Hasta Luego, Mr. Smith

(Aug. 18, 2015) — With today’s program, Freddie Smith aired his last contract scenes after a four-year run as Sonny Kiriakis on the venerable daytime drama Days of our Lives. Smith, 27, was this year’s recipient of the Emmy Award for Outstanding Younger Actor for his work in the role.

Getty|Jason Merritt

Christopher Sean (Paul), Freddie Smith (Sonny) and Guy Wilson (Will) attend the GLAAD Media Awards earlier this year. The three were part of a particularly soapy love triangle that drove much of Smith’s last months on the show.

Sonny, one half of the WilSon supercouple, was a good guy; a rarity in the world of soap. As an out, well-adjusted young man, he helped Will Horton (Chandler Massey, then Guy Wilson) come out, fell in love with him and, in a daytime first, married him in a nearly-weeklong event in April 2014 that harkened back to the “good old days” of soap extravaganzas when audiences were large and budgets were larger.

And the plotting that led up to the wedding was some of the best I’d ever seen on American soaps, but I haven’t thought it was that great since. Oh, there’s been plenty of drama, but a lot of it has been kind of absurd and typical of American serial writers. Still, in spite of the ham-fisted plotting of Sonny’s exit, Smith has never disappointed, always playing true to the character.

Rumor has it that Smith will return to Salem briefly for the show’s 50th anniversary event in November.

Freddie Smith left an indelible mark on the canvas of Days of our Lives, but serials keep going; that’s just what they do by their very nature. Like, you know, sands through the hourglass….

Thanks, Freddie for the hours of entertainment. You’ll be well and truly missed.


Some Other DAYS/WilSon-Related Posts
I, Do: The WilSon Wedding, Playing the Long Game, and Celebrating the Zeitgeist
More Sands Through the Gay Hourglass — Revisiting and Revising
Like Sands Through the Gay Hourglass — Ticked-Off at American Dramas. Again.
WilSon, Love & Thanks – Thoughts for Valentine’s Day
‘Sonny’ Skies or Clouds on the Horizon? The New Normal Comes to Salem
Christopher Sean and Seeing More Asian Men On Television

#LoveWins – Reflections on Equality & How Far We Still Have to Go



I was lying in bed this morning, thinking about what I wanted to write about after the momentous events of June 26, and as all these thoughts bounced around in the metaphorical tumble dryer of my just-waking mind, I found myself coming back to that old Pete Seeger tune, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” (The better known version is by The Byrds, but this one with Pete and Judy Collins is magical. Skip ahead to about a minute in.)

I was struck how much of the nonsense already being spouted by the Internet blowhards could be taken down by the song’s first line: To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. Seeger, of course, did not write that line. That’s the Book of Ecclesiastes. The whole song, in fact, is taken verbatim from the Bible and what I love about it is that it’s essentially about change being the only constant in the human condition. There is a purpose to everything.

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.


We’ve accomplished equal marriage and that’s something to be celebrated, but we haven’t yet accomplished true equality. That part of the struggle begins today.

Less esoterically, it’s refreshing to see that the words carved above the doors to the Supreme Court, the central tenet of our nation — Equal Justice Under Law — has not, in fact, been lost or corrupted. We are all equal. We all, no matter what part of America you live in, woke up this morning in a more perfect Union.

You will hear today, tomorrow, next week, two weeks from Thursday, a year-and-a-half from now, and in 2025, how the “activist court” forced this decision on Americans and how it is such a violation of someone’s religious liberties. Well, friends and cousins, here’s the real truth: They are just flat wrong.

To tell me that my relationship is less than theirs is wrong. To tell me who I can and cannot love is wrong, To tell me I am not entitled to the same rights and responsibilities that are afforded to other citizens is wrong. To tell me that my ability to pledge myself to and join my life with someone of the same gender in some way violates their religious freedom is not only wrong, it’s just stupid.

And here’s why: no one says you have to like marriage equality. No one says you have to get married to someone of the same gender or witness a marriage of two people of the same gender or attend a church where they marry people of the same gender. If you don’t like it, don’t be involved. But …. don’t you dare tell me that I can’t have the exact same things that you can have. Don’t you dare tell me that I cannot have the same protections, the same tax status, the same medical and legal rights. Don’t you dare tell me that I am somehow less than. Don’t you dare tell me that my love does not matter in the same ways that yours does. And don’t you dare tell me that religion makes your prejudice acceptable. Not in 2015. Not in the United States of America.

But they will dare, campers. They will.

June 26 was not the culmination of the fight; June 26 was the beginning of the next phase. Those of you in states where there are no legal protections for same-sex couples may find yourselves blissfully married on Sunday only to find yourself summarily fired on Monday. Discrimination will come but it will be less overt. There will be a lot more of those “religious freedom acts” pushed through legislatures and more pulpit-pounding from the Right, reminding us (wrongly) that we are undermining the Christian values that America was founded on. [Note: there weren’t any.] And a mountain of blather about how laws are supposed to be made in the legislatures and not in the courts.


The Supreme Court building in Washington. Emblazoned on the façade are the words EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW.

This, in particular, galls me because it just proves how ignorant so many people are about our system. (Including, given his bizarre and completely unhinged opinion in Obergefell, Mr. Justice Scalia.) I am fairly confident that I am among the last generation who learned civics in school. If you don’t want to read up on Article III of the Constitution or learn a bit more about the importance of Marbury v. Madison in establishing judicial review and what that means, perhaps a cartoon describing checks and balances is in order. (This happens to get my vote for the worst Schoolhouse Rock song of the 70s!) You’re going to hear a lot about judicial overreach in the coming days; gird your loins.

Another thing that struck me today was one of my favorite lines from Dan Savage about America, the so-called land of the free and the home of the brave, always being last with the freedom and the bravery. It’s pithy; that’s why it gets quoted. It’s also pretty much on the mark. A great thing happened in the United States yesterday, but we did not lead the world. We are the 25th nation to allow equal marriage.

While there are those — on some days I am among them — who will revel in the quickness that we have arrived at marriage equality, we have been attempting to cast off the shackles of our terrible history of inequality since before the dawn of the republic. This particular issue has come to the fore quickly, but it’s been a Sisyphean struggle over centuries to mete out rights to all of our citizens. I can draw a direct line through the centuries to show how all of our civil rights struggles have been the same struggle. The list of people involved looks something like this:

John Locke
Samuel Adams
Thomas Jefferson
Dred Scott
Homer Plessy
Margaret Sanger
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Oliver Brown
Rosa Parks
A. Philip Randolph
Medgar Evers
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Bayard Rustin
Frank Kameny
Del Martin & Phyllis Lyon
Mildred & Richard Loving
the Stonewall Rioters
Richard Baker & Michael McConnell
Harvey Milk
Harry Blackmun
Barack Obama
Edith Windsor & Thea Spyer
Jim Obergefell & John Arthur
Anthony Kennedy

This is an imperfect list, but it shows, I think, how fundamentally important it is to stand up and have your voice heard and counted. I am also struck by how few women are on this list; that’s bothersome. We need to do better. And we will.

It does, after all, get better, but dear God, what a hard slog it is sometimes to get to that better place. We’ve been trying since John Winthrop said to the Massachusetts Bay colonists in 1630, “We must always consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill—the eyes of all people are upon us.”

Thinking about Pete Seeger, made me also think of the penultimate verse of the song that became and remains the anthem of the Civil Rights movement, “We Shall Overcome:”

The truth shall make us free, the truth shall make us free,
The truth shall make us free someday;
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,
The truth shall make us free someday.

Truth, justice and the American way, the hackneyed old saw goes. Maybe it’s not just a catchphrase for superheroes anymore. Maybe that’s why, out of all of the intensely beautiful images I saw and speeches and cheering I heard Friday, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington singing the National Anthem on the steps of the Supreme Court is the one that made me weep. It made me proud to be an American in a way that has been strangely foreign to me. Until now.

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The concluding paragraph of Mr. Justice Kennedy’s opinion. This needs to go on a wall somewhere.

More Pride, Please

Last year, around this time, there were a number of conversations around the topic of “Is Pride still necessary?” After all, we were a year past Windsor, marriage equality was winning in the courts as well as in the court of public opinion. We were done, right? To that, Barbara Weicksel wrote on LGBTQ Nation:

“This world we live in is not always easy. It’s not always filled with love and hope and peace. More often than not, it’s filled with hate and war and people who love to judge.

“We are judged by what we wear, where we live, what we drive, the color of our skin, the tone of our voice, the car we drive, and, yes… who we love.”

This piece prompted me to post the paragraphs below:


Image| Wikimedia Commons: Benson Kua

But today, in a world where marriage equality is surely happening in places that we never thought it might even a year ago, in a world where the web is chock-a-block with gay-themed content even while mainstream television is not, in a world where tolerance, if not outright acceptance, is at a high, certainly in my lifetime, is there really a reason for a pride parade?

Absolutely, unequivocally, YES.

When I went to my first pride parade, I was only ever-so-slightly out. I wasn’t ready to accept myself completely and I certainly didn’t believe that anyone else would. And I was scared to death.

My first pride event was the 1993 March on Washington, D.C. It was so big they made a documentary film about it. There were more people on the Mall that April day than I ever saw at Presidential inaugurals or the insanity that is the 4th of July in the capital. I was in awe of that crowd.

And I learned that I absolutely was not alone; that there were, at the very least, a million other people just like me who descended on Washington that day; that I would be all right and that, in today’s parlance, it would get better.

In spite of the Internet and web series and Sunday morning talk shows and Oprah and self-help d’jour, there is, I guarantee it, somebody in Connersville, Indiana or Orangeburg, South Carolina or Bend, Oregon or New York City who is scared and desperate and does not yet understand that it is okay to be themselves. The bloody, bold, resolute, wild and garish pride parade is a hell of a lot more than cute boys dancing on a parade float; it’s a message that everyone can and will be accepted. Keep it going!

June 2015
Flash forward a year and we are on the cusp of what could be the greatest civil rights court decision of our generation if the Supreme Court upholds the circuit court mandates that states must recognize all civil marriages in the Obergefell case. We’re on the edge of what feels like a new generation. A new hopefulness. A new renaissance of thought, if you will.

And yet, when the cover of the new Vanity Fair magazine came out this week featuring Caitlyn Jenner, I read some of the nasty, horrible, spiteful comments that are so pervasive on social media and I realized that this hopeful renaissance is just in certain bubbles. We have so much farther to go to reach acceptance. And mere acceptance is basically just the toleration of differences. We must not settle for mere acceptance.

How much does it hurt you to call someone by the name they want? To use the pronoun they want? To not worry about who used which bathroom? Did you hurl vitriol at Bruce when he was winning that gold medal? Did you watch him on TV when he was married to a Kardashian? If Bruce Jenner, as was, wants to transition, if she now prefers the feminine gender pronoun, if she wants to pee sitting down in the ladies room, what the hell business is it of yours?

Somehow there are religions being created out there evidently that require you to submit to specific gender roles defined on television shows like Ozzie & Harriet in the 1950s. It’s just nuts. I tend to think that, like in most other things, Mr. Rogers said it best:

“Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.” 

Remember that, please, whoever you are reading this.


Codified discrimination disguised as “religious freedom” is the watchword of the day. Beware. |Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty via Slate.

And then, if that weren’t enough, in the wackadoo state where I was born, the legislature is trying to override the governor’s veto to codify into law that it is okay for a magistrate not to do their job if they think something may violate their religious beliefs — like marrying two men. It’s just so stupid it’s laughable, but they’ve already passed the override in the senate, the house is not far behind, I fear. I just weep for the people who live in these horrible, oppressive states.

Of course, it’s not just gay people. You can use one of these crazy laws to not marry people of different genders or religions or hair textures or because you think someone once met a Muslim and didn’t stone them to death. It’s macabre. It’s medieval. There’s a great op-ed about this in the Charlotte Observer. Well, great is not the word I’d use, really; achingly sad and annoyingly outrageous, more like.

Somehow, these moronic legislators keep getting elected. Well, dearly beloveds, tell everyone you know: don’t fucking vote for them any longer.

OH, AND THEN  — because today can’t be any more surreal — the jackhole governor of Indiana, has written a letter allegedly supporting Indy Pride that never once uses any of the following words: gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, inclusion or support. Fuck off, Indiana. Another place to scratch off the vacation list.

So, do we still need Pride? You’re damn right we do.

Come out, come out, wherever you are. And please, share this with a friend.

Grace Notes — Netflix’s ‘Grace & Frankie’

I spent much of my free time over the last week binge watching the first season of the new Netflix comedy Grace & Frankie starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. There are 13 episodes, each just a little bit better than the last.

Here’s the set up, in case you haven’t heard of this already: Grace (Fonda) is married to Robert (Martin Sheen). Frankie (Tomlin) is married to Sol (Sam Waterston). Robert and Sol are law partners. Grace and Frankie tolerate each other on their best days, Robert and Sol confess to Grace and Frankie that they’ve been having an affair — with each other! — for the last 20 years. And that’s your set up.


Waterston, Tomlin, Fonda and Sheen are the talented quartet that lead the superlative new Netflix series Grace and Frankie. |Image: Indiewire.

It’s a fairly straightforward sitcom fish-out-of-water plot, albeit with a modern twist, and in the hands of average actors, the material — which is, by the by, crisply and tightly written — would do just fine, but this is an example of what happens when you hand a script to a quartet of the finest actors you can imagine and just let them run with it.

Fonda and Tomlin haven’t lost a beat since they last acted together in 9 to 5 three and a half decades ago, Tomlin is as gifted today as she was on Laugh-In the 1960s. There is such a dearth of good, meaty roles for older women and this show is the perfect example of what can happen when good material ends up in the hands of women who can show you how it’s supposed to be done. They are such a pleasure to watch. There are plenty of good scenes in this show, but the two-handers with Tomlin and Fonda, well, you feel like you are peeking in on something truly special. And you are.

And another thing: Jane Fonda is 77 years old. She is, without a doubt, the sexiest 77-year-old in the world. Luminous. Utterly and completely luminous.

I saw an early notice where the writer said that Sheen and Waterston seemed uncomfortable with the physicality of their roles. After seeing a few episodes, I went back to that. This person is not an older gay man, I concluded. And I was right: the author was a young woman.

Granted, Sheen and Waterston have a few decades on me, but I absolutely see the truth in these men, who have finally come to terms with who they are so late in life. It is not yet fluid to them. They are very affectionate, but a bit more reserved, a bit more tentative. They have lived through a time when showing too much affection was a recipe for a beating. Or death. I understand their reserve more than people younger than I, but I also cannot comprehend the terror that that generation faced. They are effortless, exceptional performers and I think this is the best, most authentic portrayal of older gay men we’ve yet seen on television.

The first thirteen are not tied up in a pretty bow. There’s a bittersweet little twist at the end of the last episode. There are belly laughs aplenty, but this show is much deeper than a traditional sitcom. There are places where hard subjects are tackled and the drama that informs the comedy is allowed to play out. It’s a smart, smart series. I wouldn’t expect anything less from this bunch.

So, do yourself a favor, watch it. You’ll be glad you did.

Alabamy (Hide)Bound: Not-So-Sweet Home

Jolson sang the tune whose name I’ve butchered to head this piece. That’s Al Jolson, kiddies. And it happened so long ago that it’s even well before my time. And, quite frankly, when the tune came out of Tin Pan Alley in the early 1920s, I don’t think there was a real, honest-to-God reason to celebrate going to Alabama. In the 90 years since the song’s introduction, there seems less and less reason to entertain heading down to Mobile (moe-BEEEL) to languidly sip a bourbon and branch water on the upper portico of a Spanish-inspired old manse.

No. You’ve been reading too much and you’ve mixed Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams and William Faulker in your memory, thrown in a bit of Eudora Welty and all those ancient RKO Radio Pictures about the “Old South” and come up with a lovely place that does not now nor has ever existed.

The history of Alabama — especially post-Reconstruction Alabama — can be summed up in this sentence: “We don’t want any of you (fill-in-the-blank with a skin color, ethnicity, nationality, non-Christian religion or sexual orientation) ’round here.”

Last week’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade that the Alabama Marriage Protection Act was unconstitutional as was a state constitutional amendment “protecting” traditional marriage is the latest salvo in the marriage equality culture wars. Like several others on the federal bench who have ruled in favor of equal marriage recently, Granade is a George W. Bush appointee, something that scandalizes this new wave of “conservatives” who don’t really understand what constitutional conservatism means.

So, yes, we can be thankful that equality is moving ahead like an unstoppable locomotive, but that doesn’t make me think there won’t be tragedy around this issue in the near future in Alabama.

Why do I say that? Alabama has form, that’s why.

While we would like to think that George Corley Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door or the “Bloody Sunday” voting rights march on the Edmund Pettus Bridge or making Rosa Parks give up her seat on the damn bus are a part of Alabama’s deep tragic past, that lessons have been learned, that things are better, we get this, as reported on AL.com, from Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard:

“It is outrageous when a single unelected and unaccountable federal judge can overturn the will of millions of Alabamians who stand in firm support of the Sanctity of Marriage Act,” he said in a prepared statement. “The Legislature will encourage a vigorous appeals process, and we will continue defending the Christian conservative values that make Alabama a special place to live.”

Speaker Hubbard, like so many others who want their voices heard on the wrong side of history should be advised to take Government 101 again and learn the (shocking?) lesson that this is exactly why the judiciary was created, that rights are not something that are legislated, and that the United States of America was founded as the opposite of a theocracy.

In the meantime, think of the children.

That’s always the line, isn’t it? “Think of the children.” Well, I have been. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about children in schools in Alabama. Gay ones, straight ones, bisexual ones, gender nonconforming ones and I’ve come to the conclusion that Alabama still scares the shit out of me.

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These are national statistics; not just Alabama. Image: GLSEN

A few months ago, GLSEN released it’s biennial National School Climate survey (These Are The States Where Students Get Harassed The Most For Their Sexual Orientation.) and what do you know?

80 percent of LGBT students in Alabama are report verbal harassment

46 percent of LGBT students in Alabama report physical harassment

28 percent of LGBT students in Alabama report physical assault

According to GLSEN, Alabama is one of the worst places in America to be a gay kid. Even worse, nearly all gender nonconforming young people face, at minimum, verbal ridicule in the state. And there are no protections.

So, as we move forward and watch the tide of equality under the law roll in (that’s right, Alabama, roll this tide*) we must not lose sight of the fact that we have so very far to go. I mean, hell, in Massachusetts, the cradle of marriage equality in the U.S., while GLSEN reports only 9 percent of Bay State LGBT children are assaulted, 58 percent still face verbal harassment. 58 percent! And Massachusetts is at the bottom of the list. A long way to go.

Still, according to GLSEN, only half of all schools surveyed had a Gay-Straight Alliance. While sad, it is progress. When I was in school, exactly 0 schools anywhere had such a thing. But every school had enormous suffocating closets.

*Look, Ma, a sports metaphor!