Tracy Jones, associate executive director of the AIDS Taskforce, left, stops to chat with Jason Joyner, a member of the Cleveland Contemporary Dance Theatre before the ball got underway.
Cleveland is burning
by Anthony Glassman
Cleveland--Club 1722, the youth program of Blackout Unlimited, held its second Flawless Ball on Friday, February 22.
This year�s edition of the house ball, a tradition found in urban communities of LGBT people of color, drew around 225 people to Cleveland Public Theatre�s Gordon Square Theater, their new performance space that only two months ago played host to the Cleveland production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The event was emceed by Neo Rodeo, a central figure in the House of Rodeo, Detroit�s most prominent house.
Houses, for the uninitiated, are collectives of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people organized around parental and familial figures, quite often a "mother" and a "father." At a house ball, a number of different houses gather to compete against each other in a variety of categories ranging from convincing drag to archetypal gender portrayal. House balls are also what gave vogue its start, long before Madonna recorded the song.
Even before the night truly got underway, DJ Robbie Rob set the mood with his signature blend of R&B, hip-hop and house music, providing a soundtrack as people found their seats or gathered to catch up with each other.
The Flawless Ball, much as it did in 2001, brought houses from as far away as Detroit, Pittsburgh, Washington D.C. and New York. Profits from ticket sales to the event benefited Club 1722�s youth outreach.
Club 1722 provides weekly gatherings for young LGBT of color at the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Community Center at 6600 Detroit Ave. The youth group meets on Thursday evenings at 6 pm. Blackout Unlimited is Cleveland�s largest organization dedicated to serving the needs of same-gender-loving African Americans and the only non-profit organization of its type in the state.
-Photo by Anthony Glassman
Six to one vote means
by Eric Resnick
Erie, Pa.--A long-anticipated civil rights ordinance extending protection from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity passed the Erie County Council February 26 by a 6-1 veto-proof vote.
The vote was taken before 110 citizens, most of whom are activists either for or against.
The vote ended a process which began over a year ago, and included 12 draft proposals. The measure, which originated in the Human Relations Commission, initially had little support among council members. Slowly, and sometimes dramatically, members began to change their minds.
There are seven members of council. Four votes were needed to pass the bill, but five were needed to pass it with a majority that could not be vetoed by newly-elected county executive Rick Schenker. He is a former executive director of the Pennsylvania Christian Coalition who has said on television that gay people are "living a demented and depraved lifestyle."
Schenker initially vowed to veto any bill sent to him that expanded non-discrimination laws to include sexual orientation, but told the Erie Times News February 27 that he would not veto it if it included a set of amendments he had agreed to.
The bill�s passage was delayed 30 days January 8, even though there were four votes to pass it at that time, in order to garner additional council votes and attempt to change Schenker�s mind. In the end, both occurred.
Council vice president Joy Greco, a Republican and primary sponsor of the bill, offered three amendments the night of passage, to ensure two more Republicans would switch their vote to yes.
The bill was already supported by the three Democrats, Joseph Giles, Fiore Leone, and Mark A. DiVecchio, as well as Greco.
The three amendments, which Greco called a "check valve," clarified definitions and made the bill more precise by specifically excluding crimes like pedophilia and clarifying the status of the Human Relations Commission as a functioning body.
Greco believes the amendments were the deciding factor in Republicans Carol Loll and James B. Terrill switching their vote.
Council president Republican David Mitchell was the only no vote.
Mitchell said he opposed the bill because the state and federal governments don�t protect on the basis of sexual orientation.
"Until the state legislature addresses this issue, what we do here will not be very stong," said Mitchell. "I don�t want to give anyone false hopes."
Mitchell said he was concerned that any action taken under this ordinance would have no effect because the state could not handle a court appeal becase "there is no context for an appeal."
However, following the vote, Mitchell addressed the audience, calling for community unity. He also publicly called on Schenker not to veto the bill.
Mike Mahler, a leader of those pushing for passage, remarked that Mitchell�s reason for voting no was more likely because he represents the district containing the First Baptist Church in North East, Pa. It was that church�s associate pastor, Rev. Pat Kennedy, and an "ex-gay" ministry that he leads which provided nearly half of the ordinance�s opponent testimony.
