TORONTO-BASED ‘RAINBOW RAILROAD’ CONFIRMS CHECHNYA IS AGAIN ATTACKING ITS LGBTQI PEOPLE

What is the Rainbow Railroad? It’s a Canadian charitable organization, founded in 2006, based in TORONTO, that helps LGBTQI individuals escape persecution in their homelands.  In 71 countries, queer and trans people face criminal charges under colonial-era anti-gay laws that can result in life sentences. In eight countries, the death penalty can be applied. LGBTQI people are outed in the media, attacked by mob violence, sexually assaulted, or rounded up in state-sanctioned crackdowns by police.

From KIMAHLI POWELL, Executive Director – “Two people are dead and at least 40 have been detained in what appears to be a second wave of a state-sponsored crackdown on LGBTQI people in Chechnya“Since the reports first surfaced two weeks ago, we’ve been connecting with our partners on the ground, such as Russia’s LGBT Network . . . Those who’ve managed to escape (from Chechnya) are still experiencing serious trauma as a result of the humiliation, torture and abuse that they faced there,” Powell says.

Over 1,200 people have asked for help in 2018. To date, Rainbow Railroad has assisted more than 600 individuals’ escape to safe countries.  Several of them now live in TORONTO. For up-to-date information go to https://www.rainbowrailroad.com/

MUSIC DIRECTOR OF THE METROPOLITAN OPERA, CANADIAN, MONTREALER, & HE’S GAY – NY TIMES

“A GAY CONDUCTOR: THAT MEANS SOMETHING” is an attention-grabbing headline in Sunday’s New York Times’ Arts & Leisure section.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin is now the music director of the Metropolitan Opera.

<PHOTO by JEENAH MOON for the New York Times – Yannick Nézet-Séguin on the right, with his partner Pierre TourvilleZACHARY WOOLFE writes: “Despite gay pioneers like Michael Tilson Thomas (at the San Francisco Symphony) and Marin Alsop (in Baltimore), conducting remains an overwhelmingly straight (and male, and white) profession.  “Even NEW YORK, the city that gave rise to the modern gay rights movement . . . has been dominated by two conductors: Leonard Bernstein and James Levine, who both kept their sexual relationships with men hidden.”

<PHOTO by JEENAH MOON for the New York Times – Mr. Nézet-Séguin on the left, with his partner Pierre Tourville>

The writeup about Yannick Nézet-Séguin and his long-time partner, violist Pierre Tourville, is an uplifting milestone for both the Opera and the LGBTQ community.  You’ll find Zachary Woolfe’s in-depth story at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/15/arts/music/yannick-nezet-seguin-met-opera-gay.html

ZAYELL JOHNSTON’S “CRAZY NOTION” – TO WALK 9,000 KILOMETRES (5,600 MILES) ACROSS CANADA

To walk coast-to-coast across CANADA, even in perfect weather, is a gargantuan task. ZAYELL JOHNSTON, 27, decided to do precisely that, beginning his project at Mile ‘O’ in VICTORIA, British Columbia, and ending up nine months later on the Atlantic coast in CAPE SPEAR, Newfoundland. Along the way – blistering heat, torrential rain, blizzards and hail; daily walking average – 50 kilometres.

“I don’t know how I got the crazy notion of walking across the country, but I didn’t want to drive across it,” Johnston said. “At the beginning of the journey, you could say I was running away to kind of reflect on where I was in life.”

Johnston set up a Go Fund Me campaign and raised only $620. At the end of the trip he used the fund to send cheques of roughly $50 each to the Canadian Mental Health Association in all ten provinces.

His next goal – paying off a student loan, becoming a forest firefighter and building up his abs. ZAYELL is a native of YORKTON, Saskatchewan.  <CBC News, @BonnieAllenCBC; photos by Zayell Johnston/Facebook>

