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Kathy Griffin won’t bring Trump head to Correspondents’ Dinner

Comedian talks death threats, ‘faux outrage’ on eve of Correspondents’ Dinner visit

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Kathy Griffin, gay news, Washington Blade

Kathy Griffin (Photo courtesy of Griffin)

Don’t be disappointed, but Kathy Griffin isn’t bringing her infamous fake severed head of President Trump to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on Saturday.

“I’m only going to bring my head, but that’s attached to my body,” Griffin said. “I’m not sure the feds would find the joke is funny a year later as they didn’t find it funny a year ago.”

Griffin, who will be a guest of the Washington Blade and Los Angeles Blade at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, talked about the controversy in a wide-ranging exclusive interview that revisited the fallout from the photo and her subsequent resurgence, which includes a worldwide comedy tour, a sold-out upcoming performance at Carnegie Hall and a newly announced event at Radio City Music Hall.

Although it’s customary for the president of the United States to attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Trump has indicated he won’t appear. It’s the second consecutive year Trump has decided to skip it.

But Griffin jokingly predicted Trump would make an appearance. Asked if she was disappointed over Trump’s announcement that he won’t attend and the resulting missed opportunity to meet her face-to-face, Griffin envisioned an unusual scenario.

“Because Sarah Huckabee Sanders is supposedly going…he’s going to do like a ‘Silence of the Lambs’ and make a Sarah Huckabee Sanders skinsuit and sit there wearing a Sarah Huckabee Sanders skinsuit with just his crazy eyes popping up and we could listen in,” Griffin said.

After posing in a photo last year with a fake Trump head looking as though she just decapitated the president, Griffin faced criticism from both the left and the right.

Much of the controversy, however, was ginned up by Trump-friendly outlets like Breitbart News and Trump associates, including Donald Trump Jr., who said she should be “decimated.” After being investigated by the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Griffin declined to discuss many details — such as the current location of the mock head — but did say the most surprising aspect of the fallout was the swift reaction against her.

“I didn’t know that the Trump machine had this apparatus ready to go and waiting for an incident like my photo because I’ve said controversial things my whole career and Trump himself has had me roast him,” Griffin said. “He actually had me roast him as part of a challenge on ‘The Apprentice.’”

Griffin said one group that didn’t desert her was the LGBT community. A group of drag queens on Fire Island, she said, made their support known after the controversy in a group video.

“I don’t know what the party was but there were like five drag queens dressed as me and a couple of them had Trump heads done,” Griffin said. “A couple of them just had like other, silly things to hold up. I saw it on Twitter or something. Somebody sent me that and I was like of course the drag queens are ahead of their time again. Yes, the LGBT community as usual got it, didn’t get freaked out by it.”

The Blade announced last month that it had invited Griffin to join its table at the Correspondents’ Dinner.

“Kathy Griffin has stood up for LGBTQ visibility,” said Blade editor Kevin Naff. “She has marched with us, spoken out against injustices and, yes, made us laugh. You don’t throw your allies under the bus and the Blade is happy to host her in D.C. and excited to welcome her to our table.”

But there was one member of the LGBT community who wasn’t as forgiving. CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, who hosted a popular New Year’s Eve special with Griffin until last year because of the controversy, said on Twitter he was appalled by the photo and called it “disgusting and completely inappropriate.” Griffin said falling out with Cooper was “the one that hurt.”

“I didn’t hear from him for five months and he just sent me a couple of texts and they were kind of bitchy and so, no, things have not improved,” Griffin said.

But a year after the drama, Griffin is in the midst of a resurgence. Coming off her yearlong tour of Europe, Griffin has an upcoming show at Carnegie Hall, which sold out immediately after it was announced, and another scheduled appearance at Radio City Music Hall on June 25.

As part of her comeback, Griffin said she’s most looking forward “to telling this whole story.”

“To not be able to work in your own country because of something that is nothing but a ridiculous sort of falsified faux-outrage media moment perpetuated by the fucking president of the United States — or as I call him, the accidental president, because this whole thing’s a big accident as far as I’m concerned — and Jefferson Beauregard Sessions and the Department of Justice — it’s so extreme that it actually became funny,” Griffin said.

As part of her routine, Griffin said she reads some of the threats she’s received from Trump supporters, whom she said are “not so good with grammar.” One of the threats Griffin described was relayed to her from a theater owner, resulting in her having to cancel a performance.

“They’re not used to getting calls,” Griffin said. “I play venues where they do shows like ‘Mamma Mia’ and ‘Stomp’ and ‘Lion King’ and stuff. They’re not used to getting calls saying if Kathy Griffin goes on stage, I’m going to shoot her in the cunt, decapitate her and then shove her head up her cunt. You do that enough and theater owners get a little nervous.”

Despite the drama, desertions and investigation by federal law enforcement officials, which Griffin said makes her a “living example” of what can happen to someone who opposes Trump, the comedian said that shouldn’t deter individuals from speaking out against him and they should “absolutely do it.”

“My advice is absolutely get out there and speak out so nothing should deter us,” Griffin said. “And I’ll tell you why: Our lives depend on it. I don’t feel the gay community is as safe that they were two years ago. I, as a woman, I absolutely don’t feel as safe, and I mean physically, politically, professionally, we’ve got Nazis marching in Charlottesville and we have a president saying it’s both sides, so I think that this is the time when everybody should be extremely vocal and not just online, but you know, with your ballot and marching and all the ways that activism has worked.”

Griffin’s observation about the state of LGBT rights under Trump is spot on. Among the attacks on LGBT rights are Trump’s proposed transgender military ban, the Justice Department denying that federal civil rights laws protect LGBT people and “religious freedom” executive actions that enable anti-LGBT discrimination.

In the face of all this erosion of LGBT rights, Griffin remains optimistic the nation will recover once a new Democratic administration is elected because, “the idea that the Democrats don’t have rock stars is bullshit.”

“I think we have an embarrassment of riches,” Griffin said. “It’s the other team telling us that Kamala Harris isn’t great or Booker isn’t great or Elizabeth Warren isn’t great.”

Griffin, however, had some choice words for supporters of 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who has indicated he may pursue a 2020 run against Trump.

“By the way, don’t let the Bernie Bros fuck shit up either,” Griffin said. “Like, just realize that whole Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, Sanders thing — Bernie Sanders fucking loved it when he was mentioned in the Podesta emails.”

With the congressional mid-term elections nearing, Griffin said Americans are now marching who “would never do that sort of thing two years ago” and political awareness is at an all-time high, which she said will be key to making change.

“I’ve never been so aware of every single local candidate,” Griffin said. “Every attorney general is important, all this stuff, all the down-ballot stuff. So I think it’s good that people really are engaged and I think most of us get that we’re kind of in a fight for our lives.”

 

Kathy Griffin (Photo courtesy of Griffin)

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Baltimore DJ on using music as a bridge to combat discrimination

Deezy brings high-energy show to the Admiral on Jan. 28

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DJ Deezy has hosted multiple events in D.C. and Baltimore. (Photo by Carlos Polk from We Dream Photography and Studios)

A Baltimore DJ will conclude a month of performances in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. clubs this Friday, Jan. 28, according to the artist’s management. DJ Deezy is set to perform at the Admiral in D.C. at 9 p.m. 

Since the year began, Deezy has hosted electric events at clubs such as Hawthorne DC, DuPont and the Baltimore Eagle Bar & Nightclub. 

The Washington Blade sat down with the DJ to discuss the course of her career. 

The beginning of DJ Deezy’s infatuation with music dates back to her childhood spent between her mother’s house in Baltimore City and her father’s house in the suburbs. 

In Baltimore, Deezy was exposed to the local rap and raw hip-hop scene that inspired her to embark on a rap career in high school. 

Concurrently, she was entrenched in Motown and classic rock by virtue of her singer, songwriter, and guitarist father Ron Daughton’s involvement in a classic rock band. He is a member of “The Dalton Gang” and was inducted into the Maryland Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2015.

“Before I embarked on my DJ journey, my father let me record ‘a little 16’ on his tape recorder,” said Deezy. “Eventually, he bought me a wireless microphone that I carried around with me to performances.”

Between her experience as a rapper and watching her father maneuver the classic rock music scene, Deezy acquired varying tastes in music that have influenced how she curates her sets today. 

She “specializes in open format vibes with spins from multiple genres including hip-hop, rap, circuit, and top 40s hits,” according to a summer 2021 press release from her management.

Deezy is also a proud member of the LGBTQ community — she identifies as a lesbian — and this also informs her approach to her work.

“I’m easily able to transition and rock the crowd because I can relate to many different backgrounds,” said Deezy. “I can DJ in places that are predominantly white, Black, or gay [and still do my job effortlessly].”

Centering community

Deezy values representation. Not only because she exists in a field dominated by men, but also because DJs who inhabit other identities aside from being men are less common in the industry. 

The scarcity of Black and lesbian DJs has prompted her to use her career as evidence that people who are different can attract audiences and succeed.

“I want to put us out there especially for Baltimore,” said Deezy. “I know that there’s Black lesbians out there doing the same thing as me, but why aren’t we getting [recognized]?”

In 2018, Deezy rented out a “Lez” lot at the Baltimore Pride block party where she set up a tent and played a set for the crowds tailgating around her. While entertaining them, she distributed her business cards — an act she believes yielded her the contact who eventually got her booked for a residency at the Baltimore Eagle.

While this was a step forward in her career, Deezy acknowledges that it wasn’t without challenges. She likened entering the Baltimore Eagle — traditionally a leather bar frequented predominantly by men —to navigating foreign territory. 

“When I first got there, I got funny looks,” she said. “There’s a lot of these guys who are like, ‘Why are you bringing a lesbian DJ to a gay bar?’”

But Deezy powered through her performance, lifted the crowd from its seats and “rocked the house [so that] no one will ever ask any questions again.” 

She admits that she’s an acquired taste but believes in her ability to play music infectious enough to draw anyone to the dance floor.  

“Feel how you want to feel about a Black lesbian DJ being in the gay bar,” said Deezy. “But music is a bridge that [will] connect us all, and you’ll forget about your original discrimination when you [experience] me.”

While Deezy has mostly performed in the DMV, she has also made appearances in Arizona where she hosted a family event and also in clubs in Atlanta and New York City. 

Her work has also attracted international attention and she was the cover star of  French publication Gmaro Magazine’s October 2021 issue

Looking to the future, Deezy’s goal is to be a tour DJ and play her sets around the world.

“I had a dream that Tamar Braxton approached me backstage at one of her concerts and asked me to be her tour DJ,” she said. “So, I’m manifesting this for myself.” 

In the meantime, Deezy will continue to liven up audiences in bars and clubs around the country while playing sets for musicians like Crystal Waters and RuPaul’s Drag Race celebrity drag queens like Alyssa Edwards, Plastique Tiara, La La Ri, Joey Jay and Eureka O’Hara — all of whom she has entertained alongside in the past. 

Outside the club, Deezy’s music can be heard in Shoe City where she created an eight-hour music mix split evenly between deep house and hip-hop and R&B. 

DJ Deezy (Photo by Carlos Polk from We Dream Photography and Studios)
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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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