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.

 With a vast and eclectic résumé that spans six decades and has produced such Broadway anthems as “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” “I’m Still Here,” and “Send in the Clowns,” Stephen Sondheim is revered by even the casual theaterphile as a master of the modern stage musical. The Grammy-, Oscar-, Pulitzer-, and eight-time Tony-winning composer-lyricist was famously mentored as a young man by Oscar Hammerstein II.

October 12 2010 4:00 AM

 Two of the most important cases in gay rights since Lawrence v. Texas blew the roof off state-sanctioned homophobia occurred this year in California courtrooms. One trial made consistent headlines. The other didn’t. While you likely experienced the Proposition 8 case via heated protests and press conferences, the other took place in a sterile courtroom with young Justice Department attorneys in bad suits defending the 1993 “don’t ask, don’t tell” law.

October 12 2010 4:00 AM

 “I was 23 the first time I was surrounded by a lot of people who looked like me,” says Jasika Nicole. That’s when she moved to New York City to pursue an acting career. Growing up biracial in Homewood, Ala., a suburb of Birmingham, Nicole says she often felt like a curiosity, the subject of whispers, an outsider. “There’s a lot of history in Birmingham, and so many important things have happened there, but it’s still an incredibly segregated city. It’s a really tricky place to grow up when you’re trying to figure out who you are, and people either want you to be one thing or another.”

Nicole lived with her mother in a predominantly white neighborhood and visited her father in a mostly black neighborhood. “It was important for me to either act as white as I could in some areas or act as black as I could in other areas—you know, whatever acting white or black really means.” Sometimes it meant literally stepping into different shoes. “I would wear Keds when I was at my mom’s house. I would wear K-Swiss when I was at my dad’s house. I thought that was the only way to fit in, because that’s all you really want to do when you’re growing up.”

Though she’s been openly lesbian for as long as she’s been dating women (since 2005, when she was filming the dance-themed movie Take the Lead, starring Antonio Banderas), grappling with her sexual identity as a young woman was problematic. “I had to be 13 or 14 years old, and I was in my room, and I was thinking, ‘There’s a very strong possibility I’m gay, but there’s no way I could be biracial and gay.’ I just knew I wasn’t strong enough to be able to carry both of those things in Birmingham, and so I just—I didn’t think about it.”

Moving to New York after college in North Carolina was an eye-opening experience for Nicole. She endured the slings and arrows of looking for work (“I probably went through about 500 auditions”), starred in commercials for McDonald’s and Alltel, and lost the lead role in Sam Mendes’s film Away We Go to Maya Rudolph. (She documents many of her true-life tales in High Yella Magic, her online comic book on Jasika­ In the city, for the first time Nicole suddenly saw a lot of other biracial people. And for the first time she addressed the feelings for women she’d suppressed in Birmingham. Five years ago she called her mother to say she was planning to go on a date with a woman. “She laughed and she was super excited for me,” Nicole says.

The next year Nicole called her father to say she would be visiting Alabama with her then-new girlfriend, Claire, a social worker. But he took the news badly, and father and daughter didn’t speak for nine months. “It was really crappy because I’ve always been Daddy’s girl,” she says. They’ve since reconciled, and her father has welcomed Claire (with whom Nicole lives in New York and Vancouver, Canada, where Fringe is taped) and apologized for each day they didn’t speak. But Nicole empathizes with his initial reticence. “It’s not something that is necessarily talked about a lot in the African-American community,” she says. “I can’t take away years of growing up thinking that homosexuality is wrong. That’s not something I could do single-handedly.”

October 12 2010 4:00 AM

Rebounding from a shaky first season and a transitional second, the CW’s 90210 is currently riding a creative high, thanks in no small part to Trevor Donovan. As high school jock Teddy Montgomery, he looks every inch the campus hunk. But as was first teased by producers this summer and as viewers have learned in recent weeks, Teddy also has a secret. He’s gay — and extremely closeted. In October 4’s episode Teddy’s internalized homophobia came flooding to the surface when, feeling threatened by former one-night stand turned classmate Ian (Kyle Riabko), he calls him a “faggot” and, later, assaults him.

It’s a plot line Donovan says he’s extremely proud of and, given the headlines in recent weeks about teens killing themselves after being bullied and harassed with antigay comments, a story he thinks is essential to tell. The actor talked to The Advocate about why he was hesitant to tell Teddy’s story, why he is looking forward playing the more intimate scenes, and what it’s like to play a high schooler when you’re in your 30s.

The Advocate: When news first broke that one of the characters on 90210 would be coming out, producers teased that you were one of three guys it could be. Did you know at that point it was Teddy?
Trevor Donovan: [Laughs] I knew.

So you just had to keep your mouth shut?
Yeah. We really wanted to keep it on the down low. But, as you know, it leaked out pretty quick.

Did you think it would leak out as quickly as it did, or did you think you’d have to keep it a secret all summer?
To be honest with you, I wasn’t sure. I was pretty shocked it got out as soon as it did.

What was your initial reaction? Did you have any sense Teddy might be gay, or was it completely out of left field for you?
It was completely out of left field. I definitely had my reservations and my concerns in the beginning. I didn’t want it to be just an in-your-face, gratuitous ratings booster. I didn’t want to be a part of something like that. Talking to the executive producer, we were on the exact same page. We really wanted to tell the internal struggle, the coming-out story. That’s really important. How he deals with it internally and how his peers, his friends, family, how they also respond to it. Once we talked about how it was going to be written, I was very excited about it. Not only for me as an actor, but to shed some light on how difficult it can be. It’s been so good, and I’m so impressed with the writing staff and production. Everything has gone in the right direction.

I saw your “It Gets Better” video. and obviously this story is happening at a very timely moment. Were you shocked to learn of all the teen suicides happening in schools, or was this an issue you were pretty aware of?

Yeah, I mean, I don’t think this is necessarily a new issue. For whatever reason, it’s coming to the forefront of the media. Partially having to do with Dan Savage launching the “It Gets Better” campaign, it’s bringing more attention to it. It’s such a tragic, tragic thing. The fact that my story line is coinciding so accurately, I think it’s just an opportunity to really help these kids and hopefully, potentially, save people’s lives.

October 11 2010 4:45 PM

 The younger of two doormen, who looks to be about 25, Latino, and straight, recognizes the woman on the sidewalk instantly. “Damn, she looks good,” he says to his colleague before welcoming Liza Minnelli into the marble lobby of the Hotel Plaza Athenee, a few blocks from her home on New York’s Upper East Side.

Wearing a deep red silk Chinese-style shirt, black trousers and flats, a small gold cross on a chain around her neck, and diamond earrings almost half the size of her eyes, Minnelli does look good. Incredibly so, when you tally up the struggles of her 64 years—the well-known litany of marriages, addictions, and constant comebacks—whose collective wear on her seemed clear during her disastrous June appearance on HSN to promote the Liza Collection, a line of sequined clothing and sparkly jewelry. She was repetitive, slurring, and spacy: One fan called in to express her admiration for Minnelli, saying, “You’re truly a mentor for me,” and Minnelli responded, bizarrely, “You’re my mentor too.” Video of the show went viral; some speculated that Minnelli might have fallen off the wagon. Combined with her over-the-top Sex and the City 2 cameo, in which she sang “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It),” it seemed that Minnelli might be sliding into clownish irrelevance. And yet somehow this same person greets me today in a manner that suggests otherwise. Sharp, calm, and articulate, she’ll later explain the discrepancy by saying of the HSN debacle, “I was tired! They’d had me working too hard, and we shot that segment very late, and I was just tired.”

The most striking thing about Minnelli’s appearance, though, is that she’s come to look almost chillingly like her mother. There’s always been a resemblance, but time has etched Minnelli’s features with a precise quality of Judy Garland’s that also helps to clarify one key difference between the public images of the two. Garland, even when she was a mess, was always indelibly Judy. No matter how needy or awestruck, her facial expressions had a pointed quality that telegraphed the determination and persistence that brought Dorothy home. Liza Minnelli’s face, by contrast, has always radiated an energy of concentrated force but vague direction. The lacquered features and loose mannerisms sit in tension, like a Kabuki mask surrounded by a haze of free-flowing giggles, gulps, and gazes. At the center of it all, always, are the eyes, innocent and hungry, expressing an openness to the world so extreme as to be dangerous. (It’s the quality that made us love Sally Bowles and also made us fear for her.)

The face I meet has hardened, in a good way. In a private room of the hotel’s restaurant, she orders high tea for the table (a friend of Liza’s—who asks not to be identified for this story—and Liza’s publicist are with us). Then she orders a Coke for herself before turning to me, her eyes focused and her mouth set strong, to talk about her new album. Confessions is a collection of standards recorded with one of her longtime collaborators, pianist and arranger Billy Stritch. Reflective, wry, and even wise, this album is one of her best. The voice, deep and rich as an aged single malt, has a generous, even forgiving quality, especially in songs that make gentle fun of the singer’s reputation for excess, like the title track (“I never had a taste for wine / For wine can’t compare with gin”). “This Heart of Mine” deploys her vintage, veering vocal mannerisms to the verge of self-parody, before landing, catlike, on a precise ending.

