Tracy Morgan has been under fire since last week when a homophobic rant he had during a comedy routine in Tennessee was made public via Facebook by a member of the audience.
If you’ve been reading Greg In Hollywood in recent days, then you know that he has been publicly scolded by 30 Rock co-star Tina Fey, actresses Wanda Sykes and Nia Vardalos, and actors George Takei and Cheyenne Jackson, among others.
The controversy has swelled to such a degree that you wonder what impact it might have on Morgan’s career. He is taking some big steps toward rehabilitating his battered image.
GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios and staff members spoke with Morgan today and announced that this week in New York City, the actor-comediane will meet with LGBT teens from the Ali Forney Center who were shunned or left homeless by their parents as well parents who lost their children to anti-LGBT hate crimes including Elke Kennedy.
In his act, Morgan had said he would stap his son to death if he were to find out he was gay.
GLAAD said that next week, Morgan will return to Tennessee with GLAAD to meet with those offended by his remarks and make a public statement about how he supports LGBT people. He will film a PSA as part of GLAAD’s upcoming ‘Amplify Your Voice’ PSA campaign.
Morgan said in a statement: “I know how bad bullying can hurt. I was bullied when I was a kid. I’m sorry for what I said. I didn’t mean it. I never want to use my comedy to hurt anyone. My family knew what it was like to feel different. My brother was disabled and I lost my father to AIDS in 1987. My dad wasn’t gay but I also learned about homophobia then because of how people treated people who were sick with that. Parents should support and love their kids no matter what. Gay people deserve the same right to be happy in this country as everyone else. Our laws should support that. I hope that my fans gay, straight, whatever forgive and I hope my family forgives me for this.”
GLAAD’s Barrios said in a statement:”By not only apologizing, but sending a message of support for gay and transgender people, Tracy will help many realize that no one should be treated differently or subjected to violence. It is so important that Americans hear from allies like him as well as gay and transgender youth shunned by their families and parents who have lost their only children to anti-gay violence. We look forward to working with him on spreading this message to Americans.”
It’s become a tradition that on the first night of LA Pride, the LA Gay & Lesbian Center’s LifeWorks Mentoring program throws its annual cocktail party and silent auction and honors LGBT activists for their contributions.
This year’s event was held for the first time on the backlot of Paramount Studios and I think this was the best location yet for what has become one of my favorite events of the year.
Mike C. Manning of The Real World: DC fame was presented with LifeWorks Courage Award for his dedication to the youth development and mentoring program.
We chatted before he was presented with his award by NCIS star Pauley Perrette.
LifeWorks is so impactful so I’m honored that they chose me of all people to receive the award,” Mike said. “It’s amazing. I was floored. I was just happy to get involved with them. They do so much for LGBT youth which is a group that I think is under-represented with LGBT equal rights groups. They are an untapped resource. They are the future of our activism, the future advocates for equal rights and not enough is done to hone that.”
Because of his visibility from The Real World, Mike hears from a lot of young people.
“I have kids come up to me or get emails and letters and they tell me their stories – good stories and bad stories – so the fact that I can impact their lives like that and help them be who they are and in turn help other people, it’s a gift.”
The evening’s other honoree was the remarkable Zach Wahls, a 19-year-old student at the University of Iowa who became a YouTube phenomenon when he addressed the Iowa State Legislature in support of his two moms and of gay marriage.
We spoke before he got his award. I wanted to know how his life has changed since the video of him speaking so eloquently and lovingly about his family went viral.
“I was not expecting that and if I had been expecting it I’m not sure I would have done it,” he admitted. “It was entirely unexpected. The speech was on a Monday night and Wednesday was the day it took off. I remember sitting in my apartment shaking because of all this pressure and attention and my life was all of a sudden under a microscope and that was not something I’d ever experienced or asked for. It was scary. But at the same time, I knew I had the chance to maybe change the conversation a little bit – for awhile anyway. You either choke or you don’t and I did my best not to.”
He’s since been working with Lambda Legal and One Iowa to protect marriage equality.
“The fights not over,” he said. “Once you’ve secured marriage equality, you have to work your ass off to protect it because the fight’s not over until the other side stops fighting.”
Zach is going to be a part-time student next fall so he can focus on speaking and writing.
