Elle Fanning is a Teenage Heartbreaker in ’20th Century Women’

Share Button

Writer/director Mike Mills captures a generation of liberated women in his new film 20th Century Women. With strong performances from Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, and Greta Gerwig, the film captures the female spirit through the eyes of a teenage boy.

A teenage boy learns about love and freedom in 1979 Santa Barbara through the women in his life. Bening plays his single mother while Gerwig plays a professional photographer and Fanning plays the boy’s provocative friend. The film also stars Billy Crudup as a boarder taken in by Bening.

20th Century Women comes to select theaters December 25. Watch the trailer below:

Jewel Thais-Williams Looks Back on Catch One & Her Black Queer Legacy

Share Button

It was the dawn of disco in LA, and they were outcasts. When black people and queer people were turned away from the city’s nightlife, Jewel Thais-Williams found her calling.

For over 40 years, Catch One offered a place of acceptance for those who needed it most. Once dubbed the Studio 54 of the west coast, Thais-Williams’s establishment became a pillar for a community. From early days of harassment by local police to a time of despair during the AIDS crisis, it persevered for decades. Although its doors are closed, its legacy and that of Thais-Williams lives on through the many lives they impacted.

It’s the subjects of C. Fitz’s newest documentary, Jewel’s Catch One. For six years, Fitz befriended this amazing woman to tell her inspiring story. Now in the wake of the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the importance of queer spaces is as relevant as ever.

We caught up with Fitz and Thais-Williams ahead of the New York premiere of Jewel’s Catch One at HBO’s Urbanworld Film Festival to talk about adversity, opportunity, and legacy.

BlackBook: When did you first discover Catch One?

C. Fitz: I discovered it in 2010. I was doing a piece on Jewel because she was being honored at a charity, and I donated my services as a director to do a two to three-minute piece on her. Within the first day of meeting her in April 2010, I said to her that we needed to do a documentary on her life. The more that I researched it over the years, the thousands of people that I met and the lives she touched, I knew that it was the right decision. How could such a life and all the work that she has done go without having some sort of documentation? Like starting the Minority AIDS Project and helping her community, it was an amazing journey, and the hardest thing was letting some of the stories go.

What was the nightlife scene like before you opened Catch One?

Jewel Thais-Williams: I’m not an expert on that because I didn’t go out that much. But I do know what pretty much existed then and why a need was created for the Catch to come about. There were mostly small neighborhood bars in the downtown areas. We definitely had to stay under the radar of the homophobic community that existed in those days. It was predominately guys at nightclubs around those times. Women had their separate club or two but they were definitely short lived. Their socializing pretty much generated around house parties and more intimate settings. When I opened Jewel’s Room in 1973, which was a precursor to the Catch, it was the beginning of the disco era. The couple of big disco clubs that existed did not allow people of color or women to attend. So this was a chance for us to have a club in our neighborhood that was more or less comparable to anything you would find in other neighborhoods. We had the lights, we had the sound, we had the people, the clientele. Some gays and lesbians went to straight clubs and we acted like straight people while we were there. When we opened and people found out this was a club opened by a lesbian, they came.

Photo courtesy of Jewel Thais-Williams

Photo courtesy of Jewel Thais-Williams

You said you didn’t go out much before. How did you come to the decision to open the Catch?

JTW: Truth be told, I knew there was a void. When I researched, I knew it would be successful. Prior to this point, I’d owned a women’s clothing store, a boutique where we did alterations and things like that. Back in ’70 and ’71, there was this big recession and it cut deeply into the economy. Traditionally, when there is a strain on funds in a household, people stop buying and spending money on themselves. So I wanted a business that was recession proof basically…. There was a bar up for sale that was right across the street from the grocery store I worked at at the time, and a lot of the customers complained that they weren’t welcome there. So I had the fleeting thought that maybe one day I’d own that bar, and everybody and anybody would be able to come. I used to pick up the LA Times and look at business opportunities in nightclubs and bars, and the last day I looked at one, an ad said that Diana’s Club—which became Jewel’s Room—was for sale. It was going to be a supper club but eventually it became a place that people could come and feel accepted, and then we opened the upstairs ballroom and started dancing.

You persevered through so much with Catch One. Was there ever a time that you wanted to give up?

JTW: No, not for that reason. The only time I was ready to give up was on my own personal journey. Other than that, it was about going when I was ready to go. And I wasn’t ready because the need was there. When the AIDS crisis came along, another purpose was added. From that, the Minority AIDS Project came out of the Unity Fellowship of Christ Church. And later, Rue’s House was born, which was a home for children with AIDS. What the Catch afforded me personally was the ability to do all these other service things I wanted to do. If that wasn’t there, I couldn’t do what was in my heart, which was to serve the community.

