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Beloved bartender Rudi Appl dies at 79

Worked at Mr. Henry’s restaurant and pub



Rudy Appl, gay news, Washington Blade
Rudy Appl, gay news, Washington Blade

Rudy Appl (Washington Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle)

Rudi Appl, a bartender at Mr. Henry’s restaurant and pub on Capitol Hill for nearly 50 years, died July 16 at his home from complications associated with heart disease. He was 79.

Longtime friends and co-workers at Mr. Henry’s say Appl’s bright and charming personality, his skills as a listener and conversationalist along with his distinctive accent as a native of Czech Republic appeared to immediately win over the affection of everyone that came in contact with him.

“I never heard him ever say a bad word about anybody,” said Walter Quetsch, a longtime Capitol Hill resident and Mr. Henry’s patron in whose basement apartment Appl lived for the past 33 years as a tenant.

“For him, everybody had a redeeming feature,” Quetsch said. “He mixed with everybody. He knew how to mix with people as well as he knew how to mix drinks.”

Chuck Sharman, a fellow bartender at Mr. Henry’s and a friend of Appl’s, said he has a copy of one of Appl’s immigration documents that shows he was born June 6, 1935 in Brno, the largest city in the region of Moravia in what was then Czechoslovakia and is now part of the Czech Republic.

“I well recall my first shift with Rudi at Mr. Henry’s, on a slow night upstairs,” Sharman told the Blade. “With hours to kill, he led me through a lengthy and colorful autobiography.”

Friends point to what they call Appl’s fascinating and colorful background prior to his move to Washington in 1966 that emerges from people like Sharman and others who knew Appl. More details of Appl’s background surfaced in a an interview and detailed profile of Appl written in May of this year by local businessman and writer Joe Englert for the Washington City Paper.

Englert reports that Appl told him that at the age of 9 his father arranged for him to escape World War II in Europe by sending him to Beirut, where he was enrolled in the American School. After the war the family reunited in Frankfurt, Germany, and settled there for a number of years, Appl said in his interview with Englert.

At about the age of 21 he and his parents moved to Canada and settled in the Canadian Rockies, where Appl worked for a while in the oil fields as a “roughneck.” He later began work in the hospitality industry at a resort near Alberta before going to Nassau in the Bahamas to work at the Paradise Island resort owned by famed businessman and A&P Supermarket heir Huntington Hartford, according to Englert’s profile.

Appl says in the interview that he became Hartford’s drinking buddy and assistant and had a chance to mingle with the rich and famous at the resort and during trips with Hartford to Hollywood. He first came to D.C. in 1963, became attracted to the U.S. capital, and traveled back and forth between Paradise Island and Washington until he decided to settle in D.C. for good in 1966, Englert reports in his profile.

Alvin Ross, the current owner of Mr. Henry’s, said he met Appl and became friends with him when the two first started working there as bartenders. The late Henry Yaffe, the founder and original owner of Mr. Henry’s, had just bought the establishment, which, at the time, had been operating as a country-western bar called the 601 Club, Ross told the Blade. Ross said Appl had been working at the 601Club “and came with the bar as part of the deal” when Yaffe bought the business.

Yaffe transformed the place into a Victorian pub, with furnishings and decorations of the Victorian period of the late 1800s, when many of Capitol Hill’s homes and buildings, including the nearby Eastern Market, sprung up in the surrounding neighborhood.

Appl, who was gay, got along well with the highly diverse crowds that have patronized Mr. Henry’s, both gay and straight, black and white, and families with children, according to longtime customers.

Ross noted that Appl at some point moved into the second-floor apartment above Mr. Henry’s as a tenant shortly after Yaffe became the owner. Ross and others who knew Appl have said he loved to tell the story of how he was “evicted” from the apartment as a result of famed singer and songwriter Roberta Flack, who got her career start at Mr. Henry’s.

As Appl told friends, he took a vacation in Europe to visit relatives after Flack began performing there in the late 1960s. During his absence Flack became such a sensation and an attraction that Yaffe converted the apartment into an extended space for Mr. Henry’s, where Flack performed to overflowing audiences.

Upon his return to Washington Appl discovered he no longer had an apartment, joking to friends that he was evicted because of Roberta Flack. However, he quickly found another apartment and continued to work at Mr. Henry’s as a bartender. A short time later, he moved into the English basement apartment at Quetsch’s townhouse on the 300 block of C Street, S.E., where he remained until the time of his death.

“Somehow or other we came to an agreement that he didn’t have to pay rent,” Quetsch said.

Englert reports in his City Paper profile that in the following years Appl, while working as a bartender, became a part-time real estate investor, buying and selling houses in the rapidly gentrifying Capitol Hill neighborhoods in the 1970s. The extra income enabled Appl to pursue his love for traveling throughout the U.S. and Europe as well as other places such as Thailand.

