Issue:  Vol. 44 / No. 51 / 18 December 2014
 

Drag queen sought for HBO series

A casting call has gone out for a lead role in Mamma Dallas, an upcoming HBO series created by Mike White (Enlightened, School of Rock).

Vicky Boone Casting is looking for a man in the general age range of 25 to 35 to play Liberty Bell, who “appears to be an attractive, sexy woman with a flirty side – but she’s not, really,” the casting company says in its description for the role. “Born Albert De Lorio, Liberty is a drag queen with an ebullient, chatty, upbeat personality, but she leads an unpleasantly seedy life … a life that she plans to turn around with a little re-invention and identity theft.”

Shooting begins in March. Compensation for whoever’s cast will be at professional scale.

Those interested in auditioning should email photos to vbcfeatures@gmail.com with the subject title “Mamma Dallas”.  Include name, phone number, drag experience, best contact information, and city of current residence.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, December 3, 2014 @ 4:29 pm PST
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Man found at East Bay cruising spot identified

Aquatic Park (Photo: City of Berkeley)

Aquatic Park (Photo: City of Berkeley)

The man found dead this weekend at a popular East Bay cruising site has been identified as Gary Alan Baker, 51, according to the Coroner’s Bureau of the Alameda County Sheriff’s office.

Baker, whose city of residence wasn’t available, was found at 4:12 p.m. Sunday, November 30 on the south side of Aquatic Park in Berkeley, Berkeley police said in a summary released Sunday.

The park has long been a popular spot for men who are looking for sex with other men. It’s not clear what Baker was doing at the park or whether he was LGBT.

Officer Byron White, a Berkeley Police Department spokesman, said in a phone interview today (Wednesday, December 3), “I don’t know what his intentions were for being in the park.”

Berkeley police responded to the site Sunday “to check on the welfare of a man reportedly lying on his back motionless,” the agency’s summary says. “Arriving shortly thereafter, officers discovered the male … deceased at the scene. The Homicide Detail is responding to investigate the incident. As it is too soon to determine whether foul play was involved, the incident is currently being investigated as a suspicious death.”

A coroner’s staffer said today the cause of death is pending, and she couldn’t provide more information about the case.

White said police are continuing to examine the case, but “We haven’t found any more information into this death during this investigation.”

He said police haven’t found any signs of foul play or injury, and he said the coroner’s office would have information on drug use. It’s “quite possible” Baker died of natural causes, White said.

“We’re waiting for the results of the autopsy, and that will probably complete the investigation,” he said.

White didn’t know whether Baker had a wallet and cellphone with him when he was found, and he didn’t know if he’d appeared to be homeless.

He also cautioned against calling it a homicide investigation.

“It’s more appropriate to call it an investigation into an unattended death,” White said. “There was no one there to see how the person died.”

Julian Clift, 52, of Richmond, said he used to frequent the south end of the park for sex but stopped going about five years ago.

Clift said there’s “a maze of trees and bushes,” and “alcoves where you could go and be private,” but the area had been “all fenced off.”

“They were probably trying to limit the illicit activity that was going on down there,” he said. “It’s not like it’s unreachable, because the last time I was there, I was able to get in there … you have to not mind getting your feet wet, or at least slogging through a bit of a marsh.” He added, “There was still activity going on.”

Homeless people had frequented the north end of the park more than the south, he said.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 2:14 pm PST
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Duboce Triangle residents raise safety concerns after fatal robbery

Frank Tizedes (right), a resident of the Duboce Triangle neighborhood, speaks at a neighborhood meeting November 24 following the killing of Michael Marquez.

Duboce Triangle resident Frank Tizedes (right) speaks at a neighborhood meeting November 24 following the killing of Michael Marquez. (Photo: Rick Gerharter)

Duboce Triangle residents shared their safety concerns last night (Monday, November 24) as they gathered near the spot where a robbery victim had been fatally shot just hours beforehand.

Officials say Michael Marquez, 22, of San Francisco, was walking with two other people near Henry and Noe streets around 12:30 a.m. Monday when five men got out of a car. One of the men shot Marquez and took a cellphone, backpack, and wallet.

The men, whom police have described only as black men “of unknown age,” fled. Marquez was taken to San Francisco General Hospital, where he was dead on arrival, according to police.