IN MEMORIAM/2018 – SOME OF THOSE WE LOST THIS PAST YEAR WHO MADE A DIFFERENCE

ANN IRELAND, Canadian novelist
ANTHONY BOURDAIN, celebrity chef and television personality
ARETHA FRANKLIN, the Queen of Soul
BARBARA BUSH, US First Lady, wife of H. W. Bush
BERNARDO BERTOLUCCI, Italian film director/producer
BILLY GRAHAM, preacher, counselor and confidant to several US presidents
BURT REYNOLDS, actor
CHARLES AZNAVOUR, singer, very popular in Quebec
CHARLES NEVILLE, musician
CLINT WALKER, actor
DAN MALONEY, Toronto Maple Leafs coach & player
DOROTHY MALONE, actor
DOUGLAS RAIN, actor and Stratford Festival founding member
GALT MacDERMOT, Canadian-born composer
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, former US president
GEORGE JONESCU, ‘Big Band Sunday Night’ host on Zoomer Radio
GORDON CHONG, former Toronto councillor
JOHN GAVIN, actor
JOHN McCAIN, American hero and maverick
KATE SPADE, fashion designer
LINDSAY KEMP, choreographer
MARGO KIDDER, Canadian actor and activist
MIKE McDONALD, Canadian stand-up comic & actor
MILOS FORMAN, film director
MURRAY WESTGATE, Canadian television spokesman for ESSO in the 50;s & 60’s
NANCY RICHLER, Canadian novelist
NANCY WILSON, jazz singer
NANETTE FABRAY, singer, dancer, television personality
NEIL SIMON, playwright and screenwriter
NINALEE ALLEN CRAIG, Toronto resident, the woman in Ruth Orkin’s “American Girl in Italy”
PAUL TAYLOR, choreographer
PENNY MARSHALL, actress, television and feature film director
PHILIP ROTH, novelist
ROBERT INDIANA, pop artist
ROGER BANNISTER, British record-breaking runner
ROY CLARK, country music star
SMOKE DAWG, Toronto rapper
STAN LEE, creator of Spider-man
STEPHEN HAWKING, physicist and cosmologist
STEPHEN HILLENBURG, creator of Spongebob SquarePants
SUSAN ANSPACH, actor
TAB HUNTER, Hollywood movie star
TOM WOLFE, author and journalist
VERNE TROYER, short in stature, played Mini-Me and several others
VIC DAMONE, singer
WILL ALSOP, British architect who desined Toronto’s Sharp Centre at OCADU
WILL VINTON, inventor of Claymation stop-motion animation using putty or clay
WINNIE MADIKIZELA-MANDELA, South African politician & activist . . . and so many more. Part of a list compiled by TORONTO’s NOW Weekly and CBS.

ZOOMER RADIO HAS LOST A TOP PERSONALITY WITH THE DEATH OF GEORGE JONESCU

Sunday nights won’t be the same now that Zoomer Radio’s GEORGE JONESCU has passed on. ‘Big Band Sunday Night’ on 50,000-watt AM740 & 96.7FM, reached well into the northeastern United States and large parts of Ontario. George was in the driver’s seat every Sunday night playing music from the 1920’s, 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.  For at least the last 5-7 years I seldom missed Sunday nights with George.  May the show continue.  It’s a winner.When it came to the big bands, Mr. Jonescu had an encyclopedic memory.  He minimized chatter, and focused on the music itself, much of which came from his personal collection. Despite blizzards and other inclement weather on the notorious 60-mile stretch between Barrie and Toronto, he always made it for show time.  GEORGE JONESCU’s 65 years in the radio business took him to Montreal, Sault Ste. Marie, Barrie, and TORONTO. He once said, “Being a broadcaster affords a platform which must always be used with responsibility and sensibility, if not, it is an indulgence.”  Farewell GEORGE.  We won’t forget you.

2018 HAS BEEN A WICKED YEAR WHEN IT COMES TO GUN VIOLENCE IN OUR CITY

<Editorial cartoon by THEO MOUDAKIS, Toronto Star>. TORONTO has recorded its highest homicide numbers since 1991. Eighty-nine (89!) lives have been lost since January, and there are still six weeks to go before year’s-end. Most of these deaths were caused by gun violence, and most of those who died were young.
Since this was first posted, that number has increased to ninety-one (91).

THE NEW YORK TIMES’ “SUNDAY STYLES” CATCHES UP WITH TORONTO’S NOTORIOUS MATHAROO SISTERS

“After years of romances with a series of fabulously wealthy Nigerian boyfriends, the flamboyant Canadian sisters Jyoti and Kiran Matharoo needed somewhere to store the pricey spoils of their dating careers. So they converted a bedroom in their TORONTO home into a large walk-in closet that resembles a luxury boutique.  “An entire wall is lined with more than 70 pairs of designer high-heeled shoes. Glass wardrobes display dozens of handbags and purses from brands like Hermès, Celine, Gucci and Saint Laurent. Equally pricey clothing drapes tightly from hangers and fills trunks stacked up to the ceiling.“Did they even pay for any of this stuff? “Not really, no,” said Jyoti, 34. Her sister responded similarly. “The only time I go shopping is when someone gives me their credit card, said Kiran, 32. – from ‘Billionaire Roulette’ by DAN LEVIN, New York Times, November 10/2018. Read the entire story at – https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/10/style/the-canadian-kardashians.html<PHOTOS – 1) TARA WALTON for the NY Times; the Matharoos at the Consort Bar in TORONTO’s King Edward Hotel ; 2) Jyoti and her walk-in closet, KEMISOLA ADEYEMI

