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Anjelica Huston

Anjelica Huston Interview

  • May 20, 2019 - 5:09pm

Give Anjelica Huston a character so fierce it will single-handedly galvanize the gay community and she’ll devour the role. Unapologetically powerful, her Grand High Witch in The Witches wielded kid-hexing Wiccan powers, her ghastly face both a hideous fright and a delicious, drag-queen-dream marvel. 

A year later, in 1991, she made weirdness cool as Morticia Addams, bringing a grace all her own to The Addams Family as the household’s ghoulish glue. On NBC’s short-lived musical-drama Smash, from 2012 to 2013, the Academy Award winner played legendary tough-as-nails producer Eileen Rand. Now, complete with Russian accent, she portrays The Director – the leader of the assassins’ headquarters – opposite Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry and non-binary actor Asia Kate Dillon in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. A mighty role for a mighty woman. 

During a recent call with the 67-year-old actress, just hours before the John Wick premiere in New York, Huston discussed her affinity with the LGBTQ community, her wig in Smash, and going head-to-head with a giant latex penis during a Pride parade. 


What do you think is the connection between your strength and resilience as a woman – both in life and in film – and the gay men who are empowered by you?

Aww! Well, I like to think I empower the people around me, and that definitely is something that I would wish. I think maybe, hmm… I’ve never really considered it. But I think maybe it’s just a sort of similar feeling, similar reaction to certain things, and I think maybe the ability to speak out for yourself even though it might get you in trouble sometimes (laughs). I think that’s something, you know, that we all have to deal with.


You laugh like you might have just had experience with the latter.

(Laughs) Recently, I had a little experience with this Vulture interview (Huston recently gave a controversial tell-all to the news site). But you know, it has to do with speaking your mind and speaking your truth, and I think that’s something that has gone a little bit out of fashion since I’ve been working and giving interviews. (Laughs)

One of the things about the gay community is that they’ve always been outspoken; they speak their truth and they’ve taken a lot of chances in their lives, because often these opinions aren’t popular. But it takes all kinds to make a world, and I think we narrow our sights very much when we constantly adapt to the sort of rigors of everyday life and that everything has to be safe and that everything has to be presentable. 


And you don’t do that. You don’t play it safe.

I’m afraid I don’t. I’d like to a lot of the time, but I don’t really think that that’s my truth, though sometimes it is. But overall, I like to have the freedom to have my opinions that don’t necessarily adhere to everyone else’s. And I think that’s sort of an individuality, maybe. A sign of speaking one’s own mind and not necessarily being influenced by trends and what people consider to be proper. 


Because you play these powerful women and because those women sometimes dress exuberantly, many gay men have even given you credit for their gayness. Looking back, what roles of yours do you think could have had that kind of power over them? 

I don’t know, and I’m sort of hesitant to say because, again, everyone’s different and I think different things attract different people. But I think overall the parts that I’ve done that are not necessarily cookie-cutter, in which characters have some kind of power even though it’s not necessarily going to win them any kudos (laughs), are the ones who have a personal power that I think is attractive to the gay community. 


There was a real appreciation in the gay community for the shade you threw as the evil stepmother in Ever After, and with simply a single eyebrow raise. 

Aww, well, thank you. (Laughs) 


Some in the LGBTQ community have classified Morticia Addams as a gay icon. Do you think she has what it takes to be one?

I can only wish! (Laughs) I loved playing Morticia, and I think, also, probably because she had so much going on – so many corsets and wigs and nails – that yeah, she was almost drag. 


Your role as The Director could be potential inspiration for drag queens. When it comes to her look – but also her attitude – what should a drag queen keep in mind?

I don’t know. I think she’s a tough gypsy, she knows the score, she’s lived the life, she is rigorous, she’s strong. And I think that appeals to people. It certainly appeals to me. 


How do you explain the fact that, while most kids were scared of you in The Witches, gay boys wanted to be you?

(Laughs) Well, she has fabulous powers and she revels in her ugliness and in her vileness; she’s somebody who takes full advantage of being horrible! (Laughs) And in a way, I think that’s something very attractive, to be able to really enjoy your hideous outer shell; there’s something to be said for fully being who you are. And I think it doesn’t necessarily just belong to the gay community, it belongs to all of us who are searching to find a way or searching to find out who we are and how far we can go. 


What do you think of Anne Hathaway playing the role you originated?

I think, great, good luck to her. And I hope they find a way to not have to encase her in rubber for seven hours at a time (laughs). The makeup was very challenging on that movie. 


CGI has certainly come a long way.

It has, it has. But I think one of the things that’s so beautiful about the Nic Roeg movie is that there was practically no CGI. A little bit around the mice, but overall it was all makeup, it was the Jim Henson workshop, and I enjoyed the reality-based visuals of that film. And actually, it’s rather simply shot. There weren’t a lot of trick shots or anything like that. A few fish-eye lenses, but all of it was sort of based on what the camera could do and not what you could do post. 


Will you star in the remake? 

Oh, I have no idea. They haven’t spoken to me about it at all. I know nothing about the remake or how closely it will adhere to the Roald Dahl story. I have no idea. 


Some gays had problems with your Smash wig. They said it could’ve been softer, that it made you look like a drag queen. Are we to assume a gay man did not pick out that wig for you? 

(Laughs) Yeah, well, I don’t know – it helped me because I felt it was kind of an armor for my character, and she’s dealing with a lot of volatile, crazy stuff and kind of has to be the anchor in the middle of it. Something about that particular wig – although, no, it wasn’t the soft approach – helped me and kind of grounded me. 


What about your role in Transparent spoke to you as an actress and as a longtime supporter of the community?

I think Transparent was just kind of a wonderful show, and I started to watch it for quite some time before they invited me on the show. I thought it was very moving and also very reality-based, and I loved these characters. I found it very involving. For me, to play a member of the LGBTQ community was important and fascinating. I didn’t want to make it a caricature in any way and so I didn’t go to great lengths to kind of change Vicki’s sexuality. I felt like, you know, she’s a sexual person, she’s not someone who has a rule book about who she should be or if she should fall in love, but she’s a person who’s making it on her own – who’s got her cheese shop! (Laughs) A normal woman making a life who happens to be gay, which I think many people in the community are. 

It’s not that you carve yourselves out to be sexually different or to make those choices. A lot of the time the choices make you, and it’s up to you to find your way and negotiate your life. And there’s a lot of resistance out there. People love to criticize. And people really think they know better. I think a lot of the time we’re dictated by our feelings and by who we find ourselves to be. It’s not that we can go out and carve ourselves a personality a lot of the time.  


Your history with the LGBTQ community goes back: In fact, you met your late husband, Robert Graham, at Pride. What brought you there? 

I’m not quite sure. I think probably because – I don’t want to say. I can’t really remember why now that you’ve stirred my memory. (Laughs)


Do you have a memory from being at Pride that day?

I’m trying to put two things together. I can only say that it would’ve been a perfect day for Bob and I to meet, for Bob and I to get together, because I think it was a coming together of individuals – and a very artistic love-match, as far as I was concerned. I fell in love with his work, I fell in love with the man, and I think something about the liberation of gay Pride weekend is always a thrill and it’s always a great day in Los Angeles. And probably here (in NYC), although I haven’t spent many gay Pride weekends here. But I think it’s an ebullient moment, it’s a moment you can get out there and show who you are and not be ashamed. And flaunt it! 


And weren’t you almost run over by a giant latex penis at a gay parade?

Oh, yes! (Laughs) That was in New York, on 10th Street. That was a gay Pride weekend. Yes, I was stuck behind a latex penis for at least 20 minutes trying to get downtown. 


Is there photo evidence of this? 