Residents have been voicing frustration over safety in the Duboce Triangle neighborhood, which is popular with LGBTs, for months. Over 100 people came to the shooting scene Monday night.

Gay Supervisor Scott Wiener, whose District 8 includes the neighborhood, called Marquez’s death “a terrible tragedy” and said he was “very frustrated that there was another murder in our neighborhood. We want to come together for the young man who was murdered at this intersection less than 24 hours ago. … This is our community. We must not let criminals take over.”

In August, Bryan Higgins, 31, a gay man, died three days after he was assaulted on Church Street, just a few blocks away. No arrests have been announced in connection with his death. (A friend of Marquez, the man killed Monday, has indicated he was straight.)

“We must work very hard to make sure this doesn’t happen in our home any more,” Wiener said.

The supervisor recalled Higgins, who was also known by his Radical Faerie name “Feather,” and a moment of silence followed.

Residents let Wiener know they’re worried.

Audrey Thompson, 37, said, “We are neglected in this neighborhood. I really need to leave, it’s not safe.”

Frank Tizedes, 51, expressed similar concerns.

“We don’t have police coverage here,” Tizedes said. “I had someone in my house. My neighbor had his window kicked in.”

Others made comments about multiple incidents of car and house break-ins, and a total lack of police presence in the neighborhood. Many said homeless people were often to blame.

Captain Raj Vaswani, who heads the Park police station, which oversees Duboce Triangle, urged neighbors to be more vigilant about calling the police.

“Ninety percent of arrests happen when neighbors call in,” Vaswani said.

Mary Levander (left) joins nearly 100 of her neighbors in the Duboce Triangle neighborhood for a sidewalk meeting November 24. (Photo: Rick Gerharter)

Mary Levander (left) joins nearly 100 of her neighbors in the
Duboce Triangle neighborhood for a sidewalk meeting November 24. (Photo: Rick Gerharter)

Wiener said from 2005 to 2010 there were no police academy classes, which coincided with a wave of retirements. He said he’s been pushing for increased funding for classes and hiring new officers.

Poor street lighting, another problem Wiener has been trying to address, was also discussed Monday night.

Resident Betty Doerr, who declined to share her age, urged people to join Next Door, an app which helps neighbors stay connected and informed with what’s going on in their community.

People from Castro Community on Patrol handed out whistles and urged neighbors to volunteer.

Dennis Richards, of the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association, said there will be a community meeting at 7 p.m., Monday, December 8 in the Gazebo Room at California Pacific Medical Center’s Davies Campus, 45 Castro Street.

As of Tuesday afternoon, no arrests had been reported in the Marquez case. Anyone with information may contact the police anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or text a tip to TIP411. Type “SFPD” in the subject line and then the tip. The case number is 140 993 755.

(This story was reported by David-Elijah Nahmod and Seth Hemmelgarn.)

— Seth Hemmelgarn, November 25, 2014 @ 4:12 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Man killed in Duboce Triangle robbery

Police are investigating the fatal shooting of a San Francisco man who was killed in a robbery in Duboce Triangle early this morning (Monday, November 24).

The San Francisco Medical Examiner’s office has identified the victim as Michael Marquez, 22.

According to police, Marquez and two other men were walking in near Henry and Noe streets at 12:38 a.m. when five other men approached them.

One of the men pointed a handgun at Marquez and his companions, both in their early 20s, and shot Marquez, police said. He was taken to San Francisco General Hospital, where he was dead on arrival, according to Officer Grace Gatpandan, a police spokeswoman. Gatpandan said in a summary that the suspects had been in a “dark color sedan” and fled the scene in a vehicle.

She described the suspects only as black men of “unknown age.” No arrests had been made as of Monday morning.

A smartphone, wallet, and backpack were stolen during the incident, which occurred two blocks north of the popular gay eatery Café Flore.

In an interview, Officer Albie Esparza, an SFPD spokesman, said the suspects fled on foot, but “I don’t know what the specifics are … investigators are still interviewing victims and witnesses.” Police were also trying to get more detailed descriptions of the suspects, Esparza said.

He couldn’t say where Marquez and the others had been and where they’d been going, and said, “In homicides, we don’t release that information.”

Anyone with information in the case may contact the police anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or text a tip to TIP411. Type “SFPD” in the subject line and then the tip. The case number is 140 993 755.

