Cover Stories

Watch a behind the scenes interview with Martina Navratilova below.   

Martina Navratilova has seen better years. She started 2010 with a fractured wrist she sustained while playing hockey — the first time, as it happens, that one of the titans of the professional sports world has ever broken a bone. Then in February, Navratilova was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was noninvasive but required a lumpectomy, followed by radiation therapy. Add to that the reported $3 million settlement of a lawsuit brought by a former partner that had spawned tabloid headlines like “Martina Navratilova Sued for Millions by ‘Wife’ After Being ‘Dumped Without Warning.’” Then bookend those misfortunes with a charity trek up Africa’s tallest peak in December that ended in a high-altitude pulmonary edema scare, an emergency descent, and days of hospitalization.

“Goodbye 2010,” she wrote on her website as the year drew to a close. “If you were a fish, I’d throw you back.”

But talking with her today, it seems almost as though the last straw came when the 54-year-old Navratilova was in a hospital bed in Nairobi, Kenya, watching CNN. “They were showing a five-minute segment on World Sport, about Martina Navratilova and the climb, they talked about what happened, and it was very accurate, and I was like, Oh, that was nice,” she says.

“Then on the ticker underneath it says, ‘Martina Navratilova Quits Her Mount Kilimanjaro Attempt,’” she continues with a wry smile. The emphasis is hers. It’s clearly an unpalatable word, even though she relates this story with a heady dose of humor threaded through the exasperation. “I can say that I quit, but nobody else can say that I quit! Because the only option of not quitting was to go up and die. So it was not a good solution. Quitting suggests that you had a choice. I did not have a choice.”

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that precise language is a sticking point for the woman whose record 167 singles titles may never be surpassed in professional tennis (Venus Williams, who has captured the most singles titles of any player competing today, sports 43 by comparison). A few days before we were scheduled to meet, either at or near her residence north of Aspen, Colo., I received an e-mail from Navratilova’s assistant, relaying a message from her business manager. The manager didn’t demand that any subject be off limits, but wrote that she needed to discuss “editorial control” — a term that basically means pre-approval for any piece to be published. That wasn’t going to happen, so I figured the assignment would be axed. But my editor made some calls, and on a 17-degree morning in Colorado I was given Navratilova’s address off a winding country road. I was told to arrive at 3 p.m.

Showing up in Aspen to interview Martina Navratilova in this context and in her own home comes with a certain set of assumptions (and anxiety: I doubted I’d fare well in the face of a recalcitrant Navratilova; during her career she was known for pouncing on press conference questions that annoyed her). I expected an imposing gate leading to an even more imposing house, the kind where Silicon Valley moguls spend long weekends. I expected the assistant to answer the door when I knocked and make me wait in an entryway for just enough time to sweat a few bullets. For some reason I expected Navratilova would have a small, expensive breed of dog.

I was wrong about all three. She has two dogs in Aspen, but neither is a shih tzu (she does own a small dog, but had to give it to a friend in New York to take care of for fear it’d be eaten by coyotes here, she says). Her two-story log cabin–style house is not gated, nor is it a marvel of modern architecture or opulent interior design. Outside is a rusty 4x4 with a "For Sale" sign in the window — the model year likely preceding Navratilova’s first Wimbledon win in 1978 — and a view of the looming Mount Sopris, unsullied by any neighboring multimillionaire pad: Navratilova owns the land in front of her home, where elk often graze. It’s quiet here, sunny, and freezing. Inside the high-ceilinged, cozy home is an old green spectator bench from Wimbledon and a local artist’s sculpture from her onetime archrival, Chris Evert. “It’s very comfortable,” she says of her friendship with Evert as she shows me around the main floor. “I know I can say anything I want to Chris about what’s going on in my life, and it’s going nowhere. And she’s going to give me exactly what she thinks with no censorship, no ulterior motive — and vice versa. We give our best to each other.”

