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  • December 18, 2007

    City of Sensitive Brotherly Love

    Posted by: Chris

    Phillylove250 I wrote a couple weeks back that the New York City campaign to woo gay tourists was in serious need of some sensitivity training, after a spokesperson was quoted as welcoming "families" or "just you and your lover." I took some flak for being hyper-sensitive myself, but I felt some vindication earlier today when I read that the city of Philadelphia is actually putting money into more than marketing gay tourists.

    The goal, obviously, is to avoid "awkward situations" at check-in and throughout the gay guest's stay. If you've traveled much with a same-sex partner, you no doubt know what they're talking about.

    On more than a few occasions, especially outside big cities, there are the confused and repeated questioning about whether you really want a single bed for two guests of the same gender. I've been annoyed as well by references to my boyfriend as my "friend," when I'm sure they wouldn't make the same assumption if he were a she.

    I recognize the reputation of "sensitivity training" and political correctness, but keep in mind that these are not merely folks with whom we have every day interactions. We are their paid guests, and their role within the hospitality industry is to make us feel welcome and comfortable.

    Let's hope the Big Apple follows the City of Brotherly Love's lead and starts with City Hall.

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    Filed in: Travel

    December 03, 2007

    How not to woo gay tourists

    Posted by: Chris

    Bloomygaysthumb Someone needs a sensitivity lesson over at New York city hall, as a new campaign to woo gay tourists -- remarkably the city's first-ever direct effort to lure the lucrative market -- is hitting a sour note. The New York Post, which isn't known for being particularly gay-friendly, reported on the city's new gay travel ad campaign, which includes a three-page pullout in Out magazine and ads on Logo.

    But when asked to sum up the city's tourism push, an unnamed official in Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration says this:

    [Gays] are "highly desirable and considered a dream market due to high incidence of travel and discretionary income," said one Bloomberg administration official.

    "What we're saying is, 'This is New York, and it's for everyone, whether you are a family or you're just here with your lover.'"

    Ahh yes, there's the family on one hand, and the gays and their "lovers" on the other. Memo to Bloomberg: gay couples are families, too.

    Gnw_lighthouse_logosmall For a complete news summary, click or bookmark: www.gaynewswatch.com/travel

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    Filed in: Media , Travel

    GNW 5: Gay travel pro's and con's

    Posted by: Chris

    Gnw_lighthouse_logosmall Here are the Top Five most popular stories over the last 24 hours on Gay News Watch, along with an Editor's Pick from me at the end:

    1. Larrycraigblue Four more men tell of sex with Larry 'I'm not gay' Craig: QUICK LOOK: David Phillips. Mike Jones. Greg Ruth. Tom Russell. Four gay men, willing to put their names in print and whose allegations can't be disproved, have come forward since... (MORE)
    2. Jeffissa Pa. library refuses parents' demand to pull gay book: QUICK LOOK: Storytime ceased abruptly when the picture book Eileen Issa was reading her 2 1/2-year-old son surprisingly ended with two men marrying and smooching. The tale about... (MORE)
    3. N.J. sperm donor ordered to pay child support to lesbians: QUICK LOOK: A Nassau County man who said he donated sperm to a lesbian co-worker as a friendly gesture -- and then sent presents and cards to the child over the years -- is legally considered the father and may... (MORE)
    4. Newark NYT: In progressive N.J., gays find danger in Newark: QUICK LOOK: To live in Newark often means grappling with unrelenting poverty, the anesthetizing lure of drugs, murderous gangs, a lack of decent jobs. But for gay men, lesbians and... (MORE)
    5. Grenada Grenada may ban gay cruises from island: reports: QUICK LOOK: Grenada is questioning whether to allow entry to ship passengers on all-gay cruises, news reports from the Caribbean island say. "We have not taken a policy as to whether... (MORE)


    • Axelhotel1 Macho Argentina warms to gay dollars and euros: QUICK LOOK: Home to the sexy tango dance and swarthy meat-eaters, this South American capital has long been thought of as a bastion of macho attitudes. But a new hotel here is adding... (MORE)

    My boyfriend and I finally made it downtown to visit the new Axel Hotel in Buenos Aires, the first five-star hotel for gays in Latin America. The occasion was the first-ever pool party in the hotel's chic three-level pool deck.

