Interview Hub




The Men Of 'La Bare' Reveal What's Behind the 'Magic Mike' Fantasy

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With a sequel and a stage musical in development, we haven’t seen the last of Magic Mike. If you need another fix of rippling abs and gyrating hips in the meantime, look no further than La Bare, a new documentary directed and produced by Magic Mike star Joe Manganiello.

The film, which hit theaters this weekend, follows the dancers at a Dallas, Texas strip club. For those who have watched Magic Mike nearly as many times as I have, some elements of La Bare will feel very familiar. The costumes, the dance routines, even some of the characters of La Bare feel as if they were ripped from scenes of Magic Mike. [There’s a number with the guys (temporarily) in black raincoats with umbrellas, and La Bare’s elder statesman, Randy “Master Blaster” Ricks, bears more than a passing resemblance to Matthew McConaughey’s character, Dallas.]

In a case of life imitating art imitating life (Magic Mike was loosely based on Channing Tatum’s own stripper past), one dancer was inspired to audition to work at La Bare after seeing Tatum stripping on screen. He now goes by the stage name “Channing.”

“Watching how insane all the women went whenever Channing Tatum came up on stage, seeing how crazy they all got watching him was really inspiring,” La Bare’s Channing said.

We spoke to Channing and fellow dancer Axl about what they love about the job, what customers do that drives them crazy and how they interact with male customers. See what they had to say, AFTER THE JUMP…

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INTERVIEW: Directors Ben Cotner and Ryan White on Capturing the Human Heart of 'The Case Against 8'

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BY JACOB COMBS

“The Case Against 8,” the new HBO documentary about the legal challenge to California’s marriage equality ban, buzzes with the kind of dramatic tension a seasoned screenwriter might employ.  But Ben Cotner and Ryan White’s remarkable film has something no Hollywood film on Proposition 8 could ever hope for: the verisimilitude of reality. 

Thecaseagainst805The lawsuit against Proposition 8 was filed in May 2009; the case’s final resolution came on June 28, 2013.  During the four years that the case tangled and twisted its way from a San Francisco courtroom to the U.S. Supreme Court—and during the intervening year until the film’s theatrical release on June 6 and its streaming release on HBO this coming Monday—White and Cotner made a film that reminds us just how important the Prop 8 case and its accompanying trial were to advancing the conversation about marriage equality to where it is now.

During my interview with Cotner and White earlier this week in New York, one day before they jetted off to San Francisco, where their film opens the Frameline Film Festival tonight, one thing became abundantly clear to me: this is the kind of story that a documentary filmmaker dreams about telling.  And just as importantly, the two directors’ five-year journey demonstrates that one of the most significant aspects of the Prop 8 case—one which it is almost difficult to recall now, after so many remarkable LGBT rights victories—was that absolutely nobody had a clue how the case would turn out. 

Thecaseagainst802Yes, the challenge was intricately planned by the unexpected legal dream-team of Ted Olson and David Boies.  But when White and Cotner began filming, there was no telling how the case would resolve, or the several unexpected detours it would take from district court to the Supreme Court.  At first, Cotner recalls, he and White were amazed that AFER had even agreed to their request to film the case’s early development.  “Every day,” he told me, “we would show up and expect to get kicked out.”

They weren’t kicked out, but they weren’t sure they would end up at the end of the project with a film.  “It was really several years of us being completely nauseated by the idea that we’d put all this work into it without really knowing whether it would have an ending,” Cotner told me.  Because of that, the two filmmakers—both gay Californians themselves—documented every meeting they could, no matter how seemingly insignificant, for a total of some 6,000 hours of footage.  

But once Judge Vaughn Walker chose to hold a trial, the filmmakers’ entire calculus changed.  “The trial,” Cotner told me, “was what was historic about this case.  Growing up in Indiana, I never imagined I would be in a federal court where people were talking this rationally and articulately about these issues and examining the science behind it.”  Or, as White put it simply, “Trials are cinematic.  It made our film cinematic.” 

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After some legal wrangling, it was determined by the U.S. Supreme Court that cameras would not be allowed to record the Prop 8 trial in district court, meaning Cotner and White would have no footage from this most human part of the case to include in their documentary.  So they did something risky—“our Hail Mary,” White called it: they had the plaintiffs—Kris Perry, Sandy Stier, Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo—each re-enact the testimony that they gave in the courtroom in January of 2010, reading directly from the transcripts of their own words.  “We both thought it was going to be a bad idea,” White told me.  “And they were all amazing.  Listening to each of them reread—everyone was just sort of captivated by them.”  Those in-studio reenactments form the heart of “The Case Against 8,” both figuratively and literally, coming as they do at the exact middle of the film.

Thecaseagainst802Of course, when the plaintiffs first spoke those words in San Francisco, nobody knew they would succeed before the Supreme Court—or even if the case would make it that far.  “It really wasn't until the Supreme Court granted cert,” Cotner said, “that we could say, OK, we know this is a 3-act film and it has an ending.  Whether it's a good ending or a bad ending, we know we have a film." 

