It was a virtual Disco at the Hollywood Museum as the throbbing melodies of Madonna’s Vogue, We are Family and YMCA pulsated from the building’s top floor on the night of the first January 6th hearings (bereft any chunky, orange, tie clad dancers imaginarily towel drying the backs of their necks – natch). Yes, as the country attempted to get its groove back, the old Max Factor Building picked up right where it left off two years ago by ushering in the 2022 incarnation of Pride celebrations to beat all fab dances, parties and educational retrospectives in one fell swoop!
Yea! On the eve of what would have been Judy Garland’s 100th Birthday, and just a few weeks shy of Norman Lear’s, the Hollywood Museum commemorated its 7th annual (in pandemic-sick-as-a-dog years) and 9th annual (real-to-reel time) Real to Reel: Portrayals and Perceptions of LGBTQ+ in Hollywood exhibit unveiling. Presented in partnership with Los Angeles Council Member of City District 13, Mitch O’Farrell, the newly installed and highly colorful exhibit featured costumes, props, and photos from some of the most memorable moments in recent Hollywood history encompassing everything from Cinema to television — both Network and digital/independent.
According to Hollywood Museum president and founder Donelle Dadigan: “Opening to the public on June 10th, the VIP Gala on June 9th will offer a sneak peek at the exhibit that celebrates LGBTQ+ Heritage Month, and will continue through the year. ‘Real to Reel’ is sure to be a major attraction and will draw thousands of locals, professionals, and tourists as it has done in past years.”
Noted display pieces of interest include: Costumes worn by Holland Taylor, Fran Drescher of The Nanny fame and Happily Divorced, pieces from The Eyes of Tammy Faye starring Jessica Chastain, articles from Kevin Spirtas of Days of our Lives fame, and the new and touching groundbreaking gay romantic comedy/drama After Forever, Geri Jewell best known for her singular roles in Facts of Life and Deadwood, RuPaul’s Drag Race, To Wong Foo, Love Julie Newmar, Transparent, musical supervisor and composer for All My Children Paul Antonelli’s Emmy Award, Alison Arngrim’s Moscone Award, Wilson Cruz’s GLADD Award, and beyond!
On an interesting note, the Pride exhibit is also housed on the self-same floor as the Batmobile! Seriously, how BADASS is that?!?
As an added bonus of most worthy renown: The lobby tribute honoring celebrated gay Icon Judy Garland, pending its official opening on her 100th birthday (June 10th) the marble-clad Max Factor building-turned-Garland shrine, on display until the end of the month, boasted several significant pieces from her career including – a most elegant emerald bejeweled silk suit from a 1963 episode of The Judy Garland Show, two show dresses, circa 1925, worn by Garland at her career’s inception when she still went by the name Frances Gumm, Garland’s personal make-up case from 1930, a non-personal door knocker used at MGM from the 1940s, an era when dressing chambers were obviously much more swank, (most likely also inhabited at one time or another by Garland herself), a Max Factor wig worn by Garland in the 1950 film Summerstock, a 1952 era telegram from Ethel Merman to Garland in celebration of the birth of Garland’s daughter Lorna, the 20th Century Fox Master Record Plant My Own Tree from Valley of the Dolls and the piece de resistance, the proverbial cherry on the top of the same majestic color, the original Ruby Slippers circa 1939!
But wait, there’s more!!! Just as the exhibit commenced at welcoming its opening perusals, so too did celebrities appear, awards get bestowed, and speeches get made.
Among the great personages in attendance, Alison Arngrim, Ann Jillian, Anson Williams , Barry Livingston, Bianca D’Ambrosio, Carolyn Hennesy, Charles Fox, Chiara D’Ambrosio, Chris Levine, Christian Ganiere, Connor Dean, Donnie Deemer, Elaine Ballace, Erin Murphy, Geoffrey Mark, George Chakiris, Glenn Scarpelli, Jackette Knightley, James Ganiere, Jax Malcom, JildyT, Johnny Whitaker, Judy Tenuta, Kate Linder, Kathy Kolla, Lee Purcell, Mark Povinelli, Moosie Drier, Rico Anderson, Robert Iscove, Roslyn Kind, Ruta Lee, Steven Wishnoff, Tim Realbuto, Tyrone Dubose, Valerie Norgaard, Vanessa Angel and many more!
