Friday, 30 December 2011

THREE DOLLAR BILL's 16th ANNUAL COLUMN OF THE YEAR's HEROES & ZEROS

 Kevin Keller is the first gay character in the 72-year history of Archie Comics (Photo courtesy Archie Comics)
 
(December 30, 2011) Here is my 16th annual column of the year’s heroes and zeros.

Heroes The team of University of Western Ontario scientists lead by Dr. Chil-Yong Kang who – on the 30th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic – announced their Canadian-developed vaccine which will start human clinical trials in January 2012. 

Zero Canada’s anti-gay Harper government which quietly killed the vaccine research facility plan ostensibly because there weren't enough talented researchers in Canada.  Which means if Western’s AIDS vaccine is successful, it will be owned by a Korean venture capital company and manufactured in the United States. 

Zero GQ magazine which chose Adam Lambert’s mustache as one of the worst style statements of 2011, tweeting, “If you have testosterone problems, a mustache doesn’t always help.” 

Hero Elton John who – with his civil partner David Furnish became proud papas of their son Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John born on Christmas Day 2010 – continued to put his money where his mouth is. At a January 2011 benefit performance that raised over $3 million for the American Foundation for Equal Rights’ legal fight to overturn California’s Proposition 8, Elton said onstage, “I don’t have everything because I don’t have the respect of people like the church or like politicians who tell me that I’m not worthy, that I’m lesser because I’m gay. Well, fuck you!” 

Zero Iran, for sentencing and stoning to death in January two young men named Ayub and Mosleh (aged 20 and 21 years old) for filming themselves having sex with one another. 

Zeros The anti-gay thugs who have murdered 31 LGBT Hondurans since the 2009 coup d’etat in Honduras. At least three of the victims were set on fire and most cases have not been investigated or prosecuted. 

Zero Honduras president Porfirio Lobo who banned kids under age 15 from attending an “erotic” October 16 Ricky Martin benefit concert for a local children’s foundation. The interior ministry stated that the openly-gay Martin’s concert was “a highly reprehensible act of intolerance.”
Hege Dalen and Toril Hanse

Zero Alberta, which in 2011 still classified homosexuality as a “mental disorder” despite that the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1973. Canadian reporters also revealed Alberta doctors used the diagnostic code to bill the province for treating gays and lesbians more than 1,750 times between 1995 and 2004. 

Zero British Columbia, which prohibited the marketing of gay tourism in China. In November BC tourism minister Pat Bell backtracked and apologized.

Hero Montreal, named best world gay destination by voters and travel writers over at TripOut Travel’s NewNowNext 2011 Travel Awards. Meanwhile, Montreal launches its new all-gay radio station Fierte 990 AM in 2012, following in the footsteps of Toronto’s Proud FM. 

Hero Thai airline P.C. Air which in 2011 began recruiting and training transsexual flight attendants.

Heroes The citizens of the Australian town of Hobson’s Bay who elected Tony Briffa, the world’s first intersex mayor. “I am not male or female, but both,” Briffa said proudly. 

Zero Organizers of Australia’s famed Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, for erasing “Gay and Lesbian” from the festival and parade’s 2012  name and logo. 

Zero President Richard Nixon who wasn’t just a crook but – according to the 2011 biography Nixon’s Darkest Secrets by former UPI  Washington bureau chief Don Fulsom – had a gay affair with Mafia banker Bebe Rebozo. As my friend, American cult director Toby Ross told me this week, “Why am I not surprised? He reeks of closet case-ness.” 

Zero Apple for approving a “gay cure” application crated by and named after Exodus International. The app was removed from Apple’s iTunes online shop after gay activists went ballistic. 

Zero The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, for banning the 1985 Dire Straits song Money for Nothing for using the word “fag” – despite the fact the song was lampooning anti-gay bigots. 

Hero NHL New York Rangers forward Sean Avery, for nobly ignoring booing fans after publicly supporting gay marriage in New York State. 

Hero Major League Baseball, for adopting a pro-gay non-discrimination policy in November 2011. 

Zero Atlanta Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell was supended without pay for two weeks in may after he hurled gay slurs at heckling Giants fans (“Are you a homo couple or a threesome?”), simulated a sex act with a bat, and used the same bat to threaten a man who asked him to tone down his language in front of kids: “How much are your teeth worth?” 

Zero Fashion designer John Galliano, for his drunken anti-semitic slurs in a Paris boite a nuit. “People like you would be dead today – your mothers, your forefathers, would all be fucking gassed,” he told one woman. Evidently Galliano forgot the Nazis also gassed faggots like him. 

Hero The city of Barcelona and its Mayor Jordi Hereu who on March 20 dedicated a granite triangle framed in pink in the city’s central Ciutadella Park, a memorial to LGBT people persecuted and repressed “throughout history."

Hero President Barack Obama who – finally – rescinded the American military’s DADT policy. 

Zero The U.S. Defense Department for sending gay anti-DADT activist and discharged Army First Lieutenant Dan Choi a $2,500 bill to repay an “unearned portion of your enlistment or reenlistment bonus.” 

Heroes Archie Comics for introducing Kevin Keller, the first gay character in the comic’s 72-year history history. Now the upcoming January 2012 issue of Life of Archie will feature the marriage between Kevin and Clay Walker, a doctor he meets while recovering in a military hospital’s physical rehabilitation unit. 

Heroes The 85 nations – including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Fiji, Iceland, Israel, Mexico, Rwanda, Spain, USA and Venezuela – who signed a United Nations statement defending LGBT people. Countries that opposed the statement include Pakistan, Russia and Nigeria. 

Zeros The Nigerian senate, for approving 14-year jail terms for gay marriage; Ghana, whose crackdown on gay people orders landlords and tenants to report their gay neighbours; and the Ugandan parliament, which voted to continue pushing through a bill that prescribes the death penalty for LGBT people. 

Zero Former U.S. National Sheriff of the Year Patrick Sullivan, arrested for trying to trade methamphetamine for gay sex. 

Zero The western India state of Gujarat, for banning Pulitzer-prize-winning Joseph Lelyveld’s 2011 book Great Soul for exposing Mahatma Gandhi’s gay affair with a German man named Hermann Kallenbach. 

Zero Publicly closeted Tory minister John Baird and other Conservative Party MPs for their shameful and hypocritical It Gets Better video. Like comedian Rick Mercer said in his online rant, it’s time our closeted leaders and politicians come out once and for all. 

Zeros Dick and Lynne Cheney for finally publicly supporting gay marriage on The View in September. Memo to Dick(head): Too little, too late. 
Bugs visits the Stonewall Inn

Heroes The 68.8 percent of voters in Liechtenstein who on June 19 approved a new law legalizing gay partnerships. Also New York state which just five days later approved gay marriage. As the NY senate voted, activists chanted outside the Stonewall Inn, “We’re here. We’re fabulous. Don’t fuck with us!” 

Hero Kids in the Hall comedian Scott Thompson who told bullied teens what I’ve been screaming for years: “You have to fight back. So much of these bullying campaigns are part of the trend that we were just talking about—the recasting of gay men as eternal victims and it’s like, fight back! Fathers should start teaching the boys how to punch. He does that to you, here’s what you do: You fucking punch him in the face.” 

Hero Cyndi Lauper, who opened her True Colors homeless shelter for gay teens in NYC in September. Last year Lauper told me the tragic story of her lifetime friend Gregory, kicked out by his parents at age 13 when they discovered he was gay and who died of AIDS in 1985. The True Colors homeless shelter, Cyndi told me while trying not to cry, is dedicated to Gregory. “Gregory will finally get his wish,” Cyndi said. 
Cyndi Lauper's true colours
(Photo courtesy Maple Music)

Heroes Lesbian couple Hege Dalen and Toril Hansen for saving the lives of 40 children during the July 22 Norway massacre, piloting their boat to Utoya island on four trips as a heavily armed gunman mowed down dozens of children at a camping outing. 

Heroes For publicly coming out in 2011: Montreal Impact soccer player David Testo; People.com’s transsexual editor Janet Mock; the rebooted Star Trek’s Mr Spock, actor Zachary Quinto; ABC News anchor Dan Kloeffler; and CNN anchor Don Lemon, who says, “I think if I had seen more people like me who are out and proud, it wouldn’t have taken me 45 years to say it – to walk in the truth.” 

Heroes Ugandan gay activist David Kato, American playwright Doric Wilson, veteran U.S lesbian activists Renee Hanover and Paula Ettelbrick, author and Hollywood producer Perry Moore, West Side Story and Gypsy screenwriter Arthur Laurents, Montreal fashion designer Georges Levesque, Stonewall Riots activist Arthur Evans, Laugh-In TV star Alan Sues, disco singers Andrea True and Loleatta Holloway, gay icon Elizabeth Taylor, Hollywood and Broadway legend Farley Granger, key American gay-rights activist Frank Kameny, as well as Rudolf Brazda, the world’s last-known gay Holocaust survivor, all passed away in 2011. RIP. 

