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Curating the canon

Feinstein keeps standards alive with passion for mid-century gems



Michael Feinstein concert
7 p.m. Sunday
Kennedy Center Concert Hall
presented by the Washington Performing Arts Society
Tickets $40-$75
202-785-9727 or

Ol’ blue eyes is back. And Feinstein’s got him.

Michael Feinstein, that is, the multi-platinum selling, five-time Grammy nominee. The cabaret-style interpreter not only of Sinatra but also Cole Porter and Irving Berlin and Richard Rodgers, the composer famous for his work with two separate lyricists, Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein III.

And a raft of others — especially the Gershwins — in the canon of Americana’s classic popular music, a genre that Feinstein himself, at a youthful 54 (still slender and boyish and with a legendary million-dollar smile) has done so much to keep alive.

(Photo courtesy of Washington Performing Arts Society)

He’s been called “the ambassador of the great American songbook” and married his partner Terrence Flannery in a 2008 ceremony officiated by Judge Judy (Judith Sheindlin).

And he’s back keeping the Sinatra legend alive. It started on his 2009 album “Sinatra Project.” It will continue during his Sunday night concert at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.

“I’m doing Sinatra for sure on Sunday,” Feinstein says. “But it’s reminiscence, not a copy, because its folly to copy him.”

The show will be “very high-energy,”  says Feinstein, “with new big band arrangements, a tribute to Nelson Riddle,” the longtime American arranger and bandleader who worked with Sinatra as well as Judy Garland, Peggy Lee, Rosemary Clooney and so many other vocal stars of the mid-20th century. And it will be fllled, he says, “with anecdotes about Sinatra’s life and career, which lasted from his beginnings as a swing-era idol of “bobby-soxers” in the 1940s, through his Capitol Records albums like the legendary “In The Wee Small Hours” and “Only the Lonely,” and then the master of top 40 hits, and later his Rat Pack years with Dean Martin and other Hollywood B-listers in the “Ocean’s 11” film — a tribute to his long-time base as a headliner in Las Vegas clubs until his death in 1998.

Feinstein has famously taken a classic song, “We Kiss in a Shadow,” the weepy old chestnut from Rogers and Hammerstein’s “The King and I,” where two clandestine lovers yearn “for one smiling day to be free,” and rendered the ballad of exquisite sexual longing as an appeal for same-sex marriage rights. He sings it in a duet sung, gazing into each other’s eyes — with Cheyenne Jackson, also gay, the 35-year-old heart-throb from the 2007 Broadway musical “Xanadu”  and the Elvis Presley sound-alike on stage in 2005 in “All Shook Up.”

Feinstein and Jackson, also a series regular in both Fox’s “Glee” and NBC’s “30 Rock,” performed together in the show “The Power of Two,” in 2009 at Feinstein’s at Loews Regency on New York City’s swanky East Side.

Though they each have their own partners, Feinstein and Jackson elicit sparks when duetting.

At one point, during “We Kiss in a Shadow,” they turn to each other and exult, singing together “behold and believe what you see.” And audiences did. Timed for the debate in New York State over marriage equality, Feinstein and Jackson were sending a powerful message to the uber-powerful folk who saw their show, but they did it with badinage and playful patter, realizing that if you want to “send a message, call Western Union,” don’t put on a show.

In that same show, light of heart and packed with so much pizzazz, the two of them, each with matinee-idol looks and dressed dapperly in matching black suits, white shirts and black ties, the two shared the spotlight with buddy songs like “I’m Nothing Without You,” from the show “City of Angels.” But in solos Feinstein brought his own low-melting-temperature vibrato to Cole Porter’s “So In Love” from “Can Can,” and also threw in some hilarious impersonations, mimicing Paul Lynde and Carol Channing. He also sat at the piano  and crooned another anthem, this one written directly to advocate for LGBT rights, Marshall Barer’s and Mickey Leonard’s “The Time Has Come,” written as a response to the Stonewall riot.

Feinstein’s roots are, of course, in cabaret, that musical genre that mixes Tin Pan Alley with Broadway show tunes and also the ambience of Weimar Republic gay-friendly precincts of Berlin’s “kabarett” in the 1920s. As Feinstein sees it, “American Idol’s” former viper-tongued wicked-witch-judge Simon Cowell, is totally wrong-headed when he habitually denounces anything he thinks sounds old-fashioned as “cabaret.”

Where did it all begin for Feinstein, this passion for the greatest American classic popular songs? In the American “middle-west” heartland of Columbus, Ohio, where he was born in 1956, the son of an amateur tap dancer (his mother) and a Sara Lee Corporation sales executive (his father). He credits his parents as “for exposing me to this music,” in a way he compares to the Suzuki method of teaching the young to play the violin by ear, “before they even know it’s music,” he says.

At age 5, he studied piano (still his instrument today) for several months with a teacher who sought in vain to get him to read sheet music and was angered when he didn’t since he was simply more comfortable playing by ear. His mother backed him up and took him out of lessons allowing him to learn to love music in his own way. By his teenage years, he says, “I had already diverged from my age group in taste.” When his sister listened to Carole King’s album “Tapestry,” he says that he was collecting 78s. As for the Beatles, he says he is not overly impressed. Ge calls “Yesterday,” for instance, “a great melody, but it’s a bad lyric, maudlin at best, a good song wasted.”

After finishing high school, he worked in local piano bars for two years and then moved to Los Angeles when he was 20. There he soon met June Levant, widow of the legendary concert pianist-actor Oscar Levant, and through her he was introduced to Ira Gershwin, who hired young Feinstein to catalogue his extensive collection of phonograph records.  This assignment led to a six-year assignment working at Gershwin’s Beverly Hill home, preserving the legacy not only of Ira but also that of his composer brother George, who had died four decades earlier. From there he got to Gershwin’s next-door neighbor, singer Rosemary Clooney, with whom Feinstein formed a close relationship lasting until her death in 2002.

In 1986, Feinstein recorded his first CD, “Pure Gershwin,” followed soon by “Remember,” featuring the music of Irving Berlin” and later he embarked on his ambitious “songbook project,” where he would perform the music of a featured composer — such as Jule Styne and Jerry Herman — accompanied by the composer. Later, he would record two other albums of Gershwin’s music, “Nice Work If You Can Get It” and “Michael and George.”

“I’ve spent my life immersed in this music,” he says of all these composers and lyricists and their songs standards, “out of love for it, not even thinking about a career.” These songs are, he says, “are still pertinent to our times.” He wants “to keep the music alive for other generations,” a project that took major form in January when the Feinstein Foundation-funded $150-million Center for the Performing Arts, where he is artistic director, opened in Carmel, Ind. The complex includes a 1,600-seat concert hall plus smaller venues and houses his Foundation for the Preservation of the Great American Songbook, including also a library and archives storing his and other collections of rare recordings, orchestrations, sheet music and other cultural artifacts about songs.

Today, he is the owner of the Manhattan nightclub, Feinstein’s at the Regency, a showcase for cabaret performers, where he performs himself in sold-out shows every Christmas. He also has an interest in Feinstein’s at the Shaw, in London. Recently he completed a six-part Warner Home Video series for television that depicts the history of the American popular song through 1960. He is also finishing a book about Gershwin’s music as well as working with producer Marc Platt  (“Wicked”) on a movie project about the composer’s life. And on top of all that, he directs a newly launched pop music series at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City, where he and his partner live (they have a second home in Los Angeles).

Next up, either this autumn or maybe early next year will be an updated version of his PBS series, “Michael Feinstein’s All American Songbook,” which aired on the network last fall. He says they are now filming three more segments which will be broadcast with the first three and linked to a new and growing website available at no charge which the show’s executive producer and historian Ken Bloom has called “the ultimate companion for the documentary” and “a guide for the 21st century.” He calls it a “goldmine” where browsers can click on any song or performer for further information, plus audio and video links to their work.

For the past two years, Feinstein himself has also sponsored through his foundation the Great American Songbook High School Academy and Competition, a master class and contest for teenagers in seven midwestern states — in events attracting hundreds of entries. The winner gets a free trip to New York City and an opportunity to sing at his nightclub there.

For Feinstein one thing is clear. This music will thrive, he says, “because it never went away.”

For  more info on Feinstein and his many recordings and diverse projects, go here.


Real Estate

Looking for vacation homes during Memorial Day weekend

A busy, strategic time in the housing market



As summer arrives, more tourists begin thinking of buying in resort towns like Rehoboth Beach, Del. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Memorial Day weekend, a time to honor the sacrifices of the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces, also marks the unofficial start of summer. Beyond its significance as a day of remembrance, it has become a prime period for the real estate market. The long weekend provides a unique opportunity for home buyers and sellers, making it one of the busiest and most strategic times in the housing market.

Memorial Day weekend is often a time when people head to the beach, the country, or the mountains for relaxation and to join in the local festivities. This long weekend offers a break from routine, a chance to honor those who have served, and an opportunity to enjoy the beginning of warmer weather. 

For real estate agents, however, Memorial Day weekend can be a blend of work and leisure, especially in resort communities where the real estate market is particularly active during this time. 

The influx of visitors to these destinations often includes prospective buyers who are considering purchasing vacation homes or investment properties. As a result, real estate agents in these areas might find themselves balancing work commitments with personal downtime.

We are keenly aware that the long weekend brings a surge in potential clients. Agents joke among themselves about business being slow until they make plans to go out of town. Open houses and community home tours are often scheduled to coincide with the holiday, taking advantage of the increased foot traffic.

Due to constantly improving technology, real estate agents can effectively manage their time and resources even during busy holiday weekends. Virtual tours, online listings, and digital marketing campaigns enable agents to reach a broad audience without always being physically present. Technology also allows agents to stay connected with clients and respond to inquiries promptly, ensuring that the clients do not miss out on potential sales opportunities. 

Often, agents licensed in the DMV are expanding their territories by becoming licensed in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Writing offers while on vacation has become the norm. Social media accounts can highlight special listings and open house events, and agents can also post pictures and descriptions of amenities in the towns they are visiting, attracting interested buyers who are in the area for the weekend.

The vibrant atmosphere of vacation getaway towns during Memorial Day weekend also provides a unique opportunity for networking and relationship-building. Agents can meet potential clients in a casual setting, forging connections that might lead to new business opportunities. They can also form relationships with other agents and create partnerships to help current and future clients find leisure homes.

The appeal of owning a place by the water, for example, is often strongest during the summer months, when the weather is inviting and the potential for rental income is high. Real estate agents who serve beach towns such as Ocean City, Md., Virginia Beach, Va., or Rehoboth Beach, Del., often mix business with pleasure as they seek out new clients.

Alternatively, if the relaxed life in the country is more to your liking, places such as The Amish area of Lancaster County, Pa. may be for you. Charles Town, W.Va., and Ashland, Va. have a robust military history and may be what you’re looking to enjoy. If mountains and lakes are more your style, the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia, the Appalachians of West Virginia, or Deep Creek Lake, Md., may fit the bill, so let’s look at a few properties on the market today.

In Ocean City, you can find an oceanfront, one-bedroom condominium with beach and sunset views in a short-term rental building for $439,900. As you can imagine, it already has four weeks booked for the summer.

The historic district of Charles Town, W.Va., offers a 3,000-square-foot Victorian home built in 1890. It has five bedrooms, two bathrooms, 10’ high ceilings, original pocket doors, inlaid floors, and central air conditioning for $159,900. What’s the catch? It requires a complete renovation, but what a wonderful project it could be for weekend warriors.

Stretch your budget a bit more and you can own a 4,000-square-foot chalet with mountain views on both sides in Front Royal, Va. For less than $700,000, you will get four bedrooms and three baths, nearly two acres of land, and low-maintenance siding.

While many people flock to nearby vacation spots purely for relaxation, real estate agents often find themselves working diligently to learn about different areas and capitalize on the increased interest in local properties. By doing so, they can help clients find their dream homes, whether for retirement, short getaways, or investment potential.

Valerie M. Blake is a licensed associate broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate / @properties. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.

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After 16 years together, my wife suddenly wants children

‘I don’t want to be stuck in restrictive heteronormativity’



Dear Michael,

A few months ago you answered a letter from a guy who wanted a baby but his boyfriend didn’t. I’m in the opposite situation. Carol and I have been together for 16 years (we’re married) and all of a sudden she wants to have a baby. This was never on the table until her dad died last year suddenly of a heart attack.  

Since then she’s been a different person. She tells me that she wants to focus on something “bigger” than just enjoying life and also wants some sort of sense that “life will go on.”

To me, being queer has always meant that we get to fully live life in the present, for us.  We don’t have to focus on having kids and all that entails: fertility stuff, sleep deprivation, diapers, babysitters, PTA obligations, college tuition, etc. Let straight people deal with those headaches while I enjoy myself. 

I don’t want to be stuck in restrictive heteronormativity, giving my time and energy to a kid who’s going to go from crying to whining to tantrums to rebellion to not talking to me. And then expect me to pay their bills after they’re 18.  

And why crowd the planet even more? In my opinion, having a baby on this planet is selfish sentimentality.

Carol and I always saw 100 percent eye-to-eye on this issue but now she’s gone over to the other side. I have shared all of the above to shake some sense into her but haven’t gotten anywhere. This was not our agreement at all.

I know you can’t change someone else, but doesn’t she owe our relationship a commitment to the life we already agreed on? I’ve suggested grief counseling but she says no.

Michael replies:

No one owes their partner a commitment to not change. It’s a guarantee that we all change over time. Relationships challenge us to stay with someone as we both evolve in big and sometimes unexpected ways over the years. There’s no way around this challenge if you want to stay happily married. 

It’s also true that you don’t have to keep living with someone who changes in ways you don’t want to accommodate. So, if Carol is certain that she wants to be a mom and if you are certain that you don’t, you can leave.

It makes sense that you’re sad and angry (putting it mildly) when your wife suddenly wants to completely upend your life. That said, you’re not going to improve your marriage by criticizing Carol or insulting her wish to parent. And if you pressure her to give up a deeply held wish, she will likely resent you.

Instead of these tactics, how about being curious regarding her desire to parent? What “bigger” meaning is she hoping to get from life? How does she think her father’s untimely death affected her, not just on this issue but possibly in other ways as well?

There’s great value in being curious about our partners’ differences rather than contemptuous or critical. That’s a path toward greater intimacy, in that we get to deeply understand the person we are spending our life with. While you may not stay with Carol, you still might want to have a close and caring relationship with the woman you’ve spent 16 years with. Understanding her better might also help you make some peace with her desire to parent.

I also want to encourage you to consider that there are many ways to be gay, lesbian, queer — to be just about anything. You could say it’s “heteronormative” to want to parent; but you could also view it as a common human (and non-human) desire that is unrelated to sexual orientation. Carol has different ideas for how she wants to live. This doesn’t mean that she is foolish.

I’m curious about why you have such an unrelentingly negative view about parenting and kids. Is it possible that you’ve had some tough experiences in your life that have shaped this view? 

I’m not pushing you to change your mind, but you might consider talking with some parents to get some sense of what parenting, and children, are actually like. 

You might open up your thinking, and your heart. You might decide you are willing to lean in Carol’s direction, or you might not. In any case, I’m hopeful that you would get a more balanced picture of what parenting and childhood can be. 

Michael Radkowsky, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist who works with couples and individuals in D.C. He can be found online at All identifying information has been changed for reasons of confidentiality. Have a question? Send it to [email protected].

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Real Estate

Yes, there are other coastal Delaware towns besides Rehoboth

Explore Bethany, Ocean View, Milton for more affordable options



World War II watch towers dot the Delaware coastal landscape outside of Rehoboth. (Photo by Ethan Bean)

Often when we Washingtonians think of Delaware we think of Rehoboth Beach only. Well, believe it or not, there are actually other coastal towns besides Rehoboth — even some that are being taken over by gay buyers. Although you won’t find anything quite like Rehoboth, there are other options out there when looking for something perhaps a bit more affordable than Rehoboth within close proximity to all that Rehoboth has to offer.

The first option would be to look a bit farther inland. There are great condo options a bit inland from Rehoboth that will afford you some more space and are more economically priced. These options are usually a closer commute to those of us heading to the beach from D.C. Think of those condos you pass along Route 1 near the outlets – still having a Rehoboth address, but not the asking price of in-town Rehoboth. 

Let’s take a look at coastal towns that are outside of Rehoboth. Let me preface this by saying that I am a Delawarian. Born and raised in a real estate centric family with deep roots in Delaware. My grandfather always said, “Buy as close to the water as they won’t make more of it.” Obviously he was kind of wrong, because they make these hideous man-made retention pond, but of course he was speaking about the ocean and bay. No matter what coastal town I speak about in this article, they will be costly. It is just a fact. There are some options, however, that are priced a bit better than others.

Bethany Beach, for example. I know, it’s a bit sleepy and considered “family friendly,” however it is also priced better than Rehoboth. I am biased because that’s where I hang my hat and it’s a quick drive or Uber to Rehoboth for a night out or day at Poodle Beach. I also enjoy the fact that I have oodles of friends who have boats and have easy access to the bay for kayaking and afternoons out on the boats for happy hours. There’s nothing better than watching the sunset on the bay in a boat with a glass of rosé, something easily done with the access points from the Bethany Beach area.

Another coastal town that is on the opposite side of the state is Broadkill Beach. If you have ever visited the Outer Banks, this is the Outer Banks of Delaware. Broadkill Beach is technically in Milton, Del., and is a smaller beach community with essentially one road in and out providing a very exclusive feel for residents. The beaches are not like those of Rehoboth, Dewey, Bethany, or Fenwick. There is no boardwalk, no tourist attractions, little commercial development, etc. You literally go here for the beach, rest, and relaxation. Peace and quiet — the polar opposite from what Rehoboth provides.

Lastly, there are always quaint inland towns that offer respite from the beach but allow a quick drive to the sand. Some of my favorites are the town of Milton, which is a quick drive to Lewes beach. Milton provides a charming downtown area with shops, restaurants, coffeeshops, a lively arts district, and more. Truly a once upon a time sleepy town that in the past few years has woken up – it still retains its charm and character. Some of my favorite restaurants and shops are here. A quick drive takes you to the beaches of Lewes and also the town of Lewes, which is equally charming.

My next favorite coastal town – again – because I am biased – is Ocean View, which is a town outside of Bethany Beach. This town is more spread out, however it offers lots of restaurants, coffeeshops, Delaware State parks and this side of the Indian River Bridge, you gain easy access to the bay, which truly changes your way of life.

The next time you are at the beach, take time from kik’ing at Aqua or Poodle Beach and spend some time exploring the quaint town of Milton or drive along scenic Route 1 south to Bethany Beach to see what other coastal towns Delaware has to offer outside of Rehoboth that might be a more economical option in making your beach home a reality. I promise that a second home at the Delaware beaches is more within reach than you may think.

Justin Noble is a Realtor with Sotheby’s International Realty licensed in D.C., Maryland, and Delaware for your DMV and Delaware beach needs. Specializing in first-time homebuyers, development and new construction as well as estate sales, Justin provides white glove service at every price point. Reach him at 202-503-4243,  [email protected] or

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