Entries from February 2007 ↓

The Obligatory Post-Oscars Recap

Business this morning caused me to be late with my entry, but since every other blogger seems to have posted their impressions of Sunday nightís Academy Awards telecast, I figured I might as well do so too.

In a year where I actually saw many of the nominated films and performances, I found myself watching with special interest. Awards shows by their very nature are exercises in self-indulgence, so while on the whole I thought it was a good show, it still suffered from excessive length and too many boring video tributes.

It actually opened with one. The Errol Morris montage of this yearís nominees talking about what the moment meant to them or any other innocuous thought that came to mind, needed to be a lot shorter. Do we really need to see sound mixers or cinematographers trying to be funny? The sad reality is the viewing public only cares about the actors and possibly a few better-known directors. The otherwise unknown yet very essential technical people are not why we watch. But it was nice to open the show with everyone being acknowledged.

I thought Ellen Degeneres was good both in her opening monologue and throughout. She was just doing her daytime show and standup act on a larger stage. If youíve seen her before then you recognize her comedic sensibility. The hostís job is to keep it moving and stay out of the way of the real stars, and she did that. Her bits in the audience were funny, I thought. Giving a script to Martin Scorcese and getting Steven Spielberg to take a picture of her and Clint Eastwood for her MySpace page were both amusing.

I also thought the musical number with Will Farrell, Jack Black and John C. Reilly, ďA Comedian at the OscarsĒ was funny and ironically prophetic considering Eddie Murphyís fate.

The honorary award to composer Ennio Morricone dragged on way too long. Ok, who the hell is he and why should we care? And then his acceptance speech droned on foreverÖIN ITALIAN!!! Mama mia! Good thing Eastwood did all those spaghetti westerns back in the day and learned to parli italiano or we never would have known what he was saying, not that we cared.

We got an equally meaningless video feature before the editing award was given out, as well as a kind of cute stunt with that sound effects ďchorus.Ē But if they hadnít done it, I wouldnít have missed it.

I was genuinely sad that Eddie Murphy didnít get Best Supporting Actor, although if anyone else was going to get it, Iím glad it was Alan Arkin. Iíve been a fan of his for many years. (By the way, did you know Arkin co-wrote, ďThe Banana Boat SongĒ that Harry Belafonte made famous in 1956? ďDay-yo!Ē)

Eddieís not winning, probably means weíll see more Norbits. If you watched his interview on the Baba Wawa pre-Oscar special, he said he considered ďComing to AmericaĒ and ďDr. DolittleĒ some of his best work. He also pointed out all the money heís made from his pictures as a way of dispelling notions his career has been in a slump. I think Eddie sees himself first and foremost as a comedian, an actor second. Not having gotten the ultimate prize for his lone dramatic role, I fear he may never venture into the deep end of the pool again.

I was excited to see Jennifer Hudson get her Best Supporting Actress award. As we all know, the pressure is now on her to pick that next role very carefully. Anybody seen Halle Berry lately? J-Hud gave a belated tip of the cap to Jennifer Holliday on the acceptance stage, but in the interview room she thanked Holliday and the entire cast of the Broadway play for paving the way.

That was a nice touch, but I also have to tell you Iím growing tired of La Holliday and her demi-diva posturing. Miss Thing, your day was 25 years ago. Get over it. Or better yet, get a career of your own. Oh, I forgot. Youíre the real Effie.

Speaking of divas, how about the Jennifer vs Beyonce death match? They werenít singing together. Them girls were battling! This was Beyonceís only stage since the movie wrapped and daddy told her to go for broke. Sorry, but I think she came in third, behind Jennifer and Anika Noni Rose.

Martin Scorcese finally got his due both as Best Director and with the film winning Best Picture. I saw The Departed when it opened and thought it was Oscar worthy then. Iím glad the Academy agreed. Some of us on this coast have speculated if there wasnít a West Coast bias against him.

While their wins didnít surprise anyone, I just admire the class with which Helen Mirren and Forest Whitaker carried themselves. Conversely, did Eddie Murphy duck out once his category was awarded? We never saw him again.

You had to love the award for Best Documentary (Feature) given to An Inconvenient Truth, the Al Gore picture about global warming. As I IMed to a friend, that was a big ole “fuck you” from Hollywood to the Bush Administration. Their way of saying, not only should Al Gore have been our president, but even if you right wingnuts donít understand the dangerous effects of climate change and arenít doing anything about it, that doesnít mean that the rest of the country isnít behind it. And when Melissa Etheridge accepted for Best Original Song for the same pictureóan out lesbianóit was a second middle finger thrust in Bushís face.

