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‘Den’ of doom

Reel Affirmations to host premiere of gay action thriller



‘Into the Lion’s Den’
Sunday at 9 p.m.
Lisner Auditorium
730 21st St., N.W.
82 mins.
After party at Tonic
2036 G St., N.W.
Reel Affirmations


From left, Ronnie Kroell, Kristen-Alexzander Griffith and Jesse Archer in 'Into the Lion's Den.' (Photo courtesy Breaking Glass Pictures)

Gay actor Kristen-Alexzander Griffith doesn’t like thrillers and horror movies. The Broadway vet can’t stand to watch them.

“I hate them, I really hate them,” he says during a phone chat from his home in New York. “I’m impatient, so I can’t stand the suspense, the tense music. It drives me nuts. My boyfriend loves it and is always trying to get me to watch them, but I’m like, ‘Forget it.'”

But watching and starring in such movies are two different things, of course. Griffith (who toured with “Rent”) is one of the three leads in the Breaking Glass feature “Into the Lion’s Den,” which will have its world premiere at Reel Affirmations Sunday at 9 p.m. at the Lisner Auditorium on the George Washington University campus. The cast and crew are planning to attend.

His friend Ronnie Kroell, who plays Michael in the film, told him they were having trouble casting the role of Ted, the youngest of a trio of gay friends who carry the film. Griffith recorded an audition with his MacBook camera and sent it. He got the role the next day.

“I’ll be honest, the first thing I asked when Ronnie called was what about the black guy,” Griffith, who’s black, says. “In every movie, that’s the joke. The black character dies or runs away. I said, ‘Listen, I’m not doing it if the black person dies.’ So I read the script and knew right away this was something different. I thought this would be something different for the black gay community and it wasn’t a coming out story, we’ve seen a lot of that. I think this will have very strong appeal. I never heard of a gay action thriller. It’s definitely a conversation starter.”

Only a few staffers at Breaking Glass have seen the film, which was shot in Hatfield, Pa., over 10 days in June on a $75,000 budget. It tells of three gay friends — Johnny (Jesse Archer), Michael (Kroell) and Ted (Griffith) — bored with life in West Hollywood who embark on a cross-country road trip and stop at a secluded, backwoods bar called the Lion’s Den to celebrate their last night on the road. Mayhem ensues. The promos promise a “bold, uncompromising thriller that plunges into the depths of human depravity.”

The three actors and the director all say the largely unchartered topical territory in gay writer Philip Malaczewski’s script was appealing.

“I was like, ‘Oh, this has some interesting potential,'” Lantz says during a phone interview from his Philadelphia office. “There are some torture scenes in the movie that I thought were pretty shocking. I’m a straight man and even I thought the story was very compelling and something I hadn’t seen before.”

Kroell says the movie starts as “a heartwarming story of three friends looking for something more” from life and “takes a dark turn for the worst.” Though the three leads are gay characters all played by gay actors, Kroell says it’s more a thriller than a gay story.

“The writing is genius,” he says. “It’s kind of like ‘Jeepers Creepers’ or ‘Joyride’ with a gay cast.”

Lantz says it’s, “Not a gore fest, more a mental fest. A few things are more mental than physical.”

Archer, an author and actor famous for his indie work in gay-themed movies like “Eating Out: Drama Camp” and “A Four Letter Word,” is the only cast member who doesn’t shy away from giving away the ending (which we’ll refrain from sharing in full).

“I get raped and slobbered on and it’s not CGI,” he says with a laugh during a phone chat from his home in Australia where he’s living for a year with his boyfriend. “It’s the darkest thing I’ve done by far.”

Archer says some of the more harrowing scenes were tough to film but working with good actors helped “take him there.”

Might some of them be hot in a twisted, kinky way?

“Oh, it’s definitely hot,” he says.

Archer says he doesn’t mind stereotypically gay characters.

“I’m kind of the slutty queen in this,” he says. “I nailed it. … Maybe some day I’ll get really brave and play a straight part. Straight actors say that all the time about gay roles, like it’s really brave of them to play gay, so maybe I’ll do it too.”

Joe Bilancio, programming director for the festival, says even though he’s only seen a rough cut of the movie, he thinks locals are in for a treat and something off the beaten path.

“A thriller such as this is a great way to expand on the offerings and with the cast and crew, it’s sure to be a great film,” he says.

The three actors say despite the dark subject matter and harried shooting pace, they had fun on the project.

“There was lots of vodka and pizza and nights where we just sat around and laughed,” Kroell says. “It felt like we really were on a road trip at times.”

And seeing the final results will be almost as much a surprise to them. Lantz was still tweaking in post-production as late as this week.

They’ve each seen rough cuts but nothing finished.

Kroell says even if it doesn’t end up being a masterpiece for the ages, he’s confident enough in Lantz and Malaczewski to think audiences will surely find it compelling.

“There are those films, of course, that are so bad you can’t turn away,” he says. “And in some ways, I like a little tongue in cheek with my horror. You know a little bit of cheese is fun in those movies like ‘Demon Night.’ … But I really think this will be effectively suspenseful. There’s enough depth in the script, which was well written, that I don’t think anyone will leave thinking this is a failure.”

D.C.’s gay film festival rebounds after tumultuous off year

This year is the 20th Reel Affirmations Festival, staged by One in Ten, an organization founded in 1990.

The festival showcases films that give visibility to LGBT people on film and video. There are a few new things happening this time around as the festival rebounds after being forced to scrap its event last year and a planned-but-then-cancelled spring fest this year.

There is a new Embassy Screening Series featuring screenings at the Embassy of Israel (3514 International Drive, N.W., Embassy of France (4101 Reservoir Rd., N.W.) and the Goethe Institut (814 7th St., N.W.). Reservations to these screenings must be made in advance.

“We’re very proud of this,” Larry Guillemette, festival chair and director of development and external relations, says of the series.

There are also $5 screenings at 5 p.m. at the West End Cinema (23rd St., N.W.) on Monday (“Our Lips are Sealed” and “Change”), Tuesday (“Photos of Angie” and “Bullied”) and Wednesday (“This is What Love in Action Looks Like”).

These screenings are this year’s youth programming. Guillemette says they’ve always tried to have some kind of discounted or free screenings for youth.

There will also be official after parties each night, replacing the Absolut pavillion of previous years.

“We’ve tried to reach out to our partner in the city … and we’ve gotten a great response,” says Guillemette of the parties.

The annual Women and Filmmakers’ Brunch, during which “Hannah and the Hasbian” will be screened, will be held at the U.S. Navy Memorial Heritage Center Theater (701 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.) at 11 a.m. on Sunday.

The other venues include the Atlas Center for the Arts (1333 H St., N.E.), The Documentary Center at George Washington University, Globe Theater (1927 Florida Ave., N.W.), GWU Amphitheatre and Lisner Auditorium (730 21st St., N.W.).

Many directors and actors will be at the festival for the screenings of their films.

Directors Casper Andreas (“Going Down in La La Land”), Sonali Gulati (“I AM”) and Rolla Selbak (“Three Veils”) will be present for Q&As after the screenings of their films.

Director Michelle Pollion, executive producer Kelly Burkhardt and producer Paul Fitzgerald will do a Q&A after their film, “Regrets” screens and executive producer Lews Tice and actor Derek Villanuvea will do one after their film, “Longhorns.”

Ticket prices range from $5 to $40 for individual screenings and there are package deals available as well.

For a complete list of films and times and to purchase tickets to screenings, visit

— Juliette Ebner



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The evolution of the open house

The more sophisticated the advertising, the more the events flourished



From car giveaways in the 1950s to today’s QR codes and virtual events, agents have used diverse strategies to draw buyers to open houses.

In the early 20th century, there were no exclusive agreements between a seller and a real estate agent. Any broker who knew of someone wanting to sell could participate in an “open listing” by planting his sign in the yard of that person and competing with agents from other brokerages who did the same. To the victor who obtained a buyer went the spoils of commission.

The rules began to change in 1919, when being a real estate broker now required a license. An agent might handle only one property at a time exclusively, but an “open for inspection” period could be used to introduce a model home or new community to the buying population. 

According to the National Association of Realtors, Dallas homebuilder, Howdy Howard, hosted one of the most successful open houses of all time in the 1950s. During the first 12 days of the event, an estimated 100,000 people attended, drawn by free sodas and the ultimate prize for the buyer – a new Cadillac.

Soon, brokers began hiring additional agents who could handle multiple properties. Unlike Howard’s marathon open house, agents would now host them for a few hours at a time, usually on a Sunday, to whet the appetite of the buyer pool. 

Classified advertisements with a description of a property would be placed in a local newspaper and potential buyers would review them with their morning coffee to decide which houses to visit later in the day. 

Marketing in newspapers went from a few lines of black and white text to a photo of a home’s exterior, to a multi-page spread that included both photos of houses and the agents who represented them.

The more sophisticated the advertising became, the more the open house flourished as a marketing tool, not only for the home itself, but also for the agent and the brokerage. It allowed agents to prospect for buyers for that home and others, and converse with neighbors who might want to sell their homes as well. 

Soon, the sign-in sheet was born, used by the agent to capture the contact information of a potential client or customer and to let the seller know who had visited his home. While sign-in sheets or cards are still used, some agents have gravitated to electronic applications, using a tablet computer instead of paper for the same purpose.

