All posts by The Kurter

Typically Araki “Now Apocalypse” is Your Next Obsession

By Kenyth Mogan

Showtimes newest series is everything you’d expect from a Gregg Araki piece. It’s sexy, it’s surreal, and it’s strange. It’s bizarre – but in the best way.

Avan Jogia stars as Ulysses, an unabashedly unapologetic millennial gay man in Los Angeles who, like all of us, is just trying to find love (and himself) in a world filled with catfish and frogs. Joining him on his adventures are his best friend Carly (Kelli Berglund), his (heterosexual) roommate Ford (Beau Mirchoff), and Ford’s beautiful French girlfriend Severine (Roxane Mesquida). Each one of them is connected as they navigate down a weird and often bewildering path pursuing love, sex, and fame.

On his road to finding himself, Ulysses meets Gabriel (Tyler Posey) a handsome but mysterious stranger he can’t help but feel connected with – like fate is bringing them together. However, he becomes increasingly troubled after a premonitory nightmare leads him into the dark world of alien conspiracies. But is it real or is it just a side effect of smoking too much weed? He’s fun, funny, and relatable. As a gay man of the same generation, living in Los Angeles who has the same doubts, fears, and ambitions, it’s a story I couldn’t help but immediately fall in love with.

“Now Apocalypse” is so typically Gregg Araki. Which is why it’s so wonderful. The man’s a creative genius, and one of my most favorite writers ever. He’s one of the few writers who can tell a story about a character, who happens to be gay, but not tell a gay story. He treats them as human beings. Yes, sex and sexuality are a part of their story – but those facts are a part of everyone’s story, and in the world’s Araki paints, it’s just a small part of a much bigger picture.

Do yourself a favor and watch it. It’s bound to become your next obsession.

Written by Araki and Karley Sciortino, the series debuted on STARZ on March 10th, and in addition to the network will also be available on the STARZ app. Araki is also serving as a director on the series as well as being an executive producer alongside Steven Soderbergh and Gregory Jacobs.

International Women’s Day & Women’s National History Month: Why I Chose to Honor a Cabaret Performer and Actor Born in 1901

International Women’s Day & Women’s National History Month

Why I Chose to Honor a Cabaret Performer and Actor Born in 1901

By Sebastian Fortino, Editor-in-Chief ProudTimes.com

 

Today, Friday March 8th, we celebrate the accomplishments women have achieved. We also reflect upon the patriarchy, and how women often suffered in silence. They were the property of their husbands, as were any offspring from the union. They could not divorce. They could not have a paycheck written out to them in their own name. Should they divorce, it was only in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that women could easily keep custody of their children.

 

In terms of equality in divorce, or at least more equality, I recently learned about Caroline Norton. She was an upper-middle-class woman and writer living in Victorian England. Her husband would not allow for a divorce. Even though he went through her “fortune” and kept her children from her. Interestingly enough, she was able to gain sympathy for her cause through befriending a very unlikely source: Queen Victoria.

 

Yes, I know Queen Victoria’s colonial activity has cast viable shadows upon her legacy. However, she argued against her own prime minister in support of bringing about equality in the then-taboo area of divorce. This surely had to do with Norton’s letters. After all, being a wife and mother lucky in her marriage, Victoria felt empathy towards those women who were essentially under house arrest if they were in an unhappy situation. Norton even mentioned so-called “conjugal rights,” something most women in that age would probably have shied away from even discussing due to supposed propriety. Men could also easily get a doctor to write a false but damaging letter saying their wives were literally insane for wanting a divorce.

 

However, Caroline Norton is not my focus. I wanted to mention her legacy because she is largely unknown.  

 

Instead today, I wanted to focus on one of my favorite women from the pages of history. Born on December 27th, 1901 in Berlin, she rose to fame as a cabaret singer in the famed Weimar Republic. A period of very liberal attitudes to sexuality and gender roles. Sadly, the famed era of a Berlin which accepted homosexuality, gender fluidity, and other notions which we as LGBTQ people still fight for today, ended abruptly in 1933 when Hitler rose to power.

Who am I celebrating today? Her name was Marlene Dietrich, she was a performer known for appearing in a tuxedo, a top hat, and smoking a cigarette held aloft like any fashionable male boulevardier or flâneur. (Okay, I do admit the gay man writing this piece–me–is obsessed with Old Hollywood Glamour, which Dietrich served.)

Marlene Dietrich kisses the famed French singer Edith Piaf active in the French Resistance. She was also known to be sexually fluid.

