It’s great to see two such young and energetic activists included in the OUT 100 list which continues to be unveiled.
The 19-year-old actor James Duke Mason (left) — and son of Belinda Carlisle — started the Trailblazer campaign this year, which features YouTube videos of openly gay celebs encouraging closeted entertainers and public figures to come out and be proud.
After watching AIDS decimate his rural hometown, Logan Voxx, 22, founded the Positive Young People Foundation, which aims to lower infection rates among young people and provide access to HIV treatment in low-income areas.
Bravo’s newest docu-series, It’s a Brad, Brad World will premiere on Monday, Jan. 2.
It follows Brad Goreski as he embarks on his own in the glimmering, cutthroat world of fashion styling.
According to Bravo, this docu-series is an all-access pass into the life of the small-town kid who loved theater and fashion, and who followed his dreams.
While Brad obsesses with getting his clients red-carpet ready, he struggles to balance work and his home life with long-term boyfriend, Gary.
In the premiere episode, we see Brad stepping out of Rachel Zoe’s shadows and into the limelight. The first step in getting his office out of his garage and into a proper work space is to get business fast.
After a chance meeting with stylist Rachel Zoe, Brad began working for her in 2008 and was eventually featured in the popular series The Rachel Zoe Project.
Since then, he’s attended the Academy Awards with Anne Hathaway, been photographed by Terry Richardson and made the cover of the Styles section of The New York Times.
After seeing his charming performance in Longhorns during Outfest last summer, I became a big fan of actor Jacob Newton who made his feature film debut in the movie out on DVD today.
The movie would not have succeeded at the level that it does if not for Newton who plays Kevin, a “straight” frat-boy who enjoys bonding with his fellow schoolmates in this comedy set in 1982.
When Kevin encounters Cesar (Derek Villanueva) an openly gay student, his heart starts to flutter for the young man, setting off a chain of events where sexual identity comes into question.
I met with Jacob at LA’s Aroma Cafe on Sunset Boulevard Sunday afternoon to chat about the film which was written and directed by David Lewis. It had three screenings at Outfest and also played at a film festival in the actor’s hometown of Louisville, Ky.
“It was the first LGBT film festival ever in Louisville and a third of the board members were people that I’d done plays with so it was like a good little homecoming,” said the twentysomething actor who was a theater major at the University of Louisville.
“I think people will probably tune in for the skin attraction to be honest. But the cool part though is once they get into it, they will be so shocked and think, ‘Oh my God, there’s more here to watch than pretty boys get naked.’”
“I don’t think any actor goes in and thinks, ‘Oh God I’m just dying to go in and just fling it all over the place.
“What was great about being the lead was playing the character that gets to make the greatest transition,” he said. “He’s hurting a lot of people but he doesn’t realize it. That’s one of the things about adolescence. You hurt people without knowing it and you get hurt and you don’t know why and once you figure it out, you learn and you change and grow and you try to live your life a little differently and I think that’s what happens to Kevin.”
He had originally been interested in the supporting role of Justin, a homophobic classmate who also has some repressed same-sex attractions. But when it came time to audition, he was asked to read for Kevin.
Longhorns was shot at a breakneck pace in less than two weeks in Oakland and Grass Valley.
“I didn’t have any apprehensions about taking on a gay role,” Jacob said. “I could care less if an audience thinks I’m straight or gay. What I care about is whether they think of me as an artist or not. My bigger issue was with the nudity. Even if people tune in for the skin, I wanted to come away feeling like the value of this film is not the skin. I was glad I put in some time at the gym though – the abs looked okay.”
He came out to Los Angeles four years ago and had appeared in a series of short films before landing Longhorns. Jacob hopes it’s the beginning of a long and successful career in film and on stage.
“I’d like to be like Kevin Spacey,” he said. “I would love to be able to do all the features that I want and have the time to do something like be the artistic director of the Old Vic and do all the plays I want. That would be my ideal.”
Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka received the Rand Schrader Distinguished Achievement Award at Saturday night’s 40th anniversary LA Gay and Lesbian Center gala.
The Center has provided this video of Jane Lynch’s introduction of the couple and of Neil and David’s acceptance speech which was funny and moving.
“We are extraordinarily grateful that we are able to stand here today as a same-sex couple with children and not feel like we are some kind of freak show or some kind of government experiment gone awry,” said David.
Added Neil: “The fact is, David and I don’t even consider ourselves true activists. There’s a lot of other people who do that heavy lifting. Sometimes we choose to raise our voices so that the world can hear us but other times we just, frankly, we just want to curl up at home and be a family together.”
Leslie Jordan, who has a role as a newspaper editor in the current hit film The Help and played a pushy art expert on this week’s episode of Desperate Housewives, found time to host Saturday night’s 40 anniversary LA Gay & Lesbian Center gala.
“I was so honored because guess what, I’ve been around four decades!” Leslie said during our red carpet chat. “I was here in the beginning. It’s a real testament to what I’ve always believed is that gay people, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender, we have to take care of our own and that’s what I think, in a nutshell, is what The Center is all about. We figured out early on that okay, we’ve got to take care of our people, our tribe and I think they’ve done an amazing job.”
An Emmy winner for Will & Grace, Leslie won our hearts as Brother Boy in the stage and feature film versions of Sordid Lives and its follow-up television series. His one-man shows, icluding the acclaimed My Trip Down the Pink Carpet, are deeply moving (and hilarious) as he draws from his experiences as an effeminate tiny boy in the south and in show business.
I wondered what Leslie thought about a growing feeling among some that the LGBT community is becoming too mainstream.
“You know, I fluctuate on that,” he said. “When I came out, there was one gay bar in Chattanooga, Tenn. and in that gay bar there were lawyers, there were black people, there were white people, there were drag queens and we had one leather queen all under one roof and what we had in common was that we were gay. And sometimes I miss that. But then again, c’mon. We were also that gay bar that you had to go down an alley and knock on the door. We feared for our lives.”
He added: “The other day, I was at a restaurant and there were two young guys sitting side by side and they were holding hands. I watched them and, I couldn’t help it, I went by and I said, ‘This is just so beautiful and I hope you realize what we went through.’ They thanked me but, you know, I don’t think they had any idea of what it was like. I try to tell my story sometimes to younger people and they’re like, ‘Wow! Oh really?’ A world without the Internet, a little gay boy in Chattanooga Tenn. immersed in a Baptist church with not one soul to talk to, not one soul! I think if there had been a Trevor Project that I could have talked to.”
But would he be as brilliant as he is, especially in his one-man shows, had he not had those difficult experiences?
“No. I wouldn’t change a thing,” Leslie said. “I look back and I wouldn’t change a thing. Everything that I went through brought me to here.”
David Testo, who so bravely came out publicly last week, has done an in-depth interview with Outsports.com and in it, talks about his former boyfriend, MTV’s Road Rules alum Shane Landrum.
“In some respects, I didn’t even treat him like a human being,” admits Testo who was so closeted back then that he’d tell Landrum to hide in the bathroom if a teammate paid a visit. He would even have Landrum move out of their apartment when someone was staying there from out of town.
While he hid his relationship and sexuality from most, it did force him to come out to some people; Those baby steps eventually led to his public statements.“I don’t think if I dated Shane I’d be as open as I am because it forced me to tell so many people,” Testo told Outsports.
He also talked about the outpouring of support he’s received since last week.
The day the story broke, he got a phone call from a friend every five minutes; And in the next 72 hours he would receive “thousands” of emails and messages.“It spread with tons of love and tons of hope,” he said. “It goes to show we’re headed in the right direction. But we’re not where we need to be. If we were where we need to be, it wouldn’t have been a story at all.”
Charlie Bewley was among The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 cast members who were on hand for last night’s premiere of the film in downtown Los Angeles.
The 30-year-old English actor plays the vampire Demetri in the popular franchise and since landing the role as an unknown, he has been cast in several other films including Ecstacy, Soldiers of Fortune, Slightly Single in LA, Like Crazy and The First Ride of Wyatt Earp.
His first Twilight film in 2009 seems to have come just at the right time. Prior to that, one of his Twitter updates read: Please let this be the last time I scandalously flirt with the bread line, dear lord.
I wrote yesterday about David Arquette’s sweet and lovely speech as he presented his fellow Dancing With the Stars alum Chaz Bono with an award Saturday night at the 40tjh anniversary LA Gay and Lesbian Center gala.
The center has just provided me with a YouTube video of the moment and I wanted to post it as soon as possible. Since I’ve already posted a few Neil Patrick Harris items today, I’ll hold off until tomorrow on the video of he and David Burtka getting their award!
