Gay maestro Van Cliburn dies

Van CliburnVan Cliburn, the Texas native who became the most acclaimed pianist of the second half the 20th century, has died, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and other outlets are reporting. He was 78. He revealed last fall that he had cancer.

Cliburn shot to fame in his early 20s, winning the first Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow during the height of the Cold War. He appeared on the cover of Time magazine and received a hero’s welcome in the U.S., including a ticker-tape parade. His subsequent early recordings were huge best sellers.

Beyond his power behind the keys, however, was his influence behind the scenes. He founded the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, a quadrennial celebration of great young musicians, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.

While many outlets reported correctly that Cliburn was deeply religious, few mentioned that he was also gay, making him one of our most honored but under-recognized icons.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

The iron ladies of “The Iron Lady”

Out filmmaker Phyllida Lloyd directs Meryl Streep, who talks gay icon status — of both herself and Margaret Thatcher

Nothing can stand in the way of the almighty Meryl Streep — except on this particular afternoon. At a New York City hotel, in front of a room full of journalists from mainstream press, she braces herself for what could be the ultimate career challenge. The mission? Answer a “gay” question.

With mock surprise, Streep dramatically throws her arms up and whips back in her chair, pretending it’s something she — two-time Oscar winner, recent Kennedy Center honoree, the “devil” herself – isn’t sure she can pull off.

“OK,” she says, sarcastically, “Let me get ready. All right, go.”

And so we do, citing mentions of the fierce Margaret Thatcher, whom Streep doesn’t just play but becomes in The Iron Lady, as a gay icon. So, is she?

Streep deliberates, working out the answer in her head before she lets go of it.

“You know, I don’t know. I just recently found out that I am a gay icon. It’s flattering, of course,” she says, noting the all-male tribute “Streep Tease” in West Hollywood (of which she says, “I haven’t gotten the nerve to go”). “But I think (Margaret) stirs very strong feelings even today, 20 years after leaving power. And she remains divisive. The film will enter a landscape of a world where she continues to cause controversy. I can’t answer the question about whether she’s a gay icon. That’s a difficult one for me.”

Something Meryl Streep can’t do? The recent Golden Globe winner for best actress in a drama, for Iron Lady, is supposed to be this thespian superwoman who can effortlessly slip into character. She’s such a persona-transcendent pro that when she’s sitting right in front of you, you’re asking yourself: Is that really her? Heck, after being so outside herself, does Meryl Streep even know Meryl Streep?

Iron Lady, then, is a made-for-Meryl movie, from the prosthetics that afford an uncanny transformation into Britain’s first female prime minister to the heart that she finds among all that, well, iron.

“The biggest challenge for me was accomplishing the long lines of thought that she would launch into without taking a breath,” Streep recalls. “Even with all the drama school that I’ve had, I had a lot of trouble managing that. Just the galvanizing energy and the drive and the capacity to follow through with a conviction all the way through to the end of your breath until you can’t go any further,” she says, breathlessly in character, “and not to let anybody interrupt!”

“It was masterful the way she could manage these interviews.” She lets out a hearty laugh. “I’m taking notes on that.”

Thatcher was a strident figure of polarizing effect, a loved-and-hated political icon admired not necessarily for her ideas but for the way she was able to execute them — in the face of class and gender prejudice.

“The array of obstacles that stood before her in England at that time were enormous,” Streep notes, “and I think she did a service for our team [women] by getting there even though you might not agree with the politics. Anybody that stands up and is willing to be a leader, who is as prepared as she was and as smart as she was, is admirable on a certain level, because you really sacrifice a great deal. All of our public figures do.”

The film spans three days in Thatcher’s post prime, well into her 80s, after dementia wipes out her memories and she tries to capture whichever ones she has left. For as political-minded as she was, the film isn’t very political at all. And it wasn’t meant to be.

“All of us understood what we were wanting from this piece,” Streep says. “It was not going to be chronicling Margaret Thatcher’s political life; it would be a particular look back through her own eyes at selected memories – not in chronological order, but in a jumble of memory, regret, glory days. It would all be a part of a reckoning.”

The film is facing intense scrutiny for breezing past the political turmoil that Thatcher stirred and, instead, focusing on her personal life.

