Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Curse Continues

I am blaming Coach Bruce Boudreau for another epic disappointment for the Washington Capitals fans in the post-season, as much as I like him. Here is a team with two solid goaltenders; the highest scoring team by far; a team that led the league in power play efficiency; and was the NHL leader in total points, home points and road points and could not muster more than one goal in each of the last three games in a losing effort.

Yes, Halak was outstanding as was Montreal's tenacious defense. I give them all the credit they deserve, and I hope this over-achieving team wins the Cup.

I also acknowledge that Caps defenseman Mike Green took a step—perhaps several steps—backwards. He was lost, ineffective and was clearly the worst defenseman on the ice. Forwards, such as Alexander Semin, although he showed good efforts at times, seemed confused and lacking in confidence. Who wouldn't be confident if he shot around 40 times at the goal and was stymied by Halak at every turn. Never mind the countless shots that were blocked. And his failure to score in the post-season is incredible. Remember when former Cap great Mike Gartner was traded for Dino Ciccarelli in 1989 for that very reason?

But this loss belongs to Boudreau. He had come on for Glen Hanlon three years ago at mid-season, and the Caps have not stopped winning—except in the playoffs. Why the offense shuts down in a playoff series, why the goalie can't make a key stop, why an important faceoff is not won during the month of April is beyond comprehension. And why can't they stop the opposition on the penalty kill and why did the Caps vaunted power play, loaded with star caliber players, so anemic (1 for 33)?

After observing that almost every shot a Cap player takes has been blocked, why were there no adjustments to the approach? When noticing the power play, an enormous weapon during a playoff series, was so discombobulated, why wasn't the scheme changed. The players ran around like chickens without their heads, and I cannot recall one power play opportunity of the 33 when there was sustained pressure.

The curse of the Washington Capitals is well documented and historic. It's historic because this was the first number 1-seeded team to blow a 3-1 lead in games to an 8-seeded team. What an accomplishment! This curse makes the one-time "curse" on the Boston Red Sox seem pale in comparison. At least, to my recollection, the Red Sox never had the best record in the majors only to lose in the post-season. The Caps did just that—first round no less to a team that eked by to get in and had been outscored during the regular season.

Yes, you can blame underachieving forwards and defensemen. You can blame bad puck bounces and even credit the opposition. But this one is on Boudreau. He didn't get this team ready from the get-go; they never led going into an intermission, and the worse offense is that he did not make the in-series adjustments needed to get the power play on track to overcome a stingy defense.

Even if the Caps go 78-4 in 2010-2011, what good will that do if they are ousted early again?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Divided We Fall

By Steve Charing

The recent bizarre antics by Delegate Donald Dwyer in attempting to impeach Attorney General Douglas Gansler for his marriage recognition opinion and the backwards-thinking comments made by Delegate Rick Impallaria when he learned that Harford Public Schools agreed to unblock websites that are LGBT-related (not porn) tell us something.

"I am shocked to read that someone has decided to allow 'alternative sexual lifestyle' Web sites to be unblocked, giving County public school students access to them," Impallaria wrote in a letter to the Harford Schools superintendant and board.

And you also have elected officials who wish that we just remain in the closet or crawl back in it. Delegate Emmett Burns, for example, feels we could hide who we are. Why should we have to?

This is what we continue to be up against. We may be living in a blue state, but the mindset of some of our elected officials and the people they represent is closer to Alabama than Maryland.

Our community has more than enough enemies who are determined to thwart the ongoing struggle for equality. And we are not referring solely to marriage equality or transgender equality. We are talking about fairness in jobs, health care, safety and every aspect of our lives that do not relegate us as second-class citizens.

There are religious groups, such as the Catholic Church, who virulently oppose our equality. They are well-funded and have no qualms about injecting their anti-gay messaging, usually lies, in statewide battles. And we have an entire major political party—our Republican "friends"—whose anti-gay positions from employment to military service to marriage equality are entrenched in their dogma.

There is a huge mountain still to climb, but we can do it if we face the challenges together.

But we are a divided community on many levels. Some of these divisions are natural: race, religion, gender, economic status, even age. This is not surprising since the LGBT community is a microcosm of the larger society. Fortunately, over the years, the boundaries around these categories have been blurred, and that's a big step forward. But make no mistake, the boundaries still exist.

Other divisions will hold us back as well. For instance, a large portion of our community couldn't care less about marriage equality. They may not see marriage as a desirable option or even attainable. The subject doesn't interest them. Yet, by not being engaged in the struggle, these folks are forfeiting the opportunity to at least have same-sex marriage as an option should their circumstances change. This would benefit our community members economically and socially.

We are divided by those who are politically active and those who are apathetic. Yes, a lot of us show up for Pride, but how many understand the roots of the celebrations and why we participate? How many engage their elected officials on issues that are important to them—LGBT-related or other? Or participate in political rallies and phone banks?

