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Christmas Queens: LGBTQ Performers Make The Yuletide Gay

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It was about 11 p.m. on a chilly Tuesday night in New York City, and RuPaul’s Drag Race season two queen Pandora Boxx was bouncing on my lap. It was the audience participation portion of her holiday show A Very Cougar Christmas, performed with drag superstar Sherry Vine. They’d already parodied “Winter Wonderland,” and Sherry damn near brought the house down with her rendition of “How I Blew Ya” (to the tune of Leonard Cohen’s solemnly revered “Hallelujah,” naturally).

A Hallmark holiday special, this was not.

The scene is not uncommon this time of year. Their show was just one of several drag odes to the holiays taking place in this very theater this month, and part of the many performances happening all across the country this season. Perhaps this is the war on Christmas conservatives are so worried about.

For Pandora, it’s just a natural fit. “Certainly with drag it's all about decadence, and what's more decadent and slightly gaudy than Christmas?” she said.

She’s got a point. Despite the religious origins, Christmas — the twinkliest, sparkliest (and some would say drunkest) of the holidays — has embraced the most over-the-top, theatrical queer sensibilities. And many in the gay community are embracing it right back

“There's Radio City Music Hall, if you want something traditional,” said Sherry. “I've noticed in the LGBTQ community, there's definitely a hunger for this kind of entertainment.”

Yes, for some in the LGBTQ community, making the yuletide gay may not be more complicated than a snuggle with your partner in tasteful sweaters, but for others there will never be enough tinsel, glitter and lights decking the halls. (There’s a reason “gayer than Christmas” is a high camp standard.)

Aesthetics are part of the appeal, but is there more behind the connection between the gay community and the holidays? Pandora, Sherry, Drag Race season five runner-up Alaska (pictured above), legendary drag queen Jackie Beat and The State’s Kevin Allison share their thoughts, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

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Interview: Jonathan Groff on 'Frozen' and HBO's 'Looking'

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Jonathan Groff stars in "Looking" on HBO.

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS 

One of the surest signs of progress in 2013: Jonathan Groff, an out gay actor, who has already conquered the stage ("Spring Awakening"), and a hit television gig ("Glee"), is moving up to leading roles ("Frozen" and "Looking"). No one is complaining about it or suggesting that he shouldn't be playing a romantic lead in a Disney blockbuster! Not that anyone could make a convincing case against this engaging actor, his stellar pipes and the sly spark in his eyes, if they tried.

In person, at the Waldorf Astoria, where we sat down to talk about his role in FROZEN, the new Disney animated musical (it plays like a fusion of The Snow Queen and Wicked), he was less the intimidating STAR type than the charismatic 'boy next door'. He gushed about the opportunity to sing as a Disney character even though he only gets one song. It's a memorable comic duet... with himself; he plays a lonely mountain man whose only companion is a reindeer and he provides both voices.

NR: How many voices did you try out for the reindeer?

JONATHAN GROFF: We did a bunch and sort of landed on that one. I loved that! That was the most fun I had in the booth. Because, you know, you normally do the scene and the reader reads the line and then you read the lines. But to do the whole scene as myself as Kristoff and then Kristoff as Sven was really trippy and fun.

[More Frozen and the pressure of being an out gay actor AFTER THE JUMP...]

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Q&A: 'Concussion' Director Stacie Passon Talks Marriage Equality and the Future of Gay Cinema

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Stacie Passon's debut feature Concussion made a big impression at this year's Sundance Film Festival and was snapped up by the Weinstein Company's RADiUS label after just one screening.  In the film, Robin Weigert (who you may know for her Emmy-nominated turn as Calamity Jane in HBO's Deadwood) plays Abby, a disillusioned housewife who embarks on a double life in the city as a high-end escort.  I spoke with Passon on the phone as her producer Rose Troche -- of The L Word -- drove her to Williamsburg after a day of interviews in Manhattan.  Concussion opens in New York and Los Angeles this Friday.

JC: I wanted to hear in your words how you came to this story and how the project started.  What was the genesis for you?

Stacie Passon Headshot 300DPISP: I just wanted to make a little film in the backyard with my friends.  When I showed the script to Rose, she felt that it sort of deserved a little something bigger, so we quickly ramped up the production.  Robin [Weigert, who plays Abby, the film's main character] was the first reel that I was just totally blown away with.  That was really the genesis of the project: getting Robin and Rose on really took it to a different level.

JC: You didn't think this would be a film that would go into theaters?

