Ever since his friend Jeffrey Epstein was arrested on charges of sex trafficking of minors, Donald Trump has been acting distressed. Over the past few days in particular, Trump’s behavior has erupted into full-on panic. What precisely does Trump have to worry about? You’d have to ask him, and he’s not talking. But in a few days we’re going to get some answers.
The U.S. Court of Appeals is about to release thousands of pages of Epstein-related documents. According to Vanity Fair, the court has said that the documents may reveal sexual abuse on the part of “numerous prominent American politicians, powerful business executives, foreign presidents, a well-known prime minister, and other world leaders.” This further cements the notion that Epstein wasn’t just a serial child rapist, he was acting as some kind of hub for other child rapists and sexual assaulters.
We have no way of knowing what names will be included in these documents, or what those people will be accused of. We have no idea if Donald Trump will be included, or in what capacity. Nor do we know if these documents will represent proof of anything, or mere documentation of allegations. But what we do know is that the Epstein scandal is about to get a whole lot bigger, and that it’s about to (predictably) expand beyond just Epstein.
This is crucial in that it puts us one step closer to justice for any and all victims involved in this scandal. When it comes to Donald Trump, let’s just say that his increasingly panicked behavior this week suggests that he had some involvement in the crimes or the coverup, and that he fears his role is about to be exposed. We’re just a few days away from getting a lot of answers.
Jennifer Hudson, Taylor Swift, Jason Derulo, Judi Dench, Rebel Wilson, James Corden, Francesca Hayward, Idris Elba, Les Twins, and Ian McKellen are among the stars enlisted for the live action version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s CATS film adaptation directed by Tom Hooper.
(CNN) – Federal Judge Anthony Trenga is considering throwing out the conspiracy and foreign lobbying charge that Michael Flynn’s ex-lobbying partner faces because the evidence prosecutors have presented at trial this week has been “very, very circumstantial.”
“Much of it’s very speculative,” Trenga, a federal judge in the Eastern District of Virginia, said Thursday.
Trenga is not expected to decide Thursday, and has indicated he will let the defense present its case.
The biggest hole in prosecutors’ presentation appears to have been the lack of testimony from Flynn, who initially had agreed to help prosecutors and then was dropped as a witness earlier this month. If Trenga were to toss the charges against Flynn’s partner Bijan Kian, it would be an enormous boon to Flynn, who had admitted under oath to illegally filing a false foreign lobbying form — also an issue in this case — but has not yet been sentenced for his crime of lying to FBI agents in a 2017 interview.
The prosecution finished presenting its case Thursday afternoon, after calling its 15th witness. Prosecutors and the defense team then made impassioned arguments over the judge stepping in before a jury could hear the defense’s case.
SEND HER BACK. Donald Trump insists he tried to stop the “send her back” chants even though the tape shows he paused for 13 seconds while the chants grew.
DESTROY. USDA suppresses plan to address climate change: “Staff members across several USDA agencies drafted the multiyear plan that outlines how the department should help agriculture understand, adapt to and minimize the effects of climate change. Top officials, however, decided not to release the plan and told staff members to keep it for internal use only, the employee told POLITICO. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retribution.”
JAPAN. Arsonist kills 33 at anime studio in Kyoto: ‘Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tweeted that the apparently deliberate act is “too appalling for words.” According to local media, a man reportedly burst into Kyoto Animation’s building and shouted “die” as he poured out a flammable liquid. At the time, there were reportedly about 70 people in the building. A suspect in his 40s has been taken into custody and was being treated at a local hospital, NHK reported.’
NYT. Pete Buttigieg is still figuring it out. “Amid the attention paid to Buttigieg’s eclecticisms — his frequent literary references, his ability to speak eight languages, his classical piano training and Radiohead fandom — it’s easy to overlook the fact that he is, at heart, a fairly conventional political animal. Buttigieg is steeped in campaign life, having worked for John Kerry in 2004 and Obama in 2008, and he tends to talk, more than most candidates, like an operative.”