Prior to the vote, 15 people testified, eight in opposition, six in favor, and one had no definite opinion.
Eight-year-old Emma Nathanson expressed her opinion to the members in two sentences: "I think it should be passed. I think everyone should be treated equally."
Another leader of the opposition, Lee Coleman of the Erie Citizens Against Pornography, unveiled his plan to lead a petition drive to have the ordinance repealed by referendum. He said that in a sample petition drive, his members were able to collect 50 signatures in one day.
No one appeared to take Coleman�s threat seriously. Council members didn�t acknowledge it at any later point and gay activist Jeff Hill expressed skepticism that a referendum would work.
"It�s too hard to get people motivated to pass anything around here," said Hill.
Coleman said the petition drive would depend on the wording of the final ordinance. Since he commented prior to Greco�s amendments and left the meeting quickly after passage, it remains unclear whether or not the final bill was acceptable to him.
Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays president Maureen Koseff credited individuals� testimony with changing the minds of the council members.
"This is a giant leap that enables justice to be done in Erie County," added Koseff.
A. Reid MacFarlane, a member of the Human Relations Commission and author of the draft bills said, "This got them over the sexual orientation hurdle. The council will continue to adjust and amend the bill and it will only get better."
Schenker has ten business days to sign the bill into law.
by Anthony Glassman
Columbus�Kate Anderson stepped into the role of Stonewall Columbus� new executive director on February 28, replacing Jeff Redfield, who announced his resignation on November 13 after three and a half years in the post.
Three finalists for the position had been announced prior to a February 9 public forum. Anderson, Darnell Frazier and attorney and activist Elliot Fishman were the leaders going into the event; Fishman, however, dropped out shortly beforehand, having accepted another position.
During the forum, Anderson stressed strategic planning, her forte, while Frazier emphasized fundraising and fiscal management.
Afterwards, board members collected evaluations from the audience for the candidates. The board weighed the evaluations, separate interviews with the two candidates and their résumés equally.
The executive director search committee submitted a recommendation to the board as a whole to extend an offer to Anderson, and the entire board voted unanimously to give her the position.
"I�m very excited about it," Anderson said. "I consider it an honor to be selected for this position."
Her first priority will be to assess the overall state of the organization and to assist the board in completing a strategic goals assessment.
Anderson, who graduated from Virginia Tech with a bachelor�s in sociology, has experience with organizational development in the LGBT community. She was the founding president of an LGBT business group in Richmond, Va., and raised membership from 25 to 170 members in 18 months.
Membership is one of her long-term goals in the position; she wants to retain current Stonewall members while recruiting new ones and bringing more volunteers into the fold. She said that maintaining a strong membership is always a priority.
In Virginia, she held positions in various state and federal transportation programs, and is a certified mediator. Her most recent position was chief of staff for Franklin County�s clerk of courts.
One of her immediate goals is to examine the structure and systems at the organization, then meet with the various groups with which Stonewall Columbus interacts and see how they can best work together.
Coming at a time when charitable giving to non-profits unrelated to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are at an all-time low, Anderson also wants to ensure that Stonewall is on stable and secure financial footing and improve the financial security of the organization, a goal directly tied to building and maintaining the membership base of the group.
Another goal she has set is to establish a strong database of information to educate local political and business organizations on issues of interest to the gay community, including domestic partner benefits, hate crime legislation and anti-gay "defense of marriage" legislation.
"I�d like to be able to provide educational services on key issues, politically," she noted.
Stonewall Columbus was formed in 1981, and is the Columbus area�s most visible LGBT human rights organization. Stonewall also produces the Pride Holiday, include the Pride parade and festival, in June.
Parade organizers discover that their insurance
by Eric Resnick
Columbus--A street preacher known for his anti-gay protests has filed a defamation suit against the security head of the 2001 Columbus Lesbian-Gay Pride parade.
The suit has lesbian and gay groups around the state checking to see if their liability insurance covers volunteers the same as employees.
The preacher, Charles Spingola of Newark, filed suit January 17 in Franklin County Common Pleas Court against Andrea Critchet of Columbus. Critchet was working as a volunteer at the parade for its organizers, Stonewall Columbus.
As the Pride parade was winding down on June 23 of last year, Spingola set a rainbow flag on fire at Broad and High Streets, using lamp oil to ignite the cloth. He was arrested and charged with open burning.
Critchet told Columbus police that Spingola had shaken the flag at her before he lit it, and some of the fuel had splashed on her. Spingola denied the accusation. Charges of assault and aggravated menacing were added to the open burning charge.
A jury acquitted Spingola of the assault and menacing charges on November 30. Prosecutors had no witnesses to verify Critchet�s version of events, leaving the case a matter of her word versus that of Spingola and his followers. Two days earlier, a judge dismissed the open burning charge.
Shortly after the jury acquitted him in the 2001 incident, Spingola served a five-day sentence for tearing a rainbow flag off a Statehouse flagpole two years earlier, during the 1999 Pride event.
In his suit, Spingola claims that Critchet made false statements, portraying him as a violent and dangerous criminal and defaming his reputation. He says he had to spend over $10,000 in attorney fees, and suffered emotional distress and damage to his reputation.
The lawsuit was served on Critchet at the Stonewall office, but Stonewall is not named as a defendant.
Spingola is asking for $25,000 in compensatory damages, another $25,000 in punitive damages, and attorney fees.
Stonewall was informed by CNA, their insurance carrier, that because Critchet is not an officer or employee, their policies will not cover her. This includes a special-event policy for the festival.
Critchet is currently looking for legal representation, which is normally provided by insurance. She has asked for a 30-day extension to file her reply to the complaint. Failure to reply would give Spingola a default judgement.
Openly gay Columbus attorney Elliott Fishman is assisting Critchet with her extension, but says due to his litigation schedule, he cannot represent her.
Spingola is represented by Thomas Condit of Milford, near Cincinnati.
Condit, a self-described activist for Christian conservative causes, also represented Spingola in both criminal trials. He is has worked with Ohio DOMA author and Christian activist attorney David Langdon defending members of the anti-choice Operation Rescue group.
In the complaint, Spingola blames Critchet for the media not covering his "complete vindication by the jury" as "eagerly" as they "reported the false charges in the first place."
Asked why he didn�t include members of the media as defendants, Condit replied, "The media, as a matter of law, can be wildly reckless and get away with it, so now it�s Andrea Critchet�s problem."
Condit also said that if Critchet was able to produce media accounts that vindicate his client, it would not free her of the liability, but would likely lessen the jury award.
"[Spingola] has a reputation for being volatile, and maybe he�s earned that," said Condit. "Maybe he wants to be criticized for what he does, but the media attacks threaten his livelihood as a street preacher."
Fishman has advised Critchet not to comment about the matter to anyone.
Fishman said that just because Spingola was found not guilty of the charges doesn�t mean he has a strong course of action against Critchet.
"That�s why more people who are found not guilty of things don�t turn around and sue," said Fishman. "Just because a prosecutor couldn�t convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that Spingola was guilty of what they charged him with doesn�t mean it didn�t happen, and it doesn�t mean that Andrea lied or made anything up."
"In fact," said Fishman, "I don�t see anywhere in the complaint where they claim that Andrea committed perjury. Based on what I see, [Spingola] has a lot to prove here, and it is a long leap of logic."
But a defense will be expensive, and according to Stonewall board member Rob Berger, "We didn�t find out what was and wasn�t covered [by insurance] until we needed to use it."
"To have a policy that doesn�t insure volunteers is unconscionable," said Dorrie Shields, of Casswood Insurance in New York City. Her company is gay-owned and operated and has a special package for insuring Pride events. Casswood handles Cleveland Pride�s insurance coverage.
Shields said the matter of who is covered should be discussed both ways. "The event organizers should ask, and the agent should bring it up," she said.
Shields says that in addition to carefully naming the insured, she advises event organizers to limit their liability by letting professionals handle security.
