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Nobody does “trailer park chic” like writer-director Del Shores, and two of his most notable works are being given new life. Sordid Lives has been released in a new Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, and Southern Baptist Sissies, the stage-to-screen adaptation of his GLAAD Award-winning play, makes its debut on DVD Nov. 4.
The world that Shores explores in both films may seem a bit over the top at times, but he gives that world a strangely fathomable logic -- as if everybody has a rusty chain-link fence surrounding their house or an even rustier trailer next door. Both are the creations of a master at the top of his game, and they are a complete hoot to watch.
“It still works,” Shores says of Sordid Lives, which came out in 2000. “I just love that people are finding this movie still. There is that theme of love, forgiveness and family that’s basically at the core of Sordid Lives that people relate to.”
Billed as “a black comedy about white trash,” the film stars Kirk Geiger as Ty Williamson, a young, gay (but not yet out to his family) West Hollywood actor who’s seen no less than 27 therapists and says he’s needed all of them. Ty is reticent to return home to a small Texas town for the funeral of his grandmother, Peggy, who died after a fall in a seedy motel room. She tripped over the two prosthetic legs belonging to her neighbor, G.W. Nethercott, with whom she was having an affair.
It just gets better from there, as we meet three generations of her eccentric and dysfunctional family and friends and the hilariously trashy truths of their sordid lives are revealed.
For instance, 23 years before, Peggy had her Tammy Wynette-obsessed drag-queen son, Earl (a.k.a. Brother Boy), locked up in the state asylum. There, Brother Boy is subjected to some harsh therapy for his “severe case of homosexuality” by Dr. Eve Bolinger. Not since Nurse Ratched has the screen seen such a depraved psychiatric professional as Dr. Eve.
As the child-like Brother Boy, Leslie Jordan has easily won audience’s hearts, and his performance here has practically become synonymous with the entire movie itself. Jordan is Shores’ secret weapon in getting his points across, and he’s a genuine gay goodwill ambassador.
Yet if Brother Boy has any competition for our affections, it’s Beth Grant as Aunt Sissy. The first third of the film takes place in her living room as Sissy’s two nieces -- Latrelle (Ty’s mother, and the ever-so-prim “good girl” daughter of the deceased) and her sister LaVonda argue over Brother Boy’s confinement and whether he should attend his own mother’s memorial service.
LaVonda may be the town hussy, but at least she’s got a more understanding perspective on her brother and nephew’s homosexuality. (“All I’m sayin’ is that Ty has more in common with Brother Boy than you’re willin’ to admit,” LaVonda spits at Latrelle. “I think you blame Brother Boy for ‘the way’ Ty is!”)
Ty decides to be true to himself and attend his grandmother’s service, where he confesses both to her (in her casket) and to Latrelle: “I’m gay as a goose -- gayer than Uncle Brother Boy.”
“No one’s that gay!” his mother retorts.
Played by Bonnie Bedelia, Latrelle’s a walking tempest in a tea pot. (“He calls it ‘art’—I call it trash!” she seethes at one point when recalling how she paid her son a visit in Los Angeles to see him in a play in which he got to cavort “in the altogether” with a bunch of other naked men). As her sister, Ann Walker (who also appears briefly in Southern Baptist Sissies) super-charges LaVonda with over-the-top aplomb.
Meanwhile, rounding out the cast are Beau Bridges as Nethercott, the adulterous amputee whose trailer home is next-door to Sissy’s, and Delta Burke as his distraught wife, Noleta, a role Burke portrays with fast-talking, Southern-fried perfection.
Sordid Lives also marks a return to country music for Olivia Newton-John. She came to the United States back in the 1970s as a country singer before changing to a more pop sound. The film’s catchy title number has become something of a hit for her and is highly requested at her concerts. She plays Bitsy Mae Harling, an ex-con turned honky-tonk bar singer who is a bleached blonde, complete with dark roots.
In Southern Baptist Sissies, produced in 2013, Shores, who is himself the son of a Baptist minister, explores the frequently caustic rhetoric of dogmatic religions like the Southern Baptists and its effects on the fragile development of adolescent homosexuals.
By filming the stage play directly instead of adapting it into a larger movie, Shores maintains the more intimate experience of the theater. The production reveals the many complicated emotions of the confused child, the struggling adolescent, and the damaged adults these boys become.
Emerson Collins, a co-producer who also plays the role of Mark, was a huge influence on the decision to film the play. “He said, ‘You know, the play works so well. Have you ever thought of just filming the play as the film?’” Shores says.
Collins found that Shores concurred. “As a kid I was a real ‘theater brat,’” he says. “My mother was a high school drama teacher, so I thought that would be such an interesting approach -- because the church is theater as well.”
Mark is our sometime genial, sometimes not guide on this odd odyssey, who recalls his days growing up in his small, conservative parish in “the buckle of the Bible Belt.” Through flashbacks, he introduces us to the four “sissy” boys of the title: himself, T.J., Benny and Andrew.
Speaking from his church, Calvary Baptist (which seems to be the hub of their communal lives), Mark tells us, “This is where we learned to hate ourselves.”
Luke Stratte-McClure is T.J., the pious bisexual golden boy for whom Mark clearly burns. “You are so righteous in your unrighteousness,” T.J. accuses Mark. T.J.’s inevitable and devastating rejection of Mark has the ring of painful authenticity.
Countering their near-overwhelming hostility though, is Willam Belli in a tour-de-force performance as Benny, the choir-boy turned “professional female illusionist” (also known by his stage name, Iona Trailer). The role gives Belli the opportunity to perform several songs, showing what a dynamic singer he is. Benny is ultimately the wisest character we meet on this often emotional and edgy voyage, and although some have nitpicked Shores’ supposed tendency to see gay men in light of cross-dressers, it is these characters in both films -- Brother Boy and Benny -- who prove to be the most likable, and in their own fashion, the best-adjusted.
Lastly, but perhaps most potently, is Andrew, played by Matthew Scott Montgomery. His story doesn’t really take off until the second act, but it is truly worth waiting for.
Shores says that he frequently thinks back to the boy he was while actually living the situations he outlines in Southern Baptist Sissies. “I think about that little boy sitting in the pews of the First Baptist Church having that big secret, and I’d like to give him a hug and tell him it’s gonna be OK -- it does get better!”
Each film’s cast does a superlative job of navigating both the nuttiness of their given situations and, where appropriate, the gravity underlying them. This is thanks in large part to the solid core repertory company that Shores has assembled. It’s particularly intriguing to see these same performers in similar-but-different roles.
Among them, Newell Alexander gives a strong performance in Sordid Lives as Wardell “Bubba” Owens, a seedy bartender who has a touching change of heart regarding his vicious past mistreatment of Brother Boy. Then, in Southern Baptist Sissies, he’s equal parts fire, brimstone and self-righteousness as the domineering pastor at Calvary Baptist Church.
His real-life wife, Rosemary Alexander, so spot-on as the icy bitch Dr. Eve Bolinger in Sordid Lives, offers fine support in Southern Baptist Sissies as Andrew’s well-meaning but clueless mother, whose ignorance leads to tragedy.
Dale Dickey fleetingly appears in Sordid Lives as Glyndora, a gin-soaked jailbird who LaVonda and Noleta are locked up with after they get caught trying to rob a liquor store. She takes on a far more substantial role in Southern Baptist Sissies, co-starring as Odette Annette Barnet (her mama wanted twins, she explains). A faded barfly who’s “not a lesbian -- just an alcoholic,” she pops in and out of the main narrative along with her little friend, Preston Leroy (or Peanut), played with puckish brilliance by Leslie Jordan. (Peanut’s a social drinker -- “You have a drink and so-shall I!”) Although initially seen providing laughs to contrast the show’s heavier moments, in the end we learn the real desperate truth behind Miss Odette’s nightly sojourns to the local gay watering hole.
If you’re not familiar with Sordid Lives, this new Blu-ray/DVD combo pack offers the perfect opportunity to see a favorite of LGBT audiences. New bonus material includes interviews with the director and cast, including Kirk Geiger, Bonnie Bedelia and Leslie Jordan. A “vintage” commentary track is also included.
“Everybody’s so excited that this is on Blu-ray,” Shores says. “I think they want to see what the cast looks like now, and they’re all excited about the extra features on it. I interviewed a lot of the cast about the journey and how none of us really expected this to happen with this movie!”
Likewise, the availability of Southern Baptist Sissies on DVD and VOD from Breaking Glass Pictures offers everyone a chance to acquaint themselves with a moving masterpiece of gay theater.
For more information about Sordid Lives, check out www.WolfeVideo.com. For more about Southern Baptist Sissies, go to BG Pics or visit Southern Baptist Sissies.
Worldwide opera star Renée Fleming will perform in Kansas City on Thursday night, November 18, but the day before, she'll be part of a panel discussion for "Music and the Mind" — a conversation about how music affects the brain, cognitive development, healing and quality of life.
WHAT: Music and the Mind with Renée Fleming
WHEN: Wednesday, Nov 17, 2021
TIME: 4:00-5:30 PM
WHERE: The 1900 Building, 1900 Shawnee Mission Parkway, Mission Woods, KS, 66205
Music has a profound impact and the ability to shape 86 billion neurons in the brain for cognitive development, healing, and therapy. Science research has clearly shown that music therapy interventions can improve quality of life across nearly all neurological disorders. And there is tremendous public-interest in applying music to creative aging, childhood development, and community wellness.
But scientists want to know more.
Join soprano Renée Fleming and a distinguished panel of local Kansas City experts in neurology, music therapy, music and healing, and more for this cutting-edge discussion. Audience members will be able to participate in a Q&A following the panel discussion.
*Please note this Music and the Mind Event is not a musical performance*
As Artistic Advisor at Large to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Renée Fleming has spearheaded a collaboration with the National Institutes of Health, with the participation of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The Sound Health initiative explores and brings attention to research and practice at the intersection of music, health, and neuroscience. This collaboration has led to workshops at the NIH, and events and performances at the Kennedy Center. This initiative has also led the NIH to recently award $20 million dollars in funding for music and neuroscience research over five years.
As part of her advocacy, Fleming is also advisor to the recently launched NEA/UCSF Sound Health Network and co-chair of the Aspen Institute/Johns Hopkins NeuroArts Blueprint, both working to advance the field of arts and health.
This event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. Please call the Harriman-Jewell Series at 816-415-5025 to reserve your seat.
WHAT: Renée Fleming, soprano in recital
WHEN: Thursday, Nov 18, 2021
TIME: 7:00 PM
WHERE: Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
COST: Tickets from $25.00 *discounts available for students, educators, first responders, active duty military and veterans with valid I.D.
Pair a glorious voice with a winning personality and you have a diva for the ages. Renée Fleming is a longstanding Harriman-Jewell Series favorite. With her many television and Broadway appearances, Fleming has been embraced by music lovers of all genres.
Whether singing at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, the Olympics, or Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, Renée Fleming represents opera to the world. In addition to her numerous operatic performances, Fleming often works classic show tunes and the Great American Songbook into her recitals. Fleming’s trademark rapport with audiences will give her Kansas City performance a warmth that is personal and sincere.
Rob Ainsley is pianist for the recital. His diverse career as a musician, conductor, educator, and administrator has taken him to top organizations and colleges from coast to coast. He now serves as Director of the Washington National Opera’s Cafritz Young Artists and American Opera Initiative. Ainsley performed with Renée Fleming in The Metropolitan Opera’s August 2020 “Met Stars Live in Concert” that was streamed worldwide.
ABOUT THE HARRIMAN-JEWELL SERIES
Renée Fleming's recital will mark the 977th performance since the Series was founded in 1965. From free education events that allow interaction with musicians and dancers, to our free Discovery Concerts that are open to the community, the Harriman-Jewell Series continues to offer life-enriching opportunities for its community's youth and lifelong learners.
Whether you're spreading truth, information, or love, traveling abroad for humanitarian reasons can have risks. Detained American journalist in Myanmar, Danny Fenster, is to be released from jail, and to fly home soon. But it doesn't always end well for every foreign national attempting to do good in a foreign country.
The missionaries consisting of sixteen Americans and one Canadian kidnapped by the Haitian “400 Mawozo” gang on October 16, is extremely scary. The gang has threatened to kill the humanitarian Christians if a million dollar per person ransom is not fulfilled. The group consists of men, women, children and an eight-month-old baby.
These missionaries have sacrificed their time and paid their own way to go to the poorest place in the Western hemisphere to try to spread God’s love and save some souls. In turn, the missionaries are experiencing a nightmare like they’ve never imagined. They’re imprisoned and being threatened with a bullet in the head.
Most of us will never get over seeing journalists being beheaded and tortured in Syria and Iraq by the barbaric Islamic extremist group called ISIL. Burning people alive and beheading others were too graphic and gruesome to ever be forgotten.
Years ago, I traveled to a third world country on a “missionary trip” with others thinking it would be a nice break. I’ve never worked so hard in my life.
Sadly, the 17 missionaries in Haiti are undergoing a cruel experience that may end with the cost of their very lives. What are they thinking now? What is going through the minds of the little children who traveled to a world to help others and spread God’s love?
Haiti has been the site of years of humanitarian efforts. The United States and other countries have given billions of dollars to help Haiti. Sadly, hurricanes, political unrest, underdevelopment and extreme poverty have all made for a sad scenario.
How much money would the world have to give to Haiti to make life better for this nation? This is a question no one can answer because usually aid is a short-term solution. We spent a trillion dollars in Afghanistan and they aren’t any better off today.
Good missionary people went to Haiti with good hearts for helping others in the name of God’s love. They went to share a message they hoped would bring about change and better lives. They may now lose their lives.
Christians point to Jesus as the model for such missionary efforts. He came preaching and teaching in an effort to demonstrate and spread God’s love and it cost him plenty – his life, executed in public on a cross.
There are some Christians today who, like Jesus, are willing to risk their lives for the sake of others. Did these men and women literally go to Haiti taking their children with them truly believe they could be killed? Would they purposefully do this to their children? Who convinced these people that such a trip with small children was a good idea?
My goal here is to simply say, think about such trips to places like Haiti. Afghanistan, Iraq, Northern Nigeria and numerous others countries are not vacation spots. Foreign travel may sound exotic and adventurous but consider the possible cost.
Many missionaries and Christian workers have paid the ultimate price in order to spread the gospel of Christ. Only eternity will reveal what their selfless sacrifice has meant to those whose lives they impacted.
By chance, if you decide such an international trip is not for you, don’t feel bad. Consider helping in an American inner city, Appalachia or maybe your own neighborhood. Service at home is needed across America.
Let’s pray for the safety of these missionaries and for those negotiating their release. May God help them and all who may consider such endeavors.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Glenn Mollette is a graduate of numerous schools including Georgetown College, Southern and Lexington Seminaries in Kentucky. He is the author of 13 books including Uncommon Sense, Grandpa's Store, Minister's Guidebook: insights from a fellow minister. His column is published weekly in over 600 publications in all 50 states. Glenn Mollette has been on numerous International humanitarian and missionary group trips. Hear Glenn Mollette every weekday morning EST at 8:56 on XM radio 131. Editor-If you need to tweak or do a small edit for you paper or website that is okay. Please respond to this email if you need a picture for this column. Scroll down for additional biographical info. Buy his latest recording titled "Black Coffee" on iTunes. Learn more at www.glennmollette.com
The Black Trans Fund, incubated at Groundswell Fund, and Grantmakers for Girls of Color launched the Holding a Sister Initiative, the first-ever national fund explicitly dedicated to transgender girls and gender-expansive youth of color.
Dr. Monique W. Morris, president and CEO of Grantmakers for Girls of Color, and Bré Rivera, program director of the Black Trans Fund are together spearheading the Holding a Sister Initiative to bring attention and resources to organizations supporting trans girls of color, normalize concern and investment in their success, and create learning opportunities for cis and trans girls of color to move in deeper community with one another.
The initiative will award $1 million in grants in the first year, and will ultimately engage trans girls and gender-expansive youth of color in the decision-making process for selecting grantees on an ongoing basis.
While there has been an increase in donor attention to work led by people of color, it has yet to translate into significant gains in funding for trans and gender-expansive youth of color.
According to recent regional studies in Detroit, South Florida and New Orleans, trans women of color face higher levels of hunger, homelessness, unemployment, incarceration and discrimination. At the same time, the majority of this year's record-breaking anti-trans legislation are targeted to affect youth, including bills that prevent transgender athletes from playing in school sports and the "Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act." Research has show sharp rises in suicide attempts among trans youth during 2020 and 2021.
"The reality is transgender and gender-expansive youth of color require more attention, and resources to interrupt the staggering intersections of trauma and crises they experience," said Bré Rivera.
The initiative joins existing funding intermediaries who have been leading the work to resource trans communities and engage trans people in the direction and distribution of resources, including the Third Wave Fund, the Black Trans Travel Fund, and Fund for Trans Generations. As funding partners, the Black Trans Fund and Grantmakers for Girls of Color aim to expand and transform philanthropy's investments in trans and gender-nonconforming youth. The initiative will move resources to organizations serving and led by trans girls and young women of color. It will also amplify narratives that elevate the humanity, dignity and leadership of trans and gender-expansive youth of color, as well as the ways their experiences and contributions have been overlooked, minimized and targeted by oppositional and systemic forces, and larger social justice movements.
The Holding a Sister Initiative will be led by a manager, who will steward culture change through grantmaking, capacity building, narrative shifting and philanthropic organizing. The position is currently open for applicants.
About Grantmakers for Girls of Color
Fiscally-sponsored by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Grantmakers for Girls of Color (G4GC) works to mobilize resources and amplify transformative organizing work to dismantle systems of oppression led by girls and gender-expansive youth of color. Grantmakers for Girls of Color openly invites partners and stakeholders to co-create an inclusive space in support of girls, young women, and gender-expansive youth of color across programmatic issues and geographic areas. Learn more by visiting Grantmakers for Girls of Color.
About the Black Trans Fund
The Black Trans Fund is a groundbreaking endeavor: the first national fund in the country dedicated to uplifting and resourcing Black trans social justice leaders. BTF seeks to address the lack of funding for Black trans communities in the U.S. through direct grantmaking, capacity building support, and funder organizing to transform philanthropy. Learn more by visiting Black Trans Fund.