Friday, February 19, 2010
Smack Dab, the monthly open mic show at Magnet, the Castro’s cultural and medical center, featured the TrashCanPoet, aka Gabriel Burke, on Feb. 17. Magnet has been providing medical services for seven years and operates on the core value that gay men have a right to health and well-being, and that they should expect empowerment.
The shows are coordinated by sfqueer.com’s Larry-bob Roberts and writer Kirk Read, and there is an unusual and unpredictable mixture of music, comedy, spoken word, and more with all genders and ages welcome.
Roberts promotes idealist cultural activism, visionary independent music, and altruistic electoral politics. His highly regarded sfqueer.com website has an extensive list of Queer Things to Do in San Francisco, and it is not unusual to hear the community’s marginalized event promoters emote “I love Larry-bob!” because he stresses diversity. Robert’s exacting holytitclamps.com webzine presents hilarious satire, which he calls ranting foaming at the mouth. Some of his impudent jeers: boring mainstream homos’ websites with zero content, zines that do not get past issue #1, bland gay magazines, skinny body obsession, guys who beg for boyfriends online, and businesses that profit from death.
Kirk Read is the restless author of two books, and he also coordinates performances at Kvetch. He produced Smegma at the Eros sex club, worked at the St. James Infirmary sex worker clinic, and produced a stupendous sex worker variety show at Mama Calizo’s Voice Factory.
Featured performer TrashCanPoet, aka Gabriel Burke, is a beguiling high-level slam poet, writer, and spoken-word activist. He has been in the Bay Area for three years, and is welcomed as an honorary queer boy with the Queer Girl Theatre Project and contributed to Artists Against Rape. He has also been featured at the venues Heavy Rotation, SF Queer Open Mic, and the Berkeley Poetry Slam. Burke’s first book is “Bloom” and he is working on a second book of poetry.
Burke raised the room temperature considerably when he yelled out his “Open Letter to Chaz Bono.” The provocative message was that Bono should shut up and not presume to speak for underprivileged and less-than-famous transgenders. The names of Brandon Teena and Gwen Araujo, who were murdered for being open about who they are, were invoked and Bono was warned that interviewers are patronizing him and treating him as a curiosity. He said that many transgenders are attacked, thrown out of school, and forced into sex work — which is not the world that Bono is experiencing. Burke wants transgenders to feel safe in their living spaces, to be able to afford gender reassignments if they want them, and he wants Bono to shut up and listen.
Bob Siedle Khan, Sean O’Driscoll, Mark Abramson, Jeffrey Lilly, Ed Wolf, and Michael Evans also made memorable contributions to the evening’s entertainment, with satisfying ambiguous moments at odds with sheer bewilderment.
For more information on Smack Dab, contact Kirk Read at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Same-sex couples — some already married and others seeking to marry — gathered at San Francisco City Hall on Feb. 12 for the National Freedom to Marry Day ceremonies.
There was a moment for speeches in the Light Court led by host Tawal Panyacosit Jr., Director of API Equality. Molly McKay, Media Director of Marriage Equality USA (MEUSA), then spoke to the massed TV and other press and activists with her wife, author Davina Kotulski. Marc Solomon, Marriage Director of Equality California (EQCA) gave a commentary about the current situation. Chiah Connolly-Ingram and Jeff DeGroot, representatives from COLAGE (Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere), then spoke passionately about their lesbian mothers and about how they deserved equality.
McKay led the throng to the Marriage Clerk’s office, loudly singing — which surprised the non-LGBT couples and their entourages. Clerk Karen Hong was given floral tributes by the same-sex couples who had been married, and had to cite California law to deny the other same-sex couples wanting a marriage license.
Husbands John Lewis and Stuart Gaffney, together for 23 years, thank clerk Karen Hong for their 2008 marriage license
The procession of couples reappeared at the Light Court and heard husbands Joe Alfano and Frank Capley speak about how they had overcome the opposition of Capley’s labor union to his husband receiving health benefits. They spoke altruistically about a lesbian co-worker of Capley’s who has been denied health benefits for her lover because they are domestic partners, and unmarried.
A display of “Winter of Love” quilts was on display at City Hall and activists held up others for the media. About 40 people participating in straight marriage ceremonies walked into the Rotunda to be shocked by the sight of about a thousand LGBT people and friends massed on the steps to watch an overwhelmingly personal and fluid “Love Everywhere” dance and musical performance.
There was a feeling of regeneration for activism from the day’s experience that hopefully will lead to full marriage equality.
Friday, February 12, 2010
Moderator Shane Snowdon with panelists Michael Scarce, David Gonzalez, Bill Jesdale and Clinton Fein
There was a panel discussion at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center on Feb. 10 to analyze the Staph/MRSA infection panic caused by an unfortunate UCSF study two years ago, and to work to deter future gay sex panics.
The discussion was entitled “Healthy Gay Men: Messaging: Media & Messes” and the activist panelists did not hesitate to point out the series of events that provided fodder for the extreme homophobic fringe groups that still infest the U.S. in the new millennium.
Artist Clinton Fein, who is well known for his controversial re-staged photographs of Iraqi prison scenes, opened the event with a description of the supposed MRSA infections that were presented by the UCSF study and a San Francisco Chronicle reporter as a threat to the Bay Area’s citizens. And then it was picked up by journalists worldwide as a new gay disease, and the homophobic fringe ran drivel online that any surface that gay men touched would spread treatment-resistant infections. Activists realized that not only was it an untrue situation, but that it could also lead to violence against gays. Fein said that disease rates are down now, and that gays need to be aware and quick to dispel distortions about gay men’s health.
Writer Bill Jesdale spoke next about the campaigns against the meth scourge and how there was too much emphasis on poor health choices of gay men. Then he gave a thumbs-up to the Our Love/Stop AIDS Project poster campaign in the Castro that displays former Emperor John Weber, who is an African American. And he said that such posters should be mounted in other minority communities. He said that public health agencies have a lot of resources invested in poor health projects, and that qualified interviewers are needed to be direct and ask men “where they stick it” since many do not identify as gay and many are bisexual, so that useful new health information can reach them.
Author Michael Scarce mentioned that not just the UCSF study and the Chronicle reporter caused a media firestorm, but also the Annals of Internal Medicine publication failed to review the information before disseminating faux facts. He also spoke about how the media works, and the need for some outlets to seek profits at any cost. And he spoke about the possibility of a future health crisis that will need the community’s attention, and that the MRSA panic has damaged the chances of getting the word out. And he said that the lives of gays and PWA’s should be spoken about, so that it is more difficult to sensationalize their lives.
David Gonzalez, who is the HIV Services Manager for the San Francisco LGBT Community Center, spoke last. He spoke about the deplorable lack of meaningful health outreach to people of color, the Down Low phenomenon perpetrated by Oprah Winfrey and others, and the childish and over-simplified MRSA educational materials that did reach the non-white communities. And he spoke about Lesbian Health 101 as a fine model, where outreach was conducted in the most positive way, and the need for languages other than English to be used.
Supervisor Bevan Dufty was an attentive audience member and the panel was coordinated by Shane Snowden, who is the Director of LGBT Resource Center at UCSF, and one of the few women at the discussion. Turning around for the Q&A revealed that a room that can accommodate over 100 people only had 30 in attendance.
The panel’s connection to a notoriously loud and abusive individual is supposed to have led to the small turnout. And the admirable model of Dr. Marcus Conant’s forums was not followed since there were no paper handouts and no food and drink provided. Discussion attendees are used to reading about the panel subjects and the panelists’ biographies, and it helps them to ask questions later. And many busy people in our community do not have time to eat lunch and they depend on evening meetings to provide sustenance.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
The Gay Asian Pacific Alliance (GAPA) presented their annual Lunar New Year Banquet Gala at the Empress of China Restaurant in San Francisco's Chinatown. The Feb. 6, 2010, event was year 21 for the banquets that are known as a gay Asian vortex of socializing, fashion, and some politics.
