Still wonderful, wonderful: An interview with Johnny Mathis

By : Gregg Shapiro
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There is only one Johnny Mathis. With a career that is now in its seventh decade, Mathis has touched many generations with his distinctive vocals. Known for his hits, including “When Sunny Gets Blue,” “It’s Not For Me To Say,” “Chances Are,” “The Twelfth of Never,” “Misty,” “Wonderful! Wonderful!” and “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late”; his breathtaking interpretations of standards; and his glorious way with Christmas music; Mathis is a performer for all seasons.

Watermark: In your 2006 TV special, Johnny Mathis Live—Wonderful, Wonderful, which recently aired again on PBS, you talked about having “a lot of good memories” in spite of times in your career when you had to do 101 one-night concerts. How do you think that the experience affected you as an artist and person?

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The Zebra Coalition celebrates their first college graduate

By : Jeremy Williams
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Peter Ruiz was only 14-years-old when he had to start looking out for himself. He was living at home with his mother and siblings, and she had just moved them from New York City to Orlando. Ruiz’s mother also suffered from mental health issues.

“When we moved down here, my mother’s schizophrenia started to get worse,” Ruiz says. “From the time I was 14 until I was 16, she started to have episodes where she imagined I would physically abuse her, and she would call the cops and have me arrested.”

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Early, weighty choices in ‘Frontline’ documentary ‘Growing Up Trans’

By : Wire Report
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NEW YORK (AP) – “Growing Up Trans” explores the transgender phenomenon as younger people than ever (and their parents) now experience it: a frontier of possibilities and unknowns, and a minefield of high-stakes choices for these youngsters as they also navigate the changes adolescence brings.

Airing on the “Frontline” documentary series (June 30 on PBS; check local listings), it begins with 9-year-old Lia (formerly Liam) Hegarty, who says she transitioned when she was about 7 and now is “almost completely female.”

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Guest Column: ‘Selma’ isn’t over

By : Susan Clary
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Susan Clary

Susan Clary

I finally saw Selma. The Oscar-nominated film depicts Dr. Martin Luther King’s push for passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act—the federal legislation that was a crowning achievement of the Civil Rights Movement. Many protesters, both black and white, were sacrificed during the brutal efforts to make the 54-mile march from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery, the state capital.

The 1987 PBS documentary Eyes on the Prize chronicled the event. However, the 2014 movie directed by Ava DuVernay and starring David Oyelowo as King reveals the powerful and moving story behind Dr. King’s efforts to grab the nation’s attention.

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Embracing Our Differences nominated for WEDU award

By : Staff Report
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Tampa – A long-running program in Sarasota that encouraged the local community to embrace diversity has been nominated for an award. Embracing Our Differences is a nominee for WEDU’s 2015 Be More Enriched Award. That award acknowledges cultural organizations that contribute to the spirit of adventure, exploration and education in the regional arts scene. Other finalists include Sarasota’s Florida Studio Theatre, Tampa’s Glazer Children’s Museum and Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. The winner will be announced at a luncheon on Feb. 12 in Tampa.

WEDU is West Central Florida’s leading PBS station and public media company reaching 16 counties. Embracing Our Differences is a regular participant in Sarasota Pride and has seen its programs grow significantly over the past few years.

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Nathan Lane says straight actors can play gay roles

By : Wire Report
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BEVERLY HILLS, California (AP) – Gay actors shouldn’t have a monopoly on gay roles, award-winning stage and screen actor Nathan Lane said.

Lane, who is gay and has played both straight and gay characters, was asked the question at a TV critics’ meeting Tuesday. He was there to discuss PBS’ presentation of the Broadway play “The Nance,” in which he stars.

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Overheard in Orlando: The Fabulous Beekman Boys

By : Anonymous
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East End Market opening delayed
The much-anticipated East End Market held a fabulous grand opening in the Audubon Park Garden District in late October, but closed quickly with code problems. John Rife, developer of the culinary masterpiece, which boasts farmers, chefs and food artists, has worked out the kinks and it has reopened. The two-story building, at 3201 Corrine Drive, houses a dozen merchants, offices, retail, event space, and a restaurant. It will feature monthly events and classes, everything from wine tastings to yoga. Local businesses offer seafood, meats, breads, fresh roasted coffee, raw food specialties, soups and sauces, local produce and flowers. It’s open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. A restaurant, Txokos Basque Kitchen, will open at the end of the year.

Farm to Epcot
The Fabulous Beekman Boys, famous for their Cooking Channel reality TV show following their life on their upstate New York farm, have some Orlando ties. Several weeks ago the duo – husbands Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge – appeared on the Derek and Romaine Sirius-XM Radio Show where they announced that products from their farm would soon be sold at Epcot. The Beekman 1802 products have been spotted at American Adventure. It turns out that Romaine is a big Disney parks fan, and knows many Disney executives. Josh and Brent are frequent guests on the Derek and Romaine show, so Disney asked if Romaine would introduce them to Josh and Brent, which led to the business deal. The Beekman Boys said on the show that they will be at Epcot November 27 for the official debut of their items in the American Adventure shop.

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PBS celebrates Billie Jean King in advance of her 70th birthday

By : Wire Report
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New York – For Billie Jean King, 70 is the new 40.

The tennis great, who turns 70 in November, has been celebrating the 40th anniversary of equal prize money at the U.S. Open, the formation of the WTA tour and her victory against Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes” match.

King was 29 when she accomplished those feats in 1973. On Tuesday, PBS will highlight her career with the national premiere of “American Masters: Billie Jean King.”

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A review of the best and worst in 2012 pop culture and entertainment

By : Kirk Hartlage
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If it weren’t for double meanings and the double entendre, pop culture and entertainment would have probably ceased to exist this year (no thanks to those pesky Mayans and their predictions). Showtime’s hit espionage drama “Homeland” featured a double-agent in Damien Lewis’ Nicholas Brody, a former prisoner-of-war who was “turned” by al-Qaeda and now threatens the United States; meanwhile Claire Danes’ Carrie Mathison is a CIA intelligence agent who suffers from bipolar disorder. NBC’s Thursday night comedy line-up (“30 Rock,” “Parks & Recreation” and “The Office”) is hysterically built around creative uses of the double entendre.

In that spirit we present our 2012 Pop Culture Year-In-Review, with all its double meanings.

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An Interview with Stonewall Author David Carter

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While researching my article on the PBS documentary Stonewall Uprising, I got a wild hair and decided to try to find one of the film's interview subjects, Doric Wilson, a playwright and activist I have long admired. I found him through Facebook, of all things, and we set up a time to speak by telephone. Our conversation was educational, entertaining, and surprisingly (for my slightly starstruck mind), casual.

During the chat, Doric offered to put me in touch with David Carter, author of Stonewall: The Riots that Sparked the Gay Revolution, the book that inspired the film. Unfortunately, I received the contact information from Doric with a deadline nipping at my butt and more than enough information to squeeze into my word count, so I wasn't able to include David in the original article. Instead I e-mailed David to see if he might be willing to answer a few questions for and online exclusive interview, and he graciously accepted.

You can watch Stonewall Uprising online on the PBS website.

Sadly since the interview below, Doric Wilson has passed way, underscoring the importance of the documentary and David Carter’s work.

What inspired you to write about Stonewall?
I suppose the deepest motivation was that Stonewall has tremendous symbolic power, a power so great that it is on the same level as that of the great myths. Please note, however, that I am not using the word â┚¬Å”mythâ┚¬Â in the vulgar sense in which it is often used, ie, a lie, but in the original sense of the Greek word muthos, which means a story. Similarly, I also am using the word â┚¬Å”symbolâ┚¬Â not in the vulgar sense of the word â┚¬Å”sign,â┚¬Â but in the deeper sense of something that points to and participates in the deeper reality that the symbol represents.

Given this, when I heard Martin Duberman was writing a book about Stonewall, my first reaction was to slap my hand against my forehead â┚¬â€ I had just found my life's calling, that of writing, and I was looking around for a book to write â┚¬â€ and say, â┚¬Å”Why didn't I think of that?â┚¬Â But I was glad that at least the story was finally being told. Then when his book came out, while it was a very interesting book, I felt disappointed that the riots were so very briefly recounted. I then found out both that there were many people that he could have interviewed but did not and that many people in the community disputed various aspects of his account, and some very hotly: there was no consensus that his version of events was accurate. Thus it seemed to me that the opportunity still existed for me to write a history of the event.

Many credit your book with clarifying the history of Stonewall for perhaps the first time, was that a goal for you?
Yes, I was driven by a passion to really find out what was the truth about all these decades old disputes about what really happened as well as why. Also I enjoy detective work â┚¬â€ I'm a huge fan of the Nero Wolfe books! â┚¬â€ and researching this book allowed me to actually play the role of detective and about something of great historic importance: what happened at Stonewall and why? I always told everyone: I am not out to prove or disprove any hypothesis nor to make any individual or group demons or heroes: I simply want to find out the truth and let the chips fall where they may. And I always stuck to that approach.

When I interviewed Doric, he mentioned that some people have noted the exclusion of an interview with Ms. Marsha in your book. What are your feelings on that?
Well, this is news to me, and I'd be interested to know first who those people are and then to ask them if they have read my book. I include a portrait of Marsha in the book that is about as detailed as my portrait of anyone else from the point of biographical background, giving her the honor of concluding one of the book's most important chapters, â┚¬Å”On the Street.â┚¬Â (I say it is one of the book's most important chapters because perhaps the book's single most important conclusion is that the revolt was led by street people, mainly homeless youths, which last category Marsha Johnson does not exactly fit in, but, as she was very much of the street, I put her in that chapter as the chapter's apogee, so to speak, even though her role was almost certainly lesser than the truly homeless younger street youth taken in their entirety.

Moreover, Marsha had died before I wrote the book, so I could not interview her. I did find an interview with her, but you no doubt know that she was extremely mentally ill and could not hold a coherent conversation, and the one interview I did manage to find with her shed no light on Stonewall nor on her role in the Uprising.

Still, I examined all the other evidence about Marsha I could find and concluded that there was no doubt that she was one of the very first to escalate the resistance to the raid beyond words and passive action (such as the crowd not dispersing), that is, she was definitely one of the first to use physical force. It was totally unpredictable in the years afterward when she would say something about Stonewall, and of the few quotes I have like that, some came from Doric, and one concerned the famous (or infamous) incident of Sylvia Rivera seizing the microphone at the rally that was held as part of the June 1973 Stonewall march (now almost universally called â┚¬Å”Gay Prideâ┚¬Â). Afterwards Doric told Marsha that he did not understand what Sylvia was so upset about and Marsha agreed, saying that Sylvia had not been at Stonewall. (That Marsha knew Sylvia Rivera was not at Stonewall on the first night is also supported by Marsha's having remarked to Randy Wicker that after the first night of rioting she was so excited that when later that night she came upon Sylvia asleep on a bench in Bryant Park in midtown that she woke her up to tell her about what had happened at Stonewall.) So that is about all my own original research can add to Marsha Johnson's story about Stonewall directly from her own testimony.

How did the film version come about?
WGBH got in contact with me and said that they wanted to make a film for their American Experience series about Stonewall and that they wanted me to act as the film's consultant because of the book that I had written.

What did your job as a consultant on the film entail?
It covered the waterfront, but I think my greatest contribution as the film's consultant was in steering the director and producer of the film to the right persons to interview. They had no familiarity with the history of the Stonewall Riots, and Stonewall is a very sticky wicket: there is so much controversy about who was there on the first night. Because I had interviewed people so thoroughly and compiled so much information about the event, I knew which witnesses were reliable and which were not. They also wanted people who would be good for filmed interviews, and having interviewed these people extensively, I also knew who would come across well on-screen and who would not. So I gave them a list of people and we whittled it down based on their other particular needs and concerns.

I also sat in on the interviews and sometimes asked questions of the persons being interviewed or suggested questions to the filmmakers.

I think my next most important contribution was in screening the film as it was assembled and giving feedback to the filmmakers. For example, the earlier versions had a lot about the overall social and political situation of gay people in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s and did not get to Stonewall until very late in the film. I was constantly urging that the amount of that background material be decreased and that more time be spent about the specifics of the Stonewall Inn and the gay rights movement in New York City. I must have contributed about 15-20 very detailed pages of notes, if not more, in total, and, luckily, the filmmakers and WGBH agreed with most of the changes I suggested.

Do you have a favorite moment in the film?
Yes. When the story is told about the first Stonewall commemorative march it is very moving. I also liked very much the way dancing at the Stonewall Inn was portrayed: it was very well done with both the sexiness and the sweetness and the romance coming through.

Is there anything from your book that you wish had been included in the film?
Yes: the last third of the book! The last third of the book is about the emergence of the phase of the LGBT civil rights movement that is called the gay liberation movement, and that is the only reason Stonewall is significant. The filmmakers agreed with me and also lobbied WGBH, but WGBH said that their formula for an American Experience film is that it should be about and only about a specific event. While I can understand that approach, I would still have advised making an exception in this case because almost no American you would stop on the street today could tell you about the history of the gay liberation phase of the movement and what it means: it's as if you were showing a film in a place that knew nothing about the French Revolution and the film you showed was about the fall of the Bastilleâ┚¬Â¦and the film ended with the mob taking over the Bastille and liberating its small number of prisoners, there was nothing about the French Revolution, but then the film jumped to footage of July 14 celebrations in modern France: one might wonder why a prison being taken over by a populace was celebrated nationwide 200 years later. So I wish it had been possible to have included even 10 or 15 minutes of that history.

Director Kate Davis feels strongly that Stonewall should be something students are reading about in school. What are your thoughts?
Oh, I have been saying this for years. The history of the LGBT civil rights movement is not taken seriously as civil rights history nor as American history, and of course it is both. But again, the Stonewall Rebellion needs to be taught in context: it is meaningless if it leaves out the gay liberation movement that came out of Stonewall.

As I watched the documentary, I kept thinking we need something like Stonewall again. Your title points out that the Stonewall Riots started the gay revolution, what do you think about our pace since that night in 1969?
On the one hand, it is has been breathtaking with marriage being legal in some states long before I would have thought that achievable. On the other hand, we don't yet have a single federal law protecting us from discrimination, much to Congress's everlasting shame. Incidentally, I think that when Congress finally passes one piece of federal civil rights protection for us our history will begin to be taken seriously by the mainstream.

You’re currently working on a book about Dr. Frank Kameny. Could you tell us a little about him and how that project is going?
Kameny is truly a giant of the movement and he was the main militant in the movement before Stonewall. What really happened is that Kameny throughout the sixties was being listened to more and more, but not only was the movement gripped by the mentality that we were criminals and we were mentally ill, and Frank and others had to fight very hard to overcome that, but the movement was microscopic in size. My perspective is that when Stonewall precipitated the gay liberation movement, the movement then caught up with Frank. In his very first thing he wrote, back in early 1961, his brief to the Supreme Court, he took a totally unapologetic stance: homosexuality was not only not inferior to heterosexuality, it was its equal, and prejudice against gay people was no different from prejudice based on race or religion, and the government should if anything be involved in stamping out such prejudice, not in fostering it. I've been interviewing Frank for years now and have a great wealth of material from him, and now I want to start interviewing other people. It's a book that I am very excited about, and I think it will add a lot of new information to the literature and change perspectives: I know researching it has changed my perspective.

WMFE sale pending to Daystar Television

By : AlejandPate
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Central Florida's airwaves are about to get a little more anti-gay. WMFE has announced that it is selling its public TV station to religious broadcaster, Daystar Television.

Orlando filmmaker and LGBT activist Vicki Nantz said the sale announcement set off alarm bells.

â┚¬Å”I think that's why Daystar Television has formed a new non-profit organization called Community Educators of Orlando,â┚¬Â she said.

Nantz said Steven Strange, publisher of the anti-gay magazine Charisma, and his son sit on the board of trustees. The new non-profit is listed as the buyer but Nantz said they're run by Daystar.

â┚¬Å”Public Television and WMFE have historically provided a place for LGBT-affirming TV programs which have educated our country and advanced the fight for equality,â┚¬Â Nantz said. â┚¬Å”To think that PBS will no longer have a home in the nation's 19th largest TV market and will instead be another religious channel broadcasting bigotry and hate via the Daystar Network is a warning bell for everyone, especially those in the LGBT community.â┚¬Â

She said it's â┚¬Å”like giving voice to these bigotsâ┚¬Â and is encouraging all members of the community to contact the FCC to protest the sale.

â┚¬Å”Even if you never watch it, it's another tool of anti-gay bigotry that is in our hometown,â┚¬Â Nantz said.

The FCC commissioners' email addresses can be found at Nantz said the FCC has 90 days to decide whether to grant the license.