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Queery: Sterling Washington

The Federation of Black Prides manager and singer answers 20 gay questions

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Sterling Washington (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Sterling Washington jokes about the time he became a “professional homosexual” when he went to work for Us Helping Us.

He’d previously been a presidential appointee (he was an assistant in the Office of Administration) in the Clinton White House, he then worked in IT work for several years, went back to school at Howard to get a second degree, then landed at Us Helping Us working in development. Since July 2008, he’s been resource and grant development manager at the International Federation of Black Prides. Previously he served on the board of D.C. Black Pride.

Washington, a native Washingtonian, says the Federation does important work.

“Each of the Black Prides have advocacy projects they execute in local communities that could be anything from HIV work to youth empowerment to pushing for pro-LGBT legislation,” he says. “I think that work is very important.”

Washington is also a singer and sings tenor in the choir at the National City Christian Church in Thomas Circle. He loves opera and jazz and dreams perhaps one day of living in Vienna.

Washington grew up in the District’s Shepherd Park area and enjoys watching TV, reading, dining out with friends, acupuncture, walks in the woods and playing the piano in his free time. He’s single, though he’s recently been dating someone more regularly. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?

I’ve been out since 1994, when I was in undergrad at GWU. The hardest person to tell was my mother, who took the news better than I expected. Since she insisted on telling my father herself, I was spared the stress associated with telling him. Although they were a little resistant at first, both of my parents grew to accept my sexual orientation over time.

Who’s your LGBT hero?

This is difficult to answer because there are so many. Dr. Zachary Gabriel Green, a clinical psychologist and an expert on group dynamics, is definitely one of my LGBT heroes. He has done amazing work around identity-based conflicts and leadership development, publishing numerous papers on those subjects. Dr. Green and his husband, Dr. Rene Molenkamp, really helped in my coming out process and they remain good friends of mine. There’s also the late Bayard Rustin, who was an extraordinary community organizer. Like Rustin, I am an activist and singer.

What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?

It’s a tie between The Andalusian Dog and “The Deep End” at Club Andalu. The former was around in the late ’90s and was located near 14th and U streets, N.W. The latter had its heyday in 2002-2004 and featured the music of DJ Mandrill, who is fantastic.

Describe your dream wedding.

My husband and I would wed in a romantic outdoor setting, followed by a lavish reception and dancing under the stars.

What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?

Environmental issues. In fact, I Tweet a lot more about environmental issues than LGBT issues. Environmental degradation impacts every living thing on the planet.

What historical outcome would you change?

The 2000 presidential election, which remains the most disappointing election of my life.

What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?

The release of the “Star Wars” prequels, although Episode III was the only one I really enjoyed.

On what do you insist?

Understanding and respect for other people’s culture and religious beliefs.

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?

I Tweeted a petition in support of the Community Renewables Act of 2012, which is coming before D.C. City Council.

If your life were a book, what would the title be?

“On My Journey Now” would be the title. It is inspired by one of my favorite African-American spirituals.

If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?

Nothing. To quote the late Frank Kameny, “Gay is good.”

What do you believe in beyond the physical world?

A loving and inclusive God and an afterlife.

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?

My advice is to attend a Tavistock group relations conference. These leadership conferences use experiential learning to uncover the unconscious processes that affect how organizations operate. I’ve been to at least five of these conferences, four as a member and once as an administrator. I have learned something new about myself every time and acquired knowledge and skills that improved the effectiveness of organizations in which I served.

What would you walk across hot coals for?

Since I’m a foodie, I’d walk across hot coals for a great meal.

What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?

The assumption that LGBT people are trying to convert all heterosexuals to our sexual orientation. Sure, we’re trying to convert some of them, but not all!

What’s your favorite LGBT movie?

“Latter Days” is my favorite, although this changes often.

What’s the most overrated social custom?

Answering one’s cell phone or texting back as soon as someone calls or text messages you. It is important to have personal time. Besides, it is not appropriate to answer the phone or text everywhere.

What trophy or prize do you most covet?

I would like to receive the designation of Kammersänger by the Austrian government. It is a title given to a distinguished singer and it is rare for an American to receive it.

What do you wish you’d known at 18?

That the popular images of LGBT people in the media are not reflective of the entire community.

Why Washington?

Well, I was born here and just never left. While I do not plan to stay here forever, Washington is a nice place to live, despite my occasional frustrations with the city.

 

 

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Photos

PHOTOS: DCGFFL 25th Anniversary Party

Gay flag football league marks milestone at Penn Social

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The D.C. Gay Flag Football league held a party celebrating their 25th season at Penn Social on Saturday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. Gay Flag Football League (DCGFFL) held a 25th season anniversary party at Penn Social on Saturday, Sept. 23. Proceeds from the event benefited the LGBTQ youth services organization SMYAL as well as the D.C. Center for the LGBTQ Community.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Books

New book goes behind the scenes of ‘A League of Their Own’

‘No Crying in Baseball’ offers tears, laughs, and more

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(Book cover image courtesy of Hachette Books)

‘No Crying in Baseball: The Inside Story of ‘A League of Their Own’
By Erin Carlson
c.2023, Hachette Books
$29/320 pages

You don’t usually think of Madonna as complaining of being “dirty all day” from playing baseball. But that’s what the legendary diva did during the shooting of “A League of Their Own,” the 1992 movie, beloved by queers.

“No Crying in Baseball,” the fascinating story behind “A League of Their Own,” has arrived in time for the World Series. Nothing could be more welcome after Amazon has cancelled season 2 of its reboot (with the same name) of this classic film.

In this era, people don’t agree on much. Yet, “A League of Their Own” is loved by everyone from eight-year-old kids to 80-year-old grandparents.

The movie has strikes, home runs and outs for sports fans; period ambience for history buffs; and tears, laughs and a washed-up, drunk, but lovable coach for dramady fans.

The same is true for “No Crying in Baseball.” This “making of” story will appeal to history, sports and Hollywood aficionados. Like “All About Eve” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “A League of Their Own” is Holy queer Writ.

Carlson, a culture and entertainment journalist who lives in San Francisco, is skilled at distilling Hollywood history into an informative, compelling narrative. As with her previous books, “I’ll Have What She’s Having: How Nora Ephron’s three Iconic Films Saved the Romantic Comedy” and “Queen Meryl: The Iconic Roles, Heroic Deeds, and Legendary Life of Meryl Streep,” “No Crying in Baseball,” isn’t too “educational.” It’s filled with gossip to enliven coffee dates and cocktail parties.

“A League of Their Own” is based on the true story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). From 1943 to 1954, more than 600 women played in the league in the Midwest. The league’s players were all white because the racism of the time prohibited Black women from playing. In the film, the characters are fictional. But the team the main characters play for – the Rockford Peaches – was real.

While many male Major and Minor League Baseball players were fighting in World War II, chewing gum magnate Philip K. Wrigley, who owned the Chicago Cubs, founded the league. He started the AAGPBL, “To keep spectators in the bleachers,” Carlson reports, “and a storied American sport–more important: his business afloat.” 

In 1943, the Office of War Information warned that the baseball season could be “scrapped” “due to a lack of men,” Carlson adds.

“A League of Their Own” was an ensemble of women’s performances (including Rosie O’Donnell as Doris, Megan Cavanagh as Marla, Madonna as Mae, Lori Petty as Kit and Geena Davis as Dottie) that would become legendary.

Girls and women  still dress up as Rockford Peaches on Halloween.

Tom Hanks’s indelible portrayal of coach Jimmy Dugan, Gary Marshall’s depiction of (fictional) league owner Walter Harvey and Jon Lovitz’s portrayal of Ernie have also become part of film history.

Filming “A League of Their Own,” Carlson vividly makes clear, was a gargantuan effort.  There were “actresses who can’t play baseball” and “baseball players who can’t act,” Penny Marshall said.

The stadium in Evansville, Ind., was rebuilt to look like it was in the 1940s “when the players and extras were in costume,” Carlson writes, “it was easy to lose track of what year it was.”

“No Crying in Baseball” isn’t written for a queer audience. But, Carlson doesn’t pull any punches. 

Many of the real-life AAGPBL players who O’Donnell met had same-sex partners, O’Donnell told Carlson.

“When Penny, angling for a broad box-office hit chose to ignore the AAGPGL’s queer history,” Carlson writes, “she perpetuated a cycle of silence that muzzled athletes and actresses alike from coming out on the wider stage.”

“It was, as they say, a different time,” she adds.

Fortunately, Carlson’s book isn’t preachy. Marshall nicknames O’Donnell and Madonna (who become buddies) “Ro” and “Mo.” Kodak is so grateful for the one million feet of film that Marshall shot that it brings in a high school marching band. Along with a lobster lunch. One day, an assistant director “streaked the set to lighten the mood,” Carlson writes.

“No Crying in Baseball,” is slow-going at first. Marshall, who died in 2018, became famous as Laverne in “Laverne & Shirley.” It’s interesting to read about her. But Carlson devotes so much time to Marshall’s bio that you wonder when she’ll get to “A League of Their Own.”

Thankfully, after a couple of innings, the intriguing story of one of the best movies ever is told.

You’ll turn the pages of “No Crying in Baseball” even if you don’t know a center fielder from a short stop.