Photo by C. Fitz

Photo by C. Fitz

What do you hope this story can do for young black people, queer people, and women?

CF: We’re very happy that it took six years because I think it’s coming out at a really important time for us, for audiences, for LGBT people, for black people, for white people, for everyone in the wake of Orlando happening. The Pulse could have been the Catch. The Catch could have been the Pulse any given night in those 42 years. And we really hope that Jewel’s life and her perseverance through a lot of hate and how she stood up to it time and time again, year after year, is a model for future generations and how they can be inspired to be like Jewel and to do something with their life on their corner of the world.

JTW: The legacy I’d like to leave is kind of two-fold. First, never underestimate the power of one person’s desire to make a change and better their community. One leads to others. Many people came in and started organizations taking on the AIDS crisis and homophobia. I could not have done what I did without the involvement of others. The second part, there is an African proverb that says, “If the elders are lost, then the adults are lost. And if the adults are lost, then the children are lost.” So I feel personally that it’s come upon me and other of us elders. I have to be there. The elders are the ones that have to keep things together.

Jewel’s Catch One screens October 8-9 at the BFI London Film Festival. Watch the trailer below:

Mariah Carey Records Duet For Next Week’s ‘Empire’

Share Button
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

At long last, it appears Mariah Carey is finally coming to “Empire.” The show has teased her potential guest spot seemingly since its inception, but now, at last, it appears the R&B legend is finally coming to the silver screen.

Carey will take on the role of Kitty, an expert musician enlisted to help Jamal, played by the incomparable Jussie Smollett, regain his mojo as a singer. Smollett told Entertainment Weekly that “[Working with Mariah] was great. She’s a sweetheart. She’s a professional and, you know, this is a long time coming.”

Listen to Smollett and Carey’s duet, “Infamous,” recorded for next week’s episode, below.

Carey’s new E! show, “Mariah’s World,” debuts December 4 at 9 PM EST.

“Empire” airs Wednesdays at 9 PM on Fox.

Lily Collins Dazzles in ‘Rules Don’t Apply’ Trailer (Watch)

Share Button

The new trailer for Warren Beatty’s Rules Don’t Apply has been released, and paints a picture of old school Hollywood romance that we can’t help but fervently proclaim we’re excited for. Beatty has been nominated for 14 Oscars, and won for Best Director for Reds (1981).

“I decided when I won a talent contest that maybe I’d give it a go in Hollywood,” Lily Collins explains at the clip opens. She stars as an aspiring Los Angeles starlet who falls for a young man Frank Forbes, played by the gorgeous Alden Ehrenreich. Both characters work for the billionaire filmmaker Howard Hughes, played by Beatty, and are thus forbidden to engage romantically. Naturally, the pair decide to break a few rules.

The all-star cast includes such heavy-hitters as Matthew Broderick, Alec Baldwin, Annette Bening, Taissa Farmiga, Martin Sheen, Chace Crawford, and Candice Bergen. If this teaser is any indication, Rules Don’t Apply is poised to be the gorgeous, classic moviegoing experience we’ve been in dire need of.

“When you told me the rules don’t apply to me, you know, they don’t apply to you either,” Collins proclaims as the clip ends.

Watch the trailer below.

Rules Don’t Apply hits theaters November 23.

Lanvin S/S 17 is an Assymetrical Organza Dream at Paris Fashion Week

Share Button
Illustration by Hilton Dresden

Bouchra Jarrar had her first show as Creative Director of Lanvin at Paris Fashion Week yesterday, and delivered an organza and pinstripe-filled collection, an amolgamation of finely tailored pantsuits and high-fashion negligees.

Jarrar took over for Alber Elbaz this year. The former CD was known for his lavishly embellished gowns. Jarrar gave a nod to her predecessor by incorporating feathery collars into several of her line’s most provocative looks.

Jarrar is one of two new female Creative Directors of major French fashion houses as of this year, joined by Maria Grazia Chiuri of Dior, who will make her runway debut with the label on Friday. While many assume Coco Chanel to be the pioneer head female designer of the fashion world, Jeanne Lanvin actually preceded Chanel and other female couture designers.

“She made menswear and sportswear before she did women’s,” Jarrar explained to Vogue.

Pictured: Bouchra Jarrar (bottom row, second from left), Alber Elbaz (bottom row, third from left), and Maria Grazia Chiuri (top right). Illustration by Hilton DresdenJarrar’s debut was exciting in that it took risks and experimented with old forms – only forthcoming seasons will tell what her overarching vision is for the brand moving forward.

Anthony Vaccarello Shows His Debut Collection With YSL

Share Button
Illustration by Hilton Dresden

Anthony Vaccarello debuted his first runway collection as creative director of Saint Laurent at Paris Fashion week, and the designer certainly kicked off his new career move in style.

“It’s a work in progress,” Vaccarello told Vogue regarding his spring 2017 collection. “[The Saint Laurent woman]’s certainly not bourgeois or classic. She has a huge respect for Saint Laurent, but not in the first degree. So I thought of her taking a vintage dress and cutting into it.”

The first look in Vaccarello’s line was a black leather version of one of Saint Laurent’s retro puffy-sleeved dresses. In other cases, Vaccerello took cuts out of classic forms, deepening necklines, and replacing sections of gowns and jackets with sheer, see-through materials for a sexier, punkier edge.

The show felt like a celebration of ’80s excess and visually stunned. The silhouettes felt fresh and nostalgic all at once, giving us some early-Lady Gaga vibes (particularly in the large sleeves and shiny beading.)

If the show is any indicator, the post-Hedi Slimane Saint Laurent is set to dazzle and innovate. Time will tell is Vaccarello can maintain the high standards he’s just set.

View the full collection at Vogue Runway.

Paul Iacono on His Incredible Story of Survival, Elaine Stritch, And Writing For Himself

Share Button
Illustration by Hilton Dresden

“I attribute so much of my success to the fact I got cancer as a kid.”

Paul Iacano and I are wandering through the East Village, sipping iced Flat Whites. The actor, writer, and nightlife host is fresh off his raunchy, queer cabaret show at Joe’s Pub, Psychedelic Hedonism, and between puffs from his pipe, he’s now recounting to me his incredible, barely believable life story.

Iacano was born in Secaucus, New Jersey – “I’m not the biggest fan of Jersey, because when you’re an outsider, and you’re queer, and you don’t fit into boxes, you feel like it’s all your fault.”

His grandfather was the Republican mayor of Weehawken for twenty years, and his dad followed suit, serving as a right-wing political figure and City Administrator for two decades. Not exactly the prime incubator for a boy who would later wail “I don’t wanna be a twink no more” onstage in a little black dress.

Right away, Paul proved a showbiz natural. “When I was 3 years old, my family discovered that I had this incredibly unique talent – they used to listen to a lot of Frank Sinatra. And the legend goes that I was in the back of the car with my Aunt, and Frank was playing, and she turned “The Summer Wind” off midway and I kept singing it. The way kids learn the ABCs, I had this insane memory, essentially.” Little Paul was soon doing impersonations – of Ethel Merman singing “No Business Like Show Business” on The Muppets. Capitalizing on their boy’s charisma, the family put him in local theater – by six he had signed with Abrams Artist Agency. And when he was 8, the Iacanos got tickets to attend the Rosie O’Donnell Show.

“Despite dad being so in denial about my gayness, being the literal theater queen I was at age 8, he knew Rosie O’Donnell would appreciate me.”

On the day they attended the live taping of Rosie, luck would have it that the star was two hours late to her own show – she was out to lunch with Madonna (the only excuse for keeping a crowd of paying audience members waiting). After the first hour and a half, the warm up comic ran out of standup material. “Anyone in the audience have any talent?” he asked.

“My dad must have manifested this somehow, and sure enough, he was like, ‘Go!’ And the warm-up was like, ‘Oh my god, Rosie has got to meet you.’”

Meet him Rosie did. She called him up in her opening monologue, had him do his impressions live on air, and ended up being brought back onto the show for various sketches ten more times over the course of six seasons, the most of any other child guest star.

A month after Paul’s first spot on Rosie, his life took an unexpected turn: he was diagnosed with leukemia. After a call from his family, Rosie had him back on the show to plug a community theater version of Oliver he was set to star in in the coming months.

“It made me face my mortality, at age 8, and realize that you only have a second to do everything that you want to do. So whatever it is you want to do you should be doing ASAP. I had this crazy ambition because of it.”

Paul’s ailment propelled him to work ferociously hard toward his dreams. When he was eleven, he landed a major role in Noel Coward’s musical Sail Away, at Carnegie Hall, starring the show’s original leading lady: Elaine Stritch. It was this show, and this star, that would shape Iacano’s career for the rest of his life.

“I didn’t know who she was when I was 11. But I fell in love with Elaine Stritch. This bitchy old – I’ll never forget, at the first rehearsal she came in late, wearinn this beige, matching pantsuit, raincoat, and hat, and she was ranting at director Jerry Gutierrez, and wagging a wet newspaper about why she was late, and just complaining, and I was in love.”

The show was basically a black tie affair – everyone in New York wanted tickets to this show. At the second to last of twelve performances, all sold out, little Paul was flitting about backstage, wishing everyone to break a leg, when he slipped and toppled down a flight of stairs, breaking his wrist moments before the show was to begin. There was no understudy.

“I’d just finished two years of chemo, where if I was doing a show and I felt sick, they’d go, “Honey, don’t you worry.” And for the first time ever I was met with this indomitable force that was not going to take no for an answer.”

The title of Paul’s first cabaret show, “Where’s the Fucking Kid?” comes from what happened moments later.

“I’m there, with the broken wrist, and everyone’s gathered around, the show’s about to start, there’s no understudy, no one knows what to do… and Stritch comes tearing out of the dressing room and yells, “Where’s the fucking kid?” She goes, “Look kid, I’ve gone out there with fractured ankles, broken ribs – your limp wrist won’t kill you.” She gives me half a codine. And goes, “If you make it until intermission, I’ll give you the other half. If you make it til the end of the show, I’ll take you out afterwards and tell the audience what a little trooper you were.” And I’m thinking, “I don’t give a shit, lady, my arm is fucking broken.” But she wouldn’t take no for an answer, so I do it, I’m great, I make it through the whole thing, and at the end of the show she takes the last big bow, obviously, and then she drags me out by the broken wrist, and goes, “This little trooper fell down a flight of stairs, we think he broke something, and he went on anyway, give him a round of applause!” Standing ovation, Elaine and I, at Carnegie Hall. The spirit of survivor.”

After going into full remission, Paul’s Italian family began shoving home-cooked meals down his throat, ushering him into the inevitable awkwardly-shaped middle school years, where he took a break from acting and, like most of us, tried to grimace his way through.

But Paul and Elaine kept in touch, continuing to run into each other on the streets of Manhattan, until she gave him the direct line to her room at the top of the Carlisle.

He’d call her up on holidays, and let her know about big parts coming his way. After finishing high school and attending acting school for a year, Paul began to really work on his artistry.

“In that year I began writing all the time. I was reading play after play, I wasn’t in school so I was educating myself – reading everything – Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee… all the classic playwrights, and I wrote my first play, Prince Elizabeth, which refers to the intersection of Prince and Elizabeth. So I had this incredible year of artistic growth and discovery, and that summer I auditioned for the remake of Fame, and I read the script and went, “Oh my god, this is me.” This geeky Jewish kid obsessed with being a filmmaker. And it was just one of those things that clicked immediately.”

Fame led to the title part in MTV’s The Hard Times of R.J. Berger, the story of a geek whose giant penis inspires him to step outside his social rank. But Paul’s meteoric success came with newfound problems.

“To have two major things like that click back-to-back. I had a horseshoe up my ass for a couple of years. During my R.J. Berger days I was kind of destructive. I got the show when I was 20, and by this time I was openly bisexual to all of my friends and most of my family, and there was definitely some pushback on MTV’s part about whether I was public about this. And no one ever said directly to me, ‘Don’t come out.’ But through backchannels I heard conversations, and it was very clear.”

Trying to navigate his new world of excess and indulgence, while hiding his sexuality from the mainstream media, proved incredibly taxing.

“I feel like a lot of my partying and self-destructive habits came from trying to fit into this image. One night I’d go clubbing with Paris Hilton and Andy Dick, and then another night I’d go to Moustache Mondays, which is a very cool, down LA thing. And my agent at the time – everyone around me – was enabling me.”

R.J. Berger was unexpectedly cancelled after two seasons, leaving Iacano blindsided.

“I went through this period where I was just unhappy, and going out too much, and creatively frustrated. And really wanting to claim my queer identity but not being able to. Because – you can’t come out, you limit yourself. That’s the thought process. I took time off from auditioning. I sold another show to MTV. It would have been their first queer show. It was called Kenzie Scale. And it was sort of like Will and Grace: The College Years.”

While Kenzie Scale seemed promising, it would only add further salt to the wound when MTV picked up a different queer show, Faking It, and cast Paul’s ex, G.B.F. co-star Michael Willett, in the lead role.

Back in New York, Paul found a fresh beginning in his (somewhat forced) decision to come out. He had been cast in a small queer play by Justin Sayer at Ars Nova, and agreed to do some gay press for it.

“Michael Musto sort of put me on the spot, and asked, ‘So, you’re openly gay now?’ And I took a second, and I said, ‘Yeah. I wasn’t planning on saying this, but yes I am, and I think it’s the right time to say it, because it’s not about me, it’s about a bigger picture. About visibility.’ I felt like I had a duty. And there was this crazy weight kind of thing that I never even knew was on my shoulders. Or I did know, but I didn’t know that coming out would be so liberating. In retrospect, I know for a fact that there are opportunities that didn’t go my way, because of that. However, it freed me as a person, as an artist, to really live my truth. It sounds so cliche.”

But free him it did. Paul has become something of a queer icon in the New York nightlife scene. When Elaine Stritch passed away in 2014, he staged his first New York cabaret show, “Where’s the Fucking Kid?,” inspired by relationship with her. He began hosting nightlife events, including the famous “Pretty Ugly” party that happened Saturdays at Diamond Horseshoe, and, now, “Hump,” a raucous party happening every Wednesday night at The Rumpus Room.

“I’ve always loved nightlife. I’ve always been fascinated by nightlife. A good party is not just a party. It’s a place for creatives to meet and mingle in a very low key way. It’s that Andy Warhol thing, of creating this space where ideas blossom.”

It’s this love of nightlife that prompted Iacano to write and perform his second cabaret spectacular, which went up at Joe’s Pub earlier this month. Titled, “Psychedelic Hedonism,” the show is a hilarious, quirky, extremely gay celebration of downtown’s nightlife scene, and pokes fun at twinks, cocaine, and “the 27 club.”

“Where’s the Fucking Kid?,” was, sort of, “How I Became Paul Iacano,” and Psychedelic Hedonism is sort of “Being Paul Iacano.”

“Hedonism” enlisted the help of some of New York nightlife’s brassiest and brightest, including guest appearances by Sophia LaMar as the voice of the Universe and Molly Pope as Paris Hilton. Iacano wrote the script and most of the music, produced, and starred in the sensational show, which lit up the room with it’s weirdly wonderful irreverence.

Iacano returns to the screen October 14th in Baked in Brooklyn, alongside Alexandra Daddario, and, later on, in the indie films Extracurricular Activities and Dating My Mother. On October 17th, Iacano’s latest play, “The Last Great Dame,” based on Stritch’s life, will go up at the Howl! Festival at 6 East 1st St.

“When I went to see one of her last cabaret shows at the Carlisle, there was a documentary crew there filming Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me. And they had me tell them the story. I finally had the chance to tell her as an adult how much she meant to me, and how she taught me that invaluable lesson, “The show must go on.” And that survivor spirit. Someone who’s been through those horrible, fucked up things and still gets up everyday and fucking kills it.”

PWR BTTM Falls in Love with a Blowup Doll in ‘I Wanna Boi’ Video

Share Button

PWR BTTM’s “I Wanna Boi” is the singles’ anthem we all need. The song from their album Ugly Cherries proves that there’s no shame in having a certain set of unique standards when it comes to love. The tune is a hopeless romantic’s punk rock soundtrack.

In the video, Liv Bruce plays house with a blowup doll. It’s a sweet yet eccentric embodiment of infatuation as the couple lounges around their mansion, eating dinner, cuddling on the couch, and riding around on a Razor scooter.

“I Wanna Boi” is available on iTunes. Watch the video below:

A Peculiar Career: 10 of Tim Burton’s Best Films

Share Button

Tim Burton’s beautifully peculiar style makes him one of the most unique and visionary artists of our time. He’s created a distinct cinematic experience that blends darkness and whimsy, unmatched by his cohorts.

With a repertoire of instant classics, his latest film is sure to become a new favorite. The young adult fantasy novel Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs comes to life this weekend at the helm of Burton’s innovative vision. Eva Green, Samuel L. Jackson, and Asa Butterfield star in the directors peculiar take on this peculiar story.

Before you hit the cinema this weekend, brush up on some of the filmmaker’s best titles.

Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
If anyone could bring this childlike personality and his eccentric world to the big screen, it’s Tim Burton.

Beetlejuice (1988)
If we say his name three more times, can we summon that sequel?

Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Who knew a movie about a hairdresser would become such a classic?

Batman Returns (1992)
It’s our second favorite Christmas movie.

Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
And this one’s our first.

Ed Wood (1994)
Any chance to see Johnny Depp in drag makes for a great cinematic experience.

Mars Attacks! (1996)
Extraterrestrial enemies are no match for a Tim Burton sci-fi parody.

Sleepy Hollow (1999)
One of the most chilling tales in history meets one of the most chilling directors of our time.

Big Fish (2003)
Ewan McGregor puts on the southern charm in this magical epic.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
He’s come a long way since the scissorhand cosmetology days.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children hits theaters September 30. Watch the trailer below: