Connect with us

a&e features

Labor Day weekend in Rehoboth — checking in with Diego’s, Sundance

Gay dance club/bar blossoms in second season with major DJs, capacity crowds



Joe Ciarlante-Zuber, gay news, Washington Blade
Joe Ciarlante-Zuber (right) with his husband and business partner Darryl Ciarlante-Zuber. (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

Vodka. Lots and lots of vodka. Mostly Tito’s.

That’s pretty much what everybody drinks at Diego’s Bar & Nightclub (37298 Rehoboth Ave.) in Rehoboth Beach, Del., which is just about wrapping its second season in business.

“It’s a gay bar, so it’s like vodka all the time,” says bartender Chad States. 

Doesn’t anybody order scotch, bourbon or whiskey? Or the wine on tap Diego’s owners touted upon opening last year?

“Not much scotch, a little bit of bourbon and whiskey, but I would say 80 percent is vodka,” States states. “The wine is not that popular. It’s just not a big wine-drinking place. Beer drinkers? Ehhh, maybe 10 percent. Depends what night it is.”

States worked before at the Double L Bar, the leather bar that occupied Diego’s building before Joe Ciarlante-Zuber and Darryl Ciarlante-Zuber (husbands and business partners) opened Diego’s in May 2018. They owned and ran Dos Locos for 17 of its 26 years in downtown Rehoboth but took some time off and were ready for a new venture. 

States lives in Philadelphia and teaches photography most of the year but spends summers in Rehoboth with his partner. He approached the Ciarlante-Zubers when he heard they were starting a new venture.

“They’re great,” States says of the owners. “It’s nice to work at a gay bar with gay owners who trust you. They know I’ll take care of what needs to be taken care of.”

Diego’s, whose building was vastly renovated prior to opening, is open year-round except for the first two weeks of January. There are enough residents who live at the beach year round to ensure steady business and it continues to grow.

“Things are good, very good,” Joe Ciarlante-Zuber says. “It took a little while to get things going because we went from the Double L, which was a leather bar, to Diego’s, which is an everybody bar, but we gave it a total makeover. So just getting people to try us and see that it’s different from what it used to be, that took some time.”

When he says an “everybody bar,” he means mostly gay men, but not exclusively. There’s no official ladies night, but lesbians have tended to come out to comprise about half the crowd at the weekly Friday yappy hour from 5-7 p.m. Capacity is 337 and it fills up on weekend nights. On holiday weekends, they erect a tent in the parking lot to increase capacity. There are 12 on staff plus three dancers. They’ve started bringing in internationally known DJs as well such as Dawna Montell from Los Angeles, Isis from Guadalajara and DJ Kitty Glitter (this weekend) from Australia. Full details at

They changed the name from Diego’s Hideaway earlier this year because people assumed it was a restaurant.  

States, 44, likes to bartend shirtless.

“I take my shirt off every chance I get,” he says. “I’m vain as fuck. But particularly in the summer, I have time to go to the gym more and ride my bike and I’m much more attuned to that. The beach anyway is kind of a performance stage where everybody is showing off their bodies. I just like to create an atmosphere that’s casual. It’s a beach town, so you should be able to take your shirt off. It kind of sets the mood for how the customers can behave as well.”

Does he tire of getting hit on?

“I just have fun with it,” he says. “It’s fun to be a little flirtatious at a gay bar where you can have some fun with your sexuality. You can flirt with me, I might flirt back with you, that doesn’t mean we’re gonna fuck. I’m interested in the more fraternal aspect of it. It’s OK to be able to look at each other, have a little fun, but without any agenda. I like to be a little playful, a little flirty, a little sexual.”

Dusty Abshire has lived in the Rehoboth area for about four years and is at Diego’s several times per week. He likes the happy hours, tea dances and occasionally the late DJ parties. He says parking at Diego’s is easier than elsewhere downtown and says the prices tend to be a little more reasonable than at some other bars.

And yes, he’s a vodka drinker.

“Joe sometimes gets a cosmo going for me before I even choose,” Abshire, 40, says. “I just go, ‘OK, I guess I’m having cosmos tonight.’ He makes a really great cosmo.” 

