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San Antonio makes great gay winter escape spot

Tex Mex food, biodiversity and thriving nightlife among features

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Alamo, gay news, Washington Blade
The Alamo is a must-see attraction in San Antonio. (Photo by Bill Malcolm)

San Antonio makes for a perfect winter get away. Temperatures stay mild, the historic city offers plenty to do complete with a great LGBTQ nightlife scene with all the bars except one located close together on Main Street. The historic city is a mix of Mexican, German, Spanish and native cultures and of course features the River Walk.

Getting there: I paid just $200 on Southwest Airlines round trip to SAT (the airport code for the city airport). Once there, catch the VIA no. 5 bus Yto downtown for just $1.30. You can take VIA all around the city and they have two cultural buses to all the attractions. An all-day pass is just $2.75. Plan your trip at viainfo.net

Where to stay: I stayed at the Grand Hyatt one night and the Marriott River Center the other four. Both were great. Bargain hunters will want to stay at the LaQuinta or TRU by Hilton. All are near the famous RiverWalk area downtown.

What to do: Make your first stop to the Alamo, site of the famous battle against Mexico which resulted in the creation of the Republic of Texas. The building was constructed in 1724.

Walk north on the RiverWalk to the Art Museum which is located in an old Brewery. The Museum is open until 8 p.m. on Fridays. 

Take the 11B VIA bus to the Botanical Gardens which features three different areas of Texas botany. The region is unusual as plants from the east meet plants from the Southwest. They also have endemic species unique to the limestone-covered Hill Country. Palms, oaks, cacti, pines and Mexican species make for an interesting biogeography.

Take the VIA 11A bus to The Witte Museum to learn about Texas culture, history and biogeography. The museum is free and open until 8 p.m. on Tuesday. Learn about the regions of the state and its colorful history. Don’t mess with Texas. It still has an independent streak.

Don’t miss the Pearl District just north of downtown. The former brewery has interesting shops and restaurants.

The food everywhere is excellent and features great Tex Mex and Mexican as well as German. 

The San Antonio Gayborhood may be found on Main Street just north of downtown. Make your fist stop Pegasus Bar (1402 Main St.) which features great drink specials and a friendly crowd. Fierce Fridays features $2 wells and $2 beers. Try the Shiner Bock or Lone Star beer.

Nearby is Heat, a dance bar at 1500 N. Main. 

You can pick up new clothes or leather gear at Ouch Apparel and Hard Core Leather. Knockout Pizza is good for a bite. 

Across the street on Main is Luther’s Café and Bar which features Wigstock Karaoke on Fridays. 

Dance the night away at the Bonham Exchange. The two-story building is located in an old German meeting hall. The mixed crowd allows minors and can be found at 411 Bonham downtown. On Saturdays, they have strippers plus a great dance area on two floors. They were having a Studio 54 birthday party the night I was there.

Travel tips: Out in San Antonio is its LGBTQ publication (outinsa.com) and has bar ads to help you plan your visit. The Current is the city’s weekly paper, which also has great ideas. 

Visitsanantonio.com is your one stop shop for information on all the attractions and upcoming events. Thanks to Eva Alvallotis for the help.

San Antonio makes for a great winter get away and is a big city with a small town feel without the attitude of Austin or the big city hassles of Dallas and Houston. Plus a great gay scene

Bill Malcolm is an Indianapolis-based traveler whose syndicated LGBTQ value travel column appears in publications around the country. He does this as a hobby.

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Photos

PHOTOS: International LGBTQ Leaders Conference opening reception

Politicians and activists from around the world met and mingled at the JW Marriott

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Politicians and activists from around the world met and mingled at the JW Marriott. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The LGBTQ Victory Institute held an opening reception for the 2021 International LGBTQ Leaders Conference at the JW Marriott on Thursday.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Theater

Meet the husbands and creative partners behind ‘Christmas Angel’

A funny, redemptive world premiere with a diverse cast

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Stephen Gregory Smith and Matt Conner with pugs Edgar Allan Pug and Lord Byron.

The Christmas Angel
Dec. 9-19
Creative Cauldron
410 South Maple Avenue
Falls Church, VA 22046
Tickets:  $35. Students $20.
Masks and proof of vaccination are required
creativecauldron.org

“Ours is like a lava lamp,” says composer Matt Conner describing the collaborative creative process he shares with musical writing partner and husband Stephen Gregory Smith. “We move together in motion in a continual ebb and flow.” 

A couple for 23 years, married for eight, and making musicals together for 11, the talented pair’s current offering is “The Christmas Angel,” opening on Dec. 9 at Creative Cauldron in Fairfax. 

A musical adaptation of the same-named 1910 novel by Abbie Farwell Brown, it’s the story of Angelina Terry (Kanysha Williams), a wealthy embittered recluse who learns the lessons of Christmas from a box of old toys that she casts into the street. Also featured in the hour-long one-act are Ryan Sellers as Horton, Angelina’s butler, and Carl Williams who plays her brother. The angel and toys are brought to life by an ensemble of a dozen teens plucked from the company’s musical theater training program. 

