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Winter is a great season to visit Paris

Bustling French capital full of museums, gay nightlife

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Paris travel, gay news, Washington Blade
An outdoor Paris cafe. (Photo by Bill Calcolm)

Editor’s note — This is a new column. The Blade editors welcome Bill Malcolm to the fold. 

Winter is the perfect time to visit Paris. The crowds are gone. The weather is not as cold as many U.S. cities. Since you’ll be spending a lot of time in museums, it doesn’t matter anyway. Plus, Paris has a great gay scene and a gayborhood — The Marais.

Getting there

I snagged a great low fare on Delta Airlines. The service was exceptional and everything was free. Free hot dinner and breakfast, free headsets, free blankets and pillows, free eyeshades and more.  

Once in Paris, hop on the commuter rail to town, the RER-B then take the Metro to get to your hotel from the Gare du Nord Station.

Where to stay

I stayed at The Moxy, a new Marriott brand geared for millennials. The rate was very reasonable (it varied by day with one day at just 93 Euros or around $110). It’s located near the Marais in the Bastille District and near no less than three Metro stations. You can walk to many of the major attractions or hop on the subway. Two nearby stores (Franprix) have everything you need including salad bars, hot sandwiches and great selections of wine. 

Nightlife

The bars are mostly in the Marias. Bears will of course like the Bears’ Den. The Open Café serves food and is a lot of fun. Sly Bar has a great happy hour and karaoke on Mondays and Tuesdays. The Raidd bar has a shower show. You can dance the night away at Le Depot. 

What to do 

The first day I walked around the historic Marais District. Like many gayborhoods, it has been gentrified and is now full of high-end stores as well. 

The second day visit the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, walk along the Seine River and explore the shops of the Champs-Elysees. Then visit the new Leonardo da Vinci exhibit at The Louvre.

The third day explore the Natural History Museums, the zoo (Le Zoo du Jardin des Plantes), the Indoor Tropical Gardens, the Botanical Gardens, then walk back to the hotel. There’s also a farmer’s market on Sundays in the Bastille District where you can find local delicacies including pig’s feet, French cheeses, Paella and every kind of pastry and bread you could want. 

I liked the new Liberation Museum (Musee de la Liberation de Paris) which chronicles the German occupation of France. 

Day four go to visit Montmartre and the Sacred Heart Cathedral. Great views of Paris. Be sure and visit the Montmartre Museum as well and the associated Renoir Gardens. 

Where to eat 

Grab coffee at Alma Coffee. Don’t ask for milk or cream in your coffee. The French don’t use it and don’t drink (although they eat a lot of cheese).  

Ma Bourgogne has great steak and fries (in the Morais). 

Travel tips

  • Your ATM card works at French banks and they don’t charge a withdrawal fee. 
  • Many of the museums are free the first Sunday of the month in the winter.
  • Paris is seven hours ahead of Chicago so the jet lag is a hassle. Try to check into your hotel early but wait until 3 to take a nap. On the way home, stay up late at home to re-adjust.
  • The Euro is worth slightly more than the U.S. dollar.
  • Tips are included at restaurants. 
  • Buy a 10 ticket pack of Metro tickets and save. 
  • Turn off your phone and put it in Airplane mode. Shut off all data for all your apps too. Otherwise you will face roaming charges from French carriers which can be quite high. Most places have free internet so you can stay connected that way. 
  • Most locals speak some English but if you can, try to start the conversation in French. 

For more information and travel ideas

Paris has a number of LGBTQ publications all of which have city gay guides. Qweek has a lot of ideas especially for nightlife (Qweek.fr) along with maps of the neighborhoods. Strobo Magazine has a great map of the nightlife (strobomag.com). Tribu is another great publication also with a map. 

Parisinfo.com has travel tips as well and you can visit them at the Hotel de Ville (City Hall) in the Marias.

You can’t beat a winter visit to gay Paree. 

Paris’s gayborhood, The Marais. (Photo by Bill Malcolm)

Bill Malcolm is the nation’s only syndicated LGBTQ value travel columnist. He resides in Indianapolis and his column is or has been run by LGBTQ publications in Indianapolis, Chicago, Tampa-Orlando, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Detroit, Washington, Raleigh, Charlotte and Palm Springs and also found on the IGLTA travel blog. He received no compensation of any kind from any of the places visited (nor airlines nor hotels). His opinions are his own. 

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Theater

‘Hadestown’ comes to the Kennedy Center

Levi Kreis discusses return to live theater

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Levi Kreis is an out actor who plays Hermes in the national tour of ‘Hadestown’ soon opening at the Kennedy Center. (Photo courtesy of Levi Kreis)

Hadestown
Through Oct. 31
The Kennedy Center
$45.00 – $175.00
Kennedy-center.org
For Covid-19 safety regulations go to Kennedy-center.org/visit/covid-safety/

Early in September at New York’s Walter Kerr Theatre, out singer/actor Levi Kreis was in the audience for the long-awaited Broadway reopening of “Hadestown,” Anaïs Mitchell’s rousing musical reimagining of the Orpheus myth in which the legendary Greek hero descends into the underworld to rescue his lover Eurydice. 

After almost 18 months of pandemic-induced closure, the Tony Award-winning folk opera was back and the house was full. In a recent phone interview, Kreis describes the evening as “love-filled, and electrifying and emotional after such a difficult time.” Now, Kreis is onstage in the national tour of “Hadestown,” currently launching at the Kennedy Center. As Hermes, the shape-shifting god of oratory, Kreis is both narrator and chaperone to the story’s young lovers. 

A Tennessee native, Kreis, 39, has triumphantly survived turbulent times including a harrowingly prolonged coming out experience that included six years of conversion therapy, education disruptions, and music contract losses. He officially came out through his acclaimed album “One of the Ones” (2006), which features a collection of piano vocals about past boyfriends. And four years later, he splendidly won a Tony Award for originating the role of rock and roll wild man Jerry Lee Lewis in the rockabilly musical “Million Dollar Quartet.” 

Throughout much of the pandemic, Kreis leaned into his own music and found ways to reconnect with his largely gay fan base. But he’s happy to now be touring, noting that all the “Hadestown” cast have been hungering to perform before a real live audience.

When not on the road, he’s based in New York City with his husband, classical-crossover recording artist Jason Antone. 

WASHINGTON BLADE: Hermes is the same role for which André De Shields—the brilliant African American actor, also gay, and some decades your elder won a Tony and has resumed playing on Broadway, right?

LEVI KREIS: That’s right. It’s really a testament to the creative team. Rather than laying us over what Broadway created. They’re creating a tour that’s uniquely different; still true to the beauty of the story but with a different flavor. 

BLADE: What attracted you to the part?

KREIS: First, I fell in love with the show. My own musical sensibilities understand the origins of where this music comes from. It’s very bluesy and gospel. Southern and rootsy. And that’s everything I’ve created in my career as a singer/songwriter.

BLADE: With your life experience, do you feel called to mentor?

KREIS: The biggest effort I’ve given to this narrative is being a pioneer of the out-music movement starting in 2005 which was a moment when gay artists were not signed to major labels. I want through eight major labels—when they found out I was gay things always went south. 

It’s been amazing to be a voice in LGBTQ media when no one was speaking about these things. It’s popular now, but back when it mattered it was a lot harder to start my career as an openly gay artist and speak about these issues rather than keep quiet, cash in, and only then come out. 

BLADE: Where did that nerve come from?

KREIS: Less about nerve and more about being beaten down. How many things have to happen before you give up and decide to be honest?  

BLADE: For many theatergoers, “Hadestown” will be their return to live theater. Other than it being visionary and remarkably entertaining, why would you recommend it? 

KREIS: We need encouragement right now. But we also need art that facilitates a lot of important conversation about what’s happening in the world. This has both elements.  

“Hadestown” is not a piece of art that you easily forget. You’re going to walk out of the theater with a story that sticks with you. You’ll realized that your own voice matters. There’s a part in the show, Orpheus’ song, when the gods encourage him to get the balance of the world back again by telling him that his voice matters. 

BLADE: Is it timely?

KREIS: Art is here to change the world. And this piece of art hits the nail right on the head. I’m a purist when it comes to art and song. There’s a reason why we do it. people are listening now in a way they haven’t listened before. To miss that is to miss the role of society, I think. 

BLADE: And going forward? 

KREIS: It’s going to be interesting. We could double down on super commercialized theater or we may decide to really go the other direction and reclaim innovation. That remains to be seen. 

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Books

Book details fight to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

Clinton-era policy was horrific for LGB servicemembers

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‘Mission Possible: The Story of Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’
By C. Dixon Osburn
c.2021, self-published $35 hardcover, paperback $25, Kindle $12.99 / 450 pages

When Senior Airman Brandi Grijalva was stationed at Tyndall Air Force Base, she talked with a chaplain’s assistant about some problems she had at home. The chaplain’s assistant said what she told him would be confidential. But when she revealed that she was a lesbian, the chaplain’s assistant no longer kept her conversation with him confidential. Grijalva, after being investigated was discharged.

Craig Haack was a corporal in the Marines serving in Okinawa, Japan. Haack, who had made it through boot camp, felt confident. Until investigators barged into his barracks. Looking for evidence “of homosexual conduct,” they ransacked everything from his computers to his platform shoes. Haack was too stunned to respond when asked if he was gay.

In 1996, Lt. Col. Steve Loomis’ house was burned down by an Army private. The Army discharged the private who torched Loomis’ house. You’d think the Army would have supported Loomis. But you’d be wrong. The army discharged Loomis for conduct unbecoming an officer because a fire marshal found a homemade sex tape in the ashes.

These are just a few of the enraging, poignant, at times absurd (platform shoes?), all-too-true stories told in “Mission Possible: The Story of Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” by C. Dixon Osburn.

As a rule, I don’t review self-published books. But “Mission Possible” is the stunning exception that proves that rules, on occasion, are made to be broken.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) was the official U.S. policy on gay, lesbian and bisexual people serving in the military. Former President Bill Clinton announced the policy on July 19, 1993. It took effect on Feb. 28, 1994.

Sexual orientation was covered by DADT. Gender identity was covered by separate Department of Defense regulations.

Congress voted to repeal DADT in December 2010 (the House on Dec. 15, 2010, and the Senate on Dec. 18, 2010). On Dec. 22, 2010, Former President Barack Obama signed the repeal into law. 

DADT banned gay, lesbian and bisexual people who were out from serving in the U.S. military. Under DADT, it was not permitted to ask if servicemembers were LGB. But, LGB servicemembers couldn’t be out. They couldn’t talk about their partners, carry photos of their girlfriends or boyfriends or list their same-sex partner as their emergency contract.

It took nearly a year for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to go into effect. On Sept. 20, 2011, Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff “certified to Congress that implementing repeal of the policy {DADT} would have no effect on military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion or recruiting and retention,” Osburn writes.

Before DADT, out LGBT people weren’t permitted to serve in the military. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was intended to be a compromise—a policy that would be less onerous on LGB people, but that would pass muster with people who believed that gay servicemembers would destroy military readiness, morale and unit cohesion.

Like many in the queer community, I knew that DADT was a horror-show from the get-go. Over the 17 years that DADT was in effect, an estimated 14,000 LGB servicemembers were discharged because of their sexual orientation, according to the Veterans Administration.

But, I had no idea how horrific “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was until I read “Mission Possible.”              

In “Mission Possible,” Osburn, who with Michelle Benecke, co-founded the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), pulls off a nearly impossible hat trick.

In a clear, vivid, often spellbinding narrative, Osburn tells the complex history of the DADT-repeal effort as well as the stories of servicemembers who were pelted with gay slurs, assaulted and murdered under DADT.

Hats off to SLDN, now known as the Modern Military Association of America, for its heroic work to repeal DADT! (Other LGBTQ+ organizations worked on the repeal effort, but SLDN did the lion’s share of the work.)

You wouldn’t think a 450-pager about repealing a policy would keep you up all night reading. But, “Mission Possible” will keep you wide-awake. You won’t need the espresso.

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Arts & Entertainment

NSYNC star Lance Bass & husband Michael Turchin welcome twins

Singer, husband, and popular West Hollywood nightclub owner, now adds the job of ‘Dad’ to his resume

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Lance Bass and Michael Turchin via Instagram

WEST HOLLYWOOD – Former boy-band NSYNC star and co-owner of the popular LGBTQ+ nightspot Rocco’s, Lance Bass, announced that he and husband Michael Turchin are the proud parents of twins, Violet Betty and Alexander James.

In his announcement on Instagram, Bass wrote; ‘The baby dragons have arrived!! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ I can not express how much love I feel right now. Thank you for all the kind wishes. It meant a lot. Now, how do you change a diaper??! Ahhhhhhhh!”

The babies were carried via surrogate, the singer noted saying that Alexander, born one minute before his sister on Wednesday, weighed 4 lbs., 14 oz. Violet weighed 4 lbs., 11 oz. Bass said in his Instagram post.

His husband also announced the news on his Instagram account. “Introducing the newest members of the Turchin-Bass household: Violet Betty and Alexander James!!!! They’re pure perfection and yes that includes the dozens of poops we’ve already dealt with. Our hearts our full!!! Thank you everyone for the well wishes 🥰🥰🥰”

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