Tag Archives: London

Before Broadway, ‘Miss Saigon’ to appear on movie screens

American audiences will get the rare chance to catch a sneak peek of the new Miss Saigon before it opens on Broadway next spring. They just have to go to a movie theater.

A filmed version of the musical’s live 25th-anniversary celebration in London will make its world premiere on some 175 U.S. movie theaters on Sept. 22, some six months before the same production with the same leading actors lands on Broadway.

The show captured the performance at the Prince Edward Theatre in London’s West End in September 2014 and was augmented by close-ups recorded a few months after the show closed there earlier this year.

The same stars — Jon Jon Briones as The Engineer and Eva Noblezada as Kim — are slated to appear when the show opens at the Broadway Theatre in March, but mega-producer Cameron Mackintosh isn’t worried the broadcast will cannibalize fans.

“It encourages business,” he said. “This is the greatest cinematic trailer for a theatrical production that’s ever been produced. I could be wrong, but I defy anybody who loves the show and isn’t bowled over by the film not to want to go.”

Miss Saigon, a tragic Vietnam War love story inspired by Giacomo Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly, has songs by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg, who also wrote Les Miserables.

Mackintosh said he didn’t initially plan for a broadcast version of Miss Saigon, but was persuaded to capture the 25th anniversary of its West End arrival with a dozen cameras. A special finale was added that featured the original stars Jonathan Pryce, Lea Salonga and Simon Bowman — as well as Mackintosh making a surprise appearance.

He considered it one of the top three performances of Miss Saigon in its history. “Beyond just it being a wonderful performance, there was a sense of magic in the air,” he said. (As for Mackintosh himself, “I bounce around like an irrepressible ball.”)

He and his team decided to add documentary footage and fold in close-ups shot later. They reminded viewers it was a live event by not digitally removing the performers’ microphones and layering in shots of the audience going into the theater and their reactions at some scenes.

“What producer in his lifetime gets the chance to do a great show twice with two brilliant companies in two different productions? Not many people have ever had that opportunity,” said Mackintosh.

The final result is presented by Fathom Events, Universal Pictures and Picturehouse Entertainment. American audiences will see the same production from London directed by Laurence Connor and with its two stars. “They’re seeing what they’re going to get,” Mackintosh said.

When the revival finally arrives on Broadway, it will join other Mackintosh-produced works like The Phantom of the Opera and Cats, which returned this summer. (It will have missed his latest revival of Les Miserables, which closes next month after 21/2 years.)

“Thirty years on, to have my four great musicals of that era still firing on all cylinders is amazing,” he said. “I’m as enthusiastic about these great shows now as I was when I helped create them all those decades ago because, to me, they smell as if they’re absolutely freshly minted.”

 

On the Web

http://www.fathomevents.com

Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit opens at London’s Tate Modern

Georgia O’Keeffe has come to London, like a bracing American desert wind rippling the River Thames.

An exhibition of more than 100 works opening this week at Tate Modern is the American art icon’s biggest-ever show outside the United States.

Curators hope it will surprise visitors who know the artist mainly for her giant flowers and sun-bleached animal skulls. The exhibition also offers O’Keeffe the pioneering abstract artist, O’Keeffe the surrealist and O’Keeffe who painted New York as well as New Mexico.

Cody Hartley, director of curatorial affairs at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, says the Tate show is “the most important O’Keeffe exhibition in a generation.”

“The exhibition has gathered the most important works from O’Keeffe’s career and covers the whole breadth of her creativity,” he said at a preview on Monday.

O’Keeffe, who had her first major exhibition a century ago and died in 1986 aged 98, had an exceptionally long career. It took her from her native Wisconsin to bohemian New York and to desert New Mexico, whose fiery landscapes inspired her later work.

But she is best known – through images that adorn countless posters and postcards – for giant flowers and sinuous, curved abstracts that were often given an erotic interpretation by both male critics and feminist writers.

O’Keeffe was unimpressed by the analysis.

“When people read erotic symbols in my paintings, they’re really talking about their own affairs,” she said.

Flowers are certainly prominent in Tate’s exhibition, which has borrowed extensively from the O’Keeffe Museum and other North American collections. (It’s a sign of a trans-Atlantic divide that no public British museum or gallery owns an O’Keeffe).

