Cherry Jones Honored by The Point Foundation
Laurie K. Schenden
This is my first blog. I’ve made a career out of asking questions, usually of celebrities because the only reason a mild-mannered, Midwest J-school grad flees to the West Coast is for the glamour, right?
Or to escape snow, or the frigid closet—take your pick.
Writing and editing for the Los Angeles Times for years, it was obvious that a cause, a product or a politician got more attention with a celebrity name attached. Celebrities have done amazing things for the LGBT community. What would GLAAD, HRC, NCLR or Lambda events be without Elizabeth Taylor, Sharon Stone, Elton John, and other heavyweight celebs who show up, shake hands and ingest cookie-cutter chicken dinners to shed a little light on a worthy cause?
I’ve been privileged to meet a lot of celebrities and share their lives and lies, thoughts and opinions with readers. I don’t have an autograph collection, even though I’ve had lunch at poolside with Joanne Woodward; a personal tour of Debbie Reynolds' Hollywood memorabilia collection, shot hoops with Queen Latifah and hung out with the actors on the set of The L Word in Vancouver. I’ve always believed that if a reporter sticks her mug next to a subject, her credibility is somehow compromised, or at least appears star struck or more interested in making herself part of the story. I’m trying to lighten up, maybe start a “Me with [celebrity name here]” photo collection (see below).
Me with Cherry Jones
Lots of photo ops this Fall at events such as the Point Honors in Los Angeles. The stories of honor students booted to the curb by their own families is disturbing, and Point Foundation offers “financial aid and hope” according to one scholar. Angela Clements shared her riveting tale of her Nebraska family’s response to her coming out, yanking funds for her college education. She was able to continue at a UC Berkeley law school because of assistance from Point.
Broadway actress Cherry Jones, an out lesbian maybe best known to the masses as Madam President on 24, was the Point Honors honoree. She drew Frenchie Davis to the stage, former American Idol contestant who blew the house down with her magnificent pipes.
What was the dazzling diva doing at this gay gala?
“I met Cherry when we were both on Broadway, she was in Doubt, I was in Rent,” Frenchie explained pre-show. “I was like, ‘You were the crazy woman in The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood. That’s one of my favorite movies. My best friend from (Lawndale, Calif.) high school, who’s a gay man, we quote it back and forth to one another."
"I just learned so much from watching [Cherry], and she always just made me feel so welcome in this business and showed me so much love and support and I love her for that.”
Ms. Davis then gamely embraces the moment: “I love the lesbians. I think if I were one, I’d be married by now. I’m frankly, quite bitter about it, I wish I were,” she blurts out with a contagious laugh.
Jones was all smiles and hugs, almost cheerful talking about being single again. I mention how cool and collected she looks: “I’m sweating in all sorts of places,” she laughs.
I recall with admiration her ballsy same-sex smooch at the Tony Awards more than a decade ago. “The first time I was brought any kind of national prominence that way was The Heiress [she won the Tony for best actress] and my partner Mary and I of course kissed, as you would,” she explained. “I was already almost 40 years old at that point so, it’s not like I was a 25-year-old femme fatale trying to make it in Hollywood.” The stage veteran didn’t care if her public display of affection toward her partner hurt her chances for TV and film work.
“The theater’s always been ripe with homosexuals. I’ve always been able to work there, so I didn’t care…if they didn’t want me, no skin off my nose.”
But luckily, the story has a happy ending: “I’m an out lesbian, playing the president of the United States on the FOX channel; I mean, go figure, huh?" she says, looking every bit the dignified stateswoman in a lovely black cocktail dress. "The times they are a changing, slowly but surely.”
More red carpet crawlers: Professional dancer Mary Murphy, a judge on So You Think You Can Dance came in support of Point but also runs her own foundation “to get people dancing…making it available to anybody who cannot afford it.” She’s offering same-sex dancing on Thursday nights in October in her San Diego, Calif., studio. “So if you’re ever in town, there’ll be dancing,” she shouts, in her exuberant tone.
In other words: Even the Screen Actors Guild is raising cheerleader pom-poms for LGBT actors and other underrepresented groups in the entertainment industry, declaring October “Diversity Awareness Month.”
SAG members spoke at the National March for equality including out actor Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City): “This movement is not just about our ability to get married, it is about demanding equal rights, equal responsibilities, equal opportunities, equal treatment and equal protection under the law.”
Along with Jason Stuart, chair of SAG’s National LGBT Actors Committee: “We demand nothing less than full equality under the law. Come on straight people, it’s 2009. If you let us marry each other we’ll stop marrying you.”