Via phone from their home in Arlington, Smith and Conner shared thoughts on their new show and working style. In attendance are pug dogs Edgar Allan Pug and Lord Byron, whom they call Eddie and Byron in public – otherwise “it’s just too much,” says Conner whose ultimate fantasy involves living on a pug farm where he’d write music and present the occasional show.

Rather than finish each other’s sentences, the duo (both Helen Hayes Award winners – Smith for acting and Conner for directing) expound on one another’s thoughts.

While Conner composes the music, Smith writes the book and lyrics, and together they co-direct. “But there’s no end and beginning where my job ends and his begins,” says Smith. “What we do complements each other’s work.”

Still, there are differences. Smith’s approach is focused. He writes pages at night and edits in the morning. Conner’s method is more relaxed, preferring to sit at the keyboard and talk rather than writing things down. But throughout the creative process, there’s never a moment when the project isn’t on their mind. They can be watching TV or buying milk when an exciting idea pops up, says Conner. 

A clever nod to Dickens, the novel is more than just a female “Christmas Carol,” says Smith. And in some spots, he’s beefed up the 55-page book, fleshing out both storyline and characters including the toys whose shabby appearance belies a youthful confidence. 

He adds, “Every holiday season you go to the attic and pull down the box, or boxes in my case, of holiday decorations and it’s all old but it’s new. That’s the nostalgic feeling of toys from the attic that we’re trying to find through the show.”

The music is a combination of traditional carols performed by a hand bell chorus, and original Christmas songs that intentionally sound very familiar. The score includes songs “Don’t Hide Your Light,” “The Sweetest Gift,” and “Yestermore” – the moment when the past, present, and future come together. 

Also, there’s Angelina’s Bah! Humbug! number “Fiddlesticks,” her great renunciation of the holidays. She believes the world a disappointing place to be, and the sooner realized the better. 

Conner and Smith aren’t new to Creative Cauldron. Through the company’s Bold New Works project, the team was commissioned to write five world premiere musicals in just five years. The result was “The Turn of the Screw,” “Monsters of the Villa Diodati,” “Kaleidoscope,” “Witch” and “On Air.”

Judging from some of the titles and their slightly macabre content, it seems the duo was better poised to write for Halloween than Christmas, but nonetheless, they were commissioned. Creative Cauldron’s producing director Laura Connors Hull brought them the obscure yet charming book that surprisingly had never before been reworked for stage or celluloid, and the pair got to work last spring. 

Conner and Smith agree, “The show is a lot of things rolled up into one.”

Not only is it a funny, redemptive world premiere with a diverse cast, but it’s also a story largely unknown to today’s audiences. Additionally, the show boasts intergenerational appeal while holding messages about Christmas, family, and finding light when you’re in a darker place. 

More information about Conner and Smith, including links to their music and popular podcast “The Conner & Smith Show,” can be found on their terrific website at connersmithmusicals.com.   

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Books

‘Capote’s Women’ is catnip to older pop culture fans

Revisiting iconic author’s seven ‘swans’

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(Book cover courtesy of Putnam)

Capote’s Women
By Laurence Leamer
C.2021, Putnam $28/356 pages

Her lips are locked tight.

Your best friend knows all your secrets, and she’s keeping them; you told her things you had to tell somebody, and she’s telling nobody. You always knew you could trust her; if you couldn’t, she wouldn’t be your BFF. But as in the new book “Capote’s Women” by Laurence Leamer, what kind of a friend are you?

For months, Truman Capote had been promising a blockbuster.

Following his success with “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “In Cold Blood,” he was “one of the most famous authors in the world” but he needed a career-booster. The novel he was writing, he teased, would be about “his swans,” seven wealthy, fashionable women who quite personified “beauty, taste, and manners.”

His first swan was Barbara “Babe” Paley, whom he’d met on a trip with the David Selznicks to Jamaica. For Capote, “Babe was the epitome of class,” simply “perfect” in every way; it helped that the famously gay writer was no threat to Paley’s “madly jealous” husband.

Babe’s “dearest friend” was Nancy “Slim” Keith, who quickly learned that if a lady wanted her confidences kept, she didn’t tell Capote anything. She shouldn’t have trusted Babe, either: When Slim left for a European trip, Babe asked if Slim’s husband could accompany Babe’s friend, Pamela Hayward, to a play.

Slim was aware of Pamela’s predatory reputation, but what could she say?

Of course, Pamela, another of Truman’s swans, stole Slim’s man, a scandal that Capote loved.

Gloria Guinness was highly intelligent, possibly enough to be a spy in Nazi Germany. Lucy “C.Z.” Guest was an upper-crust “elitist” with a “magical aura.” Marella Agnelli “was born an Italian princess”; