Friday, June 25, 2010

The Man and Woman Behind "Stonewall Uprising": An Interview with Filmmakers Kate Davis & David Heilbroner

(Photo: "Stonewall Uprising" Directors David Heilbroner and Kate Davis with Jed Ryan)

The Man and Woman Behind "Stonewall Uprising": An Interview with Filmmakers Kate Davis & David Heilbroner

     Arriving in theaters just in time for the 41st Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots is the new documentary “Stonewall Uprising”, directed by Kate Davis and David Heilbroner.  If you think you already know all there is to know about that hot, heady, and historical night in Manhattan's Greenwich Village back in 1969, think again.  This lively, fascinating film goes further than any other movie ever made about the event-- widely believed to have launched the modern gay and lesbian liberation movement as we know it.  Based in part upon David Carter's book "Stonewall: The Riots that Sparked the Gay Revolution", this fascinating movie blends archival video and photos of '60's-era New York City with eye-opening new interviews, mostly conversations with many men and women who were actually at The Riots.  Davis and Heilbroner strived for optimal historical accuracy.  Even so, they admit that if you ask ten different people what happned that night, you still may get ten (or more!) different answers.  As Heilbroner tells me, "People want to own history. They DO own it! This is a story that people get passionate about, for good reasons. But they also have to accept that THEIR Holy Grail is a maybe a little bit different from MY Holy Grail! … but basically, it’s the same Holy Grail!” Kate Davis & David Heilbroner, partners in life as well as in movie-making, spoke with Jed Ryan on The Press Day for “Stonewall Uprising”… which took place, appropriately enough, at The Stonewall Inn.

JR: Thanks for meeting with me!  So, as established independent filmmakers, what was the biggest challenge in making this particular movie?
KD: One of the biggest challenges was bringing the Riots to life. The homophobia at the time seems to have affected the choice of ABC, CBS, and NBC not to cover days of major clashes with the police, whereas those same people would go up to cover the Harlem riots with no problem. So, I sense that they just didn’t want they just didn’t want a gay rights issue on the news. There’s very little footage. Fortunately, there was a wonderful photographer who took some great snapshots… but overall we didn’t have that much to work with. That was the biggest challenge of making the film. So, what we did was use riot footage from the time, and we tried to keep it very true to the telling of the story-- with the practical police force, and the fire department, and so forth. So, the film still has a “You are there” quality. We integrated actual riot footage with a small amount of recreation on our own: the kids in the street, the Village…
DH: It’s daunting: The one thing you want to put on the screen, the dramatic apex of your story… and all you have are seven still photographs which aren’t even that exciting! A couple of them are great, though. So, we felt really intimated at the beginning of the project, but as it came together it got more and more exciting. By the end, I think we succeeded.
KD: And, nobody at all seemed to question the footage. It’s extremely lively and gritty. Sifting through the footage of the Village was so much fun. It was wonderful to unearth these gems of some places that are still around that look almost the same; you have to “cut around” all the Starbucks!
JR: That’s true! Now, “Stonewall Uprising” was based on the book by David Carter. Was there any deviation from the book?.
DH: We used the book as a way to break into the story, through someone who had spent ten years sifting through interview after interview after interview. We didn’t just want to take the book and just slavishly adhere to it. That’s really not artistic collaboration; that’s just doing a PR piece for the book, if you will. So, we worked with David Carter, the author, to identify people we thought would be the best voices for the film. Once we got them, we went with what they told as at the time. David was aware that sometimes what they said wasn’t exactly what they told him! That’s the nature of human recollection; that’s the nature of history. So, we went with what we were told and what we could find, and also we put a lot of backstory and social context into the film. One of the things that makes the film a feature film, as opposed to just a nice recounting of the riots, is that it really tries to take you back in time to what it was like to be gay in America in the 1960’s-- which was not so great! The images of Mike Wallace hosting “The Homosexuals”, and the psychiatrists, and the public service announcements warning you that ”Ralph is a homosexual. He’s mentally ill!” really amplify the forces that made the Riots happen. The book was a way to get into telling the story accurately, but that was only the start.
KD: We just went with the strong storytelling of the patrons: The Stonewall kids, now in their sixties. We were desperate to understand the lives affected by homophobia, and how closeted people were. The pain and the depression became a part of their lives. So, all of these personal stories about growing up in the ’50’s have nothing to do with the book.
JR: The extreme prejudice and downright hatred of homosexuals at that time is astonishing to watch, and it’s all caught on vintage video.
DH: It was appalling. We have a teenage son, and we showed the film to him and a couple of kids his age. They were like, “You gotta be kidding!”  We really want people to walk away from the film with a sense of inspiration. These street kids with nothing to lose, and nowhere to go, had the courage to stand up to the police and fight for their rights. Without them, all the well-meaning and well-mannered Mattachine Society members in 1969 wouldn’t have gone half as far. I sort of like that fire-breathing attitude that I miss at this moment. It’s funny… When we went to get archival footage of riots in New York City, in the 1960’s, at night, there was no problem finding lots of material. Try finding a riot in the last 20 years. It’s a different era!
JR: We don’t take it to the streets nowadays. We send e-mail petitions instead! Now, one of the elements of the Stonewall Riots that some viewers may feel was left out was the issue of Judy Garland‘s death that day. That seems to be a part of both Judy Garland and Stonewall lore to this very day.
DH: Oh yeah! (Laughs) You know, the best person to get a quote from about that is Danny Garvin (one of the Stonewall veterans whose story is featured in the movie). Danny will tell you that day Judy Garland was buried, the Stonewall kids were 20 years old and dancing to The Doors and Janis Joplin and Stevie Wonder. Judy Garland was on their minds, but it would be like 20-year olds today rioting over Barbra Streisand (Jed laughs.). Yeah, they knew it, but it wouldn’t have caused a riot. There was a sadness in the air. It was as important as the full moon. We did mention the full moon and maybe we should have mentioned Judy Garland, but everyone I know who was there will tell you that it was the last thing on their minds. They were just mad about the cops busting them. They were busted and harassed one too many times, and all of a sudden they got together and said, “Screw you, cops. We’re not gonna take it anymore.” Judy Garland wasn’t really what was going on! It has a lovely resonance to it, and there’s poetry to it. It did happen. That day was a very bad day. But talk to the people who actually rioted. You can’t make a case. If you could, we would have put it in. We had a big discussion about Judy Garland. Needless to say, it wasn’t brushed over.
JR: Some people are still protective of her spirit, it seems!
DH: And, I understand. There‘s that “Holy Grail“ feeling again!
JR: The story of the Stonewall Riots has been told in various incarnations a few times before in film. What sets “Stonewall Uprising” apart from the previous cinematic endeavors?
DH: A couple of things. The story really hasn’t been told in feature length. There were John Scagliotti’s films “Before Stonewall” and “After Stonewall”, but they don’t really go into what happened at all…
JR: I have to say that one of the best things about the “Stonewall Uprising” was the historical context, and the backstory leading up to the Riots…
DH: We devote a good 20 or 30 minutes in the film to recreate the period that the Riots took place, so that you can “feel” it. Otherwise, you just don‘t get it. You have to see it, and also “feel the pain“. Then, you can understand it. The Riots were this huge cathartic release. The story really hasn’t been told in any kind of detail, and certainly not in the mainstream. This film is opening up in 30 cities so far nationwide, and may show in 50 or 60 before it‘s done. For a documentary, that’s a big deal. It’s getting a lot of press, and it’s going to play around the world eventually. We had the resources to really shoot it beautifully; to license all this archival footage pretty cheaply (Archival footage is expensive!); and then to edit, and re-edit, and re-edit; and to hire a wonderful composer, Gary Lionelli to score. His score is really powerful. Then, taking it to PostWorks to get it color-corrected: getting the re-creation footage to match the archival footage accurately. We were really, really lucky!
JR: And so is the audience! Now, one last question: Where does your and Kate’s affinity for the GLBT community come from?
DH: Someone earlier asked us if we were members of the gay community. We’re house guests! (Both laugh.) Kate has been very gay-friendly since high school. She took a girl to the prom and wore a tuxedo, back in Boston in 1972...
JR: I love her already!
DH: Yeah, me too! (Both laugh) With Kate, there’s just an art to it. We’re both just of the “child of the ‘60’s” mindset. We don’t look at identity: short or tall, or black or white, or gay or straight. To me, it’s just about being a human being, and I think that somehow this subject has just always been… you know, it‘s hard to say why! It’s the same reason we’re documentary filmmakers; I can’t really give you an answer! But what I can say is that we’re really proud of the film.