But what ending would it have?  There were three possibilities: a nationwide pro-equality ruling (the big win), a decision on standing that would lead to the return of marriage equality to California but nowhere else, and a devastating anti-equality ruling that would grieve LGBT hearts from coast to coast.  “Any of those three outcomes were OK to us as storytellers,” White told me, “because they’re all a good ending”—from a filmmaking perspective, at least.

Luckily for the plaintiffs—and all LGBT Californians—the high court’s decision did bring marriage equality back to the Golden State.  And with the help of the Ninth Circuit, marriage returned in a most unexpected way: just two days after the Supreme Court’s ruling, more than 20 days before anybody thought it would.

Thecaseagainst807“I was in my car,” White told me, recalling the day.  “I got a text from someone at AFER saying, don’t ask any questions, just drive to the airport right now and go to San Francisco.”  And so he did, slightly miffed, because he and Cotner had received similar missives and dropped everything only to have nothing happen.  “It’s not going to happen today,” White remembers thinking, but then came the call that the court’s stay had been lifted.  “It was like an action film,” White said—their driver flew through the city, hopping curves and racing for City Hall, where White’s camera equipment set off every alarm in the security line and a sharp-eyed guard, recognizing the history of the moment, pulled White aside and said, just go.

Meanwhile, Cotner was in Los Angeles with two of the plaintiffs, Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, fighting their way through traffic to a county clerk’s office in Norwalk.  When they arrived, confusion reigned in the office, and they were asked to step aside and wait, since the office had not yet received notice of the court’s lifting of the stay.  “That, after four years and all of the work that Paul and Jeff had put into this, was such a sucker punch.”  Incredibly, California Attorney General Kamala Harris was reached on the phone and personally instructed the Norwalk office to issue the marriage license—a phone call that Cotner and White were lucky enough to film from both sides, and one that shines in their documentary. 

Thecaseagainst806And then it was time for the weddings.  “It was one of those moments,” Cotner says, “where as filmmakers it’s just so hard to hold the camera.  Because you’ve grown to love these people and you’ve got to film this.  This is the only moment that you really have to catch, but it’s the one time you want to put the camera down and really just be there and be a part of it.”

“It was one of the best days of our lives,” White told me.  He and Cotner had expected they would have a full 25 days before the stay was lifted to plan for the couples’ weddings—and the logistics of shooting them.  In the end, though, he says it was a blessing that things happened the way they did: “I don’t think it would be as amazing of an ending if it wasn’t so rushed and frantic and confusing and then celebratory." 

In a way, “The Case Against 8” is just like, well, the actual case against 8: a high-stakes, multi-year project with no guarantee of success at the outset.  But even knowing the eventual outcome of the legal challenge, it’s impossible not to be moved by the way Cotner and White’s film shows us the abounding humanity of the case’s plaintiffs and of the lawyers who told their story.

As our interview came to a close, White shared an anecdote from the film’s Tuesday premiere in Atlanta, where he’s from.  At the after party, White’s best friend, who had brought his very conservative mother to see the film, came up to the director and burst into tears.  “My mom grabbed my hand from the very first frame of your film,” he told White, “and never let go.  And right when the credits started rolling, she turned to me and said, ‘I’ve been wrong about this.’”  White was gracious and humble when we spoke: “That’s not me or Ben,” he said.  “That’s Kris and Sandy and Paul and Jeff.”

Actually, it’s all of them.  The human story was always the secret weapon of the legal challenge to Proposition 8, and it’s the secret weapon of “The Case Against 8” as well.

The HBO documentary “The Case Against 8” will debut this Monday, June 23rd.

Check out the trailer, below:


Must See Movie: An Interview With the Director of 'Test'

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An amazing dance sequence from "Test" 

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS 


ChrisMasonJohnsonTEST may sound like a generic title but the fine new gay indie by that name is anything but. Chris Mason Johnson’s Test follows Frankie (Scott Marlowe) a young gay dancer in San Francisco in 1985. He's the troupe's new understudy. He’s learning a dance he might never get to perform. The threat of AIDS looms large — a female dancer worries about the sweat from her gay partner and reminders are everywhere (papers, graffiti, whispered dialogue). It’s not just the dance; Frankie’s beginning a life he might never get to live. 

He and his dancer friends are varying degrees of worried about AIDS and the topic of a new test for it keeps peppering the conversations. Will Frankie take it?

As it turns out you can make a 1985-set AIDS movie that doesn’t follow the typical beats. The dance environment gives Test a surprising visual appeal but, as the director (pictured left) reminds when we settle into our interview, it’s also not fully an AIDS movie in the way we think of them.

“Every other AIDS movie has been about death and dying, understandably. I think it’s safe to say that [Test] is about the fear of getting sick, it’s not about being sick. It’s just as much about dance as anything else.”

Queer cinema has seen better days so it’s a thrill to see an indie this fresh again that speaks so personally to the LGBT audience. Test is in the top 25 iTunes indie charts and the early success is well deserved.

