Headed over to the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood last night to attend the opening of the musical If/Then starring Idina Menzel.
I knew Idina would blow our socks off and she did and I knew it would be wonderful to see Anthony Rapp on stage and it was.
What I did not know was that I would become so smitten with James Snyder who plays Josh, an army doctor who meets and falls in love with Elizabeth (Menzel) on her first day back in Madison Square Park in New York City.
He sings great, looks great and is a terrific actor.
Josh is 35 and is probably best known best known for his role as Malcolm in the 2006 film She’s the Man.
But he’s done so much since then including other films (An American in China, Shuttle), TV guest spots (The Good Wife, Blue Bloods), the Broadway show Cry-Baby and regional theater productions of Carousel and Ever After.
I’ve been writing a lot about the accomplishments of Venus Williams this year because I love a good comeback story.
And this year, Venus has had a comeback for the ages.
At 35, she’s back into the Top 10 for the first time in years and it was announced earlier today that she has been voted WTA Comeback Player of the Year for 2015.
Venus, currently ranked number 7, is the oldest Top 10 player since a 38-year-old Martina Navratilova on January 1, 1995.
She won three tournaments this year and made it to the quarterfinals of the US and Australian Opens.
So why is her comeback so noteworthy?
Because Venus, a five-time Wimbledon champ, two-time US Open winner, 2000 Olympic Gold Medalist and former world number one found herself ranked No.137 in the world the week of February 13, 2012. This was after a seven-month absence from the tour during which she was diagnosed with the energy-sapping Sjögren’s Syndrome disease.
Instead of retiring, Venus tried to find ways to conserve her energy, adjusted her lifestyle and kept on playing. Eventually, she found a way to win again.
Her steady progress over the past three years has, of course, been overshadowed by the enormous success of her younger sister, Serena Williams who was named WTA Player of the Year once again.
Since the start of 2012, Serena has won three US Opens, two Wimbledons, two French Opens, an Australian Open and and Olympic Gold Medal. She was two matches away from a Grand Slam before being upset in the semifinals of the US Open in September.
Just watched The Danish Girl the other night so it is no surprise to me – or anyone who has seen it – that Eddie Redmayne stayed on course for another Oscar by scoring a Screen Actors Guild nomination today for his deeply moving performance as a pioneering transgender woman.
Redmayne, of course, won the SAG honor last year for The Theory of Everything then went on to win the Academy Award.
The SAG Awards, voted on by fellow actors, are often seen as accurate precursors to an Academy Award so if Redmayne wins, he would be front-runner to be first performer since Tom Hanks to win back-to-back best actor Oscars.
Cate Blanchett, winner of the SAG Award and Oscar two years ago for Blue Jasmine, is once again nominated for best actress. This time her nod comes for her performance as a lesbian in the 1950s whose affair with a younger woman comes with a price.
The younger woman is played by Rooney Mara who has been nominated in the supporting actress category this year.
Redmayne, Blanchett and Mara are among the performers nominated for LGBT roles in films.
The SAG Awards also present awards for television work and several of those nominations are also for LGBT roles.
They include: Jeffrey Tambor for his role as a transgender woman in Tranparent; Queen Latifah as bisexual blues singer Bessie Smith in Bessie; Uzo Aduba for her performance as lesbian inmate Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’ Warren in Orange is the New Black; and Viola Davis as bisexual attorney and law professor Annalise Keating on How To Get Away With Murder.
Several openly gay, bisexual or transgender performers are also among the nominees.
They include: Jim Parsons with nods for best actor in a comedy series and comedy series ensemble; Jessie Tyler Ferguson in comedy series ensemble category as part of the cast Modern Family; Cherry Jones in comedy series ensemble category for Transparent and Laverne Cox, Lea Delaria and Ruby Rose in comedy ensemble category for Orange is the New Black.
In Transparent’s second season, viewers get to see more of the journey of the Pfefferman family’s middle sibling Joshua, a successful music producer who has troubled relationships with women.
Actor Jay Duplass, who plays Joshua, told me recently it’s been satisfying as an actor to be a part of a groundbreaking show about what happens to a family following the discovery that the person they knew as their father is transgender.
But Duplass, 42, is also happy to be involved because the show has been seen as groundbreaking in its look at transgender and other LGBTI issues.
‘I guess I’ve always been an LGBT ally – this has always been a part of my life,’ he says.
‘I think what the show opens me up to more than anything is really the deeper theme of being true to yourself. It encourages me to do that in every moment and to also fight for the rights of everyone else to do that in their own way whatever way that may be. Of course there is LGBTQ context for that and that is immediate.
‘I think it’s an issue for everyone and I think that’s why people are connecting with the show.’
The actor and his younger brother, Mark Duplass, are also producers of the film Tangerine which made history last month when transgender actresses Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor were both nominated for Independent Spirit Awards for their portrayals of transgender women in the film.
The second season of Transparent began streaming on Amazon last week.
In case you were wondering – and Kyle Krieger was – Olympic freeskier Gus Kenworthy is not circumcised.
Krieger, a hairstylist and popular social media personality, asked Kenworthy that and other probing questions while giving the out athlete a haircut.
‘I’m uncut. I was born in the UK,’ Kenworthy says in a YouTube video posted recently.
But the two cover many other topics and as a bonus to viewers, they both end up shirtless.
Among the highlights:
On getting the ESPN Magazine cover for coming out story: ‘I hope that me coming out and my cover helps push the world and sports especially to a place where it isn’t a big deal to come out.’
On being a role model: ‘I didn’t have a role model when I was a kid and I think if there had been someone that I was really excited about and I looked up to and they had been openly gay and had been cool with it, I think it would have helped me a lot.’
