A gay couple is accusing United Continental of “extreme and outrageous” conduct over an alleged incident involving a sex toy taped to their luggage, which the men say caused them severe emotional trauma.
Christopher Bridgeman and Martin Borger of Norfolk, Va., are seeking damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy and negligence in a lawsuit filed against the airline on Friday in the District Court of Harris County, Texas.
“It still brings butterflies to my stomach,” Borger, 35, told NBC News when recalling the episode.
United countered that it has conducted a thorough investigation and determined that there is no support for the allegations, spokeswoman Christen David said in a statement.
“United does not tolerate discrimination of any kind,” David said. “We will vigorously defend ourselves and our employees.”
The incident allegedly happened on May 21, 2011, as Bridgeman and Borger were returning from a vacation in Costa Rica. The men — who have been together for almost nine years — were flying back to Norfolk on Continental with a 90-minute layover at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. (Continental merged with United in 2010.)
Once they landed in Houston, the men collected their checked bags, went through customs, rechecked their luggage and boarded their flight to Virginia without incident.
But when they arrived in Norfolk and went to the baggage claim area, the couple discovered a sex toy had been taken from one of their bags, covered in a “greasy foul-smelling substance” and “taped prominently” to the top of the bag, according to the lawsuit.
Borger was the one to first spot the luggage.
“I knew exactly what it was when I saw it,” he told NBC News. “I was absolutely and utterly shocked and embarrassed and humiliated and I didn’t even know what to do at the time.”
Onlookers began laughing when they saw the bag, causing the men severe emotional trauma, according to the lawsuit.
Bridgeman speculated an airline employee went through the bag — which was closed with a simple zipper — found the sex toy, saw that it belonged to a man and decided to humiliate the owner.
“I absolutely, fervently believe that this was intentional,” Bridgeman, 34, told NBC News. “It was very sick and it was very wrong and it was just maliciously taped to the top and targeted because we’re gay.”
Why someone opened the bag in the first place is not clear, said Harry Scarborough, the couple’s attorney. He didn’t know whether the bag was X-rayed at the airport in Houston, but if it was, the sex toy would have been visible, he added.
The airline’s employees had a duty to prevent the bag from being put on display “in such an extremely offensive condition,” according to the lawsuit.
Bridgeman and Borger said they reported the incident to United Continental after the flight, but weren’t satisfied with the response.
The airline countered that it offered the men a gesture of goodwill, which they declined, spokeswoman Christen David said.
Scarborough said the offer didn’t begin to address what his clients had been through. He declined to estimate how much money the couple is seeking from the airline, but the lawsuit is requesting mental anguish damages, attorney fees and expenses and other compensation.
The couple doesn’t travel much anymore because of the psychological impact of the incident, Scarborough said.
Archive for August, 2012
A gay couple is accusing United Continental of “extreme and outrageous” conduct over an alleged incident involving a sex toy taped to their luggage, which the men say caused them severe emotional trauma.
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – NBC’s “The New Normal” won’t air on KSL this fall. The prospect of two gay men having a baby proved too much for the LDS Church-owned station.
“From time to time we may struggle with content that crosses the line in one area or another,” said Jeff Simpson, CEO of KSL’s parent company, Bonneville International. “The dialogue might be excessively rude and crude. The scenes may be too explicit or the characterizations might seem offensive.”
This marks the second consecutive year KSL is refusing to carry an NBC show. A year ago, then-KSL CEO Mark Willes said the station wouldn’t air “The Playboy Club” because the KSL brand “is completely inconsistent with the Playboy brand.”
Simpson echoed those words when he said, “For our brand, this program feels inappropriate on several dimensions, especially during family viewing time.”
“The New Normal” is set to debut on NBC on Tuesday, Sept. 11, at 8:30 p.m.
Utahns will have a chance to see it, however.
“We will air it on the weekends” on Channel 30, said Matt Jacquint, general manager of KUCW and KTVX. “We’re looking for a time slot right now.”
KUCW carries NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” and often picks up sports programming when KSL pre-empts it for General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
One Million Moms, which boycotted JC Penney when talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres was hired as a spokesperson, announced a boycott of “The New Normal” months ago. But the show’s creator/executive producer, Ryan Murphy (“Glee”), recently said he didn’t anticipate NBC stations would pull it.
“I don’t see that happening,” he said. “It’s 2012. I don’t think this is anything so outrageous.”
NBC issued a statement that the show “is a contemporary look at how families are defined today, portrayed through a comedic prism. We are confident that the show will find another home in the Salt Lake City market.”