Ann Bradley, a longtime Capitol Hill resident and Mr. Henry’s patron who, like many others, became friends with Appl, said she enjoyed listening to his frequent stories about getting to know famous people, including Hollywood celebrities.

Bradley told the Blade she remained a bit skeptical, thinking that Appl may have embellished some of these stories. But around 1984, when Appl took her to a D.C. nightclub to see famed singer Peggy Lee perform, she witnessed first-hand his connection with at least one mega-star.

“After the show ended he said I’m going to go up and say hello to Peggy,” Bradley said. “And I thought, umhum, yeah right. He walked up and said something. And she didn’t say Hi Rudi,” Bradley recounted. “But she did say, ‘Oh, how are you!’ And they started talking and everything,” convincing Bradley that Peggy Lee genuinely appeared to recognize and show affection for Appl.

“The man was just unbelievable,” Bradley said. “He never had a bad day. He always had this positive attitude.”

Eric Monaghan, a longtime friend and next-door neighbor, said Appl became a mentor to him after the two first met in the early 1970s.

“Rudi was someone you meet and almost immediately want to keep on the first page of your telephone book,” Monaghan said. “You can’t file him alphabetically but as a major influence in your life.”

Terry Michael, executive director of the Washington Center for Politics and Journalism, has for years been among the wide range of Mr. Henry’s customers that have gotten to know Appl, including congressional staffers, politicians, journalists and ordinary working people.

“In my 40 years in these 68.3 miles surrounded by reality, I have seen much change,” Michael said. “But Rudi was a constant presence and force in a place that was a hangout for so many of us. With a constant smile on his face and a twinkle in his eyes, he exuded energy that was infectious.”

Ross said that because of his declining health, Appl had to cut back on the days he worked in recent years. In the last three or four months, Appl wasn’t able to work at all following the replacement of a heart pacemaker and additional complications associated with his heart ailment.

However, on his 79th birthday on July 6, Appl returned to Mr. Henry’s where employees and friends helped him celebrate.

“We had him come in and basically stay behind the bar and talk to people who came in to see him,” Ross said. “And he enjoyed that, but that was really his last day working.”

Sharman, who has access to some of Appl’s personal documents, said he is survived by two brothers who currently live in Germany and three nephews, two of whom live in Germany and one in Switzerland.

Ross said a memorial tribute for Appl is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 6 in the upstairs room at Mr. Henry’s. He said further details of the memorial event will be announced on the Mr. Henry’s Facebook page.

Rudy Appl, gay news, Washington Blade

Rudi Appl stood outside Mr. Henry’s on his 79th birthday on July 6 next to a sign bearing an inscription by his friend and Mr. Henry’s owner Alvin Ross meant as a joke about Appl’s long tenure at the popular restaurant: ‘Happy Birthday Rudi — bartender at The Last Supper.’ (Photo courtesy of Caroline Shook)

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LGBTQ ally Olivia Newton-John has died at 73

Performer had been battling breast cancer for over three decades



Olivia Newton-John (Photo by DFree/Bigstock)

In an announcement on Facebook Monday, John Easterling, the husband of singer and actress Olivia Newton-John relayed the news that she had died at age 73.

Newton-John had been battling breast cancer for over three decades, her first cancer diagnosis in 1992 when she was 44. Although she had previously seen her cancer in remission, in 2017 she was diagnosed again.

In October of 2020 in an interview with The Guardian the pop star and actor spoke about her third diagnosis of cancer. “Three times lucky, right?” she smiles warmly. “I’m going to look at it like that. Listen, I think every day is a blessing. You never know when your time is over; we all have a finite amount of time on this planet, and we just need to be grateful for that.” She genuinely sounds as if she means every word.

The cancer’s return in 2017 was, she told The Guardian, not unexpected. “It’s been a part of my life for so long. I felt something was wrong. It’s concerning when it comes back, but I thought: ‘I’ll get through it again.’”

What of her health problems? “I don’t think of myself as sick with cancer,” she says firmly. “I choose not to see it as a fight either because I don’t like war. I don’t like fighting wherever it is – whether it’s outside or an actual war inside my body. I choose not to see it that way. I want to get my body healthy and back in balance. Part of that is your mental attitude to it. If you think: ‘Poor me,’ or ‘I’m sick,’ then you’re going to be sick.”

The popstar-singer was arguably best known for her breakout role in Grease, the 1978 American musical romantic comedy film based on the 1971 musical of the same name by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, which co-starred Oscar nominated actor John Travolta.

Travolta paid tribute to his co-star in a post on his Insta:

Newton-John was an ally to the LGBTQ community who was appreciative of her LGBTQ fans. In an interview with Logo/MTV she noted: “The gay fans have always been very loyal, they are a really great audience and have always been there for me.”

