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‘A rare and beautiful soul’

D.C. pays tribute to singer Peter Fox who died Monday

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Peter Fox rehearsing a solo with the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington, a local choir he was active in for more than a decade. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Many in Washington’s gay community are reeling from the death of Peter Fox, a well-liked local singer who died Monday after a short battle with central nervous system lymphoma. A funeral is scheduled for Friday at 10 a.m. at Foundry United Methodist Church for the 45-year-old musician.

The Pompton Plains, N.J., native studied business and music at Pennsylvania State University and had been in Washington more than a decade where he’d worked several jobs. He loved driving trucks and was a motorcycle enthusiast. He worked full time as director of credentialing at the American Academy of HIV Medicine and in recent years had pursued a singing career that found him releasing an eponymous album, giving local performances at the Kennedy Center, Signature Theatre and more, and making charitable appearances for local gay causes. He was also a long-time member of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington and sang in its Potomac Fever ensemble.

MORE IN THE BLADE: DC SINGER PETER FOX SUCCUMBS TO CANCER

Though his parents both preceded him in death, Fox is survived by three brothers and a sister. He had a good relationship with his family and attested to it in a Blade Pride-related coming out story he participated in last June.

“‘Wow, what’s that like,’ exclaimed my mom when I came out to her (and the rest of my family) in my early 20s,” Fox wrote. “Just the nature of her question to me describes their love for me and their trust that I am exactly who I am meant to be. I just don’t think my clan was genetically wired to feel as though I or they had done anything ‘wrong.’” (Read the full essay here.)

At his cabaret act “Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Taken” as part of Signature’s Sizzling Summer Cabaret series last summer, one of Fox’s brothers was present and Fox told a story of taking their (straight) father to a Pittsburgh gay bar. Fox was surprised to find his father getting cozy with a bear at the bar.

“I was like, ‘Dad, are you OK?,’” Fox said. “He said, ‘Go away, this guy is buying me drinks.’”

Fox’s last performance was at an album release party for his friend, fellow musician Tom Nichols in November. He’d been feeling dizzy for several weeks and though an initial battery of tests revealed nothing, a second round found him immediately admitted to the hospital. After one round of chemotherapy, doctors told Fox nothing further could be done.

Family and friends declined to elaborate on his illness but said he kept his trademark positive outlook to the end. His siblings and closest friend Antonio Casanez — a former lover who came from Australia to be with him in his final weeks — were with him when he died just after midnight Monday.

“He was total Peter Fox to the end,” Nichols says. “Like many people, I considered him extended family. We were extremely close and had done lots and lots of musical projects together. I produced his first album … he had a one-in-a-million voice.”

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

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

Many other friends remembered Fox fondly this week and peppered his Facebook page with tributes. The Blade was in touch with two of Fox’s brothers — Jake and Joe — but both said they were too grief stricken and busy with funeral arrangements to talk at length. They said they’d talk further about their late brother at another time.

“My family and I very much appreciate everyone’s interest in our brother Peter,” Jake Fox wrote in an e-mail.

“It’s very hard to even describe what he’s been in my life,” Casanez says. “So incredible and uplifting. “It’s just very hard to imagine not being in touch with him on a day-to-day basis.”

Jody Manor was also one of Fox’s closest friends and the two spent many days and nights on motorcycle adventures together, even at one point a few years ago going into a cycle-related business together before Fox opted to plunge full steam ahead in music. Manor is glad Fox realized his dream recently of buying a new BMW motorcycle, which he says his late friend was “completely obsessed over.”

Peter Fox with actress Lynda Carter at the 2010 Aids Walk Washington, a Whitman-Walker Benefit in which they both appeared. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

“Peter was a rare and beautiful soul,” Manor says. “I’ve been re-reading old e-mails the last few days trying to get ready to speak at the service Friday. He was incredibly wise and a great listener and an incredibly compassionate person. He was definitely a real person and full of foibles just like everybody. He had a strong personality. But he is going to be terribly missed. This has left a huge hole for so many people. There’s something about riding long distances together in the desert. You talk about things and, I don’t know, you just really get to know somebody and he was such a beautiful, beautiful spirit.”

Results owner Doug Jeffries, who’s hosting a tribute event for Fox Friday at his Stroga business (1808 Adams Mill Road, N.W.) just after the Foundry service, knew Fox from his years of working out at Results.

“He was one of the sweetest men, just one of the sweetest, most considerate people I’ve ever met,” Jeffries says. “I never heard a bad word about him, not once … his loss is going to be felt around the city for quite some time. You could not find a better man and it really makes you wonder why it was him instead of yourself. He was just so incredibly kind, so universally liked and admired and I don’t even have to tell you how stunningly beautiful the man was. You wonder how and why this would happen. It’s so hard to wrap your head and thoughts around.”

Daren Phillips guesses he knew Fox for about 15 years having also met him at Results on U Street where Vida is now.

“Peter was so sweet and genuine,” Phillips says. “We didn’t hang out all the time but he was the kind of person, you know, even if you didn’t hang out with him all the time, you just loved him and he just brightened up your day.”

Phillips says Fox’s guileless demeanor was refreshing in a jaded town like Washington.

“I’m not trying to be mean because I really love D.C., but many times in a city that is so cynical about a lot of different things, you know with the nature of politics and stuff in D.C., then you run into people every once in a while who just aren’t caught up in any of that. They love life and they love people and of all the many, many people I’ve known in D.C. over the years, Peter was probably the number one person who was like that and it was so refreshing … and I think if you talked to another hundred people who knew him, they would say the same thing.”