As we sit down on a plush sectional sofa, I brace myself again for a standoffish interview, plotting my exit when we’ve reached the one-hour mark. The press, after all, essentially forced her out of the closet. Any stance the Czech-born Navratilova may take against American foreign policy or prevailing antiliberal sentiment is reliably met with an “If you don’t like it, why don’t you go back to where you came from?” response from Bill O’Reilly and his ilk. Despite her wins on the court, it’s always seemed to me that with the media, she often loses.

Story continues on next page. 

March 08 2011 4:00 AM

IT'S ONLY A GARTER SNAKE, dusty brown with rows of black splotches running the length of its slender body. But the faithful who see it writhing on the concrete barn floor of this makeshift church, where snake handling isn’t a part of the service, are justifiably jumpy: A 6-year-old girl was bitten on the foot by a rattlesnake just a few weeks ago, not far from here on the west side of Colorado Springs, Colo., near the United States Air Force Academy. As the snake slithers erratically through the barn, past three large gray buckets stacked waist high to serve as a lectern, past a hand-painted two-by-four reading "no stone zone," and finally past our feet, a young woman yells, “Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!” in rapid fire.

Scenarios like these almost always produce a willing hero: An elderly man with thick glasses bends down and grabs the snake just below its head. Triumphant, he walks it out of the barn and into an adjacent field to relieved applause, followed by a smattering of jokes — variations on a theme of an obvious metaphor just witnessed by the new congregants of St. James Church, led by Pastor Ted Haggard.

We take our seats and wait for Haggard to finish greeting churchgoers as they drive down the circular paved driveway on Old Ranch Road leading to his home. The setting is instantly familiar to anyone who paid attention to Haggard’s scandal, or “crisis,” as he sometimes refers to it, in 2006. Recall Haggard, then head of New Life Church, in the maroon pickup truck, wearing a blue checked shirt and khakis, as he spoke to a 9News Denver reporter, denying his involvement with Mike Jones, a former gay escort in Denver who now works as a nursing assistant. Haggard spoke with conviction: “I did call him…I called him to buy some meth, but I threw it away.… I went there for a massage.” Haggard’s wife, Gayle, sat in the passenger seat, wearing a pale green sweater. She stared at her husband while he dug himself deeper before driving off. Four years later, in her memoir, Why I Stayed: The Choices I Made in My Darkest Hour, she wrote of the moment: “As we approached the traffic light nearest our house, his confident expression melted, and his forehead dropped to the steering wheel. When he spoke again, his voice came out in tatters: ‘What have I just done?’ [Haggard asked.] ‘You just lied,’ I answered, my tone flat. ‘And everybody’s going to know it.’ ”

Everyone did, of course. And yet the man who, fairly or not, has come to embody the evangelical hypocrisy that gay people and their allies rail against daily — whose name comes up every time a man of the cloth or an antigay activist is accused of a same-sex dalliance — has returned to the pulpit.

Perhaps it’s no surprise. Ministry is all Ted Haggard has ever known.

When I first spoke with Haggard, he was on his cell phone, pacing in the barn a few steps from his home, and seething about a story that had just broken in the news. It was May 2010, only a few days after the Miami New Times published an expose on George Rekers, a University of South Carolina emeritus professor, a founding board member of the Family Research Council, and a proponent of “ex-gay” reparative therapy who was caught with a 20-year-old escort from The young man, Rekers explained, had been hired to carry luggage for him during a 10-day European trip. The timing was terrible for Haggard, who was in the early stages of opening a new church and once again found himself in the news, as journalists compared him to Rekers. “I know exactly what it feels like to have both sides hating you bitterly,” Haggard said about Rekers. In the background I could hear what sounded like his sneakers squeaking as he paced on the concrete floor. “But I’m not him. I was never hateful.… And let me emphasize: I’ve never been through — what do they call it? Reparative therapy? Restorative? Whatever it is. The thing that they say people who are confused sexually go through. I don’t know anything about it.”

Two months later, at this Sunday service, Haggard’s a completely different man than I heard on the phone. “All right, let’s get started!” he says with his Cheshire-cat grin as he strides into the red barn in a striped button-down shirt. St. James is a far cry from nearby New Life, which Haggard and his wife started in 1985 and which, by the time they left, had grown to include 14,000 members. Today, only a few dozen people are arranged in semicircle rows of folding chairs to hear Haggard’s sermon.