Out actor George Takei tweeted his remembrance:

In addition to her husband she is survived by her 36-year-old daughter, Chloe Lattanzi. 

The family asked for donations to be made to her cancer organization, the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund, in lieu of flowers. 

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Priest, Dignity Washington fundraiser David Pichette dies at 81

‘Generously shared his time, resources and spiritual gifts’



David Pichette, an ordained Roman Catholic priest who friends say transitioned to become a grant writer for nonprofit organizations and who for many years became involved with the LGBTQ Catholic organizations Dignity Washington and Dignity Northern Virginia, died June 27 from complications associated with pancreatic cancer at a hospice in Boynton Beach, Fla. He was 81.

A write-up about Pichette’s life published in the Dignity Washington Bulletin and prepared by Dignity Washington Vice President Peter Edwards says that among Pichette’s activities related to the two Dignity groups was to celebrate Sunday mass for the groups’ members in his role as a priest.

The Dignity Washington write-up says Pichette and his life partner, Gene Vollmer, were also beloved, active members of the D.C.-based Catholic group Communitas. 

“Dave generously shared his time, resources and spiritual gifts for nearly twenty years, joining in community liturgies, socials, and retreats,” Edwards’ write-up says about Pichette’s involvement with the Dignity groups and Communitas.

“Workwise, Dave transitioned to being a nonprofit professional specializing in grant writing for nonprofit organizations,” according to the write-up. “Over the years, he assisted many smaller nonprofits in obtaining grants to continue their mission. Dave’s strong work ethic continued his effort to help several nonprofits right until he entered the hospital,” Edwards says in his write-up.

“Dave was instrumental in helping Dignity Washington with several fundraising drives,” the write-up says. “The most successful effort raised money to pay off the Dignity Center mortgage and put the overall Dignity Washington finances on a sound footing.”

Among those who point to Pichette’s support for LGBTQ Catholics and for the LGBTQ community are Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry, the Mount Rainier, Md., based national group that advocates for LGBTQ Catholics, and Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s current executive director. 

“I admired Dave’s incredible grasp of history, his deep involvement in the life of the church, and his sense of responsibility as a citizen,” Gramick said. “Even more, I appreciated his sense of fairness and justice for all,” she said. “Of course, he was especially concerned about the rights of LGBT people, and he will be sorely missed by those who knew him,” Gramick told the Blade. 

DeBernardo called Pichette a “great priest,” among other things, because of his friendliness and his understanding of people’s pain and suffering from his own experiences.

“He knew that the greatest thing that gay people needed from the church was affirmation of their identities,” DeBernardo said. “And he knew that the greatest thing that the church needed from gay people was their forgiveness.” 

In his write-up on Pichette for the Dignity Washington Bulletin, Edwards says Pichette and his partner Vollmer moved to Miami around the time of Pichette’s retirement, but that the two made annual summer visits to the D.C. area and to a cabin the two had bought in West Virginia.

“During their annual trips north, they would frequently travel in from West Virginia to attend Mass at both Dignity Washington and Dignity Northern Virginia,” Edwards wrote. “Dave was a radiant and energetic person, with words of cheer and humor and good will toward everyone.” 

Edwards’ write-up says that Pichette’s partner Vollmer preceded Pichette in death. The write-up says a funeral Mass for Pichette was held on July 9 at Holy Redeemer Church in the Liberty City section of Miami. A burial was scheduled to take place at a family plot in upstate New York, where Pichette was born and raised, on Aug. 5. 

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Attorney, LGBTQ activist and author Urvashi Vaid dies

Former National LGBTQ Task Force executive director passed away in New York



Lorri L. Jean, Rea Carey, Urvashi Vaid and Matt Foreman (Photo courtesy of the National LGBTQ Task Force)

Urvashi Vaid, a powerful longtime influential attorney and LGBTQ activist whose career spanned from the early days of the AIDS pandemic to the contemporary battles over equality and equity for the LGBTQ community died today at her home after a bout with cancer in New York.

Vaid, 63, known for her extensive career as an advocate for LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, anti-war efforts, immigration justice and many other social causes, had served as the executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force from 1989-1992 and served prior to that as the organization’s media director.

Urvashi Vaid, on front left, speaks at an ACT UP DC demonstration in 1990 in front of the U.S. Capitol calling for funding of the CARE Act. (Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle)

“We are devastated at the loss of one of the most influential progressive activists of our time,” said Kierra Johnson, current executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force. “Urvashi Vaid was a leader, a warrior and a force to be reckoned with,” continued Johnson, “She was also a beloved colleague, friend, partner and someone we all looked up to—a brilliant, outspoken and deeply committed activist who wanted full justice and equality for all people.”

