Christmas comes early this year! Long an October staple, the Blade’s annual Best of Gay D.C. readers’ poll awards gets bumped up to September this year as we’re keeping next month open for our 50th anniversary festivities (shameless plug: the Birthday Gala is Oct. 18; tickets at blade50th.com).
So we’re taking this week’s edition to celebrate who and what you think are the best Washington has to offer its LGBT residents.
For every perennial winner like Freddie’s Beach Bar, the 9:30 Club or Miss Pixie’s — which have all extended their dominance again this year — there are newer faces like Ricky Rose (Best Drag King), Donald Mitchell (D.C. Gay Flag Football) and Lexie Starre (Best Burlesque Dancer).
Some winners and runners-up flip-flop in succeeding years. Rayceen Pendarvis and Bishop Allyson Abrams have something like a volleyball game unfolding in these pages in the Best Clergy category. Time for a sermon-a-thon?
We’re also taking this edition to honor the Blade’s own Lou Chibbaro, Jr. a staple of the paper since the mid-‘70s and celebrating his 35th year as a full-time staff member this year. In a Blade “Best Of” first, we give an award to one of our own. Chibbaro is the recipient of this year’s Local Hero Award, a title that has previously gone to Danica Roem, Gavin Grimm, Rev. Dean Snyder and more.
Thankfully here, nobody has to “sashay away.” That’s the beauty of gay Washington — we can enjoy Pitchers one night, JR.’s another. Check out Nellie’s Brunch one weekend and Hank’s Oyster Bar another. It’s all good.
About 3,500 nominations and 20,000 votes were cast in 99 categories for the 18th 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, Philip Van Slooten and Joey DiGuglielmo. Awards presented Sept. 19 at Dacha Navy Yard.
The Blade staff congratulates each of this year’s winners and finalists.
HERO AWARD: Lou Chibbaro, Jr.
Longer than Johnny Carson was on “The Tonight Show,” longer than “Gunsmoke,” longer than Barbara Walters on “20/20” or Ted Koppel on “Nightline,” Lou Chibbaro, Jr.’s full-time run at the Washington Blade is not only a record (so far as we’re aware) in LGBT media, it exceeds the runs of many classic long-running shows or media personalities.
Starting as a freelancer in 1976 and full-time in 1984 (the same year Alex Trebek started hosting “Jeopardy”), Chibbaro is not only an LGBT icon and institution, he’s a stalwart reporter still out there pounding the D.C. pavement with shoe-leather reporting of the highest kind. For these decades of selfless service, he’s the recipient of a Blade “Best of Gay D.C.” first — on the occasion of the paper’s 50th anniversary, Chibbaro gets this year’s Hero Award, an accolade previously won by Danica Roem, Gavin Grimm, Rev. Dean Snyder and others.
Chibbaro moved to Washington in 1972, came out in 1975 and was alerted to the existence of the Blade (which had started just after Stonewall in 1969) by a gay counselor he knew in New York. Working as a reporter for a newsletter in energy and environmental issues, Chibbaro wandered into the Blade office, then on 19th St., on the second floor in the same building as the Lambda Rising gay book shop, and introduced himself to the editor, the late Joseph Crislip. He was soon contributing to the paper. He’d been contributing to a gay radio show broadcast out of Georgetown University but its plug had been pulled and Chibbaro was looking for another LGBT outlet.
Chibbaro remembers an informal office. The paper was released monthly at the time. One of his early scoops (from tipster Paul Kuntzler) was about a plan — eventually abandoned — to have a gay presidential candidate speak at the Democratic National Convention in ’76. Initially, Chibbaro wrote under a pseudonym (Lou Romano), fearful his Blade work might inhibit his employability down the road. It was a common practice as Crislip, too, had a fake byline. By the late ‘70s, Chibbaro was writing under his legal name.
Through many editors, location changes, buyouts and more, Chibbaro has remained. He attributes his longevity to a passion for the subject matter.
