Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Midge Costanza's Marvelous Memory

by Norm Kent
Margaret “Midge” Costanza, 77, passed away last week, almost 33 years to the day she forged LGBT history in America. In lieu of a news story we commemorate her life in this editorial.

The White House. 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Until Saturday, March 26, 1977, its doors had never been opened to lesbians and gay men and straight allies. But on that historic day, more than a dozen women and men entered the West Wing of the presidential residence to meet with Midge Costanza, the director of President Jimmy Carter’s Office of Public Liaison.

Heads high and carrying briefing papers on topics of concern and interest to lesbians and gay men around the country, National Gay Task Force co-directors Bruce Voeller and Jean O’Leary led a delegation into the Roosevelt Room where a three-hour briefing of presidential staff got under way. Later, one White House staffer noted that the group presented the most thoroughly prepared issue briefings he had ever heard.

A press conference on the White House lawn followed the meeting, at which O’Leary proudly proclaimed, “History was made today!” It surely was, and the victories we celebrate in city commissions and state legislatures today evolve out of historic moments such as days like this particular one- moments we must never forget and always salute.

Members of the delegation briefed their hosts on discriminatory treatment of lesbians and gay men at the Internal Revenue Service, the Departments of Defense, Housing and Urban Development, Health Education and Welfare, the Federal Communications Commission, the Bureau of Prisons and the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

They pointed out that the U.S. Civil Rights Commission took no interest in discrimination and prejudice against our communities. The noble group of courageous activists pushed for support of federal nondiscrimination legislation that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in hiring, education and public accommodations. They included religious and family issues in their presentations and spoke of the pain and suffering of lesbians and gay men at the hands of church leaders and family members.

Following the historic meet­ing, Costanza arranged meetings between Task Force re­presentatives and all of the agencies specifically named by the delegation, except the IRS. But by June 1977, the IRS dropped its requirement that lesbian and gay groups applying for tax-exempt status agree not to assert that homosexuality is as morally upright as heterosexuality and not hold meetings at which homosexuals would gather and possibly violate state sodomy laws. You see, 33 years ago, a gay and lesbian community center could have been civilly outlawed.

The criticism of the Carter White House that followed the LGBT forum was intense. But Ms. Costanza, a petite, energetic woman who once described herself as “a loud-mouthed, pushy little broad,” was outspokenly committed to women’s issues, gay rights and social justice for minority groups. She stood by us and our right to be part of the political process.

The pressing needs of lesbians and gay men began to be responded to by our federal government—for the first time ever. Cancer claimed Costanza last week. Most recently, she had been a professor at San Diego State University, and was working in her last days to develop the Midge Costanza Institute, aimed at inspiring young people to become active in political and social causes.

NGLTF Executive Director Rea Carey eulogized Costanza last week, noting that “she took a risk in working to ensure our voices were heard at the highest echelons of government. In this regard, she was a pioneer.” She surely was.

Yes, it was a long time ago, but the battle activists engaged decades ago is still being fought by newer task forces and younger LGBT leaders. Our mission as a free community newspaper is to share those lives with you, and we can only do so with your continuing support and sponsorship. Thank you for helping make our first ten issues possible.

The message of ‘Midge’ is that we can never let up, and we can all be pioneers. She was there for us when it counted, when few else were, and now she will be cherished by us forevermore. May we all live our lives to be so remembered.

White House AIDS Office Expands Testing Programs

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is announcing this month that we will be expanding our successful HIV testing initiative by $31.5 million, for another three years. The new total program funding will be approximately $142.5 million over the next three years. This will reach more people with life-saving information on whether or not they are infected with the virus.

Since the testing initiative began in 2007, more than 1.4 million Americans have been tested for HIV through this program and more than 10,000 people with HIV have been newly diagnosed. The vast majority of these people were linked to care.

We know that getting people tested and diagnosed is an important step in reducing new HIV infections. Testing is the first step in linking HIV-infected people to medical care, ongoing support, and prevention efforts to help them establish and maintain safer behaviors. In fact, studies show that once people learn they are infected with HIV, most take steps to protect their partners.

However, far too many people in the U.S. are infected with HIV but unaware of their status. More than 200,000 people—or one out of every five people living with HIV in this country—may be unknowingly transmitting the virus to their partners. Additionally, many people are diagnosed with HIV late in the course of infection, when treatment and prevention efforts cannot be maximized.

The first three years of the initiative primarily focused on increasing testing and knowledge of HIV status among African American men and women. These groups bear an extremely disproportionate impact of HIV. The new three-year effort will reach even more populations at-risk for HIV, including gay and bisexual men of all races, Latinos, and injection drug users. Thirty jurisdictions are eligible to apply for the new funding (an increase from 25 areas in the last cycle of funding), which represent the areas with the most severe HIV epidemics among these populations. The first year of the expanded program will begin in September 2010.

CDC is committed to ensuring that more Americans are tested for HIV, and where necessary, linked to appropriate care. This is critical among those vulnerable populations that need it the most—including those who don’t have regular contact with the health care system. CDC has long been the nation’s leader in supporting testing efforts as a part of HIV prevention.

In 2006, we issued new recommendations to make HIV testing routine for all Americans, regardless of one’s risk for the virus. Our goal is to make HIV testing as routine as a blood pressure check. The testing initiative has helped to make those recommendations a reality in many health care settings, where opportunities to screen patients for HIV are often missed. This program represents just one example of the ways that we can help state and local health care providers make testing routine and to identify more people who are infected but unaware of their status—and ultimately reduce the ongoing and unacceptable toll of HIV on this nation.

To learn more about HIV and AIDS and find out where you can receive a confidential HIV test, visit, call 800-CDC-INFO, or text your ZIP code to “Know It” (566948).

Kevin Fenton, M.D., Ph.D., is the director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention (NCHHSTP)

Florida On Bottom of Nation's Equality List

By Cliff Dunn

A new ranking by an LGBT advocacy group rates the Sunshine State Number 47 out of 51 when it comes to equality for its gay citizens.

The privately-funded organization eQualityGiving places Florida near dead last among the 50 states and the District of Columbia when it comes to promoting LGBT equality.

This number is especially notable since Florida ranks among the top 10 states for donations made to national, state and local LGBT organizations.

“We have the money, but we need a different strategy to change the dynamics,” says Jim Stork of Wilton Manors, who serves on the advisory board of eQualityGiving.

The group, founded in 2005, provides free services and advice to individuals and groups with an aim of achieving legal equality for LGBT Americans.

The organization lists seven Equality Goals: federal hate crimes protection; protection from discrimination in employment, housing, pu­blic accommodation and credit; a repeal to the mi­litary’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) po­licy; marriage equal­ity; re­cognition of gender identity and expression under hate crimes legislation; protecting LGBT youth; and parental rights for same-sex couples.

Only the first of the goals has been realized, with the passage last October of the federal Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

Stork says there are some political realities in the Sunshine State that explain this.

“We are a deeply Red state in terms of our legislature,” says Stork, who was Mayor of Wilton Manors from 2002 to 2004.

“The Republican legislature is largely opposed to everything we stand for, which is equality for all Floridians,” Stork observed. “Pretty revolutionary stuff.”

Under the organization’s criteria, a state is awarded one point for each Equality Goal it meets. Half a point is given for the partial achievement of a goal. Since repeal of DADT is a federal goal, the maximum number of points a state can earn is six.

No state has earned a perfect score.

Florida received a score of 1.5 points, placing it near the bottom of the list of rankings; only Idaho, Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee scored lower.

The Sunshine State ‘earned’ its abysmal ranking based on the following criteria:

There is no statewide law prohibiting discrimination based on “sexual orientation” or “gender identity or expression.”

There is a statewide law prohibiting gay men and lesbians from adopting children.

Both the Florida Constitution and state laws prohibit gays and lesbians from marrying their partners.

While the Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act specifically pro­hi­bits “sexual, religious, or racial harassment,” the law makes no reference to either “sexual orientation” or “gen­der identity or expression.”

Ex-Mayor Stork says that one avenue of redress for these inequalities would be the passage in November of Amendments 5 and 6 to the Florida Constitution.

“We need to have sensible legislative districts based upon community boundaries,” he said. “A blue-ribbon panel of Independents, Democrats and Republicans. Floridians—gay and straight—deserve that.”

Dick Cheney - Portrait of a Gay Rights Activist

By Cliff Dunn

An investigation into the history of the Pentagon’s anti-LGBT “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy reveals that long before his recent foray into the public debate, former Vice President Dick Cheney was instrumental in crippling the rule which today prevents gay and lesbian personnel from serving openly in their country’s armed forces.

Cheney—who was admitted to George Washington University Hospital on February 22 after suffering a mild heart attack, his fifth—has made no secret that he is the father of a lesbian daughter, Mary, born in 1969.

But it is an almost-forgotten footnote to the DADT debate that while he was Secretary of Defense to President George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s, Cheney virtually abolished the policy before it even officially existed.

And it appears that time and again, it was his relationship with his gay daughter that marked this departure from his otherwise hard-line conservative stands.

In its September 12, 2000 cover story, Sarah Wildman reports in The Advocate that “by the time [Cheney] was leaving Bush’s cabinet [in 1993], Mary was just coming out of the closet to her family.”

The same article quotes LGBT media expert Bob Witeck referring to Cheney’s relationship with Mary.

“It’s rare for any adult, let alone an openly lesbian daughter, and her father [to be so close],” Witeck said.

How did that closeness manifest itself in terms of public policy decisions on the part of the former White House chief of staff under Gerald Ford?

The late Randy Shilts points out in Conduct Unbecoming: Gays & Lesbians in the U.S. Military: “Cheney delivered [an] order to the Joint Chiefs of Staff: He did not want the services to pursue massive purges of gay personnel. Word of witch-hunting tactics had reached him… and he would have no such goings-on on his watch at the Defense Department.”

Shilts—who had previously penned the seminal bestseller And the Band Played On—also wrote about Cheney’s personal intervention in 1990 that forced the Department of the Navy to drop demands it had made for “recoupment” of tuition after three gay Midshipmen were expelled from the U.S. Naval Academy.

After resistant Navy officers tried to force another expelled gay Midshipman to repay his tuition, Shilts reports that Cheney exploded: “Goddamn it, I’ve told the military departments not to hit people up for back tuition!”

According to Shilts, Cheney sent an Assistant Defense Secretary “to repeat his orders to both the Chief of Naval Operations and the Chief of Naval Personnel that purges and recoupment proceedings cease against gay military personnel.”

Perhaps most revealing was Cheney’s reaction to the outing of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Pete Williams by The Advocate in 1991.

The result was an unheard of acknowledgement by a sitting Defense Secretary that gays were currently serving their country in uniform.

In several interviews, Cheney said that gays had always served, often with honor. He called the argument that gay and lesbian service members were security risks “sort of an old chestnut.” (In response, an amused Congressman Barney Frank told an interviewer that “if Cheney defended the United States the way he defended this policy, we would have been captured by now—by Cuba.”)

Williams not only kept his job, but a senior Pentagon official reported that Cheney had brought the matter to the attention of President George H. W. Bush, who approved keeping Williams on.

Todd Krough, a former Fort Lauderdale resident and Air Force reservist, says that Cheney’s actions as Defense Secretary had far-reaching consequences.

“This is a lot like the ‘butterfly effect,’” said Krough. “As a civilian policymaker standing up to members of the top uniformed brass, Cheney set into motion the mere idea that this is the reality of the situation, whether you like it or not.”

“That was Darth Cheney’s one moment where he actually got to resist the Dark Side of the Force,” Krough laughed, invoking the former V.P.’s nickname when he served in the Bush-43 administration.

Bruce Shevlin, a Vietnam War era veteran, agrees there was probably an element of practicality to Cheney’s position.

“You have to believe his daughter’s sexuality played a part in his own attitudes towards gay and lesbians,” he says.

“And then again,” Shevlin adds, “whenever you have boots on the ground, some of them will be wearing white socks, some of them pink.”

Soldiers Die While Taliban Plays With Boy Sex Slaves

By Cliff Dunn

An unclassified study from a military research unit in southern Afghanistan, released earlier this year, details how homosexual behavior is unusually common among men in the large ethnic group known as Pashtuns—though they seem to be in complete denial about it.

The study, obtained by Fox News, found that Pashtun men commonly have sex with other men, admire other men physically, have sexual relationships with boys and shun women both socially and sexually—yet they completely reject the label of “homosexual.”

The research was conducted as part of a longstanding effort to better understand Afghan culture and improve Western interaction with the local people. The report reveals some stunning other information as well.

According to the study, Pashtun men interpret the Islamic prohibition on homosexuality to mean they cannot “love” another man—but that doesn’t mean they can’t use men for “sexual gratification.”

The report also detailed a ‘traditional’ practice in which older “men of status” keep young boys on hand for sexual relationships. One of the country’s favorite sayings, the report said, is “women are for children, boys are for pleasure.”

The new report authenticates previous stories, dating back to 2002, which appeared in the Times of London. Those features noted that Kandahar, the capital city of the Taliban movement, is also the “homosexual capital of South Asia,” and that a boy-sex trade is rampant.

The Times report concluded that the “preferred pastime for wealthy and powerful Afghani men, including many former Taliban and mujahideen commanders, is the procurement of young boys as sex slaves.” Nothing in the new military study acquired by Fox News suggests anything has changed in the years since.

The boys, called ashna, beloveds, or halekon, young male lovers, have been specifically groomed for sex. Before the brutal and theocratic Taliban swept into power, the streets “were filled with teenagers and their sugar daddies, flaunting their relationships,” recorded the British daily. Few deny that the practice is widespread.

The Koran imposes the death penalty for consensual relations between members of the same sex, even for cross dressing. Not just any death penalty. By tradition, one of three punishments is mandated- either burning at the stake, being pushed over the edge of a cliff, or being crushed by a toppled wall.

Many locals accuse the Taliban of hypocrisy when it comes to keeping young boys for sex slaves.“The Taliban kept it secret,” one local southern Warlord told the Los Angeles Times. “They hid their halekon in their madrasas [religious schools].”

The Los Angeles Times report included an interview with Dr. Mohammed Nasem Zafar, a professor at Kandahar Medical College, who estimated that around 50% of the former Taliban stronghold’s men have sex with men or boys at some point in their lives. Zafar said the prime age at which boys are believed attractive is between 12 and 16, before their beards grow in.

He told the Los Angeles Times sometimes when the halekon grow up, “older men try to keep them in the family by marrying them to their daughters.” Zafar said he once caught a local religious leader having sex with a younger man on an examining room table in his medical office.

“If this is our mullah, what can you say for the rest?” he asked.

Outside of Kandahar

Even in Northern Afghanistan, homosexual issues have generated controversy. In 2007, Reuters reported that young Afghan boy dancers were being turned into sex slaves by wealthy and powerful patrons, often former warlords, who dress the boys up as girls, shower them with gifts and keep them as “mistresses.”

“The practice, called ‘bacha bazi’—literally ‘boy play’—has a long history in northern Afghanistan,” Reuters reported, “but sometimes it does not stop with just dancing.” Reuters interviewed numerous mujahideen fighters that admitted to the practice. One interviewee stated “The boy’s smell and fragrance kills me. I dress him in women’s clothes and have him sleep beside me. I enjoy him and he is my everything.”

“I was only 14-years old when an Uzbek commander forced me to have sex with him,” a 24-year old named Shir Mohammad told Reuters. “I am used to it. I love to dance and act like a woman and play with my owner.”

On his future plans, the sex-slave told Reuters: “Once I grow up, I will be an owner and I will have my own boys.”

“It is sad to state that this practice that includes making boys dance, sexual abuse and sometimes even selling boys, has been going on for years,” said Gen. Asadollah Amarkhil, who commands security forces in Kunduz province..

“We have taken strict measures to save the lives of the boys and punish the men,” Amarkhil insists. But there is skepticism about the likely results, since many of the owners of the boy-slaves are well-armed and powerful former mujahideen and their commanders.

Those who are found guilty of abuse could receive at least 15 years in prison. That may not be enough of a disincentive to a practice that dates back centuries.

“We know it is immoral and un-Islamic, but how can we quit?” mused a 35-year-old Afghani man to Reuters. “We do not like women, we just want boys.”

The war, meanwhile, goes on. And Americans are dying so Afghan warlords can have their boys to play with.

God Save the Queen

You may know or remember Ray Fetcho as ‘Tiny Tina.’ He is a proud gay 61 year old man who has been a licensed practical nurse for the past forty years; four decades of service to people who are ill.

Unfortunately, in 1976, while hosting a ‘Wet Jockey Shorts Night’ at the Copa, he was busted for promoting a lewd act. Today, that incident has come back to haunt him. The state has told him he can no longer be a nurse because of the conviction.

For the past 15 years, Fetcho has been an acclaimed and honored employee at Victoria Villa, an assisted living facility in Davie, recognized for his “compassionate service to the elderly.”

On March 31, 1976, Fetcho, performing as ‘Tiny Tina’ at the Copa in Dania Beach, was charged and convicted of promoting ‘lewd and lascivious’ behavior by throwing small buckets of water on boys’ briefs while hosting the irreverent ‘Wet Jockey Shorts’ contest.

Last month, that dated conviction from his past became a nightmare. Last week, Ray Fetcho was summarily fired from the job he has loved and cherished. A state licensing agency, the Agency for Health Care Administration, doing a routine screening inspection of nursing home employees, told him he would be ineligible to remain on the job at his facility “because of the lewd act conviction” from thirty plus years ago.

During the 1970’s and 80’s, the Copa was the most renowned and preeminent gay bar in South Florida. It was an international destination for tourists and a ‘coming out’ venue for anyone local, gay, and seeking an all night dance club.

30 years ago, John Castelli, and his partner, the late Bill Bastiansen, were the owners of the Copa, which hosted renowned drag queens like Tiny Tina, Nikki Adams, and the late Dana Manchester.

Today, Castelli is a respected broker of Castelli and Associates in Wilton Manors. After being told of Fetcho’s plight Saturday morning, Castelli commented: “Oh my God! What century are we living in? It was such an innocent situation. The boys always wore briefs. No one was exposed. That was during the Anita Bryant era, a lifetime ago.” Castelli even remembered the incident, noting he and his partner had to bond Fetcho out of jail.

Unfortunately, those acts then have impacted Fetcho’s life today. Unless he petitions and receives an exemption for his past misconduct, the Department of Health can stop him from working anywhere in the state as an LPN, a job which has paid him close to $40,000 a year.

Lucie Eichler, his now former employer from the Villa thought the decision was equally incredible, “Fetcho has been a valuable addition to our company. He is so well-liked that he still maintains relationships with the families of residents who have since passed.”

Eichler attests to Fetcho’s, “reliability and strong ethical character,” and says that she is “sorry to see him leave.”

Ann Garfinkel, the daughter of a Victoria Villa resident, was in disbelief when informed of Fetcho’s firing. “His termination is a great loss to the residents of Victoria Villa and the nursing profession in general.” She continues, “I believe the State of Florida is making a big mistake.”

Added Linda Greenfield, “Ray took care of my mother while she was suffering from dementia at the Villa. He is the most caring and considerate nurse you can imagine; he brings patience and love and humor to his work.”

Ironically, Fetcho has a new job waiting for him in a new Coconut Creek assisted living facility. Kelley Madigan, the administrator at Dayscape, a senior activity center told SFGN, “I was Fetcho’s supervisor at the Villas for six years. He is dedicated and pleasant, dependable and compassionate. I am prepared to employ him the moment he clears this hurdle.”

Fetcho has retained long time Fort Lau­derdale constitutional rights attorney, Norm Kent, who is the publisher of SFGN. Stated Kent, who is taking the case on a pro bono basis, “I promise you that this injustice will be cured and that Ray Fetcho will get an exemption- and be restored to his tenure as an LPN.” He addresses the issue in today’s SFGN editorial.

Kent has to petition the Department of Health and make a case to its administrators. He explained the legal process that Fetcho must initiate: “Employees seeking an exemption have the burden of setting forth sufficient evidence of rehabilitation, including the circumstances surrounding the criminal incident for which an exemption is sought, and the time period that has elapsed since the incident, and the history of the employee since the incident,” Kent said.

For his part, Fetcho is upset and concerned about his future. “I love being a nurse and I love my job and I can’t believe this is coming back to haunt me 30 years later. It was stupid then. It is ridiculous now.”

Added Fetcho, “I should be working up to my retirement in five years, not looking back at something from the past. I never mixed my two careers together. One was show business, one was real. I had the best of both possible worlds but if I have to fight today to help some other nurse tomorrow, they are going to have to fight ‘The Queen’ in her court.”

Catching My Breath

By Joey Amato

Is there such a thing as becoming too gay? Let’s take my life for example. I am a young gay man, work in a gay town, spend much of my disposable income in gay-owned establishments and write about anything and everything gay.

This past weekend, I became concerned that my life is becoming too gay. Thinking I may have been over exaggerating, I addressed my concern with a few friends and surprisingly, they told me my thoughts were justified. My friend Mike told me that he thought it was healthy for me to feel this way and that he would be more concerned if I didn’t. My boyfriend agreed.

I don’t want to make it sound like I am not proud of being gay, but I am worried that I will morph into someone who forgets that there are other cultures outside our own.

Before accepting a position with SFGN, I lived in Delray Beach, a community that doesn’t contain any gay bars or clubs, although I was told one had closed in the past few years. Because of the minute gay population, we’re forced to blend in with the community.

Then I was invited on a life-changing date to Galanga in Wilton Manors.

I had never heard of Wilton Manors. Call me na├»ve, but I also have not travelled to gay tourist locales such as Key West, San Francisco or Fire Island, even though I used to live 30 minutes away on Long Island. When I arrived to this town, I was surprised to see the large number of rainbow flags lining the streets. It was quite astonishing actually. I didn’t know places like this existed.

Over the following months I spent more and more time in the Fort Lauderdale area and began to immerse myself in the gay community. I became involved with the GLCC Pride Center, GLBX and started attending numerous gay events. I strived to be photographed by Hotspots and 411, currently Mark’s List. The days of attending charity galas hosted by Donald Trump and Governor Charlie Crist at Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach have faded.

I feel like a part of me died when I was introduced to Wilton Manors. I started neglecting a lot of things I used to love to do in favor of being gay. I started passing up the opportunity to network with professionals in Boca so I can share a drink or two with friends on the Drive. I favor partying at Living Room on Friday evening over a weekend getaway. Two years ago, I would have never even entertained the notion.

Over the past few months, I have met people who have mentioned to me that they refuse to do anything outside of the gay community. Most of these people were older, but does there come a point when we become so secure in our current surroundings that we develop a fear to venture away? That is what scares me and why I wonder if I am becoming too gay.

I don’t like segregation. I like unity. I want to be part of both worlds. How do I find the perfect balance of gay and straight? How do I find a way to combine both worlds and become whole again?

OUT in Africa

By A. Sebastian Fortino

In light of the recent Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill, SFGN spoke with Stefan M. of Zurich, Switzerland. As he travels often in Africa he would prefer to keep his last name confidential. Stefan has traveled to Africa several times alone and with partners. This is despite the climate in Africa being hostile towards gays.
“I’ve been to Tanzania and Morocco 4 times, and once to Malawi. Tanzanian law declares life imprisonment as punishment for homosexual sex. Malawi proscribes prison sentences for citizens, and can expel incriminated foreigners. Morocco—long known one of the most liberal Islamic countries—can proscribe anywhere from 6 months to 3 years in prison,” Stefan said. Yet, despite these strictures he has always felt comfortable in Africa.

“In all African countries you need to be discreet,” Stefan said from his home in Zurich. “The same way a hetero-couple does not kiss in the middle of the road and the girls do not wear short skirts. I am sure by the end of our last stay in Morocco, everyone in the hotel realized my boyfriend and I were a couple. But they never reacted to that. We felt very safe.”

“I make friends when I go there. One time in Africa we befriended a local Islamic guide. He even accepted a glass of wine despite that being verboten under Islam,” Stefan said laughing. “Yes, I have been so comfortable in Africa that I even one time had sex with a very hot African policeman.”

