Judy and Judgement

We’re all busy doing all sorts of things this month.

I, for one, am particularly excited and obsessed with Judy Garland being Turner Classic Movie’s Star of the Month this June. 

This is partially in honor of her 100th birthday this week, perennially in recognition of her status as an LGBTQ+ icon during our annual June month of Pride, and obviously because she is one of the great talents and stars in the history of entertainment.

Love you girl!

You may quote me on that.

Nevertheless —

Twenty million+ people watched the first day of six planned, live televised hearings on Thursday (the 9th), of the House Jan 6 Committee and their findings about the mob of thousands of rioters who tried to take down American democracy a year and a half ago in Washington, DC.

That might not sound like a lot in a country of 330 million but if you consider Monday Night Football these days gets on average only about 14.18 million viewers per game, it’s not bad.

Are you ready for some…. treason?

Does it give me hope Trump will wind up in handcuffs, as Daniel Goldman, lawyer extraordinaire and lead majority counsel for Trump’s first impeachment trial way back in 2019, opined on MSNBC on Thursday night?

No.   

Despite the fact that I deeply respect his opinion and have a secret crush on him.

Not so secret — look at him!

But at least it’s a start.

What the committee essentially found, in a case laid out painstakingly clearly, and scarily, by committee vice-chair, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), is that Donald Trump IS responsible for the historic attack on the Capitol last year. 

In various ways over two hours of very watchable television, his efforts were categorized as part of an extensively planned and very deliberate attempt to stay in power and prevent the certification of votes confirming Joe Biden as our 46th president and the fact that he, Trump, LOST.

In other words, there is NO WAY Trump was going to let anyone portray him as a LOSER, even though more than 60 appeal court judges across the country, many of them Republican, ruled that he was indeed just that in the 2020 presidential election.

How’s this instead?

As Rep. Cheney more directly and eloquently stated on Thursday night: 

President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack.

For those who don’t think these are strange times, recognize that up until this day, in my wildest dreams I could never imagine giving Rep. Cheney, a key vocal objector to gay marriage and pretty much every other thought I’ve ever had, credit for anything.

Also know this is likely only the beginning of how the Trump of it all will continue to reshape each and every one of our lives, both good and bad, and in decent and indecent ways, as time marches on.

Will we ever get rid of this man?

Without getting into the emotional testimony from Capitol Hill police officer Caroline Edwards, who recounted hours and hours of carnage, slipping and sliding in her fellow officer’s blood in a hopeless battle to defend the People’s House, here are some highlights of what new information we have so far.

– The far-right fascist group The Proud boys began their march on the Capitol building long before Trump began his speech to mobilize the crowd that day, thus confirming their attack was pre-planned and not spontaneous, as previously espoused in endless Republican talking points and Fox News sound bytes.

– Several Republican congressmen frantically lobbied Trump for a presidential pardon for their activities after the Jan. 6 attack.  This clearly indicates their consciousness of guilt since, well, why would you need a pardon for something you didn’t do?

Pretty much this exactly.

– Numerous entrances to the Capitol were breached, vandalized, wrecked and invaded.  This clarifies that the building was attacked by many hundreds of coordinated rioting groups than were thought, many of which seemed to have a plan of exactly what they were going to do and when, according to one excited female rioter shown in seized documentary footage. 

– Trump was told by his attorney general, Bill Barr, and others, that his bogus election claims were “bullshit” weeks prior to the attack but he kept espousing the BIG LIE anyway.

– Trump never called a single person, office or agency to try and secure the Capitol Building or deal with rioters that day.  And when in real time he was told that the mob wanted to hang his vice-president, he was quoted as saying, ‘maybe our supporters have the right idea.’  Mike Pence ‘deserves it.’

Yikes… RUDE

But back to Judy Garland and Turner Classic Movies.

Late Friday night and well into Saturday morning I re-watched Judgment at Nuremberg, the classic 1961 film based on the real-life Nuremberg Trials that attempted to bring Nazi War criminals to justice in the late 1940s.

The movie was nominated for eleven Academy Awards, including one for Judy as best supporting actress.  Included were two wins – best screenplay for Abby Man and best actor for Maximillan Schell, the latter portraying a zealous German lawyer attempting to defend his clients, all judges in the German government, as well as the honor of his country for future generations.

