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National Chamber has dinner Friday night; local group has expo Saturday

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Mark Guenther, CAGLCC, Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, gay news, Washington Blade
Mark Guenther, CAGLCC, Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, gay news, Washington Blade

Mark Guenther, director of the Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. (Washington Blade file photo by Pete Exis)

The National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce will hold its 10th anniversary national dinner, “Beyond Expectations” Friday night at the National Building Museum. On Saturday, the Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce will hold its first “g.life expo.”

The National Dinner begins at 5:30 p.m. and includes a silent auction, dinner, an awards ceremony and an after party. About 800 people are expected to attend, an increase from the 700 attendees the previous year. Tickets for the event are no longer available.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will receive the organization’s Pinnacle Award, given only under “exceptional circumstances.” In a press release, National Chamber President Justin Nelson cited Clinton’s 2011 speech to the United Nations as “a moment that changed the landscape for LGBT people around the globe.” In her speech, Clinton said, “LGBT rights are human rights.” The same year, Clinton launched the State Department’s Global Equality Fund, which works to promote the rights of the LGBT community around the world.

Clinton is the third honoree and the first individual to receive the Pinnacle Award. Previous recipients include Wells Fargo and IBM. Daniel Baer, deputy assistant secretary for democracy, Human Rights and Labor will accept the award on Clinton’s behalf.

Judith Light will receive the Chamber/American Airlines ExtrAA Mile Award. The Tony Award-winning actor is being recognized for supporting LGBT legislation and fighting discrimination for more than 20 years. Light sits on the board of the Matthew Shepard Foundation and other LGBT charities.

Shepard’s family will attend the dinner, according to Laura Berry, the Chamber’s director of communications. D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray will also attend the dinner and is expected to declare today National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce Day in the District.

“This is not our annual fundraising dinner,” says Nelson. “This is our annual celebration. This really is about bringing together our corporate partners, our affiliate chambers, our certified suppliers, our organizational allies and our elected official champions to celebrate what we’ve accomplished … over the last decade.”

The following day, the Capital Area Chamber (CAGLCC) will hold its first-ever “g.life expo,” slated for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Washington Marriot Wardman Park (2600 Woodley Rd., N.W.). Registration is free and open to the public and includes vendors, seminars, bars and park areas.

One seminar is a “boot camp” to teach businesses how to take advantage of their LGBT certification, which the local chamber gives to LGBT-owned businesses.

“We won the Chamber of the Year award,” says Mark Guenther, executive director of the local group. “We’re hoping to leverage that notoriety at the dinner to have people come to g.life the next day.”

Guenther hopes that in years to come, corporate partners attending the national dinner will also participate in g.life.

CAGLCC has close to 400 members, many of whom are participating in a “pop-up metropolis” at g.life, which includes vendors pitching their products and services to attendees.

“We want to show our vendors … that the LGBT marketplace is a very viable way to have a great return on their investment,” Guenther says. “We hope that people who come as attendees have a great time and learn who the LGBT friendly or LGBT welcoming businesses in town are.”

Chance Mitchell, CEO of the National Chamber, saw the need for an economic component in the LGBT movement when co-founding the organization with Nelson.

“If you look at what other diverse constituencies have done,” Mitchell says, “they’ve really coalesced around economic empowerment, and we felt that diversity and inclusion has to be phrased in that context of economic empowerment.”

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Celebrity News

Actor Richard Dreyfuss mocks transgender people in misogynistic rant

‘Jaws’ star appeared at suburban Boston theater

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Richard Dreyfuss walked onto the stage wearing a blue floral pattern house dress, pausing to turn away from the audience and shake his hips suggestively, actions that were caught on multiple mobile phone video footage posted online. (YouTube screenshot)

Patrons at The Cabot theater in the suburban Boston town of Beverly were all set to celebrate the 49th anniversary viewing of the classic 1975 Steven Spielberg horror film “Jaws,” along with a question and answer with one of the film’s stars actor Richard Dreyfuss, when from the minute Dreyfuss appeared on stage, the event derailed.

Dreyfuss walked onto the stage wearing a blue floral pattern house dress, pausing to turn away from the audience and shake his hips suggestively, actions that were caught on multiple mobile phone video footage posted online. Then two stage hands appeared and tore the dress off the actor who then took his seat opposite the event’s moderator.

According to Variety and the Boston Globe’s reporting, Dreyfuss ranted about subjects reported to include transgender people, Barbra Streisand, the #MeToo movement, and women in general. As attendee Diane Wolfe described it to the Boston Globe, “[Dreyfuss] said that the parents of trans youth, allowing them to transition, was bad parenting and that someday those kids might change their minds.”

Facebook/social media advertisement for the ‘Jaws’ screening by The Cabot.

A number of members of the audience took offense and left the venue. On The Cabot’s Facebook page one attendee wrote: “This was disgusting. How could The Cabot not have vetted his act better. Apparently (I found out too late), he has a reputation for spewing this kind of racist, homophobic, misogynistic bull crap.”

The Cabot has since limited commenting on its page.

The Cabot Executive Director J. Casey Soward on Sunday apologized in a statement that read:

“We regret that an event that was meant to be a conversation to celebrate an iconic movie instead became a platform for political views. We take full responsibility for the oversight in not anticipating the direction of the conversation and for the discomfort it caused to many patrons,” Soward said. “We are in active dialogue with our patrons about their experience and are committed to learning from this event how to better enact our mission of entertaining, educating and inspiring our community.”

WBSM News Talk Sports Radio in New Bedford–Fall River reported that The Cabot also sent an email, that the station had been forwarded, to those who purchased tickets apologizing.

“Dear Cabot Patrons,

I am writing to address an important matter concerning last night’s event with Richard Dreyfuss at The Cabot.

We deeply regret that Mr. Dreyfuss’s comments during the event were not in line with the values of inclusivity and respect that we uphold at The Cabot. We understand that his remarks were distressing and offensive to many of our community members, and for that, we sincerely apologize.

At The Cabot, we are committed to fostering a welcoming and inclusive environment for all members of our community. The views expressed by Mr. Dreyfuss do not reflect our beliefs, and we do not endorse them in any way.

We take full responsibility for the oversight in not anticipating the direction of the conversation and for any discomfort it caused.

We are taking immediate steps to ensure that such an incident does not happen again. This includes more rigorous vetting of our event participants and more proactive communication strategies to keep our audience informed.

Thank you for your understanding and continued support of The Cabot.

We value your feedback and are dedicated to learning from this experience to better serve our community.”

The actor has a lengthy record of anti-trans remarks and bigotry. He has directed transphobic rants about trans youth affirming their gender and has taken aim at the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences calling out the Academy’s diversity efforts in a 2023 PBS’ Firing Line broadcast saying that the Academy’s focus on diversity “makes me vomit.”

“We’re so fragile that we can’t have our feelings hurt,” he also said. “We don’t know how to stand up and bop the bully in the face.”

Deadline reported that Dreyfuss apparently made similar comments at a Friday night “Jaws” screening at the Music Hall in Portsmouth, N.H. “I live in Mass, but The Cabot showing was all booked so I saw him in N.H. on May 24,” a Facebook commenter wrote. “He made anti-gay remarks that night too.”

The actor has not responded to requests by multiple media outlets for comment.

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Photos

PHOTOS: Black Pride Opening Reception

Billy Porter headlines program at start of weekend activities

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Billy Porter performs at the Opening Reception of DC Black Pride 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Black Pride 2024 began at The Westin Washington, DC Downtown with an Opening Reception on Friday, May 24. The “Rainbow Row” resource fair was held in conjunction with the reception and featured community organizations and other vendors’ booths.

The reception was hosted by Anthony Oakes. Earl Fowlkes, outgoing chief executive officer and president of the Center for Black Equity, was honored by a mayoral proclamation. Performers included Billy Porter, Paris Sashay, Keith Angelo, Bang Garcon, Black Assets, Marcy Smiles and Sherri Amoure.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Books

Architecture junkies will love new book on funeral homes

‘Preserved’ explores how death industry evolved after WWII

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(Book cover image courtesy of Johns Hopkins University Press)

‘Preserved: A Cultural History of the Funeral Home in America’
By Dean G. Lampros
c.2024, Johns Hopkins University Press 
$34.95/374 pages

Three bedrooms upstairs. That’s a minimum.

You need a big kitchen, a large back room would be a bonus, you want lots of bathrooms, and if you can get a corner lot, that’d be great. The thing you need most is a gigantic all-purpose room or maybe a ballroom because you’re planning on a lot of people. As you’ll see in the new book “Preserved” by Dean G. Lampros, not all living rooms are for the living.

Not too long ago, shortly after he took a class on historic preservation, Dean Lampros’ husband dragged him on a weekend away to explore a small town in Massachusetts. There, Lampros studied the town’s architecture and it “saddened” him to see Victorian mansions surrounded by commercial buildings. And then he had an epiphany: there was once a time when those old mansions housed funeral homes. Early twentieth-century owners of residential funeral homes were, in a way, he says, preservationists.

Prior to roughly World War II, most funerals were held at home or, if there was a need, at a funeral home, the majority of which were located in a downtown area. That changed in 1923 when a Massachusetts funeral home owner bought a large mansion in a residential area and made a “series of interior renovations” to the building. Within a few years, his idea of putting a funeral home inside a former home had spread across the country and thousands of “stately old mansions in aging residential neighborhoods” soon held death-industry businesses.

This, says, Lampros, often didn’t go over well with the neighbors, and that resulted in thousands of people upset and lawsuits filed. Some towns then passed ordinances to prohibit such a thing from happening to their citizens.

Still, funeral home owners persevered. Moving out of town helped “elevate” the trade, and it allowed Black funeral home operators to get a toehold in formerly white neighborhoods. And by having a nice – and nice-sized – facility, the operators were finally able to wrest the end-of-life process away from individuals and home-funerals.

Here’s a promise: “Preserved” is not gruesome or gore-for-the-sake-of-gore. It’s not going to keep you up all night or give you nightmares. Nope, while it might be a little stiff, it’s more of a look at architecture and history than anything else.

From California to New England, author Dean G. Lampros takes readers on a cruise through time and culture to show how “enterprising” business owners revolutionized a category and reached new customers for a once-in-a-deathtime event. Readers who’ve never considered this hidden-in-plain-sight, surprising subject – or, for that matter, the preservation or re-reclamation of those beautiful old homes – are in for a treat here. Despite that the book can lean toward the academic, a good explanatory timeline and information gleaned from historical archives and museums offer a liveliness that you’ll enjoy.

This book will delight fans of little-know history, and architecture junkies will drool over its many photographs. “Preserved” is the book you want because there are other ways to make a house a “home.”

The Blade may receive commissions from qualifying purchases made via this post.

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