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Queery: Daniel L. Hays

Legislative analyst by day, drag performer by night

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Daniel Hays, Muffy Blake Stephyns, gay news, Washington Blade
Daniel Hays, Muffy Blake Stephyns, gay news, Washington Blade

Daniel L. Hays a.k.a. Muffy Blake Stephyns (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

When Daniel L Hays moved to the Washington area in 2006 to take a job as a legislative analyst with the U.S. Department of Labor, he thought the drag he’d done back in his native Missouri was behind him.

And for his first few years in D.C., that was the case.

“I called my drag family in, said, ‘Here’s all my stuff,’ and they basically took it all. I thought I was done,” Hays says. “I just didn’t think I’d ever do it again. But I met up with the Bottoms clan and they had seen photos of what I’d done before so that’s when it started up again in about 2010.”

Known these days as Muffy Blake Stephyns — she had different last names in different iterations — Hays says drag is both a way to unwind and give something back.

“I love that I can be involved and bring awareness to other groups through charity shows,” he says.

That’s exactly how it started with his work with the Arlington Gay & Lesbian Alliance (AGLA). The group has its Miss Gay Arlington pageant tonight at 8 p.m. at Freddie’s Beach Bar (555 23rd Street, Arlington; $10 cover) where contestants will be judged in several categories in an event dubbed “The Glittery Rainbow Connection.” Reigning Miss Gay Arlington Stardust will be honored and a prize package valued at $900 is at stake. Details are available at agla.org.

Miss Gay Arlington started in 2011. Hays, crowned in January as Miss Gay Zodiac in the Academy of Washington, says it’s a way to “increase awareness and activities of AGLA events with a different demographic of people.”

Hays, 38, and his partner Patrick Frieslander, live in Old Town Alexandria with their two cats Xena and Cleo. He enjoys politics, drag, singing, antiques, travel and LGBT activism in his free time.

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

I have been totally out since 2004, though most responded with, “Yes, I know.”  2004 is when “the conversation” was had with my father. My father was the hardest to tell, in large part because he is a Southern Baptist deacon.

Who’s your LGBT hero?

Harvey Milk. I keep a poster in my cubicle with a picture of him and his famous “you gotta give ‘em hope” quotation.

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

The best place to be is not any particular establishment; it’s wherever my friends are. But if I have to choose a bar I would say Freddie’s, which makes everyone feel at home, even our straight allies. And Freddie does so much to support the community.

Describe your dream wedding.

A gathering of my family (biological and drag) along with a few other close friends to witness my partner and I commit our lives to one another, followed by a destination honeymoon with a few of our closest friends being invited to join us as we celebrate the happiest day of our lives.

What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?

Health care. I have had epilepsy since I was 13 years old. I am fortunate to have always had health insurance; otherwise the medical bills would have eaten me alive. A nation with the riches we collectively have should not have anyone being forced to make decisions about whether to get treatment or take medication based upon their ability to pay.

What historical outcome would you change?

In recent history I would have changed the outcome of Bush v. Gore and had Al Gore sworn in as the 43rd president of the United States.

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

The funeral of Princess Diana.

On what do you insist?

Being true to myself, and not caving to the pressures of society to conform to a particular image or stereotype. I have been fortunate to have an incredible drag mother, Shelby Blake Stephyns, who taught me this.

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?

As you make your plans for the weekend remember to join us for the 2013 Miss Gay Arlington pageant on Friday at 8 p.m. at Freddie’s Beach Bar.

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

“Christian Panties: The Secret to Good Livin’”

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

Say thanks but no thanks. I am just fine the way God made me. I’m going to continue being true to myself.

What do you believe in beyond the physical world? 

I believe in God, however I don’t buy into the idea that any one religious sect has a claim on what/who God is. For me, God is a higher power that transcends religious and cultural divides and calls us each to be the best we can be, and in the process fulfilling his/her image of us.

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?

Stick to the basics. The goal is equal rights for all. We are not after gay rights, or some special treatment; we are after equal rights for all, no exceptions.

What would you walk across hot coals for?

Lady Bunny’s wigs — I live for big hair.

What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?

Discrimination in any form annoys me. Unfortunately too many times the LGBT community falls into the trap of discriminating against and among us.

What’s your favorite LGBT movie?

“Sordid Lives”

What’s the most overrated social custom?

Most all of them — be true to you.

What trophy or prize do you most covet?

I’ve never really set my life goals around trophies or prizes. That being said winning the title of Miss Gaye Zodiac (D.C.) was a great honor, but RuPaul if you are reading this I’d love to headline your next tour.

What do you wish you’d known at 18?

The freedom that being true to one’s self brings.

Why Washington?

A job that pays the bills!

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Charles Fred Case

    May 6, 2013 at 2:13 am

    I have known Daniel since he lived in New Bloomfield, MO and helped me with the city budget for several years, and we worked together at the Missouri Department of Labor. I liked him then, and I like him now! I am impressed with this article from Washington, DC! Woo-Hoo, Go Daniel! aka Muffy!

