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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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a&e features

Meet the LGBTQ leaders behind D.C. statehood fight

‘We’re still second class — it’s just so unfair’

Published

on

From left, Bo ShuffBarbara HelmickJohn KlenertMonica Hopkins and Phil Pannell are leaders in the fight for D.C. statehood. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

In the nation’s capital, home to one of the country’s largest LGBTQ populations and where more than half of the citizens identify as people of color, residents have no voting representation in Congress. LGBTQ statehood advocates have been fighting for decades to expand voting rights, autonomy, and representation to Washington’s 700,000-plus residents. 

Philip Pannell moved to the District from New York City in 1975 to work for the D.C. Council. As he made his way through his new home, he said he was immediately struck by the lack of representation. He felt then, and still feels today, like a second-class citizen, he said. 

“For us to be here in the District of Columbia, to be living in what is essentially a colony, is unconscionable,” said Pannell, 70, executive director of the Anacostia Coordinating Council. “We’re still second class. It’s just so unfair.”

LGBTQ statehood advocates Bo Shuff, Barbara Helmick and John Klenert of DC Vote; Monica Hopkins of ACLU; Stasha Rhodes of 51 for 51; and Pannell all have two beliefs in common — a hope statehood will become a reality someday, and that the movement is intertwined with LGBTQ rights and racial justice.  

Residents pay federal and state taxes, serve on juries and register for the draft — but don’t have the same liberties as those who reside in the 50 states. Eleanor Holmes Norton represents the District in Congress but as a non-voting delegate.

Statehood is supported by the Biden administration and by Democratic representatives in the House and Senate. 

Bo Shuff, executive director, DC Vote 

Bo Shuff (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Shuff, who identifies as gay, has long worked on the frontlines of LGBTQ policy, including the fight for marriage equality. He became involved in the statehood movement when working as Mayor Muriel Bowser’s campaign manager. 

Statehood first appeared on the ballot in 2016 when Mayor Bowser called for a districtwide vote on whether the nation’s capital should become a state, Shuff said. Before that, statehood was introduced in Congress but never brought forward and other solutions were considered.

The bill for statehood has passed the House twice and was discussed in the Senate. But Shuff, 48, said legislation moves slowly and he expects statehood to take time.

“It is simply a large hill to climb,” he said. “And if you’re climbing Mount Everest, you don’t always make it on your first try.”

The current system where Congress oversees the District, which has no voting representation on the federal level, is “textbook racism,” he said. 

“You have a majority white body, the United States Congress, making decisions and passing all of the laws that impact a majority Black community,” he said. 

Other voting rights bills, like the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the For the People Act, are essential, and statehood should be considered when crafting legislation on voter suppression, Shuff said. 

Education around these bills across the country, including statehood, is important, he said. Including statehood in this advocacy educates those outside the area that statehood is, at its core, a voting rights issue, Shuff said. 

Philip Pannell, executive director, Anacostia Coordinating Council 

Phil Pannell (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Pannell works in the revitalization of Washington’s neighborhoods east of the river and has led the Anacostia Coordinating Council for 25 years. The organization has accomplished much for Wards 7 and 8, including garnering community support to build the Anacostia Metro stop. 

Currently, Pannell and the council are sponsoring a poetry contest for middle and high school students on why statehood is important to them personally. 

“They understand what the issue of statehood is all about,” he said. “It’s just so encouraging.”

If statehood passes, the District would be home to the highest percentage of people of color in the United States. That in itself makes the movement a racial justice issue, he said. 

“The numbers speak for themselves,” he said. 

Pannell has been arrested at several LGBTQ and statehood protests, including a

statehood rally in 1993 with then-Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly and many others for blocking an intersection near the Capitol.

“Being involved in the statehood movement means just as much to me being involved in the struggle for LGBT rights,” he said. 

Stasha Rhodes, campaign manager, 51 for 51 

Rhodes, who identifies as queer, initially moved to Washington from Louisiana to work in gun violence prevention, but was struck when congressional Republicans sought to roll back measures.

