  • Kelli O'Hara's acceptance speech was wonderful for its excitement and gratitude and brought to mind Audra McDonald's acceptance at last year's ceremony (although it was her fifth Tony while this was O'Hara's first).




  • For the first two-thirds of the show I thought Alan Cummings was saying "George Gobel" when it turned out it he was saying "Josh Groban".  Unfortunately it was painful listening to Groban struggle through You'll Never Walk Alone during the "In Memoriam" tribute.  Phylicia Rashad, however, gave it a beautiful intro (much like Meryl Streep did at this year's Academy Awards).




  • During the "In Memoriam" tribute the biggest one-two punch was Elaine Stritch followed immediately by Marian Seldes.




  • Harry Connick, Jr. - studliest presenter of the night?  Followed by Nick Jonas (standing next to Jennifer Lopez who looked relatively matronly) and Thomas Sadoski.






  • Tony winner Alex Sharp looked sharp in his casual, off-white/patterned tux.




  • No surprise, Broadway royalty, Bernadette Peters, looked terriffic and vied with Tony winner Helen Mirren for classiest stage presence.





  • For the second year in a row nominee Andy Karl was seated in the same far forward section of the theater, was playful when on camera and did not win in his category.


2015 nominee for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for "On the 20th Century"


2014 nominee for Best Leading Actor in a Musical for "Rocky"


Finally, I leave you with a gallery of photos:


"On the Town's" 9 sailors a-leapin'


Alison Bechdel gets her moment in the spotlight upon "Fun Home" being awarded as Best Musical.


One of thousands of costume changes for the hosts


Nominee Brandon Uranowitz ("An American in Paris") and his seat mate react differently to his name not being read as winner in the Best Actor in a Musical category.


Tyne Daly reacts to being told "I'm not your bitch" by Lisa Howard in their number from "It Shoulda Been You".


Upon seeing the camera turn to him when his name was read as one of the nominees in the Best Actor in a Musical ...


Max von Essen offers a dazzling smile.


"On the Town's" Tony Yazbeck in front of the flag brought to mind Jasper John's famed "Flag" painting.


Tony winner Michael Cerveris (with hair) on stage during Sydney Lucas' performance of "Ring of Keys".

New York's Gay Pride Parade - A Celebration or An Ordeal?




New York's Gay Pride Day Parade, which falls on the last Sunday in June, is the culmination of Gay Pride Week.  Its colorful floats and enthusiastic marchers display an array of LGBT interests; nearly every aspect of life is represented with a rainbow twist.  But while the parade is a wonderful event, for those of us who live in the West Village it's a one-day ordeal that sorely tests our patience.  Once the parade squeezes itself into the heart of the Village the neighborhood serves as a dumping grounds for thousands of crass, loud and disruptive parade goers, many who treat the neighborhood as a public toilet or a staging area for acting out personal drama.




Celebrants who descend upon the beleaguered area congregate around Christopher, Grove and Bleecker Streets and show little regard for those who live there.  When I had a summer share on Fire Island I made sure to be out there on this final weekend in June.  The few times I stayed in town I felt like a prisoner in my apartment, and if I went to the parade it was a challenge getting back to my place because of barricades, blocked streets and the mass of humanity.  I'm happy when it rains on this day.  (Last year I visited my mother in Pittsburgh and I'll be doing the same this year.)


Don't get me wrong, watching the parade on Fifth Avenue is a fun experience, but those who march are largely different from the masses who inflict themselves upon the West Village afterwards.  While a sense of pride emanates from the marchers, a passive-aggressive hostility characterizes those who loiter in the Village, waiting to be challenged for blocking doorways, vomiting on sidewalks or screaming with friends in the middle of streets.  For the most part they seem to be from the lower social strata, and their incongruence with the neighborhood has become more noticeable in the past ten years as it has been transformed by luxury condos and pricey boutiques - and, ironically, fewer LGBT residents.  (In other words, this is not their father's Greenwich Village.)




Those who congregate on the stoops of brownstones and block sidewalks are similar to those who regularly flock to the Village on other nights, but on Gay Pride Sunday there are thousands more.  What's troubling is that rather than appreciate the Village for serving as a refuge from their intolerant neighborhoods in places like the Bronx or Newark, they disrespect it by flouting the norms of civility with their shrieking, scuffling and disruption of traffic and businesses.  Some activists who defend the rights of these young people to "hang out" usually don't live here and therefore don't witness first hand the problems they create.  And what is viewed as police harassment is likely a reaction to bad behavior.  Lastly, just because these unruly kids are gay doesn't mean gay Villagers turn a blind eye to their bad behavior - no matter how disadvantaged they may be.