Unofficially, I think Etheridgeís acknowledgment of her ďwifeĒ Tammy may have been the first such by a lesbian or gay artist at an Oscar ceremony. Such open displays of equality are common at the far more gay-friendly Tony Awards, but Hollywood has always been a big closet where gay stars usually bring opposite sex dates.

The show clocked in at almost four hours and 87 million viewers watched at least one minute of the telecast. As someone who has only ever watched the show end after midnight from the East Coast, a friend in LA reminded me thatís only 9:00 pm out there, early enough to go to lots of parties and still get home at a decent hour.

Love and Hate

I love talking face-to-face or through email, but hate long telephone conversations.

I love being very busy, but hate too much free time.

I love traveling by train, automobile or boat but hate long airplane trips.

I love vacations, but hate frenetic three or four day weekends.

I love watching sports, but hate playing games.

I love photography, but hate having my picture taken.

I love weather thatís warm or cool, but hate when itís too hot or too cold.

I love going to bed late, but hate rising early.

I love being around people, but hate crowds.

I love helping people, but hate asking for help.

I love eating in good restaurants, but hate dining alone.

I love working out but hate when Iím all sweaty.

I love acting, but hate show business.

I love movies, but hate most “Hollywood” pictures.

I love being involved, but really hate to be bothered.

I love stating my case, but hate an argument.

I love telling jokes, but hate when people are made fun of.

I love to know whatís going on, but hate gossip.

I love to make love, but hate just having sex.

ĒI hate writing, but love having written.Ē popularly attributed to Dorothy Parker.

History Lessons

Some brothas and sistahs down in Atlanta are trying to light a fire under this yearís Black History Month commemorations. Or should that be Phyre?

Phyreís vision is to expressly add that our history is rich because of contributions from African-American persons who among them are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT). In the words of Alice Walker, ďWe have to talk about liberating minds as well as liberating society.Ē The Phyre project aims to ensure that the truth about African-American LGBT persons is known, understood, and celebrated. As the truths become more and more evident, America and all her children will be free.

To kick off their efforts there will be events in Atlanta during the week of February 18-24, as well as a public awareness campaign by Black LGBT bloggers all across the Internet.

In adding my voice to the chorus, I would like to draw your attention to two articles I wrote more than a decade ago while living in upstate New York, that I think are still relevant. Some of us recognized the exclusion of Black lesbian and gay people from the entire discussion of overall Black history years ago.

Reflections On Black History (1996) LINK

Links to the Past: Black Gays and Lesbians in the Civil Rights Era (1997) LINK

Additionally, you should know about this bit of research. The BlackList is a directory of known Black gay and lesbian persons, from the past and present, with references to sites that verify the information. No names have been listed without proof, so the naysayers can take their denial elsewhere. Unfortunately, this directory is no longer being regularly updated, but the information is still quite significant.

The Blacklist LINK

The history books will continue to be incomplete unless we fill in the missing pages.

Amaechi, Hardaway and Gays in the Workplace

Former NBA star Tim Hardawayís headline grabbing pronouncement this past week, ďI hate gay people,Ē sent shockwaves through the professional sports community, generated personal backlash and may have ultimately cost him untold amounts of money in professional opportunities. But it didnít surprise many people, especially not LGBTs. What is surprising is that the sports world still hasnít faced an inevitability that other segments of society began to address years ago.

Hardawayís candid comments during an interview with a Miami radio station were in reaction to the revelation that another former NBA player, John Amaechi is gay and had hidden that fact during his entire pro career. Amaechi came out in a book to be released this week that has sparked reaction from players, fans and sports commentators.

John Amaechi hoped by coming out he could facilitate a dialogue on the topic of gays in sports and indeed one is now beginning. Thus far, most of the mainstream media comments have come from heterosexuals (or those presumed to be). People on both sides of this issue have already addressed Hardawayís reaction and the fact that it may be more common among athletes than people want to admit.

But not enough public comment is coming from gay people, and not enough has been done to place this subject within the broader issue of the LGBT presence in todayís workplace.

Six gay male athletes from professional baseball, football and basketball have come out, but all after retiring. A central issue of the debate is whether or not a gay athlete, in any sport, could come out during their active career. Those who believe that will never happen, fall on the argument that team cohesion would be negatively affected and straight athletes wonít feel comfortable in the same locker room. That was the gist of Hardawayís sentiments.

Those who believe otherwise call those arguments specious. A careful look at the changes that have taken place in the rest of society since the beginning of the modern gay rights movement, suggests that fear and ignorance are the primary obstacles preventing a player from coming out and those obstacles have been overcome in many other fields.

Corporate America has been a leader in creating fairness and inclusive work environments for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees. The business community faced the issue of gays and lesbians in the workplace when they began to see employees who happened to be some of their best and brightest, leave when discrimination based on sexual orientation was prevalent. They further recognized that a sizeable LGBT consumer market was closed to them because they were not willing to reach out.