The evening’s highlights both ended and seemingly began with one of the most inspiring awards ceremonies ever witnessed by the LA Beat, and after.
The Night commenced with an honor to our native Chumash land by the warmly intoned Hollywood Museum Curator, Director of Operations, and also a member of the Gay Men’s Chorus Steve Nickelmoe followed by an equally Zen and comforting prayer by Reverend Steve Pieters to a “God of Many Understandings” to “pour down love on this pride event”…
“Okay yes. I’m that gay pastor with AIDS,” Pieters continued, “whom Tammy Faye Bakker interviewed way back in 1985. And I’m told that, as such, I am the living embodiment of this Real to Reel Pride exhibit. I am the real person portrayed by Randy Havens in the multi-reel film The Eyes of Tami Faye. When Jessica Chastain took me as her date to the Oscar nominees’ luncheon, the next day, more than one media outlet quoted my friend Bob, ‘How many other Oscar nominees brought an actual character from their movie…?’ When I did that interview, I had been deathly ill with AIDS since 1982, when it was still called GRID: Gay Related Immunodeficiency. From what I thought was my deathbed, I used to watch Tammy Faye on PTL for entertainment–not inspiration. Like many people, I saw her as a character. [But when I met her during that interview] she was kind. She was real. She was compassionate, and caring, loving, and supportive defying Christian, conservative televangelists at the time just by welcoming me into the interview. When I got home that day after the interview, I told my neighbor I thought I’d done a terrible job. I just started second guessing everything I’d said and I told that friend, ‘I’m so glad no one I know will ever see this interview’…”. (big laughter)
“Here we are almost four decades later, and millions of people have seen the interview now, portrayed as a turning point in the Academy Award Winning Film. Jessica Chastain told me that seeing my interview with Tammy Faye on YouTube was the reason she bought the rights to the documentary, the reason she wanted to make the film, to show THAT Tammy Faye. She watched my interview every morning, she said, while getting made up to get into character as Tammy Faye: Real, to Reel. When I thought I was dying of AIDS, I found great comfort in the Native American saying: ‘The quality of life, is not measured by the length of life, but by the fullness with which we enter into each present moment.’ Be here. Now. IN this moment. I’m so grateful to know my interview has had a profound impact on so many. I’m grateful I’m still alive to testify the authentic caring, loving woman I met in Tammy Faye. In this moment, I’m amazed that I’m about to turn 70, when I was supposed to die before I turned 33. I feel such pride to be called the living embodiment of Hollywood Museum’s Real to Reel Pride Exhibit in 2022, and in this moment, I feel great joy to see my friend Geri Jewell, Fran Drescher and Michael Feinstein honored by the Hollywood Museum, for all the ways they have given real support for the LGBTQ community in their lives and in their reels of amazing entertainment. And so I invite you, in this moment, to feel the joy, feel the pride, to feel proud just because as Tammy said, ‘You are loved, just the way you are…'”
And so was the rousing kickoff to the ceremonial portion of this year’s Real to Reel! And after an intro like that, the only way to rejoice in expressive punctuation was that of song bestowed unto all by the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles. Prefacing their appearance, Karina Somala aka the mother of the Los Angeles Transgender community, transgender advocate and human rights advocate, and transient chair of the Los Angeles Transgender Advisory Council, all followed by resounding rendition of Somewhere over the Rainbow and Victorious, an original song of most optimistic and upbeat appeal!
Next Hollywood Museum president and founder Donelle Dadigan officially introduced the exhibit and what made it come to life.
According to Dadigan, “Real to Real showcases over 100 years of LGBTQ Plus history in the entertainment industry with approximately 200 pieces of memorabilia on display. And thank you to the 70 contributors who graciously loaned their iconic memorabilia to this years’ educational, entertaining and informative retrospective LGBTQ [exhibit]….This exhibit represents a great example of the power of team work with council member Mitch O’Farrell.”
And Mitch O’Farrell’s list of aspirations and accomplishments to this date, are not only inspiring, but, in some cases downright surprising as Dadigan continued, “Mitch is the president Pro-Tempore and one of the only two openly LGBTQ plus members of the Los Angeles City Council. Mitch is also a citizen of the Wyandotte Nation, and the first Native American Los Angeles City Council Member. Since taking office, Mitch is responsible for more than 4300 units of affordable housing, more than nearly anywhere else in the city. He is leading LA’s transition to 100% renewable energy that is piloting the city’s landmark unarmed crisis response program right here in Hollywood. Mitch is a Champion for small businesses, as well as the arts, and he has helped nearly 200 local businesses and theatres get through the Pandemic. Mitch is the LA City council’s loudest voice for the trans community. He worked closely with the city’s transgender advisory council, and has brought resources and visibility to trans people including the Midnight Stroll, the city’s first bridge housing facility for transgender women of Transgender Wellness and Equity Fund, and the mandatory transgender and gender diverse inclusivity training for all city employees. Mitch, I don’t know how you have time to put your head on a pillow at night… Mitch has worked with Christopher Street West to bring LA Pride back to his historic home in Hollywood where it will return this Sunday for the first time in decades. More broadly, Mitch has worked to uplift and bring awareness to the numerous LGBTQ Plus historic sites throughout the 13th district including The Black Cat, The Mattachine Steps, and the All Black Lives Matter street design and designation… Mitch’s office is working on the creation of a Pride Mural to celebrate the first five decades of LGBTQ Pride…in Los Angeles which will be unveiled just around the corner on McCadden place this Summer!”
“Love is victorious!” intoned O’Farrell in response to Dadigan’s rousing and informative introduction, to glorious cheers! “It’s all about love. You can’t right the wrongs of the past, but you can always look forward, and make sure that right is what you lead with moving forward. And that’s what we strive to do. When DeeDee (aka Donelle Dadigan) said ‘How do you accomplish all these things,’ it is my incredible staff… [You] are only as good as your team. I’m really honored that DeeDee is creating a leadership award in my name. I think it’s very humbling because my view of leadership is that it’s always very aspirational. No one in their right mind would stand up and say, ‘I’m a leader.’ No. you always strive for leadership… So, I’m always striving to be better, to bring solutions to the vexing problems of the day, and there are many. So I’m never all alone. I stand with you, and I stand with my incredible team, I stand with my constituents.”
In closing Mitch could only think forward to the remainder of the night’s commemorative tone, ”I’m just really honored [to have received this award and I’m] also…so happy Geri Jewell, that you’re the first recipient of the first award in my name!” In closing, Mitch waxed again inspirational as only O’Farrell could: “It’s hard to believe this is the 7th year [of Real to Reel], but this is the best year. Its’ the largest [in] participation I think. We’re coming so far as a society. Let’s keep moving things forward. Let’s take care of each other. Leadership is about taking a stand, taking chances, and being willing to be criticized and being disliked, and I’ve had plenty of that. But that’s okay because Love is victorious! Thank you so much everybody!”
Fran Drescher was up first to receive the Judy Garland award, but not before some funny, heartfelt and rousing introductions to some decidedly This is your Life appeal!