It was Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka’s big night on Saturday s recipients of the Rand Schrader Distinguished Achievement Award at the LA Gay and Lesbian Center gala.
I was so happy to get the chance to chat with the couple on the red carpet prior to the show and wondered how they felt about getting an award for basically being themselves.
“There’s lots of Dan Choi’s around that do the heavy lifting,” said Neil. “We just get to go to the, you know, Farmer’s Market.”
“It’s flattering and it’s nerve-racking because we like to represent as we do individually but we don’t like to really be heralded for it,” he added. “And this [LGBT] community, unique to most, is filled with scrutiny when it comes to what you say and how you say it. So you find yourself having to be very hyper-aware of how you say things lest you ostracize yourself even further.”
Neil is so well-spoken and smart, it seems to me that he doesn’t make these kinds of missteps and on Saturday night, his speech was funny and well-received.
David told me: “We’re honored but there’s also this thing where we are looking at each other going, ‘Why are they picking us?’ I understand we’re in the public eye and we’re two gay men and we have kids. But we’re just living our lives, we’re having a good time.”
They’re having a good time onscreen as well these days. Neil, of course, has been a real bright spot in the Harold & Kumar movies and in the latest, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, is no exception.
Neil, once again, plays a fictionalized version of himself with this onscreen NPH being a real heterosexual pig always looking to get laid. In a wink to his very public relationship with Burtka, the couple appear in an absolutely hilarious scene where they can barely stand each other and are only pretending to be gay so that NPH can get more action with the ladies.
“It was great,” David said. “It was all Neil’s idea actually. Neil had his own kernel of an idea and he brought it to the creators and they expanded on it and it became real. I was very fortunate.”
Added Neil: “I don’t think they knew that David was as good an actor as he actually is so when I let them know that he’s like theater Albee big man on campus as far as acting goes, then they were willing to write the role to be bigger.”
They should have written both roles bigger still since the screen really came alive whenever Neil was on it. More starring film roles for this man, please!
It must be a lot of fun to go to a Motion Picture Academy awards event when you already have an Oscar of your own.
Dustin Lance Black, who won in 2009 for his Milk screenplay, attended Saturday night’s Governors Award ceremony where James Earl Jones, Oprah Winfrey and make-up artist Dick Smith were honored.
Black may very well be up for another Academy Award with J. Edgar getting plenty of awards season buzz. The biopic of J. Edgar Hoover is also off to a strong start at the box office opening in fifth place with an estimated gross of $11.6 million. It is playing in under 2,000 theaters, more than 1,000 fewer than the weekend’s other new releases Immortals and Jack and Jill.
My Week With Marilyn, to be released Nov. 23, is earning strong Oscar buzz for Michelle Williams who stars as Marilyn Monroe.
In the early summer of 1956, 23 year-old Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), just down from Oxford and determined to make his way in the film business, worked as a lowly assistant on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl. The film that famously united Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) and Marilyn Monroe who was also on honeymoon with her new husband, the playwright Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott).
Nearly 40 years later, his diary account The Prince, the Showgirl and Me was published, but one week was missing and this was published some years later as My Week with Marilyn. The flm is the story of that week. When Arthur Miller leaves England, the coast is clear for Colin to introduce Marilyn to some of the pleasures of British life; an idyllic week in which he escorted a Monroe desperate to get away from her retinue of Hollywood hangers-on and the pressures of work.
Here is the trailer as well as two additional scenes just made pubic today. Enjoy!
We all know Neil Patrick Harris is a host with the most and so do the folks who produce Live With Regis and Kelly.
With Regis Philbin retiring from the show at the end of week, a series of guest co-hosts are be lined up and one of them will be NPH himself!
He will be alongside Kelly Ripa from Nov. 28 to Dec. 2.
This should be a real treat since he and Ripa are good friends and have a terrific on-screen chemistry s well.
Ripa recently signed a new five-year contract on the show but it is unknown who will be her permanent partner. Jerry Seinfeld will step in the week prior to NPH and it is expected that there will be months of guest co-hosts.
When David Burtka and Neil Patrick Harris arrived at the West Bonaventure Hotel in downtown LA, the camera flashes went off – including Greg In Hollywood’s!
Sean Maher (The Playboy Club, Firefly) and Chandler Massey (Days of Our Lives) do interviews.
Sara Gilbert of The Talk looked stunning on the red carpet. Darlene Connor from the Roseanne show has grown up well!
