Interview

Anthony Lee Medina: Interview

By Jeff Walsh

Anthony Lee Medina first caught my attention when he nearly fell on me during the Spring Awakening tour in San Francisco. I was seated onstage, and he took an impressive spill during 'Bitch of Living,' that only seemed to energize him more for the song.

I'm never quite sure what it is about seeing certain performers in a show, and you follow them after that show, but I've always kept up with Anthony (Facebook helps there).

Of course, since that time in 2008, I spent much of the time erroneously thinking Anthony was straight and not Oasis material, a notion that was quickly dispelled upon seeing his solo show, Anthony Lee Medina - About Me, after moving to NYC.

Now, Anthony is starting a new part of his career, as he raises the money to put out his first collection of songs, The Ladybug Articles, later this year. Most of the songs are inspired by his ongoing tumultuous relationship with a guy he is still in love with.

We met during the recent heatwave at Otarian, a vegetarian restaurant he turned me onto in the city, and we talked. A lot. Here's what we had to say:

Rory O'Malley: Interview

By Jeff Walsh

Rory O'Malley has a hard time accepting being gay eight times a week.

As Elder McKinley in The Book of Mormon on Broadway, he ends up doing a big tapdance number to "Turn It Off," about his "cool little Mormon trick" of turning his gay thoughts off "like a light switch."

Offstage, he couldn't be gayer. In addition to his role in the hottest Broadway musical, from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, for which he is nominated for a Tony Award as Best Featured Actor in a Musical, O'Malley is also one of the co-founders of Broadway Impact, along with Gavin Creel, which unites the Broadway community to work toward marriage equality.

The Book of Mormon is a collaboration between Parker, Stone, and Robert Lopez, one of the people behind Avenue Q. The show is nominated for 14 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The more I saw interviews with Rory O'Malley leading up to the Tonys, the more he seemed like someone who needed to be featured in Oasis. He always comes across as so thankful, open and heartfelt that it honestly wasn't a huge surprise he got cast as a squeaky-clean Mormon. After all, he is the guy who whitened up Eddie Murphy's "Cadillac Car" song in the Dreamgirls movie until it had all the soul and bite drained out of it.

So, O'Malley and I jumped on the phone recently, to chat about his life, career, as well as being gay and spiritual. Here's what we said:

Jake Shears: Interview

By Jeff Walsh

Tales of the City, the musical based on the beloved books by Armistead Maupin, opens in San Francisco tonight. The story is set in the 70s and brings together a magic group of characters for a timeless story of self-discovery, family, and community.

The show fuses Maupin's books with some of the creative team behind Avenue Q, and music written by singer Jake Shears and musician John Garden of the dance pop band, The Scissor Sisters (My review of the show will run later this week).

I recently spoke with Shears during the show's preview run, and here's what we had to say:

Robin De Jesus: La Cage Interview

By Jeff Walsh

When we last caught up with Robin De Jesus, he was nominated for a Tony for the role of Sonny in In The Heights. He didn't win, but the show did win Best New Musical. De Jesus ended up performing that role on Broadway for two full years. Then, with just a two week break, he went to the new revival of the La Cage Aux Folles musical.

(If you want to read our earlier interviews first, we first chatted with him the day In The Heights was first opening Off-Broadway, and then nearly a year and a half later, when the show was on Broadway, and De Jesus was nominated for a Tony Award)

You may know La Cage Aux Folles better as The Birdcage, the movie with Robin Williams and Nathan Lane as a long-time gay couple who run a nightclub with a nightly drag show. There's a lot of twists and turns in the plot that I won't go into (but, if you're so inclined, they're detailed on Wikipedia). The main differences are that this is the musical version with a book by one of my heroes, Harvey Fierstein, and music by Jerry Herman. And, in this revival, the Robin Williams role is played by Kelsey Grammer, aka Frasier.

