Monday, May 23, 2016

Sour Milk

As part of its "One City One Pride" calendar of events, on Sunday May 22, Harvey Milks actual birthday, the city of West Hollywood held a screening of the Academy Award winning Gus Van Sant film MILK.  It was held in the West Hollywood city council chambers.
West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister

There was to be the film itself followed by a "panel" discussion, followed by a small reception.  I arrived just as the film was starting.  I have seen it probably 10 times, but haven't seen it in a year.  Keeping in mind that Harvey Milk is arguably the most famous gay icon/politician/activist ever, he deserves the respect of me  once again watching the story of  what he lived and died for.
legendary gay male icon/activist/politician Harvey Milk

He was a simple man, living a simple, if not boring life in NYC until his fortieth year.  Making a change and moving to San Francisco, having an "out" gay relationship in an GLBT hostile world, calling for gay rights and acceptance, he became one of the most revered men in the GLBT movement, if not actually creating a full on movement.    He opened a small neighborhood camera shop in the Castro, and eventually became known as the Mayor of Castro Street,  This wasn't an easy task, as he wasn't welcome with open arms by any stretch.

Milk was a showman.  He had a special ability to mobilize, create and have gay men and lesbians join together for a common cause.  He wanted nothing more than equality and nothing less.  He was a performer.  He had a talent for getting press, and after several failed  attempts at becoming  an elected official, he was finally elected to a seat as a city Supervisor,  as an openly gay man in San Francisco.  His dramatic antics, and P.T.  Barnum-like personality won him many supporters, but also detractors.  His life was threatened many times by mail and ominous,  anonymous letters with gruesome drawings of how his genitals would be hacked from his body.  He never went to the police, as he told his then partner, the police probably sent them.

As in many political marriages, his true love left because of the stress of public life.  He never fell out of love with Milk, nor Milk with him.  Milks next partner hung himself in their apartment for the same reasoning, more or less.  Of course there were underlying mental and substance abuse problems, but as many know, gay men are prone to suicide at an alarmingly higher rate then our hetero counterparts.  Lack of acceptance and  familial support and lack of laws protecting our jobs, housing etc. add to the pressures of life that heteros simply do not endure.  Continually being called faggot, queer, pervert and sick,  and  being made to believe by foes such as Anita Bryant and John Briggs through ballot initiatives, that we are unworthy , creates fertile grounds for substance abuse and mental instability.

Milk fought these political behemoth's fearlessly.  He "collected" throwaways, like Cleve Jones (founder of the names project) and others who had no direction or anywhere to go.  I know Cleve.  I have interviewed him several times.  He is a strong proud gay man, and has become part of our amazing history.

Milk's  story doesn't end on a happy note.  He had premonitions of being assassinated, and on November 27th 1978, he and his friend Mayor Moscone, a straight ally were shot and killed by resigned supervisor Dan White.  His arrest and trial were cause for outrage, as his lawyers claimed his diet of junk food, later to be coined "the twinkie defense" got him only 5 years for manslaughter for these clearly premeditated murders.  After the trial and decision by jurors, more than 3000 people charged through the Castro to city hall, breaking doors, trampling police cars, and demanding justice.  They became known as The White Night Riots.  NO ONE WAS ARRESTED.

More than 30,000 supporters and mourners walked through the Castro to city hall to show respect for the fallen hero.  He was and is a legend.  If not for him there would not be us.  He started a movement that to this day exists, still fighting the religious right, the homophobes, the uninformed.  He always said "You gotta give 'em hope."  He did just that.

