Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Boston Catholics in a tizzy over sketchy ad


A sexy magazine ad showing a group of nuns sketching a buff, naked man has Boston's Catholic community in a tizzy.

"It's offensive to an entire community of religious, who give their lives to the good works of the church," says Terry Donilon, of the Boston Archdiocese, to WHDH-TV.

Officials from Equinox Fitness, with only one Boston location in the Back Bay area, defend the provocative campaign that appears in the latest issue of Boston Magazine.

"The ads capture the energy and artistry of the well-conditioned body in a thought provoking fashion, blending fantasy and impact," Equinox says in a prepared statement.

Too racy for Boston's Puritanical views on sex and the human body? Perhaps. Smart advertising campaign that pushes all of the right buttons? Absolutely.

Harvard Lampoon nails Paris Hilton

Paris Hilton in Boston? Now, that’s hot.

Everybody’s fave pop tart is heading to Cambridge to receive the "Hastiest Pudding of the Lampoon Award." Contrary to initial reports, Christopher Walken and Charlize Theron will be honored as the Hasty Pudding Theatricals’ Man and Woman of the Year.

It’s no surprise but Hilton’s award is a little less prestigious and a helluva lot more lowbrow.

Harvard’s celebrated comedy magazine, The Harvard Lampoon, is slotted to roast the star of the upcoming release "The HOTTIE & the NOTTIE" and reality TV’s "Simple Life" on Wednesday, Feb. 6.

Hilton will make a quickie pit stop in Harvard Square to accept the award and speak publicly to the university’s student body. The celebutante, who was in prison in 2007 for a DUI, will receive the Lampoon honor accompanied by a large public ceremony in the middle of Harvard Square.

Also, Hilton is expected to give an acceptance speech ... that’s if she’s able to string together a sentence.

As far as late-night festivities, Hilton is scheduled to host The Estate's one-year anniversary bash kicking off at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 6. Tickets are $20. Check out http://www.theestateboston.com/ for the lowdown.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Chat with the nation's first lesbian, African-American mayor

Here's the latest piece I worked on for EDGE with writer Scott Kearnan:

As the presidential primaries continue to unfold, nightly newscasts are quick to remind viewers that a major historical precedent may be only months away: There's never been a stronger chance that voters will elect either the first African-American president or the first female president.

But when it comes to equal opportunity politicking, Mayor E. Denise Simmons can claim one better.

When City Council elections gave Simmons the mayorship of Cambridge, Mass. on January 14, she became America's first openly gay, female African-American mayor.

Simmons speaks candidly with EDGE about her experiences as a gay woman, as an African-American woman, and how those experiences have informed her ideals.

Click here for the complete article in EDGE.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Blogger slams Boston Globe coverage of Daniel Yakovleff murder

I have to agree with the analysis from Boston blogger Riggs In Boston regarding a hack job of a story about the Daniel Yakovleff murder in the Saturday edition of the Boston Globe.

Riggs writes, "Terrible writing. Terrible interviewing. Terrible stereotyping. Terrible job."

The blogger was upset with Maria Cramer's bizarre lead that negatively portrayed a QueerToday advocate.

Cramer writes, "Tall and reed thin, Mark Snyder speaks in a soft, delicate voice and uses mannerisms he describes as effeminate."

When I read the piece on Saturday, I cringed.

I couldn't believe that the Boston Globe actually published an article with such derogatory semantics. Cramer resorted to the "flamboyant" stereotype used by old-school journalists to slam a gay source or public figure. It's coded journalism at its worst.

Kudos to Riggs in Boston for taking a stand.

West Roxbury lawyer fingers Boston Phoenix

The following news item gave me unwanted anti-Free Speech flashbacks to my days as an editor at my conservative hometown’s alt-weekly.

It seems that a West Roxbury lawyer has organized a non-profit group of concerned citizens he calls Support Community Decency, Inc.

What’s the SDC’s first plan of action? To eradicate the Boston Phoenix from West Roxbury, calling the alt-weekly’s adult section "indecent, sexually exploitative and potentially harmful to community members."

Bob Joyce, founder of the group and an outspoken anti-gay activist, tells the West Roxbury Bulletin that he’s not an Orwellian evildoer.

"This is not a freedom of speech issue, since we are not deciding whether or not this material is obscene," Joyce insists. ""We are saying that it is indecent, sexually exploitative, and has potential to cause significant harm, physical and emotional, to West Roxbury families. We have a right to oppose the distribution of the Boston Phoenix in a lawful, peaceful way."

Based on the lynch mob he’s organized—a group that’s actively soliciting West Roxbury businesses asking them to toss the popular weekly newspaper—Joyce means business.

However, Phoenix Media executive editor Peter Kadzis warns that the curmudgeon’s motivations are purely political.

"Attorney Joyce is active in the anti-choice, anti-gay marriage movements," Kadzis tells the Transcript. "He is trying to halt the Phoenix from circulating for political reasons. His recent crusade against the paper's adult section is merely an extension of those efforts."

Meanwhile, Joyce claims he has managed to yank the weekly from six neighborhood businesses with one merchant who talked to the West Roxbury Bulletin refusing to go along with the SDC's totalitarian demands.

"As far as I know, West Roxbury is still part of the United States of America and the Constitution still covers us over here," says Gary Park of Gary's Liquors. "He is not going to tell me how to run my business."

Friday, January 25, 2008

Slaying of gay man in Dorchester leaves police baffled

Here's a developing story I'm working on with new EDGE reporter Amy Tennery. If anyone has any insight into this brutal murder or spent time with Yakovleff at the Eagle on Wednesday, Jan. 16, please e-mail me at sjbaltrusis@yahoo.com.

One look at Daniel Yakovleff’s Facebook profile and it’s easy to figure out that he was loved. Like many his age, Yakovleff frequented the social networking site, where he shared inside jokes with friends and where he posted pictures.

The popular hairstylist with the exclusive Liquid Hair Studios salon had a loyal following of clients and friends. On his profile, the 20-year-old Red Sox fan wrote: "I’m a hairstylist, very happy with my life."

But shortly after moving to Boston, Yakovleff’s happy life was cut short. Police discovered the body of Yakovleff, the victim of a lethal stabbing, in a home in the Savin Hill area of Dorchester on Thursday, January 17.

UPDATE: Police are looking for anyone who saw Yakovleff in the Savin Hill area or in the South End in the late hours of Wednesday, Jan. 16 and the early hours of Thursday, Jan. 17. Cops are especially interested in anyone who may know who the victim was with during those hours or what kind of transportation he used. Call the Homicide Unit at 617-343-4470 with any information.

Here's the complete article in EDGE Boston.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Boston Theatre Works' 'Angels in America'

I’ve been a huge fan of Tony Kushner’s two-part tour de force, "Angels in America." In fact, I’ve read his script and have seen the play so many times I can nearly recite several of the key scenes (like when Belize and Louis have their "true love is never ambivalent" discussion at the café) verbatim.

Kushner’s words continue to resonate with me--and the complexities of the characters and relationships explored in this masterwork have served as almost as a roadmap into my inner psyche.

So when the Boston Theatre Works announced that they were presenting "Millenium Approaches" and "Perestroika" at the Boston Center for the Arts, I had similar reservations when I heard that Mike Nichols planned to film the series for HBO.

I loved Nichols’ small-screen adaptation. And, after seeing the Boston production "Millenium Approaches" last night, I was equally pleased.

Co-directors Jason Southerland and Nancy Curran Willis, who successfully collaborated on "The Laramie Project," did an amazing job capturing the fragility of the human condition and the complexity of degenerating relationships during the early days of the AIDS crisis and the Reagan administration.

Because of the smaller space, the Boston Theatre Works’ production is eerily more intimate than the original production that hit Broadway like a bolt of lightning in 1993. When Harper and Joe have their awkward "Hey Buddy" interactions and Louis and Prior speak from the deepest recesses of their souls, it’s as if we’re experiencing the moment with them.