"Stonewall Uprising" is now playing through June 29th, at The Film Forum, W. Houston St. (west of 6th Ave.), in NYC. Visit for more info and showtimes.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

MASTER LUCAS IS WAITING FOR YOU! This Pride Weekend, Go Beyond Vanilla at "Sinner-G"!...

Photo 1& 5: Master Lucas
Photo 4: Master Lucas & Jed Ryan

This Pride Weekend, Go Beyond Vanilla at "Sinner-G"!...

     You may have seen him perform live at The NYC Eagle or at Folsom Street East, or perhaps at the exclusive DFP Parties.  On Saturday, June 26, top dom Master Lucas plans to once again take The Naked City by the balls-- in a big way!  As one of the busiest men in New York City's BDSM community, the self-described "one man show" will be hosting The Gates of Hell Event "Sinner-G", the Official Kick-Off Kink Party of Gay Pride NYC 2010.  Master Lucas will  be creating his own fantasy world at New York City's BDSM playground Paddles for a night which promises that you'll get your kink on, whether you're a newbie or a serious player.  The exclusive men's event (for gay, bi, and curious str8 guys) will feature the exclusive go-go men of NYC's Rawhide bar, special guest XXX film stars, demented gender-bending acts, live demos, and many more surprises that promise to unleash a Pandora's box of hidden desires, fantasies, and fetishes-- all in a 4,000 square foot dungeon space.   As Creator of the "Sinner-G" party, Master Lucas and I met (in broad daylight!) to speak about his mission to make New York City as fun as it used to be... as well as what he's got in store for those of us who pass through his exclusive Gates of Hell on June 26th.  When Master Lucas speaks, you WILL listen!

JR:  Hello Master Lucas.  Thanks for meeting me!  So, without giving too much away, what surprises can we expect at upcoming Gates of Hell "Sinner-G" Party?
ML:  There are the personal demonstrations that I'll be doing.  That's when I pretty much break out all my box of tricks, especially for this event.  We'll be bringing together a lot of demonstrations, and also some interesting drag queen performances that are going to be nothing short of demented, strange, crazy, bizarre... kind of sick, but they'll add some nice visuals and some cool entertainment for the night.  There are also are going to be a couple of Special Guest porn stars.  So, it's going to be interesting!

JR: Yeah!  Now, there are a lot of events going on that weekend.  What do you want to tell people to steer them to come to THIS party?
ML: For one, it's like nothing else!  Yes, we have the exclusive go-go men of Rawhide, but there are going to be go-go boys all over the city.  Is that the reason you want to come?  No!  That's purely for visual enhancement in the background.  I think that if there's just the slightest bit of a dark side in someone, or the slightest little bit of a desire to explore their inner kink, then this is the only fetish and kink event that I know of that's going on this weekend.  I think that people just want to do something different this Gay Pride, and it's going to be like nothing else going on!  I feel like it's going to be the "same old, same old" everywhere else.  So, do something different this year-- and come see some kinky, cool hot stuff!  This is the first all-male kink event, and we're moving forward.  It's going to be a monthly event: the fourth Saturday of every month.

JR: Sounds hot!  So, a few people have observed that New York City is not as exciting as it used to be-- less sex-themes businesses, less nightlife venues to explore your sexuality, etc... As an expert in the "after midnight" world, where does New York City stand now?
ML: It's pathetic.  It's sad.  I guess things could always get worse, but I don't know how much worse at this point.  Between Giuliani and Bloomberg, they've essentially turned this city into the quintessential Disneyland.  Personally, I miss driving through the Meatpacking District and seeing some seven-foot tall female prostitute open her raincoat, with a nine-inch dick hanging out and a big set of tits.  I miss that!  I mean, that was New York City!  You just don't see that anymore.  There are no street hustlers.  There's nothing.  I just like seeing those things, because that's the sleaze of New York.  That's part what makes the city the city.  I mean, it's not for everyone; but all of this Disneyland shit is not for everyone either.  Recently I heard something about how they were targeting that bookstore on Christopher Street and The West Side Highway. They're sending cops in to see who's sucking who off at a bookstore!  They shut them down!  I mean, come on now.  Have we nothing better do do than to find out who's sucking who off through a glory hole?  
JR:  I know... It makes you think, Are we in 1968 again?
ML: You've gotta have something better to do with your time, and allocate taxpayers' money better than to find out who's blowing who.
JR: Yeah, and it's also entrapment, which really burns me up.
ML: That was the issue that everyone had a problem with, because it was all entrapment.  I get it.  I totally get it.  If there's something going on and it turns into public outcry, and the neighbors call and say, "Those freaky faggots are down the alley and they're blowing each other again, and my son is looking out his bedroom window!"... then I get that.  But this bookstore was in an area on the West Side Highway.... I mean, nobody called up and complained.  They just had nothing better to do with their time, and they went in and targeted it.  These underground sex clubs that were down underneath the ground-- The Bijou, El Mirage, all the other ones that aren't around anymore... There was no reason to fuck with those places, other than that they could and they have nothing better to do.  So, I find it really sad.   
JR: I agree.  Now, it's been speculated that a lot of younger men and women are re-discovering BDSM.  Do you think there's going to be something of a renaissance of the lifestyle?
ML: It's happening already!  For example, the The Eulenspiegel Society or TES, as most people know them, is one of the oldest BDSM organizations in the country, or at least the oldest in New York City.  They've started a  subgroup of TES called TNG-- The Next Generation.  This is a group of 18- to 35-year olds.  There are approximately 500 members in their group, which is incredible.  A lot of the younger generation are 18 to 24, and it's a pansexual group.  You can be gay, straight, bi... however you identify.  It's nice to see something like that start up.  They only started it about two years ago, and to get that kind of a membership so quickly, it shows that there was a definite need in the community for younger people to get together, congregate, and talk about their kinkiness.  So, there's no doubt in my mind that that's what's happening right now.  The nice thing about Paddles, and the reason we are going to stay there at the moment, is that it is 18 and up.  I think that for most 18-year old men, perhaps you lose your virginity at age 13, 14, 15, 16... but it's all very playful sexuality.  When you're 18, you're ready to kind of get up and go into "stallion mode"... and that's when you're ready to explore different things.  So, it's a good age to really give those people a venue and a place to come and play, and get in touch with whatever it is that's going through their minds when they close their eyes at night!
JR: Yes!  I've always believed that all of us need venues to explore our fantasies and sexuality in a safe, sane, and consensual way.  Now, what advice would you have for anyone who is just starting out, and wants to get on that pathway to explore the kinky side of their sexuality?
ML: Come to the Gates of Hell events!
JR: (Laughs) Good answer!  And, what advice would you give to anyone who is going there for the first time?
ML: There's a list of rules and regulations when you first come in.  We post Dungeon Etiquette rules all over the club.  It's important  to read these things.  Certain things are expected of onlookers, and for those that are serious players. We get more voyeurs. Our events are a voyeur's paradise, because you can just come and watch. No one is going to try to push themselves on you, and no one is going to try to get you to do anything.  If you hook up and connect with someone, and there's a negotiation process where you talk ("What do you have in mind?", " I'm willing to do this, I'm not willing to do that."), then it's a very comfortable, relaxed atmosphere.  It's not what people think.  We're billing it more now as a fetish fantasy event than an S&M party.  It's a place where you can come and see some really cool, kinky stuff... but  you're not gonna be overwhelmed by these macho, tough S&M daddies trying to lure you down a back alley and do bad things to your face.  It's a place where you feel comfortable, it's a relaxed atmosphere, but there's really hot stuff going on.  You get the opportunity to see, and learn, and feel out.  You can go in one room and if you see something you don't like, you walk to the next room.  You just keep checking out different scenes.  Kinky folk are very, very  friendly-- and are more than happy to explain to you why it is they do what they do.  You can go up to a bottom after a scene and ask, "So how did that feel?" and "Why did you want to do that?", and they'll explain it to you.   Obviously, when you're talking about S&M and pain: Pain is often used as a vehicle towards pleasure.  It has to do with endorphins and dopamine.  The reality is that the human body manufactures the most powerful opiate known to man.  It's stronger than any heroin that you can do.  You do have a lot of people in recovery in the scene because they're able to get these natural highs through the releasing of these dopamines and endorphins.  It's an amazing thing. It's incredible.  The power exchange is also something fascinating to watch.  Watching someone who is truly submissive interact with someone who is truly dominant can be so beautiful to see, on so many different levels.   Too many people just have this misconception that it's all about "Let's just go out and beat the shit out of each other!", and it's just not the case.  There is so much more involved, there's so much more emotion behind it, there's so much more passion behind it, there's so much more love behind it...  And that's what people don't just get.
JR: Yeah!  People have so many silly misconceptions. I was guilty of this too in the beginning.  When I heard terms like "top" and "bottom" in regard to BDSM terminology, I just assumed it was all about fucking!  There's much more than that!
ML: So much more!
JR: How do you feel about people who may wear leather or S&M gear, but don't really know anything about the lifestyle?  For example: You look the part, but don't know about the history or proper terminology.
ML: I don't think it matters.  If you feel sexy or kinky wearing leather, then wear leather!  Be you!  If you want to wear leather, you don't have to be knowledgeable about the leather scene.  Bikers wear leather, and they're not necessarily S&M artists.  They're bikers!  They feel good in leather.  For me personally, it's not so much about the leather as it is about the mindset.   If someone looks at you and their whole focus is, "This guy over here, man, he's not really wearing the wristband right!", who is fuck is he to judge? Look at The New York City Eagle.  You go over there, and not everybody is dressed in leather.  And this is where we are kind of segueing our event.  I think at some point, this event is for kinky people and their admirers.  Some people could never be kinky, but they definitely like to watch it or see it.  Some guys like the demonstrations I do, and come up to the bottom and say, "I have no idea how you got through that. I could never do that, but it sure was hot to watch!"  So, there are people that are actually into it, and there are people who just admire the scene.  Voyeurism is huge.  As an exhibitionist, I like to complete a fantasy for people.  When we used to do live demonstrations at The Eagle on Thursday nights on the roof deck, the compliments we got were amazing.  We were very grateful to receive them.  The people really appreciated watching the dynamic between myself and Boy Billy.  It turns people on, it gets people excited.  I'm a very visual guy.  I miss the days of Webster Hall with the giraffe walking through the dance floor!
JR: ... and the dancers in cages!
ML: Yeah!  Visuals are cool.  It gives us inspiration, and gives us a wave to ride while we're doing what we do!  
JR:  Master Lucas, is there anything else you'd like to tell the masses out there, except that they need to come to the Party on Saturday, June 26?
ML: You don't NEED to come.  You SHOULD come!  It will help open your mind.  All that people "need to do" is be born and die.  If people are just tired of boring New York, and doing the same old thing every Gay Pride Weekend, then make an appearance and come check this place out.  We are currently working our asses of to put on a Hell of a show that night.  It's just a different experience; I can't compare it to anything!
       This Gay Pride Weekend, Come to the Darkside! The "Sinner-G" Party is  sponsored bt, Rawhide NYC, Deatails Toys, and many others.   

"Sinner-G", a Gates of Hell Event
at Paddles
250 W. 26th St.
Saturday, June 26th 10PM-3AM
$40 at door

Friday, June 18, 2010

VIOLET TENDENCIES: A "Fag Hag" Goes on a Manhunt! Movie Review

Photo 1: Mindy Cohn as "Violet"
Photo 2: Jesse Archer ("Luke") and Darian ("Adrian Armas")
Photo 3: Jesse Archer ("Luke"), Samuel Whitten ("Riley"), & Casper Andreas ("Markus")
Photo 4: Casper Andreas ("Markus"), Samuel Whitten ("Riley"),Shari Albert ("Ashley"), Jesse Archer ("Luke"), Mindy Cohn ("Violet"), Adrian Armas ("Darian"), Randy Jones ("Buck Winston"), & Marcus Patrick ("Zeus") on top.  

A "Fag Hag" Goes on a Manhunt!

     Meet Violet (Mindy Cohn), the titular character of Casper Andreas' new film "Violet Tendencies".  Our saucy heroine is constantly surrounded by handsome, horny, and fun guys.  Lucky her, right?  The catch is, they're all gay!  The beginning of the movie finds Audrey (Margaret R.R. Echeverria), one of New York City's most popular "fag hags", getting married at a rooftop party in Manhattan.  The gay hookup site Manhunt is sponsoring the reception, and many stars of NYC nightlife (Hedda Lettuce, Petey the Pig, Mike Diamond) are in attendance.  Violet soon finds herself inheriting the crown as the new "queen mother" for a group of close-knit queens.  She loves her gays, and they love her back for her feistiness and her dirty sense of humor.  Unfortunately, when the party's over, Violet finds herself home alone, nursing her loneliness with a pink dildo and a jar of peanut butter.  "I deserve someone to love me AND my pussy!" declares Violet, paraphrasing her predecessor Audrey.   She attempts a series of blind dates through a website called Frisky Friends, which only lead to some humiliating encounters and more disappointment.  In contrast, Violet's highly sexual roommate Luke (Jesse Archer) is getting a lot of action.  Maybe a little too much.  His lover Darian (Adrian Armas), a successful hairdresser, is ready to give monogamy a try and is fed up with Luke's bed-hopping ways.   Meanwhile, another couple, Markus (Casper Andreas) and Riley (Samuel Whitten), are having some relationship issues of their own.  Markus has bitten by the parenting bug and wants to be a daddy, even secretly opening up a makeshift nursery in their apartment for extra cash.  Riley, however, is not quite ready to nest, and even has some issues with traditionally hetero terminology like "husband".  While the men in "Violet Tendencies" deal with the challenges of their life in the gay world, Violet finally meets a nice but bland guy named Vern (Armand Anthony) who seems to be Mr. Right.  She soon finds out, however, that he may be just as narrow as he is straight-- and not very compatible with Violet's wild ways.  Plus, our fruit fly misses her gays.  What's a fag hag to do?

     As you may have deferred by now, "Violet Tendencies" is actually three intertwined stories, all set in the pink bubble of Manhattan's gay community (The references to "Next" Magazine is a very New York City thing!).  The movie was written by actor Jesse Archer and based on the real life experiences of actress Margaret R.R. Eccheveria, a self-proclaimed fag hag herself.  As Violet, Cohn plays a wise-cracking chubby gal who's not afraid to poke some fun at herself ("I have an ample bosom.  My whole body's kind of ample!").  In other words, she plays a 40-year old version of her character Natalie from "The Facts of Life".  The audience can't help but root for her: We want to see our beloved TV icon get laid.  Of course, the filmmaker has much more liberty than he would in an '80's sitcom, and movie-goers will either be shocked or delighted (or both) to hear Cohn talk about her "fupa" ("fat upper pussy area") and to engage in a daring sex scene (Really!).  Cohn is as funny as we remember her: One hilarious scene has Violet coming home to find that Luke has thrown a sex party at their apartment... with some, shall we say, "post-party residual" all over her sheets (Be prepared to find out what "biss" is...).  Archer has some equally funny bits, like when his character Luke calls up who he thinks is Darian and makes a drunken sex confessional.  (FYI: It's NOT Darian!) Director Casper Andreas appears in front of the camera in a sweetly sympathetic role as the baby-minded  Markus.  Marcus Patrick ("All My Children, "Days of Our Lives") is well-cast as a buffed, well-endowed  HIV+ go-go boy named Zeus who's harboring a unique secret.  Cameo appearances include Village Voice columnist Michael Musto, Village People cowboy Randy Jones, comedian/actress Robbyne Kaamil, drag star Lady Clover Honey, and others.

