‘Sweet Dreams’ raises $71K for Bliss CARES

By : Jeremy Williams
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Bliss CARES had a successful night at the DoubleTree by Hilton in downtown Orlando on July 13 with its inaugural “Sweet Dreams: Dancing for TRANSitional Housing” fundraiser.

The event — which partnered 11 amateur dancers, all LGBTQ community leaders in Central Florida, with professional dancers for a night of fast-paced, fancy footwork — raised $71,344, which will go towards creating semi-permanent housing for the transgender and gender nonconforming communities where they can have access to health services, life skills and career counseling to prepare them to live on their own in their own safe space.

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Central Florida LGBTQ pioneer Joel Strack passes away at age 59

By : Jeremy Williams
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ABOVE: Joel Strack at his celebration of life at Leu Gardens in Orlando June 23. (Photo by J.D. Casto)

ORLANDO | Joel Strack—an LGBTQ leader, activist and pioneer in Central Florida’s fight for equality— passed away in the early morning hours of July 15. He was 59.

Strack was instrumental in launching what would become known as Gay Day at the Magic Kingdom, helped create Orlando’s first Pride parade and assisted in founding both the Orlando Gay Chorus and the Gay and Lesbian History Museum.

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05.02.19 Publisher’s Desk

By : Rick Claggett
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Nobody likes to be called ignorant, but we all are. I certainly am. I’m ignorant when it comes to Venezuelan politics, cooking Indian cuisine and the quantum mechanics of time travel. I just saw an article this morning that suggested the present and the future exist simultaneously and now I have a headache. I can’t even discern how there is still only one Marty McFly and how he always finds the DeLorean.

It’s okay to be ignorant, but somewhere along the way people decided being called ignorant meant that you were stupid or dumb—instead of just simply lacking knowledge of something. Some years ago I was hanging out with my brothers, drinking beer around a fire pit and listening to old country music; a favorite pastime for the Claggett boys. One of my brothers, a genuinely nice person who tends to lean to the right with his political views, started talking about the Affordable Healthcare Act. Yes, family + holidays+ alcohol + politics = disaster.

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The Wonderful World of Wanzie: What I learned from 2018

By : Michael Wanzie
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With the New Year upon us the impulse to write some sort of “Year in Review” column is, of course, pressing upon me, but to do so would only result in me exceeding my allotted word count a fraction of the way through my list of ways in which President tRump has screwed the American people and diminished our standing as a world leader while aiding the interests of enemy nations in 2018.

I want to greet 2019 with hope and optimism. The only way to do that is to hold fast to the promise of Robert Mueller’s investigation — even though I have no doubt that if the report were to say tRump murdered someone, let alone that he conspired with the Russians regarding election interference, every imaginable step and challenge will be enacted in an effort to suppress the findings.



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A look back at The LGBT+ Center of Central Florida as told from some of its executive directors

By : Watermark Staff
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The LGBT+ Center of Central Florida has seen a number of name changes in its several decades as the beacon of Orlando’s LGBTQ community. Throughout its years, The Center has also changed locations, starting with its first brick-and-mortar building on Mills Ave. in 1987. After bouncing to a few different locations on Colonial Dr., it settled in at its current location at 946 N. Mills Ave. in 2000.

Since finding its permanent home, The Center has had some renovations and expansions; adding more safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community to have gatherings, meetings and parties, or just a comfy chair to sit and have a little quiet time. The Center is many things to many people.

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Watermark Film Company’s new documentary ‘Greetings From Queertown’ shines a light on Orlando’s LGBTQ history

By : Christen Kelley
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From KKK members threatening Pride-filled parade marchers to a sea of red shirts ascending on Disney World for Gay Day at the Magic Kingdom to standing “Orlando Strong” around Lake Eola, Central Florida has come a long way for the LGBTQ community. It’s a rich history that Watermark Film Company plans to detail in their upcoming documentary, “Greetings From Queertown: Orlando.”

Spearheaded by Watermark owner, publisher and editor Rick Claggett, director/producer Sandi Hulon, director of photography Tye Belcher and others from Team Watermark, the film company was created to share the story of “Queertown.”

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The Wonderful World of Wanzie: Florida heat and summer schools

By : Michael Wanzie
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michael wanzie atheist

Why is it when a svelte, smooth-chested, swimmer-type guy goes jogging shirtless on a scorching Orlando summer day, it is said of him that his luscious perspiration, glistening in the sunlight, gleefully beckons adoring tongues to lap up his liquid masculinity from a bronzed canvas of sensual, sun-drenched flesh, but when a big boned (read: fat) guy like me does the same thing the only thought it brings to anyone’s mind is, “Christ that tub of lard sweats like a fucking pig!?”

Never mind your snarky answers. It was a rhetorical question to which I already know the answer all too well—and thus Summer is in full stride in Central Florida. Thus continues my annual stint of carefully navigating my way into various pools at various parties with my shirt still on because I have body issues regarding my man boobs. Too much information? OK then, we’ll move on.

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Watermark owner creates film company, premieres first movie’s trailer

By : Staff Report
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ORLANDO | Watermark Film Company premiered the first trailer to its documentary film “Greetings From Queertown: Orlando” at a private fundraising event at The Venue in Orlando Aug. 23.

Watermark Film Company was launched by Watermark Publishing Group owner Rick Claggett as a way to create, produce and distribute films that inform and educate audiences on the LGBTQ experience, according to a press release.

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With changes to Orlando’s Big Gay Weekend coming in 2019, we look back on the history of Gay Day

By : Jeremy Williams
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Outside of Pride parades and festivals, one could argue that no other LGBTQ event in the world is as recognizable as the one that occurs on the first Saturday in June every year at the happiest place on Earth.

Gay Day at Disney’s Magic Kingdom has gone through many changes and obstacles in its 28-year history. What began as one day at the park ballooned into multiple days of events from many groups who bring circuit parties, concerts, expos and pool parties every year that encircle the original event and carry the same message of visibility that Gay Day at Magic Kingdom was founded on.

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Babes in Bonnets sets record in fundraising for OYA

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | Babes in Bonnets, The Parliament House’s annual Easter fixture, set a fundraising record bringing in $32,171 for the Orlando Youth Alliance March 26.

The previous record was set last year when Babes in Bonnets brought in $28,000 for OYA.

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Orlando Fringe expands their winter festival after a successful first year

By : Jeremy Williams
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After a successful inaugural year, the Orlando International Fringe Festival is returning with an even bigger Winter Mini-Fest Jan. 3-7, expanding on the number of venues they had in 2017.

“Instead of three venues we have four total and instead of four days we are going five. So it’s a little bit bigger than it was last year to keep up with the audience that was there, and we hope they will come out even more this year,” says Michael Marinaccio, the Orlando International Fringe Festival Producer.

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12.14.17 Publisher’s Desk

By : Rick Claggett
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Here we are in the thick of the holiday season. It’s sometimes hard to tell that the holidays are approaching in mid-Florida. There is so much to be done this time of year that the days fly by, and it doesn’t help when the weather is in the 70s and 80s. Luckily we are in what Floridians would call a “cold spell” right now, giving us a small taste of North Pole weather.

Christmas has become my favorite time of year. My fondest holiday memories are of when I was a kid. Christmas Eve was a special night for us. It was a night for the whole family to be together. We’d enjoy the lights my dad and uncles put up and snack all night on my mom’s famous date-nut bread. I was in charge of mixing the sherbet and ginger ale, a concoction I apparently couldn’t get enough of when I was young. When it got late, mom would tuck us into bed and read us Luke’s Christmas story from the Bible until we would fall asleep. Sometimes we were too excited so she’d have to read ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas as well. We’d wake up to a wonderland. I remember nothing but warmth, happiness and love. It was magical.

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