    The party and the hotel were first-rate and live up to the reputation set by the hotel's big sister, the original Axel Hotel in Barcelona, with its expansive use of glass floors and lighting to create a very open and minimal, yet opulent, feel. Surprisingly, the price range for a room at the Axel here is roughly the same (US$200-400) as the original in Barcelona. That runs contrary to the much lower cost generally of life down here, including hotel rooms.

    Gay life here in Buenos Aires is still something of a mystery to me, even after five weeks in the city. There are relatively few gay-only spaces, and the Argentine gays seem particularly proud of the fact that the mix comfortably with straight folks, whether in restaurants, bars, gyms or dance clubs. And yet they do so by avoiding almost any sign of affection toward one another, so it's not clear whether their achievement is one of progress or of rationalization of the closet.

    I've also been a bit disappointed by the infrastructure here, since Argentines proudly compare themselves to "backwards Brazil." But sitting in an apartment that still lacks air conditioning and Internet service -- after weeks of ISP bureaucracy I'm still stuck poaching a neighbor's WiFi from the balcony -- I'm less than convinced.

    And the men. Don't get me started on the men.


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    April 13, 2007

    A gay ol' time at the Magic Queendom

    Posted by: Chris

    Queenskingdomxlarge You may have heard the news earlier this week that Walt Disney Co. decided to allow same-sex couples to buy "fairytale wedding" packages at the company's theme parks and on its cruise ships.

    Previously, the ceremonies had been limited to couples with valid marriage licenses, but a company spokesperson said the change reflected "Disney's long-standing poicy of welcoming every guest in an inclusive environment." Query whether it might also reflect Disney's long-standing policy of welcoming greenbacks from every available source: The packages run from $8,000 to almost $50,000.

    The change also prompted USA Today to publish an interview with Jeffrey Epstein and Eddie Shapiro, authors of the upcoming "Queens in the Kingdom: The Ultimate Gay & Lesbian Guide to the Disney Theme Parks." Among the highlights (and lowlights):

    What are some of the pinker places in the Kingdom?

    Epstein: There are the obvious things: "Ellen's Energy Adventure" hosted by Ellen DeGeneres. But there are more subtle things. "Honey I Shrunk the Audience" was directed by Randal Kleiser, who is openly gay.

    Shapiro: The way you might look at something as a gay person is different than a straight person. In the Hall of Presidents (I call it Disney's tunnel of love — it's dark, air-conditioned and half-empty), at the finale is Abraham Lincoln, who says our (government) began by affirming rights.

    At a time when we're talking about gay marriage and a government that is curtailing the rights of a large number of its populace … for gay or lesbians that's going to ring bells. …

    Q: I enjoyed the Fairy Facts (gay trivia) sprinkled throughout the guide. Do you have a favorite fact?

    Shapiro: (The employee) in a Mickey costume is usually a woman because of size issues. So when you see Mickey and Minnie hold hands or kissing, you know a secret.

    Epstein: The Indiana Jones animatronic figure has nipples.

    It's all fun and games, of course, but these two might learn to tailor their message a bit more for an interview such a broader audience. They touch some pretty hot buttons here, sexualizing a place meant primarily for kids. And then there was Shapiro's response when asked "if you were truly queens of the Kingdom, what would you change about the Disney parks?"

    "We'd get rid of the other people," answered Shapiro.

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    January 23, 2007

    Looking beyond London

    Posted by: Chris

    Ipanemabeach Readers of this blog are certainly more adventurous in their choice of overseas destinations that
    the readers of Out Traveler magazine.  The latter named London their top non-U.S. gay hotspot in the magazine's 2006 survey, topping Paris, the previous year's winner.

    Our own little survey yielded a tie at the No. 1 spot.  After staying in the lead the entire time, Rio De Janeiro was finally caught in the poll's closing hours by Barcelona.  I've already expounded at length about Rio's charms, and it has the extra draw of tres-gay New Years and Carnaval celebrations.  Barcelona is another fine choice — a beautiful city with a thriving gay scene, its own gay beach (Sitges, just a 30-minute train trip away) and even the freedom to marry!