      "Violet Tendencies" is a romantic comedy which touches upon some serious subjects (gay parenting, HIV, relationship issues), but doesn't get too deep about them.  Some reviewers may subsequently criticize the movie as being just a fairy tale, right down to the somewhat fantastical happy ending.  But with Mindy Cohn playing Cinderella, who's complaining?

      "Violet Tendencies" is coming to a theater near you.  Check out for more info!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

OUT AT THE MOVIES: An Interview With Filmmaker Patrick McGuinn

Pics 1-3: Three views of Patrick McGuinn
Pics 4-5: Scenes from "Sun Kissed"
Pics 6-7: Scenes from "Eulogy for a Vampire"

An Interview With Filmmaker Patrick McGuinn

     Prolific musician and filmmaker Patrick McGuinn truly does things his own way. Born in Los Angeles, McGuinn began making Super 8 millimeter films at age nine.   A graduate of NYU Tisch School of the Arts, the 43-year old now calls New York City his home.  McGuinn has directed fourteen films, both shorts and feature-length movies.  He produced almost all of them independently.  Two of his films, the 2006 metaphysical gay romantic drama "Sun Kissed" (now available on DVD) and the 2009 homoerotic horror "Eulogy for a Vampire" (available on DVD later this year), enjoyed much-publicized theatrical releases.  Like many filmmakers, McGuinn has dealt with negative reviews of some of his flicks; one mean-spirited critic of "Eulogy for a Vampire" wrote, "Someone really needs to take away Patrick McGuinn's camera equipment."  McGuinn dismisses the criticism with a hearty laugh.   He is quick to declare that he makes movies simply because he loves making movies, not for the sake of pleasing the critics.   Patrick McGuinn and I met in New York City's West Village to speak about his latest cinematic endeavors, as well as the challenges of being a bona fide "DIY" artist:

JR: Hello, Patrick.  Thanks for meeting me!
PM: It's always a pleasure, Jed!
JR: So, recently you completed the script for a movie called... "Boobs", right?
PM: Yes, I completed it back in 2004 along with another script called "Ten Minutes to Creepy", and of course "Sun Kissed".  Back in 2004 I went into production on "Sun Kissed", and the other two scripts have kind of been waiting to blossom.  "Boobs" was slated to become my next project.  However, a friend read the script and loved it so much that he asked if he could option it from me, and produce and direct it himself.   So, I'm in the process of negotiating that with him, and he's in the process of raising money to produce it.  He's re-titled it-- for fundraising purposes, I believe-- because I think it's hard for him to look investors in the eye and say, "I'm making a film called 'Boobs'."!  (Both laugh) He has re-titled it "Corporate Cougars" in the meantime... which I think might date very quickly, but if he produces the cash, then it's sort of up to him.  So, in the meantime I have actually been exercising my muscles with some short films and some exercises with film stock tests with cameras, etc... and it's been very interesting.  I've enjoyed it very much.  It's inspired me to want to make something very... I'll call it "lo-fi", you know-- just something very intimate and low to the ground.  I'm hoping that will allow it to become a project that will happen a lot quicker and faster than a big, lumbering feature.
JR: Wow!  So, just to clarify, "Boobs" had no relation to the musical that was running a while back with Gennifer Flowers, right?
PM: No!  In fact, there's a documentary that was released this past year also called "Boobs".  Tom Arnold was one of the interviewees.  They were interviewing a bunch of different men and women about their attitude toward breasts and boobs or whatever...  
JR: If Tom Arnold was in it, it should have been called "Man Boobs".
PM: (Laughs) I know, I know... Anyway, I am definitely interested in producing a new film.  I want it to be a very small cast and small crew, and I want to shoot it on 16 millimeter, in the country... kind of a bucolic setting.  So, that is something that's kind of slated to happen if all goes well with the beginnings of the script that I'm working on.  It's thrilling and it's also a bit of a challenge, and like I said, I want to keep it low to the ground so that's it not a huge lumbering project.
JR: That's great news.  Now, I know that "Eulogy for a Vampire" is also scheduled for DVD release.  
PM: Yes.  That's come out on DVD in France, and it was re-titled "Mon Vampire".  The sales are going well.  I believe it's going to be reviewed by a couple of British publications, so I'm curious about that.  "Eulogy" will also be out on DVD in America just before Halloween 2010.  It will be on Netflix as an HD streaming, or of course people can buy copies of it on DVD... but there are fewer and fewer outlets in America anymore to buy DVD's except through, of course. The Virgin Megastore is gone.  I don't think my film is the kind of film that's gonna be in Walmart! (Laughs)
JR: (Laughs)Congratulations about that!
PM: Yeah, but that's where most people buy DVD's now.  They buy two DVD's for $5 from Walmart.
JR: I admit, I'm a Netflix kind of guy.  If I can't see it in the theater when it first comes out, then my next option is the DVD from Netflix.  
PM: I've seen the HD streaming of "Eulogy for a Vampire", and it looks fantastic.  It looks just as good as getting a Blu-Ray, as far as I'm concerned.   It just looks great.  And, as long as you're a member, it's free.
JR: Now, I have to ask: How did you react to the bad reviews of the movie?
PM: Of "Eulogy"?
JR: Well, one reviewer was reviewing "Eulogy" but he even took a swipe at "Sun Kissed" too in the review.  Now, I
was at the premiere of "Eulogy", and the people in the audience liked it... but the reviewers were exceptionally harsh.