February 07 2011 4:00 AM

“Gay rights are human rights.” With that declaration — and the team she has assembled at the State Department — Hillary Rodham Clinton has elevated the dialogue on LGBT rights around the globe.

January 10 2011 4:00 AM

Lady Gaga Speaks Out for Gay Rights

You’re nobody till somebody hates you, and Lady Gaga is no mere arriviste. Because she has a monstrously large gay fan base, she may have seen it as a badge of honor when Fred Phelps and his Westboro bullies picketed her concerts with “God Hates Lady Gaga” signs. She also drew the ire of Camille Paglia, who emerged from mothballs to give Our Lady G a tongue-lashing, calling her overconceptualized, calculating, and antiseptic. Trouper that she is, Gaga soldiered on. She continued to provoke as a multiplatinum-selling fashionista of the highest order. But we most love Gaga for having our back, for actively railing against injustice of all kinds—witness her impromptu appearance in Maine in September to speak out against “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Criticize her meat dress as tasteless if you will, but there’s no denying this Lady is a champ. 

November 16 2010 10:00 PM

James Franco isn’t a gay man, he just plays one — frequently. The busiest guy in show business takes a break to discuss how he came to play Allen Ginsberg in Howl.

September 09 2010 4:00 AM

Death sentences in Nigeria. Prison terms in Malawi. Violent, homophobic rhetoric spewed by dictators in Zimbabwe and Gambia. Perhaps nowhere on earth are gays persecuted more than in Africa — ground zero for a culture war waged by U.S. religious and political leaders. Through the lens of the missionary hotbed that is Uganda, Jeff Sharlet, author of C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy, reports on the deadly consequences of evangelicals’ antigay exports.

*    *    *

At the airport into Entebbe, the gateway for flights in and out of Uganda, near the capital city of Kampala, I recently met Tommy and Teresa Harris, a pair of American missionaries. She had friendly brown curls; he wore a salt-and-pepper sea captain’s beard. You could tell they were missionaries because their shirts said so: “Faithful Servant” was stitched on the breast pocket of his khaki safari gear and across her bright white T-shirt. That was the name of their ministry in Uganda. “Going home?” I asked.

“Oh, no,” Tommy said, his voice jumpy and Georgian. “We’re just going to get more money.”

“Mm-hmm,” Teresa concurred. It was May 2010. They’d been “in country” since 2002, when Tommy received a message from God directing him to Uganda. Nigeria, the continent’s most populous country, may send more preachers abroad to fill the pulpits of American churches (including at times those of Sarah Palin’s in Alaska and Ted Haggard’s former church in Colorado), and Rwanda may be officially designated the world’s first “Purpose-Driven Nation” — after the best-selling book by pastor Rick Warren — but Uganda is special missionary bait. It’s where the revival that launched born-again Christianity across the region in 1935 began. Fred Hartley, whose Atlanta-based College of Prayer claims nearly two dozen “campuses” in half a dozen African countries — all dedicated to teaching American-style evangelicalism to the continent’s leaders — told me that Uganda is the premier site for “spiritual war” in the world right now.

“Spiritual war” is a theological term, but in Uganda — ground zero for an explosion in violent homophobia across Africa — it’s taking increasingly concrete form. For the Ugandan government, that’s a pragmatic strategy as much as a spiritual one. Since 1986, Uganda has been ruled by an autocrat, Yoweri Museveni, who correctly guessed that American evangelicals eager to do good works and to save the heathen could be a big source of income for his regime.

“We have a primary, a secondary, and a high school,” Tommy said of Faithful Servants International Ministries. “Four hundred and fifty children, two meals a day, and we go into two hospitals and three prisons. We can’t do all that ourselves of course, so we have nine ministers. And our own seminary!”

“There are 54 employees,” Teresa said.