“Our investigators would like to have as much information as possible” so they can get the suspects “off our streets,” Esparza said.

The Bay Area Reporter plans to report more on this story as it develops.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, November 24, 2014 @ 6:11 pm PST
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SF mayor marks Transgender Day of Remembrance

The 2002 Transgender Day of Remembrance observance saw people walk up Market Street from Harvey Milk Plaza. Photo: Rick Gerharter

The 2002 Transgender Day of Remembrance observance saw people walk up Market Street from Harvey Milk Plaza. Photo: Rick Gerharter

In a statement this morning, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee proclaimed today (Thursday, November 20) Transgender Day of Remembrance Day in the city and ordered City Hall be lit in Blue, Pink, and White – the colors of the transgender flag.

“Today we remember those who died tragically because of hatred and intolerance,” Lee stated. “Those lives in the transgender community will never be forgotten. And, while much progress has been made in the last decade to advance transgender rights, sadly anti-transgender violence still exists. Greater awareness is needed to end the bullying, discrimination and violence.”

Lee pointed to progress in San Francisco toward ensuring equal rights for transgender people, including in education and healthcare.

“Transgender people are our family, our coworkers and our friends, and we recommit ourselves so that no one is denied basic rights that ensure safety and success in our city,” he said.

Danielle Castro, 39, a trans woman who lives in San Francisco, said she had the idea for lighting City Hall in the transgender flag colors when she was passing the building recently and noticed it was glowing in orange for the Giants baseball team. The city’s headquarters are also lit up for other occasions, like Christmas and breast cancer awareness.

“I see City Hall lit up with so many different colors” of the “things we celebrate together,” Castro, who works at UCSF’s Center of Excellence for Transgender Health, said. She’s also noticed flags raised at half-staff to remember people who’ve died. However, she said, “What I haven’t seen them do is really include us.”

City Hall does get lit up in rainbow colors in June for the LGBT Pride celebration, but Castro said there hasn’t been lighting specifically recognizing the transgender community.

She said she approached her friend Lucky Gutierrez, the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee’s longtime office manager, with the idea of lighting City Hall, since he’s “well connected” and “a big supporter of the trans community,” and he took the idea to officials. Francis Tsang, a spokesman for Lee, confirmed that’s how the idea came about.

“To me, the significance of having City Hall lit up with the colors of the trans flag is they’re really honoring our lives and those who have been lost through transphobia,” Castro said.

She called the lighting “historic,” and said it’s “an important time to highlight the lack of awareness about the over 200 murders that happened this year and the thousands that have happened since the beginning of the Transgender Day of Remember movement.”

Castro hopes that “other places around the world that have stopped caring” about the transgender community “will think again and see how important it is because we’re not getting any resolution to the countless murders” or the abuse transgender people face in the criminal justice system, among other issues.

Transgender Day of was Remembrance was started by Bay Area Reporter Transmissions columnist Gwen Smith 15 years ago, a year after the 1998 killing of Rita Hester, an African American trans woman who lived in Massachusetts.

The often-somber occasion is observed November 20 to call attention to trans people who have been murdered in the past 12 months.

Events around the Bay Area are planned to commemorate the day.

In San Francisco, a Transgender Day of Remembrance event will be held today from 6 to 8 p.m. at the LGBT Community Center, 1800 Market Street.

The event will include community advocates Miss Major Griffin-Gracy and Jewlyes Gutierrez, both of whom were grand marshals at this year’s Pride parade. It will also include performances by trans youth, an altar created by El/LA Para TransLatinas, and a special Hawaiian chant by trans legend Kumu Tatiana Kaneholani.

Theresa Sparks, executive director of the city’s Human Rights Commission and a transgender woman, said in a statement that despite progress, “the transgender community remains vulnerable to the clutches of hate and intolerance often resulting in unspeakable violence and death.”

Sparks urged people to “be steadfast in giving voice to our fallen brothers and sisters who remain our heroes for having the resolve to stand firm in the face of  bigotry, injustice, and death in order for those who follow may live  their lives out loud and their truth to the fullest extent.”

— Seth Hemmelgarn, November 20, 2014 @ 11:23 am PST
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Three cars burned in Castro arson attack

Three cars were burned in an apparent arson attack in the Castro district this morning (Wednesday, November 19), according to San Francisco police.

