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Who says gay men don’t read?

2 local gay book clubs thriving in era of the iPad



Despite booming sales of the iPad, Kindle and other digital book readers, some see a disturbing trend among gay men: We are reading fewer books today than previous generations.

Robert Starner, co-founder in 2004 of the D.C.-area Big Gay Book Group, when he was working at the Lambda Rising bookstore on Connecticut Avenue, agrees that “now it seems that the gay men’s community is not reading as much as they were in the mid-1980s and 1990s,” and he confesses he doesn’t know why.

Starner’s lament is possibly an age-old complaint, echoing that of the great modernist poet Ezra Pound who decades ago rebuked his own generation when he declared that “the classics are not read in our time” and that this fact “sorely troubles my mind.”

But in our day consider these doleful facts: bookstores like Lambda Rising in D.C. and Rehoboth Beach and the Oscar Wilde Bookstore in New York City have closed their doors.

Nevertheless, gay men and books continue to intersect at meetings such as those held monthly by Starner’s group, the Big Gay Book Group, whose next event is Wednesday, Sept. 8 at 7 p.m. at his firm’s downtown D.C. office location, 1155 F St., N.W., Suite 200.

The book under the lens that night will be “Role Models” by Baltimore’s own gay filmmaker and provocateur John Waters. That book is a collection of essays on such iconic figures as playwright Tennessee Williams and singer Johnny Mathis but also Esther Martin, owner of one of the scariest bars in Charm City. Each of the subjects is an extreme figure who helped Waters “form his own brand of neurotic happiness,” according to Sarner.

Waters, discoverer of the drag personality known as Divine and auteur of the film “Hairspray,” the basis for the hit Broadway musical of the same title, is, according to Starner, “one of the most unique, perverse and hilarious artistic minds of our time.”

The range of books read in the group is wide, says Starner, and especially heavy on fiction in the first several years but most recently also broadened to include non-fiction titles. Classics of gay literature – like Andrew Holleran’s “Dancer from the Dance” and John Rechy’s “City of Night” as well as older works including E.M. Forster’s “Maurice” and James Baldwin’s “Giovanni’s Room” – have been highlights, and he discovered that “some of the younger men had not read them, and more surprisingly some of those who are older men had not either.”

Another group, Bookmen DC, meets twice each month, on the first and third Wednesdays for about an hour, according to co-founder Tom Wischer. Both groups welcome drop-ins – basically “just show up as your interests and schedule allow,” says Wischer, who began the group in 1999 with staff members at the Whitman-Walker Clinic. At first the group was called Potomac Gay Men’s Book Group, then it was known as Boys and Books for most of its history. It was agreed that its first title was simply too stuffy-sounding.

The group’s current coordinator, Steve Honley, who also edits the Foreign Service Journal, stresses that the group is “all volunteer.”

“There are no articles of incorporation and no money involved – it’s a social group, and we are very inclusive – we welcome everybody. This is not a college seminar – come as you are.”

Noting that the group is now in its 12th year of existence, Honley proudly told the Blade recently that, “there are not that many groups this old in the gay community.” The book count is now at about 170 books and counting, “with very few duds” he said, adding “come check us out.”

The group’s next meeting will feature a book co-edited by a group member, Philip Clark (with David Gross), “Persistent Voices: Poetry by Writers Lost to AIDS.”

Bookmen DC meets at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 15 at the Sumner School, 1201 17th St., N.W.

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  1. Doctor Whom

    September 3, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    “Despite booming sales of the iPad, Kindle and other digital book readers, some see a disturbing trend among gay men: We are reading fewer books today than previous generations.”

    Yes, that’s it exactly: Gay men, and only gay men, are reading fewer books. As evidence, the article cites the closure of gay bookstores. That phenomenon couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the increased space given to queer literature in mainstream bookstores. Also, we know that it’s completely gay men’s fault because lesbian bookstores like Lammas have … um, never mind.

  2. Jeff

    September 4, 2010 at 4:46 am

    FYI: There is used bookstore exclusively caters to gay men called G BOOKS at 1520 U St, near Results Gym in DC. They buy sell & trade used gay men’s books from gay studies to gay literature. Gay men do read, the bookstore is thriving. As a matter of fact, DC, like NY and SF, is one of the best cities to sell books in USA.

  3. Tom

    September 8, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    I believe we’re reading less books, but I don’t believe we’re reading any less than we ever did. How much have you read on your computer screen today?

  4. Kraig Rasool

    September 9, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    Maybe people seem to be reading less because of the workload, and the long commute and having only two days to off to accomplish tasks that must be done…however Im sure just before bed people are picking up a good book to settle down to…I know I read constantly, its paramount that people continue to read…not only to understand new and exciting elements of the universe around us, but to keep the mind sharp as we humans age… Bookstores will never die…

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Bars & Parties

Blade’s summer closing party set for Sept. 17 in Rehoboth

Benefits journalism scholarship



Rehoboth Beach Museum, Joe Maggio Realty, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade file photo by Daniel Truitt)

The Washington Blade’s 15-year tradition of hosting a summer kickoff party in Rehoboth Beach was disrupted due to COVID restrictions. In lieu of that May event, the Blade is hosting a summer closing party on Friday, Sept. 17 at 6 p.m. at The Pines (56 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, Del.). 

Tickets are $20, which includes two drinks and appetizers. The event benefits the Blade Foundation’s Steve Elkins Memorial Journalism Fellowship, a 12-week program in which an LGBTQ student journalist covers stories of interest to Delaware’s queer community each summer. 

All COVID safety protocols will be followed, including a requirement that attendees furnish proof of vaccination to gain entry. 

If you are unable to attend you can make a donation to the Blade Foundation at Sponsors of the event include Delmarva Power and The Pines.

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Bars & Parties

Rehoboth to close out summer with SunFest

Series of events to replace long-running Sundance due to pandemic



This year’s Sundance in Rehoboth is renamed SunFest and will look different from this scene in 2019 due to the pandemic. (Blade file photo by Daniel Truitt)

SunFest will feature a week of live performances, dances, and a live auction, sponsored by non-profit LGBTQ+ center CAMP Rehoboth.

The weeklong festival runs from Aug. 29 to Sept. 5 and is a change from the annual SunDance that CAMP Rehoboth has sponsored since 1988. This transformation began last year when the event was forced to go digital due to the coronavirus and the in-person events scheduled this year are important, according to development director and co-coordinator of SunFest Anita Broccolino.

“We love that community feel and the in-person makes all the difference in the world for us. Not being able to do it last year just reminded everyone how important we all are to one another,” Broccolino said. “I think that bringing back these events this year is just huge for us and it will be extra celebratory as a result.”

The festival begins with a 5k race and online auction opening on Sunday. Monday night features a give-back event at Iron Hill Brewery while Tuesday’s agenda is still to be determined, said Broccolino. Diego’s will host a Studio 54 give-back dance party on Wednesday and Thursday is the Port 251 women’s give-back. 

Live performances featuring the Skivvies, Randy Harrison and Diane Huey are scheduled for Friday night and Jennifer Holiday will follow with a performance on Saturday night, both at the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center. The festival closes out Sunday with auction pick-ups and Fun in the Sand and Sun, according to the CAMP Rehoboth website.

This event is also important to the organization’s contributions to the community, said Broccolino.

“The essential services we provide for free to the community, which is a huge amount of health and wellness activities, as well as arts programming, a lot of youth programming and the community counts on us for those things. We never stopped during COVID, we made as much as we could virtual, but we took quite a hit not being able to raise those funds and awareness of the programs,” Broccolino said. “We invite the entire community to come celebrate with us and make it to Rehoboth Beach, and let’s make it joyful, and wonderful and make sure we’re living up to the standards of all the people who helped found CAMP Rehoboth and live up to their legacy and beyond.”

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Arts & Entertainment

Rehoboth Beach welcomes Christopher Peterson back

Drag legend to perform weekly beginning July 4



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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