The exhibition includes the large floral study “Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1,” which sold at auction in 2014 for $44 million. That’s a record for a female artist, though the label is not one O’Keeffe liked.

“She didn’t like boxes,” Hartley said. “She didn’t like it when the men tried to put her in a box. She didn’t like it when the women tried to put her in a box.”

The thread that runs through her career – from the stark abstract charcoals at the start of the exhibition to the aerial images of clouds from above at the end – is a fascination with the American landscape in all its variety.

As a young teacher in Texas, O’Keeffe depicted the state’s “wide empty country”; in New York she painted angular skyscrapers and the busy East River. For years she spent summers on Lake George in upstate New York, painting in a blue-green palette in contrast to the burnt tones of New Mexico.

She visited the southwestern state in 1929, and it was love at first sight.

“When she reached New Mexico, she felt at home,” exhibition curator Tanya Barson said. “She said, ‘Once I got there, that was mine.’ She felt this sense of belonging in New Mexico that she hadn’t felt in the east.”

In New Mexico, images of flowers were replaced by animal skulls, which O’Keeffe rendered beautiful rather than macabre. One of the exhibition’s star works is “From the Faraway, Nearby,” a lavishly antlered skull in a mountainous landscape tinged blue, pink and orange.

It’s an exotic image for Europeans, but Hartley said that despite her “thoroughly American” subject matter, O’Keeffe is an artist of the world.

“Abstraction and a sort of distillation of the essence of any given place or any given subject are at the heart of what she does,” he said. “She gives us a sense of seeing our world in a new way.”

On the Web

The exhibition runs to Oct. 30. It moves to Bank Austria Kunstforum in Vienna from Dec. 7 to March 26, and the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto from April to June 2017.

On 400th anniversary, exhibit examines Shakespeare’s act

From a dress worn by Vivien Leigh as Lady Macbeth to a “Hamlet” script owned by famous stage actors, a new exhibition explores how William Shakespeare became “the Bard” 400 years after his death.

“Shakespeare in Ten Acts” looks at 10 key performances of the playwright’s works, from the first showing of “Hamlet” at the Globe theater around 1600 to a contemporary version of that play in the digital age.

The exhibition opens at London’s British Library as theater fans prepare to mark the anniversary of Shakespeare’s death on April 23, 1616.

“It’s really difficult to do full justice to Shakespeare’s legacy over the last 400 years,” exhibition lead curator Zoe Wilcox said in a British Library video handout.

“We’re not just looking at Shakespeare the man or his most famous plays, we’re focusing in on 10 significant performances of his work that tell us something about the way that his plays have been constantly reinvented through the ages.”

A woman is reflected in glass next to a human skull owned by Sarah Bernhardt during the press preview of the exhibition 'Shakespeare in Ten Acts' at the British Library in London, Britain April 14. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
A woman is reflected in glass next to a human skull owned by Sarah Bernhardt during the press preview of the exhibition ‘Shakespeare in Ten Acts’ at the British Library in London, Britain April 14. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Highlights include the only surviving play-script in Shakespeare’s handwriting, in which he describes the plight of refugees. Also on show is a human skull inscribed with poetry given by French writer Victor Hugo to actress Sarah Bernhardt, which she used when playing Hamlet in 1899.

Visitors will also be able to see a “Hamlet” script owned by the likes of Michael Redgrave, Peter O’Toole and now Kenneth Branagh and theater playbills showing the career highs and lows of Ira Aldridge, the first black actor to play “Othello” on the English stage in 1825, organizers said.

“We are using the full range of things we have at our disposal to bring them (the acts) to life,” Wilcox said.

“So sound, video, costumes, props, paintings, everything we can to give people a sense of what those performances would have felt like had you been attending them.”

“Shakespeare in Ten Acts” runs until September.

A human skull owned by Sarah Bernhardt is seen during the press preview of the exhibition 'Shakespeare in Ten Acts' at the British Library in London, Britain April 14. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
A human skull owned by Sarah Bernhardt is seen during the press preview of the exhibition ‘Shakespeare in Ten Acts’ at the British Library in London, Britain April 14. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Timelooper app takes you back in history

Imagine watching frantic shopkeepers busily extinguish the Great Fire of London, or sheltering from Nazi bombing raids during the Blitz.

Now, with a new virtual reality app, you can travel back in time to be immersed in these events.

The Timelooper app allows users to experience key moments in London history with just a smartphone and a cardboard headset.

For example, when Timelooper cofounder Andrew Feinberg visits the Tower of London, a historic castle on the banks of London’s Thames River, he doesn’t queue up with hordes of tourists to catch a glimpse of the royal family’s crown jewels. Instead, he uses Timelooper’s time travel tourism app to experience the tower over 750 years ago, in 1255.

Instead of seeing a busy London tourist site, Feinberg sees a medieval marketplace, a formidable fortress, even an elephant being led down a path.

“We actually overlay the current infrastructure with what the infrastructure of the tower and the surrounding environment was like in 13th century London,” explained Feinberg. “So for example, now you see a Starbucks and now you see the tower as it looks today with the moat drained. When we take you back in time, you actually see the historically accurate representation of the tower in its heyday.”

Not far away at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Timelooper users travel back to the Great Fire of London 350 years ago, in 1666. The fire burned for four days, destroying over 13,000 houses.

The smartphone’s built-in motion detection allows time travelers wearing a cardboard headset to move their gaze around the virtual world, seemingly exploring London centuries ago. The videos are location-based, meaning visitors must visit the sites to unlock the historical experiences.

Feinberg and his cofounder, Yigit Yigiter, were frustrated with current tourism technology, which they say hasn’t evolved much since the introduction of audio guides. In 2014, Yigiter’s wife brought home a Google cardboard VR headset, and he began thinking about an immersive virtual reality tourism experience. By September 2015, he’d quit his job in private equity and moved to the British capital to begin work on the first incarnation of the app. The first version was launched in July 2015 and featured three sites.

While Timelooper uses VR to offer a unique historical perspective, the technology has been exploding in many directions throughout the tourism industry. Carnival Cruise Line uses it to market cruises, the Dollywood theme park in Tennessee uses it to show off a new rollercoaster, and the Seattle Space Needle uses it to help visitors appreciate the view from its sky-high observatory. The Dali Museum in Florida created a virtual reality experience that lets visitors walk through a landscape painting by the Surrealist master Salvador Dali. And a company called YouVisit has created over 300 VR experiences for destinations from Vatican City to Mexico.

Timelooper is a member of the Travel Tech Lab, an incubator space for travel technology start-ups, partly created by London & Partners, the city’s official promotional company. Following the launch last year, Feinberg and Yigiter were contacted by destinations from China to Spain.

“Nothing replaces the experience of being on site, but you don’t always know what the stories are about those sights,” Yigiter said.

Timelooper’s travel app is also used by those working in London’s booming tourism industry. Blue Badge tourist guide Ruth Polling pulls her cardboard headset out as she escorts visitors to Trafalgar Square and lets them see what happened on Sept. 23, 1940, when a bomb dropped by Nazi Germany exploded near Nelson’s Column, a famous landmark and iconic part of the victory celebrations held five years later to mark the end of the war in Europe.

“My job is a storyteller,” Polling said. “I’m here to conjure up what things are like and this just gives me something else I can use, particularly with small children, getting them really engaged.”

London landmarks are also finding Timelooper’s VR experience useful in giving a new-age twist to a decades-old attraction. The Thames River’s 120-year-old Tower Bridge is set to launch its own Timelooper experience in April, taking visitors back to 1666, before the bridge was even built. Instead, headset wearers view the raging Great Fire of London from a boat’s crow’s nest as it sails down the river.

“When you’re here at the bridge, you are told a story of how things were but you can’t physically see that,” says Chris Earlie, the head of Tower Bridge. The app also helps immerse international visitors into the story without “translating endless amount of text.”

Timelooper plans to launch in New York City this April, allowing tourists to witness the famous kiss that was photographed in Times Square in August 1945 on VJ Day, the day World War II officially ended with the surrender of Japan, and to see the iconic picture of workers eating lunch atop a skyscraper during construction of the Rockefeller Center in 1932.

Timelooper on the Web …

http://www.timelooper.com

Wisconsin teacher of the year calls out Walker over comments

A former Wisconsin teacher of the year criticized likely 2016 Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker in an open letter this week, saying he’s misrepresenting the facts when telling an anecdote about a laid-off teacher.

The Republican Wisconsin governor recently defended his telling of the story, which he’s repeated many times and wrote about in his 2013 book, saying he’s been “very clear” in how he’s described what happened to the teacher.

Claudia Klein Felske posted recently on Marquette University’s College of Education blog that she was “surprised” and “bewildered” to hear Walker tell Iowa conservatives last month the story of how the 2010 teacher of the year had lost her job.

Felske was the 2010 high school teacher of the year, one of four teachers given the prestigious award by the state superintendent and recognized at a Capitol ceremony, and was not laid off.

Walker has frequently told the story of how “outstanding teacher of the year” Megan Sampson lost her job in 2010. The governor cites it as an example of what he called a broken system that he fixed by effectively ending collective bargaining for teachers and other public workers.

Sampson actually won the Nancy Hoefs Memorial Award, given by the Wisconsin Council of Teachers of English for first-year language arts teachers. And while she was laid off in June 2010 from a job in Milwaukee, she was hired by another nearby district for a job that following fall.

Walker wrote about Sampson in his 2013 book “Unintimidated” and clearly identified her as “the outstanding first-year teacher by the Wisconsin Council of Teachers of English.” But during a conservative summit last month in Iowa that attracted other potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates he described Sampson as “the outstanding teacher of the year in my state.”

That comment spurred Felske’s letter to Walker.

Walker, in a recent conference call with reporters in London where he was on a trade mission, called controversy over how he describes the award Sampson won a “petty distinction.”

“It’s very clear I’ve talked about this many times,” Walker said.

Felske wrote to Walker that he should not have blamed the seniority system under union contracts for Sampson’s layoff and that instead he “should have done some serious soul searching” over the impact of funding cuts he supported for public K-12 schools, technical colleges and the University of Wisconsin System in 2011 had in leading to Samson’s layoff.

Sampson’s layoff, however, preceded Walker’s election as governor.

Walker said those complaining over the teacher of the year distinction are “trying to redirect where the facts are.”

‘The Killer Next Door’ is gripping mystery

“The Killer Next Door” (Penguin Books), by Alex Marwood

Desperation brings six people to a decaying Victorian apartment house where the tenants’ desolation pales in comparison with one neighbor’s despicable acts.

Alex Marwood’s second stand-alone novel delivers a multilayered plot that succeeds as crime fiction, a gothic tale and a village mystery _ all with an edge. With the apartment building substituting for a village, “The Killer Next Door” balances a shrewd look at people living on the edge of society with a deliciously creepy look at a murderer.

While London’s Northbourne area is “gentrifying fast,” that renewal hasn’t reached 23 Beulah Grove, where vile odors seep from pipes that are constantly clogged. But residents crave anonymity, and they are willing to tolerate no upkeep and a disgusting landlord.

Collette has evaded police and her former boss, whom she witnessed murder a man, for three years, thanks to a new identity. Teenager Cher Farrell scrapes by with petty thefts and scams. Refuge Hossein Zanjani escaped Iran’s politics. Vesta Collins, who was born in the building, wonders why, at 69, she stayed. Tenants also include music teacher Gerard Bright and Thomas Dunbar, who works part-time.

They live in such close proximity that they know each other’s personal habits, but they aren’t friends. However, they’re forced to unite when the plumbing backs up with a strange substance, followed by a turn of events in which it’s vital that they protect one another’s secrets.

The plot is full of clever twists that continue to the surprise finale. While some scenes are gruesome enough to give Thomas Harris pause, “The Killer Next Door” is lyrically insightful. And the author’s decision to reveal the identity of the murderer about three-quarters of the way through the tale only enhances the story.

Marwood, an Edgar Award winner for “The Wicked Girls,” again excels in this gripping thriller.

On the Web

http://alexmarwood.com/

Partner of gay reporter at center of NSA leak detained

The partner of a journalist who received leaks from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden was detained for nearly nine hours on Aug. 18 under anti-terror legislation at London’s Heathrow Airport.

