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#ThrowbackThursday “Spring Fling ’86” The Birth of Penguin Place. (The William Way LGBT Community Center)

In 1986, I had the pleasure of working with some very special members of Philadelphia’s LGBT community to produce a “Spring Fling” fundraiser for what was to become Penguin Place. At the time, ours was a Community Center without walls.

Penguin Place 1

Spring Fling was held at the Mask and Wig Club (located on south Camac St.) I will never forget the Spring Fling or the months of planning that led up to it. Each of us made a special contribution. We had battling DJs, planned “spontaneous” entertainment that seemed to manifest out of nowhere (think “flash mob” but with jugglers, magicians, and musicians), and brilliant slide show presentations that were revealed on a rear projection screen behind a beautifully painted stage backdrop.

I was working as an AV technician at the time so my contribution was the rear projection screen, the slide projectors, lenses, and animation fader which I borrowed from work.

I have always regretted that I didn’t get to know Bill Way better. In our short friendship, he was very supportive and encouraged my creativity.

Shortly after Spring Fling, I left Philadelphia for a new job out west. By the time I returned, Bill had died. Penguin Place was a reality and had a permanent facility just two blocks north of the Mask and Wig Club. The New organizers had taken Way’s dream to the next level and was serving the community.

That the William Way LGBT Community Center has been in it’s permanent home at 1315 Spruce St. for nearly two decades is a testament to the work and dedication of the community.

I think about William Way and that odd bunch of people who inspired me to get involved in my community. It was a very brief moment in my life but it reflects the very best of the LGBT community. As we just saw with Marriage Equality, when we work together the possibilities are endless.

Post Cards from the In-Laws: or (What are you trying to say?)

My in-laws went to California for a wedding and sent this postcard.

Postcard from mom frontPostcard from mom black out

And no… it wasn’t a “same gender” wedding! 😁


This postcard brings up a few questions.

  1. Did they leave the wedding to tour Alcatraz?
  2. Are they comparing marriage to maximum security imprisonment?
  3. And what are they implying by, “You guys would have loved San Francisco”?

What are they trying to say? I’m so confused. 😛


Actually, my in-laws have accepted me into their family. To them, I’m not just my other half’s “friend”. They recognize that we are two men in love. They just don’t talk about it, which is why this postcard is so funny to me.  😊

While We Celebrate LGBT Pride, LGBT Ugandans Fight for Their Very Lives.

“People’s willingness to believe the most outlandish lie in exchange for a promise of salvation never ceases to amaze me.”
I watched an Independent Lens documentary called “God Loves Uganda”  on PBS the other night and was utterly disturbed by it. — Not so much by the movie itself, but by the extent to which white Christian missionaries have gone in order to spread their Anti-Gay hatred globally.

Produced by Roger Ross Williams, “God Loves Uganda” shows the senseless violence that LGBT Ugandans are now faced with because of the vicious lies and hateful propaganda spread by Christian missionaries like Scott Lively.

It’s pretty horrific.
In one scene, we see a pastor tell the crowd that homosexuals hunt and rape children. In another, the pastor shows the crowd pornography depicting anal sex. In yet another, the pastor tells the crowd that President Obama is forcing women to have abortions.
Unbelievable, right?
This all can be traced back to the beginning of the AIDS pandemic, when the US began sending much needed medical and financial aid around the globe in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. Then, during the GW Bush administration, strings were attached to that funding. Suddenly, instead of an overall approach of condom distribution and education, American evangelicals demanded “Abstinence-Only” education. …and we all know how well that worked out for the US Bible Belt.
God Loves Uganda is available on Netflix streaming.
The thing that bothers me most about all of this is the utter disregard for human life. Christian missionaries like Scott Lively will stop at nothing to achieve his goal of demonizing LGBT people around the world. Even lie! His lies have created a dangerous atmosphere for LGBT Ugandans. These pastors don’t understand Ugandan culture. So when they spread lies, perpetuating the myth that gay men are child predators, the locals believe it and take the law into their own hands. Countless LGBT people have been murdered. Many more have gone missing. If God exists, I don’t think he’d approve of hunting LGBT people for sport. Scott Lively, and pastors like him, have blood on their hands.

