Rage in the Time of Coronavirus
Rage in the Time of Coronavirus. Photo of Danny Kavadlo by Michael Alago

Coping with COVID-19: How Are You Doing?

An informal poll of colleagues and friends

At the onset of the coronavirus, in late March, I took an informal poll of media colleagues and friends to see how they were faring. Now, it’s late July (we’ve been doing this for 4 months!) and I’m sending out emails to follow up with everyone and hopefully add some new voices to the conversation.

I am a publicist specializing in LGBTQ projects. If you’re like me, you’re sick of your newsfeed, but very curious about how your peers are coping with the COVID-19 virus. Staying home? How’s work? Frightened? What brings comfort? I took an informal poll of media people, clients, and friends, asking them to answer on personal, honest, level.

Below are answers from late March/early April from a variety of people, including writers, editors, actors, artists, musicians and authors. Each is accompanied by their latest Instagram post. Feel free to share, quote, copy, comment as you wish.

If you’d like to add your own quote, please email it to andy@popularpublicity.com, and I’ll post immediately.

The photo above of Danny Kavadlo is titled “Rage in the Time of Coronavirus.” It is by client and photographer Michael Alago, who’s autobiography, “I am Michael Alago: Breathing Music. Signing Metallica. Beating Death,” was published in March 2020.

Scooter LaForge, Artist, NYC, @scooterlaforge, March 25, 2020
Like you I had a good friend Nasham Wooden aka Mona Foot died in his apartment alone.  I have been mourning him and all the others I see dying every time I put the computer on or the TV.  I am saddened and scared and riddled with anxiety.  I am alone, but healthy here in my tiny apartment.  I do yoga, read, cook watch lots and lots of television.  What is keeping me sane and happy is that I am doing what I love most, painting.  I have turned my apartment in to a fairy tale.  I have been reading Grimm’s Fairy tales and have painting all over all the walls.  It is a work in process and will go on and on.  I think it is something that could never be complete.  I keep seeing areas to paint.  I am living in a mash up of all my favorite stories and images that bring me joy.

Curtis Wong, Senior Culture Reporter at HuffPost, NYC, March 25, 2020, @curtismwong
The past few weeks have been unnerving to say the least. The extent of this uncertain period is mind-boggling, and trying to measure just how long life will be interrupted — weeks, months, years? — is, sadly, futile, so I’m trying my best to take it one day at a time. I live alone, so having to isolate myself from friends and family has been very tough on me. I’ve fared better on weekdays as I can structure my day around work and maintain some semblance of a routine, versus weekends which feel pretty empty right now. On the flip side, I’m beyond grateful for being able to work remotely. Meanwhile, the social void has allowed me to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night, which is something that hasn’t happened consistently in more than a decade. I’ve also explored some great new biking and hiking trails right here in Queens — yes, Queens.

Jason Jackson, Photographer, March 30, 2020, @erotiese, erotiese.co @jasonjacksonimages, jasonjacksomimages.com
Besides being a professional photographer I am also a healthcare worker. Its been a mixed bag. The stability of the healthcare job is great for income and structure but also stressful when dealing with the unknown associated with the virus. Hospitals are struggling with coming up with protocols and dealing with the strain on their system. The systems weren’t structured to handle things like this. As far as the photography, I shoot a lot of intimate portraits of men so that has definitely stopped. The travel photography has also come to a halt but I am enjoying the downtime to catch up on edits and getting final products out to clients and also streamlining my business practices. More baking, more cooking, more time with my partner, are some good things have come out of it but I also know that I am so much more fortunate than most. I have seen relatives die from it already and I personally know people whose longstanding battles with mental health are being tested during this forced isolation. We all need to be cognizant of the total picture and be safe, be kind and be empathetic during this difficult time.

Adam Dupuis, Managing Editor, Instinct Magazine, April 3, 2020, @awd_man_out
I’m staying at home for both jobs now. I’ve always worked from home for Instinct, but my other full-time job has let me stay in my pjs all day, too. I just purchased a home in January of 2019 and now because of COVID, I am here a great deal more. I wrote most of the travel pieces for Instinct so being home for more than 1 weekend a month was a rarity. Look at me now! And look at the house, too. It’s giving me a great deal of time to work on the home, as long as I can get away from the computer screens. That getting away is important. Hammock time every day sans electronics is a must! That red-woven cradle of relaxation was the best purchase ever so I can escape into the Florida sun and decompress. I know I will get to travel again and I actually have been living through my old travel photographs, thinking of the great people met on my journeys, and realizing, even though it is challenging now, life is good.