“I think the next year-and-a-half is going to be a real pivotal time for this struggle,” he said. “We’re finally starting to see, on a national level, that a majority of Americans support full marriage equality but you also have a lot of candidates on the Republican side all campaigning on this ‘return to family values’ which seems kind of silly to me. the fact of the matter is, increasing marriage rights seems like the best way to increase family values.”
Other than the honorees, among those at Saturday’s star-studded event were Dustin Lance Black, Greg Berlanti, Geri Jewell, Pauley Perrette, Greg Louganis, Jack Mackenroth (Project Runway), Susan Olson (Brady Bunch), Erin Murphy (Bewitched), Charlene Tilton (Dallas), David Moretti (The Lair), Queer as Folk alums Michelle Clunie and Scott Lowell, Doug Spearman (Noah’s Arc) and the reigning Mr. Gay USA Michael Holtz.
LifeWorks Executive Director Michael Ferrera (pictured with Louganis) and Lorri Jean, CEO of the LA Gay and Lesbian Center, also addressed the crowd talking about this terrific program.
Black presented the award to Wahls and before the presentation, I wanted to get the Oscar winners thoughts on the LifeWorks program which honored him two years ago.
“We keep saying it gets better and to come out and embrace who you are once you get past the bullying or whatever is going on in school,” Lance said. “It’s one thing to say it but you have to make sure that those kids have a place to go so it does get better, so that we’re fulfilling that promise. This is one of those programs that does help it get better.”
Below is Zach Wahls addressing the Iowa legislature:
Last week marked the 30th anniversary of the first diagnosed cases of AIDS so it is an ideal time to look back at the early days of the epidemic.
Larry Kramer was there and he wrote a play about that frightening time called The Normal Heart which is currently on Broadway.
Last night his great work won for Best Revival of a Play and the playwright took the stage with the producers and had some memorable words for the gay community:
“To gay people everywhere, whom I love so dearly, The Normal Heart is our history. I could not have written it had not so many needlessly died. Learn from it and carry on the fight. Let them know that we are a very special people, an exceptional people, and that, our day will come.”
I’ve been a big fan of John Benjamin Hickey ever since he starred in the late, great ABC comedy It’s All Relative as one half of a gay couple. (His husband was played by Christopher Sieber!).
So how great to see this busy actor (he’s currently co-starring on TV’s The Big C) win the Tony Award last night for best featured actor in a play for her performance in The Normal Heart. He plays Felix Turner,whose battle with AIDS is the central emotional event in Larry Kramer’s play.
He said being in the play “has been the greatest privilege and proudest moment in my career” and paid tribute to Kramer who he called “the great badass of the American theater.”
Here is a backstage interview the actor did last night:
Neil Patrick Harris was a confident, energetic and well, brilliant host of last night’s Tony Awards.
He kicked things off with this terrific opening number, Broadway’s Not Just for Gays Anymore.
It was a real tour de force for NPH who even poked fun of Angela Lansbury (“Are those things real?”). He had some help from famous audience members including Stephen Colbert, Bobby Cannavale and Brooke Shields who kept messing up her lines and finally just grabbed a sheet of paper with her lines.
I loved it!
BONUS VIDEO: NPH and former host Hugh Jackman had a hilarious face-off. I say it’s a toss-up over who is the host with the most. Both are multi-talented, gorgeous and charismatic.
Enjoyed watching Reeve Carney, star of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, perform on the Tony Awards last night.
The troubled musical will have its “official” opening next week with Carney as the character of Peter Parker/Spider-Man.
He’s 28 and was brought up in a musical family where he learned to play the piano before he took his first steps.
Reeve is lead singer of the band Carney which released their debut album Mr. Green Vol. 1 last year.
Of his Spider-Man role, he told Broadway.com last year: “I wouldn’t have been drawn to this had I not already had a lot of this character’s aspects within myself. I’m always trying to please everybody and I’m a bit of an efficiency junkie, which is why I relate to the struggle between Spider-Man and Peter Parker.”
The 2011 Tony Awards were so entertaining and much of the credit goes to host Neil Patrick Harris who was so brilliant that I predict another Emmy Award for this mega-talent.