“Hey Fran, you’ll never guess who this is. It’s not Shakira. It’s your mother from The Nanny,” came recorded voice of Renee Taylor via video retrospective and celebratory greeting! “I tried to think of what you and Judy Garland have in common. You don’t sing or dance like Judy did, and you only married ONE gay man. I realized what you both represent is unconditional acceptance. I can’t even count the times you’ve said, ‘Love is Love’ and ‘Stop eating that macaroon Renee’. Your series after The Nanny showed the unbreakable bond between you and your gay ex-husband, and the support, and love you gave him… Yes, there was some ‘You ruined my life!’ But [in the end] there was always love… And few people know that you also became an ordained minister so you could officiate at one of the first same sex weddings of your fans in New York and one of the best affairs that I have been to!: Flowers, no line at the ladies’ room, …unconditional love!”
Taylor rounded out her intro by electronically introducing Peter Marc Jacobson, the man Drescher was not only married to for 21 years, but without whom the sitcom Happily Divorced, centering around Drescher’s true-to-life story of her long-time heterosexual marriage shifting from romantic to platonic at the husband’s discovery of his no-longer-latent homosexuality, would never have been born:
“I met Fran [in the 70s],” commenced Jacobson. “We were in high school, and I was going up the stairs and she was coming down the stairs and I said [to myself], ‘That is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen…’ and then she spoke… And I couldn’t believe that voice was coming out of that face!”
“…[She kept being told, if you don’t change that voice, you’ll never work in Hollywood]. And I said, ‘No, no, no, that’s what’s gonna make you a star!…Don’t change it at all!’ And thank God I was right! She is much more than a funny voice. She is now the SAG/AFTRA president, founder of Cancer Schmancer, a writer, a director, a New York Times Best Selling author… When I came out of the closet, I was afraid to tell her ’cause I didn’t [want her to hate me]…[but] she was so kind and so wonderful. And she said ‘Peter you’ve gotta live your life. If you’ don’t, you’re not living a life.’ And I always remembered that. It probably helped that she was [dating] this really hot 26-year-old. So, I am very proud [of her]!”
“You know…we’re divorced but we’re still single because it’s hard to compete with anybody really–with what we shared [and we did share so much] ,” admitted a noticeably moved Drescher.” And I’m so honored to be distinguished as being the first person to receive the first Judy Garland Award… Judy and I, we do have a lot in common. We’re both known for our voices, and we both married gay men. I grew up watching The Wizard of Oz and just kind of imagined what it would be like to be in show business…like Judy… So…just the fact that I’m receiving this award is meaningful to me. I always feel like, it’s very important that if you have celebrity…to apply it towards the greater good or you’re absolutely wasting it. And…fighting for Gay Civil Liberties is something that’s just always seemed so natural to me… We must have the courage to stand up for them, and even if it doesn’t seem appropriate in the moment, it’s important to make some noise. Always make some noise and be loud and proud about it! People always ask me, with Peter… How did I not know? …We fell in love at such a young age. We still love each other and um…. I should have known except I really don’t have any gaydar… Shortly after we were married, we’d already been together several years and so we decided that we would give each other one free pass should we meet the celebrity that we kind of loved. He picked Cher! And I picked Bruce Jenner! We were two peas in a pod! Who else would have us?”
Next up was the Godfather of the socially conscious American Sitcom, Norman Lear to introduce Geri Jewell, Recipient of the night’s Mitch O’Farrell Leadership Award!
“Norman Lear has enjoyed a long history in Television and Film is that right?” joked Dadigan. “He has also enjoyed being part of social and political activism and philanthropy. At 99 only a few weeks away from his 100th birthday, Norman continues to be a force in this industry. Among his numerous other acknowledgements Mr. Lear was among one of the first 7 television pioneers inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1984. In 1999, President Clinton presented him with the National Medal of Arts saying ‘Norman Lear has held up a mirror to American Society and changed the way we look at it.’”
“It’s good to be here. It’s good to be anywhere,” jocularly opined Lear once the thunderous applause died down. “…I covet being here because I adore, respect, and admire the person I’m here to introduce. But I can’t help but thinking, as I look at all of you, the biggest thing we have all in common-each of us-is that it’s taken every split second…of all of our lives…to-get-to-hear-me-finish-this-sentence! Isn’t that amazing?!? I think it was 1979 when Fern Field Established the Media Access Awards, and I met the person I’m about to introduce… And I just absolutely adored her, and her strength, and courage, and personality, and vitality, and intelligence…humanity…just the best! I remember it was a big event at the LA Stadium or Dodger Stadium…several thousand people…an I Love Liberty event…and I asked her if she would appear. And she did. And…she walked up on that stage, and saw several thousand people, and [was just stunned]! And I ran up on that stage, and gave her a hug, and she killed! She was so funny doing standup! I am so pleased and proud to…introduce to you my dear friend… What’s her name again…?”
Of course Lear remembered – “Geri Jewell! This woman belongs on the Walk of Fame!”
“I thought if I come out gay, all the people with disabilities will be jealous of me and that’s terrifying…”, confessed Jewell following an hilarious video retrospective highlighting some of her most edgy jokes involving well, drunkenness and cerebral palsy:
“I’m not drunk, I have cerebral palsy. When I’m drunk, I walk perfectly straight!”
“Then he said, ‘Now I want you to walk a straight line. I started laughing. And I said, “Officer, I never walked a straight line in my life!”
“[The disabled community] that was my support and when I came out in [my] book,” Jewell continued. “My website got 33,000 hits in 5 hours from all over the world. People with disabilities were writing…and saying ‘Thank you for being my voice. I didn’t have it before you!’ And one of the funniest things I read was ‘Oh my God. Cousin Geri from Facts of Life is gay?!? I thought Jo was!!!” All kidding aside, I am so honored to be recognized by the Mitch O’Farrell leadership award because it continues my journey and belief that we all should be valued and loved…. Y’know? Being born with Cerebral Palsy, I’ve always understood what it’s like to be different…but the real disability in life is the disability of spirit. God wanted me to be sensitized to learn and to love all people.”
Kevin Spirtas of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Days of our Lives, and After Forever fame also gave tribute to writer/producer Michael Slade.
Slade’s chief distinction: Spirtas’ co-creator, producer, and writer on the relatively new groundbreaking drama series After Forever revolving around gay men over 30.
According to Spirtas, Michael Slade approached him one day at the gym and engaged in conversation as Slade prefaced everything by declaring “Hey I used to write for you on Days of Our Lives”. But according to Spirtas, they didn’t know each other that well as is customary practice on Soap Operas, or at least, Days of Our Lives, for writers not to befriend actors and vice versa lest it sway the show pending certain interests-turned plotlines.
Kevin attempted to entice Slade into a collab drama TV series revolving around gay men who are no longer 30. It worked, and was eventually called After Forever. Slade had lost his partner to cancer a few years back, and the harrowing, life-changing event was written into the script pertaining to how to pick up the pieces after such a thing.
Later diagnosed with a rare form of prostate cancer, tired and weak, Slade vowed not to let the cancer win, and continued to write, film and executive produce the show for as long as he could. As fate would have it, After Forever would go on to garner 5 Emmy Awards and was one of the first shows about gay men to do so! Slade even attended the Emmys to accept them with pride, then passed December 27, 2020.
Billy Davis Jr., and Marilyn McCoo, married for 50 years, and in the entertainment business for nearly as long, were next to introduce Michael Feinstein, recipient of the 2022 Trailblazer award!
Michael Feinstein admitted to feeling a specialness to the room, one that was not lost on most, if not all, in attendance, “The world out there, is not always like this. You can feel the love,” he articulated.
“I Came out to LA, a kid from Columbus Ohio trying to find a sense of community,” Feinstein confessed.
It wasn’t easy, at first, but there were some diamond-clad moments in the rough, he recounted, citing Paul Lynde’ appearance pending the Peter Marshall Game show quiz question: “A man reaches his sexual peak at 18. When does a woman reach hers?” to which Paul Lynde could only shoot back “Who cares!” in customary chortling fashion, the impression of which Feinstein waxed spot on!