Also, contrary to my initial reservations, the production doesn’t water down the more salacious scenes to placate Boston’s Puritanical roots like when Louis is cruising in Central Park’s The Rambles or Prior drops his pants to reveal his body covered in purple Kaposi’s sarcoma.

Standout performances include new kid on the block, Tyler Reilly, as Prior Walter and recent NYU grad Bree Elrod as Harper Pitt. Also, Maurice Parent does a stellar job as Prior’s drag queen cohort, Belize.

Both Sean Hopkins (as Joe Pitt) and Christopher Webb (as Louis Ironson) improved--as if they accidentally stumbled into character as they were peeling off the layers of complexity enveloping their roles--as "Millenium Approaches" progressed.

Susanne Nitter, a small-screen ("ER") and stage veteran, shines as Joe's Mormon mother, Hannah, and does a convincing job as Roy Cohn’s deceased nemesis, Ethel Rosenberg.

Co-director Southerland handled the Louis/Prior and Harper/Joe relationships with heartbreakingly masterful insight while Willis’ directorial work with Richard McElvain’s Cohn (his explosive, shot-gun tirades lack a rhythmic cadence) and specifically with Nitter’s portrayal of Rabbi Chemelwitz needs some work.

However, it's Kushner's prophetic and sublime words that pierce the heart and--if delivered with the reverence they deserve--can move you to tears.

This is one of those rare, must-see performances that has just as much resonance today thanks to the Bush administration, the recent spate of drug-resistant staph infections (MRSA) and the current political cycle as it did when it was first unleashed in the early ‘90s.

Angels in America: "Millennium Approaches" and "Perestroika" play in repertory, Jan. 18-Feb. 10, at The Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont St., Boston. Tickets $25-$48. Info: www.bostontheatrescene.com or 617.933.8600.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

New England Hit List :: Jan. 18

Could "Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency" get any gayer? Last week, the diva had a pack of straight models in assless chaps doing extremely homoerotic things in an ad for the UK's Gay Times.

Yum.

All we can say is thank goodness the bitch is back. When it started out, "Janice Dickinson's Modeling Agency" seemed like an "America's Next Top Model" rip-off.

However, in its third season and armed with a cast of hotties--including out "Survivor" castaway J.P. Calderon and two new, openly gay models--the Oxygen reality show (airing 10:30 p.m. Tuesdays on Oxygen) is poised to bitch slap Tyra Banks and her cast of "ANTM" wannabes off the reality-show catwalk.

Don't have plans this weekend? Now you do.

We're out and about tapping into our inner drag queen with Kelly Davidson's photography exhibit "Drag Me Out, Drag Me In," laughing out loud at Douglas Carter Beane's "The Little Dog Laughed" and 8 other "musts" this week. Want to know what's hot?

Click here for EDGE's New England Hit List :: Jan. 18.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Straight women embrace local drag scene

Here's the latest piece I helped edit for EDGE with writer Scott Kearnan:

Over the last few years, area performers and club managers have noticed a surprising trend: Straight girls hanging at gay bars, and brides-to-be tossing restraint--and evidently, panties--to the wind at local drag shows.

Believe it or not, Jacque's Cabaret has even been featured in Modern Bride magazine as a top pick for Beantown bachelorettes.

Click here for more info about Boston's girls gone wild.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Povo.com Hotspot: Caffe Rossini

Here's a great little find on Highland Avenue in Somerville:

The artwork hanging on the walls at this neighborhood coffee shop--located on Highland Avenue between Davis Square and Sullivan (take the 90 bus line)--sets a warm and vibrant tone at this hidden Somerville gem.

Caffé Rossini serves up quality Italian sandwiches stuffed with quality ingredients and served on bread that’s baked fresh daily.

Co-owner Lola Riveras creates handmade Italian pastries (her cannoli is top-notch) while her partner, Joe Sinclair, crafts a mean pizza pie. The cafe is always festively decorated with Lola's artistic flair. Also, the café’s decor and the menu items change to be in tune with the seasons.

Caffe Rossini boasts six indoor tables for dining in and they open up their outdoor seating during the summer month. Once you stumble on this lovely café, you’ll keep coming back for more.

