2013 was a year filled with solid LGBT representation in TV, film and in music, as well as local theater.
“American Horror Story: Coven”
Now in its third season, this FX spook fest has TV’s deepest cast – Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Frances Conroy and out performers Sarah Paulson, Denis O’Hare and Leslie Jordan, among others. From gay director Ryan Murphy of “Glee” fame, “Coven” is set in New Orleans at a school where young witches are learning to protect themselves. Some argued that season two of “American Horror Story: Asylum” went too far but most seem to agree that the current season – continuing through January – is very much back on track including a special cameo by Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks, often rumored to be a witch herself.
“Behind the Candelabra”
In this Emmy Award-winning drama, Michael Douglas (in one of his best performances) starred as flamboyant entertainer Liberace and Matt Damon played Scott Thorson, one of the entertainer’s secret lovers/boytoys. With its gay content fully intact, film studios were afraid to touch this, so it wound up on a supportive HBO. Despite some campy moments (including some with Rob Lowe as Liberace’s plastic surgeon) director Steven Soderbergh never resorted to stereotypes, making Liberace and Scott full-blooded people and their relationship compelling and complex, before the singer eventually passed away from AIDS.
Jodie officially tells the world
Long rumored to be lesbian, Oscar winning actress Jodie Foster chose the 2013 Golden Globes to come out, sorta, in a rambling kind of way as she received the Cecil B. DeMille Award . community was mixed in its reaction to the news and the way it was handled, but Foster finally did it. She was the highest profile performer to come out this year – and on live TV to boot.
Now in its fifth season on ABC, this sitcom is merrily rolling away. An Emmy winner – named Best Comedy four years running – “Modern Family” has never downplayed the relationship between Mitchell (openly gay Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Cameron (Eric Stonestreet and their adopted daughter. “Modern Family” may not be as fresh as it was when its run began but it’s still pretty daring, especially for network TV.
“Orange is the New Black”
A cult hit almost upon its debut, this Netflix drama from “Weeds” creator Jenji Kohan revolves around Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), who is sentenced to 15 years in a women’s federal prison for smuggling drugs for her former lover Alex (Laura Prepon). Highly addictive, the series features lesbian characters and a supporting cast with the likes of Natasha Lyonne, Jason Biggs and Lea DeLaria. An eagerly awaited second season is slated for next summer.
“Sean Saves the World”
Out actor Sean Hayes, iconic from his “Will and Grace” days, stars in this NBC sitcom as a workaholic gay father whose 14 year old daughter moves in with him, forcing him to learn to juggle a career and being a dad. After virtually all of last year’s much-ballyhooed LGBT TV crop went south, it’s nice to see another stab here, but the verdict is still out on whether this comedy will see another year. The addition of Linda Lavin and Megan Hilty into the cast has at least upped its hip factor.
“Blue is the Warmest Colour”
Acclaimed at its debut at the Cannes Film Festival – where it won the Palme d’Or and awards for its two lead actresses as well as wowed the jury, including Steven Spielberg – this lesbian love story, based on the 2010 novel, featured some of the most sexually explicit scenes in history in the tale of a 15 year old Adele (Adéle Exarchopoulos ) falling for an older, artist type (Léa Seydoux). Their relationship swoons up and down like many first love relationships. by Abdellatif Kechiche and rightfully rated NC-17, this has become a fall arthouse success.
This documentary about Shane Bitney Crone and the loss of his partner Tom in a tragic accident – and the ensuing drama with Tom’s family as the funeral approached ― was a film festival sensation (including Out On Film, where Crone appeared and the film won Best Overall Feature) before it landed a plum spot on Oprah’s OWN network in November and reached millions. Directed by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason of “Designing Women” fame, “Bridegroom” is heartbreaking and empowering at the same time, as Shane learns that his ultimate gift to his late partner is to move on. Even Redbox warmed up to the film, placing it in all of his kiosks nationwide despite not normally carrying documentaries.
“Dallas Buyers Club”
Matthew McConaughey lost 30 pounds to play the real life Ron Woodroof,the homophobic womanizing Texan who acquired HIV in the ‘80s. Expected to die within 30 days, he found a way to stay alive past then. After first taking AZT, the only legal AIDS drug at the time, and then smuggling in various medications from other countries, he founded the Dallas Buyers Club, giving alternative treatments to HIV/AIDS patients not satisfied with what their doctors and hospitals have available for them. As splendid as McConaughey is in the lead, he’s matched by Jared Leto, in the role of Rayon, a transgender woman/ AIDS patient dealing with a drug addiction who assists Ron. A Best Supporting Actor Oscar is Leto’s to lose.
“Kill Your Darlings”
Daniel Radcliffe, forever shaking his “Harry Potter” image, starred convincingly as gay poet Allen Ginsberg in this independent Beat Generation drama, co-starring Dane DeHaan as his eventual lover Lucien Carr and Michael C. Hall as the doomed, murdered David Kammerer, an ex of Lucien’s. Director John Krokidas conveyed the time and era effectively and made “Darlings” a character study, love story and effective murder mystery. Of all the recent Beat Generation films, such as “Howl” and “On the Road,” this made the largest impression.
In this fact-based film, Judi Dench is a simple Irish woman who dreams of locating the son she gave up 50 years ago when she was at a convent. With the help of a journalist (Steve Coogan) she seeks to find him. Their journey leads them to America, where they find that her son was gay – and a closeted Republican. Stephen Frears’ direction and Coogan’s script can seem Lifetime TV network ready at times but the dazzling Dench makes the trip memorable and melancholy. She’s a deserved Best Actress nominee lock.
One of two world premieres by the busy Topher Payne (alongside his “Swell Party” at Georgia Ensemble Theatre), “Angry Fags” spins on the revenge-taking two friends (Johnny Drago and Jacob York) take when one’s ex is beat up. Among others in its cast were Atlanta radio personality Melissa Carter, who was believable as a politician. “Fags” was funny and potent and a third act away from being a major piece of theater.
One of the year’s finest productions was the Alliance Theatre’s version of this Tarell Alvin McCraney drama, a joint collaboration with the Manhattan Theatre Club, where it opened in the summer to great acclaim. McCraney, who made noise with his exceptional “In the Red and Brown Water” at the Alliance as well, has become a playwright of considerable skill and depth. The playwright won the McArthur Fellowship, also known as the Genius Grant, this year. Here, Pharus Young is a senior at an African-American prep school who leads his chorus. His effeminate mannerisms, however, don’t go over well with his classmates and administration at the school. “Choir Boy” was as well acted and directed as virtually any 2013 local production.
“5 Lesbians Eating A Quiche”
The Weird Sisters Theater Project staged this comedy about five closeted women who have for the annual Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein meeting, where a highlight of the day is the crowning of the best quiche. As the fear of an atomic bomb looms the women’s secrets spill out. The good-natured “5 Lesbians” wasn’t as on-the-money as the company’s 2012 “Anton in Show Business,” but the all-female troupe’s willingness to tackle unorthodox material and talented company members makes them welcome entrants into the local theater community.
The year’s most joyous theatrical event was staged by gay director (and Serenbe Playhouse artistic director) Brian Clowdus, who made the ‘60s rock musical a rousing success. That Clowdus filled it with the sharpest musical ensemble of the year was an added treat. Even a good half-hour from metro Atlanta, “Hair” – staged appropriately in a field at Serenbe – was worth a second viewing, with the closing “Let the Sun Shine In” goosebump inducing. A 2014 encore – please!
It was themajor theater production of the fall – a new take on the Barry Manilow/Bruce Sussman musical at the Alliance dealing with the Comedian Harmonists, a boy band in Europe who became worldwide sensations in the ‘20s/’30s. As anti-Semitism grew and the Nazi party took over, though, the band eventually disbanded. Full of agreeable musical numbers, “Harmony” proved skimpy in character development for much of its characters, including half the band. Yet there was no denying that gay director Tony Speciale directed the heck out of it and made an unbalanced musical worth seeing.
Amy Ray does country
One half of the beloved local Indigo Girls – Amy Ray – released the first single, “Oyster and Pearl,” from her first country album, “Goodnight Tender,” due out in January.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Same Love”
The music duo’s “Same Love” was recently nominated for a 2014 Grammy for Song of the Year, along with six other nominations. The song has become an anthem since its release last summer and its music video has been seen by more than 100 million people on YouTube. Macklemore and Lewis wrote the song to support same-sex marriage; it was recorded during an event trying to recognize marriage equality in the state of Washington.
Music at Atlanta Pride
The music lineup at Atlanta Pride always seems to be loaded, but this year was especially high caliber. The headliner was pop star Taylor Dayne, who visited to sing some of her well-known hits such as “Tell It to My Heart.” Another artist present at Atlanta Pride was –
Grand became the first male country singer to come out over the summer, launching his debut single “All American Boy” – about falling for a heterosexual friend – and an accompanying music video. A former model, Grand made a sizable splash this year. Time will tell where his career heads but hats off to his bravery, especially in an industry that can be unforgiving. Just ask the Dixie Chicks.
Tom Goss, Levi Kreis, Lorna, Brandy, Elton
Out musicians Levi Kreis and Tom Goss also made Atlanta appearances this year. Tony winner Kreis came to town as part of his “Flying Solo” tour in April while acoustic singer-songwriter Goss visited in March as part of a benefit for the Atlanta Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Late this year Elton John wowed a Philips Arena crowd. Gay faves Brandy and Lorna Luft also visited, Brandy for Black Gay Pride and Luft performing at Encore ’13, a benefit for the Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus and the newly formed Atlanta Women’s Chorus in this fall.
Two popular out performers denounce Russia’s anti-gay sentiment
Lesbian artist Melissa Etheridge unveiled her song “Uprising of Love” as part of a social movement supporting LGBT Russians, while Elton John spoke out against the anti-gay sentiment as well at a concert in Moscow in December, calling it “inhumane and isolating.” John dedicated his concert to a 23-year-old gay man who had been tortured and murdered in Russia
Beyonce pops a Christmas surprise
The reigning Super Bowl halftime performer and Presidential Inauguration guest, gay icon/diva Beyonce, released a surprise 14-track “visual album” last week only on iTunes, to everyone’s astonishment and nearly breaking the internet, capping an amazing year. Her fifth album, titled “Beyonce,” features tracks with Jay Z, Drake, Frank Ocean and more, including her daughter, Blue Ivy.