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    Filled with Pride

    By Jan Wahl–

    Pride is basically defined as “a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction from one’s own achievements or achievements of those whom one admires or finds an association with.” Four recent showbiz adventures came to mind right away that filled me with pride, and here they are.

    William J. Mann’s hot summer read is Wisecracker: The Life and Times of William Haines. Haines was a major movie star in the 20s and early 30s, kind of a Jimmy Stewart and Tom Hanks everyman, adored by the public. He also affirmed his gay identity as a totally essential part of who he was, out of the closet in public and private. Outraged that Haines refused a studio sham marriage, the industry fired and blacklisted him. But forget about obscurity. This talented man went on to flourish as a famed interior designer, studied to this day by students of the art. His story fills me with pride of an authentic life.

    Ready for a return to the big screen with a movie that will send you out of the theatre with people honoring themselves and each other? Throw in Busby Berkeley meets West Side Story production numbers and soulful storytelling and you’ve got In the Heights. A pre-Hamilton Lin-Manuel Miranda gave us this exuberant musical about a summer in Washington Heights. Director Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians) finds that magical balance that most recent musicals have missed: joy and heart combined with heart-pounding rhythm and movement. It’s an extravaganza that cried out for the big screen; how else to appreciate its dancing, choreography, set design, art direction, and camerawork? The charismatic characters struggle as we become engaged in their journey and rise to the occasion with them. Move over Chicago, Kinky Boots, The Book of Mormon, and Hairspray … a new musical is in town!

    My heart is warmed by Leslie Jordan. It has been that way since the first time I saw him perform. I was fortunate to have a mother who longed for someone in our family to be a gay man or lesbian. Many of her friends were fabulous LBGTQ folks, perhaps because we lived in the most showbiz enclave of West Los Angeles. She flew up to the Bay Area to see Jordan’s one man show, joining me with laughter and warmth at his storytelling. We were proud of this small but large performer who went from Sordid Lives to Will and Grace to internet stardom. His book is How Y’all Doing? Misadventures and Mischief from a Life Well Lived. He has become America’s sweetheart with his puckish Southern charm and ability to be a raconteur right up there with David Niven and Noel Coward. This small but engrossing book is an easy summer read, and I hope for his next one!

    I’ve written many times about some of my favorite LBGTQ movies: Brokeback Mountain, The Celluloid Closet, Saving Face, Milk, and Priscilla Queen of the Desert, to name a few. It seems time to thank a studio that kept me company during the pandemic. Netflix took me on an amazing adventure through Bridgerton, The Kominsky Method, and Halston

    Bridgerton was sumptuous, knocking me out with its clothes, sets, and overtly sexual story. I binged it twice and would do so again.  Kominsky is perfect for this showbiz queen—a behind the scenes look at an acting teacher in today’s Hollywood. Michael Douglas has aged into the best of his father and his own crusty persona. Halston deserves every Emmy possible. It not only gives us the life and times of this revolutionary designer, but it also allows us to see into the drug-dependent world of cocaine addiction and how it took this great artist down. The acting is completely on point, with Ewan McGregor as Halston and Krysta Rodriguez both giving performances that stay with us long after the lights go down. Right now, I’m in love with the big screen experience and urge you to find it, but hats off to Netflix for these hip and unusual projects.

    Find your own Pride … it’s everywhere, and especially in those of us striving to live authentic lives. Hats off to us all!                    

    Jan Wahl is a Hollywood historian, film critic on various broadcast outlets, and has her own YouTube channel series, “Jan Wahl Showbiz.” She has two Emmys and many awards for her longtime work on behalf of film buffs and the LGBTQ community. Contact her at

    Published on June 24, 2021