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’:

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.

That Golden Girls Show is night of nostalgic fun!

Did you know the Golden Girls are back in puppet form? That Golden Girls Puppet Show is running right now at the DR2 Theatre in NYC and it’s an experience any Golden Girls fan should not miss!

Anyone who knows me or follows me on social media knows I am a huge Golden Girls fan. I can quote lines from the show on demand and I sometimes sneak it into conversation or use lines in my own daily dialogues. I had heard there was a puppet show based on the Golden Girls and put in on my “must do” list and shortly after I received an invitation to attend one of the preview shows. I will tell you that the second I read the email, I did not hesitate to respond.

The first thing that got me upon walking into the theater was the set. The living room and kitchen look EXACTLY like they did in the show. I immediately felt like I was at home and at this moment I hoped the evening would be everything the show has been. One of the reasons the Golden Girls was always so special to me is because I used to watch it with my late grandmother. I also watched with my parents and I still do when I visit them. Most nights, I fall asleep with the girls on and when TV Land has a Golden Girls marathon I’ll admit I get a bit too wrapped up in them. Don’t expect me to be ready to go anywhere too early on a Sunday!  You can find them in syndication on Logo, TV Land, and Hallmark Channel all times of the day and night which has made the show available to multiple generations even decades after it went off the air.

The Original show aried from 1985 – 1992 on NBC and was part of the Thursday night line up but then moved to Saturday nights. One description of the Golden Girls reads “Four previously married women live together in Miami, sharing their various experiences together and enjoying themselves despite hard times.” But any true fan of the show knows it was about so much more. They tackled issues like gay marriage, infidelity, agism, women’s rights, gay rights, addiction, homelessness, and politics.
The original cast included Bea Arthur (Dorothy Zbornak), Betty White (Rose Nylund), Rue McClanahan (Blanche Devereaux), and Estelle Getty (Sophia Petrillo) with Herb Edleman as Dorothy’s ex-husband Stan Zbornak.
The puppet version of the girls definitely live up to their TV counterparts and the cast consists of Weston Chandler Long as Dorothy (This particular night Dorothy was played impeccably by Michael LaMasa down to Bea Arthur’s manerisms), Arlee Chadwick as Rose, Cat Greenfield as Blanche, Emmanuelle Zeesman as Sophia, and Zach Kononov as Stan.
Tickets are available now through the end of the year so if you are in New York City or plan to be, you should consider experiencing this evening of laughter and nostalgia. Tickets can be purchased here: http://www.ticketmaster.com/That-Golden-Girls-Show-A-Puppet-tickets/artist/2276879#artist_table_focus.
They even recreated the theme song sequence from the original show:

You’ll be leaving the theater feeling good and singing “Thank you for being a friend” for sure!