Tag Archives: national gay and lesbian task force

Mind the Gap

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul dabbles in LA’s Gay Pride before finding out what Hollywood thinks of his book.

New York and Los Angeles are two cities on opposite coasts that might as well exist in opposite worlds.  New York, the World’s Financial Capital—compact yet tall with the odor of money.  Los Angeles, the World’s Entertainment Capital—sprawling yet short with the smell of celebrity.  But cross-country flights act like an umbilical cord for these city twins separated at birth—remained inexplicably intertwined in ways that can only be comprehended by someone who lives in either, and has cause to frequent the other.  Growing up in Dallas, smack dab in the middle of the country, a three-hour plane ride to Hollywood seemed like a journey to the end of the Earth.  But New Yorkers think nothing of using the dozens of hourly trans-continental airline crossings like a commuter railway.

My own transportation to the West Coast got a little more palatable several years back with the launch of JetBlue—a company I got to know closely in my years of handing out the Condé Nast Traveler Top Airline Award year after year. So they were natural for me to approach for support of the Alphabet City Book Tour, and they nicely sent a few travel vouchers my way.  Alert: that was a full disclosure as required by FCC regulations.  But I don’t think my readers begrudge the support I get from some of my corporate sponsors.  An indie author/blogger girl has to make a living, right?  And I’m going to tell you like it is—including, quite frankly, these vouchers aren’t the easiest to use—a return trip from the West Coast requires 3 stopovers on the way back, ugh.

So here’s my take: having traveled through nearly a hundred airports worldwide, JetBlue has done a genius job of remaking its JFK terminal to look like it belongs more in Scandinavia than America.  The seat back TVs give me a chance to catch episodes of pop culture phenomenons that I have no interest in watching on the ground.  As if my standards plummet at 30,000 feet.   Just ten minutes of watching a painful Bethenny Getting Married? and I completely understood why there’s a question mark at the end of that title.  But give me a Kathy Griffin special and a few episodes of HGTV’s House Hunters International and I’ll forget that I had to pay an additional $60 to snag an Exit Row seat.

My national tour sponsor Kimpton has me staying at Hotel Palomar LA Westwood which earned my love with a just right infusion of ‘70s chic, along with a welcome basil & ginger mojito paired with fresh guacamole and chips.  They even gave me a complimentary ride to the 40th Anniversary LA Gay Pride Parade to meet up with my Texas friend Larry—who agreed to show me how they party in West Hollywood and round up some friends for a Book Party.

I highly recommend visiting any city during Gay Pride festivities—typically reserved boys turn into welcome wagons, and the gorgeous men at The Abbey were no exception.  Many guys stopped to ask me where they could buy the Aaron Krach original designed Alphabet City t-shirt I was wearing, as well as get a close-up look at my Sydney Opera House tattoo.  But the real stars were the acrobatic performers in AussieBums stretching their legs in ways I haven’t seen since Alphabet City’s Episode 13 at the Bangkok bathhouse.

The Pride spirit definitely continued into the next day as I went about spreading the gospel of Alphabet City.  The Four Seasons Beverly Hills hosted an intimate catch-up luncheon with some celebrity publicist pals.  The restaurant Culina that opened last March is a dramatic makeover of the previous space featuring rich woods and the only certified crudo spot in town.  If you’re in the mood for a celebrity helping with your meal, this spot always delivers—Smokey Robinson was in the house.

Task Force Board Member Vince Wong on right, with friends

More entertainment industry friends showed up for the Hotel Palomar LA hosted event benefitting the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.  I was honored that Task Force Board Member Vince Wong showed up since he had just finished organizing LA’s Gay Pride Parade.  Thanks to all my friends who showed their support with generous donations to my non-profit sponsor.

Then it was over the mountain and through the traffic to Larry’s Studio City abode, a drive made all that much easier in my very (eco) stylish Hyundai Santa FeLike Goldilocks, I’m usually never happy with my car situation in Hollywood—they’re either too large and garish, or too small and scary.  But thanks to the team at Hyundai (via my great friends at Ketchum), the Hyundai is just right in every sense of the word.  It has great pick up when I need to get past the irritating truck on the 405, and enough quick maneuvering capabilities when I’m about to miss a turn.  It also helpfully flashes a green “eco” sign when you are in the sustainability zone.  This is a great car for a girl on the go schlepping around books, blow-up posters, faux Oscar statues—everything you need to deliver an Alphabet City Book Club Party-in-a-Box!

