Friday, December 25, 2009

Signs of the Times

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Here's something completely different. The best protest signs of 2009. Funny, ironic, mocking.

Some prove the ignorant, uneducated nature of our detractors. Others turned protest into comedy. They invaded hostile territory with a sense of humor. Hope this gives you some new ideas for political activism in 2010.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Mark-Paul Gosselaar is the Understudy

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Mark-Paul recently appeared on the Jimmy Fallon Show made up to look like Zack Morris today.

He's straight, he's adorable and he's turning into both a fine actor and pretty sophisticated guy. Once a teen heartthrob, the California star Mark-Paul Gosselaar of Saved by the Bell - and recently the TNT drama, Raising the Bar - has just discovered theater and the acting jobs there.

Catch it WHile You Can. Playing until January 16, 2010.

As a result he is starring in Theresa Reebeck's wonderful play The Understudy at Manhattan's Laura Pels Theatre on West 46th which runs until January 16. The Understudy first played here in the Berkshires at the Williamstown Theatre Festival where it was warmly received. My colleague Charles Giuliano was convinced that it would make its way to Broadway, and this is the fulfillment of that prediction. That the now fully matured Mark-Paul Gosselaar is one of its stars is a total bonus touch. Hiring the actor is a real coup for the Roundabout Theatre.

Mark-Paul has most recently appeared on Raising the Bar.

He is co-starring with Tony Award winner Julie White, and Weeds series regular Justin Kirk. Gosselaar will replace Bradley Cooper who has been in the role since starting at the Williamstown Theater Festival in 2008.

(l to r) Julie White, Justin Kirk, and Mark-Paul Gosselaar in 'The Understudy' by Theresa Rebeck.

Gosselaar only recently tried his hand at theater acting. Most California agents discourage it since performing live doesn't generate anywhere near the commissions that acting on the big screen does. And Mark-Paul actually went and auditioned for the part, it was not arranged or offered, so he earned it. And he is loving it. Says Mark-Paul: "They say television is a writers' medium but this is the actors' medium. I have to completely agree with that because we're given so much time to rehearse and flesh out the characters and find new things every show and every rehearsal. It's just something I've never done in my entire career. I've been in this industry close to 30 years? I think? I guess that's kind of scary. But this is the first time I've really had time to think about the character and it becomes your life."

Four hotties. Jason Patric, Jesse McCartney, Jeremy Piven and Mark Paul Gosselaar attend the Madden NFL 10 Pigskin Pro-Am at the Malibu Bluffs State Park on July 24, 2009 in Malibu, California. Williamson Photo.

Resettling in New York City, the Californian who bikes everywhere thought that The Big Apple would be unfriendly towards bikers but instead, he has discovered the wonders of that big city. "I thought it would be more of an adjustment. I've been to New York a couple times for work. I've mostly never had the opportunity to walk around the city and I didn't really understand the city — the streets, the avenues — I didn't understand any of that because I didn't have to. I had a bit of anxiety moving out here because I'm a big cyclist — I race my bike when I'm not working — so I brought my bike and thought, "How am I going to ride here?" I'll tell you: This city, for riding bikes, it's one of the best places I've ever ridden. I really, really like this city. What is there? Eight million people in the city? And you can just walk down the street and run into people that you know. That amazes me."

The actor's unusual good looks come from a combination of Indonesian and Dutch genes,

So how has Gosselaar done in his first appearance on stage as the understudy, Jake? Quite well. Joe Dziemianowicz of the New York Daily News wrote that Gosselaar "brings appealing exuberance to Jake."

Best of all he likes being on stage. With this auspicious start, let's hope he finds his way to the Berkshires one day.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Post Christmas Dance Party Saturday at Jae's

Bring your naughty,
bring your nice,
bring it to the floor,
Saturday at Jae's Spice!

The Gay Berkshires calendar seems pretty bare as we head into the unpredictable winter months, but there is life in the old girl yet!

You don't have to wait till New Years to shake it up! Jae's Spice and DJ BFG will help you keep the party going and let you get your dance on Saturday December 26th from 10 pm to 2 am. Mixed company, LGBT always welcome and part of the throng.


DJ BFG will be doing his thing like only he can, delivering the hottest beats for you to shake your groove thing to. Those who know what BFG can do , well then you know, those who don't about time you let BFG deliver to you the spins you can't get enough of.

At Jae's they don't care if you've been naughty or nice, they just want you to party, meet other great people and above all, get out on that dance floor, having some fun.

Jae's Spice is located at 297 North Street in Pittsfield and there is a $5.00 cover. 21+ is the rule.

See you on the floor.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

New Berkshire Gay Guerrilla Group (BG3) Promises Social Action

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Where will the next "Gay-for-a-Day" Bar be?