Queer culture was so accepted in Berlin, that gay and lesbian bars were quite visible. Dietrich no doubt spent her time on the boards as well as on the banquettes. In fact, she appeared in so-called “men’s dress” in public, even when not performing. She also had several lovers, of both sexes.

According to WIkipedia,

 

A famous, early image from her career. The gender bending style of dress which led her to take part in the drag balls of 1920s/30s Berlin.

She was fluent in German, English, and French. Dietrich, who was bisexual, quietly enjoyed the thriving gay scene of the time and drag balls of 1920s Berlin.[75][76] She also defied conventional gender roles through her boxing at Turkish trainer and prizefighter Sabri Mahir’s boxing studio in Berlin, which opened to women in the late 1920s.”

 

Her early film career in Germany brought her to Hollywood. She knew what was going on in her homeland. In 1937, along with the Jewish, Austrian-born director Billy WIlder she set up a fund to assist Jews and other dissidents escaping the Third Reich. In fact, Dietrich put her $450,000 salary from a film that same year in escrow; to help refugees from Europe.

Dietrich was truly risking her life. Hitler had in fact asked her to come home to Germany to make films, which would of course have been propaganda for the Nazis. She stayed in Hollywood, and  went on to sell war bonds to aid the Allies. It is agreed she sold more than any other Hollywood star.

Talk about a slap in the face to the führer!

During WWII, between 1944 and 1945, she further risked her life by following the troops led by Generals Patton and Gavin. When asked why she would play such a dangerous game, being only a few miles from the enemy–arguably her personal enemy–she replied, “aus Anstand,” which means, “out of decency.”

This did not however give her much love in her native Germany. After the war, she ventured to then-named West Germany to do a series of concerts. Perhaps she knew she would not be greeted with a hero’s welcome, and sources I have read said she was spit on by some Germans who stayed in their country during the war. To them she was a traitor.

Marlene Dietrich with American soldiers; throughout her life she referred to them as her “boys.”

 

Despite her success as an actor, and singer, when asked what her greatest achievement had been, she would say it was her actions in the war and performing for “her boys.” She also perhaps further angered the German people due to her final momentous film, “Judgment at Nuremburg.” The story was based on actual events which saw several former Nazis executed for their roles in the war. An interesting note, famed gay icon Judy Garland was her co-star. They developed a mutual dislike of each other which became petty, at best.

 

Alas, befitting a legend renowned for her great beauty and talent, she withdrew in seclusion to her Paris apartment in the later years of her life. She rarely left her rooms, but kept up great correspondence and phone calls to friends the world over. As for the juicy bits about her relationships and affairs–she had an open marriage with her husband–her only child Maria Riva destroyed much of her private papers after her death in 1992.

Perhaps this was an unlikely choice, a woman born in 1901 whom I admire nearly 120 years later. But as a bisexual woman, who challenged gender stereotypes, an actor, singer, and Nazi-hater, I feel she is a worthy candidate.  Sadly, I think her hatred of fascism makes her an ideal person to admire in 2019.

If you have not heard Ms. Dietrich sing, you can find a recording of arguably her most famous song here.

ProudTimes is actively seeking first-hand accounts of women our readers admire. Whether they are living now, or were born in 1901. Please submit story ideas to sebastian@proudtimes.com and we will do our best to incorporate it into our website.

 

Portland Womxn’s March 2019: The Women Marched Forward Together

Portland Womxn’s March 2019: The Women Marched Forward Together
By Rachel Puma

On Sunday, March 3rd, women from all walks of life marched forward with their heads, voices, and signs held high. During the one mile long march from SW 10th Avenue to the South Park Blocks Near PSU thousands of women were led by a group of indigenous women who held the march with drums, songs, and ceremonial smoke.

Held high in the air were powerful signs created by women who are shining light on public issues and raising awareness on what women are facing today. Some of these hand crafted signs read “resistance is beautiful” and “anything you can do I can do bleeding”.

Even a couple of the Club Flock DJ’s Jen Roberton and Dakota Ushigome came out to set up a pop up dance party with a one of a kind rolling DJ cart. Dakota Ushigome of the DJ Duo The Dust Bunnies said “Music is love and it was a fantastic experience to be able to bring that love to the Womxn’s March and Rally for Action in Portland. Thanks to our good friend, DJ Joseph Lee who shared and set up his famous Robo Kart, one-of-a-kind sound system and DJ set up, we were able to keep the crowd going and spread positive vibes pre, post, and during the March.”

You could feel the energy, power, and love throughout the event as the women came together to support all women.

The march was a great kick off to International Women’s Day on March 8th and celebrating Women’s History Month this month.

For more photos from the Women’s March checkout out our Facebook Page – View here ProudTimes

ProudTimes thanks our colleague Rachel, aka Rappa for taking part in this event. We are looking forward to next year to celebrate Portland Women’s March. You can reach Jen at rpuma@proudtimes.com with any stories or events you may have.

Dennis Day

Original Mickey Mouse Club Star Disappears

Retired Gay Entertainer Dennis Day Missing for Seven Months
Original Mickey Mouse Club Star Disappears
By Sebastian Fortino

Since the late 1980s former actor Dennis Day has made his home in Southern Oregon, with his husband Ernie Caswell. He began acting at the age of 12 as an original Mouseketeer, alongside the late Annette Funicello. He came out as a gay man early in life, and was accepted by his family. Later, he spent many years living in San Francisco. Relatives describe Caswell as being a member of the family.

The majority of Day’s family live in California, and last saw him on a visit north in July of 2017. Day was unable to leave home to travel due to his husband’s health issues. However, since July of 2018, Day hasn’t been after leaving his home on foot.

“He doesn’t even leave his house to travel anywhere,” his niece Denise Norris told reporters. “The last time he left his town was to come to his mother’s funeral. And that was 12 years ago.”

His sister Nelda Adkins doesn’t speak to her brother that often, so she was not concerned at a lack of communication. To complicate matters, Mr. Caswell suffers from dementia. When he realized Day hadn’t come to see him in several weeks, he alerted authorities. His family was not contacted at this time.

“We were upset because we were not notified at the time of Dennis’ disappearance,” Adkins told ProudTimes. “Hearing of this through a news broadcast six months later has devastated us.”

Only a police report seen on television in Oregon by a relative caused his family in California to be alerted.

“He’s not the type of person who would just disappear. Especially with his significant other being in the hospital,” Norris said. “We are worried. We love him. We’re just kind of lost with what to do, or how to find him.”

She is also frustrated his family in California were not contacted immediately, in what the family describes as a poorly handled investigation. Curiously, after he disappeared, his car was found along the Oregon Coast with two people unknown to Day or Caswell. The car did not show any signs of foul play. There is also knowledge of a third man, a roommate, who was living in the couple’s home.

“No, we have never met the third roommate,” says Adkins when asked about the other man. “We were unaware of him. But have learned he was a homeless person with mental problems and has a police record.”

A letter found in a neighbor’s home implies the third man assaulted Day. A detective close to the case says there is no evidence to support the claim.

ProudTimes will continue to cover this story. Please contact Lt. Jeff Price of the Phoenix Police Department at 541-535-1113, ext. 309, or the anonymous tip line at 1-888-960-6450 if you have any information about Mr. Day’s whereabouts.

Pride on the Mountain: Central Oregon Hosts Second Annual Winter PrideFest

“This event is a reminder of the strength and diversity of our mountain community and that the mountains truly are for everyone to enjoy.” — Drew Jackson, Mt. Bachelor’s Director of Marketing and Communications

By Jen Roberton

LGBTQ Pride is thriving year round–in festivals and events that don’t only happen in June! This is especially apparent in the Oregon resort town of Bend and at Mt. Bachelor. For the second year in a row, folks in the LGBTQ community packed up their snow gear–and most extravagant wigs–to come out to Winter PrideFest, hosted by Out Central Oregon (OCO) and the Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort. In a statement from Mt. Bachelor’s Director of Marketing and Communications, Drew Jackson said,

“Mt. Bachelor is thrilled to partner with Out Central Oregon and provide one of the many venues to celebrate Winter PrideFest.”

DJ Jen Roberton – Photo Credit: Rachel Puma


The producer of the event was also pleased with the success of the fest, “Turnout for all events throughout Winter PrideFest weekend was well-beyond our expectations.” reported Jamie Nesbitt of
OCO. “We are so appreciative of the enthusiasm expressed by the participants and our local business partners that together made the events fun and memorable for everyone.

There were several events sure to inspire memories at PrideFest. Events were planned over the course of four days beginning with the Welcoming Snocial, which was an early evening meet and greet at Box Factory in Downtown Bend. Wigs–literally–an Ice Breaker, where attendees ice skated on an outdoor rink at the Inn at Seventh Mountain. That Saturday was the Apres Ski main celebration at Mt. Bachelor, sponsored by 10 Barrell, with a live DJ all day at the lodge. Including myself, DJ Jen Roberton! A highlight of the day was Drag Tubing, where queens and kings donned their finest snow drag outfits. That event, hosted by D’Auntie Carol, attracted local media coverage.