We have divisions between gays and transgender folks—as a lack of understanding of the complexities of being transgender impedes the formation of a larger movement to strive for transgender equality. Transgender individuals are more likely to be fired from their jobs, kicked out of their apartments, become homeless and even worse, physically attacked on the streets. This partition cannot stand; we need to unify and get behind the plight of our transgender brothers and sisters.

There are divisions within the community with respect to the roles of our LGBT institutions and how they carry out those roles. To be sure, these institutions must conduct their operations with transparency so that suspicions—legitimate or not—do not detract from the important work they set out to do. Organizations that raise funds from our community and allies need to specify how the money is being spent so that the public does not make its own assumptions. Simply stated, if you have nothing to hide, then don't. With the confidence that transparency provides, the organizations will thrive. But there must be that confidence and trust.

Of course, there will always be back-biting in every segment of the population. But to have this in our community, given that we have so many external enemies, is counter-productive. I feel that that the goal of equality at all levels is paramount, and it must be kept within our sights. Bringing the LGBT community together will foster that goal.

The words and actions off our opponents demonstrate how much further we need to travel. There's a much better chance for success if we travel the road together applying our talents, energy and resources to stem the forces that want to marginalize us and keep us down.

We should not expect that we will always be united, but we definitely cannot afford to be divided.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Dynasty No More

John Forsyth's passing leads to a nostalgic look back at his most popular TV series and what it meant to gays.

By Steve Charing

He may not have had a cult following among gays in the way the late Bea Arthur did, but John Forsythe, who died on April 1 at the age of 92, will always be linked to gay culture, whether he wanted that or not.

Although Forsythe had been a stage actor and appeared in over two dozen films since the early 40's and numerous television shows as well, he will always be best remembered for his performances in Bachelor Father, Charlie's Angels, and his biggest of them all—his role in Dynasty.

Dynasty was an extremely popular campy series that ran from 1981-1989 and was the ABC network's answer to CBS' Dallas. But, it was oh so much more fun!

Yes, the plotting, bitchy, conniving Alexis played by Joan Collins was the darling of gay men during the show's run, and her catfights with co-star Linda Evans' character (Krystle) were legendary. But the primetime soap opera's plot revolved around the family's patriarch, Blake Carrington—the debonair, gravelly-voiced oil tycoon played by Forsythe. He was the only actor to have appeared in all 220 episodes and received three Emmy nominations. Forsyth also appeared in the short-lived spin-off The Colbys from 1985-1987.

Other than the outrageous campiness that attracted such a legion of gay fans, Dynasty had specific gay subplots. Forsythe's character Blake had a son who was gay—Steven—played by Al Corley. Blake wasn't exactly the model PFLAG dad at first and overtly argued bitterly with Steven over his sexual orientation.

Under pressure from ABC, Dynasty turned Steven into a closet heterosexual leading Corley to exit the show in protest after two years. In came the replacement, actor Jack Coleman, who had no physical resemblance to Corley. The plot line, as I recall, had Steven in an oil rig accident, sustained massive burns, and Coleman magically emerged sans bandages from extensive plastic surgery. For all intents and purposes, the gutsy move to include an openly gay character on a highly-rated primetime drama in the 80's went up in flames along with the oil fire. Steven ostensibly was gay no more.

Nonetheless, Dynasty Parties were prevalent throughout the decade. Gay bars across the country held such events each Wednesday night. Private parties were also common in people's homes. It was quite the rage then.

Darkness and tragedy hit the set of Dynasty. From 1984-1985 well-known actor Rock Hudson, who landed a role in the series as Krystle's love interest, experienced a marked and noticeable deterioration in health and his appearance. His speech, too, was affected, and rumors were flying as to what is happening to this once strapping Hollywood icon.

Hudson had been diagnosed with AIDS on June 5, 1984. When it was obvious he was seriously ill, his publicists put out the word that he had inoperable liver cancer. It was not until July 25, 1985 while in Paris receiving treatment did the news break that the actor, who never publicly disclosed his sexuality, was suffering from AIDS. He died on October 2, 1985.

Hudson's death put an important face on AIDS because there was so much misinformation about the disease and its transmission; it was an abstraction to most people. But a prominent celebrity like Hudson gave it more humanity and opened the hearts of minds since his death. Even his old friend then President Reagan finally came to grips with the scourge of AIDS albeit in his second term.

On the Dynasty set, there was a lot of controversy stemming from the revelation about Hudson's battle with AIDS. Still uncertain about the disease's transmission in 1985, Linda Evans publicly expressed deep concern about her kissing Hudson in a number of scenes while he had the disease. She was also angry that the revelation occurred after she had participated in that activity.

