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For many LGBT activists, the most efficient way to get an up-to-the-minute handle on the state of the gay rights movement — and also have some fun mingling — is the annual Equality Forum, always in Philadelphia and slated for April 26 to May 2. With about 50,000 in attendance, organizers say it’s the largest gay civil rights forum in the world.

“It’s really the one location where all our major issues are discussed and it really brings together literally all the major and preeminent movement leaders and we’re very proud of the fact that there’s no registration fee and so many of the programs are free,” says Malcolm Lazin, the Forum’s executive director and one of its founders.

The International Equality Dinner, the event’s central event which is slated for May 1 at Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center, will feature an especially heady list of honorees this year. David Boies and Ted Olson, the straight attorneys working to have California’s Prop 8 overturned, will receive a role model award. CNN’s Tony Maddox will pick up a business leadership award on behalf of the network. U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, Pennsylvania’s Gov. Ed Rendell and Maryland’s Gov. Martin O’Malley are scheduled to attend. Several leaders from national gay rights groups will also be there representing some of the movement’s most influential players. Dan Choi, an officer in the U.S. Army facing discharge because of his outspoken gay rights activism, is also scheduled to attend.

Past honorees have included straight allies like San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and New Mexico’s Gov. Bill Richardson and lesbian tennis legend Martina Navratilova.

“We’ve always honored folks who’ve been on the cutting edge of our movement and folks who perhaps when they step forward, weren’t always as appreciated by our community but we believed in what they were advancing,” Lazin says.

The Forum also promises seven days of panels and parties. The highlight, organizers say, will be SundayOUT! at the Piazza & Liberties Walk on May 2, which is a seven-hour street festival slated for Philly’s newly revived Northern Liberties area, an old brewery that’s been dubbed “the Piazza.”

No registration is required. Except for the dinner, where tickets run $200, most events cost between $5 and $10. Panel discussions are free. Hotel Palomar Philadelphia is the official Forum hotel.

Organizers say a must-see event is the Brian Sanders Dance Tribute on April 30 at Merriam Theater. The 11th annual Gay and Lesbian Art Exhibit will feature the works of photographers Richard Renaldi and Marc Yankus. A panel featuring appointees of President Obama will highlight the visibility of LGBT people in this administration. Two new LGBT-themed documentary films will be shown and nine parties are scheduled. Visit equalityforum.com for a complete schedule of events.

Judd Proctor, a Richmond, Va., resident who produces LGBT history radio show “The Rainbow Minute,” attends the Forum annually and says he finds the experience enriching.

“There’s a little bit of something for everyone who attends,” he says. “I especially enjoy the evening panels based on current LGBT topics. They always have activists and people in the know and the Q&A sessions give attendees a chance to participate and meet leading experts and activists nationwide.”

Bruce Yelk, who heads the gay division of Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, the city’s marketing arm for leisure tourism, works with the Forum to help promote its events and coalesce its offerings with other aspects of gay Philadelphia which, Yelk says, has become one of the East Coast’s most gay-friendly cities.

“We have a very strong community,” Yelk says. “I don’t know if anybody has a number other than the traditional 10 percent [for LGBTs]. We’re not a Ft. Lauderdale or a Miami, not a resort destination, but a traveler who has gone to the traditional beach resorts and really wants a more sophisticated sort of vacation, with great museums, we have a lot of that. It’s hard to compare to New York, but we do offer lots of arts and culture here. Also our gayborhood is right in the heart of the city. You don’t have to get on a train and travel 25 minutes from where all the tourists would be.”

The Equality Forum is just one of 10 gay events scheduled for spring in the city. Mr. Gay Philadelphia, a celebrity-judged pageant, is April 17 at Voyeur Nighclub. Also that week is Philadelphia Black Gay Pride. Every Saturday in May is the Frontrunners Philly Fun Run and a Pride event in nearby New Hope, Pa., in Bucks County (May 13 to 16). And the Liberty Bell Classic, the city’s largest LGBT sporting event, hosts a weekend of softball competitions at the end of May (go to visitphilly.com or uwishunu.com for more information). Philly Gay Pride is June 13. QFest, Philly’s gay film festival, is July 8 to 19.

And if you haven’t been to the City of Brotherly Love in a few years, some aspects of nightlife have changed. Tabu Lounge & Sports Bar, which opened this month at 200 South 12th St., is the newest space. Several others, including Voyeur Nightclub at 1221 St. James St. (formerly Pure), Q Lounge and Kitchen at 1234 Locust St. (formerly Bump) and Westbury Bar and Restaurant at 261 South 13th St., have had major renovations. JR’s Lounge (no connection to Washington’s JR.’s) opened about six months ago at 1305 Locust St. It was formerly Camac Bar. Yelk says the pizza there is first rate.

And speaking of food, a couple new gay restaurants are also worth checking out, Yelk says. Look for Sampan (sampanphilly.com) at 124 South 13th St.; Chifa (chifarestaurant.com), the latest from superstar chef Jose Garces at 707 Chestnut St.; and nearby Knock Restaurant and Bar (knockphilly.com) at 225 South 12th St., which Yelk says is the best place to go for Friday night happy hour.

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Arts & Entertainment

Rehoboth Beach welcomes Christopher Peterson back

Drag legend to perform weekly beginning July 4

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Christopher Peterson, drag, gay news, Washington Blade
Drag legend Christopher Peterson. (Photo courtesy Peterson)

Christopher Peterson will celebrate 25 years of performing his brilliant show EYECONS when he brings it back to Rehoboth Beach this summer. He will be at Clear Space Theatre every Saturday at 10 p.m. and Sunday at 9 p.m. from July 4 to Sept. 5.

I have seen the show a number of times over the years from when he performed at the Renegade showroom (youngsters may not remember the Renegade out on the highway) to now at the Clear Space Theatre, so I am biased in saying it is always worth the price of a ticket. In fact it is worth a lot more because Christopher is an amazing talent. In addition to his own show he can be seen in “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” at Clear Space.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Christopher. He has lived in Key West, Fla., for years and performs there during the winter and when he isn’t booked around the country. Christopher told me he was born Moncton, New Brunswick but grew up in Halifax (actually Dartmouth across the harbor) Nova Scotia, Canada 58 years ago.

We talked about gay life today and I asked him when he came out and he responded: “in the womb.” He told me he always knew who he was even before he knew you could call it gay. He told me he was lucky and grew up in a family that always accepted him for who he was. I asked him if he was excited about coming back to Rehoboth and he told me he sometimes thought of this as his final ‘widow tour’ as it is his first time back at the beach since he lost the love of his life, James Mill, in September of 2019. They were together for 35 years and James was not only his partner in life but in business. Many in Rehoboth knew James and will miss seeing him at Christopher’s side. He was a beautiful man.

Christopher has been called North America’s greatest female impersonator and though I haven’t seen all of them, I have seen enough to thoroughly concur with that. He not only impersonate the characters, he seems to become them. He never lip-syncs but sings their songs and talks in their voice. Christopher once said his only vocal training was in high school and in church choirs but you would never know that when listening to him sing. Christopher also designs all of his own costumes and they are incredible. It’s amazing how quickly he can change from Marilyn Monroe and become Cher with just a new gown and new wig that he has stashed in the closet at the side of the stage. The transformation is mesmerizing.

Over the years he has impersonated so many iconic women, including Marilyn Monroe, Carol Channing, Madonna, Joan Rivers, Reba McEntire, Bette Midler, Tina Turner, Julie Andrews, Barbra Streisand, Liza Minnelli, Judy Garland, Eartha Kitt, Cher, Bette Davis, and Lucille Ball. He will add a new character once in a while if he feels comfortable having tried them out — one being Lady Gaga.

I asked him if he has a favorite character and he said, “That’s like asking me if I have a favorite child. These are all my children and they each represent something special to me.” He said, “as an example Streisand is the voice and Garland is the heart.” I remember he was once quoted as saying Judy Garland is his favorite to do and since he told me she represents the heart it didn’t surprise me as Christopher has a big heart. He often saves her for the end of the show and when you see her you leave wanting more.