I’ll have plenty of Tony-related posts later today and tomorrow but first I want to share some of the arrivals photos of my favorite stars starting with NPH and his love David Burtka. Are they a handsome couple or WHAT?
Then we have out actor John Benjamin Hickey who won the Tony tonight for best featured actor in a play for his performance in The Normal Heart; Tony nominee Tony Sheldon (Priscilla Queen of the Desert) brought his aunt as his date. Do you recognize her? I sure do! She’s pop legend Helen Reddy who appeared on Broadway in the mid-90s in Blood Brothers (I saw her in the musical on London’s West End in 1997!).
And how could I not include an arrival photo of my queen, the great Patti LuPone who was nominated for her performance in the musical Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Patti didn’t end up winning a third Tony (she has awards for Evita and Gypsy) but she was on stage with the cast of Company for the number Side by Side.
Also pictured: Ellen Barkin, winner of the outstanding featured actress in a play Tony for The Normal Heart; Out actor Joe Mantello - a nominee for The Normal Heart; dreamboat presenter Harry Connick Jr.; nominee Judith Light and presenters Tyne Daly and hunky Patrick Wilson.
As I drove from Silverlake to West Hollywood this morning to the 41st annual LA Pride Parade, it began to drizzle. I was wearing shorts, didn’t bother to bring a jacket and began to fret that Mother Nature was going to rain on our parade.
But by the time I got to the pre-parade press conference at the intersection of Santa Monica Boulevard and Crescent Heights, the skies had brightened a bit and I knew we were in for a good time!
Attorney Gloria Allred, a parade regular who this year rode the route flanked by a posse of “Glorias,” first appeared before the press with her client, California corrections officer Andrew Johnson.
Johnson had complained very publicly that his department would not allow him to attend LA Pride in uniform. But once Allred got on the case, much publicity ensued. The department ended up reversing its decision and allowed Johnson to wear his uniform.
The furor over comedian Tracy Morgan’s recent homophobic rant during a stand-up act was on the minds of some of those involved in the parade – especially his remark that he would stab his son to death if he were to find out he was gay.
Rodney Scott, President of Christopher Street West, the organization that organizes LA Pride, grew emotional when he talked about it. He stood next to a 16-year-old gay male and said tearfully: “Can you imagine him coming home, telling his parents that he is gay, and his father stabbing him?”
He added: “Tracy, you owe this entire community an apology. To make a statement that you would stab your own child. It’s not acceptable.”
When it was her turn at the mic, parade honoree Margaret Cho also talked about Morgan’s hurtful words: “We see how much homophobia pervades our culture with all of the things that have happened in the past week. What I’m so proud of is our community coming together and demanding an apology which came very, very quickly. Very earnestly and honestly and I think it’s so powerful. Our community does not stand still anymore. We act right away. I am so proud that we do that and I’m so proud to be here. This is such a beautiful celebration of who we are.”
I spotted parade honoree Andy Cohen standing near Margaret and thought he might have a few words for us.
But the Bravo executive and host of What Happens Live wasn’t feeling very chatty.
He merely gave us a wave when he was introduced as LA Pride’s person of the year. Guess Andy was saving his voice for those Real Housewives reunion specials!
But Grand marshal Johnny Weir, whose hair and outfit were quite a stunning sight (“My mom picked out my outfit today.”), was in the mood to talk and I was struck by how very proud the Olympic skater was to be there.
“I’m so, so honored to be here and privileged to be the grand marshal,” Johnny said. “It’s an incredible, incredible experience. I’m here representing my community and so many beautiful people that I’m proud of. I’m here representing my family for supporting me the entire way through my youth, my career as an Olympian no matter what.”
“[I'm] representing our brothers and sisters all over the world – and even in America – who are still discriminated against, still don’t have equal rights as Americans. I’m here with love for everybody. I’m so, so proud.”
Well said Johnny!
So, here are some snapshots I took during the parade including LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Miss Allred and her assorted Glorias, a hunky sheriff’s deputy, a hot guy with the Mickey’s float, a cutie pie promoting From Hollywood to Dollywood and me with friend and fellow journalist James Mills who was also covering the parade.
Nia Vardalos, star of such films as My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Connie & Carla and My Life in Ruins, has a huge gay following.