Dynasty, as it turned out, was a soap opera within a own soap opera. The controversies among cast members, the plot lines, the ill-advised Moldavia wedding shoot-out, the oddball cliff hangers, contract squabbles and the Rock Hudson matter were pushed to the forefront. But John Forsythe, just like his character Blake Carrington, kept the ship afloat with his strong, steady hand.

Rest in peace, and thanks for the memories, John.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Ehrlich Redux

The former governor wants his old job back. What does it mean for us?

By Steve Charing

The much ballyhooed re-entry to the political arena by former Republican Governor Robert Ehrlich is now official. He will once again go head-to-head against Governor Martin O'Malley in November but this time as a challenger and not an incumbent as was the case in 2006.

Seeing what he perceives as a Republican resurgence and anti-incumbent sentiment, the former governor is staking his political career on a gamble to win back the Governor's Mansion. And a gamble it surely is.

Maryland is a state that holds a 2 to 1 advantage by Democrats over Republicans. And almost as important, O'Malley has a war chest of around $5 million while Ehrlich's is about $140,000. While Ehrlich surrogates maintain this election is about the message and the messenger, money in the till will ultimately determine the effectiveness of the message as well as the messenger.

As governor from 2003-2006, Robert Ehrlich didn't distinguish himself much. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller described Ehrlich as "lazy." He was known more for his battles to adopt slots as a source of state revenue, his frequent skirmishes with the Democratic-controlled legislature and the print media, and his penchant for raising taxes and calling them "fees" than any major accomplishment. Moreover, he did not address the structural problems with the budget that still plagues the current administration.

Ehrlich's defeat to O'Malley in 2006 was due in part to his record as governor but also to the anti-Bush and by extension anti-Republican tide that was sweeping the country. Nonetheless, Ehrlich's loss was unique in that he was the only sitting governor, regardless of party, to be upended in the 2006 election.

For LGBT citizens of Maryland, Ehrlich displayed much of the anti-gay record which characterized his tenure as state delegate and as a member of the U.S. Congress. Unfortunately, he always considered gay rights to be "special rights." Ehrlich's record in Congress earned him a score of only 25 out of 100 from the Human Rights Campaign. Although he ran as a moderate in a heavily Democratic state, when it came to lgbt issues, he governed from the right—the far right in fact.

Ehrlich's grossest misfire was vetoing the Medical Decision-Making Act in 2005 that prevented members of same-sex couples from visiting a sick partner in the hospital as well as other provisions designed to give unmarried couples—gay and straight—the right to make key medical decisions. He also vetoed the Transfer & Recordation Tax Exemption Bill aimed at tax relief for gay and lesbian couples.

These vetoes resulted in a strong rebuke by lgbt activists and put Ehrlich squarely in the camp of the right wing. "He is a pawn of the far right elements of the Maryland Republican Party, who have as many moderates in the General Assembly as I can count on two hands,” said then executive director of Equality Maryland Dan Furmansky at the time. “Unfortunately, he is a coward that is afraid to stand up to the anti-gay zealots who have officially taken over the Republican Party in this state.” Ehrlich did go along with a revised measure the following year—an election year.

Moreover, Ehrlich was a staunch opponent of same-sex marriage and vowed that such a policy would not happen on his watch. This was mind-boggling considering he had employed two openly gay men as his chiefs of staff.

Ehrlich's record during his public service career will not provide a reason for lgbt Marylanders to celebrate should he overcome the odds and be elected in November. For his part, however, Governor O'Malley hasn't exactly enthralled us either during his term.

Although O'Malley was supportive of most LGBT issues as Mayor of Baltimore and as a member of the City Council, he has been rather tepid on lgbt issues during his term as governor. He has not come out for marriage equality but would sign such a bill if presented to him, and he opposes a constitutional amendment to ban it. O'Malley favors civil unions, and he has extended domestic partnership benefits to state employees. But O'Malley certainly has not been a leader on these issues.

It has been disappointing that with a Democratic governor and a legislature that has huge Democratic majorities, key legislation on marriage equality and transgender protections have not been passed during these past four years. There are several factors in play; it seems that it will have to wait at least another year. But that is only if Ehrlich fails in his bid; it would take longer otherwise.

Handicapping the election seven months away is a daunting challenge. The anti-incumbency sentiment could fade as the economy picks up, and that would take any steam out of the Ehrlich express. And few voters wax nostalgic for the Ehrlich years as they were marked by strife and a lack of remedies to the overall budget morass.

But O'Malley who only won by about seven percent in 2006 is not especially popular. The economy could continue to falter, which fairly or unfairly could be problematic for the governor. And linking Ehrlich to Bush won't be as effective this time around.

LGBT citizens who have staunchly supported O'Malley in the past may not have the same degree of enthusiasm this cycle, which could affect contributions as well as votes. And not all gay folks vote according to lgbt issues. But I'm betting that for those folks where lgbt issues matter, O'Malley will still garner the vast majority considering the alternative.