Liz’s favorite pub

The tribute to Elizabeth Taylor at her favorite pub, The Abbey in West Hollywood

Beloved icon Elizabeth Taylor was laid to rest today in a private service at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, Calif. — the same cemetery where her friend Michael Jackson was buried — a day after she died of congestive heart failure. The service caught most people off-guard, a blessing since it means that the whack-a-doodles from Westboro Baptist had no chance to get to Glendale to protest at the funeral like they said they planned to do.

Dame Elizabeth’s family has said there will be public memorial service for the star at a later date, but the tribute began at her favorite hangout in West Hollywood since news of her death, at age 79, became public on Wednesday. And that favorite hangout, by the way, is a gay bar.

Taylor first started hanging out at The Abbey about five or six years ago, and according to this report in The New York Times, she told the owner it was her favorite pub. The bar, in fact, had become something of a tourist attraction because people knew that she was a regular.

Since her death, the Abbey has set up a memorial tribute to Taylor that is drawing a crowd of mourners. The tribute, set up in what the bar has long called the Elizabeth Taylor Room, includes the huge framed portrait of herself Taylor donated to the bar, several floral arrangements and, on a nearby table, a Blue Velvet martini, made with vodka and blueberry schnapps and named in honor of her 1944 film National Velvet.

—  admin

‘Born This Way’ truly is an LGBT anthem

No matter what machinations may be hiding in the background, the message shines through in the new song from Lady Gaga

RAFAEL MCDONNELL | Special Contributor

Last Friday, Feb. 11, as I drove into work, I listened to Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way” on the music player built into my cell phone. I mention that because I’ve never been the most technically-proficient person. In fact, among my friends and family, I’m known as a “late adopter” of technology.

Yet, I daresay that I likely wasn’t the only person to listen to the song that way, that day.

You couldn’t go anywhere last weekend without bumping into “Born This Way.” From restaurants, clubs and shops to radio, TV and the Grammy Awards, the song was everywhere. According to Billboard magazine, “Born This Way” was downloaded nearly 450,000 times between that Friday and Sunday, Feb. 13 — setting a record for a female artist.

The song also debuted at number one on the “Billboard Hot 100” this week. Only 19 songs have done that since 1958, including those by Elton John, Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey and Aerosmith.

But before this column turns into a Casey Kasem imitation, let me say I’m mentioning these statistics for a reason.

It’s not important if “Born This Way” sounds like a song Madonna released in the late 1980s. It doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of Lady Gaga or not. It also doesn’t matter why she recorded the song — whether it is a paean to her LGBT fans or merely a cynical marketing ploy to sell a product.

The rapid pervasiveness of “Born This Way,” much as the “It Gets Better” videos did last fall, has the potential to spread discussions of LGBT issues far from Oak Lawn, Greenwich Village or West Hollywood. It transcends borders of geography, race, class, social status and history. How could it not, with lyrics like “No matter gay, straight, or bi/ Lesbian, transgendered life/ I’m on the right track, baby/ I was born to survive”?

Think of it for a moment. A kid in rural America, miles away from a traditional LGBT community, might be questioning her sexual orientation or gender identity. That kid may not have an understanding family or easy access to supportive resources. But if she has an Internet connection, or a digital music player, or even (gasp!) a CD player or radio, she will hear a message affirming her individuality played either on demand or seemingly every 90 minutes.

Saying the specific words of support and affirmation towards the LGBT community are what matters. Who cares if Lady Gaga emerged from an egg while doing it?

Let’s look at it from another perspective.

The field of semiotics is the study of communication through signs and symbols. Those who study semiotics believe that all cultural phenomena can be studied as a form of communication. Since bursting onto the musical scene, Lady Gaga is undoubtedly a cultural phenomenon. But, what’s the message being sent, and what’s being received?

To me, the message is a simple one.

From her concerts to her activism supporting the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” Lady Gaga has reiterated a clear and consistent message of support for the LGBT community, whether she’s wearing a meat dress or a bra shooting sparks.

With the debut of “Born This Way,” she has cranked that message to maximum volume via multi-channel distribution. Its permeative nature will undoubtedly shape conversations from Dallas to Dime Box and beyond, and it has the potential to open minds and change hearts. If it does that, it’s a success.

Yes, there have been other songs offering support and understanding to the LGBT community. For example, I remember hearing Erasure’s “Hideaway” in the late 1980s. But at the time, that song was never released as a single and it never garnered much radio airplay.

Other pop songs, from “Over the Rainbow” to “I Will Survive” to “It’s Raining Men” have been adopted as anthems for the LGBT community — even though they weren’t directly written for us.

Add to that the technological changes that allow stories, music and art to go viral. The phone on which I listened to “Born This Way” can also play the YouTube video of the Grammy Awards performance, and upload comments and links to Facebook and Twitter. All of this serves to amplify the message behind the music.

That’s what makes “Born This Way” different. Lady Gaga is in your face with a specific message that all people — not just the LGBT community — should, as the song says, “rejoice and love yourself today,” and it’s being communicated on an unfathomable scale.

It also doesn’t hurt that it has a good beat and you can dance to it.

Rafael McDonnell is strategic communications and programs manager at Resource Center Dallas. E-mail him at rmcdonnell@rcdallas.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Civil unions in Hawaii; drug bust aboard world’s largest gay cruise; Lady Gaga

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Hawaii is set to become the seventh state to legalize civil unions for same-sex couples, after the House passed the measure Friday. The civil unions bill now returns to the Senate, which has already passed it once and could send it to Gov. Neil Abercrombie as early as this week. Abercrombie’s predecessor, Linda Lingle, vetoed similar legislation last year. But Abercrombie supports the bill.

2. Authorities arrested a suspected drug dealer aboard the Atlantis ship that’s been billed as the world’s largest gay cruise, during a stop in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Steven Barry Krumholz, 51, of West Hollywood, Calif., was arrested after authorities searched his cabin and found more than 142 ecstasy pills, nearly 3 grams of methamphetamine, a small quantity of ketamine and about $51,000 in cash.

3. In case you missed it, Lady Gaga (above) was hatched out of an egg at the beginning of her performance of “Born This Way” on Sunday night at the Grammy Awards. (Video of the performance, at least until it gets pulled, is below.)  For a full list of Grammy winners in major categories, go here.


—  John Wright

Dallas, Round-Up Saloon, American, Southwest among finalists for TripOut Gay Travel Awards

Voting for the second annual TripOut Gay Travel Awards is under way, and it looks like Dallas is well represented among the nominees, which reportedly are selected by “20 of the hardest-working, busiest travel journalists covering the LGBT planet.”

Big D is among six finalists worldwide for “Best Breakout Destination,” which is described as a place that’s either “off the beaten path” or “making unexpected strides.”

“It’s not just the home of oil barons and cowboys, Dallas is also one of the proudest gay cities around,” according to TripOut Gay Travel.

The other finalists in the Breakout Destination category are Mexico City, Tel Aviv, Toronto, Reykjavik and Cambodia.

Meanwhile, in the “Best Gay Bar” category, our own Round-Up Saloon is among six finalists worldwide:

“Instinct Magazine crowned it the ‘Best Galdanged Gay Bar in the U.S. of A.’ and it’s hard to argue with the fun and full-on cowboy action that the Round-Up serves up nightly. For 30 years, this place has been delivering Dallas with a really big ‘D’ — complete with two-stepping, a tequila bar, friendly staffers and more ten-gallon hats than you can possibly rest on your bedpost. Even Lady Gaga loves it! An American classic.”

The other finalists for Best Gay Bar are the Abbey in West Hollywood, Club Manana in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Roscoe’s in Chicago, Royal Vauxhall Tavern in London and the Week in Rio/Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Also, Fort Worth-based American Airlines and Dallas-based Southwest Airlines are two of the six finalists for, well, “Best Airline.”

Cast your vote in all the categories by going here.

—  John Wright

Stay of Prop 8 ruling prompts protests on a day when gay marriages would have resumed

Nine protesters were arrested Thursday morning following a sit-in at the San Diego County Clerk’s Office, where a gay couple requested a marriage license. The couple had scheduled their appointment prior to a federal appeals court’s decision earlier this week to put same-sex marriages on hold until at least December. Sheriff’s deputies eventually showed up in full riot gear (shown above) to arrest the nine protesters, who are members of the San Diego Alliance for Marriage Equality. More pics from the protest can be found here. According to the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News, supporters have called an emergency rally for 5 p.m. outside the jail to protest the arrests and demand the activists’ immediate release.

Meanwhile, up the road in West Hollywood, a rally is planned for 6 p.m. Thursday night at Santa Monica Blvd. and San Vicente Blvd. From the Facebook event page:

Although Judge Walker’s decision was a victory for Prop 8 opponents, the fight is NOT over. Do not let that victorious feeling make you complacent! Let it be known that we will remain vigilant and active until marriage equality is restored in California!

UPDATE: Here’s some video of the San Diego protest:

—  John Wright

Despite apology Target controversy continues

According to the Chicago Tribune, the controversy revolving around Target’s $150,000 contribution to a PAC that supported a virulently anti-gay candidate continues.

In West Hollywood, this weekend, activists plan a day of buying and returning items to the local Target. Each return costs the company $3.

Human Rights Campaign is negotiating with the company to make an equal donation to an LGBT group. They are backed by members of the San Francisco city council. Target has proposed building two stores in that city. The commissioners are holding up approval of zoning for the stores.

In July, Target hired Matt Zabel, right-wing Senator John Thune’s long-time chief of staff to be their government affairs director. The next week, Target made their donation.

When the LGBT community objected, the company took notice. The Chicago newspaper notes that gays are among Target’s most loyal clientele.

Gregg Steinhafel, Target’s CEO, has apologized for the donation promoting the candidacy of the anti-gay candidate for governor of Minnesota, the company’s home state. He said in the future political donations would be reviewed and approved by their board. But the hiring of a partisan figure like Zabel says more about where the company stands than a make-up donation that HRC might extract from the company.

—  David Taffet

Joe Mosca becomes Los Angeles County's 5th openly gay mayor or mayor pro tem

Mayor Joe Mosca and his son Gabrielle
Mayor Joe Mosca and his son Gabrielle

Joe Mosca was named mayor of Sierra Madre in Los Angeles County this week, according to the Pasadena Star-News. Mosca and his partner have a 3-year-old son.

The night of Mosca’s appointment, his parents were visiting from Providence, R.I., a city that also, coincidentally, has a gay mayor, David Cicilline.

Mosca becomes the fifth openly gay mayor or mayor pro tem in Los Angeles County, according to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.

The others are Mayor Jeffrey Prang and Mayor Pro Tem John Heilman of West Hollywood, Mayor Mike Gin of Redondo Beach and Mayor Pro Tem Mitch Ward of Manhattan Beach.

—  David Taffet