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Gift Guide 2019 part 3: hot this year

Vice Wines, Budsies Selfie among hot items

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gift guide, gay news, Washington Blade

Editor’s note: This is part three of four Blade holiday gift guides. Last week’s installment (home gifts) is here if you missed it. Look for“last minute” in next week’s edition. (Dec. 13).

Category is: hot this year! Gifts galore for him, her, they and them — because secular Santa doesn’t discriminate like hypocrite “Christians” do.

Less is Bore! 

Life’s too short! Why settle for traditional ornaments? Celebrity collection: from the queen, politicians to fashion icons. From $19.95. Available at nakeddecor.com or at Naked Decor Pop Up store at Downtown Holiday Market in Washington. 

The Vice Wines

If any of your vices include a 2017 Mount Veeder Merlot, 2017 Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon, or 2018 Carneros Pinot Noir, stock up and save with these aptly named vinos handcrafted to make you feel naughty and nice. $28-695, thevicewine.com.

Budsies Selfie and Petsies Dolls

Lookalike dolls made to order from submitted photographs of your human and pet pals are stuffed with so much holiday cheer that this thoughtful treasure will be cherished for years to come. Ideal for drag queens that have everything but this. $99, budsies.com; $59-199, mypetsies.com.

Sprints Running Hat

The super-light, moisture-wicking Tropical Jaguars hat (unisex) protects athletes and outdoor enthusiasts from noggin burn and wet eyes whenever they feel like running wild. $29, getsprints.com.

Bluprint Subscription

Kick-start your secret Santa’s side hustle with Bluprint — NBCUniversal’s digital subscription service that offers classes, projects and supplies across 20-plus crafting hobbies, like quilting, knitting, embroidery and crochet, that can easily transform a creative procrastinator into a weekend money maker. $8-200, mybluprint.com.

OurShelves Children’s Book Box

Guncles and lesbi-aunts will be bedtime-story superstars when they deliver this quarterly subscription box filled with racially and ethically diverse children’s books featuring LGBTQ, feminist and other traditionally under-represented characters and families. $20-70, ourshelves.com.

Kimball Quero Boots

Step up your partner’s foot-fashion game with these ruggedly constructed wingtip boots featuring mixed leather and rubber for a no-slip stride that are as dapper as they are “damn, boy – you lookin’ fiiine!” $245-255, querohms.com.

Dessert Gallery Party in a Box

A successful holiday potluck requires two staples: free-flowing booze and plenty of sweet treats. You’ll find the latter in this Party in a Box available in Southern Pecan Pie, Tres Leches, To-Die-For Fudge Pecan Pie or a customizable tasting box. $40-89, dessertgallery.com.

Cat Ball Bed

Cats lick their plates clean when there’s fish on the menu, but roles are reversed when cute kitties become shark bait in this killer-cozy bed that’s totally fin-tastic. $85, thecatball.com.

Kombucha Making Kit

Whether you guzzle it or gag on it, kombucha has proven it has staying power and now the most health-conscious homos in your squad can whip up a fresh batch of their favorite fermented fizz without forking over a bundle per bottle. $45, farmsteady.com.

Rory Rockmore Pronoun Necklace

Using proper pronouns in the LGBTQ world can be confusing — you’ll stand corrected if you accidentally misgender — but these 14K gold or white gold nameplate necklaces (also available in HE/him and SHE/her) remove all the guesswork so you can save face. $240, roryrockmore.com.

The 5 O’Clock Box & Tom of Finland Vodka

In these three-step kits — available in sparkling rosé, spiced Old Fashioned, smoky margarita, and Moscow mule — all 5-o’clock-somewhere-ers have to do is add alcohol (like Tom of Finland vodka), shake or stir, and garnish to get tipsier than a freshly cut Tannenbaum. $30, twistyourspirits.com; $35, tomoffinlandvodka.com.