“The New Normal” stars Andrew Rannells (from the Broadway cast of the musical “Book of Mormon”) and Justin Bartha (“The Hangover”) as a couple who meet a waitress (Georgia King) who has just left her cheating husband — and she agrees to be their surrogate.
Murphy compared “The New Normal” to “All in the Family,” adding that he thinks it’s “a show about tolerance.”
from The Salt Lake Tribune
Ryan Murphy Has Already Written ‘One Million Moms’ Into ‘The New Normal’
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA — The archbishop-elect of San Francisco for the Roman Catholic Church was arrested and jailed Saturday in San Diego on suspicion of drunken driving, police said Monday.
Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, 56, who was appointed archbishop in July, was taken into custody at 12:26 a.m. after being stopped at a DUI checkpoint near San Diego State University, police said.
Cordileone was booked into county jail on a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence and later posted bail. Ten others also were arrested at the checkpoint, police said.
A San Diego native, Cordileone has been serving as Oakland’s bishop and is set to be installed as San Francisco’s archbishop in October. Pope Benedict XVI appointed him to the post.
Cordileone issued a statement Monday saying he was driving his mother home after having had dinner at some friends’ house when police stopped him. He said he was found to be over the 0.08 percent legal blood-alcohol level.
“I apologize for my error in judgment and feel shame for the disgrace I have brought upon the Church and myself,” he said. “I will repay my debt to society and I ask forgiveness from my family and my friends and co-workers at the Diocese of Oakland and the Archdiocese of San Francisco. I pray that God, in His inscrutable wisdom, will bring some good out of this.”
Cordileone gained attention when he worked to qualify Proposition 8 for the ballot. Voters in 2008 approved the measure, which banned same-sex marriage in California, and Cordileone worked for its passage.
He was ordained as a bishop in August 2002, after the late Pope John Paul II appointed him the auxiliary bishop of San Diego.
A priest for 30 years, Cordileone formerly served as associate pastor of St. Martin of Tours Parish in La Mesa and as pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Calexico.
He served in Rome for seven years as an assistant at the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the highest judicial body in the Vatican.
from The San Diego Union-Tribune
Gay Marriage Ban Supporter Named San Francisco Archbishop
MONTPELIER, VERMONT – Two New York women and a Vermont country inn have settled a lawsuit that accused the business of refusing to host the couple’s wedding reception.
The American Civil Liberties Union said Thursday the Wildflower Inn in Lyndonville agreed to pay a $10,000 civil penalty to the Vermont Human Rights Commission and to place $20,000 in a charitable trust.
Under the settlement, the inn also agreed it would no longer host weddings and their receptions. The innkeepers’ lawyer, Jim Campbell, said they had decided previously to end that part of their business.
“We’re glad that the Wildflower Inn has recognized that the way we were treated was wrong and that no other family will have to experience what we did,” said Ming Linsley in a statement released by the ACLU. “Although we found a different location and had a beautiful day, all families should feel welcome at any resort that’s open to the public.”
The ACLU said Ming Linsley and Kate Linsley contacted the civil rights organization after Ming’s mother was told by the inn’s events manager that the inn didn’t host “gay receptions” because of the innkeepers’ “personal feelings.”
But Campbell, a lawyer for innkeepers Jim and Mary O’Reilly, said Thursday the inn was willing to host same-sex wedding receptions, despite the O’Reillys’ opposition to same-sex marriage, based on their Catholic faith. Campbell, who works with the Alliance Defending Freedom, said an employee was acting without the owners’ permission when she emailed Ming Linsley’s mother, rejecting the request.
“A former Wildflower employee sparked the lawsuit when she falsely claimed that the inn would not allow a same-sex reception,” the alliance said in a statement. “The inn’s actual business practice, which the Vermont Human Rights Commission approved in 2005, was to honestly disclose its owners’ religious convictions to potential customers while agreeing to serve everyone in accordance with the law.”
Robert Appel, the commission’s executive director, said that in the Linsley case and in a 2005 case, the innkeepers said they would host same-sex wedding receptions, but expressed their opposition to same-sex marriages.
He said that in the 2005 case, the commission found that the inn had not illegally discriminated against the couple. But the commission decided to join the ACLU in its lawsuit last year.
Vermont was the first state to pass a law allowing same-sex couples to enter into civil unions in 2000. It enacted gay marriage in 2009.
from The Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – The Rev. Grant Storms, the former “Christian patriot” pastor whose marches against homosexuality at New Orleans’ Southern Decadence festival briefly put him in the national spotlight, was convicted of obscenity Wednesday, for exposing himself while masturbating at Lafreniere Park last year. In his confession, he described public masturbation as “a thrill,” but authorities debunked suspicions that he was a pedophile.
Storms, 55, who lives in Metairie, declined to comment after the conviction. Judge Ross LaDart of the 24th Judicial District Court, who presided over the daylong trial because Storms waived a jury, did not even break to deliberate. He promptly found Storms guilty of the single count of obscenity. He sentenced Storms to three years of probation, citing no evidence of a criminal history.
LaDart also ordered Storms to be evaluated, apparently psychologically. The judge noted that in Storms’ confession, he admitted that Feb. 25, 2011, the day he was arrested, was the third time that week that he masturbated in Lafreniere Park.
“Lafreniere Park is a public place,” LaDart said in announcing the verdict. “Lafreniere Park is a place that was chosen by this defendant to engage in a history of masturbation.”
Storms declined to testify. His attorneys, Brett Emmanuel and Donald Cashio, did not overtly deny their client masturbated in the park but argued he never exposed his penis. The exposure was a necessary element of the obscenity charge.
In his confession, Storms told Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Kevin Balser he had taken a break from his grass cutting business to sip a beer in the park, where he said he became “horny.” He said he put his hands into his underwear, but he never exposed himself.
“Why do you go to the park and do this, as far as masturbating?” Balser asked Storms hours after the arrest.
“I don’t know,” Storms responded. “I guess a thrill.”
“So it’s a thrill-slash-fantasy for you?” Balser asked.
“Yes,” Storms said.
The incident immediately raised speculation that Storms was a pedophile, because he masturbated with children nearby. Assistant District Attorney Seth Shute shot those allegations down outright Wednesday, saying in opening statements that detectives found no evidence of child pornography on his computer or cell phone, and there was “never a shred of evidence (showing) that Mr. Storms was masturbating to children.”
Apparently attempting to explain to police why he exposed himself, Storms confessed that as a grass cutter, he carried a “pee bottle” with him, and on the day of his arrest, he sipped a beer in his van and then had to urinate. He did it in the bottle, instead of walking to a park restroom. However, Detective Donald Zanotelli testified he searched Storms’ van and found no bottles with urine in them.
Following his arrest, Storms provided an impromptu press conference for local television reporters, accusing the Sheriff’s Office of suggesting he was a pedophile and calling detectives “maniacal” and “coercive.” But he admitted to have watched pornography that day and to putting his hands in his pants. “I apologize deeply for my inappropriate, sinful actions,” he said tearfully, describing himself as “disoriented and confused.”
The press conference came back to haunt Storms, as Shute used a recording of it as evidence Wednesday. “It begs the question: What is he apologizing for?” Shute said.
The exposure appeared to be incidental. Shute’s key witness was Maria Soto, an Hispanic nanny who at times needed help from an interpreter to testify. She said she was taking three children to Lafreniere for a picnic when she parked in a shady spot next to Storms’ minivan. She got out of her car and happened to see him doing the deed as he reclined in the driver’s seat, wearing a hat that partially covered his face.
She said he saw her and immediately covered his penis with his other hand. Emmanuel, Storms’ attorney, challenged her claim of seeing the penis, asking her at one point if she had ever seen a man masturbate. She became angry. “That’s embarrassing for you to ask me that,” Soto told him.
Storms received national media attention in 2003, for his leading his small congregation through the French Quarter during the annual gay festival, Southern Decadence, admonishing homosexuals and calling the city of New Orleans a “prostitute” for allowing the event that generates tourism dollars. A Bourbon Street merchants association at one point went to court to get a restraining order barring Storms and his followers from using bullhorns. National news media converged on New Orleans in 2003 to cover his protests.
from The Times-Picayune
Madonna is calling for an end to her feud with Elton John — dedicating one of her songs to Sir Elton during a recent concert in France … and saying she forgives him for calling her a “fairground stripper.”
It all went down Tuesday night in Nice — Madonna dedicated her song “Masterpiece” to Elton, saying, “I know he’s a big fan of it. And I know he’s a big fan of mine. And you know? I forgive him. Gotta start somewhere.”
In case you didn’t know, Elton said Madonna “looks like a fucking fairground stripper” earlier this month in an interview — adding, “She’s such a nightmare … Her tour has been a disaster and it couldn’t have happened to a bigger cunt.”
But Madonna’s dedication might have been backhanded — because “Masterpiece” is the song that beat out Elton John’s “Hello Hello” for Best Original Song at the Golden Globes in January.
Elton was pissed — and his husband David Furnish famously blasted Madonna after the GG win, calling her “desperate” and saying her acceptance speech “was embarrassing in its narcissism.”
But now, Madonna wants to let bygones be bygones … or does she?
Elton John Has Extremely Harsh Words For Madonna
VIRGINIA - College student Jordan Addison may have had to drive a car with its windows bashed in and the words “die fag” keyed into his door for four months, but this Monday, a Virginia auto shop surprised him with a big gift.
Richard Henegar Jr., the manager of Quality Auto Paint and Body in Roanoke, teamed up with 10 other businesses to repair the Radford University student’s car, which Addison says was vandalized on four separate occasions because he is gay.
“I was entirely speechless,” the student told the Daily News. “I just walked around saying, ‘Oh, my God, this is not my car.’”
Henegar and fellow volunteers spent 100 hours and over $10,000 adding a new scratch-resistant paint job, new tires, tinted windows, a new stereo, and a new security system to Addison’s 1999 Volkswagen.
“We don’t take kindly to discrimination of any sort here,” Henegar told the Daily News. “I was bullied in high school and a little bit in the service and I saw an opportunity to help somebody out.”
Henegar, who was informed of the situation in the spring by a friend who works at Radford, said he was shocked when he first saw Addison’s trashed car. The student had tried — unsuccessfully — to hide the slurs with spray paint and because he couldn’t afford new tires, had fitted several mismatched pair to his axles.
“As soon as I saw his car, I said, ‘We’re gonna fix this, it’s the least we can do,’” he said.
Getting local businesses to pitch in took a few months, but Henegar says just about everyone he contacted in the industry was more than happy to help.
The effort came together in beginning of August. First, Addison was given a small, red Fiat thanks in part to an Enterprise car rental agency for the two weeks of repairs. At that point, Henegar had only told Addison that his door would be repaired.
Working at night after hours and on weekends, Henegar and his team repaired the damaged car, inviting Addison back in August 20 for his big surprise.
“It just restored my faith, my good faith, in people,” Addison said.
The aspiring Ph.D. student moves back to college on August 23. He said he plans to park his revamped car in a gated parking lot with camera surveillance.
“It’s a spot that I paid for so no one will mess with it,” he said.
from The New York Daily News
The starring couple of this week’s “Hit and Run,” Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell, have yet to say “I do” after a two-year engagement. But the pair recently told CNN that they do want to get married – it’s just that they’re intent on waiting to tie the knot when their gay friends have that right, too.
“I don’t believe in standing in the way of love, and I want to stand up for that right,” Bell, 32, said. “And that’s what it is. If someone wants to commit their life to another person, why would I not bolster that argument?”
Plus, her fiancé added, throwing a wedding before then “would just be tacky.”
Shepard, 37, told CNN that taking a stance on gay marriage is by no means a way to put off a wedding.
“Do you know what this thing costs?” Shepard asked, holding up Bell’s engagement ring. “This is more commitment than getting a tattoo! Like … we own this thing!”
So no, he went on, it’s not that they’re “punishing America by not getting married. We’re not going to have a party when half of our friends … can’t do that thing we’re doing. We’re not going to ask them to come celebrate a right they don’t have. That’s just tacky! Forget like anything else, it’s like really tacky for us.”
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State lawmakers have no power to name U.S. Navy ships, but that didn’t discourage the state Senate on Monday from a long, passionate debate over a proposal to name a vessel after slain gay rights leader Harvey Milk.
State Sen. Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) introduced a resolution urging the Navy to name a ship for Milk, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors who was assassinated by a political rival.
Kehoe noted that Milk began his public service in the Navy, serving during the Korean War as a diver aboard the submarine rescue ship Kittiwake and later as a diving instructor before eventually leaving the Navy as a lieutenant.
“It’s more than appropriate to my constituents and to all of us that Harvey Milk be remembered for his service in the U.S. military,” Kehoe said.
But Republican senators opposed the resolution, saying Navy ships are traditionally named after states, cities, presidents and admirals. They said Milk’s military record did not rise to the level of justifying his name on a ship.
“This is political correctness moving a little farther out of control,” said Sen. Doug La Malfa (R-Richvale) during the floor debate. “I think it would be demoralizing to many of the folks who would be stationed aboard such a vessel.”
Kehoe noted that President Obama posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Milk, and that the state has designated May 22 annually as “Harvey Milk Day.” In the end, Senate Resolution 36 was approved on a 25-8 vote, with no Republicans voting in favor.
from The Los Angeles Times
PALM SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA – Assisted living is not in Jim McDivitt’s plans.
