While most of those first weeks are a blur in my now-formerly blond head, I’ve never forgotten the joyful, effervescent Karla Burns who brought the role of Queenie to life as a musical force of nature.
She tucked that experience under her arm, went to NYC and booked the role of Queenie in a national touring company of Show Boat in 1982. In 1983, the show landed on Broadway and Karla was honored with a Tony Award nomination for her richly layered performance.
And in 1991, she became the first (!!!) Black woman to win an Olivier Award for her Queenie in the West End production of Show Boat.
Over the years, I would run into Karla and she always remembered me, always laughed with me, always had that big, gorgeous smile.
This morning I saw in the New York Times she passed away at the age of 66 on June 4. The memory of her joyful, larger-than-life talent makes me smile as I can hear her voice and her laugh in my head even now.
It was one year ago today that 16-year-old baby Bear, the youngest of our dachshund dynasty passed away.
As he was born last of the three puppies (in Michael’s hands), we always thought of him as our little prince. But in his last seven months, being the lone dog of the house, he flourished and grew confident as the alpha of the house.
Even on his last day, when the vets came into the house to assist with his crossing the rainbow bridge, he stood up and barked ferociously defending us from what he perceived as a threat.
Our prince had become a knight.
I couldn’t let the day go by without acknowledging how much we miss him, his dad and mom – Bruno and Sabrina, and siblings Tyler and Bandit.
Since their passing, we have blessed with the amazing wonder beagle Snoopy. And now, mom and pup chihuahuas Scarlett and Brody.
Please know I’m not sad – but happy that Bear and his brood happened to us. Boundless joy that stretched over two decades.
Here’s one of my favorite videos of the Bear. #DogsRule
Award-winning adult entertainment performer Alex Riley has reportedly died at the age of 22.
Riley was honored with the Best Newcomer trophy at the 2020 GayVN Awards as well as a Best Newcomer nomination at the 2020 Str8UpGayPorn Awards.
He worked exclusively for Helix Studios since 2019, but prior to that had appeared in scenes for NextDoor, FraternityX, Men and more.
No cause of death has been shared publicly.
His longtime boyfriend, Jacob Hansen, shared the news on Twitter this morning writing, “To all of Alex’s friends and fans…on Monday I got a phone call from Alex’s best friend that Alex passed away early Sunday Morning. Rest in peace babe you will always be part of me no matter where my life takes me.”
To all of Alex’s friends and fans.. on Monday I got a phone call from Alex’s best friend that Alex passed away early Sunday Morning. Rest In peace babe you will always be part of me no matter where my life takes me. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/wFK7Imkk6v
A statement released by Helix Studios read, “We are heartbroken over the loss of Alex Riley, one of the most vibrant and talented young performers we’ve ever had the privilege to work with. Please respect his family’s privacy during this devastatingly difficult time. We love you, rest in peace Alex.”
We are heartbroken over the loss of Alex Riley, one of the most vibrant and talented young performers we’ve ever had the privilege to work with. Please respect his family’s privacy during this devastatingly difficult time. We love you, rest in peace Alex🖤 https://t.co/PvStvgONWQpic.twitter.com/WJSvs1yoMk
Riley’s last social media post was a tweet on May 7 where he extolled his love for his brother and mom.
“I just talked to my brother on the phone, I’ll do anything in the WORLD for him,” wrote the 22-year-old. “Whether I can or not, I’m doing it. Damn…y’all have brothers? I love mine more than I could literally love anyone besides my mom. Hell.”
Rest in peace Alex Riley.
I just talked to my brother on the phone, I’ll do anything in the WORLD for him. Wether I can or not, I’m doing it. Damn…y’all have brothers? I love mine more than I could literally love anyone besides my mom. Hell. 💙🙏🏽
Academy Award winner Olympia Dukakis, known for playing world-weary and wise characters, has passed away at the age of 89.
After decades of stage work on the East Coast, Dukakis shot to stardom playing Cher’s mother in the film adaptation of John Patrick Shanley’s Moonstruck in 1987. The following year she took home the Oscar and Golden Globe honors for Best Supporting Actress in a Film.
