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YEAR IN REVIEW Looking back: Entertainment news
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2016-01-06

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—Roller-coaster: Michael Sam, who became the first openly gay man drafted into the NFL in spring 2014, got engaged to his boyfriend, Vito Cammisano. However, they apparently ended that engagement in a year that saw him sign with Canadian Football League team the Montreal Alouettes—and later leave that squad, citing mental-health concerns. Sam also competed on TV's Dancing with the Stars, although he was eliminated early.

—Golden victories: Amazon's groundbreaking TV series Transparent snagged two awards at the 2015 Golden Globe Awards, which aired on NBC Jan. 11. Some of the other winners included out actor Matt Bomer ( for his role in Larry Kramer's '80s-set AIDS work The Normal Heart ), Kevin Spacey ( House of Cards ), Julianne Moore ( for her role in the feature film Still Alice ) and The Grand Budapest Hotel ( Best Motion Picture-Musical or Comedy ).

—Choice selections: Ellen DeGeneres was named Favorite Daytime Host, and the prison series Orange Is the New Black was tabbed Favorite Dramedy during the People's Choice Awards, which aired Jan. 7 on CBS. The Big Bang Theory, which stars out actor Jim Parsons, won multiple honors. Also, Glee's Chris Colfer won for Favorite Comedic TV Actor, over such nominees as Parsons and Jesse Tyler Ferguson ( Modern Family ).

—Sheen reveals: In November, actor Charlie Sheen revealed to Today's Matt Lauer that he is HIV-positive, having been diagnosed about four years earlier. He said he manages his condition with a triple cocktail of antiretroviral drugs, and said that it was impossible that he could have infected any of his partners.

—"Empire" strikes: Out director Lee Daniels struck gold with the Fox show Empire—his first-ever TV endeavor. The first season of the show featured tight storylines, a gay son ( played by Jussie Smollett, who eventually came out publicly himself ) and the irrepressible Cookie Lyon, played by Taraji P. Henson.

—Crime time: One ceremony that didn't take place in 2015 was the OUTMusic Awards, which honors LGBTA artists. According to its website, the organization "had to abruptly postpone our production of the 9th OUTmusic Awards due to the fact that our organization is the victim of Financial Fraud Crime."

—"Orange" you glad?: The Netflix series Orange Is the New Black won twice at the Screen Actors Guild Awards—once for best comedy ensemble also for actress Uzo Aduba ( who portrays "Crazy Eyes" ) winning best female actor in a comedy series. In addition, Mark Ruffalo won for best male actor in a television movie or miniseries for his role in Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart.

—A Grey day: Eighty-two-year-old Broadway and movie veteran Joel Grey officially came out as a gay man. Grey was married for 24 years and has raised two children: actress Jennifer Grey ( of Dirty Dancing fame ) and chef James. However, Grey told People, "I don't like labels, but if you have to put a label on it, I'm a gay man."

—Brit by bit: Out British singer Sam Smith was the star of the 57th Annual Grammy Awards, held Feb. 8. He snagged four awards, including record and song of the year for his anthemic "Stay With Me." Additionally, the late Joan Rivers awarded the Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album for Diary of a Mad Diva in a ceremony prior to the awards.

—"Hello," there: Speaking of British crooners, you had to live under a rock not to know of Adele's newest CD, 25. The album ( spurred by its lead single, "Hello" ) smashed all sorts of sales records, selling 3.38 million units in its first week of release—and was the only reason Taylor Swift didn't have the best-selling CD for a second consecutive year.

—A different "View": Rosie O'Donnell left the daytime talk show The View for the second time—this time after just five months—to focus on her family. It was a difficult year for O'Donnell, who reported teen daughter Chelsea missing in August—only to have it revealed that she was found with a 25-year-old man named Steven M. Sheerer, whom she had met on the dating app Tinder. After she turned 18, Chelsea chose to go live with her birth mother.

—Laverne's leaps: Laverne Cox—who already made history in becoming the first openly transgender performer to earn an acting Emmy nomination for her breakout role on Netflix's Orange Is the New Black—was slated to be the first transgender series regular character on broadcast TV played by a transgender actor. Cox was scheduled to play Cameron Wirth, a transgender Ivy League-educated attorney, on the CBS pilot Doubt. ( She even got her very own ice-cream flavor, Chocolate Orange Is the New Black, in 2015. )

—Moore and more: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences held the 87th Academy Awards Feb. 22. Chicagoan Graham Moore won for Best Adapted Screenplay for the movie The Imitation Game, which depicts the life of the late gay British codebreaker Alan Turing.

Also, Best Supporting Actress winner Patricia Arquette spoke about equality for women, and Chicago rapper/actor Common—who won an Oscar with singer John Legend for Best Original Song for "Glory," from the film Selma—said, "[The Edmund Pettus Bridge] was once a landmark of a divided nation but now is the symbol for change. The spirit of this bridge transcends race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and social status." Host Neil Patrick Harris received mixed reviews.

—The Queen plays Bessie: Queen Latifah portrayed bisexual blues singer ( complete with nude scene ) in the HBO movie Bessie. Co-starring Mo'Nique as blues legend Ma Rainey, Latifah earned raves for her acting.

—Kerry good: GLAAD honored Golden Globe- and Emmy-nominated actress Kerry Washington at the 26th Annual GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles at the Beverly Hilton. Washington received GLAAD's Vanguard Award; previous Vanguard Award honorees include Jennifer Lopez, Kristin Chenoweth, Charlize Theron, Elizabeth Taylor, Antonio Banderas, Drew Barrymore, Janet Jackson and Sharon Stone.

—Weir and now: Figure-skating commentator Johnny Weir's sometimes-contentious divorce from Victor Voronov was finalized in early 2015. Despite his bitter divorce from Weir, Voronov is headed back down the aisle, having fallen for 20-year-old ice dancer Joti Polizoakis.

—It's easy for me to say I'm sorry: Out British actor Russell Tovey ( HBO's now-cancelled Looking ) apologized for comments he made about effeminate gay men. Tovey initially told The Guardian, in part, "Where I felt like I had to toughen up. If I'd have been able to relax, prance around, sing in the street, I might be a different person now. I thank my dad for that, for not allowing me to go down that path." In a series of tweets, Tovey apologized: "I surrender. You got me. I'm sat baffled and saddened that a misfired inarticulate quote of mine has branded me worst gay ever."

—Going Gaga: Lady Gaga turned heads in 2015—by getting a make-under and impressing people with talent. Her pared-down, 50th-anniversary tribute to The Sound of Music—for which she hit Julie Andrews' high notes—garnered universal praise. In addition, she received raves for her lead role in the TV series American Horror Story: Hotel.

—"Block" and roll: A new trans-focused television series, New Girls on the Block, premiered on the Discovery Life Channel. The show set out to follow a group friends from Kansas City, Missouri, showcasing some of their past struggles with gender identity and how they navigate daily struggles and successes now.

—A Grand gesture: Out singer Steve Grand's CD, All American Boy, debuted at number three on the Billboard Independent Albums Chart and number 27 on the Billboard Top 200 chart. Fueled by donations from nearly 5,000 fans, Grand raised more than $325,000 in what became the third most funded music project in Kickstarter history.

—Remembering Rock: Thirty years after actor Rock Hudson's death from AIDS-related causes on Oct. 2, 1985, at age 59, Lee Garlington, Doris Day and others who knew Hudson closely shared memories of him with People.com . "He was a sweetheart. I adored him," said Garlington, 77, a retired stockbroker who said he dated Hudson from 1962 to 1965. Hudson never had to ask him to keep their relationship a secret. "He assumed I would and I did," Garlington said. "He wasn't paranoid."

—A Griner offense: It was a rough year for six-foot-eight lesbian WNBA star Brittney Griner. She and then-fiancee Glory Johnson, another WNBA athlete, were arrested on charges of assault and disorderly conduct on April 22. They were married May 9—but then, on June 4, Griner and Johnson announced that Johnson was pregnant. However, the following day, Griner filed for an annulment of the marriage, citing fraud and duress, saying she had no biological link to the baby.

—Show( s ) and tell: The 2015-16 television season appeared to be the season of openly gay creator Greg Berlanti, who oversaw at least six primetime network shows, TheWrap noted. Berlanti ran Blindspot, Supergirl, DC's Legends of Tomorrow, Mysteries of Laura ( the Debra Messing show that will see its second season ), Arrow and The Flash.

—( In )action Jackson: Janet Jackson celebrated her 49th birthday by revealing to fans that she would end their seven-year wait for music by releasing a new album ( Unbreakable ) and embarking on a world tour in 2015. While she performed some shows, she recently postponed the remainder of the tour to undergo surgery.

—"Twilight" zone: Kristen Stewart's mother reportedly confirmed that the Twilight actress had a romance with her personal assistant, Alicia Cargile. "I've met Kristen's new girlfriend, I like her. What's not to accept? She's a lovely girl," Jules Stewart told Britain's Sunday Mirror. While there have been rumblings about Stewart and Cargile before, the elder Stewart's comments were the first official confirmation that the two are dating.

—Trouble man: Gay actor John Barrowman ( Doctor Who; Torchwood; Arrow ) was again in trouble with the trans community after using an anti-trans slur and then telling those who were offended to "lighten up." The situation first started in October 2014, when the Scottish-American entertainer posted a video online in which he used the word "tranny-tastic."

—Movie kind of love: LGBT movies excelled in 2015 unlike in any other year, some contested. Among the high-quality films mentioned were Carol, starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara; The Danish Girl, a trans-centered film featuring Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander; and Freeheld, a true-life story with Julianne Moore and Ellen Page. However, other films—such as Stonewall—stirred controversy because of its alleged "whitewashing" of actual history.

—Renner takes it all: In Playboy, actor Jeremy Renner said he doesn't care if people think he's gay. In a new interview with Playboy's Stephen Rebello, The Hurt Locker star addresses questions about his sexuality, saying, "Fucking say whatever the hell you want about me." Renner did, however, take exception to the implication that being gay is, in and of itself, a negative quality.

—On video: As Wolfe Video celebrated its 30th-anniversary year, the company made a donation to the June Mazer Lesbian Archives—depositing a complete DVD library of every lesbian film Wolfe released since 1985.

—Mack daddy: Pro boxer Yusaf Mack came out as gay. Mack—a 35-year-old father of 10—first made headlines when he claimed was drugged and had absolutely no recollection of ever filming a hardcore gay-skin flick.

—Samantha's sorrow: British singer Samantha Fox—best known for the pop smash "Touch Me ( I Want Your Body )"—lost her longtime partner and manager Myra Stratton, who died after battling with cancer. Fox's Twitter page stated that Stratton was her partner and manager for the last 16 years.

—A Hardy bargain: Actor Tom Hardy—who was promoting his film Legend at the Toronto International Film Festival—shut down a reporter from LGBT news outlet Daily Xtra when asked if it's "hard for celebrities to talk to media about their sexuality. "What on earth are you on about?," Hardy responded. "I don't find it difficult for celebrities to talk about their sexuality," Hardy said. "Are you asking me about my sexuality?" The awkward exchange came to a head when the reporter answered "Sure," and the actor asked, "Why?" "Thank you," Hardy said while cutting off the reporter.

—Diversity: If the 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, held Sept. 20 in Los Angeles, weren't known for anything else, it may be reognized for its diversity—especially with African-American women: Viola Davis ( How to Get Away with Murder ), Uzo Aduba ( Orange Is the New Black ) and Regina King ( American Crime ) all won. Victorious LGBT individuals and LGBT-themed projects included HBO's Olive Kitteridge, Transparent director Jill Soloway and actor Jeffrey Tambor.

—Model behavior: Self-described "sexually fluid" contestant Nyle DiMarco became America's Next Top Model first-ever deaf winner. He was also the show's final winner as well, as it was the show's last cycle.

—Taylor-made: Actress Holland Taylor—who played Alan and Charlie Harper's ( Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer's ) bisexual mother on the TV show Two and a Half Men—revealed in a recent radio interview that she is in a relationship with a woman, and has been dating women for quite some time. Later, it was revealed that she was in a relationship with actress Sarah Paulson ( American Horror Story; movie Django Unchained ).

—I get a kick out of you: Lesbian soccer athlete Abby Wambach played her last match Dec. 16 in a friendly against China. Wambach, 35, finished with 255 international caps, a record 184 international goals, a World Cup title ( in 2015 ) and two Olympic gold medals.

—"Family" affair: Modern Famiily actor Reid Ewing ( who was in the news recently regarding his open letter regarding body dysmorphia ) has come out as gay. Responding to a Good Morning America report featuring a young man named Eugene Bata who opened up about his battle with body dysmorphia, Ewing tweeted that he thought Bata was hot. When another Twitter user asked Ewing if he outed himself, the actor replied, "I was never in."

—Hanks a lot: At OutFest, two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks was recognized for his groundbreaking performance 22 years ago in the film Philadelphia, as fellow actor Aaron Eckhart presented him with the Outfest Legacy Awards' Trailblazer Award.

—She came in like a wrecking ball: Singer Miley Cyrus certainly made her presence known, doing everything from releasing a new CD to coming out as pansexual to promoting the Happy Hippie Foundation, which focuses on youth experiencing homelessness, LGBTQ youth and other vulnerable populations. She was honored for her work with the LGBT community at the Los Angeles LGBT Center's 46th Anniversary Gala—and licked a signed white grand piano as part of her acceptance speech.

—Esteemed: Out composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim as well as iconic singers Barbra Streisand and Gloria Estefan ( along with husband Emilio Sr. ) were among 17 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

—Not the best time: NBC cancelled the live variety show Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris after one season. The hour-long show—adapted from the British variety series Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway—was hosted and executive produced by Harris, and featured a mix of stunts, taped segments, Harris-orchestrated pranks and celebrity guest appearances.


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