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It’s Been 15 Years…

…since we lost the AMAZING Dorothy Loudon.  Best known for her Tony Award-Winning work as Miss Hannigan in “Annie,” I will always remember her for this brilliant interpretation of two of Stephen Sondheim’s most wonderful songs. It’s hard to pull off both the comedic and dramatic, at the same time, but she does so, effortlessly..

Your talent, Ms. Loudon, will live on.


Seven Years Ago Today…

Seven years ago today, my debut novel came out. I was floored by the response. It had taken me 12 years of writing, on/off, to finally complete my labor of love, inspired by a partner, Shane Sawick, who died of AIDS in 1995. At some point following, a sentence popped into my head. I didn’t know what it meant, who was speaking it, or where it would lead, but that one line fueled a journey and became the opening line in my novel.

Just a few of the accolades it received:
Starred Review – Library Journal
2012 Next Generation Indie Book Award – LGBTQ
Independent Literary Awards – LGBTQ Shortlist
Best Books of 2012 – Out in Print Reviews
Best LGBTQ Literature of 2012 – Indie Reviews
Top 5 Books of 2012 – Alfred Lives Here
Top 10 Books of 2012 – Butterfly-O-Meter Books

Advocate.com raves that “Kergan Edwards-Stout has crafted a work of fiction reminiscent of some classic tales in Songs for the New Depression. Even better, Edwards-Stout’s debut boasts the kind of dark humor that made Augusten Burroughs (Running With Scissors, Dry) a household name.”

Kirkus Reviews (“The World’s Toughest Book Critics”) calls it an “engaging debut… Edwards-Stout infuses reality and hopefulness into a bittersweet story about compassion and personal growth. A distinctively entertaining novel written with moxie and bolstered by pitch-perfect perspectives.”

Five-time Lambda Literary award-winning author Michael Nava says, “”Songs for the New Depression is an affecting novel, written with great literary flair. I recommend it.”

What’s It About?
Gabriel Travers knows he’s dying; he just can’t prove it. Despite his doctor’s proclamations to the contrary and rumors of a promising new HIV drug cocktail, all it takes is one glance into the mirror to tell Gabe everything he needs to know. His ass, once the talk of West Hollywood, now looks suspiciously like a Shar-Pei, prompting even more talk around town. Now almost 40, and with the clock ticking, Gabe begins to finally peel back the layers and tackle his demons — with a little help from the music of the Divine Miss M and his mom’s new wife, a country music-loving priest.

Praise for Songs for the New Depression
“Edwards-Stout’s satiric wit belies a smoothly written, circumspect story.” Library Journal

“Simply stunning… This tale of love and life constantly brought me to both laughter and tears. To those of us who loved and lost this is an important read to assist your reconciliation. It has mine. To those who have heard the stories, this love letter should be required reading. The characters are nicely carved and as they come to terms with moral decisions, it ultimately to me was all about getting through ones life awake and alive.” Dana Miller, Frontiers Magazine/Los Angeles

“Brilliantly conceived and masterfully written… You’ll read this once for its emotional impact and again to see how the author achieves it. But no matter how many times you dive in, you’ll be impressed.” Out in Print Reviews

“Songs for the New Depression is a thoughtful read that should speak to many.” Midwest Book Review

“I highly recommend this very well-written work, but have the box of tissues handy with you.” Five Star Review – Sirius, Gay Book Review

“Compelling, beautifully written debut novel… The author’s darkly comic, brutally honest prose reads like poetry and has a melodic flow that is equally funny and heartbreaking. Gabe’s story is bittersweet, heartfelt and profound… A quintessential page-turner and the product of a truly gifted author.” Edge on the Net

“From LA to Palm Springs to Paris, over the course of 20 years, Kergan Edwards-Stout takes us on a beautiful journey. The characters are dynamic, interesting, and real, and the relationships are painful and funny and romantic and sexy and sad all at once.” Q Magazine

“Songs for the New Depression is an affecting novel, written with great literary flair. I particularly enjoyed its portrait of Los Angeles in the 80’s and 90’s, as well as the author’s brave willingness to write about the AIDS epidemic at a time when so many of us seem to want to forget that terrifying era. At times laugh aloud funny, and at other times intensely moving, it is the first of what I hope will be many books to come from Kergan Edwards-Stout. I recommend it.” Michael Nava, author (Five Lambda Literary Awards, winner of The Publishing Triangle’s Bill Whitehead Lifetime Achievement Award for Gay and Lesbian literature)

“Many tout this book as an important piece of fiction that should be read by all because of it’s portrayal of AIDS. I’ll give them that. I would add that it’s not only an important piece of fiction because of the message, but it’s a great piece of fiction writing regardless of the message.” LGBT Book Review Blog

“The laughs make the book deceptively breezy. Songs shines with psychological truth and historical accuracy.” A&U magazine

“Edwards-Stout has written a wonderful book in which he takes on AIDS and depression from a personal point of view and he does so with great style and wit.” Amos Lassen, Reviews by Amos

“This is a work that will make you both laugh and cry, and fair warning: it is difficult to get through certain portions of the text because Edwards-Stout is quite explicit in detail, which is testament to the fact that he is such a brilliant writer. This is not one to miss.” Liberty Press