"Transfer the liability to the police, or even rent-a-cops," said Shields. "They are trained to handle it and they are insured to handle it."
Shields added, "There are people out there who come to Pride events but do not share our pride. They are there to find out how strong we are, and it sounds like this is one of those situations."
by Heather Gmucs
Cleveland Heights--The 27th annual Womyn�s Variety Show, held on February 23, began this year surrounded by rumors that it might be the last show and that the Civic performance hall won�t be around next year.
Although it is true that the Civic is struggling financially and is for sale, Oven Productions, the organization that puts the Variety Show on every year, is already getting geared up for next year�s show. This is definitely not the last one, according to organizers, who are studying alternative locations should the Civic not be available next year.
The Variety Show started in 1975 in a small church basement with about thirty women in attendance. It grew to 1,500 at its peak, and currently draws about 800 women. The show has been held at venues from the Agora downtown, known for rap, punk and rock concerts, to the Church of the Redeemer, also in Cleveland Heights.
Oven Productions is a non-profit collective of women formed in 1975 to produce and promote feminist culture in the Cleveland area. Oven used to produce at least eight events a year, bringing to town singers like Holly Near, Cris Williamson and Tret Fure, and holding dances and film festivals.
In the past, Oven did two Variety Shows, one on a Friday night and another on Saturday. Now, Oven�s main focus is the one-night extravaganza held annually in February.
Oven is now run by Marsha "Swamp" Sindelar with a helping hand from Brynna Fish, Debra Hirshberg and Jamie Hecker.
"I think that this is the only time of the year that we all really have a sense of community," said Hecker. "Gays and lesbians can feel safer being out anywhere, so that the community isn�t so underground and as tightly knit as it was when the Variety Show started in the �70s."
The acts were truly varied this year. The show opened this year with a hard-edged performance by rock trio Burning Sage. Drummer Sue Balaschak proved a chops mistress with all the mastery of a 30-year veteran musician.
This year the show had two emcees: Ellen Klages, a transplant from San Francisco, and Joyce Scoglietti. The pair kept the audience in stitches with their antics, improv and frequent costume changes.
Most of the skits were written by Joyce Kosak and Sharon Owens. One standout was a spoof on the 2002 Olympics. "Lesbolympics" had the crowd doubled over with laughter as interpreter Dawn Barbey leaned into a graphic rendition of a "muff dive."
Lowkey was back again for her seventh year pumping up the crowd with a lip-synced cut called "Bouncin� Back." K.J. Denhert flew in from New York for her ninth appearance, performing a smooth jazz tune, "Violet," from her latest CD.
Jane Tobias, a spry septuagenarian, charmed the crowd in a tuxedo and bow tie with the Fats Waller tune "Honeysuckle Rose." Local folk favorite Carol Smith was back, crooning "In My Life" by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, joined by most of the audience.
Poet and artist Natalie Brown made her debut appearance with a steamy original piece, while the slide presentation by Jennette DeCorpo, accompanied by the music of Holly Near, Dido, and Cris Williamson made for an emotional journey through Variety Show history.
Wrapping up the night�s entertainment, the Rainbow Wranglers, joined by the Columbus Stompers, kicked up their heels to "Let�s Get Loud" by Jennifer Lopez. As always, women of all ages and ethnicities were involved in the production as well as the performances.
The after party went off without a hitch. DJ Freeze was back; she has been working the show for the last nine years and has worked Cleveland clubs spinning hip-hop, house and disco for the last 20 years.
There were tables full of women engaged in animated conversation, the dance floor was packed and the performers were mingling and basking in the afterglow. For another year, the Variety Show is the biggest women-only event in the Cleveland area, and an annual "family" reunion where lesbians and bisexual women reconnect with old friends, and make new acquaintances.
Oven is always looking for volunteers to help put the show together. It takes 100 people to make it happen every year from coordinating volunteers to performer support and running spotlights. Oven has been looking for fresh faces to help with this huge task. Those interested can call them at 216-321-7799.
by Anthony Glassman
Cleveland�The city�s leather community crowned a second king on February 23, with J.D. Hart taking home the title of Mr. Cleveland Leather 2002.
