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Character actor Leslie Jordan on his pony obsession, TV hits and misses and his dream threesome

‘Will & Grace’ actor returns to D.C. for Pride-week standup show June 5

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Leslie Jordan, gay news, Washington Blade
Leslie Jordan says his current stand-up show ‘EXPOSED’ is his best one yet. (Photo courtesy Jordan)

Washington Blade presents:

Leslie Jordan EXPOSED

Wednesday, June 5

7 (sold out) and 9 p.m.

Union Stage

740 Washington St., S.W.

$45 ($60 with meet and greet)

unionstage.com

Actor/comedian Leslie Jordan returns to Washington for another Blade-sponsored stand-up show Wednesday, June 5. The “Sordid Lives”/“Will & Grace” Southern sissy spoke by phone two weeks ago from his Los Angeles home. 

He doesn’t wait for a question — just starts things off with some bad news. 

LESLIE JORDAN: I got this television series, which by the way, got canceled today.

WASHINGTON BLADE: Ohhhh

JORDAN: I’m gutted

BLADE: I’m so sorry.

JORDAN: I don’t care so much except the money was so good. I really liked that. I’m sure other things will come along, but it’s a political move. Twentieth Century Fox was bought by Disney and this new guy came in and it was really weird, he picked up only really dramas. And guess what’s going on in our place? (“WWE) SmackDown,” that wrestling show. 

BLADE: How did you hear?

JORDAN: (Series creator) Charlie (Day) called me, who’s just so adorable. He did “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” he created the series and wrote it. First he sent me an e-mail and said, “Be ready because it’s probably going to happen.” Then he called us each personally which I thought was very sweet. … I don’t know, there’s a chance it could be picked up by another network so you just roll with the flow.

BLADE: How did you like working with (“Cool Kids” co-star) Vicki (Lawrence)? 

JORDAN: We glommed on to one another from the moment we met. We’d met at the airport before in Puerto Vallarta and she said, “Oh, I remember,” and I thought, “She doesn’t remember me.” (Laughs) She was my best friend and is my best friend still. She’s more upset about it than I am, I think. But yeah, we got along so well. She’s exactly like you think she would be. It was so interesting on that show because all four of us (Jordan and Lawrence co-starred with David Alan Grier and Martin Mull) had such history in the industry. … It was kind of a companion piece to Tim Allen’s show (“Last Man Standing”) and I always forget, he’s just rabidly Republican so it’s a very conservative audience and we followed them with all kinds of shenanigans. We had gay people, gay people kissing.

BLADE: How did you feel it was going?

JORDAN: Well I knew there were some problems with the direction only because the network was there so much and I kind of thought at first well, maybe it’s because it’s a new show but oh my god, we would have rewrites right up until and even in front of our audience. But they did that on “Will & Grace” too, so I didn’t think that much about it. But then I think Charlie Collier, who’s the new person at Fox, he wanted to put his own stamp on things, so there’s that. I don’t think we did anything bad or wrong.

BLADE: How long is it usually in sitcoms from the night you tape until it airs?

JORDAN: The rule of thumb is you want about five in the can but we didn’t shoot in the same order they aired. We try to stay about five ahead so you can gauge the audience reaction. It’s a really interesting process for me, ‘cause I’ve been on other shows from the beginning but not where I was one of the lead lead leads.

BLADE: Do you prefer sitcoms to single camera?

JORDAN: My schedule on “Cool Kids” was the easiest schedule I ever have. You know, on “American Horror Story,” we did like 14-hour days. And we’d have big stars like Lady Gaga who could only give us one day so we had to get all her stuff in. That’s the difference between multi-cam, which was “The Cool Kids.” We’d be out in the woods in Malibu trying to make it look like it was Virginia. I don’t know how those people like (“American Horror Story” mainstay) Sarah Paulson do it. She’s such a trooper. She’s been doing it for years, all these 14-hour days. I don’t know how they do it.

BLADE: What do you do when you have downtime between shots?

JORDAN: I’m a big napper, which is funny because I don’t nap at home. Or I like to watch. I don’t mind sitting there on the set watching the other actors. I’d rather do that than sit in my trailer. I know people who watch TV, read a book. I read, but mostly on my way to work. And of course I’m a big yapper. Sometimes I have to go to my trailer because I just talk until I’m exhausted.

BLADE: Have you ever seen one of those big reclining boards they have on sets?

JORDAN: The only time I’ve ever seen that was on “The Help,” of all places. I haven’t done many costume dramas but on “The Help,” they had Jessica Chastain, who was kind of unknown then, I mean she’d done a couple movies, but she wasn’t anything like she is now, they had her in this gorgeous dress and she requested that. She couldn’t sit down so they just hung her up there like a bat. But yeah, it’s like a board where you have to put your arms up. I said, “You look so pretty hanging there.” She said, “I don’t want to wrinkle my dress.” I said, “God, you’re a trooper.” I’d wrinkle that dress, I couldn’t care less. Make ‘em steam it. (laughs)

BLADE: Have you ever spilled something just before a shot?

JORDAN: A hundred times. I’ll tell you what the worst is, you have to go pee real fast and you say, “I’ll be back in two seconds,” then you dribble. Then everybody’s looking and they take a hair dryer out (laughs). But I’m notorious. At lunch break when I’m on these shows, the costumers will come take my clothes off and put me in a T-shirt because I’m just notorious. When I was a little boy, I’d come home and my mom would say, “Oh, spaghetti, green beans …,” she knew everything I’d had because it was all over me.

BLADE: Tell us about your new live show.

JORDAN: I’m so proud of it, I think it’s the best of all my shows. I tell about each of my previous ones and within the journey of telling about all that and how it was when I first got to Hollywood, this wonderful kind of journey comes out about acceptance. I’m really proud of it. The last time I was in D.C. was the weekend of that devastating occurrence at the club in Orlando, you remember that? Oh honey, it was Pride weekend but that Sunday morning I was taken to the White House, they invited me, the Washington gay choir and Ty Herndon was there, because our ex-president and his lovely first lady wanted a gay presence there so I have this wonderful story and I end the show telling about that weekend.

BLADE: You were in our parade three years ago, and threw the first pitch at Night OUT plus your show. How was D.C. for you last time?

JORDAN: It was wonderful. The only thing was I wanted to ride a pony and they thought I was kidding. I showed up in my riding gear. I said, “Where’s the pony,” they said, “Oh we thought you were kidding.” I said, “Does it look like I’m kidding?” So I went to Kinkos and made a little sign that said, “I was promised a pony.” If you look at the pictures, it’s me in the back of a car in a riding outfit. Nobody knew what the fuck was going on.

Leslie Jordan in the 2016 Capital Pride Parade. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

BLADE: Have you done many Pride events?

JORDAN: So many over the years, I love it. I’ve been the grand marshal I can’t even tell you how many times. My favorite was years ago in Nashville, this was like 20 years ago. I said, “Y’all must be brave in Nashville, Tennessee, with all those rednecks,” and they said, “We do have a wonderful parade. It’s nothing like y’all get in L.A. It’s mainly a baton-twirling sissy and two lesbians.” I thought, “Well, that’s all you need for a parade — a baton-twirling sissy and two lesbians.” (laughs)

BLADE: Are you staying for the parade this year?

JORDAN: No, I have to get back to L.A. because I’m hosting an Actors Fund event for Lily Tomlin the night of the Tonys.

BLADE: Last time we talked you said things had dried up after you won your Emmy and that’s what led to your stage show, but lately you’ve been doing a lot of TV. How did you get hot again?

JORDAN: Well I’ve been able to balance the two really, really well. The TV stuff, I have no control over. It truly is just things falling into my lap but I have to be available for it. The year before we did “Cool Kids” (2017) I did 44 venues, which I love because of the immediate response of the audience. But you have to balance it because all the money’s in TV, you just can’t beat the money so that allows me to go on the road and I do really well. … Now to have done a full year on a show, that’s got to help my TV profile. Something’s gotta give here. I’m 64, I’ve been at it a long time. If you can get a series on the air for about four seasons, you’re set. It’s all gravy from there. But they’ve already called me for “Will & Grace” next season, they want to book me again for that. In a way I’ve done everything I really set out to do, so from here on out it’s all just fun. 

BLADE: How many “Will & Grace” episodes have you done since it came back?

JORDAN: Let me see, I’ve done three. One was a Christmas episode where you barely saw me but then I did a hilarious one last season where they named the wall after me because I gave so much money to the Republican party and then Karen wants her name on the wall and we got rolled over to Mexico and put in those cages (laughs). But anyway, it was wonderful. But (co-creator) Max (Mutchnick) had called me and asked if I wanted to come back. I said, “Of course, but you killed me.” He said, “Don’t worry, we’ll figure something out,” so they ended up just kind of dropping that finale because it was just too much going on there. I didn’t do the first one, they were already like five in by the time I was there so they’d had their little reunion, but … Megan Mullally gave me the sweetest compliment. She said, “I never lost Karen Walker, but tonight bantering with you, I believe Karen Walker is truly back.” I thought that was sweet.

BLADE: What do you think of this trend of rebooting so many classic shows? Especially the ones like “Dynasty” or “MacGyver” they do with new casts?

JORDAN: I wonder why with all these platforms now, people aren’t open to new ideas. It’s harder now. My friend Del Shores and I come up with these ideas all the time and go to pitch’ em and they just stare at us. Maybe we’re just too old and it’s just kids running the shows now. Of course, you wanna bring stuff back but it gets a little ridiculous after a while. 

BLADE: What’s something you like and don’t like about the way the industry has evolved in let’s say the last 10 years or so?

JORDAN: I like the way in which gay characters are portrayed, I really like that. It’s been a long journey since I got here in 1982. It was very wink-wink. You’d go out at night to the gay bars and see every producer and casting director in town, then you’d see them on the job and it was very wink-wink, very different than it is today. What I don’t like about the industry today is there seems to be no sense of history. I got so upset the other day because somebody online, a TV critic, called our show “The Cool Kids” a snoozefest and I wanted to write him and say I would love for you to come to 20th Century Fox to stage 17 and see the 80-odd people who come in sometimes at 4 o’clock in the morning to create this snoozefest. The four leads on that show have more combined TV history than you would if you worked the rest of you entire life. It’s so casual and easy to critique and everybody’s a critic now. I wanted to say, “Young man, you need to respect your elders.” (laughs)

BLADE: Last time we talked you were excited about having lost weight. Have you kept it off?

JORDAN: No, I’m fat as a pig. I went over to the equestrian center, I wanted to ride a pony, they have a beautiful pony there, and they said, “No, you’re too fat.” I gained more weight on this “Cool Kids,” but no, I’m gonna try to get it off. But I’m not trim at all. I’m as big as Dallas and half of Fort Worth. 

BLADE: What happened?

JORDAN: The catering on “The Cool Kids” was ridiculous. They’d come to me and say, “Leslie, there’s this little Asian lady over there cooking rice balls,” and I’d go, “We just had tacos.” It was like being in a food mall. The food was constant, so I’ve got to get that off. I mean I’m not fat, fat. I’ve gained about eight pounds, but on me, I’m like a little beach ball with arms.

BLADE: Who’s your dream threesome?

JORDAN: I think Eddie Redmayne is adorable. Oh, I don’t know, I’m so old I don’t even think about that anymore (laughs). My biggest crush has always been Mark Harmon. I’ve known him 20-30 years and he just gets better and better looking. Same with George Clooney. I did a series with George a hundred years ago. So that’s a funny threeway — Mark Harmon, Leslie Jordan and George Clooney.

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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

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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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