Affordable party nibbles from Whole Foods Sherman Oaks

Larry and his partner Mike earn extra credit for turning out a crowd on a Monday night, many of whom were still recovering from Pride.  Whole Foods Market Sherman Oaks East helped out with some affordable and delicious party edibles.  As someone who shops pretty much exclusively at WFM thanks to Chef being a Chef there, I know you don’t have to spend your “whole paycheck” if you plan ahead and know where to look for value.  My hosts rounded out their selection of local cheeses with WFM’s 365 brand of crackers and salsa and olives, along with some other party necessities, all for under $100.

The result?  A happy crowd that bought multiple books as gifts for friends!  That’s what I call Happy Pride.

I’m thrilled to see that Alphabet City is resonating on the West Coast.  Maybe it’s like an ambassador really, helping bridge that divide between New York and LA.

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Beantown Book Tour

Today on Alphabet City: On book tour, Jon Paul takes Boston by storm.

I  took it as a good omen when Vanessa Williams was in my room at Kimpton’s Nine Zero hotel in Boston.  After all, Tyra had accompanied me via American Way on my first leg of the journey, and now Chef spotted Vanessa peeking at me from the cover of SpaFinder touting her beauty tips.  I can tell you one of them—fresh honey, read Alphabet City’s Episode 8: As Bees in Honey Drown.

At that point in the day, I took any good sign where I could get it.  Earlier, Amtrak moved down a notch on my fan belt when chaos reigned at Penn Station.  A planned computer system outage left overwhelmed train customer service agents scrambling to help panicked travelers.  If Amtrak has all of our purchase information and emails—why couldn’t they have alerted us to the problem in advance?  Why couldn’t they have put more staff on duty?  Even the exhausted agents were snapping pictures on their phones and emailing it to headquarters.  Have I heard from anyone at Amtrak despite all my twittering?  Adding insult to injury, the engine broke down just outside of New York City, and we waited—with no A/C—for over an hour for a replacement.  The only thing that would have made the trip better was having Frida with me—oh, but wait, Amtrak doesn’t allow travel with pets.  In just a few hours, Amtrak amazingly made the airlines look like customer service geniuses.

On arrival, Chef and I raced to Cambridge for the first Beantown stop on the Alphabet City Book Tour—a party hosted by my in-laws Laura and Miguel.  They were the first members of Chef’s family I got to meet—and Laura has been a fan of my reading and blog, and now has the unenviable task of trying to translate some of the racier parts of Alphabet City into Spanish for our family back in Mexico!  Como se dice “well endowed?”  For the backyard gathering, the hurricane rains held off and I debuted my new Aaron Krach original t-shirt design!

My youngest fan and me in Aaron Krach couture

Laura not only assembled a multicultural crowd—turns out Mary Tyler Moore isn’t as iconic South of the Border—but she also pressed into service a friend with a new cupcake business.  The result had me eating my words—literally.  The behind-the-scenes story was that the owner of The Yellow Cupcake was worried she might be going a little too gay with rainbow flags—my sister-in-law told her not to worry—wait until she met me!  If you’re in Boston and would like your own image on a cupcake email gabs79(at)gmail.com.

Sister-in-law Laura makes me eat my words

In true Kimpton form, the Nine Zero hotel pulled out all the welcome stops thanks to the cute and clever concierge Thomas.  Our room had been transformed into a Princess oasis—for Frida—with bejeweled dog collar and photo of Frida Kahlo.  The only thing that kept me from missing the little goose was the spectacular view across Boston Commons to the Charles River.

The Nine Zero-hosted event was special in so many ways.  It was the first time Chef accompanied me and he had the opportunity to re-shoot the previous evening Flipcam of my reading.  Seems like I didn’t give good enough direction and ended up with video of me talking over close-ups of the cupcakes.  You can take the girl out of the kitchen…

Task Force supporters!

But it was the turnout that really made the evening so terrific.  A range of supporters of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force turned out including Kathy and Patrick from Marriage Equality Rhode Island, who drove up from Providence (this is the next state to grant gay marriage, fingers crossed!).  A new twitter friend Scott of onefoodguy.blogspot.com also attended and I interviewed him after for an upcoming Peek-A-Blog post.  And Michael Hartwig and his partner Steve came.  Michael is special in my life because for many years he was partnered with Don Baker, who passed away a few years ago.  Don was the plaintiff in Baker v. Wade, the case challenging Texas’ sodomy statute, that my father ruled unconstitutional in 1982.  Sitting in the courtroom, hearing the testimony at 13, I saw for the first time a wonderful gay role model in Don and knew that I, too, could grow up to be a loving, caring, smart, professional out gay man.  Thank you Don for teaching me that, and how lovely to have Michael and Steve in my life.