“I was a little confused about how Republicans would be able to do that, considering they were local laws, and learned what lack of statehood meant for residents of D.C.,” she said. 

Now, as the campaign manager for 51 for 51, an organization advocating for statehood, she said she sees the movement as “the most intersectional work of our time.”

During a time when voting rights bills are being debated at multiple levels of government, statehood should be a priority, Rhodes said. 

“If we truly want to live up to the ideals of our democracy and fight the current wave of voter suppression sweeping across the country, D.C. must be granted statehood and D.C. residents must be given full voting rights,” Rhodes, 34, said. 

Rhodes comes from a family of advocates stretching back generations. Her grandparents, who lived in rural Louisiana, were active in the early days of the civil rights movement. They would help register people to vote and worked as key organizers in the area, she said. 

“I sort of had the bug early,” she said. 

Barbara Helmick, director of programs, DC Vote 

Barbara Helmick (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Helmick, 70, moved to the District in the late ‘70s. Her first brush with shortfalls due to the lack of statehood was when sodomy was decriminalized in 1981 but quickly overturned by Congress. It was not until 1993 when it was legalized. 

“That was a wake-up call — Congress wouldn’t let this jurisdiction, our locally elected officials, deal with that,” Helmick said.

The District’s lack of power and autonomy is inefficient, she said, and restricts the area from easily drafting and applying laws that work best for the community. 

But press coverage of statehood is a hopeful sign, as well, Helmick said. Activity in the House and Senate is also positive, she said. 

“I am extremely optimistic,” Helmick said. 

Monica Hopkins, executive director, ACLU DC 

Monica Hopkins (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Hopkins, who identifies as bisexual, began leading the District’s ACLU chapter seven years ago after running ACLU Idaho. When she moved to Washington, she said she immediately felt a disconnect because of the lack of federal representation. 

“I don’t think that you can live in D.C. and not feel that disconnect of not having a voice,” she said. “It’s very disempowering.”

Hopkins, 48, said statehood is integral for the District for many reasons. More power would be allotted in approving and crafting budgets, and oversight without congressional votes would end, for example. 

The District’s lack of statehood has intersected with LGBTQ equality issues through the years, she said. In the ‘80s, the District attempted to start a needle exchange program to curb high rates of AIDS. In 1998, Congress banned the use of federal funds for needle exchange programs because of fears the program would encourage drug use. Local municipalities could still use their own money to pay for the program — except the District.

The ban was lifted in 2007, but Washington still sees the ramifications of nixing the program today, Hopkins said. 

“We couldn’t, at the time, do what D.C. residents wanted to do with our own taxpayer money,” she said. 

The District also has no control over its own National Guard, which was highlighted during the Jan. 6 riots when Mayor Bowser was unable to call in reinforcements and was forced to wait on approval from the Pentagon. This showed the rest of the country the issues in the District’s governance, Hopkins said. 

“Some of the most devastating sorts of things can happen when we don’t have control over our own state,” she said. 

John Klenert, chair, DC Vote board 

John Klenert (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Klenert, 72, developed his interest in the movement after writing a paper on voting rights in the District and the 14th amendment while at college at the Catholic University of America. He’s been involved on the fringes of the movement since then and joined DC Vote 10 years ago.

His gay identity is “the icing on the cake” in his advocacy for statehood, he said. 

A scholar of constitutional history, Klenert said statehood is essential in upholding democracy in the United States. 

Other solutions to the lack of representation have been attempted, but he believes statehood would be the most successful avenue in expanding protections to District residents. 

“We live here in the District of Columbia, many, many of us are citizens of this country, which means that we belong to a constitutional democracy,” he said. “And yet, we have no say in how this government is run.”

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D.C. summer ablaze with events, concerts, art

A plethora of activity in wake of COVID restrictions loosening up

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After a year of public events being cancelled and residents staying cooped up in their homes due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, the “outside” is finally open and D.C. is effervescing with events. Check out ways to make up for lost time during the remaining months of this year’s summer season:

The Baltimore Museum of Art will open Women Behaving Badly: 400 Years of Power & Protest, an exhibition dedicated to the women who rebelled on Sunday, July 18. The exhibition combines prints, photographs, and books to tell the stories of past heroines and modern trailblazers, celebrating women throughout history who broke rules, transgressed boundaries, and insisted upon recognition of their human rights. For more information, visit the BMA’s website

Tschabalala Self: By My Self is on view at the BMA through Sept. 19, 2021. Explore 13 paintings and two related sculptures curated by Cecilia Wichmann that reveal artist Tschabalala Self’s depth, intricacy, and singularity. The exhibition explores how the compositional process generates meaning in Self’s work, reflecting her theory of selfhood as a consciousness that is at once produced by external images and by an ongoing reworking and evolving of forms into a new whole. Self was born in Harlem, New York, in 1990 and is based in New Haven, Conn. For more information, visit the BMA’s website

The 1455 Summer Festival will begin on Thursday, July 15 at 4 p.m., featuring a stellar lineup of literary leaders and creatives (many of whom are part of the LGBTQ community) who will share their insights into the art of storytelling. The lineup will include literary superstar Brian Broome, author of “Punch Me Up to the Gods,” and Booker-Prize-winning author “Shuggie Bain” and fashion designer Douglas Stuart, among others. Some of the festival’s events include “What Makes a Successful (Queer) Narrative?” a panel that’ll dissect queer storytelling throughout the years. There will also be a teen poetry contest with a $5,000 grand prize. For more information, visit the festival’s website.

The National Museum of Asian Art will open Hokusai: Mad about Painting on Saturday, Aug. 28. The exhibition will feature work by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) best known for his iconic woodblock print, “The Great Wave Off the Coast of Kanagawa” and a breathtaking painting titled “Breaking Waves” that was created 15 years after Great Wave at the height of Hokusai’s career. Drawing on the museum’s impressive Hokusai collection, visitors have the opportunity to see a new presentation, with artworks being added throughout the summer. In addition to Breaking Waves, the exhibition includes works large and small, from folding screens and hanging scrolls to paintings and drawings. For more information, visit the NMAA’s website.

Awesome Con will be from Friday, Aug. 20 to Sunday, Aug. 22. The event is D.C.’s own Comic Con, a celebration of geek culture, bringing more than 70,000 fans together with their favorite stars from across comics, movies, television, toys, games, and more. Awesome Con is home to Science Fair, Book Fair, Awesome Con Jr, Pride Alley, a celebration of queer creators and fans curated by GeeksOUT, and Destination Cosplay. For more information, visit awesomecon.com. 

A scene from 2019’s Awesome Con. This year’s event is slated for the weekend of Aug. 20. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Maryland Renaissance Festival will begin on Saturday, Aug. 28 and runs Saturdays and Sundays and Labor Day Monday through Sunday, Oct. 24 for nine weekends of thrills, feasting, handmade crafts, entertainment and merriment in Crownsville, near Annapolis, Md. The 27-acre Village of Revel Grove comes to life each autumn with more than 200 professional performers on 10 stages, a 3,000 seat arena with armored jousting on magnificent steeds and streets filled with village characters. For more information, visit rennfest.com. 

The National Museum of Women in the Arts will be open for special evening hours from Thursday, Aug. 5 to Friday, Aug. 6 from 5-8 p.m. The featured exhibitions are Mary Ellen Mark: Girlhood, which presents images photographer Mary Ellen Mark made throughout her career depicting girls and young women, and Selections from the Collection, which highlights historical and contemporary art by women around the world. Free timed tickets are required so that the museum can ensure the safety of patrons and their staff. Visit their website for more information. 

The 13th Annual Ukefest will begin on Friday, Aug. 13. Celebrating a decade dedicated to this small but mighty music maker, UkeFest Artistic Directors Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer return alongside extraordinary instructors like Peter Luongo, Kevin Carroll, Ginger Johnson and more. The program orientation will kick off on Friday night, followed by four days of classes and evening events. For those looking for more intensive skill development, Strathmore’s UkeFest is the only program of its kind that offers an advanced track. Admission is $225 and more information is available at Strathmore.org.

