Celebrities

Gay Filmmaker Jeffrey Schwarz On His New Documentary About Legendary Producer Allan Carr

LA-based, openly gay filmmaker Jeffrey Schwarz, 48, makes documentaries. You might have seen his 2015 film Tab Hunter Confidential (now streaming on Netflix).

Schwarz cut his professional teeth working for legendary doc duo Robert Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (who won Oscars for Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt and The Times of Harvey Milk). I met him years ago when I was in film school and spent a semester interning on The Celluloid Closet (1995). Schwarz had the enviable job of listening to and transcribing celebrity interviews with people like Cher, Susan Sarandon and Tony Curtis (who said some pretty gnarly things about working with Marilyn Monroe on the Billy Wilder classic Some Like It Hot).

I published an initial interview with Schwarz back in September about his new documentary The Fabulous Allan Carr, but below are further excerpts from our phone Q&A.

Carr just completed a national and international film festival run this past weekend and Schwarz told me additional distribution on cable and via streaming is being worked out now

Allan Carr was the flamboyant and legendary entertainment producer responsible for movies like Grease and Can’t Stop the Music, as well as the Broadway smash La Cage Au Folles. Schwarz said he made the film “to celebrate” Carr.

The notorious opening number to the 1989 Oscars he produced basically ended his career. What that homophobia, an excuse to use his gayness against him?

Jeffrey Schwarz: There are a lot of people who didn’t like Allan Carr very much. He was too much, too outrageous, too gay. And the opening number was designed to be over the top, to be camp, to be outrageous and ridiculous. We didn’t talk about this in the movie, but it was inspired by the San Francisco show Beach Blanket Babylon.

The creator of Beach Blanket Babylon was Allan’s creative partner. It’s a gay aesthetic, a gay approach. It’s camp.  

It does smack a bit of homophobia to me that people thought it was just too out there and may be disrespectful to Hollywood. But I don’t see it that way at all. It’s such a celebration and a love of Hollywood. I do think homophobia played a role. But I can’t prove that. But that’s my sense. 

After that he was really persona non grata. When you have a failure like that nobody wants to associate with you. He went into withdrawal for quite some time after that. He never, with the exception of the 20th anniversary re-release of Grease, which was a big success, he never really had another success.

Do you feel like a producer of a “bad” Oscars show today would be punished similarly?

I don’t know. I think we’ve seen some fumbles over the years but we’re still talking about Allan Carr’s Oscars all these years later. I hope this film redeems it in some sense and people will look back at it and say, “Hey, that was actually pretty bold, and pretty ballsy.”

You’ve made a lot of documentaries. Does your body of work have a theme?

“Be true to yourself” is a theme. “Accept who you are and try to leave a legacy.”

I’m really kind of driven to find stories about people or events in the past that have been marginalized or [are] on the verge of being forgotten. Like Vito Russo. Such a dynamic force, he changed our world.

I make these movies to bring these people, drag them out of their graves, and tell their stories and empower people. I think they are all stories of empowerment. 

If you could wave a magic wand and make any project you wanted, it would be?

I would like to do this for the rest of my life. I’d like to make movie after movie after movie. It wouldn’t be one specific project it would just be given the privilege to keep doing what I’m doing.

Who are some of your important influences and why?

Rob Epstein is a major influence. I saw his film The Times of Harvey Milk when I was in college, when I was coming out. And that was one of the first, if not the first documentary I saw about our history. And I am just devastated by it every time I see it. The storytelling, the way the story unfolds, the compassion, the humanity, the anger in the movie is, it’s incredible. And he’s also a trailblazer for being openly gay very early on in his career. He was just always interested in just being true to himself and telling stories about our community. Word is Out is an early film he was involved with and Harvey Milk. So I’d say Rob is probably a real inspiration to me. I got to work for him. My first job was working with him on Celluloid Closet back in the 90s.

Is there any particular message in your film for LGBTQ audiences?

I don’t make the films for the LGBT audience. I make them because I want these stories to be out in the world. But I don’t want them to be limited to an LGBT audience.

All my films have premiered at non-gay festivals. I feel that it’s a way to create empathy and understanding outside our community. Like the Tab Hunter film was a film that talked very explicitly about gay themes to audiences who already loved Tab Hunter. Maybe older people who loved Tab but didn’t know that side of him, so it’s a way for straight audiences to be gently led down this path of understanding. Tab’s story, that was one of the reasons I wanted to do that movie, was to share his story with people of another generation, and younger people who didn’t know his story.

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Marcia Brady...Uh...Maureen McCormick Feels Part Of The Gay Community

Maureen McCormick, 61, played Marcia Brady on ABC’s The Brady Bunch from 1969-1974. I caught up with her at the recent Vanguard Awards, the biggest annual fundraiser for LA’s LGBT Center, which was held at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills.

The evening’s host was LGBTQ ally Jimmy Kimmel, who got a standing ovation when he arrived onstage, interpreted by many for his outspoken critiques of the Republicans’ continued attempts to repeal Obamacare.

Q: You are here at the Vanguard Awards…because?

Maureen McCormick: When I got the invitation, I was, like, of course. Oh, I feel such a part of this community. [Note: She emphasized the “Oh,” like OHHHHHHH…….! So you know she really, really feels like a part of the LGBTQ community.]

Most people here tonight want to see social change, equal rights for everybody. What kind of social change would you like to see, if you could wave a magic wand…?

[She pauses] It sounds so cliché, and stupid, but just peace within people’s hearts and…in their souls. And just loving, loving, loving.

How would that change society in your view?

In every way. Love is the greatest thing there is, right?

It’s a scary time. There’s a lot of fear, lots of vicious things being spewed from both sides. If that continues…you have to break that. And talk in love for another person to hear.

Sounds like you’re talking about being able to have a dialogue.

That’s a huge thing…opening up the dialogue.

I have friends, who are Republicans. I’m a Democrat who grew up in a very liberal household. But I respect them, too. I really think we need to start listening and having dialogue. And that’s very tricky. Because people right away get [defensive].

Everyone needs to go to a lot of therapy and learn how to do that. Because it’s an art. It’s really hard.

My husband and I have spent 33 years learning to celebrate our differences and to really listen to each other. It’s very hard to do if you just want everything your way or the high way. I think that through communication, really, really good communication, where we’re not trying to win…that people can come together.

[Then she turns the tables, and asks me!]

Do you?

Me: Well, I think dialogue is hard. It reminds me of how many friends I have lost on Facebook because I got angry.

Right.

Remember, Marcia, Marcia, Marcia is always right. It's just one reason why The Brady Bunch was such a hit.

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Catching Up With Hip Hop Artist And Actor Milan Christopher On The Red Carpet

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - Handsome, hunky actor and hip hop artist Milan Christopher had a lot to say about equality, LGBT youth, racism and homophobia at the recent Vanguard Awards, the annual star-studded fundraiser for the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

Your single and video “When I Go,” shed light on the bullying of LGBTQ youth. Can you tell us why you wrote and released that song?

Originally the song that I wrote was about leaving a relationship and making sure when you leave a relationship, you take everything with you that you brought to the relationship. That’s what it was about originally.

But the music video that I got an award for is about LGBT suicide. So I ended up changing the whole visuals for the music video because I thought it was really important to cover something that a lot of the LGBT children and youth are going through. 

The number one cause of death for LGBT youth is suicide. I wanted to make sure that I put visuals and impact and importance on that issue.

 

 

I’ve heard from other gay black men that it’s very challenging to deal with racism in the mainstream culture, but also with homophobia within the African-American community

Absolutely.

Can you speak to that a bit?

I was on a TV show, Love & Hip Hop and one of the biggest issues being on a television show with a demographic that is normally...[where] homosexuality is a defamation, is that they’re very homophobic. Because in our churches and our community, being a man, being a strong black man, is very important.

And when you’re LGBT you’re looked at as being effete or effeminate. So it’s kinda like tug of war. It’s very important to know that in our community [homosexuality is seen as] a bad thing. If you can perceive that, and get past that and be successful, then I’m all for it.

There’s so many different walls that are trying to keep you from being successful.

You say ‘our community.’ Can you define that?

Just being LGBT, or being black in the LGBT community. I think we’re all one community, [but] specifically in the black LGBT community, it’s harder.

I can’t speak for the white folks because I’m not white. But in my community, where I grew up, it was very hard. You have to be very careful. You have to be very cognizant of your surroundings...because as soon as someone knows you’re gay, they think you’re weak. And you’re a target.

If you think about what’s going on in our society and culture today...if you could wave a magic wand and affect social change in any way you wanted...what would you do?

Wow...I would love to see equality. I would love to see justice for all of the people that are dying at the hands of the people who are supposed to protect us, the police. I would just love to see everybody just be happy. We only have one life, that I know of, and I think it’s very important that you live it the way you wanna live it, and you’re happy while you’re doing it.

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Oh No! Chris Pratt and Anna Faris Announce Separation

Say it isn't so!  Two of Hollywood's nicest stars have just announced their separation.  Anna Faris and Chris Pratt are legally separating, per a post he put on his official Facebook yesterday.  It reads-

Anna and I are sad to announce we are legally separating. We tried hard for a long time, and we’re really disappointed. Our son has two parents who love him very much and for his sake we want to keep this situation as private as possible moving forward. We still have love for each other, will always cherish our time together and continue to have the deepest respect for one another.

Chris Pratt and Anna Faris

​It was a shock as there was really no news leading up to this point that could've suggested this coming, and it seems that everyone their fans and just people alike are really saddened by this state of events.  The top comment on Chris' post reads-

I know it's ridiculous to care about a relationship involving two people you've never met. I know it's crazy how much society today value celebrities and their lives. But I honestly am saddened to hear this just because they seemed so perfect for each other.

Things do fall apart unfortunately, and I do wish these two the best moving forward.  And Chris, my buddy and pal, if you ever need a shoulder to cry on, a drinking or eating buddy (the latter preferred), or if you want to watch some of your movies together as a distraction, I'm here.  

What do you think of this separation?