Morocco—despite limitations on paper—is romantic enough to have inspired Stefan, 29, and his boyfriend Julien, 26, to enter into a civil union.

“It was a beautiful night to agree to get married,” Stefan said fondly.

New York real estate professional William Brantley has also traveled extensively in Africa. He has been to Morocco 4 times, and visited Kenya, Tunisia, and Tanzania once.

“I have traveled with boyfriends in Africa twice. It really depends on which country you go to and how flamboyant you are. It’s a good idea for some to tone it down a bit,” Brantley knowingly advised. “I never thought about it when I went to Morocco, but when we went to Tunisia we did travel as cousins. Especially in Tunis, the capital, it was pretty dangerous there.”

Brantley said, of LGBT rights in Africa. “More global interest should be directed towards Africa. However, we still have a lot to do in our own country, but for now,” he encourages, “go and visit. Just be careful.”

Brantley has also been on safari in Kenya, and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. His apartment on New York’s Upper East Side is covered in notions and knick-knacks from his African travels. The abundance of souvenirs alone will make you want to pack your bags.

SFGN Profile: Mark Corbett

By Joey Amato

Born and raised in Montebello, California, Go Riverwalk Magazine publisher Mark Corbett has lived a not-so-traditional life. A father of three, Corbett began his publishing career in New York City serving as Associate Publisher of Lesbian & Gay New York (LGNY), a bi-monthly newspaper. “I then became National Advertising Sales Manager for Columbia FunMaps,” Corbett tells SFGN.

The Business Leader

Upon arriving in Florida, Corbett began publishing a local neighborhood newsletter which caught the attention of The Riverwalk Trust, an organization created to raise capital for ongoing Riverwalk promotions and improvements.

Go Riverwalk Magazine began as a newsletter in 2004 and was transformed to its current magazine format in 2005. “My vision from day-one was to serve the people that live, work, and play in our great city with current information and features on the arts, our urban lifestyle, city business, dining and a slice of everything and anything Fort Lauderdale.”

As with many other industries, publishing has been hurt tremendously by the recession, but Corbett remains optimistic for the coming year. “2010 looks to be a very promising year. My mantra for most of last year was “creative solutions for challenging times.” It worked and got us to where we are today. This year our mantra is a bit simpler but equally powerful: “creativity, prosperity, and happiness are all states of mind.”

Go Riverwalk Magazine currently works with a team of about 25 highly talented individuals to produce each issue. “Our publishing team at New River Design consists of a core group of six. Riverwalk Trust accounts for another three in editorial, and we work with numerous contributing writers, designers and photographers.”

In addition to serving the business community, Corbett also contributes heavily to many area non-profit organizations including Broward House, the Pride Center at Equality Park, Miami City Ballet and South Florida Symphony Orchestra.

The Father

Before becoming publisher of Go Riverwalk, Corbett was involved in a 13 year marriage and had three children. “Coming out late in life accomplished a couple of things for me. I knew, at the age of 40, there was no turning back, at least not for me.”

Ending his marriage was not exactly easy. “Conventional divorces can get ugly enough. My ex-wife decided to grant interviews with local and national media and appeared on a television show which featured women claiming their lives were in ruins because of marrying gay men.”

Within three months following the divorce, Corbett was marching in New York’s Gay Pride Parade with the Gay Fathers Forum. “After all, I was a dad, and I would not allow anyone to take that away from me. Today, my children are my biggest fans and an amazing support group.”

Some people may not understand Corbett’s life, but he is quick to explain, “It’s not that difficult to understand – I have an ex-wife, three grown children, a grandson, an ex-husband, and two ex-boyfriends.”

The Spiritualist

“I could not be happier with my life. I wake every morning with extreme gratitude for all the wonderful people and the impermanent material objects that make my life so much easier.” He continues, “I’m even grateful for all the difficult people, too. They have mostly become my greatest teachers and a few have earned the title of Buddha.”

Corbett has become somewhat of a role model for the younger gay community in Fort Lauderdale. “I’m openly gay and very active in our business community. That alone should offer some encouragement and incentive for others to follow.”

After struggling with his sexuality for years, Corbett is an advocate for equal rights. “Be yourself…responsibly and with passion. Coming out at any age can be productive and liberating to the spirit. Most will find the so called monsters created are within our minds.”

“Most people really don’t care if you’re gay or straight. We set up the roadblocks to our own successes. Let go and live your life to the fullest, each and every day.”

The Lover

Corbett describes his relationship with his former lover Carl, “We were together for a long time. We lived the “Ozzie & Harriet” life here in beautiful Fort Lauderdale before breaking up three years ago. Time moves on, people change and gravitate to opposing belief systems, then people move on. It’s a way of life, the way of the Universe.”

When asked what he was searching for out of life, Corbett answered with two simple words, “Eternal happiness”.

Many gay men struggle to find love but Corbett is convinced, “Love is everywhere.” And yes, he has found it. “Most people associate love with the quality of their bed partners and if they return text messages within a reasonable period of time. I find love in the most amazing places.” Corbett enjoys the more spiritual side of love.

“Sitting on top of a mountain under a starlit canopy, observing the journey of a falling raindrop, connecting with an opening flower or listening to a symphony of crickets… love is within us all, it’s up to us to connect. And connecting with that bed partner, is so much more intense when you start from within.”

To learn more about Mark Corbett and Go Riverwalk Magazine, please visit

Richard Cortez: Inside His Mind & Behind His Music

By Joey Amato

On a beautiful Saturday afternoon, I sat in the living room of local singer-songwriter, Richard Cortez. I listened track by track to his new album, Sleeping with Strangers. Composed over the past two years, the album is a compilation of Richard’s trials and tribulations as a gay man. Written and arranged entirely by Richard, the album features heart-felt music about love, sex, relationships and sorrow.

While he attended the American Musical & Dramatic Academy in New York City, Richard frequently played local venues. Over time, he attracted a strong gay following. “I used to borrow $50 from my mom to purchase blank CDs.” He adds, “I’d hand out my music to fans who attended my shows in the East Village.” Richard attributes these free giveaways to his success.

Richard’s grass roots efforts paid off. He caught the attention of a production company who wanted to work on Richard’s album. The only negative is the company wanted to change Richard’s identity. “They wanted to send me to do speech therapy to teach me how to speak ‘less gay’ and they wanted me to get a girlfriend for public appearances and photos.” He ultimately decided to reject the offer.

Drawing from his musical influences, Joni Mitchell, Carol King and Ani DeFranco, Richard created a unique sound. The resulting style incorporates his love for theatre and folk music.

As we listened to “Be Alright”, the opening track of Sleeping with Strangers, Richard told me extreme fame and popularity is not his goal. “I just want to be able to make a living off of my music.” He says, “It’s not all about the glamorous life.” At the time he wrote “Be Alright”, Richard was going through a challenging time.

“My mom was selling her house and my brother was going into the military. I felt like a bird getting pushed out of the nest.” In his first full album since 2005, Richard conveys the daily rituals of Fort Lauderdale, a place he calls, “A big gay playground.” No stranger to temptation, Richard writes about his one-night stands, forays in dark allies and escapades in porn shops.

“Body of Water” began to play. “I wrote this song about a boat captain I was dating.” He explains, “It was completely sexual and developed into a passionate late-night romance.” Today, Richard barely speaks to the captain, but their time together makes for a memorable song.

The title track, “Sleeping with Strangers” is Richard’s most introspective song. “The lyrics say, ‘sleeping with strangers but dreaming of you.’ Everyone is always looking for something more…they think someone better is going to pass them by, but in the end, they have nothing.”

“Missing” is about Richard’s passionate six-month affair with a man who was in a 4 year relationship. “One night we shared a bottle of wine and were having crazy sex when his boyfriend knocked on the door.” Richard smiles, “The plan was for me to run out without him seeing me.” He continues, “I loved this guy, but he was lost, confused and overwhelmed. He was not strong enough to walk away.”

There was a time when Richard was more concerned about sexual experimentation and exploration than his well being.

“My hormones were raging. I had just gotten dumped in a bar and needed to let loose,” he recalls. Not always portraying himself as a victim, Richard wrote “The Mourning After”. “There was a side of me that just slept with people knowing full well that I would never call them again.”

Richard now craves more. “I’m 24 and want to share love with somebody, but people need to realize that they can’t just hop into bed with someone and call it marriage.” Missing the physical release and selfish pleasure of his past life, Richard promises that he has changed his lifestyle. “I’m still the same person but I’ve just changed my behavior and want different things out of life.”

“Crazy Fool” is a response to “The Mourning After”. Written through the voice of the victim in the previous track, Richard tells me how he was always trying to better himself visually. “I would work out five days per week, wear designer clothes, starve myself and stand at the bar waiting to meet someone.”

As we listened to the remainder of the album I began to hear Richard’s passion for storytelling. “Everybody scrutinizes me for writing about love, but this record is about more than love, it’s about truth.”

“We go out, party, meet someone, sleep with them and then someone’s heart breaks. It hits you like a wave.” The final track, “Trainwreck” is the realization that Richard was grasping for help. “The song is about hope and letting people know it’s going to be okay.”

Richard is okay now. He is happy with himself and his album. He even goes as far as to say that his next album should be lighter than Sleeping with Strangers.

The album will be released on Valentine’s Day and made available through the iTunes,, and other online retailers. For more information, visit


By Joey Amato

In 1990, a young entrepreneur named Andrew Isen had a vision. He was a successful young man who felt like corporate America was not speaking to him. “I was openly gay, had a large disposable income and I was not on anyone’s marketing list.” This may be seen as a positive for most people who get bombarded by junk-mail every day, but for Isen, this was an opportunity.

Working off his kitchen table with nothing but an IBM and a phone, Isen started WinMark Concepts, Inc., a company which became an award-winning, full-service marketing and communications firm targeting the gay and lesbian community. Note that I did not say LGBT community. Isen tells SFGN that his company “Doesn’t use LGBT in their marketing materials because in the business world, companies aren’t seeking to reach bisexual and transsexual consumers.”

The success of WinMark was helped by Isen’s extensive education, receiving both his BBA and MBA from George Washington University. Throughout his career, Isen garnered experience in strategic planning, program development, experiential and field marketing, on-line marketing and consumer research, services which are now offered by WinMark.

Long before the era of MySpace and Facebook, direct mail was the most cost effective way to reach a specific market. Isen began with his company with a cooperative advertising campaign called Direct Male, which targeted gay men, 90% of which were unreachable by any other means. The highly successful campaign caught the attention of tobacco-maker, Philip Morris, which Isen shares, “Was my first client and the first company I sent an invoice to.”

Philip Morris hired WinMark to conduct a survey regarding the smoking habits of gay men, which was printed as a feature story in the New York Times. Since then, Isen has worked with over 700 companies, both large and small, all trying to target the gay and lesbian community. The Washington D.C. based company is now celebrating its 20th Anniversary.

“We discovered in our very first year the tremendous buying power of the GLBT market. Gay and lesbian consumers can be very loyal to specific brands that appeal to them, and they show their support in buying goods and services from these companies,” continues Isen. “And we have worked with many Fortune 500 companies that embrace these ideals, and offer for their own employees’ domestic partner benefits, non-discrimination policies, and financial support for organizations supporting equality. We’re thrilled that more and more companies are joining this roster and offering these benefits to all their employees, and we applaud their efforts.”

WinMark was the first company to work with the British Tourist Authority to launch a gay and lesbian marketing initiative. That campaign, generated over $450 million in revenue to the British economy. Furthermore, WinMark was the first company to work with Fannie Mae. “We were hired to provide an advertising campaign to show imagery of what middle class gay and lesbian households may look like.”

According to, the buying power of U.S. gays and lesbians is expected to exceed $835 billion by 2011. Additional research shows these groups are more likely to seek out companies who advertise to them, and are willing to pay higher prices for premium products and services. They also show that twice as many gay and lesbian Americans are to have graduated from college, twice as likely to have an individual income exceeding $60,000, and twice as likely to have a household income of $250,000 or more.

“We’re proud to celebrate WinMark’s 20th anniversary and are also proud to be the first full-service marketing and communications firm to truly recognize the immense power of gay & lesbian consumers,” Isen states.

A busy work schedule has not deterred Isen from devoting part of his life to philanthropy. He is a large supporter of the Point Foundation, an organization which provides financial support, mentoring and leadership training to meritorious students who are marginalized due to sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Furthermore, Isen contributes heavily to both the Human Rights Campaign as well as the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

Named one of OUT Magazine’s “OUT 100” and with nearly 30 years of integrated marketing experience, WinMark’s Isen has made an endurable mark on the gay and lesbian community.

For more information, please visit:

Dirty Larry: 'Wilton Drive Magazine' Likely to Wilt

By A. Sebastian Fortino

Readers’ Advisory: This story contains blatant profanities necessarily published within the context of presenting this story as accurately and truthfully as possible.

Former staff members of the new ‘Wilton Drive Magazine,’ originally set for a March 18 launch date, have accused Lawrence Patterson, the prospective publisher, of sexual harassment, financial misconduct, and failing to pay ANY of their salaries.

Patterson, 59, has set up shop by renting office space in Wilton Suites on Wilton Drive, where former employees now say he may actually be living. Patterson had been renting a hotel room at the Hurricane Hotel on Oakland Park Boulevard and A1A, but he was asked to leave by its management for not paying his board.

“Good riddance to him,” said Wally, the Hurricane’s manager, “he still owes us $350, his room was trashed, he left clothes and belongings on the floor, and there was pills, steel wool, and glass pipes throughout the room.” The latter two items have been associated with the use of illicit substances.

The hotel manager explained to SFGN that Patterson had lived there for over eight months, before landing a recent “settlement...then he paid us back due rents but a month later he was hitting me up for twenty bucks,” Wally said.

Jeffrey Jacobs, long time DJ at the Ramrod, confirms that he responded to an advertisement Patterson had placed in bar guides seeking an Executive Assistant, but that he left after five days. “I wrote him a polite e-mail stating ‘with all due respect,’ I did not think it was realistic for him to think he was going to publish a magazine by March 18 when he had no computers, no writers, no phones, no website designers or any staff. I thought he was going about it backwards. And I sent him a time sheet for $612.00.”

Jacobs said Patterson’s first reply to him was an email which read: “Fuck you amateur. If you ever want to painlessly commit suicide, just jump off the top of your ego.” Patterson refused to pay the bill and said a check would be mailed from ADP, his payroll service. But two subsequent employees confirmed that Patterson has never contracted with ADP.

The next day Patterson sent Jacobs a second email “threatening to have me arrested for taking some of the work that I created, which he refused to pay me for. I am not a charity,” Jacobs told SFGN.

Patterson’s email included the following text: “I am keeping what compensation you had coming for damages. Filing Felony Charges. You just destroyed your own reputation, dumbass. I am going to watch you crash and burn.”

This was in response to an employee who had earlier written “I would love nothing more than for your magazine to succeed, but I am not going to put my reputation on the line trying to sell full page ads for a magazine where the only page ready to print is the cover.”

“But I could see what was happening,” Jacobs said. “He had asked me to help sneak him back into the Hurricane Motel to get his belongings when he did not pay the rent there. Then he had me take him to the back door of the Wilton Suites so they would not see he was moving his stuff into the office he was renting.”

Less than five days before Patterson had sent this same employee an email reading “I jus think you are fukin amazing, an I want to go out with you an see where it might go. Can you handle it? LP”[sic]

When Jacobs left, Darren Watson, 38, was hired to be Patterson’s Chief Financial Officer and Business Manager. Relocating from Orlando to find new work here after leaving a 15 year position with MCI, Watson said he was immediately hired by Patterson after meeting with him for less than ten minutes.

“I interviewed in February, moved down on March 1, but then when I came in to say hello before the start date, I met the other staff. Every one of them advised me that they had not been getting paid. I began to get very nervous,” Watson told SFGN.

Watson sent an e mail to Patterson communicating his concern. “Then I started getting obscene and filthy sexually harassing emails from him,” Watson told SFGN.

Not for the light hearted, one of those emails from Patterson arrived on Friday, March 5, at 2:23 a.m., reading “I am going to have to beat your ass. You’re a top, aren’t you, butch boy. AND everyone including me noticed your big fuckin basket jus fore yo left yesterday. If your cock had been bulging any more, it would’ve busted right out your jeans. Then daddy would have haad to throat if for you an drain you dry. I know you just got out of a relationship, but I am WAY interested in YOU. But will deny sayin it on a stack of bibles.”[sic] Patterson was not done.

Watson received a second communication at 2:37 a.m. It not only promised an immediate salary increase, but when he came over, he was advised by Patterson: “don’t wear any underwear. I want to see that big dick.” Watson declined to report to work on Monday, and was never paid any monies for the time he was there.

Neither was Orlando Espinosa. He responded to the same ad Watson did and served as the Executive Personal Assistant for two weeks. “I too was hired in less than ten minutes. I too never got paid. I too saw other people get fired for no reason without also getting paid. And all the while Patterson was talking about creating this major magazine he never added a land line, a computer, or tech equipment.”

All he acquired, one staffer noted, was a beat up used computer from the school board for a hundred bucks.

When Espinosa discovered some of the emails sent to Jacobs, he too, left the company. “I believed Patterson to have no money and that we would probably never get paid for all the work we did for him in the last two weeks. We were actually trying to put together a magazine.”

Even a fourth employee, Michael B., responded to the ad for an assistant. But Michael B told SFGN that “I was hired to assist in the development of a cable TV channel, but then I was urgently called in to sell ads for a magazine, sent to meet with merchants, but I never even had a mockup of the magazine.” The employee said he joined with other staffers in not returning to work when they were not paid.

Michael Krauser, who runs Wilton Executive Suites, not a hotel, on Wilton Drive, could not comment on the purported new residency of Patterson. He said it was in the “hands of his lawyers.” Besides Jacobs, at least two other former employees told SFGN “the guy is actually living there.”

Lawrence Bruce Patterson’s Nevada based corporation is named Financial Pros, LLC. Its stock and trade is selling annuities and life and health insurance products. Applying to do business here in Florida originally in February, 2009, Patterson listed an address on the west coast of the state on Coral Way in Cape Coral.

Going now by the nickname of ‘Butch,’ Patterson has been a life settlement agent since 2001, and was licensed as a viatical broker in Florida in 2002. He is presently registered with the state as a Series 215 licensed life-health-annuities agent.

While Patterson declined to talk to SFGN about “his past,” his own words on an insurance blog he posted last year bragged that he has “participated in many conferences and symposia and invests hours in daily self-study to stay current with cutting-edge industry news and related strategic applications of Life Settlements, charitable giving, and inter-related life insurance/annuity scenarios.”

The image of Patterson as a shrewd financial executive paints a little different picture than his present portrait on ‘Facebook’, where he lists his website,, and his interests and hobbies, as “sex, beaching, shopping, working out, sex, Martial arts, sex, spending money, sex, and YOUNGER GUYS.”

Listing himself as single, he says his favorite quote is “You can’t be too thin, too hung, too rich, or too tan.”

This is not the same Patterson who was once, years ago, a respected insurance agent. Sources who knew him then, said he went by his middle name, Bruce, and that he was a “nice, timid, prim, proper, hard working older man who would research his job thoroughly and take it to the next level.”

However, those same sources indicated that Patterson, about ten years ago, suffered a life-changing medical incident after a near fatal bite by a rare, brown recluse spider. “He came back a changed man,” the source said, “as if some force had taken hold of him.”

This past week, Patterson revealed in what he called “a cover story” for his premiere issue that he was HIV Positive. In his announcement, Patterson admits to “being very sick during January and February” and not taking his meds all last year. He declined to discuss the matter further with SFGN, saying “God brought me here for a reason.”

Patterson entered the South Florida scene by taking out two full page ads in Hotspots last month, bragging about them on Facebook, and offering up ‘securities and annuities’ for Financial Pros, saying nothing about the proposed magazine. The ads employed the copyrighted and statutorily protected logos of Ian Fleming and James Bond, hustling customers to invest.

Patterson, however, was not given authorization to use the copyrighted James Bond images as his own. Stated Michael Tavares, Licensing Director for Danjaq, LLC., which owns the licenses for the James Bond films, “We did not grant any permission to Mr. Patterson or Financial Pros to use any of our trademark materials. I can definitely state that this is an actionable and unauthorized use.”

An online check of the name ‘Wilton Drive Magazine’ has also revealed that the use of that fictitious name was statutorily protected by Jim Bellin, an Oakland Park, Florida businessman on May 23, 2007. It is still valid. Thus, the name ‘Wilton Drive Magazine’ is owned by a registrant other than Patterson, even though he is attempting to sell thousand-dollar a page ads using that name.

Meanwhile, people meeting with him are leaving their encounters shell-shocked. The publishers of the Gay Community Yellow Pages, Marci Alt and Thomas Ryan met Patterson for a dinner, which politely concluded with Patterson agreeing to purchase an annual ad to promote his new magazine, along with a consulting contract.

When Ryan called the next day to pick up the agreed upon check of $3500, an irrational Patterson cursed him out abusively, berating him for ten minutes and calling him a ‘fraud.’ Ryan claimed he was “completely shocked and the ten years I have been a business professional I have never been spoken to in such a disrespectful tone.” Ryan added “it was not a conversation, he just shouted at me.”

After respectfully replying in an e-mail, Ryan was taunted again. Patterson responded by telling Ryan “And your point is? Lose our contact info, butch up, and get over yourselves.”

Patterson was not done. He then sent another email to Ryan, reading “you and your dyke partner are grifters… our magazine is on the streets on 3/18, and I didn’t have to pay a ransom of $25k for fucking consulting.”[sic]

Mike Trottier at Hotspots claimed a similar experience. “From the mo­ment this man came in, I got a very weird vibe that he was very strange. First he told me he was selling gold bullion, then annuities. Then he came in with this James Bond ad and a classified for an executive assistant.” Both have been removed from the publication.

Photographer Pompano Bill covered the launch party for the ‘Financial Pros’ endeavor at Wilton Suites, but Pompano says “there was no one there, and Patterson just launched into vicious comments about numerous people for no reason at all. There was no literature for the company or the magazine or anything explaining what he was doing.”

Jeffrey Jacobs, the DJ who worked one week with Patterson, confirms the stories. “He asked me to put my reputation on the line. When I tried to explain to him that his staff and production equipment was insufficient for a start up, I got an email from him telling me “Geez, go get sucked off again... No shit, I know what we need, quit bitchin and fukin get on it.”

Jacobs resigned the next day, asking for his pay, which he has still not received. No one who worked there has.

On Friday, Patterson announced in an email blast the hire of a new CFO, Scott Campbell, and a new launch date of April 1.

Patterson noted that Campbell held an MBA in Finance. He does. But meeting that deadline with Campbell’s aid might also be a problem. Campbell quit the same day.

Stating that he was leaving ‘Wilton Drive Magazine,’ since “nothing Patterson has said has been credible,” Campbell told SFGN “Here it is March 19 and we do not have a staff or anything to go forward with.”

Campbell respectfully wished Patterson well with his project, but instructed him to not use his name in any way as being part of his organization.

After five separate sources were verified with similar complaints of sexual harassment and non-payment, SFGN asked Patterson to respond to the allegations. He replied by stating it was “none of our business,” culminating with a notice threatening the newspaper with a libel lawsuit if this story was published.

In a rage, Patterson also called the SFGN office, reaching Marketing Director Cliff Dunn. Placed on a speakerphone, he proceeded to shout out a string of obscenities saying he “loves lawsuits” and he “loves to go to fucking war,” and he would destroy ‘Kent’ for trying to “stop him from publishing his fucking magazine.”

Over the weekend, Patterson followed up those obscenities with a series of email blasts to hundreds of people within the local LGBT community, repeating newer threats, warning SFGN that “this can only end badly... and not for me.”

Meanwhile, Campbell, like Watson, Jacobs, Espinosa, Ryan, and others including a hotel on the beach, provided services or worked for money and a magazine they may never see.

Campbell was philosophical, “Times are hard,” he said, “I wanted to take a shot but there is nothing here.”

As for the news story, whoops, it ran.