REGINA-BORN MURRAY WESTGATE, ESSO’S ‘HAPPY MOTORING’ TV SPOKESMAN, HAS PASSED AWAY

On Saturday nights in the 1950’s and 60’s, ‘Hockey Night in Canada’ (HNIC) was on the air, and MURRAY WESTGATE, wearing a service station hat, did all the commercial breaks for ESSO. He reached the age of 100 this past April, and died on Monday at Sunnybrook Health Science Centre.  “As a kid watching HNIC, I really did believe he had his own Esso station,” said PAUL PATSKOU, hockey historian and Canada’s top video archivist of the Maple Leafs and NHL. “If he was on HNIC, he had to be real. And I believe it’s true that people from out of town drove around looking for Murray’s station in TORONTO . . . “I had no idea he was an actor (nominated for a Genie, winner of an ACTRA) until years later.”

BRYAN AND ALAN HAVE A SURPRISE ENCOUNTER ENROUTE TO THEIR COTTAGE

You don’t want to mess with one of these. Two friends, traveling home from a restaurant north of their cottage, wrote “fortunately we saw the moose way in the distance being chased by a dog. It ran a long way on the road, then turned around and ran back past us, and then finally into the bush.  Worse still – we were in the red Prius!  Talk about waving a flag at a bull!” – BRYAN BLENKIN (driver) ALAN ROWE (photographer)

TORONTO & SAN FRANCISCO ARE TOUGH NUTS TO CRACK WHEN IT COMES TO AFFORDABLE HOUSING

<QUOTE – Christine Mountsteven/TORONTO>. Two downtowners, about 2500 miles (4,000 kilometres) apart, set out to find living space they could afford. Both succeeded – one of them 24-years ago, and the other in 2018. Each is thrilled to be living in the centre of it all.

Now 83, CHRISTINE MOUNTSTEVEN, former teacher and member of a co-op, landed a two-bedroom suite not far from the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1994. Her modest rent allows for a high quality of llfe thanks to pensions and subsidized housing. Discovering something like this today would be like finding a needle in the proverbial haystack. <PHOTO – Vince Talotta, Toronto Star>

An Affordable Housing Plan for Ontario has just been released. It’s a partnership between the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association & the Co-operative Housing Federation and makes these recommendations: the creation of 69,000 new affordable rental homes over 10 years; 30,000 units for those with addictions & mental health issues; financial support of $10,000 for each of the existing 260,000 social housing units over 10 years; and rent supplements or income support for 311,000 households.

PHOTO ABOVE by Kevin Van Paassen/Globe and Mail – TORONTO’s Regent Park (shown in 2005) is an example of what can be done. Total redevelopment has been happening there for about 10 years – mixing market-value with affordable social housing, and building a state-of-the-art aquatic centre, a high-tech playground, a running track, ice rink, theatre centre, soccer fields, a new community centre, outdoor art, a supermarket, bank, coffee shops and parkland.  The Regent Park Project has brought forth a new downtown community. Funded by the city, province and federal governments, redevelopment there continues.

ADRIAN CARATOWSA’s struggle to find his way through the labyrinth of SAN FRANCISCO’s 2018 lottery system – after years of trying, has come out a winner. He now has an apartment he loves, near the Financial District, in the thick of it, and says “To be able to look down on this chaos and not hear anything, and then to open the window . . . I love the sound. This is so downtown.”

Before managing to get his apartment, Mr. Caratowsa, 31. admitted he would walk the streets of the Financial District yearning to live there, “seeing people in suits, going to work, they’d have their coffee in hand – to me it was like being a little girl who wants to be a princess and she wears her mom’s high heels . . . “That was me in the Financial District.”

What’s it like searching for affordable housing & entering the SAN FRANCISCO housing lottery? Find out by reading the New York Times’ in-depth article These 95 Apartments Promised Affordable Rent in SAN FRANCISCO. Then 6,580 People Applied.’ – and you’ll find out.

<PHOTO – “Affordable Housing Now!” demonstration in Parkdale, TORONTO; blogTO>