De Jesus plays Jacob, the supposed maid to the couple who desperately wants to prove to Zaza (the Nathan Lane role), that he's ready to be in the drag show. As you can see from the photo, De Jesus does a good amount of drag in the show. Not that he's a stranger to drag, as he performed as Angel in Rent on Broadway before.

And, to stick with tradition, De Jesus is once again Tony-nominated for his role in La Cage, and I'll certainly be rooting for him on June 13. He is always such a generous, positive spirit, it's always great to catch up with him.

Here's what we said:

Gavin Creel: Interview

By Jeff Walsh

This past Saturday, Gavin Creel was in New York City, talking to me on the phone.

18 hours after this interview, a car picked him up early in the morning, and took him to the airport, where he boarded a jet to London. In a few weeks, he and the rest of the Broadway tribe of Hair will open the show in the West End. Creel was Tony nominated for his turn as Claude, the conflicted hippie who has to decide what's important for him as the summer of love overlaps with the Vietnam War.

I reviewed the show back in January, but didn't realize at the time that Creel was openly gay. Having figured that out at some later point, we had a few interview attempts, but our schedules weren't lining up.

With the clock ticking on how long Creel would be on American soil, before bringing his magical show of peace and love to London, we finally made it happen. Here's what we said:

Jay Nicolas Sario: Interview

By Jeff Walsh

I was surprised to find out that, despite watching the show for many years, I've never interviewed a Project Runway contestant for Oasis before. This year, I was interested to talk with Jay Nicholas Sario, who lives in San Francisco, works for The Gap, and as of this writing, is still going strong on the show. We set up the interview recently through the show's publicist, only to discover that we work within a block of one another. Jay jumped on the phone call just as my automated corporate teleconference voice announced that the call was being recorded. He immediately jumped in.

Oh no... I'm nervous!

But there's no video?! They video'd you on Project Runway. This is just audio and it's not even going to be broadcast.

OK.

Howard Bragman: Interview

By Jeff Walsh

Howard Bragman is in a lot of Rolodexes in Hollywood. He's often the person you hope you don't have to call. His clients have included the family of Monica Lewinsky during the Clinton scandal, Isaiah Washington when he was accused of calling T.R. Knight a 'faggot' on the set of Grey's Anatomy and, on the flip side, he helped prep Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger before they did media interviews for Brokeback Mountain, knowing they would be asked a lot about taking on these gay roles.

In his new book, "Where's My Fifteen Minutes?," Bragman boils down his years of experience into a gameplan that anyone can use to be mindful of their public perception and how to manage that perception. And it's not just for people who want to be novelists, musicians, and actors. Bragman says everyone has a public perception anymore, and what you post on Oasis, Facebook, in e-mails, and in person shapes that on a regular basis.

The one example that we discuss toward the end of our interview is how Oasis, being online for more than 13 years, has had many people who were newly out and proud teenagers a decade earlier, who are now in their late 20s and early 30s, and writing me because their teenaged ramblings here would be accessible to future employers and co-workers. This usually leads to me scrubbing their last name from previous entries.

Bragman has also done a lot of work on gay rights, so we get his thoughts from a PR perspective on what the gay community has to do in the wake of Proposition 8. Here's what we said:

Justin Tranter of Semi Precious Weapons: Interview

Semi Precious Weapons have provided the soundtrack to my life for more than a year now, when I first heard their single "Magnetic Baby" after Perez Hilton loved the track and posted it on his site.

Finally, the band is out touring the country on their debut album, "We Love You," which is an amazing collection of garage glam gems that show how much talent is behind the first impressions you might get based on seeing Justin Tranter, the band's lead singer. He tends to like his eyes lined, his hair platinum blonde, and his heels high.

Before the band's recent in-store gig at the Apple Store in San Francisco, Tranter and I headed over to a quiet tea place to do the interview. While Market Street lined with people in advance of the St. Patrick's Day parade, Tranter and I weaved through the crowd. You could see people checking him out in his ripped T-shirt, suit coat, heavy-eyelined eyes, black and grey striped panty hose, and high, high heels the whole way there.

But Tranter was just a delight to talk to, and a great performer a half hour after we spoke. I even got to sing one of the "I've been magnetic since I was a baby" lines when he held the mic in my face.

We chatted about the band, labels (both the record kind and the sexuality kind), the music scene, Nirvana, Pink Floyd, Lady Gaga, jewelry, and a lot of other topics over a quiet lunch. Here's what we said:

Spencer Duhm of Survivor Tocantins: Interview

By Jeff Walsh

When I first posted that Spencer Duhm was the openly gay contestant on this season of Survivor, I didn't know that his strategy in the game was to not tell anyone. Each week, I'd watch wondering when it would come up. It never did.

Last night, after 15 days, this 19-year-old University of Florida student was voted off. If you watched the show, it seemed like his weak performance in a physical challenge was the reason, but in this interview, he says more was going on behind the scenes.

Here's what we said:

Hey Spencer. I just watched the show this morning and didn't realize we were going to be talking so soon. It's interesting, because when you were first on the show, I put a notice up on the site that there's a young, gay contestant this season, then as I'm watching the show there was no reference to it, so I figured maybe they're just not using that storyline yet. Until last night, I never realized that no one knew…

It was a conscious decision of mine going into it. I get flak for this, because people say 'Oh, everyone's really accepting…' But I'm thinking, in a social game, people will find any reason to get rid of somebody and I was good friends with all the guys on the tribe, so I don't want some subconscious thing… I mean, I was ona tribe with a bunch of people from the south, and I come from the south, too. I'm not bashing people from the south. It's a known fact that sometimes Southerners can be a little less open-minded to homosexuality, so I first see my tribe and I got people with the belt buckle and the boots and everything, and I'm like, OK, it might not work out in my favor to tell everybody that I'm gay. So if they don't ask me, I'm not going to sit there and offer it up. And they never asked. I felt there was really no upside, and there could be a downside.

Milk cast and crew: Interview

By Jeff Walsh

Wrapping up the Milk coverage (the movie opens in a lot more theaters this Friday), here is the transcript of the press conference with the cast. The interview includes quotes from screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, director Gus Van Sant (both pictured here), and actors Sean Penn (Harvey Milk), Josh Brolin (Dan White), James Franco (Scott Smith), Emile Hirsch (Cleve Jones), and Allison Pill (Anne Kronenberg).

This event took place the day after the movie's premiere in San Francisco at the Castro Theater. It's important to note that this all took place before election day, so all references to Prop 8 were before the results were known. Another thing that's interesting is that the audio sounded fine to the press in attendance, but the actors seemed to have difficulty hearing us ask our questions, so sometimes the answers don't quite match the questions.

Once again, this was a roundtable interview, so there were 40-50 press people there for a 60-minute event. I ended up asking two questions (both marked with a *): the first question of the entire event and, later, although I knew I didn't really have any use for this question or answer, I really thought the parallels between Prop 6 in the movie and Prop 8 now were striking, in that you can see that we didn't earn from history and were repeating the same mistakes. So, I got Black and Penn to comment on that in the hope that some of the other press might write that story. I have no idea if anyone did.

It was a pretty low-key event, very relaxed and fun. Also, whenever I write (laughs), it was typically the whole room and most of the panel laughing, and not just the person being quoted laughing at their own joke.

OK, a lot of interview coming at ya, so enough out of me. Here's what we said:

Harvey Milk's friends: Interview

By Jeff Walsh

Many of the actors in Milk didn't just have to play a role, but portray people who were not only still alive but often on the shooting set. The night I was an extra in Milk's crowd scene (the one where Sean Penn as Milk has a bullhorn saying 'I know you're angry. I'm angry, too.') Emile Hirsch was onstage as Cleve Jones. As he and Sean were filming the scene, the crowd would chant things like 'Gay rights now!' and such. In between takes, you'd hear a bullhorn asking Cleve if any other chants were popular at that time, and the real life Cleve Jones would go over to the crew, and give them ideas, which would then be incorporated into the movie. So, at every step of the way, some of the real life people behind Milk not only helped Dustin Lance Back with the accuracy of the script, but they were still there on set, making the film as accurate as possible.