“Five Stars.” Bob Lind, ECHO Magazine/Our Bookshelf

“If a roller-coaster ride of sadness and humor sounds right up your alley, then look for Songs for the New Depression by Kergan Edwards-Stout. This is the story of a man who knows he’s dying, knows he’s made a lot of mistakes in his life, and knows that he needs to fix things before the end. I won’t tell you the end. Read the book.” Terri Schlichenmeyer, The Bookworm Sez syndicated column

“Involving, emotional read… Songs For The New Depression touched me and stayed with me.” Alfred Lives Here

“Songs for the New Depression is an enjoyable and addictive read. In fact, don’t be surprised if you find yourself not answering texts and neglecting your Facebook updates as you finish the book in one read. I did.” Q Vegas Magazine

“The NY Times ought to be reviewing Songs for the New Depression, not the likes of me. It is a beautiful book, and, I think, an important one.” Ulysses Grant Dietz, author

“One of the most emotional, touching, heart-wrenching, and intelligent stories I’ve read in a very long time. With a dark wit reminding me of David Sedaris, this story examines the life of a man who’s made many mistakes and, at the end, has managed to learn a few lessons… The language is sophisticated and elegant, each word precise, depicting clear images and evoking specific emotions. The description, whether of location, food, clothing, people, or emotions draws the reader into the moment as if it were actually happening. As a result, we experience Gabe’s highs and lows on a powerful level, truly understanding Gabe, his limitations, and his dreams.Wrapped up in a sad story, illustrated with disappointments and heart-break, is a story of hope and understanding.” Top2Bottom Reviews

“Kergan Edwards-Stout’s Songs for the New Depression is a bold reminder that life, especially in its most difficult moments, is worth living. His characters are real and poignant, his writing is magical, and his message is timeless. Life is at its most precious when we are faced with our own mortality. It is an important book.” Charles Perez, author of Confessions of a Gay Anchorman and founder of the No Shame Project.

“This is an incredibly important book.” Chapters and Chats

“Songs for the New Depression is an impressive, innovative, and dynamic love story. Rich, witty, and vivid, this is a heart-wrenching, hilarious and sometimes shocking journey of an everyman-narcissist who finally finds redemption in embracing his humanity and ultimately reunites with the hero he was always looking for between the lines of Paris, Bette Midler, and all things fabulous. I found myself singing along until I was able to shout, ‘Amen!’” Steven Fales, Confessions of a Mormon Boy

“This book touched me at the core of my being! It is a story of love and devotion, and a self examination of a dying man… I read this book in just a couple of days because I could not stop once I started reading.” Book Talk With Charla

“Kergan Edwards-Stout has written a masterpiece. A bravura debut novel, its heartfelt message is ultimately timeless. It is easily one of the top ten books I’ve enjoyed in the past decade. Once you start this one, you won’t be able to stop.” Carey Parrish, author of Marengo and Big Business

“Songs for the New Depression carries you away on waves of humor and sadness as we follow the protagonist as he deals with his search for love, acceptance and his battle with AIDS. Far from being maudlin, it is extremely sensitive and ennobling. A fine work that will leave you wanting more.” Robert Michael Morris, star of TV’s The Comeback and author of An American Scrapbook

 


5 Years Ago…

Five years ago, my collection of short stories came out, Gifts Not Yet Given. While each story is set around a different holiday, it really is about people facing a life moment, and how they choose a path forward. I was very grateful that it received some lovely reviews and even landed on a few Best Books of the Year lists. I hope you’ll check it out!

What’s It About?
Gifts Not Yet Given is a warm and nuanced collection of short stories, each set around a holiday, illuminating the small, surprising, and pivotal moments in which personal awakenings occur and hearts unexpectedly expand. It was recently named by the nationally syndicated column The Bookworm Sez as a “perfect book to give everyone.” In Gifts Not Yet Given, written by award-winning author Kergan Edwards, dreams are realized, hope is found, memories are made, and life is treasured.

Top 5 Books of the Year – Alfred Lives Here
Top LGBTQ Books of the Year – Queer Books with Julie

Praise for Gifts Not Yet Given
“Gifts Not Given is a wonderful collection of stories from Kergan Edwards-Stout in which each story centers around a holiday. The stories are complex, surprising, touching and written with compassion and humanity, two qualities sadly lacking in so much contemporary fiction. I highly recommend Gifts Not Given and thank the author for this gift he has given us.” Michael Nava, winner of six Lambda Literary Awards as well as the Bill Whitehead Literary Award for Career Achievement

“The stories in Gifts Not Yet Given are vital, essential and remind us that much of human life is gained or lost through family. Edwards-Stout shines a light on contemporary life with skill and wit. A dynamic and engaging read.” – Trebor Healey, two-time Ferro-Grumley Fiction Award winner, A Horse Named Sorrow and Through It Came Bright Colors

“Kergan Edwards-Stout’s stories are muscular, funny, sad and an antidote to holiday treacle, no matter the holiday. His writing is fueled by an original mix of compassion and rage. Several of the stories left me in tears, which certainly beats being left in tears by my own family at holiday time. Which means: he understands family, and the often crossed wires of family love. You will want to give his book as a gift.” – Richard Kramer, novelist, These Things Happen

