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In the ’90s, Boyz II Men enjoyed an incredible ride to the top of the charts—and in the years since, no group has matched Boyz II Men’s combination of style and talent.

The group continues to record and perform around the world as a trio, and has had a residency in Las Vegas at the Mirage Hotel and Casino since 2013.

Boyz II Men will be stopping by The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort and Spa this Friday, March 2.

During a recent phone interview, Boyz II Men member Shawn Stockman discussed Under the Streetlight, the group’s most-recent album, featuring doo-wop covers such as “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” and “I Only Have Eyes for You.”

“It was a whole lot of fun to record,” Stockman said enthusiastically. “These were songs (where) we obviously weren’t born during the time they came out, but we did listen to them as kids, because our parents played them. We feel just as connected to them as they do. It helped us as future vocalists to appreciate a certain type of sound. Doo-wop is beautiful, and the songs we picked are the nearest and dearest to our hearts, because we heard them when we were children. It was a fun project. because it brought back a lot of memories.”

They recruited a friend, fellow ’90s R&B vocalist Brian McKnight, for the album; he appears on three of the tracks.

“Brian is a good friend, and we’ve known Brian since the beginning,” Stockman said. “We came out at just about the same time, and we’ve always had this rapport and friendship that’s lasted at least 20 years. Reaching out to him, he almost never says no, unless he has something pressing that he has to do. We never say no to him if there’s something he needs from us. That’s just a friendship thing. It just made sense for him to be a part of this.”

Boyz II Men represents the last of the great artists on Motown Records. The group appears on many Motown Records compilations—along with some of the most recognizable R&B singers in history.

“It was almost like everything was set up for it to just happen, and we were just there,” Stockman said. “There are certain things you cannot plan. I feel blessed every day, and I mean that; I’m not just saying that to sound good during an interview. There could have been so many people; there are so many better singers than myself, and I didn’t have to be part of this group. I’m thankful and grateful to have experienced what I have so far, and I’m taking full advantage of it.”

It seemed as if Boyz II Men was trying to create something new, by combining group harmonies, doo-wop and the new jack swing sound of the ’90s.

“Even though there was a surge of musical groups that came out at the same time we did, I think the thing that separated us from everyone else was we came from the same background, and we sang together in high school,” Stockman said. “We were very familiar with each other’s voices. It was like being on a football team that practiced. When we were presented to the world, we were fairly groomed with a sense of knowing how to perform, vocalize and deliver a song. I think that was our greatest advantage.”

The group’s 1991 debut, Cooleyhighharmony, was a smashing success, a rarity for musical groups. The song “Motownphilly” peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 3. Boyz II Men also managed to score a hit with a cover of the G.C. Cameron single “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.”

“It says everything it needs to say when you miss someone that you love, or someone that you love is gone forever,” Stockman said about “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.” “That’s pretty much it. The greatest songs are the simplest ones and carry the deepest sentiment and translate into the simplest form. That’s what makes songs great. Everyone can relate to it. That’s the beautiful thing about that song: It’s beautiful and it’s simplistic.”

Sophomore album II was an even bigger smash success in 1994, with songs such as “I’ll Make Love to You,” “Thank You” and “On Bended Knee.” The pressure during the recording of II was intense, but the members worked through it, Stockman said.

“It’s funny, because when you first get signed, no one at the label knows you. No one really cares about you, and maybe there are a couple of people who are excited about you. You’re successful all of a sudden, and then you have a whole bunch of chefs in the kitchen. You have all these people up your butt that you didn’t have before, and that causes craziness and pressure. But we weren’t just some contrived group; we were friends. We were able to deflect a lot of that stuff that came with success. The first album did well; the second album did better. There were a lot of people trying to get in on this success. That part sucked. But we managed to keep it cool and keep it about the music.”

I asked Stockman about the 2014 album Collide, which was panned by some critics thanks to an EDM sound and Auto-Tune vocals.

“The irony of the music industry is if you keep it the same, people say, ‘Ugh! They kept it the same!’ If you do something different, ‘Ugh! They did something different! Why didn’t they keep it the same?’” Stockman said. “So, really, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. There’s always going to be someone who won’t be happy. Collide was one of those records that didn’t get us a lot of the attention we hoped it would, but I still feel like it was a great effort.”

Stockman recently recorded vocals on the title track of the Foo Fighters’ newest album, Concrete and Gold.

“I ran into Dave Grohl and met him a few years prior at a really hard rock ’n’ roll spot called ‘the flower shop,’” Stockman said with a laugh. “It was actually just a flower shop, and we were buying flowers for our wives, and we just happened to see each other. We started talking about music. When he was recording Concrete and Gold, I saw him sitting outside the studio. … He was out there working on some lyrics, and we started catching up, and he was like, ‘Hey, I’m recording this record. Want to be on it?’ I was like, ‘Yeah! Just give me a little while, and when I’m done doing my thing, I’ll come by your studio.’ That’s how it happened. I’m old-school in the sense that I don’t need a team of lawyers to be beside me to get a song recorded. It’s all about vibe and good energy. I like Dave, and I’m a fan of the Foo Fighters, and that’s how that came about.”

Stockman is the father of an autistic child.

“It’s a daunting condition. No one, including the people who are directly affected by it, want to talk about it,” Stockman said. “It’s rough to look at your child and see something different about him that you have to help regulate. It’s a rough thing, and people don’t like to give to charities in the first place, especially to something they don’t understand, and for autism, a lot of people don’t understand it. It’s not a condition that you can pinpoint to one cause. No one knows why kids develop autism. … With our foundation, Micah’s Voice, which is named after our son, it’s about being proactive with the people who have autism, and leaving the speculations up to the experts. All we know is that there are over 70 million people in the world with autism, and that’s like the population of an entire country. These people will grow up to become adults, and some of them are adults, so you have people you have to protect.”

Boyz II Men will perform at 8 p.m., Friday, March 2, at The Show at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage. Tickets are $55 to $75. For tickets or more information, call 888-999-1995, or visit www.hotwatercasino.com.

Published in Previews

I’m a 36-year-old straight woman with autism, and I am often misidentified as lesbian, because my social signaling must read as masculine. I am not bothered by this. However, it is annoying when someone who should know better thinks I would hide it if I were LGBTQ.

I’m very direct and honest—sometimes to my detriment—and the idea that I would hide something so fundamental about myself is abhorrent to me. I don’t consider myself disabled; I am different than most people but not broken. But as a person with a diagnosed “disability” that includes an inability to accurately read and display social cues, I know that a person’s perception of your sexual orientation is definitely affected by social signaling.

I enjoy your podcast and I feel like I am educating myself about how neurotypical people think. But I wish there was as good a source of advice for people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). I have been searching, but a lot of the advice for people with ASD is written by people who are not on the spectrum and focuses on passing for neurotypical.

Not Disabled, Not Lesbian, Not Typical

I shared your letter with Steve Silberman, the award-winning author of The New York Times best seller NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity, NDNLNT. I really have nothing to add to his response—your question is outside my supposed areas of quasi-expertise—so I’m going to let Steve take it from here.

“I’m not surprised to hear that NDNLNT is more annoyed by people thinking she’s in the closet than by them misidentifying her as gay. In my experience, a passionate concern for social justice—and compassion for other stigmatized and marginalized people—is so common among folks on the spectrum that it’s practically diagnostic. Furthermore, there seems to be an interesting overlap between being autistic and having a nonstandard gender identity—whether you define yourself as gay, bi, trans, straight but not cis, or nonbinary.

“My autistic friends share NDNLNT’s concern about the lack of good resources for autistic people who want to learn more about the nuances of sex, dating and gender identity. As she points out, many of the advice books written specifically for people on the spectrum take the approach that the route to success in this arena involves acting as much like a neurotypical as possible, which just adds stress to an already stressful situation. They also tend to be tediously heteronormative and drearily vanilla-centric.

“But there are exceptions. My autistic friends recommend Life and Love: Positive Strategies for Autistic Adults by Zosia Zaks; The Aspie Girl’s Guide to Being Safe With Men by Debi Brown; and the anthology What Every Autistic Girl Wishes Her Parents Knew, edited by Emily Paige Ballou, Kristina Thomas and Sharon daVanport. While not autism-specific, The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability also comes highly recommended. My favorite autism blog, Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism, runs frank and fascinating pieces like ‘Autism and Orgasm.’ Another place to look for useful advice is in presentations by autistic self-advocates like Lindsey Nebeker, Stephen Mark Shore, and Amy Gravino (whose TEDx talk ‘Why Autism Is Sexier Than You Think It Is’ is on YouTube).”

Dan here: Thank you so much, Steve. And to everyone else: There’s more about Steve and his work at his website (stevesilberman.com), and I strongly recommend following him on Twitter (@stevesilberman), where he daily battles Republicanism, ignorance and hatred. (I’m sorry; was that redundant?)