Quartz Collective Healing Crystals

You don’t have to believe in magic to reap the benefits of this collection of curated stones and crystals (which is backed by scientific research, btw) that can help facilitate healing, luck, confidence and calm and soothe negative nervous energy like anxiety. Rub ’em hard enough and you might even conjure up a top who can host. $29, quartzcollective.com.

Succulentsbox.com

The best gift for friends in tiny apartments is even tinier plants that don’t require a ton of care. Live-and-let-live succulents and minis are the perfect present — because who the hell wants to attend another ficus funeral? $5-228, succulentsbox.com.

STOCKING STUFFERS

Mokuyobi Wallets

This color-blocked, couldn’t-be-queerer-if-it-tried collection of clothing and accessories pop so hard Crayola is blue-green with envy. Wallets so bright they’ll make a bish swish harder. $12-156, mokuyobi.com.

CBD Under $20

Pop a literal chill pill when your in-laws start their shit at Christmas supper with CBD hemp capsules or gummies clocking in at under $20 for more than a week’s worth of you-don’t-give-a-fuckness. $7-20, cbdfx.com.

Axol & Friends

These cute plush critters with a purpose have companion storybooks. Axol is gender neutral, using only the pronoun “they/them” in the books, which teach children about rare endangered species and advocate for sustainable, ethical production and consumerism while donating a portion of proceeds to youth empowerment programs around the world. $19, axolandfriends.com.

Socks That Save LGBTQ Lives

Take a cue from today’s black-sock-showing youth and don this out-and-proud rainbow-stripe pair, the proceeds from each will benefit The Trevor Project to provide crisis intervention and suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth. $17, fairtradewinds.net.

HipDot Pressed Glitter Palette

Hey Sis!, Big Boss Miss Ross and Royal Riot are just a few of the names in HipDot’s 15-shade pressed glitter palette designed for all genders to beat their faces like Ziggy Stardust. Proceeds will be donated to the Anti-Violence Project. $30, hipdot.com.

Tighty Whities Ornament

Baby, it’s really cold outside with these festive, glass-assed skivvies that add some bulge to your bulbs. $18, alwaysfits.com.

felixSEBASTIAN Earrings

Burl Ives sang the praises of silver and gold in 1964’s “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” but you can accessorize all the same with the very-now Nascence Collection Studs available in three shapes and metal tones. $50, iamfelixsebastian.com.

Mikey Rox is an award-winning journalist and LGBT lifestyle expert whose work has been published in more than 100 outlets across the world. He spends his time writing from the beach with his dog Jaxon. Connect with Mikey on Instagram @mikeyroxtravels.

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Arts & Entertainment

After COVID hiatus, John Waters resumes touring schedule

‘Every single thing is different after COVID’

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John Watersis on the road again. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

For the first time in nearly two years, writer and filmmaker John Waters will be appearing on stage this fall before live audiences in the Baltimore-Washington area, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Waters, who lives in Baltimore, is scheduled to bring his spoken-word holiday show, “A John Waters Christmas,” to The Birchmere in Alexandria, Va., on Dec. 15, and Baltimore Soundstage on Dec. 21. He’ll also be at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco on Nov. 29 and The Vermont Hollywood on Dec. 2.

Waters’ holiday shows were cancelled in 2020 due to the theater closings and travel restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Some book signings for fans were converted to Zoom sessions. He last toured the country in November and December of 2019.

This year, with vaccinations on the rise, Waters has made a few in-person appearances, including a concert with gay country crooner Orville Peck in Colorado in July, where he was “special guest host”; a Q&A session with fans in Provincetown in August and a music festival last weekend in Oakland, Calif. He’s scheduled to visit another 18 cities between now and the end of the year, including a weekend in Wroclaw, Poland, where he’ll be honored during the American Film Festival there in November.

Waters said he has completely rewritten his spoken-word shows to reflect changes brought about by the COVID pandemic. “I haven’t done it in a year and a half,” he said in an interview with Town & Country magazine. “Every single thing is different after COVID. You cannot do the same show. Nothing’s the same.”

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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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