“In 14 stories, Edwards-Stout assumes an impressive range of voices… This willingness to step inside the minds of such disparate, often non-mainstream characters hints at Edwards-Stout’s confidence as a writer and his broad life experiences. Edwards-Stout’s stories are original and important… Provocative stories with a clear, vital message.” Kirkus Reviews

“Author Kergan Edwards-Stout follows up his engrossing debut novel, Songs for the New Depression, which examines thirty years in the life of an AIDS-stricken California man, with the equally profound, Gifts Not Yet Given, a short story collection of compelling characters and circumstances ranging from the mundane to the maladjusted… With a holiday or special occasion as the backdrop for each entry, emotions run especially high throughout and the behavior of the represented individuals is contrary to the everyday… Although select stories are arguably too brief, all never fail to pack an emotional punch, and the collection, as a whole, is chock full of joyous albeit occasionally awkward instances and imagery (divorce, a sacred family recipe, an Easter bunny outfit) that are relatable, or at least familiar to everyone. With the holiday season approaching, Gifts Not Yet Given reminds readers, however flawed, to accept, appreciate and when warranted, forgive our families and friends.” Christopher Verleger, Edge on the Net

“Gifts is a stunning compilation from a smart and skilled author.” Dana Miller, Frontiers Los Angeles

“Kergan Edwards-Stout impressed me greatly with his first book, Songs for the New Depression, and he gave himself quite a task for measuring his work that was yet to come. I am glad to say that this book not only lives up to my expectations, it surpasses them.” – Amos Lassen

“Check this one out — the stories are original and intriguing, and the characters are strong and flawed, loving and broken.” – Alfred Lives Here (Top 5 Books of 2013)

“Edwards-Stout writes beautifully, and the stories are charming and uplifting.” Queer Books with Julie (Top Books of 2013)

“Kergan Edwards-Stout’s new book, a collection of thematic short stories, is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you are going to get. And that is delicious. The short story form is a delicate blend of trenchant dialogue, brisk character sketches and local color, and here they are all totally satisfying. What I love about short stories is that I always want a bit more, a tidier resolution, and I am a sucker for a happy ending. Mr. Edwards-Stout has mastered this form, titillating, plucking the heart strings and most often causing a smile of recognition. Some stories already portend a lengthier treatment, a novella perhaps. He touches our common humanity and amazes with his insight. The little collection is a Gift Already Given: a gift of delight and sweet humanity.” – Robert Michael Morris, actor – The Comeback, Running Wilde, and author – An American Scrapbook


7 Years Ago, My first Review…

It’s hard to believe, but seven years ago I received the first review for my debut novel, Songs for the New Depression, from Kirkus Reviews (“The World’s Toughest Book Critics”). I was floored:

“Edwards-Stout’s engaging debut introduces sassy, outspoken Gabe Travers, a sarcastically witted, near-40, Southern California guy whose homosexuality ‘has never been an issue’ and whose particular fondness for Paris, France, and Bette Midler has carried him through some of life’s more challenging episodes (the book’s title is from Midler’s 1976 song collection).

Told from Travers’ first-person perspective, the story moves in reverse, chronicling his death in the first pages before moving to his adult life struggling with HIV and on to his adventuresome youth. Edwards-Stout excels at characterization, cleverly arming his plucky protagonist with a contagious combination of wit and droll self-deprecation. Travers skillfully navigates each stage of his life, from a young, spirited gay man to a paranoid adult whose mortality hinges on the dormancy of a fatal virus, all the while keeping his pride and wry sense of humor remain beautifully intact.

Drawn from his experiences as an AIDS caregiver and the surviving partner of an AIDS victim, Edwards-Stout infuses reality and hopefulness into a bittersweet story about compassion and personal growth. A distinctively entertaining gay novel written with moxie and bolstered by pitch-perfect perspectives.”


Happy 16th Anniversary, My Love!

 

16 years. I’d call that a Match.com success story! Who would’ve thunk, two such very different people would end up complementing each other so well? Despite the images we choose to share online, please know that our lives are not perfect. Russ and I have to do the hard work to keep ourselves and our family on track, and none of that is easy. Still, by focusing on communication, compromise, and lots of laughs, we all continue to move forward together, with love abounding. 16 years is nothing. Check back with me in another 16… Happy Anniversary, my love!


To Mason…

I’ve always known my failings as a father, and have a long list of things I’d do differently, if given the chance. Lessons still remain that I’d planned to teach. And I am not yet the role model that I’d always intended to be… My hope with our kids, however, is that they will never, ever doubt my love for them. Today is a big day in our family, a turning point. While Mason technically moves into his dorm August 22, he has used his own money to get a hotel room in Gunnison, CO, starting today, so that he can practice with the Western State University football team. I’m so proud that he’s harnessing his own initiative to achieve his dream, even if that means he leaves us a little earlier than we would like.

Mason, I know you’ll succeed at life, and I want you to always be certain of our love and support. Be the upstanding man we know you to be. Be strong, be smart, and be loving. Treat others with kindness, and reach out to those in need.

Football is a tough sport, and I hope you stay safe and kick ass on the field. It won’t take much for you to show the coaches what you can do. Know that you are amazing. You have leadership abilities and I hope you have the opportunities to use them.

