From Aris with Love, Music, and Film

Losing a loved one is unthinkable. Knowing it could have been prevented makes it even more horrific. The people responsible not taking responsibly is unacceptable. There are no words to comfort someone who has suffered such a loss, there are no actions that can bring a loved one back but there are ways we can help to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else. If you don’t already know him, I want to introduce you to my friend, Aris Ziagos, and I would like to share his story and the story of his mother, Virginia.

I met Aris after the loss of his mother and from what he has told me of her, I’m sorry I never got to meet her. She was an interesting, kind, loving soul and someone I would have LOVED to interview! I know she was amazing because she raised one amazing son. I’m so proud of him for taking on this latest project and I want to help him to make the film a reality.

In his words:

“On October 29th 2012 Bellevue Hospital was crippled and left without power in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy. My mother was a patient in the ICU, and died in the aftermath of the storm. In the midst of the worst tragedy that has struck my family, the biggest storm ever to hit NYC changed our lives forever and revealed cracks in our emergency management and health care systems. This documentary is so important, for learning from the lessons of these events, for grieving and healing.”

You all know I have always felt entertainment and social media are best when we are telling stories that help others and this is definitely the case here. Please enjoy our interview and visit the fundraising page if you can help. Even one dollar can assist and hopefully prevent this tragedy from happening to others.

Q: Your project, From Virginia With Love: A Documentary, is a labor of love and the story of your mother. Can you tell us a little about your mom?

Aris Ziagos: Yes, thank you! My mother was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and travelled around the country a lot in her youth as the daughter of an army family. In her 20′s and 30′s she toured as a belly dancer across America, finding a home in New York City. It amazes me that an Irish American girl from Ohio taught herself Greek, how to dance and sew, and made a career out of it. As she approached 40, she went on to real estate work and had me. I grew up around all these amazing photos of her from her belly dancing career, and it definitely influenced and inspired me to find my own way to the stage. When I made this choice and at every step along the way afterwards, my mother was my biggest fan, attending every show and offering any help she could.

Q: You suffered such tragedy during hurricane Sandy, and it seems like it could have been avoided if the hospital was better equipped to deal with natural disaster. Is part of the motivation behind the film to try and correct this for others going forward?

Aris Ziagos: Yes, that’s exactly what sparked my desire to make this film. The hospital (Bellevue Hospital) where my mother was an ICU patient did not make the necessary modifications to their emergency power systems or infrastructure for a tropical storm or hurricane in preparation for Hurricane Sandy. Worse yet, because the hospital is run by a corporation and the city, they worked in lock step to keep their failing infrastructure out of the news, until the entire hospital was unable to function with doctors unable to wash their hands, medication not reaching patients, toilets not being able to be flushed, no food for anyone. It was an absolute nightmare. We can’t change the past but we can learn from our mistakes by addressing exactly what happened and what could and should be done differently going forward. Anyone who lives in a coastal area should be thinking about ensuring the safety of the vulnerable in emergencies like this.

Q: We hear so often that “it gets better” but that surely doesn’t happen all on it’s own. Where did you find the strength to go on after all of this? What advice would you give to people who are grieving right now?

Aris Ziagos: My biggest motivation has been living in a way that would make my mother proud, and also finding a way to transcend the tragedy and find a way to honor my mother’s legacy of love. Her passing was so tragic, and I got stuck in that for a while in deep depression as could be expected. A big motivator for my life moving forward from that was to make sure my mother was remembered by her amazing spirit, not just by her passing. That’s been the inspiration for a lot of my music, and definitely for bringing this film to the world. The arch of tragedy to grieving to healing to finding purpose is one everyone can take something away from, and it’s one that plays out during the documentary.

Q: Since you have gone public with the story, what responses have you been getting from fans and friends?

Aris Ziagos: Everyone has been very supportive, encouraging and sympathetic. A lot of people were surprised to hear about the events surrounding my mother’s passing, because very little of the information made it to mainstream news. It was a week before the 2012 Presidential elections, local elections, and the entities that hold New York City together were very careful to present the story in a way that would not cause public outrage.

Q: Has anyone from the hospital contacted you since you started the campaign?