She had range!

The film was not an easy one to sit through but after viewing the first of the Jan. 6th hearings the night before I suspected there might be some parallels to help untangle my jumbled, seething and soon to be exploding brain.

Of course, I’m not talking about the intercut real-life documentary footage of thousands of dead, emaciated Jewish bodies of all ages in ditches; starved, beaten and gassed at the hands of a political movement gone amok.  Or even the skeletal, traumatized, barely alive, barely human-looking ones of various ethnicities, seen walking or carted away.

At least, not literally.

Instead I’m referring to the rationales citizens of an imperiled country give themselves regarding what to do and/or tolerate when faced with a political party and system run amok, or at least in crisis.  What do we make of death and destruction in the name of freedom, hope and survival to better times – especially in those times when we, the people, are hurting due to outside forces and, seemingly, through no fault of our own?

A must see

Well, here are some key, unedited quotes of characters from the screenplay:

– Hitler did some good things – He gave some people work. A maid, when asked about living under the National Socialist Party of Germany.

– The American public is just not interested anymore.  It’s been 2 years. An American politician when speaking about the advisability of U.S. judges prosecuting German citizens for war crimes.

– Very few of us knew what was really going on. The rich widow of a highly ranked German officer.

– There was a fever over the land.  A fever of disgrace.  We had a democracy but there was fear.  Fear of today, and tomorrow, and ourselvesHitler said, ‘lift your heads, be proud to be German… there are devils among us – communists, Jews, gypsies… devils destroy, you won’t be destroyed. A judge explaining his country and himself.

We participated because we loved our country.  What difference does it make?  The country is in danger…  And we succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.

Things denied to us as a democracy were open to us now. The final testimony of that aforementioned judge.

Nothing to see here

I’ve always felt to be forewarned is to be forearmed.   

It doesn’t guarantee victory.    But at least it gives you a fighting chance.

The next Jan. 6th House Committee hearing is Monday, June 13th at 10am EST and it will be carried live on every American TV network EXCEPT FOX NEWS. 

Make of that what you will.  But be among the 20 plus million plus who tune in.

Or not.

Judy Garland – “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”

Once Upon a Pride

June has been dubbed Gay Pride Month and you know what that means. 

Woo!

Well, okay, it means many things.

But among them is the launch of and spotlight on anything having to do with the LGBTQ community, a 30-day period where we are discussed, referenced, represented and respected. 

Okay, mostly respected, because there will always be haters of any marginalized group.  This is true even in the case of women, who happen to be in the majority of the U.S. population (Note: 50.52% to 49.48%).

And yet here we are again

Nevertheless, power is not always a numbers game.  That is why any number of us groups of people who consistently get picked on, nee marginalized, many of which I find myself a member of (Note: Gays, Jews, nerds, height challenged and old(er) among them) have had to get loud, annoying, crafty and smart in order to survive.

But let’s stay with the gay of it all.

Or shall I say queer?  Or LGBTQ plus, plus, plus.

Who can keep up?

which brings us to…

A new film from Fox Searchlight opened/dropped on Hulu this Friday called Fire Island, a romcom with a handful of very, very, VERY light dramatic undertones.  It stars two gay Asian men and has a multi-ethnic mostly LGBTQ+++ cast playing friends and frenemies experiencing a week of fun, frolic and life lessons at one of the most renowned gay vacation spots on the planet.

It’s niche but it’s not, not really.  There are now dozens of movies, TV shows and limited/streaming series with LGBTQ characters of every sort and, in the last few decades, we’ve gone from being the comic relief and/or supportive friend to full blown leads.

Take this absolutely adorable example

It’s far from perfect but what is progress anyway if not a two steps forward, one step back proposition?  I mean, there was a time not so long ago where many in the U.S. figured that once a Black man was elected U.S. president and served in the White House for eight years that the country would…

Oh, never mind.

It will surprise no one my age and likely everyone under 30 years old to know that when I was a boy growing up in the late sixties there were ZERO gay characters on TV series.

Here’s whom we had:

– Actor Paul Lynde, the center square on the game show The Hollywood Squares (1966).  A saber-tongued wit that was so quick, cunning and cutting that no one in their right (or wrong) mind would f-ck with him.

He’d also pop up on Bewitched as our favorite Uncle Arthur

– Nancy Kulp, an actress who played the smart and long-suffering character of MISS Jane Hathaway, the real brains of her banker boss on the half-hour comedy The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-1971)and…

And let’s not forget her turn in Haley Mills’ Parent Trap!

Charles Nelson Reilly, the famed actor-director who was a series regular on The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1968).  He played Claymore Gregg, the wacky yet caring great nephew of the ghost that haunts the seaside cottage he rents to the lovely yet classy widow Mrs. Muir and her two extremely adorable kids.

Lest we forget his legendary run on Match Game

Mr. Lynde, Ms. Kulp and Mr. Reilly were all gay in real life and it is a testament to their honesty, talents and personalities that they created people and personas that let us know they were fun and, ahem, different at a time when you could never openly say you were, ahem, different, to the masses.

Certainly, you couldn’t do it openly or even directly.  Yet somehow I knew and, as I would find out over the years, so did every other gay friend and acquaintance, as well as some very savvy straight ones. 

What they were telling us was that even if you weren’t like everyone else at least you could be…entertaining!  And intelligent, gainfully employed AND enjoy your life.

And be fabulous!

If that doesn’t seem like enough, and it certainly wasn’t, it was still A LOT back then.

Even as a pre-adolescent who didn’t yet have a name for what I suspected I was, I figured if being the smartest person in the room, the center square or the landlord was the best that could happen, well, that’d at least be something – and worth surviving for.

Even now I feel humbled for having learned that lesson and pride to have lived, persevered and thrived to heights I never could have imagined at that time.

… and can laugh about it!

Decades and decades of TV and movies and streaming shows (Note: The latter being the true hybrid of the aforementioned two) have since followed to the point where now being LGBTQ is no longer coded, often embraced and almost always integrated into the whole of whom those people are that we are watching.  And in those moments that it isn’t, it is, these days, almost always done for dramatic effect, not because LGBTQ+++ creators can’t or won’t do it for fear of mass career and/or pop culture reprisal.

It is difficult at this moment to come up with a single network or studio that at some point has not released some content with an openly LGBTQ plus character.  (Note: Ahem, even the conservative skewing Hallmark Channel?!)  Also, a coming out journey is no longer the required centerpiece of how each of them are presented (Note: Not that there’s anything wrong with that, either).

See: Ava on Hacks (watch season 2 now!)

A faux naughty romp fest like this week’s Fire Island might not be the gold standard for LGBTQ plus content, but it doesn’t have to be anymore.  It can simply exist as a diversion, or a dislike, or a meh or even a niche only love and not ruin the chances for every proposed project with gay content that comes after it. 

Progress?  I’d say so, as well as in one other way.

Fire Island is not even so much about being gay but rather about class, as well as a touch about race. The drugs and the sex it features might still seem a bit far out for some but in a strange way the film also never goes far enough in what it seems to really be trying to say.

It can just be fun.. you know?

That for many city gays, and others, it is not so much being LGBTQ anymore but existing in a community that marginalizes you by class, or the color of your skin, or your looks or your view of sex, romance and commitment.

The issues and challenges in most every other subset of a community, or in the entire community itself. 

We struggled for acceptance and representation and to some extent we gays are now in the process of having it onscreen.  We get to be shown, both rightly and wrongly, as pretty much every other niche group rather than being the love (or the person) that dare not speak its name.

What we need to do now is figure out a way to bridge the gap in real life.

and continue the fight

To continue to be our smart, entertaining and cutting edge selves.  But to also open up our bank accounts a bit more and to once again take to the streets when it’s necessary.  And it is.

A new movie or TV show alone isn’t going to help openly transgender high school athletes in Ohio and Florida who might be banned from playing for their teams or the gay teachers in red states across the country once again being branded as immoral threats to the children they teach who nevertheless adore them. 

To merely be seen these days is not enough.  Not nearly.

Muna – “Sometimes” (from Fire Island)