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Joyce Brabner’s ‘Second Avenue Caper: When Goodfellas, Divas, And Dealers Plotted Against The Plague’: Book Review

BY GARTH GREENWELL

SecondavenueJoyce Brabner’s nonfiction graphic novel recounts the early years of the AIDS crisis as experienced by a tight-knit circle of “gay artists, writers, actors, musicians, dyke activists, drag queens,” who respond to the devastation of the disease with acts of remarkable daring and generosity. 

Brabner’s story centers on Ray, a struggling playwright who earns his living as a nurse. When a doctor he works with offers to hook him up with his “connections in Mexico” in “a potentially beneficial business deal,” Ray begins selling pot to his circle of friends. “The NEA isn’t giving grants to Avant queers,” his partner Ben reasons. “This is our Colombian Arts Council Grant!”

They’re careful to sell only to people they know, and we meet Ray’s vibrant circle of friends, most of them artists, writers, and performers—among them Brabner herself—as they come to his apartment to buy weed. “Fabulous herb…fabulous fantasies…and fabulous friends,” Ray muses, and his apartment becomes the site of “a celebratory, slightly stoned, queer-communal pleasure.”

BrabnerThese early pages of the book are exuberantly joyful, as Ray’s apartment is packed with friends eating and drinking and smoking together, playing games and singing songs, throwing out ideas for plays and musicals, and above all gossiping, cattily and lovingly. Mark Zingarelli’s direct and emotive illustrations capture beautifully the intimacy and trust between these queer outsiders, who create a rich and sustaining family for themselves.

The strength of that community will be tested by the new disease afflicting Ray’s patients. He cares for a man who is “the 24th known case” of what would eventually be called AIDS, and as the scope of the crisis becomes clear, he calls on his friends to “locate gay doctors, researchers, people with some medical training,” quickly creating a network both for information gathering and for providing care to those caught by the wave of infections that sweeps through Ray’s community.

Ray is terrified by the speed with which he loses his friends. “One went so suddenly,” he says, “we knew about it only when we learned he had been buried in a potter’s grave because no one had come to claim him.”

CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Robbie Rogers Unleashes His Monster: VIDEO

Rogers

Living in the closet "creates a monster inside you that you just want to get rid of," according to gay MLS star Robbie Rogers.

Rogers made the comments to Today's Maria Shriver during an interview about his new book, "Coming Out To Play," which was released Tuesday. 

BookRogers also said that during his brief retirement after coming out in 2013 — it was working with young gay people through groups like GLSEN that inspired him to get back in the sport.

"I realized that just by playing and being on the soccer field, that's a symbol right there, and that can encourage and give people hope," Rogers said. "It was really those kids inspiring me that was kind of like my final decision — I need to sack up, I need to go back into soccer.'" 

In an interview about the book with the Associated Press, Rogers says he's surprised more pro athletes haven't come out since he was joined by the NBA's Jason Collins and the NFL's Michael Sam. 

"To be honest, I thought when I came out and Jason and Michael, I thought there'd be a chain reaction. It's been a lot slower. I guess that just reminds me how big a problem it is in sports culture with homophobia. They don't feel comfortable."

But the best way to combat that homophobia may be to come out, Rogers suggests. He told The Hollywood Reporter that while he used to hear a lot of gay slurs in the locker room, that's not the case anymore: 

"When I was closeted, I would hear the most ridiculous homophobic things…and now it’s totally different. People are more sensitive and more aware of what they’re saying. They’re very, very supportive, and we’ll talk about things like marriage equality. I would be petrified, so scared to bring up a conversation like that with my teammates, but my teammates come to me. We still have the banter and the jokes, and yes, there still are a bunch of naked men taking showers together, but it’s a very different atmosphere. I’ve been naked and had discussions with guys in the shower and them asking me, 'Is it hard for you to shower with guys?' I’ve been doing it for so long and…teammates become like brothers."

In the book, Rogers reveals that he went through a similar process with his family, which once ridiculed him for his interest in "My LIttle Pony" and for playing with dolls. Since he came out, his parents and siblings have become his biggest supporters. 

Rogers has several book-signing events planned on the West Coast if you'd like to try to catch up with him. 

On a side note, two days before the book came out, Rogers' LA Galaxy won the first leg of MLS' Western Conference Finals. They meet again Sunday.  

Watch Rogers' interview with Shriver, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Wingnut Linda Harvey's New 'Ex-Gay' Book Is The Perfect Christmas Gift For Your Child - LISTEN

Linda Harvey Maybe He's not Gay

“Ex-Gay” activist Linda Harvey has a suggestion for a Christmas gift for your favorite teen or college student struggling with their sexuality, reports Right Wing Watch.

Mission America’s Harvey says that Maybe He’s Not Gay? “is for America’s youth and the bright future they can all have, regardless of the turmoil of adolescence, which for some, may include same sex attractions or gender confusion.”