PM: Yeah.  One reviewer in particular who writes for the New York Times is very critical, but he also makes personal attacks-- which is interesting to me.  It doesn't bother me.  Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but it is fascinating how people respond to certain things.  I enjoy the films I make.  I make them because I enjoy making them, and I enjoy watching them.  For someone not to like it and to feel so strongly against it just tells me that they are probably the kind of person  that I wouldn't get along with in other aspects of life.  So, I guess that he just happens to review for The New York Times and that he happens just not to like it. (Laughs)  I'm always disappointed when somebody doesn't like my film.  I always feel that they didn't quite "get it", and that there was a missed opportunity for them to have fun or enjoy something.  That's my attitude when people don't understand what I do.  Again, everyone is entitled to their own opinion.  I think I make films that are pretty quirky, and not easily understood by a lot of people.  I'm able to do it because I keep the budgets down. They really are films that I enjoy.   If I didn't enjoy them, there wouldn't be anybody else to make them! (Both laugh)  It seems that there's a lot of conformity with independent films these days, to try to make a hit film, and to try to get stars in your film, and try to make something that everyone's gonna see, like a "Blair Witch Project" or, what's that one...?
JR: "Paranormal Activity"?
PM: Yeah, "Paranormal Activity".
JR: I've seen both those movies, and I know that they really broke the mold when they were made.  But a lot of movies do break the mold.  But the public just happened to pick up on those, and then the movies were perceived as better than they really were.
PM: It's the hype!
JR: Yes, the hype!  So, you're right.  Everyone tries to imitate that formula, not realizing that it's a combination of  atmosphere and timing... and with what's going on in the cinema at the time.  People may have also been sick of all those dumb, big-budget, overstuffed movies.  People try to make lightning strike twice, and that doesn't happen too often!
PM:  I love low-budget filmmaking, and I love watching low budget independent movies.  I've always been intrigued by how somebody works with  limited resources and what they come up with.  I'm honestly excited about how people deal with shortcomings in every aspect of life.  When I see low-budget films, I'm always wondering what I would have done differently, or what do I appreciate that they did in an innovative way?  It's always just some surprise element or discovery that people have when they "take the world by storm", so to speak.  So, I enjoy my place in there, yet I'm not trying to make a "big hit movie". If I did, I would be doing different stories, I guess.
JR: Being an independent filmmaker, what's the hardest thing about getting your film made... especially from someone like you who breaks the mold?
PM: If you have made small films before, I think you get an idea of how difficult it is to make a bigger film.  But, making a film is only fifty percent of the battle. (Laughs) The other fifty percent is getting your film seen; getting exposure for yourself and somehow getting it out in a way that people can see it, whether it's in the theater or on DVD or whatever.  Obviously more and more people choose to stream their film online.  I really think that getting a quality viewership for your film is one of the hardest things.  I mean, making a film-- if you're dedicated and feel passion for your story--  is not as hard as a lot of people think it could be.  Of course, raising money to make your film can be hard, but where there's a will there's a way, and if you really believe in your story enough, then nothing will stop you.  You'll shoot it on the cheapest format possible if you really want to tell your story.  If you have very high standards and you decide to shoot it on film or some kind of film format, and you decide that you're gonna wait and raise the right amount of money to do it that way, and if you believe in it enough, it WILL happen.  I really believe in human will and perseverance and getting through what you need to do to make your film.  So, there are two parts to what's most difficult.  The first is definitely getting the money together to make your film.  The second is getting people to see your film once it's done. Once you have money and you know what constraints you can work with, then making your film isn't that hard if you have people who believe in you, and have some dedication and drive.  Even if you don't have a lot of talent, you can at least get your film made! (Laughs)
JR: Yeah!  So, tell me about the new film you are working on.
PM: I want it to be a dreamlike, bucolic film set in the countryside: very earthy and mysterious, yet at the same time very sexual and intriguing; sort of like a French movie! (Laughs)  Some people don't like French movies, but I love them, so for me that would be fun.  I want to shoot it on 16 millimeter so there's a really beautiful, cinematic look... and I want it to be playfully sexual but also have a dark side and a little bit of conflict that's not completely resolved at the end, necessarily.  I'd also like to make another horror film down the line.  I have a script that I mentioned earlier: "Ten Minutes to Creepy".  It's a zombie film for children.
JR: Oh really?!
PM: It has to do with children whose parents get eaten by zombies, and then they become zombies themselves... So how do they go about their lives?  I won't give away the rest of the plot, but it raises a lot of questions about family life, and asks questions like "Who's your leader?" and "Who do you answer to in your life?" It's kind of a sad film, actually, because they become orphans... but at the same time, it's sort of a comedy as well.  At some point, I'd love to make a werewolf film.  I know that there was recently a big-budget werewolf movie.  But I'd love to do a low-budget exploration of what it means to have this secret side and to deal with the metamorphosis from human to something else.  However, in a movie like "The Hulk", when he transitions from one kind of creature to another, it always traipses around the whole sexual side.  They never explore that.  For instance, his pants always fit, even though he changes his whole height and size.  You never see him naked!  So, that's another aspect about becoming a werewolf, which I actually thought was very well-handled in  "American Werewolf in London".  He wakes up nude a few times in different places.  I thought that was an interesting conundrum: How do you handle this metamorphosis?  So, that's obviously something in the future that I'd love to do someday.    Maybe you could play that role!
JR: Me, a werewolf?! (Laughs)
PM: Yeah!  (Laughs)
JR: I better start growing my chest hair back! (Both laugh) So, Patrick, when you're not making movies, what do you like to do for fun?
PM: I just enjoy watching and observing people.  I like to be in situations where I can observe.  Sometimes it's just a walk in the park or something.  Of course, I love seeing movies, so that's one aspect of observing.  I generally fill my spare time with going to see old films, or new films, or films that are generally sort of quirky.  Last week I saw Harmony Korine's "Trash Humpers".  We live in such a stimulating city.  Just taking a walk downtown, you get a lot of exposure to really interesting people and things.  I also love swimming.  I try to swim every day for about a half hour.  It's a lot of fun and also an opportunity to enjoy some visual stimulation.  You know: swimmers! (Laughs)
JR: Oh, yes!  A guy in a Speedo is always sexy!
PM: We have some interesting characters in our city.  I always wonder about what these people think of themselves.  I think they're interesting and quirky. Do they think they are?  I notice men peeing a lot in the streets these days too.  Like, there are these guys who pee in between parked cars and wherever.  I don't know if it's a downtown thing, but I'm walking home at night and suddenly I'm hearing a trickle or a tinkle, and I look around and someone will be peeing in a corner somewhere.
JR: I admit, I have done that on occasion.  I mean, what are you going to do when there are no public restrooms in this   f***ing town?
PM: I suppose that's what it is... but I have difficulty doing that!
JR: Not me!
PM: It definitely makes things kind of interesting when you realize that there are people just whipping it out to do
something like that on the street, in public, in the shade somewhere... and it's not like I'm trying to find this or see this!
(Laughs)  It just happens to be that wherever I'm walking, I notice that.
JR: The latest trend in New York City...
PM: Public peeing.
JR: Well, that's one of the good things about being a guy, that you can pee in public!
PM: True...!  

     Patrick McGuinn's "Sun Kissed" is now available on DVD. "Eulogy for a Vampire"
is coming to DVD October 2010.



     On the night of Monday, June 14th, "Woof!" was the word!  In JD Leggett's funny, campy, and sexy show "Fursitile" by the Boys of Bearlesque, we meet five burly guys who prove that "bigger is better".  The night of hairy hilarity at New York City's famous Stonewall Inn was introduced by our Mistress of Ceremony, Sparkle.  In a leather and lace outfit (Think of Cher in the "If I Could Turn Back Time" video, minus the butt tattoo...), our lady twirled a rainbow-colored umbrella to the gay anthem "It's Raining Men" by The Weather Girls.  Enter our hirsute cast: Three guys (Jizzy JD, Francois the Feltcher, and Sunshine 69) dressed only in raincoats and towels. (Get a good look.  The costumes don't stay on for very long!) Are these "The Weather Boys"?  A true variety show, "Fursitile" serves up an all-you-can-eat buffet of fun and clever numbers, throwing in everything short of a Lucy and Ethel rip-and-strip fight set to the song "Friendship".  In one number, a dressed-to-the-nines JD puts the "tease" back in "striptease".  Whoa!  Sunshine does a "sandwich dance" (Use your imagination!), climaxing with the funny guy pulling a Twinkie out of his designer undies and throwing snacks into the audience.  As Sparkle declared, the act gave new meaning to the terms "hot mess" and "dinner theater"!   Next up was Francois and JD in a routine that played like a hybrid of "Fight Club", "Dirty Dancing", and softcore gay porn-- set to Buckcherry's "Crazy Bitch".  Despite the presence of cuddly bears, let's just say that this one was not for the kiddies!

      "Fursitile" was created by JD Leggett, Mr. Metrocub NYC 2009 and Mr. International Bear 2010.  The baby-faced performer wrote, choreographed, and directed the show.  The guys of "Bearlesque" may be bigger than your average male exotic dancers, but they can move, shake, jiggle, and perform acrobatics to rival most of the Chippendales.   After an intermission, more hairy hilarity and big talent ensued.  There was an impressive solo dance number by Francois, and you won't need to read the show's program to figure out that this guy's got an extensive background in dance.  In another, JD plays a pizza delivery guy (one of the favorite characters from gay porn) who strips down to his bear skin to Mika's "Big Girl (You Are Beautiful)"-- all to win the attention of a big, beautiful blonde (Sunshine in drag).  Although he can't steal her affections away from her pizza, the audience will love watching him try.  The boys' "bear drag" will make you wonder where they got those fabulously over-sized ladies' clothes.  Did they raid Mo'Nique's closets?  The Special Guest Performer of "Fursitile" was George Hains, reigning Mr. NYC Metrobear and Mr. International Grizzly Bear 2010.  It's an understatement to say that this ursine icon dwarfs all of his co-stars.  He boldly bares (almost) all while stripping to all to the late Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean".  After 27 years, I finally LIKE this song now!