No! None! None. And also, the skies opened, and it began to rain, so it was a huge latex penis and me struggling through the crowd. But there’s actually very little that’s funnier than gay Pride weekend in New York, now that I think about it. The imagination, the costumes! I remember there was a whole team of cocktails trotting down the street, and another one where the people put their faces inside milk cartons and were dancing down the street (laughs). There’s a great sense of fun and liberation and celebration. 


With Smash and Transparent, both of which represent the underrepresented, how much did their cultural significance factor into your involvement? 

Well, I think, because they’re current and they’re modern they hopefully represent the strengths in the community, and I think in some way those kinds of characters symbolize a certain freedom and a declaration of independence, and I think we all need that. 


Especially now.

Especially now, where things are very safe. In actual fact, they’re not that safe (laughs). I think our normal news every day is – there’s a lot that they worry us with. One of the wonderful things about the LGBTQ community is that they kind of throw caution to the winds and it’s a moment where people get together and celebrate the positive rather than the negative. 


Marina Interview

  • May 20, 2019 - 4:45pm

Even though Marina Diamandis cut herself loose from pop music after 2015’s FROOT to find the version of herself she lost to an industry touting artifice, the truth is she’d been feeling that way for a while. 

During the promotional cycle for her 2012 album Electra Heart, the 33-year-old Welsh artist, who then went by Marina and the Diamonds before recently simplifying her name (and image) to simply Marina, was already shaken by a superficial perception of her that made her “uncomfortable.” Mainstream press interviews at that time were, she said in 2015, “complete shit,” the questioning one-note because journalists didn’t seem to believe a pop artist could be complex and multi-dimensional. 

After FROOT, she continued to demonstrate otherwise. She went back to school, studying psychology at Birkbeck at the University of London. She painted. She traveled. And then influenced by Swiss psychologist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, she recorded her latest album, called Love + Fear, which is conceptually rooted solely in those two emotions. No “look,” no artifice.

There didn’t need to be. At 33, Marina has a better handle on who she is; grappling with her public and personal identity, a common theme in her past work that has resonated with many in the LGBTQ community, is a thing of the past. 


Identity and acceptance have long been thematic mainstays in your music. With these new songs, how might the LGBTQ audience identify?

With Love + Fear, I don’t think I’m really going through that or battling with that anymore, so there’s a real clarity and a simple, direct way of communicating on the record, whereas both subjects on previous records still felt very tumultuous and undecided, like I was trying to get through something and I didn’t know how to feel about myself. Now, a lot of the things that I’m inspired by are not inside me; it’s more looking outside at the world around me. 


Recently, you painted a stunning illustration of Elizabeth Taylor for a t-shirt and sales of the shirt will benefit her AIDS Foundation. It seems you have a lot in common with what that foundation stands for. How did you land on that particular cause for the shirt? 

Well, I watercolor as a hobby and, actually, I’m doing a lot of merch designs with watercolors this year for this tour. But the foundation, they just approached me and said they were really interested in doing anything that they could, and I just suggested that we could start with a limited edition watercolor that I would paint for them and that they can sell for charity. 

I hope it’s a partnership that we can continue because I would like to. I think when you’re doing stuff for charity it’s easy to say yes to a lot of little things, but this time around I’m looking for one or two partners across the next year which I can work with and focus on doing some good things with. 

But yeah, that’s a really important one for me, just because it’s got such a stigma attached to it. It’s bad enough if you have to deal with the illness itself, without having this really silly social stigma. And I really hope that things are still progressing forward in that way. Actually, that’s why I wanted to do it: because I think (we) still have to constantly work on social problems with this, and she did this so much in her life and I don’t think a lot of people know about how much work she did for HIV and AIDS sufferers. 


How would you describe your relationship with your LGBTQ fans at this point in your career?

I often get asked why I think I do have such a solid LGBTQ fanbase and I think it’s because a lot of the things that I’ve sung about in the past are connected to identity and a sense of being able to be yourself. When you grow up with a feeling of discrimination, that’s something that you carry into your adult life, so being my fourth album, it seems that I’m still very lucky in that I have the support of the LGBTQ community. I think that’s the reason, because if you bond with an artist early on with their lyrics, or their lyrics speak to you, that tends to be something you carry with you through your adult life. So, I kind of understand now why that has happened. 


I was listening to Love + Fear when I read something Robyn recently told The New York Times Magazine that I thought might resonate with you: “There’s always a gap between how I see myself and how other people see me.” Can you relate?

Anyone who has a public job, there’s always going to be that. Actually, not even anyone who has a public job, but for anyone in life there is gonna be that gap. But I think it’s bigger for people if you have a public job, and I think being an artist can really affect the way that you feel about yourself, because you know who you are but you may appear to be another thing because that’s a popular thing for pop artists to do. They’re experts at making you think they are a certain person when the reality is they have a lot of other parts that they’re not showing or that they’re trying to hide, and that’s part of being young. But I don’t feel like that at all anymore. 

Even with the name change, the reason I did it was because I knew it’d make me feel comfortable enough to be able to do this job again. It’s totally worked. I feel very comfortable and confident and I don’t feel like there’s any obstruction now between Marina and the Diamonds as an artist as opposed to a person. It’s making that easier for the average person as opposed to putting this construct in front of it all the time. 


Do you think nowadays there’s more of a desire to want or need pop artists that we can relate to?

I think that’s just been a natural direction, because I think with Instagram and Twitter and other social media platforms there was always gonna be a time where people would start to see through the veneer of staged or curated feeds, and now I think it’s gone beyond that a bit, thank god, where you can be more natural and you don’t have to be this epic conceptual thing all the time. Pop artists are fascinating, but at the end of the day, they are just normal people who are able to build a world around them that makes them look quite exciting. But really it’s the ideas that they started out with – it’s not really about how you look – and I think that’s what fans are connecting with, the person themself. 


Does Love + Fear reflect the heaviness you’ve expressed that you feel in other interviews when it comes to what is happening to minority communities in the world right now? 

I think I’ve felt very confused about it because there’s just been, to all of us, such bombardment of awful events in a very short period of time and now, of course, with the internet we have access to all of this information, so for the human brain, on a biological level, it’s like, how many bad events can you truly digest and be able to empathize? So many bad things happened in the last four years that it’s really hard to comprehend and know how to deal with it, so it’s more just trying to express that confusion, which I’ve written about a bit in “To Be Human” and “Life Is Strange.” But it’s a really hard topic to try and verbalize, to even try to condense for any of us. 


Even though you’re still pursuing music, how has pursuing other endeavors like studying psychology and painting broadened your sense of identity? 

I think as adults we get less time to expand other parts of ourselves. But because music was a hobby for me – I started doing it professionally at 22 and then I hit 30, 31 and I was like, “Well, what else is there in life?” – I didn’t have the normal experiences a 20-something would have. I was living quite a different type of life and that doesn’t allow a lot of space for being detached from your music. Music is your whole life. So then you just get stuck in being – you almost become like a brand to yourself, like in your own mind. It’s not even something you build, it’s subconscious, I believe. So I think it was really necessary for me to just have a break in order to focus on other things that are equally important. 


As adults, we do forget to still live as kids sometimes, don’t we?   

Yeah, and also just being able to try different things. Or change careers if you want to. I think adults become more nervous as we get older about change, and maybe we should think about it less seriously. You’re not just a writer or a journalist – you could be a lot of different things you don’t even know. You can experiment in life. 


What do you envision for yourself in the future? 

I hope to be able to integrate other parts of myself, like the fact that I love doing talks and I love psychology and philosophy. I still like painting. I think those are things I can incorporate into whatever role I’ve been able to build outside of music, but music has been a really wonderful platform to start with, because that is my main passion. 

