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Four Decades Along the Rainbow Road

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Iron Crow’s Dark, Eerie Apartment 213

Will Manning as the Victim and Joseph W. Ritsch as Jeff

“Hi, I’m Jeff.  Can I buy you a drink?  I’d like to take your picture…of poses and stuff.  I can pay $50.”
These were the pick-up lines that serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer used in bars around Milwaukee to lure young men back to his apartment.  The Iron Crow Theatre Company’s presentation of Apartment 213, currently playing at the Theatre Project, repeats those lines throughout Joseph W. Ritsch’s intense one-hour drama.  Apartment 213 has been brought back by Iron Crow with the same cast and director following a successful run in July 2011.  

Under the direction of Stephen Nunns, the play attempts to examine the dark, inner psyche of Dahmer using multi-media, imagination and proficient acting that raises more questions as to Dahmer’s motives than it answers.

For full review, visit MD Theatre Guide.

Photo: Daniel Ettinger

Thursday, September 19, 2013

OUT in the Stands

GLoW folks are looking to fill the section next year
The Washington Blade recently devoted a special issue on sports and how they relate to the LGBT community.   It was guest-edited by former Baltimore Ravens linebacker and staunch gay rights advocate Brendon Ayanbadejo.  The effort covered all the bases—literally—and provided excellent insight into how the sports environment is changing in a positive way towards acceptance of LGBT athletes.
Of course, no active gay male athlete has come out in the four major professional team sports—baseball, football, basketball and hockey.  The closest was NBA player Jason Collins, who came out last spring, but he’s a current free agent, and no team has yet to sign him.  Others have come out after they had retired.

The biggest impediment, some theorize, for the reluctance of gay players to come out while still playing is the expected media attention.  I believe that would pose a problem but should vanish in short order as the novelty wears off. 
With most of these pro sports establishing anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies, the feeling is that the athletes would accept a gay teammate.  Some individual players and representatives of management have vocally stated their support for a gay teammate with the point being made, if you can help the team win, that’s all that matters.
Unquestionably, there would be some negative reactions towards a gay player from fans, and it would not matter where it originates, defying conventional wisdom.  For instance, there are plenty of homophobes in New York City and Boston—two liberal strongholds—and solid support for LGBT rights in Atlanta and Dallas of the “red states” category.

Prejudice against a potential openly gay professional athlete is less likely considering there is more general acceptance of LGBT people.  This shift in attitudes, led by the younger generation and an increase in support from minorities, has culminated in significant LGBT political victories especially on the marriage front.  It’s becoming less and less cool to outwardly display homophobia, and the perpetrator will likely be called out on it.
Seizing upon this trend, many major league baseball teams have instituted “Nights Out at the Ballpark” events to market to LGBT fans.  Typically, the special night is announced on the stadium’s message board, the national anthem is performed by an LGBT or LGBT-friendly artist(s), and the ceremonial first pitch is tossed by a local representative of the community.
These LGBT events at major league ballparks have taken place over the years in such cities as San Francisco, Boston, Washington, D.C., San Diego, Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, St. Louis and Toronto.  The Los Angeles Dodgers has announced their first “gay night” to take place on September 27 that will feature a special guest performing with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles.

And the Seattle Mariners became the first major league team to fly a Pride flag at a major league stadium this past June. Rebecca Hale, Director of Public Information for the Mariners, told Seattle Out & Proud, “We're a part of this community. Our fans are a reflection of our community. We thought this was an appropriate gesture on a day that is very meaningful to the LGBT community.”
These events are so successful that the Washington Nationals staged two Nights Out this year with each drawing over 2,000 LGBT fans in the group.  But as one of the writers in the Blade sports issue correctly jabbed, Baltimore Orioles LGBT fans are still waiting.

As part of Pride festivities in June and serving as a modest fundraiser, the GLCCB through Facebook quickly assembled a group of about 40 to see the Orioles play the Angels. This was not a team-sanctioned event as far more tickets would need to be sold and more time for planning and publicizing would have to take place.  But it was done well and a good beginning.
Recently, a new Orioles fan page was formed on Facebook called “GLoW Orioles Fans Games Group” (facebook.com/groups/GLoW.OriolesGamesGroup).   It consists of friends—“gay, lesbian, or whoever”—who will get together for various Baltimore Orioles home games throughout the season.  The page was launched by gay activist and Baltimore resident Mike Bernard.

 “The idea for this group was inspired by a get together on July 12 when the Orioles played the Toronto Blue Jays,” Bernard explained. “We had so much fun together that we did not want to leave...and oh, yeah, the Orioles won that night, too.”  Paul D. Sanders from Staten Island, NY encouraged Bernard to start a “gay” Orioles group page, similar to his G-Mets group and other gay team pages.
The first outing after the page was created occurred on September 9 against the Yankees—the only win for the Orioles that series.  Ten from GLoW attended the game.  Though the Orioles’ chances for a 2013 post-season are sputtering, the group’s enthusiasm has not dimmed.  The next GLoW game is September 24 vs. the Blue Jays. 

Nonetheless, it would be great if, say, the GLCCB organizes a team-sanctioned “LGBT Night Out with the Orioles” with high visibility and full ceremonies.  I was told by a representative from the Orioles group tickets office, it would require a minimum of 1,500 tickets sold. 
A tough challenge to be sure.  But it’s high time that Baltimore joins the growing list of cities whose baseball teams hold such events. It doesn’t have to be the GLCCB doing the heavy lifting but they’re in a good position to make it happen. 

Baltimore should showcase its proud LGBT community with its big win on marriage equality as well as its love for sports.  Why not do so at Oriole Park at Camden Yards?


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Hooray for 'Animal Crackers' at Center Stage

©Richard Anderson
“It’s hard to overstate the genius of the Marx Brothers,” says Center Stage Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah during rehearsals for Animal Crackers. “This is high-flying, laugh-a-minute lunacy at its best, and I can’t wait to see families and kids of all ages come together to enjoy this remarkable musical comedy.” 
He was right on the money.  This one is a doozey that induces eye-tearing laughter from soup to nuts.  Opening its 51st season, Center Stage brought to its Pearlstone theater stage the old Marx Brothers-led madcap musical comedy Animal Crackers.  The seemingly timeless production with music and lyrics by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby and a book by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind opened in 1928 towards the end of the vaudevillian era.  When sound pictures were gaining popularity, it was filmed as a movie in 1930.

For full review, visit MD Theatre Guide.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

MTV's Role in LGBT Acceptance

Macklemore performing ‘Same Love’ at VMA’s
It’s a pity that Miley Cyrus’ near pornographic twerking, tongue and finger movements received so much attention following the recent MTV’s Video Music Awards extravaganza.  It overshadowed Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga, and Justin Timberlake’s stunning performances and the fleeting reunion with the latter’s fellow ‘N Sync pals, as well as other highlights from the show. 
Also driven to the background by Cyrus but of significance to the LGBT community were the poignant remarks made by Seattle rapper Macklemore (Ben Haggerty) following his and producer Ryan Lewis’ receiving the award for Best Video with a Social Message for the gay anthem “Same Love” and the subsequent performance of the hit single.

“To watch this song in the last year spread across the world is a testament to what is happening right now in America on the forefront of equality,” said Macklemore while accepting his statue. “Gay rights are human rights, there is no separation.”  The video has over 70 million hits on You Tube alone.
Macklemore told The New York Times he composed “Same Love” in March 2012 after reading an article about a bullied gay teenager who committed suicide.  It was recorded during Washington State’s referendum battle for same-sex marriage to promote marriage equality, and it also condemned homophobia in hip hop, society and the mainstream media.  

“I just wanted to hold myself accountable and hold hip-hop accountable and bring up an issue that was being pushed under the rug,” Macklemore said. The video calls out other hip-hop artists for using gay slurs and religious leaders for refusing to support marriage equality.
As a straight man, he said he also wanted to show his support for his two gay uncles and his gay godfather. Indeed, the cover artwork for the single features a photograph of Macklemore’s gay uncle and his partner.

Jason Collins, the NBA player who came out earlier this year as gay, introduced the duo who performed the song with singer Mary Lambert and surprise guest Jennifer Hudson—another highlight-worthy moment in the show.
The MTV Music Video Awards has always been edgy and there were memorable moments for gay folks to enjoy throughout its run.  Remember 10 years ago the Madonna-Britney-Christina kiss?  Or last year, there was the recently out Frank Ocean singing “Thinkin Bout You”.  Or Ricky Martin, Ru Paul, Pet Shop Boys, Cher—the list goes on.

The point is, MTV, which debuted on August 1, 1981, has continually provided a platform for LGBT rights advocates and produced numerous shows with LGBT characters.  While the network has changed its format from wall-to-wall videos to a bevy of reality TV shows, it maintained its social consciousness especially in the LGBT sphere and included such related issues as bullying and teen suicide. 
Consequently, MTV in 2010 became the first network ever to receive an “Excellent” rating in GLAAD's Network Responsibility Index report.  GLAAD is the principal organization that works directly with news media, entertainment media, cultural institutions and social media.

From the early years of MTV’s iconic series The Real World, LGBT characters were a part of every installment.  That included the sad but inspiring journey of Pedro Zamora, a gay man in 1994 San Francisco who courageously came out to his housemates and to the world that he had HIV/AIDS and his brave but losing battle to live with the disease. 
The series depicted other LGBT folks with the same issues, personal problems, strengths, weaknesses, dreams, and the need for love as their straight counterparts.  Some were wonderful beings; others were loathsome— a mix that you would ordinarily find in straight America.

The True Life series on occasion discussed realities of LGBT life.  One episode in 2003 featured a gay teacher in Texas and in 2004 same-sex couples getting married.  In 2012 the network co-sponsored two specials for the “It Gets Better” project.  This past year, they also included a gay man struggling to come out as HIV positive in their special “I’m Positive,” which earned a Daytime Entertainment Emmy nomination.
The scripted show Awkward has two featured gay characters, and America’s Best Dance Crew has gay competitors.  Teen Wolf also includes two openly gay characters with a dose of homoerotic imagery and dialogue.  The straight characters shrug it off. 

The upshot of this LGBT-inclusive programming is that positive images of LGBT folks have been delivered to an entire generation since the early 1990’s.  The sitcom Will and Grace has been largely credited for allowing America’s heartland to view gays as normal, everyday people with the same problems and joys as the rest of the country.  When LGBT people are portrayed in that light, there is more acceptance on the part of the larger population making the environment more comfortable for LGBT folks to come out.  That puts a real human face on what was once considered abstract.
What MTV has done and continues to do is casting a positive light on LGBT people for a younger generation; the impressions on LGBT teens cannot be overstated.  It is no coincidence that issues, such as marriage equality, receive the highest level of support from teens and young adults.  And I wonder how many young LGBT lives have been saved by the positive reinforcement of MTV’s programming.    

“MTV has a long history of sharing groundbreaking and diverse portrayals of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people that help Americans understand our community,” said GLAAD spokesperson Wilson Cruz in response to my inquiry. “When other networks have shied away from stories that showcase the diversity of the LGBT community, MTV has been known to boldly discuss LGBT issues as well as include LGBT people of color and transgender people.”
The Video Music Awards and the platform it offers to pro-LGBT artists adds on to the already great body of work by MTV and keeps the momentum going on the side of equality and justice.  Thankfully, young people are influenced by this, and they represent our future.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

The Right to BARE Arms

Just after midnight on September 1, Bob and I decided on the spur in the moment to stop by Maryland Live! Casino at Arundel Mills.  As I walked through the door, a “guard” at the door asked me to stop.  I thought for a second that I had dropped my bulging wallet containing cash that I was about to donate to the state of Maryland’s coffers over the next two hours or so. 
Instead, she said I cannot go in wearing the shirt I had on.  I asked, ‘what?’  She said that I needed to wear another shirt.  I told her I didn’t have another shirt and asked what’s wrong with this?  She said you can’t go in wearing a sleeveless shirt.  I said, ‘Bull----!  Look what those people inside are wearing (pointing to a few wearing dirty tee shirts and a woman also in a sleeveless shirt).”  I asked her if I look less neat then them?  She asked if I would want to speak to her supervisor and I answered in the affirmative.  Then she told me to stand to the side.

A few minutes later a man came over and asked me what the problem is.  I told him that she was preventing me from entering the casino.  He asked if I had read the dress code.  I responded by asking where is it.  He said it’s on the website.  I told him this was an impromptu visit and didn’t consider checking the website prior to coming in. 
We argued further when I told him this is discriminatory and that I referred to a woman in a sleeveless shirt already inside.  He asserted that women’s clothing is different from men’s.  (At least I learned something new out of all this.)  In other words, women’s arms can show but not a man’s.