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If you get a chance, “God Loves Uganda” is worth a look-see. It’s a little rough at times but does shine a light on the dishonesty used by Christian fundamentalists who are, in my opinion, no different than any other religious fundamentalist. — Including those vicious animals who have stolen the name of the Egyptian goddess of magic and creator of life, Isis.


As we here in the US celebrate hard won victories in the advancement and acceptance of LGBT rights, I’ll be thinking of those around the world who continue to struggle simply to exist. Especially those whose suffering is a direct result of American interference.

Bette Midler “Hurricane” #ThrowbackThursday

Bette Midler “Hurricane”

(song written by Bette Midler and Randy Kerber)

 

…from the 1979 album Thighs and Whispers.

Bette Midler T & W

Bette’s fifth album is probably her most underrated. It’s got some well known tunes like “Big Noise From Winnetka”,Married Men“ and a decent cover of Johnny Bristol’s “Hang on in There Baby” but also includes some really good gems like “Cradle Days” and her moving cover of James Taylor’s “Millworker”.

Bette’s voice really shines on this album.


I always thought Hurricane was “hit worthy”. I used to play it on ‘Classic Disco Sundays’ when I was a fill-in DJ way back in the 90s.


Why wasn’t it a hit?

Rumor has it that, during the release party for one of the single off of her new album, an exhausted Bette Midler was verbally accosted by a radio DJ who didn’t like the new song. Apparently, he was waving the 45 record in her face, so Bette snatched it out of his hand, threw it on the floor, smashed it with her heel, and told him, “Well then don’t play it!” The humiliated and angry DJ vowed to never play another Bette Midler song on his station again. That was that.


Bette’s new tour “Divine Intervention” begins Friday.  ...and of course I have tickets! Yay! 😀

bette tickets98

Unfortunately, Love isn’t a fan. So he’s staying home. On the bright side, I get to take a really good friend who, if it’s at all possible, will probably have a better time than me. 😛

#InternationalHolocaustRememberanceDay Remembering Gay Victims of the Holocaust

“In 1928 there was an estimated 1.2 million “out” homosexual men living in Germany.  As Adolf Hitler rose in power, gay organizations were banned and scholarly books regarding homosexuality were burned. Hitler’s racial state ideology branded homosexuals not only as “parasites” and degenerates, but as enemies of the state. In 1935, the Nazi government significantly expanded the criminalization of homosexuality.” via Stop Homophobia

If this doesn’t sound familiar, perhaps you should take a look at the rising anti-gay hysteria going on in Russia since Vladimir Putin enacted the Russian LGBT Propaganda Law which claims to “Protect Children from Information Harmful to Their Health and Development” but in has since led to an increase and justification of violence against LGBT people. To be clear, these laws have nothing to do with family or children. These laws are meant to scapegoat gays in very much the same way Germans scapegoated Jews and other “undesirables”.

The following is a collection of quotes and links compiled from around the web that shine a light on the forgotten victims of nazi terror.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

Mug shot of a homosexual prisoner in Auschwitz. Pink triangles were used to designate homosexual inmates. State Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Oświęcim, Poland

Mug shot of a homosexual prisoner in Auschwitz. Pink triangles were used to designate homosexual inmates. State Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Oświęcim, Poland

“In Nazi Germany, homosexuality was persecuted to a degree unprecedented in history. In 1935, the National Socialists issued an order making all male homosexuality a crime; the provisions governing homosexual behavior in Section 175 of the Criminal Code were significantly expanded and made stricter. A kiss was enough reason to prosecute. There were more than 50,000 convictions. Under Section 175, the punishment was imprisonment; in some cases, convicted offenders were castrated. Thousands of men were sent to concentration camps for being gay; many of them died there. They died of hunger, disease and abuse or were the victims of targeted killings.” — Travels of Adam