Even with this record so far, being able to do this talk recently with this organization called The School of Life, which is a philosophy- and psychology-based school, that’s really thrilling to me because I’m able to contribute in a different way that’s not just like, “Look at this pop video.” Those are fun things, but they don’t deepen my heart. They don’t feel life-affirming. Songwriting is. It’s just having a bit of a different perspective now, and I’m really enjoying that. I feel a lot freer. And yeah, anything can happen! It’s exciting. Life is exciting. 

Molly Shannon

Molly Shannon Interview

  • May 20, 2019 - 4:29pm

Consider this: Emily Dickinson was not all grandma curtains and sad, sad, sad. But she was fun! She was funny! And she was – says at least one very convinced filmmaker – a lesbian with a sizzling sex life.

Of course, many have noted the likelihood of the 19th-century poet’s queer bent, but based on research and the reexamination of Emily’s letters that uncovered erasures using spectrographic technology, writer-director Madeleine Olnek is taking a hard, gay stance on the popular poet’s sexuality in her comedic drama, Wild Nights with Emily, which seeks to rectify the totality – she wasn’t some spinster, either – of Dickinson’s identity. “Homoeroticism for the whole family,” Olnek emphasizes, noting the film’s PG-13 rating so that parents can take their kids to the film to experience the Dickinson she says, according to all scholarly evidence, was the lover of her sister-in-law, Susan Gilbert Dickinson (played by Susan Ziegler).

On her side of lesbian history is Saturday Night Live alum Molly Shannon, whose Dickinson is fresh, feminist and heroically queer. Though the 54-year-old actress catapulted to Hollywood fame by taking a good two-handed whiff of her armpit stench as zealous Catholic schoolgirl and “superstar” Mary Katherine Gallagher on SNL, Shannon’s career after 2001, when she left the late-night sketch show after six years, has since drawn upon her NYU education for more serious dramatic fare. 

Shannon and Olnek, who met while studying drama at NYU, recently spoke about Dickinson as an LGBTQ hero, gay censorship and being met with resistance. And the Molly-obsessed gay guys doing their best Mary Katherine impression? You bet she has stories about catching them in the act. 


If only I could’ve learned about gay Emily Dickinson in high school. Why is it important to reexamine who she was in terms of her sexuality?

Molly Shannon: That’s such a great question. And this idea that I grew up with, like you – that Emily Dickinson was a victim, a frightened woman who spoke to people through walls, had no desire to have her voice heard, wanted her poems burned upon her death – it really sabotages people today, women and men. People who are struggling to get their voices heard, who are looking for role models. 

So I think that it’s really important that we tell the truth about her: that she was a trailblazer, she’s an LGBTQ hero. In the mid-1800s, how she was able to eventually rise out of obscurity and become recognized as part of the literary canon is just incredible. And I think it’s important because it examines sexism through the lens of comedy, making the film more approachable. I just feel like the “reclusive spinster” thing just doesn’t really work anymore. It’s now time to tell the truth. And our movie, instead, reveals a woman whose efforts to get published were repeatedly rejected by this sexist, oppressive establishment. It’s important to realize she was a very gifted writer who was experiencing rejection so she can serve as a role model to modern female writers with similar struggles currently.

Madeleine Olnek: Yeah, I think that’s a good point because probably what you remember from school is this idea of, “She hid her poems away.” But the truth is that her work wouldn’t have even been published if after her death her sister hadn’t paid for it to be a vanity publication. Because the story always told was, “She was a good girl and she didn’t want to be published, she didn’t want attention. She just lived simply and modestly, and then after her death the world worked the way it should and recognized her.” But that wasn’t true. She actually put all these efforts into getting published.


Madeleine, before doing this film, were you surprised to find out that Emily Dickinson’s sexuality hadn’t been explored to this extent?

Olnek: It’s depressing that it’s the first time that people have heard about it, because an article (in The New York Times Magazine) did come out in 1998. And I wrote a play, but it was in downtown New York. I got good reviews for the play but the reviews were “Madeleine Olnek decides to imagine, ‘What if Emily Dickinson were a lesbian?’” like it was my imagination. It was treated like something I made up. And the resistance to it is interesting: It’s as much of a resistance to what a rebel she was. 

The scholar Martha Nell Smith, who put together EmilyDickinson.org, which is the reason you can see all of Emily Dickinson’s letters online, said that she found, when she was working and writing about this, there was as much resistance to the idea that Emily Dickinson had an intellectual collaboration/partnership with a woman as a romantic one. Like, people were like, “No, no, no, a woman couldn’t have been Emily’s main influence.” So the story, in terms of its censorship, is really about it being about two women together as much as it is about gay censorship.


Do you think people now are more open to Emily Dickinson being lesbian?

Olnek: There was an exhibit at The Morgan Library (in New York) a couple of years ago and it had a daguerreotype in it that we reference in our movie that was the picture of Emily Dickinson with her arm around Kate (Scott Turner, a fellow poet), and Kate is the other woman. Emily is involved with two women in the movie, and so this woman Kate, after her affair with Emily, ended up living openly gay in Europe. So that story is a little story to find, and I think as the years go on a little harder to hide. With the Emily/Susan thing, people are often like, “Oh, women were friends like that back then!” But I think we are the first people telling this story, so of course we’re gonna be met with resistance because people don’t want to feel like they’ve been lied to.


Molly, what kind of considerations did you have to make when it came to portraying Emily and her sexuality in this film?

Shannon: I really just looked to Madeleine to guide me because Madeleine is a scholar, and then we worked closely with Martha Smith, who is also an Emily Dickinson scholar. So I really just looked to them. I was asking Madeleine questions because I really wanted to get it right. And I just felt passionate about telling this story because I can’t believe this whole woman’s true history was kind of erased and not represented the way she was. 

I feel like this story still sells on the cover of magazines. The heartbroken spinster story still sells! It sells magazines! Cover of Us and Star, and people love this shit. They buy it. What is it that we’re so attached to this brokenhearted woman thing? It’s horrible, I hate it. I don’t like to contribute to that. It’s just ridiculous. Why is this still going on?


How much consideration did you give the ethics of outing someone posthumously before making this film?

Olnek: She herself wrote lesbian poems, so she outed herself on the page. Now, granted, at one point when she sent in some poems for publication, she changed the gender of some poems herself just in hopes to get them printed, but she left so many poems that were love poems to women. And because her work is so complicated, of course, some people couldn’t understand what they were about and would come up with all kinds of funny things. But let me tell you something that’s very important: Very close to her death she wrote a letter to Sue which said, “Remember what Hamlet whispered to Horatio?” And what she was talking about is Hamlet, as he was dying, had said to Horatio, “Tell my story.” And that really was important to her. Martha Smith believes that the book of poems that (Emily’s niece) Mattie brought together – The Single Hound, that came out right after Susan’s death – that Susan probably actually worked on it with Mattie and said, “If I die, you can put this out,” so there’s no doubt we have in our minds that they wanted people to know. 

Also, I mean, Emily Dickinson was a poet. Poets are lovers. They have big emotions. And that becomes poets. It’s not like we’re “outing” someone who was an accountant. Emily also never married, although she had offers; it’s like she clearly wanted to live life on her own terms. She couldn’t, of course, at that time have come out. It was a big deal that her father recused her from coming downstairs for morning prayers; she was allowed to use that as writing time. So she couldn’t have rocked the boat at home. She needed to choose her battles carefully, but she loved two women that we know about. But Susan, she was in love with. And when you write a poem that ends with “Sue forever more,” I mean, can we say we’re outing her? (Laughs) That’s an actual ending line to her poem that’s published! So, she wrote her letter and called her the only woman in the world. Just incredibly romantic letters. 


