Monday, June 27, 2016

Stop The World...I Want To Get Off...You've Gotta Have Friends

"I’m not there to make friends."
- Elizabeth Spayd, incoming NY Times public editor

Happy Monday, June 27th, 2016
Today's blog is very personal. 
I hope that all who see this had a great PRIDE weekend. I'm not talking just about GLBT Pride, but PRIDE in whomever you are. This is my first blog in a few weeks. I have really been down for the past few weeks. The massacre in Orlando really depressed me on a level that is hard to put into words.

When someone shows you who they are
Believe them the first time.

-Maya Angelou

When I first heard the news on the morning of June 12th, it was breaking news while I was watching CBS Sunday Morning. My first thought when I saw 'Orlando Shooting' at the bottom of the screen was that this was referring to ' The Voice' singer Christina Grimmie which had happened less than 24 hours prior to The Pulse Nightclub shooting.
I had already posted my response to that the day before. I have been speaking out against the NRA for years and will continue to do so until they no longer have power.
When the news started coming in regarding the Orlando shooting, I could not stop crying and grieving.

It put a pall on everything happening that day. We had three friends come over to watch the Tony Awards that night, a night that I look forward to yearly.
However, this year, although James Corden did a phenomenal job, my heart wasn't in it.

A man cannot directly choose his circumstances, but he can choose his thoughts, and so indirectly, yet surely, shape his circumstances.--James Allen

There are no shortcuts to any place worth going. - Beverly Sills

I stayed up watching the news till 2AM not knowing where to turn. I have had this experience every time there has been a mass shooting.
I went to bed and I kept thinking of a lot of events that were upcoming that were swirling around me. My brain just would not shut down all of the conflicting thoughts.
I was scheduled to do a show on the 20th. My heart just went out of. There were several factors, but this was the final straw.
I chose to cancel all shows till after the summer and to put my focus on overturning this insane gun laws. A dear friend of mine, Jason Hayes, started working towards a march on Washington for
August 13th.
Then I thought about the Heritage of Pride march coming up and called them. Even though the deadline had happened, because of what had happened in Orlando, they were extending the deadline period.

A friend told me that he had read about another group with a similar mission marching. I once again reached out to Heritage of Pride and they put me in touch with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and specifically with Kim Russell. I feel like I made a new friend. She was thrilled that I reached out to her. There were several groups that was going to march together under the banner of Disarm Hate. We also formed the hashtag LGBT4GVP and created a Twitter account and a Facebook page. When I contacted Heritage of Pride, they were thrilled that we would be joining forces.
Photos courtesy Karen Oberlin
I feel that I made some new friends over the last two weeks.

I want to thank all that acknowledged my efforts. Each response truly did go a long way.
When I reached out to some of my Facebook "friends", with some, there was little or no response. A dear friend of mine, Carly Ozard, immediately stepped up to the plate and volunteered to help out in any way she could, as did Julie Budd, Sue Matsuki, and Daryl Glen, and Karen Oberlin.
Carly Ozard (used with Carly's permission)

I will say they are all stand-up people in a sit down world. However, with some, I began to feel invisible and that I didn't matter which added to this immense feeling of aloneness.
I was even lied to by people that I reached out to.
It hurts when someone tells you one thing and you see the opposite of what they are telling you on another page.
I was so disappointed at the lack of response, that I even contemplated leaving social media.
Several close friends talked me out of it. I began asking friends and colleagues if they were experiencing and/or feeling the same thoughts. I have been overwhelmed by the numbers of people who are feeling what I'm feeling.

Why have we as a society become less emotionally connected as we are connected "more" through social media?
When someone tells you they are "too busy" to respond after numerous attempts through email and private messages, how are we to respond? Especially after you see all of their postings on Facebook around the same time that you are reaching out to them?

My goal with this blog is not to put fingers but to ask why.
No man is an island. We ALL are in this together. What happened in Orlando is not something that happened elsewhere. It is something that affects all of us.
Mr. Varon, Leah Gunn Barrett (New Yorkers Against Gun Violence), Charlie Allenson (photo used by permission: Leah Gunn Barrett)
Friend: a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations.

