San Francisco Chronicle

Sometimes a kiss is not just a kiss

- By Jesse Hamlin Jesse Hamlin is a Bay Area journalist and former San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.

Gabriel Trupin was a gifted San Francisco dancer who performed on Madonna’s 1990 Blond Ambition Tour and, along with two other dancers, later sued her for not getting their permission or paying them for appearing in her 1991 backstage documentar­y, “Truth or Dare.”

Trupin, who pleaded with Madonna not to use the nowfamous footage of him kissing fellow dancer Salim Gauwloos (mainly because he didn’t want his boyfriend to see it) received a settlement from the singer that allowed him to live well until he died of AIDS in 1995 at age 26. His mother, Sue

Trupin, speaks for him in the new Dutch documentar­y

“Strike a Pose,” which screens Saturday, June 25, at the Castro Theatre as part of the LGBTQ Film Festival.

“What’s lovely about this movie is that it’s not at all about Madonna, it’s about what happened to these guys,” says Trupin, a retired nurse who worked at San Francisco General Hospital’s infection disease clinic for years and now teaches smoking cessation at UCSF. She was married to the late, great drummer and composer Eddie Marshall, who wrote a tune called “Genius Sue.”

Trupin was always bored by “Truth or Dare,” a film her son clearly didn’t relish participat­ing in but to which he could hardly say no, given the plum job with Madonna. She never knew until she attended the recent Tribeca Film Festival premiere of “Strike a Pose” just how important “Truth or Dare” had been to gay men’s self-acceptance and validation.

“Gabriel didn’t want to be known for that kiss. He wanted to be known for his dancing,” says Trupin, who said she loved the way filmmakers

Ester Gould and Reijer Zwaan wove the stories of the surviving six male Blond Ambition dancers (Oliver

Crumes, the only straight and not-classicall­y-trained one, is now a waiter and hip-hop dance teacher in Las Vegas).

Working with Madonna was a great gig “but wasn’t supposed to be the pinnacle of his career . ... He wanted to live and be a dancer; doing ‘Truth or Dare’ was her agenda. But that kiss ended up being very important. People hadn’t seen that onscreen before.”

Gabriel Trupin, who didn’t play to the camera like some of his associates, “didn’t want to carry a flag or be an advocate. That’s not who he was at 20,” Sue Trupin says. “He wasn’t there yet. He just wanted to get paid. But I’m positive that if Gabriel had lived, he would have come to be extremely proud of the role that film played in helping gay men around the world. It’s ironic that this kiss he didn’t want to be known for ended up being an incredibly noble legacy, in a way.”

Trupin couldn’t believe the reception she and the remaining six dancers got when they came onstage after a New York screening of “Strike a Pose.” People were standing and shouting, “Thank you!”

The dancers are now approachin­g 50, and “they’re a lot more interestin­g now than they were in ‘Truth or Dare,’ when they had nothing to say,” Sue Trupin says. “What happens when you have that fame at 20 and then it starts to fade? It’s a very moving story, and very well told.”

For more informatio­n, go to

Spalding steps in at Stanford

Health problems have forced singer Bobby McFerrin to cancel his Aug. 6 performanc­e at the Stanford Jazz Festival, officials announced Tuesday, June 21. Another major talent and McFerrin associate, bassist-vocalist Esperanza Spalding, will take his place, fronting a crackerjac­k band with Ambrose Akinmusire, Taylor Eigsti, Julian Lage, Linda Oh and Tupac Mantilla.

Tickets for the Spalding show will not be available until after the deadline for refunds of McFerrin’s already sold-out show, which means “there will be tickets available on or after July 11,” officials said.

In April, McFerrin had to cancel dates while seeing specialist­s to address symptoms that his representa­tive said included “vocal weakness and chronic fatigue.” Get better, Bobby.

For more informatio­n, call (650) 725-2787 or go to www.stanfordja­

Murals online

Fans of the Mission District’s Clarion Alley murals will be pleased to learn about a new website containing the complete archive of the bold images that have appeared in the alley over the last quarter century and the artists who made them.

For more informatio­n, go to www.clarionmur­

Big Clay

The Bay Area was a 2,000degree hotbed for big ceramic sculpture in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, with the volcanic Peter Voulkos setting the table for younger artists like Stephen de Staebler, Jun Kuneko and Jim Melchert.

The three and Voulkos are represente­d in the big exhibition “Fired Up: Monumental Clay,” which opened last week at the Palo Alto Art Center and runs through Aug. 28, along with works by Bean Finneran, Wanxin Zhang and one of Clayton Bailey’s sly Mad Scientist installati­ons, “It Came From a Bucket of Mud!”

For more informatio­n, go to www.cityofpalo­

 ?? Frameline ?? “Strike a Pose” focuses on Madonna’s dancers, including Kevin Stea, the late Gabriel Trupin and Oliver Crumes III.
Frameline “Strike a Pose” focuses on Madonna’s dancers, including Kevin Stea, the late Gabriel Trupin and Oliver Crumes III.

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