The fire department was on the scene at 2 a.m. in the 500 block of Noe Street “putting out three vehicle fires,” Officer Grace Gatpandan, a San Francisco Police Department spokeswoman, said in a summary. Firefighters “found empty paint canisters underneath all three vehicles.” Gatpandan didn’t say exactly how much damage had been done to the cars.

No arrests have been made, and no suspect descriptions are available. Anyone with information in the case may contact police anonymously at (415) 575-4444 or text a tip to TIP411. Type SFPD in the subject line. The incident number is 140 979 363.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, November 19, 2014 @ 12:31 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Teen arrested in Castro robbery

San Francisco police arrested a Pinole, California man this morning (Friday, November 14) after he allegedly robbed another man in the gay Castro district.

Abraham Mendezortiz, 19, was booked on suspicion of robbery, possession of stolen property, and a couple of traffic warrants, according to Officer Grace Gatpandan, a San Francisco Police Department spokeswoman.

The incident occurred at 12:15 a.m. at Market and Castro streets when Mendezortiz approached the victim, a 35-year-old man, and demanded his cellphone, wallet, and keys, police said. He then fled on foot but was soon apprehended.

When he was arrested, Mendezortiz had someone else’s cellphone, wallet with cards and identification, and an electronic adapter.

The victim’s finger was cut during the incident, according to police. There was also a second victim, a 37-year-old woman. Police didn’t indicate she was injured.

According to the sheriff’s department, Mendezortiz was booked at 5:48 a.m. and is in custody on $100,708 bail. If the district attorney’s office decides to press charges, he likely won’t be arraigned until early next week.

Gatpandan said she couldn’t yet release Mendezortiz’s booking photo.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, November 14, 2014 @ 10:56 am PST
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Supes panel OKs use of city seal for Imperial Court 50th anniversary gala

Praising the Imperial Court of San Francisco’s philanthropic work, a committee of the Board of Supervisors Thursday (November 13) unanimously approved moving forward a resolution that would allow the nonprofit group to use the official city seal on some of its materials when it celebrates its 50th anniversary next year.

Donna Sachet, far right with Emperor John Paul Soto, joined Supervisor Scott Wiener, fourth from right, and other Imperial Court members at Thursday's hearing on the group's use of the city seal for its 50th anniversary gala. (Photo: Cynthia Laird)

Donna Sachet, far right with Emperor John Paul Soto, joined Supervisor Scott Wiener, fourth from right, John Weber, fifth from right, and other Imperial Court members at Thursday’s hearing on the group’s use of the city seal for its 50th anniversary gala. (Photo: Cynthia Laird)

Sponsored by gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener – and co-sponsored by board President David Chiu and Supervisor London Breed – the resolution will allow the Imperial Council, the court’s governing body, to use the city seal on appropriate materials related to its golden anniversary gala, set to be held February 15 at City Hall

Members of the Imperial Court board and current and former emperors and empresses were on hand to urge the board’s government audit and oversight committee to approve the resolution.

“We’ve raised lots of money for charitable organizations like housing and HIV/AIDS,” Jon Weber, Emperor 36 and chair of the Imperial Council of San Francisco, told the supervisors.

John Paul Soto, the reigning emperor of San Francisco, said that the Imperial Court’s philanthropic work what he is most proud of. To date, Soto and his empress, Misty Blue, have raised about $40,000 since they were crowned in February.

During his remarks, Wiener explained that the Imperial Court has been a big part of the city’s LGBT community and is one of the oldest LGBT organizations in the country.

Jose Sarria, who founded the Imperial Court and was the first empress, ran for supervisor as a gay man in 1962 and while he didn’t win, he did pull in a lot of votes, Wiener said.

“San Francisco has retained the role of Mother Court and we should all be very proud,” he added.

Board clerk Angela Calvillo offered some amendments to Wiener’s resolution, explaining that use of the city’s seal by outside groups is not something that is common.

“Since 1979 the board has granted and approved use of the seal 22 times,” she said.

The seal dates back to the city’s earliest days. “The seal was created in 1858 and re-established in 1900,” Calvillo said. “It needs to be placed in a dignified manner.”

Someone who maliciously uses the seal can be charged with a misdemeanor, she said, adding that has happened in 12 instances over the years.

The seal cannot be used on caps or items of clothing such as T-shirts that are for sale, Calvillo said.