Best and most affecting of all is “I Got Lost in His Arms,” in which the lyrics dive headlong into romance but the voice is halting, even mournful, as if the singer were trying to warn her own heart that love may not be worth the trouble. If a single song could stand as an autobiography, this might be Liza’s. Does this quality reflect something that Minnelli has learned about romance over the course of a lifetime that has included four marriages? (Her husbands were singer and songwriter Peter Allen, producer Jack Haley Jr., sculptor Mark Gero, and producer David Gest.) She answers, “I think everybody goes through it, and I think it’s absolutely grand when you’re going through it, and then you get your head broken and you get your heart broken and it’s all that up-and-down stuff, and for me, in my life, I’m quite happy that it’s gone. Now I have my work and my puppies and my home. And that’s enough.”

October 11 2010 4:00 AM

Alek & Steph (Stephane Marquet and Aleksandar Tomovic) have brought their European artistry to American efficiency. They make the perfect team, creating the magic as they take images simultaneously with two different cameras and work together on the postproduction. Their photography has been published all over the world, reaching millions. Steph is originally from the sunny south of France (which is a bit like Palm Springs with water and an accent), but then he moved to Paris, took that “Parisian attitude” everyone talks about, and transformed it into something all his own. Alek is originally from Serbia (which is a bit like the San Fernando Valley with an even thicker accent), but then he moved to Paris, met Steph, fell in love, and became a French citizen.

Whether you are talking about Alek & Steph’s blogs, their online magazines, their photography, or even their lives, you are talking about inspiration.

Such stimulation comes from extensive world travels and the vast experiences they have absorbed from countless cultures and from meeting some pretty darn amazing people. Just take a look at their photography and you can sense the inspiration ... and the timelessness.

October 09 2010 4:00 AM

Joining the thousands of LGBT's and straight allies filming "It Gets Better" videos over the past few weeks, several celebrities have stepped up to the plate to offer words of encouragement.

From Neil Patrick Harris to Anne Hathaway, check out some of the best celebrity videos we've come across, each encouraging LGBT youths to stay strong and keep fighting.

October 08 2010 4:50 PM

Elton John said that "Born This Way," the title track from Lady Gaga’s next album, is a new gay anthem bound to surpass even Gloria Gaynor’s "I Will Survive."

Entertainment Weekly
spoke with John, who described the forthcoming Gaga album as “f—ing amazing.” Despite speculation he may appear on the album, John said that seems unlikely because the album is more or less finished.

October 08 2010 10:15 AM

Country music star Tim McGraw made a surprise visit to Grassland Middle School in Tennessee to talk with students about bullying last Friday, but it appears that he confined his remarks to bullying in general, and not homophobia.

October 08 2010 8:35 AM

In an exclusive column, Broadway performer John Carroll takes Advocate readers behind the scenes of Lincoln Center Theater's hotly anticipated musical production of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. 

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown is finally in the Belasco Theatre, our newly renovated home away from home. It's hard to express the emotions that came over me walking into the theater, onto the stage for the first time. It's been a long road, and I've finally made it to a rather wonderful destination — 111 W. 44th St., to be exact.

I started settling into my dressing room and I got to meet the stage crew, the group of people who will be the backbone of this production. I got to meet the man at the stage door, the man who will shield me from the endless hordes of screaming fans after the show ... cricket ... cricket. I'm figuring out where the closest coffee shop is and which streets are best to travel to beat the wall of tourists that creates gridlock in Times Square. It's a lot of new things to consider, and they are all welcome.

We are officially in tech rehearsals. This is the time when all the technical aspects of the show — sound, lighting, sets, etc. — are worked out and rehearsed. A whole other layer of magic is added to the show. While it can be a slow, arduous process, when it's done, the show is that much more complete. This time really isn't for the performers. We have had the luxury of weeks in the rehearsal studio figuring out our part in this show. However, it is now time to be patient and give the show's other elements their time. The technical side of WOTV is stunning. We have four treadmills, spanning the width of the stage, used to transport sets and performers. There are people literally hanging from the rafters and some of the most beautiful, crystal-clear projections that will make you feel you are in the outlandish world of Pedro Almodóvar.

Let's face it, I'm extremely grateful. It's easy to forget how it is when you're not working. How frustrating it is to audition for job after job, casting a wide net yet catching nothing. At times you question your talent, you question your training, your life choices, and sometimes even that second helping of macaroni and cheese that you really wanted but knew you shouldn't have had because the lactose always makes your stomach ... but I digress. Then, just when it feels too much to bear, you land that big job and suddenly you've been chosen. You are no longer on what feels like the island of misfit toys. I never want to forget what it's like to fight for that next job. It keeps me focused. It keeps me humble.

October 07 2010 3:45 PM