By now, most people are familiar with the Pink Triangle which, along with the Lambda and the Rainbow Flag, is a symbol for LGBT pride. But it has a dark history, one that isn’t taught in school. I remember a teacher talking about nazis exterminating millions of Jews and “others“, as if the others were an insignificant footnote of world history. When pressed, he explained that the ‘others’ were made up of gypsies, socialists, deviants and political prisoners.

triangle key2

Nazi Badge Chart identifies prisoners according to “offense”

 

Under the direction of SS head, police drew up “Pink Lists”, and embarked on a vicious crackdown on homosexual men and women. Many were sent to mental hospitals, others were castrated by court order, and 100,000 of these men were sent to concentration camps.The pink triangle (now a symbol of Gay Pride) was placed on the prisoners to mark that they were homosexuals. An estimated 55,000 were executed.

Heinz Dormer, spent nearly ten years in prisons and concentration camps. He spoke of the “haunting agonizing cries” from “the singing forest”, a row of tall poles on which condemned men were hung: “Everyone who was sentenced to death would be lifted up onto the hook. The howling and screaming were inhuman, beyond human comprehension”. source

Here is the badge chart translated to English

Here is the badge chart translated to English

The vast majority of those forced to wear pink triangles didn’t survive.

The Nazis believed that male homosexuals were weak, effeminate men who could not fight for the German nation. They saw homosexuals as unlikely to produce children and increase the German birthrate. The Nazis held that inferior races produced more children than “Aryans,” so anything that diminished Germany’s reproductive potential was considered a racial danger” — US Holocaust Memorial Museum

Eventually, the LGBT community took back the symbol of oppression.

LGBT reclaim the Pink Triangle (1980s)

 

Nazis interested in finding a “cure” for homosexuality expanded this program to include medical experimentation on homosexual inmates of concentration camps. These experiments caused illness, mutilation, and even death, and yielded no scientific knowledge.– source

“There are no known statistics for the number of homosexuals who died in the camps.”

I don’t know what it’s like to have family members that have survived the horrors of Auschwitz. It’s something for which I have no frame of reference so I would never assume to put myself in the same category as those with a direct familial link to nazi persecution. But I can identify with those who were singled out for something that is innate, especially when I look around and see history repeating itself.  I can honor forgotten victims.

Nazi Holocaust – The Forgotten Gay Victims

The fight against fascism and bigotry must also incorporate the defence and support of the Gay and Lesbian Communities. The message needs to be made loud and clear, and repeated often; ANY form of discrimination, bigotry or oppression must be fought and defeated in the 21st Century!!! — PNW

 

When we say “Never Again” we’ve got to mean it for everybody. It’s the only way to ensure that we are all safe from persecution because, if they come for one group they will come for yours too.

For more on Gays and the Holocaust…

A Gay Dad’s Requiem for Leelah, the Matthew Shepard of Our Time

I am utterly gutted by the needless death of an innocent. I’ve been trying to come up with appropriate words for how I feel. The hateful comments left by “good Christians” on various sites have been appalling. I cannot believe how evil people are. — “A Gay Dad’s Requiem for Leelah” comes close to a perfect response, so I’m sharing it.

evoL =

Leelah Requiem

I will never forget the stunning image of Matthew Shepard’s hate crime. A young beautiful human was beaten, tortured and left for dead in an unthinkable violation. It shocked me when I saw the images, and I was not alone. Matthew’s fate left and indelible impression that has become part of our collective culture to this day.

This week, another tragedy, another life destroyed, left a similar impression — the death of Leelah Alcorn.

One of the publishers I work with sent me a quick message on New Years Eve. “You might want to write one of your ‘Gay Dad’ letters to the parents of this teen.” It was Leelah’s story. She was known to her family as “Joshua,” and she had killed herself. A pre-published letter appeared online. In the letter she eloquently explained why she was going to end her life in more emotional detail. While certainly many…

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What’s on Your New Year’s Eve Playlist?

Looking for something fun to fill your New Year’s Eve playlist? How about something from the Postmodern Jukebox?

sbpmj-logo

What’s a Postmodern Jukebox, you say.

According to The Huffington Post, Scott Bradlee & Postmodern Jukebox broke out in 2013.  Scott Bradlee is the creator of the viral phenomenon Postmodern Jukebox, a diverse group of musicians who have turned Ke$ha into country, given Justin Bieber a bit of swing and most recently garnered praise — and more than 4.3 million views, as of this writing — for replacing Miley Cyrus’ twerking with some classic doo wop.”

Still confused? Here’s Scott Bradlee & PMJ on TED.

I stumbled upon the Postmodern Jukebox while scrolling through Google Play for something new, which used to take me hours flipping through record bins at local Sam Goody’s or Sound of Market record stores. I was immediately hooked.

The song featured on Google Play that month was a Jazz cover of Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” featuring Kate Davis on lead vocals and bass.

Fun, right?

Of course the first thing I did was create PMJ radio stations on Pandora and Spotify, which is how I first heard their 1950’s ‘sock hop’ style cover of Magic’s “Rude” featuring hyper animated vocalist, Von Smith, with Robyn Adele Anderson and Jen Kipley singing backups. There’s a stunning moment at 2:27 when Von cuts loose. He hits and holds an impressive high note. It’s a little touch that makes this cover worth it.

If you listen closely, you might notice that Von Smith’s voice is reminiscent of 80s Star Search winner, Sam Harris, with whom Von sang a duet in 2010.

Led by Scott Bradlee, the Postmodern Jukebox is a rotating collection of musicians and singers who produce covers of pop songs in various styles of music; such as jazz, swing, doo-wop, and gospel.

One of the things I like about PMJ is their creativity. Their ragtime cover of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe”, with Robyn Adele Anderson’s camp vocals, is incredibly fun.

Turning Jason Derulo & Snoop Dogg’s “Wiggle” into a 1920s ‘Broadway’ number takes guts.  But taking the Guns & Roses classic, “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and rearranging it into New Orleans jazz style Mardis Gras anthem was a stroke of genius! Having the remarkable Miche Braden belt out the lyrics doesn’t hurt.

Guns and who?

Speaking of New Orleans, PMJ took Sam Smith’s “I’m Not The Only One” and turned it inside out. Sink your teeth into this vintage New Orleans jazz cover featuring Casey Abrams.

I don’t know what I was doing on 2013 that I didn’t take notice. Though, it’s probably better that I found PMJ after they’ve accumulated a decent catalog of music. I’d hate to think I might have written them off after hearing the Miley Cyrus cover.

I’ll leave you with the PMJ cover of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”, in the style of a vintage Irish Tenor, featuring Mitchell Jarvis and Robyn Adele Anderson. I love the underlying campiness of this version. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also pretty good.

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year. Hope 2015 brings peace, love, happiness and plenty of chances to “get lucky”! 😉


 

Bonus Track!

Scott Bradlee and the Postmodern Jukebox covers Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” in a “Great Gatsby” ragtime style, featuring Robyn Adele Anderson and, as always, Mr Bradlee on keyboards.

For more Scott Bradlee & PMJ, check out ScottBradleeLovesYa on YouTube.

Cheers!

‘Tis The Season for Warm Fuzzies! …and a couple of Capra Classics.

Tis the season for family, friends, and lots of warm fuzzies. But like almost everyone else I know, I haven’t been feeling very warm or fuzzy lately. So, when the warm glow of the season starts to sputter and dim, I do what any self respecting sentimental cinephile does. I turn to classic Hollywood.

When it comes to classic Hollywood, no one did warm and fuzzy quite like Frank Capra.

Ask anyone for a list of their favorite holiday movies and somewhere on the list you’ll probably find Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life.

