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Four Decades Along the Rainbow Road

A look back at my work with the LGBTQ community. I first became active in the gay rights movement in 1980 when I launched my LGBTQ jo...

Friday, June 29, 2018

Orioles Host Their First LGBT Pride Night

Photo: Baltimore Orioles
Lisa Davidson does not drink and often feels alienated because so many queer spaces and events revolve around drinking.  So, when she learned that the Baltimore Orioles announced it will host its very first official LGBT Pride Night on June 27, Davidson was eager to participate.

“The fact that this was just a plain ole’ baseball game made my heart happy,” Davidson, a resident of Bel Air. Md., said after the game. 

“I loved being invited into a space that wasn’t inherently queer and being welcome. It’s easy to forget I’m ‘different’ sometimes, but sharing a night at Oriole Park at Camden Yards—something I love doing and always have—with people who look like me and walk like me and love like me was so wonderful.”

She hosted an unofficial event page on Facebook to gin up the turnout.

“If we could mobilize as many ticket purchases as possible, the Orioles would know that we wanted this night, this night was special, and we want it to keep happening. And I think we showed up in awesome numbers and our love was louder than the hate,” she said.

Indeed, the turnout was quite impressive with over 1,900 tickets sold as part of the Pride event, according to Orioles’ public relations office. A portion of the proceeds benefited Moveable Feast.

The Orioles, which was among the 23 Major League Baseball teams scheduled to hold similar Pride events in 2018, offered VIP tickets for a pre-game party that included food, beverages, and music provided by DJ Rosie, a local favorite.

Others bought tickets at a lower price whereby special Oriole Pride-themed black and white baseball caps with rainbow colors filling the “O’s” were included in the deal. (The VIP tickets also included the cap.)  Still others purchased tickets at an even lower price and could buy the caps separately. 

Most of the diverse Pride crowd was situated in field level sections down the right field line, and as demand grew, seats were made available at the terrace level and other areas in the ballpark.  They witnessed the home team losing in extra innings to the Seattle Mariners, 8-7.

In the past, such outings commemorating Pride were organized at the grass roots level with some of the proceeds going to the GLBT Community Center of Baltimore. However, these Pride Nights, though they drew several hundred participants, were not official team events on the Orioles’ schedule.

Last Wednesday, the Orioles marked the occasion by the words “Welcome to LGBT Pride Night at Oriole Park” in rainbow letters displayed on the outfield video screen as well as other areas along the stadium’s façade.  The Baltimore Men’s Chorus performed prior to the game and during the 7th
DJ Rosie spinning the discs at VIP party. Photo: Baltimore Orioles
inning stretch.

Gay retired MLB umpire Dale Scott who came out while still active threw out the ceremonial first pitch to rousing applause and warm embraces from his former colleagues who were working this game.

One of the evening's highlights was the popular “Kiss Cam” feature between innings.  A camera is trained on a couple while the image is projected on the large video screen. They spot themselves on the screen and begin smooching while the crowd reacts.  Typically heterosexual couples are featured.  But on this night several same-sex couples were highlighted, much to the delight of the crowd.

“I had an overwhelming moment of happiness when I thought about the same-sex Kiss Cam kisses and how, hopefully, 20 years from now the giddy excitement over seeing it will be gone because it will just be the norm,” said Nina Sharp, a resident of Mount Vernon.

Baltimore’s Jon Kaplan was a whirlwind of activity, darting all over the LGBT sections hob knobbing with old friends while perhaps making new ones. 

Reminiscent of  unofficial Orioles cheerleader at Memorial Stadium, Wild Bill Hagy, Kaplan also led the crowd in Section 8 in cheers by trying to shout above the ball park noise, “When I say O’s…” and the fans put their hands together forming an “O.”

Fans responding to Jon Kaplan's cheerleading. Photo: Jon Kaplan
“It gives me so much joy to see our community and allies get together as a group and celebrate our diversity in public venues,” says Kaplan.  “It’s crucial that we continue to show the world what a wonderful LGBTQ community we have to offer in Maryland.”

