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A new ‘Phase’

Oldest lesbian bar in the country settles into new Dupont Circle location

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From left, Phase 1 owner Alan Carroll, Steve Dellerba and Phase Manager Angela Lombardi at the bar's new Dupont Circle location. The original Phase remains in Eastern Market. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Lesbian bar Phase 1 has been just steps from the Eastern Market Metro stop since it opened in 1970, but as of Friday night, there will be a second location in Dupont Circle.

Apex closed its doors in July without advance notice. Owner Glen Thompson, who also owns the nearby gay bar Omega, sold Apex to Alan Carroll, the owner of the D.C. gay clubs Ziegfelds/Secrets and the lesbian club Phase 1. This weekend, Carroll opens a new club in the Apex building at 22nd and P streets, N.W., that will cater to a mostly lesbian clientele.

The club will open in the space that formerly housed Badlands and Apex with a refinished dance floor, updated sound system, new lights and bright pink paint on the walls in the back.

It has been a long-term goal of Carroll’s to open a larger venue, according to Angela Lombardi, longtime manager of the original Phase 1, and with Apex closing, it just seemed right.

“A lot of lesbians live in Northwest and it’s a popular gay part of town,” Lombardi says of the Dupont area.

The new location will feature much more space than the original and is being touted as the East Coast’s largest lesbian bar.

Size isn’t the only difference between the two locations. The vibe will be a little different too.

“Phase 1 … is the kind of place where you can sit down and have a conversation with the bartender,” Lombardi says of the vibe. “Phase 1 Dupont, we’re going to be more super-high volume, louder music, more dancing and just straight-up partying as opposed to just chilling … like at old school Phase.”

The grand opening weekend will feature a lineup of DJs including DJs Rosie and Natty Boom on Friday and DJs Ri-Mix and Joshua on Saturday.

The club will most likely have rotating DJs with a possible regular DJ in the back bar once it finds its footing.

“We want to keep people interested and have a bunch of variety,” Lombardi says. “We’re going to try to do some more indie queer stuff and some more off-the-wall events in that back bar too.”

They are also working on getting the D.C. Kings and the D.C. Gurly Show performing at the new location.

“All the people that have supported us at the old Phase … we would love for them to come to the new venue,” Lombardi says of the performance groups.

They might have some monthly events, but for the most part, the club will only be open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

One new weekly event is already planned. Steve Dellerba, longtime manager and one of the part owners of Ziegfeld’s/Secrets, which Carroll owns as well, will be running Jock U, an event that will cater to men.

“It will be open to everybody, but it is a men’s night,” Dellerba says. “With the club being predominately for women the other night, we wanted one night geared toward the men and give something back to them.”

The weekly event will feature a rotation of DJs including Randy White, DJ Wess, Joey O and more and the bartenders will be wearing athletic attire such as wrestling, football and soccer gear.

For the kickoff party on Thursday, DJ Steven Henderson from Chicago will be in the main room and there will be an amateur DJ competition in the video room, the winner of which will win a free night at Secrets on the main floor.

“We wanted to find some new talent,” Dellerba says. “We had … a lot of guys coming out who wanted to play so we said, why don’t we just let everyone play a little bit and we’ll see who’s the best.”

The night will also feature go-go boys, Absolut shot boys and a few special surprises throughout the night.

The kickoff will be sponsored by Universal Gear, Absolut, Red Bull and Cherry 2012.

For the most part, Phase’s Jell-O wrestling events will remain at the original location, except during Pride season.

“It was so insane this year at the old location, that we probably will take it to the new location,” Lombardi says.

The new location will probably bring some changes to PhaseFest, the bar’s annual indie queer music fest, this year as well.

The first night will most likely stay at the original location but then Friday and Saturday night will be at Dupont.

“We’re kind of already talking about it,” Lombardi says. “Having such a higher capacity venue really opens up the door to having some really big names. It should give us a lot more wiggle room and more options to really see how big we can take it this year.”

Like the original, the Dupont location will be a 21-and-older club.

“I feel their pain,” Lombardi says of the younger lesbians without their own place to party. “I know that Apex successfully did it, but it’s just not something [Carroll] really wants to take on.”

Lombardi will be co-managing the new location with Dellerba and says she will miss the original location.

“I’ve been there for seven years,” Lombardi says. “Basically, everyone who works there is my family on some level. I like being behind the bar. It’s going to be kind of weird and different managing a club of this size.”

The Dupont location doesn’t mean she won’t be at the original Phase. Lombardi will still be found there every Thursday night and on Sundays for special events.

“Those two days back … are gonna keep me grounded,” she says.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Ray

    February 10, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Gross!…. it’s all i can do to holda can of TUNA!

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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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