“We have come under criticism for portraying someone who is frail and in delicate health,” Streep admits. “Some people have said it’s shameful to portray this part of a life, but if you think that debility, delicacy and dementia are shameful, if you think that the ebbing end of life is something that should be shut away, if you think that people need to be defended from that, from those images,– then yes, it is a shameful thing. But I don’t think that. We are naturally interested in our leaders, and we tell stories about ourselves through the stories of important people.”

Out director Phyllida Lloyd elaborates: “We thought of the film as something of a King Lear for girls, a Shakespearean story — not a political story. So, in that sense, we spoke to a number of Margaret Thatcher’s closest associates, who described her story in Shakespearean and operatic terms. I’d worked in opera a lot and to me, this did have some of the elements of a tragic opera. The movie is a combination of the political world and pure imagination. It’s two very distinctive worlds.”

This isn’t the first time Streep and Lloyd have bridged two worlds. 2008’s Mamma Mia! united the actress’ singing and dancing, with Lloyd directing.

“I think it’s always easier the second time working together,” the filmmaker admits. “In fact, you should start with the second time.”

Looking at her, pretending to be offended, Streep laughs: “What do you mean?”

“I loved working with her… the first time,” the actress razzes. “We had shorthand (on Iron Lady), and we had to because we had $14 million to shoot a movie that takes place over the course of six decades. And that’s basically no money. That’s less than a tenth of what Hugo cost.”

She hands it to Lloyd for strongly conveying her vision prior to shooting, which allowed Streep a sense of security in knowing just how to find Thatcher’s mind, body and spirit.

“I’m playing a Margaret Thatcher no one has seen or really knows, and we can’t know. It’s an imagined journey that we were taking, so I felt a lot of freedom. I did,” Streep says. “I felt completely free, and that’s a testament to the director.”

But it wasn’t all Lloyd. Though she’s never met Margaret Thatcher, Streep wore the prime minister’s many hats, learning that the woman wasn’t a slacker and that her father saw Thatcher as the man of the house.

“He discovered, of his two daughters, one was uncommonly bright and uncommonly curious, and maybe this could be his boy,” she says. “That’s what I think. She fulfills a promise, and he infused in her the courage to get up and out. She had a lot of promise, and she wanted to live up to it.”

When did Streep realize the same for herself?

“I never really decided. I’m still ambivalent.” She laughs at the notion. “But no, being an actor lets me be a million different things, so I don’t have to decide.”

 — Chris Azzopardi

 

 

—  Rich Lopez

Cher is the latest gay icon to get a comic book

I’m not sure who’s running things over at Bluewater Productions comics, but they know their gay audiences. Following up on previous celebrity bio-comics like Lady Gaga, Madonna and Ellen DeGeneres, the publisher announced today that Cher will get the comic treatment this December. Her story will be the latest issue of their series Female Force. The 32-page comic will feature art by Zach Bassett and Warren Montgomery. The cover is by DC Comics Joe Philips. From BlueWater Productions:

Writer Marc Shapiro said Cher’s life and career “reads like a comic book.” “The clothes, the times, the attitudes of the decades she’s lived through. The different styles of music she’s been involved in. So much of what Cher has experienced is so flamboyant, over the top and just plain out there,” said Shapiro. “She has been very much the real life equivalent of a superhero, and writing about Cher, to a large degree, has been just about letting my imagination go.”

With no specific date mentioned, Bluewater says to expect the comic in the month of December at comic book shops, Barnes & Noble bookstores and Amazon.

—  Rich Lopez

‘Gypsy’ in her soul

B’way legend and gay icon Patti LuPone brings her powerful pipes to Dallas

concerts-1ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

You might not have seen her name above the title on a movie or welcomed her every week into your house via the boob tube, but when it comes to the stage, there are few contemporary performers who rival Patti LuPone.

“I’m not a movie actress — I think I’m a hard sell in the movies,” LuPone says matter-of-factly. (She is, however, about to shoot a film in New Orleans, playing  J-Lo’s mom.) While the Juilliard-trained actress has met her greatest success in musical theater, it’s her acting chops that have transformed songs like “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” (from Evita — her first Tony Award) and “Rose’s Turn” (Gypsy — her second Tony). The latter was a career highlight: The most ferocious role for a woman ever written for an American musical. Two years after it closed, she’s still happy to talk about it.