IOWA. Taxpayers could foot $6 million bill for anti-discrimination lawsuit against Governor Terry Branstad. ‘Godfrey’s lead attorney, Roxanne Conlin, said Wednesday said she intends to request reimbursement for more than $2.6 million in attorneys’ fees. That’s the approximate tab her team racked up before the six-week trial started, she said. The private defense attorneys Branstad hired have received more than $1.2 million from the state so far, and Conlin predicted the defense’s total bill will top $2 million.’
TEASER OF THE DAY. Snoopy in Space.
CAPE COD SHARK SIGHTING OF THE DAY. Experts take you on a tagging mission.
THIS YEAR I’ve reviewed half a dozen of the ten or so films that I saw in June at the Provincetown International Film Festival—not officially an LGBT film festival, but hey, it’s P’town, so a fair number G&LR-worthy films were on hand. Here is the first of six: State of Pride Directed by Rob Epstein and […]
Berkeley, California will be renaming “manholes” as “maintenance holes” in official city documents in a bid to recognize nonbinary gender inclusivity.
In addition fraternities and sororities will be referred to as “Collegiate Greek system residences,” “manpower” will be termed “human effort,” pregnant women will be referred to as “pregnant employees,” and “watchmen” will be called “guards.”
CNN reports: ‘The item passed without discussion or comments and was not controversial, said Berkeley City Council member Rigel Robinson, the bill’s primary author. The revised city documents also will replace instances of gendered pronouns, such as “he” and “she” with “they,” according to the ordinance.’
Photo credit should read ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP/Getty Images
Everything is gravy after the 2019 Masters win, but Woods looked old and bad in his first round at the Open, so much so that he was asked the question if he’d even play the second round.
Tiger Woods’ 2019 season is already and will always be an unqualified, legendary success. That was the case as soon as he tapped in on 18 to win the Masters in April. With that context out of the way, right now he looks and plays like a guy who should pack it in for the season. This would be fine and perfectly acceptable! He’s done enough and accomplished something this year that, had you watched him for most of the preceding five years, felt like a fantasy. He was never going to play again, nevermind win the Masters.
But right now? Woods looks a lot more like the broken-down and uncompetitive iteration from 2014 or 2015. He looks like someone who achieved that fantasy comeback Masters win and then, deservedly so, exhaled and put his feet up to celebrate all summer. The rest of the year, and if we’re being honest, maybe his career, is gravy. He’s said as much, continually referring to the “gift” it was just to be able to stand up without pain and walk again, let alone play golf.
But then he won the Masters and we all started talking about chasing Jack Nicklaus’ record again and sort of forgot the context of the prior five years in our hysteria.
Woods’ opening round at The Open was a slog, and from the very first strike, when he appeared to grimace after his opening drive.
The day would be full of pained looks and exasperated sighs. The play was a wave of dicey short game shots, poor putting strokes, and inconsistent tee balls. The start at Portrush presents multiple birdie chances but Woods scrambled to make pars through his first four holes and then the tightrope snapped and he played the final five holes of the front nine in 5-over. None of it looked very fun and it was clear Woods was not going to be competitive in the final major of the men’s season.
It would take more than four hours before he poured in his first birdie of the day, coming on his 15th hole of the round.
Tiger’s first birdie of the day comes at the 15th.
The final tally was a 7-over 78 that had him in a tie for 140th place. That’s the injury-plagued province on a major leaderboard he occupied before last year’s comeback. It’s his highest first round score ever at The Open.
This round came after Woods took a month off and got away following a quiet U.S. Open exit and missed cut at the PGA Championship. He said he needs to play less in order to play longer, and that all makes sense. But Thursday, he did not look like he just had a month off but more like the worn-down delirious guy from last year’s Ryder Cup, who was playing for the 7th time in nine weeks.
After the round, he cited “Father Time” and told Golf Channel’s Steve Sands that he was “not moving the way I’d like” and “can’t hit all the shots I want to hit.” But he did emphatically say “yes” to the question of if he’d play on Friday. The fact that it was a question should give you some indication of how he looked.
Woods’ 78 is excusable. Nothing is a failure after what happened in April. But given what he tells us it takes to get ready just to play one round of golf, what’s the point of playing the rest of the year? The PGA Tour and its deep pocketed sponsors of the remaining WGC and FedExCup won’t like to hear it. But shut it down, captain the Presidents Cup team, and prepare for the majors next year — specifically the ones that are played in temperatures above 70 degrees and more benign on your decrepit, creaky body. This Northern Irish setting was not that.
Woods was not the only player on the struggle-bus on Thursday, as the Open beat up some of the best in the world in both dispiriting and amusing ways. Here were a few more:
The pot bunker tumble
South African Justin Harding has had himself a career year, but this was a moment where he’d probably prefer to burrow a hole and hide in this Portrush pot bunker. This was a double scoop of embarrassment with both the failure of the shot slamming into the bunker face and then the tumble down into the sand.
David Duval’s round at Portrush started well enough with red numbers on his first two holes. Perhaps the former world No. 1 and 2001 Open winner had found something for one week. Then the round unraveled, quickly, and the bogeys we expected from the part-time player came in buckets. Then the round just got blown out to sea completely with a 14 on the par-5 7th hole.
The explanation sounded like something from the C flight at a club championship or local qualifying match. Duval apparently lost his first two tee shots, then played the wrong ball from his third. What was believed to be a 13 was actually a 14 after a slow and deliberate post-round recounting of how it all went wrong.
This description of David Duval’s 14 (changed from a 13 after his round) is wild. Hope the extra shot doesn’t cost him making the cut! pic.twitter.com/aF9pVVxT5c
The 13-turned-14 were the entree in a 20-over 91 that, as you’d expect, has the former great in DFL. After the round, Duval delivered this inspirational poster quote to the AP’s Doug Ferguson.
This is solid from Duval: “You have an obligation as a professional athlete. If you play, you post your score. Am I happy about that? Is there some … embarrassment to it? I don’t know. But I teed off in the Open and I shot 90 today. So put it on the board.”
The only issue is Duval withdrew from the last two Opens after high opening round scores, as Golf.com’s Josh Berhow noted. He’s also, if we’re being honest, more of a professional commentator than athlete at this point, no? That does not mean he doesn’t have the right to go out there and post whatever number he wants as a former British Open champion.
The first hole fiasco
Woods’ 78 was bad, but at least it was not 79. That was Rory McIlroy’s final tally after an opening quadruple bogey and a closing triple bogey. McIlroy carded every score in between in what was a disaster of a day for the home crowd and betting favorite. We went into greater detail on his round and his diminished confidence here, but while you’re wallowing in Woods’ relative uncompetitiveness, you can remind yourself that the player near the very top of the game and in his peak at the moment did one worse.
Just act cool
Dustin Johnson is one of the most naturally smooth and cool golfers on the planet. Legendary golf writer Jim Moriarity once described him as having “the oily gait of a jungle cat.” We use the qualifier “naturally” smooth. The problem is when you tell him to play it or act it. Then? Well, as we’ve seen over and over, it’s nothing but forced awkwardness and confusion and unintentional comedy. This was maybe my favorite non-golf clip of the entire opening round.
“So all you need to do DJ is walk forward, take your yardage book out and make it look like your getting a yardage… got it?” …. pic.twitter.com/rS4F976jFU
Everyone’s been talking about FaceApp, the new photo filter app that allows users to modify pictures of themselves to appear older, younger, with a different hairstyle, as a different gender, and so on, often to very creepy results.
It was all fun and games until people realized that the app was owned by the Russian company Wireless Lab and that it was farming their private data. Given how Russia used people’s data to meddle in the 2016 election, everyone started freaking out.
In response, Sen. Chuck Schumer called for a federal investigation into Wireless Lab over what he believes are potential national security and privacy threats to the millions of Americans who have downloaded FaceApp.
But that hasn’t stopped many from continuing to download it. And just to add a layer of creepiness to it all, they’ve started uploading pictures of Donald Trump, creating images that are truly, truly terrifying.