Aris Ziagos: No, not a peep. The hospital’s official story is they triumphed through the disaster with no loss of life. In spite of a great deal of independent reporting, and some good mainstream reporting exposing the hospital’s faults, there has been no accountability for the choices made. They have made some improvements to their infrastructure as defense against a future Hurricane Sandy, but we’ll have to see how thorough those defenses are in a future hurricane.

Q: How can people help you to get this story told?

Aris Ziagos: I’m raising funds for the documentary on IndieGogo:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/from-virginia-with-love-a-documentary/x/260537

I’m offering some really cool merch, like vintage photos of my mom’s belly dancing years, original music, tickets to advanced screenings and fun experiences, as well as pre-selling the documentary.

Q: What are some of the greatest lessons your mom taught you that you can share with us all?

Aris Ziagos: So many things! Love can move mountains. Never stop believing in yourself. You can achieve anything if you keep trying and learn from failure. Be of service to others and give back often in different ways.

Q: I know you have other projects you are working on as well. Can you tell us about some of those?

Aris Ziagos: I’m finishing up work on a few new songs and remixes which I’ll be releasing on the deluxe edition of my album “Pulse” in a few months. I’m also excited to finally release my collaboration with Paula Cole as a single in 2018.  It will be a year that will also see me focused on completing this film, and some new music to accompany it. I have a lot of other songs in the works for future releases, so there’s a lot on the horizon for the next 24 months.

Q: Where can we find you, your music, and your projects online?

Aris Ziagos: You can find me on my official site at http://aris.fm

and on social media at -

http://twitter.com/arisziagos

http://youtube.com/arisziagos

http://instagram.com/arisziagos

http://facebook.com/arismusic

Q: Do you think you will be doing more film work in the future? Would you stick to the social good theme or perhaps branch out into other genres?

Aris Ziagos: I can definitely see exploring film more in the future, a short film, more documentary work. I tend to put my heart into things that inspire me that I can get fully passionate about, who knows what the future will bring?

Q: I always ask people to give me one thing they absolutely cannot live without and one thing they wish we could all live without.

Aris Ziagos: CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT IT: MUSIC!

WISH WE COULD LIVE WITHOUT IT: TRUMP!

Q: What’s up next for Aris the artist?

Aris Ziagos: Next up is the deluxe edition of my album “Pulse” and some new singles in 2018!

I want to thank Aris for taking time to talk to me and for being a part of my NYC family. Take my word for it, he’s one of the good ones. Here is the Indiegogo page if you can make a donation:

And, for your enjoyment, here is the video for his song ‘The Music’:

Interview with Sean Cunningham (Friday the 13th Director)

In October I was honored to be part of the San Pedro International Film Festival, where I got to walk and work the red carpet, see some amazing new Indie films, support those filmmakers, and celebrate the industry. One of the two weekends was October 13th to the 15th, which meant we were in attendance for Friday The 13th. This Friday became the horror night, which was the perfect opportunity to show the original Friday the 13th film.

What was even more serendipitous was the fact that Sean Cunningham was in attendance that evening too as a special guest. Mr Cunningham is quite an interesting artists and a pleasure to talk to. I think I learned more in those few hours than I have in a long time about movies, filmmaking, and the industry as a whole. He was also gracious enough to grant me an interview and sit down in front of a camera for a change.

One of the things we talked about was his new project, The Nurse With the Purple Hair, a Social Good film that shows what hospice care is and what it can be. It’s the story of Michelle Lasota who makes the switch from surgical nurse to hospice nurse after the death of her father.

Sean met Michelle at Fan Expo in Toronto, CA, and was captivated by her stories about her hospice work. As filmmakers often do, he turned his interest into a project.

To date, the film has been viewed by focus groups from Vitas Healthcare, Skirball, and Kaiser Permanente. This has been their reactions:

– A catalyst to break through American culture’s denial of death.
– A great tool to bring awareness to what hospice is really about.
– Takes the mystery and fear out of hospice and dying.
– I feel brave, inspired, and honored to start a conversation that matters.
– A true look at a caring hospice nurse and the wonderful qualities of hospice care.