The Poets light but Lamps —

Themselves — go out —

The Wicks they stimulate

If vital Light


Inhere as do the Suns —

Each Age a Lens

Disseminating their

Circumference —


We’re in a different age now. And the lens of this age is freer to understand the circumference of her poems and what they were about.


Molly, you’ve been committed to making more LGBTQ-themed films. What qualities do you look for in a story that is LGBTQ-themed?

Shannon: Let me think here. I guess passion with the writers/directors. I really identify with that. Like this is so special. Madeleine is so passionate about this movie and it comes from her heart, so to me, it’s like, what an opportunity for me. I remember when Madeleine pitched me the movie she wrote pages and pages about all this information that she had from her scholarly research and working closely with Martha that I was like, “How could I not do this? I’ve never been offered anything like this in my life! This is so cool!” So I really do just kind of see how I feel in my heart: Do I feel passionate? Or eh, this doesn’t seem fun. It’s a meter as simple as that. 

Because I’m a mother and I have children and I’m married and I have a family and a house, I’m very busy with my children, so my considerations are also my family and wanting to be at home and driving the kids to school, but Madeleine is like, “Look, I’ll make it work.” She was like, “What do you want? OK, you wanna be home by dinner? Fine. You don’t wanna start till then? Fine. You wanna shoot in L.A? Fine. I’ll fly out, you can keep close to your neighborhood. Great.” Like, she would not take no for an answer.

Olnek: (Laughs)


As someone whose LGBTQ following has seemingly grown over the years with your work in queer-inclusive films like _Other People_ and _Miles_, when were you first aware you had an LGBTQ following?

Shannon: I was in the West Village when I first started Saturday Night Live and I remember it was the first really warm day. It was suddenly in the 70s and people were wearing sandals and everybody was so excited and I hadn’t been on SNL that long. I remember walking by an outside cafe and I heard a man – the man didn’t see me, but I just heard a guy, a stranger, go (affects SNL “Joyologist” Helen Madden’s voice), “I love it, I love it, I looooove it!”

Olnek: (Laughs)

Shannon: And I was like, “Oh my god,” then he saw me and he was like, “Oh my god!” He got so embarrassed and turned red and I was just like, “What?! Maybe I’m influencing people!” There was another time I was in a cafe in the West Village where I lived, eating breakfast with my then-boyfriend. We were sitting at the glass window and a man just came right up while we were eating right in the window and did “SUUUPERSTAR!” My boyfriend just looked away and ignored him and continued eating, and then that relationship ended soon after. (Both laugh.)


How do you feel about the progress we’ve made in terms of how LGBTQ people are portrayed in modern films and also the kind of LGBTQ films being made?

Olnek: It’s interesting. As an older person who has seen a lot of queer films and has talked to young people, what I think is that every generation thinks they are the first people to complain. (Laughs) “Oh, we’re so mainstream!” But people were saying that in the ’80s! Which is ridiculous, in the late ’80s, ’90s, considering, “Oh, it’s mainstream, it’s sell-out.” People were accusing… like now it’s homogenized. So I’ve heard that story over and over, and I actually think that there’s always been people making experimental queer work and there’s always been people making mainstream queer work and they have always existed side by side. It’s just that it’s new to the younger people watching them.


Wild Nights with Emily made me consider the ways in which we recognize someone posthumously. When that time comes, how do you think the way people will describe you will differ from the way you’d describe yourself?

Shannon: Well, I hope that nobody will say, “She was zany.” I don’t like that. I hope that people know that I can be deadly serious. My friend John C. Reilly talked about me and he was like, “Molly can be deadly serious!” I joke around but I really am more serious in real life than people would think. Serious and thoughtful. And I love asking questions and learning. So I don’t think I’m just some zany comic.


But people are gonna remember you for SNL and Mary Katherine Gallagher, right?

Olnek: I want them to remember her for Emily Dickinson.

Shannon: Awww!

Olnek: And for her birthday I want to give her a cake that has her as Emily Dickinson on it, because this is a huge moment that we’re reclaiming a story and it’s so important. And the fact that Molly is playing this part literally means that people are going to understand who Emily Dickinson really was.

Amy Poehler and Rachel Dratch Interview

Amy Poehler and Rachel Dratch Interview

  • May 20, 2019 - 4:31am

Amy Poehler and Rachel Dratch are as thrilled as I am over Netflix’s meta itinerary for journalists like myself who have landed in Napa Valley, California to cover their new heavy-on-the-imbibing dramedy, Wine Country. Appropriately, the itinerary is: first, wine; second, wine; fifth, wine.

On an outdoor rooftop deck overlooking the idyllic, rolling views of Artesa Vineyards and Winery, one of their first interviews of the day and where they shot part of the film, Dratch, amused, told Poehler she didn’t realize Netflix was actually flying journalists to wine country for the occasion and hooking them up with a private tasting. 

“And then they have to go write the thing,” enthused Dratch, rightfully beloved for her hilariously dry “Debbie Downer” skit on SNL. A laugh. “We’re golden!” 

An impromptu in-the-moment sketch is born, as Poehler whoops a booming laugh herself and looks ahead to a day full of blitzed on-the-job reporters essentially reliving their movie, impersonating a juiced journalist who maybe enjoyed too much of Artesa’s very drinkable Rosado before assessing Wine Country: “I LOVED IT! What’s not to love?! Life is short!”

Dratch cracked up at the thought of Netflix’s wine-soaked vision. Buzzed writers! Buzzed TV reporters! The laughs kept coming and they weren’t even drinking yet (and, oh hey boss, full disclosure: neither was I). 

“It’s genius, it’s genius!” Dratch raved in a conspiratorial tone. 

But it’s no stretch: Wine Country is marinated in wine and women. Based on a girls getaway they took to Napa for Dratch’s 50th birthday with a tight posse of fellow SNL besties, including Maya Rudolph, Tina Fey, Ana Gasteyer, Paula Pell and Emily Spivey (who all star in the film), the boozy but heartfelt friends-gone-wild romp is Poehler’s feature-film directorial debut, after already checking multiple career boxes: producer (Difficult People, Russian Doll), Golden Globes host, author (Yes Please) and actress (Parks and Recreation; Mean Girls, as the “cool mom”). 

Like the Pinot being generously poured inside the winery, our gay morning conversation flowed freely. Poehler’s “soft butch” aesthetic (during our sit-down: orange slacks, a white button-up and a textured gray suit coat), living like the Golden Girls and how Wine Country passes the “Jeffdel test” (no two cis straight men converse!) were discussed, and Poehler, all smiles and hearty laughs, was so pleased she extolled, “We have nowhere to go but down after this interview. This is gonna be the interview of the day.” 

Dratch beamed back: “Let’s just go to the wine tasting now.”


Have you been known to enjoy a glass of wine with a gay friend or two? 

Amy Poehler: Are you kidding me?

Rachel Dratch: I have a standing rosé Tuesday with my gay bestie. Ha! We’ve been doing it for a couple of years now ’cause he’s always in the neighborhood on Tuesdays at my apartment. Among many other gay pals who I imbibe with! 


Amy, do you partake in these wine nights? 

Poehler: Sometimes! Rachel and I live in different cities, but when we do see each other we joke, “Shall we head to the Pinot Grigio Islands?” We do that! We sail to the Grigios! Ha! 


Do you party with the gays when you go on your girls trips? 

Poehler: Oh yeah! I mean, we had an amazing dinner in Palm Springs for Ana Gasteyer’s 50th.

Dratch: At Sparrows.

Poehler: We stumbled across an amazing group of middle-aged gentlemen who were big fans of our work and knew one of Ana’s characters, specifically. Remember those guys we met? We had an awesome night with them. It was a really fun night. And you know, I would say Rachel borders on gay icon status. I’m sorry, but... 

Dratch: Ha! Oh, I’ll take it! 


Speaking of gay icons, let’s talk Fran Drescher. 

Poehler: Yes! Fran Drescher!


If she wasn’t already a gay icon, Wine Country makes her one.

Poehler: Emily Spivey and Liz Cackowski, who wrote the script, were so funny because they were like, “We have to do a scene where these millennials are obsessed with Fran Drescher,” and, to be honest, because I’m a Gen-Xer, I didn’t quite get it. I was like, “You know, are they? OK! Oh, sure!”


Did you not watch The Nanny

Poehler: I didn’t watch The Nanny because I was a little older than you. 

Dratch: Me too! Ha! 

Poehler: And so every young female in my office was like, “Oh my god, it’s so true: I love Fran Drescher!” 


The film honors Fran through a queer lens. There’s a real LGBTQ presence at that Fran Drescher art show. 

Poehler: Yes, everybody is dressed very neutral and everyone is very fluid, and we wanted to quickly show the stark representation between the options and fluidity of the younger generation compared to us, ’cause at the time we are out of touch with ourselves, personally, in the movie. Also, we come upon a hip scene that we get very defensive about. And I’m proud to say that this film not only passes the Bechdel test, it passes what we like to call the Jeffdel test, which is that no two straight men talk to each other. Ha!


Wow, it does. 

Poehler: Oh, I combed through. There’s no two cis straight men who talk to each other. 


Is this a standing rule for all future Amy Poehler projects?

Poehler: Hahaha! Well, it’s a fun thing to try to strive for! 


OK, let’s talk Spring Breakdown

(Poehler and Dratch gasp in unison while looking at each other gleefully with wide eyes.)


Memories, right? How would you compare the gayness of that film, which I think is –

Poehler: Quite high!


Ha! Yes! How would you compare its gayness to the gayness of Wine Country

Poehler: I will say that the lovely (openly lesbian) Paula Pell ups our gay quotient pretty high in this film because the only real romantic element of the film is between two gay women, and so we were really excited about (that). I mean, even though – spoiler alert! – Rachel and I’s characters sleep with the same guy, we don’t even really discover it till the end and it’s not even part of the story. Haha! But I would say Spring Breakdown maybe had a higher gay quotient. 

Dratch: Well, ’cause it was written and directed by Ryan Shiraki, who’s quite a gay man. 

Poehler: A professional gay man! 


You have both played gay before, so that’s something. 

Poehler: Yes, that’s right. We were actually talking last night at dinner about our generation. There wasn’t any – there were certainly no LGBTQ organizations at my high school, but there was not one openly gay person at my high school. 

Dratch: Or barely even in college.


How does this current time for the LGBTQ community compare to your high school experience? 

Dratch: We have little kids and I just like that they’re like, “Oh, that person has two dads.” It’s not a big thing at all. It’s not like (teacher voice), “Let me sit you down and explain.” They’re just used to it, so that’s kind of refreshing and cool that they won’t have any prejudices – or whatever they are, they won’t have any fears. I don’t know if that’s because we live in big cities or what. 

Poehler: Yeah, our kids know some kids who are figuring out their gender and if they wanna transition, and there’s all this discussion about that too. The young kids are just way ahead of us in terms of how they accept. So I feel like our generation of women who are now in their late 40s and 50s, we’re kind of the straddle technologically because we didn’t have the internet when we were in college, and from an LGBTQ perspective because we just didn’t have people coming out or living authentically, or feeling like they could. That’s something that’s been a huge change in our lifetime. 


LGBTQ representation also seems to be an important part of what you do as a filmmaker, Amy. Obviously that is reflected in _Wine Country_ as something that was necessary and important to you.

Poehler: Yes! Thank you. It was. 

Dratch: I also like that Paula’s storyline is just so, “Oh yeah. She likes this person.” It’s not like, “Here’s the gay part of the movie!”

Poehler: Maya Erskine (who plays the character Paula Pell’s Val is interested in romantically), who’s also in a great TV show right now called _Pen15_, just says, like, “I’m mad at my girlfriend,” and she walks away and Paula turns to Maya (Rudolph) and she’s like, “Did you hear about her girlfriend?” Maya (Rudolph) just goes, “Jackpot!” Then they high-five and there’s not that real estate taken up with someone being like – 

Dratch: “And I’m gay, first of all.” 

Poehler: “I need to tell you something.” 


Looking back at the beginning of your career, when did you know you had an LGBTQ audience? 

Poehler: Remember when you did “The Girl With No Gaydar” (on SNL)? That was such a good sketch! Such a funny sketch!

Dratch: By the way, that came from a real party I was at! I was at my gay friend’s birthday party and there were literally like 80 gay men there and two women. I mean, it was like, What am I doing in terms of trying to find a date? 

Poehler: Hahahaha!

Dratch: I mean, that wasn’t my goal that night, but uh, I was just joking, like, “I’m gonna get lucky tonight! Look at the ratio!” So that’s how that scene was born. I love those things in life when something happens and you’re like, “Let’s go write this as sketch.” That’s my favorite way to come up with sketch, ’cause when you just sit there and you’re like, “Let me think of a sketch,” it just doesn’t work. You have to have the real-life situation. So that’s why that scene was really fun. 


And was it when that sketch ran that you realized you had a gay following?

Dratch: I feel like the SNL ladies have this. Like, SNL ladies have a built-in gay following. 

Poehler: Yeah – yes! I think so. It felt that way (for me), and because we were a little bit of a gang, like a little pack. I mean, well, let’s first just say that on a daily basis Rachel and I get mistaken for each other. So her success is my success. 

Dratch: Sometimes people just go like, “Amy Poehler!” and I’m just like, “Yep.” Like, why correct them? I’ll be Amy Poehler. 

Poehler: Haha! Absolutely the same people are like, “Rachel Dratch!” Someone will come up to me and go, “Debbie Downer!” Ha! I’m like, “That’s right! That was me!” And so that didn’t really answer your question. 

Dratch and Poehler: Hahahahahaha! 

Poehler: But I’m gonna speak for Rachel because –

Dratch: Because you are me.

Poehler: Ha! But because Rachel has such a cadre of good, good friends and amazing gay men in her life, I have to say.

Dratch: That’s true. 

Poehler: You really do have an army of besties who love and support you, and you right back to them.

Poehler: And I surround myself with young gay women! Ha! Because they’re very good at how they dress. 


This might explain your recent Vanity Fair shoot with Maya Rudolph. 

Poehler: Hahaha! Soft butch? 

Dratch: Soft butch?! 


And Maya, high femme. 

Dratch: Maya is high femme? That is awesome! 

Poehler: That’s right: Maya’s high femme, yeah. 


I’m gonna reference a tweet I read recently about those VF photos. 

Poehler: Oh dear, is it a bad one? I’m not on Twitter. 

Dratch: No, it’s complimentary! 


“What in the gay heaven are these photos?”

Dratch and Poehler: Hahahahahaha! 

Dratch: High compliment! 

Poehler: Well, I would take any of these women as my wife if they allowed me to, and Maya loves dresses and dressing up and I had a revelation a few years ago. You know, it’s nice to get to a point – it doesn’t even have to be in your career, but in your life – where you do start dressing the way you want or having always wanted. But I had a moment recently with Maya: When Maya puts on a gown for an award show, I see her relax. She loves fashion. And when she puts a dress on her body, she loves it. When I put on a dress on, I just stare at everybody else dressed in jeans and t-shirts and I just wanna be back over there. It took me a long time to really come to terms with that because we have a job where we have to dress up a lot and I just thought it was my awkwardness about dressing up, but the older I get the more I realize I feel much more comfortable in menswear. I like the feel of it. I feel much more myself.


Are you conscious of challenging gender norms when dressing in men’s clothes?

Poehler: I don’t know if I would say I’m that conscious of it.

Dratch: You’re sort of letting yourself embrace what you actually like. 

Poehler: I had a moment where I was in heels and a stupid-ass dress walking down the carpet of a premiere with all the women I worked with and I literally couldn’t walk, and I remember thinking, I can’t do this again. It just didn’t feel like what –

Dratch: What a powerful executive!

Poehler: Haha! But I’ll tell you: I’ve met some powerful executives who do heels like nobody’s business. So to answer your question, yes, we were aware we were doing a soft butch/high femme situation. 

Dratch: You were?! I didn’t realize that. 

Poehler: Yeah! I asked for it. 

Dratch: That’s so cool.

Poehler: Because it made me feel really comfortable, and I think Maya really liked it. And whatever my beautiful wife wants, she gets. Haha! 


Has this same group given any consideration to remaking The Golden Girls?

Poehler: Oh my god, it’s funny you say that! 

Dratch: We talked about living like that! We talked about later on just having a house Golden Girls-style, and I think we each claimed which character we were gonna be. Someone said they were gonna be the Rue McClanahan; our other friend just said, “I’m gonna get laid all the time!” I don’t know which one I would be, but we talked about living like that. In terms of actually (remaking the show), I’m so old-fashioned. Like, don’t touch the classics.

Poehler: Yeah!

Dratch: Don’t remake them! But then there’s plenty of successful things like that.

Poehler: Also, what is shocking is, if you go back and look at the ages of the Golden Girls, they were in their late 50s, early 60s. They were not that old! 


Let’s really narrow this down: If this were to happen, which Golden Girl would you be? 

Dratch: I feel like we would both be Sophia, the mom, acting-wise. 

Poehler: We would both be cast as her. 

Dratch: Like we play that kind of part.

Poehler: Dratch and I always joke that if there was an upstairs/downstairs kind of film like Downton Abbey we would definitely be downstairs. We would be scrubbing potatoes. We would never make it upstairs. 

Dratch: Because we come from peasant stock. And we have the ankles to prove it.

Poehler: Haha! We do! We have the shtetl ankles to prove it.

Dratch: We have the CANKLES to prove it. She of the Irish potato family. I, of Russian peasant descent.

Poehler: I’m supposed to live in a cave. It is amazing that if you put a babushka over either one of us we immediately look like Russian peasants. There is nothing high society about us. But someone like Ana or even, say, Tina, they have an elegance that makes them, I would say, upstairs. And, you know, we’re fine with that. Ha! 

Dratch: We’re cool with that. 

Michael Bublé

Michael Bublé Interview

  • February 1, 2019 - 6:04pm

“You’re my first. Be gentle with me. Can we start with, like, a foreplay thing where you can just take it easy on me? Some gentle licking perhaps, and then we’ll get into the heavy stuff.” And so my interview with Michael Bublé, who has almost made me forget he has a wife, Argentine actress Luisana Lopilato, begins. 

Returning to music with a new heart-emoji-titled album called love that he will support on a world tour in 2019, Bublé – who introduces himself by that mononym when he rings me directly – spoke openly on a variety of topics, including the difficulties of being a public figure amid familial distress, atoning for his “sexist” Christmas song and doing his part to support the LGBTQ community. 

It’s sweet that this album uses the heart emoji for its title, though the gay community certainly wouldn’t have argued with you naming your album using the eggplant emoji.

Oh god, I wanted to use the eggplant. You have no idea.

You fought for that.

I did. I had long conversations about it. And you think I’m joking. I’ve already said this a million times when talking to my friends: They were like, (in a deeply bro voice) “Why didn’t you use the eggplant?” and I’m like, “Oh, I would have.”

Did you intend for the album to be a Band-Aid for our divisive times? 

Yeah, it’s funny that you just said that: I’ve actually said that in private. You know what, man, obviously everything I’ve gone through has everything to do with this record and what I want to put out to the world. I had different names that I’d come up with, but there was nothing that really explained the record and the concept as well as just one word could. 

The record is about love, but it’s not simply about romantic love. It was really a record that was kind of my theory on this word, this emotion that has so much range. When you hear it you think, “Oh god, romantic and lovey-smovey,” but there’s so many different things that happen with that word. 

“When I Fall in Love” is such a beautiful track and people say, “Oh, it’s so romantic.” It is romantic. But for me, it’s really sad. As I put myself into the character of that song, I thought about a guy sitting at the bar at 4 o’clock in the morning, drunk, looking over at another couple, wishing that he had that because it hasn’t happened for him. It’s very unique in that way. It’s a very sad song about longing. I could go on through the whole tracklist. They all have a story for me. 

Did you personalize any of the songs? 

I wanted to do the best I could to be as personal and honest in the storytelling, in becoming the characters for the song, but at the same time give the audience a way to be able to hear and have their own opinions.

If I want to use this album to get a guy to fall in love with me, which song do you suggest I play to make him swoon?

Honestly, I think “La Vie En Rose” (a duet with jazz vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant) is incredible because when I did this song my concept was to build a mirror of the relationship I had with my wife. It was me going to this foreign land with someone who didn’t speak my language and having this kind of dance of love with them. 

I felt like there were these two characters and one is singing to the other, where I was singing to her in my language and my culture and she was answering in hers. Though we were on this path together, we were still apart; and by the middle of the song we have this beautiful dance together, this incredible night, and by the morning we were walking through the streets of Paris. I have sort of assimilated to her culture and I am singing in her language, and I loved that because that’s exactly what happened in my life. 

I don’t think you thought you’d be recording music again after your 5-year-old son, Noah, was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2016, days after our last conversation. But I’ve heard you say he’s holding up and is in remission. Was creating this album more cathartic than past albums? 

I don’t think I ever fell out of love with making music or being a creative person; I just think I knew it had to be put aside. The part of being a public person, that part I didn’t know if I was ready for. There are always reminders every time you go out and people speak and you’re trying to move on with your life or yourself and your family. At first, there were always these reminders of it and so it was hard to just move on. 

I made a promise to myself that it would be organic and that it would be joy and it would be blissful – and if it ever becomes what I consider work, or egotistically driven, then I would step away. But I never fell out of love with making music. You know, I’m having to leave the family and stuff for little bits, and if I do then it has to be for the right reasons. 

Harder than usual to leave the family right now?

No, it’s not. When I do something, I know that there’s a great reason for it. We can make more money and we can make more music and we can make more this and more that, but it’s time – you can’t make time. I wanna make sure I’m spending time doing what I love and that it’s all worthwhile.

You talked about being an LGBTQ ally in our last interview. Why did you decide to express your compassion and advocacy for the LGBTQ community at that moment in your career? 

I don’t know if it was about that moment. I think I had an opportunity to speak with you, and I felt like it was a really good chance to say how I felt. Now more than ever I think it’s important for me to just be honest, and it’s what I believe. It’s part of who I fundamentally am, how I was raised. And it’s about equality. It’s simple. That’s it. 

I wish it were so simple. When we last spoke, Trump hadn’t been elected, and a lot has changed in the last couple of years politically. How are you feeling about the way this administration has treated the LGBTQ community and other marginalized groups?

I don’t… (pause)... it sounds crazy, but after what I’ve been through, I really promised myself that I would try not to get into – and when I say “get into,” I just didn’t want to be a part of negative things. So I stopped reading things. I stopped reading things about myself. I stopped reading things that made me feel badly. 


