Dear Evan Hansen actor-singer Ben Platt tells his story with debut album
Being gay comes up so casually, as Ben Platt prefers. Tucked into “Older,” a theatrical juggernaut that doesn’t even try to hide the fact that the actor-singer introduced Evan Hansen to the world the line is a personal aside expressed on an otherwise universal ballad about wishing to speed up time in your youth, only to hope for more of it as you age: “And will I get to know myself in the place I am / Get to fall in love with another man, and understand.”
If you didn’t already know Ben Platt is gay, this is how he wishes you’d find out: casually.
The theater star turned pop crooner came out in his personal life when he was 12. He then landed his Broadway debut in The Book of Mormon as Elder Cunningham in 2012. He went on to bag a Grammy and a Tony (he has an Emmy too, putting him on EGOT watch) for his moving portrayal of the titular teen in Dear Evan Hansen, also on Broadway. And, of course, he brought literal magic to the Pitch Perfect franchise as super nerd Benji Applebaum.
Platt’s earnest and emotional Atlantic debut Sing to Me Instead is his first public expression of self at age 25. “The main reason I wanted to make this music was to have the opportunity to go around the country and play it live and have that live connection, because that’s what I grew up loving the most,” he says, “and singing live is my favorite thing to do.”
In addition to a 12-city tour, Platt will also star alongside Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Lange, and Bette Midler this year as a high school go-getter who’s eager to be the actual president—but first, student government—in the forthcoming Netflix comedy series The Politician, which debuts Sept. 27. The series, he says, is, “in true Ryan Murphy fashion, very queer positive.”
During our conversation, Platt also discussed being the reason so many people are crying, LGBTQ stigma in Hollywood, and why he thinks we should move beyond coming out announcements.
Ben Platt debut album cover
How do you process the fact that you’ve been making so many people cry with this album?
Ben Platt: You know, it’s a strange thing. I think it’s just nice to see that people are finding ways to connect to it. I tried to make it as sort of specific as possible because usually that kind of thing begets the most universality, and it’s been really nice that that’s really been the case. And I hope it’s all good, cathartic-type tears and not the bad kind! (Laughs)
How did these songs come to you? In waves? All at once?
BP: First in waves. I think when I first sat down to write the album I tried to just lean on what came in terms of what I thought deserved to be sung about. Because I come from the theater, I feel like my philosophy has always been that you only really sing when there’s something emotionally valuable enough to sing about. And that ended up being largely the relationships that I’d had while writing. So I think it was a mixture of trying to lean on those experiences and those emotions, then also accruing phrases and ideas and conceptual things that I felt hadn’t been necessarily stated that way before or said that way before and finding a way to join them.
What hadn’t been conveyed that you wanted to say with this album?
BP: “Grow as You Go” is the one that comes to mind. Because I had never really heard a song that addressed this cop-out thing that always tends to happen when you’re in a relationship and you get to a point where it gets a bit too scary and the person backs out with the excuse of, “I need to go find who I am and I don’t have enough legs to stand on as my own person.” Of course, that’s valid in many cases, but I’ve also found out that it’s kind of something to hide behind.
I think if the connection is strong enough, and theoretically if it’s a special enough person. and it’s the right person, then it shouldn’t really keep you from experiencing personal growth and finding who you are just because you happen to be with someone else who is also figuring those things out.
Was there ever a time you didn’t think an album like this, where you could be your out, authentic self, would be possible?
BP: I think, yeah. If we’re all realistic about the world, it’s not all roses and it’s not all fantastic. And we don’t live in a vacuum where it’s all pure acceptance. Particularly as an actor, there’s a lot of stigma surrounding what you’re castable as when you’re out of the closet, and sort of what characters you can play, and how people will view you going forward.
But as far as the decision (to be out), it really was a no-brainer. Because if I was going to try to do something that felt authentic to me and I was going to sort of express any kind of truth in my own life, then there would be no room to edit it or change it just because I hadn’t expressed those things before.
You say there’s a stigma to be out if you’re an actor. Do you think gay actors and musicians are asked to keep their sexuality quiet when promoting projects and has that ever happened to you?
BP: I’m sure that’s something people encounter. I know that’s definitely not something we’ve moved forward from in general. I have been really lucky personally to work pretty much only in environments where it was incredibly accepting and open. And, I mean, I grew up in the theater where everyone is gay. So, it was never an issue (laughs). I don’t necessarily think that an actor’s private life, regardless of their sexuality or any of that, is pertinent when you’re playing a different character. I think when you’re promoting something, it’s about the project and the work. What was beautiful about this experience was the work. It was sort of built into the work itself. And it was part of what the content is. I think it gave me an opportunity to discuss it in the context of art rather than sort of trying to interject it into a conversation about work that was really sort of irrelevant to it.
But I do, maybe, think there is pressure to present a certain accepted form of masculinity. And pressure to feel like you can still fit into certain boxes so you don’t limit yourself. I’m hopeful that is slowly fading away and that everybody can just accept that actors are chameleons. We can play who we can play.
