Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hero from my District

The Congressman from my district in Atlanta/Druid Hills has been my hero for decades-- he has represented the best of our ideals. Here is a wonderful account of his own personal Inaugural Day:


The President’s Hero

by David Remnick February 2, 2009

A couple of decades ago, when Barack Obama was on a break from Harvard Law School and visiting friends in Chicago, he carried around a copy of “Parting the Waters,” the first volume of Taylor Branch’s magnificent trilogy about Martin Luther King, Jr., and the rise of the civil-rights movement. Obama was staying with Jerry Kellman, his mentor during his three years as a community organizer on the South Side. Kellman said that he greatly admired Branch’s book. Obama brightened and said, “Yes, it’s my story.”

Mind reading is a decidedly low form of journalism. Yet it is not hard to imagine that as Obama emerged into the noonday light last Tuesday to receive the oath of office, as he left the Capitol’s warm interior and saw before him the carpet of humanity stretching down Capitol Hill to the monuments miles distant, that he made a mental leap to Marian Anderson’s defiant concert at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939, to the March on Washington that King led twenty-four years later, to the entire story of a struggle that he was too young to join but came to claim as his own.

After absorbing the thudding roar from the Mall, Obama glanced to his right. He spotted there on the steps, a few feet away, John Lewis––squat, bald, hatless––the eleven-term representative of Georgia’s fifth congressional district and the only one of the speakers at the March on Washington still among the living. Obama bent to embrace him.

“Congratulations, Mr. President,” Lewis whispered in his ear.

Obama smiled at the sound of that and said, “Thank you, John. I’ll need your prayers.”

“You’ll have them, Mr. President. That, and all my support.”

At the March on Washington, King’s speech was the most eloquent, Lewis’s the most radical. Lewis was just twenty-three at the time, the leader of the Student Nonviolent Coördinating Committee. In the original draft of his speech, the demand for racial justice and “serious revolution” was so fearless that, in the last minutes before the program began, Dr. King, Bayard Rustin, Roy Wilkins, and other movement organizers negotiated with him to remove any phrases that might offend the Kennedy Administration. Lewis planned to say, “We will march through the South, through the heart of Dixie, the way Sherman did. We shall pursue our own ‘scorched earth’ policy and burn Jim Crow to the ground––nonviolently. We shall fragment the South into a thousand pieces and put them back together in the image of democracy.” He had to lose the bit about Sherman’s army, but the rest of the text, capped by its final warning—“We will not be patient!”––left no doubt about Lewis or about the audacious generation he represented.

Two years later, in Selma, Lewis led a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge straight into a blockade set up by Alabama state troopers. The first nightstick came down on Lewis’s skull. The troopers used whips, horses, a hose wrapped in barbed wire. Along with Lewis, ninety demonstrators were injured. At the White House, Lyndon Johnson watched it all on television and deepened his resolve to push the Voting Rights Act. The day before Obama’s Inauguration, which marked what would have been King’s eightieth birthday, Lewis told a visitor at his office in the Cannon House Office Building, “Barack Obama is what comes at the end of that bridge in Selma.”

Inaugural weekend was “bewildering” to John Lewis. “It is almost too much, too emotional,” he said. Preaching at the Shiloh Baptist Church on Ninth Street N.W., Lewis had told parishioners that he would have thought that only a “crazy” person would predict the election of an African-American President in his lifetime, but now he was sure that the masses on the Mall would be joined by the “saints and angels”: by Harriet Tubman and Carter G. Woodson, Marcus Garvey and W. E. B. Du Bois, Nat Turner and Frederick Douglass, John Brown and Sojourner Truth.

For hours, Lewis greeted constituents at his office and handed out inaugural tickets. Then he set off to visit the Mall, moving, it seemed, in a daze of unreality. He could not quite believe the size of the crowds gathering so early—especially the great numbers of African-Americans, young and old, many of them from distant places.

Lewis grew up in Pike County, Alabama—the Jim Crow South. His parents picked cotton, peanuts, and corn; the children left school at harvest time to join them. Their small house had no electricity or running water. Their lives, according to the dictates of Alabama law after the collapse of Reconstruction, were stripped of democratic rights and human possibility.

Lewis read his Bible and on Sundays tuned in to WRMA, the gospel station out of Montgomery, to hear the Soul Stirrers and the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi. Lewis was a soulful, intelligent, and eccentric child. When religious feeling washed over him, he began visiting the henhouse out back to preach to the Dominiques and the Rhode Island Reds. The chickens composed his ministry: Lewis baptized new chicks; he raised and fed them; he buried the dead under a mound of wildflowers. As Lewis wrote many years later in his autobiography, “Walking with the Wind,” he was a lonely searcher learning compassion for God’s creatures.