I got the chance to sit down with three of Harvey Milk's friends (shown in this article with the actors who play them in the movie).

Cleve Jones, played in the movie by Emile Hirsch, worked on Harvey's political campaign and later founded the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

Anne Kronenberg, played in the movie by Allison Pill, started as Harvey Milk's campaign manager for his election to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. This was the beginning of a long career in politics, and she now services as deputy director for administration and planning of the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

Danny Nicoletta, played in the movie by Lucas Grabeel, worked as a clerk in Harvey Milk's Castro Street camera shop, and is still a photographer in the city. At the 30th anniversary of the assassination of Harvey Milk and mayor George Moscone last week, Nicoletta wasn't there to speak. He was shooting pictures of it for the local press.

This interview was another roundtable, and not me sitting down personally with all three. My question has an asterisk before it, if you care, but what they had to say was interesting enough that I felt it needed to be captured here.

Here's what we said...

Diego Luna: Interview

By Jeff Walsh

I recently got the chance to attend the press junket for Milk in San Francisco, where I got to talk with people who knew Harvey personally and the people involved with the movie. But I have to admit, the person I was most interested in talking to was Diego Luna, mainly because I'm a big fan of 'Y Tu Mama Tambien,' so when I got the chance to join his press round table, I was totally there.

So, this is a bit different than normal. It wasn't a 1:1 interview (there were like 9-10 press interviewing him at the same time, my questions start with a *). Luna isn't gay. But I think 'Milk' is such an amazing, important film, I'm bending my usual rules on that stuff. Who might show up next answering my questions in Oasis? Sean Penn? James Franco? You'll have to tune in to find out...

It was interesting watching Luna answer the questions, which often turned their own corners, and were never on the brief side. The press were told not to dominate the interview and let everyone get their turn to ask a question, but it was clear early on, there was no chance in hell everyone would get a question in at the pace he was answering.

But since his answers were so heartfelt, eloquent, and explored his passion for art, community, and this movie, here it all is...

Were The World Mine: Cast/Director Interview

By Jeff Walsh

I recently got the chance to sit down with actors Tanner Cohen (Timothy) and Zelda Williams (Frankie) and director Tom Gustafson from the new gay youth indie Shakespeare musical, Were The World Mine. The three were in San Francisco promoting the film in advance of its release in the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City this week (see my review here).

We had a pretty fun discussion that touched on everything from the origin of the film, Cohen's reticence to label himself, trying to sing outdoors without inhaling insects, and we finished up talking about Zelda's famous dad, Robin Williams.

Here's what we said:

Charlie Herschel of Survivor Gabon: Interview

By Jeff Walsh

It’s no revelation on here that I’m a fan of Survivor (see past interviews with Todd, Brad, and Brandon). As part of my ongoing preparation to be on the show, I interview all the gay contestants on here as they are voted off or, in the case of Todd last year, win the million dollars.

Last night, gay New York City lawyer Charlie Herschel joined the list far sooner than I anticipated, especially with two people openly arguing about their dislike for one another before the vote. It shouldn’t be surprising, though, in a season where the strongest, most capable players have all been blindsided at tribal council. Charlie was no different, and joins his bromantic ally Marcus on the jury.

This interview happened really fast, with CBS calling and saying, “Are you free now?” seven minutes before I had a scheduled teleconference for my day job, but we went for it. Here’s what we said:

I know we just chatted briefly on Facebook last week, but I certainly didn’t think we’d be talking again so soon.

You and me both…

Watching last night’s show, I was a bit surprised. You seemed to be off most people’s radar and then out of nowhere, you’re being called the mastermind and pulling the strings. Where did that come from? I didn’t see it on the show.