In case you’ve been living under a rock for most of your life, It’s a Wonderful Life is the 1946 Frank Capra classic, starring James Stewart, Donna Reed, Thomas Mitchell, Lionel Barrymore, and a cast of Hollywood mainstays. It’s explained by IMDB as “An angel (Clarence, played by Henry Travers) helps a compassionate but despairingly frustrated businessman, George Bailey (Stewart), by showing what life would have been like if he never existed.

While watching ‘Wonderful Life’ for the umteen-hundredth time the other night, I couldn’t help a despairing feeling that bank CEOs apparently haven’t changed since 1946. Lionel Barrymore’s Mr Potter could very well be the CEO of Citi Group or Goldman Sachs.

‘Wonderful Life’ is an excellent movie with a superb cast but I always feel a little sad for George Bailey. He dreams of someday seeing the world but spends his entire life being the responsible citizen, putting the needs and wants of others ahead of himself. Indeed, if uncle Billy hadn’t been so careless George might not have considered such desperate measures. The extreme nature of George’s crisis is probably what makes the ending so effective. It’s why we root for George Bailey. He’s our ‘everyman’ who fights the system and wins.

george-bailey


Trivia: Thomas Mitchell (Wonderful Life’s Uncle Billy) plays Judge Henry Blake in Pocketful of Miracles


On the other end of the spectrum is Capra’s Pocketful of Miracles (1961) which, in my humble opinion, because of it’s bright view of the world and almost absurd optimism, is a better representation of the spirit of the season.

In Miracles, gangster Dave the Dude (Glenn Ford) and his girlfriend Queenie (Hope Lange) try to turn pan handler Apple Annie (Bette Davis) into a society dame when they learn that Annie’s daughter (Ann-Margret) is coming to visit from Spain with her fiance, a royal. The storyline is convoluted and far-fetched but it hits all the right bells and whistles.

What appeals to me about Pocketful of Miracles is it’s charm. Unlike the seriousness of It’s a Wonderful Life, Pocketful of Miracles is utter nonsense. It’s how we wish the real world worked. It’s a sickeningly sweet saccharine saga full of hope and improbable expectations and I love every single minute of it!

large_pocketful_of_miracles_02_blu-ray_So, whether you’re a George Bailey or an Apple Annie, I want to wish everyone a Happy and Joyous Holiday!

May 2015 bring Peace, Love, Happiness, and Good Health to all.

The Wanamaker…er…Macy’s Christmas Light Show

Macy_'s AdIt’s that time of year again…

Walk into Macy’s at 13th and Market Streets (formerly John Wanamaker’s department store) from November 28 through December 31 and you’ll see crowds of people standing in the grand court staring upward at the now famous Christmas Light Show.

Yes, that’s Julie Andrews you hear.

I remember seeing the original show for the first time as a child. I could not have been more than 3 or 4 years old. The happy music, blinking lights and dancing water fountain seemed like magic to me. My grandmother then took me a few blocks east to Gimbel’s department store for a walk through the Christmas village and ultimately, a visit with Santa Claus.

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Christmas 1967 (I was two)

I thought it would be interesting to compare the Wanamaker’s and Macy’s productions. While I like the updated version, I do miss the dancing water fountains.

The original John Wanamaker’s Christmas Light Show (archival recording 1983)

The Philadelphia John Wanamaker’s department store premiered their iconic Christmas Light Show in 1955. The show, a large music and light display several stories high, is viewable from several levels of the Philadelphia landmark. Its popularity as a holiday destination for tourists and locals alike ensured a continuous run, even after the building changed ownership from Wanamaker’s to Lord & Taylor, and now Macy’s. The show was narrated for decades by Philadelphia’s own John Facenda, locally known for reporting the news on radio and television, as well as nationally as the voice of NFL Films. Various announcers narrated the show between 1995 and 2005. Beginning in 2006, under Macy’s, Julie Andrews became the show’s narrator.

