The biggest annual fundraiser for The Center Orange County in recent years has been its classy Indigo Ball, held each spring and which this year raised $250,000. But what do you think is the second-biggest annual fundraiser for The Center? Here's a hint: it involves 10 pins and a heavy ball. That's right, it's a bowling event. But not just any bowling event. It's the Haunted Homobowl, where hurling a bowling ball down a lane and trying to hit some pins is just part of the fun. You also get to wear the outlandish Halloween costume of your choice while doing it. The Haunted Homobowl doesn't take place until Friday, Oct. 25, but has become such a hot ticket that it sells out pretty quickly. This year’s event is expected to raise at least $30,000.
Each year during the Long Beach Pride Parade, one of the more dramatic sights is when 80 volunteers make their way down Ocean Boulevard carrying a giant Pride Flag. It is made of heavyweight nylon fabric, measures 30 by 80 feet and can hold all kinds of money, which parade watchers are encouraged to toss onto the flag as it makes its way past. Since making its debut in the 2000 parade, the flag has raised more than $65,000 for the AIDS Food Store of Long Beach, and more than 800 people have helped carry it over the years. It comes in two pieces and takes a team of eight people to assemble. Now that flag is part of history.
Some people might be surprised that the Long Beach QFilm Festival is marking its 20th anniversary this year when it takes place Sept. 6-8. For the first 15 years, the festival jumped around the calendar and to different locations before settling into its current home at the Art Theatre and the neighboring Center Long Beach. “It was hard to get a handle on it,” said Chris Carpenter, senior executive programmer of the festival. “But the last five years that we've done it consistently at the same location, the same time of year, we have seen it explode with attendance and reputation.” The attendance for 2012's festival reached an all-time high of 1,200, which was a 20 percent increase from a year earlier.
Shanti Orange County is once again going the fancy party route for one of its major fundraisers of the year—and we’re talking top hats and tiaras. On Sept. 7, Shanti supporters Andy and Pol Sandro-Yepes are opening up the backyard of their Mission Viejo home for the Top Hats and Tiaras event, which last year raised more than $20,000. This year, with the help of some corporate sponsorships, the event is expected to raise more than $30,000. “It's so much fun. People really do wear top hats and tiaras,” says Shanti Executive Director Sarah Kasman. “It’s a backyard party that is all about two guys really giving of themselves and their circle of people to an agency that supports their community. Every year they have expanded it a little more. We are really excited to be working with them as the recipient of such generosity.” This is the fourth year the Sandro-Yepes couple has hosted the fundraiser, and the second year with the top hats and tiaras theme.
Robert Garcia and Gerrie Schipske both want to be the next mayor of Long Beach, and if either one succeeds, they will be making LGBT history. The second-largest city in Los Angeles County has never had an openly gay mayor before. The election does not take place until April 2014, but Garcia and Schipske—both current members of the Long Beach City Council—have been quick to jump into what could be a very crowded race. The mayoral position became available when current Mayor Bob Foster decided against running for a third term. Other early candidates include businessman and former NFL player Damon Dunn, Long Beach City College Trustee Doug Otto and Jana Shields, founder of Highly Empowered Youth of Long Beach. Garcia, currently the city’s vice mayor, would make more than LGBT if history if elected. At 35, he would also become the youngest mayor Long Beach has ever had and the first Latino to hold the post. But Garcia tells Frontiers that achieving those historic firsts is not why he is running. “I’m running to be mayor for everyone, regardless of race, sexual orientation, age and gender,” he says. Though he adds, “Certainly I think [being gay] is something I know would be a point of pride for the gay community. I have always been aware of LGBT issues. I’ve been at the forefront of progressive issues while at the same time understanding that cities are run and survive in a good economic climate. I want to bring more synergy to our city’s schools and colleges. All of that is part of my campaign. I really want to continue all the great things happening in Long Beach and improve in other areas.”
The organizers of Orange County Pride are stretching this year's event into something of a three-day celebration, with a kick-off party on Friday, Aug. 9, the one-day festival on Saturday, Aug. 10, followed by an after-party, then a Pride Recovery Brunch on Sunday, Aug. 11. “Our theme this year is ‘Our Day in the Sun,’ and it was chosen as a huge celebration of how far the community has come,” says Daniel Shad, Vice President of Outreach for Orange County LGBT Pride. “The Prop. 8 and DOMA rulings definitely make it even more celebratory—it's an added bonus. There's going to be a lot of good feeling, that's for sure.” The Saturday festival in Downtown Santa Ana is free, though donations are requested. Last year, more than 10,000 people attended. The musical headliner is Luciana, whose hits include “I’m Still Hot,” “U B the Bass” and “Guess What?” with the rapper Cazwell.