The spry and sociable 72-year-old seems to view long-term care in the same vein as jail time.
He’s not alone. The majority of seniors in assisted living were placed there by their children, said John Redford, executive director of Brookdale Mirage Inn in Rancho Mirage. He’s worked in several area senior-care homes.
But McDivitt, like a lot of gay seniors, doesn’t have children.
“I have only one other living relative and that’s my brother and he lives in Florida,” he said. “I’ve got a circle of friends; most of them are my age, or over 60.”
When in need, older adults typically turn first to their partners, then to adult family and finally to other relatives, said Brian DeVries, a gerontology researcher and part-time Palm Springs resident. Outside help, then, is a last resort. But LGBT seniors are less likely to be partnered or have children and may be disconnected from their families.
“The last line of defense for heterosexual people is often the first line for LGBT people,” DeVries said.
The burgeoning field of LGBT aging research shows that senior-care homes can be inhospitable environments for the group that is most likely to need them.
Palm Springs — where as many as half the residents identify as LGBT — can’t be compared to just any city. Still, a 2010 report suggests that some Palm Springs LGBT seniors still feel stigmatized.
“My sort of sense is that the issues aren’t that different,” said DeVries, who analyzed Riverside County Office of Aging research. “If they have that sort of effect here, imagine what it must be like elsewhere.”
In a 2010 survey of 769 gay seniors, family members and care providers across the nation, 43 percent reported cases of mistreatment. More than three-fourths of LGBT survey respondents said they would hide their sexual orientation should they end up in institutional care.
Riverside County ranks ninth in the country in the number of same-sex couples that included a partner over the age of 65, according to census data. In 2007, the Riverside County Office of Aging surveyed 530 LGBT people — the majority from Palm Springs and over the age of 50 — about their perception of services directed to older adults.
DeVries and his team reanalyzed the study’s results for “Out in the Desert,” a paper set to publish in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Homosexuality on LGBT aging. A professor at San Francisco State University, he’s serving as guest editor for the issue as well, which is set to include close to a dozen research papers on LGBT aging. The government doesn’t collect information on sexual identity and the field is young, so comprehensive, national data doesn’t exist.
“If we treat 65 and older as if it’s one group of people, then logically we have to also treat people, say, 30 and younger, as if they’re one group of people,” he said.
The results suggested that with increasing age, respondents felt less comfortable using services that were gay identified.
Jill Gover, director of counseling at the LGBT Community Center of the Desert in Palm Springs, isn’t surprised. She uses the term “pre-Stonewall” to describe that oldest cohort, or those coming of age before the 1969 Stonewall Riots, a series of demonstrations following a police raid at a Greenwich Village gay bar.
They have “residual trauma from intense homophobia and prejudice they experienced that isn’t as potent today,” Gover said. “Not that it doesn’t exist, but it’s changed.”
She heads the center’s “Out and About” program, which provides sensitivity training for local senior- care staff members. In addition to a history lesson in gay rights, the training includes discussion of terms such as gender identity and sexual orientation, and statistics from “Stories from the Field,” the report based on nationwide responses.
Staff members are encouraged to ask questions that aren’t presumptive, such as, “with whom do you share your household?” and “whom do you consider to be family?”
But Gover doesn’t believe Palm Springs seniors experience the types of abuse reported in “Stories from the Field.”
“I think there are plenty of places where it’s very unfriendly and ugly,” she said. “Here it’s more of people just being insensitive; more clueless than just malicious.”
In the “Stories from the Field” survey, 78 percent of LGBT respondents said they felt they either could not or weren’t sure if they could share their sexual orientation and or gender identity with staff of senior care facilities. In the Palm Springs- centric Riverside County survey, a much smaller proportion, about one-quarter, of gay and lesbian respondents said they would be uncomfortable accessing the Office on Aging’s social services because of their sexual orientations.
Redford, the Brookdale Mirage Inn director, said when he was at a Palm Desert senior community about seven years ago, the gay residents weren’t interested in being bused to LGBT events. It didn’t seem to be an issue of fear to him, but a distaste for calling attention to themselves in that way.
“I don’t know that people are really open about it; but I don’t know that they’re hiding it,” he said. “I haven’t heard of anyone being uncomfortable, but then, that generation wouldn’t say.”
At Brookdale, which has sensitivity training annually, he said sexual orientation and gender identity aren’t typically discussed. There’s no cliquishness or animosity, or differentiation among residents at all.
“We’re certainly not having Assisted-living Pride Week,” he said. “And nobody is getting up from the table and going, ‘Well, he’s gay.’”
Should McDivitt and his friends enter care at some point, however, Assisted-living Pride Week may not be out of the cards.
“I have as much right to be there, but you’re right there’s different personalities,” he said, before shifting gears to add, “Hell no. I won’t go back in the closet.
“Either accept me or don’t,” he said. “We’re living in California; we’re living in Palm Springs and it is 2012.”
from The Desert Sun
DULUTH, MINNESOTA – Alvin Berg and Vince Nelson made history three weeks ago by opening Duluth’s first gay bar.
“No one ever had the gumption to do it before,” Nelson said. “But Duluth has changed in the last few (mayoral) administrations. A lot has changed in Duluth.”
People in general are more open-minded today, they say.
So the two men, who have owned and operated the Flame Nightclub on Tower Avenue in Superior for six years, opened a Duluth version July 29 at 22-28 N. First Ave. W. in downtown Duluth
Duluth Mayor Don Ness is supportive.
“I’d like to think that as a community we are beyond making an issue of whether or not it’s a gay bar,” Ness said. “It just seems like a very old-fashioned debate. Of course we welcome this business to Duluth.”
Glitzy and upscale, the Duluth Flame Nightclub for the GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) community is a stylish addition to downtown Duluth.
“Duluth used to be a flourishing place at night,” Berg said. “It seems to be coming back, and we want to be a part of it.”
The new club is bigger and sleeker than its Superior counterpart. The second-floor nightclub features a black and dark-cherry décor under 12-foot-high industrial ceilings painted black that contrast with the expansive brick walls. There’s a centerpiece horseshoe bar topped with black quartz and a lounge area presided over by a Marilyn Monroe statue with a billowing skirt from “The Seven Year Itch.”
Then there’s the glittery dance floor, stretching along the line of windows overlooking the avenue. When the DJ starts mixing the latest dance music at 9 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, a multicolored lighting show and flickering images create a contemporary dance club atmosphere not seen elsewhere downtown. Lasers shoot rapid-fire streams of light; a fog machine adds drama. The sound system is state of the art, Nelson boasts.
Some visitors to the club stop in their tracks and say, ‘Wow, this is like what you find in the Twin Cities,’ ” Berg said. “That’s the feedback we get.”
Berg and Nelson say they’re aiming for a clean, friendly, fun club where both gay and straight people feel comfortable, and everyone is treated with respect.
“We want it to be a place where people who go out to dinner can come afterwards and have a great time, gay or otherwise,” Nelson said.
Like the Superior Flame, there’s no food service except for frozen pizza they’ll heat up for customers.
“There’s so many great restaurants in the area already,” Berg explained.
And like the Superior Flame, they plan to feature karaoke and occasional drag shows.
But, Berg says, the club is far from the stereotypical dim, dungeon-like gay “leather bar” with “things going on” in the corner.
Instead, the club has tasteful art on the walls. Pride and American flags are displayed. And flat-screen TVs play sporting events, music videos or shadow dancing.
But those who might be uncomfortable seeing two men dancing or holding hands probably should take a pass, the owners say.
Gary Boelhower, a gay activist in Duluth, is delighted there’s a club in Duluth for the GLBT community.
“Many GLBT people still in our society feel sometimes excluded,” he said. “We certainly are still excluded in regards to legislative recognition in several ways within our state and country. It’s important to have spaces where the gay and lesbian community can feel safe and accepted. And I think having the Flame Nightclub helps that process.”
The space “looks fabulous,” said Kristi Stokes, president of the Greater Downtown Council. “The upper floor of the building has been vacant for many years, so this is a great use for it, and we have gained a new local property owner in our downtown.
“Downtown Duluth is very diverse and welcoming, so I know they have seen some good crowds already, and they’ll be a destination,” Stokes said. “Plus, this just adds to the nightlife offerings in that area, from Dubh Linn and Hanabi to Aces and Spurs.”
Nelson and Berg, life partners for 28 years, are no newcomers to the hospitality business. Combined, they’ve had 40 years’ experience. That led to their opening the first Flame Nightclub in 2006 in the former site of Louis’ Café on Tower Avenue in Superior. At the time, it was one of three gay bars in Superior; now there are two.
The Flame name, said Nelson, was inspired by the old Flame Restaurant that once stood on the site of the Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth, Nelson said.
With the Superior Flame’s success and changing attitudes in Duluth, they looked to downtown Duluth to open a second club.
“Duluth has a much larger population base,” Berg said. “And people want to go over the bridge to Superior less and less.”
Add to that the revitalization under way downtown, and the time seemed right.
“In the next five to 10 years, more and more is going to be happening downtown,” Nelson said. And, added Berg, businesses are investing in downtown, and that’s a good indication.
Ness sees it, too.
“We continue to see exciting investments in downtown,” Ness said. “There is a new generation of entrepreneurs in our area who want to be downtown and part of the revitalization we’ve seen in recent years.”
At first, Nelson and Berg looked for a building on downtown Superior Street. But they couldn’t find one with the square footage they needed and in a block they wanted to be. They found possible sites for lease. But because they would have to spend so much to convert a space into a nightclub, they wanted to own a building outright.
Besides, they wanted to invest in downtown.
When they expanded their search to buildings on the downtown avenues, they found more buildings for sale.
The two-story Daro Building on North First Avenue West, built in 1901, had what they were looking for. Each floor is 6,000 square feet. It’s near Hanabi Japanese Cuisine, Jitters Coffee House, Sammy’s Pizza and several bars. It’s by the Skywalk. It’s a block from two parking ramps and street parking is free in the evenings. Moreover, the previous owner had made considerable improvements, including replacing the roof, putting in new windows and doors and new exterior brick.
The previous owners also had revamped the first-floor storefront spaces, but plans to turn the upstairs into condominiums fell through when the recession hit.
The open, spacious second floor — used as a ballroom in the 1930s, a VFW hall in the 1940s and home to the Minnesota Ballet from the late 1960s to 1998 — had been empty for years. The downstairs storefront spaces were — and still are — leased by Three Irish Girls, a specialty yarn business, and Duluth Kettlebell Gym.
Berg and Nelson purchased the building in December for $297,000, according to city property records.
Working with LHB architects and local contractors, renovations overseen by Berg began in early May and took nearly three months.
The work included installing new wiring and plumbing, a sprinkler system, heating and air exchange systems, unisex restrooms and a handicapped accessible elevator. The original brick walls were tuck-pointed and sealed, the maple floors restained. They made a point of using local contractors and American products.
Of the cost, they will say only that it has been “substantial.”
Berg and Nelson say they have had no negative experiences along the way. Customers have been supportive, and so have nearby businesses.
Mike Maxim, co-owner of the nearby Dubh Linn Pub, doesn’t yet know if the nightclub will boost his business, but he sees no negative impact.
“It is not in direct competition for us; it has a much different feel,” he said. “But more businesses drive more traffic. It brings more people to the area.”
Berg and Nelson have good things to say about the contractors who transformed the building’s second floor into a polished nightclub. They even compliment the city’s building safety office, where they got prompt service and the process went smoothly, they said.
Word is getting out about the upscale new club open daily from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m., with a full bar and a lineup of specialty martinis and cocktails.
So far, they say it’s drawing as many straight people as the GLBT community that’s their primary market.
“People still love to dance, and that draws a lot of people,” Nelson said.
And, he says, they provide a piece of the puzzle for young professionals looking to come to Duluth by offering another place to go out to dance in a nice atmosphere.
“We fill a niche nobody else has: being a dance club and gay,” Nelson said.
They say business has been very good. And many ask them: Why did it take so long for a gay bar to open in Duluth?
from Duluth News Tribune
SOUTH BLOOMINGVILLE, OHIO — All that remains of South Bloomingville’s last historic landmark are smoldering embers and the bell that once could be heard throughout the community. Residents woke early Friday morning saddened to find that the South Bloomingville Christian Church was burned nearly to the ground.
Laurelville and Washington Township volunteer firefighters were called to the scene at approximately 2:55 a.m., but were unable to save the structure. No injuries were reported.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office and Hocking County Sheriff’s Office are investigating. Shane Cartmill, public information officer for the Division of State Fire Marshal said in a release, “It is very early in the investigation and an origin and cause have not yet been determined. Fire investigators spent the morning conducting interviews with witnesses and first responders; additional investigators are responding due to the size of the scene.”
According to one South Bloomingville resident, a man was seen at the site when the fire began, fueling the theory that the blaze was intentionally set.
The church’s pastor also believes arson to be the cause.
The Rev. Scott Davis bought the church in 2010 and opened it to the community for services in 2011. Davis said he suspects arson because he has received many death threats in the past. “It’s because this is a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender church, and people around here don’t agree with it.” Davis said he welcomes all people to the church, regardless of faith, sexual orientation or race. There are approximately 30 locals who attend on a regular basis.
Davis said the residents of the small, quaint town are very upset with the orientation of the church, but doesn’t understand why someone would destroy the last historic building other than for revenge.
Built in 1854, the building originally was a school housing eight grades with two teachers. When the community built a new school in 1923, the building was converted into the Methodist Church. The church closed in 1986 and the building stood empty for many years. In 2000, a local resident bought the building for $20,000 and used it for storage until the time it was sold to Davis.
The reverend won’t let this tragedy keep him from conducting regular services. Davis said church services will be held on the back lawn until the church is rebuilt. His plan is to rebuild the church to be an exact replica of the original building. “I plan on rebuilding as soon as possible,” Davis said. “As soon as the money for the insurance comes through and this is all cleaned up, there will be a new church.”
from The Logan Daily
MINNESOTA - Democratic leaders in Minnesota are demanding a state lawmaker withdraw from his re-election bid after police claim he admitted to having sex with a 17-year-old boy at a rest stop.
While Rep. Kerry Gauthier, 56, will lose support from fellow Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party members if he continues with his campaign, party leaders stopped short Monday of asking him to immediately resign.
The first-term legislator wasn’t charged in the alleged July 22 encounter because the legal age of consent in Minnesota is 16 and no money was exchanged, according to the St. Louis County attorney’s office. Police say the two had oral sex behind a rest stop pavilion in Duluth after the teen responded to Gauthier’s Craigslist ad looking for a “no strings attached” sex.
Police reports made public last week say Gauthier came clean about the rest stop rendezvous.
The teen reportedly told officials that Gauthier was a stranger and he lied to the unmarried lawmaker when he said he was 18 years old.
Troopers were alerted to the alleged incident by a woman at the rest stop who was complaining about a male urinating on her car.
Trooper Scott Parker wrote in a report that he came across another man — later identified as Gauthier — behind a rest area building, the Duluth News Tribune reported.
“It was at that time I noted his zipper was open and part of his shirt was hanging out. I asked him why his zipper was down and he said he didn’t know,” Parker wrote. “I told him to zip it up and leave. The male seemed nervous.”
Gauthier took office last year representing the Duluth area in the Minnesota House of Representatives.
DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin said in a statement Monday that Gauthier’s actions are “inexcusable.”
“No one in our party condones what he did, nor will we defend him in this matter,” Martin said, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, who represents the DFL in Minneapolis, said he told Gauthier not to seek re-election this fall.
“I am deeply disappointed with Rep. Kerry Gauthier’s conduct that has been reported over the last several days,” Thissen said in a statement. “The conduct was wrong and no one in the DFL House Caucus condones the behavior.”
Gauthier, who was admitted to a hospital last week for shortness of breath after the scandal broke, didn’t comment Monday.
He first told the Duluth News Tribune last Tuesday that the alleged encounter is “a private matter and I don’t need to talk about it.”
House Speaker Kurt Zellers, a Republican, said Friday that Gauthier should resign before his term expires.
The scandal has hurt Democrats’ hopes of retaking at least one chamber of the state Legislature. They need to pick up at least six seats in the House, and Gauthier’s Duluth-area seat usually is reliably Democratic.
But if he drops out, any Democrat seeking to replace him would have to run as a write-in candidate, making the race much more difficult to win.
From The New York Daily News
Kirk Cameron has never been shy about stating his political and religious beliefs, so he’s also not been shy when it comes to controversy. And the former “Growing Pains” star stepped right into a big controversy on Tuesday morning, when he told “Today” show hosts Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb that he believed Missouri GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin to be “a good man.”
Akin has resisted increasingly louder calls from members of his own party to drop out of the race after comments he made over the weekend about pregnancies resulting from rape being “really rare,” and that women’s bodies have a way of shutting down the reproductive process after the trauma of “legitimate rape.”
Cameron, who has refashioned his career in recent years to focus on productions that promote his Christian beliefs, appeared on “Today” to discuss his documentary “Monumental,” about the history of religion in American government.
But talk quickly turned to Akin, who appears in the documentary and who has said he’s not going to drop out of the race in Missouri.
“I’m not his political strategist, thank God,” Cameron said. He told the hosts that he watched the video of Akin’s comments and came away with the understanding that “this is a man who is advocating the sanctity of life through and through. He said he misspoke, and he apologized for it. I like to evaluate people based on their entire life, their entire career, all they stand for.”
He went on to say, “I believe he’s a good man. He’s now in a very, very difficult spot.”
Cameron found himself in a controversy of his own making earlier this year, when comments he made criticizing homosexuality came under fire and he went on Fox News and “Today” to defend himself and the comments.
from The Los Angeles Times