By ALWYN DIPPENAAR
The 17th Street High Heel Race will again be organized this fall by longtime JR.’s general manager David Perruzza. He recently confirmed that he’s on board to handle planning and logistics for the 27th annual event on Tuesday, Oct. 29.
“I will probably be organizing the event until I’m 80 years old,” the affable Perruzza jokes. “By that time I will roll up and down the street in my wheelchair with my microphone to ensure that everyone stays in line for the race.”
After planning to hand off the duties last year, the well-known gay business operator stepped back in to coordinate the event, saying that he didn’t “want the participants to be disappointed.”
“It’s not a burden for me,” Perruzza says, adding “It is not an event to make money, it’s just a fun day to bring the community together.” Thousands of people, both from the neighborhood and throughout the Washington metropolitan area, line the three-block commercial strip each year to witness the parade of Halloween costumed contestants leading up to the actual race.
After serving in the U.S. Navy, Perruzza began working at the well-known Dupont Circle gay bar in 1996, handling coat check for patrons. He soon worked his way up to the top spot at the 17th Street, N.W., watering hole known for its friendly environment and popular theme nights.
“The biggest challenge being at the helm of JR.’s is to come up with new ideas,” Perruzza says, “It is always important to be on to the ‘next best thing’.”
In addition to a full schedule of weekly events like the ever-popular “Showtunes” karaoke sing-alongs on Mondays and early Saturday nights, Perruzza enjoys creating new special events. One of these, the “Red Crush” party, offers free drinks during a one-hour bar special for all red-headed patrons. In the works is the launch of a monthly “Zodiac” promotion giving customers a chance to celebrate a current calendar astrological sign.
Now boasting a total of 14 large video monitors throughout the space with a DJ booth perched above the crowd opposite a second-level loft, there is always a dynamic array of entertainment for what Perruzza describes as a “very good mix of people.” In addition, he is quick to point out that one of the key characteristics of the business is that “anyone and everyone is welcome.”
The venue has considered for several years the option of expanding into the building next door, where the bar’s offices are currently located. Perruzza indicated that if the business decides to move forward on increasing the establishment’s size, “work will hopefully begin before the end of the year.” The bar’s recently shortened name, dropping the original “Bar & Grill” from the logo, would be featured on a new awning spanning the width of the two buildings.
JR.’s has been a landmark community business for nearly three decades, enjoyed by regular patrons and visitors to the neighborhood alike. “The Dupont Circle area is exceptional,” Perruzza observes. “It enjoys a good sense of community and it is a very exciting place to be for any partygoer.”
The bar has found long-term success in the combination of a fond familiarity as warm as its wood panelled walls while offering new promotions as fresh as the newest face coming in the door for the first time. Affectionately known as the gay “Cheers” of TV fame, it doesn’t take long to make new friends and become a familiar face.
JR.’s has built its ongoing legacy by making it feel like “coming home” for frequent patrons and new customers alike.