He then ordered me to leave under the implied threat of having me arrested, humiliating me in front of a lot of people who were entering and leaving the premises so I exited, promising I would never be back.
I’ve been to casinos all over the country including the surrounding states of West Virginia and Delaware wearing sleeveless shirts—my favorite summer apparel—and never once being refused admission.  On this night, a hot one, I was wearing a clean, rather new light blue tank top (pictured), white shorts, white baseball cap and sandals.  I never thought of myself as a GQ model, but I immodestly believed I looked better than 90 percent of the men whom I saw inside and probably half of the women and would not cause such a distraction to keep people from losing their money.

Other than a capricious, arbitrary dress policy that contains racist and sexist innuendoes and an anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic tinge to it, there was no basis to refuse my entry and causing the embarrassment I received. The arbitrary nature is demonstrated at the beginning of the policy: “Management reserves the right to refuse entry to any person, at any time, for any reason at their sole discretion.”
In the future I plan to patronize the more tolerant casinos in West Virginia, Delaware, Las Vegas, on cruise ships and elsewhere who would welcome my lost dollars with open and yes, bare arms.   I wind up losing my shirt anyway.


The following letter was sent to both Maryland Live! Casino on September 5, 2013 and the Cordish Cos (parent company of Maryland Live) with no response.

To whom this may concern:

I am writing to advise you of a disturbing incident that occurred at Maryland Live! casino just past midnight on September 1.  My spouse and I made an impromptu decision to visit the casino.  As we walked through the doors and began my entrance to the slot machines, a guard stopped me and said, “You can’t go inside.”  I asked why and she said I can’t go in with the shirt that I had on.

I was wearing a clean, fairly new tank top as this was a particularly warm night.  I pointed to a woman inside who was also wearing a tank top—not a halter top or anything that is characteristically feminine—but almost the identical article of clothing I was wearing except for the color.  In fact, there were a number of other women in similar attire. The guard said that’s the policy and offered me an opportunity to speak with a supervisor.

A man came over in a few minutes and I explained that I was being prevented from entering.  He reiterated that’s the casino’s policy and I asked where is it posted.  He told me it’s on the website.  I pointed out that most people don’t routinely check the website prior to going to the casino.

This casino does not post dress codes at the entrances.  One cannot assume that every patron has Internet access, so right away there is a deficiency in the policy.  (There are many others especially in the arbitrary enforcement of the policy as I later checked the website but will not discuss them at this point.)

After a brief discussion, the guard ordered me to leave with the implied threat of arrest.  There was no profanity on my part, although I was particularly angry.  I was not drunk or disorderly.  There were no threats or abuse on my part either.  The discussion was relatively respectful given the circumstances except for the rejection. 

This was a most embarrassing experience as this ejection was heard and witnessed by dozens of patrons entering and leaving.  To be told in public, “You can’t go inside” is degrading to say the least.  In fact, I was asked to explain what happened to a bunch of people in the garage elevator, and they shook their heads.

In my entire life, I had never been kicked out of any public establishment much less a casino.  And for what?  Wearing a tank top?  It is blatantly unfair, if not discriminatory, that women wearing the same shirt I had on can participate in the gambling activities and I was not permitted. 

The shirt was clean and fresh, had no offensive language (it was plain), and clearly I presented to threat to the patrons or employees.  I could in no way prevent anyone from gambling.   This humiliating ejection was ridiculous and any reasonable person would see it that way.

Wearing sleeveless shirts is my choice of attire in the summer and has been for years.  I’m comfortable in them and I don’t look bad in them either as I work out regularly.  I have worn these type shirts in casinos in Las Vegas, Washington, Colorado, Mississippi, Atlantic City, New York, Delaware and West Virginia, and not once was I ever prevented from entering.  I go to casinos in the summer so I always wear these types of shirts.  Yet, only at Maryland Live! does this shirt pose a problem.

I recognize your need to establish a dress code as a matter of decency.  But a sleeveless shirt worn by a male who intends to sit and spend money at a slot machine for a couple of hours is no legitimate basis for rejection.  The better course of action in this particular case is for the guard/supervisor to issue a warning/reminder about the policy and allowed my admission.  It would have been a gesture that would indicate the casino’s management was interested in retaining patrons and a reflection of good customer service.  I’m willing to bet the gross for the entire night there would have been no complaints.

Steve Charing

Clarksville, MD