A local LGBT-owned business joined the party as well. The Baltimore Eagle offered an extra deal of 2 for 1 on the first round of drinks after the game for those wearing the Pride Cap or showing the ticket. “We wanted to keep the night going and just add more to the fun,” said co-owner Charles King. “A large group of employees and us owners came out and supported the team. We had a great time.”

Of course, not everybody was pleased with the Orioles’ promotion.  A person named Jack Thomas posted on the Orioles’ Facebook page in reaction to the announced LGBT Pride Night, “Promote, and celebrate perverted minds, Orioles! Just another good reason not to watch that lousy team.”

Lisa Davidson acknowledged that there were angry people who cannot accept these Pride events or LGBT Pride in general.  “I know I can’t reason with people like that, so the only way I knew to ‘fight back’ was with love and my queer-wallet of not-so-much-money, a ‘millennial problem.’”

Openly gay Oriole spokesperson Greg Bader, who works in the team’s front office, notes the personal significance of Pride Night.

“As a gay man, I’m proud of the Orioles for hosting an official LGBT Pride Night, as it sends a clear message to our fans – and our staff – that the organization is welcoming and supportive of everyone, regardless of someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity,” Bader told Outsports.

“Based on the behind-the-scenes support the organization has afforded me and my fellow LGBT coworkers through the years, it’s no surprise that the team would also be so supportive in this public way.”

The Baltimore Orioles confirmed the event will continue in the future.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

'On The Town' is a Helluva Show at Olney

Sam Ludwig (Ozzie), Rhett Guter (Gabey), and Evan Casey (Chip) 
Photo: Stan Barouh

When one is serving in the Navy, especially during wartime, the opportunity for liberty at a port is always something sailors eagerly look forward to. Shore leave for them is akin to children anticipating Christmas morning.  #hocoarts

In 1944, three such sailors—Chip, Ozzie and Gabey—disembark from their ship at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and for 24 hours they make way for the bustle and nightlife of New York City seeking the personal and romantic companionship (aka a fling) that had eluded them while on duty.  One of them, however, is Chip, who is intent on seeing New York’s attractions delineated in an obsolete guide his father gave him 10 years before. 

On the subway they noticed a poster of “Miss Turnstiles for June,” Ivy Smith. Gabey falls for the image of the woman as it reminds him of his childhood crush.  The other two agree to help find her and a zany search ensues while Chip and Ozzie instantly encounter rather odd women of their own.

Their whacky story is conveyed in the classic 1944 musical On The Town that has dropped anchor at Olney Theatre Center.

The production is the early-career collaboration between Leonard Bernstein (music) and Jerome Robbins (based on the ballet Fancy Free) with book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green.  It’s the final musical on Olney’s Mainstage of the 2017-18 Season, marking the theatre’s 80th birthday.

Ably directed by Olney Artistic Director Jason Loewith, this iteration of On The Town is a lively, fast-paced production consistent of the old-time musicals with its solid catalogue of songs including many ballads, vibrant dance numbers and plenty of schtick.  The iconic song “New York, New York,” performed near the beginning of the production and then again as the Finale, is arguably one of the best known songs in Broadway lore.  

Robert Mintz (Ensemble), Lance E. Hayes (Ensemble), and
Rhett Guter (Gabey) Photo: Stan Barouh
Superb work by the entire ensemble showcasing their singing, dancing and comedic talents and terrific orchestration directed by Helen Hayes Award winner Christopher Youstra and his Olney record-breaking 14-piece orchestra are among keys to the show’s success.

Since there is much dancing in On The Town—a cornucopia of rhythmic high-tempo dances with an infusion of ballet—there needs to be a stellar choreographer who interprets and executes Jerome Robbins’ original choreography.  This Olney production has one in the accomplished Tara Jeanne Vallee, and the dancing that unfolds is impeccable and precise.

Rosemary Pardee’s Costume Design accurately fits the ensemble in a wide range of period attire. Alexandra Pohanka’s Wig Design (essential since many in the cast play multiple roles), Colin K. Bills’ Lighting Design, and Roc Lee’s Sound Design are all on point and added quality to an already quality show. Perhaps the sailor hats could be fastened a little tighter to the principals’ heads as their occasional falling is a distraction.

