It was a kind of love at first sight between Dave Perruzza and JR.’s, the bar he’s been at for nearly 14 years. The 35-year-old gay Mahopac, N.Y., native had finished a four-year Navy tour of duty that landed him in Pearl Harbor and San Diego through the mid-’90s. But a friend from Hawaii, another Dave, had moved here and Perruzza would visit en route to see his family.
“I just kinda fell in love with JR.’s,” Perruzza says. “I’m not just saying this to be cliche but I love the bar, I love coming here and used to hang out here all the time.”
He started as a coat check the night he moved to D.C. Within a year he was in management. Now he oversees JR.’s, Cobalt, Level One and another JR.’s in Denver for his friend, owner Eric Little.
“I just like the bar business,” he says. “I thought I would go to the Pentagon and I could have gotten a job there very easily because of the Navy, but I just realized I like this so much more. I could never sit at a desk. It would drive me insane.”
One of JR.’s signature events is Tuesday — the annual “High Heel Race,” a Tuesday-before-Halloween 17th Street tradition. Perruzza, though, is in the midst of handing it over to Dupont Circle Main Streets, a historic preservation neighborhood entity of which he’s president. He says that group is better equipped to manage the race.
Perruzza calls himself “pathetically single.” His first week at JR.’s he had a stalker so he’s made it a policy not to hook up with or date people he meets there.
He calls his personal life “so boring it’s ridiculous.” He likes video games and has a tight-knit circle of friends he goes boating and on trips with. His idea of down time is staying home and relaxing with peace and quiet, a habit he attributes to his bar work life. He lives in the 16th Street Heights with his three dogs — Lucy, Romeo and Lola Mae — and a cat dubbed “the Miche.” (Blade photo by Michael Key)
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
Since I was 18. My sister told on me so it was easy after that.
Who’s your gay hero?
Eric Little. He’s caring and sorta like my gay dad.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
JR.’s of course.
What’s your dream gay wedding?
Just me and my man and our immediate families.
What non-gay issue are you most passionate about?
What historical outcome would you change?
The way the AIDS epidemic was handled. I have lost to many friends to it.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
I would have to say when Michael Jackson died. I was him for halloween one year so it hit me. I mean I grew up with him.
On what do you insist?
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
It was a video post of the Howard Stern Show with guys with the smallest penises. It was disturbing yet hilarious.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“For Christmas My Mom Got Me a Sewing Machine and My Dad Got Me a Power Drill.” It’s a long title but that’s what it would be.
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Nothing. I’m happy the way I am.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
Ghosts. I swear one lives in my house or at least my dog is staring at something in the middle of the night.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Don’t go all in and take it step by step. If you throw it in peoples’ face so quickly they are more likely to reject it but if you ease into something then they aren’t so shocked or surprised by it.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
It’s corny as hell but love.
What gay stereotype annoys you most?
That we are all nelly queens. Damn you Jack from “Will & Grace.”
What’s your favorite gay movie?
“Torch Song Trilogy,” then “Mambo Italiano,” then “Latter Days.” I just love gay movies.
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Can’t think of one.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
My Navy Achievement medal.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
That there were more people like me (who were gay).
Close enough to my family but far enough away. It’s also an amazing city.