I think, starting out, I had a little bit of a target on my back as being more of a thinker or maybe schemer because I looked like Todd, I was wearing a suit, I’m an articulate person… so I think people knew I was an intelligent guy. But I don’t think anyone thought I was the mastermind.

When Ken put that in people’s minds, it was the first time they thought of or heard I was the mastermind, but it wasn’t so far-fetched that it didn’t make sense. I was getting along with everyone. I was performing well in the challenges. Things were lining up in my favor throughout the game, so I don’t think it was so outlandish. But, yeah, Ken totally made that up out of thin air.

Snehal Desai: Interview

By Jeff Walsh

Snehal Desai is 28 years old, and only finished his master's degree in directing from Yale University three months ago, but he's already made his way to San Francisco with his one-man show.

"Finding Ways to Prove You're NOT an Al Qaeda Terrorist When You're Brown (and other stories of the gIndian) is Desai's one-man show exploring his life as a gay Indian through monologues that explore his sexual, spiritual, pharmaceutical, and cultural dimensions. From ex-boyfriends who both invent and then eroticize his curry-scented skin to family members who keep pushing him toward arranged marriages, the show moves quickly through its various terrains.

Some of the show's best moments take place when Desai's character (we'll get into the whole non-autobiographical one-man show aspect in the interview) visits India and finds the country's openness about same-sex intimacy refreshing, even if it isn't completely indicative of its acceptance of homosexuality. He also explores the pain of queer children forced to confirm to that society's will, yet at the same time finds poetry and beauty in a kite-flying competition that encapsulates the best qualities of the human spirit, if we could all looking at one another the same way permanently.

I saw the show tonight, but spoke with Desai yesterday, catching up with him in middle of tech rehearsal for his West coast premiere. Here's what we said:

Chad Allen: Interview

By Jeff Walsh

Chad Allen has a lot on his plate.

His latest entries to the Donald Strachey gay detective movies, "On The Other Hand, Death" and "Ice Blues," the third and fourth installments, are being released soon.

"Save Me," the movie he produced with Robert Gant and Judith Light, comes to theaters in September.

And, at present, he's finishing up a successful run of a play with Valerie Harper as Talullah Bankhead. But he's no stranger to theater, recently doing Douglas Carter Beane's "Little Dog Laughed," which required him to get naked onstage.

But what's most surprising is that for how long he's been out and doing good work as an actor, activist, and role model, this is his first interview in Oasis. This oversight is officially corrected.

I first remember Chad from his role on "Our House" in 1986 (yeah, yeah, you weren't born yet, I get it) when he was only 12 (and in the business for seven years at that point). He later went on to a regular role on "Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman."

In 1996, when he was 21, photos of him kissing a guy in a hot tub appeared in The Globe tabloid. They were sold to the rag by Allen's then-boyfriend (I'd never heard that tidbit before, but Wikipedia doesn't lie).

He waited until 2001 to officially come out, and has since been very open about his past partying and drug addiction, his spiritual journey, and his new role as: an openly gay activist, an actor doing great work, and and "old fogie" who’s more interested in hanging out at home with his boyfriend and dogs.

I bring up his past both to give context to some of what we talk about in the interview, but mainly because in "Save Me," his character starts as a drug-addicted party boy who cleans up to find love and a better life, which (aside from the ex-gay ministry setting), seems to touch on Allen's own journey, as well.

Chad and I spoke on the phone last week. Here's what we said:

David Sedaris: Interview

By Jeff Walsh

I've been a fan of David Sedaris for years, to the point where many of his stories have become touchstones in my life.

There are people in my life who are more highly valued because I can say "You can't kill the rooster" at an appropriate moment, and nothing more needs to be said. Living in San Francisco, where food is a way of life, Sedaris's "Today's Special" remains my favorite, where the often-beleaguered Sedaris suffers through gourmet cuisine featuring entrees served with a "medley of suffocated peaches" or "mummified lychee nuts."

His latest book, "When You Are Engulfed In Flames," continues the journey millions of readers have taken into his life and features 22 of his humorous essays. It is currently the number one book on the New York Times Best Seller List for hardcover nonfiction. The essays jump decades and moods, with Sedaris as the only constant. There are moments that are touching, uncomfortable, and hilarious, with the largest piece in the book being Sedaris's tale of quitting smoking (which he did solely because his favorite hotels all went non smoking).

Already, my favorite moment in the book is Sedaris having an uncomfortable encounter with a taxi driver taking him from LaGuardia to the West Village in "Town and Country." During the ride, the cab driver starts talking incessantly about sex and finally determines that Sedaris is gay, taunting him non-stop with "Do you like the dick, David?"

I read half of the book and had Sedaris read the other half to me (on audio book, not in person), and I have to say there is a lot of benefit to hearing him read his own work. At this point, I hear his voice when I read the book anyway, but his delivery and characters are really getting better and better.

I met Sedaris for an interview two and a half hours before he was scheduled to do a reading at Books, Inc. in San Francisco. We did the interview in the manager's office while he signed stock for the store to sell after he leaves town. Nearly 75 people were already lined up outside waiting to attend his event that night, and the reading would be completely sold out without question.

The interview was pretty breezy and fun, and flowed pretty well. Given the fact that Sedaris is a known diary keeper, who has gotten famous turning those diaries into humorous essays, I thought that was a good place for us to start our interview, seeing that this is a site largely founded on people writing about their lives.

Here's what we said:

Jay Kuo, writer/composer of Insignificant Others: Interview

By Jeff Walsh

For anyone living near or visiting San Francisco in the near future, there is an amazing new musical called "Insignificant Others" that is not to be missed. The show is a romantic comedy about five friends who move to San Francisco from the Midwest and learn the value of friendship.

The show is a decidedly San Francisco musical, so much so that it is about to begin what should be a long-standing run on Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf, which is tourist central. The show has many gay elements, but if you're coming to town with a mixed group, it's by no means a "gay show," so you can certainly get it in under the radar if you're closeted.

Todd Herzog, winner of Survivor China: Interview

By Jeff Walsh

Todd Herzog wanted to go on Survivor since he was an overweight 15-year-old in Utah. When he finally turned 21, the now-skinny gay Mormon flight attendant almost made it on the show two seasons ago, but was turned away because the producers felt that he looked too much like hunky Asian hottie Brad Virata?!? But, this time around, Todd made it to Survivor: China, where he made no secret about the fact that he was playing the game and playing to win.

Last night, he took home the million-dollar prize. Possibly the youngest winner of the show, and the first gay winner since daddybear Richard Hatch on the first season, Todd actually founded a Survivor club when he was in high school. He was even voted "most likely to appear on Survivor." So, this wasn't just a passing fancy for him. Online, he has his detractors, to put it mildly. He made no bones about the fact that he would lie and manipulate people to win (but if you don't, you don't win.).

Todd called us up himself Monday after waking up from an afternoon catnap in his apartment in Utah. Well, OK, actually CBS publicity called us and Todd (who was now in New York City, and had yet to sleep from winning the show 17 hours earlier in Los Angeles) spoke to us while still buzzing on the frenzy of the finale, after hours of endless interviews. Here's what we said:

Pratibha Parmar: Interview

By Jeff Walsh

Pratibha Parmar is the writer, producer, and director the lesbian romantic comedy "Nina's Heavenly Delights," a fun story about food, family, and culture that opens in San Francisco this week and in other major U.S. cities throughout the year. Parmar was in San Francisco this week to promote the movie, as well as work on her next project involving The Color Purple author Alice Walker, so we had a chance to sit down in a café near the Bay Bridge for a chat the other day. We talked about the film, being vegan (she told me "there are meat dishes in the film just to appeal to a broad audience"), the Color Purple, and gay marriage. My review of her movie is here; the interview went as follows:

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