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Local singer Peter Fox succumbs to cancer

Jazz-and-standards performer battled untreatable illness in recent months

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Gay singer Peter Fox. (Photo courtesy of Signature)

Peter Fox, a likable local gay singer/songwriter, died early Monday morning, according to a statement released by his family. He was 45 and died of central nervous system lymphoma according to his friend, fellow musician Tom Nichols.

Fox, a Pompton Plains, N.J., native, studied business and music at Pennsylvania State University and had devoted the last seven years mostly to singing. He performed at corporate and LGBT events, sang at the 2010 AIDS Walk and performed a cabaret show last summer at Signature Theatre. He had previously been active in the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington and sang in its Potomac Fever ensemble. His eponymous debut album came out in May, 2010. By day he was membership director for an HIV medical certification association. He had previously been a truck driver.

Fox had a good relationship with his family and said his coming-out process had been easy. His brother was at his cabaret show last summer and Fox told a funny story about taking his (straight) father to a Pittsburgh gay bar.

“The Fox family is deeply saddened to share with you the passing of our beloved brother Peter in the early morning hours of Monday,” the statement said. “He left this earth peacefully in the loving arms of his family. We thank our family and friends for their love and support during this difficult time. Service and memorial details will follow soon. Prayerfully, the Fox family.”

MORE IN THE BLADE: ‘A RARE AND BEAUTIFUL SOUL’

Fox became ill suddenly in November. A round of chemotherapy did not go well and doctors advised no further chemo treatment, Nichols said. Fox had just performed with Nichols at the release party for Nichols’ debut album. The two had sung together for more than a decade in the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington.

Fox was single but previously had a relationship with Antonio Casavez who lives in Australia but returned to the U.S. to be with Fox in his final weeks. Casavez declined to comment but Nichols said the two had “a special relationship” and even when they were in relationships with others, “were soul mates and had a special place in each other’s hearts.”

Fox and Nichols were roommates for about three years before Fox bought his own place. Nichols remembers him as a motorcycle enthusiast and a great roommate.

“He was a true artist,” Nichols said of his friend. “He had a one-in-a-million voice … and a unique ability to make every single person he encountered feel like they were the only person in the room.”

Fox was preceded in death by his parents but is survived by three brothers and a sister. A public viewing is planned for Thursday at DeVol Funeral Home (2222 Wisconsin Ave., N.W.) from 6 to 9 p.m. The service is set for Friday at 10 a.m. at Foundry United Methodist Church (1500 16th Street, N.W.). Anyone may attend.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that memorial gifts in Fox’s honor be made to the Icla Da Silva Foundation, the largest bone marrow recruiter for the National Marrow Registry.

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15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Mark Lee

    January 2, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    Sad news — Peter was always a delight to run in to / talk to / hang out with, and his kind manner and warm spirit will be missed. He was a talented vocalist and musician who greatly enjoyed sharing his gift with others. Those who had the privilege and pleasure of knowing him, if only casually, will miss knowing he might appear around the next corner with his bright smile and energizing personality.

    • Paul Kuntzler

      January 3, 2012 at 3:34 pm

      Tuesday afternoon, January 3

      Peter performed at my late partner’s “Celebration of Life” on Saturday afternoon, August 21, 2004.
      Stephen Brent Miller and I had been partners for more than 42 years when he died in July 2004.

      Among the songs that Peter sang that afternoon was “Moon River.” Beginning in fall 2004, Peter
      and I became close personal friends. Peter was one of truly special people that I have known in
      my 70 years. When I looked at Peter, I saw the face of God.

      Paul Kuntzler

  2. George Fulginiti-Shakar

    January 2, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    Dear Peter. What a fine human being. We did music together and I was always delighted by his intelligence, quick sexy smile, and uplifting attitude. Taking aim on doing what he loved most — singing. And going for it in such a relaxed but focused way. I’ll miss you, my friend, but I’m better for having known you.

  3. Dan Garriott

    January 2, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    I am deeply saddened to hear of Peter’s passing! Peter and I have been friends for years! He was one of those people who made you feel better just for knowing him. He had such talent, charisma and always had something positive to say about everyone. This is a terrible loss for those of us who were lucky enough to call him friend! My sincerest condolences to Peter’s family. Rest in peace my friend.