His message to anyone in the closet: ‘The people that can’t accept it or don’t embrace it are kind of people you don’t really want in your life anyway. … I think you’ll be blown away by the amount of people that do support you. … It’s so liberating once you’re out.’
On who inspired him: ‘Caitlyn Jenner’s story definitely had a big impact on me. I remember there was a point where I was already thinking about coming put and then I saw that and thought ‘Holy shit, if she can do that with the world watching in way more of an amplified way than my life, that definitely encouraging for me.’
He’s Vampire Diaries star Ian Somerhalder and I took the photo of him to the left last year.
Ian was first on my radar when he played a guy in love with a girl pretending to be a guy in order to attend his all-boys school on Young Americans, a short-lived series on the WB. He doesn’t know it’s really a girl so he’s convinced that he’s gay!
Then Ian really was gay in the flick Rules of Attraction where he shares a kiss with James Van Der Beek and also does a sexy dance in his underwear on the bed in his hotel room.
Love that scene.
Then came his role as Boone during the first season of ABC’s iLost. His character was killed off at the start of season 2.
Ian became a married man in April when he tied the knot with actress Nikki Reed.
Awfully nice to now have her fully and publicly on our side.
Images of video of make couples and female couples – some who lock lips – are interspersed with some of Hillary Clinton’s speeches during which she speaks out against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The former Secretary of State and US senator from New York is seen addressing the Human Rights Campaign recently in Washington DC and says: ‘It’s outrageous that in 2015 you can still be fired for being gay, you can still lose your home for being gay, you can even be denied a wedding cake for being gay. This kind of discrimination goes against everything we stand for as a country.
‘I’m running for president to stand up for the fundamental rights of LGBT Americans and all Americans.’
Clinton YouTube page where the video is posted states: ‘Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans deserve to live their lives free from discrimination. Hillary knows the fight for LGBT equality will not be finished until every American can not only marry, but also live, work, pray, learn, and raise a family free from discrimination.’
Each day until December 25, I’m going to have a Holiday Tune – they will be old favorites mixed with some new ones.
We kick off the series with a classic: the dazzling Eartha Kitt.
The sexiest Catwoman of them all performed her her signature song Santa Baby throughout her long career and before this performance she cracked: “I used to have a lot of fun with this song … then MADONNA sang it!”
It’s true, there has been many versions of this song over the years – good ones too – but let’s face it, she sings it better than anyone ever will.
She absolutely owns it!
Eartha may be most famous for playing Catwoman on the Batman TV series but she had a singing and acting career than spanned 60 years on Broadway, television, films and nightclubs.
She died in 2008 but her work lives on – especially this, her sexy signature song.
If you’ve seen the movie Backbeat – and I strongly suggest you do if you have not – then you already know the story of Stuart Sutcliffe.
He was the original bassist for The Beatles but quit the band before they became The Beatles.
Sutcliffe met John Lennon while both were studying at Liverpool College of Art In May 1960 and he joined Sutcliffe joined Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison in a group then known as “the Silver Beatles.” The drummer was Pete Best who was later replaced by Ringo Starr.
Sutcliffe’s popularity grew after he began wearing Ray-Ban sunglasses and tight trousers on stage.
But he was an artist at heart and in July 1961, Sutcliffe decided to leave the group and enroll at the Hamburg College of Art.
Tragically, he collapsed in the middle of an art class in 1962 and not long after that died of a cerebral haemorrhage at the age of 21.
Yoko Ono later remembered that Lennon mentioned Sutcliffe’s name very often, saying that he was “[My] alter ego … a spirit in his world … a guiding force.”
The cable network that once aired the Duggar family reality series has ordered a second season of a show about transgender teen Jazz Jennings.
I Am Jazz, which follows the life of 15-year-old Jazz Jennings, will get an eight-episode sophomore season and focus on the teen’s attempts to balance her school life with sports, her family and her work as a activist.
Jennings’ family is also featured on the show. It is with her parents that she founded the non-profit Transkids Purple Rainbow Foundation which supports transgender youth and their families.
Jennings was named one of The 25 Most Influential Teens this year as well as in 2014 by Time Magazine.
Last month, the Mount Horeb Primary Center in Wisconsin canceled a reading of Jennings’ book I Am Jazz after some parents threatened a lawsuit.
Jennings reacted by penning an open letter which read in part: ‘My book can help, I think, but I know from my own experience that it is adults like my parents and (Principal Rachael Johnson) who can make sure that transgender children are treated fairly at school and given the same opportunities to succeed in life.
‘I have been sharing my story for almost a decade because I don’t want anyone else to feel alone or scared.’
Still, I Am Jazz the television show has proven to be far less controversial in the end than TLC’s former reality show phenomenons 19 Kids and Counting (about the Duggar family) and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.
The Duggar show was pulled from the air after it surfaced that family member Josh Duggar, who worked for the anti-gay Family Research Council, had molested two of his sisters.
Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, featuring the family of child beauty pageant contestant Alana ‘Honey Boo Boo’ Thompson, came to an end after reports surfaced that June Shannon was dating a man convicted of child molestation.
Barbra Streisand is going to direct her first film since 1996′s The Mirror Has Two Faces.
She will direct the historical drama Catherine the Great about the young Catherine, who was trapped in an abusive marriage with the heir to the Russian throne. When her inept husband proved incapable of ruling, she utilized her intelligence, fortitude and passion to rise to power, becoming Catherine the Great.
The entertainment legend has some time on her hands since her plans to star as Mama Rose in a new version of Gypsy have suffered a setback. Universal Studios, which had been developing the film for years, has decided not to move forward after all.
Streisand made her feature film directorial debut with the 1983 film Yentl in which she also starred. She won the Golden Award for Best Director for her work on the film. She also directed 1991′s The Prince of Tides which was nominated for an Academy Award for best picture.