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Elton John Explains Why He Went to Russia and Spoke Out for Gays, Urges Others to Do the Same

Elton John explained why he went to Russia in a statement posted today to the Elton John AIDS Foundation website:

JohnThere was a lot of speculation about whether I would go to Russia this year. Many people outside the country thought I should boycott Russia because of its new homophobic legislation. Others said I must go to challenge the government.

I decided in the end to be guided by what Russian people wanted me to do. The message, from even the most marginalised Russian groups we work with at the Elton John AIDS Foundation, was ‘please come’. If you don’t come, AIDS workers and LGBT activists told us, we will feel isolated. We will miss having your voice in our debate. It might be interpreted that you don’t care. Or we may be blamed for keeping you away.

In Moscow I spent hours with gay activists, Federal doctors, human rights lawyers and people living with HIV. They told me that since the new legislation has been adopted it’s getting harder and harder to deliver basic HIV information or healthcare to gay men for fear of seeming to ‘promote’ homosexuality, which is against the law. Gay people lie even to their children about their sexuality, in case it jeopardises their families.

That night at my concert I made a statement, directly to the audience, about how sad, shocking and isolating this new law seemed to be. A young woman with a rainbow banner cheered. I realised then, with thousands of Russians cheering for a man they knew to be gay, that I had made the right decision. I believe the Russian people are decent and will be persuaded – but they need to hear us, and see we are human. They can’t do that from a distance of two thousand miles.

A number of celebrities have recently declined to go to Russia, some for fear that it is unsafe. But I say to my friends – we all owe our freedoms to people who took risks with their safety for us, and faced far greater dangers than those confronting a Western artist in Russia. Freedom is worth taking a risk for. Saving people from HIV is worth taking a risk for, and there is nothing that fuels the AIDS epidemic more effectively than stigma and isolation. We’ve learnt that over 20 years of funding HIV programmes around the world, including Russia.

As the Winter Olympics approaches, I know lots of sportsmen and artists are facing the same choice that I faced. I realise not everyone will share my view. But personally I hope and pray that prominent people will go to Russia and challenge the wrong thinking of this law. It breeds isolation, mistrust and hate, and cannot be how Russia wants to be known by the world.

Thank you to everyone who came to my concerts. And thank you to the people who gave their time to talk to me about HIV and gay rights while I was in Russia. We will continue to support your important, life saving work.“

If you missed the video of Elton John speaking out from the stage in Moscow, you can watch it HERE.


Elton John Blasts Russian Government During Moscow Concert

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Despite his earlier claim that he would not speak out against the Russian government during a concert in Moscow, Elton John did just that. During last night's show, John not only condemned the country's homophobic laws but also explained why he chose to perform in the country. He also took a moment to dedicate the concert to a young victim of anti-gay hate.

John posted a transcript of his statement on his Facebook account. It reads in part:

"...I am deeply saddened and shocked over the current legislation that is now in place against the LGBT community here in Russia. In my opinion, it is inhumane and it is isolating. People have demanded that because of this legislation, I must not come here to Russia. But many, many more people asked me to come and I listened to them. I love coming here. I want to show them and the world that I care and that I don’t believe in isolating people....The spirit we share tonight is what builds a future of equality, love and compassion for my children and for your children. Please don’t leave it behind when you leave tonight. Each and every one of you please, keep this spirit in your life and in your heart. I wish you love and peace and health and happiness. And this show is dedicated to the memory of Vladislav Tornovoi."

Earlier this year, 23-year-old Tornovoi was brutally raped and murdered in southern Russia by two friends after they learned he was gay.

Watch video of John speak from the stage of Moscow's Crocus City Hall, AFTER THE JUMP.

Continue reading "Elton John Blasts Russian Government During Moscow Concert" »


Elton John's Russia Concerts to Proceed: Will He Speak Out for Gays?

Despite some discussion that they would be canceled because of threats he might speak out, Elton John's concerts in Russia tonight and tomorrow will go on as planned, according to the Hollywood Reporter:

Elton“Contrary to groundless rumors disseminated over the Internet and in the media about possible cancelation of Elton John’s performances in Russia, the promoter confirms that Elton John’s shows in Moscow on Dec. 6 at Crocus City Hall and in Kazan on Dec. 7 at Tatneft Arena are to be held as scheduled,” SAV Entertainment, which is organizing the gigs, said on its web site...

...Meanwhile, SAV Entertainment also denied The Times’ claims about John’s extravagant tour rider, or set of requests or demands, which allegedly included a miniature forest with live birds and diamond-adorned cutlery. The report “is false and discredits the artist’s image,” the promoter said.

Elton has said he would not boycott the country because he needed to go to support the LGBT community there:

"I'm supposed to be going to Moscow in December.I've got to go. And I've got to think about what I'm going to say very carefully. There's two avenues of thought: do you stop everyone going, ban all the artists coming in from Russia? But then you're really leaving the men and women who are gay and suffering under the anti-gay laws in an isolated situation. As a gay man, I can't leave those people on their own without going over there and supporting them. I don't know what's going to happen, but I've got to go."

He later said he would not speak out against the government from his stage:

You don't just go in there with guns blazing and say, 'Well, to hell with you.' Because they're going to say, 'To hell with you, and get out of the country.' That's not going to solve anything. But if I can go there, maybe I can talk to some people in the administration.

We'll soon know which of those promises he intends to keep, and how he'll do it.


Will Justin Timberlake Condemn Russia's Anti-Gay Laws When He Performs There?

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This week, Justin Timberlake announced on his website that his 20/20 Experience World Tour is headed to Russia--St. Petersburg and Moscow, to be exact--in 2014, with tickets going on sale this Saturday. Since the performances in Russia will mark Timberlake's first time performing in the country, people are starting to ask, essentially, WWJD--what will Justin do? US News reports:

"Obviously our hope is that Justin will use his time in Russia as an opportunity to highlight and expose the horrible situation that the LGBT [community is] facing there," says Human Rights Campaign spokesperson Charles Joughin. Recent legislation passed by the Kremlin includes the prohibition of "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" and a ban of the adoption of Russian children by same-sex couples abroad and unmarried individuals in countries where same-sex marriage is legal.

Cher recently revealed she had been asked to perform at 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi in February, but turned down the offer because of the crackdown. Elton John, meanwhile, has vowed to go on with his concerts in Russia next month, despite boycott threats, being labeled "the devil's work" by a Russian Islamic leader, and calls that John wear a traditional Cossack uniform rather than his usual costume, which one group suggested was "homosexual propaganda." 

The problem, as HRC's Joughin points out, is that Russia's anti-gay laws are so vague--and so all-encompassing--that nobody really knows exactly what's illegal.  "It could be that tweeting, 'I support LGBT equality,' while you're in Russia could violate the law," Joughin told US News.

Of course, Timberlake's not the kind of gay icon that Cher or Elton John are, but he has voiced his support for LGBT rights in the past.  More importantly, though, he represents--and can speak to--a younger generation.  And in today's Russia, that generation could use all the pro-LGBT sentiment it can get.


Johnny Weir Defends NBC Gig in Russia: 'If it’s Good Enough for Elton John, It’s Good Enough for Me'

Retired Olympic figure skater-turned-NBC correspondent Johnny Weir defended his trip to Russia and his love of the country in an interview with the NYT this week, telling the paper that  his husband, Victor Voronov, a first-generation Russian-American, wants him to speak out and “be more on the side of the gay team.”

WeirWeir doesn't see eye-to-eye with his husband.

Said Weir to the paper:

"I risk jail time just going there, but the Olympics are not the place to make a political statement. I’m not a politician and I don’t really talk about politics. You don’t have to agree with the politics, but you have to respect the culture of a country you are visiting."

“It’s pretty obvious that I’ve been gay my whole life. I don’t need to break any laws or wear a rainbow pin to show people that I support gay rights. I think I’ll do that just by being in Sochi and supporting our people there and know they are not alone."

"The gay community has not reacted well to me because some people think it’s my responsibility to be an activist. They’re expecting me to hate Russia because I haven’t been given equal rights in Russia.”

"If it’s good enough for Elton John, it’s good enough for me. Every country’s going to have its issues."


Tom Hardy Signs on to Play Elton John in 'Rocketman'

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In May we reported that Tom Hardy was circling a biopic of Elton John called Rocketman. He has now signed on to the picture which will be produced by Focus Features, EW reports:

Rocketman will tell John’s legendary story, from his childhood to his unbelievable rise to fame. John is set to re-record a number of his biggest hits to match the emotional moments in the film, which will be directed by Michael Gracey, the man behind the upcoming film The Greatest Showman on Earth starring Hugh Jackman.

The screenplay was written by War Horse writer Lee Hall and starts shooting in fall 2014.

Screendaily adds:

Steve Hamilton Shaw and David Furnish of Rocket Pictures are producing alongside Lawrence Bender on behalf of AI Film, the production and financing company that ensued from the acquisition of Icon by Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries.


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