“I came to Washington as a political junkie and when you’re interested in politics, Washington is the place to be,” Chibbaro says. “And as a gay person and someone who slowly got to know the community quite well, the types of stories we do are very interesting to me. They have significance and can have an impact.”
The Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia recognized Chibbaro’s local crime beat reporting by presenting him with its 1998 Justice for Victims of Crime Award, citing his “outstanding service to crime victims and their families” through his news reporting.
Among his other life achievement awards are Community Pioneer from Rainbow History Project (2009), GLAA and GAYLAW Distinguished Service Awards (2010, 2013 respectively), Anita Bonds Community Cornerstone Award (2016) and the Partnership Award from the CAEAR Coalition.
“I have for many years viewed my career at the Washington Blade as both a job as well as a community service,” Chibbaro said. “It is truly an honor to receive the Hero Award.” (JD)
Best DJ Presented by BYQueers
His music has been called “a sharp mix of disco, electro, funk and classics of the ‘80s and ‘90s” with past residences at Cobalt, the Rock and Roll Hotel and more D.C. venues. Orr spins at Sleaze at Wonderland Ballroom (first Thursday of every month) and is starting a new Thursday event soon at Uproar. He also has residencies at Eighteenth Street Lounge and MARVIN. And yeah, he’s gay. Look for him on Facebook to follow his upcoming appearances. (JD)
Poised to celebrate its one-year anniversary in October, Avalon Saturdays at Soundcheck is a hit.
During lunch break from a day at jury duty, party promoter extraordinaire Dougie Meyer explains, “At Avalon, we’ve accomplished what we set out to do. We brought a community together and gave them another safe space in D.C. to have fun and be themselves. Those who wanted to come for a drag show and those who want to dance to circuit music into the wee hours get that too.”
Things are still being tweaked, a year into the proceedings.
“We’ve learned that to make Avalon great, we have to change something every week whether it’s the position of couches or discounted tickets or whatever. Our dedication to making our customers happy has earned us regulars, week after week, and that tells you you’re doing something right.”
Nothing is on autopilot here.
“A lot of people think you open the door, and — boom — there’s a party,” he says. “No, we have a team of people busting their asses all week long to make it happen. But on Saturday, it’s a night of fun and a good time with a changing roster of drag queens and DJs.”
And yet Avalon Saturdays isn’t resting on its laurels. Meyer says, “Our lineup through October is insane — our one-year anniversary party is followed by a Halloween party. We’ve already booked an international DJ for January 2020. The party keeps going.” (PF)
Sexy Lexie Starre got her start in burlesque with the D.C. Girly Show, the District’s longest-running queer burlesque troupe. She’ll be back onstage in December with the troupe’s Raise the Roof show, a fundraiser that will benefit local organizations.
In the meantime, she produces Pretty Boi Drag with her wife Pretty Rik E (who was the Blade’s Best Drag King last year). They started the troupe in 2016 and have been selling out shows ever since. They focus on elevating the visibility of drag kings, especially drag kings of color, and present both large productions as well as Open Mic nights where both new and veteran kings can get stage time.
Lexie is also working on getting her new business up and running. Wingo Circle Birth Services (wingocircle.com) provides labor and postpartum doula services and inclusive childbirth education classes for queer parents and families.
Lexie’s been performing since 2011 and says that some of her favorite showbiz memories were performing “Proud Mary” with her wife as Ike and Tina Turner (fringe and all!) on the main stage at Capital Pride and auditioning for “America’s Got Talent” with the D.C. Gurly Show. (BTC)
Best Drag King
Runner-up: Pretty Rik (A flip-flop of last year’s outcome.)
Multi-title holding drag king Ricky Rosé’s ethos is pretty simple: follow your dreams and all drag is valid.
Speaking via phone from a bus en route to a gig in Richmond, Va., Ricky explains their drag persona: “I’d say Ricky Rosé is like the name — brings glam to ghetto. Also, I’m your cool dad. I like to throw it back to my Latinx culture, lip-syncing mostly reggaeton and salsa. I’m a very proud Puerto Rican.”