I asked Christopher about the weirdest thing that ever happened during his show. He told me the story about an evening during the show, when he talks with an audience member, he leaned over the stage and began to chat with a table on the right of the stage and asked an older gentleman, Christopher called him Mary, how he liked the show. After saying he loved it the next thing Christopher saw was Mary keeling over. Turns out he had a heart attack. Christopher said he told the audience there would be a pause in the show and asked if there was a doctor in the house. One came forward and attended to the man and called 911. The gentleman seemed to recover and after they took him out on a stretcher the show went on. Christopher said this has happened more than once at his shows. Maybe it’s the excitement.

I asked him if any of the women he impersonates have been to see the show and was surprised when he said no. I would think any of those still alive would be honored to see how Christopher does them and shows them off so well.

This will be an exciting summer in Rehoboth and Christopher is prepared for visitors to come to the show and still follow any restrictions in effect for the pandemic. The theater has said it will continue to abide by all COVID restrictions in order to ensure the safety of both the actors and the audience. Clear Space Theatre has been doing this all winter and doing it safely.

I urge anyone who has never seen Christopher Peterson to get your tickets early as anyone who has seen him will be buying tickets to his shows and you don’t want to miss this chance to have a great fun evening in the theater.

Christopher Peterson as Lucille Ball. (Photo courtesy Peterson)

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Arts & Entertainment

Miss Richfield debuts new show at Rehoboth’s Blue Moon

Celebrating ‘40 Years on the Throne’

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Miss Richfield, gay news, Washington Blade

REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. — Miss Richfield 1981, the longtime drag star known for Provincetown residencies and performances aboard gay cruises, debuted a new show here Monday for an invitation-only audience at the Blue Moon.

The show, dubbed “40 Years on the Throne,” celebrates Richfield’s four decades entertaining largely LGBTQ audiences with tales from her hometown “where butter is a spice and gravy is a beverage.”

Coincidentally, the Blue Moon is also celebrating 40 years in business this year.

Russ King, a Minnesota native, created the Miss Richfield persona to chronicle “her lifelong goal of being crowned beauty queen of her first-ring suburb of Minneapolis.”

Monday’s show — a dress rehearsal before it heads to Provincetown — got off to an unintentionally hilarious start, when Richfield tripped and fell onto the stage. She laughed it off, blaming a nearby female patron for “pushing me.” Then Richfield left the stage and started over.

The riotous show included a rendition of Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” that brought the audience up to date on Richfield’s recent travels; a video montage of her many outrageous TV appearances, including on “Cake Boss”; and a beauty pageant quiz show with two audience members. Longtime fans will be relieved to know that the new show includes Richfield playing the saw.

At the end of the show, Richfield solicited audience feedback as she refines it for her summer residency. Richfield is scheduled to open the show on May 29 at the Pilgrim House in Provincetown, Mass., and it’s slated to run through the summer, wrapping on Sept. 18. (Tickets are $30 for general admission and $40 for VIP at pilgrimhouseptown.com.)

King now lives in Rehoboth and is planning to return for a one-night-only performance of “40 Years on the Throne” on June 21 at the Blue Moon. (Visit BlueMoonRehoboth.com for tickets, $40.)

The Blue Moon has a full summer of entertainment planned, including performances by the Boy Band Project (June 7, July 19, and Aug. 30); Lady Bunny (July 5, Aug. 23); and Sherry Vine (Aug. 16). The talented Nate Buccieri returns for another summer on the piano, Sundays through Thursdays, 6-8:30 p.m. The award-winning “Climax! With Magnolia” continues on Sundays at 9:30 p.m.

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Bars & Parties

Red Bear offers Valentine date nights

Event held this weekend complies with CDC guidelines

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date night, gay news, Washington Blade

Red Bear Brewery (209 M St., N.E.) hosts Brewery Date Nights this Valentine’s Day weekend from Friday, Feb. 12 at 1 p.m. to Sunday, Feb. 14 at 10 p.m.

This event could be a good opportunity for those looking for a holiday cuddle with their favorite bear over a choice brew for two. Red Bear complies with D.C. and CDC pandemic guidelines while offering a rerelease of their Cupid’s Black Heart Strawberry Chocolate Bock and Cupid’s Arrow Chocolate Raspberry Chocolatini.

For more information or to monitor pandemic-related changes, visit redbear.beer.

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