Donna Sachet, the Bay Area Reporter’s society columnist and chair of the Imperial Court’s 50th anniversary gala, talked about the importance of the organization.

“Fifty years ago we did not enjoy a central community,” Sachet said, adding that while there were gay people living in the city, it was not the community that it is today.

“Along came a Navy veteran and drag queen, Jose Sarria, who founded the Imperial Court,” Sachet said.

She also talked about the upcoming gala, which is expected to fill City Hall with 700 people.

“It will be crowns, gowns, and pageantry,” she said.

After the hearing, Sachet said that the group wants to use the city seal on its brochure for the gala and for a 126-page bound commemorative book that will be distributed to guests.

The resolution now goes to the full board, which is expected to vote on the item at its November 25 meeting.

— Cynthia Laird, November 13, 2014 @ 3:18 pm PST
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Having conceded last week, gay man now winning San Mateo harbor race

Robert Bernardo

Robert Bernardo

Hours after the polls closed the night of Tuesday, November 4, gay incumbent San Mateo County Harbor Commissioner Robert Bernardo took to his Facebook page to concede that he had lost his bid for re-election.

It seems he was too quick to give up.

A week later, with a full count of absentee and other remaining ballots posted by San Mateo County elections officials, Bernardo found himself in second place among the six people who were seeking one of two four-year terms on the commission.

The new vote total, posted the evening of Wednesday, November 12, had Bernardo with 30,337 votes, a lead of 205 votes over the other incumbent seeking re-election, Jim Tucker.

“I just woke up to some interesting news…Are my eyes deceiving me? This 2014 midterm election has been surreal!,” wrote Bernardo on his Facebook page early Thursday morning.

Still in first place in the race is bisexual marine biologist Nicole David. Her vote tally now stands at 59,056, according to the still unofficial returns.

Should the latest results hold, it would mean the five-person harbor commission would have a majority of out members. Lesbian graphic designer Sabrina Brennan, who backed David’s bid, won election to the oversight body in 2012 and is up for re-election in 2016.

Although she did not endorse Bernardo’s re-election effort, Brennan reacted with excitement at seeing Tucker be defeated, writing in her own Facebook post after the new vote count was released, “Let’s hope this trend continues!”

And LGBT leaders on the Peninsula were celebrating the possibility of a “rainbow majority” on the commission. It has oversight of two marinas, the bayside Oyster Point, which features East Bay ferry service, and the seaside Pillar Point in Half Moon Bay.

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 12:38 pm PST
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Transgender Law Center director to leave

The executive director of the Transgender Law Center announced today (Wednesday, November 12) that he plans to leave the Oakland-based organization.

Transgender Law Center Executive Director Masen Davis (Photo: Courtesy TLC)

Transgender Law Center Executive Director Masen Davis (Photo: Courtesy TLC)

Masen Davis, who’s headed the nonprofit for more than seven years, said in a news release that he’s “come to a difficult decision” and will leave “in early 2015.”

“I am proud to have been part of an incredibly committed team that has strengthened employment protections nationwide, secured coverage of transition-related care for transgender Californians, and helped to change the cultural narrative about transgender lives,” Davis, 43, said. He added, “I don’t know exactly what I’ll do next,” but he’s leaving with the “profound sense that this is the right moment to hand the baton to the next generation of leadership at TLC.”

Davis took a months-long sabbatical earlier this year.

The organization’s board recently approved a strategic plan to “significantly expand” its reach nationwide.

In a phone interview, Davis said TLC would do “deeper policy work in a handful of states across the nation to help them get the legal protections we have in California.” The nonprofit will also be involved in pushing for “comprehensive nondiscrimination law in Congress in the years to come.” (Federal lawmakers have made little progress on a transgender-inclusive Employment Nondiscrimination Act.)

The board will hire Davis’s replacement from within the nonprofit. He plans to stay long enough for that person to make that transition and leave in February or March.

Davis succeeded TLC co-founder Chris Daley when he joined TLC in 2007. At the time, the organization had four staff members, a budget of $325,000, and about 900 people contacting the group for help annually.

Since then, TLC has grown to 14 staff, a budget of more than $1.5 million, and over 2,500 requests for help a year. Davis’s salary is $100,000.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, November 12, 2014 @ 5:04 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


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