Friday, June 16, 2023

Reportage: Harvey Brownstone Honored at the Stonewall Inn

 Harvey Brownstone Honored at the Stonewall: Canadian Talk Show Host, Activist Kicks Off Pride Month

By John Pietaro

Just who is Harvey Brownstone? For the many residing south of Niagara’s Rainbow Bridge, the celebrity host with an audience of 5 million+ may not be immediately recognizable, but his legend and impact are unmistakable. 2023’s Pride Festivities in New York were given a special commencement with Brownstone’s appearance at the Stonewall Inn, June 5. The birthplace of LGBTQ Liberation anchored Harvey’s New York City debut with in-depth discussion about his life, career, and ‘Interviews’ program, alongside guest speakers and live music. It was produced and hosted by public relations maven Laurie Towers.

The former Canadian judge—that nation’s first openly gay jurist—made history by marrying countless same-sex couples from the provinces as well as throughout this nation. The New York contingent was so numerous that Brownstone’s dedication earned a 2008 Proclamation by NYS State Senator Tom Duane. His marriage officiating occurred continually—and free of charge--around an already full Family Court docket. At the Stonewall, Brownstone offered, “It was always so moving. There were so many desperate to finally hold that legal commitment, I couldn’t turn anyone away.”

Among those he couldn’t turn away were New Yorkers Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer, married by Brownstone after 42 years as a couple; their union came to trigger the Supreme Court litigation which ushered in legal marriage for LGBTQ people across the U.S. The latter story was ardently told in documentary Edie and Thea: A Very Long Engagement which includes footage of the pair’s wedding ceremony at Toronto Pearson Airport. Among the guest speakers at Stonewall was Judith Kasen-Windsor who became the second wife of Edie Windsor following Thea Spyer’s lengthy battle with multiple sclerosis. Kasen-Windsor offered details of the fight, not only for recognition but that which Windsor endured leading up to the Supreme Court decision.

Grammy-nominated songwriter Harriet Schock (“Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady”, a massive hit for Helen Reddy), moved by Brownstone’s “coming out” story, composed “I Am Yours”, now released by vocalist and pianist Gary Lynn Floyd on his album Present Schock: The Songs of Harriet Schock. Floyd flew in from Houston to perform a riveting set including this song and Schock’s reworking of “Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady”, adding, “This time it’s from the male perspective and it’s actually my own coming out story”. He also performed a rousing original with vocalist Denise Lee, another out-of-towner in for the occasion (“And I also came to see my baby performing in Shuck’d on Broadway!”, she excitedly added). The duo lit the house with Floyd’s classic, warm baritone and Lee’s Mavis Staples-inspired vocal flight. Jim Keaton, president of the Helen Reddy Fan Club, spoke powerfully about the songs of Schock and the relationship he developed with Reddy and her team.

Award-winning mixologist Maria Gentile who’d crafted special libations for the evening including the Marvy Harvey, Love Wins, Justice for All, and the Brownstone (with Canadian Club whiskey, natch), emerged from behind the bar to lend her vocal talents to the goings-on. “If I Was a Boy”, a deeply touching piece recalling Gentile’s own childhood struggles within the LGBTQ reality, was emotionally performed by this veteran cabaret singer with emotive piano accompaniment by Floyd.

Other features of the evening included an address by long-term activist and WBAI radio host David Rothenberg. “I may be older than water”, he joked, nonplussed, “but I can still get up on stage”. Rothenberg, who’d spent decades as a Broadway press agent, was also founder of the Fortune Society. His activism for civil rights, civil liberties and peace expanded in 1973 “when I was asked to be on the David Susskind Show to discuss gay and lesbian issues. That was my coming-out story. I lived across the street from this place in 1969 during the uprising, but was frozen, deep in the closet then. I haven’t looked back since.” Others in the crowd included television, film and stage actor Louise Sorel (whom Rothenberg recalled from his earliest press rep days), and breakthrough TV screenwriter Susan Silver, among many more.

Wendy Stuart, actor, activist, and host of the ‘If These Walls Could Talk’ show, clarified just how fragile the situation is right now, in the face of ultra-conservative legislation stripping human rights through the most extreme of right-wing voices.

During his years on the bench, Brownstone also became a best-selling author with the groundbreaking “Tug of War: A Judge’s Verdict on Separation, Custody Battles and the Bitter Realities of Family Court”, leading to numerous appearances in media, but his lifelong desire to host celebrated actors and writers came to be only following retirement from law.

Since its debut in 2021, ‘Harvey Brownstone Interviews’ has counted Louis Gossett Jr, Linda Evans, Sir Tim Rice, Robert Wagner, Louise Sorel, Ruta Lee, even the elusive 93-year-old Mamie van Doren among his notable guests. The show is broadcast globally on Brownstone’s own YouTube channel as well as XPTV1 throughout the U.K., among other sources. Honoring the show, the Breakfast at Dominique’s fair trade, environmentally friendly coffee company premiered its ‘Talk Show Blend’, suited to Brownstone’s specific taste.

As the Stonewall celebration came to a close and the over-filled glasses were drained down to their rocks, so to speak, the house system played “Oh, Canada”, with host Towers proclaiming, “This is New York’s ‘thank you’ to you, Harvey. For all you’ve done!”



Harvey Brownstone Interviews website:

“Harvey Brownstone Interviews” youtube channel:

“Harvey Brownstone Interviews” XPTV1:

“Harvey Brownstone Interviews” Spotify channel:

“Harvey Brownstone Interviews” Apple:

Gary Lynn Floyd:

Harriet Schock:

Breakfast at Dominique’s Hollywood Blends coffees:


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