Troy Masters, Publisher, Los Angeles Blade, April 3, 2020, @troymasters
From here in Los Angeles watching all that is unfolding online and on TV from New York is just surreal. In some ways I feel like I have slipped back to the height of the AIDS crisis when the hospitals were full of our loved ones and no one knew really what we faced. It’s surreal here on the ground here in LA, too, to say the least, but I can barely stand to watch New York go through this and knowing that’s headed our way.

Having lived mostly in the East Village around 9th and B for most of the past 30 years and then moving to Los Angeles is surreal enough of an experience. Los Angeles is a city where you can retreat into total silence and not look another person in the eyes for months, unlike New York where you are forced into engagement no matter what. I take some satisfaction in knowing that my friends there are as joyfully engaged in living as ever and that to most it’s just a minor inconvenience to not be able to kiss and greet their friends, hug them and banter in the very physical way New Yorkers always do.

As publisher Los Angeles Blade, the newspaper has my full attention, as does my dog and my partner and our home and my family in Nashville.

I’m not sure what we all look like when this passes, who will still be standing, what businesses and media survive and what musical chair anyone winds up having to sit in when it stops, but I do know we are all fundamentally altered again, all of us, even if we have our head in the sand. I feel fortunate that my work in founding Gay City News in New York continues to be of service to LGBTQIA folks. And I am honored to be working with a team as dedicated as my partners at Washington Blade. I just keep trying to make a difference on this planet.

Andrew Davis, Managing Editor, Windy City Times, Chicago, March 23, 2020, @windycitytimes
We gave up our office.space in 2008, so I’ve been “self-quarantined” for 12 years. I’ve pretty much maintained my way of life, except for writing about visiting restaurants. I’ve also witnessed different aspects of other people: fear and confusion—but also hope and strength. By the way, Damages (with Glenn Close) is a great TV series to binge-watch.

Tony Adams, PrideLIfe Magazine, OUTCLIQUE Magazine, HEtravel.com/tony, March, 23, 2020, @farmboyz
Like most everyone here in the deepest south, I laughed at Corona and kept up my relentless Fort Lauderdale social schedule. Now, I am self-sequestered in a studio high above the beach. Every day, before dawn, I walk out onto my eagle’s nest balcony. There, I scan the horizon in the silence of evaporated traffic and darkened lights. The sand on the off-limits beach is neatly combed. No bars or restaurants beckon.  At noon, the sun is dazzling. I bicycle up and down the beach route. It’s like a Twilight Zone episode. Non one is having sex. No one is admitting to hooking up. Yesterday I officiated at a nude wedding between two men who are naturists. In their pool. Just the three of us and their rescue dog named Eartha Kitt. Life goes on.

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I can't even begin to explain.

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Michael Musto, Columnist for NewNowNext.com, NYC, March 24, 2020, @musto184
I work from home, so I’m still cranking out columns, though right now they’re mostly about escapist ways to get through this. Watching my favorite good and good/bad movies one more time, including obscure gems like “Killer Nun” and “The Devil Inside”. Having my movie club on Zoom, where we chat about our shared films through the years and mostly just check up on each other. Seeing friends, one at a time, and sitting practically in the other room, so I might as well have stayed home. Washing my hands so much they’re practically scabbing. Going to D’Agostino for eats because there’s usually hardly anyone there. Discovering some remarkable microwavable treats (like green curry shrimp potstickers) at Jack’s 99 store, albeit for $1.49. Catching up on news, boringly telling everyone to “Stay safe,” and realizing that life has unalterably changed.

Slava Mogutin, Russian-American artist, author and activist, March 30, 2020, @slavamogutin
I just had an art opening in Berlin right before the shutdown, and it was one of the last public events in Germany, which got struck really hard by the pandemic. After the travel ban, my flight back to NY got cancelled and I had to book a new ticket via Amsterdam. The airports in all three cities were completely empty, and so were the planes. I consider myself lucky to be able to escape the madness and chaos right after the ban announcement. They were checking the passengers’ temperature as we landed at JFK, it was pretty well-managed. Upon my return, the new normal started to sink in. The lines outside of grocery stores and the sudden shortage of toilet paper and cleaning supplies reminded me of Russia of the late 80s-early 90s, shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union. We all have to think outside the box, whether it’s your smart phone, computer or TV. The time of crisis can be inspiring and productive if you’re a creative person. Humanity always turns to culture in the face of death and collective fear. Unlike politics, art can unite, transcend and heal, regardless of your race, sex, gender and religion. What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger, and together we’re stronger than COVID or any other virus or pandemic. slavamogutin.com

Louis D’Arienzo, Footwear designer, Amsterdam, March 24, 2020, @louisdarienzo
Doing what I can to not only be productive; refinishing furniture, downsizing, throwing together a wall hanging from old shoe factory patterns….but also embracing being more thoughtful. Noticing and taking in all that’s around me. Seeing the still beauty of the city I live in. Smiling and chatting, from a distance, with strangers. Breathing. Is it insensitive to call what’s happening a gift to us all? Will we fall right back into old patterns when this is under control?  I’ve never been more in touch and in communication with my family and friends. No distance between matters. If we can’t be still and alone with ourselves and our thoughts, then now is the time to get comfortable with that.

Louis, who has designed for Gucci, Jimmy Choo and is now at Ermenengildo Zegna, has his own eponymous line of eco-friendly, sustainably manufactured shoes. See them here.

Michael Dutzer, Mad Angel Entertainment,  co-owner of the Miss Gay America pageant, Fort Lauderdale, FL, March 24, 2020, @mdutzer, @missgayamerica
Making the best of the current situation.   The first day or two we just worried about numbers and our businesses, what the impact will be to our future, and how our employees will be.  My husband and I both travel a lot so I’m glad we have some time together.   We get a little stir crazy being in the house for so long.   We take a few walks in the neighborhood during the day and spend a lot of time playing with the dogs in the yard.    Sometimes I feel like we are on an episode of “Home Improvement” talking Tom neighbors over the fence.   Been binge watching Netflix, currently watching “Into the Badlands” which is amazing.    We’ve never cooked much before but with most of the restaurants closed we started  experimenting in the kitchen, now I know why we eat out as much as we do.   Hoping life gets back to normal soon, but time time has definitely given us an appreciation for what we have, our friends and family.

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we know the weather was nice this weekend, but we’ve got to look out for each other by being consistent in our social distancing…the sooner we do this, the sooner we can all get back to our lives and see our beautiful city, businesses, and communities thrive. please use your best judgement and reduce contact for the time being. let’s not treat these unprecedented times like a perpetual snow day. love to you all #stayhome 🎨 by @salvadorcolaco ❤️❤️❤️ • • #art #artist #streetart #streetartist #rva #socialdistancing #covid_19 #mural #muralist #publicart #richmondva #richmond #urbanart #urbanartwork #sprayart #stayhome #stayhomestaysafe #artworks #staythefuckhome #virginia #vacationmode

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Marilyn Drew Necci, GayRVA/RVA Magazine, Richmond, VA, March 24, 2020, @buzzorhowl on twitter
Mostly quarantined, though I’m still going out around once a week to buy groceries. And of course, for my daily walks around the neighborhood. I work from home anyway, the only difference has been that the weekly meetings on Monday are now conducted over Google Hangout. Had my hours and pay cut in half a couple days ago, and while I have NO IDEA how I will cover all my bills, it seems totally pointless to try and find another job right now, so I’m taking some time to work on personal projects and maybe set up something for the future that might have some remunerative properties at some point. I’m married and the fact that my wife is here and we spend a lot of time together is making the quarantine way more bearable. Even if we don’t have enough money to pay bills, at least we’re stuck in this situation together.

Greg Newton, Co-founder Bureau of General Services—Queer Division, NYC, March 25, 2020, @bgsqd
I have a lot less work to do given that our store is closed, but I am working with one of our volunteers on setting up an online store. Last night I had my last Brooklyn Institute for Social Research class: Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble: Theory, Sexuality, and Subversion, taught by Paige Sweet. We were hosting this at the Bureau, but BISR moved all their classes online starting last week. I feel a sense of accomplishment now that I’ve finally read that dense and frequently misunderstood text. I’m also reading These Truths: A History of the United States, by Jill Lepore, which I wish I’d had in high school. I’m cooking a lot–loving those NY Times recipes! I feel very fortunate to have my boyfriend living with me. We’ve been taking walks about every other day, watching lots of Bob’s Burgers (a habit we picked up well before this madness), eating well, and cultivating our erotic health. I’ve long been a fan of Democracy Now, so I stream that daily, but try to close my laptop every now and again to breathe, stretch, and remind myself how lucky I am.

Merryn Johns, Editor-in-chief, Curve Magazine, NYC, March 25, 2020, @merryn_johns
As a journalist, world traveler, and playwright this virus has hit me hard. We media and artistic folk of NYC are social creatures by nature, and events, public relations, and networking run in our blood. These times are therefore extremely challenging to not only maintain our employment, but to maintain relevance, motivation, and the circulation that we require to do our jobs. And yet, the upside is that we can work from anywhere, including from self-isolation. I’m doing my best to reach out to friends for FaceTime happy hours! — and also to readers of Curve through our new Virtual Festival program which helps support LGBTQ musicians, artists, and creators who are particularly vulnerable during these times. Check out @therealcurvemedia to see our 2-month program of online events!