Thanks for stirring up the Alphabet City pot, Beantown.

Note: flipcam videos of Jon Paul’s Boston appearance available here.

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Tour Couture

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul unveils his one-of-a-kind, couture book tour ensemble by artist Aaron Krach.

The Alphabet City Book Tour kicks into high heel gear starting this Sunday as I crisscross the country visiting many Kimpton Hotels near their city’s Gay Pride festivities.  And I’m excited to announce that I’ll be walking the red carpet in a couture look created by Aaron Krach—the phenomenally talented artist, friend, and writer who provided much needed editorial insight on the first draft of Alphabet City.

Now, he’s paired an iconic image from the book’s cover with a question I pose at least seven times a day, “What would Mary do?”  There’s just an extremely limited run of these gems, but show up at the events, and you might just charm me into giving you the shirt off my back—for the right price, that is.

Seriously, readers, I could use your help in turning out the love at all the stops on the tour.  Surely you have a Facebook friend or two at Boston Nine Zero (6/7), Philly Hotel Palomar (6/8), DC Topaz Hotel (6/9), LA Hotel Palomar (6/14), Silicon Valley Cypress Hotel (6/16), San Fran Harbor Court Hotel (6/17) or Portland Hotel Monaco (6/21).  Check this link for more details, or become an Alphabet City fan on Facebook and you can send around the invite!

Make sure to follow along on all the trouble (fun) I’ll be getting into thanks to national sponsors Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, with local support provided along the way by Whole Foods Market (LA—3rd and Fairfax and Sherman Oaks), Hyundai (LA) and Subaru (Portland).

“What would Mary do?”  Why, she’d read ABCityblog!

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Miami Sex Machine

Today on Alphabet City: JP’s book tour alter ego Gary Tyler Moore becomes a sexy insider in Miami.

View of Miami from room at EPIC Hotel & Residences

“Other than a couple of minor bouts of anorexia in high school and college, I’ve always hovered around 23 pounds above my goal weight,” I write in Alphabet City, explaining some of my body image problems.  I suppose those issues have affected my rather awkward relationship with Miami over the years.  From the first time I visited years ago while working at Condé Nast Traveler, I’ve always felt like I didn’t fit in with the gorgeously toned bodies parading along South Beach.  So it was with a bit of trepidation that I faced the second stop on the book tour wondering just how the citizens of South Florida would greet Gary Tyler Moore.  Everything is a little sexier—and crazier—in Miami, but this time I felt that the Capital of Latin America rolled out the red carpet for me.

Gay action hero in his Chevy Traverse

Miami is one of those cities that loves a good body—both your own and your car’s.  And I got many double takes tooling around in the swanky Chevy Traverse.  With plush leather interior, a Bose stereo and an A/C that works overtime in the sweltering humidity, I often thought I should just do my appearances inside this boyfriend magnet.  My favorite tricked-out accessory was the camera that kicked in when backing up, providing spy like images to the rearview mirror.  I felt like a gay action hero driving up to Kimpton’s high-design EPIC Hotel & Residences in Downtown Miami.

While EPIC’s grand scale may look unlike any other Kimpton Hotel, it has the same warm service I’ve come to expect from the company.  A chalkboard sign outside welcomed my little one Frida—making me curse my decision not to bring her on this leg of the tour.  My corner suite looked like the perfect setting for a J. Lo music video with wrap around views of the Miami port—making me wonder why I didn’t make this hotel the last stop on the tour rather than the second.

The EPIC team pulled out all the stops for my appearances at the hotel’s guest wine hour and later at a 52nd floor penthouse suite at the Residences with food by their delicious Area 31 restaurant.  Both events attracted folks from far and wide—at the wine hour I zeroed in on some visiting Germans (as you know from the book, I’ve always had a thing for the Boys from Berlin), and a sweet couple from Ft. Lauderdale traveled through heavy traffic to support Alphabet City and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Speaking at wine hour

Supporters from Ft. Lauderdale at EPIC Residences event

Loews Miami Beach Whoopi Pie

If the EPIC is sophisticated chic in Miami, then the Loews is accessible decadence in South Beach.  I was excited to experience the results of a recent $50 million renovation which are spectacular and comfortable—this is the choice on South Beach for those on business or with families that need a hotel combining functionality with design.  The food at Preston’s is also worth a stop for the fish tacos and the make-your-own Whoopi Pie—an Alphabet City-themed dessert that seems to follow me on tour.  My ocean view room featured one of my all time favorite bathrooms that was stylish but just worked—I’m still trying to figure out how I might import it to my home in Washington Heights.  And I can’t forget the location—steps from both the ocean boardwalk and the shops of Lincoln Road with parading beauties of both sexes.

View of South Beach & Loews Miami Beach pool from my room

My #1 S Florida Salesman Ryan

That night, many of those male beauties stopped in for an Alphabet City happy hour party at Bar 721—an event that landed me in my first gay bar magazine called “Mark.”  I was tagged a “must do” and my picture was labeled “Intellectual Surplus”—which I took as a swipe at me wearing glasses and that once again I didn’t fit into the culture of South Florida.  But the boys proved me wrong.  My cute straight friend Ryan, dressed in a tie fresh from his job as a U.S. Attorney, charmed the pants off the patrons—taking me from table to table and convincing folks to take a break from their partying and purchase Alphabet City.  Bless, Ryan.

Alphabet City is old at Book&Books on Lincoln Rd!

The final South Florida tour stop was an Alphabet City Book Party hosted by dear friends Isabel and Adam in Ft. Lauderdale.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned so far on Book Tour, it’s how much I treasure these intimate events—where I get to do some readings from the book and hear people’s reactions.  This party was special because it brought together a cross-section of my audience—gay guys and straight gals.  The boys loved the stories of making a pass at Gloria Estefan’s husband, while the ladies loved the tales of a gay Mary Tyler Moore trying to make it in the world.  I’ve taken to calling it a little bit Sex and the City and a whole lot of Will & Grace.

Just before the Ft. Lauderdale party, I went jogging on the path through South Beach for the first time in my life.  As I got to the newish South Pointe Park and stopped to take some pictures, a really cute couple approached and commented on my tattoo.  Nelson from Cuba and Eduardo from Peru were surprised I wasn’t from Miami—they told me I looked like a local—and invited me to go dancing with them later.  Somehow I had crossed the divide from nervous outsider to sexy insider.  Maybe it’s because I’m Latin-by-marriage.  Maybe it’s because I’m nearer my goal weight.  Maybe it’s the tattoo.  Whatever the reason, Gary Tyler Moore will be coming back.  Gracias y Adios Miami.

View from South Pointe Park

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Gary Tyler Moore

For Gary Tyler Moore, love is all around

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul welcomes a new alter ego into his life.

There’s a power in naming things.  And this week, in the midst of media training for my upcoming book tour appearances, Susan was pointing out the number of times I say “gay Mary Tyler Moore” in my messages—when she accidently called me Gary Tyler Moore.  We both looked at each other in astonishment at the genius of the flub—finally, a name for my alter ego.  Gary Tyler Moore—you know, Mary’s gay brother?

Die-hard fans of my cult film GayTV: The Movie will recognize that last line as an homage to the character Marty Stewart, you know, Martha’s gay brother.

Giving birth to Gary couldn’t come at more opportune time because he’s been very busy—what with book tour beginning this weekend, and all.  He’s a jack of all-trades really.  A promotional photo shoot inspired by his sister Mary (hat toss and all) on the real streets of Alphabet City with genius photographer Jamie Beck of FromMe-ToYou.Tumblr.com was followed by filling orders for independent bookstores across the country to carry Alphabet City.  Please frequent stores like Legacy Books/DFW, Books & Books/Miami, Giovanni’s Room/Philadelphia, Obelisk/San Diego, and Cahoots Cards & Gifts/Salt Lake City—Gary is totally intrigued by this last one and is talking to me about arranging a tour date there!  More bookstores are signing up daily!

Gary’s day ended with performances as a Cher Impersonator and Sammy the Investigator—a potty-mouthed, washed-up kiddie TV performer done in by Dora the Explorer and her f*ckin map.  And that’s just a taste of what was on stage last at the Level 2 graduation performance at The Pit under the direction of Kevin Scott—whose own improv troupe Centralia Gary and I both agree borders on genius.

Over the next several weeks, Gary and I will be crossing the country on book tour sponsored by Kimpton Hotels and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force—read along for recaps of life on the road, links to press coverage, and travel tips on tour cities.  Dallas, here we come!

Gary Tyler Moore is ready to turn the world on with his smile.

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Writer-Preneur: When Size Matters

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul creates a new job title, reconsidering his belief that bigger is always better.

Smile, you're a Writer-Preneur!

Size matters.  Anyone who has read Episode 14 Happy Soul knows about my appreciation for large endowments.  But lately, I’ve been reconsidering that position at it relates to myself.  Sometimes wondrous things come in small packages—and not just robin egg blue Tiffany boxes.  I’m talking gems of little independently published books like, well, Alphabet City.  Even the New York Times is acknowledging the (r)evolution in self-publishing.

Writing in last week’s New York Times Magazine, one my favorite culture critics Virginia Heffernan observed:

Book publishing is simply becoming self-publishing…And self-published books are not just winning in terms of numbers but also making up ground in cachet.  As has happened with other media in this heydey of user-generated content, last century’s logic has been turned on its head: small and crafty can beat big and branded.

She goes onto quote IndieReader, a boutique online marketplace for self-published books as saying, “Think of these books like handmade goods, produced in small numbers, instead of the mass-marketed stuff you’d find at a superstore.”

I love that image—I’m like the farmer at your neighborhood greenmarket—you treasure her artisanal products way more than the crap picked up at Key Foods.  And like that farmer, crafting the product and getting it to market takes a lot of chutzpah—something the press has been asking me about a lot about as I do advance interviews for book tour.

Like a good trend and branding expert, I’ve given a name to the special blend of talent and hard work it takes to be a successful independent author: Writer-Preneur.  To me, a writer-preneur is someone who combines artistry with business acumen.  Someone who explores all methods of connecting with readers—blogging, books, twittering—and then working creatively with companies interested in connecting with those fans.

In my own writer-preneur case, I’m working with Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to create the Alphabet City Book Party Tour.  Kimpton Hotels is known for their marketing and outreach to the lesbian and gay community, and always looking for ways to expand those efforts.  They want my readers to become their guests.  I want their guests to become my reader.  How can we partner to accomplish both of our goals?  We came up with a plan for me to travel to many Kimpton Hotels during June’s Gay Pride Month, attend their guest wine hours (expand my market), and host events in the hotel with my other partner the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (expanding the hotel’s market).  It’s a win for Kimpton—they expand their reach in the gay community.  It’s a win for me—I get to market my book to their guests.  Layer on top of that Book Club Parties in friend’s homes, appearances at independent retailers and bars, and you’ve got the makings of one big non-traditional book tour.

Given the economy, I believe writers have to be more creative and work harder to succeed.  The days of sitting back and hoping that a major publishing house puts serious money behind your book are over—for most of us.  As a writer-preneur my job is to get my writing in the hands of my fans directly—by all means available.

Don’t be surprised if you see me pop-up in unlikely places selling Alphabet City—everything’s fair game when you’re like me—a small in stature but big in spirit Writer-Preneur.

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Count Me Pink

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul worries about queerly and correctly answering questions on the US Census.

For the first time in my life, I had a difficult time with the US Census.  Don’t get me wrong—I fully understand the importance of standing up and being counted.  But something has changed in my life in the last 10 years that make answering the simple questions, well, problematic.

Right up front, I should admit that I have a tendency to overanalyze seemingly straightforward questions.  Many years ago in Dallas when I went to see a new therapist, she asked me to answer a series of test questions to determine if I was playing with a full deck.  This True/False question had me stumped: “I believe things are turning out the way the prophets in the Bible said they would.”  With little religious training, I had no idea what the prophets said.  So what if things were turning out the way they said and I just didn’t know it?  Did that make me crazy or just unaware?  The doctor realized she had her work cut out for her.

For this decade’s Census, Chef and I received 2 Census forms because technically we two separate one-bedroom apartments in our Washington Heights brownstone.  We decided against each filling out a separate form so that we could mark our relationship as “unmarried partners.”  Incidentally, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, who are working with me on the Alphabet City Book Tour, has an entire campaign to QueerTheCensus including pink stickers!

Then Questions 1 and 2 sent me into a tizzy.  “How many people were living or staying in this house, apartment or mobile home on April 1, 2010?”  Never mind my issues about mobile homes or our little dog Frida whom I believe probably should be counted as our child.  I’ve got an in-laws problem.  Every other year they travel from Mexico during something called “Holy Week” (there’s that Bible reference again) and set-up shop in our house.  At this point, I can no longer hide from Chef how agitated I have become over the form.

“Honey, do you think the US government really wants us to count the Mexican contingent just because they camp out here on April Fools’ Day?”

“Probably not.  You need to relax about this,” he advises.

Everything was going fine until Question 8, something I never much thought about until I became part of a cross-cultural couple since the last Census—“Is the person of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin?”

“Honey, the government wants to know exactly what kind of Latin you are.”

Chef considers the question for a moment, then smiles and says with a snap,

“Spicy!”

Any day now I am expecting a follow-up visit from a confused Census Bureau, which will make me tickled pink.

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