About Media greenlights The Anthony Project, How to Break My Neck, and Lifelong Learning
(HOUSTON) – About Media (the production company/sister-business of About Magazine) has ordered scripts for three original, scripted series to be streamed exclusively through About. Of the three, one is an original comedy written by About editor-in-chief, Anthony Ramirez, entitled The Anthony Project. The latter two are adaptations of books published by About’s publishing company, About Editions. The first is an adaptation of Jessica L. Walsh’s How to Break My Neck, and the second being an adaptation of Zeke Jarvis’s forthcoming book, Lifelong Learning.
The Anthony Project follows a gay writer who all in one week loses his grandmother to renal failure, finds out his boyfriend is cheating on him with a woman, and must take over a magazine after his boss abandons ship. Set in Houston, the series revolves around a fictional Ramirez and his group of eccentric friends as they navigate their love lives, trite homophobia, depression, substance abuse, and alcoholism. All the while, Ramirez must come to learn that no matter how badly he may want to, he can’t fix everyone’s problems … especially when he has so many of his own to work on. The series was created by Ramirez and is being penned in conjunction with Rebekah Knight and Kimberly Dyan. An open casting call is underway for roles on The Anthony Project, with city-wide auditions taking place Saturday, May 5th, at the Montrose Center in Houston beginning at noon.
How to Break My Neck is an adaptation of Jessica L. Walsh’s collection of poetry of the same name. The series invites us into the life of Jessica “J” Cato, a poet with the ability to see people’s pasts when they are near. However, when J denounces her gift, she finds herself with a sever bout of writer’s block, realizing all the poetry she’s ever written was inspired by the lives of women she’s met and clairvoyantly come to know. But what’s more is the discovery that her poems, when read aloud, have the ability to affect change. The series will be written by Anthony Ramirez & Anthony Project co-writer, Rebekah Knight.
Lifelong Learning is an adaptation of Zeke Jarvis’s forthcoming collection of short stories of the same name. The series exists in a world of strange rules: when a relative dies, you must cook and eat their remains; teenagers of impoverished families may commit suicide on camera to earn extra income for their families; blood sacrifices must be made to appease the Darkness; and when the Overlord says something, it is law. But the question remains: why are the rules in place? And who made them so? Following the lives several strangers as they navigate through the rules of their post-apocalyptic world, Lifelong Learning postulates questions about life, death, Heaven, Hell, God, Satan, and how society can fall into a world where nothing really makes any sense. The series will also be written by Ramirez.
The Anthony Project is slated to premier on Tuesday, October 16th, 2018. Learning and Neck have not yet set premiere dates, but are anticipated for early 2019.
An actress and her show that once celebrated queer lifestyle have derailed due to support of Donald Trump’s administration.
For many LGBTQIA people in their twenties and thirties, Roseanne was an integral piece of television viewership. In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, the sitcom was a top-5 show, witnessed as weekly as church to people all over the nation. The show—which was inspired by Roseanne Barr’s onstage persona in which she preached to be a “domestic goddess” rather than a housewife in stand-up routines—was the first of its kind to portray a middle-class American family struggling to pay their bills, find work, and deal with lifestyle and societal issues, such as racism, domestic violence, and natal complications. But what queer people, if not most people, may find more memorable about the show is the way Roseanne incorporated gay and lesbian characters into its construct. From the inclusion of Sandra Bernhard and Martin Mull as Roseanne Conner’s lesbian and gay friends Nancy and Leon, to the outing of Roseanne’s mother, Beverly, at Thanksgiving dinner, to being one of the first network television shows to air a same-sex kiss, the Conners were at no shortage of LGBTQIA-inclusion in their lives.
But all of these points only make Roseanne Barr’s political positions and their inclusion into the revival of Roseanne all the more perplexing. Last year, ABC officially announced that it would be rebooting Roseanne for an eight-episode season, which was later extended to nine episodes by the network. But before that, Roseanne Barr announced via her Twitter on numerous occasions—including some in which she sparred with fans, critics, former colleagues, and other notable celebrities—that she vehemently supported Donald Trump during the 2016 election. Such tweets even included nasty insults targeted not just at other candidates such as Hillary Clinton, but people who dared to challenge her.