     "Fursitile" is a must for lovers of big , hairy guys... although all audiences will likely fall for these guys' plump and funny charms.  Let's hope the Boys of Bearlesque don't stay in hibernation too long before their next show!  Visit for more info.

Monday, June 14, 2010

"STONEWALL UPRISING" How A Gay Bar Became the House That Roared

How A Gay Bar Became the House That Roared

     Anyone who believes that today's theater and movie audiences have lost their shockability should not give up just yet.  For truly provocative stories and themes, we need look no further than the pageant of American and world history.  In many cases, these real stories are much more affecting than fiction because, well... they're real!  In Kate Davis and David Heilbroner's fascinating new documentary "Stonewall Uprising", the shock and awe experienced by the movie-goer specifically comes in seeing the extreme ignorance and prejudice (and often, downright hatred) that so-called "mainstream America" had toward ten percent of its fellow citizens.  Even more amazingly, the injustices were apparently tolerated by our government, who furnished incredible amounts of energy and resources to persecute the gay community.  And, it wasn't all that long ago.  This movie focuses largely on how this oppressive atmosphere in both New York City, and the nation at large, made a group of fed-up queers and their allies say  "Enough is enough!" on June 28, 1969. 

     Based in part upon David Carter's book "Stonewall: The Riots that Sparked the Gay Revolution", "Stonewall Uprising" blends archival video and photographs of New York City with lively new soundbytes from a variety of men and women.   We get to see grainy yet still fascinating archival footage of drag queens being hauled into a paddy wagon as onlookers watch.  We see an incredible shot of the corner of Christopher and 7th Avenue, featuring the "Village Cigars" shop that still stands today.  As for the interview subjects, the filmmakers include many people who were actually there at the Riots, as well as such notables as "Village Voice" writer Howard Smith and former NYC Mayor Ed Koch.  The most interesting participant is an elderly policeman who was assigned to raid Stonewall that night. To his credit, the officer does not sugar-coat the incident or revise history; he stands by the reasoning  that he was "just doing his job".   The most fascinating aspect of "Stonewall Uprising" is the backstory leading up to that fateful night.   Again, the vintage videos speak volumes on how America chose to view gays: We see propaganda films warning "normal" people about the dangers of predatory gay men.  A clip of the 1967 CBS TV "expose" called "The Homosexuals" is shown, where "experts" declare, in a nutshell, that there was no such thing as a happy or well-adjusted homo.  A particularly disgusting segment involved a menacing-looking detective issuing scary warnings about homosexual behavior ("You WILL be caught!") to children, many of whom clearly were too young to even have any sexual feelings yet.  We learn that since homosexuality was considered an illness at that time, some gay men were sent to mental hospitals, castrated, sterilized, and even lobotomized.  Many were "treated" with aversive conditioning, such as giving electric shock while showing the subject a picture of a nude man.  Other voices in the film speak about the struggles of  being gay at that time.  The idea of "gay pride" or "coming out" was was unheard of.   One of the interviewees is Danny Garvin, who attempted suicide after a dishonorable discharge from the Navy.  Still handsome and affable in 2010, he speaks about how he did not think of himself as gay because to him, being "gay" meant either being very feminine or being an old guy who masturbated in dirty movie theaters. 

     That's where Stonewall, the bar, came in.  New York City's Greenwich Village was a haven for free thinking and creativity in the '60's, but even at it's best, it was as far from "gay" (meaning "happy") as could be. "It was free, but not quite free enough for us", recalls one woman.  As one subject pointed out, at least in New York City you could find homosexuals (AKA "twilight people") and connect with them, if you knew the right places.  Gay bars existed, but they were all hidden, and they were routinely raided.  Queer visibility slowly increased over time.  As it did, however, so did gay-bashing in various forms, from the smashed windows of the famed Oscar Wilde bookstore to outright beatings.  At  its peak, 500 citizens were arrested each year for "crimes against nature".  In addition, people could be arrested for cross-dressing.  Stonewall was the unintentional epicenter of the gay community. The bar was, according to one subject, "a toilet".  He adds, "...but, it was a refuge from the street."   The film proceeds to describe the night in great detail, as well as the aftermath.  Even those who have seen the movies based on the Stonewall phenomenon or who have read the many writings about that night will likely learn a few new things.  Many may not know, for example, that the riots continued for three days after the initial confrontation.  What happened next was steady but s-l-o-w progress: An organized Protest March took place on June 28, 1970.  While 120 people were committed to march, the crowd increased to approximately 2000.  The March became an antecedent to the Annual Gay Pride Parade.  One activist was brought to tears as he reminisced, "That's when we knew we were ourselves for the first time."  

     "Stonewall Uprising" deserves to become a classic; it's both NYC history and GLBT history caught on film.  So many priceless movements make the film as entertaining as it is educational.  There's wonderful vintage footage with a blink-and-you'll-miss-it shot of a drag queen sporting a Barbra Streisand-inspired look.  In the new footage, we meet a charming transgendered woman who remembers celebrating her 18th birthday at Stonewall on that pivotal night.  And yet another lady summarizes the larger issue of human rights and justice when she states,"It's very American to say 'This is not right!''

     "Stonewall Uprising" has a two week engagement, June 16 through the 29th, at The Film Forum, W. Houston St. (west of 6th Ave.), in NYC. Visit for more info and showtimes. 

Sunday, June 13, 2010

What Happens in Vegas... comes to the off-Broadway Stage! JOE MARSHALL'S "A NIGHT IN VEGAS"

What Happens in Vegas... comes to the off-Broadway Stage!

    As one of the actors of Joe Marshall's award-winning play "A Night In Vegas" stated after the show, "The main character is the room itself!"  The room he speaks of is the glaringly-colored, tackily decorated Room # 1417 in "the Gayest Hotel on the Strip".  Oh, if these bright fuchsia-pink walls could speak!  As it turns out, they don't need to: The audience gets to be voyeur to all the sex, drama, and comedy worthy of The Entertainment Capital of the World.  In the first scene, lovers of eight years Ted (Nicholas Pierro) and Steven (Kelly Riley) are on an anticipated "dream vacation" in Vegas.  (Those of us making a case for marriage equality should note that these two bicker just as much as your average straight couple.) Any notions of a romantic getaway are lost when the duo soon find themselves interrupted more than Mae West on her honeymoon in the 1978 camp classic "Sextette".  Meet Toby (played to campy perfection by Joe Fanelli), an ultra-sarcastic hustler who's as quick to drop the verbal torpedoes as he is to drop his pants.  He's looking for room 7141, but he's dyslexic.  Guess whose room he ends up in?! Add to the mix a horny bellhop (Edy Escamilla) and Toby's john (Denis Hawkins) who winds up dead, and you have a distinctly American-style farce at its best.  And, it's just the beginning, boys and girls...

