Community Palette


May 1, 2012

The annual MOCK TRIAL at the Shakespeare Theatre is always fun. Last night was no exception. This is a production of the BARD Association whose members are Shakespeare Theatre supporters and Mock Trial enthusiasts. The chair of the Bard Association is Abbe Lowell who appeared in a video to welcome everyone because he is currently representing John Edwards at his trial in North Carolina. Ably stepping in as MC was Nick Allard of Patton Boggs who was introduced with the announcement that he has accepted the position of Dean at the Brooklyn Law School. This year the mock trial was Ado, I do, Adieu: Claudio v. Hero being heard by the Supreme Court of Messina.

Peter D. Rosenstein and Justice Elena Kagan (Photo by: Brad Luna) Peter D. Rosenstein and Justice Elena Kagan

The evening began with a dinner for those who bought the $350 tickets. It was held in the downstairs theatre room at Harman Hall. I had the honor of sitting next to attorney Paul Smith, a personal hero of mine, who often appears before the Supreme Court and won the Lawrence v. Texas case. He is currently fighting the battle against DOMA.

In the roles of the Supreme Court of Messina were Supreme Court Justices’ Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Samuel A. Alito. Sitting alongside them were Judges’ Merrick Garland, Douglas Ginsburg, Brett Kavanaugh and David Tatel. Reid H. Weingarten of Steptoe and Johnson LLP appeared as Counsel for Count Claudio, and Sanford K. Ain of Ain & Bank. PC, Counsel for the appellee Lady Hero of Messina.

That set the stage for a hilarious evening with laughs coming one after the other. The hearing was to appeal the lower courts ruling that Claudio’s marriage was a sham, he had to pay alimony and that he could keep the dowry. Weingarten had the difficult job of trying to say that the marriage was real and that it should continue and tried to do so without besmirching Lady Hero’s honor even though as he casually mentioned those young studs she hired for protection seemed to have other jobs as well.  

While the entire evening was fun and all the Justices appeared to get into the act with some great questions and one-liners there were a couple of moments where Justice Alito actually looked a little uncomfortable. One was when one of the other judges included references to Obamacare in a question to Hero’s attorney Sandy Ain. Ain, quick on his feet, responded “Your honor, I would be happy to answer that but since we don’t have three days and six hours could we return to discussion of the dowry in the twenty minutes I do have”. Ain then got in another laugh line when asked if Lady Hero had all the money she needed and could shop to her hearts content without the alimony. Ain responded that she actually shops at Loehmann’s, then paused and looked at Alito and said that Justices’ Kagan and Ginsburg could explain that to him later.

The evening benefitted the Shakespeare Theatre’s education programs which will again benefit from next Monday evening’s Will on the Hill  program when members of Congress take to the stage to do a reading from a script worked to resemble a Shakespearean play. For those that haven’t been to a performance of Will on the Hill I highly recommend it.

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A Glowing Tribute to Barney Frank

April 25, 2012

There isn’t much to say about Barney Frank (D-MA) that hasn’t already been said but once Barney announced that he is retiring there was an immediate line-up of people wanting to say it all over again and to honor him for his incredible service in Congress. Last night the Stonewall Democrats, the LGBT organization within the Democratic Party, took their turn to honor Barney. It was a memorable evening and the honor came from the organization that Barney helped found in 1998.

Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)

Barney will be remembered for many things including Dodd/Frank the bill that begins to set some controls and consumer protections in the financial world. But last night was a celebration of Barney for his leadership and incredible contribution to advancing LGBT rights. I am honored to call Barney a friend and a personal hero as so many others do. He had the key role in moving forward all the legislation that has been passed in recent years including the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act and Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. For over 30 years he has been a beacon of light for those who have fought for full civil and human rights for the LGBT community. He stood strong and led the way when it wasn’t easy.

Last night celebrated Barney and recognized that not only was he often called the ‘smartest member of Congress’  but was often credited with having both the best and most biting sense of humor. There were video tributes from President Obama and DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and personal tributes from a large number of Barney’s friends and colleagues on the Hill. Barney was given credit for leading the way and making it possible for other members of the LGBT community; Jared Polis (D-CO), David Cicilline (D-RI) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) to think of running and win. Tammy suggested that today, because of Barney’s leadership, she is running for Senate in Wisconsin and not being opposed in a Democratic primary. She is being given a better than 50% chance of winning that open Senate seat by all the pundits.  There were many in the crowd who have already reserved the date of January 3, 2013 to celebrate her swearing in as the first open member of the LGBT community to be elected to the Senate.

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)

Barney has been known to not suffer fools gladly and many stories were told about that. Former Speaker Pelosi recently gave an interview and told how she learned to talk ‘Barney Speak’ as she called it. Get to the point and fast. Tammy talked of how she went to interview with Barney when she was first elected to get on the Finance Committee and how the interview was conducted with a newspaper in front of Barney’s face. He was as usual doing two things at once.

During the ceremonies Barney was seen wandering the room, something typical for him and often suggesting boredom with what was going on. When it was his turn to speak he assured the crowd that he wasn’t bored with the evening’s festivities because he felt the ‘topic was truly interesting’. He commented on his reputation for not suffering fools gladly and agreed that was true. But after the 2010 elections brought a bunch of new members to Congress he had made it part of his work to make fools suffer.

Barney will be missed in the halls of Congress but everyone knows he will continue to speak out and work for those who have yet to secure their full civil and human rights. Everyone wished him well and congratulated him on his upcoming 4th of July wedding to his partner Jim.

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Double Life - A Great Read

April 24, 2012

On Monday evening I had the pleasure of co-hosting a book party for Alan Shayne and Norman Sunshine to celebrate their book Double Life. Alan and Norman are good friends and Connecticut neighbors of Michael Kahn, Artistic Director of the Shakespeare Theatre, who hosted the event in the Patron’s Lounge in beautiful Harman Hall.

(Photo by: )

The book is a celebration of their life of over 50 years together. Alan was an actor, casting director and then President of Warner Brothers Television. He cast such films as All the President’s Men, the story of Watergate, and was responsible for casting Jason Robards as Ben Bradlee. Robards won an Academy Award for the role. He is also a major force in the success of Linda Lavin having put her hit show Aliceon TV. Norman had a career as an advertising executive and is a successful artist and sculptor. A work of his hangs in Harman Hall. All those of a certain age will remember one of his most recognizable commercials BLACKGLAMA Mink, “What Becomes a Legend Most” which featured such stars as Elizabeth Taylor when people still wore real fur.

Bill McSweeny and Tom Sherwood (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Bill McSweeny and Tom Sherwood

Alan spoke of the reason he and Norman decided to write the book. At a holiday dinner party hosted by Joan Rivers, their neighbor in Connecticut, she went around the table asking each guest what they were most thankful for during the holiday season. Alan remembers one guest saying his new dog, another their good job, and then when it was his turn he just found himself saying he was most grateful for his 50 years with Norman.  He said everyone at the table then started doing the math as to how old they were. It was a time when gay teen suicides were front-page stories and someone suggested to him what an inspiration he and Norman could be to young members of the LGBT community who couldn’t ever see themselves falling in love no less having a 50 year relationship. So the long three year process of writing the book began.

Hillary Rosen and Dorothy McSweeny (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Hillary Rosen and Dorothy McSweeny

I can only say thank you for writing it. It is the story of a love affair and how difficult it was back when they first met, especially in Hollywood, where being gay was something you hid and never talked about. They managed to have successful careers and a wonderful life and are an inspiration to all those who sometimes still think that being part of the LGBT community means they won’t be successful or find love. The book is also catnip for anyone who enjoys some good Hollywood gossip.

Among the guests at the party were Sally Quinn Bradlee, her son Quinn and his beautiful wife, yoga instructor Pari Bradlee. Hillary Rosen, who has been involved in a small political skirmish in recent days looked great and all those like me who have admired the work she has done for many years know exactly what she meant when she spoke out and know that her political astuteness will continue to have a positive impact on the way Americans think. Other guests included Tom Sherwood, Bill and Dorothy McSweeny, and John Hill, retiring Executive Director of the Federal City Council.

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