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Essential Bowie

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David Bowie, gay news, Washington Blade

David Bowie in the ‘Glass Spider Tour,’ 1987. (Photo by Elmar J. Lordemann; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The music world mourns the passing of a legend, as David Bowie died this past Sunday after an 18-month battle with cancer.

He kept his illness private, but poured all of his energy into his musical “Lazarus,” currently playing a sold-out run of shows in New York City, and his brilliant final album, “Blackstar.” Bowie died only two days after the release of “Blackstar,” which was on his 69th birthday. A day prior to the album’s release, Bowie debuted the haunting video for the track “Lazarus,” which in retrospect is clearly a goodbye. Bowie has left behind an immense and vastly influential catalog of timeless music spanning five decades.

David Bowie, gay news, Washington Blade

David Bowie with Cher in 1975. (Photo by CBS Television; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

For someone looking to explore Bowie’s catalog for the first time, the size and scope of it can be daunting. He’s recorded with so many different personas and characters, and in so many different styles, that it can be difficult to know where to start. There are a few excellent compilations, including last year’s reverse-chronology set “Nothing Has Changed,” a good starting point. But to really get into Bowie’s amazing musical universe, one has to dive into his 28 studio albums. All of them, even his weakest (“Never Let Me Down” from 1987) have worthwhile moments and most are exceptionally good. So where to begin? Here is a primer for music fans looking to dive a bit deeper into Bowie’s extraordinary body of work — 10 essential albums that span his entire career and provide a good overview and starting point. This is just a taste, of course. Many more of his albums are essential classics.

‘Hunky Dory’ (1971) After the folksy meanderings of “Space Oddity” (1969) and the blazing rock of “The Man Who Sold the World” (1970), Bowie took a huge leap forward as a songwriter with 1971’s superb “Hunky Dory.” More piano and acoustic-guitar heavy than its hard-rock predecessor, “Hunky Dory” includes some of Bowie’s greatest works: “Changes,” “Life on Mars?,” “The Bewlay Brothers” and “Quicksand.”

‘Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders From Mars’ (1972) The glam-rock opus about a dystopian future and an alien rock star hero who frazzles out before Armageddon can arrive. “Ziggy Stardust” is the album that launched Bowie into the stratosphere of stardom from which he never descended. Classic tunes include the title track, the hard-rock opus “Moonage Daydream,” the frenetic “Suffragette City” and the dramatic closing track, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide.”

David Bowie, gay news, Washington Blade

David Bowie (Photo by AVRO; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

‘Station to Station’ (1976) Bowie’s shift from the soulful influences of his “Young Americans” album toward the more edgy, experimental vibe he’d pursue on his next three albums, the famous “Berlin Trilogy,” is evident here. “Station to Station” begins with its epic 10-minute title track, a locomotive rocker that takes up a quarter of the album. “Golden Years” provided Bowie with one of his biggest hits in America, and his dramatic take on the standard “Wild is the Wind” is one of the greatest vocal performances of his career.

‘Low’ (1977) The first of the “Berlin Trilogy” is the icy, minimalist “Low,” a huge left turn for a major artist. Bowie collaborated heavily with experimental music icon Brian Eno. Fans and critics didn’t quite know what to make of it at the time, but it is now considered one of his finest albums. Side one consists mainly of short, jagged rock song fragments loaded with disturbing imagery while side two is largely ambient instrumentals. It’s a spellbinding listen from start to finish. The album yielded two classic singles in “Sound and Vision” and “Be My Wife.”

‘Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)’ (1980) Bowie’s first album of the ‘80s was his best of the decade. Working with producer Tony Visconti, Bowie created elaborate soundscapes with dense and complex vocal arrangements that often sound completely unhinged. It’s a cliché that when a new Bowie album is released, at least one critic will say it’s his “best album since ‘Scary Monsters.’” The album includes one of his all-time classic singles, “Ashes to Ashes,” along with key tracks like “Fashion” and “Teenage Wildlife.”

‘Let’s Dance’ (1983) Working with producer Nile Rodgers and a young guitarist named Stevie Ray Vaughan, Bowie entered the MTV age with a slick dance/pop album that would represent the apex of his commercial success in America. The title track became his second No. 1 single (after “Fame”) and both “China Girl” and “Modern Love” also became substantial hits. Some critics and fans disdain “Let’s Dance” as a supposed sell-out, but it’s a well-crafted collection of first-rate pop with some terrific vocal performances.

‘Outside’ (1995) Bowie renewed his collaboration with Brian Eno for this dark song cycle about a grisly murder and the strange cast of characters caught up in the circumstances of the crime. “Outside” updated Bowie’s sound for the ‘90s, incorporating electronic elements as well as heavier industrial sounds inspired by artists such as Nine Inch Nails. Unrelentingly dark but brilliant, “Outside” features several standout cuts including “The Heart’s Filthy Lesson,” “Strangers When We Meet” and “Hallo Spaceboy.”

‘Heathen’ (2002) Bowie’s first album of the new millennium is a dense and richly layered collection of emotional and intense rock that frequently has a bit of a retro vibe. The album wasn’t a massive hit upon release and has been overlooked somewhat as fans and critics tend to focus on Bowie’s “glory days” of the ‘70s. The hard-charging soulful rocker “Slow Burn” was the first single, and other key tracks include the heartbreaking expression of loss, “Everyone Says ‘Hi’,” the emotional ballad “Slip Away” and raucous covers of the Pixies’ “Cactus” and Neil Young’s “I’ve Been Waiting For You.”

David Bowie, gay news, Washington Blade

David Bowie in his ‘Heathen’ tour. (Photo by Mark Jeremey; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

‘The Next Day’ (2013) Bowie’s return to the studio after a decade-long absence following a heart scare prompted him to close the tour in support of his 2003 album “Reality” before he had planned, “The Next Day” was a surprise that nobody in the public or press knew about until the first single, the melancholy “Where Are We Now?,” appeared on Bowie’s 66th birthday. “The Next Day” was a staggering return, a dark and harrowing collection of first-rate material. Subsequent singles included “The Stars (are out tonight),” which features a stunning video featuring Tilda Swinton, and “Valentine’s Day,” a chilling song about a would-be mass shooter.

David Bowie, gay news, Washington Blade

Bowie’s son, Duncan Jones with David Bowie attend a premere of director Jones’ ‘Moon’ in 2009. (Photo by David Shankbone; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

‘Blackstar’ (2016) Released on Bowie’s 69th birthday, “Blackstar,” as we know now, was goodbye. Bowie died only two days after its release. It’s almost as if he was holding on until the album could be unleashed, and then was able to let go. Producer Tony Visconti called it Bowie’s final gift to fans and the entire album was recorded while Bowie was ill. It’s a dark and experimental collection with incredible musicianship thanks to the New York City-based jazz collective that Bowie brought in to collaborate on the album. The 10-minute opus “Blackstar” opens the album with mystical power, and it never lets up from there. “Lazarus,” with its chilling video of Bowie writhing on a hospital bed and then disappearing at the end into a large wardrobe, closing the door behind him, is clearly a goodbye. In the context of his passing, it’s a difficult album to play, but “Blackstar” is David Bowie at his best. It’s an honest portrayal of a man facing the end and a stunning finalé for one of the greatest artists rock ‘n’ roll has ever known.

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Rodriquez scores historic win at otherwise irrelevant Golden Globes

Award represents a major milestone for trans visibility

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Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, on right, and Billy Porter in 'Pose.' (Photo courtesy of FX)

HOLLYWOOD – Despite its continuing status as something of a pariah organization in Hollywood, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has managed to cling to relevance in the wake of last night’s behind-closed-doors presentation of its 79th Annual Golden Globe Awards by sole virtue of having bestowed the prize for “Best Leading Actress in a Television Series – Drama” on Michaela Jaé Rodriguez for her work in the final season of “Pose” – making her the first transgender performer to win a Golden Globe.

The ceremony took place as a private, no-press-or-audience event in which winners were revealed via a series of tweets from the Golden Globes Twitter account. No celebrities were present (not even the nominees or winners), although actress Jamie Lee Curtis participated by appearing in a video in which she pronounced her continuing loyalty to the HFPA – without mention of the  longstanding issues around diversity and ethical practices, revealed early in 2021 by a bombshell Los Angeles Times report, that have led to an nearly industry-wide boycott of the organization and its awards as well as the cancellation of the annual Golden Globes broadcast by NBC for the foreseeable future.

While the Golden Globes may have lost their luster for the time being, the award for Rodriquez represents a major milestone for trans visibility and inclusion in the traditionally transphobic entertainment industry, and for her part, the actress responded to news of her win with characteristic grace and good will.

Posting on her Instagram account, the 31-year old actress said: 

“OMG OMGGG!!!! @goldenglobes Wow! You talking about sickening birthday present! Thank you!

“This is the door that is going to Open the door for many more young talented individuals. They will see that it is more than possible. They will see that a young Black Latina girl from Newark New Jersey who had a dream, to change the minds others would WITH LOVE. LOVE WINS.

“To my young LGBTQAI babies WE ARE HERE the door is now open now reach the stars!!!!!”

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As You Are Bar and the importance of queer gathering spaces

New bar/restaurant poised to open in 2022

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As You Are Bar had a pop-up venue at Capital Pride's "Colorful Fest" block party in October. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

More than just a watering hole: As You Are Bar is set to be the city’s newest queer gathering place where patrons can spill tea over late-morning cappuccinos as easily as they can over late-night vodka-sodas.

Co-owners and founders Jo McDaniel and Rachel Pike built on their extensive experience in the hospitality industry – including stints at several gay bars – to sign a lease for their new concept in Barracks Row, replacing what was previously District Soul Food and Banana Café. In a prime corner spot, they are seeking to bring together the disparate colors of the LGBTQ rainbow – but first must navigate the approval process (more on that later).

The duo decided on this Southeast neighborhood locale to increase accessibility for “the marginalized parts of our community,” they say, “bringing out the intersectionality inherent in the queer space.”

Northwest D.C., they explain, not only already has many gay bar options, but is also more difficult to get to for those who don’t live within walking distance. The Barracks Row location is right by a Metro stop, “reducing pay walls.” Plus, there, “we are able to find a neighborhood to bring in a queer presence that doesn’t exist today.”

McDaniel points out that the area has a deep queer bar history. Western bar Remington’s was once located in the area, and it’s a mere block from the former Phase 1, the longest-running lesbian bar, which was open from 1971-2015.

McDaniel and Pike hope that As You Are Bar will be an inclusive space that “welcomes anyone of any walk of life that will support, love, and celebrate the mission of queer culture. We want people of all ages, gender, sexual identity, as well as drinkers and non-drinkers, to have space.”

McDaniel (she/her) began her career at Apex in 2005 and was most recently the opening manager of ALOHO. Pike (she/they) was behind the bar and worked as security at ALOHO, where the two met.

Since leaving ALOHO earlier this year, they have pursued the As You Are Bar project, first by hosting virtual events during the pandemic, and now in this brick-and-mortar space. They expressed concern that receiving the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) liquor license approval and the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, or ANC, approval will be a long and expensive process.

They have already received notice that some neighbors intend to protest As You Are Bar’s application for the “tavern” liquor license that ABRA grants to serve alcohol and allow for live entertainment (e.g. drag shows). They applied for the license on Nov. 12, and have no anticipated opening date, estimating at least six months. If ABRA and the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board give final approval, the local ANC 6B and nearby residents can no longer protest the license until the license comes up for renewal.

Until approval is given, they continue physical buildout (including soundproofing) and planning their offerings. If the license is approved, ABRA and the ABC Board can take action against As You Are Bar, like any bar, at any time if they violate the terms of the license or create a neighborhood disturbance that violates city laws such as the local noise ordinance.  In the kitchen, the duo snagged Chef Nina Love to develop the menu. Love will oversee café-style fare; look out for breakfast sandwiches making an appearance all the way until close. They will also have baked goods during the day.

McDaniel and Pike themselves will craft the bar menu. Importantly, they note, the coffee bar will also serve until close. There will be a full bar as well as a list of zero-proof cocktails. As with their sourcing, they hope to work with queer-, minority-, and women-owned businesses for everything not made in-house.

Flexible conceptually, they seek to grow with their customer base, allowing patrons to create the culture that they seek.

Their goal is to move the queer space away from a focus on alcohol consumption. From book clubs, to letter-writing, to shared workspaces, to dance parties, they seek an all-day, morning-to-night rhythm of youth, families, and adults to find a niche. “We want to shift the narrative of a furtive, secretive, dark gay space and hold it up to the light,” they say. “It’s a little like The Planet from the original L Word show,” they joke.

Pike notes that they plan on working closely with SMYAL, for example, to promote programming for youth. Weekend potential activities include lunch-and-learn sessions on Saturdays and festive Sunday brunches.

The café space, to be located on the first floor, will have coffeehouse-style sofas as well as workstations. A slim patio on 8th Street will hold about six tables.

Even as other queer bars have closed, they reinforce that the need is still present. “Yes, we can visit a café or bar, but we always need to have a place where we are 100 percent certain that we are safe, and that our security is paramount. Even as queer acceptance continues to grow, a dedicated queer space will always be necessary,” they say.

To get there, they continue to rally support of friends, neighbors, and leaders in ANC6B district; the ANC6B officials butted heads with District Soul Food, the previous restaurant in the space, over late-night noise and other complaints. McDaniel and Pike hope that once nearby residents and businesses understand the important contribution that As You Are Bar can make to the neighborhood, they will extend their support and allow the bar to open.

AYA, gay news, Washington Blade
Rachel Pike and Jo McDaniel signed a lease for their new concept in Barracks Row. (Photo courtesy Pike and McDaniel)
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Need a list-minute gift idea?

Books, non-profit donations make thoughtful choices

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‘Yes, Daddy’ by Jonathan Parks-Ramage is the story of a young man with dying dreams of fame and fortune, who schemes to meet an older man.

You knew this was coming.

You knew that you were going to have to finish your holiday shopping soon but it snuck up on you, didn’t it? And even if you’re close to being done, there are always those three or five people who are impossible to buy for, right? Remember this, though: books are easy to wrap and easy to give, and they last a while, too. So why not head to the bookstore with your Christmas List and look for these gifts.

And if you still have people to shop for, why not make a donation to a local non-profit in their name? A list of D.C.-area suggestions follows.

BOOKS: NONFICTION

If there’s about to be a new addition to your family, wrapping up “Queer Stepfamilies: The path to Social and Legal Recognition” by Katie L. Acosta would be a good thing. In this book, the author followed forty LGBTQ families to understand the joys, pitfalls, and legalities of forming a new union together. It can’t replace a lawyer, but it’s a good overview.

For the parent who wants to ensure that their child grows up with a lack of bias, “Raising LGBTQ Allies” by Chris Tompkins is a great book to give. It’s filled with methods to stop bullying in its tracks, to be proactive in having That Conversation, and how to be sure that the next generation you’re responsible for becomes responsible in turn. Wrap it up with “The Healing Otherness Handbook” by Stacee L. Reicherzer, Ph.D., a book that helps readers to deal with bullying by finding confidence and empowerment.

If there’s someone on your gift list who’s determined to get “fit” in the coming year, then give “The Secret to Superhuman Strength” by Alison Bechdel this holiday. Told in graphic-novel format (comics, basically), it’s the story of searching for self-improvement and finding it in a surprising place.

So why not give a little nostalgia this year by wrapping up “A Night at the Sweet Gum Head” by Martin Padgett? It’s the tale of disco, drag, and drugs in the 1970s (of course!) in Atlanta, with appearances by activists, politics, and people who were there at that fabulous time. Wrap it up with “After Francesco” by Brian Malloy, a novel set a little later – in the mid-1980s in New York City and Minneapolis at the beginning of the AIDS crisis.

The LGBTQ activist on your gift list will want to read “The Case for Gay Reparations” by Omar G. Encarnacion. It’s a book about acknowledgment, obligation on the part of cis citizens, and fixing the pain that homophobia and violence has caused. Wrap it up with “Trans Medicine: The Emergence and Practice of Treating Gender” by Stef M. Shuster, a look at trans history that may also make your giftee growl.

FICTION

Young readers who have recently transitioned will enjoy reading “Both Sides Now” by Peyton Thomas. It’s a novel about a high school boy with gigantic dreams and the means to accomplish them all. Can he overcome the barriers that life gives him? It’s debatable… Pair it with “Can’t Take That Away” by Steven Salvatore, a book about two nonbinary students and the troubles they face as they fall in love.

The thriller fan on your list will be overjoyed to unwrap “Yes, Daddy” by Jonathan Parks-Ramage. It’s the story of a young man with dying dreams of fame and fortune, who schemes to meet an older, more accomplished man with the hopes of sparking his failing career. But the older man isn’t who the younger thinks he is, and that’s not good. Wrap it up with “Lies with Man” by Michael Nava, a book about a lawyer who agrees to be counsel for a group of activists. Good so far, right? Until one of them is accused of being involved in a deadly bombing.

For the fan of Southern fiction, you can’t go wrong when you wrap up “The Tender Grave” by Sheri Reynolds. It’s the tale of two sisters, one homophobic, the other lesbian, and how they learn to forgive and re-connect.

NON-PROFIT GIVING

Like nonprofit organizations throughout the country, D.C.-area LGBTQ supportive nonprofit groups have told the Blade they continue to rebuild amid the coronavirus pandemic, which disrupted their fundraising efforts while increasing expenses, at least in part by prompting more people to come to them for help.

This holiday season, if you’re looking for a thoughtful gift, consider making a donation to one of our local LGBTQ non-profit organizations in someone else’s name. This list is by no means exhaustive, but a good place to start your research.

Contributions to the LGBTQ supportive nonprofit organizations can be made via the websites of these local organizations:

• Blade Foundation, which funds local scholarships and fellowships for queer student journalists, bladefoundation.org

• DC Center, our local community center that operates a wide range of programming,  thedccenter.org/donate

Food & Friends, which delivers meals to homebound patients, foodandfriends.org

HIPS, which advances the health rights and dignity of those impacted by sex work and drugs, hips.org

• SMYAL, which advocates for queer youth, smyal.org

Wanda Alston Foundation, which offers shelter and support for LGBTQ youth, wandaalstonfoundation.org

• Whitman-Walker Health, the city’s longtime LGBTQ-inclusive health care provider, whitmanwalkerimpact.org

Casa Ruby, which provides shelter and services to youth in need, casaruby.org

• Us Helping Us, which helps improve the health of communities of color and works to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS on the Black community, ushelpingus.org/donate

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