     The comedy vignettes in "A Night in Vegas"-- particularly the kickoff scene and the finale-- evoke the early films of openly gay Spanish film director Pedro Almodovar.  Like that director, Marshall uses over-the-top situations, quirky characters, blindingly bright color schemes, a good dose of dark humor, and more than a touch of sexuality to create his own one-of-a-kind queer-flavored universe.   The play shifts from comedy to a two-character drama with "Rick and Andrew".  Andrew (Jason Romas) is a horny party boy, and Rick (Drew Stark) is a bisexual guy who's dealing with a rather deep issue.  En route to the answer to the question of "Will they or won't they?", there's some seriously honest dialogue between two seemingly lost souls.  Touching as it is, the scene is not without its humor.   As many theater affecianadoes know, it isn't easy to successfully blend comedy and drama on the stage.  At the hands of a less talented director or actors, "A Night of Vegas" could have seemed like a bunch of divergent short stories thrown together, struggling to find its center.  On the contrary, Marshall and his cast make it flow like the free drinks at a Las Vegas casino-- and the end result is as equally intoxicating.  Many smart themes are explored: gay marriage, family dynamics, self-esteem among gay men, and negotiating safer sex... but even the most engaging moments have their sharp humor.   "Did You Hear That?" features two gay characters that are under-represented in the theater: Tom (Denis Hawkins) is blind, Marc (Chris von Hoffmann) is deaf.  And, they don't like each other!  This scene incorporates expert physical comedy and superb acting (In the case of the deaf character Tom, almost all of it wordless acting.), but it's never exploits the characters' disabilities for a laugh.  In the fifth vignette, we meet "Helen and Jack", a long-married couple who are in Las Vegas for their son Chaz' gay wedding.  Jack (Bill Purdy), the father, is practically a poster boy for P-FLAG, but the conservative mother Helen (Ali Grieb) just doesn't "get it".  (When speaking to Chaz about her son's fiance, she offers, "No, I'm happy for you, honey.  Yes, honey, I am.  No, I'm OK.  It's just that... well I just wish it could be different.  I'm sure he's a wonderful man... couldn't you both find two nice girls and...")   As the sole woman in the play,  Helen's "no-harm-meant" but clueless views on gay marriage are so blissfully ignorant, yet often so funny, that it's hard to either really like or really dislike her.  The mother's antics-- possibly one step away from all-out hysteria-- clearly evoke filmmaker John Waters, who loves to lampoon middle class suburban mores.  The final scene, "TwentySomething"  has 20-year old hottie Josh (Scott Lilly) literally waking up in Vegas-- naked, with a guy old enough to be his father in his bed and two other hot-to-trot guys in the room as well.  As he tries to discover what exactly happened (Can you say "wet underwear contest"?), more over-the-top hilarity ensues... but fear not, there's a happy--and rather sweet-- ending.

     "A Night in Vegas" features a dynamic cast who plays every scene with gusto, as well as a seemingly infinite supply of priceless one-liners and puns... and, lest I forget, the occasional naked guy.  The very first line we hear is Ted, looking around the notorious room, declaring "This room sucks!"  It's a campy descendant of Bette Davis' famous "What a dump!" from "Beyond the Forest".   Joe Marshall's "A Night in Vegas" is a side of Las Vegas that you WON'T see in those cheesy TV commercials... but I guarantee, this visit to Sin City is a night you won't forget!

      "A Night in Vegas" is presented by The Alternative Theatre Company and is playing at The Bleecker Street Theatre, 45 Bleecker Street.  Premium seats are $50 and general admission are $35.  Tickets are available at ; Visit for more info!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

THIS JUNE, VIRGINIA IS FOR (QUEER MOVIE) LOVERS! Len Rogers Talks About the Upcoming Pride In the Arts Film Fest and more!

Photo 1: Len Rogers with Out singer/songwriters Tom Goss and Mara Levi
Len Rogers Talks About the Upcoming Pride In the Arts Film Fest and more!

        Four hundred fifty-nine miles from the legendary Stonewall Inn in New York City, 721 miles from Boystown in Chicago, and 2,744 miles from The Castro district of San Francisco is Ronaoke, Virginia.  The city is home to The Roanoke Weiner Stand, the oldest restaurant in town, which has been serving up some big weiners since 1926. (Just thought you'd like to know that...) The city is also the home base of The StoneWall Society, Rainbow World Radio, Pride in the Arts, and other lavender forces-- of nature or otherwise!  Meet Len Rogers, a true champion of GLBTI equality who's behind it all.   Originally from New Orleans, Rogers and his partner of 30 years, Chris, now call Roanoke their home.  However, Len Rogers' hard work and dedication is seen, heard, and felt way beyond the so-called Mother State.  With forty years of activism under his belt (And oh, if that belt could talk!), Len has been a tireless and selfless fighter for the full equality of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and intersexed citizens.  With an unparalleled sense of community, the drive of Harvey Milk, and the the fearlessness of a South-of-the-Mason-Dixon-Line drag queen, he blends old-school political activism with all the resources that the age of high speed internet has brought us.  His particular affinity is for GLBTI art in all its varieties: literature, poetry, visual art, music, and film.  Rogers founded The StoneWall Society in 1999, an organization created to promote greater acceptance and tolerance of the worldwide GLBTI community within the GLBTI community.  In other words, it's all about respecting and accepting the diversity amongst ourselves-- a notion which sometimes get sidetracked.  The StoneWall Society's expansive website has dozens of links to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and intersexed artists, as well as politically-oriented sites, reviews, photos, news, and StoneWall Society merchandise.  SWS Award-winning singer-songwriter Terry Christopher says of Rogers, "Len Rogers is a true champion of the LGBT artistic community as a whole. Len tirelessly has provided visibility, and a platform that has worked as a voice for many, many artists who have gained exposure to a worldwide audience through the various programs stemming from StoneWall Society."

     And, that's just the beginning.  The StoneWall Society Network at large is a conglomerate of other websites, offering a seemingly infinite cornucopia of recources for our community and its allies.  Len Rogers is creator of Rainbow World Radio, which features music by out 'n' proud GLBTI artists, CD giveaways, live interviews, and the influential voter-driven OutVoice Charts. The show has a large listener base not just in the States, but all over the world. In  2000, Len Rogers created Pride in the Arts, the mission of which is "building community by reaching minds and touching hearts, through the universal language of art."  Pride in the Arts Awards are given to GLBTI artists and projects which exemplify excellence in five categories (Music Art, Literary Art, Visual Art, Film, and Performance Art), with winners chosen solely by the artists' supporters and fans.  In March 2010, Pride In the Arts Awards Music Award Recipients included Tom Goss, Linq, Sugarbeach, Tret Fure, Georgie Jessup, Scott Free, and JD Doyle of Queer Music Heritage.  This June will see a celebration of our community in the film arts: The Pride in the Arts International Film Festival.  This highly-anticipated event, the first of its kind in Roanoke, is a cooperative effort between The StoneWall Society and The Shadowbox Cinema.  The Festival will include feature films (including a World Premiere), shorts, music videos, and much more.  Len Rogers spoke to Jed Ryan about the upcoming Film Fest and his many other endeavors.  In case you haven't guessed already, Len's a busy man... but unlike so many of our activists and so-called spokespeople who take themselves WAY too seriously, Mr. Rogers is a really fun guy to talk to, as you'll soon see:

JR: Hi Len!  Greetings from New York City!
LR: Hey Jed! Greetings from the great hate State of Virginia, where we cover our boobs in art so the one in the Atty Gen's office has no competition.
JR: (Laughs)  I'll remember to cover my own man-boobs when I come visit!  So, Len, with all of the endeavors that you undertake with The StoneWall Society, and Rainbow World Radio, and the recent Pride In The Arts Awards, what made the timing right for the Pride In the Arts International  GLBT Film Festival?
LR: Ah, how's fate?  Kind of a complicated story, but the good part and the one that matters is: the owner of Shadowbox, Jason Garnett, e-mailed me and asked me to do it and to hold it at his venue, The Shadowbox.  Jason  sees this as history. It is Roanoke's first GLBT film festival.  And, he also is a shining example of a bright, innovative business man and art supporter. So, I am proud and happy that the Pride in The Arts International Film festival is at Shadowbox. Jason had the real Pride weekend date, and we went from there. As our local Pride is in September, this adds something local for the calendar Pride period.

JR: How has the response been so far?  Are people getting excited?
LR: The response has been very good. We get to use the word "International" because of wonderful artists like Norine Braun, Sugarbeach, and Anna Gutmanis. All are from Canada and submitted for the music video category. Some awesome talent there, too. We did have submissions from the United Kingdom, Italy, and Germany as well in the Feature Film category. However, there were some licensing issues and coding problems. So, we hope to have that corrected to include next year. Or, Jason at Shadowbox has said, he will gladly show films individually too. So I will be working with him to show films as solo features at Shadowbox.  It's really an ongoing, wonderful venue. Excited? Well to sound as un-Republican as I can, not "Yes!" but "Hell yes!" (Laughs)This is a first here in Roanoke. I have gotten e-mails from community members and non-community members wishing well and showing support. We have great films: five feature films, nine music videos, and three short films to screen, a live performance, and of course at least one party.