All camera were on Chaz Bono when the Dancing With the Stars alum arrived on the red carpet. He has gotten to be great friends with David Arquette who presented him with an award later in the evening and met Jane Lynch for the first time.
Meredith Baxter was very relaxed and gracious on the red carpet. I will share my interview with her later this week!
Lucky me sort of in a Sean Maher and Chandler Massey sandwich! Ho hum, just another day at the office.
REAL CUTE: Mike C. Manning has become a terrific LGBT activist since his days on The Real World: DC.
Leslie Jordan was a hilarious host for the evening and was very savvy in promoting his guest spot on Desperate Housewives which aired on Sunday night.
Playboy Club cast member Sean Maher came out publicly last month while starring in the short-lived NBC drama.
SENSATIONAL: Coco Peru (aka Clinton Luepp) wowed the audience with a performance celebrating 20 years as Coco!
Had a touch of insomnia one night last week and flipped on the television. Imagine how glad I was I couldn’t sleep when I saw this handsome guy singing on a show!
His name is Jimmy Wayne, in case you didn’t know, and he’s a country music singer and songwriter whose hits include Do You Believe Me Now, I Love You So Much, Sara Smile, I Will, and Stay Gone.
Jimmy, who is 39, is from Kings Mountain, North Carolina, worked as a corrections officer for four years before moving to Nashville to pursue his music career.
Last year, Jimmy set off across the country on a 1,700 mile trek to raise awareness about the plight of youth who grow too old for the foster care system and find themselves homeless. The issue is dear to Wayne’s heart because he battled homelessness as a teenager, bouncing between foster homes.
Considering the cloud of controversy the Oscars were under earlier in the week [Brett Ratner etc], it seems like something of a miracle that Saturday night’s Governors Awards – also given by the Motion Picture Academy – went off without a hitch.
Actor James Earl Jones received a lifetime achievement Oscar and accepted it via satellite from London where he is appearing in Driving Miss Daisey with Vanessa Redgrave. Also honored was make-up artist Dick Smith.
The emotional highlight was Oprah Winfrey accepting the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award with her friends John Travolta and Maria Shriver taking part in the presentation. Also there in support of her were Sidney Potier, Tyler Perry, best friend Gale King and longtime partner Stedman Graham.
During part of her 12-minute speech, a tearful Oprah said: “When I saw The Help, that is my story. My grandmother was a maid, her mother was a maid, her mother before her was a slave. My mother was a maid. My grandmother’s greatest dream for me was that I would grow up in a family and have a career where she used to say, ‘I hope you get some good white folks. I hope you get some good white folks like I have. I have good white folks.’ And the only picture I have of my grandmother is of her holding a white child in her maid’s uniform. So the journey from Kosciusko, Mississippi, where nobody ever even imagined it possible that you could be anything other than a maid who had some good white folks who would give you clothes and would let you take food home on the holidays, it’s unimaginable that I would be standing before you, voted by the Board of Governors.”
Oprah said she plans to keep her new Oscar front and center on her desk.
“For me this Oscar will represent love from all of you,” she said. “I thank you for your vote of love and I will use it to increase the open space in my heart to continue to do the great and good work that we all have come to do.”
BroadwayWorld.com has a terrific interview with Cheyenne Jackson, the handsome star of stage, film and television. Here are some excerpts I thought you might find of interest:
On Rosie O’Donnell: “[She] is actually the only person I ever sent a fan letter to. It was years ago, when her first talk-show came out. I have just been an avid supporter and fan and follower of hers forever – since her VH1 standup spotlight series and A League of Their Own and all of that on. But, she was talking about doing Broadway for the first time – I think she got cast in Grease – and she was talking about it, on the show, and it was so motivating; about conquering her fears. Yeah, so I wrote her a fan letter – you know, to her TV show. And, when I was doing Xanadu on Broadway she came, and – I don’t ever get star-struck about meeting somebody; you know, you just kind of get used to it at a point or whatever – but, I was so excited to meet her and I told her about that and she was so lovely; so great.”
On Hugh Jackman: “I’ve been a fan of Hugh’s for years. You know, he always fosters his musical theatre side – no matter how much Wolverine and his other action-type movies are exploding; he’s still just a Broadway baby. I love that about him. What a great showman.“
The the Prop 8 play: “Oh, yeah – that was great. Dustin Lance Black is great. I mean, an incredible cast – Morgan Freeman and so many other amazing folks. I was just – I didn’t know if anybody could make boring court transcripts palatable, and, he definitely did. Dustin is an Oscar-winner and that’s what he does. So, hopefully, they can use this as a learning tool – I think they want to do this in schools and across the country in small communities that don’t ever get to hear and see subject matter like that. So, it was a good experience, for sure.”
On being married: “You know, we have been together almost 11 years and we didn’t know how much being married and legally, officially being married would change things. But, I have to say that – I hate the word spiritual; just because it doesn’t feel right – but, it’s the closest word I guess I can use to describe the palpable shift that happens when you do make it legal, in that we really do feel closer and more connected.”
Roger Federer is salvaging what had been a dismal season by winning the Paris Masters crown earlier today – his third title of the year and 12th consecutive match.
He beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-1 7-6 and appears to be in fine form heading into the ATP World Tour finals where he is the defending champion.
“I’m very happy with my performance today,” Federer, who captured his 69th career title from 99 finals, said at the courtside. “I’m amazed by how well I play. I don’t think Jo played a bad match. It’s good to complete the tournament so solidly.”
Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka were charming and thoughtful star attractions at Saturday night’s LA Gay & Lesbian Center 40th Anniversary Gala where the high-profile couple received the Rand Schrader Distinguished Achievement Award.
“We are so honored to be here on the 40th anniversary of this incredible and important institution,” Harris said before slipping into humor and adding: “It’s hard to believe that it’s been 40 years since The Center first invented gays and lesbians. And we are so happy that they did.”
David, taking on the straight man role if you will, added: “More to the point, we are extraordinarily grateful that we are able to stand here today as a same-sex couple with children and not feel like we are some kind of freak show or some kind of government experiment gone awry.”
Neil then paid tribute to other famous gay parents before them like Dan Savage and Cynthia Nixon, BD Wong, Cat Kora. Ricky Martin, Sara Gilbert, Clay Aiken, Rosie O’Donnell, among others who he described as “courageous people who stood tall long before it became acceptable to do so.”
“The fact is, David and I don’t even consider ourselves true activists. There’s a lot of other people who do that heavy lifting. Sometimes we choose to raise our voices so that the world can hear us but other times we just, frankly, we just want to curl up at home and be a family together.”
Neil pointed out that that is part of the great change The Center has brought about in the last 40 years: “They, and all of you, are helping create a world where, for the first time, for gays and lesbians being married and being a parent doesn’t have to be about making a statement. Instead, it can just be about living our lives.”
It was Jane Lynch who presented the award to Harris and Burtka who received a standing ovation from the crowd at the Westin Boneventure Hotel in downtown LA.
“As a couple they are beyond extraordinary and created the most stunning gay American family portrait,” said Lynch. “Now, it doesn’t hurt that the babes are cuter than Bradjelinas. They really are – Gideon and Harper – they’re just delicious. Of course it doesn’t hurt that David and Neil themselves – and I quote from Glee when I say – are gorgeous, easy on the eyes, handsome, and they’;e gorgeous. To much of the world they are a remarkable family and they stand as a role model for young people. This is particularly important for kids out there who fear for their own futures because of their own sexual orientation…. The role that David and Neil’s family play in showing the world what our families can is so important. … We are here to thank David and Neil for deciding to let the world see how lovely they are. Thank you David and Neil for putting beautiful face on Amnerica’s notion of what a gay family looks like.”
David Arquette was sweet and funny as he presented his fellow Dancing With the Stars alum Chaz Bono with the Board of Directors Award.
“We’re all in such awe of the bravery that you showed in stepping up into the world and showing them what it’s like to be a transgender person in this world. You did it with dignity, you did with such strength.”
Arquette pointed out that Chaz’s actions hit home on a personal level because of his transgender sister, Alexis Arquette.
“I grew up sharing a room with Alexis, my sister, who we all love. I saw how difficult it was for her to come to terms with that, to feel comfortable in her own skin.”
Getting back to Chaz, Arquette said his DWTS experience was “amazing” and “important for you to show the world that it’s normal to stand up there. The effects of that will shine on in the future. It’s just the beginning.”
Chaz, the only child of Cher and the late Sonny Bono, took the stage to a standing ovation and said: “It’s really an honor for me to receive this award tonight. I’ve been doing stuff for The Center since I came out the first time which was in 1995. It’s just such an amazing organization.”
“For me, growing up, I didn’t know about being transgender. I didn’t know that it was an option. I did know about gay people and I grew up in a home with so many beloved gay and lesbian friends so it made it so much easier for me the first time I came out because I had these positive, strong gay role models. When I discovered I was really transgender, I felt like my world was going to fall apart. It took me over 10 years to come up with the courage that I needed in order to start transitioning and finally be myself. [applause]. One of my goals since starting my transition – and believe me when I say if I could have done it privately, I probably would have done it years ago – the idea of having to transition in front of the whole world was something that really terrified me. So when I finally did get the courage to do it, I wanted to take the opportunity to try and do it in a way where I could educate the public and shine light on what it means to be transgender. So many people just don’t have any information about that and that includes the gay and lesbian community. We say LGBT and it kind of roles off our tongue but the B and the T are kind of like the stepkids at another table. I’d like to challenge everybody here tonight to really take the time to learn a little bit more about what it means to be transgender, how it’s different from sexual orientation and some of the struggles that we go through.”
Chaz was taken on a tour last week of The Center and when he saw all of the services available there for the trans community and finding that out, he said, “made this award even sweeter for me.”
“There’s an opportunity for transgender Angelinos to really get the services and support that they need and that’s really hard sometimes for people to find and when you don’t get the support that you need as a transgender person, really horrible things happen.”
Actor-writer-director Peter Paige, best known for his role as Emmett on Showtime’s Queer as Folk, is a member of the center’s board of directors and got choked up when he shared with the crowd why The Center means so much to him.
“I know only too well the power and importance of The Center in transforming one’s life,” Paige told the crowd. “When I came to LA some 15 years ago, I was a scared and lost and lonely and broke young gay man. And somebody suggested that I might be able to find some help at The Center. I made my way in and I started seeing a therapist there for $10 a week. It was all I could afford and it was all I needed. Every time I tell the story, I get choked up. There is a direct line from that scared young man to the man that is standing before you and it goes right through The Center.”
“I was with a couple of friends recently and one of them asked me, ‘What do you think the most important service that the center offers?’ I thought for moment and said: ‘It’s whatever one you need. If you’ve recently been diagnosed HIV-positive, it’s medical services. If you’re a victim of domestic violence in your home, it’s domestic violence prevention. If you’re trying to get clean from crystal meth, it’s addiction recovery. If you’re elderly and gay and isolated, it’s senior services. If you’ve been kicked out of your home for being gay, it’s our transitional living facility. For the last 40 years, The Center has always stepped up when confronted with a crisis and I am proud to say we continue to do it today.”
The Center’s CEO Lorri L. Jean (pictured with Burtka and Harris) has been known to give stirring speeches but on this occasion, she was at her best. She paid tribute to those who laid the groundwork in the early days. While she educated the crowd about all that had been done, she also reminded them of all that is left to do.
“365 days a year, our community turns to the center for help.” she said. “So, as long as we are treated as second class citizens, as long as HIV and AIDS continue to be on the rise in out community, as long as LGBT seniors need outside care, as long as misguided parents kick their LGBT kids out, as long as any LGBT person feels ashamed because of their gender identity or for who they love, the center will be here.”
“Over the decades, we have held true to the vision of taking care of our own and fighting for our place in society.”
The gala also included performances by Miss Coco Peru (aka Clinton Luepp) and Jennifer Lee Warren who sang a rousing rendition of I Am What I Am. Four individuals who have benefited from The Center’s services – a transgender teen, a lesbian who was homeless, an HIV-positive man, and a man – now the father of four adopted sons with his partner of 25 years – who talked about being a scared homeless teen more than 30 years ago and being taken care of by The Center.
Leslie Jordan hosted the evening and had several costume changes to reflect each decade of the center’s existence. At one point, he walked out in a giant rainbow afro wig as a tribute to the 70s and said: “In the 70s, I had red hair and I grew it really long and I wore platform shoes. I looked like a rock and roll troll dog.”
Later, in a nod to the 90s, he came out dressed as Madonna during her Truth or Dare period complete with the pointy breasts: “The really sad part about all of this,” Leslie said, “is that this is not even the lowest I’ve gone.”