The panel was moderated by veteran  lesbian journalist Karen Ocamb.  She was the right person for the job.  She was there.  She covered all of this.  If not for her, I would have left.  The rest of the panel was made up of lesbians.  I found it so inappropriate and so  careless to have an entirely lesbian panel.  NOT A SINGLE GAY MALE WAS ON THE PANEL.
no gay men
 How can this be?  DON'T ASK ME.....And don't try to say that we have a lack of qualified men that could have given insight as to what it is like to be a gay male activist in this country.  It was offensive to say the least.  The sadder part was that the panel did not seem to be acutely aware of Milk.  When Karen asked questions, one panelist looked at her as though she had no clue what to say, and Karen literally said, "There will be hard questions."
Moderator, legendary lesbian journalist Karen Ocamb telling a panelist "There will be hard questions."
 It was said that one panelist never heard of him till she moved to West Hollywood, one answer to a relative question was "ditto" referring to another panelists answers.  I do not know how I held my head from exploding.  What I do know is that if this were about a lesbian activist, we would have searched high and low for  lesbian panelists, or there would have been a backlash, the likes of which  we have not seen since....well since Pride took away the Trans party.
lesbian only panelists

Our Mayor Lauren Meister asked why we didn't have a bigger turnout.  One guess Madame Mayor is that THERE WERE NO GAY MEN INCLUDED IN THE DISCUSSION.  I am not interested in excuses that there weren't any to find.  I HAVE BEEN IN THIS MOVEMENT FOR NEARLY 30 YEARS.  MY PHONE DIDN'T RING.  Don't like my attitude?  It's that attitude that has accomplished making meth/recovery/homelessness  all forefront priorities.  There is a little group known as Stonewall with several accomplished gay male activists to choose from.  There are non profits that have activists employed and available for the asking.  This was not thought out, not well done, and not outreached.

Towards the end, a lesbian from the audience started talking about Bernie and Hillary.  Karen, the moderator tried to curtail it, only to hear screams of misogyny, misogyny, then and now.  REALLY?  We are chanting misogyny at a tribute to Harvey Milk?  My heart was broken and I left.  I had waited weeks for this, even posting it on Face Book.  I wish I stayed home and watched MILK on pay per view.  I think I might have felt more in tune to what Milk's  message was.

My call to action is for the city, the city council members, staff and boards to start creating a list of available activists that are appropriate for a panel.  I propose listing men and women, categorizing them and calling upon them as needed.  NO PANEL IS BETTER THAN A BAD PANEL.

I am just grateful for Karen Ocamb, or I would have left way before the panel was over.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Last West Hollywood Debate..or Down the Rabbit Hole.

The Last of the Debates….Proof positive of the need to elect Heilman.  

 While I was walking to Monday night's  candidate debate for our special election for a single West Hollywood  city council seat  this Tuesday June 2, I was not sure what I was walking into.  Having a citizen host a debate at their home is unprecedented. I arrived before anyone, so if I felt uncomfortable I could bail.  It was nice.  The host, Nir,  was excited, gregarious, and sometimes absolutely funny in how he moderated. 


Heidi Shink arrived first, with her parents.  She is a current Planning Commissioner and previous Human Services Commissioner.  Her campaign has been riddled with investigation allegations, impropriety allegations, lies and egregious mistakes on LGBT issues.  

Larry Block, arrived after her.   A local businessman, fierce neighborhood advocate and well liked guy.  His campaign has been clean.  He accepted no developer dollars.  

John Heilman was there moments later.  John is a former Weho Council member of nearly 30years.   He is currently a Professor of law, running to regain a seat on the council.  His 30 year history of politics and activism is almost unattainable by most.  

Cole Ettmon- Came late left early.  Sometimes schedules do not always permit participation.  He tried while he was there but nothing of note was said in such a short time. 

Nir, the host,  gave very specific instructions to the candidates.  There was to be no negativity, although comically, it was he himself who  provided us with special moments of negativity in his stories in between,  and sometimes during candidate responses.
I watched closely for body language and listened intently for tone and knowledge as the candidates answered.  Here are a few questions I thought most important. 


Block-  Answered as a landlord.  He loves animals, and has a dog of his own.  He does not see how a city could demand that a landlord accept pets.  He didn’t support it, but let us know how important he thought pets were.