Court Watson’s creative set design is more functional than aesthetic. Dropdown and sliding scenery and a variety of set pieces and props are frequently used to accommodate the plethora of scene changes that includes the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a subway, a taxicab, streets, a couple of apartments, and several different nightclubs among other locales.  The rapidly moving scenery works well in keeping the pace of the show on target.

An elevator bringing performers out of a cavity in the center of the stage and the use of stairways on the sides are good touches enhancing the texture of the visuals.  Another nice touch is a sign that flashes the name of a different nightclub the group travels to.  And I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out to the classic Nedick’s set—nostalgia for me wins out.

Evan Casey as Chip, Helen Hayes Award winner Sam Ludwig as Ozzie, and Rhett Guter as Gabey exuberantly play the three sailors.

Sam Ludwig (Ozzie), Rachel Zampelli (Claire De Loone),
Claire Rathbun (Ivy), Rhett Guter (Gabey), Tracy Lynn Olivera
(Hildy Esterhazy), and Evan Casey (Chip)  Photo: Stan Barouh
Tracy Lynn Olivera plays Hildy Esterhazy, an about-to-be fired cab driver who is hot for Chip.  Rachel Zampelli plays Claire DeLoone, an anthropologist specializing in men and who cannot control her desires.  She bags Ozzie.  And Claire Rathbun plays the elusive Ivy who has not accomplished what the subway poster suggests but instead is a “cooch dancer.”

All the principals demonstrate strong vocals and dance expertly.  As couples, they play off each other quite effectively displaying impeccable comic timing in both dialogue and movements.  It’s no wonder Mr. Casey (Chip) and Ms. Olivera (Hildy) enjoy such strong chemistry as they are a real life married couple.

The Navy trio as a group sings powerfully in such numbers as “New York, New York” and the comical “Gabey’s Coming.” They excel individually and as part of duets and production numbers where they also display elegant dancing moves.

Mr. Ludwig and Ms. Zampelli score high marks in performing in the hilarious “Carried Away” and join with Mr. Casey and Ms. Olivera in “Ya Got Me” and “Some Other Time.”

For his part, Mr. Guter as Gabey, who as disclosed by his fellow sailors, performed a heroic act during the war and saved their lives, engages in less comedy than the others but still has his moments forlornly trying to hook up with Ivy. His solo “Lonely Town” is stellar.

Ms. Olivera shines in the funny “I Can Cook, Too.” In a tour-de-force performance, she possesses amazing comical instincts and is perfectly cast for the role.

Ms. Rathbun and Mr. Ludwig’s dance duet “Pas De Deux” is sensual and majestic.

There are several other actors who do a magnificent job supporting the principals.  Bobby Smith plays among his half dozen other roles the part of Pitkin W. Bridgework, a judge who happens to be engaged to Ms. Zampelli’s Claire.  Understanding at first of Claire’s penchant for other men (“I Understand”), he becomes less so, leading to a madcap conclusion. 

Also playing multiple roles is Donna Migliaccio as Madame Maud P. Dilly, who is a standout as the heavy drinking, often inebriated vocal coach for Ivy and foil for Gabey.

Rounding out the talented cast are Ashleigh King, Amanda Kaplan, Alan Naylor, Connor James Reilly, Shawna Walker, Suzanne Lane, Jennifer Flohr, Ian Anthony Coleman, Lance E. hayes, Robert Mintz, Ron Tal and Taylor J. Washington.

On The Town is a fun musical with plenty of talented performers, musicians, and an expert technical crew. Leave your worries at home for a few hours and enjoy a talented cast giving their all in this wild adventure in New York, New York, a helluva town.  And this is one helluva show.

Running time. Two hours and 30 minutes with an intermission.

On The Town runs through July 22 at the Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney, MD 20832. Tickets may be purchased by calling 301-924-3400 or by visiting online.   

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Bold Madaleno Ad is Sheer Genius

Rich Madaleno
Maryland gubernatorial candidate Rich Madaleno shook up the Democratic primary race and threw caution to the wind with an ad that ended with the kissing of his longtime husband Mark Hodge. He preceded the kiss with the comment, “the number one way I piss off Donald Trump and the Republicans” and concludes the ad with the taunt, “Take that, Trump.”

