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Best of Gay D.C. 2017: NIGHTLIFE

Winners from the Washington Blade’s annual poll

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Gay D.C., gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo of Dylan Knight by David Claypool; Washington Blade photo of Distrkt C by Ben Keller; Washington Blade photos of DJ Tezrah and Ophelia Heart by Tom Hausman)

Best Dance Party

Distrkt C

D.C. Eagle

Second Saturday of the month

D.C. Eagle

3701 Benning Rd., N.E.

distrktc.com

Editor’s choice: Gay Bash, Trade

Distrkt C, gay news, Washington Blade

Distrkt C (Washington Blade photo by Ben Keller)

Best Bartender

Dusty Martinez, Trade

Also won in 2014; last year’s runner-up.

1410 14th St., N.W.

tradebardc.com

Runner-up: Tommy Honeycutt, Nellie’s

Dusty Martinez (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Best Burlesque Dancer

Ophelia Hart

Runner-up: GiGi Holliday

Ophelia Zayna Hartis a belly dancer and drag and burlesque performer hailing from Washington.

I am thunder thighs, sinful curves, and fiery spirit,” she says.

She made her debut at Washington’s 2015 Burlypicks, where she won the title of Master of Lip-sync, and she has been shimmying and shaking across the East Coast since then. Always true to her Arab roots, Hart celebrates the fusion of classic and neo-burlesque and her homeland’s cultural riches.

Hart, who is known for dancing with grace, seducing with elegance and jiggling with abandon, has some advice for performers working on a new act: “When you’re crafting a number — brainstorming a concept, working on your choreography, creating a costume and rehearsing your act — ask yourself, what story am I telling, and is it mine to tell?” (BTC)

facebook.com/opheliahartburlesque

Ophelia Hart (Washington Blade photo by Tom Hausman)

Best Avion Tequila Margarita

Winner: Lauriol Plaza

1835 18th St., N.W.

lauriolplaza.com

Editor’s pick: Rito Loco

Avion Tequila Margarita at Lauriol Plaza (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Best DJ

DJ Tezrah

Runner-up: The Barber Streisand

Tezrah has a delightfully eclectic background and an amazing sound.

A native of Fairfax, Va., Tezrah says she “learned to play classical piano at age 5, which laid the foundation for future investigation into computer music programs.” She graduated with a pre-medical degree in Neuroscience from William & Mary, attended the Harvard School of Design Summer Program, and was accepted into the Graduate Architecture Program at Catholic University.

She also played semi-pro soccer.

Then, she says, “on a whim I tried turning my musical hobby into a profession.”

Now Tezrah reigns in her fourth year of DJing in the D.C. area, specializing in Top 40, electronic dance music, hip hop and other genres. Formerly known as DJ Deedub, she is hailed as one of D.C.’s and the LGBT community’s brightest stars. Her sound is eclectic, combining the newest music seamlessly with older classic songs. Winner of the DJ Battle for Her HRC for 2014 and 2015, headliner at the 9:30 Club, and headliner for a crowd of about 5,000 at Hampton Roads Pride 2016, she has garnered a solid local following. (BTC)

tezrah.com

soundcloud.com/tezrah

DJ Tezrah (Washington Blade photo by Tom Hausman)

Best Drag King

Roman Noodle

Runner-up: Avery Austin

Roman Noodle, real name Shay, first started doing drag in May 2016 as a way to escape being herself.

“Roman was created so I could kind of be myself without people judging me for being myself. Because they think I’m just being Roman. It turned into an avenue where in doing drag it made me completely myself,” Noodle, a dog walker by day, says.

The D.C. native kicked off her drag career as a choir boy for Pretty Boi Drag’s Sunday Service shows. At first she was unsure how to craft her drag persona and experimented with different genres and concepts. Eventually she settled on Roman, “a basic dude, no gimmicks.”

Even though Noodle has performed for other groups including D.C. Gurly Show and Girl Power in Baltimore, she still considers Pretty Boi Drag her family.

She also credits the art of drag with giving her, and countless others, a safe space to be who they are.

“I love that it gives everyone a place to be themselves, to feel safe, to express themselves creatively. Whether they are male-bodied or female-bodied, they’re able to present themselves the way they want without any issues or questions,” Noodle says. (PF)

Roman Noodle (Washington Blade photo by Chris Jennings)

Best Drag Queen

Sasha Adams

Runner-up: Tatianna

Drag performer Sasha Adams, whose real name is Richard Christmas, says “I’m the Clydesdale of D.C. drag. I’m plus sized but I dance. You’ll get the kicks, the splits, the hair flips and all that. Clydesdale are big, graceful, beautiful but most importantly, they’re work horses.”

Though he maintains a day job as a contractor with the federal government, Christmas performs as Sasha four or five times a week. His drag career is two-pronged: performing at clubs and brunches and competing in national drag pageants. “Sasha isn’t modeled after anyone in particular,” Christmas says. “I lip sync R&B and hip-hop. I like old school Janet, Missy and Mariah. And Donna Summer if the venue calls for it. I do contemporary top 20 artists too.”

Christmas grew up in a small-town outside of Charlottesville, Va. He did choir in high school but not a lot of acting. He graduated from James Madison University where he majored in finance and minored in dance and music.  The Eagle Scout’s foray into drag began when he won amateur drag night at Freddie’s Beach Bar in 2010. Gigs and bookings followed.

When the wig is off and he’s untucked, Christmas can be found at home in Columbia Heights lying on the couch watching “Law & Order.” As a performer, he finds relationships difficult. He’s single but likes a guy who has his shit together.

Town Danceboutique

2009 8th St., N.W.

towndc.com

Sasha Adams (Photo by Bobby DeCanio)

Best Drag Show

Ladies of Town

Fridays and Saturdays at 10:30 p.m. Sixth win in this category!

Town Danceboutique

2009 8th St., N.W.

towndc.com

A perennial favorite in this category!

Editor’s choice: Pretty Boi Drag

Town Danceboutique, gay news, Washington Blade

Ba’Naka and Tatianna perform at Town. (Washington Blade photo by Hugh Clarke)

Best Singer or Band

Wicked Jezabel

Also won this award in 2013!

Runner-up: Homo Superior

Wicked Jezebel at NOVA Pride (Photo by Bobbie English)

Best Transgender Performer

Phoenix King

Runner-up: Salvadora Dali

Performer Phoenix King, real name Benny Rodriguez, identifies as trans.

“I’ve been a drag king in Washington for about four years,” he says. “Entertaining has translated into different kinds of performance art including burlesque. Being trans is a big part of my life but it’s not my entire performance persona.”

Rodriquez got into drag performance in 2013 while working at the now-defunct lesbian hot spot Phase 1 in Dupont Circle. “They had a drag show with drag kings and queens and I asked if I could perform,” he says. “The experience was totally exhilarating and ties into my trans identity. To see myself as a masculine-presenting person for the first time was shocking and exciting to me.”

By all accounts, Rodriguez’s drag debut was a resounding success. Over the last two years, he’s attracted an enthusiastic following and for the last two year he has been performing mostly at Bier Baron Tavern in D.C.  He’s also performed in clubs and burlesque.

“Initially I perceived drag as a hobby but increasingly I’ve come to see it as a money-making venture,” says Rodriguez, 26. “Over this year, I’ve become increasingly focused on where I perform and for whom I perform. This experience has opened doors all over town. There’s no telling where it might lead.” (PF)

 

Phoenix King (Photo courtesy of Benicio Rodriguez)

Best Gay-Friendly Straight Bar

Dacha Beer Garden

Third consecutive win in this category!

1600 7th St., N.W.

202-524-8790

dachadc.com

Editor’s choice: DC9

Dacha Beer Garden (Photo by Ted Eytan; courtesy Flickr)

Best Go-Go Dancer/Stripper

Dylan Knight

Runner-up: Eddie Danger

Dylan Knight started gyrating lasciviously at Town about 2010 after seeing other go-go dancers there. This is his second consecutive win in this category.

He’s a regular at Town and performs there and elsewhere, never taking himself too seriously.

“I just try to be entertaining and cute,” the 26-year-old D.C. resident, who also does gay porn, says. (JD)

Dylan Knight (Photo by David Claypool; courtesy Knight)

Best Absolut Happy Hour

Number Nine

Two-for-one happy hour is 5-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 2-9 p.m. on weekends. This is Nine’s fifth Best Of award.

1435 P St., N.W.

numberninedc.com

Editor’s choice: Trade

Number 9 happy hour (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

Hottest Bar Staff

The Dirty Goose

913 U St., N.W.

thedirtygoosedc.com

Editor’s choice: Trade

The Dirty Goose bar staff (Washington Blade photo by Tom Hausman)

Best Live Music

9:30 Club

A perennial favorite in this category!

815 V St., N.W.

930.com

Editor’s Choice: Wolf Trap

Troye Sivan performs at the 9:30 Club (Photo by Katherine Gaines)

Best Neighborhood Bar

Trade

1410 14th St., N.W.

tradebardc.com

Editor’s choice: JR.’s

Trade (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

Best Outside-the-District Bar

Freddie’s Beach Bar

This is Freddie’s 20th Best Of win, a Washington Blade record. Freddie’s has won this award every year since 2002 in addition to several others.

555 S. 23rd St.

Arlington, Va.

freddiesbeachbar.com

Editor’s choice: Baltimore Eagle

Freddie’s Beach Bar (Washington Blade photo by Hugh Clarke)

Best Outdoor Drinking

Town Patio

Third consecutive win in this category!

Town Danceboutique

2009 8th St., N.W.

towndc.com

Editor’s choice: Dascha Beer Garden

Town Patio (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Best Place for Guys Night Out

Crew Club

1321 14th St., N.W.

crewclub.net

Editor’s choice: DC Bear Crue: Bear Happy Hour

Crew Club (Washington Blade photo by Pete Exis)

Best Place for Girls Night Out

Pretty Boi Drag

Editor’s choice: BARE by LURe

Take a break from the numerous drag queen brunches and parties to have fun with the boys.

Pretty Boi Drag is D.C.’s newest drag king troupe that features daytime and nighttime parties and events throughout the city. The troupe started in 2016 and since then has expanded into a staple in the D.C. drag community.

Perhaps their best known event is Pretty Boi Sunday Service at the Bier Baron Tavern (1523 22nd St., N.W.). Described as “a parody drag church for the non-religious,” the kings entertain with heavy influences of hip-hop and R&B. The event is hosted by the troupe’s co-producer, Pretty Rik E.

Other events include happy hours, brunches and variety shows at different locales around town. Their performers are a diverse mix of characters and acts including Best Drag King winner, Roman Noodle.

“Pretty Boi Drag creates a fun, safe and unique atmosphere for queer women to see drag kings like they’ve never seen them before,” their website states. “Our events are drag show meets dance party meets a queer woman’s version of ‘Magic Mike.’ Our audience isn’t there to just watch what happens on stage, they also get to be a part of the show.” (MC)

prettyboidrag.com

(Washington Blade photo by Chris Jennings)

Best Rehoboth Bar

Purple Parrot

134 Rehoboth Ave.

Rehoboth Beach, Del.

ppgrill.com

Editor’s choice: Blue Moon

Purple Parrot (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

Best Rehoboth Bartender

Holly Lane, Cafe Azafran

18 Baltimore Ave.

Rehoboth Beach, Del.

cafeazafran.com

Runner-up: Jamie Romano, Purple Parrot

Holly Lane (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

Best Rooftop

Uproar Lounge & Restaurant

Second consecutive win in this category!

639 Florida Ave., N.W.

Editor’s choice: Nellie’s

UpRoar Lounge (Washington Blade photo by Hugh Clarke)

To see winners in other categories in the Washington Blade’s Best of Gay D.C. 2017 Awards, click here.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. James

    October 19, 2017 at 2:45 pm

    Nellies is no more. Long live Uproar!

  2. lnm3921

    October 19, 2017 at 9:44 pm

    Congrats Dylan Knight!

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Movies

New music documentary is ‘Velvet’ perfection

A piece of pure cinema that exemplifies its genre while transcending it

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The Velvet Underground (Photo courtesy of Apple TV)

When it comes to great music documentaries – the ones that stick with you after you watch and make you want to come back to them again and again – there is one ingredient that stands out as a common thread: immediacy.

From D.A. Pennebaker’s fly-on-the-wall chronicle of young Bob Dylan’s 1965 tour of the UK in “Don’t Look Back,” to Martin Scorcese’s joyful document of The Band’s final concert performance in “The Last Waltz,” to Jonathan Demme’s thrilling cinematic rendering of the Talking Heads in performance at the peak of their creative genius in “Stop Making Sense,” all of these now-revered films have endured – indeed, even grown – in popularity over the years because they captured the talent, the personality, and the power of their subjects on celluloid and preserved it for the ages, allowing generations of audiences, fans and soon-to-be-fans alike, to feel as if they were there.

But none, perhaps, have ever done it quite so viscerally as Todd Haynes’ “The Velvet Underground.” This is a remarkable feat when you consider that the films listed above, as well as most of the other highly regarded “rockumentaries” of the past, were all concert films, showing the performers at their center in the full bloom of their musical gifts, and Haynes’ film is not that. It’s something else, something singular, a piece of pure cinema that exemplifies its genre while transcending it entirely.

The basic outline of the band’s story is well known, now. Coalesced in the early ‘60s New York art scene around a pair of charismatic geniuses (John Cale and Lou Reed), the Velvet Underground was swept into the orbit and under the wing of Andy Warhol, who turned them into the house band at his famous “Factory,” added to their mix an exotic European chanteuse named Nico, and launched their record career by producing their first album – and designing an instantly iconic cover for it featuring a banana, to boot. They were, for a while, the darlings of the New York underground set, birthing a handful of additional albums across the latter years of the decade; but their sound, which was experimental, rough, and a far cry from the flower-power sound being embraced within the status quo of Middle American music fans, did not catch on. That, combined with the volatility of the relationships at its core, ensured an ignoble and unsung dissolution for the band; though its two front men went on to forge expansive solo careers on their own, the Velvets themselves remained a kind of blip, an ephemeral presence in the history of rock – and the history of New York – remembered by anyone who wasn’t actually on the scene as nothing more than a buzzy band they never actually heard with a catchy name and a familiar album cover.

As one of the voice-over interviewees in Haynes’ movie points out, however, the counterculture wasn’t actually the counterculture – it was the culture. The rest of the world just didn’t know it yet. Decades later the Velvet Underground is credited with, among other things, providing early inspiration for what would become the punk rock movement, to say nothing of influencing the aesthetic palate of (surely without exaggeration) thousands of musicians who would go on to make great music themselves – often sounding nothing like the Velvets, but somehow cut from the same raw, edgy, white-hot honest cloth, nonetheless. Yet in their moment, they were doomed before they had even begun to become a sideshow attraction, hurling performative realness in the face of a curious-but-disinterested glitterati crowd that was already embodying the superficial fakeness that would be so aptly monikered, both as an ethos and a watchword, as “Plastics” by Buck Henry and Mike Nichols in “The Graduate” barely a year after their first album was pressed.

Frankly, it’s the kind of story that makes for a perfect rock ‘n roll legend, and the kind of legend that deserves to be explored in a film that befits its almost mythic, archetypal underpinnings. There’s nobody more qualified to deliver that film than Todd Haynes.

Haynes, of course, is a pioneer of the ‘90s “New Queer Cinema,” whose body of work has maintained a consistent yet multi-faceted focus on key themes that include outsider-ism, dysfunctional socialization, and the fluid nature of sexuality and gender. Each and any of these interests would be enough to make him a perfect fit as the person to tell the story of the Velvet Underground, but what gives him the ability to make it a masterpiece is his ongoing fascination with music and nostalgia. Beginning with his controversial debut short “Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story,” the musical landscape of his formative years has been inseparable from his milieu, and films such as his glam-rock fantasia “Velvet Goldmine” or his post-modernist Dylan biopic “I’m Not There” have dotted his career like cornerstones. Likewise, his painstaking recreation of the past in period pieces like “Far From Heaven,” “Carol,” or “Wonderstruck” has proven his ability not just to capture the look and feel of a bygone era, but to transport audiences right back into it.

In “The Velvet Underground,” it’s more like he transports the era to the audience. His comprehensive chronicle is not just the story of the band or its members, but the story of the time and place that allowed them to exist, in which a generation waking up from the toxic artificiality of their parents’ “American Dream” took creative control of the future through an unprecedented explosion of art and culture. Art was a by-any-means-necessary endeavor that now demanded a fluency across various forms of media, and a blending together of any and every thing that worked to get the message across. And yes, sometimes the media itself was the message, but even within that depressingly superficial reality was room for an infinite layering of style and substance that could take your breath away.

That description of the era in which the Velvet Underground thrived, in which Andy Warhol turned the shallow into the profound (whether he knew it or not), in which music and film and photography and poetry and painting and every other form of expression blended together in a heady and world-changing whirlwind, is also the perfect description of Haynes’ film. Yes, there are famous veterans of the age sharing their memories and their insights, yes there is copious archival footage (including the godsend of Warhol’s filmed portraits of the legendary faces in his orbit), yes we get to hear about Lou Reed’s struggle with his sexual identity – and it’s refreshing that Haynes makes no effort to categorize or finalize that aspect of the rock legend’s persona, but merely lets it be a fact. But even though “The Velvet Underground” checks off all the boxes to be a documentary, it’s something much more. Thanks to Haynes’ seamless blend of visuals, words, history, and – always and above all – music, it’s a total sensory experience, which deserves to be seen in a theater whether you subscribe to Apple TV or not. It puts you right in the middle of a world that still casts a huge shadow on our culture today.

And it’s unforgettable.

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Photos

PHOTOS: Best Of LGBTQ DC party

Blade’s 20th annual awards celebrated at Hook Hall

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Cake performs at the Best of LGBTQ D.C. Awards Party on Oct. 21. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Washington Blade presented the 20th annual Best of LGBTQ D.C. Awards at a party at Hook Hall on Thursday, Oct. 21. To view this year’s winners, click here.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Arts & Entertainment

First Trans Amazon introduced by DC Comics In ‘Wonder Woman’

DC Comics-Warner Brothers became more LGBTQ+ inclusive with the introduction of the character of Bia, a Black trans woman

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Courtesy of DC Comics-Warner Brothers

BURBANK – The world of DC Comics-Warner Brothers became more LGBTQ+ inclusive this weekend as the venerable comic book franchise of Wonder Woman expanded with the introduction of the character of Bia, a Black trans woman, in the first issue of the series Nubia & The Amazons.

Earlier this month on National Coming Out Day, the canon of the Superman series changed for the life of Jon Kent, the Superman of Earth and son of Clark Kent and Lois Lane, taking a bold new direction. After initially striking up a friendship with reporter Jay Nakamura, he and Jon become romantically involved, making Kent an Out bisexual character.

In this latest offering, Stephanie Williams and Vita Ayala, writers and creators confirmed that Bia is a Black Trans woman. They stressed that she “isn’t a box to tick … [she] is important to her community. Just as Black trans women are important to us in real life.” 

Of special significance to the introduction of the character in the DC Comic worlds was the endorsement of actress Lynda Carter who played the title role of Wonder Woman on television based on the comic book superheroine, which aired on ABC and later on CBS from 1975 to 1979. Earlier in the week Carter tweeted her support of Trans women;

Writing for the DC Comics-Warner Brothers website blog, co-creator Stephanie Williams said;

It’s been a dream to work with the likes of Vita Ayala, a non-binary Afro-Latinx comic writer who has been making quite a name for themselves. And then there is the illustrious and widely talented and dedicated Afro-Latina artist Alitha Martinez who is already in the comic hall of fame for all-time greats. Her passion for Nubia is unmatched. It shows in every cover and panel from Nubia’s Future State story written by L.L. McKinney, her Infinite Frontier #0 story written by Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad, and now the Nubia and the Amazons miniseries written by myself and Vita Ayala.”

Courtesy of DC Comics-Warner Brothers

I’m so excited about the history we’re creating, adding to, and remixing. The foundation has always been there, but needed some TLC. As Nubia embarks on this new journey as Queen of Themyscira, I hope her rebirth will be met with open arms and the desire to keep her always at the forefront. Nubia, now being queen, is poetic in so many ways, but one that stays on my mind is the very personal connection I feel. As I help to add to her legacy, she’s opened the door wider to my own,” Williams said adding:

Long may Queen Nubia reign, forever and always.”

Nubia and the Amazons #1 by Stephanie Williams, Vita Ayala and Alitha Martinez is now available in print and as a digital comic book.

Along with co-writing Nubia and the Amazons, Stephanie Williams writes about comics, TV and movies for DCComics.com. Check out more of her work on Den of Geek, What To Watch, Nerdist and SYFY Wire and be sure to follow her on both Twitter and Instagram at @steph_I_will.

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