Shink-Yes.  She noted there are more than 10,000 dogs in the city.  She supports laws allowing pets as she has 2 of her own.  Her answer wasn’t very detailed, but her point came across.  Unfortunately, I do not think she is aware that you CANNOT force a landlord to allow pets if they so choose not to.  

Heilman- Knowing his answer might not be the popular one, he stated the truth.  We cannot force a landlord to allow pets in their buildings.  However, he was knowledgeable about laws that we have that do allow you to have a pet even if you live in a no pet building.  There are laws allowing seniors, HIV/AIDS patients and disabled.  We allow 2 dogs or cats  less than  35 pounds with a medical letter stating you need a support animal.  .  The other candidates did not seem to be aware of the details, although Block seemed to have some knowledge as he was a Disabilities Advisory Board member.  . 

The Ellis Act is the ability to “go out of the business of being a landlord” and evicting all of your tenants.  It’s a law that has been used by landlords, oft to raise rents or to sell to developers.  FOR BIG MONEY.   How would each candidate deal with it?

Shink- She said she would want to try hard to repeal the Ellis Act, at least in part by making it harder to enforce.  She didn’t seem sure of her response.  Rightly so, as I am not exactly sure she was getting her point across.
Heilman- Let us know that we have one of the strictest rent stabilization laws of almost anywhere in Ca.  He helped draft those laws as such.  He went on to tell us that we have lobbyists in Sacramento fighting for the city to try to lessen the impact of the Ellis Act.  He knew that we have longer grace periods for evictions of seniors and disabled, there are higher relocation fees for the most vulnerable and explained that Weho has very little control of Sacramento’s enforcement of the law, but that we are trying to lessen its impact.   This answer came easy for him, he was extremely knowledgeable about it.   

Block- As always showed compassion for anyone “Ellissed” and agreed that it would be great to try to lessen the impact as well. 

Inclussionary Housing

Heilman made it clear, that he is now and always has been a champion of inclusionary housing.  He wants affordable units included in new development, and pointed out that without smart development there could be NO NEW AFFORDABLE/INCLUSSIONARY  HOUSING.  There is a law that states new development must include or pay a  fee towards the development of inclussionary housing.  He has fought against naysayers, and has sometimes been the target of attack because of development.  Housing the most vulnerable is important to him.  He sees the reality and need for development in order to provide these services. 

Shink, answered well, although not as precise or as clearly thought out as Heilman.  She supports inclusionary housing, but doesn’t seem to want development.  This isn’t a dichotomy.  Many new candidates say the same.  They want to make sure they don’t isolate or anger anyone.  She is walking a tightrope no doubt.  She was forceful with her answer, but it came across as a tactic.  She panders to pro developers and anti developers.  This is a red flag for me. 
Candidate Heidi Shink at the Beverly Hills Hotel  Polo Lounge breaking the LGBT boycott on the establishement  with her "power lesbian" friends as they state on twitter.   She texted a lie to me whe I asked her and she said she was only driving by to pick up a friends mom.  She wasn't aware her picture was already in the paper.  LIES RAISE RED FLAGS FOR ME.  

Candidate John Heilman, answering questions truthfully without pandering.  

Candidate Larry Block contemplating his answer. 

Block, agreed with Heilman, and said he was for inclusionary housing, and wanted it scattered throughout the city by actually including it in the new buildings.  He seemed confident. 


Block- Yes and is involved in the sober working group (I am adding this).  He advocates for more dollars for drug addiction services as well as homeless shelters. 

Shink- Yes and noted that when she was a Human Services Commissioner, she wanted more money to be spent.  She also revealed she had more than 20 years of sobriety, and understood the need.  She has claimed during her campaign to have been part of the creation of sober events like #BOOM! and #SIZZLE, which is untrue  It is simply another painted story to make  an empty resume appear full.    