One Sunday morning in 1955, when he was fifteen, Lewis listened to a sermon on WRMA called “Paul’s Letter to the American Christians.” The story was of Paul’s call to brotherhood. The preacher was a young Baptist in Atlanta named Martin Luther King. Two years later, Lewis made contact with King and his organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and, in no time, King became his mentor and his friend. As a teen-age seminarian in Nashville, Lewis attended nonviolence workshops, organized lunch-counter sit-ins, and took part in the first Freedom Rides, constantly risking arrests, harassment, and beatings.

As Lewis walked around the Mall last week, shaking hands, posing for hundreds of photographs, a young African-American introduced himself as the police chief of Rock Hill, South Carolina. “Imagine that,” Lewis said. “I was beaten near to death at the Rock Hill Greyhound bus terminal during the Freedom Rides in 1961. Now the police chief is black.”

At the beginning of the 2008 campaign, Lewis, a Clinton-family loyalist, sided with Hillary––as did the majority of African-Americans. By February, however, when it became clear to him and to so many others that Obama was not running a symbolic race, that he represented “a movement” and could win, Lewis had switched.

“Barack has lifted people,” Lewis said, as he posed for pictures with some women from D.C. “Old people, young people, children, black and white. Look out on the Mall here. You can see it in their walk, can’t you?”

One teen-age boy sweetly asked, “Mr. Lewis, my mama says you marched with Dr. King. Is that true?” Like an old fighter who is not displeased to recount ancient combat, Lewis nodded and said, well, yes he had, and perhaps for the five thousandth time he sketched the journey from Selma to Montgomery.

“Barack was born long before he could experience or understand the movement,” Lewis said, heading back to the Capitol. “He had to move toward it in his own time, but it is so clear that he digested it, the spirit and the language of the movement. The way he made it his own reminds me of a trip I made to South Africa in March, 1994, before the post-apartheid elections. We met with a few leaders of the African National Congress—young people—and despite their age they knew everything about the late fifties and sixties in the American South, the birth of the civil-rights movement. They were using the same rhetoric, they had the same emotional force. One young South African actor got up and recited a poem by a black slave woman from Georgia! And that is the way it is with Barack. He has absorbed the lessons and spirit of the civil-rights movement. But, at the same time, he doesn’t have the scars of the movement, because of how he grew up. He has not been knocked around as much by the past.”

Obama’s promise to shut down Guantánamo, to outlaw torture and begin reversing immediately some of the most egregious policies of the Bush era, gave Lewis hope that “the movement” had finally come to the White House.

“People have been afraid to hope again, to believe again,” he said. “We have lost great leaders: John F. Kennedy, Martin, Robert Kennedy. And so people might have questioned whether or not to place their full faith in a symbol and a leader. The danger of disappointment is immense, the problems are so big. None of them can be solved in a day or a year. And that’s the way it was with the civil-rights movement. This is the struggle of a lifetime. We play our part and fulfill our role.”

At the luncheon following the swearing-in ceremony, Lewis approached Obama with a commemorative photograph and asked him to sign it. The President wrote, “Because of you, John. Barack Obama.”



Monday, January 26, 2009

The Reader


If you haven't seen The Reader, better not read this commentary. The film raises several ethical and existential questions ( based on the book, reportedly) honed by David Hare in his reworking of the script. I've read several reviews, and it is interesting to me to read the various interpretations of the basic ethical issues of the film. Time claims that Hannah's illiteracy is symbolic of Germany's "willed ignorance" of what the Nazis were doing. OK. Plausible, I guess.

(photo: Kross and Winslet from:
None of the reviews (and most discuss it) have no problem whatsoever with a 30 something woman seducing and carrying on a passionate affair with a 15 year old boy (imagine the outrage were it a 30 something man). The boy is willing, eager, and quickly in love. And the love making the film shows us (reportedly toned down in editing) is a lovely sight to behold. The only morally questionable thing ever raised to their romance is her sudden departure, without a word, when she has to change jobs.

The performances by Kate Winslet as Hanna and David Kross as Michael are convincing and emotionally powerful. Kross is as deserving of an Oscar as Winslet is, IMHO. They both have to reveal their secrets and both have to deal with guilt. Was her guilt worse than his? The movie doesn't make this very clear. It is rather unlikely that the boy would turn up as a law student at her trial 8 years later, but that is what happens in the story. Suspend disbelief and go with the premise: she confesses to writing orders she could not have written since she was illiterate. The lad figures this out and is hit with the dilemma whether or not to come to her defense and tell the court ( admitting his affair with her). The difference is whether she gets under 4 years for being a death camp guard, of life for writing a plan and ordering the death by fire of hundreds of prisoners. She confesses to a crime she did not commit to avoid revealing that she is illiterate. Michael considers visiting her and trying to convince her to tell the truth; but in a scene walking to her cell in the snow, reminiscent of when Hanna helped him when he was sick and they met, he decides to refrain from saying anything.
She gets life-- which turns out to mean 20 years.