As much as I’m rooting for you, you also know that this change touches me deeply. Our relationship will be altered, starting today. Out of necessity, yes–but that doesn’t mean I like it. My heart aches at the thought that I won’t see your smiling face on a daily basis. It is an inevitability that kids grow up and move away, and I want you to fly. But I also know how much light you’ve brought us… Not having you around is going to be tough, but I also know that means you’ll be shining your light on others, who will benefit from your goodness.

The card we gave you at your goodbye dinner last night says it all: “It will be a bit gloomy here without you. That’s what happens when the sunshine goes away.”

I love you today, tomorrow, and every day. Fly, my beloved, and find great fortune.

(And if you ever doubt my love, listen to this song. SEE? I got you to listen to Mary Chapin Carpenter! )


Here’s to the Lady Who Lunched

Today marks the fourth anniversary of the passing of the extraordinary, one-of-a-kind Elaine Stritch. A Broadway legend, there are simply no “others” remotely like her. If you were to say, “Get me an Elaine Stritch,” you’d be hard-pressed to find anything close. Biting, sarcastic, iconic, gutsy–with innumerable layers beneath the exterior–this woman who couldn’t really “sing” sure gave the theater a whole host of remarkable performances.

Key to them all is her singular performance in Sondheim’s Company, which I was fortunate enough to see live as the entire original cast reconvened for a special concert performance in 1993. Below, you get a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes of the making of the Company cast album, which proved an ordeal for Stritch. (The full documentary–a must-see for theater lovers, can be found here.) Despite all she faced, well-documented here, she nailed her performance the very next day:

If you’re a Sondheim lover, you really should watch his full birthday celebration (most of which can be viewed on YouTube). Here, Elaine Stritch does “I’m Still Here”–putting all other versions in distant memory.

 


While she may not be here anymore, she’ll always be HERE.


In Beulah’s Land

My hubby Russ had a deceased aunt that no one talked about, until one day he heard a bit of her story and, in turn, wrote a poem to honor her. Here is what he shared on Facebook:

“Considering where we are with potential, historic, life-altering decisions being made by a far-right Supreme Court. I offer you this story of my Aunt—the Aunt I never knew.
My heavy heart feels her story should finally be told…

This is for all of the young women, where ever you are, on your journey.

(In honor of my Aunt Beulah)

Beulah’s Land

Heaven’s land… Oh, so far from it. So far and so long ago…
A farmer’s daughter, just one of ten. Beulah—a stranger to me, a ghost from the past.
A hushed memory. A life, invisible, framed on a bedroom wall, in a farmhouse in deep Appalachia.

Beulah, you were shamed, forgotten. You never even lived. What a shame. What a shame.

Where did you meet that man? Was he a farmer’s son?…
A preacher boy?
Did he pay you the attention that you so desperately craved?
Did he call you pretty? Did he caress your hair?
Did he kiss you deep?

Did he lay you in the tall green grass?
Say everything’s gonna be ok?
Did he love you, even for a moment?
Did he promise to take you away, away from Beulah’s Land?

Did he hurt you when he took you?
Were you forced, or did you go willingly?
I wonder if you loved him, or just the thought of it all—
to escape from nothingness to something,
Anything at all… Anywhere but Beulah’s Land.

I can only imagine your shame,
when you knew what you knew.
The boy was gone, but he left his mark, deep inside you.
Do you run away, or do you stay?
Will your daddy kill you, or will they send you away,
away from Beulah’s Land…

So, you took it in yourself, in secret and in shame.
You took your Mama’s knitting needle and thrust it deep within…
End the pain. End the misery—the inevitable shame that casts its long dark shadow…
On a life, never to be, in Beulah’s Land. In Beulah’s Land.

They said you passed from sickness, but Beulah,
now I know, that’s not so.
You died from gouging wounds—your blood turning against you, while darkness fell in Beulah’s Land.

They buried you high on a hill, deep below the tall green grass.
And that’s where they ended your story…
A hushed memory. An invisible life, framed on a bedroom wall.

Beulah, you were shamed, but not forgotten. You lived.
And I will tell your story…

For all the young girls who now live in Beulah’s Land—
poor and all alone, there is hope. There is a way…
Make your peace.
Find your strength.
Push on.
Tomorrow holds many keys…
To lives that need to be lived—stories that must be told.

Don’t let it all end in Beulah’s Land.
Live long in the tall green grass. For anything less,
would be such a shame… But, not your shame.
For, we’re all the same in Beulah Land—In Heaven’s Land,
at last.


Laura Harden

I first met Laura Harden when she came to audition for two one-act plays that I was directing/producing at the Olio theater in Silverlake in the early 90’s. She easily landed the role of the Preacher in RAT SONGS, a bitingly-funny and seedy part. I can vividly recall her demented take on the role, wearing full nun’s habit and crucifix in hand.

Later, while at Paramount, I kept trying to get parts for her in some of the sitcoms I was working on… She came in and read for a part I was sure she was perfect for, but the casting director chose to cast his friend instead.

Recently, she was a recurring cast member on all five seasons of Child of the 70s, a comedic webseries, on which she was cast by actor/creator Michael Vaccaro, whom she’d also met on our play, all those years ago.

Laura had suffered from health problems for years and was recently hospitalized. Bawdy, funny, and caring, Laura passed away last night (May 31, 2018.) She’ll be missed by her family, friends, and all of the cats she loved over the years. RIP, Laura.


Robert Michael Morris

Today marks one year since the lovely Robert Michael Morris was taken from us. Russ and I were fortunate enough to meet Michael through our good friend, writer/director Glenn Gaylord. Glenn knew of our love for The Comeback, especially the character Mickey, whom Michael played, and had directed Michael in a TV pilot, Lez Be Friends. One night, he brought Michael to dinner at our place. We quickly became fast friends, meeting him for lunch regularly at Shenandoah at the Arbor, as we loved the food and patio–and it was central to where we lived and where Michael lived, as he hated to drive, especially at night.

Michael was smart, sassy, and funny–but not entirely like the beloved “Mickey” he played on The Comeback. At times he could be like an old auntie, scolding when he didn’t approve of something. He’d been a teacher for years, teaching both high school and college, which perhaps explains his tendency to “mother” people.

His generosity knew no bounds. When I was gathering items for a silent auction to help those battling HIV/AIDS, he handed over boxes of random trinkets and jewelry he’d collected through the years, as well as several original paintings. I doubt that he knew the value of any of them–they’d just struck his fancy–and it is likely that he felt that if they were worth something to him, they’d mean something to someone else as well.

Michael was also a prolific writer, with enough plays to fill four anthology volumes, and was the author of An American Scrapbook. Rumor also has it that, prior to his death, he was at work or had completed a memoir. How I’d love to read that!

In the months before his death, Michael sent us a beautiful Lladró porcelain, depicting Othello and Desdemona. He’s intended it to honor both our artistic endeavors and that both of our children are black, as Michael had mentioned more than once that he found our adoption of them somewhat noble. While to us there was nothing “noble” about these adoptions–we simply wanted healthy children–we thoroughly appreciated Michael’s unwavering support. Still, when we unpacked the gift, I looked at Russ and said, “Do you think he’s preparing for the end?”

We’d known about Michael’s cancer some time, and when he found out that they were indeed going to film a second season of The Comeback, he shared that his cancer would be part of the storyline. If you haven’t seen The Comeback, I urge you to and won’t spoil anything, other than to say that his performance in season 2 should have won an Emmy. There are moments throughout the season between him and Valerie Cherish (Lisa Kudrow) which are simply magical-breathtaking-emotional-riveting. Their relationship proved the show’s most strongest, allowing each a shoulder on which to rely. Season 2 marked some of the best television anywhere, and was Michael’s finest performance on film. He also gave memorable appearances on Running Wilde, Arrested Development, Will & Grace, How I Met Your Mother, The Class, and Brothers and Sisters.

In the end, it isn’t only his performances I’ll best remember, but the simple kindnesses he repeatedly showed… The way, when sharing something particularly delicious, he’d place his hand on yours, giving it a squeeze, showing he trusted your confidence… His hearty laugh, which inevitably made an appearance in every meeting…

Robert Michael Morris was a class act and deserved even more attention than he’d already received. Kind, caring, and witty, Michael lives on in the heart of anyone whom ever heard him utter, “Oh, Red…”

 


All These Years, I Never Knew…

…that Shane is mentioned on a NAMES quilt panel, donated by the staff of AIDS Project Los Angeles.

I knew about the one his sister, Jill, created, but it feels good to know that others thought of him as well… #Grateful

(You can read the full list of names on the APLA panel here.)


Gary Kalkin

As a young actor, trying to make it in Hollywood, I had the great fortune to become acquainted with producer Laurence Mark and his one-time partner Gary Kalkin. They’d been together for years, however, at the point I met them, they had split, but remained the best of friends. They still lived together in a beautiful home where I enjoyed some special dinner parties with guests you might know the names of…

Gary was the senior vice president of domestic marketing for Buena Vista Pictures (Disney.) As such, he oversaw the creation of the marketing campaigns for “Aladdin,” “Down and Out in Beverly Hills,” “Good Morning, Vietnam,” “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” “Pretty Woman” and “The Lion King.” I’m not sure why Gary took such a liking to me, but he put me on the Disney sneak preview list, inviting me to every screening of every movie they released during his tenure. As a starving actor, it was a wonderful gift to receive. I can still vividly recall the magical movie premiere for the animated “Beauty and the Beast,” at the then-newly restored El Capitan Theater in Hollywood, preceded by an elaborate stage show.

One of the best nights of my life–EVER–happened in February 1993 and also involved Gary. I have been a fan of Stephen Sondheim for as long as I can remember, so when I heard they were doing a one-night-only, 20th anniversary original cast reunion performance of “Company” at the Long Beach Terrace Theater, I immediately bought two tickets. My good friend at the time, Cheryl Dolins, was also a Sondheim fan, and we couldn’t wait to go.

Gary called shortly after we’d bought the tickets, and invited me to the Disney Golden Globes after-party; I was crushed at the conflict. He said to stop by afterward, if we could, and at least say hello.

Cheryl and I loved the performance of “Company,” and–completely exhilarated–we rushed back to LA for the after-party. Walking up the red carpet at the Beverly Hilton, there were a few photographers straggling about, trying to figure out if we were “someone” and, to us, we felt as if we were.

When we got to the check-in desk, the woman helping us apologized, saying the party was just about over, but if we wanted to go in for a quick drink, we could. Dejected to have gotten there so late, we still went it, looking about for Gary. Imagine our shock, walking in, to find that there were only about 12 people in the entire ballroom. But aside from Gary, those people included Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, Al Pacino, and Rodney Dangerfield. Cheryl and I were completely beside ourselves, hovering with the others around the few platters of food left, acting as if hanging out with this particular crowd was an everyday occurrence.

Two years later, Gary would be dead of AIDS. He’ll never know just what a remarkable impact his simple generosity had on me. He was directly responsible for some of my best “life moments.” In a town not known for kind acts without the expectation of something in return, Gary’s sweet gift of access to film to this young actor provided me with endless opportunities to soak up the movie business, for which I’m eternally grateful. I missed him then, and I miss him now. RIP, handsome Gary.

My thanks to Stuart at The AIDS Memorial on Instagram for my daily remembrances of the countless souls lost to AIDS. They are emotional to read, but I try to reach each and every one, despite the tears they bring.

Gary Kalkin


Jon Cantonwine, 1965-1990

Sobering… Back in the day, I dated a guy named Jon Cantonwine. Cute, dark-haired, short and compact, he was utterly delicious, sweet and kind. Prior to meeting, I’d seen him across many a bar, usually wearing a tank top and tight pants. We weren’t really a “match” so at some point after dating, we lost touch…

A few months later, I ran into a common friend and asked them if they knew what had happened to Jon, as I hadn’t seen him for a while. “Oh, didn’t you know? Jon died. He had AIDS. And his friend Peter (whom I also knew) died right after.”

They were my first direct contacts to the AIDS epidemic. Prior, I’d known “names,” but not people. I’ve searched online for him periodically ever since, hoping to bring closure, of some sort. A decent photo, an obit, but today I happened to look and found this. Dates match, but I’m not entirely certain it is him without a photo.

So many lost. So many in my thoughts. Jon, I still remember. Hope you traveled quickly, my friend…


In Honor of World AIDS Day…

…today I’m holding up Shane, David, Eduardo, Howard, Jon, and too many others to count. We need to continue to tell their individual stories, and you can read about my beloved Shane here. AND tell others about how their loss impacted us. Keep telling their stories, again, and again, and again. We cannot let them be forgotten.

RIP, you gentle souls.


Are You Following The AIDS Memorial on Instagram?

If not, I highly recommend it. An anonymous man in Scotland, known only as Stuart, curates the page, taking submissions from friends and family of those lost to AIDS. It is a very touching page, sharing photos and memories of those lost forever. I find it cathartic to read of those both known and not, and it meant a lot when The AIDS Memorial shared this remembrance of Shane, below. If you want to learn more about my partner, Shane Sawick, who died in 1995, please click here.

https://instagram.com/p/BasBgqAFUMU/

“Were it not for his love of overalls, Shane Sawick would’ve fit perfectly into a 1940’s Cary Grant movie, trading quips with Rosalind Russell. An actor and Hotline coordinator at AIDS Project Los Angeles, Shane sailed through life, embracing it, until his final days. I was lucky enough to spend two years with him, and that impact–of loving and caring for him–cannot be underestimated. Without knowing him, I wouldn’t be the partner, father or writer I am today. Only by telling his story, and that of others lost, far too young, can we find a way forward, into the light.” – by Kergan Edwards-Stout

#whatisrememberedlives #theaidsmemorial #aidsmemorial #neverforget #endaids #lgbthistory #lgbthistorymonth


Thanks for the Great Review of SONGS, Gay Book Reviews!

So nice to see someone discovering my debut novel and having it resonate with them. I know it is a challenging subject and character, so when folks “get” it, it really makes me happy. Sirius at Gay Book Reviews writes:

Songs for the New Depression mixes the contemplative styling of Michael Cunningham with the black humor of Augusten Burroughs… once I started reading I could not stop, it was so engrossing, captivating, painful and at times funny… I highly recommend this very well-written work, but have the box of tissues handy with you.”

Many thanks, Gay Book Reviews!


Follow on Facebook: UNDERRATED WOMEN

Russ and I have started a new Facebook page, highlighting uber-talented women in the arts. Too often, we’ll be watching a movie or listening to a song and ask each other, “Why is this woman not working more?” To address this, we’ve decided to launch UNDERRATED WOMEN, where we’ll spotlight a different artist each week. To start, we’re focusing on the amazing actor Patricia Clarkson. Join us by “Liking” our page and send us your suggestions on women to celebrate. Together, we can make this world just a little bit better!

Women. Underrated


This Book is So Gay

Seriously_COVER_V4Happy to share my interview with Ken Schneck, host of the radio podcast “This Show is So Gay” and author of the new book “Seriously… What Am I Doing Here?” Up now on HuffPost!

His book is a fun read!


Thanks for Visiting My Website!

xmas 2015To readers both new and old, my sincere thanks for stopping by. This has been one crazy year for me and my family, as we moved to a new state, encountering a great deal of unexpected turmoil along the way. Thus, I haven’t been actively writing, needing time, solace, and healing, but that is about to change. I’m back to work on my memoir, which just got a doozy of an additional chapter given our experiences this past year, and I look forward to sharing more with you soon.

It’s hard to believe that fall is almost here and our kids will be back in school next week. Autumn is my favorite time of year, but I’m not looking forward to the barrage of political discourse increasing as we roll into November. It’ll be hard not to get pulled into the drama of an election year, especially given how passionate I am that we continue to move forward as a country that embraces all of our citizens, but I’m hoping my focus on this new memoir will help do the trick.

For those of us who write, it is our job to tell our stories, as the personal is indeed political. I’ve always believed that by sharing ourselves with the world, we can help change the world. And I’m going to work to try to do just that.

Again, thanks for visiting!


What I’ve Read: Winter 2016

Now that we’ve moved to beautiful and peaceful Colorado, I find I have much more time to enjoy one of my favorite pastimes–reading! In this day and age, and given my social media-deformed short attention span, it’s been challenging to find the time to linger over a good book. This Christmas, determined to change this pattern, I asked Russ for three books: And Then I Danced: Traveling the Road to LGBT Equality (Mark Segal), Immaculate Blue (Paul Russell), and Based on a True Story (Jameson Currier.) Being the excellent husband that Russ is, he did exactly as instructed, in turn providing me with hours of literary pleasure. Each, in its own way, is worth reading. While I had issues which prevented me from viewing them as truly great reads, you might love them, and that’s part of the fun of reading!

And Then I DancedMark Segal is a legendary LGBT activist. Not only was he at Stonewall–yes, THE Stonewall–but he famously interrupted CBS News with Walter Cronkite, as well as countless other moments of activism, each of which seem to be recounted here. (He must’ve kept one hell of a diary.) And Then I Danced: Traveling the Road to LGBT Equality (Mark Segal) documents his many efforts and, as a history book alone, is a fascinating read. However, I really wanted more Mark. Who is he, at his core, besides an activist? What drives him? Does he have a personal life? Including such details might’ve helped to flesh out what is, at its core, a recitation of events. “I did this, then this, then this.” He takes pains to acknowledge other activists, but every time it seems that he is getting close to an emotional or revealing personal moment, as a writer he pulls back. This might be due to his job in newspaper publishing, thinking only the factual is important, but as a reader, I closed the book wanting more insight into him. His chapter on the toll of AIDS gives a hint as to the emotion he holds under the surface, and the memoir could have used more telling moments.

Immaculate BlueImmaculate Blue, by Paul Russell, was just named a finalist for Best Gay Fiction in the 2016 Lambda Literary awards. Russell is a wonderful storyteller and writer, and I’ve enjoyed many of his other books, but I personally didn’t connect with this one. It builds on characters introduced in his earlier The Salt Point, which I didn’t read. Perhaps that would’ve helped in enjoying this, as the story circles around four friends, reuniting after 20 years apart, and insight into who they were earlier might have shaped my view. But my problem was that regardless of who they might have been back then, I didn’t enjoy who they are now. In particular, one lead is so unlikeable and his story so dark and improbable that it left a bad taste in my mouth. I actually found myself more interested in some of the secondary characters, in particular a deaf boy, but as the story focuses on the four, it is with them that we are stuck. I’m a bit surprised to find it named a Lammy finalist, but Russell clearly has great skill, as past works have proven.

Based on a True StoryAnother 2016 Lammy finalist is Jameson Currier for his collection of essays Until My Heart Stops, which I look forward to reading. In his novella, Based on a True Story, four men gather at a mountain cabin over Thanksgiving, and slowly reveal the tale of an off-screen couple. In many respects, this reads as an extended monologue, interrupted by attempts at fleshing out the four “main” characters. While the tale is impactful, it is also not surprising, with the outcome easy to guess early on. Still, I liked these characters and wanted to spend more time with them, and that’s always a sign to me of a tale well-told.

Now, I need some new books. What should I read next?

 


When Sean Sees the Light

Esther CastMy heart goes out to Sean Horenstein today, an old friend from my UCLA theater days. In our show “When Esther Saw the Light,” in which Sean played Grandpa, he was completely obscured by the pillowcase he wore on his head, and while he didn’t like it, he was graceful about it–even when I made him wear it during the curtain call. The show went on to win Best Play in the Kennedy Center’s American College Theater Festival, and our trip to perform in DC was memorable for all. In the years since, Sean moved to Nashville and married his now-hubby, Stanley Joel Churchwell.

Sean HorensteinFor the past many months, Sean has bravely been battling cancer, and given its continual advancement and resistance to chemo, in January Sean made the decision to no longer continue treatment. Now, it seems, his journey’s end is quickly approaching. Please join me in sending out positive thoughts to Sean and Stan. Here’s to you, Sean, and your beautiful face.

UPDATE: Sean passed away in his sleep at 1:45AM on Wednesday March 9, 2016. He will be deeply missed.

Behind the scenes: Michael Sargent, Wade Skeels, Jeremiah Enna, Brian Omeara, Steve Brown, Kim Gibilterra, Michael Korn, and David Thomsen. Cast: Pamela Silverman, Kathleen Hartigan, Pia Pia Romans, Steve Schaeffer, Rebecca Delfino, Debra Guarienti, Catherine Skillman, Sean Horenstein, Jack Black, and Jeff Maynard


In Honor of Thanksgiving, a Free Story Just for You!

Gifts Cover Low Res (427x640)Last night, as I began making my cranberry-orange compote, which I do every Thanksgiving and Christmas, my thoughts flew back to past holidays. Some have been bitter, some sweet, but all have been connected by loving moments between family and friends. This recipe that I was making was given to me in the early 1990’s by my dear friend Stephen Chappell. He was part of a group of guys whom I knew through my then-partner Shane. This group did everything together and were seemingly unseperable, but after Shane’s death, the group slowly splintered and fell away. Even things we count on drift away, regardless of our grasp.

All of those emotions must have been sifting through me many moons ago when I sat down to write a short story for my collection, Gifts Not Yet Given. I had no grand plan; all I knew was that I needed an emotional piece centering around family and Thanksgiving. But knowing that, I sat down and just started to write. And somehow, this cherished recipe found its way into this story.

I hope you enjoy it.

 

Glenbourne, IL

IT WAS A SMALL TOWN with few memorable attributes. Kelman’s Grocery Store was little more than a tiny market with one shelf of fresh produce. The post office had one clerk window and one staffer, in addition to the two mailmen, which meant that if Mrs. Hellner was sick, the office stayed closed, mail deliveries be damned. Glenbourne, IL, was far enough south from Chicago that suburban expansion hadn’t touched it, which left it quiet, if lacking in modern features. There wasn’t much in Glenbourne to attract visitors, though those who chose to stop could always stay at the Glenbourne Manor Guest House, which was rather grandly named, given its basic white farmhouse design and the fact that it rarely held more than two guests at any one time.

The high school closed a few years back, with students now bussed to the neighboring county, but otherwise life in Glenbourne had changed little in the past 20 years. In fact, as Glenn pulled down the main street, visions of his distant youth played out before him as if they’d occurred just yesterday. The long ride into town on his bike on a hot summer’s day with just a dollar in his pocket. Standing at the faded Sherman’s Ice Cream freezer, half frosted over, debating between the orange Creamsicle and the ice cream sandwich. Kelman’s Grocery Store was still there, though Glenn knew from his last visit that the old freezer had since been replaced with one storing Haagen Dazs. Glenn couldn’t imagine many here willing to pay for such an upscale treat, but if that change meant that good things could still be found in his old home town, he wouldn’t complain.

The elementary school had changed color, but otherwise looked the same. He could remember how safe he’d felt back in his youth, having no knowledge of the world and how challenging life could be. Not insurmountable, he often said. If there is no hope, I’d rather hang it up.

But with hope, Glenn felt certain he could conquer anything. Almost. (more…)


9/11: Never Forget

Dan, David and RonOn this somber anniversary, I invite you to celebrate with me the lives of Ron Gamboa, Dan Brandhorst, and their young son, David, lost far too soon. Please click here to read my tribute to them, written just after Bin Laden’s death. It was a difficult piece to write, and I hope you find some value within it.

Thanks,

Kergan

 


Our Summer

Russ, Kergan, Mason and MarcusDearest family and friends,

Russ and I have for many months been wanting to share with you the ordeal our family has been facing, but haven’t been able to, until now. As most of you know, I adopted Mason with my now-ex, and I was the stay-at-home father for the first year and a half of Mason’s life. Upon our breakup, I became Mason’s primary custodial parent and have served in that role to this day. Our family quickly grew to include Russ and Marcus, leading to many years of amazing adventures, emotional bonding, and terrifically fun times.

Once we had made the decision to put our house on the market, we discussed this with Mason to find out if he wanted to move with us to Colorado or remain in California. He said he wanted to be with us, as we are the only family structure he has known, and he has reaffirmed that decision many times over. Thus, we were shocked several months ago to find that my ex had filed suit for full custody of Mason, which would mean he would remain in Orange County and we would have only a few visits with him each year. Ever since, our entire family has faced a whirlwind of emotions. Not only have we had to deal with the tremendous stresses of selling our house, buying a new one, and the subsequent pack/move/unpack–while also fulfilling our full time jobs–but we have had this emotional legal battle hanging over us the entire time, ripping our family apart. We have been so saddened to have Mason taken from us over the summer, as moving him wasn’t permitted by the court until this matter was settled. Marcus has missed him terribly, and Russ and I have had countless sleepless nights. You simply can’t imagine how horrific it is to potentially have your child taken from you, against his wishes.

Finally, after months of hearings, court investigations, and testimony, on this past Monday the judge finally ruled that Mason could move, and we flew back to Colorado that same night, as Mason had already missed the first day of school.

Today, we are relieved, but exhausted and emotionally tapped out.

Needless to say, we have appreciated your support throughout these months. One of the many reasons we moved to Colorado was for a less-expensive life, as I have been struggling to pay back debt, only to find ourselves with what will be over $50,000 in legal fees. I’ve opened so many credit cards to cover the attorneys fees, and have no idea how to pay for them, which only serves to make my stress even worse. (I would prefer to work this debt off, so if you know of any freelance writing projects or marketing work which could be done in the evenings, please let me know.) Reluctantly, on the advice of friends who want to help us out, we’ve also set up a GoFundMe account, should anyone like to contribute. http://www.gofundme.com/272329d4

Still, as daunting as the debt may be, that is nothing compared to the incredible relief we feel to have our “Boo Boo” back home with us. Our family simply wasn’t the same without him. And we are especially grateful to all of you for your support, encouragement, and prayers.

Family has always been paramount to us, and we are so grateful to finally have ours back together.

Love,
Kergan and Russ

P.S. Please don’t leave any negative comments about my ex. This entire episode has been so emotionally draining, we want only positive energy moving forward. Thank you for respecting our wishes!