“Sure are,” Tommy replied. He was proud of their size but he liked to be nimble. “My thing is witnessing. Going to the villages and telling them about Jesus.” Uganda is overwhelmingly Christian, but that doesn’t stop Americans from trying to make it more so. A landlocked country with a population of 32 million and the second-highest birth rate in the world, it looms large in the American evangelical imagination: a project for purification, a case study in revival to be held up as a model back home. “Ten thousand souls were saved last year,” Tommy said. He meant through his efforts alone.

“What do you make of this Anti-Homosexuality Bill?” I asked. It was one of the hottest debates in the country, and a rare occasion when Uganda made international news. Said to be inspired by Americans, the bill would make homosexuality a crime punishable by death or life in prison. But Tommy heard only the word “homosexuality.”

“I do not believe in homosexuality!” he said, rearing up with indignation as if I’d just put a hand on his knee. “Absolutely not!” He crossed his arms over his burly chest.

“Of course,” I said, “of course.”

Teresa rubbed his shoulder. “Shh,” she said. “I don’t think that’s what he meant.”

I explained that I was interested in their view of the death penalty for homosexuality. Tommy shook his head. Tough one.

“Well, I’m totally against killing them. Because some of them can be saved, and changed. But the thing is, you can’t force them to stop. It’s been tried! But it don’t work.” He shook his head over the problem on all sides — the homosexuals, themselves, and his Ugandan friends, so on fire for the gospel that they’d gone too far in an antigay crusade. That’s how it is with Ugandans, he explained. They’re a bighearted people, but they get ahead of themselves sometimes. That’s where Americans could help.

“What they need,” Tommy proposed, “is a special place, like, for people doing homosexual things to learn different. A camp, like.”

“Keep them all in one place?” I asked.

“Yes. I think that’s what we have to try,” he said. “Because the thing is, the Bible says we can’t kill them. And we can’t put them in prison because that’d be like putting a normal fella in a whorehouse!” Teresa chuckled with her husband. A camp in which to concentrate the offenders — that was the compassionate solution.

August 23 2010 5:00 AM

The Sex and the City star opens up about her life with partner Christine Marinoni.

May 10 2010 5:00 AM

Also, check out our interview with another reason to be proud: Cynthia Nixon.

When Montana’s supreme court ruled in favor of a lesbian who sued her former partner for joint custody of the children they’d raised together, Justice James Nelson called antigay discrimination “evil.” He went on to say that “lesbian and gay Montanans must not be forced to fight to marry, to raise their children, and to live with the same dignity that is accorded heterosexuals.”

In the face of proposed legislation that would have prohibited Maryland from recognizing same-sex marriages performed legally in other jurisdictions, state attorney general Douglas F. Gansler said no. In an opinion (one that antigay pols tried unsuccessfully to impeach him over) Gansler said that if such rights are legal elsewhere, they’re good for Maryland too.
Even though Nevada governor Jim Gibbons vetoed a bill to legalize domestic partnerships, both the senate and assembly overrode the veto with clear majorities.


Stephen Sondheim, the most Tony-winning composer, turned 80 in the spring and is being feted throughout the year for his body of work. I’ll drink to that! (We’ll be toasting with a vodka stinger.)

Yes, Arthur Laurents, the 91-year-old playwright and director, revived his West Side Story (featuring lyrics by Sondheim) in 2009 and has published a memoir, titled Original Story By, but we’re mostly excited by his advice for younger gay men: “First of all I want to say I’m active sexually, so there’s hope for anyone!”

May 10 2010 5:00 AM

2010 40 Under 40

April 07 2010 5:00 AM

The Auteur: Pedro Almodóvar

As he premieres his 17th feature film this November, Pedro Almodóvar finds himself in a somber mood. The celebrated Spanish auteur, who recently turned 60, is not feeling nostalgic, though Americans, it seems, are looking back to his earlier work—his 1988 film, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, is slated to become both a Fox television series and a Broadway musical. If anything, Almodóvar is eager to move forward, having recently announced that he has his next four scripts in mind, with one complete and another nearly finished. No, he’s not looking back—the director just thinks his stories are becoming darker, less humorous, more reflective.

“It was my intention from the beginning to make a sober, austere film,” he says of Broken Embraces, the latest addition to his 30-plus-year oeuvre. “It was important that I differentiate it from my previous films. I wanted a drama dry of tears—not only lacking tears but not evoking tears. At this moment it is profoundly me.”

