Arts & Entertainment

In the Arts & Entertainment section, The Advocate brings readers all the latest news on Hollywood, Broadway, and beyond. From New York to Los Angeles, The Advocate shines a spotlight on the stars of the screen who are lending their voices to support the LGBT community, as well as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals who are moving the cultural needle. Discover A-list interviews, the best gay movies and reviews of theater, music, books and television. Learn how Arts & Entertainment can shape national dialogue and can work to advance equality.

 I write this article in fear. Fear for my country, fear for my family, and fear for myself. My parents will be shocked to read it, surely preferring I stay in the shadows and keep silent, at least for the time being.

But I can't.

Last January, I left Egypt with a heavy heart. I traveled to America, leaving behind my family, friends, and compatriots who were in the midst of embarking on a heroic journey toward self-determination. Despite the sound of gunshots in the streets and the images of Anderson Cooper being struck repeatedly over the head on CNN, I left hopeful that I would return to find a more tolerant and equal society. While I benefited from a life of privilege being Omar Sharif's grandson, it was always coupled with the onerous guilt that such a position might have been founded upon others' sweat and tears.

One year since the start of the revolution, I am not as hopeful.

The troubling results of the recent parliamentary elections dealt secularists a particularly devastating blow. The vision for a freer, more equal Egypt — a vision that many young patriots gave their lives to see realized in Tahrir Square — has been hijacked. The full spectrum of equal and human rights are now wedge issues used by both the Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces and the Islamist parties, when they should be regarded as universal truths.

I write this article despite the inherent risks associated because as we stand idle at what we hoped would be the pinnacle of Egyptian modern history, I worry that a fall from the top could be the most devastating. I write, with healthy respect for the dangers that may come, for fear that Egypt's Arab Spring may be moving us backward, not forward.

And so I hesitantly confess: I am Egyptian, I am half Jewish, and I am gay.

That my mother is Jewish is no small disclosure when you are from Egypt, no matter the year. And being openly gay has always meant asking for trouble, but perhaps especially during this time of political and social upheaval. With the victories of several Islamist parties in recent elections, a conversation needs to be had and certain questions need to be raised. I ask myself: Am I welcome in the new Egypt?

Will being Egyptian, half Jewish, and gay forever remain mutually exclusive identities? Are they identities to be hidden?

March 16 2012 4:00 AM

The perfectionistic, neurotic Jeff Lewis that Bravo viewers
first met during the boom times of house flipping is ready to remake the home
makeover show. And he’s not leaving anything out just for the sake of a “Disney

In Lewis’s new show, Interior Therapy with Jeff Lewis, he and his indefatigable and entertaining
assistant, Jenni Pulos, move into clients’ homes for a weeklong remodel that is
intense on many levels. First of all, Lewis isn’t lowering his standards for
any time crunch.

Stress is evident on the show. Lewis says his producer quit
after one episode ended in a couple breaking up.  During another episode, Lewis forces himself to complete the
remodel because, “I did not care for this woman at all.”  The first installment debuts tonight at
9 p.m. as Lewis helps Felice and Michael put romance back in their
bedroom. Yes, he outright asks them when they last had sex.

Lewis isn’t one to mince words. And in an interview with The
, he talks about the ups and downs
of his new show, the state of his relationship, and why foster-adoption might
not work for him.


The Advocate:
I just watched the show last night; I love it. I’ve never seen a design show
like it, and I’m gay so I watch a lot of them. There are a lot of rough edges
on display. I wonder if you think this is the more realistic version than the
cheery remodeling shows we see so often?

Jeff Lewis:  It is. It is definitely more realistic.
You know, [Bravo President] Andy Cohen and I have been talking for years about doing a second
show. I was pitched several shows and none of them I really took to. But I
think the reason I liked this one is because it is kind of a reality hybrid. We
are committed to whatever happens, happens. We embrace the result.