GAPA is an all-volunteer organization that encourages gay men from the various Asian communities to draw on their personal resources for camaraderie and self-esteem. Members of GAPA have spoken out as a group against racism and for LGBT awareness in schools, and they countered Asian fundamentalists’ “Yes on Prop 8” campaigning.
There is a challenge for GAPA to add and retain members because of the internet. The annual banquet and GAPA Runway Pageant draw a large turnout of members and guests, especially now that erotic film actor Brandon Lee has been a star attraction. But after some strategic planning meetings it was decided that there is also going to be an emphasis on happy hours, ski weekends, ice skating, movie nights, and brunches.
Fashion excitement rose throughout the pre-banquet cocktails and viewing of the silent auction items. API Wellness Center executive director Lance Toma drew admiring glances to his multi-textured black-on-black attire. San Francisco Community College Board member Lawrence Wong — who was the first openly-gay Asian man elected in the U.S. — wore a custom-made Mandarin suit and kid gloves. AIDS activist Ed Mah wore a Versace scarf and a black leather harness accessories to mix the kept man look with S&M.
Punk drag Monistat was poured into a sleek Halston gown but the classiness evaporated when she loudly announced that she was not wearing underwear. This turned out to be a theme of the evening.
There were various interpretations of drag and a couple of them reared up to over six feet. Two of the most impressive female impersonators were Miss GAPA 2009 BeyonSoy in a zebra-striped ensemble and event coordinator Estée Longah in a luscious pink satin gown. Both sported futuristic hair styles that defied gravity, and it was the crowd’s good luck that they shared the hosting duties without indulging in catfight histrionics. Longah yelled from the stage repeatedly for co-chair Alex Baty, and the joke was that Longah is Baty in drag.
The stage came alive with a performance by the Rice Rockettes, followed by co-chair Felix Tsai’s remarks, which ended with his revelation that guys join GAPA and attend the banquet “for the hot men.” Then a scholarship was given to a young woman named Phuong Tseng who is a queer educator at LYRIC. The Endup’s Sydney Leung received the George Choy Award of Recognition for his leadership contributions to the well-being of GAPA. Horizons executive director Roger Doughty received the Douglas Yaranon Award for the Horizons Foundation’s commitment to LGBT communities of color. The much sought after Godzy Award was given to Dion Wong, who revived the group’s 35-plus program.
Jeff Sead was memorialized by a slide show that gave the audience a cavalcade of not only Sead’s life, but also of GAPA events that included a striking Lunar New Year Parade float that Sead coordinated. Daniel Lee was remembered by the GAPA Men’s Chorus, a group he joined, with song.
The chorus’ conductor, Randy Kikukawa, is an historical figure. He was barred from a Castro leather bar in 1980, and after a week of large angry protests it was made clear to the bar owner and bigoted others that people of color and their friends would stand up to discrimination in the Castro district.
California State Senator Mark Leno and San Francisco Assessor Phil Ting spoke and bestowed proclamations on GAPA, and then the Community College Board’s Lawrence Wong addressed the throng. The openly gay Wong was exposed as gay over and over in local Chinese tabloids, but received the vote of every Chinatown precinct when he ran for City Supervisor. Supervisor Bevan Dufty spoke about his plans if he is elected the first openly-gay San Francisco mayor.
Notable GAPA guest supporters included playwright Charles Belov, attorney Paul Melbostad, and Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club board member Michael Costa, who spoke about his successful Haiti Relief Fundraiser at the Infusion Lounge.
Evan Low, 26-year-old Mayor of Campbell, California, was the keynote speaker and he painted a vivid image of himself flying out of Washington, D.C. just ahead of a giant blizzard to arrive on stage to talk about Prop. 8 and the 2010 and 2012 elections. GAPA had inspired him to run for office, and he had faced severe recrimination and threat of recall because Campbell is a hotbed of “Yes on Prop 8” types. Then Low surprised the audience and also film star Brandon Lee, when he invited Lee onto the stage to auction his underpants. Miss GAPA BeyonSoy held up her voluminous gown’s train and Lee stripped and redressed behind it, and held up the sexy white underpants which earned a large sum for GAPA. Lee is well known for his charity fundraising, sharp personality, the splendor of his body, and that he is an Asian primal top who is assertive as a businessman and as a character in his movies.