“Her leadership, vision and writing helped shape not only the Task Force’s values and work but our entire queer movement and the larger progressive movement. We will strive every day to live up to her ideals and model the courage she demonstrated every day as an activist and a person. She will be deeply I missed. I miss her already,” concluded Johnson.

National LGBTQ Task Force

Vaid’s impact on the politics of the the AIDS crisis and the battles over full equality was considerable. During former President George H.W. Bush’s 1990 address on AIDS, Vaid, then the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, made a statement with her sign: “Talk Is Cheap, AIDS Funding is Not.” Her critique made waves, disrupting the press conference, and shedding light on the failures of the Bush administration.

Another former executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, Rea Carey noted in her post on Facebook:

“I am deeply sad that Urvashi Vaid has died. My heart is with Kate and all of Urv’s beloveds who have been with her these last years, months and days as she dealt with cancer. My activism has been greatly shaped by the fact that Urv took me seriously as a young leader in our movement. She seemed endlessly excited about the ideas and passion for justice that young activists held. She was one of our movement’s motivators and north stars.

Whenever Urv called, I’d clear my schedule for the next hour (at least!), pull out a pen and pad of paper and prepare to feverishly write down what were likely to be 10-20 rapid fire ideas of things she thought I should be doing, or doing much better … tomorrow!

Urv pushed me to see connections, dig deeper, and I was a better activist and leader for it. Her impact within the National LGBTQ Task Force carried on long after she left its staff. The sheer intellectual and strategic hole in our movement’s drive towards liberation and freedom, left by Urv’s death, is hard to grasp.

Up until her last months she was creating projects, mentoring others, pushing for liberation, gathering data through the National LGBTQ+ Women’s Community Survey. The only thing I ever saw Urv be more passionate about than her pursuit of freedom and liberation, was her love for Kate, their family, and her energy for her friends.

The best way we can honor Urv is to continue to fight for justice and the full liberation of all people,” Carey said.

Her time at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, in which she held multiple positions for over 10 years, notably media director, then executive director, saw her bring all aspects of queer life and struggle into the public eye. While at the Task Force, she co-founded the annual Creating Change conference, now in its 33rd year. 

“I first met Urv in the early 1980’s when we were both young attorneys and lesbian activists in Washington, D.C. As we became friends and, eventually, colleagues, I admired her leadership and all that she accomplished, both within and outside of our movement—for queer people, for women, for people of color and against poverty. She continued her work to advance equity and justice until the very end.  

“I’ll always be grateful to Urv for being one of the people who encouraged me, back in 1992, to accept the job running the Los Angeles LGBT Center. And when the National LGBTQ Task Force faced severe financial challenges in 2001, she played the key role in recruiting me to step in and help turn things around, lending her support every step of the way.  

“Over the years, we spent many an hour laughing and scheming about ways to advance the causes we cared so deeply about. Urvashi was a visionary. But she was so much more: Brilliant, hilarious, charismatic, loving, determined and, above all, courageous. She made life better for all of us. Our community and our nation owe her an enormous debt of gratitude. Our hearts go out to Urvashi’s wife, Kate Clinton, and to everyone who loves her. If there’s a heaven, Urv is already organizing the angels,” said Los Angeles LGBT Center CEO Lorri L. Jean.

Troy Masters, the founder of Gay City News in New York, a longtime LGBTQ advocate and currently the publisher of the Los Angeles Blade noted upon hearing the news; “On a day when millions march to protect our rights and stand up to a right wing SCOTUS, we celebrate the life of one of our greatest social justice LGBTQ and AIDS warriors—keep shining on Urvashi Vaid.”

In 1995, after resigning from her position at the Task Force three years prior, she published her first book, “Virtual Equality: The Mainstreaming of Gay and Lesbian Liberation,” in which she criticized the idea of “mainstreaming” what was and is, in fact, a civil rights movement. Rather than tolerance, she argued, the objective for the movement should be fundamental, actionable change. It was not an immediately popular notion, as media representation for queer people was just beginning to take shape, though it was, for her, of great moral importance. In 1996 “Virtual Equality” won the Stonewall Book Award. 

In her position as president of the Vaid Group, Vaid advised, mentored, and supported the LGBTQ movement. 

In 2012, Urvashi Vaid launched LPAC, the first lesbian Super PAC, and it has since invested millions of dollars in candidates who are committed to social justice through legislation. 

Prior to that, Vaid held positions on the boards at the Ford Foundation, the Arcus Foundation (where she served as executive director from 2005 to 2010) and the Gill Foundation.  

She was a leader in the development of the currently on-going National LGBTQ women’s community survey.

Urvashi Vaid with her longtime partner Kate Clinton/Facebook

Vaid was the aunt of activist and performance artist Alok Vaid-Menon.

She is survived by Alok Vaid-Menon as well as her longtime partner, political humorist Kate Clinton. 

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