Based in D.C., Ricky has been doing drag for two years. “Shortly after seeing my first drag king show, my heart wanted to jump out of my chest. I knew I’d found my calling and passion. I went home the same day and started practicing makeup.”
Offstage, Ricky’s chosen name is Yadiel. Ricky Rosé is a longtime nickname. “I wanted to stick true to myself while discovering my true form through gender identity. I’m non-binary in daily life. I’ve questioned gender identity as a kid and came into my non-binary gender through drag. I feel at home most in drag.”
Ricky, who frequently performs in queer venues all over town and holds down a day job at Sephora on 14th Street, is grateful for the votes from Blade readers. “It means people are seeing my work and appreciating what I bring to the stage. My goal has been to discover who I am and share and celebrate that with folks.” (PF)
Best Drag Queen
The drag-alter ego of Ed Figueroa, famous for making space for other Asian drag queens in the region. Follow her at @bombalicious.eklaver on Instagram.
Runner-up: Brooklyn Heights
Best Transgender Performer
Runner-up: Ana Latour
Riley Knoxx is the world’s number one Beyoncé impersonator. A heady job that’s taken her around the globe and afforded her a comfortable life. And while Knoxx performs with drag queens, she isn’t a drag queen. “Because I’m transgender, my performance style is very much what you’d get if you went to a Beyoncé concert. I try to make it as close to that as possible.”
Need proof? Check out her cameo in Taylor Swift’s star-studded “You Need to Calm Down” video alongside luminaries such as Adam Lambert, Adam Rippon, Billy Porter, Katy Perry, RuPaul and many more!
When Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love” dropped in 2003, Knoxx took note. “People began to connect me with that song, and they started coming out to see me as her. My popularity grew with hers. So, naturally I thought there was something to this, and from that point on I only performed as Beyoncé.”
To remain on the top of the heap of a million Beyoncé impersonators takes work. As part of the job, D.C.-based Knoxx studies the star’s every move — how she walks, talks and holds the mic. She also dutifully mimics Beyoncé’s hair, wardrobe and makeup style. As a performer changes over the years, so must the impersonator.
“Part of my career’s longevity is that I’m willing to change. I’ve never gotten bored, and so neither does the audience. It’s very different from year to year. If you’re not changing, you’re not growing. And growth has always been my goal.”
Knoxx has always been a performer. She remembers being 5 years old, substituting a flashlight for a mic and pillowcase for long hair as she sang Whitney Houston songs around the house.
“My trans experience was hard in the beginning, but performing helped to make it better. Having people who loved me before I loved myself was a big thing for me. As a transgender person, it has kept me going in a world that isn’t always loving toward transgender people.” (PF)
Best Rehoboth Drag Queen
The drag alter ego of Jeremy Bernstein hosts events all summer at the Blue Moon and other Rehoboth venues. Follow her at @mrsmagnolia on Instagram.
Extending their record! — with this win and the Best Karaoke win, that makes 23 wins 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 for a single category.
The D.C. Weirdo Show, the monthly cult favorite for freaks, geeks and exposed butt cheeks, started in 2006 at the Palace of Wonders on H Street before settling into its current home at the Dew Drop Inn in Brookland. Since 2015, the show has been hosted by Dr. Torcher and her fabulously weird colleagues. She typically serves as host and also performs as a fire eater, sword swallower and comedian. Her husband Mark is the tech weirdo; he does sounds lights and posters. Abraxas is the stage manager extraordinaire; as Dr. Torcher says, “she keeps the show flowing, manages props and sets the cast up for success.”
Dr. Torcher says, “The show is a supportive, creative stage for performers with tremendous talents in burlesque, clowning, comedy, performance art and sideshow. We’ve also had yo-yo stunts, pole dance, contortion, drag, dire flow arts and voguing.
