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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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Movies

New Bella Abzug documentary is a must-see film

‘This Woman’s Place is in the House’ highlights courageous congresswoman

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‘Bella! This Woman’s Place is in the House’ movie poster.

Watching the documentary on Congresswoman Bella S. Abzug (D-N.Y.), “Bella! This Woman’s Place is in the House,” brought back so many great memories for me. I had to watch it twice to separate my personal feelings about Bella, having worked for her and become her friend, to imagine what others would see who didn’t know her, and her life. 

Both viewings were rewarding. Jeff L. Lieberman, writer and director, has brought Bella to life for everyone. 

Lieberman tells the story of a passionate, courageous, brilliant, woman, one who made a real difference in all women’s lives. But more than that, she made a difference in everyone’s life; men, women, minorities, and the LGBTQ community. Bella was a true force of nature. Using pictures and video from her younger years, Lieberman makes Bella come alive. Pictures of her mom and dad and those with the love of her life, her husband Martin. Interviews with her daughters Eve, and Liz, help tell her personal story. He brought out a side of her not everyone saw, delving into how in her younger years the experiences she had formed her life’s goals. Bella was all about fairness and decency. Bella was a leader and people followed. 

Yes, many called her ‘a tough broad.’ She brooked no nonsense or weakness in herself or others. She was tough on her staff and those around her, but no tougher than she was on herself.  Yes, Bella was loud. She could yell at her staff, other politicians, and even constituents. But she was also the Jewish mother, and many called her Mother Earth. 

The film shows the influence of her Orthodox Jewish family. How when she said Kaddish for her father after he died when she was just 13, she was relegated to the women’s balcony of the shul. It was something she fought against all her life. Bella went to Hunter College and wanted to go to Harvard Law School. At the time Harvard didn’t take women or Jews. So she went to Columbia University Law School. She formed her own firm when she graduated. 

She started wearing hats when she realized that was how she could distinguish herself as a professional, and wore them all her life. They became her trademark. As a young lawyer she went to Mississippi to fight for the life of a Black man who had been sentenced to death for a crime she didn’t believe he committed. She would sleep in a bus station because when people found out she was his lawyer, they wouldn’t rent her a hotel room. She worked so hard she had a miscarriage, but nevertheless kept fighting for him, though eventually he was executed. That experience, and others, portrayed in the film, simply drove her to fight even harder for fairness for all. For civil rights and for the rights of all minorities, including the LGBTQ community. Not everyone in the LGBTQ community knows it was Bella who introduced the first Equality Act bill in 1974. A bill still not passed today. Bella was ahead of her time in so many ways, and Lieberman shows that in this film.  

There is a funny story in the film about House of Representatives Sergeant at Arms Fishbait Miller, telling Bella to take her hat off when she entered the House Chamber. The rumor had it she told him politely to “Go fuck yourself.” Bella denied it. But many years later I sat with him at a dinner party and he confirmed it. Laughing, he said he ended up liking and respecting her. 

Lieberman’s film portrays Bella’s tenacity in Congress, standing up to the powers that be and her fight against the CIA and FBI and her push to impeach Nixon. Bella was a founder of Women’s Strike for Peace and there is a focus on her fight against the Vietnam war, and for a ban on nuclear testing. 

The film follows her campaigns, from the first winning one in 1970, where she came up with the slogan, now the basis for the title of this film, “A woman’s place is in the House, the House of Representatives.” Then her fight to keep her seat in 1972 after she was redistricted. He follows her losing race in 1976 to Patrick Moynihan, in the U.S. Senate primary, by only a whisker. Then her continued losses first in 1977 for mayor of New York City, then for Ed Koch’s old seat on New York’s East Side, and finally, a losing race for Congress in Westchester County. She wanted to get back into Congress but never did. But even when she lost, Lieberman shows us how she never stopped fighting for people and change. She ran the Women’s Conference in Houston in 1977, and went to China for the International Women’s Conference in 1995. That was where Hillary Clinton declared, “Women’s rights are human rights,” even though by that time Bella was in a wheelchair.

Lieberman brings Bella’s life to us in the fullest way with a host of women, and some men, who speak about her, and what she meant to them. They include Barbra Streisand, Gloria Steinem, Hillary Clinton, Shirley MacLaine, Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters, Marlo Thomas and Phil Donahue, and Renee Taylor and Joe Bologna, among others. Former staffers, and community activists, who talk about what she meant to them and what she accomplished. He reminds us Bella was named a whip by Tip O’Neil in her third term, because she got things done. Bella got the bill passed that allowed women to get their own credit cards. She is responsible for all those curb cuts on our streets. She broke the highway trust fund allowing states and cities to get funding for mass transit. She was not only loud, and a fighter, but she was tremendously successful. 

“Bella! This Woman’s Place is in the House,” will be at the DCJCC for three nights; March 14, 17,, and 18. Tickets will go fast and they are available online. I would urge every woman, every member of the LGBTQ community, and everyone who cares about peace in the world, to see this film. You will not only learn about a great woman, but seeing it may just give you that push to go out and fight for your own rights. Even more, to emulate Bella, and fight for a better world.

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Photos

Bunker celebrates one year

Popular nightclub holds ‘Battle of the DJs’ to mark milestone

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The LGBTQ nightclub Bunker held a “Battle of the DJs” party to celebrate its first anniversary on Saturday, Feb. 24.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Travel

Quito and the Galápagos on Celebrity Flora: blog #5

Darwin was right, it is an amazing place.

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Celebrity Flora

The last full day of our Galápagos cruise dawned bright, with clear skies. The weather would change during the day. After breakfast we boarded tenders and were told it would be a dry landing. That meant we didn’t have to get in the water to get off the tender. Instead, we got to a very nice dock on the Island of Santa Cruz, in the middle of a bustling town. We were informed by the naturalist with us the population of the Island was about 25,000. We then boarded a bus for the short ride to the Charles Darwin Station, Giant Tortoise Breeding Center. We were greeted by a life size seated statue of Darwin. It was really interesting and we got to see more giant tortoises, and baby ones as well. The Center was really close to town and they told us we had an hour to walk back to meet our bus for the next part of the day. I am sure the goal of the walk was to have us shop at the various stores along the way. Some were really nice, while some were typical tourist shops. While I rarely buy anything on my travels, as I have learned after many years, whatever I buy often ends up boxed up in a closet. But many did shop, and a couple of my traveling companions bought some really nice silver jewelry.

We had been told where to meet the group, which was back at the dock, for the second part of the day. We again got on busses, and headed to a tortoise preserve in the highlands. On the way we stopped for a Scalesia tree planting activity. It is a restoration project supported by Celebrity. We each got boots to put on, two baby trees, and a trowel. Then were led into the forest to plant our trees. On the way back to our bus, my group was stuck behind a giant tortoise, who was meandering along the same path we were taking. It was fun to watch him, until we could finally walk around him, and be on our way. 

Then back on the bus to the El Manzanillo Ranch and tortoise preserve. There are a lot of tortoises on Santa Cruz Island. At the ranch we had a great buffet lunch, and were treated to entertainment, a wonderful dance program by kids in a folk-dance group. They were fun to watch. The program for the day called for us to then take a walk through the preserve. But during lunch the rains began, and they came down in buckets. So many of us chose to pass on the walk, get back on the busses, and head to the dock in town. We had been told the tenders would be running regularly and that we had up to three hours to stay on the Island and shop. I don’t know anyone who did. It was still drizzling and we all decided to head back to the ship. We heard later from the final group that came back, those who chose to take the walk through the preserve, that they nearly got stuck on the farm. There was so much rain it was washing out roads, and they needed to bring out two by fours to get the bus, and the people, out of the mud. Thankfully they did finally get out of the mud, and back to the ship.

We had a nice relaxed evening on The Flora and were treated to a slide show of pictures, taken by the naturalists, of our group, which they shared with each of us the next morning. Sunday morning The Flora headed back to Baltra Island, and we headed to the airport. It was time to say goodbye to the wonderful crew of The Flora. Of course, Captain Patricio who I have written about. But then the ship wouldn’t be the same without John Flynn, Hotel Director. From the moment we stepped on board, John was everywhere on the ship. He was always smiling and ready to answer any question someone had. He clearly kept things running superbly. He is an amazing guy. Then Boris Peralta, a Maître D. He is a really nice guy and it was incredible how many of our names he remembered, always greeting me by name. He was smiling at 6:00 am when I went for coffee, and again at the door to the dining room for dinner. Then there was Guillermo, one of the dining room staff. He was charming and also was always smiling. Always ready to bring a coffee, or anything else you needed. As I mentioned in a previous blog, there were nine naturalists on the Flora. They were all great. One who stood out to me, and answered any question I would throw at him, was Sebastian.  Clearly the competence and professionalism of the crew on The Flora, made all the difference to our great week on the ship.  

At the airport we all checked in to our chartered flight back to Quito. But there, some of the group, were heading to Peru, and on to Machu Picchu, while many of us would spend another day, or two, in Quito, before heading home. Those of us in Quito had dinner in the hotel, courtesy of Celebrity, and then on Monday, a group of us headed to the botanical gardens. It was a really nice relaxed day. But for me it was an early night, as a group of us were going to meet in the lobby of the hotel at 3:00 am to head to the airport for our 6:00 am flight to Miami, and connection to DC. That will be a separate column as I got bumped from 1st class on the Miami to DC flight, and am still debating the issue with American Airlines. So far, I have spoken to four people and got four different reasons for being bumped. Not a great look for American. But that small issue, couldn’t stop me from thinking, all-in-all, it was an amazing eleven days in Quito and the Galápagos. I got to spend time with good friends, and meet some wonderful new ones.  I would recommend a trip to the Galápagos to anyone. Darwin was right, it is an amazing place.

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