Couples who live in Long Beach, gay or straight, can get married at City Hall through the end of August. In the days following the U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding a ruling that declared Proposition 8 unconstitutional, the staff at the City Clerk's office became deputized to be able to perform marriage ceremonies in order to help with overflow from the Los Angeles County Clerk's Office in Norwalk. “My hope is that every now and then the county will allow us to do this on an ongoing basis,” says City Clerk Larry Herrera. “We'd be happy to do it, to bring some love into City Hall as opposed to just politics, permits and parking tickets.” The first local ceremony took place in the City Council chambers and was performed by Herrera himself. The couple declined to speak on the record about the ceremony but had high praise for how well they were treated, later sending Herrera and his staff a thank you card. Herrera was caught off-guard when the couple arrived with a license, because he had not yet been officially deputized and the process had to be conducted over the phone. The couple said they were determined to get married as soon as possible because of fear that the marriages might somehow be halted again.
It's no secret that when it comes to faith and religion, things can be a little tricky for LGBT people. But Brian S. Symonds says that doesn't have to be, and that's why he's launching The New Queer Faith Forum at The Center O.C. next month. It is described on the Center's website as a “faithful interfaith group of fabulous people coming together in fellowship and commonality seeking partnership in their walk of faith.” “I know that Orange County could definitely use this,” Symonds tells Frontiers. “The gay community is just starting to grow in Orange County, and we would like to be there to help respond to that growth. I myself grew up in Downey, but it may as well have been Orange County. So I recognize what is needed in the LGBT community when it comes to responding to faith needs. We're trying to take the stigma away from what religion has done to the gay community, so we are taking it out of a church building and not imposing our own agenda.” He explains that while it is becoming a little bit safer to be who you are in general, some faith groups aren't catching up. He says the forum is a safe place away from churches where people may have experienced hurt and rejection. The meetings aren't called services but rather “gatherings.” “Faith was never meant to be a destructive force, but somewhere along the line a few hijacked it and used it to really tear down a vulnerable community. They used it to tear us down,” says Symonds who has a seminary background and is a candidate for ministry in the Presbyterian Church.
There was no place else Long Beach's openly gay Vice Mayor Robert Garcia wanted to be than celebrating with fellow residents on June 26. That was the day a Supreme Court ruling effectively put a stake in the heart of Proposition 8 and killed it forever. “It was the end of the heartache Prop. 8 has caused over the last four years,” Garcia said. “November 2008 [when California voters passed the marriage ban] was such a terrible moment for the LGBT community, and we finally had an opportunity to celebrate that it had ended and was in the past. We could celebrate and look to the future.” Garcia has a feeling he is going to be invited to some weddings in the coming months. “I'm hearing friends talking, and I'm noticing engagement announcements on my Facebook feed,” he said. “We are preparing at City Hall for when the stay is lifted to be ready for some weddings. We not only have a lot of gay residents, but we also have a population that is overwhelmingly supportive of the gay community—people who are open-minded and believe in diversity. We are grateful for that.” Garcia was among the 650-plus people who attended The Center Long Beach's victory party at The Grand in Long Beach, celebrating the decisions on DOMA and Prop. 8. Also at the event were James Gilliam, the deputy executive director of the ACLU of Southern California; Jane Wishon, Marriage Equality USA's incoming Board President; Cory Allen, President of the Long Beach Lambda Democratic Club; and openly gay Signal Hill councilmembers Mike Knoll and Larry Forester.
It was a no-brainer to have Huntington Beach City Councilman Joe Shaw as one of the featured speakers at a June 26 rally in Santa Ana, marking the end of Proposition 8. He is, after all, the only openly gay elected official in all of Orange County. Shaw stood before the crowd of more than 300 who had gathered in front of the Old Orange County Courthouse to usher in what he believes is a new era for LGBT equality in the county, the state and the country. “This is a sea change,” he told Frontiers the day after the rally. “Once people start getting married in California, things are going to change a bit faster. Gay people just want the same things everyone else wants—good schools, safe streets, clean air and oceans, and we want to get married to the person that we love. We're not different from everyone else really.” Shaw, whose 15-year relationship ended two years ago, isn't getting married himself anytime soon but knows of plenty of other people in Orange County who are.