Right now a lot of people are hurting, I implore ALL that read this to reach out MORE on a human level than a technological way. Hitting a LIKE button or SHARE is not always sufficient.
I remember when I reached the 5,000 mark with "friends" on Facebook. I think it should be changed to "contacts" which is a more apt description.
I was thrilled. I felt, "There are 5,000 people out there who LIKE me."
As time has gone on, I have come to realize that it gave me a false sense of importance. Many that are "friends" don't even interact...even after I reach out to them! Have we really gotten so busy, that even a 'hello' is no longer acknowledged?
I used to feel hurt when I found
(photo used by permission: Leah Gunn Barrett)
that someone had unfriended me or blocked me on Facebook.
Then I thought, if they don't feel that I'm adding to their world, I guess they are doing the right thing. Facebook has become our own individual kingdoms.
"If you agree with ME, you are allowed to stay. Otherwise, you are banished."
I hope that we are more than narcissists posting another selfie every time the light changes.  I hope that we feel that the most important news of the day is that you have decided to have a cup of coffee.
I hope that the people that you are "friending" are being friended because you feel you have something to add to their lives instead of the fact that you think they have something to offer them.
I truly do want to be there for you. I want to be your friend.
I want to support all that read this to the best of my ability.
When I was thirty, I was going through a difficult time and I ended up going to therapy. My therapist at the time brought me an address book and told me to go through my previous appointment book with the following thoughts in my mind.
If they gave me a warm fuzzy feeling, they got transferred to the new appointment book.
If they didn't, ...well, you know the rest! Perhaps it is time to start doing that again...for all of us.
Let me be your friend and you have my UNDIVIDED support to the best of my ability.
Everywhere you go and regardless of what you do, there will always be those obstacles that put to the test how bad we want to achieve our goals.
At the end of the day it is those obstacles that separate those that want from those that do. Remember, it ALL could be gone in an instant.

In the midst of change we often discover wings we never knew we had. -Ekaterina Walter

Pride events around the country paused for a moment of silence this weekknd to honor those lost in Orlando #ENOUGH

To save the greatest number of lives it’s the everyday violence, not just mass shootings, that we need to prevent.
My heart is heavy My foundation rocked to its very core So much hate whirling around the news today My mind can’t process anymore . 

We have lost human interaction somewhere along the way. Became too obsessed with convince Time to put our devices away.
Instead. spread happiness Choose tolerance over hate Treat everyone the way you want to be treated And with kindness back you will be greeted 

Back then, we called it the Golden Rule When did we start ignoring such a moral tool? I will never understand the hate But will fight to disarm it So my children don’t have to suffer the same fate. -Jamie Lee Farrar 

Hi Richard. Re the last 2 weeks, I've noticed people are really wound up tighter than a rubber band, even at my workplace. People are short tempered. 
I've noticed more insanity. More mood swings. i include myself in this. It's very hard to take in and process the evil that has happened and continues to happen. 
I haven't felt this disjointed since 9/11.
-Craig Witham

Ellen Easton, a True Friend
As I enter the third act of my life, I am discovering to my dismay that all I was taught about the meaning of friendship has changed dramatically. What was once a sacred lifelong trust built on the foundation of respect and reliability between two people nowadays seems, more often than not,  nothing longer lasting than a Tweet on social media. 
The value to be a loyal friend bears little currency to those who are apparently happier living in cyber space than in reality.  The phenomenon of the self interested in obtaining  'friends and followers' but haven't a clue how to behave in a real person to person situation is a puzzlement. 
-Ellen Easton 

I am posting the following from Leah Gunn Barrett
 I’ve lost a brother to gun violence and I also have a brother who is gay. Every act of gun
violence is personal to me as it should be to all of us.

What happened in Orlando was a hate crime committed by an American-born male who
was an angry, homophobic, wife-abusing, wannabe cop, twice interviewed by the FBI
and despite all of that, was legally able to buy an AR-15 assault rifle and high capacity
ammunition magazines. We have no monopoly on these kinds of individuals in America.
What sets us apart is we make it dead easy for anyone to get their hands on a gun.
This act of hatred was so deadly because the AR-15 was designed by the military to kill
as many humans as quickly and efficiently as possible on the battlefield. AR-15s have
been used time after time to slaughter Americans in our schools, houses of worship,
movie theaters, malls and night clubs. Any shooting, whether it is deemed a mass
shooting or not, is an act of terrorism to the person being shot, to their friends and
family, and to their communities. We need to restrict the lethal means to carry out acts
of hate.
After Sandy Hook, Congress said NO to everything. So we worked at the state level and NY took action.
We need to keep up the pressure on the state but also go back to
Congress – and demand that our feckless leaders do what we’ve done in NY: restrict
assault weapons and high capacity ammo magazines, pass criminal background checks
on all gun sales and prohibit people on the Terrorist Watch list and No Fly list from
buying guns!

And there is a lot of unfinished business here in NY. Just because NY is safer than
other states is NOT an excuse to slack off. We ask the Governor to waste no more time
and develop and implement the Point of Sale ammunition background check system –
that was part of the SAFE Act - and get the legislature to step up and fund it. And we
ask Mayor de Blasio and the Governor to use their executive authority and the
Mayor de Blasio
purchasing power of NYC and NY State to demand smart guns and microstamped guns
for the NYPD and State Police.
I want to share an email I got today from a mother in NY. I hope it will serve as a call to
action to each and every one of us:
It was a horrible what happened in Florida but right here in the New York City we have
parents losing their children.
Just over the weekend a mother was killed in the Bronx
and another man was killed. We cannot ignore any shooting yet a lot of the families right
here in NY feel they are being ignored.
When we label these deaths - mass shootings, hate crimes or any other name it
diminishes and ignores the every-day gun violence that afflicts our communities. I lost
my son in 2011 - his case is still unsolved and way too many other parents have
unsolved cases. It feels like no one cares about our loss. When you look at the big
picture all gun violence is rooted in hate. My son's life was just as valuable and my pain
from his loss is just as real.

Mass shootings grab our attention as they should – but don’t forget that today another
92 Americans will die from guns and tomorrow will be the same unless we do
Leah Gunn Barrett
Executive Director

Fight the Good Fight, March the good March!" I marched twice in the New York Pride Parade Yesterday, first with the New York Loves Orlando group, one of the lead groups of the March, right after the grand marshals. Before we stepped off at noon I got to speak with a number of reporters including Kimberly Richardson from ABC Eyewitness News. I told them I am a long time marcher, and that I have witnessed a great deal of progress in our suffrage for Equality over the years, but that we still have a long way to go as we remember Pulse Orlando today. 
 The New York Pride marchers and the spectators were just amazing, my ears are still ringing from the resounding chants and loud cheers. After we finished the long march, I went back out on Christopher Street where I got to see Hillary Clinton, Andrew Cuomo, Al Sharpton, Mayor DeBlazio, and many more, and then I watched a good part of the March and cheered the marchers on. I got to shake hands and share a few words with Senator Chuck Schumer and I thanked him for marching with us. He in turn thanked me and smiled broadly. I then joined with and marched, for a second time with the Disarm Hate group, chanting "Disarm Hate", "No More Guns", and "We Are Orlando". We reached the end of the March after 7:30, and it was still going! One World Trade Center and The Empire State Building were lit in rainbow colors as the sun set. It was a remarkable and sublime day of activism for me, and I applaud all those who participated and observed. We share a plethora of love, pride, and Disarmed Hate, at least for the day. "Fight the Good Fight, March the good March!
-Tommy Thomas 
Photo used by permission from Tommy Thomas
 As you can see, we have a LOT to be proud of. Let's all agree to celebrate that pride in each other! 
Please send your suggestions for future blogs to

Thank you, to all mentioned in this blog for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!

With grateful XOXOXs from YOUR pro-active friend,

Check out my site celebrating the legacy of Dolly Gallagher Levi!
In Loving Memory of Gordon Connell, who passed away this past week.


Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!   

Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!
Please leave a comment and share on Twitter and Facebook

Keeping Entertainment LIVE!

Richard Skipper,

Friday, June 10, 2016

94 Years of Judy Garland

Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.
Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall: April 23rd, 1961 (the year of my birth)

-Judy Garland

Happy Judy Garland Day!
94 years ago today, Baby Francis Gumm was born to Frank and Virginia Gumm in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
It wouldn't be long, as legend has it, that she would be bringing the house down with a spot on performance of Jingle Bells at the age of two and a half! This would be the beginning of a life long love affair with audiences around the world.
Judy and Frank Sinatra
Like most from my generation, my introduction to Judy Garland was through the annual showings of The Wizard of Oz. I was eight years old when Judy passed on and I remember it like it was yesterday. I felt at the time that I lost a dear friend. My mom said she couldn't believe how hysterical I was over the passing of someone I did not know personally!
I'm not alone in my love of Judy. Today, in honor of Judy's birthday, I am utilizing social media for all aspects of Judy, her past, PRESENT, and future. Judy will never die and she earns new legions of fans every day.
I conducted "mini-surveys" of my Facebook friends who reached out to me today. The first is my Facebook friend, Kathleen Hochberg.
Judy Garland and Carol Burnett. Hear Carol sing The Trolley Song

When and how did Judy Garland enter your life?
Judy Garland entered my life through the movies
What’s your earliest memory of her?
Watching The Wizard of Oz
What fascinated you about her?
Her incredible vocal ability and passion! (Very last line belted in Born in a Trunk from A Star is Born!! POCATELLO I DA HO!!!) stunning...
What led you to become a Judy Garland fan?
Again, her voice
What was the first time you remember seeing her When was that and where?

Regrettably, I never met her

Christine Pedi Tweeted today: As far as I'm concerned JUDY GARLAND could do ANYTHING on film better then anyone else before or since. A star.

And from Eileen Leestar
Do you thing younger audiences get Judy Garland?I think younger audiences get her - yes 

What do you think was Judy Garland's finest "hour" in the business
Her TV show

What does Judy Garland bring out in you?