Because she cannot read, Michael sends her voice tapes of his reading book after book, from Chekhov to D.H. Lawrence. She loves the tapes, and over the 20 years, teaches herself to read, in part to write him letters. He never writes her back. His own life includes a brief marriage and a daughter; but he remains aloof and cold to everyone until he reconciles with his grown daughter when he tells her this story.

That brings us to the heart of the film. What punishment does Hanna deserve-- if any? Why did she leave Michael without a word? Why is Michael so morally bankrupt and conflicted? Is his guilt that he loves someone he finds morally reprehensible? Is the point of the film that we are all, Jewish survivors included, guilty of indifference and inhumanity? Is Hanna's suicide at the end because of guilt, or because Michael shows her no love?

If the film is muddled and does not present the tough ethical questions with clarity or with a resolution that gives any wisdom, it nonetheless raises questions we all should consider as war and torture continue undiminished today. Camus' The Stranger poses something of the same questions, and remains as profound today for the same reason.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Totally New Agenda from the White House

Photo from The Nation

What a remarkable, joyous day. The scenes of millions moved to tears as Obama became President of the United States, his speech, the pomp and ceremony, the all too obvious total change of people in power, Cheney rolled away in his wheel chair, Michelle Obama, regal and beautiful as Camelot, Rev. Joseph Lowery giving the benediction of benedictions (click), the only one I'm certain God enjoyed...

The PBS News Hour gave a stirring rendition of the day, much of it reviewable online. Listen, if you want inspiration, to the streaming audio of Richard Rodriquez on farewells.

It is time for me to end the evening with Jon Stewart and a recap of the inaugural parties. One last demonstration of Change we do believe in:

It has taken President Obama mere hours to post a whole new agenda on the White House website. How's this for different:



"The teenagers and college students who left their homes to march in the streets of Birmingham and Montgomery; the mothers who walked instead of taking the bus after a long day of doing somebody else's laundry and cleaning somebody else's kitchen -- they didn't brave fire hoses and Billy clubs so that their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren would still wonder at the beginning of the 21st century whether their vote would be counted; whether their civil rights would be protected by their government; whether justice would be equal and opportunity would be theirs.... We have more work to do."

-- Barack Obama, Speech at Howard University, September 28, 2007

President Barack Obama has spent much of his career fighting to strengthen civil rights as a civil rights attorney, community organizer, Illinois State Senator, U.S. Senator, and now as President. Whether promoting economic opportunity, working to improve our nation's education and health system, or protecting the right to vote, President Obama has been a powerful advocate for our civil rights.

  • Combat Employment Discrimination: President Obama and Vice President Biden will work to overturn the Supreme Court's recent ruling that curtails racial minorities' and women's ability to challenge pay discrimination. They will also pass the Fair Pay Act, to ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work, and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
  • Expand Hate Crimes Statutes: President Obama and Vice President Biden will strengthen federal hate crimes legislation, expand hate crimes protection by passing the Matthew Shepard Act, and reinvigorate enforcement at the Department of Justice's Criminal Section.
  • End Deceptive Voting Practices: President Obama will sign into law his legislation that establishes harsh penalties for those who have engaged in voter fraud and provides voters who have been misinformed with accurate and full information so they can vote.
  • End Racial Profiling: President Obama and Vice President Biden will ban racial profiling by federal law enforcement agencies and provide federal incentives to state and local police departments to prohibit the practice.
  • Reduce Crime Recidivism by Providing Ex-Offender Support: President Obama and Vice President Biden will provide job training, substance abuse and mental health counseling to ex-offenders, so that they are successfully re-integrated into society. Obama and Biden will also create a prison-to-work incentive program to improve ex-offender employment and job retention rates.
  • Eliminate Sentencing Disparities: President Obama and Vice President Biden believe the disparity between sentencing crack and powder-based cocaine is wrong and should be completely eliminated.
  • Expand Use of Drug Courts: President Obama and Vice President Biden will give first-time, non-violent offenders a chance to serve their sentence, where appropriate, in the type of drug rehabilitation programs that have proven to work better than a prison term in changing bad behavior.

Support for the LGBT Community

"While we have come a long way since the Stonewall riots in 1969, we still have a lot of work to do. Too often, the issue of LGBT rights is exploited by those seeking to divide us. But at its core, this issue is about who we are as Americans. It's about whether this nation is going to live up to its founding promise of equality by treating all its citizens with dignity and respect."

-- Barack Obama, June 1, 2007

  • Expand Hate Crimes Statutes: In 2004, crimes against LGBT Americans constituted the third-highest category of hate crime reported and made up more than 15 percent of such crimes. President Obama cosponsored legislation that would expand federal jurisdiction to include violent hate crimes perpetrated because of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or physical disability. As a state senator, President Obama passed tough legislation that made hate crimes and conspiracy to commit them against the law.
  • Fight Workplace Discrimination: President Obama supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and believes that our anti-discrimination employment laws should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity. While an increasing number of employers have extended benefits to their employees' domestic partners, discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace occurs with no federal legal remedy. The President also sponsored legislation in the Illinois State Senate that would ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
  • Support Full Civil Unions and Federal Rights for LGBT Couples: President Obama supports full civil unions that give same-sex couples legal rights and privileges equal to those of married couples. Obama also believes we need to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognized unions. These rights and benefits include the right to assist a loved one in times of emergency, the right to equal health insurance and other employment benefits, and property rights.
  • Oppose a Constitutional Ban on Same-Sex Marriage: President Obama voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2006 which would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman and prevented judicial extension of marriage-like rights to same-sex or other unmarried couples.
  • Repeal Don't Ask-Don't Tell: President Obama agrees with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili and other military experts that we need to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve. Discrimination should be prohibited. The U.S. government has spent millions of dollars replacing troops kicked out of the military because of their sexual orientation. Additionally, more than 300 language experts have been fired under this policy, including more than 50 who are fluent in Arabic. The President will work with military leaders to repeal the current policy and ensure it helps accomplish our national defense goals.
  • Expand Adoption Rights: President Obama believes that we must ensure adoption rights for all couples and individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation. He thinks that a child will benefit from a healthy and loving home, whether the parents are gay or not.
  • Promote AIDS Prevention: In the first year of his presidency, President Obama will develop and begin to implement a comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategy that includes all federal agencies. The strategy will be designed to reduce HIV infections, increase access to care and reduce HIV-related health disparities. The President will support common sense approaches including age-appropriate sex education that includes information about contraception, combating infection within our prison population through education and contraception, and distributing contraceptives through our public health system. The President also supports lifting the federal ban on needle exchange, which could dramatically reduce rates of infection among drug users. President Obama has also been willing to confront the stigma -- too often tied to homophobia -- that continues to surround HIV/AIDS.
  • Empower Women to Prevent HIV/AIDS: In the United States, the percentage of women diagnosed with AIDS has quadrupled over the last 20 years. Today, women account for more than one quarter of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses. President Obama introduced the Microbicide Development Act, which will accelerate the development of products that empower women in the battle against AIDS. Microbicides are a class of products currently under development that women apply topically to prevent transmission of HIV and other infections.

and see:

It is truly a new day in the U.S. of A.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Great Show

Amazingly prescient as he so often is, Darryl chose a Bettye LaVette CD to take with us on our drive to Charlotte this weekend. Imagine our joy when we turned on HBO's coverage of the Inaugural opening ceremony on Steve's dazzling HD flat screen LCD Sony Sunday night and there she was singing to Obama and the millions gathering to celebrate his Presidency.
Here's a brief article on her followed by a link to a description of the others who gave such a passionate and rousing perfomance Sunday:

Bettye LaVette performs at inauguration party: 'The greatest thing that ever happened to me'

Posted by Federico Martinez | The Muskegon Chronicle January 19, 2009 14:04PM

Categories: Ear Wax
Bettye LaVette, pictured her in a file photo not related to the inauguration, sang Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come" at Sunday's inauguration celebration.

Her voice was hoarse from hours of rehearsal.

But, there was no mistaking the pride and joy rhythm and blues singer Bettye LaVette was feeling from being asked to perform at President-elect Barrack Obama's inaugural celebration on Sunday.

"It feels like the greatest thing that's ever happened to me." said LaVette, as we spoke by phone one day prior to the event. "I'm overwhelmed."

A staunch Obama supporter, LaVette was well-aware that she would be a participant in a history-making event -- the seating of the first black American as U.S. president.

As we continued to talk, it became apparent that there was even more personal significance involved for LaVette.

"I feel like I'm singing for Frank and Pearl and Sam and Otis," LaVette told me.

Frank and Pearl (Haskin) are LaVette's now deceased parents, who encouraged their daughter's singing aspirations. Sam (Cooke) and Otis (Redding) -- legendary R&B performers -- were old family friends, who LaVette shared a musicial kinship with.

Like Cooke and Redding, LaVette spent her early career struggling against segregation and prejudice.

Born Betty Haskins in 1946, her parents, Frank and Pearl lived in the housing projects of Muskegon Heights.

LaVette's first record, "My Man -- He's a Loving Man," was a top 10 selection on the R&B charts in 1962. But, due to a combination of personal tragedy, bad luck and poor career decisions, LaVette spent most of the next four decades toiling in near obscurity.

When we first spoke -- back in 2002 -- LaVette was still mourning the death of her mother. Offers to perform were appearing with less frequency. She appeared to be just another forgetten r&b singer whose best days were far behind.

The ever-determined LaVette would not let that be.

In 2003 LaVette recorded, "A Woman Like Me," which earned her the W.C. Handy Award "Comeback Blues Album of the Year."

Subsequent recordings have garnered critical acclaim, national TV appearances, and most recently, a 2008 Grammy Award nomination for her latest release, "The Scene of the Crime."

LaVette took advantage of an invitation to perform a show-stealing performance of "The Who's "Love Reign O'er Me," during "The 31st Kennedy Center Honors," in December.

That performance earned her an invite to Sunday's inauguration celebration.

When the moment arrived, LaVette and pop singer Jon Bon Jovi took the stage in front of a live audience of 800,000, including the new First Family. Millions of more people viewed the event from the TVs.

For those who know LaVette, the moment was, well, pure Bettye.

LaVette is known for her skill at taking another songwriter's lyrics and transforming them into her own autobiographical tale. Her adaption of the Sam Cooke classic, "A Change is Gonna Come," was no different.

"I used to try to go to the movies and I tried to go downtown
But somebody was always trying to tell me, little girl you can't come around,
It's been a long, long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will."

I listen to her sing the new lyrics and it makes me think about all the personal and career struggles Bettye has endured thoughout the years.

And I can hear her singing those words to Frank and Pearl:

"It's been a long, long time coming

But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will."

And here's the link to the rest:

Obama's Lincoln Memorial Concert



Friday, January 16, 2009

The New Guard

What a welcome change in the White House:
Read the New Yorker:


And then there is Christoper Hitchens' Take on Obama. Clever, witty, acid, and interesting:

Books January/February 2009 Atlantic

Our new president has a feline’s legendary nimbleness and luck—but there are downsides to being a cat.

by Christopher Hitchens

Cool Cat

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Image credit: Jim Young/Reuters/Corbis

I have a small wish of my own in this season of public and private Utopias. It is that the emergence—or should I say ascendance?—of Barack Hussein Obama will allow the reentry into circulation of an old linguistic coinage. Exploited perhaps to greatest effect by James Baldwin, the word I have in mind is cat. Some of you will be old enough to remember it in real time, before the lugubrious and nerve-racking days when people never knew from one moment to the next what expression would put them in the wrong: the days of Negro and colored and black and African American and people of color. After all of this strenuous and heated and boring discourse, does not the very mien of our new president suggest something lithe and laid-back, agile but rested, cool but not too cool? A “cat” also, in jazz vernacular, can be a white person, just as Obama, in some non–Plessy v. Ferguson ways, can be. I think it might be rather nice to have a feline for president, even if only after enduring so many dogs. (Think, for one thing, of the kitten-like grace of those daughters.) The metaphor also puts us in mind of a useful cliché, which is that cats have nine lives—and an ability to land noiselessly and painlessly on their feet.

Dreams From My Father

by Barack Obama
Three Rivers Press

The Audacity of Hope

by Barack Obama
Three Rivers Press

The Case Against Barack Obama

by David Freddoso
Regnery Publishing

Toward the beginning of his second book, The Audacity of Hope, Obama displays the modesty that is one of his many engaging qualities, attributing his victory in his very first U.S. Senate race (all the way back in 2004) to “my almost spooky good fortune.” This understates matters to a huge degree. click below for the rest:

Can't wait 'til Tuesday...


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

January with Varla Jean

Here's Varla Jean Merman on National Drag Month:

Varla Jean Merman Announces: "It's National Drag History Month!"

Gay music and video from

Drag queens everywhere, REJOICE! Stand a little taller in your pumps, high atop that plywood-covered pool table! As the delicious Varla Jean Merman is proud to announce today, "January is National Drag History Month!"

And on Jan. 31, just in the nick of time, Starr, Dar and I have tickets to see Varla Jean Merman

perform again at the 14th Street Playhouse...

Shut Up Sweet Charlotte
14th St. Playhouse Main Stage
14th Street Playhouse Main Stage
January 22-31, 2009
Reserved Seating


You may know her from her featured role in the 2003 underground comedy smash hit “GIRLS WILL BE GIRLS”. She’s filled concert halls and cabarets around the world from Sydney and Vienna to Chicago, San Francisco and New York and as a regular featured performer headlining her own original shows during Provincetown summers for the past 10 years. And most recently, you may have caught her as the winning model for PROJECT RUNWAY’S amazingly popular Drag Challenge. Strangely enough, New Orleans born VARLA JEAN MERMAN aka JEFFREY ROBERSON has never played Atlanta.

That is about to change however, as VARLA JEAN makes her (his) Atlanta debut as the star of “SHUT UP SWEET CHARLOTTE” set to run at the 14th Street Playhouse from January 22-31, 2009.

Atlanta is a befitting launch for the proposed national touring version of the “Suthen”-drenched, critically acclaimed and award winning production first seen In New Orleans and Provincetown. With VARLA JEAN herself providing the adaptation, direction and headlining the production alongside co-star RICKY GRAHAM, the result is a whacked out, brilliantly twisted and skewered yet right-on-the-mark drag parody of the cult 60’s classic “HUSH HUSH SWEET CHARLOTTE”.

Varla Jean and her company of co-conspirators have created the first ever stage version of “Charlotte” and in the process, provide a laugh-riot of an evening at the theatre. The entire cast impressively manages to both revere and (affectionately) ridicule this cinematic art form. Davis and de Havilland fans will be delighted with their cross dressing theatrical reincarnations. Also watch for the dead-on, inspired rendering of Velma Cruther (Charlotte’s devoted maid) as brilliantly delivered by BROOKS BASELMAN in the supporting role originally portrayed by AGNES MOOREHEAD (Endora of BEWITCHED fame). The additional supporting cast includes Mark Meehan, Yvette Hargis and Michael Sullivan.

Tickets will go on sale November 1, 2008 and can be purchased by visiting the theatre website at or by calling the Box Office at (404) 733-4738

Keep Warm.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Gay Blessings

Blessing Obama:

Bishop Gene Robinson to Deliver Prayer at Inauguration's Opening Ceremony

Bishop Gene Robinson to Deliver Prayer at Inauguration's Opening Ceremony

The Right Reverend Gene Robinson, the first openly gay person to be ordained a bishop in the Episcopal Church, has been asked by President-elect Barack Obama's inaugural committee to deliver the invocation at the inauguration's opening ceremony, which is being held at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday, January 18, and will be the first event attended by the president-elect.

Robinson, whose endorsement of Obama before the New Hampshire primary was considered a big coup for the campaign, has been critical of the controversial selection of Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the president-elect's swearing-in ceremony on the National Mall on January 20. When Robinson heard the news about Warren, who has likened being gay to incest and statutory rape, he said "it was like a slap in the face."

But after the invitation was extended to him, Robinson told New Hampshire's Concord Monitor that his inclusion in the opening event would be incredibly affirming to gay people.

"It's important for any minority to see themselves represented in some way," Robinson said. "Whether it be a racial minority, an ethnic minority, or, in our case, a sexual minority -- just seeing someone like you up front matters."

A spokesman for the inaugural committee told the Monitor that Robinson was given the opportunity to participate in the opening ceremony because of his contribution to the religious community and his efforts on behalf of Obama during the campaign. Robinson also revealed recently that President-elect Obama sought out his counsel and reflections on what it was like to be "a first."

LGBT leaders were quick to trumpet the addition to the ceremony. “Bishop Robinson models what prayer should be -- spiritual reflection put into action for justice,” said Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese. “It is encouraging that the president-elect has chosen this spiritual hero for all Americans to lead the nation in prayer at the Lincoln Memorial inaugural concert.” (Kerry Eleveld,

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Back in 2004 when Dar and I attended the Gay Journalists conference in Brooklyn,
we met Barney Frank, who, in the Republican Congress, had very limited power. Back then he was talking about this day and it's great he's here at last:


Barney’s Great Adventure

The most outspoken man in the House gets some real power.

by Jeffrey Toobin January 12, 2009

Obama “underestimates the importance of confronting ideological differences,” Barney Frank says. Photograph by Martin Schoeller.

Obama “underestimates the importance of confronting ideological differences,” Barney Frank says. Photograph by Martin Schoeller.

Of the four hundred and thirty-five members of the House of Representatives, Barney Frank is the only one whose public remarks have been collected in a book of quotations (“Frank Talk: The Wit and Wisdom of Barney Frank,” published in 2006). He is also the only congressman whose fight against the impeachment of President Bill Clinton has been the subject of a documentary, which was shown to acclaim at film festivals around the country (“Let’s Get Frank,” directed by Bart Everly). Frank is not the only member of Congress to have been the subject of a full-scale biography, but the account of his life, written by a former aide named Stuart E. Weisberg, to be published by the University of Massachusetts Press later this year, will likely rank among the more exhaustive and admiring books ever printed about a sitting member of the House, who is described as “arguably the most unique and fascinating, certainly the most entertaining political figure in Washington.”

The title of the book suggests the basis for the widespread interest: “Barney Frank: The Story of America’s Only Left-Handed, Gay, Jewish Congressman.” Now sixty-eight years old, Frank has represented Massachusetts’s Fourth Congressional District since 1981, and he remains best known for his decision, in 1987, to reveal that he is gay, becoming the first member of Congress to do so voluntarily. At the time, the disclosure provoked more curiosity than controversy, but, two years later, Stephen Gobie, a prostitute whom Frank had patronized and then befriended, made a series of lurid allegations about him—claiming that they had had sex in the House gym and that Frank had permitted Gobie to run a prostitution ring out of his home. An investigation by the House Ethics Committee failed to substantiate those charges, though it determined that Frank had written a misleading letter of recommendation for Gobie and had Gobie’s parking tickets waived. Nevertheless, Frank was reëlected with ease, and he became a pointed critic of the Republicans who took control of the House in 1994 and a passionate opponent of Clinton’s impeachment, in 1998. A witty and effective presence on the House floor and in committee rooms, Frank in recent years has settled into the roles of wise guy and wise man of the Democratic Party. (Conservatives “believe that life begins at conception and ends at birth,” he once remarked. More recently, he noted that Barack Obama’s continued insistence that we have one President at a time “overstates the number of Presidents we have.”) In a 2006 poll of Capitol Hill staffers by Washingtonian, published shortly before the elections that gave Democrats control of the House for the first time in twelve years, Frank was voted the brainiest, funniest, and most eloquent congressman—a notable achievement, since he often speaks in a barely comprehensible mumble.