“I’m standing in the $0.99 store. I have a two-year-old that needs supplies for his birthday party tomorrow.”
Rachel Mason doesn’t give herself a break. The noted musician and performance artist has spent the first half of the year traveling the country with her new film Circus of Books. It opens at Outfest July 18 before coming to Netflix this fall.
The documentary traces the history of Mason’s family business, the West Hollywood adult shop of the same name. Mason grew up with her parents, Karen & Barry, running the store staring in 1982. Only as an adult did she begin to understand the merchandise it sold, and its cultural significance to the queer community. As the store shuttered its doors at both Silver Lake and West Hollywood locations earlier this year, Mason released her film to share the history of the establishment, and the profound effect it had on her family.
We tell Mason we’ve been trying to get her for an interview since we caught the film at the Tribeca Film Festival this spring. Amid the background noise, she granted us a few minutes ahead of the July 18 Los Angeles premiere to talk about her family, the film, and how Ryan Murphy came aboard as producer.
So this is a family film of another sort.
It’s a film that the Christian right could totally get behind, except it’s about a gay porn store.
A film about a Jewish family running a gay porn store as made by their performance artist daughter. I’m sure they’d have something to say about that.
Well if you take out the gay porn and performance artist, it’s kind of a Christian-right film.
I think it’s terrific; a beautiful love letter to your family. At exactly what point did you decide to chronicle this element of your family on film?
I have to say again that great journalism reminds me of things that I had forgotten about. So in 2004, KCRW reporter Matt Holtzman did a radio piece and asked me to dig up the oldest footage I had so he could dive in. That was done in 2004, and I had just taken a queer studies class with Jonathan D. Katz, my professor at Yale. I think I casually mentioned, “I don’t know if this is important to gay history, but my parents own Circus of Books.” And he was like, “Circus of Books? That store was so important to me as a gay man. I practically came out in that store.” He had all these amazing things to say. I’m a total LA kid, you know, the East Cost totally intimidates me. So I was like how do you know about Circus of Books at Yale?
So he was like just go home and film something over the holiday. Document this, because it’s really important history. He said “Queer history is an unwritten history.” We’ve been oppressed. There are no historical archives. This is part of our history.
So when I went back to document my parents, they said, funny enough “Jeff Stryker has just invited us to his little cowboy show in the valley.”
Oh my lord.
So I thought, why not document that? And it was the most hilarious footage. My parents are so immersed in this world and they’re so used to it that it didn’t phase them at all to watch Jeff Stryker doing all these ridiculously graphic dances to his hit song “Pop You in the Pooper.”
Which is a country line dancing song. But that was the very first footage. None of it made it into the film; it didn’t go anywhere. It wasn’t what I was trying to do. It took when the stores actually started to close in 2014 when my producers, Adam Baran, said “Rachel, you need to document this now. Because it is going to close, and it’ll be gone.” So it was because of this kind of death blow to the store. I also knew nobody else really could [make the film], because my mom—I think other filmmakers approached her—and she was always reticent to let anyone know about the business. So it had to be me.
Was your family immediately willing when you went to them? What was their reaction?
The funny thing is that my mom’s instant reaction, the whole time—and I had forgotten this until I saw the footage I shot in 2004 again—my mom’s reaction back that was “Look, Rachel, we’re the worst people to talk to about anything within this industry. We don’t know anything. We didn’t start the business. Running it for 35 years means nothing.” My mom, herself is a former journalist, you know, and she was just on my case about “this is not how you do this as a journalist.” Which sort of became the joke of the whole movie. She’s so obviously a world expert on gay porn. She’s seen it all, and she’s exactly the right person to want to talk to, but she doesn’t want to talk.
That is hilarious. Your folks are so adorable too. I don’t know if any of you know, but Circus of books is an institution, and a worldwide one at that. I interviewed John Waters recently, and he said he really loved the film. He also mentioned that he had sex there once.
I’ve been sharing that. That was your interview? I didn’t realize…
Yes, that was us. Thank you.
That blew my mind.