Abalone, duck in a bun, and quail and a giant fish with their heads on were taste treats, and then a supreme delicacy arrived — shrimp and walnuts minus the added mayonnaise seen at Brandy Ho’s.
Drag star Keri Hanna, consort to gay comic Marty Grimes, performed followed by another Rice Rockettes show led by the irrepressible Doncha Vishyuwuzme, followed by a last-minute rush for silent auction items that included some from co-founder Donald Masuda’s treasure house.
This journalist has covered every GAPA Banquet Gala, and this one surpassed the other 20 by a wide margin.
Saturday, February 06, 2010
The audience at the Roxie Theater was overwhelmed on Feb. 4 by “Wah Do Dem,” the stunning opening night film at the San Francisco Independent Film Festival. The movie, which means “what they do” in Jamaican patois, traces a vacuous hipster’s transformation into a real person as he loses most of his clothes and walks barefoot across Jamaica. The film was a big hit in Jamaica and won the Juror's Award at the Los Angeles Film Festival and awards at the London, New Zealand, and Vancouver festivals.
Brooklyn hipster Max, played by musician Sean Bones, is involved with Willow, played by singer Norah Jones who has sold 17 million
CDs. Bones is a composer and singer who resembles a brunette, rough-around-the edges Rick Schroeder. He is currently on an extensive tour with his band supporting his reggae-influenced pop album “Rings.”
The film is gay-tinged, and sexy Bones aroused gays in the audience. The festival has not had a full-tilt, blatantly gay film since “Gypsy Boys” (1999), which was filmed in the Castro. When the man-on-man kissing scene from “Gypsy Boys” was shown during the festival’s opening ceremony, there were a few knuckle-draggers yelling “What the fuck?!” as if to prove they were straight.
Bones was a better choice than the original casting choice of a Broadway actor. The part that Bones plays is a realistic ordeal that was potentially dangerous.
Max’s girlfriend Willow dumps him just before he was to go on a cruise he won in a contest. His friends can’t jeopardize their jobs, so Max goes solo on the voyage to Jamaica. The contrast between Max and the other passengers is glaringly obvious. He is sleek and in his early 20’s and they are 3-4 times larger and 3-4 times older. The directors give the audience carefully filmed views of most of Max, since he spends much of his time on the ship in his cabin in his underpants and later walking in just short shorts.
When Max leaves his cabin, he’s approached by a juggler who seems to want to get closer, and a single passenger, also a man in his 30s, who obviously wants to get a lot closer. There is measurable homoerotic tension that Max dispells by moving away.
The film is a cautionary tale for people who want to get the pulse of the people and get away from their fellow travelers while on vacation.
Just about the worst that befalls a tourist in Jamaica, or even in San Francisco, descends upon Max. In most locales there are seemingly friendly types who are really grifters who scheme to separate visitors from their property and their dignity.
Max loses all of his clothes except for his shorts and then realizes to his horror that he must travel with no money across hundreds of miles to reach the American embassy in Kingston after his ship sails without him. He's able to beg a jitney ride to the interior of the country, and then is ditched again.
In contrast to the thieves, the small mountain-top community where he's abandoned charmingly accepts Max through the universality of soccer and the tourist’s affability. He’s given a T-shirt and sneakers, fed, invited to their bar, and then coquettish young women dance intimately with the lost young American visitor.
The high point of the film occurs when Max meets up with an enigmatic mystic played by famed and venerable actor Carl Bradshaw of “The Harder They Come,” who guides the visitor through a banana forest to his home where he is mesmerized in a hallucinatory spell. Walking shirtless again, and carrying a torch, Max finds himself at a ravine where one of Jamaica’s most famous bands, The Congo, is rhythmically chanting and beating on drums.
Enlightenment for Max comes when he realizes that his narcissism and self-indulgence were placing barriers between himself and the people he cares about. At this point there is an impulse to not only marvel at the changes Max is undergoing, but also to get a CD of the film soundtrack, available soon at wahdodem.com/music.
A ride on the back of a scooter helps Max for some of his journey.