During the financial crisis this fall, Frank’s status as a gay trailblazer suddenly seemed remote and irrelevant. After the Democrats’ victory, he became chairman of the Committee on Financial Services, and Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, designated him the Democrats’ chief negotiator with the Bush Administration on legislation to address the crises in the banking and auto industries. “Through this all, the quarterback for us is Barney,” Pelosi told me. “He’s solution-oriented, respectful of different perspectives, and brilliant. And it’s brilliance that saves time, because he simplifies the complex for us. He is an enormously valuable intellectual resource for the Congress.”

For the first time in more than forty years of public life, Frank has real power, and he is wielding it in a characteristically idiosyncratic manner. He remains a national symbol of outré sexuality as well as a rare wit in generally humor-deficient Washington. But in Congress he is thought of no longer simply as a liberal of the old school (which he is) but also as a grind. His expertise is in one of the least glamorous subjects on the national agenda—housing, particularly rental housing for poor people—and he is using that knowledge to confront the nation’s economic crisis. “For Barney, the question has always been: What works? What can government do to see that people have the decent necessities of life?” his sister Ann Lewis, the longtime Democratic activist, says. “Now he’s right there. Barney’s been preparing for this moment for his entire life.”

The contours of Frank’s Massachusetts district have shifted over the years, but his political base has long been the liberal, heavily Jewish suburbs of Newton and Brookline. (Brookline was once part of the district represented by Tip O’Neill, the former Speaker of the House, but he surrendered it to Frank’s predecessor, Father Robert Drinan, saying, according to Frank, “I can’t take all the phone calls. Those nice Jewish ladies even call when they agree with you!”) Much of the campus of Boston College, a Jesuit institution, also lies within Frank’s district, and two days after the recent election he paid a visit to the B.C. Real Estate Council, an alumni group.

Boston College has become a major national university in recent years, but the hundred or so older graduates at the luncheon reflected the school’s Irish-Catholic roots. Frank ambled to the podium in his standard uniform: a monochromatic suit, a white shirt, and a rep tie. The look is an improvement on the dishevelled attire that was once his trademark. When Frank was running for state representative in Boston, in the early nineteen-seventies, a campaign poster featured his photograph and the words “Neatness Isn’t Everything.” In conversation, and even in his speeches, Frank often refers to his lifelong struggle to lose weight, but he is well into his seventh decade, and that battle seems to have been lost, a plight accentuated by his apparent tendency to buy shirts in his aspirational, rather than his actual, size.

“Barney’s Great Adventure” continues


And Speaking of the Senate...

Dowd gets it right about Kennedy:

January 7, 2009
Op-Ed Columnist

Sweet on Caroline


Ask not, you know, what your country can, like, do for you. Ask what you, um, can, you know, do for your country.

After a lifetime of shying away from the public spotlight, Caroline Kennedy asked herself what she could do for her country.

Her soft-spoken answer — to follow her father and two uncles and serve in the Senate — got her ripped to shreds in the, you know, press.

I know about “you knows.” I use that verbal crutch myself, a bad habit that develops from shyness and reticence about public speaking.

I always thought that Caroline and her brother, John, had special magic capital in America because of their heartbreaking roles in the Kennedy House of Atreus.

Joe Kennedy, the wily patriarch of the clan, had pioneered the use of Hollywood glamour in pursuit of Washington power. With his glossy pop-culture political magazine, George, John reversed that equation, using his stature as an American political prince to persuade Salma Hayek to pose on the cover of his magazine.

I wrote a column once saying that it seemed like a frivolous use of his time. I thought he should run for office and employ his special clout to make life better for Americans. He died before he had the chance.

So I found it bizarre that when Caroline offered to use her magic capital — and friendship with Barack Obama — to help take care of New York in this time of economic distress, she was blasted by a howl of “How dare she?”

People are suddenly awfully choosy about who gets to go to the former home of Jesse Helms, Strom Thurmond and Robert Torricelli.

Although Americans still have enough British in their genes to be drawn to dynasties, W. has no doubt soured the country on scions. And the camps of the other two New York dynasties — the Clintons (still bitter about Caroline’s endorsement of Obama) and the Cuomos (who’d like that Senate seat for Andrew) — have certainly done their best to undermine Caroline.

Congress, which abdicated its oversight role as the Bush crew wrecked the globe and the economy, desperately needs fresh faces and new perspectives, an infusion of class, intelligence and guts.

People complain that the 51-year-old Harvard and Columbia Law School grad and author is not a glib, professional pol who knows how to artfully market herself, and is someone who hasn’t spent her life glad-handing, backstabbing and logrolling. I say, thank God.

The press whines that she doesn’t have a pat answer about why she wants the job. I’ve interviewed a score of men running for president; not one had a good answer for why he wanted it.

Robert Duffy, the mayor of Rochester, complained that when the would-be senator visited the Democratic headquarters there recently, she did not respond to pictures in a conference room of her father, mother, brother and herself as a little girl. Isn’t it creepy to expect her to emote on cue? Isn’t it more authentic to want to keep some of your most private feelings to yourself?

I know Caroline Kennedy. She’s smart, cultivated, serious and unpretentious. The Senate, shamefully sparse on profiles in courage during Dick Cheney’s reign of terror, would be lucky to get her.

And believe me, she talks a whole lot better than the former junior senator from New York, Al D’Amato, who once wailed that he was “up to my earballs” in some mess, and another time complained to me that those “little Jappies” bring over boats full of cars and then take the boats back empty.

Anyhow, it isn’t how you say it. It’s what you say. Hillary Clinton is a great talker, but she never stood up in the Senate to lead a crusade against any Republican horror show, from Terri Schiavo to the Bush administration’s dishonest push to war.

Sitting in the Senate gallery on Tuesday as senators were sworn in by Dick Cheney, I saw plenty of lawmakers who had benefited from family.

Two Udalls were being sworn in, under the watchful eye of Stewart Udall. Mark Begich, the new senator from Alaska, is the son of a former Alaska congressman. The classy Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, son of the late Gov. Robert Casey, was there in a festive pink tie. John McCain, whose wife’s money and Arizona pull made his Senate election possible, looked on with a smile. Hillary, whose husband paved the way for her to join this club and run for president, chatted with colleagues. Jay Rockefeller wandered about, as did Chris Dodd, son of Senator Thomas Dodd. And Teddy Kennedy, walking with a cane, worked the room with his old brio.

It isn’t what your name is. It’s what you do with it. Or, in the case of W., don’t.

Al for the Senate

Here are the views of the new Senator from Minnesota


Franken has been a vocal critic of the Iraq War, and opposed the 2007 troop surge. However, he didn't criticize the invasion at the time, a fact he often admitted, with regret, on his radio program. In an interview with MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough,[42] Franken said that he "believed Colin Powell", whose presentation at the United Nations convinced him that the war was necessary. Franken now says he believes that Congress should refuse to pass appropriations bills to fund the war if they don't include timetables for leaving Iraq. In an interview with Josh Marshall, Franken said of the Democrats, "I think we've gotta make [Bush] say, 'OK, I'm cutting off funding because I won't agree to a timetable.'"[43]

Franken favors transitioning to a universal health care system, with the provision that every child in America should receive health care coverage immediately. He has spoken in favor of protecting private pensions and Social Security.[44] He has also advocated cutting subsidies for oil companies, increasing money available for college students, and cutting interest rates on student loans.[45][46]

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Out West

Dar above the Rio Grande, previous trip to New Mexico.
Photo by Jack
(click it)

n Christmas Eve we landed in Albuquerque. Our private shuttle whisked us to our hotel and, after we settled in, on to Old Town (click). There we saw the lovely luminaria (click) and partook of the festivities, wandered into the 300 year old church, San Felipe, and had a New Mexican dinner.

On Christmas Day we drove in our rented Ford to Santa Fe. The drive was easy and gorgeous through the snow-covered landscape of New Mexico. We arrived at the Inn of the Tourquoise Bear, once the home of Witter Bynner, poet and friend of D.H. Lawrence.
Highlights of our stay in Santa Fe include hearing Maureen McGovern's singing songs of change (John Lennon, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan...) at the lovely Lensic Theatre. We also made the dramatic drive to Taos, taking the low road up and the breath taking High Road back.
We had some excellent dinners in Santa Fe. Here are a few of the places we ate and liked:

Old House (Christmas Dinner)
The Shed (with Katie and Bobby)
Los Mayas (New Year's Eve)
The Pink Adobe (actually the Dragon Bar. Fab Fried Chicken)
San Francisco Street Bar & Grill for lunch

and in Taos:
Apple Tree (for mango chicken enchiladas-- Yum!)

Another transcendent moment was when I visited the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum.
An exhibit about her changing identity explored her move from New York to Santa Fe and her various relationships. Photos and paintings from around the country added to the permanent collection.

See the next entry below for our photos...