Here is out interview from SPIFFest:

Here is the trailer for The Nurse with the Purple Hair, you can learn more here:

Teeco71′s Holiday Gift List for the Guys in Your Life

The Elephant Pants provide fashion and comfort with a social good spin

I’m always hearing people say that their fathers are difficult to shop for when it comes to holidays and birthdays. I also hear people say it’s hard to figure out what to get their husbands or boyfriends. I’ve been to a few events where I got to meet vendors who have some amazing  products and as an added plus, many of them are small businesses and some even incorporate social good by donating proceeds to charity or causes. This year, I thought I would put together the very first Teeco71 Christmas Gift List to highlight some of the items I’ve seen over the year.

Most of the products I come across are thanks to Celebrity Connected, do I’d like to shout them out! You can follow them on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to see what they are promoting AND to see some of your favorite celebrities supporting these companies during Award Season. You can see all of the posts pertaining to these events by following the hashtag #CelebrityConnected on Twitter and Instagram as well.

I’m going to list my finds in no particular order because they are all so fantastic, I can’t really pick my very favorite. I think they are also so diverse that you can find something for every guy in your life and ladies, you are definitely going to love some of these for yourselves as well!

Let’s start with The Elephant Pants, this company is pretty awesome and they’ve actually been on Shark Tank, so you know this is quality stuff. It’s also a social good company because they are doing their part to help save elephants. The yoga/harem pants make for great lounging wear for men and women, plus I think the kimonos would be perfect for guys too! I actually ordered myself one after I met them and they gave me a pair of the pants. Head over to their website to see all they have.

Here’s a great gift for him but fun for having friends over too! It’s Watch Ya’ Mouthand

Watch Ya Mouth isn't just for the kids anymore! They have a #NSFW set of cards!

now they have an adult NSFW version plus a redneck version. It’s sure to create some silly fun as you try to guess the NSFW phrases your partner and/or friends are tying to see with the mouth guard in place! You can play with 2 to 10 people so it makes it perfect for date night or friends’ night. It’s available where games are sold or you can order it straight from their website.

Fancy some sweets for your sweet? How about organic, vegan, fine chocolate with a social good spin? Hemp Love has been crafting the finest organic, vegan ( and might I add delicious) chocolate since 2012 and now they also pledge twelve percent of its net profits to to Animal Assistance Programs that service the elderly, ability-limited, ill, combat wounded, emotionally distressed and first responders. Pretty cool gift that you can both enjoy too!

After enjoying that chocolate, a workout may be in order. How about Some gear to inspire and motivate? The people at Second Skin have compression gear to assist in your journey to get wronger, faster, or fitter. The prices are very reasonable and yes, they have plenty of stuff for men AND women! See, ladies, I can’t leave you out even when I’m trying to concentrate on my fellas….

My next suggestion may not be for every taste but it can be for everyone. Do you want to spice up your sex life a little? I know this isn’t what I normally talk about but it has become a huge part of our sexual health and activities. That’s right, I’m suggesting sex toys because our sexual health is important and shouldn’t be embarrassing at all!  In particular, I was introduced to a company called SVAKOM at the last few Celebrity Connected events. Visit their website when you aren’t at work and see all they have for you!

MAHI Leather Messenger Bag can be personalized for extra class

Another company I have been introduced to, which also has a social good aspect is a leather company called MAHI Leather. One dollar and fifty cents from each bag sold goes to FRANK Water Charity. You can choose a duffle, backpack, satchel, tote, toiletry bag, MacBook sleeve, iPad sleeve, and more. They are classic, classy, and can be personalized. Check out their website for styles and their reasonable prices. They have bags perfect for travel and weekend getaways… see, you can plan a weekend getaway too so it’s another gift that is good for both of you!

Speaking of style, Oko Lifestylehas some really cool clothes for guys and women! With

Oko makes you look good and feel good with their social good spin and comfy fabrics

each item you purchase, you are helping them to equip people to overcome, demonstrate acts of kindness, and you are giving opportunity to those who need it most. Each article of clothing is hand cut and sewn by once impoverished men and women in the Dominican Republic. Head over to their website to check out some quality style you can be proud to purchase!

Is your guy into wine? I have a couple for you to check out. Both are from California and both are delicious. One is made from honey, Pearson Brothers Private Reserve Handcrafted Saccharo. It’s such an interesting and refreshing flavor. The other is Volatus, who offer crips white wines and rich reds. He (and you) won’t want to share this with company but if you do, they are both sure to impress!

Are jewelry and accessories his thing? Nikolina Designs has something for your man and a few things for you too! Check them out at Nikolina.ca. They gave me this necklace at Celebrity Connected and I think it will make quite a statement at my next event or on my next red carpet!

Everybody needs some good skincare products and natural is always best. Naked offers all natural healing aids for Piercings, Tattoos, and Cosmetics. Their soap, salve, lotion, and body tea smell great and feel luxurious.

Also, one of my very favorite product lines is Body Merry and they have excellent products specifically for men but all of their products are perfect for men who want to take better care of their skin without all the fuss. You can also feel confident that the ingredients are all natural.

We all know we like our guys to have a soft touch, so to take care of those hands that we actually want on us, Wise Hands has salves that are made with exclusively organic and eco-certified ingredients. They are rich without being greasy, smell amazing, and will leave his hands (and yours) feeling touchable and soft.

Once you’ve both gotten all pampered and looking your best, you are ready for date night! Bonding Bees delivers fun dates to you in a box each month via a subscription and you can get 10% off by using BEES10. You can both be surprised each month with a box of activities to make date night interesting and enjoyable!

Everything on the list so far is perfect for straight men & women, and gay men and women but here’s one for my gay guys and couples. I love my subscription to Next Gay Thing. You can get a pair (or a few pairs) of underwear and some samples of some amazing products each month sent right to your home. This will keep you up to date with sexy underwear for trips, dates, or just hot nights at home.

 

Third Wolf Designs are all hand painted

Third Wolf Designs – Hand-painted and sustainably made T-shirts and comfy sweats. Check out their styles and designs. You’ll definitely have some unique items to add to your wardrobe.

I hope you check these out for yourself and as gifts for that special guy in your life. (but let’s face it, I can’t make a list and exclude anyone so these things are all just great for everyone!)

Please feel free to comment and let me know if you are familiar with any of them AND if you have recommendations of your own. I’m always looking for new things and new gift ideas. Also, let me know if you try any of them.

AND I also have to add that one of the best LGBT!Q TV Series is now available for digital

I am so proud to be an associate producer on this. Check it out!

download and purchase. Eastsiders Season Three would make a great gift for the holiday season. Be sure to get some snacks, comfy blankets, and settle in to binge watch the entire season!  Head over to Amazon, you’ll find a familiar name in the credits as Associate Producer too! I’m so proud of this and so glad it is here for the holidays!

One last thing I wanted to mention. The holidays are all about kindness and social good. My friend Boy Toy Jesse (Jesse Lozano, mornings on @star941fm in San Diego) and his radio station have this amazing Random Acts of Kindness advent calendar. There are activities you can do to help make someone else’s day a little brighter. If you do any of the things on the calendar, take a photo and use the hashtag #ActKindly and you may be gifted an Amazon Show!

 

Huge thanks to Celebrity Connected for their truly awesome events and all of the vendors who participate! Happy Holidays to all of them and all of you!!

 

Have you met Kit Williamson and John Halbach – Actors, Writers, Producers, and Travel Influencers?

Many of you may know Kit Williamson from Mad Men and his Emmy nominated and award winning show Eastsiders (Where you will also know his husband, John Halbach from). I am lucky to have become part of Eastsiders as an associate producer in season three and I am even luckier to be able to call them friends now as well. As a matter of fact, I just saw them in NYC when they were here to promote the third season of Eastsiders at New Fest last month.

If you follow Kit and John on social media you may have also noticed they have become quite the travel/luxury influencers these days and that is what I wanted to highlight them for here. Of course we must note that Kit is working on some amazing writing and directing projects like Girls Like Magic AND Eastsiders Season Three is available to pre-order at Amazon right now.

I have no idea how they find time to do all they do and take the fabulous trips they do BUT I do know that they make the trips look as fabulous as you’d imagine, plus are able to bring us all along via social media. Earlier this year, they took a trip across Europe that included time in Paris, Vienna, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Prague. Then they returned to LA for the premiere of Eastsiders Season three at Outfest but soon after headed to Palm Springs for some more amazing views and Instagram photos!

Recently, they spent time in NYC, where I am from (after a brief stay in one of my favorite cities, Toronto), and introduced me to the Williamsburg Hotel in Brooklyn. I actually lived right there in Williamsburg for a but but never visited this truly luxurious hotel right in my home town.

During their time in Europe, Kit and John experienced some of the local culture, explored the usual tourist sites, and definitely enjoyed the local cuisine. I spoke to John about it at the Eastsiders premiere party after Outfest in Los Angeles and he expressed interest in doing it again as well as traveling to other places. At the after party for Eastsiders at NewFest in NYC, Kit expressed the same feelings to me about traveling and I expressed my interest in joining them on a few adventures (can you blame me for trying?).

There experiences traveling and influencing have led them to start their very own magazine called Where Gentlemen Go to showcase all the latest and hottest trends in travel, health, home, fashion, and more. As they say, “Go Out, Go Home, Go for It – A gay men’s travel/ lifestyle blog for modern gents.” I suggest you check it out, you will see a familiar face there from time to time. I am truly proud to be a part of Where Gentlemen Go because it’s a place for guys to go to share experiences, thoughts, tips, and their favorite things and places.

Please make sure you follow both Kit Williamson and John Halback on Twitter and Instagram for to view pictures of their trips and upcoming adventures and projects. Also follow Eastsiders and Girls Like Magic, you won’t be sorry.

Afterglow The Play is a Must See Look at Modern Day Relationships

Friends with benefits, threesomes, and love triangles, OH, MY. Afterglow the Play (a play by Asher Gelman) explores the pros and cons of modern day “open” relationships and is a very real look at some of the complications that can arise. It’s not saying that these relationships can’t work, it’s just shedding some light on what can happen if things don’t go as you are expecting.

One of the things about the play is that the complications aren’t necessarily limited to being caused by another person. In true modern day realness, these issues can arise from career fixation, addiction, or even social media temptations.

Afterglow starts off with a couple having fun and spicing things up by inviting a third to play and the sexiness is supercharged. Three naked men in one bed is certainly an explosive way to start any production. And for the nudity lovers out there, there is plenty more of that throughout the show. The experience is fun, funny, touching, and even soul searching. There were plenty of tears shed as well as checking your own judgements in some instances for some people. The audience was so invested that there was plenty of laughter, gasping, and awws. The emotions are kept alive even during scene changes, which are done by the actors in between acts. The cast is so choreographed as they interact in character, which makes it both important and entertaining to pay attention to all the details. If the previous scene was happy and light, the actors are jovial during the moving of the set. If there was anger, grief, or strife, the actors are angry and tense as they move the set pieces and props.

It’s definitely refreshing to see a story about the lives of gay people with more heft and grit to it which also comes a bit closer to the reality of gay dating life in 2017. If there were more time, it would be nice to see the characters fleshed out even more or be shown more about their entire lives.

Brandon Haagenson and Robbie Simpson play Josh and Alex, the husbands, who will have you loving them and feeling tense for them throughout the story. Patrick Reilly is Darius, who gets caught up in this fantasy and allows himself to catch feelings for Alex against his own better judgement. He does such a wonderful job at expressing his emotions, devastation, disappointment, and confusion while reminding the audience that no one is really to blame here, nor is anyone worthy of our hatred.

The intimate setting of the Davenport Theatre makes you feel like you are in the characters lives, apartments, and relationships like a true voyeur as you explore their issues right beside them. Do polyamorous relationships work or is there a point where they need to be cut off before real feelings develop that can get in the way of everything a couple strives for in their journey together? For some, it certainly does but in this case, maybe not so much. Since it is based on Gelman’s own experience in opening up his marriage, this is surely one way things do play out in real life. Check out Afterglow and judge (or perhaps a better word is see) for yourself.