Michael Alago, Former record company executive for Elektra records, Geffen records and Palm Pictures, March 25, 2020, @michaelanthonyalago
I am in self-quarantine. Loving my solitude probably a little too much. I’m stocked with food. Thank God. Catching up on all the newspapers I need to read. I have about five paperback books to perhaps start. I am very very cautious about washing my hands,  sanitizing and all doing all the things recommended so I don’t catch the virus. Honey I survived full-blown AIDS so I don’t want this coronavirus anywhere near me.  I am listening to our 2 health professionals, Dr Anthony Fauci and Joseph Fair PHD. Paying attention to every bit of knowledge they impart on us. They’re both brilliant. How are you holding up?

Watch the documentary about Michael, “Who The Fuck is That Guy” on Netflix. His autobiography, “I Am Michael Alago: Breathing Music. Signing Metallica. Beating Death.” was published March 1.

Billie Ray Martin, A singer from the red light district of Hamburg who wanted to be a soul singer, Berlin, March 26, 2020, @billieraymartin
Don’t know what to say as this situation leaves me speechless. My life’s work, which i had spent years preparing has now come to a halt at a cruicial time.  I realise that others are in the same boat, but not the same boat, which increases the feeling of isolation. I think about the chance we risk missing, if people believe that the chain of politicians – pharma industy will provide the cure for the situations we are facing. Suddenly the cry for ‘authorities’ to make decisions for us has become louder again. We need to think outside the box, look at what our bodies and minds and our surrounding nature really need. Really. What do i do every day? Nothing to report.

Check out new music from Billie at www.billieraymartin.com

Emrhys Cooper, Actor, Filmmaker, Los Angeles, March 26, 2020, @emrhyscooper
Feel exhausted, it’s taking a while to kick, but hopefully I will feel better soon. At my home in LA. I’m very concerned for my mother as she had a sever stroke a month ago, and they’re moving out of hospital to make room. Looking forward to this horrible ride is over.

Watch Emrhys’ short, “Trophy Boy.” Check out his new project, “The Truth About Fairy Tales,” featuring DIMMOND here.

Neal Broverman, Editor-in-chief, Advocate.com/Editor-in-chief, Plus magazine, Los Angeles, CA, March 26, 2020, @nealbroverman
I’m currently in the Palm Springs area with my husband, foster child, and dog; we left L.A. a few days ago to stay at my condo here. We’re very lucky to be in a relatively sparsely populated place, with a pool and hot tub to entertain our toddler. My husband worked in a restaurant so he’s currently out of work; he’s been wonderful, taking care of lots of household needs and keeping our little one (and daschund/chihuahuah mix) busy. I continue to work from home; some days it’s a nice distraction, other days it’s hard to muster any willpower to take it on. I was sick last week–no fever or breathing issues–so I think it was just the flu (husband and child had flu shots and did not get sick). I am petrified of any of us getting COVID so we’re doing our best to eat well and being very cognizant to not leave our home unless it’s for food. We have been going to local parks, which thankfully are mostly desolate in the desert. The uncertainty is horrifying, so I try to ignore it as best I can. I’m currently reading Michel Faber’s “Under the Skin” and watching lots of Marvel movies (which I don’t enjoy) with my toddler. Wishing all my friends, family, and colleagues a healthy spring. xo

Johnson Chong, Author of “Sage Sapien: From Karma to Dharma,” Guide, Speaker & Speaker, March 30, 2020, @johnsonchong_sagesapien
In the meditative work and journey I have been on and continue to be on, I am not afraid of isolation and it is something that brings me great peace in fact. But for others who have not spend time ashrams, or done much meditation, and have spent most of their adult life fixated on the external world, it’s more challenging. So I am a part of a free global quantum healing summit that grew to 25,000 members on Facebook in one week. Collectively, around the world, we are being called to help others who are struggling.

There seems to be an expectation that everything will return to the way it was, but that will not happen. How can it? Every aspect of our humanity is being questioned from the way we think, to the way we work and how we make decisions as people, families, organizations and governments. Everything has changed and it will continue to change. I am breathing in the perceived chaos and the uncertainty as much as I can, not in a way of avoiding or denying what is happening. Instead, it inspires me to create, to reach out and to connect in new and exciting ways. There is always a silver lining, even if we cannot find it right away. www.johnsonchong.com 

Perez Hilton, proud dad of three and founder of an iconic website. Follow it at @PerezHilton, March 29, 2020, @theperezhilton
I’m just now getting to emails. Responding to yours over four days after you hit send. That should give you a clue how I’m doing! Definitely nowhere near my best or my usual.

Brian Webb, Owner, Editor-in-Chief, TheHomoculture.com, Vancouver, BC, March 26, 2020, twitter: @br_webb / @TheHomoCulture, IG @br_webb
The news and social feeds are different between the United States and Canada. My heart goes out to those in our community who are impacted due to the closure of our gay bars, nightclubs, restaurants, and event venues, and the cancellation or rescheduling of Pride and circuit events. These are trying times. For those who are working on the front lines, thank you so much for your service during this critical time. Know you are playing a vital role. I grow worrisome each day,  listening to the rhetoric and plans Donald Trump announces daily; this is not leadership and puts American lives at risk. America is broken, and this is one more reason why the November 2020 election is critical for a Democratic win. On the other hand, I am forever proud to be Canada, especially at times like these. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stands at the podium, in self-quarantine from his residence, updating Canadians on the latest information and actions from our Federal government. He stands confident and with authority. Politics are set aside. Canadians are listening to government and health care authorities. We are staying home and social distancing. Overall, the human stories of compassion are beautiful and heartwarming. People are reaching out to friends, family, and members of the community, to check in, collaborate, and support each other. It’s important to stay positive. Be creative, challenge yourself, be productive, and give back to the community. Get up each day and make things happen. We’ve got this! And if you need ideas of things to do, get motivated, and what’s happening in gay culture – HomoCulture will continue to bring the latest on what’s happening:www.TheHomoCulture.com.

Brian Falduto, Queer Country Artist, LGBT Life Coach, NYC, March 27, 2020, @brianfalduto
I’ve been fighting against guilt over being fairly content during all this. The majority of my responsibilities were already work-from-home before chaos hit. And I had purposefully already removed myself from the hustle & bustle of NYC for a creative writers’ stay in Music City. So, to be honest, the timing wasn’t terrible as it has just given me permission to retreat further into myself & my surroundings. In other words, my introverted self is thriving. But I know the gravity around what’s happening & so guilt creeps in over my stance on it all. On the one hand, to not operate from the place of abundance I find myself in would be a very ungrateful viewpoint for me to have. That said, I do feel an obligation to stay informed on what’s going on & how I can help. My work involves providing mindfulness coaching for the gay community & I also work in suicide prevention. So I do feel a bit like I’m doing my part & the excuse to refuel is only likely to make me stronger in the energy I provide to others. I think it’s a strange, unprecedented time & that no one has answers, so I’m not going to pretend to. I am noticing, however, that there seems to be a need to over-produce, over-create, over-connect right now – almost like we’re compensating. As I see it, the universe is asking us to get quiet. How much can we let go? How much can we accept? What do we miss? What do we not miss? I think it’s an opportunity to look inward & rebuild, not continue where we left off. So to answer how I’m coping: I’m just spending time exploring those questions for myself & see what’s on the other side of any resistance that’s coming up to this new way of life. I do miss my old workout routine, I’ll say that much!

Brian’s new single, “Like a Wave,” is out now.

Andy Reynolds, Popular Publicity, NYC, March 30, 2020, @popularpublicity
A friend and former client (as a member of The Ones), Nashom Wooden, East Village fixture, former drag queen (Mona Foot) and Rick Owens fanatic, died on March 23 of the virus. Apparently, he self-diagnosed and chose to stay home, per the advice we have all been given, and died alone. So, while I’m frightened, I’m doing my best to fake as normal a life as possible. Always worked from home, so got that routine down. Coffee, shower, shave, fully dressed and at my desk working every day. Paranoid to go out, but am for groceries. Dismayed by people, not taking the distancing thing seriously. In a day/evening group chat with about 10 friends, which really helps. Missing the gym. Got a home bodyweight workout plotted out, but have yet to implement. Running a GoFundMe campaign for a neighborhood restaurant. Lots of reading. Catching up on my New Yorkers. Books. Just finished “Kaiser Karl” by Raphaélle Bracqué and “Nothing to See Here,” by Kevin Wilson, which is a LOL scream. Turned off my newsfeed and, much as I love Judy Woodruff, even quit the PBS NewHour. After a week of no news, I’m less anxious and more able to cope. Thankful for a quiet city, but it’s a bit of a be careful what you wish for situation. Miss the bustle. •

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