“Our audiences know that they will see a polished, thoughtful, strange and entertaining show. We’re an intentional reflection of the stories and communities that make D.C. everything it is. We center performances by queer people and people of color.”
Their next show, called “Weirdos for Life!” is this weekend (Sept. 20). Dr. Torcher is always on the lookout for new talent. New performers are included in every monthly show and the annual “Happy New Weirdo” show is all “new-to-us” performers. There’s an application on the website. Dr. Torcher says the troupe is always looking for “those who perform amazing physical feats and who represent stories that don’t usually get told on stage.” (BTC)
Of the several Stephen Starr restaurants, St. Anselm shimmers bright. Located by Union Market, this meat-forward upscale-tavern-style restaurant is based on the Brooklyn locale of the same name. Executive Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley helms St. Anselm, a storied and award-winning chef, and a veteran of Jose Andres and Mike Isabella restaurants.
Thick, hearty steaks livened by liberal helpings of herb butter are served in a vibrant atmosphere that’s part button-up and part button-down makes this an unsurprising choice for a favorite meaty meal. Beyond slabs of meat, diners are agog at the impressive shellfish and non-traditional steakhouse items like flaky biscuits with ramekins of pimento cheese and crispy “BoBo” chicken dressed up (or down?) with mumbo sauce.
Chef Meek-Bradley, says that she and her staff “are so honored to be recognized by the (LGBT) community as Best New Restaurant. We are thrilled to be seen as a welcoming place to all of D.C.’s amazing diverse people.” (EC)
Best Food Festival or Event
Taste of D.C.
“Largest culinary festival in the mid-Atlantic.” Runs Oct. 26-27.
D.C.’s hottest club, even in the throes of winter, is often this brightly lit scoop shop of national notoriety. Jeni founded the first of her chain’s premium, artisan-style, cult-fave ice cream shops in 2002, and opened the front-and-center 14th and U spot in 2017.
Jeni’s uses all-natural ingredients and sources from direct- and fair-trade suppliers for the highly Instagram-ready cups and cones. The super-creamy scoops layer fruit, nuts and other ingredients for unusual combos. Two top flavors may explain why the shop’s a winner: the brambleberry crisp, vanilla mixed with toasted pie topping and thick, sweet-tart jam; and the almond brittle, of brown-butter-almond candy crushed into buttercream ice cream. Yes, you can taste test them all. The vegan hot fudge topping doesn’t hurt. Be aware of the price point: a scoop is a cool $7.50.
When it opened, the shop’s team said, “We believe ice cream has the power to bring people together, so we’ve created the kind of space we’d love to gather with friends and strangers over a scoop of ice cream.” (EC)
Best Farmer’s Market
FRESHFARM Dupont Circle Market
Second consecutive win! Sundays 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. year round
When it comes to top District-beloved pizza, it’s going down: you’re yelling Timber.
The sizeable crispy-bottomed, blistered pies attract down-the-block lines in their hot Petworth digs.
Owners Andrew Dana and Chris Brady, both from the D.C. area, started Timber when they realized that, “we hated our jobs … but we loved lunch,” they wrote. Dana and Brady founded their current brick-and-mortar shop in 2016 in Petworth after wowing crowds at farmers’ markets from its food truck starting two years prior.
To helm the pizzeria, they brought on Chef Dani Moreira, who brings a distinct South American panache to her creative pies that are just traditional enough to be called “Neopolitan-ish.”
At the popping shop, diners share communal tables and lots of napkins over stylishly titled pies coming out fast and hot from the wood-fired oven. Cheekily named pies include The Bentley, with chorizo, sopressata, Peruvian sweet peppers, and locally made spicy honey.
White and green pizzas, just as popular as red-sauced pies, add pops of Italianate color, and Chef Moreira brings out killer not-to-be-missed Argentine empanadas stuffed with saucy braised beef and sofrito.
“As a D.C. native the best thing in the world is being voted Best Pizza by the people of D.C.! We’re always proud to be a friend of the LGBTQ community,” says Dana, not only co-owner, but also self-titled “chief dough boi.”
Comet Ping Pong, the restaurant made infamous for “Pizzagate” in the 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign, was a two-time repeat winner in 2017-18. (EC)
This new Italian restaurant features an irresistible menu of signature dishes like carpaccio di bresaola, a mozzarella bar, and a stunning frutti di mare overflowing with clams, mussels, lobster and more. All pastas are homemade in house. Chef/owner Francesco is a first-generation Italian who grew up in the restaurant business. His wife and co-owner Tonya makes everyone feel welcome and often brings limoncello with the check. The rooftop bar is one of the town’s too-few spots for outdoor dining and drinks. A new, must-visit dining destination in Rehoboth Beach.
You can hear Ari Shapiro’s velvet voice every weekday afternoon on NPR’s “All Things Considered” (broadcast locally on WAMU 88.5 FM). He’s been co-hosting the show since 2015.
According to his bio on the NPR website, during his tenure at NPR he’s reported from above the Arctic Circle and aboard Air Force One and has filed stories from dozens of countries and most of the 50 states.
The out journalist began his reporting career as an intern for NPR Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg in 2001. Since then he served as NPR’s Justice Correspondent in the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks, was embedded with the Mitt Romney presidential campaign, spent four years as White House Correspondent during President Obama’s first and second terms and spent two years as the network’s London correspondent before assuming his present position.
Shapiro has been widely recognized for the excellence of his reporting. At 25, he won the Daniel Schott Journalism Prize for his investigation into methamphetamine use and HIV transmission. He’s also been recognized for his coverage of disability benefits for injured American veterans, the American judicial system and Hurricane Katrina and has been included in the “Out 100” and the Advocate’s “Forty Under 40.”
The intrepid reporter has been out since high school where he wore a pink triangle on his knapsack. He married his longtime boyfriend Michael Gottlieb at San Francisco City Hall in February 2004.
When time allows, Shapiro also sings with the band Pink Martini. He can be heard on four of their albums singing in several languages. (BTC)
Runner-Up: Sharifa Love (D.C. Furies, Rogue Darts)
D.C. Generals captain and wide receiver, Donald Mitchell, led his team to victory in Gay Bowl XVII and was quick to spread the love.
“Everybody on our team made some play that was memorable,” the Nashville native told the Washington Post after the win. “There wasn’t one or two or three standouts. Everyone put in.”
Whether this Southern generosity was a part of his charm or his nature, it was appreciated by his community who named Mitchell best amateur athlete for 2019.
“I’ve been on several teams,” Mitchell continued in the Post. “And I’ve never been more proud of a team that came together to fight for each other.”
Well, this award is one win he can claim for himself and still be proud. (PVS)
John Jack Photography
John Jack Gallagher has been taking photos since his first boyfriend gave him a 35-millimeter camera for his birthday more than 30 years ago. In 2012, he started shooting professionally after members of the Stonewall Kickball team he’d been photographing insisted he shoot their wedding. A flip-flop of last year’s outcome. John Jack Gallagher was also the 2016 and 2017 winner.
Being ‘woke’ is more than something trendy for local restaurateur David Winer — it’s something he feels in his heart.
“Everyday I try to reach out to people and help them grow,” he says with a humility that seems rare for businesspeople these days, even those who become president. “And if I reach a couple of them, then that’s good. That’s the theme of our management company, to help others grow.”
For Winer, EatWell D.C. is about growing healthy communities, not just his bottom line.
“We are trying to do a better job of bringing local producers into the market,” he says of the work still ahead. “We’re trying to be environmentally neutral not only with our food, but with our beverages as well. We’re looking forward to educating a new crop of chefs to be sustainable and natural. That’s where we’re going.”
Winer is humbled by the award and felt being environmentally and socially conscious weren’t just good business practices, but about “trying to live a good life” as well. (PVS)
Bishop Allyson Abrams
Abrams regains the title after Rayceen won last year. They’re perpetual flip-floppers in this category. Abrams won in 2015 and 2017. Pendarvis won in 2016 and 2018 and was the 2017 runner-up. Abrams was the 2016 runner-up.
Even though Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, (D-N.D.) lost her 2018 re-election bid, her former legislative aide is still hard at work campaigning for causes on the Hill.
“Our household believes we can do more to #EndGunViolence,” best Hill staffer Alec Buckley tweeted on June 7 above images of himself and his partner in matching Wear Orange T-shirts. “That’s why we #WearingOrange @Everytown @MomsDemand.”
With 47 Tweets, 45 followers and 643 likes, Buckley may not be in Trump territory on numbers, but he still uses his social media presence to inform the public on social issues. (PVS)
Best Local Pro Athlete
Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics
Delle Donne’s second consecutive win!
Runner-Up: Sean Doolittle, Washington Nationals
Elena Delle Donne keeps extending her accomplishments. This year, she joined the elite 50-40-90 club (NBA and WNBA players who have shooting percentages at or above 50 percent for field goals, 40 percent for three-pointers and 90 percent for free throws during an entire regular season), becoming the first-ever WNBA player to do so.
That puts Delle Donne alongside Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famers including Steve Nash, Reggie Miller and Larry Bird. She was also named 2019 Associated Press WNBA player of the year and topped the league’s most popular jersey list for the third consecutive season.
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), Delle Donne (who’s out as a lesbian) 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.
Last 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 WBNA 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)
Runner-Up: Stacey Williams-Zeiger, Zeiger Realty Inc.
Michael Moore was a little frustrated working in retail clothing when a friend suggested he’d be terrific in real estate. Initially hesitant, Moore met with a savvy Realtor who encouraged him to give it a shot. With not a lot to lose, he took the classes, passed the test, and went to work for a boutique company broker in 1988. He’s been at it ever since.
Today as a successful Realtor and senior vice president at Compass Real Estate, Moore credits his success to consistent customer service. “My career began with first-time homebuyers. In time, first-time buyers become sellers and they buy another house and they tell their friends. Now my business is almost entirely referrals and repeats.”
Moore’s specialty is marketing and getting homes ready for sale. “I’m a huge proponent of staging and doing what it takes to project the property in its best light,” he says. “I try to create a situation that when a prospective buyer walks in the door, they love it, and think to themselves ‘won’t my friends be jealous when they see me living here.’”
While he does have a fair amount of LGBT clients, Moore never directed business toward or away from any one group. “Essentially I’ve always thrown the net out and taken what I get,” he says. “I’ve weathered good markets and bad markets and everything in between. … Real estate is crazy, maddening, exciting. It’s been a love affair.” (PF)
In 2006, Kathy Dalby took a leap of faith. She left a dream D.C. job as a health care policy analyst for a high-profile law firm and took a full-time job at Pacers Running. She’s now CEO of the company, as well as the managing partner for Pacer Events, LLC, and publisher of RunWashington. The six stores serve as hubs for local runners and offer a full range of running gear along with training advice and a robust schedule of regular fun-runs and special race events.
Based on her belief in “authentic and community-focused relationship building,” Dalby has been a staunch LGBT ally. Pacers Running has been a supporter of Capital Pride and the D.C. Front Runners. In turn, the Front Runners made one of Dalby’s childhood dreams come true when they asked her to be a member of their Pride Parade dance troupe.
Dalby says, “I try to create a culture at Pacers where we celebrate others. I am proud to be an award winner, but it’ll be a real win when we don’t feel like we need to single out straight folks for being supportive of our LGBTQ friends because frankly that should be the norm.”
She has some excellent advice: “Acknowledge your privilege and acknowledge the beauty in differences,” she says. “It’ll make you a better person, I promise.” (BTC)
Best Transgender Advocate
A new title for Ruby after three wins as “Most Committed Activist” and the Local Heroine award in 2014.
For top stylist and Logan 14 Aveda Salon Spa owner Michael Ian Hodges, the recipe for success is simple: skills, consistency and friendliness. Also, location doesn’t hurt. There are more gays per inch in Logan Circle than anywhere else in the country, he notes.
While adept at all types of styling, he’s best known for his men’s barber cuts.
“I can do 44 cuts a day on a busy day. I have an assistant, and I double book: two guys every hour on a 12-hour day.”
Hodges first caught the hair bug sitting on the counter of his mom’s salon in England watching her do hair. When the family moved to the U.S., he brought his passion with him. After apprenticing with to an accomplished London-trained stylist in Maclean, Va.,, he began his professional career. Thirty years later, he’s still at it.
At Logan 14, he maintains a large book of clients and helms a crew of 24 stylists. He’s grateful for his clients’ patronage. “They’re like family. I know their lives backwards and forwards. There’s a mutual support and caring. Relationships are important.”
Looking forward, Hodges, who lives with his husband on the D.C. line in Mount Rainier, Md., is expanding the size of Logan 14, and he’s considering opening a barbershop in the future. “I’m not getting any younger, (he turns 50 next year) but I see myself working and staying in the industry for a long time.” (PF)
Best Art Gallery
A repeat of last year’s outcome for both winner and editor’s choice.
Foundry fights back! Dethrones Empowerment Liberation Cathedral, which had four consecutive wins (2015-2018). Foundry (church home to 17 U.S. presidents) held the title 2011-2014 was last year’s editor’s choice.
Since 2008, Amy Nelson has been director of legal services at Whitman-Walker Health. One of her milestone accomplishments was organizing the name and gender change legal clinic in 2012, which continues to serve hundreds of clients in updating their gender markers on identity documents annually.
Nelson is understandably proud about her work at the historic D.C. institution, saying, “Working at Whitman-Walker Health means being a part of history, part of a big messy family full of inspiration and passion, and is like no other job I could imagine. I am extremely excited about our expansion in Southeast and expanded services for youth.”
Nelson also underscores the importance of reaching out to D.C.’s diverse communities. “D.C.’s many (LGBT) and immigrant communities are fabulous and bold but need a little more love to stay healthy and safe as this country moves to erase them,” she says.
The fierce advocate acknowledges the role her family plays in sustaining her work. “I am so grateful to be sharing my life chaos with the one and only amazing June Crenshaw whose commitment to D.C.’s queer youth experiencing homelessness is limitless,” she says. “Her heart inspires me to do better, be kinder and be OK with being me.”
She also unwinds by hanging out with her nieces and nephew in Arlington. “They are adorable rays of sunshine and happiness who ground me every weekend,” she says. But be careful if you ask to see pictures of them. Nelson warns, “I only have a few thousand photos of them on my phone.” (BTC)
Best LGBT Social Group
Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington
Their show “Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda” is Saturday night (5 and 8 p.m.) at City Winery. The chorus knocks off Stonewall Sports after two consecutive wins.
Runner-up: Tattoo Paradise (winner last two years)
“It feels good, but we’re kind of used to it,” says Fatty (the only name he gives), owner of Fatty’s Tattoo on receiving this year’s Best Tattoo Parlor award. “We’ve been voted D.C.’s best tattoo shop 10 times now. Since 2009.”
It’s also their 25th year in D.C., and Fatty says success comes from welcoming everyone equally. When the Dupont Circle shop first opened, not all businesses embraced tattoo lovers.
“Back in the ’90s, tattooing was underground and being gay was still kind of underground, so we matched up pretty nicely.”
Fatty saw many shops close after the 2008 recession, but this match helped keep his parlor open.
“That’s our mission of excellence,” he says. “The customer doesn’t need to see it posted, they need to feel it.” (PVS)
The Kennedy Center returns after an upset flip-flop last year; it held the title 2015-2017!