She played a catty Southern widow in the mostly female ensemble cast of “Steel Magnolias” (1989); the mother of Kirstie Alley’s character in the three “Look Who’s Talking” movies (1989-93); the pot-growing transgender San Francisco landlord Anna Madrigal, from 1993 to 2019, in the four television mini-series made from Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of the City” stories; and Frank Sinatra’s mother, Dolly, in the 1992 television movie “Sinatra.”
Despite the awards and her other screen successes, Ms. Dukakis never gave up theater work. In 2011 she starred in an Off Broadway production of Tennessee Williams’s “The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore.”
Charles Isherwood, reviewing her performance in The Times, called her “macabre, hilarious and weirdly touching,” with a “bullying bravado that commands attention.” The next year she played Prospero (Prospera, actually) in “The Tempest” for Shakespeare & Company in Massachusetts.
Rest in peace Olympia Dukakis.
Olympia Dukakis Was an Amazing,Academy Award Winning Actress.Olympia Played My Mom In Moonstruck,& Even Though Her Part was
That Of a Suffering Wife, We😂ALL The Time.She Would Tell Me How MUCH She Loved Louis,Her”Handsome Talented,Husband”.I Talked To Her 3Wks Ago. Rip Dear One pic.twitter.com/RcCZaeKFmz
Olympia Dukakis has departed our company. We were Moonstruck by her, as she told us great Tales of the City. A true Steel Magnolia within a more common forest. Ah, what a life force, her later years her best. Rest now among the heavens, Olympia.
RIP Olympia Dukakis, a wonderful actress, a delightful person and a legend in the theater community. She won an Oscar for Moonstruck, and audiences cherished her take-no-prisoners turn in Steel Magnolias. I worked with her on the movie of my play Jeffrey and she was bliss pic.twitter.com/Kz9c85nnaX
Olympia Dukakis brought warmth, humor and wit to the stage and screen for almost 60 years, including a stellar run of unforgettable roles in “Steel Magnolias” “Tales of the City” and “Moonstruck,” for which she won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar. She will be missed. pic.twitter.com/TLuNTx32PI
The cast of iconic series GLEE will reunite for a special tribute to the legacy of the late Naya Rivera’s character Santana Lopez.
Jacob Artist, Chris Colfer, Darren Criss, Vanessa Lengies, Jane Lynch, Kevin McHale, Heather Morris, Matthew Morrison, Alex Newell, Amber Riley, Harry Shum Jr., Becca Tobin, and Jenna Ushkowitz will come together during the 32nd Annual GLAAD Media Awards to honor the 10th anniversary of Santana’s coming out on the show.
And that’s not all – the cast will be joined by global superstar Demi Lovato, who played Santana’s girlfriend on GLEE, to introduce the special tribute.
Tune in for the premiere on April 8th at 8:00 P.M. on YouTube, or stream on Hulu starting at 10:00 P.M.
Remembering just a little bit of the fabulous Ms. Rivera as Santana in GLEE.
Thommie Walsh was a 2-time Tony Award winner, an original cast member of the ground-breaking A Chorus Line, and my dear wonderful friend.
Thommie came into my life in so many ways.
As a young actor and dancer, I was forever changed by his performance in A Chorus Line. The boy who grew up near Buffalo but “couldn’t remember the name of the town” – he’d blocked it out.
His work on Broadway was the stuff wide-eyed young actors or dancers like me only dreamed about. He danced in several Broadway shows – including A Chorus Line – and then graduated to director/choreographer.
As Tommy Tune’s partner, he won two Tony Awards (A Day in Hollywood / A Night in the Ukraine;My One And Only).
Thommie’s accomplishments and honors were many, too numerous to mention them all.
But my favorite memory of Thommie was as my friend.
In 2002, Donna McKechnie was asked to perform her then-developing one-woman show “Inside The Music” in Los Angeles. Thommie was her director and choreographer. The theater was a small theater on a budget, so Donna asked if Thommie could stay with me.
Every day was a holiday with Thommie in the house. Having consulted on some of Donna’s earlier shows, I accompanied Thommie to rehearsals and assisted when I could. But just being around Thommie made life better and funnier and more wonderful. We became very fast friends.