Today, according to the Human Rights Campaignís 2005-2006 ďThe State of the WorkplaceĒ report, a majority of Fortune 500 companies, 253 (51 percent), offer domestic partner health insurance benefits. An additional 430 (86 percent) of the organizations include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies, and 81 include gender identity and/or expression, marking a tenfold increase from 2001. (A PDF of the HRC State of the Workplace 2005-2006 report can be viewed HERE.)

While more than 30 states still do not protect employees from termination simply for being gay, and no federal law exists either, the business community increasingly understands there is no upside to keeping doors of opportunity closed to gay employees. Businesses are some of the staunchest supporters of employee non-discrimination legislation. They know they risk losing good workers while also missing out on business opportunities.

The federal government is learning that lesson the hard way. In 2003, the United States Army dismissed 37 Arabic translators who were gay or lesbian, under the militaryís ďDonít Ask, Donít TellĒ policy. This was the same year the U.S. invaded Iraq.

Four years later, with the situation in Iraq an unqualified disaster, hundreds of billions of dollars wasted and attacks by insurgents against U.S. and Iraqi forces increasing, our inability to decipher intelligence gathered from Arab-speaking sources has been severely compromised. Luckily, this past week, the State Department agreed to consider a suggestion from New York Congressman Gary Ackerman that they hire those dismissed Army linguists and put them to work at that agency.

While gays and lesbians can serve in every other branch of the federal government, including at the White House, the United States still does not allow them to serve openly in the military. Most of our allies do and a recent poll shows most Americans are also in favor of a change in policy.

Twenty of the 25 NATO nations allow gays in the armed forces, including Canada. Ironically in 2004, nine countries that deployed troops in Iraq allow gay service members. Those countries together contributed 60 percent of the coalition forces on the ground. Gay troops are already serving with U.S. forces, just not within U.S. forces. (A PDF report on foreign military forces that allow openly gay service members can be viewed HERE.)

Arguments that gays and straights serving together will negatively affect unit cohesion seem a bit farfetched. Just look at most local police departments. Openly gay officers are partnered right alongside their straight brothers with no loss of effectiveness. The New York City Police Department has almost 38,000 officers, the largest in the country, and openly gay officers have been an integral part for more than 20 years. Law enforcement is far more dangerous than sports and the need to be able to rely on ones partner far more critical, yet cops have managed to overcome their fears.

At the college level, there are already gay athletes who have come out. Their teammates and coaches have continued to embrace them. With a rise in the number of gay and lesbian teens coming out in high school, the possibility exists that we may someday see an openly gay athlete enter college, play his entire collegiate career and get drafted into a pro career without ever having to live in the closet.

For the sports world to catch up to the rest of society, league officials will have to demonstrate the leadership shown by corporate CEOs and government officials. It isnít up to pro players to accept an openly gay teammate. Players donít get to pick their teammates. Itís up to team owners. They set the policies and work rules and decide who gets a contract and who doesnít. If they say an openly gay player can be on the team, it will happen.

By doing so, they may also attract a new and larger fan base. I can personally attest to the fact that there are legions of gay sports fans.

In 1947, when the Brooklyn Dodgers made Jackie Robinson the first Black player in Major League Baseball, some racist Dodger players presented management with a petition saying they werenít going to play with him. Those players were traded, waived or sent to the minors. Dodger ownership made it clear change was here and they needed to get with the program or get out. Baseball was forever improved as a result.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines ďphobiaĒ as ďa persistent, abnormal and irrational fear of a specific thing or situation that compels one to avoid it, despite the awareness and reassurance that it is not dangerous.Ē Homophobia then, is an abnormal and irrational fear of homosexuals, despite the overwhelming awareness that there is nothing to fear.

A gay player on a pro sports team isnít the problem. Homophobia is.

Get Some

Hereís something to wrap your head around (or wrap around your head). The City of New York now has itís own official condom.

Just in time for Valentineís Day, the New York City Health Department unveiled it, making the Big Apple first in the nation with an official brand. Best of all, it’s free.

“Condoms can prevent HIV, other sexually transmitted infections, and unintended pregnancies,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, New York City’s Health Commissioner. “Abstinence is failsafe, and reducing the number of sexual partners reduces risk of infections. But for sexually active people, using a condom is key to staying healthy.”

Through an Internet-based ordering system, the Health Department has recently boosted the distribution of free condoms from 2.5 million per year to some 18 million per year. The new branding effort will further increase the number. Thatís a whole lotta fuÖuhÖusage.

To find out where to get a free NYC Condom, or to place a bulk order, call 311 or visit www.nyccondom.org