6a00d8341c730253ef017c31cbab4d970b-800wiOriginally published last year, the book was removed by Amazon because of its abusive content. Harvey and her publishers said that they pulled the book because they didn’t want it be harmed by an “uninformed and vicious campaign stimulated by ‘gay’ blogger[s].” Whereas Harvey’s opinions are informed by reason and science because she is correct in her claim that gay people do not exist.

Speaking on her radio program the other day, Harvey told her listeners that the book would make a perfect Christmas gift:

“If you were wondering what to get your teen or college student for Christmas, how about giving them the gift of common sense and morality? This is the way many people have described my book, Maybe He’s Not Gay: Another View On Homosexuality.

“Same-sex relationships are not what anyone was born for yet there are reasons why people get there and even more reasons why they can leave those feelings behind.”

In September, Harvey warned parents that gay people are preying on young people at LGBT youth centers.

Last month, Harvey joined “culture warrior” Pat Buchanan in a call for Christians to rise up in mass "civil disobedience" against the Supreme Court's decision on same-sex marriage.

Listen to Harvey's pitiful rant, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Shelly Oria’s ‘New York 1, Tel Aviv 0’: Book Review

BY GARTH GREENWELL

Disorientation afflicts nearly all of the characters in Shelly Oria’s nimble and disarmingly moving debut collection of stories. Many of them are (like Oria herself) Israeli immigrants in New York City, navigating multiple cultures and languages; others find themselves in worlds where the usual rules (of weather, say, or time) break down; all of them are bewildered by desire.

Newyork1telaviv0_bThe narrator of the title story has come to the United States after finishing her military service, because “staying in Tel Aviv meant starting my life,” and “It’s a scary thing, starting your life.” As is true throughout the collection, Oria is excellent in detailing how the texture of daily life differs in the two countries: “When I first moved to New York, I kept opening my purse every time I entered a building, before realizing that there was no security guard. And every time I felt relieved, and every time I felt orphaned, and every time I felt surprised at both.”

The book’s title comes from her attempt to keep score of the advantages and disadvantages of her two cities. She never gets very far: “I forget to keep track, and I have to start counting all over again every time.” She meditates on the strangeness of Central Park, “the idea of having a designated area for greenery”: “Tel Aviv isn’t carefully planned like that—trees often choose their own location, and most streets stretch in unpredictable directions, creating a pattern of impulse.”

What’s true of the streets of Tel Aviv is also true of the magnetic men and (more often) women that Oria’s protagonists can’t fully know or possess, and many of the stories are haunted by infidelity. In “This Way I Don’t Have to Be,” a woman is addicted to sleeping with married men. She watches them during sex for the moment they imagine the possibilities they’ve left unlived, when “their entire lives turn to air,” an unsettled state of longing we sense the narrator craves for herself.

In “None the Wiser,” a sly, acid, wonderful story about jealousy and age and grief, a woman’s own desires gradually become clear as she gossips about her neighbors. And in one of the collection’s standout stories, “The Disneyland of Albany,” Avner, an Israeli artist who has left his family behind to seek his career in America, discovers his wife’s infidelity from stray remarks his young daughter makes during a visit.

In the collection’s final story, which might also be its finest, “Phonetic Masterpieces of Absurdity,” the book’s preoccupation with erotic disappointment combines powerfully with one of Oria’s other major themes, the tragedies and absurdities of ongoing conflict in the Middle East—a conflict that her characters can never fully escape, at home or abroad.

CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Neil Patrick Harris Says a Kiss from Burt Reynolds Helped Him Realize He Was Gay: VIDEO

Nph_reynolds

In his new Choose Your Own Autobiography, Neil Patrick Harris writes about coming to an understanding that he was gay, and reveals that one of his 'aha' moments was on the set of the 1989 TV show B.L. Stryker, when he received a surprise kiss from the show's star Burt Reynolds.

Writes Harris in the book:

As a joke at the end of one take, Burt leans over and kisses you square on the mouth...The crew thinks this is very funny, but it makes you uncomfortable. Uncomfortable and, it will ultimately turn out, gay. Burt Reynolds' kiss makes you gay.

Harris appeared in one episode of the short-lived series. And thankfully (or not)  for us, the entire episode is on YouTube.

Check it out, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Neil Patrick Harris Discusses Adventurous Autobiography, Offers Tips on Coming Out: VIDEO

Np_harris

Following his hit run on Broadway as Hedwig, Neil Patrick Harris is publishing a new "choose your own adventure" memoir and is making the rounds to the late and early shows to do publicity for it.

Harris spoke with Matt Lauer on Today this morning about the book, and also offered some tips on coming out, revealing that he calls his own coming out the 'Gay-tysburg Address'.

Harris also stopped in for a visit with David Letterman last week to talk about the book, his wedding, and his run on Broadway.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

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