  4. scotty501

    January 2, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    I am deeply saddened by this news. I always admired his talent and spirit. I didnt even know Peter but saw him around Dupont often He projected a warm and upbeat personality. Very handsome and no attitude. My thoughts are with his family

  5. Raymond DeMichiei

    January 3, 2012 at 1:10 am

    One aspect of Pete’s life that was not mentioned, and speaks to his giving personality, and how I had the occasion to know and be a friend of Pete’s, was he is also a Paramedic. We met and he was my semi-regular partner on a Medic Unit at a local Advanced Life Support Ambulance Service in the Greater Pittsburgh Area. Pete also made his medical skills available as part of the medical team for a number of AIDS Bike Marathons where he was also a rider. Good-by old friend.

  6. Joe Sprecher

    January 3, 2012 at 7:00 am

    Pete was a good friend and former college roommate. We lost touch over the past 20 years…(you need to make time to keep in touch with old friends…too young to die! ) I will always remember and admire his optimism, confidence and debating skills. He was not afraid to speak his mind. Pete touched a lot of lives during his short visit on this planet, he will be missed. To all of his friends and family: Please accept my sincere condolences. Sprek

  7. Wesley Combs

    January 3, 2012 at 8:46 am

    Peter was a special person and the arts were his passion. Here is additional information that others may want to know that was sent out by his family regarding donations:

    In lieu of flowers, Peter would like gifts made to the Icla Da Silva Foundation, which has helped his god daughter Tracy with her Leukemia. http://www.icla.org/

    You may also make a gift to the Sitar Arts Center, which promotes music and the arts to kids. http://www.sitarartscenter.org/

    (Stay tuned for more info on a project with Sitar to continue Peter’s legacy)

  8. Douglas Ortiz

    January 3, 2012 at 11:03 am

    This is really sad and brings me to a very sad place when I lost my sister to cancer. I know Peter and I hope he is in a better place. I admire Antonio for being there for him, his roommate, and especially the family. I know how hard it is. My prayers with all of you.

  9. Matty

    January 3, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    What horrible news. He was such a nice man.

  10. Craig

    January 4, 2012 at 11:44 am

    Peter was so wonderful. Talking with him was always a pleasure-such warmth and genuineness. Very sad news.

  11. Bill Buchanan

    January 4, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    Pete was one of the kindest, sweetest, and most talented men I’ve ever known. We didn’t see as much of each other after he moved to DC, but we stayed in touch. I last saw him in May 2009 during a Potomac Fever performance, and I wish we had been able to get together more. As a fellow musician, I was pleasantly surprised when he took to performing professionally and was pleased to see him becoming more and more successful. Before he took ill, he and I had started to plan a cabaret performance here in Pittsburgh. His physical life may have been cut short, but he will live on in the hearts of all who were touched by his musicianship and his humanity. He will be sorely missed.

  12. Richard Hulkenberg

    January 5, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    Peter was a friend and fellow motorcyclist. We were on several motorcycle adventures together, including a tour of the state of Arizona. He had such love for life and brightened every room he entered. While riding, he even made time to wave at the truck drivers as he passed by on the Interstate. I will never forget him or our motorcycle adventures and I will always look back at those times as a true highlight of my life.

  13. Kevin Majoros

    January 5, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    What a sweet man. I am so sad to hear about his passing.

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Theater

‘Hadestown’ comes to the Kennedy Center

Levi Kreis discusses return to live theater

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Levi Kreis is an out actor who plays Hermes in the national tour of ‘Hadestown’ soon opening at the Kennedy Center. (Photo courtesy of Levi Kreis)

Hadestown
Through Oct. 31
The Kennedy Center
$45.00 – $175.00
Kennedy-center.org
For Covid-19 safety regulations go to Kennedy-center.org/visit/covid-safety/

Early in September at New York’s Walter Kerr Theatre, out singer/actor Levi Kreis was in the audience for the long-awaited Broadway reopening of “Hadestown,” Anaïs Mitchell’s rousing musical reimagining of the Orpheus myth in which the legendary Greek hero descends into the underworld to rescue his lover Eurydice. 

After almost 18 months of pandemic-induced closure, the Tony Award-winning folk opera was back and the house was full. In a recent phone interview, Kreis describes the evening as “love-filled, and electrifying and emotional after such a difficult time.” Now, Kreis is onstage in the national tour of “Hadestown,” currently launching at the Kennedy Center. As Hermes, the shape-shifting god of oratory, Kreis is both narrator and chaperone to the story’s young lovers. 

A Tennessee native, Kreis, 39, has triumphantly survived turbulent times including a harrowingly prolonged coming out experience that included six years of conversion therapy, education disruptions, and music contract losses. He officially came out through his acclaimed album “One of the Ones” (2006), which features a collection of piano vocals about past boyfriends. And four years later, he splendidly won a Tony Award for originating the role of rock and roll wild man Jerry Lee Lewis in the rockabilly musical “Million Dollar Quartet.” 

Throughout much of the pandemic, Kreis leaned into his own music and found ways to reconnect with his largely gay fan base. But he’s happy to now be touring, noting that all the “Hadestown” cast have been hungering to perform before a real live audience.

When not on the road, he’s based in New York City with his husband, classical-crossover recording artist Jason Antone. 

WASHINGTON BLADE: Hermes is the same role for which André De Shields—the brilliant African American actor, also gay, and some decades your elder won a Tony and has resumed playing on Broadway, right?

LEVI KREIS: That’s right. It’s really a testament to the creative team. Rather than laying us over what Broadway created. They’re creating a tour that’s uniquely different; still true to the beauty of the story but with a different flavor. 

BLADE: What attracted you to the part?

KREIS: First, I fell in love with the show. My own musical sensibilities understand the origins of where this music comes from. It’s very bluesy and gospel. Southern and rootsy. And that’s everything I’ve created in my career as a singer/songwriter.

BLADE: With your life experience, do you feel called to mentor?

KREIS: The biggest effort I’ve given to this narrative is being a pioneer of the out-music movement starting in 2005 which was a moment when gay artists were not signed to major labels. I want through eight major labels—when they found out I was gay things always went south. 

It’s been amazing to be a voice in LGBTQ media when no one was speaking about these things. It’s popular now, but back when it mattered it was a lot harder to start my career as an openly gay artist and speak about these issues rather than keep quiet, cash in, and only then come out. 

BLADE: Where did that nerve come from?

KREIS: Less about nerve and more about being beaten down. How many things have to happen before you give up and decide to be honest?  

BLADE: For many theatergoers, “Hadestown” will be their return to live theater. Other than it being visionary and remarkably entertaining, why would you recommend it? 

KREIS: We need encouragement right now. But we also need art that facilitates a lot of important conversation about what’s happening in the world. This has both elements.  

“Hadestown” is not a piece of art that you easily forget. You’re going to walk out of the theater with a story that sticks with you. You’ll realized that your own voice matters. There’s a part in the show, Orpheus’ song, when the gods encourage him to get the balance of the world back again by telling him that his voice matters. 

BLADE: Is it timely?

KREIS: Art is here to change the world. And this piece of art hits the nail right on the head. I’m a purist when it comes to art and song. There’s a reason why we do it. people are listening now in a way they haven’t listened before. To miss that is to miss the role of society, I think. 

BLADE: And going forward? 

KREIS: It’s going to be interesting. We could double down on super commercialized theater or we may decide to really go the other direction and reclaim innovation. That remains to be seen. 

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Books

Book details fight to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

Clinton-era policy was horrific for LGB servicemembers

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‘Mission Possible: The Story of Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’
By C. Dixon Osburn
c.2021, self-published $35 hardcover, paperback $25, Kindle $12.99 / 450 pages

When Senior Airman Brandi Grijalva was stationed at Tyndall Air Force Base, she talked with a chaplain’s assistant about some problems she had at home. The chaplain’s assistant said what she told him would be confidential. But when she revealed that she was a lesbian, the chaplain’s assistant no longer kept her conversation with him confidential. Grijalva, after being investigated was discharged.

Craig Haack was a corporal in the Marines serving in Okinawa, Japan. Haack, who had made it through boot camp, felt confident. Until investigators barged into his barracks. Looking for evidence “of homosexual conduct,” they ransacked everything from his computers to his platform shoes. Haack was too stunned to respond when asked if he was gay.

In 1996, Lt. Col. Steve Loomis’ house was burned down by an Army private. The Army discharged the private who torched Loomis’ house. You’d think the Army would have supported Loomis. But you’d be wrong. The army discharged Loomis for conduct unbecoming an officer because a fire marshal found a homemade sex tape in the ashes.

These are just a few of the enraging, poignant, at times absurd (platform shoes?), all-too-true stories told in “Mission Possible: The Story of Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” by C. Dixon Osburn.

As a rule, I don’t review self-published books. But “Mission Possible” is the stunning exception that proves that rules, on occasion, are made to be broken.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) was the official U.S. policy on gay, lesbian and bisexual people serving in the military. Former President Bill Clinton announced the policy on July 19, 1993. It took effect on Feb. 28, 1994.

Sexual orientation was covered by DADT. Gender identity was covered by separate Department of Defense regulations.

Congress voted to repeal DADT in December 2010 (the House on Dec. 15, 2010, and the Senate on Dec. 18, 2010). On Dec. 22, 2010, Former President Barack Obama signed the repeal into law. 

DADT banned gay, lesbian and bisexual people who were out from serving in the U.S. military. Under DADT, it was not permitted to ask if servicemembers were LGB. But, LGB servicemembers couldn’t be out. They couldn’t talk about their partners, carry photos of their girlfriends or boyfriends or list their same-sex partner as their emergency contract.

It took nearly a year for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to go into effect. On Sept. 20, 2011, Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff “certified to Congress that implementing repeal of the policy {DADT} would have no effect on military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion or recruiting and retention,” Osburn writes.

Before DADT, out LGBT people weren’t permitted to serve in the military. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was intended to be a compromise—a policy that would be less onerous on LGB people, but that would pass muster with people who believed that gay servicemembers would destroy military readiness, morale and unit cohesion.

Like many in the queer community, I knew that DADT was a horror-show from the get-go. Over the 17 years that DADT was in effect, an estimated 14,000 LGB servicemembers were discharged because of their sexual orientation, according to the Veterans Administration.

But, I had no idea how horrific “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was until I read “Mission Possible.”              

In “Mission Possible,” Osburn, who with Michelle Benecke, co-founded the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), pulls off a nearly impossible hat trick.

In a clear, vivid, often spellbinding narrative, Osburn tells the complex history of the DADT-repeal effort as well as the stories of servicemembers who were pelted with gay slurs, assaulted and murdered under DADT.

Hats off to SLDN, now known as the Modern Military Association of America, for its heroic work to repeal DADT! (Other LGBTQ+ organizations worked on the repeal effort, but SLDN did the lion’s share of the work.)

You wouldn’t think a 450-pager about repealing a policy would keep you up all night reading. But, “Mission Possible” will keep you wide-awake. You won’t need the espresso.

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Arts & Entertainment

NSYNC star Lance Bass & husband Michael Turchin welcome twins

Singer, husband, and popular West Hollywood nightclub owner, now adds the job of ‘Dad’ to his resume

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Lance Bass and Michael Turchin via Instagram

WEST HOLLYWOOD – Former boy-band NSYNC star and co-owner of the popular LGBTQ+ nightspot Rocco’s, Lance Bass, announced that he and husband Michael Turchin are the proud parents of twins, Violet Betty and Alexander James.

In his announcement on Instagram, Bass wrote; ‘The baby dragons have arrived!! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ I can not express how much love I feel right now. Thank you for all the kind wishes. It meant a lot. Now, how do you change a diaper??! Ahhhhhhhh!”

The babies were carried via surrogate, the singer noted saying that Alexander, born one minute before his sister on Wednesday, weighed 4 lbs., 14 oz. Violet weighed 4 lbs., 11 oz. Bass said in his Instagram post.

His husband also announced the news on his Instagram account. “Introducing the newest members of the Turchin-Bass household: Violet Betty and Alexander James!!!! They’re pure perfection and yes that includes the dozens of poops we’ve already dealt with. Our hearts our full!!! Thank you everyone for the well wishes 🥰🥰🥰”

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