Click here for the lowdown on Povo.com.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Paris Hilton honored by Harvard Lampoon

Yes, it's the first sign of the Apocalypse. Paris Hilton will be honored with the Harvard Lampoon's "Hastiest Pudding of the Lampoon" award.

Here's the press release:

The Harvard Lampoon, Harvard's noted comedy magazine, will be honoring Paris Hilton, the star of theupcoming release "The HOTTIE & the NOTTIE," with the Harvard Lampoon "Woman of the Year" award.

Founded in 1876, the Harvard Lampoon is the world's oldest continually published humor magazine. The Lampoon has many accomplished alumni including Conan O'Brien, John Updike and William Randolph Hearst and is responsible for the creation of the National Lampoon.

Hilton will be on the Harvard campus on Wednesday, Feb. 6 to accept the award and speak publicly to the university's student body. The celebutante, who was in prison in 2007 for a DUI, will receive the Harvard Lampoon "Woman of the Year" award accompanied by a large public ceremony in the middle of Harvard Square.

The entire Harvard undergraduate community will be invited to attend this ceremony at which Ms. Hilton is expected to give an acceptance speech.

New England Hit List :: Jan. 11

Boston Phoenix graphic designer and acclaimed photographer Kelly Davidson unleashes her edgy exploration of gender identity with her collection of drag photography.

According to Davidson, she has "a thing for boys in makeup, girls in fishnets and any other hotties soaking up the spotlight. I’m obsessed with performers," she says. These photographs were taken between 2004 and 2007 at the American Repertory Theatre (A.R.T.)’s production of Island of Slaves and at Machine in Boston’s Fenway.

Davidson continues, "My camera allows me access to places and experiences of events that I would normally not have. For example, the men’s room at Machine, when it’s being used as the dressing room for a Gold Dust Orphan’s theatre piece. I love watching the process of queen to drag queen, capturing the transformation. Drag queens are more male and more female than I will ever be."

Opening reception is 6:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17. The Paradise, 969 Commonwealth Ave. Free. http://www.thedise.com/.

Still in a post-holiday funk? No worries. Here’s your chance to hobnob with China’s Golden Dragon Acrobats, hum along with the touring production of "Rent" and 8 other "musts" this week.

Want to know what’s hot? Here’s the hit list.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Author reflects on gay press tour of duty

It’s the day after Hillary Clinton shocked political pundits by edging out Barack Obama to win New Hampshire’s Democratic primary and Boston-based author Amy Hoffman is in a reflective state of disbelief.

"Even 10 years ago it would have been hard to imagine Hillary winning the New Hampshire primary," she says from her home in Jamaica Plain. "It’s a real change. When you think about the other female candidates who ran for higher office like Pat Schroeder and Geraldine Ferraro, there’s been a huge difference in the reception of Hillary. It’s an exciting moment."

Long before Clinton, Obama, gay weddings and "The L Word," Hoffman was in the trenches covering the emerging gay liberation movement between 1978-82 which included the murder of Harvey Milk, the Anita Hill trial and the beginnings of the Reagan-era AIDS crisis.

In her memoir "An Army of Ex-Lovers," the 55-year-old out lesbian author recalls the trials and tribulations of her years as an editor of Boston’s Gay Community News (GCN).

Click here for the complete article in EDGE.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Povo.com Hotspot: Joey's Thai Cafe

Formerly Benjapon on Elm Street, this new Thai restaurant in the outskirts of Davis Square has all of the ingredients for success: a refurbished dining area, an extremely friendly staff, cheaper-than-usual prices and a revamped menu that reflects the changing tastes in this gentrified part of Somerville/North Cambridge.

Reminiscent of the popular Lemongrass Grill in Brooklyn, Joey’s Thai Café’s appropriate slogan is “happy in – happy out.” The menu sports a few spicy additions including Joey’s Spicy Pad Thai (an authentic spicy version of Pad Thai stir-fried with shrimp and chicken--$7.30) and Drunken Chicken (stir fried poultry in extra spicy chili sauce--$6.95).

And for Davis Square’s ever-growing population of vegetarians, Joey offers an amazing selection of healthy tofu dishes.

Click here to get the lowdown.

GLBT groups gear for New Hampshire primary

Here's a recent piece I edited for EDGE with writer Scott Kearnan:

Several organizations have entered the New Year with longstanding resolutions to maintain and develop support for the GLBT community in New Hampshire politics.

With only a few days remaining before the New Hampshire primary, both Republican and Democratic politicos are out in full force.


Click here for the complete article.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Povo.com Hotspot: True Grounds in Ball Square

I'm a coffee snob. But, I stumbled on this java joint in Ball Square doing research for Povo.com. Seriously, it was the best cup of coffee I've had in years (even, gasp, better than Diesel).

Ball Square’s True Grounds begins where the now-defunct Someday Café left off. This local artist enclave is a true neighborhood coffeehouse with a stellar array of wraps and sandwiches that revel in Somerville’s emerging color—including the Broadway (tuna melt with swiss), the Magoun Square (tofu, homemade hummus, sprouts and cucumbers) and the B-Square (roast beef, herbed boursin cheese and tomatoes).

While this comfy café is becoming a hangout for up-and-coming musicians and writers (they offer free wi-fi to patrons), True Grounds' claim to fame is its refined aficionado coffees called George H. Howell’s terroir, which is served up in larger-than-usual cups and brewed to perfection. Owners Rhett and Amy also host a music night held the last Tuesday of the month from 7-9 p.m.

Click here for the Povo.com lowdown.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

IN Newsweekly controversy

There's a whole lot of shaking going on at Boston's other GLBT publication. Here's the latest on the IN Newsweekly controversy:

Four longtime contributors to IN Newsweekly, including former editor Fred Kuhr, have either formally resigned or stopped contributing to the newspaper after the new publisher repeatedly failed to pay them in a timely manner and ignored concerns over its new editorial direction.

The group - which also includes Cambridge, Mass.-based columnist and reporter Chuck Colbert, Rhode Island correspondent Joe Siegel, and religion columnist Rev. Irene Monroe - contend that these issues began last year after New York-based HX Media purchased IN Newsweekly. Previously, the newspaper was owned by local publisher Chris Robinson.

Under HX, the writers' paychecks were delayed for months after their work appeared in the newspaper. They were also troubled by the apparent new direction of the newspaper, which sacrificed hard news coverage in favor of more focus on local clubs and nightlife. Additionally, the new owner and editor repeatedly ignored the writers' concerns over this new editorial focus.

Kuhr, who was hired as IN Newsweekly's news editor in 1998 and was promoted to editor-in-chief in 2002, resigned late last month. “Under new ownership and a new editor, the newspaper has taken a new direction, and it is one in which I see less of a role for myself to play,” Kuhr said.
The group also wrote a joint letter to HX Media CEO Matthew Bank last month seeking a face-to-face meeting to discuss their various concerns. He failed to respond to the request.

"The letter sent to IN Newsweekly management was strongly worded, but left open wide a door for communication and resolution. Communication and resolution is what we ultimately sought, but management's silence left us no other choice,” says Colbert, who has written for IN Newsweekly for over a decade and maintains that HX Media still owes him more than $2,300.

“The lack of response to our collective letter as well as my own letter to Editor William Henderson and HX Media CEO Matthew Bank points, once again, to the nature of the problems - heavy-handed and top down management, along with strong-armed editor/writer relationships, all of which is counterproductive to morale, especially in our industry and craft."

Colbert continues, "Never in my 15-plus years as a freelance journalist have I ever been treated with such disrespect and lack of basic courtesy."

Siegel, who covered Rhode Island for five years, adds, “An attempt was made to address the paper's ongoing problems and to work together with HX management to make IN Newsweekly a higher quality publication. We were asking for some explanations as to why there was suddenly less money available for writers while at the same time advertisements were being placed for new positions. The lack of response was dismaying and emblematic of a lack of vision for the newspaper.”
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