I am very familiar with how these makeover shows work. There
is a lot of prep involved. People have floor plans, and they may go out
shopping, and in some cases they may purchase everything and put it in storage.
In our case, we have no prep. The day that I walked in, which was Monday
morning, I hadn’t seen the house before — which created an even higher level of
stress for me because not only did I need to formulate a game plan within 24
hours, I had to shop locally and find things that were in stock. I didn’t have
time to buy things on the Internet. Actually, I feel like it strengthened my
skill as a designer because I was forced to kind of make good on what I had.

Wow, no prep? Is that going to be the way it is all the
Yeah. Even if I wanted to do any sort of prep, we shoot Flipping
well into the first week of August. And
I’m assuming that if this show does well and it does get picked up, we would
immediately jump into Interior Therapy. I think you have to stick to the formula that works and no prep time
has worked for this show.

Another thing is we were not committed to a Hollywood
ending. Even if it wasn’t a happy ending, we just embraced it. There was one —
there is one particular show —where it isn’t a happy ending. The couple decided
to break up. And I’m most proud of that episode because I got into a
knock-down, drag-out fight with a producer who wanted to change the ending, who
wanted to put the happy, Disney ending on it. And I said absolutely not. This
is not what I signed up for. She ended up quitting by the way.

The producer? 
Yup, and we got a new producer. Because we were just not seeing eye to eye.

Well I’m glad it’s more realistic because it feels more
like how my remodeling goes.
Yeah, warts and all, right?

These makeover shows, it really creates these false
expectations because people expect remodeling to be so easy when you watch so
many of these HGTV shows and some of these other remodeling shows. And it’s not
easy, especially when you are working with clients. What I like too is it sheds
some light on what I go through working with clients. And it’s not easy.
Sometimes you reach people and sometimes you don’t.

March 14 2012 4:00 AM

Any celebration of the The Advocate's founding in 1967 must honor the heroes for LGBT rights that we've covered for 45 years. With one honoree named per year, the list will be announced in parts and culminate in an event in Los Angeles this month.

March 14 2012 2:00 AM

There are so many ways that The Shondes have been described, with sexy, queer, transgender, feminist, radical, steampunky, Jewish rock band chief among the adjectives that separate the band from their contemporaries (the latter of whom are sometimes called “Sleater-come-latelys”). But The Village Voice in all its wisdom seems to have nailed why it is that this Brooklyn-based indie band is beloved by LGBT audiences around the globe: “Riot grrrl radicalism wed to classically structured songs, distortion pedals, clashing vocals, and powerful lyrics.”

Now The Shondes are hitting SXSW this week and then following it up with an American tour this spring and then their first European tour. Armed with their latest album,  Searchlights, and a brand new music video released today for the second single off it, “Give Me What You've Got,” the band is ready to rock.

That means quite the show from the band that was founded in 2006 by queer lead singer and bassist Louisa Rachel Solomon and transgender violinist Elijah Oberman and — along with genderqueer drummer Temim Fruchter, 33, and guitarist Fureigh, 28 — has been perfecting their sound ever since. Solomon, now 30, and Oberman, 28, were in a band in their late teens called the Syndicate and “have really been through everything together,” she says. That includes Oberman’s battle with breast cancer in 2010 and some early band member drama (a guitarist that bailed in the middle of a national tour, “but that’s old news,” says Solomon. “And we're so much better for it in the end because Fureigh has been such a vital addition to our songwriting. Talk about a clutch player.”). A self-taught badass drummer, Fruchter herself has become something of a sexy queer icon, our own John Bonham if you will.

We caught up with Fruchter and Solomon — this week at SXSW and opening for Leisha Hailey’s band Uh Huh Her in Gainesville, Fla. on March 26 — to talk about touring Europe as Jews, transforming SXSW, and why Conway, Arkansas might rock even more than your hometown.

The tour sounds exciting. You’re going to some spots we don’t always think of as being progressive towns like Conway, Arkansas and Lexington, Kentucky. What was the draw to those cities?
Fruchter: We're super excited about the tour, yes. We like to play all kinds of cities — we try to make stops in any city we can where we have at least a couple of fans, sometimes cities where bands don't tour all that often. I definitely think it's important to remember that there are all kinds of communities all over the country; there's plenty of awesome progressive stuff — and all kinds of stuff — happening all over the country, and not just in major urban centers. Actually sometimes it's the small towns and cities and places we haven't been before where we get some of the warmest welcomes and encounter some of the awesomest activism and art. Though obviously we're excited about the big cities too. There's plenty of excitement to go around.

How often have you toured before as a band?
Fruchter: We actually tour a lot. We started the band in 2006 and within two months of our existence we'd booked ourselves a massive eight-week tour. We have this spring tour coming up and then we're touring Europe this fall, which I'm beside myself excited about. But touring is great, and really important to us in terms of keeping up momentum, connecting with fans and other artists and musicians, and just getting to try out material — old and new — in all kinds of contexts.

You make it sound rather poetic.
Fruchter: Touring can definitely be kind of grueling sometimes. You sit in a van for 10 hours on end and you feel like you've morphed into the upholstery sometimes. And personal space and exercise and things like that can be a little harder to find than usual. But I certainly love it, and I think we as a band really enjoy it. Part of that has been about making sure that we have some of the things we love and that sustain us — good meals, ways to get exercise, time to explore new places and get some sunshine, hydration, excellent mixtapes — even when we're not in New York. Quality of life on tour can be pretty important, and we're pretty lucky to get to travel so much, so we like to make it kind of an adventure. And we've definitely gotten better at that over the years.

March 13 2012 4:00 AM

 ...National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance
In my poetry I often tell deep and personal stories about being queer, trans, and Asian-American, and I am inspired by and gather strength from those in my community. Recently I had the honor and pleasure of serving on the board of NQAPIA, a federation of LGBTQ Asian-American, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander organizations. NQAPIA seeks to build the capacity of local LGBTQ Asian-American and Pacific Islander organizations, invigorate grassroots organizing, develop leadership, and challenge homophobia, racism, and anti-immigrant bias. When I was first growing into an understanding of myself as a queer and Asian young person, I would go to Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance meetings and events in Boston, which helped me find a community that I felt comfortable in. Now that group and many others around the country receive support and the ability to connect with each other through NQAPIA's conferences, newsletters, and national organizing. 

March 13 2012 2:00 AM

The ratings button on the original Rick Santorum theme song was quickly disabled, which stopped voting at more than 10,000 "dislikes" versus about 2,000 "likes." But the Internet has found another way to express its dissatisfaction.

Spoofs of the Harris family's song, "Game On," are spreading. There animals playing instruments, silly voices, and rewritten lyrics. It looks like the Internet was inspired by "Game On," just not the way the Harris family had hoped.

The family met Santorum at an Oklahoma campaign rally last week and wrote a catchy anthem that praises Santorum's values. It has already been viewed more than 800,000 times. If you haven't seen the original, it's posted below for reference.

Then check out of some of the mocking on the following pages. (And we just might have saved the best video for last.)

The original, not a spoof:

March 12 2012 4:00 AM

Question: I don’t know about you, but it drives me crazy that people in our community don’t dress for the theater anymore. They’re just as likely to jump on a plane in their shorts and a T-shirt. What gives with that? What really irks me are those tricky invitations with wording such as “business casual,” “casual attire,” “festive attire,” and even “black tie.” I am completely lost and don’t want to embarrass myself. Help, please!

March 12 2012 4:00 AM

The trailer is out for On the Road, the much-anticipated film of Jack Kerouac’s iconic and homoerotic Beat Generation novel.

It stars as San Riley Sal Paradise (based on Kerouac) and Garrett Hedlund as pal Dean Moriarty (based on Kerouac friend Neal Cassady). Tom Sturridge plays Carlo Marx, a fictional version of gay poet Allen Ginsberg, and Viggo Mortensen is Old Man Bull, a stand-in for William S. Burroughs. For the ladies, there’s Kristen Stewart as Dean’s young wife, Marylou — and she appears seminude.

March 12 2012 12:00 AM

Ever since Kristen Johnston, a six-foot-tall self-described “freak,” hit our TV screens on Third Rock From the Sun, queers have adored her. Sexy blond Johnson’s character of Sally, an alien military combat specialist hiding out in a new female body with her faux family in middle America, was one that resonated with lesbians especially because she was powerful but vulnerable, gangly but beautiful, tough but nerdy, and above all, a total freaking outsider.

But despite decades of us hoping she was lesbian herself, turns out Johnston likes the wang a little too much to give in to full sapphic surrender. However, she still says LGBT folks helped make her career, nay, her life. “I love you guys. I do. You know I love the gays. I can’t help it,” Johnston gushes.

These days Johnston is starring in TV Land’s The Exes (season 2 premieres in June) and touring with her new book, Guts, a surprisingly raw and funny memoir about growing up as a freak (she was six feet tall at age 11), being bullied in middle school (“it was horrible”), and coming out as a former pill-popping drug and alcohol addict (“screw my career, or my privacy ... I’ll tell whoever I damn well please). Like Augusten Burroughs, Johnston is able to be frank and compelling when talking about her life, including her personal foibles, the confusion of sudden fame, and the life-threatening medical emergency that landed her in a British hospital for months after her “intestines ripped open.”

The Advocate: I think your new book is going to resonate with a lot of people.
Kristen Johnston: You do?

I though it was fantastic.
Aww. Thank you so much. I appreciate it. I, I mean, I’m really proud of it.

The fact that you felt like a freak so much of your life is something that a lot of people actually can identify with.
Right. Well, as I say, I think everyone is an addict. I think everyone can relate to that. I mean, look, everyone is addicted to something. So when you think of drugs or alcohol you kind of tend to put yourself on a nice little throne and think, Oh, wow, poor, poor Lindsay. Or, you know, Oh, Courtney, do that again. But the bottom line is, you’re an addict too. You’re addicted to something else. You know what I mean? Your kids, work, TV, Twitter, I don’t know, whatever it is. So it’s like we’re all on the same leaky boat, as I say. I think that’s kind of the most important thing. I also just really wanted to reach people. I wanted to write the book that I wished I had read when I was struggling.

Did you read a lot of addiction books?

I read so many. And, uh, you know, none of them just had the ring of [authenticity] for me. I couldn’t relate to any of them.

Why do you think that is?
Some of them are beautifully written, like Mary Karr’s book Lit, which was exquisite. But ... you sort of you go into this different world, and obviously I can’t relate to growing up the way she grew up, and then of course there’s Carrie Fisher, and I can’t relate to how she grew up. I just sort of wanted to write something a little bit more universal about we all feel. Whether it’s our food addiction, sex addiction, love addiction. And so I tried to sort of make it that, you know, universal in that way. With, of course, a heavy, uh, nod toward the gays.

When I heard that there was a coming out in the book I have to admit I was really hoping that you were going to be coming out as a lesbian, not an addict.
[Laughs] I mean, that’s my next book.

Is there any chance you’re at least bisexual?
I’m not. I’m sorry.

You can’t throw me a bone here?
No, I can throw you this bone. I really wish I was. I can say that. But I’m not. Unfortunately, I like the cock. It’s tragic but true.

You’ve always had great gay friends.
Well, yeah.

You say in the book is that it was a gay man who was the first man who ever told you you were beautiful.
Absolutely. And it was gay men who first really got me as an actress too. My life is kind of, I am Auntie Mame, let’s just face it.

Why do you think you forge such close relationships with gay men? Why do they get you?
I don’t know. I think that there’s certainly a kinship in terms of feeling like a freak. When you’re, that, at that vulnerable age of, you know, 10, 9, 8, 11, in that age range and I was already six feet tall and a loser too, and I was loud. I think I’ve always been a freak. And I think gay people feel like freaks when they’re younger, maybe not as much anymore, but certainly they used to. I mean, certainly when you were ... when you were sort of at that age, it must have been so confusing and horrible and weird and hard. And you didn’t have anybody to look up to. There was no Will & Grace, you know what I mean?

Not that you want to look up to them, but you know what I’m saying. There was no Logo. Now it’s a different animal, thank God.

March 09 2012 8:28 PM