The Drive-In at Union Market will start at 7:30 p.m. every first Friday of the month through October. While watching films under the stars, enjoy dozens of local, regional, and international foods: Egyptian favorites by Fava Pot, night market noodles from Som Tam, ice cream locally churned by The Creamery, tasty takeout burgers from Lucky Buns and more. Movie audio will be transmitted through an FM transmitter on the radio and through speakers placed on Neal Place. All movies are shown with open captioning, and the movie plays rain or shine. Each showing costs $20 per car. For more information, visit unionmarketdc.com. 

Unwind with an hour-long vinyasa outdoor yoga session taught by District Flow Yoga every Tuesday and Thursday on District Pier and every Sunday morning on Recreation Pier at The Wharf. Enjoy waterfront views and fresh air as you shed the stress of the day or greet the new one. The outdoor yoga class on Sunday, July 25 is hosted on Recreation Pier from 9-10 a.m. and costs $10. Tickets must be purchased on Eventbrite. For more information, visit wharfdc.com. 

FUTURES, the first building-wide exploration of the future on the National Mall, will open in the late summer and run through summer 2022. This exhibition is your guide to a vast array of interactives, artworks, technologies, and ideas that are glimpses into humanity’s next chapter. Smell a molecule. Clean your clothes in a wetland. Meditate with an AI robot. Travel through space and time. Watch water being harvested from the air. Become an emoji. The FUTURES is yours to decide, debate, delight. Patrons are encouraged to dream big, and imagine not just one future, but many possible futures on the horizon—playful, sustainable, inclusive. Visit the Arts and Industries Building’s website for more information. 

The National Portrait Gallery will open “Hung Liu: Portraits of Promised Lands” on Friday, Aug. 27. Hung Liu (b. 1948) is a contemporary Chinese American artist, whose multilayered paintings have established new frameworks for understanding portraiture in relation to time, memory, and history. Often sourcing her subjects from photographs, Liu elevates overlooked individuals by amplifying the stories of those who have historically been invisible or unheard. More information is available at the gallery’s website.

 After a long COVID drought, music is back! The 9:30 Club has a schedule of shows starting in September, notably the return of the Bob Mould Band on Sept. 18 at 6 p.m. (tickets are $25 and still available). Tinashe performs her “333Tour” on Oct. 3 (tickets on sale July 16). Visit 930.com for the full schedule and hurry, because many shows are already selling out. 

Bob Mould, gay news, Washington Blade
The Bob Mould Band plays 9:30 Club on Sept. 18.

Meanwhile, at I.M.P.’s Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, more shows are headed our way, including James Taylor and his All-Star Band on Aug. 10. Wilco and Sleater-Kinney perform Aug. 20. For more throwback fixes, New Kids on the Block are slated for Aug. 4 and Alanis Morissette with Garbage and Liz Phair play on Aug. 31. Visit merriweathermusic.com for the full lineup. 

Wolf Trap has a full schedule of events planned this summer as well. Highlights include Renee Fleming on Aug. 6, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts on Aug. 12, and ABBA the Concert on Aug. 15. Visit wolftrap.org for the full schedule.

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Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington celebrates 40th anniversary with virtual concert, retrospective

Veteran choir soldiers undeterred through pandemic with Zoom rehearsals

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Members of the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington gather in front of the Supreme Court on Sept. 3, 2013. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

GMCW Turns 40
Streaming begins Saturday, June 5 at 7 p.m.
Available through June 20
Tickets: $25
gmcw.org

Discussion of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington quickly becomes emotional for its members both veteran and newbie(-ish). They’re the kind of strong feelings that only exist when one has sacrificed and invested in something.

“It’s an experience that touches our soul in a way that not that many LGBTQ+ people get to experience,” says tenor Javon Morris-Byam, a gay 28-year-old music teacher who joined three years ago. “We have music tying us together and in the end, we make a product that we can share with the public and that’s a humbling experience.”

Steve Herman, 79, is a founding member, though he doesn’t sing. One of a group of “non-singing members,” he joined in June 1981 and has helped over the decades painting scenery, designing ads, serving on the board and more. His partner at the time had joined the chorus as a singer.

A Gay Men’s Chorus performance in 1983. (Washington Blade archive photo by Leigh Mosley)

Now retired after 47 years in the federal government, he says the Chorus “has been a major centerpiece of my life.”

“This may sound corny, but I couldn’t imagine my life without the chorus,” Herman says.

The chorus is celebrating its 40th anniversary this weekend with a streaming concert simply dubbed “GMCW turns 40” that can be streamed starting Saturday, June 5 at 7 p.m. and can be viewed until June 20.

Selections will include “From Now On” (from “The Greatest Showman”), “Rise Up,” “Make Them Hear You” (from “Ragtime”), “Truly Brave” and a new song called “Harmony’s Never Too Late!” written for the occasion by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, composers of “Ragtime.” Video clips of past performances will also be included in a montage. Tickets are $25 at gmcw.org.

Thea Kano, the Chorus’s artistic director since 2014 (she was associate director for a decade prior), says “Make Them Hear You” has “kind of become our anthem over the last 10 years,” so contacting its composers for a commission made sense. They premiered it last summer virtually at the Chorus’s Summer Soiree, a COVID-induced postponement of its usual Spring Affair.

Thea Kano, center, joins members of the Chorus at the United States Supreme Court on the day of the Obergefell v. Hodges marriage equality decision in June of 2015.(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Kano, a straight ally, directs the Chorus with aid from Associate Conductor C. Paul Heins, Assistant Conductor Joshua Sommerville and accompanist Teddy Guerrant. Justin Fyala has been the Chorus’s executive director since 2016. Staff also includes Craig Cipollini (director of marketing), Kirk Sobell (director of patron services) and Alex Tang (accompanist).

Under the main Chorus umbrella are five ensembles: 17th Street Dance, a 14-member performance troupe started in 2016; Rock Creek Singers, a 32-voice chamber ensemble; GenOUT Youth Chorus, a teen choir of about 25; Potomac Fever, a 14-member harmony pop ensemble; and Seasons of Love, a 24-voice gospel choir.

GenOUT Youth Chorus. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Musically, the Chorus’s repertoire is eclectic.

“(We sing) everything from spiritual to glam rock to punk to traditional classical, and everything in between,” Morris-Byam says. “I love when the chorus is all together and able to produce a big powerful sound.”

Kano says working with Fyala is “a dream” and says under his leadership the Chorus is “in a very healthy financial place, which is wonderful and a very humble thing to be able to say right now particularly given that we’re in a pandemic — that’s not the case with a lot of arts organizations.”

The D.C. Chorus is a quasi-unofficial spin off of its San Francisco counterpart. During an early ’80s national tour, the San Francisco group performed at Washington’s Kennedy Center and had a profound effect on local audiences. Marsha Pearson, a straight woman who lived in Dupont Circle at the time and enjoyed hanging out with gay men, was one such person.

“I couldn’t believe we didn’t have one of these,” she told the Blade 10 years ago for a story on the Chorus’s 30th anniversary. “I thought, ‘We’re the nation’s capital, how come we don’t have this?’”

The Chorus performs at the popular gay nightclub Tracks in 1984. (Washington Blade photo by Doug Hinckle)

She hand wrote fliers — four to a sheet — had her sister photocopy them at her office, cut them up by hand and passed them out at Capital Pride in 1981. Accounts vary about how many showed up to the first practice at the long-defunct gay community center (no connection to the D.C. Center) on Church Street. Pearson remembers about 30. Others say it was more like 15-ish. It was June 28, 1981 and, by all accounts, an innocuous beginning.

Pearson never sang with the group — it was exclusively a men’s chorus. She asked if anybody had any conducting experience. The late Jim Richardson did and became the first director.

“I still remember the first chord,” Pearson told the Blade in 2011. “It was just a simple thing, you know, like do, mi, so, do, but I just got goosebumps. I was just elated that even one note came out, I was so excited. I got those same goosebumps at the anniversary concert last weekend. I put their CDs on and I get the same thing, especially on certain things they sing. You just can’t believe it sounds so great.”

Click here for more about the history of the group. A bio/history is also available at gmcw.org.

COVID has, of course, wreaked havoc on the operation. Thankfully, Kano says, no members have died from it, though a handful (she says fewer than 10 that she knows of), including Kano, have had it and recovered.

The Chorus continued its Sunday evening rehearsals via Zoom, which, because of the precision required for musical performance, was tougher to take online than, say, a business meeting. It never occurred to the Chorus leadership to take a hiatus.

“I look back now like, ‘Why didn’t we take some time off,’ but I think off the top of my head at the time it was like, “We sing and we’re a social justice organization and community is such a big part of who we are,’” Kano says. “And so for suddenly, with no notice, to have something that we love so much and are so passionate about …. to suddenly just turn the lights off, that wasn’t even an option.”

A GMCW rehearsal in 2007. (Washington Blade file photo by Henry Linser)

With the Chorus and dancers and GenOUT, there are about 200 current volunteer performers. It’s been slightly higher at times. Some were deterred by the thought of rehearsing via Zoom although some former members no longer in the D.C. area — even a few overseas — rejoined when virtual participation became possible.

The murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement last summer and beyond was a galvanizing event. The Chorus responded with its “Let Freedom Sing” concert, which Kano says celebrated the intersection of Black and LGBTQ people.

Featured soloists perform in ‘Let Freedom Sing.’ (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“It was our way of saying we raise our voice in solidarity with those facing injustice,” Kano says.

But does that get messy at times? Surely not everyone in a choir of this size is on the same page politically, even in a progressive city like D.C., right?

As a nonprofit, the Chorus avoids anything ostensibly political. Kano says the issue did arise when they were invited to sing at a Virginia-based gun-reform event last year. They participated, but carefully.

“So anytime you mentioned guns, it becomes political,” Kano says. “It’s not about whether or not we support the Second Amendment. It’s us standing in solidarity with those who have been victims of gun violence.”

Kano says there’s “a very good chance had this been a non-pandemic year,” they would have been invited to sing at the Biden-Harris inauguration, which she says they “absolutely” would have agreed to.

“We did wonder, though, a few years ago what we would have said if 45 were to ask us,” she says. “We didn’t spend a lot of time on it because we knew that wasn’t gonna happen,” she says with a chuckle.

The holiday shows for the Chorus often involve elaborate costumes, as in this scene in 2017. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Herman says performing at big, pro-LGBTQ “statement”-type events is woven into the Chorus’s history and is understood.

“Every Christmas Eve, we’d sing for the patients at NIH,” he says. “We still do, only then it was primarily AIDS patients. We sang special concerts when the (AIDS) Quilt was first displayed and when there was a March on Washington. We did a lot of community work and outreach at a time when it was really needed.”

Morris-Byam says even today, with so much progress having been made, the Chorus still is needed. He, by the way, calls Kano “one of the most brilliant musicians I’ve ever met.”

“I believe the Chorus is a strong political statement in itself,” he says. “When we’re making a strong, joyful noise, it’s celebrating everything we are, what we can be, and everyone who has gotten us where we are.

The Chorus celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in a performance at Lincoln Theatre in 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

There have been challenges over the years — finding new office space, patching together individual vocal parts for virtual performances — but no warring factions. Kano is, by most accounts, extremely well liked.

The future, Kano says, is bright. She hopes to resume in-person rehearsals in the fall. She spent a big chunk of early lockdown transcribing a Puccini “Gloria Mass” for tenor/bass chorus. She plans to program it with works by Cole Porter eventually.

Ultimately, Kano says, her goals for the Chorus are about making great art.

“Art comes first,” she says. “Because that’s how we deliver our mission. And if we put great art first, it’s going to attract great people. It’s going to both as members and as audience members and patrons, and therefore it’s going to attract great funding, and then all that goes right back into the arts we can further our expansion and our ability to get the mission out.”

Craig Cipollini leads the ‘Grease’ dance auditions in 2010. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)
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