Musically, Fox favored jazzy standards and inspirational originals. He and a small combo worked through hits like “The Way You Look Tonight,” “Someone to Watch Over Me” and “Lean On Me” during his Signature show last summer. He closed with the Carpenters’ “Sometimes” and dedicated it to his family and friends. A Blade review called it “sweet, appropriate, tender and (lacking) even a whiff of irony … Fox is an anachronism in the best sense of the word.”

Manor said music was Fox’s dream and it was definitely a conscious decision about five years ago for him to invest in it full throttle.

“That’s one of the main reasons we put the motorcycle business on hold,” he says. “Music was his first love and he wanted to make that his career and in the past few years he made enormous strides in that. He always kept his regular job, but his primary energy went into his music career.”

Fox dated some in the last few years but was single in recent months. Friends say his relationship with Casanez evolved over time and even when they were no longer romantically involved, the two talked daily and were, according to Nichols “soul mates.”

“I can’t think of anybody he lived with in the past few years, but oh yeah, Peter was popular,” Manor says with a chuckle. “But Antonio is really the keeper of the flame. Even when Antonio was living all over the world, they talked all the time.”

Nichols agrees.

“I think they always kept a special place for each other in their hearts,” he says. “I think they knew it was never gonna work out for them to be partners but they were soul mates and as close as brothers.”

Though Jeffries had known Fox for years, he was taken aback the first time he heard him sing.

“I remember being at the Nationals Stadium and I was just absolutely blown away,” he says. “It really makes you appreciate life and appreciate every single day because nothing is guaranteed.”

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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Miscellaneous

D.C. homebuyers face hyper competitive market

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

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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 glassshousere.com.

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Miscellaneous

Kick-ass crossovers

Still the hottest vehicles in dealer showrooms

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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.

DODGE DURANGO SRT HELLCAT
$81,000
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.

LAND ROVER DEFENDER X
$85,000
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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Miscellaneous

A closer look at the houses in our fave holiday films

The role of architecture in Christmas storytelling

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Christmas house, gay news, Washington Blade
Ralphie’s house in ‘A Christmas Story’ is available for special events and even weddings. (Photo courtesy AChristmasStoryHouse.com)

We’re in the midst of the Hallmark season. Their movies are available 24/7 and they can serve as both light entertainment and as background noise.

The formula is simple: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl, and she moves to some rural place with plenty of snow rather than live in the city where she is harried, overworked, and financially successful. Thankfully, Hallmark is finally branching out to boy meets boy and girl meets girl like Dashing in December and The Happiest Season, but the formula remains pretty much the same except that someone is still in the closet.

As a real estate agent, I tend to focus on things like architecture and décor when I watch the original classics and those that have become traditional in more recent years.

There are extreme exteriors like the Griswold house in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Deck the Halls, where the Halls and the Finches argue over how many exterior lights are too many.

One of my favorite movies is The Holiday, where Iris and Amanda exchange homes for Christmas vacation. Iris’s house is the quintessential stone cottage in a quaint English village. You can just feel how cold the house is until the fire is lit.

Amanda’s house, on the other hand, is a gorgeous Mediterranean built in the late 1920s, with a barrel tiled roof, located in San Marino, Calif. There are lots of contemporary touches inside, including automatic window shades and a kitchen to die for. While the house’s exterior is real, the interior was specifically constructed on a separate soundstage to transform it from traditional to contemporary.

The kitchen in A Christmas Story reminds me of my maternal grandparents’ home in Maine. It was a three-bedroom, one-bath upstairs apartment over my grandfather’s general store. We would sit around the table chatting while my Nana uncovered the dough that she would use to bake bread.

She would peel off little bits of dough to deep fry and we would eat them with locally made butter for breakfast (think hush puppies with dough instead of cornmeal). The whistle from the nearby, malodorous paper mill called us to lunch at that same table. At one, the whistle would blow again to call the townsmen back to work.

The incredibly large Georgian Colonial home in Home Alone, also from the 1920s, always made me wonder what Mr. McCallister did for a living that he could afford the mortgage. Today, that house in the Chicago suburban village of Winnetka, Ill., would command roughly $3 million.

The Victorian Four Square showcased in The Family Stone reminds me of the homes in 16th Street Heights, with large wrap-around porches, wide moldings, wainscotting and what looks to be William Morris wallpaper. And who could forget the Smith’s family home in Meet Me in St. Louis, an impressive Victorian Second Empire, where the songbird, Judy Garland, wooed us with her rendition of Merry Little Christmas.

The Columbia Inn with its adjacent ski lodge became the set for White Christmas. Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye sang and danced their way into our hearts. The lodge had floor to ceiling atrium windows and held about three dozen tables for dinner. It was beautifully decorated for the holiday, with the red of poinsettias and the green of World War II uniforms.

Also lovely were the Christmas tree and arched doorways in the 1947 Cary Grant film, The Bishop’s Wife (not to be confused with Denzel Washington’s 1996 remake, The Preacher’s Wife, which seems to take place as much outdoors as indoors).

How can we possibly talk about Christmas movies without mentioning the drafty, old house of It’s a Wonderful Life? The Old Granville House is another example of Second Empire Victorian (1860s to 1880s). In the beginning of the movie, it’s what we would call a fixer upper, without the shiplap and open floorplan favored by Chip and Joanna Gaines. Mary Bailey, wife of George, does an excellent job of cleaning and wallpapering (and, we hope, replacing windows) to transform an ugly duckling into the swan that is the family home.

Finally, Miracle on 34th Street is still one of my favorite Christmas movies, as much for the independence of the single mother and trial of Santa Claus as for the yellow Cape Cod that a young Natalie Wood is presented with once she learns to believe in Santa. Perhaps if you believe in Santa again, someone will bring you a house next year too.

Wishing you happiness and good health this holiday season.

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 DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.

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