On the eve of the 40th anniversary of the first AIDS diagnosis, the world remains caught in the grips of another frightening health epidemic – COVID.
Today, June 24, from 6:00-8:30PM EST, activist and actor Billy Porter – who just recently shared his own HIV diagnosis with the world – will join Michael Sneed, Johnson & Johnson’s EVP of Global Cultural Affairs (which in addition to helping the world fight COVID, is currently working on a HIV vaccine) for a free special screening of the award-winning documentary 5B.
The acclaimed documentary chronicles the stories of the heroic nurses who risked their lives to found the World’s first AIDS Ward.
Following the screening, Porter will chat with 5B nurse Alison Moëd Paolercio, and author Rebecca Love RN to discuss the disproportionate toll that epidemics and pandemics take on at-risk communities, the parallels between the HIV/AIDS and COVID-19 crises, and the role of nurses in driving healthcare change.
Actress and recording artist Demi Lovato premiered the trailer for her upcoming YouTube Originals documentary series, Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil, on Wednesday.
The four-part series takes a deep dive into not only the circumstances that led up to her nearly fatal drug overdose in 2018, but the effects it had on Lovato’s life after being hospitalized.
In a voiceover, Lovato explains she’s had “so much to say over the past two years wanting to set the record straight about what it was that happened.”
Friends and family taking part in the docu-series express their surprise that Lovato really wants to go there.
One friend exclaims, “I can’t believe y’all are doing this.”
Another: “Are we talking about heroin? Are we doing that?”
International pop-star Elton John, who knows a few things about fame and addiction, appears in the preview telling the audience, “When you’re young and you’re famous – my god it’s tough.”
In a candid disclosure, the 28-year-old reveals she had three strokes and a heart attack in the hospital.
“I was left with brain damage, and I still deal with the effects of that today,” she told reporters during a Television Critics Association panel on Wednesday. “I don’t drive a car because I have blind spots on my vision.”
“And I also for a long time had a really hard time reading,” she adds. “It was a big deal when I was able to read out of a book, which was like two months later because my vision was so blurry.”
Lovato, who came out as sexually fluid in 2018, shares that hosting The Ellen DeGeneres Show last year “was the catalyst for my need and desire to express myself and my story to the fullest extent.”
“I knew that one appearance on a television show wasn’t going to cut it, I was not going to be able to share my whole story in one interview whether it was with a magazine or whatever it is,” continued Lovato. “That’s why I wanted to turn it into a documentary.”
Speaking to PEOPLE Magazine, the singer acknowledged that despite the difficult aftermath of the overdose being a painful journey, looking back today she “wouldn’t change a thing.”
“I get sad when I think of the pain that I had to endure to overcome what I have, but I don’t regret anything.”
“I’m so proud of the person I am today,” she added. “And I’m so proud that people get to see it in this documentary and I couldn’t be more grateful that I had someone by my side.”
The pop star has released two previous documentary films. Demi Lovato: Stay Strong in 2012 after her first stint in rehab, and Demi Lovato: Simply Complicated in 2017 which chronicled her struggles with bi-polar disorder and continuing addiction.
Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil premieres March 23 on YouTube.
For more than 35 years, the Circus of Books bookstore was a place where Los Angeles LGBTQ people could socialize and celebrate themselves without judgment.
Not just ‘a book store,’ the retail venue was a gay porn emporium run by a straight, mainstream Jewish couple – Barry and Karen Mason – whose three children attended religious schools and were unaware for a long time about the nature of their parents’ business.
Executive produced by Ryan Murphy for Netflix, Circus of Books is now a new documentary set to drop on April 22. The project is the debut film from Rachel Mason, one of the children of the owners.
In the newly-released trailer, which alternates between interview soundbites and clips from vintage gay porn, one of the Mason children shares, “We were just kept completely in the dark.”
“If anyone asked what our parents did, the official answer was ‘We own a book store,’” added another.
“In the 1980s, we were probably the biggest distributors of hard-core gay films in the United States, but I never felt free to let anybody know what we did,” says Karen in the trailer.
The conflict was due to the family’s attendance at a “stuffy, conservative synagogue” and having a business that sold gay porn and sex paraphernalia to the LGBTQ community.
According to press materials, the Masons didn’t set out to be gay activists, just “everyday entrepreneurs.”
But then came the AIDS crisis and the Masons found they were losing employees to the epidemic. Phoning the parents of those employees, they realized how marginalized so many LGBTQ people were as many responded to the news with “I never want to see them again.”
And so, the Masons became accidental activists recognizing the humanity in their customers.
One former patron shares to the camera, “Circus of Books was my first glimpse into the fact that I wasn’t alone as a gay person.”
Another: “This book store, it kept me out of harm’s way.”
“I think what we did was small, human kindnesses in a very small way,” says Karen Mason in an interview clip.
Check out the trailer below, and mark your calendar for the April 22 release of Circus of Books on Netflix.
The upcoming documentary, All Man: The International Male Story, takes you beyond the glossy pages of the iconic, men’s mail-order fashion catalog, exposing its impact on fashion, sexuality and masculinity in America.
From the official synopsis:
More than outrageous fashions, hunky models, and scandalous undies, ALL MAN is a journey across three decades of the International Male catalog’s lasting impact on fashion, masculinity, and gay rights.
With revenues at its peak of $120 million and circulation of over 3 million, the catalog successfully appealed to both gay and straight audiences.
For gay men, the images of sensually dressed men were a gateway into a fantasy world providing an escape from the AIDS crisis and widespread homophobia.
For straight men and their female admirers, the catalog gave permission to take fashion risks and enjoy a more carefree expression of sexuality without threatening their masculinity and sexual appeal.
ALL MAN: The International Male Story is designed as a tribute to the catalog’s unique aesthetic and cultural relevance. The film mixes exclusive never-seen-before photographs and videos, interviews with super fans and celebrities, and creative re-enactments of the infamous photoshoots, and more!
The cast includes Carson Kressley, Jake Shears, Brian Buzzini, David Knight, Steve Lyon, and Robert Goold.
Speaking to NewNowNext, the film’s directors Jesse Finley Reed and Bryan Darling share that International Male helped give men permission “to look at each other and themselves in a way where sexuality is open and the body is something to be celebrated and looked at.”
As Carson Kressley says in the teaser video below, “International Male really capitalized on putting masculine guys in some pretty ‘not’ masculine outfits. The very start of the metrosexual movement – where you can wear clothes just to have fun.”
I can remember when the IM catalogs were practically seen as gay porn hiding as a fashion catalog.
I also remember when the clothes featured by International Male eventually went so over the top they became something of a joke making their way into primetime TV sitcoms like Seinfeld (above).
In a new documentary from Channel 5 in the U.K., former military service member Daniel McGraffin says he found it difficult to find a decent paying job until he discovered he could earn up to £1,000 a day as a gay-for-pay porn actor.
Sharing his story in The Sex Business: Swinging Both Ways, McGraffin says he spent six years as a soldier in the artillery until one day, due to lack of sleep, he snapped. At the end of a two-week leave, he went AWOL for a year.
He was sentenced to 8 months in a military prison, and upon his release went in search of a job.
After working as a janitor in a gym, then as a personal trainer and a DJ, a friend (who works as a dominatrix) told him about a guy who was “totally straight but does gay porn.”
She put him in contact with a producer who told McGraffin “the majority of it’s fake” and hired the former military service member for £750 for a shoot.
McGraffin liked the experience – and the money – so he researched the porn industry and eventually landed a 3-year contract with Lucas Entertainment.
He says he looked into the straight porn industry but found “in gay porn, there’s way less competition, and there’s no money in straight porn. For a straight guy, there’s way more money in gay porn.” And so, he decided to work as a gay-for-pay performer.
McGraffin, who goes by the stage name Geordie Jackson, pointedly shares in the documentary, “My sexual identity is straight, one hundred percent straight.”
His girlfriend, Freya, appears in the documentary as well and she’s totally onboard with McGraffin’s career choice.
“It’s fake,” she tells the viewer. “People say he must be a little bit gay, [but] when he gets back, he doesn’t want to think about anyone with a d**k.”
Freya explains if he was working in straight porn it might bother her since there would be the potential for him to be attracted to co-stars, but with men “that risk isn’t there.”
McGraffin admits there are people who say he’s gay because he looks so at ease in his videos, but he just takes that as a compliment on his acting skills.
“They don’t know the tricks of the trade,” he explains. “They say ‘you look like you’re enjoying it’. And I say, ‘thanks, that means I’m a good actor.’”
Asked if he considers himself an ally to the LGBTQ community, he’s unsure but shares that his brother is openly gay.
He also explains the logic, at least for him, for remaining in the adult entertainment industry as a gay-for-pay performer.
“I ain’t smart, academically,”he admits. “It’s either this or going to work in a warehouse, ’cause I have no qualifications. I have driving qualifications, but obviously, I’ve had one of them lifestyles where I’ve been banned from driving. So driving jobs are a no go.”
“You need to make your money, man,” he continues. “I’m glad I found porn because I make more money now than I ever have. I see the perks of it now, I don’t even think about what I’ve got to do anymore, it’s that easy.”
Some viewers, however, took to Twitter to express their skepticism about the “100% straight” label and also take offense at the gay-for-pay idiom.
We’re not here to judge, though. How McGraffin identifies is his own business.
And speaking of ‘business,’ check out some of the adult entertainer’s Instagram account below.
Amazon Prime Video recently added a new short-form documentary, The World of Madame X, which chronicles the evolution of Madonna’s latest number one album, Madame X.
The 23-minute film shares how the Queen of Pop was given the nickname ‘Madame X’ when she was 19-year-old and a new transplant to New York City.
Madge also explains how her new album, Madame X, which recently debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart, came to fruition while living in Lisbon, Portugal.
Living in Lisbon, Madonna shares she was happy to be there for her son, who wanted to train for soccer.
But, she also says she became “lonely” as she didn’t really know anyone there, much like when she first moved to New York City. “I knew that I had to find my tribe, so to speak,” she adds.
Along the way, she developed a friendship with Dino d’Santiago, a Portuguese singer, who invited her to living-room music sessions, where local singers and instrumentalists gather in someone’s home to play music.
“What struck me most was this organic, authentic feeling of people being there because they just love music,” says the international pop star. “Money had nothing to do with it. Fame had nothing to do with it. Instagram followers had nothing to do with it. It was really about passion, and music, and art.”
After recording several of the living room jam sessions, Madonna felt she had to “take what I’m hearing, and turn it upside down.”
She sent clips to her longtime producer, Mirwais, writing, “I know this is crazy, but tell me if it inspires you. Let’s chop up the guitar sounds, and synch them to modern sounding drums.”
According to Madge, a week later he had sent back his musical interpretations of the clips, which she described as “amazing,” adding that the new tracks left her “super inspired.”
As she continued “meeting musicians from all these places,” she allowed their work to influence her. And that, as Madonna says, is “how these songs came to be.”
“I had landed in a magical world,” says Madonna in the new documentary-short.
You can check out a 3 minute clip from the documentary below, and find the full short film on Amazon Video here.
Madonna is currently prepping for a series of rare, intimate concerts that will be held exclusively in theaters. The best-selling female solo touring artist of all time, her tour begins September 12 in New York City. For more info about the upcoming concerts, click here.
More from the Amazon Video documentary via Instagram:
A film production company is currently shooting a documentary that will chronicle the presidential campaign of openly gay Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana.
The production company, Story Syndicate, was founded by veteran filmmakers Dan Cogan (Oscar winner for Icarus) and Liz Garbus (Oscar-nominated for What Happened, Miss Simone?).
According to Axios, the independently funded film will document Mayor Pete’s “rise to national attention.”
Film crews have been seen filming at Buttigieg campaign events as well as at last week’s first Democratic presidential debates in Miami.
Buttigieg isn’t the first millennial politician to get the indie film treatment, though.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was the focus of the campaign trail doc Knock Down the House, and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke was the subject of HBO’s Running with Beto.
Documentaries have been useful tools for younger politicians to be a part of creating their own narrative. The Ocasio-Cortez and O’Rourke projects helped establish the candidates with younger voters as the films landed at platforms that appeal to those demographics.
The Buttigieg project hasn’t been picked up by a distributor or streaming service as of yet, according to Axios, as the film’s future is “contingent on the outcome of Buttigieg’s campaign.”
That said, it’s easy to imagine the narrative taking several directions.
As the first openly gay presidential candidate to be a serious contender, that story alone could warrant documenting.
If he were to clinch the nomination, he’d be the youngest Democratic presidential nominee in history.
Or, there’s been much talk of him being considered as a running mate for other Democratic candidates. Lots of chatter about a Kamala Harris/Pete Buttigieg ticket going on… All of these could make for a compelling documentary.
But, there’s a long road ahead in this election cycle, so we’ll just have to wait and see.