    Another city with a celebrated gay Mardi Gras, Sydney, came in close behind our two leaders, tied with another Far East destination, Bangkok.  In addition to Mardi Gras, Sydney hosts the annual Sleaze Ball and a huge Gay Pride celebration.  Sydney is also a former Gay Games host city. 

    Montreal, which won the Gay Games bid for 2006 but then spurned the invitation to host a competitive,  and financially unsuccessful, OutGames, followed next, along with Berlin, well known as one of the world's top leather destinations.

    Trailing in the next pack were Amsterdam, which also hosted a Gay Games and draws its fair share of "sleaze/sex tourists."  Amsterdam has long fancied itself the "gay capital of the world," and the bashing my boyfriend and I took on Queen's Day '05 didn't help that reputation.  To my mind, however, the citizens and political leaders there responded with overwhelming kindness and support, in ways that wouldn't be matched by any other city on this list, including Rio.

    At the tail end of the pack were the two winners of Out Traveler's polls, Paris and London, as well as Cape Town, which from all I hear is an amazing gay tourist destination, but outside the geographic and pocketbook range of many.

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    Filed in: Polls , Travel

    January 16, 2007

    Another gay poll gone wrong

    Posted by: Chris

    Londonouttraveler Everyone knows the gays have a reputation for fabulous taste in all sorts of things, including travel destinations.  As with fashion, urban neighborhoods and any given aesthetic trend, as go the gays, so goes everyone — eventually.

    But apparently those of you (er, us) who subscribe to Out Traveler magazine didn't get the memo.  In the magazine's 2006 "Readers' Choice" awards, the selections weren't fashion forward or even mildly creative.  They were, in fact, the same choices the average joe schmo non-homo might make:

    Favorite U.S. destination:  New York City
    Favorite foreign destination:  London
    Favorite island:  Hawaiian Islands
    Favorite gay resort: Key West

    Remember, these aren't your run-of-the-mill 'mos making these choices.  They're gays interested enough in travel to read a gay travel magazine chock full of new and different vacation ideas, along with the old stand-bys.  So c'mon people, we're better than this!

    Key West as "Favorite Gay Resort"?  Maybe 10 years ago (or longer).  It retains a modicum of charm amidst a sea of aging hetero cruise passengers, decked out in fanny packs and matching T-shirts.  These days, Key West doesn't even qualify as the best (or most popular) gay resort in South Florida.  That prize goes to trés-gay Fort Lauderdale.

    The Hawaiian Islands?  What is this — a prize package on "The Newlywed Game"?  Yes, they're gorgeous (OK, I've actually never been.)  But at least go with Ibiza or some place with a little spice.  Mykonos, anyone?  Lesbos?  (The island, not the pejorative.)

    New York as favorite U.S. destination?  Of course the city is amazing, but can't we be a tad more adventurous, Out Traveler readers?  Venture a bit more afield?  At least you didn't pick San Francisco.  (Oh wait a minute, you did — San Francisco Gay Pride as favorite gay event.  At least Gay Days in Orlando came in second, though even it has seen hipper days.)

    Then there's London as favorite foreign destination.  Now don't get me wrong; I love London.  It's the most truly international city I've ever visited.  Give me London over New York any ole day.  But again, can we be a bit more daring?  Next to Tijuana and Toronto, London is probably the most commonly visited foreign city by Americans.  Aren't we gays supposed to lead the crowd, not follow?

    So we come to a new survey question (since Madonna eviscerated all competition — including U.K. fave Kylie Minogue — for greatest gay icon of all time.  Besides, I knew you guys picked well when this weekend I saw, by complete coincidence, a VH-1 special dubbed into Portuguese that named Madonna the "No. 1 gay music icon."  Note to Jimbo: Kylie didn't even make their Top 20.)

    What ought to be the favorite non-U.S. gay travel destination?  I've come up with 10 options, including London and staying with popular places including some that are a bit more off the beaten trail.  Fully half of them are in Europe, and yes, I included my current address.  I offer no apologies for that bit of complete objectivity.

    So cast your vote!  (Doing so won't take you off the site or stick you with spam, I promise.)  And if you don't like my choices, don't hesitate to add a comment with alternatives.