D’Auntie Carol – Photo credit: Rachel Puma

For those snowsports fans, there were organized nordic and alpine ski outings. To make it more festive, the music from the lodge was playing on the slopes. After that, the pride weekend continued with a cocktail hour at Dogwood and an evening Apres Ski queer party filled with house music, spun by DJs Chelly Bean and Jason Godfrey. Then, like any pride weekend should, the event closed with a Sunday brunch buffet at Hola.

PrideFest was a community effort. Jackson gave special thanks to the Bend Cultural Tourism Fund, who awarded a grant to OCO to support Winter PrideFest 2019. And looks forward to welcoming past and new participants in 2020. In addition he said, “This event is a reminder of the strength and diversity of our mountain community and that the mountains truly are for everyone to enjoy. Participation more than doubled this year, and we look forward to working with the local LGBTQ+ community to grow this event and welcome everyone to Winter PrideFest in the coming years.”

ProudTimes thanks our colleague Jen Roberton, aka DJ Jen Roberton for taking part in this event. We are looking forward to next year to celebrate Pride in our Pacific Wonderland. You can reach Jen at jen.roberton@proudtimes.com with any stories or events you may have.

From the Editor: Expanding Visibility

From the Editor: Expanding Visibility

ProudTimes is Pleased to Announce New Collaboration

By Sebastian Fortino

ProudTimes is excited to announce a new partnership between myself, Sebastian Fortino, Jen Roberton, Rachel Puma, and K. Leroy Schmierer. Schmierer has been at the helm of ProudTimes.com as Founder, Publisher and Graphics/Layout Editor for several years now. In joining forces he–and the new team–hope to expand and develop our mission, outreach, and audience. We’ll be switching to a format which will allow for more direct content sharing–from our page, to your Facebook and other social media accounts.

To tell you about me, Sebastian Fortino, I have functioned as Portland Correspondent with ProudTimes since Autumn of 2018, prior to that I was the Editor-in-Chief of ProudQueer.com. I also appear as a Gay Voices contributor in Metrosource.com, a lifestyle and entertainment magazine based in New York. I also served as the Lifestyle & Features Editor of The South Florida Gay News (SFGN.com) for two years. I’m a lifelong city guy, raised in Philadelphia, and educated in New York City at Fordham University. I am of mostly Italian descent and can make you a spicy meat’a’ball or pasta alla Norma. After several moves, I’m convinced the Rose City is my permanent home and am proud to serve our community through writing and editing. If we meet ask me about the great pickle juice incident of 2003.

Jen Roberton, Creative Director Content & Promotion, is a native of the Pacific Northwest and has been involved in creating and promoting queer events since she came out in 2015. Professionally, she has a business degree in supply in logistics management, and has an extensive professional background in operations. She is the organizer of the LesbiOut MeetUp group and is an electronic music DJ. Recently, Roberton was a featured performer for Out Central Oregon’s PrideFest at Mt. Bachelor. She is also a podcaster for Lavish Clips with Rachel Puma, her creative collaborator.

 

Rachel Puma, Creative Director Content & Media, is a long-time entrepreneur, as well as a professional sports and entertainment photographer. Puma is a writer and poet with a spectrum of creative talents; including, graphic design and corporate branding. She currently is the co-owner of United Sticker Co. with her brother Kyle, their mission is to use stickers as a tool to join fellow enthusiasts who share the same passions, hobbies, and interests. Similarly, she hopes ProudTimes will also connect our community. Puma hails from New York State, where she developed her love of winter sports, especially snowboarding.   

ProudTimes.com’s mission is to develop relationships with LGBTQ activists, business leaders, celebrities, personalities, & others who best reflect the spirit of the LGBTQ community. Please reach out to the ProudTimes.com team to talk about any upcoming events, or stories you’d like to see covered, or to ask about any advertising, & co-promotional relationships. You can contact them at editor@proudtimes.com, sebastian@proudtimes.com, jen.roberton@proudtimes.com, & rachel.puma@proudtimes.com to learn more about us and what we want to do for our community.

Fullmetal Alchemist Books Reviewed

By Dickon A. Bachs

Few manage/anime hold as much wonder for me as FullMetal Alchemist. The story of two brothers going to extreme lengths to resurrect their beloved mother, losing limbs (and in one case their entire body) is the stuff of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Mixed with impeccable art – FullMetal Alchemist is a ride one cannot afford to miss and thanks to VIZ media, the series is available in a whole new wonderful way.

Created by Hiromu Arakawa, FullMetal Alchemist has become a property that appeals to men and women of every age. The series has something for everyone, including me, who was initially exposed to the world of anime/manga by titles like Sailor Moon and Oh, My Goddess! The story is intricate, the characters are deep, and everything about it is just, awe-inspiring.

With the release of FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST: THE COMPLETE ART BOOK, VIZ media reintroduces fans to the art of the manga series from 2001 to 2017 witting one beautiful hardcover edition Within the books 280 pages, are every chapter cover, portraits of the main characters, covers for the graphic novels, a step by step illustration guide, an interview with author/creator Hiromu Arakawa.

Filled with beautiful artwork, it’s almost impossible to pick a favorite piece. However, there are a few pieces that stand out to me. Chapter 81 “A Full REcovery” on page 178 and 179, is a gorgeously painted piece showing Edward standing shirtless, holding his cape, stoical posed, his eyes hidden behind his hair. There’s something gauntly beautiful about it. There is also the Wizard of Oz themed cover for the fall 2009 edition of Fresh Gangan on page 218. While fans have theorized several connections between FullMetal and Oz, this particular piece full on combines the two worlds and in all honesty, is just plain adorable.

What I love most about VIZ is the amount of care they put into the collected editions. Yes, the art book as an SRP of $34.99 (US), but it’s worth every penny (and then some). The book is beautifully bound. A thick white cover, with beautiful artwork, foiled text, it has the Flamel symbol embossed on the back. It’s a wonderful addition to any fan’s library, which, VIZ is also building upon with new hardback editions of the series.

Currently, on its 3rd volume (the fourth will be released on February 12), these deluxe editions are remastered with an updated translation and completely fresh lettering. They include beautifully colored pages on large-trim archival-quality paper and showcase Arakawa’s spectacular storytelling in a bright / keepsake edition that, like the artbook, is just impeccable bound.

Pride Journey: Oklahoma City

By Joey Amato

To say I fell in love with Oklahoma City would be an understatement. I thoroughly enjoy visiting lesser known cities around the country as you go in with little expectations or preconceived notions. I had visited OKC very briefly a few years ago, but never spent a substantial amount of time there.

I quickly took note of the city’s evolution and progression over the past decade. Modern structures are popping up throughout the city, juxtaposed next to historic buildings that give a nod to the Oklahoma City’s past.

This trip was actually quite special as it was the first time the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau (Visit OKC) organized an LGBT specific media trip. The 21c Museum Hotel served as our host hotel for the stay and it couldn’t have been any more perfect. The rooms featured king-sized beds with two separate seating areas and a shower all 5 of us journalists could have fit in. No, that didn’t happen on this trip.

During our stay, the hotel was exhibiting an extraordinary pop culture series of artwork designed as if they knew the gays were coming to visit. I’m not sure how many Instagram photos we took throughout the hotel, but it’s safe to say, the number is in the dozens.

Even the hotel restaurant, Mary Eddy’s Kitchen x Lounge was incredible. Aside from breakfast, which was inexpensive and delicious, I ordered the Brussel Sprouts from the bar menu for a snack one afternoon and they were the best I’ve ever had. I’m not sure how they made them, but to quote Guy Fieri, they were out of bounds!

We began our Oklahoma City adventure in the Boathouse District at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Site for a once-in-a-lifetime experience training and rowing with Olympic hopefuls. Before we jumped into the river, we were given a crash course on rowing. I was so confident going into this experience. I assumed I was an expert rower as I used the rowing machine at the gym many times. I was quickly proven otherwise. My form was completely off, and I rushed to correct it before heading out to the river.

A team of extremely fit athletes met us at the pier and we jumped into the boat. Rowing is all about timing and it was integral that our strokes were timed perfectly to those of the athletes. Easier said than done. You can feel the sheer force as we propelled down the river at lightning speed. Once you get the hang of it, and everyone is in sync, the feeling is awesome. I should probably start training for Tokyo 2020.

Adjacent to the rowing center is the only urban whitewater rafting course of its kind in the world. Only two of us decided to face this challenge head-on. How bad could it be? It wasn’t a real river or real rapids. After about a 20-minute information session on the basics of whitewater rafting, we were given our life preservers, helmets and oars. Our guide led us to our raft along with two other folks and we were off. A giant conveyer belt brings the raft to the top of the course and launches you into the roaring waters below.

With the Oklahoma City skyline in the background, our raft was tossed around in the water as we tried to maneuver through the rapids. The first lap around the course went off without a hitch, but I can’t say the same for the second lap. Let’s just say I ever so gracefully fell out of the raft, floundered around in the raging water like a salmon and prayed for someone to rescue me. Luckily, I am here to talk about it and would do it again in a heartbeat.

All this physical activity got us hungry, so we decided to grab a bite at one of the city’s many Vietnamese restaurants. Yes, you read that right. OKC is home to dozens of incredible authentic Vietnamese restaurants. The city’s Vietnamese population is one of its best kept secrets.

Another thing many people don’t know about until they visit is that OKC has a thriving gayborhood called 39th St. (The Strip). It is home to about 8 gay bars, a gay resort named the Habana Inn, a clothing store called Pulse and the LGBT community center. Our first stop was Apothecary 39, a wonderful neighborhood bar with inexpensive drinks and an incredibly friendly bartender named Phillip. Within minutes, we struck up a conversation with a group of very attractive local gays who took us under their wing and showed us the rest of the bars. Talk about hospitality.

Our next stop was The Boom, a drag bar that hosts a Sunday Brunch which unfortunately we weren’t able to experience on this trip but heard it’s fabulous. Once again, the drinks were cheap, the people were friendly, and the queens were feisty. Needless to say, we had an incredible time.

We started the next day with a hearty breakfast at Kitchen 324 and continued on to the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, which stands as a symbol of strength in the wake of the unspeakable violent attack on April 19, 1995. The memorial is a beautiful tribute to the lives lost in the bombing and walks visitors through almost every moment of the horrific act. One of the most moving parts of the memorial is the circular room honoring each of the victims with photos and a personal memento donated by their family.

Our next stop was the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, America’s premier institution of Western history, art, and culture. Founded in 1955, the Museum, collects, preserves, and exhibits an internationally renowned collection of Western art including works by Frederic Remington and Charles Russell, as well as sculptor James Earle Fraser’s magnificent work, The End of the Trail which greets you as you enter the museum to begin your journey back to the old West.

Continue the culture tour at the Oklahoma History Center. The enormous 215,000 square-foot building is a Smithsonian Affiliate and contains five galleries housing a variety of exhibitions. We had the opportunity to go into the archives and explore the hidden gems not on display to the general public including turn of the century gowns, an authentic Native American teepee and antique automobiles.

After a quick trip back to the hotel to freshen up, we began our progressive dinner at Vast, a restaurant and bar located atop OKC’s tallest building. I began to notice that Okie’s (Oklahoma locals), know how to make a good cocktail. Almost every specialty drink we ordered throughout the trip was not only unique, but delicious. We continued the meal at Barrio’s Mexican Kitchen in Midtown, then enjoyed some dessert at Roxy’s Ice Cream in the Plaza District, a cute neighborhood with dozens of murals. Yet another Instagram-friendly adventure.

As exhausted as we were, we found the energy to head back out to ‘The Strip’ but this time began the evening at Phoenix Rising with our new friends from the Oklahoma AIDS Care Fund before heading to The Finish Line and finally The Copa. I don’t remember the last time I shut down a club, but it happened in OKC.

The city is also home to quite a few lesbian bars and other neighborhood gay bars located off ‘The Strip’ including Hi-Lo Club, Frankie’s OKC, Partners and Alibis. For a city of its size, they sure do offer a nice selection of LGBT nightlife venues.

Waking up early the next morning was rough, but no pain, no gain. And today’s gain was extra special. We had the opportunity to feed Asian elephants and grizzly bears at the Oklahoma City Zoo. Getting that close to these majestic animals is always a treat. Even the grizzly bears seemed cute enough to cuddle with, although they are a lot larger up close than I originally thought.

The elephant encounter is located in Sanctuary Asia, a 6.6-acre, $22 million expansion of the zoo which also houses Indian rhinos, langurs, Komodo dragons, raccoon dogs, cranes and cassowary birds.

For our final meal as a group, we gathered at The Jones Assembly, an absolutely massive two-story restaurant and live music venue. Once again, the cocktails were off the charts. I ordered the Dagwell Dixie, made with roasted pecan infused George Dickel rye, laird’s applejack, and Hella orange bitters. It was similar to an Old Fashioned, but the flavored rye gave it a welcomed twist.

We shared a few appetizers including a selection called Dips + Spreads, a trio of garbanzo hummus, tzatziki, pimento cheese, coupled with wood-fired dough. I had no idea that wood-fired dough tasted so good. The restaurant offers a nice selection of pizzas, salads and main entrees including Steak Frites, Short Ribs and their take on Nashville Hot Chicken. It was a memorable way to end such a memorable trip.

What was most surprising about Oklahoma City was its culture and diversity. The city is welcoming, affordable and offers something for everyone. I feel like Oklahoma City is on the verge of something big; maybe they will become the next “It City”.

Enjoy the journey!

From PT Pages – Celebrity Photographer Mike Ruiz Presents The “Bullies and Biceps” 2019 Calendar

Benefitting New York Bully Crew Pet Rescue(Click to learn more)

Everyone loves photos of adorable pit bull pups. So what happens when you pair the cutest pooches on earth — who just happen to be in need of forever homes — with beautiful, hunky men? The year’s most buzzed-about calendar.

Photographer Mike Ruiz’s 2019 calendar, “Bullies and Biceps,” is fourteen months of perfection (2 bonus months in 2020) that will put a smile on your face every day of the new year.

Mike Ruiz is a celebrity photographer whose clients include Kim Kardashian, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj and countless others. In addition to his work in Hollywood, Ruiz is known for shooting top male fitness models. “I admire men who have sculpted their bodies into works of art,” he says. “It takes incredible skill and knowledge to form human tissue to near perfection. Photographing their work is quite gratifying to me.”

The men featured in “Bullies and Biceps” are some of the biggest male fitness models working today including Bryan Richards, Michael Dean, Nick Topel and cover-model Casey Christopher. Collectively, they have hundreds of thousands of followers on social media. They also are all passionate about animal rescue.

Mike Ruiz, too, is a pit bull rescuer and this year’s calendar is in special tribute to Oliver, his beloved canine, who passed away last month. Mike and Oliver shared six wonderful years together. It was Oliver who inspired Mike to fuse his two passions — photography and pit bulls — together into a calendar that would benefit dogs in need of rescue.

The pit bulls that appear in the calendar were chosen at random and represent only a fraction of those in need. “This is a very sad time to be in rescue,” explains Carla Mohan of the New York Bully Crew. “People are giving up their dogs without remorse. Pit bull type dogs are especially vulnerable because most rescues shy away from saving them due to lack of experience, knowledge and the negative media coverage the beautiful creatures have received.”

Founded by Craig Fields in 2010, New York Bully Crew specializes in the rescue, rehabbing and rehoming of pit bull type dogs. They partner with city shelters around the country to help local animals and have also begun outreach in Puerto Rico, Honduras, Peru, and South Korea.

“Pit bulls are the most loyal and loving dogs,” Carla continues. “They are soulful creatures that can be the silliest best friend ever. I have had many different breeds of dogs in my life, but none compare to pit bulls.”

She hopes the calendar will open people’s eyes and hearts and change misconceptions about this goofy and jolly breed. While shooting the calendar, the pit bulls on set stole the hearts of the super gorgeous male models. “I wanted to take them all home with me,” laughs Casey Christopher.

Every dollar made from the sale of the “Bullies and Biceps” 2019 calendar will go directly to New York Bully Crew for various services benefitting the health and welfare of the dogs. “The calendar makes the perfect holiday gift and also brings awareness to these special animals,” says Mike Ruiz. “Every pit bull deserves a forever home.”

Well Bullies and Biceps, this is another gorgeous calendar and a great cause. Being the proud parent/guardian of 3 rescues: Chihuahua, Dachshund mix, and a live-in house rooster who thinks he is one of the dogs, my heart goes out to all dogs, cats, and other animals who are waiting to find their forever home. If this is not too emotional of a subject, could you tell us if it was Oliver who first prompted you to take on these successful and sexy calendars?

Oliver is 100% responsible for inspiring me to do as much as I possibly can for animal rescue. This calendar is one of the things that I do.

Are you able to tell us a little about Oliver’s story?

Oliver was found roaming the streets of South Central Los Angeles, skin and bones, cherry eye and cysts on his legs. He was dumped off at a high kill shelter where he had 1 day to live before being pulled by Bullies and Buddies Animal rescue. They found a foster who happened to be a good friend of mine. On one of my trips to LA, I stayed with this friend while he was fostering Oliver and it was love at first sight. Within 24 hours, the paperwork was filed and I was Oliver’s dad!

When we rescued Buddy and Lucky I knew firsthand the story and I knew I was going to make sure they had the best home I could give them. With the oddball Rodney the rooster we could not let him fall prey to the elements or predators so we did the only thing we were able to and took him in. For Oliver was it the story that finally helped you make the decision to be his forever family or was it more?

It was my immediate connection to Oliver that literally changed the course of my life. I didn’t know his story prior to meeting him nor did I know much about animal rescue. My love for him inspired me to research everything I could about pit bulls and animal rescue. When I learned how animal shelters are overrun with abandoned pitbulls, I couldn’t stand by and do nothing.

Your photography to this journalist is second to none, the way you can capture a model’s unique essence is amazing. I am not just saying this to stroke your ego, I have worked with many photographers and artists over the past 30 years and no matter how good someone is you can always see who has talent and who is gifted and you are truly gifted and your pet calendars show this gift. In your pet calendars Pecs & Puppies, Hunks & Hounds, Heart Throbs & Hounds, and the current Bullies & Biceps you have created gorgeous pairings of human with K-9. I saw in the promo video a little of how you choose the pairing, but I could see that there was more to the process, can you tell us how you decided on the models and the rescues before the photoshoot?

Animal Rescue is all about 2nd chances so I try to find models who are not only pleasing to the eye but who also have stories of overcoming adversity AND who have some connection to animal rescue. Once the models are secured, we basically have the rescue bring dogs who need homes or who make great mascots for the cause. From there, I see where love connections are made between the pups and the models. Aesthetic compatibility is also a consideration. It’s important they look good together and that they connect on some level.

For this year’s calendar Bullies and Biceps, as for the other calendars, once you commit to making it can you go through the hows of how you first start.

It was important to me to have this year’s calendar benefit a pitbull specific rescue since I wanted to honor Oliver, so I decided to benefit New York Bully Crew. Once that was decided, then I had to figure out how I wanted it to look aesthetically. From there, it’s all logistics such as scheduling, casting, getting the puppies scheduled and a million little details that are far too boring to include.

During your photoshoots of the current and past calendars have any of the models adopted their K-9 companion?

This year, Bryan Richards was inspired to adopt a pitbull. Some of the models wanted to do the calendar because they were already pitbull dads.

If a person is looking for a companion would you tell them to find a local rescue and adopt from them first or to adopt a puppy from a breeder?

I would never encourage anyone to buy from a breeder when there are 2 million dogs discarded to shelters every year, 40% of them are pitbull type breeds. People think that when they pay a bunch of money for a dog that they are getting a better quality dog. This, of course, is absurd. You can find any dog with any characteristics you might want from a rescue or Petfinder. The function of a rescue is to get a dog ready to be adopted by giving them the best medical care and training so that they are behaviorally compatible.

Do you think you are going to create another pet calendar for 2020?

I will continue doing these calendars until I can figure out an even better way to help animal rescue. Not only is my goal to raise money for dogs in need but it’s also to educate people on the great benefits of adopting vs buying.
I’m pretty sure the next calendar will be co-ed. I have several gorgeous and very high profile women who want to participate next year so it’ll be men and women.  Not sure what to call it yet, maybe “Babes and Bullies”?

This Calendar has a feel as being a memorial for Oliver and if it is I think it is a great way to share him with the world and show him that he was a loved part of your family. To critics who think Bulldogs (Pitbulls in general) should be banned and put down because they are animals that will someday turn and hurt someone, what message do you have?

Sadly the media misrepresents the true nature of bully breeds. Only since the 80’s have they been vilified in the media. Prior to that, Dobermans were feared and German Shepherds before that. For over 100 years, Bully breeds were considered to be the best family dog. So much so, they were coined “Nanny Dogs”. You are more likely to be bitten by a golden retriever or Border Collie than you are a pitbull. Education is the best way to understand something. People should take the time to do a tiniest bit of research before buying into false information. PEOPLE are responsible for animal aggression. Any dog will become aggressive if abused, neglected, beaten, and starved. So would most humans! I always encourage people to spend time with a pitbull before writing them off as vicious attack dogs. I am now dad to another sweet girl named Julia who is the sweetest, gentlest angel, just like Oliver, her brother before her.

To help New York Bully Crew and other rescues around the world as a parent who chose a rescue over adopting from a breeder, what words of advice might you offer?

The best advice I can give is to go on Petfinder. They are a great resource for both people adopting and rescues looking to place dogs. They are a wonderful conduit for making some love connections. I found my baby girl on Petfinder.

Learn more about  New York Bully Crew.

Learn more about Mike Ruiz.

Read this interview and more in the digital pages of Proud Times Magazine