His new film barely resembles the tragicomic kitsch of earlier favorites like the Oscar-winning All About My Mother. Instead, it continues down the noirish path of Almodóvar’s last three projects, Volver, Bad Education, and Talk to Her. A labyrinthine, Hitchcockian melodrama, Broken Embraces tells the story of blind Spanish filmmaker Harry Caine (Lluís Homar), his producer, and her son, forced to relive their painful past when an aspiring director, Ray X, shows up at Caine’s doorstep in Madrid. Almodóvar then flashes back to 1992, when a beautiful secretary–cum–call girl, Lena (Almodóvar’s current muse, Penélope Cruz), takes up with her controlling millionaire boss, Ernesto Martel. An aspiring actress, Lena lands her first role in Caine’s new film, and the not-yet-blind director and actress fall in love and begin an affair, only to be spied on by Martel’s gay teen son, Ernesto Jr., who is taunted and ridiculed by his father. And that’s just the tip of the convoluted tale.

Arguably his most cerebral film to date, Broken Embraces isn’t an easy pill to swallow. As a tale of passion and treachery, a tribute to 1950s thrillers, and an Almodóvar love letter to moviemaking, the film stews in heartache and familial discord, specifically tension between Ernesto Jr. and his father. “Ernesto Jr. is a deeper character than you see on screen,” Almodóvar says. “Part of the movie is about fathers and sons, especially hugely powerful fathers that obliterate their sons.”

Almodóvar based that rocky relationship on the obscure story of Ernest Hemingway and his estranged son Gregory. “Gregory Hemingway married more women, had more children, drank way more, and hunted more elephants than this father,” Almodóvar says. “Then, close to the age of 60, he decided to change his sex and had a horrible ending.” Re-created as Gloria Hemingway, she eventually died of hypertension at age 69 in a Miami women’s prison cell in 2001. She’d been arrested for indecent exposure five days before, having been found naked with a dress and high heels in her hands.

“Ernesto Jr.’s story isn’t as terrible,” Almodóvar says. “But, like Hemingway, after his father’s death, he unconsciously imitates the paternal behavior he detests so much. Even though he is gay, he marries women and has children who hate him as much as he hated his own father. After his father dies, he decides he’s going to break that pattern and take charge of his life.” The adult Ernesto Jr. (soon revealed to be Ray X) also seeks vengeance with a film showing how his homophobic father crushed his spirit.

Long applauded for his frank portrayal of queer characters, Almodóvar has been candid about being gay since he can remember. “I come from a small rural town, and I left very young, at 17 years old, to go to Madrid, where I lived my life openly,” he says. “I was already out and leading my life, but I never got to tell my father before he died. I didn’t see the necessity in telling my parents, but later, at around 21, I told my mother and the family who was going to be part of my day-to-day life.”

As solemn as it is, Broken Embraces does contain vibrant moments that remind one of the kooky genius behind it. Almodóvar makes a cinematic Barbie doll of Cruz in one scene, posing Lena cheekily in different wigs and channeling Hollywood icons like Marilyn Monroe for Girls and Suitcases, the film within the film. In a snippet of Girls and Suitcases, Almodóvar fans will recognize winks to his earlier movies, including a jaw-dropping cameo. With its hysterical edge and vivid colors, the fictional comedy is really a pastiche of his own Kika and Women on the Verge.

Though he can’t quite explain America’s sudden renewed interest in the beloved latter film (he thinks the Desperate Housewives phenomenon has a lot to do with it), Almodóvar is excited to see how Broadway director Bart Sher, who won a Tony last year for his revival of South Pacific, has reinterpreted Women on the Verge. “I’m curious,” he says. “I don’t know exactly if I’ll love the result, but it’s exciting. No Spanish film has experienced this sort of popularity.” Almodóvar has made some changes to the script but says he’s kept his distance from the show. “It’s really their project and I’m just collaborating. I’m just the father of the child.” — Jason Lamphier

November 11 2009 10:00 AM