SP: Oh no.  I live in Montclair, New Jersey and I have a lot of friends who are techies; all we talk about are new digital platforms.  I just wanted to make a film that I could monetize--being with a film collaborative was my highest thought.  Or maybe I could put it on Vimeo and charge for it.

I knew that the lesbian audience was an underserved audience.  I didn't set out to write a lesbian themed movie; it just sort of came in.  My intention for it was, let's put on a show.  And it was born out of a need to do something creative after a career of serving clients.

JC: Right.  You were a commercial director?

SP: Yeah.

JC: As for the story itself--the script and the writing process--is it based on your own experiences?  Where did the idea come from?

CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Towleroad Interview: Ross Mathews Dishes On Red Carpets and Dream Guests

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This is the second installment in a two-part interview with TV personality Ross Mathews. Click HERE for yesterday's first installment, in which Mathews discusses his new role as a spokesman for HIV testing.

If there's one thing Ross Mathews loves, it's pop culture. His sincere appreciation of all things pop and all-around nice guy attitude have won him a loyal fanbase of fellow entertainment enthusiasts (and recently earned him additional episodes onto his hit show's inaugural season). We caught up with Mathews last week to discuss award show red carpets, his pop culture obsessions and what life has been like since he's gone from talk show intern to talk show host.

Towleroad: What has it been like for you to have your own show?

Ross Mathews: It's a dream come true. I've wanted a talk show since I was eight years old, and now to be able to do it, and do it the right way and the way I wanted to is so rewarding. Especially because it's resonating with the audience, and the fans are getting it, and the format is clicking. People are understanding that this show really is a show for super fans in pop culture to unite. Everyone's welcome at this party. There are so many shows that turn down pop culture and talk about how stupid it is, but Hello Ross is all about 'I love it, you love it, let's talk it out.'

See the rest of the interview in which he talks about his dream guests and the recent TV finale that left him disappointed, AFTER THE JUMP...

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TV Personality Ross Mathews Speaks Out About HIV Testing

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Credit: Bradford Rogne

This is the first installment in a two-part interview with TV personality Ross Mathews. Come back tomorrow to hear what Ross has to say about his life in Hollywood.

Ross Mathews is a man who wears many hats -- host of Hello Ross on E!, red carpet reporter, best-selling author, just to name a few. He's interviewed the First Lady, made besties with Gwyneth Paltrow and famously interned for Jay Leno. Since making his mark as the nicest guy in Hollywood, Mathews told Towleroad last Friday that he's setting his sights on something bigger.

"I'm so lucky to have a platform where I literally talk to millions of people a week, and I take it very seriously," he said. "I also have a direct line to the LGBT community because, of course, I have a large base of LGBT fans, but also I travel the country, I visit colleges, I am grand marshal at prides across the country ... With that sort of platform I feel a responsibility to talk about the issues facing that community."

On the top of his list is spreading the message about the importance of getting tested for HIV to the gay community.

Read more about what drew him to this work, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Towleroad Interview: 'Bob's Burgers' Star and YouTube Sensation John Roberts

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If you only know comedian John Roberts for his YouTube holiday homage to his mother (“Make it nice around the tree! Come on, make it even! Make it nice!”), you’re missing out on some of the gifted character actor’s best work. His performance as Belcher-clan matriarch Linda is one of the best things about FOX’s brilliant series Bob’s Burgers, a show already miles ahead of its animated contemporaries.

John Roberts.credit Kate Butler.2013

Created by Loren Bouchard (Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist), Bob’s follows a working-class family comprised of Linda, the titular Bob (played by venerable voice actor, H. Jon Benjamin) and their three children (voiced by comedians Kristen Schaal, Eugene Mirman and Dan Mintz). Its IMDB page reads like a who’s-who of today’s comedy, including appearances from Bill Hader, Sarah Silverman and Megan Mullally. The show manages to blend quirky character comedy and warm-and-fuzzy family sweetness without becoming overly cloying -- or devolving into the kind of dude-humor that dominates contemporary animation. Even when Bob’s does potty humor, it’s with style. (For example, the episode “O.T.: The Outside Toilet,” is a salute to Spielberg and the toilet is voiced by Jon Hamm.)

The show is gearing up for its fourth season, kicking off Sunday at 8:30 p.m. Eastern on FOX, and a fifth season was announced yesterday. We spoke with Roberts about coming out, what his mom is really like and what makes Bob’s Burgers feel a little bit gay.

READ THE INTERVIEW, AFTER THE JUMP...

(Inset Photo: Kate Butler)

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