The 30-second campaign ad, "Take That, Trump", will run on Fox and Friends in the D.C. market leading up to the June 26 primary is most likely an attempt, among other things, to goad President Trump to respond.  #hocopolitics

The ad does not mention any of his half dozen primary opponents nor does it mention incumbent Republican Governor Larry Hogan. Instead, he directly takes on Trump in the ad touting his voting record, accomplishments and positions on issues that are anathema to Trump and his Republican cohorts.

Madaleno, Maryland’s first openly gay state Senator and a resident of Silver Spring, Md., was one of the leading forces in winning passage of marriage equality in the Maryland General Assembly.

To me, this ad is pure political genius and the type of in-your-face boldness so frustratingly absent from many Democratic office seekers.  While Trump’s approval may be inching up nationally, there is no evidence that the president’s popularity is anything but low in Maryland and especially in the D.C. area.  Thus, attacking Trump here should not result in much backlash.

Even those who may be put off by the same-sex kiss, there is no reason to believe that such individuals would have voted for Madaleno anyway. Clearly, there was more upside than downside to this endeavor and if nothing else, excited the progressive Democrats in the state in which many had, up to this point, been undecided in the race.

Moreover, the ad has received national and international intention, which will likely generate significant donations from supporters from places far and wide.  From news organizations, such as CNN, Time, USA Today, and the Washington Post to scores of local print and online outlets, the exposure is golden.  

The timing of the ad leading up to early voting in the state form June 14-21 culminating in the primary election on June 26 presents a great opportunity.  

“June is LGBT Pride Month and I couldn’t think of a better time to release this ad,” Madaleno, who will turn 53 on June 16, said in a statement. “Love truly does trump hate.”


The ad is seen below.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Final Pitch


My closing arguments for election to the Howard County Democratic Central Committee

By Bob Ford

As early voting begins, I would like to offer my closing arguments as to why I am asking for your vote to continue to serve on the Howard County Democratic Central Committee.  #hocopolitics

Having been appointed four years ago, I have worked hard on the Committee including the role of co-chair for Voter Registration and co-chair for New Democratic Voter Outreach. 

I gained a reputation for my solid work ethic and for being a fair-minded, pragmatic voice of reason as well as progressive advocate.  This record earned the respect of my colleagues. 

I’m proud of the fact that I have a unique résumé compared to the rest of the field who are running for this position, and this enables me to bring a fresh and distinctive perspective to the Central Committee.

Being the only LGBT person out of 30 candidates, I’ve been a passionate advocate and activist for LGBT rights and equality for nearly four decades and fought hard to persuade elected officials to support marriage equality.  I’m also a strong supporter of organized labor and of working class men and women having been a member of the Steelworkers, Teamsters and Communications Workers of America unions.

I’ve been engaged in the community promoting civil rights by currently serving as a Commissioner on the county’s Human Rights Commission, a member of the Steering Committee for the #OneHoward initiative, a member of the County Executive’s LGBT Round Table, and the Treasurer and Membership Chairman for the Columbia Democratic Club.  I am also a member of the Ellicott City and Western Howard Democratic Club and an active member of PFLAG-Howard County.

I want to help the Democratic Party both nationally and locally to prosper and grow and will wholeheartedly support Democratic candidates and officials who share my values of inclusion, openness, diversity and equality.  I am pro-choice, pro-labor, pro-LGBT, pro-Black Lives Matter, pro-gun reform, pro-human rights, pro-immigrant, pro-universal health care,  pro-environment protections, and pro-teacher. In short, I am “pro – gressive.”

To break it down further:

♦ We need LGBT representation on the Central Committee. While I have no doubt that most of the other Central Committee candidates support LGBTQ rights, being actually LGBTQ and having lived through the journey of coming out and dealing with issues that directly impact the LGBTQ population make me uniquely qualified to represent and promote LGBTQ interests.

Even in Howard County there are instances of bullying in schools and online against LGBTQ students as well as the existence of LGBTQ homelessness.  The recent racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic vandalism at Glenelg H.S. underscores the fact there is still much work that remains.

