On Valentine’s Day, Project Runway All Stars winner Mondo Guerra is coming to Philly to host a mix-and-mingle in support of ActionAIDS’ Dining Out For Life, a group he’s been involved with since his emotional revelation on national TV that he was HIV-positive. This week, he gave me a ring from New York, where he is in town for Fashion Week, and we had a nice chat about his involvement with the organization. I found him to be a refreshingly down-to-earth, kind-hearted guy — nowhere near as sassy as he looks in that photo to the right. He was even open to answering some of my more-probing questions about life post-Project Runway, including what he and Jay McCarroll will be doing when he’s in Philly and why he still has beef with Michael Kors.
G Philly: Are you excited to come to Philly for this event? Mondo Guerra: I’m so excited. I hear it’s going to be “Mondo-centric.” I’m a little vain, so of course I’m excited about seeing myself all over the place. (laughs).
GP: How did you get involved with Dining Out For Life? MG: This is my first year with the fundraiser. I’ve always participated in the event by going to a restaurant in my community … so when they approached me and asked if I wanted to participate as a spokesperson, I thought it was a perfect fit.
GP: On Project Runway season 8, you revealed that you were HIV positive. Is that one of the best decisions you’ve ever made? MG: Oh my God, it changed my life. I can’t even tell you how much the secret was destroying me — not only as an individual, but as a creative person. I lost sight of so many goals because I couldn’t talk about it. So when I talked about it, I felt reborn again. It has triggered so many beautiful relationships, and so many that I’ve been pushing away for so many years, including my mom and my dad. It’s a brand new life. It really is.
She won a Golden Globe for The Iron Lady last night, but she also recently played a kissing game on the Ellen show. Meryl Streep made an appearance to chat about her new film when DeGeneres got the acclaimed actress to play a game in which she had to identity the famous lips she’s kissed in films. Including women.
Streep’s played gay in many of our favorite flicks like Silkwood, Manhattan, The Hours…
Though she’s made noted star appearances in film (Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy) and television (from Roseanne to Hot in Cleveland) – and is the quintessentially smart bantering guest with talk show hosts like David Letterman and Bravo’s Andy Cohen, it’s during Sandra Bernhard’s live shows that she’s most formidable.
Though most famous for the first of these genre-baiting productions, Without You I’m Nothing (also released as a feature film), Bernhard has gone on to several other equally uproarious live events like Excuses for Bad Behavior, Giving ‘Til It Hurts, Hero Worship, The Love Machine, Everything Bad and Beautiful and Broadway’s I’m Still Here…Damn It!
In her latest song and satire revue, I Love Being Me, Don’t You?, the out comedian doesn’t just skewer pop culture, she also looks at motherhood (she’s got a daughter, Cicely Yasin) and spirituality during a five-day run at Painted Bride Arts Center starting Jan. 10. We caught up with her as she was getting ready for opening night.
When do you know it’s time for a Sandra show?
It always happens naturally. I start off doing some smaller shows – developing the pieces and music and as I perform it starts to take shape without a lot of effort.
Grace Gonglewski and Mary Martello in Body Awareness (photo by Alexander Iziliaev)
Two lesbian characters stir up drama in a new play at the Wilma. Body Awareness (previews begin this week with an opening Jan. 11) sets the scene during a weekend at a fictional college in Vermont when audiences get a glimpse into the lives of a mother, her girlfriend and son as a free-spirited artist comes to town to turn everything upside down.
Two of the Philly actors - Mary Martello and Grace Gonglewski – talked to us about what it’s like starring in Annie Baker’s off-beat comedy, which got rave reviews in New York, as well as how gender and politics seem to underscore even the most romantic of relationships.
How do you portray a lesbian relationship realistically in the show?
Gonglewski: Our relationship is one of love and sexual attraction with challenges and contradictions, like any relationship, gay or straight. It is not hard to find Mary Martello super sexy and lovable. There is also an imbalance of power (typical to most relationships), which shifts during the journey of the play.
Martello: The relationship in the show is a three-year-long domestic relationship, so that’s what I portray. We have a home together and my son lives with us and we love each other. It’s the reality of that situation that I play.
It’s been 100 years since the Titanic sank in the cold, dark Atlantic. And it’s been 15 years since the film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet captivated audiences. Starting Jan. 26, Thomas Choinacky recreates the film on stage playing all the roles – including Jack and Rose – in Thomas is Titanic.
As he gets ready to embark on his own maiden voyage, we talked to the actor – who’s also the show’s creator – about what it’s like gender bending and if he plans on doing that famous nude scene.
What drew you to the Titanic as subject for the show?
As a child, I was extremely interested in the facts of the disaster. I read book after book about the sinking. Then the James Cameron film came out and it grew into obsession and I loved Kate Winslet. I watched the movie over and over.
The subject for Thomas is Titanic actually came up nearly three years ago. I was re-watching old episodes of the MTV show The State and there is a sketch where an actor does a one-man show of Jurassic Park. I thought it was hilarious and I wanted to do it myself with another film. I quickly realized that my one-man show would be Titanic.
