Out Music: Riotron ‘Dark Highway’

Riotron’s Jeff Fettes

Just in time for Halloween, out recording artist Riotron returns with “Dark Highway,” an evocative slice of retrowave pop, this time coupled with a fun, spooky and cinematically lush video directed by Gianennio Salucci.

“’Dark Highway’ is a metaphor for all bad decisions we make,” says Riotron’s Jeff Fettes. “You’re going too fast, you’re out of control but you don’t stop. And then suddenly you can’t stop.”

“For the video, I wanted to pay tribute to some of my favorite 80’s videos. There’s horror, sci-fi, and even some hand-drawn animation.”

The brainchild of singer/songwriter Jeff Fettes, Riotron is an electro-pop project from Winnipeg, Canada that combines elements of 80s synthwave, EDM and even some jazz into a unique sound. The name is derived from the hit song ‘Rio’ by Duran Duran and the 1982 fantasy sci-fi film Tron.

The track totally has an ominous 1980s-era Phil Collins ‘In The Air Tonight’ vibe with heavy drum pads and an excellent guitar solo. And the video’s mix of darkness, animated alternate universes, and twists in the storytelling (a la ‘Thriller’) complete the throwback fun.

Hit the play button and enjoy.

News Round-Up: October 22, 2019

Jon Howes of the Chippendales celebrates a birthday! ( via Instagram)

Some news items you might have missed:

InstaHunks: Happy birthday wishes to Jon Howes of the world-famous Chippendales here in Las Vegas. Jon graciously took part in my little anniversary event last week, and he clearly improved the scenery 🙂

Outsports: After a relatively short but impactful career on the U.S. independent scene openly-gay wrestler Jake Atlas has inked a deal to join the WWE in 2020. Atlas spun his 2017 Southern California Rookie of the Year award into multiple championships and stellar performances for high profile indie promotions like Pro Wrestling Guerilla and Defy Wrestling.

ClickOrlando: After receiving an anonymous phone call, the assistant principal of a Florida school fired Monica Toro Lisciandro, a theater arts teacher, for having a girl-friend and attending a Pride festival. And this is totally legal because Florida does not protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in the workplace. #WeveGotWorkToDo

Advocate: Entertainer Marie Osmond shared on The Talk that she once questioned her heterosexuality after surviving sexual abuse. Talking on recent comments by Miley Cyrus, who said she “thought I had to be gay” in a world of “evil” men, Osmond said at the age of 8 or 9 she thought he might have been gay “because I had been sexually abused to the point that men made me sick. I didn’t trust them. I didn’t like them.”

New York Times: An anonymous Trump administration official who published a September 2018 essay in the Times regarding the active resistance to Donald Trump’s agenda and behavior from within his own administration, will publish a book next month titled, A Warning.

PEOPLE: The stars of The Facts of Life are coming back together, just in time for Christmas! Lisa Whelchel, Kim Fields, Mindy Cohn, and Nancy McKeon will reunite in the Christmas movie You Light Up My Christmas, premiering Dec.1 on Lifetime. The TV film, inspired by true events, tells “the story of Emma (Fields), who returns to her hometown to find that the lights in the once festive town have gone dim — prompting her to reconnect with a former flame (Adrian Holmes) and reignite the town with holiday cheer.”

Star-Telegram: A gay Trump supporter, Pete Gomez (from my own hometown) says, “I just want everyone to know in the LGBT community that Trump is for us, the Second Amendment is for us. We literally are going to make America more greater than it’s ever been, and keep it that way.” #MoreGreater

Documentary: “5B” Chronicles First Hospital Ward Dedicated To Treating AIDS Patients In 1980s

The new documentary, 5B, tells the inspirational story of the trailblazing nurses and caregivers who showed up at one of the darkest times in our community’s history.

Pride Month is not only about celebrating the LGBTQ community today, but also remembering how we got here.

The new documentary, 5B, tells the inspirational story of the trailblazing nurses and caregivers who showed up at one of the darkest times in our community’s history.

Through first-person testimony, archival clips, and photos, co-directors Paul Haggis and Dan Krauss chronicle the story of San Francisco General Hospital’s ward 5B – the first in the nation dedicated to patients with AIDS.

It was a time when fear ran rampant as friends, partners and family members passed away in a matter of weeks upon diagnosis. But 5B celebrates the hospital ward, which operated from 1983 to 2003, and its nurses who led the way in offering a more humane way to treat those afflicted.

The documentary shares not only the somber, emotional toll the disease took on the LGBTQ community at the height of the epidemic, but also the inspiring, heroic actions of hospital staffers who stepped up and over bigotry and fear.

As the tagline reads,”When people were consumed by fear, a few heroes showed the world the power of human touch.”

In the trailer below, one of the nurses explains, “You had to get out of the mode that you were here for curing people; you were here to care for people.”

“We decided if we can’t save these folks, we’re going to touch them,” says another.

The Los Angeles Times calls the “superbly told” 5B a “stirring portrait” that is “moving, powerful and essential.”

More from the critics:

“An uplifting film about profound human decency and generosity of spirit.” – The Hollywood Reporter

“Grips the heart exactly where it needs too.” – Variety

5B is in theaters now. Click here for ticket information.

#FBF: Irene Cara “Flashdance…What A Feeling”

Some #FBF action here as I recently came across this 1983 performance by Irene Cara of her award-winning “Flashdance – What a Feeling” on the 1980s music countdown, Solid Gold.

Cara co-wrote “Flashdance”with Giorgio Moroder and Keith Forsey, and the collaboration led to her winning the 1983 Academy Award for Best Song (Oscar).

It was only the second Oscar to be won by an African American woman, following Hattie McDaniels’ win for Supporting Actress in 1940 for Gone With The Wind (which she had to accept from a segregated hotel).

Cara also took home the 1984 Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, 1984 Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song, and American Music Awards for Best R&B Female Artist and Best Pop Single of the Year for “Flashdance.”

p.s. I really wanted to be a Solid Gold dancer.

Eloquent Memory Of The AIDS Crisis Goes Viral On Twitter

A young gay couple holding hands on a train and an overheard comment stirred powerful memories for a gay man who survived the terrifying heights of the AIDS epidemic.

Tucker Shaw, an editor for America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country, took to Twitter recently to share a personal journey through a time not so long ago.

“I overheard a young man on the train on the way home today, talking to another young man,” Shaw begins. “Holding hands. In college, I guessed. About that age anyway. Much younger than I am.”

“He was talking about AIDS, in a scholarly way. About how it had galvanized the gay community. How it had spurred change. Paved the way to make things better, in the long run.”

“The long run,” he repeated.

“Maybe he’s right. I don’t know. It’s not the first time I’ve heard the theory. He spoke with clarity and with confidence. Youthful, full of conviction. But.”

And with that ‘but,’ Shaw began a look-back with a tone and manner that only experience could inform in order to express so vividly.

“Remember how terrible it was, not that long ago, during the worst times. How many beautiful friends died. One after the other. Brutally. Restlessly. Brittle and damp. In cold rooms with hot lights. Remember? Some nights, you’d sneak in to that hospital downtown after visiting hours, just to see who was around. It wasn’t hard.”

“You’d bring a boom box. Fresh gossip. Trashy magazines and cheap paperbacks. Hash brownies. Anything. Nothing. You’d get kicked out, but you’d sneak back in. Kicked out again. Back in again. Sometimes you’d recognize a friend. Sometimes you wouldn’t.”

Shaw’s memories continued.

“Other nights, you’d go out to dance and drink. A different distraction. You’d see a face in the dark, in the back of the bar. Is it you? Old friend! No. Not him. Just a ghost.”

“At work, you’d find an umbrella, one you’d borrowed a few rainstorms ago from a coworker. I should return it, you’d think. No. No need. He’s gone. It’s yours now. Season after season. Year after year.”

Then, Shaw seems to take a somewhat more personal turn.

“One day you’d get lucky and meet someone lovely. You’d feel happy, optimistic. You’d make plans. Together, you’d keep a list of names in a notebook you bought for thirty cents in Chinatown so you could remember who was still here and who wasn’t, because it was so easy to forget. But there were so many names to write down. Too many names. Names you didn’t want to write down. When he finally had to go too, you got rid of the notebook. No more names.”

“Your friends would come over with takeout and wine and you’d see how hard they tried not to ask when he was coming home because they knew he wasn’t coming home. No one came home. You’d turn 24. When he’d been gone long enough and it was time to get rid of his stuff, they’d say so. It’s time. And you’d do it, you’d give away the shirts, sweaters, jackets. Everything.”

Shaw then leans into even more detail.

“Except those shoes. You remember the ones. He loved those shoes, you’d say. We loved those shoes. I’ll keep those shoes under the bed. You’d move to a new neighborhood. You’d unpack the first night, take a shower, make the bed because it’d be bedtime. You’d think of the shoes. For the first time, you’d put them on. Look at those shoes. What great shoes.”

“Air. You’d need air. You’d walk outside in the shoes, just to the stoop. You’d sit. A breeze. A neighbor steps past. ‘Great shoes,’ she’d say. But the shoes are too big for you. You’d sit for a while, maybe an hour, maybe more. Then you’d unlace the shoes, set them by the trash on the curb. You’d go back upstairs in your socks. The phone is ringing. More news.”

“The long run. Wasn’t that long ago.”

The touching Twitter thread has had over 70,000 likes and been retweeted more than 19,000 times.

And readers did more than just click.

Several added their own remembrances of the height of the AIDS epidemic.

One man, RacerXJax, shared, “This had me in tears. I used to go down to THE hospital and seek out the dying brothers who had no one. They would tell me their story. I was with so many when they died.”

Another reader, Randy X Ochoa, wrote, “Once read about a man who worked in a gay bar. Everyday he’d come in and this group of men would be huddled around a local gay newspaper looking at the reported aids related deaths. One day he came in and they were crying not bc someone died, but because no one had that day.”

Amalia Morris was clearly there: “NYC – 1985-91. St.Vincent’s hospital, Gary’s bedside, middle of the night. Nurse down the hall singing, ’see the pyramids along the Nile…’ hearing her walking into rooms, ‘goodnight angel.’ Fluorescent lights and beeping monitors. Memories are never far.”

And Andrew Wortman expressed his thanks, saying, “This is beautifully written and heartbreaking. Thanks for enlightening a millennial gay about this.”

You can find the full thread on Twitter here.

Matt Baume On 70s/80s Sitcoms And The Homos

In a very worthwhile 7 minute history of the portrayal of gays on sitcoms in the 1970s and 1980s, Matt Baume tracks how gays slowly gained visibility (and a voice) on TV.

When did TV first permit joking while gay? I’ve been combing through sitcoms to figure out when queers stopped being a scary threat, and were allowed to be real people with love lives and funny punch lines. Here are just a few of my favorite early gay characters on sitcoms.

As Baume states at the end, a 7 minute video can’t provide enough time to cover all the good and bad of the gay 70s and 80s. I am a bit surprised he skipped over Showtime’s Brothers which featured an openly gay lead character that was memorably positive.

But, again, how much can you fit into a web video?

Very good watch here.