Six strong contestants took the field in the competition�s second year, representing a range of age and experience with the leather community. At the end of the evening, though, it was Hart who would lead the community for the next year, with Alan Azar taking first runner-up and Joe Brancheau as second runner-up.
A scant fourteen points behind Brancheau, although not placing, was Leo Kubstyr, a 22-year old newcomer from Oberlin in his first competition.
"They were all very into it, they were all very serious about the whole thing," said Greg Ammell, co-owner of GreDa, Inc., which produces the competition. "There was so much enthusiasm."
Almost 300 people packed the Tool Shed, Crossover, Man�s World and a heated tent in the patio behind the three adjoining clubs.
The evening was hosted by Dennis McMahon, Mr. Cleveland Leather 2001, and Buck Burks, Mr. Detroit Eagle 1999. Edye Gregory and Sam Santoro, along with Fantastic, Lloyd Pease�s fan dancing company, provided entertainment between events.
The contestants were given three opportunities to impress the judges: introduction, leather interpretation and personal leather expression, which also has competitors answering a question relating to their relationship with the leather community.
During the evening, a check was presented to the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center�s executive and assistant executive directors, Linda Malicki and Jan Cline. The $3,000 was raised at the Cleveland Leather Annual Weekend in January.
Before announcing the winner, McMahon thanked the community for supporting him in his tenure as Mr. Cleveland Leather and making the competition and CLAW such resounding successes. His speech before stepping down occasionally faltered as he grappled with the intense emotions he felt, standing in the same spot where one year ago he had received the title.
"It was a lot harder than I though it would be," he said later of the step-down.
"It truly showed a brotherhood in the leather community," Leo Kubstyr said. "Cleveland is on the verge of some great changes in the gay community. The leather community is really uniting here in Cleveland, and the leather contest was just part of that."
Most of the people involved thought that Hart was not the only winner.
"There was such a good feeling in the contest about all the contestants," Kubstyr noted. "No one really lost. I am very happy to say I am a 22-year-old young leather man."
Ammell said the true winners were not only Hart and the other competitors, but all the people who made the event happen, including the bars and businesses that sponsored it, the staff at the Tool Shed, Crossover and Man�s World, and he gave extra thanks to Mary and Paul Lopez.
Mary Lopez DJed the event, while her brother Paul served as stage manager, ensuring that the contestants and performers were ready to go when needed.
"He kept everything going very smoothly," Ammell noted, impressed with the effort.
Hart will now go on to International Mr. Leather in Chicago over Memorial Day weekend. $1,500 in prize money from Mr. Cleveland Leather will be given to him in Chicago to defray the costs of the weekend.
Compiled from wire reports by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.
Special prosecutor sought in Colorado teen�s beating
Glenwood Springs, Colo.�A lawyer for a Rifle, Colo. teenager who says he was beaten because he is gay has requested a special prosecutor in the case.
Calvin Lee, representing 17-year-old Kyle Skyock, made the request February 20 of a Garfield County District Court because no charges have been filed.
Mac Myers, district attorney for the Ninth Judicial District, had decided there was not enough evidence to pursue charges. But he said he would not object to a special prosecutor because of the controversy generated by the case.
Skyock, 16 at the time, was found along U.S. 6 on Feb. 11, 2001, after a night of heavy drinking with four other youths. Skyock had a fractured skull, bruising, three broken ribs and a burn-like sore on his left shoulder.
The doctor who treated him in Rifle believed he was assaulted, but a Grand Junction forensic pathologist ruled that Skyock�s injuries were the result of a fall on rocks.
Lee said February 20 that a new witness has come forward.
A Rifle girl says she was at a bowling alley two nights after Skyock was found. One of the boys Skyock accuses of beating him said Skyock was "acting stupid," so he threw a cigarette lighter at him, tried to fight him and then chased him when he ran.
The boy "bragged about how cool it was and referred to Kyle as a �faggot,� " the girl said.
Skyock�s case is also pending in U.S. District Court, where a coalition of gay and lesbian groups has filed a civil rights claim.
