Thursday, February 25, 2010

"Falsettos" in Rhinebeck, NY this weekend

Falsettos is By William Finn (Music and Lyrics) and James Lapine (Book)

I just learned that Bill Finn's wonderful Falsettos is being performed not too far away in Rhinebeck, New York, and highly recommend seeing this moving and entertaining musical before it closes February 28. Remaining performances are Friday and Saturday at 8:00 PM and Sunday at 3:00.

Last Saturday's performance was a benefit for the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center, which hosted an after party. Rural Intelligence was there, and did some fabulous coverage of the event and its guests.

With music and lyrics by William Finn and book by William Finn and James Lapine, this Tony Award-winning musical tells the story of a totally dysfunctional Jewish family. Jason, the 13 year old son of Marvin and Trina is preparing for his Bar Mitsvah. Enter Mendel, the family psychiatrist, who is bedding down with the wife of Marvin who has just come out of the closet. The husband has taken up with the younger “Whizzer”. Got all that?

The Rhinebeck Cast.

Well, Jason thinks Whizzer is cool and has flat-out stated that there will be no Bar Mitzvah if Whizzer is not included. Across the hall lives a lesbian couple – Cordelia, the kosher caterer in charge, and her partner Charlotte, a doctor who will eventually determine that Whizzer has AIDS. From the opening number “Four Jews In A Room Bitching” through Jason’s “Everyone Hates His Parents”, Trina’s tour-de-force “I’m Breaking Down”, and Marvin’s lament, “What Would I Do” – the show is a complex and richly entertaining journey filled with laughter and tears.

The musical, while not heavy is nevertheless poignant, being set at the time when AIDS was beginning its insidious spread. A CENTERstage Production directed by Kevin Archambault with musical direction by James Fitzwilliam.

Composer Finn is a Berkshire regular with a house in Pittsfield (he teaches at NYU) and in residence each summer to nurture new writers and composers at the Stage 2 Music Workshop at Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield. He is also the composer of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and many other works.

Tickets are priced at $22 for adults and $20 seniors and children. More information at or call Box Office Manager Eileen Contreni at 845-876-3080.

Also on their schedule is Rent another musical which touches on gay themes, plaing from March 12 to 28.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Rachel Maddow to deliver the 2010 Smith College Commencement Address May 16

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Rachel Maddow's most recent local appearance
was last August at Jacob's Pillow.

When Smith College President Carol T. Crist announced to the senior class that MSNBC's political analyist and Berkshire favorite Rachel Maddow would deliver the commencement address, it was an event all by itself. Watch and enjoy:

Maddow's success story is one that began locally. A contest launched Maddow’s career in 2004. As the winner of a challenge for a new on-air personality in Holyoke, Mass., she addressed listeners for the first time. Meeting with success at the local level, she soon joined the newly created Air America and, a year later, MSNBC.

Maddow's success may seem somewhat serendipitous, but she worked hard to get where she is. Maddow earned a degree in public policy from Stanford University in 1994, was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, and earned a doctor of philosophy degree from Oxford University.

Maddow undertakes a regular 190 mile commute home to her 1865 house in Western Massachusetts. She maintains a teeny 275' apartment in Manhattan too. She is a real person, too, with a real full time relationship.

Rachel's human side: "One of my liabilities as a broadcaster is sometimes I get a little teary. Having a handkerchief is handy. My partner, Susan Mikula, buys me cute ones."

Lucky Dog.

Four Honorary Degrees to be Awarded

Commencement is on May 16 at 10 AM in Northampton. Honorary degrees will be awarded to Maddow, renowned dance composer Martha Myers, record-setter Victoria “Tori” Murden McClure, environmental justice advocate Peggy M. Shepard and global activist Princess Basma Bint Talal of Jordan.

The complete commencement schedule indicates that students may invite as many guests as they want.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Historic Homos: How the world viewed us in 1967

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The Bad Old Days when a paranoid alcoholic, Sen. Joseph McCarthy, and a deeply closeted self-loathing lawyer, Ray Cohn used the new medium of television to launch a national witch hunt for communists and gays.

It was a different world for LGBT's before Stonewall. Except for a meager handful of people like Gore Vidal and a few other brave souls, few challenged the status quo. Not only were queers supposedly not happy, but the word "gay" had not yet come into use. Yeah, the 60's were a very long time ago. Most American's alive today weren't even born yet.

This so-called CBS documentary on homosexuality is about as factual as Reefer Madness, and not half as funny.

Half a century ago, almost everyone was deep in the closet, and had been since Oscar Wilde went to jail during the Victorian era. It was not until the 1950's McCarthy-Army Hearings and its promotion of "Lavender Menace" theories that the first few voices of the gay liberation movement began to speak out about the persecution. That is when the Mattachine Society and Daughters of Bilitis were founded, and a few very brave souls admitted they were lesbian or gay to an ignorant world.

It was a dark time to be gay. And it is where self-loathing took hold of many men - now in their 60's to 80's - and driving them deep, deep into the closet. Open that door today, and you will find many old Republican white men like Idaho's US Rep. Larry Craig still afraid to come out. So they act out their desires in the anonymity of public rest rooms and react with denial when confronted. Granted, Craig was in his formative years when the infamous witch hunt called "The Boys of Boise" ruined hundreds of lives in that small city of 45,000. And it wasn't just Iowa, it was the whole damn nation. Vice squads were everywhere, looking for homosexuals to harass, arrest and extort. The underworld ran the bars; our business was not welcome elsewhere.

The straight world ruled, and it was one that was filled with public loathing, police hatred, and woefully misinformed psychiatrists and sociologists. Then, the biggest battle was doing away with intrusive laws, that penalized what two consenting adults did in the privacy of their own bedroom.

Those days contrast sharply with our current situation where most of us live and let live with our neighbors. But the old days left their mark for us older folks. That's the power of the shocking kinescope embedded above. It shows Mike Wallace and CBS News doing the first expose of homosexuality ever aired on television. If you think the news is manipulated today, watch how things used to be!

That it resembles Reefer Madness in many of its lies and distortions is not surprising, yet it documents just how far we have come. And have to go. With the right to marry, to serve our country in the armed forces and to live peacefully without harassment still being determined, it is not yet done. Even more worrying is that fundamentalist based homophobia is now spreading across Africa like a plague. The price of freedom, as always, is eternal vigilance.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Berkshires Snuggle Time - but Boston is about to get HOT!

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This Mr. Sloane is going to be very entertaining.

At this point every winter many of us in the Berks start to get Cabin Fever, and there are simply not very many LGBT events here to make us leave the house. But my mind itches, it needs stimulation. So my annual forays into Boston and Albany begin. I would much rather write about events in the Berkshires, but other than The Mikado March 6 at the Colonial Theatre, there isn't a lot I am looking forward to.

Boston is humming. Their theatre and entertainment scene is approaching its peak. There's much to recommend as being worth a special trip. At the top of my list is Big Bean's Publick Theatre. They are mounting one of my favorite Joe Orton plays, Entertaining Mr. Sloane. It runs at the Boston Center for the Arts. The handsome and manipulative boarder who turns on and upsets the whole household is played by Jack Cutmore-Scott. Jack is currently in his fourth year at Harvard, and we hope to have an in-depth interview with him as to how he will approach his role. Jack is straight we are told, and so may be Mr. Sloane. It's complicated, funny and, yes, Mr. Sloane is entertaining too.

Cars, Kisses and Rusty Daggers

It's an all British cast for this production, including the return to the Boston stage of Sandra Shipley who plays Kath, a lonely, delusional landlady, in the junkyard house she shares with her declining father, Kemp (Dafydd Rees). Sloane, ever the handsome opportunist, quickly ingratiates himself, entering into seductions offered by both Kath, and her estranged brother Ed (Nigel Gore), who soon employs Sloane as his driver. Sloane’s past misdeeds and the dueling affections within the family soon collide, leading to a desperate act that proves the limit of his charms, and reveals the ruthless and cunning strategies that Sloane’s victims will engage in to preserve their unique arrangement.

