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Best of Gay D.C. XVII

Your picks for nightlife, community, dining and more

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Best Of Gay D.C., gay news, Washington Blade

Best of Gay D.C. is always a snapshot of life in LGBT Washington. This is the first year, for example, Town Danceboutique which closed in July, has not been represented in these awards since 2007. The legendary D.C. nightclub holds the all-time Best of Gay D.C. record with 32 total wins (counting wins for its drag queens and DJs). But it’s also a chance to welcome the new kids on the block — such as Pitchers/A League of Her Own, Dave Perruzza’s new venture in Adams Morgan.

For every perennial winner like Freddie’s Beach Bar or Miss Pixie’s, there are newer faces like Pretty Rik E (Best Drag King), Jesse Johnson (Best Fitness Instructor) and Roel Ruiz (Best Stylist). Sometimes somebody who’s been around for years but we kind of took for granted comes roaring back with a win like Kristina Kelly, D.C.’s much-loved plus-size queen. Ahhhh, I remember her from her Apex years.

Some winners and runners-up flip-flop in succeeding years. Rayceen Pendarvis and Bishop Allyson Abrams have something like a vollyeball game unfolding in these pages in the Best Clergy category.

Thankfully here, nobody has to “sashay away.” That’s the beauty of gay Washington — we can enjoy Trade one night, JR.’s another. Check out Distrkt C (“Is it hot in here or is it just me?”) one month and Mixtape another. It’s all good.

About 3,500 nominations and 20,000 votes were cast in 100 categories for the 17th annual Best of Gay D.C. Awards. The Blade’s Stephen Rutgers coordinated the process. The photographers are credited throughout. This year’s contributing writers are Brian T. Carney, Patrick Folliard, Evan Caplan, Michael K. Lavers, Chris Johnson, Mariah Cooper and Kevin Majoros.

The Washington Blade staff congratulates each of this year’s winners and finalists.

Hero Award

Danica Roem (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Danica Roem

Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) in January made history as the first openly transgender person seated in any state legislature in the U.S. The former journalist has hit the ground running on behalf of her constituents in Virginia’s 13th District.

Roem served on the Counties Cities and Towns and Science and Technology Committees.

She is among the lawmakers who voted to expand Medicaid in Virginia. Reducing congestion on Route 28, which was a cornerstone of her historic 2017 campaign against then-state Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County), remains one of Roem’s top priorities.

Roem co-sponsored several pro-LGBT bills during the 2018 legislative session. She also continues to inspire trans people around the country.

She invited an 11-year-old trans girl from Roanoke and her mother who she met during her campaign and two other young people to stand next to her during her ceremonial swearing-in that took place in the Virginia House of Delegates chamber on Jan. 20. Roem, who was wearing her trademark rainbow scarf, hugged each of them after she spoke.

“This member pin that I have right now; this is on behalf of the people of the 13th District,” she said. “This pin belongs to the people of the 13th District. This pin and every pin like it for you, for you and for you, this is ours . . . this is ours too.”

Demi Lovato invited Roem to walk with her on the red carpet at the 2017 American Music Awards, which took place in Los Angeles shortly after she defeated Marshall. Roem in June traveled to Vermont and campaigned on behalf of Christine Hallquist, a Democrat who in August became the first openly trans woman in the U.S. to become a major party’s nominee for governor.

Roem attended the annual Human Rights Campaign National Dinner that took place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Sept. 13. She spoke at NOVA Pride that took place in Centreville on Sept. 29.

Roem has also spoken at events organized by the LGBTQ Victory Fund and other LGBT advocacy groups.

I’m humbled to earn the 2018 Hero Award from the Washington Blade,” Roem said. “By focusing on the core quality-of-life issues that unite our communities and region like traffic, jobs, schools, health care and equality, I hope I’ve helped demonstrate that transgender people can be inclusive elected leaders who prioritize constituent service for all our constituents — no matter what they look like, where they come from, how they worship if they do, or who they love.”

Roem also thanked her constituents and the Blade’s readers.

“To my constituents in Manassas Park, Manassas, Gainesville and Haymarket and to the readers of the Washington Blade:  You should be able to thrive because of who you are, not despite it and not for what discriminatory politicians tell you you’re supposed to be,” she said. “So, if you’re well-qualified and you have good ideas, then bring your ideas to the table because this is your America too and it’s time for you to run it.” (MKL) 

BARS/ENTERTAINMENT

Best Dance Party

Distrkt C, gay news, Washington Blade

Distrkt C (Washington Blade photo by Ben Keller)

Distrkt C

Second consecutive win in this category.

D.C. Eagle

Second Saturday of the month

D.C. Eagle

3701 Benning Rd., N.E.

distrktc.com

Editor’s Pick: Peach Pit, DC9

Best Bartender

Jo McDaniel (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Jo McDaniel, A League of Her Own

Runner-Up: Dusty Martinez, Trade

Dusty was last year’s winner and also a 2014 winner.

She may be a new addition to Pitchers, the new gay bar in Adams Morgan, but Jo McDaniel is no stranger to the queer D.C. bar scene. Slinging drinks since 2005 across the region, McDaniel is now leading A League of Her Own, the queer women’s bar that opened in August in the lower level of Pitchers.

David Perruzza, who runs Pitchers, knew McDaniel from her work at Cobalt and brought her in to be a strong leader to manage A League of Her Own and make it a welcoming space.

“From the moment I met Jo, I was impressed,” Perruzza says. “When I realized I could open a bar for queer women, I immediately thought of Jo and only Jo. She has been a godsend and everyone loves her.”

McDaniel is also shining beyond D.C. This summer, she won the coveted Stoli’s Key West Cocktail Classic, and as the first woman to win the regional competition here in D.C.

“We’ve had an incredible response from the community,” the Southern California native says. “With queer people meeting up and hanging out every day that we’ve been open. It’s more than humbling to provide something so needed to our community and I’m thrilled that I get to be part of it.”

Before A League of Her Own, McDaniel has been helping the LGBT community toss back vodka sodas and other libations at Apex, Phase One, Freddie’s Beach Bar and Cobalt. McDaniel’s biggest task is now bringing together the LGBT community at A League of Her Own as part of the larger Pitchers community. (EC)

Best Burlesque Dancer

Eat Your Hart Out, gay news, Washington Blade

Ophelia Hart (Washington Blade photo by Tom Hausman)

Winner: Ophelia Hart

Second consecutive win.

facebook.com/opheliahartburlesque

Runner-Up: GiGi Holliday

Best Avion Tequila Margarita

Winner: Nellie’s Sports Bar

900 U St., N.W.

nelliessportsbar.com

Editor’s Pick: Left Door

Best DJ

DJ Tezrah, gay news, Washington Blade

DJ Tezrah (Washington Blade photo by Tom Hausman)

Winner: Tezrah

Runner-Up: Lemz

tezrah.com

soundcloud.com/tezrah

Tezrah (real name Diana Weigel) became a DJ accidentally.

In college, a friend gave the 28-year-old Fairfax, Va., native a DJ program. She found herself  “messing around” with the music software for hours and hours as she crafted her hobby. Eventually, she thought she could turn her side gig into a main hustle.

“After I graduated, I was like ‘Hey, why not try to make this hobby into something else and make money off it.’ It just snowballed from there,” Tezrah says.

This is Tezrah’s second consecutive Best DJ win for Best of Gay D.C. She says she believes her music is so appealing to partygoers because of her diversity.

“I think that I have a very pop ear which is appealing to a wide variety of people instead of just a smaller genre of music. I play house music, hip-hop, top 40. Maybe try to throw in a little dubstep now and then in my pop sets. I think it’s because my music is eclectic the audience doesn’t get bored of one genre of music because I’m playing lots of different types of music in one set,” Tezrah explains.

You can catch her DJing at multiple LGBT venues in D.C. including Cobalt, Pitchers, A League of Her Own, XX+ and more.

She’s also available to play corporate events, private events and weddings. Find out where Tezrah is playing next, or to book her for an event, at tezrah.com. (MC)

Best Drag King

Pretty Rik E (Photo courtesy Pretty Rik E)

Winner: Pretty Rik E

See Queery

Runner-Up: Ricky Rose

Best Drag Queen

Kristina Kelly (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Kristina Kelly

Runner-Up: Jane Saw

If you’ve been to a drag event in D.C., chances are you may have seen Kristina Kelly.

Kelly (real name Christopher Smith), 39, makes the rounds at various drag events throughout D.C. She’s a regular performer at Cobalt and Shaw’s Tavern. She can also be seen at drag brunch at City Tap House and Taqueria del Barrio.

Kelly’s love for drag started at age 17 in her hometown of Lexington, Va. During a talent show around Halloween, she decided to perform in drag.

“I was like, ‘Let’s try it once’ and I’ve been doing it ever since,” Kelly says.

Now, her drag career has led her to become a full-time performer for the past decade.

Her favorite part about being in the D.C. drag community is the diversity.

“The talent in D.C. comes in all forms. What I mean by that is we have drag queens, drag kings, bio queens. It’s so much talent that people don’t get to see it. That’s why I have so many shows to show all that drag has to offer,” Kelly says.

She hopes that one day D.C. will be recognized as a city with real drag talent.

“I think there’s a lot of creativity in D.C. and I don’t think that we get to showcase our talent as much as other cities do. I hope that eventually people can see exactly how much talent there is in D.C.,” she says. (MC)

Best Drag Show

Pretty Boi Drag (Photo by Diyanna Monet; courtesy of Pretty Boi Drag)

Winner: Pretty Boi Drag

Editor’s Pick: Queeta’s Palace at Chateau Remix

Best Singer or Band

Wicked Jezabel (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Wicked Jezabel

Runner-Up: Homosuperior

Wicked Jezabel is an out, all-female, party band. Skilled musicians, they play a diverse mix of Side-A hits from the ‘60s to the present and consistently raise the energy and fun wherever the gig.

Founded by partners in music and marriage, Pauline Anson-Dross (guitar, vocals, percussion) and Davi Anson-Dross (vocals, percussion, keys), Wicked Jezabel gelled in 2004. Other bandmates are Sandra “Jump” Dumas (guitar), Heather Haze (sax, keys, vocals), Martha Capone (bass), and Jackie Yuille (drums). The band’s steadfast sound engineer is Elaine Giles, Dumas’ longtime partner. This is their second consecutive win in this category and third overall. They also won in 2013.

Pauline and Davi married in 2000, and again shortly after same-sex marriage was made legal in Virginia in 2014. For them, working and living together is far from a problem.  “We love it. We’re equally passionate about music and live performing so it works,” Pauline says. “We both have different strengths in the projects so it creates a balanced working relationship, and, for us, that adds dimension to our personal relationship. The only hard part is the day jobs.”

Wicked Jezabel is a continuum of Pauline and Davi’s former band, The Outskirts. “We lost some band members about 14 years ago, so we saw that as a good juncture to stop and rethink things, and that included finding some new musicians and renaming the band.”

Pauline credits Wicked Jezabel’s success and loyal fan base to the magic of live performance: “There’s nothing like it. That connection with an audience is miraculous. It’s therapy for everybody.” (PF)

Best Transgender Performer

Riley Knoxx (Washington Blade photo by Wyatt Reid Westlund)

Winner: Riley Knoxx

Runner-Up: Salvadora Dali

Best Straight Bar

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

Winner: Dacha Beer Garden

Fourth consecutive win in this category!

1600 7th St., N.W.

202-524-8790

dachadc.com

Editor’s Choice: DC9

Best Karaoke

DIK Bar karaoke (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: DIK Bar (aka Dupont Italian Kitchen)

1637 17th St., N.W. 2nd floor

dupontitaliankitchen.com/bar

Editor’s Choice: Freddie’s Beach Bar

Best ABSOLUT Happy Hour

Trade (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

Winner: Trade

A flip-flop of last year’s outcome. Trade also won Best Neighborhood Bar last year.

1410 14th St., N.W.

tradebardc.com

Editor’s Choice: Number Nine

Best Live Music

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

9:30 Club

A perennial favorite in this category!

815 V St., N.W.

930.com

Editor’s Choice: Wolf Trap

Best Neighborhood Bar

Pitchers (Washington Blade photo by Wyatt Reid Westlund)

Winner: Pitchers

2317 18th St., N.W.

pitchersbardc.com

Editor’s Choice: Duplex Diner

Best Bar Outside the District

Freddie’s Beach Bar (Washington Blade photo by Doug Horn)

Freddie’s Beach Bar

21st win for this Best of Gay D.C. favorite. Freddie’s has won this award every year since 2002 in addition to several others. It’s a Best of Gay D.C. all-time record.

555 S. 23rd St.

Arlington, Va.

freddiesbeachbar.com

Editor’s Choice: Grand Central

Best Outdoor Drinking

Winner: Dacha Beer Garden

1600 7th St., N.W.

dachadc.com

Editor’s Choice: The Salt Line

Best Place for Guys Night Out

presidential debate, gay news, Washington Blade

Number Nine (Washington Blade photo by Hugh Clarke)

Winner: Number Nine

1435 P St., N.W.

numberninedc.com

Editor’s Choice: Uproar

Best Place for Girls Night Out

League of Her Own, gay news, Washington Blade

A League of Her Own (Washington Blade photo by Tom Hausman)

Winner: A League of Her Own

2319 18th St., N.W.

Editor’s Choice: Women Crush Wednesday

Best Rehoboth Bar

Purple Parrot (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

Purple Parrot

Same winner and editor’s choice as last year.

134 Rehoboth Ave.

Rehoboth Beach, Del.

ppgrill.com

Editor’s choice: Blue Moon

Best Rehoboth Bartender

Zack West (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

Winner: Zack West, Blue Moon

Runner-Up: Matt Urban, Purple Parrot

Blue Moon

35 Baltimore Ave.

Rehoboth Beach, Del.

bluemoonrehoboth.com 

There are many reasons the Blue Moon (just named Editor’s Choice for Best Rehoboth Bar in this year’s Best of Gay D.C. competition) has such a dedicated fan base. For more than 30 years, tourists and residents have enjoyed great food, fabulous entertainment, wonderful ambience and an unbeatable location. But, satisfied customers also say it’s the attentive and friendly staff that keep them coming back.

Zack West is proud to be part of that team. As Tim Ragan, one of the Blue Moon’s owners, notes, “Zack’s growth as a bartender, an employee and friend has made him a highly valued part of the Blue Moon team. He embodies our philosophy of customer service.”

Zack adds, “Winning this award makes me feel honored to be part of this wonderful community I love. A big thanks to all the customers who make it easy for me to come to work every day.” (BTC)

Best Rooftop View

VIDA Penthouse Pool (Photo courtesy of VIDA)

Winner: VIDA U St Penthouse Pool

1612 U St., N.W.

penthousepoolclub.com/u-street

Editor’s Choice: POV

FOOD

Best Ethnic Restaurant

Beau Thai (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Beau Thai

1550 7th St., N.W. A

beauthaidc.com

Editor’s Choice: Rasika

Best Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary at Logan Tavern (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Logan Tavern

1423 P St., N.W.

logantavern.com

Editor’s Choice: Commissary

Best Brunch

Brunch at Le Diplomate (Photo courtesy of Le Diplomate)

Le Diplomate

1601 14th St., N.W.

lediplomatedc.com

Editor’s Choice: Agora

Best Locally Made Product

(Photo courtesy of Mason Dixon Biscuit Co.)

Mason Dixie Biscuit Co.

Approachable, affordable and portable Southern staples. Second consecutive win and runner-up in this category.

2301 Bladensburg Rd., N.E.

masondixiebiscuits.com

Editor’s choice: Compass Coffee

Best New Restaurant

Unconventional Diner (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Unconventional Diner

1207 9th St., N.W.

unconventionaldiner.com

Editor’s Choice: Little Pearl

A cursory glance at the menu (chicken noodle soup, cheeseburger, iceberg salad) and you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s an actual diner.

Snug inside the Convention Center, this newcomer is anything but. Opened in December of 2017, Unconventional Diner has received several accolades for its modern comfort food, including a Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand award.

The space is aiming for a cool, post-industrial, “California-chic” style that meshes with funky Warhol-esque prints on the wall and an impressive cooking pedigree. Head Chef David Deshaies worked side by side with the late and beloved Michel Richard, whose signature 72-hour short ribs grace the menu. A delicious bonus: pastry chef Ana Deshaies, married to David, churns flavorful and vibrant croissants, doughnuts, pies and other sweets during the day.

The restaurant shines brightest when getting creative with American classics. The PB&J sandwich is an umami bomb of a decadent DIY affair that involves dehydrated peanut butter, grape jelly, and foie gras custard; toast comes on the side. It’s instantly Instagrammable.

Musing on his restaurant’s first year, co-owner Eric Eden says, “Our first year has certainly been an unconventional one. We have hosted heads of state, a former First Lady and a couple of rock stars.” On its reception, Eden says, “We are so touched by how warmly we have been received by the community. We think It’s the familiar with an unexpected twist that keeps folks coming back.” (EC)

Best Food Festival or Event

Winner: RAMW Restaurant Week

ramw.org/restaurantweek

Editor’s Choice: Taste of DC

Best Craft Cocktails

A Spanish G&T at Hank’s Cocktail Bar (Photo courtesy of Hank’s Cocktail Bar)

Winner: Hank’s Cocktail Bar

819 Upshur St., N.W.

hankscocktailbar.com

Editor’s Choice: Service Bar

Best Fast Casual Dining

CAVA (Photo courtesy of CAVA)

Winner: CAVA

Locations in Chinatown, Columbia Heights, Dupont, H St., N.E., Navy Yard, Shaw, Tenleytown and Union Station

cava.com

Editor’s Choice: Sweetgreen

Best Local Brewery

DC Brau (Photo by Steph Harding Photo)

D.C. Brau

“Popular craft brewery offering free tours and tastings.” Fourth win in this category!

3178-B Bladensburg Rd., N.E.

dcbrau.com

Editor’s Choice: 3 Stars Brewing

Best Local Distillery

District Distilling (Photo courtesy of District Distilling)

District Distilling Co.

Reclaimed barn doors and brick walls are the backdrop for American fare and drinks crafted from spirits made on-site.

1414 U St., N.W.

district-distilling.com

Editor’s Choice: Founding Spirits

Best Burger

Shake Shack (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Shake Shack

Locations in Dupont Circle, F Street and Union Station. Second consecutive win in this category.

shakeshack.com

Editor’s choice: Duke’s Grocery

Best Caterer

Best of Gay D.C.

Old Blue BBQ (Photo by Ella M. Photography)

Winner: Old Blue BBQ

4580 Eisenhower Ave.

Alexandria, VA

oldbluebbq.com

Editor’s Choice: Rocklands Barbeque and Grilling Company

Best Juice/Fuel Bar

Barry’s Bootcamp juice bar (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Barry’s Bootcamp

1345 19th St., N.W.

barrysbootcamp.com

Editor’s Choice: Jrink

Best Liquid Lunch

Commissary (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Commissary

1443 P St., N.W.

commissarydc.com

Editor’s Choice: Old Ebbitt

Best Chef

singles, gay news, Washington Blade

Jamie Leeds (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Jamie Leeds (owner of Hank’s Oyster Bar)

Leeds was last year’s runner-up. Locations at The Wharf, Dupont Circle, Old Town Alexandria and Capitol Hill.

Editor’s Choice: Patrick Vanas Events

Best Coffee Shop

Compass Coffee (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Compass Coffee

Third consecutive win in this category!

1335 7th St., N.W.

compasscoffee.com

Editor’s Choice: A Baked Joint

Best Special Occasion Restaurant

Winner: Pineapple and Pearls

715 8th St., S.E.

pineapplesandpearls.com 

Editor’s Choice: Floriana

One of the premier tasting menu destinations in D.C., Pineapple and Pearls has the city falling in love. Opened in 2016, the Barracks Row restaurant is the brainchild of Aaron Silverman, who took the city by storm with the still-popular Rose’s Luxury, where lines routinely run down the street.

Pineapple and Pearls (named for items that represent hospitality and elegance, respectively) runs several rungs more upscale and daring. One reason it’s a special occasion: that 12-course tasting menu puts you back a hot $325, inclusive of tax, gratuity and drink pairings.

A mere $150 grants access to five courses at the bar.

Eschewing convention, Silverman’s dishes are performances themselves, joyful, spirited and intricately detailed. Head Chef Scott Muns paired with Silverman on Rose’s Luxury opening in 2013; he’s back again making masterpieces, many of which come out of the restaurant’s hand-built French stove. Check out the Fluke Veronique, in which the cut of fish floats effortlessly atop a vibrant green sauce and razor-thin slices of grape sit in for the scales; it’s a touch of sweet for the savory fish.

Another reason it’s special? The Michelin Guide awarded the restaurant with two stars for 2019, putting it in company with just one other restaurant in the city, Minibar. (EC)

Best Ice Cream/Gelato

Winner: Milk Bar Bakery

Locations in center city, The Wharf and Logan Circle (flagship)

milkbarstore.com

Editor’s Choice: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

Best Farmer’s Market

Winner: FRESHFARM Dupont Circle Market

1600 20th St., N.W.

freshfarm.org/dupont-circle.html

Sundays 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. year round

Editor’s Choice: Eastern Market

Best Food Truck

DC Empanadas Food Truck (Photo by Connor Turner via Flickr)

Winner: DC Empanadas

Union Market

1309 5th St., N.E.

dcempanadas.com

Editor’s Choice: Red Hook Lobster Pound

Best Pizza

Comet Ping Pong (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Comet Ping Pong

5037 Connecticut Ave., N.W.

cometpingpong.com

Editor’s Choice: &pizza

Perhaps known as much for its pluck as its pizza and its ping pong, this restaurant’s signature thin-crust pies are only part of the game. This is Comet’s second consecutive win in this category.

At once a concert space, a kids’ birthday party venue, and trendy, always-busy pop-culture museum, it also is home to top-rated pies. Toppings range from mundane to fun combos. Try out the one with bacon, smoked mushrooms and smoked mozzarella. Of course, there are also hipster-millennial options, like wood fire-roasted beets and stuffed squash blossom salad.

Infamously, Comet Ping Pong was at the center of the bizarre Pizzagate conspiracy theory that fired up the alt-right during the 2016 Clinton campaign, so much so that a gunman traveled to investigate the “controversy” and fired shots inside.

It’s a little quieter today, though less so when the punk-rock show starts. Just don’t forget the paddle skills at home to relive those childhood pleasures of smacking around a little white ball. (EC)

Best Rehoboth Restaurant

Blue Moon (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

Blue Moon

Bright, remodeled Craftsman cottage serving upscale American fare with regular live entertainment. Second consecutive win in this category.

35 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, Del.

bluemoonrehoboth.com

Editor’s Choice: Dogfish Head

Best Local Winery

City Winery (Photo courtesy of City Winery)

Winner: City Winery

citywinery.com

1350 Okie St., N.E.

Editor’s Choice: District Winery

MEDIA

Best Local Website

Winner: Popville

popville.com

Editor’s Choice: The Two Beer Queers

Best Local Influencer

Dito Sevilla (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Dito Sevilla

Runner-Up: Timur Tugberk

Initially Dito Sevilla thought “Best Local Influencer” was kind of a cheesy category, but he’s since warmed to the title.

As a longtime bartender at cozy Dito’s Bar at Floriana restaurant on 17th St., N.W., Sevilla says he has been “influencing from behind the bar for years and years. But it became clear to me recently that influencing is really just giving people a new perspective and advice that works for them in their lives. That’s ultimately what it’s about.”

Sevilla’s bar banter segued perfectly to social media where Sevilla boasts an undeniably strong presence. His popular Facebook page is rife with satire, politics and thinly veiled truths that his followers often share. Some of his pithy yet thoughtful posts go viral. It’s been a natural progression to a larger audience, he says.

A native Washingtonian, Sevilla keeps a big Rolodex: “I hold on to contacts and I remember people’s stories and why they needed something and when. Remember Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point”? In it, he describes three types of communicators. Well, I’m the “maven,” he’s the one in the middle who hears something and passes it on. I’m like a one-man “Angie’s List.”

Currently single, Sevilla came out at 21 around the same time he started going to gay bars. “I was doing new things. It seemed only natural that people should know what I was doing and where I was going.” Always the influencer. (PF)

Best Local TV Personality

Larry Miller (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Larry Miller, WUSA9

Runner-Up: Chuck Bell, NBC 4

(Bell was also 2015 and 2016 runner-up; 2014 winner)

Larry Miller has three goals for viewers when he anchors the news for WUSA9: impact, inform, inspire.

“I think ultimately, we want to inspire people to do more for the areas in which we live, to have impact on the lives of people — especially young people, I think that can certainly use the encouragement,” Miller says. “And just to make sure that we’re engaged as well. We have a commitment to not only covering stories, but making sure that we’re out in the community, being a part of the community that we live in.”

Miller, who’s gay, joined the WUSA9 morning team in 2015, anchors the news at noon and develops original news stories for the TV station. The Baltimore County-native lived and worked as a TV journalist in Medford, Ore., Pittsburgh and Birmingham, Ala., before returning to the Washington area to work at WUSA9.

Among his honors are Edward R. Murrow and Associated Press awards for hard news reporting.

Has anything surprised Miller in his three years at WUSA9? Miller struggled to find any particular incident and said “nothing really surprises me because I think I’ve seen just about every level of weird you possibly can.”

“I think if there’s anything that I find unique about Washington is the amount of diversity,” Miller says. “I’ve lived in a lot of places, and I think really cool about the metro is there’s all these different pockets of people from all over the world. And, I think, for me, it keeps me not only interested, but it keeps me learning about different groups of people that I may not always have firsthand knowledge of or I may not have exposure to.”

Miller says his proudest moment at WUSA9 was a recent investigation of food issues in D.C. in which he profiled an 82-year-old woman who had difficulty getting to the grocery store. The woman, Miller says, had to do a two-hour roundtrip from her house to the bus stop to grocery store while carrying a cart that’s filled with groceries on the return trip.

Subsequent to the news story, Miller said a non-profit called the Justice Organization stepped up and volunteered to send free groceries to the woman’s home so she won’t have to make that trip.

“And now, a result of kind of telling this woman’s story and being open, honest and authentic, she’s now getting some help, and no one’s grandmother is now having to lug a cart around the city just to make sure her refrigerator is full,” Miller says.

Miller has a master’s degree in journalism and mass communication from Point Park University and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Pittsburgh. Miller is also a graduate of Montgomery College, Rockville Campus, where he received an Associate of Arts degree. Miller also teaches speech communication as an adjunct professor at Prince George’s Community College. (Chris Johnson)

Best Local Columnist

Eugene Robinson (Photo by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons)

Winner: Eugene Robinson, Washington Post

Runner-Up: Brock Thompson, Washington Blade

Best Radio Station

HOT 99.5 at the Capital Pride Festival (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Hot 99.5

Editor’s Choice: WAMU 88.5

A flip-flop of last year’s results.

PEOPLE

Best Amateur Athlete

Grace Thompson (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Grace Thompson, DC Front Runners

Also won in 2016; was last year’s runner-up.

Runner-Up: Kevin McCarthy, Capital Tennis Association

Best Artist

Lisa Marie Thalhammer (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key / “LOVE” mural © 2017; Lisa Marie Thalhammer; Commissioned and funded by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, DC Creates Public Art Building Communities Program. Located in DC Alley Museum: Blagden Alley, 926 N Street rear NW, Washington, DC. www.lisamariestudio.com)

Winner: Lisa Marie Thalhammer

Runner-Up: John Jack Photography

John Jack Gallagher was the 2016 and 2017 winner.

Best Businessperson

Van Goodwin (Photo courtesy of Goodwin)

Winner: Van Goodwin, Van Allen

Runner-Up: Robert Safro, LOGOmotion

Van Goodwin is the founder and managing director of Van Allen, a boutique technology strategy consulting firm. Drawing on his extensive experience working in the government, non-profit and private sectors, Goodwin founded Van Allen in 2014 to help large companies assess their long-term technical challenges and goals and to develop personalized solutions. Their clients now range from innovative tech startups to well-established Fortune 500 companies.

Goodwin also volunteers as the president of the Capital Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (CAGLCC). The Chamber is the non-profit, non-partisan network of several hundred queer and allied businesses and business leaders in the metro DC area. Its services include workshops, messaging and networking events. According to Goodwin, the Chamber helps “LGBT business owners and professionals create their success.”

“I’m honored and surprised to be getting this award,” Goodwin says. “It’s a vote of support from the LGBT community and also from the Blade, which has supported the area’s LGBT businesses and professionals for decades.” (BTC)

Best Clergy

Rayceen Pendarvis, gay news, Washington Blade

Rayceen Pendarvis (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Rayceen Pendarvis

Runner-Up: Bishop Allyson Abrams

A two-spirited clergyperson who answers to “he,” “she,” “Reverend and “Miss” and identifies as gay, a “gender-bender” and “earth mother to the gays,” native Washingtonian Rayceen Pendarvis isn’t connected to a single denomination or one house of worship: “I’m the goddess of love and the church of life. I can’t be tied down to one thing.”

He and runner up Bishop Allyson Abrams are perpetual flip-flops in this category. Abrams won in 2015 and 2017. Pendarvis won in 2016 and was last year’s runner-up. Abrams was the 2016 runner-up. Pendarvis is host of the D.C.-based monthly “Ask Rayceen Show” which features a wide spate of varied content.

Pendarvis’ wide-ranging spiritual mission includes wedding officiant. “It’s something I do and would love to do more of. I’m a licensed and ordained to all I’ve read the Quran, the Bible and the Torah, and I embrace all faiths and nonbelievers alike.”

Despite his exceptionally positive outlook, Pendarvis ([email protected]) readily concedes that the struggle for LGBT and racial equality remains real. Still, he refuses to let it get him down: “Every morning when I get up, the first moment I breathe, that is my gift and that is my blessing. Our community comes from a strong tradition of fighters and we don’t give up. Every little bit matters and all of us have a role to play: Letters. Protest. Write checks. Organize. There is a part for all of us.”

“I’m the father of five and the mother to many,” adds Pendarvis who has five children from two relationships. “While I’m their father, I’ve served as both mother and father to them with the help of my own mother and extended family,”

“Love,” he says, “is the greatest gift, lesson, and it will live forever.” (PF)

Most Committed Activist

Ruby Corado, detention, gay news, Washington Blade

Ruby Corado (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Ruby Corado

Second consecutive win in this category. Corado was named Best of Gay D.C. Local Heroine in 2014 and Most Committed Activist in 2015.

Casa Ruby

2822 Georgia Ave., N.W.

casaruby.org

Runner-Up: Earl Fowlkes

Best DC Public Official

D.C. Elections, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Mayor Muriel Bowser

Runner-Up: Randy Downs

Same winner and runner-up as last year.

Best Hill Staffer/LGBT Bureaucrat

Sarah Jackson (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Sarah Jackson

Runner-Up: Ben Rosenbaum

Despite Republican control of both chambers of Congress, Sarah Jackson said she’s motivated to work as a legislative aide to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) because she’s able to work on issues important to her, including issues affecting the LGBT community.

“I came to Capitol Hill thinking I would work on women’s and LGBTQ issues, but what drives me to stay in this male-dominated, heteronormative environment is working on issues that women, and especially queer women have traditionally been shut out of,” Jackson says. “As a staffer working on taxes, trade, financial services, housing and energy issues, I’m often the only woman in the room and usually the youngest. This gives me more motivation to continue learning and to continue the work to ensure a more equitable nation.”

The San Francisco-native has worked on Pelosi’s staff for three years and now serves as membership director of the LGBT Congressional Staff Association. Previously, Jackson was a congressional intern with the LGBTQ Victory Institute.

“The Hill’s energy, dynamism, and unpredictability is addicting; but what really motivates me is the power of believing in your boss and your caucus, especially in our current climate,” Jackson says. (Chris Johnson)

Best Local Pro Athlete

Elena Delle Donne (Photo courtesy of the Washington Mystics)

Winner: Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics

Runner-Up: Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

In addition to her success on the basketball court (as the “small forward” for the Chicago Sky and the Washington Mystics she was named the WNBA Rookie of the Year in 2013 and the WNBA MVP in 2015 and is a five-time WNBA All-Star), openly lesbian athlete Elena Delle Donne is an award-winning author.

Her memoir “My Shot: Balancing It All and Standing Tall” recently won a Parents’ Choice Award from the Parents’ Choice Foundation. Aimed at middle school readers, the book is an amazingly frank but age-appropriate discussion of both her career highlights and her personal challenges, including her decision to come out.

Earlier this year, she also launched the “Hoops” series of novels for young readers (ages 8-12). “Elle of the Ball” introduces Elle Deluca, who closely resembles Delle Donne herself. Elle’s height is an asset on the basketball court but a liability in her ballroom dancing class where she towers over her male dance partners. The series continues with “Full Court Press” and “Out of Bounds.”

Like her fictional counterpart, Delle Donne is very tall and had an early growth spurt. She’s 6’5” and wears a size 12 shoe. She gets her height from her parents. Her dad, a real estate developer, is 6’6” and her mom is 6’2.”

She also gets her feisty spirit and determination from them. When Delle Donne was in elementary school, her doctor wanted to start her on injections to stunt her growth. Her mother refused, and, according to an interview with ESPN, she told her daughter, “Why try to be like the rest of the pack? Be your own person.”

The young athlete also had to come to terms with the fact that she could do things that her beloved older sister Lizzie would never be able to do. Lizzie, with whom Delle Donne remains close, was born deaf and blind, with both cerebral palsy and autism, and is unable to speak.

Born in Wilmington, Del., in 1989, Delle Donne rose to national prominence as a high school basketball star at Ursuline Academy. She led her team to three straight Delaware State Championships and was ranked as the number one recruit by Scout.com.

Delle Donne was recruited by the University of Connecticut but ended up playing for the Blue Hens at the University of Delaware. In 2010, she was named both “Player of the Year” and “Rookie of the Year” by the Colonial Athletic Association. Although she was diagnosed with Lyme disease during her sophomore year, she continued to excel as a college athlete and was selected second overall in the 2014 WNBA Draft by the Chicago Sky. She joined the Washington Mystics in 2017.

In 2016, Delle Donne won a gold medal as a member of the Unites States women’s basketball team at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Delle Donne officially came out in an interview with Vogue magazine in August 2016 where she announced her engagement to girlfriend Amanda Clifton. The couple was married in 2017.

The award-winning out athlete, who has signed endorsement deals with Nike, DuPont and Octagon, is also a noted philanthropist. She founded the Elena Delle Donne Foundation, which raises funds and awareness for Lyme Disease research and special needs programs and is also a Global Ambassador for the Special Olympics. (BTC)

Best Local Pro Sports Team

Washington Capitals (Photo by Keith Allison via Flickr)

Winner: Washington Capitals

Editor’s Choice: Washington Nationals

Best Fitness Instructor

Jesse Johnson (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Jesse Johnson

VIDA Fitness U Street

1612 U St., N.W.

vidafitness.com

Runner-Up: Mark Raimondo

Jesse Johnson worked in a typical office environment where he wore “a suit and tie” every day. Unsatisfied with his work life, he decided to get fitness training certificates in his spare time.

After friends told Johnson he could make a living doing what he loved, he decided to become a full-time fitness trainer. He’s been working for VIDA Fitness since 2011.

A training session with Johnson will be “comprehensive.” Johnson, 32, says he writes down everything that takes place in his sessions and trains people on how to work out and what foods to eat. He also likes to prep clients on how to keep up training when they aren’t in sessions with him. His favorite fitness tip is simply to “go to the gym. Eighty percent of it is just show up.”

It’s a position that’s finally fulfilling to Johnson.

“D.C. is full of a lot of professionals. A lot of people here work really hard and at the end of the day when it comes time to take care of themselves and their bodies they might not know what to do. It’s a good place to help someone get something that they were having trouble getting on their own. I’m happy to do that,” Johnson says. (MC)

Best Real Estate Agent

Stacey Williams-Zeiger (Photo courtesy of Stacey Williams-Zeiger)

Winner: Stacey Williams-Zeiger, Zeiger Realty Inc

Runner-Up: Christopher Leary, Washington Fine Properties

Real Estate Group

The Evan+Mark Team (Photo courtesy of The Evan+Mark Team)

Winner: The Evan+Mark Team, Compass

compass.com

Last year’s runner-up.

Runner-Up: The Bediz Group, Keller Williams

Best Rehoboth Real Estate Agent

Lee Ann Wilkinson (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

Winner: Lee Ann Wilkinson

Runner-Up: Karen Gustafson

Best Straight Ally

Sean Doolittle, gay news, Washington Blade

Sean Doolittle (Photo courtesy of MLB)

Winner: Sean Doolittle

Runner-Up: Leigh Ann Hendricks

Ace relief pitcher Sean Doolittle was traded from the Oakland Athletics to the Washington Nationals in July 2017. He eloped with his then-girlfriend, Eireann Dolan one day after the regular baseball season ended last year. Doolittle was named a 2018 All-Star this summer; he was a member of the 2014 MLB All-Star team and this season is rounding out to be one of the best of his career.

Doolittle and Dolan received national attention in 2015 when they purchased hundreds of tickets to the Oakland Athletics Pride Night after the event received backlash from fans. The tickets were donated to local LGBT groups and an additional $40,000 was raised.

Local LGBT youth leadership and housing program SMYAL had caught the attention of Doolittle and Dolan and they donated 52 tickets to the organization for Night OUT at the Nationals in June. Going a step further, they stopped in personally to deliver the tickets at the SMYAL youth program’s headquarters and the SMYAL transitional housing program.

“In advance of the Nationals Pride night, we wanted to get involved,” Doolittle said in a July interview with the Blade. “We wanted to do something more than catch the first pitch or meet some people on the field before the game. And we love this community, we love being here, and we wanted to give back.” (KM)

Best Transgender Advocate

Charlotte Clymer (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Charlotte Clymer

Runner-Up: Rayceen Pendarvis

Politically savvy transgender woman Charlotte Clymer didn’t set out to be a transgender advocate. She was pushed into the part. “Earlier this year, I had a bad night at a downtown restaurant. I was asked to show my ID before using the restroom at Cuba Libre. When I refused, the manager threw me out even though I used my phone to show him that he was breaking the law. But because of the work of longtime transgender advocates, I was able to have a sense of safety that night and I stood up for myself.”

Out of an unpleasant experience came a lot of good, she says. “The restaurant changed its policies. We got a huge donation for Casa Ruby and Cuba Libre partnered with Casa Ruby and other D.C. restaurants in becoming more LGBTQ inclusive.”

Currently single and dating, Clymer lives on East Capitol Hill. Her challenging job as Human Rights Campaign press secretary for rapid response keeps her busy. “Essentially, I direct all messaging strategy against the Trump White House.” How does she keep her sanity? “Alcohol,” she laughs. “But seriously, I have really good friends and a great support network.”

Future goals include strengthening workers’ rights for transgender folks, especially transgender people of color, she says. “But more than anything, I want to amplify the people who are longtime trans advocates. I want to help ensure that they’re supported in their important work.” (PF)

Best Stylist

Roel Quiz (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Roel Ruiz

Logan 14 Aveda Salon Spa

1314 14th St., N.W.

logan14salonspa.com

Runner-Up: Quency Valencia

Valencia won in 2016-2017.

Roel Ruiz has been styling hair for 10 years. He’s spent three years as a stylist in D.C. at Logan 14 Aveda Salon Spa where he specializes in men’s’ grooming and does color.

Ruiz built his Logan 14 book of business pretty quickly. “For a while I was bartending at Cobalt and styling hair. I asked bar customers to come for a haircut, and encouraged clients to come by for a drink. It worked hand in hand.”

Before entering hair biz, Ruiz studied nursing.

“As a stylist I found that I got to help people out differently while using my creative juices. And I had an instant knack for it and I love the industry.”

He grew up in small town Texas. “I had loving, gay-friendly parents in a red state. I like to say my mom allowed me to be comfortable with my sexuality and D.C. is where I found my pride.” Today, Ruiz lives around the corner from work. “My commute is five minutes from my bed to the salon.”

Future goals? Ultimately, he would like to open something of his own and currently is adding a barber’s license to his resume, he says. “This allows me to do razor work and straight blade. Logan 14 is working on merging the salon and barber experience. We have a lot of LGBTQ clientele. Many men with beards, me being one of them.” (PF)

COMMUNITY

Best Art Gallery

Renwick Gallery (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Renwick Gallery

1661 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.

americanart.si.edu

Editor’s Choice: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Best Adult Store

Bite the Fruit

Third consecutive win in this category!

1723 Connecticut Ave., N.W.

bitethefruit.com

Runner-up: Lotus Blooms

Best Car Dealership

DARCARS

New and used cars at locations in Suitland, Temple Hills, Silver Spring, Md. et. al. Second consecutive win.

darcars.com

Editor’s choice: BMW of Fairfax

Best Apartment/Condo Building

Winner: F1RST Residences

1263 First St., S.E.

f1stdc.com

Editor’s Choice: Atlantic Plumbing (2016-2017 winner)

Best Doctor/Medical Provider

Dr. Robyn Zeiger (Photo by Red Leash Photography)

Winner: Dr. Robyn Zeiger

10300 Sweetbriar Pkwy.

Silver Spring, Md.

drrobynziger.com 

Runner-Up: Dr. Ray Martins, Whitman-Walker Health

Dr. Robyn S. Zeiger is a licensed clinical professional therapist with 40 years of experience working with individuals and couples. In her practice, Zeiger emphasizes that patients should not approach counseling with feelings of shame or guilt.

“It’s important for you to know that I am not in practice to judge you or the information you share with me,” she says. “Thus, I am not likely to be shocked by anything you tell me.”

She also notes that “by exploring the issues that may have held you back in the past, you can open doors to many possibilities. The overall goals are for you to be happy, satisfied, and empowered, which will allow your true self to flourish and grow.”

As a passionate lover of animals, Zeiger is a member of the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement and also offers pet loss counseling to help people through the loss of beloved animal companions.

Zeiger, who is winning this award for the second year in a row, is also an adjunct senior lecturer at University of Maryland School of Public Health where she teaches in the Department of Family Science. In addition to teaching courses on counseling families and individuals, Zeiger also designed a class called “Exploring Homophobia: Demystifying LGBT Issues,” for the Honors College.

A native of Baltimore and a dedicated fan of the musical “Hamilton,” Zeiger completed both her master’s and her doctorate at the University of Maryland,

She is married to Stacey Williams-Zeiger who is the winner of the Washington Blade’s 2018 Best of Gay D.C. Award for Best Real Estate Agent. (BTC)

Best Fitness or Workout Spot

Barry’s Bootcamp (Photo courtesy of Barry’s Bootcamp

Winner: Barry’s Bootcamp

1345 19th St., N.W.

barrysbootcamp.com

Editor’s Choice: VIDA Fitness

Best Gayborhood

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Shaw

Third consecutive win in this category!

Editor’s choice: Logan Circle (2016 runner up)

Best Hardware Store

MidCity Dog Days, gay news, Washington Blade

Logan Ace Hardware (Washington Blade photo by Antwan J. Thompson)

Logan Ace Hardware

A perennial favorite in this category. Also won last year.

1734 14th St., N.W.

acehardwaredc.com

Editor’s choice: Annie’s Ace Hardware

Best Home Furnishings

Mitchell Gold, Bob Williams, furniture, design, home, gay news, Washington Blade

Mitchell Gold, on left, and business partner Bob Williams (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Mitchell Gold+Bob Williams

1526 14th St., N.W.

mgbwhome.com

Editor’s Choice: Miss Pixie’s (last year’s winner)

Best Home Improvement Service

Case Design

“Full-service home remodelers building your dreams.”

casedesign.com

Editor’s choice: The Organizing Agency

Same outcome as last year.

Best Hotel

Kimpton Hotel Monaco Washington, D.C. (Photo by Cris Molina)

Winner: Kimpton Hotel Monaco Washington, D.C.

An upset — The W won the last three years.

700 F St., N.W.

monaco-dc.com

Editor’s Choice: The Line

Best House of Worship

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Empowerment Liberation Cathedral

Fourth consecutive win in this category!

633 Sligo Avenue, Silver Spring

240-720-7605

empowermentliberationcathedral.org

Editor’s Choice: Foundry United Methodist Church

Best Lawyer

Michelle Zavos (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Michele Zavos

Zavos Juncker Law Group

zavosjuncker.com

Runner Up: Glen Ackerman

Flip-flop of last year’s outcome.

Best LGBT Social Group

Stonewall Sports (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Stonewall Sports

Also won last year.

stonewallnational.flywheelsites.com

Editor’s Choice: Team DC

Best LGBT Sports League

Stonewall Kickball (Washington Blade photo by Tom Hausman)

Winner: Stonewall Kickball

Second consecutive win; 2016 runner-up.

stonewallkickball.leagueapps.com

Editor’s Choice: DC Frontrunners

Best LGBT-Owned Business

DC Allen, Crew Club, gay news, Washington Blade

Crew Club owner DC Allen (Washington Blade file photo by Pete Exis)

Winner: Crew Club

1321 14th St., N.W.

crewclub.net

Editor’s Choice: District Title

Most LGBT-friendly Workplace

Whitman-Walker gala, gay news, Washington Blade

Whitman-Walker Executive Director Don Blanchon and Deputy Executive Director Naseema Shafi at the Whitman-Walker gala. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Whitman-Walker Health

Second consecutive win.

1525 14th St., N.W.

whitman-walker.org

Editor’s Choice: National LGBTQ Task Force

Best LGBT Event

Capital Pride Parade (Washington Blade photo by Cecily Kidd)

Winner: Capital Pride Celebration

Second consecutive win.

Editor’s Choice: D.C. Black Pride

Best Museum

National Gallery of Art (Photo by John Menard via Flickr)

Winner: National Gallery of Art

6th & Constitution Ave., N.W.

nga.gov

Editor’s Choice: National Museum of African American History (last year’s winner)

Best Non-Profit

SMYAL Fall Brunch, gay news, Washington Blade

SMYAL Executive Director Sultan Shakir addresses the crowd at the annual Fall Brunch. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

SMYAL

Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders

410 7th St., S.E.

smyal.org

Editor’s Choice: Center for Black Equity

Best Private School

The Maret School (Photo by Aaron Siirila via Wikimedia Commons)

Maret School

A coed, K-12 independent school founded in 1911. Also won this category last year.

3000 Cathedral Ave., N.W.

maret.org

Editor’s Choice: Edmund Burke

Best Pet Business

Doggy Style Bakery (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Doggy Style Bakery, Boutique & Pet Spa

Second consecutive win.

1642 R St., N.W.

doggiestylebakery.com

Editor’s Choice: District Dogs

Best Place to Buy Second-hand Stuff

Miss Pixie’s (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Miss Pixie’s Furnishings and Whatnot

A perennial favorite in this category! Same outcome as last year.

1626 14th St., N.W.

misspixies.com

Editor’s choice: Buffalo Exchange (2016 runner-up)

Best Movie Theater

Landmark Theaters Atlantic Plumbing (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Landmark Theaters Atlantic Plumbing

New releases plus indie fare, foreign and avant garde. Second consecutive win.

807 V St., N.W.

landmarktheatres.com

Editor’s Choice: AMC Loews Georgetown

Best Rehoboth Business

community, gay news, Washington Blade

Purple Parrot (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Purple Parrot

134 Rehoboth Ave.

Rehoboth Beach, Del.

ppgrill.com

Editor’s Choice: Blue Moon

Flip-flop of last year’s outcome.

Best Salon/Spa

Logan 14

Third consecutive win in this category!

1314 14th St., N.W.

logan14salonspa.com

Editor’s Choice: The Burrow

Best Alternative Transportation

Winner: Lyft

lyft.com

Editor’s Choice: Capital Bike Share

Best Day Trip

MGM National Harbor (Photo by Robb Scharteg; courtesy MGM)

Winner: MGM National Harbor

101 MGM National Ave.

Oxon Hill, Md.

mgmnationalharbor.com

Editor’s Choice: Easton, Maryland

Best Place to Take Kids

Winner: National Zoo

3001 Connecticut Ave., N.W.

nationalzoo.si.edu

Editor’s Choice: National Aquarium Baltimore

Best Tattoo Parlor

Tattoo Paradise

2444 18th St., N.W.

tattooparadisedc.com

Second consecutive win.

Editor’s Choice: Jinx Proof Tattoos

Best Theater

Winner: Studio Theatre

An upset  — Kennedy Center won the last three years. A flip-flop of last year’s outcome.

1501 14th St., N.W.

studiotheatre.org

Editor’s Choice: Kennedy Center

Best Theater Production

Winner: Hamilton – Kennedy Center

Ran June 12-Sept. 16

Editor’s Choice: Waitress – National Theatre

Best Vet

CityPaws Animal Hospital

1823 14th St., N.W.

citypawsanimalhospital.com

Fourth consecutive win in this category.

Editor’s Choice: Friendship Animal Hospital

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Melissa Etheridge shares Q&A in advance of April 26 Tysons tour stop

Rock pioneer finds inspiration in the past — from revisiting old demos to reconnecting with celeb pals like Ellen

Published

on

Melissa Etheridge brings her ‘One Way Out Tour’ to the D.C. region next week with a show at the new Capital One Hall in Tysons. (Photo by Elizabeth Miranda; courtesy Primary Wave)

Melissa Etheridge
‘One Way Out Tour’
Tuesday, April 26
Capital One Hall
7750 Capital One Tower Rd.
Tysons, VA
7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $55
ticketmaster.com
capitalonehall.com
melissaetheridge.com

We caught up with rock legend Melissa Etheridge on April 8 by phone from Snoqualmie, Wash. — it’s about 26 miles east of Seattle —where she was playing the Snoqualmie Casino on her “One Way Out Tour,” which plays our region on Tuesday, April 26. 

It’s named after her latest album, released last fall, which found Etheridge, who’s been out since ’93, revisiting demos from early in her career.

Her comments have been slightly edited for length.

WASHINGTON BLADE: “One Way Out” sounds like such a cool project. Was it all re-recorded stuff of old songs or were some of those vintage takes on the record as well?

MELISSA ETHERIDGE: The last two songs, the live songs, were from where? From 2002? OK, but the other songs were newly recorded. 

BLADE: And how many of them did you remember?

ETHERIDGE: You know, when I found them again, they all came back very clearly. And I was like, “Oh, this is — why did I throw that away? That’s weird.” And I really enjoyed, you know, hearing them, they were just old demos. I’d never done full-blown recordings. So I thought, “This is great, I want to do these songs.”

BLADE: We have a relatively new venue you’re going to be playing, Capital One Hall. I’ve only been there once. You excited?

ETHERIDGE: Yeah, it’s always fun. I love the D.C.-area crowd. It’s just really, really nice.

BLADE: And how do you decide where you’ll be? Or do you have any say in it? 

ETHERIDGE: Well, it’s not necessarily me. I do have a say in it, in what I want the whole tour to look like. But it is really up to William Morris, my agent, to find the right venue that understands what we need and the kind of atmosphere we’re looking for that and the amount of people and, you know, that sort of thing.

BLADE: Tell me about Etheridge TV. I just wonder, when we were in that acute phase of the pandemic, wasn’t it even remotely tempting to you to just take a break?

ETHERIDGE: No, because since I was 12 years old, I sang all the time for people, like five days a week and it’s just been what I do. And so when it was like, I was looking at a massive, cavernous amount of time that I was going to be home, I still needed a way to pay the bills, so we put our heads together — I’ve got one of the greatest television minds with me, you know, my wife (TV producer Linda Wallem), so I had the space and I had the equipment, and I was like, “Let’s do it.” And it was really fun to learn new things. It was fun to learn about computers and sound and streaming and lights and cameras and all these things that I didn’t know. … I feel a little smarter.

BLADE: When did you start back on the road?

ETHERIDGE: We went out last fall. We went out September, October, right around there. And you know, it was a little different, Now things are things are loosening up … but some places still require masks. But people are starting to get back out and it feels good. It’s not the overwhelming thing that it was a few months ago.

BLADE: And what was it like being on ‘Ellen’ again for her final season?

ETHERIDGE: Oh, I love her. She’s such an old friend. You know, I say that about myself, too. (chuckles) But, you know, she’s just a relationship in my life that I have treasured. We’ve watched each other grow and the changes we’ve made and the successes and what we’ve gone through and I love that she had me on and just it was just a really — she’s a dear friend. And she showed an old photo there, and we both said, “Oh, that was before we were so busy.”

BLADE: Do you talk to her often?

ETHERIDGE: I would say we see each other socially once or twice a year. It just seemed like once we started having children, all my friends from my 20s and 30s when we were not as busy — it just gets harder to stay in touch and life got crazy. 

BLADE: So when you were hanging out back in the day with Ellen and Rosie and everybody, how was it that Brad Pitt was in that group too? 

ETHERIDGE: Well, my girlfriend (Julie Cypher) had been married to Lou Diamond Phillips and we were all very good friends with Dermot Mulroney and Catherine Keener and Catherine Keener did a movie with Brad, like a movie nobody saw, like Johnny Dangerously or something (1991’s “Johnny Suede”), some really weird movie. So I met Brad before he was terribly famous. He was a part of that group. There was a whole group of all of us that just hung out, and we were all totally different. We were just like young, hungry Hollywood and we’d talk about, “Oh, I had this audition,” or “I went and did this,” and we were just all trying to make it in that town. So we’d get together and have fun. 

BLADE: I was so terribly sorry to hear about Beckett (Etheridge’s son, who died in 2020 at age 21 after struggling with opioid addiction). How are you and the rest of the family, especially (Beckett’s twin) Bailey, dealing with it now?

ETHERIDGE: There are many, many families like us that deal with a loss like that. It just blows a family sideways. But we have a deep love and connection, all of us. We all knew he had a problem and it’s a problem that starts way before he actually passes, so it was not a surprise. So now we’re just living with the missing aspect. You try not to think about what could have been and you try to think about him in a happier place and that he’s out of pain, so that helps us.

BLADE: Had he and Bailey been as close in recent years?

ETHERIDGE: They were very close, but in the last couple of years as he made worse and worse choices, we couldn’t support that, so they were less close, but of course in her heart, it was her brother, he was very dear to her. 

BLADE: Did you watch the Grammys?  Was there anybody you were particularly rooting for?

ETHERIDGE: I watched bits and pieces of it. I had a show that night, so I didn’t get to see the main thing, but I have seen pieces and I just love the crazy diversity and you know, the TikTok people winning stuff, it’s like, “Wow, this is so not the Grammys I remember from the ’80s,” but that was what, 30 years ago? So it’s all good.

BLADE: You were such a perennial favorite back in the day in the best rock female category. Were you pissed when they eliminated it? 

ETHERIDGE: It’s sad because I felt like the criteria they were using to judge what is female rock, they just really dropped the ball. I still think there are some amazing musicians that could be considered, you know, rock, but it feels like we’re having a hard time even defining what rock and roll is now anyway. There’s a whole bunch of strong women out there playing, rocking, you know, playing guitar, being excellent musicians and songwriters. If you can’t call it best rock female, OK, call it something else. 

BLADE: I remember so vividly when you were on the Grammys in 2005, in the midst of chemo, when you sang “Piece of My Heart.” I remember you saying you were wondering how people would react to seeing you bald. Having been through that, any thoughts on the Will/Jada Oscars situation since her baldness, too, was due to a medical condition? 

ETHERIDGE: You know, it’s funny, I did feel a little remembrance of (thinking), “I just hope people don’t make fun of me.” That was kind of the first thing because to go out there bald, that was so different for me as an artist whose hair had kind of defined her. I was thinking, “How am I gonna rock without my hair?” I thought people might make fun of me, but I got over that. I just thought, “Well, if somebody makes fun of me, that just makes them look bad.” So I just walked through it. And you know, it’s hard to draw the line between what’s funny and what’s painful and how to look at something. I feel for all parties involved. 

BLADE: When you go on these cruises, do fans give you some space or do they swarm around the minute you walk out? Is it even enjoyable for you? 

ETHERIDGE: Yeah, it is. You know, we did our last one, now we’re doing Etheridge Island, we now have a destination in Mexico, outside of Cancun, it’s just this island that we’re going to that is really fantastic. But I do I make myself available, I don’t run away. When I have to be somewhere, I have a great company we work with called Sixthman that knows how to get me from point A to point B without being bogged down. But I do my make myself available. Everyone gets a picture with me. It’s my work, but I love it. I try to make myself available but also have some time just for myself too.

Melissa Etheridge says slowing down wasn’t an option for her when the pandemic hit. She’s glad to be back on the road now, she says. (Photo by Elizabeth Miranda; courtesy Primary Wave)

BLADE: You Tweeted a few nights ago about having a tight curfew of just 90 minutes at a casino but then it worked out and you got to do a full set. Why are the curfews so tight at casinos?  

ETHERIDGE: Why do you think? They want people at the tables. Like for tonight, we we settled on 100 minutes. They’re giving me 10 extra minutes. I don’t like it, but in some areas, the only really good venue is a casino, so if you want to reach your folks there, you kind of have to meet them half way. 

BLADE: Yeah, but it seems like in concert halls, the curfews can sometimes be really tight too. Even Madonna got her lights shut off a couple years ago. Of course, she’s notoriously late, but why are they so strict with these things nowadays? 

ETHERIDGE: There are all different situations — concert halls often have union crews that will absolutely shut you down if you go one second over. There are also sound curfews, noise curfews, mostly with outdoor venues, but sometimes indoor as well. They have an agreement with the neighborhood. So you have people in the neighborhood standing by with their phones ready to pounce the minute it goes over one minute, they’re gonna call the police. As a performer, you just realize, “OK, it’s not just about me.” When I don’t have a curfew, I usually land at about two hours and some change. That seems comfortable to everyone. Any longer and I think I’m wearing my audience out. When I’m at a place with a shorter show, I just do my best. 

BLADE: I know you’re a big Chiefs fan. Did you watch that game back in January all the way to the end? 

ETHERIDGE: Well, at the end of it, I was on the floor. My wife was like, “Honey, honey, there’s still 13 seconds,” and I was moaning and sort of getting my feet on the floor and, you know, laying down and throwing a fit. And she’s like, “No, there’s still 13 seconds.” I dragged myself back to the television. And I couldn’t believe it. I was like, “Wait a minute. Did we just win?” You know, just really crazy, really crazy stuff. … When you’re a fan like that, it’s a ride you can’t fully explain.

BLADE: Are you in a cordial or good place with your exes? Does it get easier when the kids are starting to grow up?

ETHERIDGE: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. And you realize that it’s best for the kids if you can really get along and that any sort of conflict that can’t get resolved, that gets emotional, does no good for anyone. And absolutely, I have, I’ve gotten better at that as the years have gone by.

BLADE: Do you have the slightest inkling yet what the next studio album might be like?

ETHERIDGE: Well, I’ve got some interesting projects that I’m not ready to talk about just yet. But they have to do with my life story. There’s a lot of digging up of my past and really telling the story. So I imagine the next series of music you’ll get from me is going to be very focused on my journey. 

Melissa Etheridge, gay news, Washington Blade
Melissa Etheridge (Photo by Elizabeth Miranda; courtesy Primary Wave)
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New Cranes sommelier brings spirit to wine and sake program

Stewart-Woodruff curates eclectic list for Michelin-starred restaurant

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‘I bring my whole self to work,’ says Eric Stewart-Woodruff. (Photo by Rey Lopez)

Outfitted in a blue damask dinner jacket with satin lapels and an energetic smile, Eric Stewart-Woodruff carves an impressive figure when chatting about his favorite vintages. Stewart-Woodruff, who’s gay, is the new sommelier at Michelin-starred Cranes in Penn Quarter.

Stewart-Woodruff curates an eclectic wine – and sake – program focusing on pairings with celebrated Chef Pepe Moncayo’s innovative, global flavors. Cranes, which explores intersections of Spanish and Japanese cuisine, opened just before the pandemic, and received a coveted Michelin star in 2021.

Stewart-Woodruff did not start off in the wine industry. In fact, he does not have any formal training in wine. Instead, after a career as a professional photographer, he pivoted to the restaurant industry, where he developed his love of wine. While working for a distributor, he connected with D.C.’s own District Winery. This opportunity allowed him to express his truest self, as a lead tour guide, wine ambassador and sommelier. He credits his identity and personality as his reason for thriving.

“I bring my whole self to work,” he says, “offering a level of humanity and approachability.” 

After the pandemic temporarily shuttered District Winery, Stewart-Woodruff found himself interviewing at Cranes, enamored with Moncayo’s “creative vision,” he says – and was sold. He began in late summer of 2021.

Through his work in hospitality, Stewart-Woodruff notes that the industry can be hetero-male dominated. He has been able to break through by not holding back on his identity.

“I tend to play with expectations of what a sommelier may look or act like,” he says. “I move away from what one may stereotypically look like, but still present like one.”

For him, that means talking about wine and wine education “as if it were gossip,” he says. “I like to view wine like we are at brunch. Wine has personality, it’s performative, and it has stereotypes.” He is seeking to break molds of specific likes and dislikes, exploring the depth that wine has to offer, in the context of the Spanish-Japanese Cranes menu. In fact, he says, Moncayo is supportive of his innovative, certification-less angle. “I become more relatable,” he says.

He also presents original events. He paired with local guest sommelier Andrew Stover (also a gay man) on Tuesday, March 29 for a springtime showcase of specialty rosé wines paired with Moncayo’s dishes. The duo poured tastes of specialty, small-batch wines from Brazil, Italy, Spain, Uruguay, and Maryland.

Leaning into the innovative spirit, the wine-by-glass list is not split by color. Instead, it is divided into evocative categories. For example, both a chardonnay and a pinot noir fall into the “Elegant, round, and mellow” category.

As a Spanish-Japanese restaurant, Cranes not only possesses an extensive wine cellar, but has consistently expanded its sake program. Sakes by the glass are split into the same exact categories. The very same “Elegant, round, and mellow” list includes Ginjo Nama Genshu and junmai daiginjo.

Stewart-Woodruff explains that wine and sake should be attended to similarly. “Sake is something you can think about like a beer in terms of production but treat like a wine,” he says. Sake is a fermented polished-rice beverage, dating back more than two millennia in Japan.

“Sake has aromatics, texture, body, and finish.” He takes pride in discussing customers’ palate preferences, and turning them onto a specific sake, for their qualities of earthiness, acidity, or others.

“Many people don’t experience sake outside of college or bars. Now, I can be a sommelier for sake, and for the marriage of Eastern and Western cuisine and beverage.” He expresses excitement at being innovative in his sake beverage pairings, occupying a niche space. When discussing both wine and sake, he aims to bring an artistic flair and tour-guide enthusiasm to the table.

Woodruff credits his identity and background for his success. He aims to bring a level of humanity and approachability to what has been a formal, stuffy area. He has high ambitions to portray sake as sophisticated as wine in the customer’s mind, “but it pairs well with Moncayo’s conceptually ambitious menu,” he says.

“Wine and sake are as eclectic as humanity. I want people to accept experiencing wine like the world has accepted me.”

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Legalization trend continues as Nat’l Cannabis Festival kicks off

D.C.’s 420 Week runs April 16-24

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National Cannabis Festival (Photo by Doug Van Sant; courtesy NCF)

The sixth annual National Cannabis Festival kicks off in D.C. on April 16 as the nation continues to see advances in legalizing cannabis, particularly for medical uses. 

Just this week, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed HB 933 and SB 671, to provide numerous operational improvements to the state’s medical cannabis program, including eliminating the requirement that patients register with the Board of Pharmacy after receiving their written certification from a registered practitioner. 

“These legislative improvements will bring great relief to the thousands of Virginians waiting to access the medical cannabis program,” said JM Pedini, NORML’s Development Director and the Executive Director of Virginia NORML. “We hear from dozens of Virginians each week who are struggling with the registration process and frustrated by the 60-day wait to receive their approval from the Board of Pharmacy,” Pedini added.

There are more than 47,000 program registrants, with an estimated 8,000 applicants still awaiting approval. 

The new laws will take effect July 1. Until that time, patients will still be required to register with the Board of Pharmacy in order to shop at one of the state’s ten operational dispensaries. After July 1, patients who would like to receive a physical card will still have the option to request one by registering with the Board of Pharmacy.

The changes in Virginia law reflect growing support nationwide for reforming marijuana laws. Most Americans favor the enactment of a broad array of legal reforms specific to marijuana policy, according to new nationwide polling data provided by YouGov.com.

Specifically, six-in-10 Americans say that “marijuana should be made legal in the United States.” Majorities of Democrats (72 percent) and independents (60 percent) back legalization, while most Republicans (46 percent) do not.

Last week, members of the United States House of Representatives voted 220 to 204 in favor of The MORE Act, which removes marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act thereby allowing states to legalize cannabis markets free from federal interference. Most Democrats (217) voted for the bill while all but three Republicans voted against it.

A majority of Americans also support amending federal law so that banks and other financial institutions can explicitly partner with state-licensed marijuana businesses. Support for the policy change is strongest among Democrats (66 percent) and weakest among Republicans (38 percent).

Under existing federal law, financial institutions are discouraged from partnering with state-licensed cannabis businesses. According to the most recent financial information provided by the US Treasury Department, only about ten percent of all banks and only about four percent of all credit unions provide services to licensed cannabis-related businesses.

House members have voted on six separate occasions to pass federal legislation (The SAFE Banking Act) to reform this policy, but Senators have never taken any action to advance it in the Upper Chamber. Most recently, House members voted in February to include SAFE Banking provisions in HR 4521: the America COMPETES Act. Senators failed to include similar language in their version of the bill. (Courtesy NORML)

420 Week arrives in D.C.

D.C. is gearing up for a blazing 420 Week, featuring several days of exciting panels, art and community-building events and parties culminating in the National Cannabis Festival on April 23, featuring Wiz Khalifa, Lettuce, Ghostface Killah, Backyard Band, DuPont Brass, Shamans of Sound, Cramer, and more. 

This year, the sixth annual National Cannabis Festival, which celebrates progress on cannabis legalization, is expanding to a full weekend of epic cannabis-related events, including the National Cannabis Policy Summit April 22 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center and the National Cannabis Championship, presented by Gentleman Toker and slated for April 24 at Echostage with Slick Rick. The weekend is the capstone of 420 Week, hosted by the National Cannabis Festival organizers in partnership with the Eaton Hotel and DC Brau. The week kicks off on Saturday, April 16, with movie screenings, evening parties, a beer launch and more. Read on for the week’s highlights, courtesy of Festival organizers:
 

420 Week

Saturday, April 16 – Sunday, April 24 

Eaton Hotel + DC Brau

From the Hemp and Hops Panel and launch of NCF Legalize It! Lager at DC Brau (3178-B Bladensburg Rd. NE) on April 16 to the 4/20 Kickback Party featuring Khalifa Kush and panel with artists discussing cannabis’s role in their practice at the Eaton Hotel (1201 K St, NW), 420 Week promises something for everyone with an interest in cannabis culture. Take a tour with Luckie Chucky tours, participate in a “Plantwave Soundbath” and more. Nearly all events are free; RSVP required. Visit nationalcannabisfestival.com for details. 
 

National Cannabis Policy Summit

Friday, April 22, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center

1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Join a who’s who of activists, industry pioneers, government leaders, journalists and more for an electric and illuminating day looking at the era’s most pressing cannabis policy challenges and opportunities. U.S. Senate candidate and Civil Rights activist Gary Chambers; Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform; Portland Cannabis Program Manager Dasheeda Dawson; Aamra Ahmad, senior policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union and many others will be on hand to discuss environmental impacts of cannabis cultivation, banking legislation, decriminalization and more. Afterward, stay for a reception sponsored by Weedmaps. All events are free; registration is strongly recommended. Visit nationalcannabisfestival.com/ncf-policy-summit for details. 
      

National Cannabis Festival

Saturday, April 23, 12 p.m. 

RFK Festival Grounds

2400 East Capitol St., NE, Lot 8

 The highlight of 420 Week events is the East Coast’s largest ticketed cannabis gathering, which returns to Washington’s RFK Campus with performances from Wiz Khalifa Lettuce, Ghostface Killah and many others. Also on tap: a wide range of exhibitors, five pavilions on topics from wellness to agriculture to education, and a brand-new culinary pavilion featuring top chefs from Maydan, Maketto, Moon Rabbit, as well as the Munchies Zone, with 75 of the region’s most popular food trucks including Peruvian Brothers, Jerk at Nite, Reba’s Funnel Cakes and more. (Note: No THC infused foods are permitted to be sold or sampled at NCF; festival-goers must be 21 and up.) Tickets range from $75-$375 for one or two-day admission to the festival and National Cannabis Championship. Visit nationalcannabisfestival.com/tickets
 

National Cannabis Championship Presented by Gentleman Toker

Sunday, April 24, 12 p.m.

2135 Queens Chapel Rd., NE

Slick Rick and DJ Footwerk are giving festival-goers a sendoff to remember on the final day of 420 Week and the festival weekend, at the National Cannabis Championship at Echostage, new this year. Presented by Gentleman Toker, this awards show and bash celebrates the incredible cannabis cultivation taking place in the Washington area and across the Mid-Atlantic. Expect exhibitors, comedy, munchies, drinks and a chance to chill with some of the biggest names and brands in cannabis cultivation. Tickets are $55. Visit nationalcannabisfestival.com/tickets.

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