Abshire, who works as a college academic counselor, says he likes the bar because it’s friendly and laid back. He says business has noticeably picked up this summer vs. last.

“Diego’s is just kind of becoming the place, at least for my group of friends and friends I’ve met there. The owners are really good at knowing everybody. There are lots of times in the afternoon, there might just be 10 or 12 of us and we all just kind of sit around and talk together.”

Even so, it hasn’t all been easy. Running a gay dance club/bar in 2019 has challenges, Joe says. 

“It’s taking its time,” he says. “The gay market has changed. With Grindr, Scruff and so forth, you can stay home and meet somebody.”

He says, after conferring with Darryl, the toughest part has been “overcoming the past history.” He says the Double L had gone downhill its last five or so years, so getting people out of that mindset took time.

“It’s nice because it’s not pretentious at all,” Abshire says. “Joe and Daryl are two of the most hardworking, genuine people and they make everyone who comes in feel comfortable and welcomed and that’s the tone of the whole bar.” 

Diego’s isn’t the only popular gay-owned establishment that’s open year-round. The Blue Moon continues its entertainment schedule into the fall with the ever-popular Pamala Stanley’s Sunday tea from 6-8:30 p.m. Newcomer The Pines brings an evolving slate of entertainers to its upstairs space Top of the Pines. The Purple Parrot hosts year-round karaoke. And some of Rehoboth’s most popular events are in the fall, including the fourth annual CAMP Rehoboth Block Party (Sunday, Oct. 20) and the 30th annual Sea Witch Festival (Oct. 25-27).


Sundance goes ‘Ultraviolet’

Sundance 2018, gay news, Washington Blade
The crowded dance floor at last year’s Sundance. (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

Annual benefit kicks off new season, new leadership for CAMP Rehoboth

Sundance 2019 Rainbow XXXII: Ultraviolet Disco Day-Glo Sunrise

Rehoboth Beach Convention Center

229 Rehoboth Avenue

Rehoboth Beach, Del.

Auction: Saturday, Aug. 31

6-9 p.m. 

Dance: Sunday, Sept. 1

7 p.m.-2 a.m.

Sundance closes out the summer season for the 32nd year over Labor Day weekend with its annual auction and dance party.

Sundance 2019 Rainbow XXXII: Ultraviolet Disco Day-Glo Sunrise will be the first time CAMP Rehoboth’s new Executive Director David Mariner will be introduced. Mariner will leave his 11-year tenure as executive director at the D.C. Center on Sept. 30. 

CAMP Rehoboth’s founding Executive Director Steve Elkins died from lymphoma in 2018. Murray Archibald, CAMP Rehoboth co-founder and Elkins’ husband, served as interim director since Elkins’ death.

Archibald and Elkins started Sundance as an AIDS fundraiser in 1988 on their 10-year anniversary. 

“All of our friends wanted to do something because it was such a terrible time and so many people were dying. That’s how it got started,” Archibald says. 

The first Sundance was only a dance event but an auction was added post-dance the following year. Eventually, CAMP Rehoboth split the auction and dance into separate days turning Labor Day weekend into a two-day Sundance event.

Sundance grew into CAMP Rehoboth’s biggest fundraiser, according to Archibald. CAMP Rehoboth’s current fundraising efforts benefit the organization’s outreach programs, which serve 6,000 people, and advocacy work and health and wellness programs that have aided 10,000 individuals. 

Years later, Sundance is still a popular event marked on people’s calendars because there’s something for everyone.

“We get the early crowd who wants to be in bed by 10 p.m. and then we have the crowd who wants to stay out all night. They sort of blend and its packed. It’s a lot of fun,” Archibald says.

The Sundance Auction is on Saturday, Aug. 31 from 6-9 p.m. There will be food, an open bar, a silent auction with almost 500 items and a live auction. Lorne Crawford will serve as auctioneer and Stephen Strasser will play music for the night. The Sundance is on Sunday, Sept. 1 from 7 p.m.- 2 a.m. There will be an open bar all night. Special guest DJ Robbie Leslie, whose DJing credits include Studio 54 and Saint, will spin tracks for the night. International DJ Joe Gauthreaux will also play music. 

All proceeds benefit CAMP Rehoboth. Tickets are $50 for one event or $90 for both events. 

While raising money to benefit advocacy is important, there is more to Sundance than simply being a fundraiser. 

“It’s more than just raising money. I think they feel the spirit of family and the community coming together to celebrate. It’s the end of the summer. It’s the beginning of a new season. It’s one of the passages of the year,” Archibald says. “I always laugh because even our lighting and sound crews who come in from Jersey or Baltimore always say to me, ‘This feels like family. Like I’m coming to a good place.’ I think being able to celebrate that is the most important thing about it.”



a&e features

Girls Rock! DC empowers young people through music, social justice education

Organization founded in October 2007



Youth leaders of Girls Rock DC! (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Girls Rock! DC, an organization operating at the intersection of art and activism, is dedicated to empowering young people through music and social justice education. 

Since its founding in October 2007; Girls Rock! DC has been creating a supportive, inclusive and equitable space that centers around girls and nonbinary youth, with a special emphasis on uplifting Black and Brown youth. At the core of Girls Rock! DC’s mission is a unique approach to music education, viewing it through a social justice and equity lens. 

“It’s a place where people can come explore their interest in music in a safe environment, figure out their own voice, and have a platform to say it,” Board Vice Chair Nicole Savage said.

This approach allows D.C.’s young people to build a sense of community and explore their passion for social change through after-school programs, workshops and camps.

The organization’s roots trace back to the first rock camp for girls in August 2001 in Portland, Ore. Similar camps have emerged worldwide since then, forming the International Girls Rock Camp Alliance. Girls Rock! DC is a member of this alliance, contributing to the larger community’s growth and advocacy for inclusivity in the music industry.

Girls Rock! DC’s annual programs now serve more than 100 young people and 20 adults, offering after-school programs and camps. Participants receive instruction on the electric guitar, the electric bass, keyboards, drum kits and other instruments or on a microphone and form bands to write and perform their own original songs. Beyond music, the program includes workshops on underrepresented histories in the music industry, community injustice issues and empowerment topics that include running for office and body positivity.

“I’ve been playing shows in the D.C. music scene for about six years, and I feel like Girls Rock! DC is the perfect amalgamation of everything that I stand for,” said Outreach Associate Lily Mónico. “So many music spaces are male dominated and I think there is a need for queer femme youth in music.”

Lily Mónico (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The organization’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is evident not only in its leadership but also in the way it creates a safe space for queer and nonbinary individuals. Language is a crucial component, and Girls Rock! DC ensures that both campers and volunteers embrace inclusivity. 

“It is a very open and creative space, where there’s no judgment,” Zadyn Higgins, one of the youth leaders, emphasized. “It is the first time for a lot of us, to be in a space where we’re truly able to be ourselves.”

In creating a safe environment, Girls Rock! DC implements practices that include name tags with preferred names and pronouns, along with pronoun banners that help kids understand and respect diverse identities. 

“It’s really cool to watch these kids understand and just immediately get it,” said Higgins. 

Zadyn Higgins (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Girls Rock! DC is also more than a music education organization; it’s a community where individuals can embark on a transformative journey that extends beyond their initial participation as campers. Many start their Girls Rock! DC experience as enthusiastic campers, learning to play instruments, forming bands and expressing their creativity in a supportive environment. The organization’s impact, however, doesn’t stop there. This inspiration leads them to volunteer and intern within the organization. 

The unique progression from camper to volunteer or intern, and eventually to a full-fledged role within the organization, exemplifies Girls Rock! DC as a place where growth is not confined to a single week of camp but extends into an ongoing, impactful journey. It’s a testament to the organization’s commitment to nurturing talent, empowering individuals and fostering a lifelong connection with the values for which Girls Rock! DC stands.

One of the highlights of Girls Rock! DC is its summer camp, where kids between 8-18 learn to play instruments, form bands, write songs and perform in just one week. Higgins shared a poignant moment from a showcase,

“To see them go from, like, crying a little bit about how scared they were to going out on the stage and performing their little hearts out was so sweet,” said Higgins.

(Photo courtesy of Frankie Amitrano of Girls Rock! D.C.)

Nzali Mwanza-Shannon, another youth leader, agreed that the camp is the highlight of the program. 

“The summer camp, I’ve met so many friends, and it’s always kind of scary coming up to the end, but after we get to perform and everything, I’m so grateful that I’ve gotten the opportunity to perform and meet new people and be so creative and do it all in a week,” said Mwanza-Shannon.

Forty-three young people who showcased their original songs and DJ sets at D.C.’s legendary 9:30 Club attended the first Girls Rock! DC camp in 2007. They performed to a crowd of 700 enthusiastic fans. The organization since then has grown exponentially, with each passing year bringing more energy, vibrancy and fun to the camp experience.

Since the pandemic, however, the organization has struggled financially, experiencing a funding shortage as well as reduced growth in attracting new members. 

Augusta Smith, who is a youth leader and a member of the band Petrichor, expressed concern about the potential impact on the unique and friendly environment that Girls Rock! DC provides. 

“We’ve kind of been really slow and barely making enough money. And this year, we’re having a funding shortage,” said Smith. 

The impact of Girls Rock! DC extends beyond musical skills, fostering leadership, self-expression and a passion for social change through creative collaboration and community power-building. Mwanza-Shannon hopes to be a part of Girls Rock! DC for a long time, 

“I want to keep on meeting new people,” said Mwanza-Shannon. “I want to keep on being able to perform at these different places and have different experiences.”

(Photo courtesy of Frankie Amitrano of Girls Rock! DC)
Continue Reading

a&e features

‘Blindspot’ reveals stories of NYC AIDS patients that haven’t been told

Former Blade reporter’s podcast focuses on POC, women, trans people



Kai Wright, a former Blade reporter, hosts the podcast ‘Blindspot.’ (Photo by Amy Pearl)

“We said that people had The Monster, because they had that look,” activist Valerie Reyes-Jimenez, said, remembering how people in her New York neighborhood reacted when people first got AIDS.

They didn’t know what to call it.

“They had the sucked in checks,” Reyes-Jimenez, added, “They were really thin…a lot of folks were saying, oh, you know, they had…cancer.”

“We actually had set up a bereavement clinic where the kids would tell us what they wanted to have when they die,” Maxine Frere, a retired nurse who worked at Harlem Hospital for 40 years and was the head nurse of its pediatric AIDS unit said, “How did they wanna die?”

“Nobody wanted to come on,” said former New York Gov. David Paterson, who in 1987 was Harlem’s state senator.

At that time, Manhattan Cable Television gave legislators the chance to do one show a year. “So I decided to do my show on the AIDS crisis and how there didn’t seem to be any response from the leadership in the Black community,” Paterson added.

These unforgettable voices with their searing recollections are among the many provocative, transformative stories told on Season 3 of “Blindspot,” the critically acclaimed podcast. 

“Blindspot: The Plague in the Shadows” is co-produced by the History Channel and WNYC Studios. The six-episode podcast series, which launched on Jan. 18 and airs weekly through Feb. 22, is hosted by WNYC’s Kai Wright with lead reporting by The Nation Magazine’s Lizzy Ratner.

The show is accompanied by a photography exhibit by Kia LaBeija. LaBeija is a New York City-based artist who was born HIV positive and lost her mother to the disease at 14. The exhibit, which features portraits of people whose stories are heard on “Blindspot,” runs at the Greene Space at WNYC through March 11.

If you think of AIDS, you’re likely to think of white cisgender gay men. (That’s been true for me, a cisgender lesbian, who lost loved ones to AIDS.)

From the earliest days of the AIDS epidemic, most media and cultural attention has been focused on white gay men – from playwright and activist Larry Kramer to the movie “Philadelphia.”   

“Blindspot” revisits New York City, an epicenter of the early years of the HIV epidemic.

The podcast reveals stories of vulnerable people that haven’t been told. Of people of color, women, transgender people, children, drug-users, women in prison and the doctors, nurses and others who cared and advocated with and on their behalf.

“Blindspot,” through extensive reporting and immersive storytelling, makes people visible who were invisible during the AIDS epidemic. It makes us see people who have, largely, been left out of the history of AIDS.

Wright, 50, who is Black and gay, cares deeply about history. He is host and managing editor of “Notes from America with Kai Wright,” a show about the unfinished business of our history and its grip on our future.

Recently, Wright, who worked as a reporter at the Washington Blade from 1996 to 2001, talked with me in a Zoom interview. The conversation ranged over a number of topics from why Wright got into journalism, to how stigma and health care disparities still exist today for people of color, transgender people and poor people with AIDS to the impact he hopes “Blindspot” will have.

“I came to work at the Blade in 1996,” Wright said, “the year after I got out of college.”

He’d done two six-month stints at PBS and “Foreign Policy.” But Wright thinks of the Blade as his first proper journalism job.

From his youth, Wright has been committed to social justice and to understanding his community. Reporting, from early on, has been his connection with social justice. “I often say, journalism has been my contribution to social justice movements,” Wright said.

His first journalistic connection to the Black community came when he was 15. Then, Wright became an intern with the Black newspaper, the Indianapolis Recorder.

“That’s how I got the [journalism] bug,” Wright said.

Since then, Wright said, he’s worked almost exclusively with media that have a connection with the community.

Wright grew up in Indianapolis and went to college at Emory University in Atlanta. He didn’t intend to be a journalist, he wrote in an email to the Blade. At Emory, he studied international politics.

Wright’s life and work changed direction when he began working at the Blade. “I was a kid,” Wright said, “I’d just come out. I used journalism to find out what it meant to come out.”

Wright, when he came to Washington, D.C., was, as he recalled, just a kid. He didn’t know anyone in D.C. and there was a Black, queer community. This helped Wright to come out. “I couldn’t have told you that at the time,” he said, “but in retrospect I can see that I moved to  D.C. to come out.”

Journalism was Wright’s way of finding his way through coming out.

“I didn’t know if the Blade was hiring,” Wright said, “I just walked in.”

He didn’t have a deep resume but he had a lot to say. The Blade hired him and immediately put him to work reporting on AIDS.

“It was a pivotal cultural and political moment – a pivotal moment for the community,” Wright said.

That year, when Wright began working with the Blade, life-saving treatments (early drug cocktails) were emerging for AIDS.

“There was no way that HIV and AIDS wouldn’t become a central part of my journalism,” Wright said, “I really wanted to report on it.”

With the emergence of treatments, white gay men with health insurance began to feel that they were turning the page and that AIDS was no longer a death sentence.

“But, as a reporter, I was meeting Black gay men who were going into emergency mode about the AIDS epidemic,” Wright said.

Black people, poor people, drug users and others without health insurance and access to treatment were still dying and transmitting AIDS. “‘This is getting more and more dire,’ the activists said,” Wright recalls.

They told Wright, “The rest of the community is starting to turn the page. We can’t turn the page.”

In D.C., Wright could see, through his reporting, the racial discrimination in the community at large in the AIDS epidemic, and in the queer community.

Two things are true simultaneously, Wright said, when asked if there is still stigma and discrimination around HIV and AIDS today.

“Science has made so much progress,” Wright said, “It’s no longer necessary for any of us to die from HIV.”

“I take a pill once a day to prevent me from catching HIV,” he added, “I can do that. I am a person with insurance…with a great deal of social and economic privilege.”

But many people in the United States don’t have health insurance, and exist outside of the health care system. The divergence in treatment and stigma that he saw as a young reporter in 1996 are still there today, Wright said.

“The divergence in class and race has grown even more profound,” he said, “among people of color, young people – transgender people.”

Wright hopes  “Blindspot” will make people who lived through the epidemic and whose stories weren’t told, feel seen. And that “they will hear themselves and be reminded of the contributions they have made,” Wright said.

The queer press plays an important role in the LGBTQ community, Wright said. “We need a place to hash out our differences, share stories and ask questions that put our experience at the center of the conversation,” he emailed the Blade.

“There’s more space for us in media than when I started my career at the Blade,” Wright said, “but none of it is a replacement for journalism done by and for ourselves.”

Continue Reading

a&e features

Valentine’s Day gifts for the queers you love

From pasta and chocolate to an Aspen getaway



Share the love on Feb. 14 with our thoughtful Valentine’s gift picks for everyone you like and lust.

Centrolina V-Day Pasta Kit

Washington, D.C.-based Centrolina’s seasonally inspired restaurant menu gets the delivered-to-your-door treatment with Chef Amy Brandwein’s holiday gift baskets featuring four handmade pastas and from-scratch sauces, including heart-shaped beet ravioli with ricotta and lemon butter, a mushroom and black truffle ragu, sunchoke tagliolini and oyster cacio pepe, and chestnut pappardelle, among other elevated-Italian recipes that you and your lil’ meatball can whip up on date night. $175,

La Maison du Chocolat

Heart-shaped candy clichés are much more palatable when the contents within are made in Paris instead of Hershey, Pa., and your intended will be sufficiently satisfied with La Maison du Chocolat’s selection of premium confections – including melt-in-your-mouth ganaches, pralinés and bouchées, oh my – available in festive and indulgent 14- and 44-piece boxes. $60-$140,

‘Spread the Love’ Plantable Pencils

SproutWorld’s set-of-eight Love Edition pencils set themselves up for seed-spreading jokes given Cupid’s context, but the real sentiment is sweeter: Plant the lead-free, graphite writing utensils (engraved with romantic quotes on certified wood) in potted soil and enjoy striking flowers and fragrant herbs in one to four weeks. $15,

W Aspen Getaway

Missed Aspen Gay Ski Week? No sweat. You’ll fight fewer crowds as the season winds down – without compromising your commitment to luxury – during a late-winter getaway to the heart of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains at the W Aspen. Book unforgettable outdoor adventures, like heliskiing and dog sledding, with the property’s always-available concierge; spend après hour on the rooftop WET deck before diving into delicious dishes at onsite restaurant 39 Degrees; see and be seen at Ponyboy, the property’s cocktail-focused modern speakeasy rooted in New York City nightlife; and pour yourself a nightcap from your in-room mini bar before relaxing in the suite’s deep soaking tub – because, ya know, all in a day’s work.

Nexgrill Ora Pizza Oven

Not a fan of fancy dining out? Slip into those grey sweats he won’t let you wear in public, top off the Veuve, and fire up Nexgrill’s Ora 12 portable propane pizza oven wherein a to-temp cordierite baking stone will cook your personalized pies to perfection at up to 900 degrees. That’s burnin’ love, baby. $299,

‘Just Happy to Be Here’ YA Novel

Have a they/them in your life excited to expand their winter reading list? Gift a copy of Naomi Kanakia’s newly published YA coming-of-age novel, “Just Happy to Be Here,” about Tara, an Indian-American transgender teenager seeking quiet support and acceptance within her school’s prestigious academic group but instead becomes the center of attention when she draws the ire of administrators and alumni. $16,

Perfect Pairings 

Set it off this Valentine’s Day with a curated selection of wine and spirits, including the Pale Rosé, created by Sacha Lichine, of Whispering Angel fame; Flat Creek Estate’s red-blend trio, featuring the 2017 Super Texan, 2018 Four Horsemen, and Buttero; Ron Barceló’s Imperial Premium Blend 40th Aniversario rum; and the Bourbon Rosemary cocktail-in-a-can from Spirited Hive. $17-$199

Moon Bath Bomb

Stars aligned for that little meet-cute you told everybody about on TikTok, and you can trust the universe to provide ample relaxation when you plop Zodica Perfumery’s Moon Bath Bomb in the tub – there’s a specific formulation for every sign, which promises vibe-setting aromatherapy, activated charcoal for deep cleansing, and skin-soothing olive oil for the self-love glow-up you’ve been waiting for. $18,

Mikey Rox is an award-winning journalist and LGBT lifestyle expert whose work has been published in more than 100 outlets across the world. Connect with Mikey on Instagram @mikeyroxtravels.

Continue Reading

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade