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Thousands brave heat for pride parade, festival

Mayor, ten Council members march in parade

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With the U.S. Capitol as a dramatic backdrop, tens of thousands of LGBT people and their friends and families jammed Pennsylvania Avenue on Sunday for the District of Columbia’s 36th annual Capital Pride festival.

One day earlier, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and ten members of the 13-member D.C. City Council joined dozens of LGBT groups, colorful floats, marching bands, and thousands of individual marchers in the annual Capital Pride Parade, which snaked its way along city streets lined with thousands of spectators.

Gray also spoke at Sunday’s festival before introducing the day’s lead entertainer, Broadway actress and singer Jennifer Holliday, who debuted her new single “Magic,” marking the song’s word premiere.

Although city officials and police no longer provide official crowd estimates for large-scale events, Capital Pride organizers said they believe between 200,000 and 250,000 people turned out for the parade and festival.

“Everything was absolutely fantastic,” said Capital Pride spokesperson Scott Lusk. “All of our community partners and volunteers and attendees showed up in great numbers and with great enthusiasm. It was an absolute fantastic weekend.”

Eighteen-year-old Tiffany Johnson from Southeast D.C., who stood with a group of friends near the festival’s main stage just before Holliday began her performance, said this year’s festival represented the first time she had ever attended Capital Pride.

“It’s just awesome,” she said. “It’s just so great to be able to come out to something like this.”

Angelo Jimenez, 54, a resident of Richmond, Va., said this year’s festival marked the 31st consecutive year he has traveled to D.C. to attend the city’s Pride festival.

“I came for the first time in 1980 and haven’t missed a single year,” he said. “That tells you how much this means to me.”

Other festival attendees who approached the Blade’s booth identified themselves as residents of states up and down the mid Atlantic region as well as from the D.C. metropolitan area.

Gray and a contingent of city officials, including gay activist Jeffrey Richardson, director of the city’s Office of GLBT Affairs, walked along Saturday the entire parade route, which began at 22nd and P Streets, N.W., near Dupont Circle, and ended nearly two miles later at 14th and N Streets, N.W., near Thomas Circle.

Most of the Council members, including gay Council members David Catania (I-At-Large) and Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), also walked or rode in cars along the full parade route.

The other Council members participating in the parade included Council Chair Kwame Brown (D-At-Large) and Council members Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), Michael Brown (I-At-Large), Vincent Orange (D-At-Large), Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6).

Gray had invited the Council members to join his contingent, which he named the “D.C. 41,” in recognition of the 41 city officials and activists, including Gray and six Council members, who were arrested in April outside a Senate office building near the Capitol in a protest against congressional intrusion in D.C. affairs.

But most of the Council members chose to march or ride in their own contingents just behind the mayor’s contingent.

Following closely behind the D.C. elected officials’ contingents was Adam Ebbin, the openly gay member of the Virginia House of Delegates from Alexandria, who is running for a seat in the Virginia Senate.

The parade was led by an escort of D.C. police cars staffed by members of the department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit.

Following closely behind the police escort was a contingent of leaders and supporters of the Trevor Project, a nationally recognized organization that works to prevent LGBT teen suicide. Capital Pride selected the Trevor Project contingent as the parade’s grand marshal.

A D.C. Public Schools contingent was among the parade contingents that attracted considerable attention and drew loud applause throughout the parade route. It included teachers, parents, and elementary school kids, with some waving rainbow flags.

Similar to past years, D.C.’s Different Drummers, the city’s LGBT marching band, and the Lesbian and Gay Big Apple Corps Marching Band of New York City marched and performed in the parade.

Capital Pride organizers said they were especially pleased with the wide diversity of groups and vendors that participated in both the parade in festival. In addition to a large number of national and local LGBT organizations, such as the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, and the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance, LGBT oriented religious, sports, and social groups participated in both event, organizers said.

A number of the city’s gay bars and nightclubs also had colorful floats in the parade. Bathing suit clad men danced to music blaring from a float from Nellie’s Sport Bar. Drag performers and male go-go dancers in bathing suites also danced to music broadcast from loud speakers atop two large flatbed trucks that made up the float for Ziegfeld’s-Secrets, the gay club in Southwest D.C. that features drag shows and male strippers.

A number of new commercial and corporate venders participated in this year at the festival, according to Capital Pride officials. Among them were the Saab automobile company and Macy’s department stores. Both were among this year’s Capital Pride corporate sponsors.

Among some of the others displaying their information at festival booths were the Goddard Space Flight Center Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Advisory Committee; the Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art; the Gay-Straight Alliance of Montgomery Blair High School in Montgomery County, Md.; the Embassy of Sweden; Amtrak; the Capital Cat Clinic; the D.C. Office of Human Rights and D.C. Child and Family Services Agency.

Capital Pride board president Michael Lutz said this year’s festival included expanded family related activities, with a special family section that provided children’s games and children’s entertainment.

The Washington Nationals Baseball Team also had a presence at the festival, with at least one of its “racing presidents,” actors dressed as past U.S. president with oversized puppet-like heads, walking through the festival grounds.

The Nationals are hosting the annual LGBT “Night Out at the Nationals” game on June 21, which is sponsored by the local LGBT sports group Team D.C.

Capital Pride officials have said it costs about $500,000 to put on the annual D.C. pride events, including the parade and festival. Lutz said contributions from corporate sponsors, at least 25 local and national LGBT and LGBT-supportive organizations who sign on as Pride Community Partners, and fundraising events generate the funds needed to pay for Capital Pride.

“We’re in great shape financially,” said Lutz, who noted that a full accounting of the group’s finances is released each year after an independent accountant completes the bookkeeping process.

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Photos

PHOTOS: DCGFFL 25th Anniversary Party

Gay flag football league marks milestone at Penn Social

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The D.C. Gay Flag Football league held a party celebrating their 25th season at Penn Social on Saturday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. Gay Flag Football League (DCGFFL) held a 25th season anniversary party at Penn Social on Saturday, Sept. 23. Proceeds from the event benefited the LGBTQ youth services organization SMYAL as well as the D.C. Center for the LGBTQ Community.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Books

New book goes behind the scenes of ‘A League of Their Own’

‘No Crying in Baseball’ offers tears, laughs, and more

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(Book cover image courtesy of Hachette Books)

‘No Crying in Baseball: The Inside Story of ‘A League of Their Own’
By Erin Carlson
c.2023, Hachette Books
$29/320 pages

You don’t usually think of Madonna as complaining of being “dirty all day” from playing baseball. But that’s what the legendary diva did during the shooting of “A League of Their Own,” the 1992 movie, beloved by queers.

“No Crying in Baseball,” the fascinating story behind “A League of Their Own,” has arrived in time for the World Series. Nothing could be more welcome after Amazon has cancelled season 2 of its reboot (with the same name) of this classic film.

In this era, people don’t agree on much. Yet, “A League of Their Own” is loved by everyone from eight-year-old kids to 80-year-old grandparents.

The movie has strikes, home runs and outs for sports fans; period ambience for history buffs; and tears, laughs and a washed-up, drunk, but lovable coach for dramady fans.

The same is true for “No Crying in Baseball.” This “making of” story will appeal to history, sports and Hollywood aficionados. Like “All About Eve” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “A League of Their Own” is Holy queer Writ.

Carlson, a culture and entertainment journalist who lives in San Francisco, is skilled at distilling Hollywood history into an informative, compelling narrative. As with her previous books, “I’ll Have What She’s Having: How Nora Ephron’s three Iconic Films Saved the Romantic Comedy” and “Queen Meryl: The Iconic Roles, Heroic Deeds, and Legendary Life of Meryl Streep,” “No Crying in Baseball,” isn’t too “educational.” It’s filled with gossip to enliven coffee dates and cocktail parties.