I really, truly feel like more than ever in my life actions speak much louder than words do and how you treat people is – it’s funny, a friend heard me talking to my son. My son was going to his first day of kindergarten and he saw me kneel down to my boy and I said to him, “Noah, I just want you to know that” – and it sounds like a cliché, but I said, “You treat people the way you want to be treated, kid.” I said, “If you’re kind to people and you’re good to people, life will always be OK for you.” And I got up and I walked away and my friend said to me, “They may not remember what you did or what you said but they’ll remember how you made them feel.” 

I can’t stop the politicians or stupid, uneducated people from thinking and saying and doing stupid things, but I can make a stand, I can talk to you, and when I’m with groups of friends or I’m in public places or when I’m with people who I think can use that sense of love and education, I can open my mouth and tell them how I feel. And one at a time, you can change the world like that. 

Listen, I’ve gone through too much not to feel this way. I just feel this way really strongly. I also think it’s important – it’s really easy for someone selling something, an artist, to say that they support or love the gay community; I just think it’s a different thing to say it than to do it.

When we spoke in 2016, you told me you had plans to get involved with the Harvey Milk High School in New York City, but then, of course, you had to tend to your family. Do you plan on picking up where you left off? 

As a matter of fact, (my publicist) Liz (Rosenberg) and I have spoken many times and talked about the plan that we have. We have a plan (that involves) the Hetrick-Martin Institute (a NYC-based professional provider of social support and programming for LGBTQ youth and host agency for the Harvey Milk High School). 


To start, I just wanted to go. I wanted to go and just let people know they had my support. Young kids who have been bullied and haven’t felt comfortable have a place to go, which is just disturbing in the first place, that in 2018 they didn’t. There wasn’t an environment where they felt they could be who they are. Listen, I can’t get into the details. I can’t. 

You can’t get into details about the project? 

Not those details, but within my family there are things that I can’t really speak to that have made this even more pressing for me. It’s because it’s not my story to tell. But I’ll just say that within my family these are the same issues that every family has. I wouldn’t and I couldn’t talk about something so personal. Definitely, I just know there needs to be advocates. Being a public person is having a responsibility sometimes to show that kind of love and that kind of support and to step out there and to do that. It’s not an edgy fucking thing to do. It’s not. 

For some public figures it seems so. 

Why? Because what – half of the audience doesn’t buy your records anymore? Well, that’s fucking stupid, isn’t it? Then you gotta ask yourself if you want half of those people buying your records in the first place, and what’s really important to you. Because if you’re gonna tell people that you know what’s important or that you’ve had an epiphany in your life that you know what matters then, again, actions speak louder than words, don’t they?

Knowing what Noah has gone through, has the feeling of loving your kids no matter who they are, which we discussed in 2016, intensified in the last couple of years? 

No, it was always the same. I could tell you the truth: I never had to find that perspective, I always felt that way. And I think I’m very lucky because I really do think that came from the way I was parented. I really do think I was very lucky to be raised in a family that was so open and liberal and loving. I just think they were always so unconditionally loving – not just toward us children, but toward our family. 

Again, clichés, but I just tell both of my boys now that they’re old enough to understand: “You know, boys, the things that make you different are what makes you special.” What’s amazing to me about that school and wanting so badly to go to that school is, I just feel so strongly that the difference between a child and an adult is only life experience. An adult’s life experience is, “It’s gonna get better. This isn’t how it has to be, and this isn’t how it’s going to be.” So for me, it’s really massive to be able to meet kids and to say publicly – really: “It’s not going always going to be like this.”

In light of the holidays, you do realize your gay fans would’ve gone wild for a version of “Santa Baby” by you that was actually called “Santa Baby,” right?

(Laughs) Yeah, exactly. Instead of “Santa Buddy.” I think I used “Santa Baby” in one of the lines.

You did.

I should’ve gone full. 

I mean, a straight man can shop at Tiffany’s. 

(Laughs) Yeah, no, you’re right. It’s funny: When I did that song, I tried to put it into my perspective and modernize it. I changed words; I asked for a Rolex or Mercedes or things I would want. The best part about it is: I get to sing those kinds of songs now in my life, and if I do concerts and I wanna add a Christmas song, then you know what? I can amend it and I can sing “Santa Baby.” 

A straight guy singing “Santa Baby” is the progress we need. 

Fuck yeah. You’re right, you’re absolutely right. It was sexist of me not to. 

I’m looking forward to your live rendition of it. 

I’ll do it for you. That’s a promise. I promise I’ll do it for you even if it’s not fucking Christmas. 

Even if it’s the middle of summer?

You think I’m kidding, but you shout it out and I promise you I’ll get it done. Madison Square Garden, fucking done.

You can see Michael Bublé perform live in Las Vegas on Sat, Mar 30 inside the T-Mobile Arena.


UNLV Art Exhibit - Axis Mundo: Queer Networks in Chicano L.A.

  • February 1, 2019 - 5:34pm

Axis Mundo: Queer Networks in Chicano L.A.

An art exhibition at the UNLV Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art of work by a collaborative network of over 50 LA-based queer Chicanx artists produced through the 1960s to 1990s

Curated By: C. Ondine Chavoya, David Evans Frantz 


Exhibition Dates, UNLV Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art:

January 11-March 16, 2019 

Axis Mundo: Queer Networks in Chicano L.A. is a traveling exhibition that explores the intersections among a network of over fifty artists. This historical exhibition is the first of its kind to excavate histories of experimental art practice, collaboration, and exchange by a group of Los Angeles based queer Chicanx artists between the late 1960s and early 1990s. While the exhibition’s heart looks at the work of Chicanx artists in Los Angeles, it reveals extensive new research into the collaborative networks that connected these artists to one another and to artists from many different communities, cultural backgrounds, sexual orientations, and international urban centers, thus deepening and expanding narratives about the development of the Chicano Art Movement, performance art, and queer aesthetics and practices.

As referenced in its title, the exhibition also sheds light onto the work of Edmundo “Mundo” Meza (1955-1985), a central figure within his generation. Primarily a painter, but also known for his performances, design, and installation work, Meza collaborated with many of his peers towards developing new art practices amid emerging movements of political and social justice activism.

Axis Mundo presents over two decades of work — painting, performance ephemera, print material, video, music, fashion, and photography — in the context of significant artistic and cultural movements: mail art and artist correspondences; the rise of Chicanx, LGBTQ, and feminist print media; the formation of alternative spaces; fashion culture; punk music and performance; and artistic responses to the AIDS crisis. As a result of thorough curatorial research, Axis Mundo marks the first historical consideration and significant showing of many of these pioneering artists’ work.

Artists included in the exhibition:

Laura Aguilar, Jerri Allyn, Carlos Almaraz, Skot Armstrong, David Arnoff, Steven Arnold, Asco, Judith F. Baca, Alice Bag, Tosh Carrillo, Monte Cazazza, Edward Colver, Vaginal Davis, DIVA TV, Jerry Dreva, Tomata Du Plenty, Simon Doonan, Tomata du Plenty, Elsa Flores, Anthony Friedkin, Harry Gamboa Jr., Roberto Gil de Montes, Gronk, Jef Huereque, Louis Jacinto, Ray Johnson, Alison Knowles, Robert Lambert, Robert Legorreta (Cyclona), Zoe Leonard, Les Petites Bonbons, Scott Lindgren, Mundo Meza, Judy Miranda, Ray Navarro, Nervous Gender, Graciela Gutiérrez Marx and Edgardo Antionio Vigo, Richard Nieblas, Dámaso Ogaz, Pauline Oliveros, Ferrara Brain Pan, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, Clemente Padín, Phranc, Ruby Ray, Albert Sanchez, Teddy Sandoval, Joey Terrill, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Patssi Valdez, Ricardo Valverde, Jack Vargas, Gerardo Velázquez, Johanna Went, Faith Wilding

Exhibition tour has been organized by Independent Curators International (ICI).

Axis Mundo: Queer Networks in Chicano L.A. is curated by C. Ondine Chavoya and David Evans Frantz as part

of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, an initiative of the Getty to encourage ambitious research and exhibitions at Southern California cultural institutions. The exhibition is organized by ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the USC Libraries in collaboration with The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and organized as a traveling exhibition by Independent Curators International (ICI). Lead support for Axis Mundo is provided through grants from the Getty Foundation.

This exhibition is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support has been provided by The Calamus Foundation of New York, Inc., the City of West Hollywood through WeHo Arts—the City’s Arts Division and Arts & Cultural Affairs Commission, Kathleen Garfield, the ONE Archives Foundation, the USC Libraries, and the Luis Balmaseda Fund for Gay & Lesbian Archives, administered by the California Community Foundation. Funding for the exhibition tour has been provided by the generous support from ICI’s International Forum and the ICI Board of Trustees.

The presentation at the UNLV Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art has been organized in collaboration with support from Meow Wolf, The Intersection, UNLV Department of Interdisciplinary, Gender, and Ethnic Studies, MGM Resorts Art & Culture, and an anonymous gift in honor of Hilda Roop. Additional partners include UNLV Spectrum, Latinos Who Lunch, and The Art People Podcast, UNLV Student Diversity & Social Justice, the UNLV Department of Art, UNLV Public History, the UNLV College of Fine Arts.

The Gay & Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada announces new officers

  • February 1, 2019 - 5:18pm

The Board of Directors for The Center is pleased to announce the election of a new slate of executive officers. The Centers bylaws state that we must elect officers every two years and each officer can serve a maximum of three terms. 

Joseph S. Oddo, Jr., former Vice President of the Board of Directors and Regional Manager for Cox Business has been elected unanimously to serve as President of the Board of Directors. In a memo that went out to staff on Tuesday evening, Oddo stated “Our first order of business remains the same, find a permanent Executive Director that we need, that you need and that our community needs with the skills to be able to lead our center with dignity, passion and strength for years to come!” He continues on to say, “We have some work to do and I know that with our shared love of this community, there is nothing we can’t achieve.”

In addition to a new President, a new Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary have been elected unanimously by the board.

Brian Hosier has been elected Vice President; Scott Ramer has been elected to Treasurer and Garrett Pattiani has been elected Secretary. Hosier, Ramer and Pattiani are elated to serve in this leadership capacity for The Center and are eager to get to work to increase our reach to the community!

The Board of Directors would like to thank our outgoing officers for their years of service to The Center and our community! Wendy Kraft departs as Secretary, Donya Monroe, current Interim Executive Director departs as Treasurer and Wayne Cassard departs as President. The Center is in a better place today because of the 2017-2018 Executive Committee and we thank them for their service. Cassard will continue as a member the Executive Committee as Past President and serve as council to the committee. 


The University Medical Center of Southern Nevada widens HIV testing in Las Vegas

  • February 1, 2019 - 4:35pm

The University Medical Center (UMC) in Las Vegas has recently adopted broader testing for HIV.

On Dec. 1, which also marked the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day, the UMC adopted 12 year old guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that recommended testing for all Americans, not just those classified most at risk.

“We have the tools available right now to eliminate [AIDS],” Dr. Jerry Cade of UMC’s HIV program said, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The CDC’s 2006 recommendation was not widely adopted. In Nevada, the number of new HIV cases has increased since 2012.

Now UMC’s response to this will be to test just about every patient who receives treatment there.

Reports the Review-Journal:

UMC is adopting what is called “opt-out” testing guidelines. Patients who are getting blood drawn in the hospital’s adult ER will be automatically tested for HIV unless they request otherwise. The change, which falls in line with the CDC’s guidelines, should reduce the number of new cases in a state that had the sixth-highest diagnosis rate in 2016 nationwide.

The hospital announced the protocol change as part of an effort to help Southern Nevada reach the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS’s 2020 “90-90-90” target goal to get 90 percent of all HIV-positive people to know their status, 90 percent of diagnosed people on antiretroviral treatment and 90 percent of people on antiretrovirals to achieve undetectable viral load levels, so the disease doesn’t spread.

“That will be one more patient who knows they’re positive,” said Cade. “For that individual patient, it means they’re going to live a longer and healthier life.”

UMC hopes their work will encourage other Las Vegas Valley hospitals to follow suit, together lessening the number of new patients living with HIV/AIDS in Nevada.

Las Vegas gathers to recognize Transgender Day of Remembrance

  • February 1, 2019 - 4:23pm

Nov. 20 marked the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR), and Las Vegas joined communities around the world recognizing the day.

Jamie Lee Sprague-Ballou, founder of Las Vegas TransPride, organized a week’s worth of events around TDoR, culminating in a vigil hosted the evening of Nov. 19 at 1140 Almond Tree Lane.

According to the Las Vegas TransPride website:

This is the original day that TransPride week has been built around, as we remember those who boldly lived as their authentic selves. We carry their voices with us, as we continue to fight for justice and equality. 

TDoR recognizes the transgender lives lost through violence around the world that year. In 2018, 369 transgender men and women were killed, up more than 100 from 2017. Of those 369 deaths, 30 happened in the United States.

“These are hate crimes,” said Sprague-Ballou, according to Las Vegas Now. “We’re trying to bring the awareness of the hatred that exists against our community.”

During the vigil, 369 cards with names and faces of the victims could be seen covering a wall. All their names were read aloud, as happens every year with a new batch of names.

“Here in Las Vegas we are privileged, but we need to remember other places that don’t have the privileges like we do,” said Sprague-Ballou. “We would love there not to be a Transgender Day of Remembrance where we don’t have to have this day; where people would just know how to exist with us, and we’d not have that fear.”

“We carry their names, and we carry their hurt with us,” explained Sprague-Ballou further. “I would love it if we can come one year and say, ‘We have no names to read this year because everyone is treating us like people.’ What kind of world would that be?”

Andre W. Duncan and Kealan Abraham

Attack on Las Vegas gay couple investigated as a hate crime

  • February 1, 2019 - 3:38pm

Police are investigating an attack on a Las Vegas gay couple in November as a hate crime.

Suspects Kealan Abraham, 34, and Andre W. Duncan, 39, have had a hate crime enhancement added to their battery charges. If convicted, the enhancement means a longer sentence.

In addition to the hate crime charges, the two face charges of battery with a deadly weapon resulting in substantial bodily harm, as well as conspiracy to commit battery. 

The attack occurred outside the couple’s apartment. Their names were redacted in the arrest report, but detectives concluded they “were verbally attacked regarding their sexual orientation during the battery,” reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Writes the paper:

The battery happened on Nov. 29 as the couple was arriving home on the 1900 block of Simmons Street, near Rancho and Vegas drives. One of the victims was thrown onto a glass table during the fight, at which point, according to the report, Duncan picked up a piece of broken glass and began stabbing the victims. The couple’s injuries included broken ribs, a punctured lung, numerous lacerations and puncture wounds, the report stated.

However, the suspects and one of the victims already knew each other before the attack. At one point, they all worked at a single Walmart location, where issues began several weeks prior.

Abraham and the victim are reported to have had a verbal altercation while on the same shift, which included Abraham allegedly calling him an ‘abomination,’ this “because of his sexual orientation and the fact that the suspect knew that he had a boyfriend,” claims the report. Walmart was aware of the alleged comments and moved Abraham to the graveyard shift to separate the two.

According to the Review-Journal:

During that same argument, Abraham also allegedly used a derogatory word to refer to gay people in saying he “wants to kill” homosexuals, according to the report.

Two days before the attack, according to the report, Duncan also showed up at Walmart while the victim was working and confronted the victim, “calling him by the same derogatory terms previously used by the other suspect.”