The LGBTQ community is a key and growing component of the Howard County and Maryland Democratic Party. The latest estimates indicate there are at least 9,000 voters in Howard County who identify as LGBT.  Adding in our families, friends, co-workers, neighbors and allies, we have emerged as a potent coalition within the party.  This vital Democratic bloc needs to be represented.

♦ Working for Democrats. During Democratic election cycles I’ve been a tireless participant and have helped numerous local candidates by burning shoe leather door-knocking on their behalf, literature dropping, phone banking, envelope stuffing, working the polls, sign holding, marching in neighborhood parades for local Democrats, staffing tables at a spectrum of events, and contributing a good deal of money towards candidates’ campaigns.

♦ Experience counts. I strongly favor an infusion of “new blood” to participate in the democratic process, and that is why I have been an ardent promoter of voter registration. I also welcome younger and less experienced candidates to breathe more life into the party and share their perspectives, which will ensure the party’s growth and success in the future. 

However, there is no substitute for experience, stability and dependability.  These traits, which I believe I possess, are needed to navigate myriad issues that come before the Committee.  And it doesn’t hurt to be a moderating, calming influence during emotional debates and not getting caught up in personal distractions.

♦ Attendance at Meetings.  Half the battle is being reliable, dependable and showing up at Central Committee and State Democratic meetings. I am proud to say I have a near-perfect attendance record at these meetings over the past four years and believe that the members should do so as well. It is imperative that the business that take place at the meetings receive the full participation by those elected to serve.  As such, I will propose that the attendance records at these meetings be published to foster accountability.

♦ Precinct captains. Another plan of mine is to recruit volunteers to be precinct captains.  These individuals would be tasked to enlist the support of other volunteers in their particular precinct to help distribute literature, signs, canvassing and perform other functions needed to boost the Democratic Party as well as the candidates’ visibility. They also would be asked to send out post cards welcoming newly registered Democratic voters--a function I recently participated in with two other volunteers.

♦ Endorsements and Testimonials. I am honored to have received endorsements and testimonials from colleagues on the Howard County Democratic Central Committee, former and current elected officials, candidates, community leaders, bloggers, and political activists who recognized my efforts on behalf of the Democratic Party and acknowledged my passion for diversity and inclusion.

I greatly appreciate African Americans in Howard County; former County Executive and State Senator James Robey ; State Senator Guy Guzzone ; Register of Wills Byron Macfarlane ; and civil rights icon and Vice President of Research & Agenda Planning of the African American Coalition of Howard County, Sherman Howell , for their endorsements.

In addition, I want to thank the following for their public expression of support for my candidacy:  Bill Woodcock,  Carole Fisher,  Delegate Clarence Lam, Colette Roberts, Courtney Watson,  Dan Medinger,  Deb Jung,  Dylan Goldberg, Delegate Eric Ebersole, Frank Aquino, Greg Jennings, Jason Booms, Councilwoman Jen Terrasa, Councilman Jon Weinstein, Jonathan Branch, Marcia White, Delegate Mary Washington, Maureen Evans Arthurs, Morgan Meneses-Sheets, Patti  Medinger, Rich Gibson, Spencer Dove, Steve Hunt, Delegate Terri Hill and Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary.

♦ Speaking out against Trump. Finally, this corrupt and lying President has debased the office, believes he is above the law, is assaulting our democratic principles and institutions, attacks minorities, and cozies up to despots while hurting our allies. Too many local Democratic office holders and candidates have been frustratingly reticent to publicly criticize Trump, and as a member of the Central Committee, I will urge elected Democrats to do so.

In summary, if you want an experienced, hardworking, progressive advocate with a proven record of helping Democratic candidates win, and who will not just talk the talk but in fact, walk the walk, please vote for Bob Ford during early voting June 14-21 or on June 26 for the Howard County Democratic Central Committee.

In addition, please vote for the other experienced, well-qualified candidates on my independent team (you may choose up to 10 women and 10 men): Alicia Altamirano, Suzanne R. Geckle, Jan Oliver, Margaret Weinstein, Bill Adams, Rich Corkran, Josh Friedman, Dave Garabowski, Gabriel M. Moreno, and Pravin Ponnuri.


Authority: Bob Ford, Candidate, 5912 Trotter Rd., Clarksville, MD  21029