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    October 29, 2006

    Also in the news…

    Posted by: Chris

    Michaelpiazza *    The church that bills itself, probably correctly, as the world's largest gay church — Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, Texas — has joined the United Church of Christ, among the more left/progressive of mainstream Protestant denominations. The Dallas Cathedral, which claims 4,300 members, disaffiliated with the United Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in July 2003, three months after the gay Christian denomination began investigating longtime pastor Mike Piazza's expense account and management of church finances. Piazza denied wrongdoing but resigned his MCC credentials two days before the investigation concluded. He took a brief leave of absence from the Cathedral when the congregation voted to leave UFMCC, but he later returned remains "national pastor" and dean. The 1.2-million-member UCC voted in June 2005 to perform marriage ceremonies for gay couples and support full civil marriage equality for them as well.

    Gaycruises *   An online auction site for domain names issued a press release today claiming that Gays.com sold recently for $500,000, to German (couple?) Julius and David Dreyer. "We are confident that we will be able to introduce an entertaining and informative website in the near future; one that will meet the needs of the gay community," the release quotes Julius Dreyer as saying. Is there a shortage of gay websites I was unaware of? No doubt unamused were the folks cover at Planet Out, Inc., who own Gay.com, and a dozen other gay media and leisure businesses. At least they got a phat write-up in the New York Times today for gay cruises that might help their RSVP brand, which hit hard times this year.


    *    Gay Americans aren't the only ones going north of the border, to Canada, to marry. Up to 100 Irish gay couples have trekked to Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K., to enter into "civil partnerships" since the government began offering them last December.  Now, like their American counterparts, Irish gay couples are demanding similar rights back home.

    Britainmapclipart28_1 *    Meanwhile further north, in Scotland, Catholic bishops are confronting an embarrassing problem: a bishop who is a little too zealous about promoting the Vatican's opposition to a proposed ban in the U.K. on discrimination against gays by hotels, agencies and other public accommodations (including Catholic adoption groups). It seems Bishop Joseph Devine of Motherwell has accused the church of a policy of "appeasement" in its relationship with the "moral vandals" and "politically correct zealots" — e.g., Scottish Labor Party officials — who are supporting the measure.

    *    Back home in the USA, Christian conservatives are already fulfilling my prediction that they are not-so-secretly happy with the New Jersey Supreme Court ruling.  "Pro-traditional-marriage organizations ought to give a distinguished service award to the New Jersey Supreme Court," the Post quoted Rev. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, as saying.  No doubt they are disappointed that it didn't go even further, ordering the state to actually marry gay couples. 

    George_w_bush *    Still, President Bush and his allies on the Right are pushing the ruling for all it's worth.  "Activist judges try to define America by court order," Bush told an adoring crowd in Indiana, which responded with whoops of "USA! USA!"  I can almost hear former Alabama Gov. George Wallace, who stood at the schoolhouse door to take his stand against "activist judges" who ordered schools integrated, joining in from his grave.

    *    Across the state, embattled Indiana Congressman John Hostettler (R) has taken his cue from the president and launched a new ad that warns, with an announcer impersonating Clint Eastwood's "Dirty Harry," that a vote for his Democratic challenger will allow Nancy Pelosi to "put in motion her radical plan to advance the homosexual agenda, led by Barney Frank, reprimanded by the House after paying for sex with a man who ran a gay brothel out of Congressman Frank's home." "I know what you're thinking," the narrator concludes. "Is this true? Well, do you feel lucky? Go ahead, vote for Brad Ellsworth. Make Nancy Pelosi's day."

    Rev_anthony_mercieca *   Recent updates in Foley-gate: The Catholic priest Mark Foley says abused him has a second accuser, and has been belatedly de-frocked by the Miami archdiocese while it conducts an investigation. And Jeff Trandahl, the gay former chief clerk of the House, has reportedly named Jim Kolbe, the gay Arizona Republican retiring his congressional seat, as another of a small number of "problem members" who spent too much social time with pages.  Kolbe, whose partner is young enough to be his grandson, is already under investigation by the U.S. attorney in Arizona that he was overly familiar with teenage pages on a 1996 Grand Canyon camping trip.

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