Out Of The “Movie” Closet

Shortly after I officially came out and met the person that was probably my soul mate, I was introduced to a great many things. One of them was LGBTQ cinema and no I am not just talking about porn. I had never known there were movies that dealt with people that felt the same things I did. The small town I grew up in, I wasn’t even truly aware if there were others like me, in retrospect there were probably far more than I will ever know. My first love had what seemed an extensive library of LGBTQ films, though they did skew more towards gay male perspectives.

Today’s LGBTQ kids may have not even heard of many of them. Oh sure, you cant turn on the television without seeing the Birdcage still. VH1 still shows the Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert and you cant go a full year without seeing Too Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar. But these are mainstream because just as many heterosexuals find them entertaining. Much like the Kevin Kline travesty “In & Out.” Most of these have one big thing in common, they do not show LGBTQ life in reality but as we are seen by heterosexual people. Sadly, most of the movies from that boundless library he had were filmed with straight men and many were a little campy, none the less they are still in our history. And there are a few that are my favorite, so bear with me as I give you a list some of them.

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The first film that we watched together was It’s My Party (1996), a movie that dealt with the very raw subject of living with AIDS. This film hit me hard because it was based on the true-life party of Harry Stein, an accomplished architect and designer. His real-life partner, Randall Klieser, directed the film and the party that was the topic of the movie took place in 1992. It hosted some big names, as well as some up and coming names, like Eric Roberts, Gregory Harrison, Olivia Newton-John, Bronson Pinchot, and Margret Cho. Nick Stark is the main character of the movie and decides to host a two-day party where he invites him friends and family over to celebrate his life and them being apart of it, at the end of the party Nick would take his life. Nick had contracted a disease that would leave him in a vegetative and memory lapsed state hooked to a machine to keep him alive. He had watched many of his friends die from the same disease and did not want to endure. The movie is about the struggle of a couple whose relationship died due to the disease and was reconnected because of it, as well.

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Next would be the movie Jeffrey (1995), which stars Steven Weber, Michael T. Weiss, Sigourney Weaver, Kathy Najimi, and Patrick Stewart. Steven Weber Plays Jeffrey who is a gay man who loves sex at the height of the AIDS epidemic. He had been used to night after night of men and sex until he noticed the trend of his “tricks” asking for proof of his HIV status. This spirals him into disarray as he decides he is going to swear off sex. He then meets Steve (Michael T. Weiss) who is attracted to Jeffrey, but Steve has a secret. It’s a movie about a guy who is afraid of falling in love with someone who has AIDS and watching them die only to be left alone. It was a movie that challenged my perceptions and allowed me to grow. Sure that is giving this movie a lot of credit, but the cameos in it are hilarious and the story is on point about loving someone for who they are and not what they may have.

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Love! Valour! Compassion!(1997) Okay, this started out in 1995 as a play, but its tour on Broadway allowed it to become a movie in 1997. In it you will find Jason Alexander (Seinfeld) and John Glover among others. The movie takes place over three summer holidays in a lakeside house in upstate New York. The main character is going through a gay midlife crisis about his creativity and worth and surrounds himself with his friends that are directly tied to his artistic career. The course of the three holidays leads the group run the gamut of topics like infidelity, soul searching, AIDS, life and death. This leads to skinny dipping and flirting with the grand finale being a dress rehearsal of Swan Lake in drag.

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Torch Song Trilogy(1988) Another movie that was adapted from a play, written by Harvey Fierstein. This movie included Harvey Fierstein, Anne Bancroft, and a young Matthew Broderick as the star line up. The play spanned four hours, but New Line cinema insisted that it be edited to a two hour running period. The play was written about a female impersonator named Charles Pierce, who was a noted Betty Davie impersonator. Harvey created the lead role, Bertha Venation, aka Arnold Beckoff, for him to portray. The story starts in 1971 where Arnold meets his first love Ed while being dragged to a bar after a night’s show. After meeting Ed, who is still battling accepting being gay, leaves Arnold for a female named Laurel. Two years later in 1973, Arnold meets the love of his life Alan, played by Matthew Broderick. Ed has married Laurel and invited Arnold and Alan to the country for a weekend visit. This proves to be awkward but reinforces the commitment between them. They move in together, plan to adopt a gay child, and get an apartment. On the eve of their first night in their new place, Alan is killed by a group of gay bashers, This leads Arnold into a spiral that climaxes when Arnold’s mother comes for a visit. For me, it is one of the few that shows the struggles of being LGBTQ in a world that still doesn’t fully accept us as we are.

There are others, more modern films that also fall into my favorites list, but these listed are from the library of what I devoured when I met Shawn. These are ones that have had huge impacts on me, in various ways. They will remain a part of my history and are ones I always recommend to people who have never seen them, the same way Shawn did for me. If you haven’t seen them, please check them out. Let me know if you enjoy them.
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Flaming River Comic-con

I know what you are thinking, this year’s Comicon was a blast, but what can I do to rock out my Queer Geek side until it comes back next year. Flaming River Con is your answer and it will be held Saturday September 22nd, 2018. This is the first ever Midwest LGBTQIA+ event for all things Queer and Geek. You need to come out and support this group.

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Founded in 2017, Flaming River Arts is a Cleveland based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose goal is to foster, showcase, and celebrate LGBTQIA+ voices and the community, and combat bigotry by increasing the visibility of marginalized persons within geek culture. Their first event, Flaming River Comic-Con, was last year with this one being far larger and is a place for LBGTQIA+ artists, authors, and vendors to showcase their talent. You can come and learn about queer history in comics, rock your favorite Cosplay, learn to Cosplay on a budget, and sit in on various Queer themed panels.

 

Their special guest this year is Los Angeles’ own Sina Grace, writer of Marvel’s solo Iceman comics. Sina has received the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comic Book. You can also take part in a host of panels about topics such as; queer comics, social activism, cosplay on a budget, queer representation in horror, and much more. There will be 40 vendors to quench your queer culture thirsts, so come thirsty. So dust off that Light saber, grab your Sonic Screwdriver, put on your Red Shirt and join the away team at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Rocky River, Ohio. Also to appear is Dale Lazarov, Father of the American Bara Comicsas the writer, art director and licensor of Sticky Graphic Novels. The Sticky Graphic Novels are picture based, gay character based, and sexpositive graphic novels. His fans rave that his works are “a joyous expression of male/male sexuality that, while erotic, is neither grubby nor tasteless.” Also, Dr. Ken Scheck, author of LGBTQ Cleveland, will host a panel on Cartoon 4 Change. This panel will discuss the evolution of Cleveland’s cartoon as the discuss HIV/AIDS, racism, and how the LGBTQ community interacts.

 

Here is a list of some of the vendors that will be at Flaming River Comicon. Pointless Peaches, LLC, a retail store that makes handcrafted items by the founder LaShanta Knowles. Northcoast Armor & Jewelry , their specialty is custom made chain and scale mail jewelry, clothing, armor, and accessories. She also makes her very own line of dragon jewelry.  ArtsParadis Handcrafted Jewelry  is a LGBTQ owned and operated business that specializes in handcrafted jewelry. Charlene and Jeff, owners and crafters behind the company, specialize in handcrafted jewelry.

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FRA is pleased to announce its first annual Flaming River Con! The all-day event will take place Saturday September 22nd, 2018 at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Rocky River, Ohio. The event will be the Midwest’s first all LGBTQIA+ geek convention, showcasing everything queer and geek, including comics, zines, podcasts, art, books, cosplay, panels, and workshops. Author and illustrator Sina Grace will headline the convention. Grace has published several graphic novels in addition to working for Marvel Comics, IDW, Valiant, and more. Grace is currently writing the solo Iceman comics for Marvel.

Flaming River Con will be holding a book signing and meet and greet with Sina Grace at John and Carol’s Comics on September 21st, 6pm-8pm.

For more information, including panel, vendor, and sponsor applications, please use the contact information below:

So, come on out and support your local LGBTQ community and get your geek on!!!

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Website: www.flamingriverarts.org

 

Email: flamingrivercon@gmail.com

EIN: 82-5337147

 

Sincerely,

Flaming River Arts

 

 

One Stop, Amazing Shop

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In my early years after coming out, I remember going to the LGBTQ bookstores often. No, no not the adult shops cruising’ for a tryst. I mean an actual bookstore. Some of you kids may not fully remember them, but they were places you could go an buy books on all topics of LGBTQ culture. Need Pride jewelry? They had it. Need a new t-shirt with a bit of attitude for the bar this weekend, you betcha. How about some cool new decor for your fab pad, right over here on the counter, if you please. It was a one-stop shop of all things Queer. Sadly, over the years, these community centers have all but disappeared. At least I thought so until I had been out exploring with my friends.

I persuaded them to go to W29th and Detroit because it had been the epicenter of LGBTQ culture in Cleveland since the late 70s and I wanted to feel immersed. Granted, I used to go to that area when I spent some time here visiting. I remember going to A Man’s World, when it was still here, and the neighborhood was sketch to say the least. Since 2008, this neighborhood has become a hub of change. More businesses have moved to this area, new homes are being added, and remodeling what is there has become the new thing. I had heard that The Dean Rufus House of Fun was here and once we parked we decided to venture inside and take a look.

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As soon as I stepped through the door it was as if history itself had surrounded me. So many memories flooded back and it was almost like going home. Dean welcomed us in very energetically and offered help. A very engaging soul who treated his store like his home and us, as guests coming to visit. Being a southern boy, this was an immediate connection for me. Dean is amazing and full of history, he has been in that location for 13 years, and he has seen the neighborhood change. Want to know about the beginning of that area, he has that information. I learned so much about LGBTQ history from him in the 45 minutes we were there. He walked with us outside and showed us around the neighborhood, what was new and what had endured. Sharing with us how the building his store currently resides in was once the site of the first LGBTQ center of Cleveland. This man is a wealth of knowledge.

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Much like I remember from my past, this store carried everything you might need. Various tchotchkes abound, Pride flags and jewelry, clothing and even a local line of Men’s underwear called Bayne Wear. Yes kiddies, they also carry adult novelties as well, making it safe spot to buy your needs without facing the judging stares you may get from other places. They also carry a large selection of vintage vinyl and CDs; dedicated to all the songs and artists we grew up loving and singing. Books that still cater to our culture and even from local authors such as Ken Schneck’s book LGBTQ Cleveland.

You really need to get over there and check him out. I LOVE this place and you will too.  Be vocal and shop local. Keep your community strong and support their business.