And boy, she sure sticks up for the LGBT community in a column she has written for Huffington Post about Tracy Morgan’s homophobic tirade during a recent stand-up performance and she really lets the 30 Rock star have it.
Here it is in its entirety:
I don’t know Tracy Morgan.
I don’t work for NBC.
I’m not a lesbian.
Or a gay man.
So, it would seem there isn’t a reason for me to give much thought to his damaging words.
Enough is enough.
I would like to apologize to our entire gay and lesbian community that this hate still exists. I’m sorry someone can stand on a stage, spew violent, hateful words and images, then issue an apology, be described as not-really-like-that by his employers and co-workers, and go back to work.
Sure, we got the statements. Right away, people who know him issued words explaining his behavior and saying he’s actually not really like that.
So, that’s it? We get a few statements from the people who work with him, and we all forget about it?
Not this time.
I want more. And, I respectfully request more. Much more.
When does the hate against our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, end?
Sure, a writer or comedian riffing, working out material, often goes to strange and dark places. Editing is discouraged, because part of the journey is surprise and discovery. But what we discovered about Tracy Morgan is deeply disturbing.
He is homophobic.
His employers now know this about him. And, I don’t think he should simply be vilified and shunned. Nor, just apologized for. I am optimistic wonderful Tina Fey and the brilliant writers won’t just reference it on the show in a cute and sweet way, thus dealing with the incident with a wink and a nod. I hope NBC does more than issue a statement.
What I’m yearning for is simple: we’ve discovered Tracy Morgan has a problem, and now he needs help. There must be some result, more than a few apologies. Maybe this is a way to open the dialogue. Maybe sensitivity training. It happened. Let’s address it and learn from it.
Or, is it now a question of a hate crime and a consequence?
When Isaiah Washington reportedly uttered homophobic slurs on Grey’s Anatomy, he was fired. Perhaps, because he said it at work? Maybe he created an unsafe working environment, and was therefore asked to leave.
So, are we to assume Tracy Morgan has never expressed his innermost feelings about gay and lesbian people at work? Really? Ever? I wonder if his co-workers feel safe and at ease. The problem is, we’ve all seen it: this sort of joke is usually greeted with a laugh. Even an uncomfortable one, to ease the tension, is condoning the message.
There are reports that while some were angry, many people in the audience that evening, laughed.
That offends me. And, worries me. We live in an unsafe world. There are children and adults who go to school and work every day, knowing there are people who feel the same way as Tracy Morgan. They now know there was an audience who did not stand up and walk out when a man talked about stabbing his son if that child revealed himself to be gay. Stabbing. His son.
I feel sorry for Tracy Morgan. He revealed something about his feelings that show a deep fear. I hope he gets treatment for his problem. Thanks to the Internet, his words will be out there forever.
So, it happened. What do we do now? How this issue is dealt with will reveal a lot about our society and our ever-evolving levels of tolerance and acceptance of our gay and lesbian community.
If you are reading this blog, chances are excellent that at 8 p.m., you will have your television on CBS and be settling in to watch The Tony Awards.
Since the awards, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, is taking place during Gay Pride weekend in LA, it is simply the gayest day of the year for me.
To get you in the mood for the festivities, I’ve compiled a handful of performances from Tony Award telecasts past featuring some of my favorite Tony telecast performances from years gone by featuring Jennifer Holliday, Patti LuPone, Hugh Jackman, Ethel Merman, Cheyenne Jackson [in shorts!] the original cast of Rent and a terrific medley from the 1986 show featuring the likes of Bea Arthur, Nell Carter, Ann Rienking and Sandy Duncan.
Saw Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black at Saturday’s LifeWorks Live Out Loud party [see full report on the event later today] and wondered what this always outspoken and articulate guy thought about the furor surrounding Tracy Morgan’shomophobic rant during a comedy routine.
“He’s apologized at this point,” said Lance. “You know, these things are learning experiences. I think as long as we react strongly and let them know that it is not appropriate and that they do apologize that we are using it as learning experiences. We’re saying, ‘Hey, you can’t do this and this is why.’ If the apology happens, I think it’s good. It’s helpful.”