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Real Estate

Leather and lace in your home decor

From couches to countertops, add some flair

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Leather isn’t just for couches anymore; you can find it in countertops and a wide range of décor.

When I was very young, I would visit my maternal grandmother and marvel at the hand-tatted and crocheted doilies that adorned the arms and backs of her sofa and chairs. They were also found on her dressers and side tables, and on the dining table as coasters and placemats, to prevent scratches on the furniture. Like snowflakes, the designs of the doilies were both intricate and individual.

I’m convinced that people had better posture in the early 20th century, because I never saw the remnants of men’s hair tonic, Macassar oil, or pomade on Nana’s doilies, even though they were there to keep the furniture from absorbing those hair products. Certainly, people weren’t the couch potatoes lounging on sofas then that we are today. Being able to Netflix and chill was a long way off.

I was impressed with the amount of work that had gone into such a little piece of fabric, so I later tried to learn to crochet. Sadly, all I was able to accomplish was string after string, never having been taught how to join those strings together to resemble a doily. At least with knitting, I was able to form squares large enough to be blankets for my Barbie.

In my mid-century childhood, doilies were put away and saved for grandchildren who, years later, would neither want them nor appreciate their historical value. The ‘50s saw polyvinyl chloride (PVC) go from a commercial substance used frequently in post-WWII construction to a residential fabric that we now refer to fondly as “pleather.” I can still remember the sound of my thighs peeling off the vinyl banquette at the diner when I would get up to leave a booth.

To be without a leather couch in the ‘60s was déclassé and, although styles have changed, such a couch remains a timeless piece. These days, if you are looking for a little more leather in your life and in your home, you can look beyond that couch and chair, where options range from the subdued to the highly decorative.

While vinyl is still the least expensive leather-look fabric, we now have “bonded” leather, made with scraps that are bonded together using polyurethane or latex. As you can tell from the prices of such furniture, the actual leather used in the process can vary from 10-90 percent.

Of course, top grain leather is the most expensive, and we have suede, die cut, embossed, patent, and a variety of other techniques used to change the look of a hide. In addition, there is now vegan leather.

For something unique for your kitchen or bar, check out the tooled leather countertop from Kosel Saddlery (koselsaddles.wixsite.com/marty) in Montana. They also make saddles and chaps.

Instead of the shiny granite counters that we all know, MSI Surfaces (msisurfaces.com) makes honed and leathered granite finishes for a more subtle appearance and has dealers throughout the DMV. 

For a do-it-yourself application, Amazon sells the Aspect brand eight-pack of leather glass, peel and stick subway tiles for backsplashes in five neutral colors for less than $20 each.

EcoDomo (ecodomo.com) in Gaithersburg offers a variety of custom leather treatments, including countertops, door and cabinet panels, floor planks and tiles, and wall systems. Your color choices aren’t limited to black or brown either. They can manufacture pieces in blue, red, green, and even in custom colors to match other items in your décor.

Many online stores such as Wayfair and Overstock carry real and faux leather headboards, footstools, poufs and benches at affordable prices. 

There’s always something in leather at Pottery Barn, even for the conservative budget: pieced leather pillows, tufted stools, basket collections, and even a leather-bound coffee table book for cigar aficionados. 

If you’re looking for small accent pieces, try a leather coaster, placemat, napkin ring, or my personal favorite, a cutlery pouch for your tableware collection from Lucrin Geneva (lucrin.com). They also offer office accessories such as crocodile desk sets, wastebaskets and storage boxes.

And for the connoisseur of leather, vinyl, rubber, or even neoprene items of a more personal nature, head to the Capitol Hill Hyatt Regency this Friday through Sunday for Mid-Atlantic Leather weekend. With plenty of specialty items, high-impact fashion, toys and games for all ages and yes, even custom-made furniture among the vendor exhibitions, you’re sure to find something that will tickle your fancy.

Just remember that you (and your puppy) must both be vaccinated and masked to attend. We take COVID (and rabies) very seriously here in D.C.

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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Dining

Winter Restaurant Week a welcome escape from the cold

Enjoy D.C.’s diverse culinary scene at great prices

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KNEAD Hospitality + Design’s Gatsby is among the hotspots participating in this year’s RAMW Winter Restaurant Week. (Photo courtesy of KNEAD Hospitality + Design)

Saving Washington, D.C. diners from winter doldrums, RAMW Winter Restaurant Week is back in action. It returns Jan. 17-23 with the motto of “Dine Out. Take Out. Eat Up.”

The city’s signature winter dining event is back as a one-week promotion focused on dining out and tasting the city’s diverse culinary scene. Yet it also is providing diners with newer programs that they have grown to love over the past few cycles. These include the popular “RW-To-Go” takeout dinner meals, outdoor dining spaces, as well as cocktail pairings, allowing diners to take advantage of a range of indoor/outdoor comfort levels and dining opportunities.

Participating restaurants are set to offer multi-course brunch and lunch menus for $25 per person, and multi-course dinner menus for $40 or $55 per person for on-premises dining. Most are offering the traditional three-course meals, while others may include extras.

Many restaurants will also offer the RW-To-Go dinner meals, a program introduced in 2019, available at two price points: $70 or $100 for two people and $140 or $200 for four people.

More than 200 restaurants across the area are participating. 

“Our restaurants have shown resilience, creativity, and perseverance over the past two years, and they continue to count on the amazing support of loyal diners and newcomers through promotions like Restaurant Week,” said RAMW President & CEO Kathy Hollinger. “Designed to get diners out to experience all our great food scene has to offer, we have evolved this turnkey promotion to help meet diners where they are in terms of comfort. With offerings to include RW-To-Go, curbside pickup and delivery, heated patios, cozy igloos and indoor dining, there is truly something for anyone looking to support their favorite spot or try something new.”

New restaurants participating in Winter Restaurant Week include Ala, Bar Chinois, Bistro Du Jour, The Mayflower Club, Officina Cafe, Penny Royal Station, and Urban Roast in the District; Diabolo’s Cantina at MGM and Rosa Mexicano at National Harbor; North Italia Tysons; and the newest The Capital Grille location in Fairfax.

2021 RAMMYS Winners and finalists participating include Convivial, Cranes (also Michelin-starred), Espita, Estadio, iRicchi, and Sababa. 

In the 14th Street and Dupont Circle areas, popular participating restaurants include Agora, Cork, Duke’s, Floriana, and Sushi Taro, among others. 

Winter Restaurant Week also extends beyond core neighborhoods, stretching far past the city’s borders. Areas like Takoma Park and Bethesda in Maryland, and Alexandria and National Landing in Virginia, are also hosting participating restaurants. 

Some spots are offering additional deals, extended timelines, and other options. “I’m excited about the creativity of our local restaurants,” says Hollinger, “with their offers and spaces that give diners great experiences during the promotion, and the flexibility to dine in the way that works for them whether indoor, in heated outdoor dining spaces or at home with our Restaurant Week To-Go program.”

For example, Ambar (both the D.C. and Clarendon locales) will have a $70 seven-course to-go menu for two people. The deal includes a bottle of wine in addition to the food. 

Schlow Restaurant Group has a $40 gift card for more than three meals at any of its restaurants, including NAMA Sushi Bar and TICO in D.C. and Alta Strada Italian Restaurants in D.C. and Fairfax. 

James Beard Award-winning Chef Michael Schlow says, “This is a great way for Restaurant Week diners to experience more of our menu offerings, and perhaps explore some of our restaurants they haven’t tried yet. Plus, with [our] Restaurant Week extended an additional week through Jan. 30, there’s ample time to dine.”

Gay-owned KNEAD Hospitality + Design group is involving all its restaurants in the promotion. The group’s restaurants include Gatsby, Mi Vida, The Grill, and more. Owner Jason Berry notes that he is “excited to participate in this year’s winter restaurant week. Each year Restaurant Week brings new diners to our doors to experience the creativity and talent our staff continues to showcase at our restaurants.”

Recall that the city has reinstated mask mandates for indoor spaces. In addition, On Jan. 15, 2022, per Mayor’s Order 2021-148, the District of Columbia adopts a citywide vaccination entry requirement that requires COVID-19 vaccination to enter indoor facilities within the city. This includes restaurants and bars.

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Real Estate

What to know if you’re buying or selling in 2022

Research interest rates, contractors now before spring arrives

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Spring will be here before you know it so prepare for buying and selling a home now.

The years 2020 and 2021 were wild on the books for real estate. Many successfully sold a house, bought a house, or sold a smaller residence and bought a larger one due to the new “needs” that they realized they had.  

After a year or more of staying home, working from home, dining out (at home), studying from home, many just realized they needed a different home than the one they were sitting in.  Many experts are saying that 2022 might be the year we go back to our “normal cycles” in real estate. If that is the case, then what does that mean?  

It means that right now, first time buyers can find deals on one- or two-bedroom condos that are sitting on the market, and the single family home market is going to be ramping up in the spring, when more buyers are out in the streets and more homes are getting ready to go on the market. So, if you are thinking of selling this year, you might already need to be calling painters, carpenters, and other contractors to do those little projects that make a home ready for photographs and to be shown in its best light. Now that the holidays are over, many of the contractors we hire start getting calls, and their schedules start to fill up. As a Compass agent, we have the “Concierge” program that helps sellers to finance, at zero interest, projects that spruce up their home, and then it gets paid back when the home sells. I know other brokerages have some similar programs, also. 

If you are going to buy a home this year, you might want to seriously look at how long homes have been sitting in the market in the neighborhoods that interest you. If the “days on market” are more than 20, 30, 40 or even 50 days, this might be your time to strike. Call a local lender or two and see what interest rate you can get and how much you can get approved for a loan. Interest rates could be going up this year, so you might want to get this done in the first half of the year, if your current situation allows.  

At any rate, if you are thinking of making a move this year, feel free to sign up for one of my homebuyer seminars, or give me (or your favorite Realtor) a call and find out what you need to do to get ready to make this move.

Joseph Hudson is a Realtor with the Rutstein Group of Compass. Reach him at [email protected] or 703-587-0597.

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