“A League of Their Own” is based on the true story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). From 1943 to 1954, more than 600 women played in the league in the Midwest. The league’s players were all white because the racism of the time prohibited Black women from playing. In the film, the characters are fictional. But the team the main characters play for – the Rockford Peaches – was real.

While many male Major and Minor League Baseball players were fighting in World War II, chewing gum magnate Philip K. Wrigley, who owned the Chicago Cubs, founded the league. He started the AAGPBL, “To keep spectators in the bleachers,” Carlson reports, “and a storied American sport–more important: his business afloat.” 

In 1943, the Office of War Information warned that the baseball season could be “scrapped” “due to a lack of men,” Carlson adds.

“A League of Their Own” was an ensemble of women’s performances (including Rosie O’Donnell as Doris, Megan Cavanagh as Marla, Madonna as Mae, Lori Petty as Kit and Geena Davis as Dottie) that would become legendary.

Girls and women  still dress up as Rockford Peaches on Halloween.

Tom Hanks’s indelible portrayal of coach Jimmy Dugan, Gary Marshall’s depiction of (fictional) league owner Walter Harvey and Jon Lovitz’s portrayal of Ernie have also become part of film history.

Filming “A League of Their Own,” Carlson vividly makes clear, was a gargantuan effort.  There were “actresses who can’t play baseball” and “baseball players who can’t act,” Penny Marshall said.

The stadium in Evansville, Ind., was rebuilt to look like it was in the 1940s “when the players and extras were in costume,” Carlson writes, “it was easy to lose track of what year it was.”

“No Crying in Baseball” isn’t written for a queer audience. But, Carlson doesn’t pull any punches. 

Many of the real-life AAGPBL players who O’Donnell met had same-sex partners, O’Donnell told Carlson.

“When Penny, angling for a broad box-office hit chose to ignore the AAGPGL’s queer history,” Carlson writes, “she perpetuated a cycle of silence that muzzled athletes and actresses alike from coming out on the wider stage.”

“It was, as they say, a different time,” she adds.

Fortunately, Carlson’s book isn’t preachy. Marshall nicknames O’Donnell and Madonna (who become buddies) “Ro” and “Mo.” Kodak is so grateful for the one million feet of film that Marshall shot that it brings in a high school marching band. Along with a lobster lunch. One day, an assistant director “streaked the set to lighten the mood,” Carlson writes.

“No Crying in Baseball,” is slow-going at first. Marshall, who died in 2018, became famous as Laverne in “Laverne & Shirley.” It’s interesting to read about her. But Carlson devotes so much time to Marshall’s bio that you wonder when she’ll get to “A League of Their Own.”

Thankfully, after a couple of innings, the intriguing story of one of the best movies ever is told.

You’ll turn the pages of “No Crying in Baseball” even if you don’t know a center fielder from a short stop.

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Theater

Rupert Murdoch’s powers on full display in ‘Ink’

Media baron helped pave the way for Brexit, Prime Minister Thatcher

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Cody Nickell (Larry Lamb) and Andrew Rein (Rupert Murdoch) in ‘Ink’ at Round House Theatre. (Photo by Margot Schulman Photography)

‘Ink’
Through Sept. 24
Round House Theatre
4545 East-West Highway, Bethesda, MD 20814
$46-$94
Roundhousetheatre.org

Yes, Rupert Murdoch’s loathsome traits are many, but his skills to succeed are undeniably numerous. 

In the first scenes of John Graham’s West End and Broadway hit drama “Ink,” an exciting year-long detail from the life of a burgeoning media baron, Murdoch’s powers of persuasion are on full display.

It’s 1969 London. Over dinner with editor Larry Lamb, a young Murdoch shares his plan to buy the Sun and rebrand the dying broadsheet, replacing the Daily Mirror as Britain’s best-selling tabloid. What’s more, he wants to do it in just one year with Lamb at the helm. 

Initially reluctant, Lamb becomes seduced by the idea of running a paper, something that’s always eluded him throughout his career, and something Murdoch, the outsider Australian, understands. Murdoch taunts him, “Not you. Not Larry Lamb, the Yorkshire-born son of a blacksmith, not the guy who didn’t get a degree from Oxford or Cambridge, who didn’t get a degree from anywhere. Not you.”

Still, Lamb, played convincingly by Cody Nickell in Round House Theatre’s stellar season-opener, a co-production with Olney Theatre Center, remains unsure. But Murdoch (a delightfully brash Andrew Rein) is undeterred, and seals the deal with a generous salary. 

Superbly staged by director Jason Loweth, “Ink” is riveting. Its exchanges between Lamb and Murdoch are a strikingly intimate glimpse into ambition involving an ostensibly average editor and a striving money man who doesn’t like people.  

Once on board, Lamb is trolling Fleet Street in search of his launch team, played marvelously by some mostly familiar actors. He makes his most important hire — news editor Brian McConnell (Maboud Ebrahimzadeh) — in a steam bath. The remainder of the Sun’s new masthead falls handily into place: Joyce Hopkirk (Kate Eastwood Norris) the women’s page editor whose forward thinking is marred by her casual racism; Zion Jang plays Beverley Goodway, an awkwardly amusing young photographer; persnickety deputy editor Bernard Shrimsley (Michael Glenn) who learns to love ugly things; and an old school sports editor who proves surprisingly versatile, played by Ryan Rillette, Round House’s artistic director. 

At Lamb’s suggestion, the team brainstorms about what interests Sun readers. They decide on celebrities, pets, sports, free stuff, and —rather revolutionarily for the time —TV.  Murdoch is happy to let readers’ taste dictate content and the “Why” of the sacred “five Ws” of journalism is out the window. 

Murdoch is portrayed as a not wholly unlikable misanthrope. He dislikes his editors and pressman alike. He particularly hates unions. His advice to Lamb is not to get too chummy with his subordinates. Regarding the competition, Murdoch doesn’t just want to outperform them, he wants to grind them to dust. 

Loewith leads an inspired design team. Scenic designer Tony Cisek’s imposing, inky grey edifice made from modular walls is ideally suited for Mike Tutaj’s projections of headlines, printed pages, and Rein’s outsized face as Murdoch. Sound designer and composer Matthew M. Nielson ably supplies bar noises and the nonstop, pre-digital newspaper clatter of presses, linotypes, and typewriters.

From a convenient second tiered balcony, the Daily Mirror’s establishment power trio Hugh Cudlipp (Craig Wallace), Chris Lee Howard (Chris Geneback) and Sir Percy (Walter Riddle) overlook all that lies below, discussing new tactics and (mostly failed) strategies to remain on top.   

Increasingly comfortable in the role of ruthless, sleazy editor, Lamb is unstoppable.

Obsessed with overtaking the Daily Mirror’s circulation, he opts for some sketchy reportage surrounding the kidnapping and presumed murder of Muriel McKay, the wife of Murdoch’s deputy Sir Alick (Todd Scofield). The kidnappers mistook Muriel for Murdoch’s then-wife Anna (Sophia Early). Next, in a move beyond the pale, Lamb introduces “Page 3,” a feature spotlighting a topless female model. Awesta Zarif plays Stephanie, a smart young model. She asks Lamb if he would run a semi-nude pic of his similarly aged daughter? His reaction is uncomfortable but undaunted. 

For Murdoch’s purposes, history proves he chose well in Lamb. By year’s end, the Sun is Britain’s most widely read tabloid. Together they give the people what they didn’t know they wanted, proving the pro-Labour Daily Mirror’s hold on the working class is baseless and paving the way for things like Brexit and a Prime Minister Thatcher. 

“Ink” at Round House closes soon. See it if you can.

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