Lance, whose Academy Award came in 2009 for the screenplay he wrote for Milk, also wrote the upcoming film J. Edgar which was directed by Clint Eastwood and stars Leonardo DiCaprio.
J. Edgar hits theaters the first week in October and he’s still finishing the film What’s Wrong With Virginia which he wrote and directed. It stars Jennifer Connelly, Ed Harris and Emma Roberts.
As you can see from the number of blogs posts in the past few days, Tracy Morgan’s homophobic and violent remarks during a stand-up routine have really struck a nerve.
While some have defended his right to free speech, others like Tina Fey, Wanda Sykes and Cheyenne Jackson have been highly critical.
Here’s what openly gay Star Trek icon George Takei thinks:
“When I first learned of it, my blood started boiling,” he told TheWrap. “But then, the more I read it over, you know, he’s a sad, strange man. He’s an African-American who has been subjected to bigotry and hate before, and for him to be perpetuating that, he must be an insecure guy.
“It’s really kind of sad to see that and to talk about violence — kill his own son if he turned out to be gay. (joking) His father should be very careful: He might be the next victim of a killing rampage because he gave him the name ‘Tracy.’ It’s a very lacy kind of thing, poor guy. Maybe that contributed to his insecurity and hence his homophobia.”
Johnny Weir is grand marshal of today’s L.A. Gay Pride Parade in West Hollywood.
The openly gay three-time U.S. figure skating champion talked to OnTheRedCarpet.com about the honor.
“This is actually my first gay pride parade ever,” he said. “I don’t know what to expect, I would assume lots of glitter and lots of six packs – it is Los Angeles.”
“I never dreamt of being the grand marshal of a gay pride parade, simply because it took me a long time to find my pride,” he added. “I always was focused more on my sport and making something of myself other than being gay and being born that way. That was just something I was born with, the same with me being white, so I always wanted to do extra, do more.”
“In the last couple years, with so many people having trouble and me being in the spotlight more than ever in my life, I realized that I am proud!” Johnny said. “I am so happy to be me and I’m so happy for all the things that I was born with. And I need to show that to the world, that it’s okay to be different, it’s cool to be this amazing addition to society… And for our brothers and sisters who can’t celebrate pride around the world, like one of my favorites, Russia. Their pride parade in Moscow got shut down and that egged me on even more to be here and be supportive of my community.”
Ran into a couple of Greg In Hollywood readers at the Outfest kickoff party last week and they had all kinds of suggestions for Morning Man Classics. They were some really good ones too!
One of them was Parker Stevenson, the handsome guy we first spotted in the movie Lifeguard opposite Sam Elliott who then starred with Shaun Cassidy on ABC’s The Hardy Boys Mysteries.
Several other series followed including time on the soaps Falcon Crest and Melrose Place and the short-lived series Probe. He also had a role in the miniseries North and South: Book II starring Patrick Swayze.
He was one of the original stars of the long-running series Baywatch as lifeguard Craig Pomeroy, left the show after a few seasons in 1991, but returned for the 1997 and 1988 seasons. In more recent years, Parker has not appeared on television as much but recently completed a role on the series Legend of the Seeker as well as the film McTaggart’s Fortune.
Parker, now 59, was married to Kirstie Alley from 1983 to 1997 and they have two adopted children. When Kirstie won the Emmy Award for Cheers in 1991, she famously thanked her then-husband “for giving me the big one.”
Cheyenne Jackson has appeared in nine episodes of NBC’s 30 Rock as Danny Baker.
The openly gay star of Broadway, television and films had this to say about 30 Rock’sTracy Morgan’s homophobic remarks during a recent stand-up routine that have caused quite a furor:
“I am disgusted and appalled by Tracy Morgan’s homophobic rant,” Jackson said in a statement provided to Out Magazine. “The devastating repercussions of hate-filled language manifest in very real ways for today’s LGBTQ youth. I’ve known Tracy for two years, spent many long hours with him on set, and I want to believe that this behavior is not at the core of who he is. I’m incredibly disappointed by his actions, and hope that his apology is sincere.”
It was such a pleasure to meet the reigning Mr. Gay USA Michael Holtz a few days ago at the TV Academy’s LGBT event.