And a young man who keeps trying to rob him at knifepoint — which is ridiculous since he is obviously destitute — eventually guides him to the embassy in Kingston.
Many of the neighborhoods chosen for filming are dangerous, but directors Sam Fleischner and Ben Chace impressed the locals with their strong need to relate to lives of the people of the island, so they were not robbed. They were also modest at their screening Q&A, as if the performers, who were mostly non-actors, just presented their natural talents without direction. Highly-regarded festival programmer Anita Monga gave them sparkling compliments for their high-quality creation and their fans are eagerly awaiting their future productions.
The San Francisco Indiefest has been produced by intuitive event genius Jeff Ross since 2000, and since he is a fan of diverse films, bands, and wild parties, that is what is heaped onto the social schedules of the hordes of festival-goers. And the festival is a success year after year because of the promotional efforts of the Karen Larsen Associates PR company.
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
An exceptionally bland condominium that was built next to The Cinch bar has caused the shutdown of the Charlie Horse club that was a huge hit for the half-gay and half-straight crowds that piled into the bar for the last five years. Outrageously costumed punkish drag queens circled anxious looking young studs on the sidewalk on Jan. 30, as droves of club denizens poured into the afternoon spectacle.
The unhappy condo people who are a part of the future "San Francondo" manifestation — which is really a form of suburbanization — started complaining about club revelers as soon as the sun went down to the point that the San Francisco Police Department were there too often. Charlie Horse’s hostess Anna Conda cleverly timed the last club event at Polk Street’s last gay bar for the afternoon, which made it more difficult to whine to the police.
The real loss is for the charity funds that cannot be raised, and Anna Conda announced that the club closing would benefit the Community Housing Partnership. Non-profits of all kinds received generous support from Charlie Horse and in the present economy it will be hard for the groups to make up the funding.
Some of the marathon acts on stage defied description. Pristine Condition, evidently named for a sweet and beloved Cockette, was anything but. Condition screamed all over the stage and sported faux bleeding eyes and a scary looking fake stomach wound, and then she jumped off the stage to join DJ Bus Station John and columnist Marke B. in the teeming throng. Trashy glamorous hostess Anna Conda patiently and carefully introduced act after act until the finale at 7 PM.
Hopefully another phenomenal gay club will emerge on Polk Street to become a popular center for partying and charity fundraising.
The Gay Asian Pacific Alliance (GAPA) held an election meeting at the Asian Pacific Islander (API) Wellness Center on Polk Street on Jan. 30, 2010. The gay Asian activists who care enough about their community to volunteer hours weekly turned out for the high energy gathering, that was serious and also full of laughter. The serious part was maneuvering to support the API Wellness Center, which recently has had to cut services outside San Francisco because of budget problems. The laughter was for the knowing camaraderie among the active members, who joked with each other repeatedly.
GAPA is unique among queer people of color organizations, since it is a mostly social group that gets into gear politically during the election cycles and also members join subgroups such as the GAPA Chorus to sing. And there have been phenomenal dance and acting groups in GAPA’s past. Theater wizard Alan Quismorio presented "Collingwood Park 90210" which is still talked about, especially since the scenes of intense sheet smelling (for cheap cologne) and drinks thrown into audiences were seared into brain cells forever.
The newly elected officers are: co-chair Alex Baty, secretary Danny Lin, treasurer Tommy Huie, and member–at-large Trevor Nguyen. Baty is a GAPA Godzy award winner, which is a golden Godzilla trophy for members who excelled over the past year and who are also liked by other members. Baty also has a drag persona as the bewitching Estée Longah, and he maneuvered himself to a highly coveted placement on the AIDS Housing Alliance’s fundraising calendar cover.
The development of new members and the retention of signed-up members was a major topic of the gathering. Much of the rest of the meeting delved into plans for GAPA’s annual Lunar New Years Banquet at the Empress of China Restaurant on Feb 6. It is one of the most impressive restaurants in Northern California, and there will be a traditional ten-course feast, entertainment, and a silent auction of treasures. Banquet tickets are available at http://www.gapa.org/.