 Where do you see Judy Garland's legacy in five years?
Still Huge

 When and how did Judy Garland enter your life?

At the Westbury Music Fair and afterward  - my Father produced her last video for Fabrege

In Judy Garland Related News
Last Friday night, I saw Joan Ellison's incredible tribute to Judy Garland at Feinstein's/54 Below. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED if you see she is appearing anywhere!
Here is my quick Judy survey with Joan:
Me with Joan Ellison
What’s your earliest memory of  Judy Garland?
Hearing her sing Over the Rainbow on my Wizard of Oz record when I was 2.

What fascinated you about her?
The sense of longing I heard in her voice.

What led you to become a Judy Garland fan?
First, hearing Over the Rainbow...later, seeing her films and hearing her Decca recordings.

What was the first time you remember seeing her When was that and where?
In the Wizard of Oz on a black and white t.v. when I was pre-school age and we were living in San Antonio, Texas.

Did you have a favorite period in Judy's life that you gravitate more towards?
The films up through A Star Is Born, Presenting Lily Mars, Girl Crazy, and Easter Parade are particular favorites.

Rufus Wainwright Celebrates Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall June 16th and 17th
For two nights in 2006, Rufus Wainwright performed a love letter to Judy Garland's Judy at Carnegie Hall concert with a tribute of his own, Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall. Backed by a 36-piece orchestra, he performed Judy’s epic 1961 Carnegie Hall performance in its entirety.

On June 16th and 17th, Rufus returns to perform the shows at Carnegie Hall in celebration of the ten-year milestone with musical director Stephen Oremus.

Today, In Style Magazine remembers the iconic Judy Garland on what would have been her 94th birthday. The songstress, who stood just 4 feet 11 inches tall, may have been physically small, but her voice and personality were anything but. With each new song she sang, Garland captured our hearts and further cemented herself among Hollywood's all-time greats. Read/See MORE 

Judy Garland was born in Grand Rapids – her childhood home is now The Judy Garland Museum. The museum says Judy made her stage debut at her father's theater when she was only 2 1/2 years old, wearing a dress that her mother made for her. The city honors her legacy by throwing an annual “Wizard of Oz” Festival.” This year, the festival runs from Thursday, June 9 to Saturday, June 11. Click HERE for more info. 

I'm a woman who wants to reach out and take 40 million people in her arms. - Judy Garland

Lions, and tigers, and bears! Oh, my! -Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz

A phenomenal force on both stage and screen, and fully deserving of legendary status, there's very little that hasn't already been said about Judy Garland already. Not that we're in need of any more excuses to write about the legend herself. Gay Times Magazine

How strange when an illusion dies. It’s as though you’ve lost a child. 
-Judy Garland 

Growing up with a parent in the public eye can be tough, especially when your mother created one of the most respected and renown characters to ever grace both stage and screen. As daughter to Wizard of Oz favorite Judy Garland – who’s history, career and beloved nature needs no introduction – life for Lorna Luft has never been like most. Alongside sister Liza Minnelli, the pair watched as their mother was lifted to international fame. READ MORE

Arlene Dahl sent me this:  Judy was a very special


Judy Garland, at the time she shot "In the Good Old Summertime," surrounded by her entourage. Dot Ponedel, wearing a white blouse, is just above her right shoulder.
While I love all of the movies/concerts/records of Judy's career, I guess I prefer the later part   

While I love all of the movies/concerts/records of Judy's career, I guess I prefer the later part just
Dottie Ponedel –A pioneer with a brush!
because it's more familiar to me, more recognizable since that's when I knew her.
My impression of her changed drastically after June, 1969.  It was at that point I realized she was more than just a buddy of Dot's (Ponedel); more than someone who just came over to visit and hang out in the house.  I truly had no idea prior to that - so yes, my impression changed a great deal!  :)
Judy does not fit into the hierarchy of Show Business - she's at the very top!  Everyone else fits in.

Dot Ponedel was in close proximity to Judy Garland during the filming of some of the greatest musicals of all time. Read MORE.
Audience, the concept of audience, was very important to Judy and I'm sure whenever she was in front of an audience, they could feel her interest in them, her integrity.  Any great stage artist is capable of opening up a two-way connection between themselves and their audience and Judy's ability to do so was unparalleled.
There really aren't any of "today's artists that I like. They don't communicate anymore and they certainly don't sing - more like screeching.   Most of the ones I like now, I liked thirty years ago.

Meredith Ponedel

Thank you Judy for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!

With grateful XOXOXs ,

Check out my site celebrating the legacy of Dolly Gallagher Levi!


Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!   
Let's NEVER forget!

Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!
Please leave a comment and share on Twitter and Facebook

Keeping Entertainment LIVE!

Richard Skipper,