I’ll be seeing him again tonight because he is one of the honorary hosts of 6th Annual Life Out Loud event on the lot of Paramount Studios – a party that benefits the terrific LifeWorks Mentoring program which is now part of the LA Gay & Lesbian Center.
Michael told me his mom has come in from Florida to celebrate LA Gay Pride weekend with him. I was surprised to hear he wasn’t riding in Sunday’s parade but it sounds like he’ll be plenty busy at other events.
He was crowned in March and has since been busy appearing at fundraisers and doing public speaking.
“You kind of wonder, the way that people look at you, what they think of the title,” Michael admitted. “Do they look at you as a role model or do they think, ‘Why does HE deserve that?’”
But overall, it’s been a positive experience so far.
“It’s been a really refreshing and rewarding situation,” he said. “I was on a panel with Andy Cohen down at Miami Gay Pride and this girl raises her hand and said I had given her the inspiration to come out and to also pick up the bat and play softball again. Stories like that and Facebook messages and emails are just great. Of course you’re going to have the people that are going to frown upon what you are doing. Things like that make it so much more rewarding.”
, Michael is a former investment banker who is now CEO of Mkh20 Productions which produces open-wide swims and athletic events across the U.S. that directly benefit national LGBT organizations.
With last September’s Swim For Equality fundraiser, Michael was able to bring together 52 swimmers – including Olympian Greg Louganis – from six different states for a 1.7-mile swim off the coast of Malibu. The unique fundraiser raised $148,000 for Equality California.
Michael came up with the idea after organizing a similar event in New York City in 2009 – a 5K open water swim from Long Island to Fire Island that raised over $100,000 for the Stonewall Community Foundation.
He’s launching the GLAAD Athletic Initiative on the East Coast this year and working with Equality California on the West Coast.
Michael was also the first-runner-up in the Mr. Gay World competition earlier this year.
“The U.S. had never broken into the top five so being second was a really great accomplishment,” he said. “It was a great experience, just having interaction with 28 delegates from different countries was reward in itself.”
Straight allies are crucial in the fight for marriage equality so it’s terrific to see someone like former New York Giants star Michael Strahan step up and speak out in favor of same-sex couples having the right to marry each other.
He has filmed a public-service announcement in support of the New Yorkers for Marriage Equality campaign saying in the video: “As a defensive end for the New York Giants, I always played the game tough but fair. And I feel it’s unfair to keep committed couples from being married.”
CONTROVERSY: People are taking sides in the controversy over Tracy Morgan’s June 4 stand-up act in Nashville during which he, among other things, said he would stab his son to death if he turned out to be gay.
Morgan’s 30 Rock co-star Tina Fey and NBC chairman Robert Greenblattboth released statements yesterday that were critical of Morgan but fellow comic Chris Rock has tweeted words of support.
“I dont know about you, but I dont want to live in world where Tracy Morgan cant say foul inappropriate shit,” he posted yesterday on Twitter.
Then earlier today, Rock added a more well though-out post: “Tracy Morgan is a tad off we all know that so when tracy says something i usually don’t take it anymore serious than i would a statement from gary busey or flavor flav .when i first heard the statement i thought it was offensive but it also reminded me of my father saying ill kill you if you ever bring home a white girl but after reading everything tracy said . wow i get it that shit wasn’t called for and i don’t support it at all. now can i please go to the tony awards without getting my ass kicked.”
Meanwhile, out comic Wanda Sykes has weighed in saying of Morgan’s material: “I do believe in free speech, but for a youth in TN or any other numerous place, Tracy just yelled, ‘Fire,’ in a crowded theater.”
Wanda described Morgan as “just a dumb comic,” but she also faults Tennessee lawmakers: “They’ve created an anti-gay environment.” She doesn’t “believe Tracy would be so ignorant in LA, because we have a mayor, a city council,and police chief who believes we are all equal.”
Of Rock’s initial tweet she remarked via Twitter: “Ok, piss’d reading, “I don’t want 2 live n a world where Tracy can’t say…” I Do! U Keep the world, just break me off an evolved country.”
Later she added: “Tracy has the right to say whatever he wants to say, just like we have the right to say, not acceptable.,” and, “WE as a country. We used to picnic to watch public hangings, but WE figured out, that was some sick shit.”