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Theater

Rupert Murdoch’s powers on full display in ‘Ink’

Media baron helped pave the way for Brexit, Prime Minister Thatcher

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Cody Nickell (Larry Lamb) and Andrew Rein (Rupert Murdoch) in ‘Ink’ at Round House Theatre. (Photo by Margot Schulman Photography)

‘Ink’
Through Sept. 24
Round House Theatre
4545 East-West Highway, Bethesda, MD 20814
$46-$94
Roundhousetheatre.org

Yes, Rupert Murdoch’s loathsome traits are many, but his skills to succeed are undeniably numerous. 

In the first scenes of John Graham’s West End and Broadway hit drama “Ink,” an exciting year-long detail from the life of a burgeoning media baron, Murdoch’s powers of persuasion are on full display.

It’s 1969 London. Over dinner with editor Larry Lamb, a young Murdoch shares his plan to buy the Sun and rebrand the dying broadsheet, replacing the Daily Mirror as Britain’s best-selling tabloid. What’s more, he wants to do it in just one year with Lamb at the helm. 

Initially reluctant, Lamb becomes seduced by the idea of running a paper, something that’s always eluded him throughout his career, and something Murdoch, the outsider Australian, understands. Murdoch taunts him, “Not you. Not Larry Lamb, the Yorkshire-born son of a blacksmith, not the guy who didn’t get a degree from Oxford or Cambridge, who didn’t get a degree from anywhere. Not you.”

Still, Lamb, played convincingly by Cody Nickell in Round House Theatre’s stellar season-opener, a co-production with Olney Theatre Center, remains unsure. But Murdoch (a delightfully brash Andrew Rein) is undeterred, and seals the deal with a generous salary. 

Superbly staged by director Jason Loweth, “Ink” is riveting. Its exchanges between Lamb and Murdoch are a strikingly intimate glimpse into ambition involving an ostensibly average editor and a striving money man who doesn’t like people.  

Once on board, Lamb is trolling Fleet Street in search of his launch team, played marvelously by some mostly familiar actors. He makes his most important hire — news editor Brian McConnell (Maboud Ebrahimzadeh) — in a steam bath. The remainder of the Sun’s new masthead falls handily into place: Joyce Hopkirk (Kate Eastwood Norris) the women’s page editor whose forward thinking is marred by her casual racism; Zion Jang plays Beverley Goodway, an awkwardly amusing young photographer; persnickety deputy editor Bernard Shrimsley (Michael Glenn) who learns to love ugly things; and an old school sports editor who proves surprisingly versatile, played by Ryan Rillette, Round House’s artistic director. 

At Lamb’s suggestion, the team brainstorms about what interests Sun readers. They decide on celebrities, pets, sports, free stuff, and —rather revolutionarily for the time —TV.  Murdoch is happy to let readers’ taste dictate content and the “Why” of the sacred “five Ws” of journalism is out the window. 

Murdoch is portrayed as a not wholly unlikable misanthrope. He dislikes his editors and pressman alike. He particularly hates unions. His advice to Lamb is not to get too chummy with his subordinates. Regarding the competition, Murdoch doesn’t just want to outperform them, he wants to grind them to dust. 

Loewith leads an inspired design team. Scenic designer Tony Cisek’s imposing, inky grey edifice made from modular walls is ideally suited for Mike Tutaj’s projections of headlines, printed pages, and Rein’s outsized face as Murdoch. Sound designer and composer Matthew M. Nielson ably supplies bar noises and the nonstop, pre-digital newspaper clatter of presses, linotypes, and typewriters.

From a convenient second tiered balcony, the Daily Mirror’s establishment power trio Hugh Cudlipp (Craig Wallace), Chris Lee Howard (Chris Geneback) and Sir Percy (Walter Riddle) overlook all that lies below, discussing new tactics and (mostly failed) strategies to remain on top.   

Increasingly comfortable in the role of ruthless, sleazy editor, Lamb is unstoppable.

Obsessed with overtaking the Daily Mirror’s circulation, he opts for some sketchy reportage surrounding the kidnapping and presumed murder of Muriel McKay, the wife of Murdoch’s deputy Sir Alick (Todd Scofield). The kidnappers mistook Muriel for Murdoch’s then-wife Anna (Sophia Early). Next, in a move beyond the pale, Lamb introduces “Page 3,” a feature spotlighting a topless female model. Awesta Zarif plays Stephanie, a smart young model. She asks Lamb if he would run a semi-nude pic of his similarly aged daughter? His reaction is uncomfortable but undaunted. 

For Murdoch’s purposes, history proves he chose well in Lamb. By year’s end, the Sun is Britain’s most widely read tabloid. Together they give the people what they didn’t know they wanted, proving the pro-Labour Daily Mirror’s hold on the working class is baseless and paving the way for things like Brexit and a Prime Minister Thatcher. 

“Ink” at Round House closes soon. See it if you can.

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