In 2007, the entire Christmas Light Show was completely modernized and rebuilt by Macy’s Parade Studio on new trusses with lighter materials and LED lighting. In 2008, a new and bigger Magic Christmas Tree with LED lights debuted. However, due to safety concerns and logistical issues, the dancing water fountains were retired and will not return.


 

John Wanamaker Christmas Show from the 1980’s.



 

The Updated Macy’s Christmas Light Show (2013)

“The updated holiday show, titled “Christmas Pageant of Lights,” features narration by the actress Julie Andrews” –  via hdampf007

According to Friends of the Wanamaker Organ at Macy’s website, the light show program is as follows…

Greg Sonsini has compiled a list below of music used in the Light Show. Help is requested in finding the artists of those works not yet identified. Please e-mail us at execdirec@wanamakerorgan.com if you can add details.

  1. Opening fanfare during John Facenda’s/Julie Andrews’ introduction: Provenance unknown.
  2. Selections from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite-specifically “Overture,” “Waltz of the Flowers,” and “Closing Waltz,” played during the Nutcracker storyline. Album unknown.
  3. “In The Clock Store” by Charles Orth (1893), which is played during the Clock segment.  The version used in the Light Show comes from an album titled “The Sound Of Musical Pictures” (1960).  It was arranged by Ralph Hermann and played by the Medallion Concert Band. Walt Disney adapted the piece for one of his Silly Symphonies in 1931. You may here it on YouTube here.
  4. “Alpine Sleigh Ride” by Frank Chacksfield and his Orchestra, played during the Snowflake sequence.
  5. “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer,” by the Ray Conniff Singers.
  6. “Jingle Bell Rock” by Bobby Helms, later replaced by “The Rudi Bear Song” (part of a Teddy Bear promotion), played during the candy cane, toy soldier and toy drum segment.
  7. “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” by an unknown artist played during the Santa Express Train segment.
  8. “Frosty the Snowman,” by the Ray Conniff Singers.
  9. A snippet of “So Long, Farewell” from “The Sound of Music” movie soundtrack, played during the fading of the snowmen.
  10. “O Tannenbaum” by the Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra played during the final lighting of the entire board. This was replaced in 1988 by “Deck the Halls” by an artist that I have not been able to identify. The arrangement is by Carmen Dragon and has been adopted for the Wanamaker Organ (with grateful assistance from Mr. Dragon’s daughter) by Peter Richard Conte.

 

Christmas ButtFor more information, see the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ website.

You can find some interesting archival photos from Temple University

Also visit U Wish U NU

 

 

Isn’t it sad how Americans forget our own history?

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Most American over twenty years old were old enough to understand the fear and anxiety that followed the terror attacks on that Tuesday morning in September of 2011. I remember a feeling of unreal disconnect. I’ve written about the eerie silence of that day. The lack of air traffic overhead. People walking in stunned silence. The entire country in uncertain fear. Most reasonable Americans, though reeling with disbelief and shock, wanted justice not revenge. President Bush’s response wasn’t perfect, but it was strong and reassuring. When Mr Bush sent troops to Afghanistan, I was behind him. Our nation was behind him. Then, under suspicion of weapons of mass destruction, we invaded Iraq. It was a diversion from our original directive. Our leaders took advantage of the confusion and anger of the American people. We were duped.

This was the moment in American history when things changed. This was when the NSA was given carte blanche. This was when we traded our constitutional freedoms for the illusion of security. This was the shameful moment, the first time in American history, when the barbaric act of torture and revenge was seen as just another unfortunate fact of life, like the a sudden rainstorm catching you without an umbrella or getting mud on your new shoes. Sure, it’s unpleasant to think about but I’ve got troubles of my own. I forgot to set my TIVO to record Will and Grace! Stan died having sex with his mistress. Will Karen be left penniless?

To be fair, we lied to ourselves. We didn’t call it torture. We called it EIT, or Enhances Interrogation Techniques. Doesn’t sound so bad. If water boarding is simply an enhanced interrogation technique, why did we execute the Japanese for war crimes after WWII for doing it?