David Miranda, the partner of Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald, was held for nearly the maximum time authorities are allowed to detain individuals under the Terrorism Act’s Schedule 7, which authorizes security agencies to stop and question people at borders. Greenwald said Miranda’s cellphone, laptops and memory sticks were confiscated.

“This is obviously a rather profound escalation of their attacks on the news-gathering process and journalism,” Greenwald said in a post on the Guardian website. “It’s bad enough to prosecute and imprison sources. It’s worse still to imprison journalists who report the truth. But to start detaining the family members and loved ones of journalists is simply despotic.”

Greenwald has written a series of stories about the NSA’s electronic surveillance programs based on files handed over by Snowden. The former contractor fled the United States and is now in Russia, where he has received temporary asylum.

The 28-year-old Miranda was returning home to Brazil from Germany, where he was staying with Laura Poitras, a U.S. filmmaker who has worked with Greenwald on the NSA story, Greenwald said in his post. He also said British authorities had “zero suspicion” that Miranda was linked to a terror group and instead interrogated him about the NSA reporting and the contents of the electronic equipment he was carrying.

“If the U.K. and U.S. governments believe that tactics like this are going to deter or intimidate us in any way from continuing to report aggressively on what these documents reveal, they are beyond deluded,” he said. “If anything, it will have only the opposite effect: to embolden us even further.”

London police acknowledged that they had detained a 28-year-old man at 8:05 a.m. He was released at 5 p.m. without being arrested, the Metropolitan Police Service said.

“They kept David detained right up until the last minute: for the full 9 hours, something they very rarely do. Only at the last minute did they finally release him,” Greenwald said. “This was obviously designed to send a message of intimidation to those of us working journalistically on reporting on the NSA and its British counterpart, the GCHQ.”

The Home Office says in a report released last year that more than 97 percent of those questioned under Schedule 7 are detained for less than an hour. Less than a tenth of 1 percent are held for more than six hours. Some 230,236 people were questioned under Schedule 7 from April 2009 through March 2012.

Schedule 7 is designed to help authorities determine whether people crossing U.K. borders have been involved in the “commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism,” according to the Home Office report. Border agents are not required to have reasonable suspicion before detaining a traveler.

Examining officers may require travelers to answer questions or provide documents. Detainees may be held for up to nine hours if they refuse to cooperate, the Home Office report said.

Greenwald’s post said the Guardian sent lawyers to the airport. Detainees have the right to legal representation, though publicly funded legal advice is not guaranteed.

The Brazilian government expressed “grave concern” over the detention of Miranda, Greenwald’s partner with whom he’s in a civil union. The pair lives in Rio de Janeiro.

Brazil’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Miranda was “detained and held incommunicado.”

The statement went on to say that the foreign ministry considered the detention “unjustifiable, as it involves an individual against whom there are no accusations that could possibly legitimize the use of such legislation.”

Secretary Kerry: Equal treatment in visas for same-sex spouses

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Aug. 2 announced important visa changes for same-sex couples during a speech at the U.S. Embassy in London.

The changes come after the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a key provision in the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act that barred the federal government from recognizing legal same-sex marriages.

Speaking mostly to people who work at the embassy, Kerry said, “One of our most important exports by far is America’s belief in the equality of all people.”

The secretary then said that effective immediately, when a same-sex spouse applies for a visa, the State Department will consider it in the same manner it reviews an application from an opposite-sex spouse.

That means, said Kerry, “If you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen, your visa application will be treated equally. If you are the spouse of a non-citizen, your visa application will be treated equally.  And if you are in a country that doesn’t recognize your same-sex marriage, then your visa application will still be treated equally at every single one of our 222 visa processing centers around the world.”

Kerry, who as a senator in 1996 was one of only 14 to vote against DOMA, also said that U.S. immigration will recognize same-sex marriages performed in other countries.

“Every married couple will be treated exactly the same,” he said, “and that is what we believe is appropriate. Starting next year, that will include same-sex couples from England and Wales, which just this year passed laws permitting same-sex marriage that will take effect in 2014.”

The following is a transcript of Kerry’s remarks:

Thank you.  Well, thanks for gathering, I know on relatively short notice.  I really appreciate it.  One of the – first of all, it’s great to be in London, and thank you for all of you here.  How many of you are embassy?  You all raise your hands.  How many are consular section?  A few.  Most of them I left behind in the consular section now, anyway.  Well, thank you for joining us.

One of the most special things that we get to do – you guys, come on in.  Let’s get everybody in here before we start, whoever’s standing in.  I know we have one of the largest consular sections in the world here.  I think Moscow may be slightly larger.  But the work that you all do here is really important, because for many people, you’re the first faces that people get to see of America and the first impression they get.  And hopefully, it can be a good one.  Obviously, sometimes there are visa issues and it doesn’t always turn out the way people want it to be. 

But we appreciate what you do, and the fact is that one of the greatest responsibilities of the U.S. State Department is to show people who America is, who we are as people, and what we value as Americans.  And that’s what every single one of you do every single day here at Embassy London, and it’s what our colleagues do at posts all around the world.  I just came from addressing a very large gathering in Islamabad, Pakistan, a difficult tour of duty, but equally important in terms of our efforts to promote democracy and promote the values of human rights and so forth.

So when I first came here in my first stop, my first foreign stop as secretary of state 27 countries ago, I said to everybody that you’re all ambassadors no matter what you’re doing here, and that is true.  When you step out of the embassy and go down the street or wherever you live, wherever you are, you’re an ambassador of our country.  And when you treat people with respect and you give them the best of yourselves, you show them the best of America, and that means showing them what we believe, what we stand for, and what we share with the world.

One of our most important exports by far is America’s belief in the equality of all people.  Now, our history shows that we haven’t always gotten it right.  As I mentioned yesterday in Islamabad, slavery was written into our Constitution before it was written out.  And we are still struggling to make equal the rights between men and women and to break the glass ceiling and to make sure that all people are created equal.  That is what we try to do, I think wearing our heart on our sleeve, and sometimes our warts, more than almost any other nation on the face of the planet.  We believe in working to do better and to live up to these higher values, and we try to do it in a lot of different ways.

Today is one of those days.  I’m very pleased to be able to announce that effective immediately, when same-sex spouses apply for a visa, the Department of State will consider that application in the same manner that it will consider the application of opposite-sex spouses.  And here is exactly what this rule means:  If you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen, your visa application will be treated equally.  If you are the spouse of a non-citizen, your visa application will be treated equally.  And if you are in a country that doesn’t recognize your same-sex marriage, then your visa application will still be treated equally at every single one of our 222 visa processing centers around the world.

Now, as long as a marriage has been performed in a jurisdiction that recognizes it so that it is legal, then that marriage is valid under U.S. immigration laws, and every married couple will be treated exactly the same, and that is what we believe is appropriate.  Starting next year, that will include same-sex couples from England and Wales, which just this year passed laws permitting same-sex marriage that will take effect in 2014. 

And as you know, more than two years ago, President Obama instructed our Department of Justice to stop enforcing DOMA.  Then just a few weeks ago, the Supreme Court of the United States declared DOMA unconstitutional. 

Today, the State Department, which has always been at the forefront of equality in the federal government, I’m proud to say, is tearing down an unjust and an unfair barrier that for too long stood in the way of same-sex families being able to travel as a family to the United States. 

I am proud to say that I voted against DOMA, one of 14 votes against it and the only person running for election that year who voted against it, and it’s one of the better votes that I’ve cast.  It was the right vote then, it’s the right vote today.  And I’m pleased to make this announcement today because this is one of those moments where policy and values join together.  And I think those of you in the consular division, more than me or more than any of us back at the State Department on a daily basis, are going to bet you’d be the people who get to make this a reality for people.

So those of you working today in the consular section will make history when you issue some of the first visas to same-sex couples, and you will be some of the first faces to welcome them to the United States in an always – a country that obviously is always trying to tweak and improve and do better by the values around which we were founded.  You share in the great responsibility of making our country live its values, and you make possible the journey of those who want to visit our country for that reason and many more.

I might remark that I get to sit up on the seventh floor of the State Department looking out straight at the Lincoln Memorial.  This year marks the 50th anniversary of the famous march on Washington and of Martin Luther King’s unbelievably eloquent and historic plea for equality.  So that is where the dream was declared, the march goes on, this is several more steps in that march.  I can’t thank you enough for your hard work, and as always, I am proud to call myself your colleague.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

Image of shirtless Prince Harry used by London gay bar to promote Pride

A gay Pride poster featuring a shirtless image of Prince Harry has gone viral, but it’s unlikely that the royal icon would object.

The poster of the prince, who has emerged as a royal favorite, was used by London’s Manbar to promote Pride last week. Perez Hilton and TMZ publicized the artwork, which was created by East London-based artist Mikesbliss and displayed inside the bar.

Manbar owner Chris Amos’ said that Harry “is a role model for a generation – spirited, cheeky, handsome, liberal minded and fit! That makes him a role model for us as well as being a gay icon. I am not surprised how quickly the image by Mikesbliss of Prince Harry has spread online. The scallywag Prince is truly a British national treasure and iconic in the way his mother Princess Di was.”

Prince Harry was recently praised for stopping a homophobic attack against an openly gay soldier. Lance Corporal James Wharton wrote in his new book “Out in the Army” that Harry intervened after soldiers from another regiment said they were going to “batter” him.

Wharton, who quit the Army earlier this year, said, “I will always be grateful to Harry and I will never forget what happened. Until he went over and dealt with everything I was on track for a battering.”

The confrontation came on a training exercise in Canada in September 2008.

According to Mail Online, which published excerpts from Wharton’s book on June 8, Prince Harry was praised by the British military for his actions.

“The whole country will applaud Prince Harry. Our Forces should reflect the modern-day Britain they fight so hard to defend,” said Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy.

Wharton, who served in Iraq, said Prince Harry and Prince William considered themselves to be gay icons.

Wharton said, “We were on manoeuvres and talking over the intercom. Harry happened to mention that he and his brother had been told they were gay icons. I laughed and told him that I didn’t think that was the case. He became really adamant saying, ‘What? What? We are! Our press people told us.’

“Harry then asked if he couldn’t be a gay icon because he was ginger. It was all very funny.”

Follow WiG on Facebook and Twitter.

Athletes, activists go for gold at Olympics

With the nation-by-nation parade of athletes at the Games of the XXX Olympiad, history was made – in the sports arena and in the political arena.

Two women – 800-meter runner Sarah Attar and judoist Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani – joined in the July 27 procession in London’s Olympic Stadium with the team from Saudi Arabia, a first for the conservative nation that bans women from driving or traveling without a male guardian.

And, in another first, womenoutnumber men on Team USA – 269 to 261.

The 2012 Summer Olympics are certain to bring other firsts. Human rights advocates hope the games inspire Olympians to come out as bisexual, gay or lesbian and perhaps even inspire some to seek asylum.

Far less than 1 percent of Olympians in London are out gays or lesbians. And that tiny figure isn’t due just to the elimination of softball as an Olympic sport.

In Beijing, there were just 11 out athletes going into the 2008 summer games. There also were 11 out athletes going into the Athens games in 2004 and just seven out athletes at the games in Sydney in 2000.

On the U.S. scorecard, only two openly gay men have ever competed at the Olympics – divers David Pichler and Patrick Jeffrey. Athletes don’t come out because, even in progressive nations, homophobia remains pervasive in sports. And in other nations, out athletes face more than taunts from fans and teammates.

“LGBT athletes are forced to hide their sexuality in order to get selected and compete,” stated British LGBT civil rights activist Peter Tatchell. “Otherwise they would be rejected and possibly face imprisonment.”

Eighty-four nations criminalize homosexuality. Convictions under the anti-gay laws can result in fines, imprisonment and – in Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen – death.

“The International Olympic Committee and London Olympic organizers should require all competing nations to sign a pledge that they do not discriminate on the grounds of gender, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation,” Tatchell said. “If they refuse to sign, they should be denied participation in the games.”

In advance of London 2012, Tatchell and other activists called on the IOC to ban nations that outlaw homosexuality. They also appealed to athletes to come out, encouraged gay athletes who fear persecution to seek asylum and invited sports fans to cheer equality.

In the week before the opening ceremonies for London 2012, more than 14,000 athletes were arriving at Heathrow Airport and settling into the Athletes Village. The arrivals included out Olympians:

• Diver Matthew Mitcham and beach volleyball player Natalie Cook with Team Australia.

• Handball player Mayssa Pessoa with Team Brazil.

• Cyclist Judith Arndt and fencer Imke Duplitzer with Team Germany.

• Field hockey players Marilyn Agliotti, Maartje Paumen and Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel and equestrian competitor Edward Gal with Team Netherlands.

• Triathletes Carole Péon and Jessica Harrison and handball player Alexandra Lacrabère with Team France.

• Handball player Rikke Skov with Team Denmark.

• Dressage competitor Carl Hester with Team Great Britain.

• Soccer players Jessica Landström, Hedvig Lindahl and Lisa Dahlkvist with Team Sweden.

• Tennis player Lisa Raymond, basketball player Seimone Augustus, soccer coach Pia Sundhage and soccer player Meghan Rapinoe with Team USA.

“I think it’s important to be out. It’s important to stand up and be counted and be proud of who you are,” Rapinoe recently told USA Today.

Political?

Critics of the LGBT rights campaign, including critics in the United States, said the Olympics should be about sports, not politics. But activists volleyed back, saying that the Olympics have always been about politics and human rights.

“People who say that human rights issues have no place in the sporting arena tend to be those who don’t believe in human rights at all,” said Mark Stephens, a prominent British attorney and activist. “As an argument, it is the refuge of the ignorant, and therefore, ultimately, damned.”

Stephens urged the IOC to ban anti-gay nations and called on gay athletes to come out in a celebrated Guardian newspaper column and a recent speech at the University of East London, which is not far from Olympic Stadium.

He and other activists described a long tradition of politics intersecting with sport.

“An athlete even winning the gold for her country is political,” said London LGBT civil rights activist Elizabeth Mead. “But also, some of the most significant events in the games’ history were of political importance.”

Mead, 43, said her favorite Olympic moment came during the opening ceremony in 1996 in Atlanta, when boxing legend Muhammad Ali lit the cauldron in the stadium. “He’s one of the world’s greatest athletes, but he also was suspended from his sport for objecting to the war in Vietnam.”

Other politically significant Olympic events:

• The four gold-medal wins and world-record achievements of Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics hosted by Nazi Germany.

• The bloody water polo match between the Soviet Union and Hungary at the 1956 Melbourne Games as Hungary was in the midst of a nationalist uprising.

• The black power salute that U.S. runners Tommie Smith and John Carlos gave on the medal stand at the ’68 Games in Mexico.

• The Palestinian terrorist attack at the 1972 Munich Olympics that resulted in the murder of 11 Israeli athletes.

• The United States’ boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan; four years later, the Soviet Union boycotted the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

• South Africa’s participation in the 1992 Olympics after being banned for years because of Apartheid rule.

• The 2000 ban imposed on Afghanistan because of the ruling Tali- ban’s discrimination against women.

Before the Olympic torch arrived in London, politics were already at work in the 2012 Summer Games.

At the U.S. Capitol, lawmakers in mid-July complained that most of Team USA is being outfitted in Ralph Lauren-designed uniforms with “Made in China” labels. U.S. Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., called the fashion decision “self-defeating.” U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said, “When America’s best athletes are representing our country on the world stage, we should be representing the best of American- made goods.”

A week before the games, Amnesty International demanded that London organizers apologize for hiring Dow Chemicals to provide the fabric wrap for the Olympic Stadium. Amnesty said organizers should have known about Dow’s ties to the company responsible for the 1984 gas leak that killed 15,000 people in Bhopal, India.

And activists were hoping that when the closing ceremonies take place on Aug. 12 that more than 21 out Olympians will be celebrating and the IOC will be looking to reforms before the 2014 Winter Games. Those games take place in Sochi, Russia, where organizers already have nixed an LGBT Pride House for athletes.

Games time

NBC holds the rights to coverage and will broadcast the games on its local affiliates. For a gay take on the games, check out www.outsports.com.