But what appears to be most disturbing about Barr’s inane Twitter-rants is the fact that she seems to not only buy into what she’s saying about Donald Trump—which is often false, or at least unfounded—but that she seems to be oblivious to how his actions and those of his administration have negatively impacted, and continue to potentially negatively impact, the LGBTQIA community. After all, this is the man whose running mate once endorsed federal funding for conversion therapy and who has actively spoken out about how “societal collapse” has always followed the redefining of marriage to include same-sex couples. Pence has also supported laws that promoted discrimination against the LGBTQIA community, such as a bill in Indiana during his time as governor that would have allowed privately-owned businesses to refuse service in the name of religion v. sexual orientation/gender identity. Trump’s other stances on LGBTQIA politics have also included, but are not limited to, his self-proclaimed “ban” on transgender people serving in the military, endorsements of anti-gay politicians, blatant ignorance of National Pride Month, rescinding an Obama-era motion protecting trans children in public schools (primary and secondary), permitting trans discrimination to be tolerated, and so much more.
So, this begs the question: what does Roseanne see in this guy? What happened to the progressive, feminist, advocate for the community and mother of four we grew up with for nine years? If you thought that Barr seemed liberal in her heyday, think again. At least, think again before bringing that her attention. She has in recent days denounced ever being a liberal (arguing she is instead now, and always has been, a “radical” who, in her own words, wishes to “shake up the establishment [and] staid the status quo.” If that were true, and we were to take Barr at her word, it would still be difficult to comprehend given her unwavering support of this particular administration.
This Roseanne Barr is a stark contrast to the Roseanne Conner many of us—specifically queer millennials—grew up knowing. Sure, one could argue that Barr’s onscreen persona was just that—a caricature of a real person that didn’t entirely parallel her real-world values, ideals, and morals. However, there’s a great deal of flaw to that logic, especially considering the reported toxicity on the set of the ABC hit during its freshman and sophomore years.
Not long after the show’s premiere, reports of Roseanne’s disputes with the show’s creative staff surfaced and were widely publicized. These included changing the show’s original title (Life & Stuff, denominated by series creator Matt Williams) to simply her Roseanne, her real-life and television forename. Barr also reportedly had an all-out screaming match with producers and a then 13-year-old Sara Gilbert, in which she insisted the child star be fired and replaced over an issue Gilbert was alleged to be having with learning her lines. It’s reported that Gilbert involved herself, shouting back to Barr, “You can’t fire me. You’re not a producer. You’re just the star.” There was also her boycott of the show after yet another creative disputer that landed her in her trailer for an entire day of shooting, which she had attached a memo to the simply read, “Sandy Duncan,” over her own name plate. The statement on the door referred to Valerie Harper having been fired from her own television show (entitled Valerie) and replaced by actress Sandy Duncan in the show’s second season when Harper insisted on having more creative control of the show. Other instances include (but are not limited to) the hiring of Tom Arnold (whom she would later wed and divorce), allegedly calling staff writers by numbers rather than by name, a complete firing of nearly her entire production staff to satisfy a vision for which Arnold took some credit (see video below), and an ultimate to show producers that if the aforementioned show creator, Williams, was not fired, she would leave the show just thirteen episodes into her 26-episode contract (Williams was subsequently let go following the ultimatum). And in many of these instances, Barr would have been right to stand up for the creative perspective she envisioned for a show that bore her given name in its title.
But all that this really proves is just how much creative control Roseanne eventually did have over the sitcom as a whole. And as the years progressed, that became increasingly apparent, often for the better (save for season nine). The tone became less soft; the issues became more real; Roseanne’s parents went from being simply annoying to downright vile; Jackie became quirkier; Becky threw away her potential for a high school dropout on a motorcycle; Roseanne became oddly spiritual; and, of course, the Conners won the lottery. Then, of course, there was the big one:
The inclusion of gay characters.
These characters, however, weren’t presented the way we’d seen gay characters on TV before—for the few that we had seen. They weren’t over-the-top gay men parading around flamboyantly and coming to the rescue with a one-off, sassy remark (though Leon did provide his fair share of zingers at Roseanne’s expense). And Nancy was never presented to be too butch or too lipstick—her character was a quirky individual who was more so defined by her eccentricities than by her lesbianism (and sometimes bisexuality).They stood in line amongst the other ranks of the cast. Leon was a successful businessman who eventually became Roseanne’s business partner; and Nancy was a free-spirited flake. Neither of their relationships were ever censored (at least not for a show that included gay core characters in the ‘90s). They weren’t put on display (though they were sometimes used as tools from which Dan and Roseanne could learn valuable lessons). Roseanne took these characters and showed them to audiences in a way that normalized homosexuality, arguably even paving the way for shows such as Will & Grace to feature leading gay characters in the later ‘90s.
Now, just two months shy of the revival, we know little about what to expect. But what we do know is both hopeful and unsettling. The hopeful: Roseanne and Dan Conner have a grandson who dons dresses (though producer Sara Gilbert has explicitly stated he does not identify as trans and that he’s too young to know that he’s gay). LGBTQIA people such as Wanda Sykes and Sara Gilbert herself are writing for and producing the show.
The unsettling: the Conner heads-of-household have elected Trump.
And that much may be true. But it does that mean that somewhere in the span of time that we’ve been absent from the lives of the Conners, Roseanne had to have this uncomfortable conversation with her lesbian mother, Leon, and Nancy. Does it mean that she’s turned her back on the women she once stood up for in the factory where its predominantly female employees were being tread upon by a misogynistic, piece of shit boss? Does it mean that the Roseanne Conner—and often the Roseanne Barr—that we all thought we knew, that we all wanted to be our mother and friend and sister, has had time to change in the last twenty years since leaving television?
Yes. The answer is yes. And that means that Roseanne Barr, and effectively Roseanne Conner, as well, is failing the LGBTQIA community. Someone who normalized our community is now in the pocket of a president whose empathy extends as long as his hands. True, Barr has stated that Trump has a bad habit of running his mouth and that she doesn’t agree with all he says and doesn’t, but she is using her show as a way to perpetuate the idiosyncrasies and the wrongdoings of a man in office who has done nothing to prove to the LGBTQIA community that he should be trusted with their lives and safety. Regardless of how Barr claims to feel about his stance on LGBTQIA rights (and it doesn’t seem that she’s had much to say so far about that particular end of it), befriending a villain because he did a good deed in your eyes is still befriending a villain.
Many of us will watch the show when it premieres—whether that be because we simply aren’t that shaken by her politics or because we’re just curious to see how the show actually handles these issues. Either way, one thing is for sure: Roseanne Barr—in spite of her many championships of LGBTQ culture throughout the years—has sided with the enemy, leaving many of us who looked up to her as a mother, a friend, a daughter, a comedian, a worker, or a woman in a great pit of disappointment.
GRAMMY, EMMY WINNERS AND THE VOICE GEAR UP TO HONOR HOUSTON LGBT COMMUNITY AT 6TH ANNUAL FACE AWARDS THIS WEEK
HOUSTON — LGBTQ+ Houston’s biggest award show celebrates their sixth year by announcing some of the biggest names in entertainment and politics this year for the 2017 FACE Awards, hosted by Sarah Pepper, Lauren Kelly, and Geoff Sheen, the morning show at Mix 96.5FM. The 2017 FACE Awards to be held South Beach the Nightclub in Montrose this week on Thursday, November 16, 2017, and is presented by Avenue 360 Health & Wellness, South Beach the Nightclub and CBS Radio Houston.
NBC’sThe Voice® contestant and star Stephanie Rice will walk the red carpet and has been announced as a presenter at the FACE Awards. Grammy® winning artist Billy Dorsey, an outspoken advocate for equality will join the long list of exciting presenters. Dorsey will also be bringing down the house, as the FACE Awards has announced he will also perform.
Derrick Shore, an Emmy® winning journalist with more than 15 years in TV reporting on everything from the red carpet at the Oscars® to events at the White House has been announced to attend and present. Joining the amazing list of Emmy® winning talent, ABC News Houston affiliate Jessica Willey will grace the red carpet and co-present with a special guest.
Others exciting names will include Harris County ConstableAlan Rosen, the beautiful Miss Texas, Nicole Lassiter whom will be returning for her second year. As the first openly gay President of Texas A&M University, Bobby Brooks will make his debut this year. Houston’s favorite Al Farb, of 93Q Country, has also been announced to present. This year each presenter will be teamed up with an LGBT member of the community to present awards. A move that shows unity and equality, and love.
The FACE Awards will present awards in twenty-one different categories. Joey Guerra, Music Critic of the Houston Chronicle and Joy Sewing, Fashion Editor of the Houston Chronicle return to host ‘LIVE’ from the Red Carpet, a pre-show that highlights the red carpet arrivals of nominees, past winners, and community leaders starting at 7 PM and will be broadcast live on multiple social media platforms. Award show starts promptly at 8:30 PM.
A closer look at KPRC Chief Meteorologist Frank Billingsley and his new book Swabbed and Found.
(HOUSTON) — Frank Billingsley is no stranger to the City of Houston. In fact, he’s been in the living rooms of Houstonians for years as KPRC Channel 2’s chief meteorologist—a position he assumed over twenty years ago in 1995. Despite how well we may feel we know him—Frank has never held back from sharing details of his personal life—there are still many things that the public doesn’t know about him.
Many of those details are outlined in Frank’s new book, Swabbed and Found, which chronicles his life not just as a meteorologist, but as a gay man and a child of adoption. The latter recently led Frank upon an incredible, sordid, and sometimes complicated journey to discover better who he is and where he comes from.
I sat down with Frank in the weeks following Hurricane Harvey to discuss the book, his life before this journey, coming out, and, of course, the weather.
Billingsley states that while his sister—who is also adopted—for years yearned to find out more about her birth parents, the need to know about his own had never overwhelmed him. In fact, it wasn’t until his colleague and dear friend, Dominique Sachse, presented him with an email link about biological genealogy testing that he even considered it a possibility. After all, his home state was a closed-records state that didn’t allow for adoption records to be released if requested to remain closed by the birth parents. At least not without “a lot of trouble and a lot of money,” as Frank put it himself in our interview.
“That was the first time that I had realized that it [genealogical science] had become sophisticated enough and that the database had become as big as it is … It’s like a fingerprint. It’s so unique that it can link you to another person.”
Yet, it was that link that led Mr. Billingsley down a road to discovering his birth mother—who he has since met and with whom he has established a relationship. As Frank puts it, “not everybody wants that information,” when it comes to finding the people that put them up for adoption. However, that knowledge led him to a more enlightened state of being—closure even. To hear Frank make a compelling argument on the idea of closure and finality, “Closure is closure. And closure is very often sad. You close life with a funeral. You close relationships with a glass of wine. You close jobs with hugs and tears. But closure is a part of life.”
Closure, however, did prove harder for some than others. Billingsley’s aforementioned sister did discover her family, only to find that her birth mother had passed of cancer and that her father wasn’t open to a relationship with her. She did, however, find that she had half-siblings, with whom she has maintained contact.
When the conversation circled around to Frank being gay—Frank and his husband Kevin, with whom he has a stepson, married on December 12th, 2012—I asked Frank about coming out to his parents in a decade not as accepting as the 2010s. Frank admits that it wasn’t easy, but that it wasn’t as difficult as the coming out stories that are often told. He states that his adopted father admitted he didn’t understand homosexuality, but knew how smart Frank was. He continued to tell his son that if someone as smart as Frank thought that it was okay, there couldn’t be anything wrong with being gay. “
However, when it came down to meeting his biological mother, Billingsley admits that there was a moment where it felt as though he had to come back out of the closet. He states that his mother, like his adopted parents, is a devout Christian, and that maybe she does not understand homosexuality.
Being someone in the media, Frank is never without news in his face. A supporter of the strides that the Obama Administration made for LGBTQ people, I asked Frank what he thought of the current administration, and whether or not he worried that rights would be stripped away from LGBTQ people. He seemed hopeful, stating, “I don’t think that the legislation would be there to support that. And if it does, I don’t think the people who vote for the legislature will support that. I don’t think we want to see our country go back.” He continued, “When we’re dealing with human beings, and their rights to be human beings, taking a deep breath and pondering whether the decisions concerning their rights are futile. If you look at the trans military ban—you have generals who are saying, ‘No, no!’ It’s bad enough we’re banning Muslims … and now this?”
As far as Hurricane Harvey is concerned, Billingsley was concerned for what he proudly refers to as “my city,” a phrase Houstonians everywhere are familiar with and that binds us together. He states he wasn’t surprised by how the city came together, nor was he surprised by the impact of the storm—which he himself predicted to bring as much as 50” of rain to certain areas surrounding the city.
Billingsley’s book (being released by Houston’s Bright Sky Press) is a page-turner. It’s one that Houstonians will read with ease because each word can be heard in Billingsley’s voice. That won’t stop it from gathering attention outside Houston, however. For there’s much more appeal in a story the story than just Frank’s fame. In fact, it would be fair to say that anyone who has ever had uncertainties about who they are will have a difficult time putting the book down. However, in this debut chronicle of his life, his main message rings loud and clear:
Regardless of color, orientation, race, nationality, religion, age, size—people are people. We’re all related by that fact. And as such, people all deserve the same rights and respects.
And if there may be no better mouthpiece in Houston for that message to come from than Frank himself—a smart, successful, well-round, and well-respected gay man and pillar of the LGBTQ community.