JR: Wow!  That's quite an itinerary.  Now, a lot of people automatically believe that because Virginia is in the Bible Belt, that the people there are all homophobic.  What would you like to say about that?
LR: Hmm... "in the Bible Belt?" I thought we were the buckle! We are sixty miles from Falwell Land or Lynchburg and Liberty University. Paula at "Lez Get Real" says I am in Ground Zero.  But Soulforce is right across the street from Falwell Land, so I think Mel White and Gary Nixon own the Ground Zero title. All kidding aside, it is weird here. Most of the "on the street" everyday folks, are nice, well-mannered, and warm. But remember Southern Hospitality. So sometimes you don't know. A few years back, a man whose last name was "Gay" walked into a gay bar and shot and killed people here in Roanoke. There is still a lingering reaction to that, in our community and the community at large.  And this is the seat of liberalism in this area! So, there is a deliberate action on the part of many here to dispel the anti-gay myths. However, Virginia has the most restrictive and downright mean anti-same sex marriage amendment anywhere. And we cannot forget our dear AG and his current and recent actions. So it is homophobic. But I have seen both worse and better.

JR: Gotcha.  What are some of the highlights of the Film Festival that you are particularly excited about?
LR:  I am not in any of the films.  We would need a bigger screen. Well, I am excited about that. (Laughs) But really, we have some excellent feature films. Tom Murray has two submissions screening ("Farm Family" and "Fish Can't Fly"), we have Dr. Corvino's "What's Morally Wrong With Homosexuality?", and we have "Pink Houses"-- all exciting for me.  The music videos are amazing too. There's a wide diversity in styles, topics, and themes. The short films are fun and great examples of what is real GLBT independent film. We have some big names included and some big content. This is SWS's first time organizing a film festival, so it is all exciting. As I said before, I also am very excited to work with Jason at Shadowbox. He has been very assistive, very supportive, and a genuine professional.

JR: And... there is a world premiere too, right?!
LR: Ah, the surprise! Yes, I am very proud to be screening the World Premiere of "Woman In A Man's Suit".  It's a documentary about award-winning StoneWall Society member Georgie Jessup. The film is compelling, interesting, and unique. But then, it is Georgie Jessup we are talking here, so "unique" is an understood. Georgie is very open and personal in the film-- and very brave. And we are gonna have Georgie and the Director Anthony Greene here for a meet-and-greet on the opening night. Georgie is going to sing for us-- always a treat-- and then we have the opening party.

JR: While we are on the subject of movies, Len, what are some of your all-time GLBT-themed flicks?
LR: This will give a few a chuckle and a "Whaaat?". I don't usually say what my favorites are in any art field because of the StoneWall Society promotion and Pride in the Arts. The whole "favorites" game, you know what I mean. But.... I love Kathy Bates so I would have to say "Unconditional Love". I know it didn't get any awards. But it is amazingly funny. The scene with Kathy and Rupert Everett on the bike is hysterical. And as for Julie Andrews on the plane and especially at the funeral, it's pure comic genius as far as I am concerned.

JR: I'll have to put that on my Netflix queue!  Now, on the other side, what do you think were the-- let's not say "Worst"-- but "Most Overrated" queer movies?  Unless, of course, you have one you'd like to name as the "Worst"
LR: Well I don't know about "worst" but definitely overrated for me is "Brokeback Mountain". I know I can hear you all yelling from here. I didn't like the changes made from the book. Those changes left the storyline flat and not real clear. The acting was good, but the script was not the greatest. I understand many liked it and it was the first real biggie gay movie so to speak. But that is very different from the best or worst. So I'm gonna leave it as "overrated". That SWS initiated and stoked a campaign to have Mark Weigle's "Two Cowboy Waltz" included in the film and it was not may help my more negative view.

JR: I agree, I think that "Brokeback Mountain" was overrated as well.  Now, while we're on the subject, there's a new movie called "Stonewall Uprising" that's opening this month.  As someone who's been involved in the gay rights movement for as long as you have been... oh, that didn't sound right, did it?!  Uhm.... you've mentioned in the past that you've had issues about the whole Stonewall phenomenon.  Did you want to clarify that a little?
LR:  What a nice way to call me old, hmph. (Laughs)  But really, the weekend of the Film Festival, I will celebrate my 40th year celebrating Pride on that weekend. My first was in 1970, one year after Stonewall, in Columbus Ohio. I was sixteen. You all can you do the math.  My problems arise from the fiction about the event and some of today's attitudes. And I mean, our own community.  Admittedly, I was not in NYC at the event. But everything I read, and people who were there, have stated the origins were a few queens, a few lesbians, a few hustlers, and scattered couples were the beginning. Today I see "queens" pushed to the side as embarrassing and the fringe group. We have never handled the "male-female get along" in our community well. And who knows why.  It's not like we will hit on each other. What have we learned, other than to repeat the same problems of the general society? I also don't like the commercialization of Stonewall. Or the fact that other events, like the 1966 Comptons Cafeteria riot in San Francisco, is hardly known.  I'm not taking anything from Stonewall at all, but there were other happenings in other areas. We need to know our history. See now you had to show me a soap box, Jed.

JR: My pleasure!   As we enter yet another Pride Month, what else have you got in store for us with The StoneWall Society and Pride In the Arts the second half of this year?
LR: The opening of "Take Back Pride", the dot com site. Not to be confused with the dot org site. "Take Back Pride" will address issues about Pride and GLBT events. Like, artists not being paid.  Like, that our community artists are frequently over looked as headliners at these events in favor of straight entertainers. Nothing against straight people-- my parents were straight ya know.
JR: Mine too!  At least, I assume they were...
LR: If it were for, like, a Cyndi Lauper who is a champion for our community, fine. But that is also frequently not the case. I have already been told that it is discrimination not to hire straight entertainers for Pride and GLBT events. I say BULL! When you go to Oktoberfest, you expect to see German food, culture and yes entertainment. That is why you go, to experience the culture. But at ours we feature a different culture? What is that ''Closet Pride"? And all in the name of profit, not Pride.   We also have several PITA awards coming up later this year: Literature (Your category, Jed!); Music again in October; Film; Visual Arts; and Performing Arts Awards all are later this year. And, another new site: "Artists For Equality". This site is not GLBT-specific, but geared to create common ground between our community and the rest of the world... And, a few surprises! Now take away that damn soap box, please. (Laughs)

JR: (Laughs) I don't think you ever met a soap box that didn't suit you, Len!  Now, I may have asked you this already-- actually, many times before-- but it's always worth repeating over and over again!  What is the one thing that every one of us GLBT's and our allies can do, every day, to make life better for our community?
LR: Be active! Even if it is taking a poll online. Do one thing every day which says "I am as good as anyone." Armchair activists make huge differences. If you reach one person, just one time a week, you have made a change and life better for someone. We have to start one at a time.
JR: Thanks Len!!!  Happy Pride!

      The Pride in The Arts International Film Festival takes place on June 25, 26, and 27 at The Shadowbox Cinema, 22 Kirk Ave. in Roanoke, Virginia.  Complete schedule and advance tickets/reservations are at  There will have a Festival Favorite Film and Festival Favorite Music Video as determined by festival attendee ratings, as well as an opening party and meet & greet with cash bar, on Friday June 25, 2010 at The Shadowbox after the film viewing.  Visit The Shadowbox Cinema at:

     Visit Len Rogers' network of equality. (I'm tempted to call it an "empire" but I suspect that Len's natural modesty wouldn't allow me to liken him to royalty!)
The StoneWall Society:
Rainbow World Radio:
The GLBT Hall of Fame:
The Pride in the Arts Festival: