To see the winners of the Washington Blade’s Best of Gay D.C. readers poll in other categories, click here.
Best Singer or Band
Frankie & Betty
Runner-up: Wicked Jezabel
Frankie & Betty are a queer acoustic rock duo comprised of Rachel Bauchman (vocals/bass/guitar) and Jessie Strick (lead guitar). Since forming in 2011, they’ve played numerous events, including Roanoke Pride, Phasefest several times and more. They have shows planned at Tree house Lounge on Monday night and the Rock and Roll Hotel on Thursday. Look them up on Facebook to stay current. (JD)
Runner-up: Ashliana Rowe
Long-time LGBT advocate Ruby Corado is the visionary behind Casa Ruby, a local bilingual, multicultural LGBT organization that works to create “success life stories” among LGBT, gender queer and gender non-conforming residents in need. The recently wed Corado is a former Capital Pride Hero and has received many accolades for her work. (JD)
2822 Georgia Ave., N.W.
Sgt. Matthew Mahl
Runner-up: Ed Bailey
Sgt. Matthew Mahl, who oversees six officers as part of the Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit of the D.C. Metro Police Department, says it’s “been a good year.”
“I don’t want to say crime is up, but we have been busier,” the 35-year-old Havana, Ohio, native says. “We have our hands in a lot of stuff.”
Mahl, a cop for 15 years and in Washington since 2001, joined the MPD in 2004 and the GLLU in 2012, having spent his entire previous career on patrol duty. He was forced out on the job during a 2007 incident in which his locker was vandalized but says that’s the only bad experience he’s ever had on the force.
Although initially hesitant to join the GLLU, he says overall it’s been a great experience and he enjoys helping his fellow officers learn “the sensitivities and needs of the LGBT community.” (JD)
Best Drag King
Runner-up: Sebastian Katz
Anna Wimpelberg works by day as an HIV researcher at Whitman-Walker Health but her drag alter ego Avery Austin was born about 11 years ago when the 36-year-old New Orleans native and lesbian saw a drag show in Boston, her then-home.
A veteran of various high school and college theater productions, she says she recognized “immediately that it was something I would love to do.” She continued during an eight-year stint in Austin, Texas, and joined the D.C. Kings when she came to Washington about three years ago. She calls herself “the theater nerd of the group” and guesses she performs with them at Phase 1 and occasional other venues about four or five times per year, often recreating songs she’s seen on “Glee!”
Find more information on the Kings at dckings.com. (JD)
1606 17th St. N.W.
Runner-up: Ray Gernhart
Runner-up: Shea Van Horn
DJ Rosie Hicks has been spinning for about 13 years and spins regularly at the Hippo in her hometown Baltimore and also at LURe at Cobalt, Phase 1 and other area events in addition to a day job teaching special education.
Known for a mix of hip-hop, R&B, pop and more, she says she just all-around loves music. She also won this award in 2012.
“I love making people happy out there,” the Baltimore native says. “The whole point of coming out to a bar or club to hear a DJ is to let go of worries and cares and enjoy it.”
Look her up on Facebook to stay current with her events. (JD)
Best Drag Queen
Runner-up: Heidi Glum
A flip-flop of last year’s results when Glum won, Ba’Naka (Dustin Michael Schaad) is on top again this year adding to her 2012, 2011 and 2010 prizes (a Blade record) in this category.
Ba’Naka, who now does drag full-time and has positioned herself as the go-to gal for everything from hosting local Family Feud nights to getting you ready (for a fee of course!) for Miss Adams Morgan two weeks ago, she is widely known in the community for her outspoken Facebook comments, elaborate Disney routines (her Ursula is legendary) and consistent A-game delivery. And although it hasn’t happened yet, she’s our best local hope for “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” (JD)
Hottest Stripper or Go-go Dancer
Runner-up: Christian Lezzil
Steve Pena got into dancing through his husband, Brent Everett, with whom he also runs a popular porn site (brenteverett.com). He’s nonchalant about the work, which he does every Friday night at Town when he’s in Washington and monthly at Latin Night at Cobalt.
“It’s a way to have fun, stay in touch with friends and fans and meet future models for our website,” the San Diego-born, Texas-reared Pena says.
In the region for about a year and a half, Pena, in an e-mail from Amsterdam where he’s traveling, says he appreciates the support.
“I have the best and most loyal friends, fans and followers out there.” (JD)
Best Burlesque Dancer
Runner-up: Glam Gamz
Private Tails (aka Ashliana Rowe) has been performing burlesque since 2005 and has drawn influence from classic burlesque, hip-hop, Broadway and more for what she calls “the art of the tease.”
As producer of Private Tease Productions, a monthly variety show she uses as an outlet for young performers she mentors, she says she “enjoys the creative process of developing new numbers and looks forward to the opportunity to whip up a fresh new performance.”
Although she has several titles under her belt, this is a new category for Best Of and she’s the inaugural winner.
Her next performance is at Phase 1 on Halloween. Keep up with her on Facebook or at privatetails.com. (JD)
Best Business Person
Runner Up: Ray Gernhart
Businessman DC Allen has been credited with setting the pace for local gay-owned businesses to support the broader LGBT community.
Allen along with his husband Ken Flick owns the Crew Club, a D.C. health club and sauna that caters to gay men.
Last year Allen, 58, presented the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community with a $25,000 check to help the Center pay for renovation costs for its new space in the city’s Reeves Center municipal building at 14th and U streets, N.W.
“We decided it was important for the center to be there for all of us in the community,” Allen says.
Since opening the Crew Club at 1321 14th St., N.W., in the early 1990s, Allen has supported a number of local LGBT organizations and causes, including the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, which presented Allen with its Distinguished Service Award in 1998.
Under Allen’s direction, the Crew Club has also supported Whitman-Walker Health and Us Helping Us, two local community health organizations that provide services to the LGBT community, including AIDS education and prevention services.
In addition to providing financial support for the two groups, Allen has arranged for staff members of the groups to provide HIV testing on the Crew Club’s premises. The Crew Club also serves as a major distribution point for HIV prevention literature and free condoms.
The Capital Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce recently named Allen Business Leader of the Year. (LC)
Runner-up: Eddie Weingart
Relax the stress away with a massage by Che Young. Young provides deep tissue, Swedish, clinical and massage therapy. The Alexandra-based pro can be reached at 703-627-9090 or visit massagetherapy.com. (MC)
Best Visual Artist
1621 T St., N.W., Apt. 201
Runner-up: Amy Martin
Best Personal Trainer
Runner-up: Bucky Mitchell
Gerard Burley shares fitness tips via his biweekly column in the Blade. He also makes appearances on Fox 5 and is known for his SweatDC fitness party. Find him via Facebook for regular updates and inspirational fitness-related posts.
(Editor’s note: Bucky Mitchell also writes a biweekly column in the Blade.)
Best TV Personality
Chuck Bell, NBC4
Runner-up: Wendy Rieger
Mickey Daniel DaGuiso
Runner-up: Will Gartshore
Mickey Daniel DaGuiso grew up in the D.C. suburbs. He attended Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria, mostly for the music program, and graduated from the University of Virginia where he majored in anthropology and philosophy.
Throughout school, he was involved in band (saxophone, piano) and chorus. It wasn’t until after college that DaGuiso started doing musicals. “It began as sort of a whim,” he says, “and then I was instantly hooked.”
Among the local companies where he’s worked, his favorites are Keegan Theatre (“Man of La Mancha” and “Rent”) and Landless Theatre where he played Kebab in “Perez Hilton Saves the Universe” and the lead in “Spidermusical,” a spoof of Broadway’s “Spiderman,” and many other roles. He has also served as musical director and accompanist for assorted Landless productions.
“Keegan is such a friendly, supportive community yet the creativity and work involved is just superior. Landless is the most enjoyable both on stage and backstage, efficient and creative with time and space, with vision and little ego.”
Currently DaGuiso is taking a year away from theater to travel the world. (He responded to these interview questions via email from India where he’s embarking on a six-month walkabout.) While traveling he’s trying his hand at playwriting.
“I’m keeping it very open-ended so just reading a lot, taking down inspiration whenever it comes and doing a daily writing practice. I do plan on continuing with acting in D.C. when I get back. But who knows what the future holds? I’m like the wind.” (PF)
Runner-up: Holly Twyford
MaryBeth Wise likens acting to a never-ending education. Currently she’s taking a class for experienced actors at Studio Theatre.
“I feel that it’s a good way to flex my muscles when I’m not working,” she says. “And I get to do scenes that I’ve always wanted to do by my favorite playwrights like Pinter, Beckett and Chekhov.
Wise advises young actors to see as much theater as possible. “The more you absorb, the better off you’ll be. The more you’ll have available in experience and imagination. After all, what else do we have?”
Typically cast as women of substance, Wise’s more memorable roles include Anne Sullivan in Olney Theatre’s “The Miracle Worker,” a New York psychiatrist in Studio Theatre’s “Frozen,” a newly out lesbian in “Body Awareness” at Theater J, and most recently the stalwart wife and mother married to Mitchell Hébert in Round House’s “How to Write a New Book for the Bible,” a part that called for her to age from 40 to 80 on a dime.
Offstage, Wise’s partner is local actor Sarah Marshall. The talented pair got to know each other while working on Woolly Mammoth’s production of Paula Vogel’s “The Mineola Twins” in 2003. “It was a great time,” Wise says. “And the show was a lot fun. I played a man in the first act and a woman in the second.”
Wise grew up in Miami. She started acting while an undergraduate at Barry University. Initially she came to Washington to attend Catholic University where she earned a master’s in acting.
“The D.C. theater scene is one of the best in the country,” Wise says. “We have a variety of theaters doing interesting, cutting-edge work. Our audiences can handle thought-provoking theater. And the actors are supportive. It’s great.” (PF)
Best Hill Staffer
Runner-up: Kenneth Dowling
As Hill staffers go, Kat Skiles has moved to the top. In July, she became digital director and senior adviser to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). It’s the Utah native’s second consecutive year winning this award. (CJ)
Best Straight Ally
Leigh Ann Hendricks
Runner-up: Brett Johnson
Leigh Ann Hendricks made a big change five years ago to manage Level One (in the basement of Cobalt) after 17 years just down the street at Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse.
Managing a staff of about 35 — 90-95 percent of whom, she estimates, are LGBT — she says was a logical change and one she made with no hard feelings toward Annie’s. Having grown up with a gay best friend, she says it simply never occurred to her to treat gay people any differently. She was also inspired by the example of Annie’s namesake, the late Annie Kaylor, whom she worked with for years.
“She was like our second mother,” Hendricks says. “Her attitude was, ‘They either like my gay friends or they don’t like me,’ and that’s been mine as well.” (JD)
1639 R St. N.W.
Dusty Martinez (Town Patio/Number 9)
Runner-up: Angela Lombardi (Phase 1)
Baltimore native Dusty Martinez has been in the food and beverage industry for a decade and recently completed an in-house internship at the W Hotel. He recently moved from serving customers at Number 9 to operating the new Town Patio, and he is also the owner and director of D&D Cocktails, a private bartending company serving the D.C. area.
Best Rehoboth Bartender
Holly Lane, Café Azafran
Runner-up: Matt Urban, Blue Moon
Holly Lane has lived in more places than most people have visited: Martinique, Greece, Bahamas, Paris, Chicago, Switzerland, the list goes on.
She’s a native Washingtonian who trained in dance at the Washington School of Ballet and later at a modern dance school in Bethesda. After school — and a stint in Chicago with her then-husband — Lane’s travels began in earnest. She left her husband and moved to the Bahamas at age 23 to dance at the Paradise Island resort. A Club Med gig led to more travel and finally a trip to Paris, where she auditioned for a dancing job and stayed for 15 years.
“It was nice to have a place to decorate,” says Lane, sipping a coffee on an unseasonably warm October day in Rehoboth Beach, Del. “I rented a furnished apartment and gradually replaced everything with my own finds at the Paris flea markets.”
After years of working as a professional dancer, it was in Paris at age 30 that Lane discovered she could also sing. She landed a job in a musical production and then at the Hollywood Savoy in the ‘80s, where the wait staff also served as the entertainment, singing and dancing for customers during dinner.
“It was a great place to learn,” she says.
Despite the excitement and adventure of living and working abroad, Lane said a voice kept telling her it was time to go home and so in 1995, she returned to D.C.
“I’m glad I did all the things I did when I did them,” she says. “I just found my passport and realized I haven’t been abroad since 2007.”
After the death of a boyfriend, Lane went to visit her parents at their home in Rehoboth Beach, which they’ve owned since 1977 and stayed. She’s lived full time in the popular beach resort town since 2000 and spent about 10 years in a jazz band performing around the state. Her parents, now 93, still live there. Lane says her father sold the family home in D.C. through a real estate ad in the Washington Blade a few years ago and relocated full-time to Rehoboth.
In summer of 2010, the owner of Café Azafran was opening a new location in Rehoboth and offered Lane a bartending job. She’s worked there since. You can find her tending bar Thursday-Sunday evenings but Thursday is the night when she’s joined by fellow Rehoboth entertainer John Flynn, who plays the keyboard while Lane sings into her wireless headset while making drinks.
“I enjoy multi-tasking,” she says.
Café Azafran attracts a mixed crowd and Lane treats customers like they are guests in her home rather than patrons at a bar. She always finds room at the large granite bar for another stool and makes sure to introduce newcomers to the rest of the crowd.
Lane, 62, is “happily single” and lives with her dog JuJuBee, a “cheagle,” a Chihuahua and Beagle mix. In addition to her duties at Azafran, Lane sings at private parties and functions. (KN)
18 Baltimore Ave.
Most Committed Activist
Runner-up: Josh Deese
In Washington since 1997, David Mariner, a Corning, N.Y., native, started volunteering at the DC Center in 2008 and became its first full-time executive director a year later.
Under his leadership, the once-fledgling Center has begun to flourish and now has a broad activity schedule and is a hub for LGBT-themed events such as the OutWrite LGBT Book Festival, Reel Affirmations and much more.
“Working at the DC LGBT Center has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” Mariner says. “I am so proud of the work we do in the community and am profoundly grateful to the staff and the many volunteers and supporters who make this work possible.” (JD)
The DC Center
2000 14th St., N.W. No. 105
Best Gay Politician
Runner-up: Tammy Baldwin
Best Trans Advocate
Thomas Coughlin (see Queery)
Runner-up: Ruby Corado
Best Amateur Athlete
Runner-up: Eddie Valentine
Matt Simeon, who currently plays for the Washington Generals, has been a member of the D.C. Gay Flag Football League since 2010. Simeon was also named most valuable player of the league for the 2014 spring season. (MC)
Runner-up: Barry Smythers
Michael Hodges has been sharpening his techniques in the Washington area for 25 years and is the owner and master Stylist of Logan 14. With a keen eye for current trends in men’s hair cuts and women’s styling, Michael and his team are making a powerful impact in the Logan Circle area. (SMH)
1314 B 14th St., N.W
Rev. David Lett
This is Father Lett’s second consecutive win in this category. He also won the best drag queen prize as Lena Lett in 2001 and 2002. (JD)
Runner-up: Rev. Kirsten Blom-Westbrook
Best Republican Advocate
Runner-up: Sen. Susan Collins
Best First Responder
Runner-up: Kate Fitzgerald
Officer Justin Markiewicz has been serving as a part-time member of the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit since 2010. Markiewicz hails from Delaware and came to the District to attend Catholic University. After graduation he attended the police academy and was assigned to the 6th District. (MC)
For Gaiman fans, ‘Sandman’ is a ‘Dream’ come true
Netflix series offers fantasy space where all feel welcome
For the millions of fans who have embraced Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman” and its darkly beautiful, queer-inclusive mystical universe since it debuted in comic book form more than three decades ago, the arrival of a new Netflix series based on it is a very, very big deal – even if, for the uninitiated, it might be hard to understand why. After all, the streaming giant has already unleashed such a vast array of LGBTQ-friendly fantasy movies and shows that one more, welcome though it may be, hardly seems like anything new.
As any of the above-mentioned fans will quickly tell you, however, “Sandman” is not just any fantasy series. Initiated by DC Comics as a revival of an older comic book of the same name, it was handed over to Gaiman – then still a budding writer of comics with a few promising titles under his belt – with the stipulation that he keep the name but change everything else. The comic series he came up with went on to enjoy a 75-issue original run from 1989 to 1993, an era when an expanded literary appreciation for such works gave rise to the term “graphic novel”, and it joined “Maus” and “Watchmen” among the first few comics to be included on the New York Times Best Seller List. Arguably more important, it also generated a huge and diverse fan following, and its incorporation of multiple queer characters and storylines has inspired subsequent generations of comic book creators to envision new and inclusive fantasy worlds of their own.
Despite that success, it’s taken 33 years for it to finally be adapted for the screen. Beginning in the late ‘90s, attempts were made to develop “The Sandman” for film, but though a few scripts initially managed to win Gaiman’s approval, creative differences inevitably led to a dead end, and the Hollywood rumor mill began to buzz that the story was ultimately “unfilmable” – until 2019, when Netflix and Warner Brothers (parent company to DC Comics) officially reached a deal to bring it to the screen as a series, with Gaiman fully on board and a creative team in place that was determined to faithfully adapt the much-loved original for a contemporary audience.
The show that came from that decision, which premiered on Netflix Aug. 5, makes it clear that the long wait was more than worth it.
“The Sandman” of the title refers to the story’s leading figure – Dream (known also as Morpheus, among other names), one of seven elemental siblings whose mystical realms overlay and intertwine with the human world. As ruler of the dream world, he holds hidden power over all mankind – until a human sorcerer manages to trap him and imprison him on Earth for more than 100 years. Finally freed, he returns to his kingdom to find it in disarray, and he sets out to restore order and undo the damage done – a quest that will require him to enlist the aid of numerous (and sometimes less-than-willing) allies, both human and immortal, to save the cosmos from a chaotic force that has been unleashed in his absence.
Like any good myth cycle, it’s both an epic story and an episodic one, making it a much better fit for the long-form storytelling capacity of series television than for any of the one-off film adaptations that it almost became. In his sweeping, unapologetically allegorical saga of the ever-dueling forces within our human psyche, Gaiman uses broad strokes in composing his plot, recycling and reinventing timeless motifs and themes while relying on our comfortable acceptance of the familiar tropes of myth and magic to get us all on board; the narrative is a massive structure, but it’s not hard to follow the basics. Where “Sandman” becomes complex – and exceptional – is in the details Gaiman gave himself room to explore along the way, the human moments caught in between the monumental cosmic drama.
It’s these parts of the story that have made his graphic novel iconic, more even than its gothic melancholy or its layered personification of primal forces into complex human archetypes; it’s there, too that he was able to explore a broad and diverse range of human experience, including many queer characters in a time when comic book literature was far from a queer-friendly space. It’s these things that made Gaiman’s comic a touchstone for a wide spectrum of fans – and they would have been the first things that would have been jettisoned had any of the potential “Sandman” films seen the light of day. Because Gaiman has held out for so long to make sure it could be done right, series television has finally given him the chance, as co-creator and co-executive producer (alongside David S. Goyer and Allan Heinberg), to finally make it happen.
The big-budget Netflix production values certainly help, too, allowing the striking visual aesthetic of the comic – in which even the horrific can be exquisitely beautiful – to come thrillingly alive. The show’s many baroque and gruesome deaths bear testament to that, as does a fourth episode sequence when Morpheus’s quest requires him to descend into a Hell that evokes the macabre beauty of Dore’s illustrations for Dante’s “Inferno,” the very landscape itself made up of the writhing and tormented souls of the damned. The artfulness of this show’s scenic design lingers in the memory, appropriately enough, like images from a dream.
Still, it’s all just scenery without the players, and “Sandman” assembles a top-drawer cast capable of bringing Gaiman’s characters to life with the level of depth they deserve. Tom Sturridge makes for a compelling leading figure, capturing the titular character’s complex mix of coldness and compassion without ever losing our loyalty; he’s supported by an equally talented ensemble of players, including heavyweight UK stalwarts like Charles Dance, Joely Richardson, David Thewlis, and Stephen Fry among a host of less familiar faces, and there’s not a weak performance to be found among any of them.
As to whether the show’s writing does justice to the original, different fans will surely have different opinions. The story has been remolded to fit the modern world, and many elements of the comic have been reconfigured in the process. This is particularly true in terms of representation; though queer characters were always a part of the “Sandman” universe, the comic debuted 34 years ago, and much has changed since then. In bringing the story to the screen, the author and the rest of the creative team have brought things up to date, bringing more nuance to its queer representation even as it expands it wider, and reimagining many of its characters to reflect a more diverse and inclusive vision of the world. Inevitably, these choices may upset some die-hard fans – there’s already been the inevitable toxic outcry against the show’s gender-swapping of characters and the decision to cast actors of color in roles originally depicted as white.
Still, for those who loved the original for providing a fantasy space where ALL could feel welcome – exactly the way Neil Gaiman intended it to be – it’s hard to find a reason to complain.
Lady Gaga defends same-sex marriage at D.C. concert
“They better not try to mess with gay marriage in this country!”
Lady Gaga spoke up for same-sex marriage and abortion rights at her Washington, D.C. stop of her nationwide the ‘Chromatica Ball’ tour.
Early in the show at Nationals Park, the Oscar-winning performer dedicated her song “Born This Way,” which she called an equality anthem, to LGBTQ+ community. “This might not be the national anthem, but it’s our national anthem!” Gaga yelled, calling out Republican lawmakers, “They better not try to mess with gay marriage in this country!”
Lady Gaga’s second album Born This Way, released in 2011, marked her significant transition into a burgeoning pop culture icon. The title song “Born This Way” is one of numerous proofs of Gaga’s identity as the LGBTQ+ advocate.
“Born This Way, my song and album, were inspired by Carl Bean, a gay black religious activist who preached, sung, and wrote about being ‘Born This Way.’ Notably, his early work was in 1975, 11 years before I was born,” Gaga explained the background story behind the album. “Thank you for decades of relentless love, bravery, and a reason to sing. So we can all feel joy, because we deserve joy. Because we deserve the right to inspire tolerance, acceptance, and freedom for all.”
Gaga also addressed abortion rights later in her concert. Before performing ‘Edge Of Glory,’ she delivered a powerful speech on women’s rights, “I would like to dedicate this song to every woman in America. To every woman who now has to worry about her body if she gets pregnant. I pray that this country will speak up, that we will stick together, and that we will not stop until it’s right! For every woman.”
“I don’t mean to be a downer, but there’s some shit that’s more important than show business.” Gaga paused and added before continuing the stripped-down version of this song.
"I would like to dedicate this song to every woman in America. To every woman who now has to worry about her body if she gets pregnant. I pray that this country will speak up and we will not stop until its right!" – Lady Gaga talking about abortion rights at The #ChromaticaBallDC pic.twitter.com/YjwlC0rg7C— Ryan | Lady Gaga 🏳️🌈 (@ryanleejohnson) August 9, 2022
Gaga’s next stop will be at East Rutherford, New Jersey. Then she will then head to Chicago and Boston to continue her tour.
Blade, Baltimore Banner explore state of LGBTQ community
‘State of the Community: LGBTQ+ Edition’ at Center Stage
The Washington Blade and the Baltimore Banner will join forces to host “State of the Community: LGBTQ+ Edition” on Wednesday, Aug. 10 at 6 p.m. at Center Stage, The Head Theater, in Baltimore.
The event is a platform for the LGBTQ community to express concerns about recent developments with the Supreme Court, the current political climate, monkeypox, and other issues.
The event will be hosted by John-John Williams IV, DEI reporter for the Baltimore Banner, and feature Andre K. McDaniels, managing editor of the Baltimore Banner and Kevin Naff, editor-in-chief of the Washington Blade.
The event is free but registration is required. Beer and refreshments will be on sale. For more details, visit Eventbrite.
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