Sex scenes, masculinity debates, and dancing AFTER THE JUMP

Test-sex

 

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Harvey Fierstein On Straight Men In Stockings And His New Broadway Play 'Casa Valentina': INTERVIEW

Harvey Fierstein photo by Bruce Glikas

BY NAVEEN KUMAR

Harvey Fierstein knows that a play about straight transvestites is bound to raise eyebrows, and he’s hoping it does more than that. Casa Valentina, which opened on Broadway last night at Manhattan Theatre Club’s Friedman Theatre, has already riled up some severe backlash. “I wrote a play that you’re either going to walk away from with all of your prejudices pushed aside or brought forward,” says Fierstein.

CV1After one preview, the Tony-winner explains, a woman waited at the stage door to tell every actor the play was “absolute garbage,” because no woman would ever marry a man who wears dresses.

But the play is in fact based on true stories, from men who frequented the Chevalier d’Eon Resort in the Catskills during the 50s and 60s. Think of it as summer camp for guys who prefer makeup kits to toolboxes and makeovers to car repairs. Most of the guests were family men, who escaped there to “express the girl within,” donning women’s clothes, sharing meals and performing sing-alongs.

Casa Valentina begins as what might have been a typical summer at the resort, but for the arrival of Charlotte (played by Reed Birney), a character based on Virginia Prince. An activist for transgendered men and the publisher of Transvestia magazine, Prince was also virulently anti-homosexual.

CS3In the play, Charlotte attempts to recruit the guests of Casa Valentina to her nationally recognized sorority of transvestite men—on the condition they agree to ban gays from their ranks. If a straight man in a dress is the first hard pill to swallow, a perfectly coiffed and intensely homophobic one is even more outrageous.

I spoke to Harvey about gay people’s responses to the play, if homophobia can ever be justified, and whether you should feel bad about saying ‘tranny.’

Naveen Kumar: What was your initial approach to writing this play?

Harvey Fierstein: I knew about the resort from my childhood, because my father grew up in the Catskills. Years later I saw the book of photographs, Casa Susanna [published in 2005 by Michael Hurst and Robert Swope, who discovered a wealth of snaps from the resort at a New York flea market]. [A group of producers] came to me and begged me to write a play. I thought, you know it’s cute—a bunch of straight guys go up and put on dresses, but really? A play?

CS1But there’s something about the photographs. There’s a certain calmness, a happiness and a freedom [to them]. It’s not like looking at pictures of drag queens. There’s a nervous energy to drag queens—they’re projecting forward, they’re pushing out at you, they’re trying to show you something. They’re not being. These people in these photographs, there’s a sort of relaxed happiness, which I didn’t understand.

CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Towleroad Interview: Comedian James Adomian Talks Hacktivists and Gay Villains

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What do Kaa from The Jungle Book, Batman's the Riddler and the Sheriff of Nottingham have in common? According to comedy virtuoso James Adomian, they're all examples of the "gay villain" archetype, a ridiculous amalgamation of effeminate stereotypes for heroes to dominate.

Adomian's hypothesis is hilariously delivered on his stellar 2012 debut album, Low Hangin Fruit, which captures his blend of stand-up and impersonations. His material is rife with pop culture and political references, and his impersonations -- which include Gary Busey, Fred Phelps and Jesse Ventura -- are not only remarkably accurate, but they're well-developed characters shaped by Adomian's unique point of view. Though probably best known for his impersonations, he often talks about his own experience as a "homo-American," (such as his crush on Peter Dinklage, the time he was gay bashed or his time spent in small town gay bars).

Folks may recognize Adomian from the seventh season of Last Comic Standing or from his stint on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson delivering one of the greatest impersonations of President George W. Bush ever on television (if not the greatest). Comedy enthusiasts might have caught his appearances on Cartoon Network's Childrens Hospital and Comedy Bang Bang on IFC. He's also a fixture on several popular comedy podcasts, like Sklarbro Country, Comedy Bang Bang and The Todd Glass Show.

We caught up with Adomian at SXSW in Austin and chatted about being an out comedian, gay villains and the new TV series he's developing, The Embassy, inspired by the recent WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden stories. 

See what he had to say, and watch some videos of his work, AFTER THE JUMP ...

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Actor Theo James Hopes We Have a Gay Action Hero Soon

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Theo James, co-star of the new film Divergent, spoke in an interview with The Advocate about the rising role of female action stars, such as Tris of Divergent and Katniss from The Hunger Games, as well as the bisexual allegory of Divergent. When asked whether or not he thinks we'll see an LGBT action star in the near future, he took a moment to think the question over before responding: 

It’s very hard to tell because today there are great shows like Looking, poignant pieces of work that revolve around a central cast of characters that happen to be gay. But I remember when Queer as Folk came out and thinking, Things are changing. Maybe there will be more [shows like this]. And then suddenly there was a drought. Hopefully the day [we have a gay action hero] isn’t far away.


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