Is it necessary to still make a coming out announcement in 2019? I gather that you think it’s not?
BP: I just don’t think it should be perceived as an abnormality at all. In and of itself, having to announce something suggests that it’s departing from the norm or that it’s something that needs to be addressed. I think it should just be part of who we are. It is the same as—that I’m Jewish. I’m also gay. The more that it can become an assumed part of reality, the better.
So, for example, it’s time to move on from calling you “gay musician Ben Platt.” We don’t need that identifier anymore, do we?
BP: I agree. Yes, indeed.
In putting forward your own authentic self with this album, have you consciously had to work against the sort of nerdy-kid persona that’s been your staple?
BP: Sure—sure! Less the archetype and more so the specific role of Evan Hansen, I think, especially in the context of music. And it is just because I think most people, as far as my voice, are most familiar with that album. So I’ve tried to really embrace the emotionality of that and how beautiful it is that people connected to that character and my interpretation of that character. And I try to use that as a fire under my butt to create my own stuff and to put my own self out there rather than a road block of, “let me try to change the way that I’m viewed.” Hopefully just by virtue of the fact that I’m now presenting myself free of any character, that’s just going to change the perception regardless of how I posture myself.
Does maturity explain the beard?
BP: Yeah, well, I just prefer to have a beard whenever possible. I’ve just been playing teenagers so much, like in The Politician, that I’ve not been able to have one. I’m enjoying it while I can.
One YouTube commenter wrote, “Ben’s beard grows as his heart breaks.”
BP: (Laughs) That’s about right!
Alongside Blake Shelton and Zac Efron, you were included in People’s Sexiest Man Alive in 2017 as Sexiest Broadway Performer. Were you prepared for that moment in your career?
BP: Certainly not! (Laughs) That was not something that was ever on my sort of preconceived bucket list! I mean, it’s very flattering and very nice. But it was never a conscious goal. It was not like the Tony and the Broadway of all of it, but it was lovely to see! It made me feel good and made me want to go out and go on some dates!
Did it get you some dates?
BP: Well, not necessarily from it. But it restored a bit of confidence. It was a nice boost.
And then you were on Ellen recently, noting you’re single, so that couldn’t have hurt.
BP: Yeah, exactly! Whenever possible. I’m around.
Are LGBTQ youth reaching out to you expressing what this music means to them? Are you seeing the same tweets that I’m seeing?
BP: It’s hard to gauge. This is the first time I’ve released music on my own. So, this is the first time I’m experiencing, like, how to experience the way it’s being received. There are so many different measures of that, but definitely as I give the social a scroll, if you will, there are beautiful messages from people. Of course there are messages from youth, particularly LGBTQ youth. They feel really affected by the representation and feel really seen, like they can see themselves in the art, which is something that’s obviously very beautiful to me. But what’s been the most heartening to me is how innocuous that aspect of it has been and how it’s really been about the music itself, and how regardless of walk of life or sexuality or age, people are really finding ways that these songs fit into their lives, and that’s the ultimate gift: that they become so malleable. That’s been really beautiful.
That songs that are very specific to your own life can have universal appeal?
BP: For sure. And that I can sort of express an experience that can then make it maybe easier for someone else to go through that same experience, or an experience like that.
What have you learned from other out artists, like Sam Smith and Troye Sivan, when it comes to navigating the music world as an out artist?
BP: I would say from all artists, not just queer artists. But certainly all of my favorite artists queer or not, are sort of the ones who are true to themselves and more singular to themselves, and not really wasting any time trying to fit into a preconceived box. Something that’s been really wonderful about working with Atlantic is they’ve been so reverential to my vision, allowing me to lead the way creatively and really trusting my instinct and my gut feeling. They are allowing me to be the kind of artist I want to be and not sort of “pick a lane” in any way.
I think the only reason it’s been successful thus far and people are connecting with it is because they’ve allowed me to be individualistic. So I certainly admire any artist, queer or not, who is able to blaze their own path in that way. Just if you’re authentic, I think that’s the most attractive quality beyond just a beautiful voice, feeling like this is undoubtedly exactly who you are.
The first time I heard the racial trope “Go back to where you came from,” I was getting off of a school bus in a white section of town in Brooklyn, New York. Little did I know then I’d hear those words from K through 12. And the n-word was usually coming at the end of the phrase. By my senior year in high school, very few white students and their parents hurled those words at us black kids who were in the school’s new college-bound program. And, many of our white teachers, school administrators, and staff employees didn’t have to, because it was not what they said to us, but rather their treatment of us.
The treatment of “otherness” I experienced from my years of being bussed. And I learned it had less to do with the people targeted, like myself, and everything to do with the group in power. I learned that their perceptions of birthright, citizenship, ownership, and racial entitlement were bolstered by laws and institutions keeping their belief system in place. It is the belief, at least in my generation and older, that it takes a long time for attitudes like that to change. If they change at all.
Because changing those people, their systems, and laws, can take more than one lifetime. However, not with the four Democratic congresswomen, fondly called “The Squad,” Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.
When The Squad called out the president and his administration for the inhumane treatment of undocumented immigrants detained in cages, and the deplorable and squalid conditions they are forced to live under, Trump, in his inimitable style of ad hominem tweets stated the following rather than address the crisis head-on:
“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came… These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough.”
Trump’s statement illustrates how perceptions of birthright, citizenship, ownership, and racial entitlement have upped the volume on xenophobia and racism to blast these days. Many more people feel emboldened to call the cops on blacks, to tell perceived foreigners to leave this country, and to concoct birther conspiracies of American born children of immigrant parentage, like presidential hopeful Kamala Harris, and former President Barack Obama.
Many Americans are shocked that more than 90,000 people liked Trump’s tweet. And many of his fellow Republicans stand behind him. Congresswoman Presley clapped back at Trump stating, “THIS is what racism looks like.” And, she’s right.
Trump espouses a racist nostalgia of his childhood during the 1950s-60s Jim Crow era. To him that was when America was great. Most see how racist the country was back then. However, do we see it now?
I realize, however, I am not alone in my telling of being outside of my perceived racially confined area. A Red Sox fan recently posted in the New York Times comments section the following:
As a young person of color in Boston, I would hear “go back to Roxbury where you belong.” This while I, an American-born citizen, ventured out of the public housing projects to the downtown area or to Fenway Park.”
The volume and the degree to which everyday white American citizens have called 911 on blacks for sitting at Starbucks, barbecuing in a public park, playing golf too slowly, or napping in a school’s college lounge, to name a few, not only speaks of Trump’s vile acts as aberrant to secure his perceptions of birthright, citizenship, racial entitlement, and ownership of this country, but it speaks of and to other ordinary white Americans, too.
While the American public has heard ad nauseum Trump utter his now-familiar refrain “I am the least racist person you have ever met,” when it comes to defending his racist behavior, similar refrains are spoken by ordinary white people.
When the American Colonization Society failed to send all freed blacks and slaves “Back to Africa,” the dominance and societal backing of the white gaze allowed for the “othering” and policing of non-whites. While it began with the slave codes, which did not permit blacks to assemble without the presence of a white person, it didn’t end there. The white gaze morphed into various permutations of policing over history: KKK, segregation, white citizen council, and white privilege, to name a few. And, each of these permutations makes clear that a white person’s discomfort, unease or suspicion of the “other” trumps a non-white person’s civil rights.
President Trump’s proclivity for racist remarks comes as no surprise. His comment stating a preference for immigrants coming from a Scandinavian country like Norway than from Africa and Haiti which he depicts as “shithole” countries with nothing to offer the U.S is based solely on his xenophobic racism.
The Squad has a lot to offer this country. They are the hope of what democracy should look like. And, for the record: all of them are U.S. citizens, three were born in the states, and one became a naturalized citizen in 2000.
To read more commentary by Rev. Irene Monroe – Click Here
We are now living in what could be considered the “Golden” Age of small (and not so small) press editions of both new, and ancient works on Magick. Limited editions often can only be possessed by those with deep (or very deep) pockets, this has been a recent development over the last 40 years or so. Much of this abundance of riches has been made possible by living in the computer age. Doesn’t that sound quaint, and hopeful, with the transformations to the publishing industry that were made possible by this fact.
Most all of these publishers will acknowledge, when asked, that one of their inspirations, when starting out, was a small press operating on Long Hill, in the Passaic Valley at Gillette, NJ. Usually noted in its colophon: publishing information noted in the back of a book.
For many of those publishers, who have never seen New Jersey, this hopefully seems wonderfully evocative. The area certainly has its charms. It is a small community with pleasant, not grand homes, the sort of New Jersey town many of us grew up in.
Yes, there were other, earlier presses producing similar work, but Daniel J. Driscoll and his Heptangle Press set a particular high-water mark that has not been equaled. It’s an amazing achievement. Between 1975 and his death in 1990 (referred to as an untimely death at 46, when referred to at all), he single-handedly set the metal type. He later acquired a Monotype machine to cast his own type as well. To print, he used a hand press. The sheets he would then bind as finished books. It would seem he also did his own binding. Then he would send off his orders to small book shops and individual inquirers. Most hipsters would be put to shame by what he achieved at a time when the classic methods of producing books in this manner were being wholly abandoned commercially.
Some of the volumes were re-editions of classic works (such as Agrippa’s 4th Book, the prospectus for which is in the illustration). Others, such as The Enochian Evocations of John Dee were contemporary works done in collaboration with living authors. What an exciting time it must have been, shepherding these projects from conception to completion.
The first book I purchased was The Chaldaen Oracles, at the long-gone Magickal Childe in New York City. Compared to the other books there, it was an anomaly. It was printed with metal type on fine paper. And one was able to feel the impression of the type on the pages. It cost $20 then, a bit steep, though now a standard price for a hardback. Over the years, I tracked down and collected everything else produced by Heptangle. Eventually, I had questions about how and why these volumes were being created. But by that time, there was no one left to ask, just second-hand information was available. The family and collaborators were dead (save one, who was disinterested in being interviewed). Public records were, at best, spotty.
What stands is the work itself. Plus, a grave marker in Stirling New Jersey. It is an amazing achievement; a New Jersey boy who, having a love of type and printing, built his own business from the discards of a changing industry. He produced a legacy that inspires, and endures.
In my ramblings through the state this summer, I hope to visit the town and place, pay my respects, and raise a glass in memory. I hope you will, too.
NCLR says this decision will be a death sentence for LGBTQs from Central America
Those seeking asylum in the United States were effectively told on Monday they will have to find it elsewhere. The Trump administration moved to end asylum for nearly all those seeking it at the U.S. and Mexico border. It would bar anyone from claiming asylum if they had passed through another country en route to the United States, which covers anyone other than Mexican residents.
Putting this rule into place will effectively eliminate U.S. asylum law. Before the rule’s effective date, the law established a legal right to those who sought protection at the U.S. border,. It allowed individuals to make a case that they face torture or persecution in their home country. It had applied regardless of how the person reached the U.S. border. It also gives a major exception in cases in which the U.S. has negotiated a “safe third country” agreement with another government. America has such an agreement with Canada, where migrants must apply in the first safe country they reach.
The new rule, issued by the Justice and Homeland Security departments would apply only to those arriving in the U.S., not migrants already here.
“This rule is inconsistent with both domestic and international law, and we intend to sue immediately to block it,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s national Immigrants’ Rights Project. “If allowed to stand, it would effectively end asylum at the southern border and could not be more inconsistent with our country’s commitment to protecting those in danger.”
Those who would feel the brunt of the rule’s effect will be Central American families and unaccompanied minors, who are a larger number of the recent surge of migrants at the U.S. and Mexico border. It would apply to any nationality, including Haitians, Cubans, and Africans who go through South and Central America and Mexico to claim asylum.
“With limited exceptions, an alien who enters or attempts to enter the United States across the southern border after failing to apply for protection in a third country outside the alien’s country of citizenship, nationality, or last lawful habitual residence through which the alien transited en route to the United States is ineligible for asylum,” the rule states.
At a large risk would be the LGBTQ populations fleeing oppression and violence at home in intolerant and hostile countries.
“This will be a death sentence for many LGBTQ people,” Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said in a statement. “This proposed rule is based on the cruel fiction that the very same governments that are brutally persecuting LGBTQ people will give them a fair opportunity to apply for asylum. In reality, as this administration knows, the rule will cut off any realistic possibility of escaping from life-threatening violence and persecution. It is imperative that anyone who cares about the survival of LGBTQ people in Central America submit comments opposing this rule.”
Your city sure has changed. Landmarks were destroyed, the skyline is different, and streets are shifted in a way that feels same-not-same. It’s like having dinner with a relative you met once, when you were nine: as in When Brooklyn Was Queer by Hugh Ryan, everything and nothing is familiar.
Once upon a time, Brooklyn was little more than farms and fields.
That’s the vista Walt Whitman saw when he stepped beyond the boundaries of the city where he’d been creating his Leaves of Grass. He loved the area, a love he shared with laborers, prostitutes, and the rest of the crime-ridden, mostly-white population of Brooklyn in the mid-1800s.
As a gay man, Whitman would have noted upcoming changes.
In 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge opened, making it easy for residents to reach New York City. There, male and female impersonators found work at live entertainment venues, where race mattered little; and sexes and social classes mixed freely at saloons, concert halls, dance halls, and theaters. For African American actors, that relative permissiveness led to more acceptance and, sometimes, fame.
By the time Brooklyn merged with The Bronx, Queens, Manhattan, and Staten Island in January 1898, a new word had emerged. “Homosexuals” had been targeted by obscenity charges for quite some time then but, though laws were created against them, they had a solid presence in mainstream society. Even so, says Ryan, most people didn’t learn much about homosexuals until World War I.
And yet, people couldn’t get enough of “queer” folk, especially with cabaret shows, vaudeville, and “freak shows” so wildly popular and a subway ride to Coney Island costing just a nickel. New Yorkers flocked to the boardwalk, perhaps titillated by the idea that the performers were “gay.”
But “things started to go off the rails” for the LGBTQ community at the end of World War II. Being gay was perceptually equal to a crime. Starting then, says Ryan, “…the vibrant queer histories of places outside Manhattan would soon be forgotten.”
Reading When Brooklyn Was Gay is something like frosting a cake.
From the starting point of a poet and a wharf full of sailors, readers glide smoothly to wood-floor dance halls; sweeping near audacious lesbian actors, scandal rags, legal fights, burly-Q stages, then to the Jazz Age and beyond. Each spot is covered, sprinkled with asides, personal anecdotes from author Hugh Ryan, and modern references to create connections, then gently folded into the next subject.
What may delight readers the most, though, is the details.
While this is a history of Brooklyn, specifically, and New York, in general, we’re taken to other cities and cultures to see how worldwide changes impacted Brooklyn’s residents. Like the inner workings of a clock, tiny facts turn larger events that become part of a big picture for readers to see.
Unlike many books, this one doesn’t ignore anyone in the LGBT initialism; all are mentioned here and given due diligence. For readers searching for a fun, fascinating, all-encompassing history, When Brooklyn Was Queer is a nice change.
Northern New Jersey native makes his mark on the wrestling world
It’s not often in athletic communities that you hear about openly gay men. More often than not, we just wish there were more openly gay men. Why? For some, fantasy. Hey, that’s fine. For others, we want allies and our LGBTQ brothers and sisters to stand up and represent our communities and break down those hetero stereotypes society has built up.
Wrestler Fred Rosser
Well, for any wrestling fans out there, Fred Rosser is a handsome, 6’1”, tall drink of water. Back in 2013, in an empty airport, Fred Rosser, best known as Darren Young, had the courage to tell the world about his sexuality. You can look up the special moment on TMZ’s YouTube page. It’s Pride season and we’re proud of you, Fred!
According to your bio, wrestling has been a part of your DNA forever. Tell us, what or who inspired you?
Fred Rosser: I saw my dad watching wrestling on television one day, and from then on, I was hooked. My dad would always take me to wrestling shows at Meadowlands Arena in NJ, or high school gymnasium shows to watch WWF (now WWE) wrestlers perform. It was nothing I’d ever seen before; it just amazed me. I knew at a very young age that I wanted to be a professional wrestler. I was so excited about it. Watching wrestling with my dad are memories I will never forget. Those were the days.
Fred Rosser won the 2019 Vanguard Award
Tell us a little bit more about your journey. Your history as a wrestler is rich with achievements; did you think you’d be where you are today?
FS: I grew up with laser-like focus in wanting to be a WWE Superstar. I always saw myself as a WWE Superstar someday, and I even wrote it in my high school year book. “WWF, here I come!” I didn’t know when it would happen, but I knew it would. So, I started training to become a professional wrestler out of high school and college in the fall of 2002. I researched a number of wrestling schools before deciding on Camp IWF in West Paterson, New Jersey. And I used $2,000 of my scholarship money to enroll and didn’t tell my parents until about a year into my training. They had no idea. I was always the first one at the wrestling school, and the last one to leave training. Then I would train 4 days a week. I caught on very quickly to the whole wrestling game and, by the end of 2002, I made my professional debut.
I spent several years on the independent circuit grinding it out, traveling and making a name for myself in the Northeast area. And I did a plethora of tryouts for WWE during that time, having the door shut in my face so many times until my last tryout in Tampa, Florida. On May 4th, 2009, I paid to try out and, out of 75 guys and girls from all over the world, I beat them all. I earned my contract with WWE and signed with the company.
A few years ago, you came out as gay and WWE seemed to be really supportive, how do you feel this changed your career?
FS: Once I came out publicly, I became more than just a WWE superstar; I became a role a model for other LGBTQ athletes, paving a way for them to follow. One of the best pieces of advice I give to our youth or anyone who may get bullied into silence is to come out when you feel comfortable. At the end of the day, make sure you come out because when you do, it’s truly the best feeling in the world, and a heavy weight of rejection is slowly lifted.
There are many moments that stand out to me, particularly when I came out in 2013. CM Punk, after his SummerSlam match with Brock Lesnar, came up to me, iced up from head to toe, told me to stand up and gave me a hug. He said, “I heard your story and I’m very proud of you for being so courageous to make that move to come out. If anyone has a problem with it in the locker room, you let me know, and I’ll take care of it.”
The love from my supporters made it much easier to walk into a locker room without fear; knowing that people had my back meant the world to me. I’ll never forget how much love those guys showed me. Drew McIntyre, who wrestled Roman Reigns, said, “History in our business will remember Darren Young (Fred Rosser) as a pioneer with the courage to say proudly, ‘This is who I am’ and he’s one hell of a talent and a man.”
As a pro wrestler in a career that, to me, has always seemed very … heteronormative … what challenges do you face in your field?
FS: The biggest challenge I faced was accepting myself and learning how to stop feeling ashamed of who I am. I don’t know what else I would be if I wasn’t just simply, me. I see nothing to regret, and little to correct because what you see is what you get, as far as I’m concerned. It’s important to me that we have more LGBTQ representation in sports and beyond. We need more “out” athletes. I want people to see me on the big screen or on social media who identify with me and say, “If he can do it, then so can I.” Word on the street is Marvel is ready for its first gay superhero. Let me just tell you, not to toot my own horn, but there’s absolutely nobody that represents the community inside the ring and outside of the ring more than yours truly. I always say I don’t celebrate being gay, I celebrate and encourage others to celebrate themselves — living your life free from hate and free from judgment.
Have you seen people in your community of enthusiasts become more open minded since coming out?
FS: Because of the galvanic effect of my coming out story on the world of wrestling and mainstream entertainment, many wrestlers and non-wrestlers who are allies have praised my work in the ring and outside. My coming out story made it much more comfortable and easier for others to embrace their true self. It gives them hope that they can be successful athletes and represent the LGBTQ community to the fullest. Many have thanked me and said I was the nicest guy they have ever met and consider me a friend.
Let’s talk about Nick. I’ve seen pictures of you both and not many couples are as beautiful! I don’t know if I want to ask you about the secrets to a successful relationship or the secrets to your skin care routine. How did you guys meet?
FS: Nicki and I are no longer together. We are still great friends and he’s doing wonderful overseas in fashion school. We met in Miami in 2012. He still helps me with my style. We’ve learned so much from each other. When it comes to talking about relationships, the one thing I always say is learn how to talk things out. I was always the type of guy who would keep things bottled in, but I learned from Nicki to talk things out. You’ll feel so much better when you do.
In this Pride season, is there anything you’re working on currently to support or celebrate the LGBT community?
FS: Besides the hectic travel of being a professional wrestler, I do lot of speaking engagements for the LGBTQ community and elementary schools around the world sharing my story and promoting my #BLOCKTHEHATE movement. My goal is to inspire others to be comfortable in their own skin. The point of this movement is to show that we all aren’t as different from each other as we think. We all get bullied for one reason or another, but in order to be strong and successful, you must BLOCK THE HATE. I want the BLOCK THE HATE pose, which represents equality for all, to be the next “middle finger” in a positive way.
What encouragement can you give to young athletes who might be struggling to come out?
FS: Being honest with your family is such an important step in getting all parts of your life to fit together. It’s very important to give your family time to process the information when you come out to them. People hesitate to come out because they don’t want to discredit their family name. No one should ever force you to come out. You come out when you’re ready—just make sure you come out! For me, coming out greatly improved my performance as an athlete, and my well-being as a person. Instead of worrying about what others may think of me, I was able to fully own who I am and focus that energy on my wrestling and advocacy work.
How can we keep in touch?
FS: None of us are as strong as all of us. Let’s all continue to inspire and continue to fight for what’s right. I’ll see you at the finish line. Be a part of my social media family on Instagram (@realfredrosser) and follow my wrestling podcast on Instagram at (@roandbrowrestling). #BLOCKTHEHATE
The “other” yearly Atlantic City Pageant has a new runway home
The Miss’d America Pageant 2020 has selected a new home at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City for the annual Atlantic City signature drag event, Miss’d America. This year’s pageant will take place September 21, 2019. The show will include more lavish sets, incredible numbers, and a super hero theme led by the reigning wonder woman Miss’d America 2019 Andriana Trenta.
Carson Kressley will once again host the Miss’d America Pageant in 2019.
The host will be Carson Kressley with a guest performance by Frankie Z. Organizers say it will make this year’s show one of the hottest tickets in one of the hottest properties in Atlantic City.
The annual pageant in in its 28th year. It is a long-standing tradition for the LGBTQ and allied and supportive communities of south Jersey. “We are so excited to be opening a new chapter in Miss’d America history at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City,” said Richard Helfant, President of the Greater Atlantic City GLBT Alliance and Executive Producer of the pageant. “It will be fabulous to be back on the Boardwalk.”
A portion of the proceeds from the 2019 Miss’d America Pageant will go to the Greater Atlantic City GLBT Alliance who will distribute funds to various LGBTQ supportive charities. Since its inception, the pageant has donated over $400,000.
“We feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to present Miss’d America, which has become such a long running popular event in the Atlantic City community impacting the LGBTQ community,” said Joe Lupo, President of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City. “One of Hard Rock’s core motto’s is “All Is One” and we could not be more proud to come together to support our LGBTQ community and supporters and truly demonstrate we are all one community.”
Tickets prices start at $35 and will be available for purchase at Ticketmaster or through Hard Rock Hotel & Casino beginning Monday, July 22, 2019. The Miss’d America Pageant will be on Saturday, September 21, 2019 at 8 pm in Sound Waves at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City.
“Wanna Be A Super Queen”
Contestants await the judges decision at the Miss’d America Pageant in Atlantic City in 2018
A contestant search is currently being conducted in New Jersey, New York, Washington DC, Baltimore, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware and many other states. Contestants are being asked to complete a submission form and submit a three-minute video of their talent for consideration by a very distinguished panel of entertainment industry moguls.
Contestants competing for the title of Miss’d America 2020 will be judged in the categories of swimsuit, talent, evening gown and must complete a Judges’ Interview. Along with the crown and sash, Miss’d America will receive $5,000 in cash and must be available for multiple appearances throughout her reigning year. First runner-up will receive $2,500, and the second runner-up will receive $1,500.
Laura Pople, founder of Seer Farms Inc., calls her organization a “people-centered animal sanctuary.” It provides care, resources, and support for pet-owning families who need help. This “safety net” gives families an alternative to animal shelters when facing significant crises like health issues, financial turmoil, domestic violence, natural disasters, extended military service, etc. Seer Farms helps families so they have the time and space to recreate safety and stability for themselves and their pets.
Meet Bodie! He’s a super active, amazingly loyal boy
Since 2006, Pople (who is also president of Jersey Pride) and volunteers have provided a safe haven for more than 2,000 animals whose families have faced major life crises. After Superstorm Sandy, Seer Farms helped 320 pets from the Jersey Shore. Seer Farms’ most important goal is to reunite the families with their animal companions once the crisis has passed. To date, 95 percent of dogs placed at Seer Farms have been reunited with their owners, and 85 percent of cats have been reunited. Unfortunately, there are circumstances wherein a family is unable to reunite with their pets, and these animals need to be placed in new, loving homes.
Meet Flutter! This mixed breed girl is always happy and wiggles all the time. She absolutely loves people. She would love her own fenced backyard, so she can run around and gets lots of daily exercise. She’s a big, solid girl, and would do well with bigger kids. She’s looking for an active family who can work with her on leash training and other fun activities.
Meet Bodie! He’s a super active, amazingly loyal boy. Do you need a jogging partner? How about just taking long walks to keep you both healthy? If you adopt Bodie, he will help you get into better shape. After his daily exercise, this handsome dude loves to lay in the grass and watch the world go by.
Bucks County Playhouse musical is just perfect for a summer evening
The Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pennsylvania, continues its 80th season with the musical Mamma Mia!, written by Catherine Johnson with music and lyrics by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus of the group ABBA. It is a sun-drenched musical with a simple story used as a framework for 23 of the group’s songs. Performed by an energetic cast under the direction of John Tartaglia, a star of the musical Avenue Q, it’s the perfect show for a summer evening’s enjoyment.
The Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pennsylvania with the musical Mamma Mia!
The 1999 jukebox musical takes place on a small island off the Greek coast. 20-year-old Sophie (Sara Masterson), about to marry Sky (Devin Lewis), wants to have her father at the wedding but doesn’t know who he is. Reading her mother Donna’s (Michelle Dawson) 1979 diary narrows down the choices to three: American architect Sam (Michael Hunsaker), Australian writer/adventurer Bill (Peter Saide), and British banker Harry (Michael Dean Morgan). She sends each man an invitation under Donna’s name without telling Sky or Donna.
The Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pennsylvania with the musical Mamma Mia! Photos by Joan Marcus.
Also arriving for the wedding are Donna’s two best friends from her days in the rock group Donna and the Dynamos: thrice-married Tanya (TerraC. MacLeod) and cookbook author Rosie (Danielle Lee Greaves). As the guests arrive at Donna’s taverna old memories and past recriminations arise, leaving Sophie increasingly unsure of herself and her wedding plans.
Director Tartaglia, assisted by choreographer Shannon Lewis, moves the cast through this fast-paced show with fluid grace. Sara Masterson and Devin Lewis have stage chemistry as the two young lovers. Ms. Masterson has an especially lovely voice, showcased in “I Have a Dream.” Michelle Dawson reveals a powerful voice, especially in the ballad “The Winner Takes It All,” and is perfectly matched by Michael Hunsaker in the power duet “SOS.”
The Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pennsylvania with the musical Mamma Mia!
Humor is amply provided by Danielle Lee Greaves, TerraC. MacLeod, Michael Dean Morgan, and Peter Saide, performing such numbers as “Our Last Summer,” “Take a Chance on Me,” “Dancing Queen,” and “Does Your Mother Know?” The ensemble pours youthful vitality into their many song and dance numbers, with outstanding performances given by Julius Williams and Alec Cohen as two jack-of-all-trades taverna employees.
Scenic designer Anna Louizos has created a revolving set for the taverna, with the hills and buildings of the island silhouetted against a bright blue Greek sky, beautifully lit by Gina Scherr. Ashley Rose Horton’s costumes conjure up casual relaxation by the ocean side. Music director William Shuler leads a sextet through the many moods of the ABBA song catalogue with rhythmic ease.
While Catherine Johnson’s book provides a non-complex story on which to hang ABBA’s songs, it conveys several feminist themes. These include the power of sisterhood, the strength to be found in a single-parent matriarchal family, and encouragement for women to follow their dreams before settling down—if at all—into marriage. The four main female characters are portrayed as independent women, with Tanya, Rosie, and especially Donna providing role modeling and support for young Sophie.
The Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pennsylvania with the musical Mamma Mia! Photo by Joan Marcus.
At first glance, Mamma Mia! might seem like just another evening of nostalgia for 1970s pop music. Yet the story provides humor and, at times, drama, and the songs have been chosen to match the situations in which they’re set. If the songs of ABBA are not to your liking, this show will probably not change your mind. However, if you’re looking for light, breezy entertainment for a summer’s night, you won’t be disappointed by spending time seeing Mamma Mia!
There is one undeniable fact: Lizzo is the star of summer 2019. While many already knew this powerhouse phenomenon from her 2016 single “Good As Hell,” slowly hearing tracks from her latest full-length album, Cuz I Love You, are undeniably spectacular and full of messages of self-empowerment and standing tall. The summertime anthem that “Juice” has Lizzo’s slick lyrics and sharp vocals on full display. From the cheeky and soaring title track to the rock-infused and definitive girl power anthem “Like A Girl,” this package is chock full of hits. “Crybaby” shows off Lizzo’s R&B style, while “Better In Color” is Lizzo at her absolute best. If there is any artist that Lizzo seems to be influenced the most by, it would be Missy Elliot, which is why seeing her join Lizzo on the brooding turned raucous “Tempo” works absolutely seamlessly. The best way to sum up Lizzo and Cuz I Love You is her Real Housewives tagline that she recently gave Andy Cohen on Watch What Happens Live: “I took a DNA test and it’s come back that I’m 100% that bitch.” And this summer, Lizzo definitely is.
Rosabel: The Album
It is common knowledge worldwide that whether they are in the DJ booth or in the studio producing or remixing, Ralphi Rosario and DJ Abel are absolute musical legends. For years, fans have gotten the opportunity to hear them spinning live, both together and on their own, but we finally have the ability to listen to a compilation of their work on Rosabel: The Album. Predictably, the package is some of their most amazing work, along with some brand new tracks exclusive to this album. Kicking off with the pulsing “Don’t Talk Just Listen,” this track sets the tone for the entire package. Along for the ride on the package are some of the biggest voices on the dance floor today. Tamara Wallace joins the team on the seductively lush “Freak” and on the fantastically retro feeling “Anything For You.” The stunning Jeannie Tracy shows off exactly what the fans love about her on the down tempo “Your Love” and then turns around to set the dance floor on fire on “We Need Love.” Even Terri B! checks in on the absolutely classic sounding “Let There Be House.”
There are a couple more treats on the album that you will need to hear for yourself, but I will tell you that Alan Jackinsky checking in with his Private Mix of “That Sound” is a crucial listen on this package. It would also not be a proper Rosabel package without the big voiced dynamo that is Jeanie Tracy coming on board along with Tony Moran and Deep Influence for the “Tony Moran + Deep Influence Club Mix” of “Cha Cha Heels.” As summer commences and the tea dances kick off, this is the perfect soundtrack to get us into the groove.
From the moment the title track “Hello Happiness” starts to kick off, we hear those familiar and breathy vocals of the legendary soulstress Chaka Khan. On her latest package Hello Happiness, we are treated to vintage Chaka with a 2019 remix of sorts. “Like A Lady” shows the songstress in superior form with big vocals, while “Too Hot” harkens back to a Chicago blues club style, with some intimate vocals included. “Like Sugar” takes us to the funkified beginnings where many of us remember Khan from originally, while “Isn’t That Enough” shows that while she has had some time out of the spotlight, Chaka Khan has returned in beyond fine form and is ready to take her place among her contemporaries.
I have followed the ethereal artist known as Aris for quite some time in this column and was eagerly anticipating his newest package Love. The package, a combination of dance-infused bangers and soaring ballads is an absolute home run. Choosing diverse accompaniments and utilizing daring sounds makes Aris’ music stand out on its own. “Reborn” puts Aris’ growling vocals onto a soaring track of renewal, while “All For Love” is an 80’s inspired low key romantic anthem. “Rain” harkens back to the sounds of The Romantics of decades ago, while “Handle It” is a bit of a Caribbean styled departure for Aris’, but like most vacations, this one is most welcome!
One of the best parts of the package is the fact that he has chosen to take some of the tracks and remix them on the Deluxe version of the album. The “Pierre Parnis Club Mix” of “Reborn” is the perfect kind of rock/house fusion, while “Run To You” gets a percussion heavy mix courtesy of the “E39 Sunrise Remix.” One of the crowning achievements musically (and I am sure personally) on the package is hearing the familiar and lush vocals of Paula Cole on “Love.” Hearing her amazing vocals frames the track perfectly, and the almost heavenly qualities that her vocals contribute match Aris’ grounded vocals perfectly.
DJ Matt Bailer
Top 10 from DJ Matt Bailer
Christine & the Queens – 5 Dollars (E11even Remix)
LIZZO – Juice
PARTY PUPILS & MAX ft. ASHE – Love Me For The Weekend (Extended Mix)
JACK BACK – (It Happens) Sometimes (David Penn Remix)
PARRALOX – Creep (Extended Mix)
MAGGIE ROGERS – Light On (Adam Turner Remix)
JAX JONES x YEARS & YEARS – Play (Purple Disco Machine Remix)
CHEAT CODES ft. KIM PETRAS – Feeling Of Falling
KIESZA – Take Me To Church (Yastreb Remix)
MATOMA ft. JOSIE DUNNE – Sunday Morning (Jaded Remix)