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Sunday, 11 December 2011

RuPAUL IS STILL QUEEN OF THE CATWALK - AND DEFENDER OF THE DRAG FAITH

RuPaul says, "Montreal to Americans is sex city. It's such a sensual place." (All photos courtesy RuPaul/LOGO)

 (December 11) Rarely has a mother been more prescient than RuPaul’s mom, who, when Ru was born on November 17, 1960, told her nurses at Mercy Hospital in San Diego, "His name is RuPaul Andre Charles and he’s gonna be a star! ‘Cuz there ain’t another motherfucker alive with a name like that!"

The rest, as they say, is herstory.

Today drag lovers worldwide know the RuPaul story, and everybody else has seen it on A&E’s Biography. But the rise of RuPaul really began in 1987 with her arrival in NYC.

RuP
"My first Wigstock was 1989. I was there when Lady Bunny did drag for the first time," RuPaul told me. "Now it’s a drag queen festival. But it used to be a bohemian thing. Drag for me was a commentary on life. ‘You mean I’m not supposed to do this? Well, fuck you.’ Then I found out I could make a lot of money doing it."

RuPaul was voted "Queen of Manhattan 1990" by NYC club owners and did a scene-stealing cameo in the B-52′s Love Shack video. Envious of the Billboard success of her friends Dee-Lite, she recorded her own album, 1993′s Supermodel of the World. When the album topped the charts worldwide, Elton John came calling with his duet Don’t Go Breaking My Heart and RuPaul landed gigs hosting her own VH-1 TV series (The RuPaul Show on VH1) as well as top-rated morning-drive radio shows in both L.A. and NYC. Today, RuPaul  is a speaker for CAA, and host mentor and judge on the enormously popualr RuPaul's Drag Race on LOGO and VH-1 (watch the Season 4 promo clip below).

Along the way, RuPaul also became the "First Face of M.A.C.," raising $22-million to fight AIDS during her six years with the Canadian cosmetics company.

Still, RuPaul’s favourite moment was watching television with his mom when Rolling Stone writer Kurt Loder introduced RuPaul the supermodel, her first time ever on MTV.

"Coming up next, she’s, er, ah… He’s 6’4" and supermodel of the world," Loder said.

"No one predicted I could make a living out of this except me and my [late] mother," RuPaul says. "My mother was a real rebel. She was Creole from New Orleans and our family was from Nova Scotia. I believe my life lessons [growing up] as a black man helped me deal with the adversity of life as a drag queen."

Grabbing life by the balls



RuPaul – called a sissy by neighbourhood kids – has come a long way from the basketball courts of his youth. "There was a minute I was sort of good with basketball, but I could never deal with nasty attitudes [on the court]. Those boys can be nastier than the meanest queen."

All these years later, RuPaul remains disappointed many people still haven’t learnt that we’re all in this together, even in the gay community. "We are more segregated today than we were years ago," RuPaul quips. "I remember there was such optimism at my first Gay Pride in 1982. That optimism has diminished and I have promised to help bring it back."





RuPaul adds, "Gay culture these days is very polarized. We don’t celebrate diversity enough.

"I took a hip-hop class in San Francisco and afterwards I told the story of Stonewall, a subject very dear to me because it was those queens who had the guts to throw that first brick [at the police]. It’s my goal to never let those brave drag queens be forgotten. That type of tenacity is what led this movement from the very beginning. That type of tenacity is lacking today. That’s why the [gay liberation] movement is so fucking lame right now."


Unseating the system

Many point the finger at RuPaul as a symbol of the mainstreaming of gay culture. But radical Ru – who notes the men he dates have "usually dated women because they are men who see outside the box" – is having none of that.

"Our culture still can’t creatively get beyond two men loving one another. The last taboo for humankind has to do with men playing with girls’ things and men loving men. We can’t move forward. We are at a standstill."

RuPaul adds, "I know the difference between American League and National League baseball. But I have to explain the difference between transsexual and transvestite all the time. Our culture has a vested interest in not understanding us. It would unseat their belief system so much they’d have to reformat the whole fucking computer."

Still, gay life isn’t always obvious, even to those closest to us. Once, on Oprah, RuPaul explains, "My sister Rozy said she didn’t know [when they were younger] that I was gay and Oprah was like, ‘Really? Come on!’ I also just assumed that everybody knew."

Today, if there’s anyone left who doesn’t know that RuPaul – now immortalized in Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum – remains the world’s number one supermodel, well, let’s get one thing straight:

"I love dick!" RuPaul tells me, and then lets out a big, hearty laugh.

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Thursday, 8 December 2011

LEGENDARY CREATOR OF QUEER VILLAIN THE JOKER JERRY ROBINSON PASSES AWAY

Who can forget Joker donning Wonder Woman’s tiara on the delicious eye-popping cover of the August 2004 edition of Wonder Woman?

I adore a queer villain and Batman’s nemesis The Joker - introduced in Batman #1 (Spring 1940) and created by legendary American comic book artist Jerry Robinson who died on December 8 at the age of 89  - has to be the most fabulous villain of them all.

But make no mistake: The Joker is a cocksucker and the cock our lavender zoot-suited bitch most wants to suck is Batman’s.

The Joker creator Jerry Robinson at the 2008
Comic Con International in San Diego (Photo
By Dan Chusid via Wkipedia)
When I insist The Joker is a fabulous faggot, some straight folks mock me: "Yeah, according to you everybody is gay!"

To which I can only reply, "Why do you insist that everybody must be straight?"

I mostly blame Hollywood for this because Tinsel Town has helped make life a living hell for real and imagined gay people.

Never mind that the tightly wound closets of the world’s most famous matinée idols continue to reinforce the shame of being gay – a homophobic lie that directly affects the lives of every single homo on this planet.

No, when homosexuality itself isn’t used as the root of a villain’s psychosis, then gay life is otherwise erased.

We will likely never witness the true love lives of such gay people as Alexander the Great, Abraham Lincoln and Florence Nightingale on the big screen.

Don’t believe me?

Take the life story of famed Hungarian Count Laszlo Almasy in director Anthony Minghella’s 1997 blockbuster The English Patient. Like the Michael Ondaatje novel it’s based on, the Oscar-winning film is a lie: The real-life Count was a gay man passionately in love with a German officer whom he tried to help avoid going to the Russian front.

Jack Nicholson as Joker
Apparently homo plotlines are box office poison. Unless, of course, you’re the cross-dressing serial killer in Silence of the Lambs.

In other words, the dream factory is still all about heterosexual voyeurism.

So let’s cut the crap and call a spade a spade: It isn’t homosexuality that drives people to kill, it is the brutal homophobia of straight people that drives many gay killers nuts.

Except for America’s beloved, iconic Joker, who was heterosexualized in director Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman flick by a memorably over-the-top Jack Nicholson, panting after Kim Basinger like a dog in heat.

Except comic book artist Jerry Robinson's Joker has always been queer (although my friend, famed playwright and comic-book buff Brad Fraser makes a good case for The Joker being asexual.)



Today, in Hollywood, if you want your audience to instantly recognize a bigoted southern sheriff, all you have to do is portray him as a tobacco-spitting, N-word-using caricature.

This same kind of shorthand was also used to portray The Joker. Batman creator Bob Kane and his early successors used Joker’s appearance, from his ruby-red lips to his lavender zoot suit, as code for "faggot," which in those days was a term interchangeable with "criminal."

This is offensive in and of itself. But at the end of the day I don’t have problems with celluloid villains being queer, especially when they’re as entertaining as our Joker, who by the time Frank Miller redefined Batman in 1986 in The Dark Knight Returns, had grown into a, well, fully fleshed character.

"You know, you look so pretty when you’re mad!" Joker cackles to a fellow inmate in the 1989 graphic novel Arkham Asylum. "Kiss me, Charlie! Ravish me! But no tongues, ya hear? Not on our first date."

Heath Ledger as Joker

Also in Arkham Asylum, Joker tries to stick his fingers up Batman’s ass through his cape. Then there is Joker’s unnamed boyfriend in Devil’s Advocate and Joker even goes into detail about the sexual nature of murder in Dark Detective.

There is the more recent introduction of Joker’s fag hag Harley Quinn in Joker’s Favor because the script called for a female stripper at a police party, a role The Joker was originally supposed to do in drag.

And while we are on the subject of drag, who can forget Joker donning Wonder Woman’s tiara on the delicious eye-popping cover of the August 2004 edition of Wonder Woman?

I am not offended by a queer villain. I am offended that straight people want to make Joker straight.

So I had little hope that Heath Ledger’s sociopathic Joker in director Christopher Nolan’s 2008 film The Dark Knight would be sexually attracted to Batman.

But when I saw the film I discovered that – wonder of wonders – Joker is, kinda.

In a monumental role that rivals Robert Mitchum in Cape Fear and Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter, Ledger’s Joker turns to the camera and says of his beloved Dark Knight, "He completes me."

End note: Jerry Robinson, the famed comic-book pioneer best-known by fans for creating The Joker, Two-Face and Robin the Boy Wonder, and also praised for his work as a comics historian and creator rights advocate, died at age 89 on December 8, 2011. Robinson reportedly died in his sleep. RIP.

DC Comics remembers Jerry Robinson. Click here

Saturday, 3 December 2011

DAUGHTER JUDY LEWIS WAS NOT THE ONLY SECRET IN CLARK GABLE'S CLOSET


(December 3)  Judy Lewis, the "secret" daughter of Hollywood stars Loretta Young and Clark Gable, died on November 25 at the age 76. Lewis was only 31 before she discovered she was the daughter of Hollywood royalty, then confronted Young in 1966.

"Loretta Young’s deception was contrived to protect her budding movie career and the box-office power of the matinee idol Gable, who was married to someone else when they conceived their child in snowed-in Washington State," The New York Times reports. "They were on location, shooting the 1935 film The Call of the Wild, fictional lovers in front of the camera and actual lovers outside its range."
Judy Lewis, in a publicity photo, around 1977.

But Judy Lewis was not the only secret Clark Gable did everything to conceal.

While many Hollywood historians continue to ignore the real truth about Clark Gable's sexuality, it is now indisputable that Gable was a deeply-closeted homo.

I blabbed about Gable's secret gay life with famed British biographer David Bret, who has written bios of Elvis Presley (Elvis: The Hollywood Years claims Elvis had an affair with actor Nick Adams and Col. Tom Parker blackmailed Presley by threatening to reveal "secret information" that Elvis was a homo), Joan Crawford, Errol Flynn, Maria Callas, and his good friend, the late Marlene Dietrich ("I was the last person she talked to - she called me two days before she died").

Bret also wrote the 2011 bio Elizabeth Taylor: The Lady, The Lover, The Legend 1932 -2011. Taylor once called Bret "a shit, but a lovable shit." But I digress.

Bret's 2008 bestselling biography Clark Gable: Tormented Star exposes Gable's secret gay life. And, let me tell you, it was extensive. Or at least it was "until 1942, when he 'became' straight," quips Bret.

So just how repressed was Clark Gable about his bisexuality?

"Gable was brought up in a gung-ho atmosphere working with his father in the oil fields," Bret explains. "On Friday night [the oil hands] would fetch the local prostitutes and had 10 minutes each. That's also the reason why Gable was so paranoid about cleanliness - from having sex with whores. And he did this because his father told him to. His father brought him up to believe he was a sissy. In the macho world of oilrigs, Gable was regarded as a bit of a pansy and his father called him that until the day he died. So Gable spent his entire life trying to prove he was a man."


David Brett
(Courtesy Random House)

There is a famous story Bret recalls in Tormented Star about why famed gay director George Cukor was fired from Gone With the Wind by David O. Selznick and replaced by The Wizard of Oz director Victor Fleming. Back at a 1937 party Cukor hosted, Gable spotted Cukor chatting with gay actor William Haines - whom Gable had serviced many times in his early years to further his career - and he assumed they were talking about him.

So, unable to look a "woman's director" in the eye, Gable had Cukor fired.

"Gable thought anyone who knew Haines had to be a raving queen," Bret says. "He didn't want others to think that of him."

Gable also outed other actors such as Johnny Mack Brown and Rod La Rocque to prevent himself from being outed.

"In those days there were two gangs in Hollywood - Joan Crawford's and Carole Lombard's," Bret explains. "Lombard is the one who termed 'fag hag.' These gangs went to all the gay bars in Hollywood and no one thought anything of it because [actors like Gable] all had beards. But Gable was more discreet with his relationships, like Rod La Rocque.

"But when Johnny Mack Brown was making the [1931] movie Laughing Sinners with Joan Crawford, Gable had him fired because he thought he could do the role better," Bret continues. "Then he threatened to out him if he revealed their affair."

If Clark Gable was once a debonair hero, he no longer is in my eyes.

"Yes, he was very hypocritical. [Outing men he slept with] did make me think of him lesser as a man," Bret agrees.

Here I must mention that Bret is long married to a woman but is also openly bisexual ("I get the best of both worlds!").

Says Bret, "Had I been in the same situation [as Gable], I would have done the same thing [stayed in the closet]. It was very difficult being gay in those days, much more than it is today. And today it's impossible. But today I'd also stick to my principles. Back then I would have made allowances because you would not have had a career."

The same might be said of Hollywood's current crop of closeted matinee idols.

"Others will be writing the same thing about them in 50 years," Bret says, noting of Gable, "It was okay [for him] to deny he's gay. But to ruin his boyfriend's career? That wasn't cool. But Hollywood is a cutthroat business."

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