Fast forward to the early 2000s in D.C., when open houses became the primary source of showing property. An agent would enter a property into the multiple listing service (MLS) on a Thursday, entertain no showings until Saturday, host an open house on Sunday afternoon, and call for offers either Sunday night or Monday. The open house allowed agents to send their buyers rather than accompany them and serve multiple clients at once.  

The delayed showing day strategy referenced above has since been supplanted by the MLS’s Coming Soon status. Agents can now email or text links to upcoming properties to their clients in advance of showing availability and the clients can view photos, read property descriptions and disclosures, and schedule future visits accordingly.

Enter COVID-19. Due to the proliferation of the virus and the subsequent lockdown, the real estate world had to accommodate new public health requirements. 

One of the first things to go was the open house. Even agent showings were constrained, with visitors limited to an agent plus two people and additional requirements for wearing masks and disposable shoe covers and gloves. 

Overlapping appointments were not allowed, showings were limited to 15 to 30 minutes, and bottles of hand sanitizer sprung up on kitchen counters everywhere.

Ultimately, technology and ingenuity provided new marketing avenues for agents that included 3-D virtual open houses, Facetime and Duo viewings, videos, property websites and QR codes. Many of these marketing techniques remain, even though traditional open houses are coming back post-lockdown.

But are they really necessary? Certainly not for all types of properties. 

I believe the days of using a public open house to procure a buyer are limited. Agent security has become a concern and the desire for in-person viewings during a specific day or time has waned. 

On the other hand, Internet marketing and social media have a much wider reach, so much so that some people now feel comfortable buying a home – probably the most expensive item they will ever purchase – without even stepping into it until after closing.

After all, if we can work in sweatpants or pajamas while Zooming corporate meetings, how can naked virtual reality house hunting be far behind?

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

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D.C. homebuyers face hyper competitive market

Sellers in driver’s seat as region faces record low inventory



housing market, gay news, Washington Blade

With job growth rising during a period of aggressive government spending and historically low mortgage rates, the spring 2021 market sits at the lowest level of inventory since 1983.

Homebuyers in the D.C. area continue to face an incredibly competitive market. This is truly a seller’s market.

Lack of Inventory: Washington, D.C. has been in a gradually worsening housing shortage since the Great Recession. The area hasn’t had a six-month supply of homes for sale for almost 12 years. Now, we add a global pandemic that seriously altered what homeowners want out of their home, Wall Street on fire, and insanely low interest rates and we get a surge in motivated homebuyers.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the number of homes nationwide reached a record low in December 2020, with just 1.07 million properties on the market. The DC metro area is even worse off than the national average with only one month’s supply of homes. That means if new listings were completely dried up, there would be no homes available in four weeks. On average, D.C. homes have been selling within 11 days, which is 15 days faster than this time in 2020.

Seller’s Market: The time is now for Washington, D.C. homeowners to seriously consider selling their homes if they have played with the idea. Experts predict 2021 will be another strong housing market with an increase in demand from existing homebuyers in search of larger homes and buyers who delayed purchasing a home due to the uncertainty of the pandemic.

Zillow forecasts a nearly 30 percent annual growth in homes for sale in 2021. This would be the largest home sales growth since 1983. Zillow’s annual report stated, “Home price appreciation will reach its fastest pace since the Great Recession, as the inventory crunch continues to pit buyers against each other, competing for a scarce number of homes for sale.”

D.C.’s Current Market: According to the NAR, in March of 2021, D.C. home prices had increased 4.1% compared to March 2020, for a median price of $635,000. There were 1,004 homes sold in March 2021, an increase from 842 at this time last year.

We are seeing many homes receive multiple offers within just a few days in the D.C. area. The average home is selling a little above 1% of the listing price and many hot homes are seeing large bidding wars and selling for 3% or more above the listing price; 42.7% of D.C. homes sold above list price in March of 2021. That is a 13.4% increase from last year at this time. Active inventory for March of 2021 was 1,457 homes, down 9% from March 2020. March 2021 also saw 991 homes sell in the D.C. area, an increase of 31% from February of 2021. March 2021’s total homes sold had a 19% increase from March 2020.

Buying a Home: In the current seller’s market, buying a home can be like playing a chess match. You need to know the rules and be strategic. It can seem more like winning than purchasing a home right now. If you find a home you want to buy, chances are you won’t be the only one making an offer. It is a seller’s market everywhere in the country right now and D.C. is no different. Be sure you know what you qualify for and what you can afford.

Conclusion: The NAR and the Mortgage Bankers Association both project prices of existing homes to increase 5.9% in 2021. This may mean buyers will have to be more flexible than in the past. For example, making an offer contingent upon the sale of a current home may be harder than before. It’s also possible you will pay more than the list price. The D.C. real estate market is on fire and many homes are off the market within 24 hours of listing. For sellers, if you have been thinking of selling your home there is no better time than the present.


Khalil El-Ghoul is Principal Broker for Glass House Real Estate. Reach him at [email protected] or 571-235-4821. Glass House Real Estate is a modern, more affordable way to buy and sell a home in the D.C. Metro area. Learn more about what makes us different at

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Kick-ass crossovers

Still the hottest vehicles in dealer showrooms



crossovers, gay news, Washington Blade

Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat

Crossovers keep wending their way into our driveways—and our hearts. After overtaking sedans, station wagons and minivans as the hottest vehicles in dealer showrooms, crossovers are now taking aim at the most quintessential of American rides: the muscle car. With naughty looks and hepped-up engines, the two dynamite crossovers below are sure to blow your mind—and just maybe your budget.

Mpg: 12 city/17 highway
0 to 60 mph: 3.5 seconds

For more than 20 years, the Dodge Durango has been a solid if nondescript family hauler. But this year the automaker jazzed up its midsize crossover with brawnier styling and the latest tech toys. And for the first time, Dodge is offering a limited-edition Durango SRT Hellcat—a high-test model with the same hellacious Hemi V8 engine in the Challenger super coupe and Charger sport sedan. With 710 horsepower, this blazingly fast crossover can kick some serious ass, outrunning many a Ferrari and Lamborghini.

The upgraded suspension provides more dynamic handling and cornering, as well as selectable steering for better grip. For straight-line acceleration and to prevent nasty fish-tailing, I simply flipped the “launch control” toggle switch. The massive Brembo brakes also were stellar, with stop-on-a-dime performance and flaming red calipers on each wheel. Another plus: the iconic Hellcat exhaust rumble could be heard blocks away—music to the ears of any auto aficionado. As with all Durangos, this bruiser has best-in-class towing capacity of 8,700 pounds.

Inside, there’s plenty of space, including more room than expected for third-row passengers. The steering wheel, dash, and trim accents now have trendy Euro styling, though it’s more VW than upscale Audi. And you can opt for flashy seatbelts and premium seats in a color Dodge calls Demonic Red, along with black velour floor mats and a soft-touch headliner. Other features include heated/ventilated seats, a large 10.1-inch touchscreen, wireless smartphone integration and the ability to pair two Bluetooth devices at once. Options include a 19-speaker Harman Kardon stereo and rear-seat entertainment with Blue-Ray player. Alas, this is a limited-edition model and all 2,000 of these speed demons quickly sold out months ago. But there’s still hope: Dodge allocated some of the racy Durangos to select dealerships, so you can call around to see if any are still available. And you can always try social media to find a lucky Durango Hellcat owner who just might be willing to sell this rollicking ride, if the price is right.

Mpg: 17 city/22 highway
0 to 60 mph: 5.7 seconds

For decades, both the Land Rover Discovery and Range Rover have been ubiquitous in the United States. Not so the smaller and less ostentatious Defender, often seen as a work-horse vehicle in BritBox reruns or action flicks like Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. But last year the Defender returned to these shores after nearly a quarter-century hiatus.

Available in two- or four-door models, both Defenders start around $50,000. My test vehicle was the new top-of-the-line Defender X, which added—yikes!—another $35,000 to the sticker price. The look on these crossovers is boxy chic, which allows for a ginormous amount of headroom, legroom and cargo space. Land Rover also added extra stowage areas and cubby holes, as well as transom windows and a sliding panoramic sunroof to keep things airy. While the cabin may be sparse and full of solid plastics, the walnut trim on the center console and door panels is quite elegant.

Land Rovers have a somewhat infamous reputation for less-than-stellar electronics, but the 10-inch touchscreen was crystal clear and synced up seamlessly with the infotainment system. Tricked out with a jet-black roof, hood, and side cladding, the press vehicle I test drove was painted a haughty Eiger Gray Metallic. It also came with thick all-terrain tires, adding to a slightly menacing vibe. A full-size spare is conveniently mounted on the vertical tailgate, which swings completely open like a refrigerator door for easy access. The Defender X may not be as lightning quick as a Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat, but it’s still plenty fast. And this brute can tackle the toughest of terrains, thanks to locking differentials, hill-descent control and a standard air suspension that can raise the chassis 11.5 inches above the ground. Overall, the Defender X can’t quite hide its refined roots as a tony Land Rover. But as with the Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat, this burly crossover flexes some serious muscle.

Land Rover Defender X

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