Thommie was immensely supportive of my work as a director and/or choreographer. Some years later, when I was choreographing a show off-Broadway, he insisted he come to see the show. Then he made a point of taking me to dinner at Joe Allens (famous Broadway restaurant) to talk about it. I’ll never forget the look in his eyes when he sat down, smiled, and simply said to me “you did good – I loved it.”
His sense of humor, his directness in any situation, everything about Thommie worked for me. My wonderful, funny, talented friend.
In late 2006, however, he stopped returning phone calls. I worried something was wrong.
I reached out to everyone I could. At one point, on Christmas eve, I stood outside a holiday dinner in the freezing cold on the phone with a close friend of Thommie’s. The news was not good. I was distraught. I frantically asked the friend to keep me informed as his health deteriorated.
News was very slow to come over the next several months. I did all I could to stay in the loop from across the country.
Then, on a hot summer night – June 16, 2007 – this boy-wonder of Broadway was gone.
I was riding in a car in Las Vegas when a friend called: “Did you hear about Thommie?”
I held my breath in silence. I didn’t want to know.
Several heartbeats went by.
I’m dramatic – surely I’m wrong. Please let me be wrong.
I wasn’t. My friend on the other end of the call was sad and silent. But, the news had come.
But never forgotten. I remember Thommie’s birthday every year. March 15th – the Ides of March. From Julius Caesar – “Beware the Ides of March.” Beware indeed. He used his own birthday onstage in A Chorus Line as “Bobby” or “Robert Charles Joseph Henry Mills, III” as his introduction went. Just so dang funny.
I would play his role in A Chorus Line several times, and I always thought of Thommie when I did.
Near the end of his character’s monologue, he had a line that read, “I just wanted to see if anyone would notice me.”
Boy, did the world notice Thommie.
I miss Thommie often. His laugh, his humor, his talent, his friendship… all of it boundless.
I’d love to regale you with some stories I lived with him, but they may not be suitable for this post. If you knew him, you know what I mean. If you don’t, then please know I hope someday you know someone like him so you will.
Except there will never be another Thommie Walsh. Ever. And my eyes tear up with joy and sadness every time I know that.
Thommie – how very lucky am I to have known you. I miss you. I always will.
Thommie once advised me if you were going to steal, steal from the best.
So, as Thommie would close his letters, from me to the fabulous Thommie Walsh: “Love you madly – always.”
On Friday, my friend and Instinct Magazine colleague Ryan Shea, 34, lost his battle with COVID-19.
It’s been a very emotional two weeks since Ryan told us all he’d been diagnosed. After a difficult three days at home, he was hospitalized and in two days he was intubated. Just nine days later, it was over. Thankfully, Ryan was sedated for most of the harrowing journey.
While Ryan’s passing is very raw and painful to acknowledge, I do want to share a few things.
Over the past year, I’ve covered a lot of the coronavirus pandemic. I’ve reported on the naysayers, the ‘it’s just another flu’ crew, and the ‘Karens’ who refuse to believe the danger of this horrible virus.
I’ve had close friends contract COVID-19 and tell me how it ‘kicked their ass’ as they were laid up at home in bed for 2-3 weeks. I’ve seen several versions of the disease’s many iterations.
In addition to being on a ventilator for the majority of his time in the hospital, there was kidney failure, lung damage, brain damage, low low blood pressure and more.
This is how nearly 500,000 Americans died from COVID. It wasn’t ‘like the flu.’ Fuck that nonsense.
I will miss Ryan more than I can express here. For almost three years, I’ve worked with Ryan on a nearly-daily basis. He was brash, sassy, and passionate about his work.
My last exchange with him was after he shared with the Instinct staff he’d tested positive. I immediately began texting him about multi-vitamins and any supplements that might help him. I’d read a study that a majority of COVID patients had a Vitamin D deficiency, so I told him to run get some.
He stopped me texting back, “Can we pick this up later? I’m transcribing my interview with Bianca Del Rio (heart emoji).”
My first week working for Instinct I quickly learned Ryan loved Chipotle burritos, loved all kinds of gay men, and worked hard to love himself in a world that doesn’t encourage us to do that very often.
Ryan was also curious, tempestuous, opinionated, and often usually unfiltered. He was filled with the drive of someone who enjoyed what he did.
And along the way, his work, his byline, his name was read by literally millions of people.
He had an unerring eye for what popped in pop culture. He thrived as an entertainment journalist, and he LOVED interviewing folks on the red carpet.
There’s a lot more to Ryan, and a lot more Ryan the world won’t get to experience. He was a loving son, brother, uncle and friend.
In a testament to his journey here, a GoFundMe campaign organized to help his family with end of life expenses exceeded its goal in less than 10 hours.
But in his short time on the planet, his impact was felt. And seen. And heard. And read.
Ryan didn’t hold back. He stepped up, stepped out, and contributed more than a name.
According to the statement, Wright had been keeping a vigorous work scheduled before contracting the virus. Two weeks ago Wright and his wife, Susan, were admitted to Baylor hospital in Dallas because of COVID-19 side effects.
Wright announced on Jan. 21 that he had tested positive “after coming in contact with an individual with the virus last week.” He had been in quarantine since Jan. 15 and said he would remain in quarantine until doctors cleared him to return to work.
While Wright is the first member of Congress to die from coronavirus-related causes, Rep.-elect Luke Letlow (R-LA) died last December while battling the virus, before he could be sworn into office. Letlow was 41 years old.
• Super Bowl: So, I grew up watching tons of football because my dad was a sports writer. And I still enjoy it, so you can be sure I’ll be watching the big SportsBall game on Sunday for moments like the one above – remember the attention this ref (rightfully) received during the big game in 2016?
• Out: Florida Democrat and one-time candidate for governor Andrew Gillum has opened up with more details of that fateful night in Miami when he was found in a hotel room passed out with a male prostitute. “At this point I’m like, ‘This is set up.'”
• The Advocate: A group of 185 actors came out in Germany to demand more LGBTQ+ diversity in film, television, and theater through a manifesto in a national newspaper. Among the issues raised is the fear of losing the opportunity to portray straight people due to biases in casting. “We are actors. We don’t have to be what we play. We act as though we were — that is our job.”
• LA Times: Fox News Media has canceled “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” the program hosted by one of Donald Trump’s staunchest supporters. The cancellation comes a day after voting software company Smartmatic filed a $2.7 billion defamation suit against Fox News and three of its hosts — Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro.
• AP News: Johnson & Johnson asked U.S. regulators Thursday to clear the world’s first single-dose COVID-19 vaccine, an easier-to-use option that could boost scarce supplies. The vaccine was 66% effective at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19, according to early findings from a study of 44,000 people, but it was 85% protective against the most serious symptoms.
• Deadline: Christopher Plummer, who starred in The Sound of Music, won an Oscar for Beginners and was nominated for All the Money in the World and The Last Station, died peacefully today at his home in Connecticut, his family confirmed. Along with becoming the oldest person to win an Oscar, Plummer also won a pair of Emmys and two Tonys during a nearly 70-year career.
BREAKING: Actor Christopher Plummer has died aged 91.
The Oscar Winner and Sound Of Music star passed away peacefully at his home in Connecticut.
Tyson made her film debut with a small role in 1957’s “Twelve Angry Men” and her formal debut in the 1959 Sidney Poitier film “Odds Against Tomorrow,” followed by “The Comedians,” “The Last Angry Man,” “A Man Called Adam” and “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter.”
Refusing to participate in the blaxploitation movies that became popular in the late ’60s, she waited until 1972 to return to the screen in the drama “Sounder,” which captured several Oscar nominations including one for Tyson as best actress.
Despite her achievements onstage and in films, however, much of the actress’s best work was done for television. In addition to “Miss Jane Pittman,” she did outstanding work in “Roots,” “The Wilma Rudolph Story,” “King: The Martin Luther King Story,” “When No One Would Listen,” “A Woman Called Moses,” “The Marva Collins Story,” “The Women of Brewster Place,” “The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All” and the TV adaptation of “Trip to Bountiful.”
Onstage she was in the original 1961 Off Broadway production of Jean Genet’s “The Blacks” and, decades later, she won a Tony for her starring role in a revival of “The Trip to Bountiful.”
I was blessed to see Tyson’s return to the Broadway stage in 2013 when she knocked it out of the park in The Trip to Bountiful. An incredible night in the theater.
It was a rich and diverse life and career. One we were most fortunate to witness. Head over to Variety to read the full accounting of her work.