My fiancé and I are getting straight-married this summer. My fiancé’s best man is in a polyamorous relationship—which is not the problem. The issue is that we like only one of his boyfriends. Our best man moved in with the boyfriend we like two years ago. The other boyfriend is new (six months), younger and immature. Whenever we’ve seen the three of them, his new boyfriend was fighting with one of them.

I don’t want our best man to feel like we are being rude in excluding his new partner, but I don’t want there to be drama for our best man at our wedding.

Being Rude Isn’t Dat Easy

Hmm. A new addition to a poly relationship who creates drama and makes close friends of the original pair uncomfortable? I’d put the odds of their third being in the picture six months from now at zero. So this is a problem that will most likely solve itself.

But you could always ask your friend what he would like you to do. You’re not worried about the new boyfriend ruining your wedding, BRIDE; you’re worried about him ruining the day for your best man. So ask your best man what would be worse—the new boyfriend being excluded (and your best man incurring his wrath at home), or the new boyfriend being included (and your best man having to put up with his bullshit at the wedding). Then +1 or +2 accordingly.


I’m an attractive 30-year-old woman. Recently, I was stuck in a packed subway car. I squeezed in next to the best-looking straphanger I could find, faced him like we were slow-dancing, pressed my tits into him and straddled his leg. We were so close, my head was over his shoulder—I could feel an electrical charge running through his body—and we stayed that way until I got to my stop. Upon parting, I whispered, “You’re very attractive.” And he whispered back, “So are you.”

I’ve pulled this on crowded trains a few other times. They’re my favorite erotic memories, and it sure seemed like the guys enjoyed these experiences. But Charlie Rose thought he was “exploring shared feelings.” So I wanted to ask: Am I a groper?

Tiresome Reality Arrogates Intimate Nearness

Yup.

Some people would say the obvious response—the obvious way to open your eyes to what’s so wrong about your actions—would be to ask, “If a dude did this to a woman on a public conveyance, would that be OK?” But a woman seeking out the hottest guy on the subway and pressing her tits into his chest and straddling his leg exists in an entirely different context than a man doing the same to a woman. As I wrote recently on my blog in the Savage Love Letter of the Day: “Men don’t move through their lives deflecting near-constant unwanted sexual attention; we aren’t subjected to epidemic levels of sexual violence; and consequently, we don’t live with the daily fear that we could be the victims of sexual violence at any time and in any place.” So a man on the receiving end of your behavior—even a man who felt annoyed, offended or threatened—is going to experience your actions very differently than a woman subjected to the same actions by a man. A man is unlikely to feel threatened; a woman is unlikely to feel anything else.

While the men you’ve done this to seemed to enjoy it—and we only have your word to go on—that doesn’t make your subway perving OK. There are definitely men out there, TRAIN, who would be upset and/or angered by your actions. Me, for instance—and not (just) because I’m gay. (I don’t like being hugged by strangers. I would hate being humped by a random perv on the train.) There are also men out there who have been the victims of sexual violence—far, far fewer men than women, of course, but you can’t tell by looking at a guy whether he’d be traumatized by your opportunistic attentions.

Even if your hump-dar (like gaydar, but for humping) was perfect, and you never did this to a man who didn’t enjoy it, you’re normalizing sexual assault on subways and buses, TRAIN, thereby making these spaces less safe for women than they already are. Knock it the fuck off.

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Published in Savage Love

Eight years ago, Josh Heinz and his wife, Linda Lemke Heinz, started the Concert for Autism. In the years since, the concert has grown to become one of the most anticipated charity music events of the year.

The Ninth Annual Concert for Autism will take place on Friday, Nov. 18, and Saturday, Nov. 19 at the Tack Room Tavern in Indio. The Hellions, The Flusters, Machin’, House of Broken Promises and many, many others are scheduled to perform during the two-night event.

The couple is well-known in the local music scene thanks to their work in Blasting Echo and 5th Town. They’re also the parents of autistic children; in fact, that common thread in their lives led to them meeting each other. During a recent interview, Heinz discussed the many challenges that he and his wife face on a daily basis.

“The tough thing is that Linda’s son, Christopher, who is 14, he can have severe meltdowns,” Heinz said. “If you try to redirect him if he’s doing something he shouldn’t be doing … he can literally melt down, and sometimes break things, sometimes get violent—and the struggle for us is to prevent that from happening. Currently, he’s on a medical regimen, and he’s actually doing better over the past couple of months, but it’s never a guarantee. Every day, you wake up and hope he’s in a good mood. Last year, he didn’t finish the last three weeks (of school), and we were afraid he wouldn’t even go to high school this year, given it was his first year of high school. So far, he’s been good, but there was a day he had a big meltdown, and we had to go get him out of school.

“When he’s had meltdowns, he has thrown chairs, and you worry he’ll throw the TV from off the wall. It’s fear, and it’s sadness—particularly for Linda, because that’s her son. My son, who doesn’t live with us, is two years older. He used to be violent, but nowhere near what Christopher is.”

Josh works full-time. However, Linda needs to be on call with the school on a daily basis.

“In Linda’s case, she can’t hold a real job,” Josh said. “She teaches piano and voice lessons from home and has done that for a long time. She’s had to cancel lessons. She used to have 20 students she’d teach through the week; now it’s way down from that, probably around 12. There’s that loss of income.”

Having children with autism also leads to financial challenges beyond that loss of work income.

“Christopher is still under his dad’s insurance, but we still have to pay for the medications,” Josh said. “He is also a teenage boy; he eats a lot. The other day, he literally ate six bananas in 30 minutes. He doesn’t like to eat most fruits and vegetables; he wants sugar and carbs. We’ve started to hide food and only put out a little bit at a time, because he’ll go through it.

“When Schmidy’s (Tavern) closed, (owner) Dennis Ford had a deep freeze and said, ‘I bought this a couple of years ago; I’ll sell it to you for next to nothing.’ We have it in the garage, and we’re able to lock it up. We’ll buy a box of taquitos, and Christopher will literally eat most of the box—and he’ll eat them frozen. He’ll eat a whole box of frozen waffles in one sitting. But if you try to correct him, he’ll melt down. With his condition, he eats more than a normal 14-year-old boy.”

Josh and Linda need to plan their performance schedules accordingly, too.

“You can’t just hire a regular baby sitter to baby-sit with an autistic kid,” Josh explained. “Christopher typically goes to bed around 8 or 9. He gets his nighttime medications, calms down and goes to sleep. Our son Jack can’t be alone with Christopher, because Christopher used to pick on his sisters when they were smaller. The autism heightens that, and he’ll try to pick on Jack. Our older daughters can watch Jack when we play, but Christopher is 14 and a big kid, and Jack is little, and picking on Jack could be dangerous. If we play a show when Christopher is going to be awake, at something like 7:30 p.m., we have to have an adult there who knows him, or knows about autism. Say 5th Town has a show, and our set is at 9. We need to be there at 8:30, and that’s (Christopher’s bedtime) window, and the meds don’t always make him go to sleep. So we have a respite worker. We have respite hours from the state, and (the worker) will come in around 7:30.”

The musical careers of Blasting Echo and 5th Town have had a positive effect on the family, especially when one of the bands practices at their home.

“We love making music, and our outlet is our way to deal with how we feel,” Josh said. “Jack loves it and will sing along in his room. Sometimes, Christopher will come out and wander around. Sometimes he’ll bounce around in excitement, and it’s a good thing. Overall, the music is a calming thing.”

Earlier this year, Lumpy’s local golf stores closed their doors for good—but the Lumpy’s Foundation for Autism is still going strong.

“Before I worked with Lumpy’s, I donated money to the Coachella Valley Autism Society. When my son was diagnosed, my now-ex-wife and I didn’t know what to do,” Josh said. “I found out about the society a couple of years later, and that’s where I met Linda. That’s where a lot of parents need to go when their children are diagnosed with autism. If you go there, you meet a lot of other parents, and you hear what might work or might not work, the services you might be able to get, and things like that.

Josh explained why the funds from the annual Concert for Autism goes to Lumpy’s Foundation.

“Linda had a grant from Lumpy’s, and while Lumpy’s is closed, the foundation is still going to stay open. The owner has a son with autism, and (the son) plays piano; Linda taught him. … The National Autism Society (with which the Coachella Valley Autism Society is affiliated) came back to us and said, ‘All fundraising events have to be sanctioned by the National Autism Society.’ They gave me the money back, and I said, ‘I’ll just give it to Lumpy’s.’ Everything is given to them, and people can write off donations to the Lumpy’s Foundation.”

The Ninth Annual Concert for Autism will take place at 6:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 18, and Saturday, Nov. 19, at the Tack Room Tavern, 81900 Avenue 51, in Indio. A $5 donation at the door is suggested. For more information, visit concertforautism.com.

Published in Previews

On this week's healthy Independent comics page: Jen Sorenson suggests gifts for the unvaccinated; The K Chronicles yearns for the days of art patronage; The City checks in on recent efforts by the culture warriors; and Red Meat does some vacation planning.

Published in Comics