“It was great,” she beams. “Arthur [Laurents, the director and writer] assembled a spectacular cast — we really were a triumvirate. I don’t think you can act alone. You need partners on stage.”

That the production took place “was really done as a tribute to Arthur’s partner of 50 years, Tom Hatcher,: she says. “Tom had just died, and he’s the one who told Arthur to do West Side Story and Gypsy. Arthur agreed to do it basically to keep him alive. He wanted it to be different than the last one and really have an acted show.”

Although the entire principal cast won Tonys, Laurents did not.  “How could the director not win!” LuPone says, voice filling with outrage. You sense it’s such emotional readiness that has made her a Broadway icon.

LuPone brings that legendary power to the stage of the Meyerson this week, with what she calls a “piano and voice only” concert (no orchestra), titled Gypsy in My Soul. “It’s a collection of songs including some showtunes,” she says.

When an actress so identified with certain composers, especially Stephen Sondheim, performs in concert, she can run the risk of being compelled to perform songs that no longer interest her. That’s simply not the case with LuPone.

“Songs never become old hat to me, “ she says categorically. “Because audiences want to hear one, so I do one — not even because I have to; I want to. If they are really good songs you want to sing them.”

LuPone has, in one venue or another, run through almost the entire Sondheim repertoire: Mama Rose, Passion, Company, Mrs. Lovett from Sweeney Todd (another Tony nomination — “I actually got rotator cuff problems from carrying around that tuba”). Really, only two have eluded her.

“I wanted to play Desiree [in the revival of A Little Night Music, which closed earlier this year on Broadway]. I contacted Trevor [Nunn, the director], who didn’t contact me back,” she says, with a sting. “Really the last Sondheim role for me is the Witch in Into the Woods, which I was originally offered! After it left San Diego they offered it to me; I said I d like to play Cinderella, so I came in and auditioned for that. Then they said, ‘We still want you to play the Witch.’ Then negotiations fell apart.”

Her resume is littered with shows — some huge hits, some personal triumphs.

“I loved Women on the Verge,” she says of her last Broadway venture, which closed quickly last year (though not before landing her a sixth Tony nom). “I think there’s a lot of creativity [on Broadway] now, but I’m sick and tired of the spectacles. My biggest complaint is the sound level: I’d rather be brought to the stage than pushed back in my seat.”

And she’s always looking ahead. “Mandy [Patinkin] and I are coming to Broadway for nine weeks [soon], then we will go out on the road both together and separately. Then there’s stuff happening that I can’t say because I’m not supposed to,” she teases.

You might expect she’d find a pace more suitable for a 62-year-old, but LuPone denies that the demands of eight shows a week wear her out.

“I have Italian peasant energy,” he says. “Even at my age, there is this abundance of energy, especially songs that are physically demanding. I am exhilarated by them.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

GOProud taps Coulter for advisory board

Is THIS the Queen of Fabulous?

I firmly believe that for the LGBT equality to make true and lasting progress, we need activists and allies in both the major political parties. Though I don’t always agree with the political viewpoints of the LGBT Republicans I know, I do think their presence and their efforts are vital to our community’s progress.

But hooking up with and/or supporting anti-gay politicians and pundits, I think, takes more than one giant step in the wrong direction. Unfortunately, that’s just what the LGBT Republican group GOProud has done by naming wing-nut Ann Coulter as honorary chair of the organization’s advisory board. Her “official title,” according to this GOProud press release, is “honorary chair and gay icon.”

GOProud board chair Christopher Barron said in the press release: ““Ann Coulter is a brilliant and fearless leader of the conservative movement. We are honored to have her as part of GOProud’s leadership. Ann helped put our organization on the map. Politics is full of the meek, the compromising and the apologists – Ann, like GOProud, is the exact opposite of all of those things. We need more Ann Coulters.”

Coulter said: “I am honored to serve in this capacity on GOProud’s Advisory Council, and look forward to being the Queen of fabulous.”

—  admin

OWN and ‘Becoming Chaz’

When I first heard that Oprah Winfrey was starting her own network — aptly called the Oprah Winfrey Network or OWN — I was expecting something like Lifetime or even The Hallmark Channel. Who knew we’d end up with a cross between Logo and Bravo and CNN?!

OWN is the home, of course, of Lisa Ling’s “Our America” series which has had installments so far featuring transgender people (“Transgender Lives”) and ex-gays (“Pray the Gay Away”). And today, I saw for the first time a short trailer about “Becoming Chaz,” a documentary on Chastity Bono’s transition to Chaz Bono which will include interviews with Chaz’s gay icon mom, Cher. It premiers in May on OWN

Here’s the trailer. I know I’ll be watching.

—  admin

Clay Aiken performs tonight at Verizon Theatre

Clay Aiken went from ‘American Idol’ to gay icon — and more

It should come as no surprise that singer Clay Aiken would be a gentleman. With his Southern twang and clean-cut persona, he’s both personable and professional in an interview. But the kid is also pretty slick.

“Not many people can deal with the scrutiny of bullshit.”

Whoa — did Clay Aiken just drop the “S” word? The remark comes on the heels of a question about his much blogged-about new relationship with Jeff Walters, a local actor with recent parts in such shows as Uptown Players’ Closer to Heaven and Ohlook’s The Rocky Horror Show. Perez Hilton and many others (our own Instant Tea blog even got in on the action) were quick to highlight the guys’ night out on the town, complete with pics at Theatre Three and the Gaylord. What soon followed were pics of Walters from Grindr and his work as an underwear model.

“I’ll save you the trouble of asking and not answer,” Aiken laughs with that underlying tone that he’s tight-lipped about his personal life.

Read the entire article here.

—  Rich Lopez

Feat of Clay

DAPPER DUDE  |  Clay Aiken doesn’t spill the beans much on his personal life, but talks up his activism work with LGBT organizations because he takes them and the work they do very personally.

Clay Aiken went from ‘American Idol’ to gay icon — and more

RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

It should come as no surprise that singer Clay Aiken would be a gentleman. With his Southern twang and clean-cut persona, he’s both personable and professional in an interview. But the kid is also pretty slick.

“Not many people can deal with the scrutiny of bullshit.”

Whoa — did Clay Aiken just drop the “S” word? The remark comes on the heels of a question about his much blogged-about new relationship with Jeff Walters, a local actor with recent parts in such shows as Uptown Players’ Closer to Heaven and Ohlook’s The Rocky Horror Show. Perez Hilton and many others (our own Instant Tea blog even got in on the action) were quick to highlight the guys’ night out on the town, complete with pics at Theatre Three and the Gaylord. What soon followed were pics of Walters from Grindr and his work as an underwear model.

“I’ll save you the trouble of asking and not answer,” Aiken laughs with that underlying tone that he’s tight-lipped about his personal life.

Fair enough. There is much more to Aiken, after all, than mere gossip fodder, as he’s proven with his staunch activism for the welfare of children and youth. His service with the National Inclusion Project (formerly the Bubel/Aiken Foundation) and UNICEF has been notable, but his work with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) may have his most personal vested interest at heart.

“I think that I chose to work with GLSEN more vocally than other equality organizations because it hits home more,” he says. “All the organizations are incredible, but I got picked on growing up as a kid. For being a nerd, for being gay before I knew I even was. And I still get picked on. Being a celebrity doesn’t protect you and it can be worse when it’s more public.”

Aiken says that without any sign of whining. He focuses less on what people are saying about him (there is a lot out there that’s not-so-nice, starting when he was still an American Idol contestant) and is more interested in directing his attention to anti-bullying causes and making schools safe.

“I understand that mission from my personal standpoint. From the scars,” he chuckles. “But as a former teacher, I want to be sure schools are safe places for kids.”

Interestingly, as a fairly new dad (his son is 2 now), Aiken says his passion didn’t necessarily grow from parenthood. Instead, he says he’d like to think he was always that passionate. But having a son did add a perspective that he thinks might be missing in today’s LGBT parents.

“Well, it’s one thing to protect yourself, but an entirely different thing to protect your child,” he says. “I understand that if my son is gay, I want him to have rights and protections. I think that idea is somewhat lacking within the community. It’s easy to forget that the rights we’re fighting for are for another generation.”

Aiken hesitates to liken the struggle for equal rights for LGBT citizens now with the civil rights movement of Black America in the ‘60s, but he connected with the idea that then, people were working and fighting for rights so that generation’s children didn’t have to. Aiken encourages that thought for LGBT parents.

“We don’t have as many opportunities to look at it that way,” he says. “The generation before us may not have been able to get married and we may in this lifetime, but as a father now, I want to make sure and set up a future for my son.”

