Super Bowl goes gay with ads, halftime show

The NFL might want to consider changing the name of the Super Bowl to the Faaabulous Bowl. At least if last night’s game was any indicator.

It’s not enough that it featured hunky QBs Tom Brady and Eli Manning (and could have Drew Brees or Tim Tebow), running around in Spandex with other muscle bears. And there was of course Madonna’s mega-gay halftime show with scantily clad gladiators and cross-dressing scruffy guys and Nikki Minaj, who kinda-sorta seems like a drag queen to me. Even the first half recap was set to “Edge of Glory” by Gaga.

No, the real gayness was in the commercials. Watch a few of them below  …

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Taylor was early and tireless HIV/AIDS advocate

Actress will ‘stand for history on a podium above everyone else’

SANDY COHEN  |  AP Entertainment Writer

LOS ANGELES — Elizabeth Taylor was as well known for her AIDS advocacy as she was for her acting.

She was the first celebrity to speak out on the mysterious and socially divisive disease in the 1980s, calling for research, compassionate care and an end to discrimination against people with HIV and AIDS.

“I kept seeing all these news reports on this new disease and kept asking myself why no one was doing anything,” Taylor once recalled. “And then I realized that I was just like them. I wasn’t doing anything to help.”

She got involved with AIDS activism in 1985 and worked tirelessly to raise money and awareness for the rest of her life, said Craig Thompson, executive director of AIDS Project Los Angeles, where Taylor held early fundraisers for AIDS research.

“There have been a lot of incredible warriors in the fight, but she will stand for history on a podium above everyone else,” he said, adding that Taylor had seen firsthand how her friend, Rock Hudson, had lost his battle with AIDS.

In 1985, when the government had done little to educate people about the disease and nurses were afraid to deliver food trays to AIDS patients in hospitals, Taylor, along with a group of physicians, helped establish the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR).

“This was long before celebrities routinely performed or worked with charities… and the cause she selected was a disease Americans were frightened about,” Thompson said. “It wasn’t just as if she took the risk of attaching her celebrity status to a cause. She picked the most controversial cause at the time. But she was like, ‘I have friends who are dying and I have to do something, and what I can do is help raise money and help raise awareness.”

Taylor, as chairwoman of the American Foundation for AIDS Research, visited Capitol Hill to demand that the government live up to its promise to spend nearly $1 billion a year to help people with AIDS with the Ryan White Care Act. She and other stars befriended Ryan White, a teenager from Indiana who, as a hemophiliac, got HIV through a contaminated blood transfusion, was expelled from school because of his infection and became one of the disease’s most prominent early victims.

AmfAR leaders on Wednesday called Taylor “one of the most inspirational figures in the fight against AIDS.”

“She was profoundly instrumental in helping us identify the resources which have led to the research that has improved and extended the lives of those with HIV and AIDS,” said Kevin Robert Frost, chief executive of amfAR, which has invested more than $300 million towards AIDS research. “She served actively on our board up until the day she died,” Frost said.

Taylor testified on Capitol Hill in the early 1990s and convinced legislators to care about the disease, Thompson said.

“Every senator showed up. The rooms were packed and people were spellbound,” he said. “She connected HIV and AIDS to a generation that felt itself immune, the over-50 folks. Because Elizabeth Taylor was talking about it, people like my mother were reading about HIV and AIDS.”

Taylor put a public — and beloved — face on the disease.

“At a time when most Americans thought of HIV/AIDS as something that didn’t affect them, her commitment to the issue and considerable star power helped to take the fight against HIV/AIDS right into the mainstream of American society,” said Don Blanchon, who oversees the Whitman-Walker Clinic in Washington, D.C., which named its main facility after Taylor in 1993.

Magic Johnson, who put his own face on the disease when he was diagnosed with HIV in 1991, tweeted his gratitude to Taylor on Wednesday.

“Elizabeth, thank you for all your help in the battle for HIV and AIDS,” he wrote. “You will be missed by the world.”

In 1991, the actress founded the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, which has given more than $12 million to organizations across the country that provide direct care and services to people living with the disease.

Elton John praised his fellow AIDS advocate and entertainer as “a Hollywood giant … and an incredible human being.”

“She earned our adoration for her stunning beauty and for being the very essence of glamorous movie stardom,” John said in a statement Wednesday. “And she earned our enduring love and respect for her compassion and her courage in standing up and speaking out about AIDS when others preferred to bury their heads in the sand.”

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the Human Rights Campaign said Taylor didn’t just fight for those with HIV and AIDS; she fought for equality for all.

“At a time when so many living with HIV/AIDS were invisible, Dame Taylor fearlessly raised her voice to speak out against injustice,” said GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios. “Dame Taylor was an icon not only in Hollywood, but in the LGBT community where she worked to ensure that everyone was treated with the respect and dignity we all deserve.”

The group recognized Taylor with its Vanguard Award in 2000. “What it comes down to, ultimately, is love,” she said in accepting the honor. “How can anything bad come out of love? The bad stuff comes out of mistrust, misunderstanding and, God knows, from hate and from ignorance.”

Taylor died Wednesday from congestive heart failure. She was 79.

—  John Wright

Remembering Liz Taylor

The actress with the violet eyes captured LGBTs first with her grace and beauty and then with her unstoppable AIDS activism

DAVID WEBB  |  The Rare Reporter

Old queens worldwide will likely be watching Cleopatra, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Butterfield 8 and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf this weekend as they drink cocktails and weep.

Elizabeth Taylor, the greatest superstar of all time — and a world-renowned friend of the LGBT community and loving godmother to people who suffered and died from HIV infections — has passed away from congestive heart failure at the age of 79 in a Los Angeles hospital.

Her children issued a statement saying that the world had been a better place as a result of her living in it. And that is an understatement.

Her Oscar-winning contributions to entertainment and charity were phenomenal.

At the age of 10, I would go to the grocery store with my parents and immediately rush to the magazine rack to grab copies of the latest Hollywood gossip rags featuring Elizabeth Taylor, the reigning queen of Hollywood. I loved reading about the triumphs, tragedies, scandals and excesses of her life, and I adored and supported her throughout them.

At the time I had no way of knowing that I was gay, and that as such, I was one of those people she often embraced and befriended, long before it became fashionable to do so.

But I did know there was something different about me that made me sympathetic to her love affairs and life in general that shocked conservative people.

When the AIDS epidemic struck in the early 1980s and Elizabeth Taylor’s good friend Rock Hudson later became one of the early victims of it, she proved how brave and loyal a friend and humanitarian she could be.

The most beautiful and glamorous movie star of all time commanded the kind of clout that drew international attention, inspired others to follow suit and revolutionized public opinion. Without her help, I can’t imagine that we would be where we are today in terms of education, research and treatment of HIV infections.

While others reacted with fear and hatred as the epidemic raged, she spoke out on behalf of HIV patients and urged compassion.

Elizabeth Taylor’s reach was phenomenal. About five years ago I intended a charity benefit for the Disciples of Trinity in Dallas that provides help to terminally ill people. She had sent an autographed photograph to the charity for it to sell in a silent auction.

I was determined to leave the party with the photograph that night and I did — about a hundred dollars later.

Her generosity extended to many charities, and because of that and her work promoting HIV research, she received France’s Legion of Honor in 1987 and Queen Elizabeth made her a dame in 2000.

She also received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Oscars in 1993 and the President’s Citizens Medal from President Clinton in 2001.

The Elizabeth Taylor Foundation for AIDS that she underwrote evidently will live on, as her children have asked for anyone wanting to send flowers to instead make a donation to the charity that bears her name.

I had always hoped I would get to meet Elizabeth Taylor one day. The closest I ever got was to seeing her at a public appearance to promote her perfume “Passion” at NorthPark Centre in 1987. I also saw her footprints at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, her star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame and the gates of her estate in Bel Air, and I’ve toured her former villa in Puerto Vallarta.

I console myself with the knowledge that everyone has a final curtain call to make, and it was time for hers. It was a brilliant performance.

And although she is gone she will live on in my memory and millions of other fans. I’ll be one of those old queens watching her movies this weekend.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has written about LGBT issues for more than two decades. He is a former Dallas Voice staff writer. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

—  John Wright