It makes perfect sense somehow.
The thing about the store is that every man of John Waters’ generation who was at the store hands down has some crazy story. It’s almost like you can’t not have a crazy story.
It’s wild. But I bring it up to ask, what was the biggest shock for you in making this and in learning the history of the store?
The funny thing is there’s a line my dad says in the movie: “Something really crazy would have had to really happen to register it.” And I’m like, what’s more crazy than people having sex in the store? What is really crazy? Someone getting shot? One of the crazy things my dad said was that one time a worker fell through the roof above the store. It sounded like one of those horrific, scary accidents. By some miracle, this guy didn’t get injured. But people were cruising so hard that the dust got kicked up, and people just kept shopping. There was so much crazy activity happening that people were just not even noticing somebody could fall through the ceiling.
That is crazy.
Something poignant also came up recently—a person wrote an email to my mom. It said “I’m writing you about your store closing. I’m not gay; my husband would be dead if it weren’t for your store. I want you to know…” she listed the day. “My husband was standing on the corner and a gang attacked and beat him. And because the store was open 24 hours, he somehow managed to crawl to the store and an employee came out and saved his life.”
So I thought about all these other stories…because the store was just there. They were both such hotspots of activity, not just gay activity. People went there as a refuge.
That’s one thing I really came away from the film feeling. Watching this film, I came to respect shops like yours in a new way. I’m of a certain age, so I take the ability to gather in a bar or on the net for granted. In the 80s, going to a gay porn shop was entering a safe space, where you could meet others. Your employees there could be out at work, which was unheard of.
Totally. The store was there in the 60s, which, at that time, being gay was illegal. Another image I have—and this didn’t make it in the film—when the store was closing, I went back to film. This guy wearing a Vietnam Vet had walked in the store with his cane, really elderly guy. He just stood where he walked in, couldn’t move, and started crying right there. And he said “I have the best memories of my entire life right here in this store. I just came here to stand in here one more time. I know it’s the last day. When I got out of the service, this is where I knew I could come.” And that’s like…Vietnam? A gay soldier? Can you imagine?
Totally, and I’m 40, and I was always in a gay circle. So living in West Hollywood I never experienced anything like [living in the closet]. Being an artist, I’m more deep within the gay community. In the 90s, it wasn’t so easy, but nothing like what those people experienced.
Was this something you were really aware of? The idea of the safe space in the store?
No. I mean, I knew about the store. But my Mom forced me to go to Hebrew school, which I hated. I was just rebelling against her. I thought it was terrible—dogmatic, conservative…all the things my mom was. I was shocked beyond belief when I found out they were doing something cool. It was unreal.
It also is ironic that your brother grew up in afraid to come out of the closet, and that your mom, in particular, had such a shocked reaction. Obviously, that’s very emotional for the two of you to discuss in the film.
That was really painful for me to realize. I think this is maybe just another avenue of appreciating the differences in gay cultures—plural. I was, in the 90s, my people were doing experimental drag performance art. Body slicing. The people that were on the cutting edge fringe even within the queer world. And I still am. I love all the weirdos. My brother’s just not an artist, not into things that are freaky. I think I was representing to him, if you’re going to be gay, you have to be this fringe person on the edge of society. It was really painful for me to realize that I could have been part of what made it hard for him. He was just such a normal guy. He wanted straight-As, that kind of perfection.
Now point of clarity, do you identify as queer as well?
Yes. I do. Funny enough, I’ve identified with as many letters—and I’ve switched across. I’ve thought maybe I’m a lesbian, or bi, or queer. I’m not trans, I am just female. But even to this day I feel like it’s still a work in progress to figure out what all the varieties of letters are. Actually “P,” pansexual, seems a bit more fitting to me. I’m attracted to people who are non-gender conforming. So “queer” makes a lot of sense as a word for me.
We’re happy to have you. So what was most cathartic for your family in going through this process?
I’ve been learning from this festival experience. Both my parents have said different things. My dad is just sort of really on a trip of his own. If everyone could be like him, we’d have a peaceful world. He’s amused. He thinks its great when people tell him their stories. He’s very touched.
My mom, on the other hand, is extremely conflicted. She feels like she’s been hurled out of this safe space herself, and is now a public figure. She’s getting used to it. She’s not upset, but it’s been a struggle for her because she, I think, held up an image of who she was, and what she wanted to project. She says in the movie “I never thought of myself as a soccer mom.” And I’m like that’s who you were. You were a soccer mom. She wanted to be a perfect, Jewish, classic mom. I think it’s so strange to her. Whenever people clap, she doesn’t understand why they’re clapping. She’s like we really don’t deserve this. We’re not heroes. And she’s very aware of queer history because of PFLAG. So she says “There are real heroes, and we ain’t them. They’re people that laid down in the middle of the street.” I’ve had enough people try to redirect her to say “The people that were there running the store were heroes also.”
What are your parents up to now?
When you close a store, there’s a ton of stuff to do. So they have to manage things to do with the building, paperwork. Every time I talk to my mom, she’s inundated with paperwork. But they are trying to be supportive of the festivals, going around wherever they’re asked.
Tell them to enjoy the ride. It’s special.
I have to ask—because we were going to cover the film at Tribeca and I suddenly heard from your publicist that Netflix was on the line. What’s it like when you get the call that Ryan Murphy is coming aboard to produce?
It was a bit of a blur. I was so stressed, I didn’t absorb the good news really. Everything happening at that point was like a bomb dropping on me. Thta happens with every film; there’s so much stuff. So when that happened I was like, I’m going to believe this when I see him, when I meet him. And I met him, and I believed it. He was cool. And he told me that he really loved the movie, the story. He had been in the store itself. That meant a lot to me—someone who came to LA as a gay man himself in the era when the store was in its heyday. So he was the right person for the film.
We love Ryan at Queerty. He puts his money back into his community and tells stories from queer history. He employs members of the community on both sides of the camera.
It’s so interesting that you say that. That puts all the dots together. Ryan had said “This story matters a lot because it has to do with family and gay culture and religion.” Those are the things he cares about. So I didn’t set out to make a movie of bullet points of all the things he cares about. But I did.
Circus of Books opens Outfest July 17. It comes to Netflix this fall.
Courtroom sketch showing Jeffrey Epstein at his bail hearing in New York on July 15th, 2019.
Artist: Christine Cornell
A federal judge on Thursday denied bail to wealthy investor Jeffrey Epstein, citing the potential danger he poses to the public and the risk Epstein will flee to avoid prosecution for child sex trafficking charges.
The decision by Judge Richard Berman means that the 66-year-old Epstein will remain in jail pending trial in the case, where he faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted.
“I doubt any bail package could overcome dangerousness …. to community,” Berman said during a hearing in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, agreeing with the recommendation by prosecutors to keep Epstein locked up.
Berman said that risk was “the heart of this decision” to deny the financier release on bond.
He noted that two women who claim they were abused by Epstein gave “compelling testimony” at a court hearing Monday, where they had expressed “fear for their safety.”
The judge also called Epstein’s proposal for bail “irretrievably inadequate.”
Epstein had also suggested strict bail conditions, which could include requiring him to remain in his New York City mansion, round-the-clock security monitoring and an electronic tracking device.
But Berman said that prosecutors had established that Epstein could be dangerous by “clear and convincing evidence,” and had shown by a “preponderance” of evidence that he could flee.
The judge noted Epstein’s “great wealth and his vast resources,” which include private planes and a residence in Paris.
And Berman said Epstein’s possession of a passport issued by Austria worried him.
That expired passport has Epstein’s photo but a different name on it, as well as stated residence in Saudi Arabia. It was used in the 1980s for travel, according to prosecutors.
In a letter Thursday, Epstein’s lawyers said he was given the passport by a friend at a time when “some Jewish-Americans were informally advised at the time to carry identification bearing a non-Jewish name when traveling internationally in case of hijacking.”
“He never used the document to travel internationally and never presented it to any immigration or customs authority. The passport stamps, predating his receipt of the document, do not reflect Mr. Epstein’s entries or exits,” the lawyers wrote.
Berman’s decision denying bail additionally noted that Epstein recently made payments to potential witnesses against him, that there have been allegations that Epstein failed to comply with requirements for registered sex offenders, and that agents of his intimidated witnesses in a prior investigation.
NBC archive footage shows Trump partying with Jeffrey Epstein in 1992
And Berman cited other “items seized” from Epstein’s Manhattan mansion the day he was arrested beyond the suspicious passport, which included a trove of “sexually explicit photos,” $70,000 in cash and dozens of diamonds.
At least one of the women in the photos has been identified as someone who was underage at the time the pictures were taken, according to prosecutors.
Sigrid McCawley, a lawyer for some of Epstein’s alleged victims, said outside the courthouse that she was “thrilled with the judge’s decision.”
“Only by taking away Jeffrey Epstein’s freedom can we ensure the freedom of these victims,” McCawley said.
It’s “a wonderful day for the victims,” she added. “It was the right thing to do and I’m happy that he did it.”
U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein appears in a photograph taken for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services’ sex offender registry March 28, 2017 and obtained by Reuters July 10, 2019. New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services/Handout via REUTERS.
New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services | Handout | Reuters
After last week’s emotionally-charged (and creatively-questionable) episode of Pose, this week gave us a production-heavy installment to lighten the mood.
Shifting the focus from our principle (now) quartet of trans actresses (R.I.P. Candy), I wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of a Damon and Ricky centered episode. Instead, the series wisely chose to use this opportunity to highlight its dance sequences — one of the show’s greatest strengths.
Even with minimal Pray Tell, Blanca and Angel, the simple emotional arc was easy to invest in. I’ve often bemoaned Ryan Jamaal Swain’s broad interpretation of Damon, but in this week’s episode, he brought the sort of ease and grace of his dancing to his speaking scenes.
Dyllon Burnside, who portrays Ricky, is a dependably solid player, but he really had a chance to shine last night.
As Madonna’s hit “Vogue” continues to top the charts, Damon’s vogue class is surging in popularity. A woman approaches him after class and invites him to audition for Madge’s “Blonde Ambition” tour. He is, of course, elated.
However, he’s not alone. Ricky also got the audition. What follows is crisply edited contrast between house mothers Blanca and Elektra as they react to the news. Blanca, of course, is warm and supportive, realizing this is a huge opportunity for Damon and for their entire community. Meanwhile, Elektra obviously makes it all about herself and getting her close to Madonna.
All of the dance scenes are stupendous, including Damon’s class and this first audition. Damon and Ricky share some sweet moments after the audition, conveying a sort of very natural ease between the two exes. I was never impressed with their on-screen chemistry previously, but they really filled these small, pleasant interactions with what felt like real residual feelings and history.
The pressure of the callback pushes Elektra to take desperate measures. She tries to convince her house to pull a Tonya Harding on Damon using Candy’s hammer. There was even a very heavy-handed justification that this is what Candy would’ve done. It was a slight and silly scene that really went nowhere, save for a sharp exchange between Blanca and Elektra wherein the former threatens to kill the latter if she lays a hand on any of her children.
Ricky and Damon both make the callback, of course. In a very strange editing decision, we don’t actually see them dance at the callback, but we do learn they didn’t get it.
Don’t fret just yet.
As they waited outside, they were offered another gig — dancers on a reboot of Solid Gold. They film the pilot, which means we’re treated to an extensive dance sequence. They’re hopeful the show will go to series, but Ricky is even more hopeful about their romantic future. Damon is resolute, though: There is too much at stake. They need to put all their energy into dance.
It’s interesting to see these characters start to get these bigger breaks. I hope they use the rising stars of Damon and Angel to dive further into the levels of privilege within this queer community of color. How would Damon’s career be affected if he were outed versus Angel? It’s an opportunity to explore the balance between our shared struggles and recognizing our unique experiences.
And it feels more relevant today than ever before.