Lest we forget, Aiken is first and foremost a musician and singer. He’ll remind North Texas of that as his tour stops at Verizon Theatre on Tuesday in support of his fifth full-length studio release, Tried and True. He recorded old-school tunes from the ‘50s and ’60s, putting his indelible vocal stamp on classics like “Mack the Knife” and

“Unchained Melody.” Ironically, Aiken doesn’t listen much to any music. He’s more of a news junkie.

“I really don’t. I listen to NPR and watch CNN,” he admits. “I love top 40 stuff like Katy Perry and Gaga when it’s on in the car, but I guess I’m kind of a music-less musician.”

Highly doubtful.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

Quite possibly the best pitch to listen to one gay singer’s Christmas tunes

This pitch by out singer Darren Stewart-Jones was one of the best things we saw all week. He’s in a bit of a quandary with his two new Christmas releases. As it turns out, they are the same two songs that are going to be  released by a singer with a much higher profile. So he offered the reasons why LGBT Christmas music lovers should pick his tracks over (or maybe along with) a certain pop star’s.

Subject: Kylie or me…

So, I decide to officially release two Christmas tracks on iTunes this year. A week later, international gay icon Kylie Minogue does the same. And by the same, I mean the exact same two Xmas carols, out of all of the fucking Christmas songs out there. Anyway, I took the liberty of doing some comparison shopping for you. Happy Holidays!

“Santa Baby”
Why you should buy my version…
1.       My version is gay. I mean, the song has always been a little gay but my version is sung by me, a gay man, to Santa, a kind of gay daddy bear, if you will. If you sing along, you don’t have to pretend to be a girl.

2.       Inspired by the It Gets Better project, proceeds from my version go to Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans youth charities, including the LGBT Youth Line here in Canada.

3.       My home-made video on YouTube features naked guys and is really hot!

Why you shouldn’t buy hers…
1.        She is already rich.

2.       Plenty of people will download her version even if you don’t.

3.       She can really grate on your nerves sometimes. Admit it.

“Let It Snow”
Why you should buy my version…
1.       I won’t be making any money from Santa Baby because it is all going to charity so if you download Let It Snow, I actually get some cash.

2.       You really feel a need to support independent, gay artists.

3.       I grew up in Canada so when I sing about snow, I know what I am talking about.

Why you shouldn’t buy hers…
1.       She is already rich.

2.       Plenty of people will download her version even if you don’t.

3.       She is from Australia. What the fuck does she know about snow?

Happy Holidays from Darren Stewart-Jones

Baby Gumm Productions

His cursing isn’t very Christmas spirit-like though. After sampling his music snippets on iTunes, you can compare with these clips of Minogue singing her versions here and find more information about her Dec. 7 holiday release.

—  Rich Lopez

Best Bets • 08.27.10

Saturday 08.28

We’d go for the food and the beef

This has caused quite a dilemma. If we were going to Visions: The Women’s Expo this weekend, we’d want to nosh on Fort Worth chef Scott Jones’ culinary demonstrations, but there is no way in hell we’d miss the Hot Firefighters Auction. Along with fashion shows, style makeovers and exhibitors, we are learning one thing — it’s hard to be a woman.

DEETS: Dallas Market Hall, 2200 N. Stemmons Freeway. Through Sunday. $10. VisionsExpo.com.


Saturday 08.28

Marvin’s room is gonna be a big one

Composer Marvin Hamlisch may acheive gay icon status because of his work with Barbra Streisand (an Oscar for “The Way We Were,” yo), but he doesn’t need a diva to prove he’s amazing. He’s gonna give it up for Dallas George Gershwin style as part of the pops series of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Which means, you’ll witness a legend at his best.

DEETS: Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora St. 8 p.m. $22–117. DallasSymphony.org.


Sunday 08.29

We get it — comics aren’t just for kids

A weekend of adults dressed in sci-fi outfits may be daunting but two things make this Dallas Comic Con worthwhile. Battlestar Galactica’s Edward James Olmos appears and Dallas’ own The Variants (aka Zeus Comics) make an showing.

DEETS: Richardson Civic Center, 411 W. Arapaho Road. Noon. $10–$20. SciFiExpo.com/DCC.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 27, 2010.

—  Rich Lopez