Feinstein recounted his days of bar and restaurant musicianship, wherein he was hired to play in a lot of gay establishments where clientele knew old show tunes and naturally he came by it honestly.
He recounted his friendship with Maya Angelou and the instance in which he asked her to make calls for LGBTQ rights to which she could only reply, “One person’s struggle is everybody’s struggle!”
Feinstein rounded out his speech slinging the same heartfelt inspiration and sentimental thought provocation with which he commenced “In arts, the one way to connect through is art and music… If we cling to what we know is true in ourselves, we change the world. I support all of you making music and art, and I love all of you and may we all continue in the blessings of [creativity]” a truly wonderful and inspiring way to round out the night.
The LA Beat’s theme of the evening embodied the question, “What does pride mean to you?”
“What does Pride mean to me? Pride means self-confidence, self-trust, self-love that all turns around and hopefully encompasses the world. Because we need that right now. We need that love and being prideful and all-inclusive is what we’ve got to do to save humanity to save this world,” rousingly declared writer, acting coach and producer David Zimmerman in most accompanying Zen fashion.
According to former child actor Glenn Scarpelli (55) otherwise known as Alex Handris on the beloved late 70s/early 80s sitcom One Day at a Time: “What Pride means to me is being honest and authentic and real about who we are. One of the reasons I left acting is because I was gay, and I wanted to fall in love. And back in 1985/86 you just couldn’t be out and be an actor at the same time. So, I chose authenticity over career… I fell in love with a wonderful man. And he died of AIDS in 1992. So, it was a really life-transforming time for our community and for myself. There was so much discrimination against folks that had HIV/AIDS.”
“[Though] we’ve come a long way in the acceptance [vs.] the stigma. [But] we didn’t have role models back then… There was no conscious gay television… It was…Paul Lynde…even he wasn’t out. I’m very dear friends with Peter Marshall and Paul Lynde never even came out to Peter Marshall. So it’s just the time when the closet was a very common, but lonely, place. Over time I decided I just wanted to be authentic and be real… I came out publicly pretty early too and now for about 23 years I’ve been out in the public’s eye. And I came out on VH-1!”
“And in OUT Magazine and so I just take pride in who I am. It’s all a reflection of self-love and self-respect! And I always say, for the public to really understand who we are as a community everybody just needs to say out loud that they’re gay if they’re gay, or bi, or trans, or whatever it may be…”
When asked how he felt about how the climate of acceptance today differed from that of the 80s, partly juxtaposed with all that has been bubbling and burgeoning since 2015, Scarpelli’s answer was as inspiring and measured as best could be imagined:
“…I think we’ve come a long way in a lot of ways and not far enough in other ways. So, I look at what life is these days, and we are so much more accepted. People love our community. I feel –personally– the amount of support from the straight community…or anyone really. We’ve become way more mainstream, which is fabulous… But there are still portions of, not only our country, but of this planet, where we are not seen as equals…and where we’re hurt…we’re hurt for being gay. So, there’s still a lot more to come. But I just call it…consciousness. That’s really what it is. The evolution of consciousness. It’s coming. I have great faith that it’s all gonna open up in a way that is so accepting on all levels because we are all truly equal and it’s just becoming aware of that. Awareness is the key!”
These days Scarpelli is the self-appointed beneficiary of a most beautiful life. To this day, and he still works in TV:
“I live in Sedona Arizona. I own a TV Station there. I’ve been on the air for 20 years this past May 4th and I’ve had a beautiful life there, a wonderful career and I’m very grateful for my life. I made the perfect life for me. Yeah! All the time! I produce, and I’m on screen all the time. My boyfriend Johnny produces the 100,000 Pyramid with Michael Strahan. So I come out here a lot and we have a wonderful life together!”
“Pride to me, means being who you are, where you are, when you are and fuck everybody else!” According to beloved actress Patrika Darbo – all in all a perfectly inspired, most sassy way to round out the evening!
For more information on the Hollywood Museum and all their most recent exhibits, please visit: