Sunday, September 2, 2007
...or, How I Schmoozed My Summer Vacation:
The National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association held its annual convention in sunny San Diego last weekend, but I spent most of my time in the cool air-conditioned comfort of the host hotel, the Westin Horton Plaza.
With panels from 8:30am to 6pm, it made for a lot of talking and sharing information, laughs, a bit of controversy, and a lot of networking. Photos are on the site, taken by the prodigious Jason Smith, and at Rex Wockner's blog (I forgot my camera and took nary a pic, so instead are book covers of authors who were there. Me so shilly!).
I also read a brief few passages from my third novel, Cyclizen, at the Authors Café, organized by marketing guru Bob Witeck.
Notably absent was previous big sponsor Planetout/Gay.com. Still suffering from its near-collapse (and last-minute bail out by Bill Gates' investment firm), not a single employee of that monopoly showed up, save the publisher and managing editor of The Advocate. At a lunch time session, they showed some images of their revamped "look" for the venerable, once-great publication (which I've written several articles. You can only find the recent one in 2000. My favorites are from the Richard Rouillard era, with Mark Morris, Clive Barker, and a few other celebs.)
What the Advocate folks hoped would be a breezy lunch-time show-off session (the mock-ups had a lot of white space, and -quelle surprise- a straight actor on the cover!) turned into a mud-slinging Q&A session where the publication was critiqued by many, including Larry Kramer.
Larry spoke at a later session with SF KPIX reporter Hank Plante (whom I admire, and who likes PINS, he said!). With his voice softened, and the panel becoming more like an audience with the Dali Lama, a reverant air pervaded, as well it should. I arrived late, and sat in the back with a certain hunky editor, who took a bit of pleasure in playing peanut gallery with his aside comments to me. Yet, it turned out they had a lot to agree upon.
It's just that Larry's "call to arms" as his colleague the stalwart Rex Wockner mentioned, from the olden days of street protests, is quite over. I have nothing but the highest respect for Larry, particularly when he repeated his insistence that George Washington, Abe Lincoln, and the entire Jamestown colony were gay.
But our political softening in the face of duplicitous politicians isn't going to change. And people just aren't going to do protests like we used to.
Well, maybe not gay people. But Larry noted that some seniors, in asking him what they could do about an impending closure of a facility (the details escape me), were told by him to simply lay down and not get up until they were arrested and/or their demands were met. It worked.
What also worked was the authors' readings. I had to zoom through my selections in 7 minutes. I think I did it.
Others were Wayne Besen (love him), Bob Smith (funny! his new novel, Selfish and Perverse, is sweet and incredibly funny. What do you expect from an accomplished comic?), and Johnny Diaz, whose Boston Boys Club is doing quite well. Noel Alumit read a striking passage from his new book.
Jason Howe of Lambda Legal, Greg Hernandez of the LA Daily News, Chris Hayes of Columbus' Outlook Weekly, Jason Knight of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Sgt. Eric Alva, Kevin Naff of the Washington Blade, Peter McQuaid of Pride Magazine, and many others were among the folks I was happy to chat with, and who represent the best in activism and media.
Colleagues I know whom I got to catch up with included Libby Post, Karen Ocamb, Chris Crain, Cathy Renna, and lots more.
A lot of hilarious and dishy off-the-cuff comments about all sorts of things were shared through the weekend, as we went out to dinners and bars. Unfortunately, it's all off the record!
I will divulge that colleague Fred Kuhr (former editor of InNewsWeekly, now of Canada's Xtra and Press Pass Q) is the funniest guy on earth. Along with co-worker Matthew Bajko, we ended up among a gaggle of guys dining two nights at restaurants where the food was served on either gargantuan plates or in buckets. (There goes the diet!)
It was also great to chat with accomplished writers like Michael Luongo (who's been to Iraq, Afghanistan, and all over the world), Kim Powers (former NYC pal who has a memoir, and a new novel out), catch up with Kevin Boyer (who did a fantastic job marketing Chicago's Gay Games), and hang a moment with Trebor Healey (who gave me creds in the writer's panel.)
But the oddity of the convention was the presence of a few, yet vocal rightwing bloggers. I don't even dare call any of them journalists. They're not. GayPatriot couldn't utter Hillary Clinton's name without calling her a bitch. Boy From Troy tried to flirt with me, failing to comprehend that some people simply aren't charmed by those who were stupid enough to vote for Bush. He allegedly had an amusing moment in a men's room with author-commentator-voiceover stud Ben Patrick Johnson; lucky guy!)
But the piece de reactionary was a smug Church Lady type who bragged about being a "colleague" of wacko antigay nut job Peter LaBarbera. He's the one in Chicago who snuck into the International Mister Leather convention in full leather gear, allegedly to snoop on the kinky goings-on, but seemed more than a bit too interested himself. LaBarbera also led the failed efforts to ban rowing from suburban Crystal Lake at Chicago's 2006 Gay Games VII.
Church Lady also bragged (I didn't bother talking to her, but overheard one of her many loud pronouncements in the hotel hallways) that she's writing about the conference for WingNutDoody, er, WorldNetDaily, a front for rightwing bigotry that pretends to be a news source. Here's here snide take on the convention for Americans for Truth (that's layered in snickering antigay blather).
And while I did have time for a little bit of push-ups in my hotel room, in between watching bits of the World Track Meet, I never got a moment in the tiny pool. Apparently, everyone was practically holding court at the better pool at last year's convention in Miami.
Next year's is in Washington DC (in August!), and 2009's is in Montreal, a city where, despite its charms, I will never again visit. If you don't know why, I suggest you read my old Sports Complex Gay Games/Outgames controversy articles.