Heilman- His answer was not an immediate yes.  I think all eyes were on him at that moment.  He was the only candidate to fully explain that in order to provide dollars to new organizations, they would have to meet West Hollywood’s  scope of service.  This means they have high standards to reach, as we would be spending tax payer dollars which are not to be gambled with.  He would be open to more dollars being  spent, but again , as long as we are getting what we pay for.  

My vote is going to Heilman.  It was clear that he has the most knowledge, deals in reality, and isn’t trying to pander.  I do not always agree with everything he says or does, but at this turning point of our city hood, he is needed.  30 years of experience does not translate to entitlement to me.  It translates as a person willing to give most of their life to a city that they love.  He has accomplished more than any candidate and sitting council member could hope for.  He is sometimes distant, but is always there for his city.  I admire that.  I admire that he campaigns without referring to other candidates negatively and that he is willing to take hits that are thrown his way, and yet still want to be involved.  I hope he has your vote as we look ahead at a city that we all love.  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


JUST BITE ME.....: LILLY'S STORY....PART 4...LILLY DOESN'T LIKE GENTL...: I originally thought I would do 3 or 4 parts to this blog and tell about Lilly and my life with her.  I now don't know  how may I will w...


JUST BITE ME.....: LILLY'S STORY....PART 4...LILLY DOESN'T LIKE GENTL...: I originally thought I would do 3 or 4 parts to this blog and tell about Lilly and my life with her.  I now don't know  how may I will w...


I originally thought I would do 3 or 4 parts to this blog and tell about Lilly and my life with her.  I now don't know  how may I will write.  I will know when to stop, just like I knew when to say goodbye to her.  Maybe I am not ready to say goodbye again yet, so I will just keep writing and sharing with you.

When Lilly's other dad left, after a period of time and adjustment, I thought I'd start dating and hopefully find a different "other dad" for her.  It seemed like a smart idea, as I,  at the time had never been without a partner, and wasn't feeling like I could be a single guy forever.  Also, there are three to a "pack" and she was showing signs of sadness over her pack breaking up.

Where to start.  I met Lilly's other dad on a "hook up" site for just  a one night stand.  That lasted 8 years, so I thought I'd do that again.  Things changed a lot in eight years (including me). I wanted to make sure I found just the right "step dad" for her, so I went by the rule of "practice makes perfect.....".

Lilly seemed to instinctively  know that Adam 4 Adam was not going to be the place.  I would even show her who was coming over, holding her up to the laptop asking what she thought.  I swear this is true.  She never had any interest and just would jump off my lap.  When my practice dads would show up, she would get a Mohawk down her back, and mad dog them until I could get her into the other room.  This went on for a while, until I finally
met someone worthwhile.  It wasn't from a site, it was just a chance meeting.  Lilly didn't like him right away.  He was patient as I told him how important she was to me.

One night about a month into knowing him,  he came over as usual to pick me up for dinner.  Up until this point she had been  indifferent with him.  He was patient and persistent and always was  attentive to her.  For some reason, this time when he came into Lilly's apartment, she said "Hello" to him  in her guttural voice that  I have told you about.

He did a double take, as he thought I was teasing him  about her talking.  He laughed so hard, and she wagged her tail, for the first time with him.  He knelt down and she kissed his face.  Since this was a big deal to him, he asked if we could order in, as he wanted to take advantage of this new progress.

He talked back to her in the same type of voice, and she jumped into his lap.  This was a huge change, and I thought well, maybe this is her step dad.  The truth is, he was handsome, sweet, fun, and now liked by Lilly.  I just hate to say this, but the first guy you date after an 8 year marriage is never going to be the one.  I made a lot of mistakes, and just wasn't putting in a lot of effort.

Obviously, it was just Lilly and I again.


Friday, December 5, 2014


JUST BITE ME.....: LILLY'S STORY....Part 3: After a while, Lilly was out of harms way health wise, although I am convinced that the toxic baths affected her health in the long term.  T...