Friday, April 28, 2017

Thanks Ross, Garcelle, Ali, Tanner, and Amanda

How many of you know who Ross Mathews, Garcelle Beauvais, Ali Landry, Tanner Thomason, and Amanda Salas are? How many know they host a television program called Hollywood Today Live?  How many of you would expect me to be writing about it though?  This blog is about the hometown heroes who make a difference in our world - about giving back.  When I am not writing about specific people or organizations, I'm making suggestions about how we ALL can make a difference, so why this tv show?

If you are from a marginalized group like people of color, gay, transgender, or foreign-born, you might not have a lot of role models on television.  While things are changing for the better, they aren't changing nearly fast enough for me.  Often folks seem to wince when a gay or lesbian reference is made, especially on live tv.  In 2015 along came a daytime telecast with pop culture stories and entertainment news and lots of interviews with folks who might not have made it on other shows.  We heard references to the lack of diversity in both the small screen and the big one.  Male guests mentioned their husbands, and it wasn't part of a joke.  People were allowed to be people.  The program hosts have such great chemistry that you would think they were life-long friends.  In short, everyone feels at home here, and isn't it about time?

Today it all ends.  Hollywood Today Live will do their final program.  In tv land, programs always come and go - this is nothing new, but when it's a show and people who are making a difference, it's a little sad.  I know many folks probably dismiss this show as more mindless fluff, but where else could you get a good laugh every day with people just like you?  Where else could you see wedding pictures from two men and not have it as a put-down?  Where would you see so much diversity without it being staged and fake?  For one hour a day, these three women and two men, and the tv show they bring us offer a connection that has made a difference in my life, and hopefully in yours as well. 

It was twenty years ago that Ellen DeGeneres came out as gay, both in real life and on her sitcom.  Today on her talk show, she is paying tribute to that moment with many of the cast from that history making show.  Where I live, that's on the air immediately before the last Hollywood Today Live.  This will be a special two hours for me, and I am grateful to both shows for making a difference!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Gospel According to Herb Caen

Herb Caen, the late newspaper columnist (who wrote for The San Francisco Chronicle and earlier for The San Francisco Examiner) was one of those people who made a difference in this world, mostly through his writing. When I picked up the morning paper, I went immediately to his daily column. A while back I reprinted here a column of his from back in April of 1991. For those of you who missed it, here it is again:

Scene: The Heavenly Real Estate Office. The Landlord is cheerily rounding up a covey of blazing comets that have skittered under Queen Casseopera's Chair. His business agent, Gabriel, enters, his Golden Trumpet in one hand and more reports from the tiny planet Earth in the other.

Landlord: (to the Comets) Come out from under there, you little scamps, before you set the whole galaxy on fire.

Gabriel: Excuse me sir. Another batch of prayergrams from your most devout Christians.

Landlord: (waving a hand) Whatever they want, Gabriel. Now where did those freaky devils get to?

Gabriel: Yes sir, they want you to evict ten percent of your tenants down there. (Raising his Golden Trumpet) I've never attempted a partial eviction. Shall I try?

Landlord: (looking up) What ten percent, Gabriel?

Gabriel: The gays, sir. Your devout Christians say they've done their utmost to keep them out of their schools, their offices, their churches, and their lives, but with little success. So their prayergrams ask you to remove them from the face of your Earth.

Landlord: To me Gabriel, that doesn't sound very Christian. I thought they were supposed to love their neighbors.

Gabriel: Oh they do sir, if their neighbors are of the same color, economic bracket, and sexual orientation.

Landlord: But what harm do these gay people do?

Gabriel: I'm afraid you're not seeing the big picture, sir. Gays simply don't fit into your grand design. You know, two by two, male and female? Generation after generation? The fact of the matter is that gays simply don't procreate.

Landlord: I thought there was enough procreation down there already.

Gabriel: And they commit unspeakable acts.

Landlord: Murder? Torture? Paving over my mountain meadows?

Gabriel: Unspeakable sexual acts, sir.

Landlord: Ah, you mean they express their love for each other in different ways.

Gabriel: (annoyed) Really sir! If these people were automobiles, they'd be recalled in a nonce. They're clearly defective.

Landlord: (frowning) Defective, Gabriel?

Gabriel: Exactly sir. Some essential part if missing; some vital drive is malfunctioning. Bungled wiring – a loose screw...who knows?

Landlord: But clearly they're examples of shoddy workmanship?

Gabriel: Oh definitely sir. And they certainly don't deserve to clutter up your little blue-green jewel of a planet a minute longer. (Raising his Golden Trumpet again) Shall I evict them now?

Landlord: (slowly) And who made these imperfect products, Gabriel?

Gabriel: Why you did of course, but. . .(he lowers his trumpet in sudden consternation) Good You sir. I didn't mean to blaspheme. You will forgive them then?

Landlord: (smiling) A wise philosopher said long ago Gabriel that if I made sinners, it is not I who should forgive them, but they who should forgive me.

Gabriel: Well, I'm sure the gays will be glad to hear of your tolerance and generosity, sir.

Landlord: The gays? I was talking about my most devout Christians.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

suicidal crisis

Many times in this space, I have written about suicide.  Yesterday I was saying that we need more understanding.  People don't talk about suicide often enough -it's one of those topics that just isn't discussed, but it should be.  Lives can be saved.  The national hotline in the US is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-273-TALK.  If you have suicidal thoughts or know someone who does, use this number.

Of course a telephone number doesn't solve everything.  I am not just talking about those in crisis too.  We ALL need to have a better understanding of suicide and we ALL need to value every human life.  Even though this blog is NOT about me, it's my opinions and my thoughts you get in a situation like this.  My opinion is, we need to care more.  Years ago in Nashville, I volunteered at a suicide prevention hotline, and each day we saw results.  Each day we helped people in crisis.  I'm not a doctor and I'm not close enough to the Robin Williams investigation to say that intervention would have saved him, but I can tell you of many cases where it has saved lives and I urge you to learn a few basic things.  The first thing is you are not alone!

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the highest suicide rate is among adults between 45 and 64 years of age, and the second highest rate is persons 85 years or older.  That may be surprising, because we so often hear about youth suicides, but elders take their own lives far more often.

All lives are precious though and nobody should feel that things are hopeless or that they are all alone. Again, if you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741. I urge everyone to become better informed too. We should all understand why people take their lives and how this can be avoided. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is an excellent place to begin. Check out their website at

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Suicide is not a laughing matter

Aaron Josef Hernandez is dead. It appears that it happened at his own hand, just as the deaths of others appear to have been. He was found guilty of one of those murders and was serving time. I understand all of that. Still, I am not in agreement at all with the folks who are applauding his suicide or make what I consider inappropriate "jokes." I am not here to praise Hernandez - far from it, but he was a human being and I am saddened when anyone loses their way. It is possible to loathe and to denounce the things he did and feel some sympathy for him and for his family. 

Two days after a murder that another killer recorded on video and posted to Facebook, that alleged killer apparently took his own life. During the abc-tv program The View yesterday, Whoppi Goldberg announced that they had just heard of the apparent suicide.  The audience applauded, until Whoppi held up her hands and asked for quiet. We know little about this man, but I know one thing. Like Hernandez, he was a human being. Please don't misunderstand. Randomly killing that 74-year-old was a horrible thing, but then taking his own life was not something to be cheered or joked about either.
I'm sure a good many of you will disagree with me today, and that is fine. I just don't understand cheering the demise of anyone. I don't understand that at all. Suicide is not a laughing matter and should not warrant applause. I have heard attacks on many famous people who have taken their own lives, and I think that is wrong. Suicidal tendencies need to be dealt with, and when we miss them and someone's life ends, we need to mourn, because we have lost - one death is too many. We need to learn and go forward, not with joy over the passing of a human being, but with determination to stop all killing,

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Singing the praises of Ellen

There are some people who always inspire you, and for me, Ellen DeGeneres is one of those people. I could easily write about her every single day and not get tired. Last year, in accepting the People's Choice Award for favorite humanitarian, Ellen said "I have to say, It's a little strange to actually get an award for being nice and generous and kind which is what we're all supposed to do with one another." Yup. You sure got that right Ellen, and thanks for the frequent reminders!

It has become difficult for me to turn on her daily talk-show. It's not that it isn't entertaining, but in addition to great guests, Ellen highlights some wonderful heroes on just about every one of her programs. She shows the world the beauty of being kind and caring, and she frequently rewards the hero with a nice gift or some cash with which they can continue doing good work. I joked recently that I should bill Ellen for my tissues because of all the tears of joy she has caused me to shed.

Besides giving folks a spotlight on her television program, Ellen DeGeneres is an activist for lgbt rights, a humanitarian, an animal rights advocate, and works on behalf on numerous causes including AIDS awareness. She has done work for dozens of charities including The Gentle Barn, UNICEF, Farm Sanctuary, PETA, Habitat For Humanity, The Trevor Project, and It Gets Better Project. Oh my! How does she find the time?

About twenty years ago I had the great joy and privilege of meeting her mother Betty. Someday I hope to meet Ellen too and thank her and tell her what she means to me. Until then, I'll just keep singing her praises here in my blog!

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Boy and the Starfish

All good stories begin with "Once upon a time," right? Well here's one, that was adapted from The Star Thrower by Loren Eiseley (1907-1977). You might find it reminding you of a similar story I recently told about a dog, and the message is really the same, so read on.

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a little boy, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"

The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."

"I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" said the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the boy replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, "It made a difference for that one."

Indeed. It made a difference for every single starfish the boy threw into the water. The message this morning is clear, and it's one I have I shared over and over. WE can make a difference. WE can be superheroes. WE can do some pretty incredible things. If we throw our hand up in surrender and don't even try to make this a better world, of course we won't be giving back, but each of us can and should give back in our own way. If it seems overwhelming and that our contributions won't make a bit of difference, remember the story of the boy and the starfish!

Friday, April 7, 2017

it takes all kinds

We often hear it said that it takes all kinds.  Indeed it does!  I am so fortunate to know al kinds of people - people who serve, people who lead, passionate, talented, committed people, those who are seeking, those who have heard a call, innovators, givers, people who make this world so much better.  Making a difference in this world for the better, is the theme here.  All I have to do each day is look around and I find so many people and so many ideas to write about.
Yes, there are some who are only takers.  There are people who are more inclined to destroy than to build up.  These are not those folks who make this world so great and thankfully, these are not the majority of folks I know.
It takes all kinds - even the ones who don't want to contribute.  They help inspire us to do good instead of following them.  When we see bad, we are not inclined to follow it.  The positive wonderful things in our lives are the things that inspire and lead us forward.  Thanks to all of you who serve and who lead and who give!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Before you kick it

I've always felt that having goals is a good thing. Lately I hear more and more people talk about their bucket lists. Are they really such a good idea though? Some people say we are rushing death (the term "bucket list" coming from kicking the bucket, a popular expression meaning to die) and others say we are creating lists with difficult to fill ideas. I'm thinking though that having defined goals, can't be a bad thing.

Some folks list very simple things and some come right out of a thrill-seekers guide. What about you though - are there places you would really like to visit or people you want to meet of see perform or maybe some special things you want to do?  How about this:  don't just make a list, but include other folks.  There are organizations that help fulfill the wishes of dying people, but how about if we all did something really special before someone else passed away - a shared bucket list if you will.  I think I could really get behind that idea!

So how many of you think that is a good idea? How many of you have a bucket list of any kind? Before you kick the bucket, is there something special you want to do for others?

Wednesday, April 5, 2017


Some of you may have heard about Monday's bombing in Russia's second-largest city, Saint Petersburg, that claimed fourteen lives and injured dozens of others. Some of you. It really didn't get that much attention on facebook or twitter. It wasn't even covered with the same intensity as other recent terrorist attacks. Some might wonder if it got less attention because it was in Russia.

Now I'm not going to write here about the attack itself. I just want to point out that violence against other people is always bad. Apparently we forget that sometimes. It's horrible when it happens in our country or certain others, but we can turn a blind eye if it happens some places. Nope. Wrong attitude. It is ALWAYS bad.

The bomber in Saint Petersburg took his own life and we don't know who else might have been involved. We do know that dozens of people were terrified and fourteen people lost their life. We know too that this kind of thing is happening more and more and at various places all around the world. Hopefully we can all acknowledge that these attacks are horrible and that something needs to be done to stop them. Hopefully we can all work together and bring peace to our world. Hopefully.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Forty-nine years ago

Forty-nine years ago an assassin's bullet ended the life of one of America's best known leaders, The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Junior. King had just turned 39, three months earlier, and in his short life did more than one can imagine. Yes, he was a leader, but not an elected politician. He led people to God and to freedom and to economic justice and to equality.

Almost everyone, even those who weren't alive back then, can quote portions of speeches by Dr King. The list of his famous sermons and addresses stirs a certain spirit inside us all: "Rediscovering Lost Values," "The Death of Evil Upon the Seashore," "Paul's Letter to American Christians," "I Have a Dream," "The Casualties of the War in Vietnam," "Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution," "I've Been to the Mountaintop," and "We Shall Overcome."

Each year on his birthday, his death day, and during the holiday that was created to honor him, I try to learn more about this man of non-violence and great faith. One thing I do is look at how we have viewed him since his violent murder. The Presidential Medal of Freedom was posthumously awarded to him in 1977 by President Jimmy Carter. The citation read: "Martin Luther King Jr. was the conscience of his generation. He gazed upon the great wall of segregation and saw that the power of love could bring it down. From the pain and exhaustion of his fight to fulfill the promises of our founding fathers for our humblest citizens, he wrung his eloquent statement of his dream for America. He made our nation stronger because he made it better. His dream sustains us yet."

Monday, April 3, 2017

She's a rainbow

Sad news last Friday when I learned that Gilbert Baker, an artist and activist who created the rainbow flag, had died in his sleep. Gilbert, a military veteran, was in San Francisco when the gay-rights movement was beginning, and he designed banners and flags for numerous events. Over the years he organized numerous activities in San Francisco, and later in New York City, after he had moved there. He will always be best known I think for the flag which became an lgbt symbol.

Gilbert Baker made a difference in the world, in many ways. The flag was but one of them. Watching television coverage of his life over the weekend, it was interesting to see PBS NewHour anchor Hari Sreenivasan reported on him and CBS Sunday Morning to devote a segment. We don't see a lot of coverage of gay newsmakers.

It was Baker who gave drag queens more visibility when he organized the first San Francisco drag march back in 1999. Wearing a red, white, and blue "Betsy Ross" outfit and pink stilettos, Gilbert led the parade of cross-dressers through the streets of the city with the sound of the Rolling Stones singing "She's A Rainbow." This was just one of many events where Baker was front and center, but it was his iconic rainbow flag that is more recognized. The six color version of the rainbow, is what we have come to know, but the first version back in 1978 had two more stripes: hot pink and turquoise. They were removed because of both manufacturing needs, and the greater ease in hanging the six-stripe version.

In the 72 hours since the world found out that Gilbert had died, there has been an outpouring of memories from all over the world. California state senator Scott Wiener said Baker "helped define the modern LGBT movement." San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, hung a rainbow flag at half-staff from his City Hall balcony and said "The passing of gay rights activist Gilbert Baker is a loss for San Francisco and the LGBT community. Thank you for the lasting gift." Award-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who most recently gave us When We Rise (where Gilbert's character is shown sewing the flag) tweeted, "Rainbows weep. Our world is far less colorful without you, my love. Gilbert Baker gave us the rainbow flag to unite us. Unite again."