The underground movement that is becoming a national phenomenon has hit the Berkshires - it's the Gay Guerilla Gay Bar idea. It works to turn selected bars, restaurants and clubs "gay for a day". It's one very clever way of making sure LGBTQ folks have a place to socialize while supporting our gay-friendly businesses.

The new Berkshire Gay Guerrilla Group's Logo

Of course, they have a website and Facebook presence, and all are welcome. It's meant for LGBT folks, their friends and allies and fills a long standing need in our community. In the Berks, safe and entertaining social opportunities have been in short supply, especially for the young working set. We think the Berkshire Gay Guerrilla Group couldn't have come at a better time!

Each city has a different group, different logo, same idea.

Social activities build a sense of community, and BG3 is modeled on a new template that is slowly replacing the old paradigm. Certainly traditional meetings, agendas and group consensus are still important to effective political action. But we can not ignore the fact that social networking, both online and in person has changed significantly in the past decade.

The new Guerrilla Groups are everywhere these days.

As the internet has become the dominant factor in daily gay life, the need for gay-exclusive bars, bookstores and the like has slowly receded, and there are fewer of them than at anytime since the 1970's when they sprung up everywhere after Stonewall and the birth of the gay liberation movement.

In Milwaukee, they're very active.

One of the wonderful things about all the new LGBT activity is the wide variety of organizations and people who have been responsible for the increase in things to do. Certainly the Berkshire Stonewall Community Coalition and its Christmas celebration last Wednesday at the Berkshire Museum provided a great kickoff for holiday festivities. But great fun was also had by all at BFG @ Groove on Thursday - promoted by Out in the Berkshires, and then there was Jae's Disco party on Saturday night. The LGBT community - in all its diversity -was well represented at all three events.

The owners of Jae's Spice might do well to consider opening "Upstairs at Jae's" operation on North Street that targeted a combination of the gay, theater and avant garde populations as is clientele. Perhaps with a piano player and informal cabaret on the weekends. Entertainment early on, dancing and cruising later. I think it could be a natural success. All it needs is some nurturing, good word of mouth and local singers and musicians willing to show off. Hell, it could even host a drag show now and then, perhaps Sunday Afternoon drag bingo, too. A hell of a lot more attractive than the Elks Club where some of these things are being held.

Providence has a great logo.

The Berkshire Gay Guerrilla Group, BG3 for short, is planning its first raid soon. To join them, and to keep posted on what's happening, go to Facebook and sign up. You have nothing to lose except your excuse that there is nothing to do.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

From Stonewall to Gay Marriage: The cartoon art of Howard Cruse

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All images courtesy of Howard Cruse.

There's something quite wonderful about artist Howard Cruse, and it isn't that he is gay, or a cartoonist. It's his perspective on gay life, his insights. You scan his latest work, a modest 99 page compendium of his gay cartoons from the last thirty-plus years, and realize that you have something important in your hands. In barely 100 pages, densely populated with his work, he has captured the emotional ups and downs of being gay in the America during the second half of the twentieth century.

Young Howard

More than some dry text on a gay studies reading list, he's captured an era. Through his characters, From Headrack to Claude is a personal collection of angst, rage, sexual folly, political activism and battles that mark the emergence of the gay movement, AIDS, safe sex, and the political battles with foes from Anita Bryant and Jesse Helms to Ronald Reagan and Jerry Falwell.

As you scan each panel of the chronology you discover the little details that mean so much. Headrack is introduced early on, Tiny Tim tip toes through the tulips on Page 7, Gay Lib emerges on Page 24, hot sex and relationships succeed and fail over a succession of pages, arriving, finally with the adventures of Claude who serves as the other bookend.

Attempting to put into words the genius that informs the cartoons is a hopeless task. If a picture is worth a thousand words, these are cartoons that express a million relationships, and the endless political struggles that have occupied the lesbian and gay community for the past 50 years.

The hypocrisy of religion is a favorite theme.

The collection also serves as an autobiography of sorts for Howard, and his long time partner, Ed Sederbaum. (They live down the street from me in North Adams.) In fact, without knowing either, you can easily deduce the complexities of their relationship. Copious notes appear throughout the book, which attempts to corral all of the artist's gay-themed comics he has ever published. Some may indeed be familiar, since Cruse was the first editor of Gay Comix starting in 1979, in which some of these pieces appeared, and of the famed 1980's Wendel series in the The Advocate.

The book makes a superb holiday present for both the mature gay who probably lived through much of the same adventures as Cruse's cast of characters. But it also is an eye-opener for those new to the community. It helps bring the colorful history of the gay movement down to earth, in the form of characters and adventures that speak to all ages.

From Headrack to Claude is available from Lulu Press for under $20.00. Howard Cruse is also the artist behind the full length Stuck Rubber Baby, the award winning novel-length cartoon story of growing up gay in Alabama.

Fans of the artist frequent both his website where there is a wealth of historical materials, and his blog Loose Cruse.

Safe Sex and Aids received the Cruse treatment in a major project that broke all the rules.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Opinion: "General" Coakley vs. "Porky" Brown as US Senator

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Coakley seeks to ensure everyone's right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Things went well for Martha Coakley in the primary race for Ted Kennedy's US Senate seat. She was the clear winner against her three male competitors, winning almost half the votes.

As John Kerry emailed me this morning: "That sound you heard was the glass ceiling being smashed into a thousand pieces."

She will go on to face Republican Scott Brown who has a juicy background that will make this race interesting. He is a former Cosmo model, and a foe of gay marriage.

Martha Coakley is no slouch in defense of lesbians and gays being able to marry, just as everybody else can. As Attorney General, Coakley has taken the Feds to court over the Defense of Marriage Act, specifically challenging the definition of marriage as that one man-one woman business. DOMA "constitutes an overreaching and discriminatory federal law" according to the lawsuit, filed in federal district court in Boston.

In her victory speech last evening, Coakley spoke of her commitment to marriage equality. Not so State Senator Scott Brown, who famously accused state Senator Cheryl Jacques and her same-sex partner having children as ‘‘not normal.’’ Then in March 2004 he was elected to the State Senate in a special election to fill her seat. In a career move, Cheryl Jacques resigned to become president of the Human Rights Campaign. Among his other major positions he is in favor of installing slot machines at state racetracks to solve the budget shortfalls, and although allegedly a Repubican sees no problem with waste in government, as long as it is GOP waste.

Will Brown lose his moral certainty against gay marriage to win an election? You betcha. The vacillation begins.

Brown has promised that ‘‘I’m going to continue to bring home the pork because it offsets what’s being cut. The second battle is to try to be part of the solution to the economic mess.’’ It is clear that "Porky" Brown sees gambling as our way to prosperity. And putting gays and lesbians in their places, far from the institution of marriage.

Pandering, but not to gays.

Brown is resourceful in many ways, though his logic is absolutely peculiar. Short on funds for his Boston College tuition, did he take a part time job or student loan to meet the shortfall? Neither. Instead, he found his way to the centerfold of Cosmo magazine as a hot stud back in 1984. Working the media is a Brown family occupation what with the Cosmo appearance combined with his wife being Boston's WCVB-TV reporter Gail Huff. Their daughter Ayla (one of two girls) was a contestant on ‘‘American Idol.’’ While at BC, and a basketball star, he also acted and sang in college productions, and joined the National Guard where he is still an active officer.

Coakley grew up in North Adams, and has close connections to the area. Here she is seen with North Adams Mayor-elect Alcombright, and Ben Dowling, the State Senator. Charles Giuliano photo.

Coakley has received the endorsement of Mass Equality, an organization of more than 200,000 members that works to protect, promote and defend marriage equality and to advance lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. In the suit she filed in Federal Court seeking to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, Coakley called it "discriminatory and unconstitutional." And that is only one action in a multi-pronged effort to level the playing field for lesbians, gays and many others.

She strongly supported the MassHealth Equality bill, which ensured that Massachusetts cover the cost of health care for same-sex couples who would otherwise be eligible for Medicaid; worked to obtain civil rights injunctions in numerous cases involving hate crimes against members of the LGBT community; and supported efforts to address domestic violence in the LGBT community. Her office also conducted trainings for police departments around the Commonwealth on how better to respond to hate crimes.

Coakley is also at the forefront of the move to make all business and service buildings handicapped accessible. Full access to all aspects of life for everyone is a lofty goal, but that does not deter her from trying.

In the end we expect to see AG Coakley take Kennedy's seat, and bring yet another voice of reason to the United States Senate.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Berkshire Stonewall Party at Berkshire Museum

Berkshire Stonewall will be hosting a Cocktail Party at the Berkshire Museum on December 9th (the second Wednesday in December) from 7 - 9 p.m. This after hours party will consist of appetizers, a beer and wine cash bar, and will take place during the Festival of Trees.

The party will take place in the elegantly decorated Ellen Crane Memorial Room; an art deco gallery located on the second floor of the museum with a working fountain and gas lit fireplace. The second floor galleries will remain open during the event and guests will be able to enjoy this festive exhibit.

What began fifteen years ago with just a week long exhibition featuring 25 trees has become a nationally recognized holiday event and awarded one of the "Top 100 Events in North America."

The indoor forest of holiday brilliance features hundreds of stunning and uniquely decorated trees. Tree designs range from the nostalgic and traditional to whimsical and even interactive. This year's Festival of Trees will include a special look at the Berkshire winters of decades past with photo murals and vintage movie footage.

You are encouraged to attend this fun event, but because of the need to plan for adequate food and drink, admission to this event is by reservation only.

There's still time to join the party
Call the BSCC infoline to reserve your place:


Admission is $10 per person which can be paid at the door. In addition to the appetizers, there will be a COD beer and wine bar.

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