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GayTies News for Saturday, February 28, 2015

On Alan Turing, Me and My Son

Recently, my husband and I went with a friend to see The Imitation Game. The movie is about Alan Turing, a brilliant mathematician who helped crack the secret code created by the Nazi's Enigma machine in World ... Show more

Black. Male. Educator. Unicorn.

I was a ninth grade English-Language Arts teacher in Washington, DC when I overheard an intensifying debate between two students about the existence of unicorns. "There ain't no such thing... it's made up." "How... Show more

Deshawnda Bradley, #BlackLivesMatter and the Reminder That Self-D...

When I think of the heroines and heroes of Black History Month, I notice the similarities they possessed between them before the differences: they were brave on behalf of many; they were ahead of their time - abl... Show more

A Note to Jessa's God: We'll Trade You Soup for the Duggars

Religious extremism is alive and well in the Duggar household, and its ugly tentacles extend far beyond the reach of the family's matriarch, Michelle. TLC's hate-filled First Family regularly gets their kicks whi... Show more

The Kids Are All Right With Transgender Rights

Last summer, a troubling poll showed that a majority of Americans had a problem with transgender people using bathrooms that correspond with their identity. A poll conducted last week brings some better news. ... Show more

Ten Great Gay Love Songs To Crack The Toughest Cynic

What better time to celebrate these ten glorious gay love songs than Valentine’s day? And if you’re feeling a little scorned by love these days, don’t worry, they don’t all have happy endings. Show more

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Article of the Week

Producers Fearlessly Gay-Up the Oscars

It's a typical sunny Southern California afternoon outside of the temporary office of the 2015 Academy Awards in Los Angeles. We sat down with the Oscar show producer duo, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, their warm, even-tempered manner takes over; never mind the flurry of work and whirlwind pressure to make the Oscars telecast a hit for the third consecutive year. These are obviously two men, tow gay men, doing exactly what they love.

As we sit down in a quiet corner conference room, Zadan shares one of his favorite childhood memories of the Oscars. “Our community has always been at the forefront of acknowledging the arts and this is like the Olympics of the arts,” he says. “Everybody turns it out, and of course there’s also the excitement of who is going to win, but ultimately the Oscars is about glamour and excellence in the arts. It’s everything our community loves rolled into one night of entertainment.”

But under Meron and Zadan, the Oscars telecast has become more than a beloved piece of pop culture for gay fans. Last year marked the second stint as host for Ellen DeGeneres, the first out LGBT person to ever host the event, and she earned the Oscars its highest ratings in 14 years. Now with Neil Patrick Harris being the first out gay man to step into the role, this year’s telecast is set to make history once more.

However, not everyone has reacted positively to the news. “The morning this year’s nominations were announced, we spoke to a journalist from Japan and I remember he had a look on his face that seemed to say, Is this really happening? when he pointed out that we’d had two gay hosts in successive years and asked if that was a problem,” Meron says. “I simply responded by telling him that a person’s sexuality has nothing to do with how good a host they are, and that’s the truth. Because while we’re fortunate that our choices in the past two years have been prominent members of the LGBT community — and being members of that community ourselves, there’s certain sense of pride going forward with the hosts we hired — it never informed our decision.”

But Meron and Zadan, who have been professional partners since 1976, say the criticism they’ve received for hiring LGBT hosts two years in a row is minimal compared to the backlash they experienced after Seth MacFarlane marched across the Oscars stage singing “We Saw Your Boobs” during the 2013 telecast.

“When we accepted the offer to produce the show that first year we were prepared to be ripped to shreds by the media, the bloggers, and the tweeters, because the Oscars is a blood sport and nothing you do is ever right, but we weren’t prepared for that controversy,” Zadan admits. “It was frustrating because we had a great show that was three and a half hours long, filled with performances from people like Barbra Streisand and Shirley Bassey and the casts of Dreamgirls, Chicago, and so many more. Only one minute and 50 seconds of those three and a half hours was the boob song, and two years later people are still ripping Seth and us for it.”

Meron adds, “What’s really interesting about that is, when we looked at the minute-by-minute analysis the Academy does each year measuring how people react to the show, we found the country as a whole loved the boob song and Seth. Their number 1 complaint was the appearance of Michelle Obama as a presenter because they felt politics were brought in. But in the media and the Hollywood community it was the boob song that was the most divisive. That only proves the media and certain aspects of the community are disconnected from what the public enjoys.”

That enjoyment is one of the main reasons Zadan says he and Meron agreed to produce the show for a third time, and he hopes it will be remembered as the biggest impact the two have had on the Oscars legacy. “If you look at previous Oscars shows and the amount of entertainment, it’s minimal,” he says. “We took each show and jam-packed it with performances. We brought back a sense of entertainment, which not only resulted in higher ratings, but also fun for those attending. Previous to our time, people didn’t want to go to the show unless they were nominated. But since we’ve taken over, demand for tickets is through the roof because people want to see these performers live.”

Nevertheless, while the two eagerly admit producing the Oscars has been one of the highlights of their career, it’s not a feat that has become any less stressful with experience. “There’s a misconception that once you’ve had some success it gets easier, but you’re still putting in the same hours, the same work, and the same fight every single day," Zadan says. "If anything, this year is much harder than last year because we’re competing with ourselves and that previous success.”

As our allotted time nears its end, I ask both Meron and Zadan if they’d be up for the challenge of producing the Oscars for a fourth time in 2016. The two pause, exchanging a look that communicates an amount of information that could only be achieved by a decades-long working relationship like the one they share, before Zadan answers with a knowing smile.

“Most people only get asked to do this one time, and it seems impossible that the kid who watched the Academy Awards when Barbra Streisand won the Oscar for Funny Girl is now producing the Oscars for a third time, but I don’t think that’s a question that can be answered right now because it would depend on so many factors,” he says. “Ultimately, it depends on how the show turns out — not how other people think it turned out, but how we think it turned out — as well as the ratings. All that would weigh in on whether or not we’d consider coming back, and whether the Academy would ask us back.”

With that, Meron echoes the attitude of the hundreds of actors who have been Oscar nominees throughout the history of the Academy Awards when he adds, “First we’d have to be asked, and under any circumstances, it’s always an honor to be asked.”

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