The play is directed by Eric Engel who describes the dark comedy as "almost a farce. All four characters, because they are desperately lonely, allow their domestic, social and animal instincts to become irrevocably intertwined.” He adds, “Orton eliminates the line between the obvious and the Freudian, making things all the more confusing and delightful. Entertaining Mr. Sloane is a perfect play for today's audiences, who can explore sexuality with intrigue and open minds, rather than fear and judgment.”

Few had heard of Maxwell Caufield until he played Mr. Sloane off-Broadway back in the 80's.

Entertaining Mr. Sloane will run from March 11 through April 3, 2010 at the Plaza Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont Street in Boston's South End. Performances are Wednesdays at 7:30pm, Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays at 8:00 pm, Saturdays at 3:00 pm and 8:00 pm and Sundays at 3:00pm. Tickets: $33.00 - $37.50. (SPECIAL PRICING: Preview Performances March 11 -14 - All Tickets $20. More information from the Publick Theatre website.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Aaron Carter Tweets - "No" on California's Prop 8

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Aaron Carter may be a man of few words, but they are the right words. Here he says everything that needs to be said about Don't Ask, Don't Tell as well as Prop 8. Adam Bouska photos.

Bad boy Aaron Carter is finally working on a new album - his first in five or six years - and is becoming a bit of a political activist now that he is laying off the pharmaceuticals.

The younger brother of Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys, Aaron has been rehabilitating himself and keeping in touch with fans via Twitter.

Aaron Carter takes his shirt off.

His Dancing With the Stars appearance certainly helped, but for many of us, stripping his shirt off and taking part in the No H8 campaign in LA makes him one ok guy. Best of all, he sent one tweet that said: "Oh, Yeahhhh...I'm a single man."

There's an interesting story in his hard work to make a come back, one which I hope to interview him about some day. It is one thing for you or me to go through rehab and take our lives back. It's almost an impossible task for someone in the public eye. But it can be done if you ignore the twin pitfalls of adulation and nasty rumors.

Here's wishing him well in his healthy new lifestyle, and warm thanks for both the visibility and help fundraising for the second round of Prop 8.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Gays are America's Most Precious Resource

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Finally, the secret is out about gays in the military. They've only been "protecting" us all this time. As the debate on DADT re-ignites, a satirical view on the issues provides some comic relief.

Don't Tell.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Quite Queer Valentine's Eve Dance with Live Music Feb. 13

"Get Your Heart On" February 13 at Jae's Spice Upstairs

New York City's Jen Urban and the Box "Will bring the ruckus" as QQ's "Get Your Heart On" Dance Party gets underway this Saturday night. Live music is always a treat, and this most amenable group will illuminate the day before Valentine's (February 13) at Jae's Spiece Upstairs. Located at 297 North Street in Pittsfield, Quite Queer's event theme is Love. Bring who you love, meet whom you might the organizers say. They suggest that the dress be your version of "high fashion" which means you should dress to kill, while planning to bring peace on earth.

Quite Queer's Dance Poster

As a further inducement to entice the best dressed crowd in ages, there are prizes. The top three best-dressed guests will be decided and each given prizes according to their ability to PUT AN OUTFIT TOGETHER! 20's careless, 30's impoverished, 40's victorious, 50's domestic, 60's radical, 70's ridiculous, 80's chic, 90's clueless and new millennium inclusive -- whatever you pick, have fun and have it together.

Nehru Jackets? Jean Jackets Redefined? Depends on who's wearing it.

In addition to the live music, from Minneapolis comes DJ PB&J who will bring a brilliant mix of tunes to keep the dance floor moving. The cost for all this fun? $5 cover for 21+, $8 for 18+ There will be a full cash bar for those 21+.

Maybe I can find that old Nehru Jacket and love beads...though since I am no longer a kid, maybe that space suit in the background will cover a multitude of sins...

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Colonial's Romeo and Juliet is a rare chance to see the Guthrie's magic

Laura Esposito (Juliet) and Sonny Valicenti (Romeo) in The Acting Company/Guthrie Theater co-production of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Production photos by Michal Daniel.

I often marvel at how those of us who live in the Berkshires year round can expect - with a little patience - to see the best that the arts world can offer. The great artists seem to find their way here. Eventually. Certainly that is true with symphonic music, dance companies and contemporary art.

The Colonial and Mahaiwe go even further than Tanglewood, Mass MoCA and Jacob's Pillow in that they book those companies and artists that we might otherwise never see. Such is the case with the Romeo and Juliet arriving next Friday, February 12 at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield.

It's certainly not a "gay" Romeo and Juliet - though there's a concept to ponder! It is instead a resetting of Shakespeare's most popular play to a time closer than our own, the beginning of the twentieth century.

The "boys" of Romeo and Juliet are full of fun and pranks.

With the resetting comes a Romeo and Juliet that is closer, in some ways, to West Side Story than to 16th century Verona. The words are as Shakespeare wrote them, but the action, and acting, is contemporary. Purists may object, but for the adventurous, it is provocative, and ribald fun. And it showcases some of the youngest, most talented actors in America today.

This is a co-production by Minnesota's Guthrie Theater and The Acting Company. It was created and first staged last month (January 9-31) in Minneapolis, and is now engaged in a 25-city tour. The New England appearances are made possible, in part, with support from the New England Foundation on the Arts as well as funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Fight! Isaac Woofter (Tybalt), Sonny Valicenti (Romeo) and Hugh Kennedy (Benvolio)

Romeo and Juliet is a familiar tale to most of us, recounting the tragedy of star-crossed teenage love ensnared in a family feud. Bounding between soaring romanticism and battles of wit, festive celebrations and bloody duels to the death, the play of cruel destiny runs on high energy throughout, as impulsive and emotionally hot-blooded characters bring to life the greatest love story of all time.

Evoking the lyricism of Shakespeare's sonnets, the timeless and deeply moving Romeo and Juliet exquisitely embodies the brief joy of youthful passion and ecstasy. The young couple loves each other passionately as only teenagers can, while their families' mutual disdain and prejudice lead to revenge and an irreversible fate. Young love has never been so delightful or as dangerous as in this stirring new production.

Reviews of this production ranged from mixed to raves, but the cast has had time to settle in, and the production should be highly polished. Most critics remarked on how well the usually watered down comedy and fight scenes played. In the production the guys use walking sticks which seemed odd until the big fight scene where they turned out to hide the real weapon - swords. The "prick of the moon" and "maidenhead" lines which happens between Mercutio and the nurse also brings some hitherto naughty nuances to light.

"The Guthrie has proven to be the perfect ‘incubator' for our national tour," said Acting Company Producing Director Margot Harley. "It is a breathtaking theatrical complex replete with staff, artisans and workshops to bring the most brilliant work to life. Our co-production of Henry V was thrilling to be part of and I know this season's Romeo and Juliet will be equally rewarding to audiences as well as for The Acting Company and the Guthrie."

A cast member heads home through a dusting of snow after a performance at the Guthrie. He should feel right at home here in the Berkshires.

"We're truly excited to embark on the second production of our partnership with The Acting Company," said Guthrie Director Joe Dowling. "After the success of last year's production and tour of Henry V, we look forward to continued success this season with Romeo and Juliet."

Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Penny Metropulos directs. The cast for the traveling production is identical to the one on stage at the Guthrie. Sonny Valicenti (2009's Henry V) and 2008 GEx alumnus Laura Esposito leading the 13-member cast in the title roles.

The production will also feature UofM/Guthrie B.F.A. alumni Hugh Kennedy (Benvolio), Elizabeth Stahlmann (Nurse/Samson), William Sturdivant (Mercutio/Prince) and Christine Weber (Lady Capulet), Guthrie Experience alumni Jamie Smithson (Paris/Abraham) and Isaac Woofter (Tybalt/Apothecary), Henry V company member Chris Thorn (Capulet), and newcomers Jesse Bonnell (Gregory/Friar John), Raymond L. Chapman (Friar Laurence), Jason McDowell Green (Montague/Peter) and Myxolydia Tyler (Lady Montague/Balthasar).

Troublemaker Tybalt (R) (Isaac Woofter) gets his due from Romeo (Sonny Valicenti).

The Romeo and Juliet artistic team also includes Neil Patel (Set Designer), Mathew J. LeFebvre (Costume Designer), Michael Chybowski (Lighting Designer), Victor Zupanc (Music Composition), Scott W. Edwards (Sound Designer), Marcela Lorca (Choreography), Felix Ivanov (Fight Direction), Andrew Wade (Voice and Speech Consultant), Sara Phillips (Voice and Speech Consultant), Corey Atkins (Staff Director), Karen Parlato (Stage Manager) and Nick Tochelli (Assistant Stage Manager).

Tickets and information:

The Colonial Theatre
111 South Street
Pittsfield, MA 01201
P: (413) 448-8084

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Carnivale - Hot Event of the Weekend - Saturday at Jae's

Los Sugar Kings have a great website.

Nobody throws a party like Barrington Stage Company, and they are always gay friendly events. In fact it is the LGBT's in the mix that adds the extra spice. This Carnivale is a fundraiser for the company - but one that is affordable for most of us. So come, let your hair down, or put it up - it's going to be a good time!

Carnivale in Rio is the hottest celebration on earth. But it is summer there. In the Berkshires we are in a deep freeze and we will keep our clothes on, thank you, and still have a good time.

Carnivale is scheduled a full week ahead of the rest of the world, how's that for being ahead of the crowd! To keep the good times rolling, you can hop a jet to Rio, Trinidad, New Orleans or Venice to sample the real thing, a four day celebration that begins February 12 and ends on February 16 ("Fat Tuesday") at midnight signaling the upcoming 40 days of Lent.

For this fundraiser, Barrington Stage Company stages the sizzling Brazilian celebration of Carnivale in the Berkshires at Jae’s Spice Upstairs. Beat the winter blues with hot music plus great food and drink. Dress your best (be mysterious behind a fabulous mask if you feel so inspired!) and dance the night away with the rhythmic and upbeat Boston Latin band Los Sugar Kings. You can sample their sounds on their website or My Space page.

Carnivale starts at 8pm with a spicy Latin Dance lesson to get you in top-shape of a night of wild dancing! The ticket includes delicious hors d’oeuvres & an unlimited specialty cocktail! There will be a special VIP pre-party dinner at 6pm that includes three course dinner, open bar ALL NIGHT, and entry to the Carnivale party!

Saturday, February 6 | 8pm| Jae’s Spice Upstairs | 297 North St | 499-5446 x115 | $35 advance/$40 door/$125 VIP Dinner & Open Bar. Further information at

Galileo Sets Up LGBT Capital for Gay Market - but do they have credibility?

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It seems the LGBT community is all atwitter over news from Galileo Capital Management of a Gay Capital Fund that is going to come to the rescue of LGBT businesses which are unable to negotiate loans from traditional sources. And to that I say, "show me the money." NY Times story

With hundreds of recent investment scams built on porous foundations and promises, excuse me if I don't buy the line.

Like a politician promising something in the future, but never delivering, this is one more investment scheme with a great premise and no track record. That's a red flag. They may indeed prove to be the best thing ever, but more likely, they are just saying what they think gays want to hear.

They do not self-identify as LGBT. In fact the connection seems strictly to raise cash. What they surely are is investment types who worked with some of the biggest banks and investment firms in the past decade that led us down the primrose path to the current economic mess.

Founders Anders Jacobsen and Paul Thompson have over 40 years’ combined experience in the investment management sector at firms including Goldman Sachs, Prudential Financial, Bankers Trust and Chase Manhattan Bank.

Thompson says: “We have identified a number of investment strategies in niche areas offering a low correlation to markets that are still significantly untapped. Our expertise in structuring and launching investment funds will enable us to bring these strategies to market quickly and effectively”.

Jacobsen adds: “The future of Galileo will witness niche positioning and effective maximization of opportunity in markets that are quite unexplored to date. Our strategy will pick up in areas which the market has traditionally dropped off its radar screen.” quotes from Hedgeweek

It is true that the LGBT consumer market is huge; it's worth nearly $700 billion and is projected to reach $845 billion by 2011, according to the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

Galileo may just be testing the water, measuring how much interest such a move could generate. It seems they have neglected to say when the fund would be launched. Another red flag.

If you want to consider investing, I say wait a while, do serious due diligence, and don't jump in too deeply. I still think if you want to make your dollars do good, invest in local banks and firms, not the monolithic ones, and their spawn.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Campy, Satirical "Mikado" is Hot Winter Fun

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You can't be gay if you haven't seen The Mikado at least once in your life. And if you have been properly initiated into the Victorian cult of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, the mere mention of The Mikado has probably made you pull up your calendar on the screen and start saving money for tickets. It is coming to Pittsfield's Colonial Theatre as soon as it finishes its run in Cohoes, New York.

Yes, The Mikado is a classic G&S outing, complete with pretty "girls" and both mincing and manly men. In their day, they were clearly stereotypes, but still funny and ring true. Especially the Lord High Executioner, which, with any luck will be played by the fabulous Jim Charles who brings an extraordinary theatrical sensibility to the small upstate town of Cohoes, New York. If I didn't live here in the Berkshires, it would be on my short list. At the Cohoes Music Hall he does extraordinary productions complete with great costumes and a live orchestra, yet keeps ticket prices within reason. The whole town turns out for his extravaganzas.

The video I have embedded is about ten minutes of the show as performed in 1990-92 by the famous D'oyly Carte Opera Company. It is the same company G&S worked with a century ago. It has one of the classic patter songs - "I've got a Little List" which is about two minutes in, after the Lord High Executioner introduces himself. It is my fervent hope that this is the role producer Jim Charles (the performing half of C-R Productions) assumes in the production which debuts February 18 at the Cohoes Music Hall.

As my fellow critic Gail Burns sums it up, what could be better than The Mikado- "that wholesome family show about decapitation." Yes, Mikado tells a tale of preposterous carryings on in the mythical Japanese village of Titi-pu. A Japanese prince will do just about anything to win the hand of the national executioner's daughter, for she is his one true love. Over a century later, the themes of The Mikado still resonate with modern audiences with references used in films and television from "Chariots of Fire" to "The Chipmunks". The ultimate classic love story set in the most famous Savoy Opera continues to captivate audiences.

This is the Hill Country's own production, which gets a two week run in Cohoes, New York at their Victorian Music Hall by C-R Productions and then moved, cast, sets and orchestra to Pittsfield where Berkshire audiences can easily enjoy it. If this is half as good as their sell out production of The Producers last year which played the Colonial under similar arrangements, then we are all in for a real treat.

Before there was Saturday Night Live, there was Gilbert and Sullivan spoofing the norms and conventions of the time, and drawing other countries and cultures in caricature. Considering the size of this production, the ticket prices are very reasonable.

Performance Schedule:


February 18-28
Thursday-Saturday at 8:00pm
Saturday and Sunday at 3:00pm
Tickets: $25-$35
Box Office: 518.237.5858


Saturday March 6, 2010
Performances at 3 PM and 8 PM
Tickets $25-$45
Box Office: (413) 997-4444

Monday, February 1, 2010

Expanding LGBT Tourism and Business in the Berkshires

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The Forum on LGBT Tourism drew a crowd from area hotels, guest houses and arts groups.

"But don't they know we are a gay friendly place?"

"Not if you don't tell them."

When gays and lesbians think of Massachusetts, they think of Boston, Provincetown, Springfield and Northampton. Older, more affluent gays certainly visit Tanglewood, Jacobs Pillow and the like. But beyond this smallish slice of the LGBT pie, the Berkshires aren't even on the radar. They should be.

Since Massachusetts legalized gay marriage, a few of our area hotels and guest houses have hosted weddings and their guests. It could be considered "doing business by accident." Imagine if we did it on purpose. Here is but one source of LGBT business that has barely been tapped. There are many more. To explore some of the possibilities, the Berkshire Visitors Bureau hosted an open forum on LGBT travel last week.

Gay weddings mean gay families who will return again and again.

Attracting LGBT dollars is not as simple as touting the beauty of the Berkshires and its cultural attractions. Despite stereotypes, more gays like rock than Rachmaninoff. Gays and lesbians like many of the same things as everyone else, that's for sure, but they also like to find places to eat, stay and visit in which they can find a warm welcome, and hopefully see others in their extended families.

There are a handful of gay owned guest houses in the Berkshires, and a few larger establishments that are "gay friendly." Some list themselves in gay lodging directories. It is a good start. One of the points made in the discussion was the need to include same-sex couples and families in one or two photos on websites, brochures and the like. It telegraphs that they are part of the mix here.

Having done a festive gay wedding, Pittsfield's LGBT friendly Crown Plaza Resort hopes to attract still more.

Special gay events, like the City of Pittsfield's "Out in the Berkshires" celebration last Columbus Day went a long way to providing a focal point for the extended community to get together. The Laramie Project at Barrington Stage, Boston Gay Men's Chorus in concert and the QQ dance with four live bands were all well attended.

Last Fall, the Williamstown Film Festival included half a dozen gay films in its lineup and I noticed a large contingent of gay boys from New York at the after-party at the Clark. Gay and lesbian filmmakers were in attendance, and some were guest panelists who had their films screened at Images cinema.

Lady Ha Ha, Kate Clinton, comes to Pittsfield's Colonial Theatre November 13.

This year, the Cultural Development office in Pittsfield hopes to pull together another Out in the Berkshires Weekend. I think that single promotion might have started a trend. Here's why: not announced yet is news that the Colonial Theatre has booked Lady HaHa, Kate Clinton in for a November 13 performance. This could bring together a reverse migration from Northampton for the Berkshire's first "Women's Weekend".

Gay ski weekends were discussed, as were other activities such as hiking and kayaking. The Berkshire Stonewall Community Coalition features a different hike every month for those who are interested. With some promotion this could become one of the Berkshire's LGBT attractions.

Attending the meeting were Ken Brissette and Serge Gojkovich from the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism. The state's website has a special mini-site for LGBT travelers with listings of events and places of interest to us. It is expected that Berkshire businesses will find ways to tap into this market via the Berkshire Visitors Bureau, and the state.

Facilitating the forum was Lauri Klefos from the BVB who made sure a full range of thoughts and options were discussed. Members of the BVB can contact her - or staffers Debbie Mossman and Dara Kaufman for questions about how your business can market to this market segment.

The more Berkshire businesses understand, develop and pursue the LGBT market, the more quickly this new business will begin to materialize. One of the keys is highlighting events of interest to the community. I can not tell you how many otherwise smart marketers completely miss this opportunity. Some still are shy about using the words Gay or Lesbian in their PR and promotional materials. But the acronym LGBT helps, as does the subtle placement of such symbols as a rainbow.

In Sheffield, the 1802 House is gay owned while in Adams the eco-friendly Topia Inn is the creation of two lesbians. They successfully serve both mainstream and LGBT markets.

Some of the upcoming opportunities are hosting a Berkshires table at the huge Boston Gay Pride Parade in June. There is also a phenomenal Gay Expo March 20-21st at the Javits Center in New York which provides access to what seems like millions of gay New Yorkers.

The state has a presence at both events and if you have targeted promotional materials you would like distributed, or would like to share the Massachusetts booth/table, contact the BVB to explore this further.

The Catskills are already actively promoting to this market to build their numbers. We have the same natural beauty, plus four resident theatre companies, dozens of world class museums and historical sites and some of the most glamorous - and historic - lodging to choose from. Not to mention the thrills and excitement of climbing Mount Greylock, finding our hidden waterfalls and picnicking in the seclusion of our mountain hideaways.

The focus for this activity is the Berkshire Visitors Bureau. You might also consider joining if you are not already a member. Call Dara Kaufman at (413) 743-4500 or write her at dkaufman "at"