There was a time not so long ago when the Long Beach AIDS Walk raised nearly $180,000 to help fund HIV agency programs in the Long Beach and the South Bay areas. But times are tough, and this year's event, which was held on June 2, managed to raise just $50,000. In contrast, AIDS Walk Orange County raised more than $414,000 last month, while AIDS Walk Los Angeles raised $2.9 million last fall. “When the good times were great, we were able to hand out checks left and right,” said Long Beach AIDS Foundation Executive Director Gary Bowie, whose organization puts on the annual fundraiser. “It's reality, and people need to be educated on the reality, including our social service agencies, who were so used to the good times.” The foundation's annual budget has shrunk from a pre-recession $387,000 to $95,000 last year. But it remains dedicated to promoting health and hope for men, women and children affected by HIV and AIDS in the greater Long Beach area. “The funding we raise is to provide prevention education and direct client services,” Bowie added. “We will fund fewer programs and focus on programs we know we can deliver. Our services are still so needed here. Long Beach HIV cases per capita are double that of all of Los Angeles County combined. We have a very large gay population, and 13-24-year-olds account for 40 percent of all new HIV infections. Half of them are not even aware of their status.”
The organizers of Orange County Pride discovered something very important last year when attendance at their one-day festival suddenly skyrocketed—people will show up in droves if they can get in without having to open their wallets. So when the festival returns to Downtown Santa Ana again on Saturday, Aug. 10, admission will once again be free. “Last year our festival exploded,” said Daniel Shad, vice president of outreach for Orange County LGBT Pride. “Prior to last year, the largest attendance was 3,000. Last year we had over 10,000 people at our festival. It was a big jump. It helps when you make it free to the public. We were charging $10 admission, but we made it free again last year, and people like that.” It has also just been announced that the musical headliner at the festival—to be held again in Downtown Santa Ana—will be Luciana, whose hits include “Something for the Weekend,” “I Like That” and “Figure It Out.” “She will be performing on our main stage, and Dave Aude will be our DJ in the dance tent,” Shad said.
Hate crimes against gays nearly doubled in Orange County in 2012, even as overall hate crime numbers were down by 21 percent. The crimes against gays—13 in 2012 compared to 7 in 2011—came as LGBT equality continued to make dramatic strides across the nation. The Orange County numbers are from a 12-month period before the current spate of anti-gay violence currently plaguing New York City, where a gay man was shot to death in Greenwich Village and several other alleged attacks occurred. In 2010 there were only five anti-gay hate crimes reported in Orange County after peaking at 16 in 2005.
The Center Long Beach is hoping to see a lot of local LGBTQ seniors at a special mixer it is holding on Saturday, June 15, from 2-5 p.m. You don't have to be 55 or really any specific age to show up—you just have to consider yourself a senior. “We are affording members the opportunity to self-identify,” says Porter Gilberg, Administrative Director of the Center. “If they feel like they belong and want to attend, we are not putting any restrictions. Different people identify [as seniors] at different ages.” The event, which is free and will be catered, is part of an effort to expand services and activities for seniors in the area. Staff and board members will be on-hand to introduce themselves and hear feedback from the older adult community about the kinds of services and support they’re looking for from the Center.
The day before what would have been Harvey Milk's 83rd birthday, more than 200 people gathered in Downtown Long Beach to dedicate the first public park in the United States to be named after the slain civil rights icon. “This is definitely a historic day,” openly gay Long Beach Vice Mayor Robert Garcia told the crowd. “This park may be small, but I think the message is mighty.” He said the opening of Harvey Milk Promenade Park comes at “a special time for the gay rights movement, for the LGBT community. We are at the cusp of some significant national accomplishments. ... I truly believe we are at a turning point and we would not be here without leaders like Harvey Milk.” Milk became the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977, but he was murdered by a former colleague after just over a year in office. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009, the year Sean Penn won an Academy Award for portraying him in Milk. Before the ceremony, Garcia said that of the 140 parks in Long Beach, he found ones named after such heroes as Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Abraham Lincoln, but none of them are named after openly gay leaders.
While the Long Beach Pride festival officially takes place on Saturday, May 18, and Sunday, May 19, there are plenty of other events happening in the days leading up to the big weekend that Pride revelers will want to take note of. The sixth annual Pink Party is being held on Friday, May 17, from 8 p.m. to midnight at the East Village Arts District at 1st and Linden. Organizers vow to transform the area into a “pink extravaganza,” and guests are encouraged to do their part by wearing pink attire. There will also be pink hair and nail stations at the venue to add to your look. The event is being hosted by famed drag performer Jewels Long Beach, who is the 2013 Long Beach Pride Community Grand Marshal. Entertainment includes DJs spinning high-energy dance music and drag divas Detox, Delta Work, Raja and Sonique entertaining the crowd. There will be two outdoor bars hosted by Hamburger Mary’s and Bliss 525, and some Downtown restaurants are serving up food. A portion of the proceeds from the Pink Party will benefit the Long Beach Gay & Lesbian Center’s Mentoring Youth Through Empowerment (MYTE) program.
Activist Cleve Jones, a close friend of late gay rights leader Harvey Milk, is giving a guest lecture at Cal State Fullerton on May 23 in honor of Harvey Milk Day, which takes place a day earlier. Jones, who began working with Milk as a student intern, was portrayed in the Gus Van Sant-directed film Milk by Emile Hirsch. In the movie, Hirsch as Jones says “Standing out in front of a church in Orange f*cking County for two days” would be enough time to gather the required signatures to get the anti-gay Briggs Initiative on the ballot, which sought to ban gays and lesbians and their supporters from working in California's public school system.
Harry Shum Jr. is best known for his role of singing and dancing high school student Mike Chang on TV’s Glee. But the 30-year-old actor has also been quietly carving out a movie career for himself, with roles in such films as Stomp the Yard, You Got Served, Step Up 2 and Step Up 3D.His latest film role, however, does not involve any singing or dancing. In the Quentin Lee-directed White Frog, Shum plays Chaz Young, a gay high school student dealing with enormous family pressures, but who is always trying to do the right thing. When he is killed in a biking accident, the lives of his loved ones are torn apart. It is Chaz’s legacy that helps to piece them back together in a more authentic way.Shum chatted with Frontiers about the movie, which will screen at this year’s Outfest.Tell us about your character, Chaz, and his relationship with his younger brother, Nick (Booboo Stewart), who has mild Asperger’s syndrome.I think it’s a struggle between having a social life and what he feels he’s obligated to do. That’s always been the struggle with Chaz—he wants to be able to have a life and have fun; it’s almost like he lives two lives. His parents don’t know how to take care of Nick at all. He’s playing the roles of brother, friend and father.In his parents’ eyes, Chaz is the perfect kid. But they had no idea that he was gay, and we see in a video that he left behind, that this perfect kid considered himself to be a fraud and a coward.In calling himself a fraud and a coward, it’s in parallel to what his brother should not be. Be truthful and be proud of who he is and what he is. Chaz’s brother is able to become almost like a man in the sense of making decisions and speaking up. That revelation was helped with Chaz coming out [in that video].Your scenes with Booboo Stewart felt so real. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought that you two were actually brothers.We just clicked. I actually worked on something with Booboo, but that was barely for a couple of hours on a music video a long time ago. We kind of knew of each other but not really. When we got on the set, it felt so natural, like he was my little brother. He’s such a cool kid. He did amazing work.You are in the film’s early scenes then you’re only in a few flashbacks. And yet your character is focused on so much for the rest of the movie. Do you feel like you were in the movie more than you actually were?I only shot three days. It was crazy. Watching the movie, it is centered around Chaz, and Nick’s trying to find out what Chaz is hiding. He’s constantly trying to figure out what his life was all about, what he was doing, who his friends were.Will Glee fans like this movie?I think so. It’s definitely a different tone, but there are some Glee episodes that have been a little more dramatic. This is about a kid who is a fish out of water, a kid who is not really accepted by his family and the world and trying to find truth in himself. Glee fans can relate to that.Glee is one of the biggest hit shows on a major network, while White Frog is a small independent film. How do these two working experiences compare?This is actually my first independent film
Outfest is one of the great summertime traditions, with nearly two weeks of queer films watched by mostly queer audiences. Mix in plenty of parties, receptions, Q&A panels and other special events and you have the makings of a fun, moving and rewarding experience.
Rosie O'Donnell spent nearly the entire six years of her syndicated daytime show as "The Queen of Nice," emerging from the closet only in the final two months of its run in 2002. But by the time Rosie returned to daily daytime TV as moderator of The View in 2006, she was well-known as a lesbian activist and regularly talked about then-partner Kelli Carpenter and