Michael Brewer, director of the Colorado Legal Initiatives Project, said the group would move forward with the lawsuit regardless of whether a special prosecutor is appointed.
Helms �ashamed� of AIDS inaction
Washington, D.C.�Sen. Jesse Helms, who has clashed with gay activists over AIDS funding and statements blaming the spread of the disease on gays, said February 20 that he was ashamed that he had not done more to fight the epidemic and would keep it on his agenda until he left office in 2003.
"I have been too lax too long in doing something really significant about AIDS," Helms told hundreds of Christian AIDS activists gathered for a conference in Washington. "I�m not going to lay it aside on my agenda for the remaining months I have" in office.
Helms spoke at the Prescription for Hope conference, organized by Samaritan�s Purse, a world relief charity led by the Rev. Franklin Graham, Billy Graham�s son. Franklin Graham has also spoken recently about the need for Christian groups to take more steps to fight the spread of AIDS.
Helms did not mention homosexuality in his speech, but he said: "There is no substitute for the joy brought by strong and healthy marriages. We must not hesitate to share this truth."
He praised Janet Museveni, wife of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, for running a campaign based on "biblical values and sexual purity" to stop the spread of HIV and AIDS.
Helms has been praised for his apparent about-face on the issue, but his stance, like Graham�s, focuses solely on abstinence outside of marriage.
"We need to find a way to put our differences aside so we can help those in the middle," Graham told USA Today when asked about the possibility of working with organizations that advocate condom distribution.
Church vandalized in wake of arson
Missoula, Mont.�Pink triangles were spray-painted on the doors of the Open Door Baptist Church sometime late February 23, police said.
John Haveman, pastor of the church, believes the vandalism was the result of his outspoken anti-gay views, which he most recently aired on radio station KGVO two days after a home belonging to a Missoula lesbian couple and their child was set on fire February 8.
The women, one of whom is a University of Montana professor, were in the news earlier in the week when they and another lesbian couple sued the Montana university system because health insurance and other benefits at UM are not extended to same-sex partners.
In another similar incident, a billboard carrying messages from "God" was also defaced to read, "What you do in the name of your God scares me. Stop burning houses."
A representative from a Missoula gay civil rights organization agreed that vandalism is not an effective way to communicate.
"If it is somebody from the gay community, I don�t think retaliation is productive," said Nick Engler, a board member of the Western Montana Gay and Lesbian Community Center in Missoula. "Dialogue is productive."
Police in the arson case came under fire this week for mentioning that the two women whose house had been burned were being questioned by investigators. Police later clarified that the questioning was standard procedure in any investigation involving a home, that police always ask the residents an array of questions to gather as much information as possible.
Anti-gay crusader is jailed
Portland, Ore.�Anti-gay crusader Lon Mabon was arrested Feb. 20 after a Multnomah County judge ruled he was in contempt of court for failing to attend two court hearings related to a ten-year-old case involving a gay civil rights activist.
Mabon, director of the conservative Christian group Oregon Citizens Alliance, must remain in jail until he agrees to appear at a judgment debt hearing, or for six months, whichever comes first. His wife, OCA�s treasurer, Bonnie, was ordered to report to jail in ten days for the same sentence.
Judge Ronald E. Cinniger ordered Mabon arrested after they missed a number of court appearances.
Lesbian activist Catherine Stauffer was awarded more than $30,000 in 1992 after she was roughed up by former OCA employee Scott Lively at an anti-gay event. Lively has paid his part of the damages, but the Mabons claim the OCA does not have the money to pay.
The Mabons also claim the courts do not have jurisdiction over their case because the judges took a judicial oath that omits the words "and impartially."
In addition to the arrest, Cinniger ordered the OCA to pay $1,000 for every day the Mabons refuse to appear, up to the amount of the original settlement. The judge also ordered the OCA be held liable for $10,000 in attorney fees from the ten-year legal battle.
A smorgasbord of delights will tempt film fans at the Cleveland Cinematheque
by Anthony Glassman
Art theaters are a godsend to the cinemaphile. Foreign films, independent films, retrospectives, all there on the screen like juicy grapes, ripe for the plucking.
The Cleveland Cinematheque, whose bimonthly schedules are a smorgasbord for the film buff, covers all three genres through March and April, starting with the complete works of Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-liang.
Tsai�s films are part of a movement of Asian work that has been compared to the French New Wave cinema of the 1950s and �60s, signaling a shift in the currents towards a more inclusive, diverse cinema.
Tsai�s ouevre might also be compared to that of Alfred Hitchcock, though. Not necessarily in terms of Hitchcock�s title as the "Master of Suspense;" rather, it is in Hitchcock�s fascination with "sexual perversity" that parallels can be found.
While Hitchcock, brought up in a religious home in Britain at the end of the nineteenth century, found the ideas of male and female homosexuality intriguing, his portrayals of them in his films present a mixed bag, sometimes the bogeyman, often simply background information.
Tsai, on the other hand, is actively participating in the move of homosexuality and gay issues to the forefront of the Southeast Asian consciousness; he had a part in a documentary featuring filmmakers talking about gender and sexual identity in their films.
In Tsai�s films, and in his work for television shown in the U.S. for perhaps the first time, all aspects of modern gay life are shown.
For instance, in his 1997 film The River, the main character�s father is a closeted gay man. In the 1995 made-for-television documentary My New Friends, Tsai talks to two HIV-positive men, Taiwan�s first AIDS documentary, experimenting with the objectification of people with AIDS by filming them from the neck down as they talk about their lives, loves, fears and hopes.
In Rebels of the Neon God, Tsai�s 1992 first feature film, a young student in the throes of rebelling against authority falls in love with a motorcycle-riding tough. The film is not available in the U.S., and this Taiwanese print presents a rare opportunity to see the theatrical birth of Tsai�s work.
Wrapping up the retrospective, perhaps too final a word since Tsai is still in the cinematic trenches, is his 1994 dark comedy Vive L�Amour. This is the tale of a love triangle between a female real estate agent who uses a client�s apartment as a no-tell motel, a gay salesman who also uses the apartment and the street vendor that they both love. Kind of a kinkier The Night We Never Met for the intellectual set.
April sees something of the past made manifest for boys and for girls at the art-house. First, Barbara Hammer�s latest film History Lessons takes the audience on a tour of the role of lesbians in the 20th century through the use of found photos, film clips, home movies, stag films and other media hinting at, or showing outright, images of lesbianism.
The film is a fascinating look at the perceived history of lesbianism in the United States, with 1950s health education films flowing into heterosexually-oriented porn films of women with Egyptian-influenced eyeliner caressing each other, from clips of Eleanor Roosevelt speaking to a women�s rights conference to reenactments of tabloid headlines that shocked the nation. It�s a fun and furious run through time that should not be missed.
For the boys, the Cinematheque is bringing photographer Bruce Weber�s Chop Suey to town.
The film flows back and forth through Weber�s interests, including his model Peter Johnson, cabaret star Frances Faye, a cousin of film icon Danny Kaye and an open lesbian in a time when every female star slept with Frank Sinatra, fashion doyenne Diana Vreeland, his collection of photographs and love of both Jan-Michael Vincent and Robert Mitchum.
On a quick side note, the film includes clips from a movie a then-young Vincent did with a then-even-younger Robert Englund, long before Freddy Krueger came to haunt Elm Street.
The film is interesting, self-indulgent fun, perhaps a little too self-indulgent at times, but one supposes that is allowed when it�s your own film. The visuals range from stunning to amusing, occasionally journeying into the realm of the surreal with Derek Jarman-esque dreamy sequences of boys swimming; the scenes themselves, though, are perfectly in context, showing the young men being photographed.
The Tsai Ming-liang collection will be shown throughout the first half of March. History Lessons plays April 11 and 14 at 7 and 9:25 pm respectively, while Chop Suey will be shown Friday and Saturday, April 19 & 20 at 7:30 pm on Friday and 9:50 pm on Saturday.
The Cinematheque is located inside the Cleveland Institute of Art at 11141 East Boulevard. They can be reached at 216-421-7450, or online at http://www.cia.edu/cinematheque for full details on their complete schedule.
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