The red carpet scene before the dinner was about as star-studded as I can ever remember. It was also very orderly and civilized with the stars making time to chat with everyone. I missed the opportunity to chat up Mr. Arquette who I’m just crazy about but in the coming days, I will be sharing with you my chats with Chaz, Neil & David, Miss Lynch, Mr. Jordan, Mr. Paige, Miss Peru, Meredith Baxter, Sara Gilbert, retired baseball pro Billy Bean, Chandler Massey, and Sean Maher. Also spotted on the red carpet were Mike Manning, Geri Jewell, and Karina Smirnoff.
It has been nearly five decades since George Chakiris won the Academy Award for best supporting actor for his performance as Bernardo, leader of The Sharks, in the musical West Side Story.
On Tuesday, he will reunite with co-stars Rita Moreno and Russ Tamblyn for a morning handprints ceremony at Gruman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. That night, there will be a special screening of West Side Story at Grauman’s to mark the film’s 50th anniversary and a new Blu-Ray DVD of the film being released by Fox.
“All this stuff going on here is kind of nice, we’re all enjoying it,” Chakiris told Greg In Hollywood a few days ago. “It’s a circle because West Side Story premiered there and here we are 50 years later. There’s something very nice about that.”
“There are lots of friends coming. It’s a celebration of West Side Story which really is a wonderful film that has continued to have a life since 1961. It just keeps going. We are all so grateful to have a part in it.”
While Chakiris and the rest of the cast (which also includes Natalie Wood as Maria and Richard Beymer as Tony) could not possibly know then that they were making an enduring classic, he said they did know they were making something very special.
“We did feel we would have an artistic success, everyone felt wonderful about what we were doing. It was something of quality.”
The film won 10 Oscars including best picture. Even after all these years, Chakiris is still invited to high school, college and local theater productions of West Side Story and always finds it gratifying.
“The material is absolutely for young people and when kids are involved in doing this, they fall in love with the process,” he said. “It’s a piece that has a life of its own. There was nothing like it before or since. This was a collaboration between men – Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, [directors] Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins – who were all so amazing in their respective fields.
Chakiris was familiar with the piece prior to filming because he had played Riff – not Bernardo – in the London production.
“They had asked me to audition for Bernardo but I was selected to play the other role. People are sometimes surprised by that,” he explained. “Playing Riff in the theater was equally fantastic. The English theater community just loved West Side Story because they had never seen anything like it.”
Although he had appeared in musical numbers with Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Rosemary Clooney in White Christmas, Chakiris was not a big movie name at the time and had no expectation of landing a part in the film.
“None of us thought we’d ever get close to this movie, we were hearing names like Elizabeth Taylor and Elvis Presley. Then we got letters and mine said to pick a scene for Riff and one for Bernardo and I remember thinking, ‘I don’t want to play Bernardo!’”
He was given a week off from the London production to fly to Los Angeles and do a screen test directed by Robbins. More than two months later, he received a telegram saying he had won the role of Bernardo.
“The thing that really changed my life was being in West Side Story and the exposure we all got from being in the film,” he said. “A lot of people say winning the Oscar doesn’t make a difference but it does. Even today, when there is an ad for a movie, it will point out the Oscar winner in the advertising – even the Oscar nominees. They do make a point of that.”
Chakiris remembers a far more intimate Academy Awards experience that the spectacle that currently takes place at The Kodak Theater with its worldwide audience the months of hype leading up to it.
“That night was great,” he recalled. “Rita Moreno and I went together, the car picked me up first then her. She said, ‘I am practicing my loser’s face.’ It was at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium and Bob Hope was the host. Supporting actor was the first category and they called my name. After it was over and I did the press, I went back to sit with Rita then she won. The fact that we went together, we were such good friends and both lucky enough to win made it somehow sweeter.”
Did he expect to win?
“If you buy a lottery ticket, you really don’t expect to win, you sort of hope, It was something like that.”
Decades of film, television and stage roles followed but Chakiris is currently on a showbiz hiatus.
“I never stopped performing,” he said. “I was working up until 2000, doing a lot of theater work and TV is Japan and France. Because of West Side Story, those areas were open to me because they love West Side Story so much.”
After finishing a play more than 10 years ago in London, Chakiris decided to take a break from performing.
“I didn’t call my agent or anything or make a big announcement, I decided I was just going to stay home.”
He began taking classes in jewelry and it quickly went from a mere hobby to a passion.
“I turned my garage into a studio. Making jewelry absolutely took over. I loved doing it so much. I have 25-30 pieces I’ve made which is now a collection. I have a distributor in Japan and now I’m thinking I should make the effort to try and do something in the states.”