Starting January 10, a new talent show comes to town. “Circus of the Stars” is the brain child of Brandon Barlieb of Philly Dragopolis and Tabu as an alternative to the usual dance parties and drag shows. Instead, the talent competition – hosted by Nathan Walk of Mrs. P fame – runs every Tuesday for five weeks featuring up to six performers who’ll vie for the winning title.
“So far we have singers, comedians, drag performers, a guitarist, a band and celebrity impersonators,” says Bartlieb.
There’s also a bit of audience participation. Folks who see the show will have the opportunity to vote in three ways. “At the end of each performance, the talent will be judged by our esteemed panel of judges on a scale of one to 10,” explains Bartlieb. “At the end of the show, we will ask for audience applause for their favorites. Then we will post a poll on our Facebook page and let the online world vote for the contestants for 24 hours.”
Stimulus at the Marathon at 10th and Chestnut (courtesy of Stimulus)
Stimulus and Arouse have been attracting thousands of LGBT revelers since they were first launched a few years ago by Morgan Levine and Amber Hikes as a lesbian-friendly alternative to the nightlife scene in Philly. But with news that Marathon Grill would be restructuring with several closures early next year (Marathon has been home base for the events) all bets are off for 2012.
The venue on Chestnut is closing, as is the Marathon at 10th and Walnut, which has been one of the most popular destinations for the parties in close proximity to the Gayborhood.
Amber Hikes and Morgan Levine
“Chestnut was due to a leasing dispute with the landlords,” says Kevin Kong, a spokesperson for Marathon Grill. “And 10th and Walnut was due to separation with our longtime partners – the Spains. They got that venue as part of the terms of our separation, and have elected to have our good friends at Guest Counts Hospitality operate it.”
Levine says both she and her business partner Hikes first heard the news in November, as the two were putting the finishing touches on their big New Year’s Eve event. “When we asked Marathon about the rumors, they told us ‘buyers’ were looking at the location, but no offers were made yet,” explains Levine. “Then we read the news on Philly.com on December 8th and a Marathon representative confirmed the information for us on December 12th.”
This week on The Rachel Maddow Show, Candace Gingrich-Jones opened up about her half-brother’s presidential campaign, admitting that she wouldn’t be surprised if Newt Gingrich used LGBT issues (for the worse) to get ahead in the GOP primary.
“I think that if he is a politician and saying these things because he’s a politician, but he doesn’t believe them, or if he does believe them, I don’t know if I like either of those answers very much,” Gingrich-Jones told Maddow. “I know that at the end of the day, he’s wrong.”
She added that even though her big bro was invited to her wedding to her partner Rebecca, he didn’t attend. “We still got a gift,” said Gingrich-Jones, an outspoken Obama supporter who works for the HRC in Washington D.C.
When PleasureRush was created earlier this year, GALAEI wanted to encourage people to take a positive approach to safe sex. As the organization gets ready for the “PleasureRush 101: After School Special” event on Dec. 9 (6 p.m.) for those 21 years and older at the William Way, we talked to Elicia Gonzales, executive director of GALAEI, about the connection between being safe and experiencing pleasure, and how to talk to your partner about important issues. For anyone who attends the event- hosted by Notorious OMG – there’s free admission to ICandy.
How did PleasureRush first get started?
PleasureRush was created in May 2011 in honor of National Masturbation Month to promote sex-positive sexuality education in order to provide an alternative perspective to current HIV prevention messages. Many messages focus exclusively on condom use or talk only of the medicalization of HIV. We often neglect to consider that much of HIV is contracted sexually, yet we shy away from real conversations about sex. And we rarely, if ever, allow ourselves to talk about sex as pleasurable. Also, some people who are living with HIV and AIDS receive implicit messages that they can no longer enjoy a healthy and satisfying sex life. We wanted to reintroduce the notion that sex is something that can be celebrated and that having a healthy and pleasurable sex life involves so much more than simply putting on a condom.
Sandy Beach in his finest feathers (photos courtesy of Sandy Beach)
Most people celebrate their birthdays with a cake, some friends and maybe a night out. But for a veteran performer on the gay scene in Philly and Atlantic City over the years, a milestone can only be marked with a live show. Sandy Beach (real name Robert Hitchen) will be hosting his birthday show this Wednesday (Nov. 23) at 10:30 p.m. at the Venture Inn with $4 drink specials.
(Beach - far left) backstage at Convention Hall in Atlantic City (August 1975)
“It’s my party and I’ll sing what I want to,” says Beach. He tells us that his show will be a surprise (with surprise guests), though audiences can expect to hear at least one song from Gypsy, a musical he performed in on stage in the role of Tulsa. Today, he jokes, he channels Mama Rose.
In honor of his fabled career, we talked to a few friends who know him best.
Henry Brinton, a friend of Beach’s and one of his “drag daughters,” started off being a fan for many years. “My fondest memory of Sandy has to be arranging my schedule to get off of work early enough to go and see him perform on Thursday nights, with his USO show,” says Brinton. “I went for years. It was the highlight of the week.” READ MORE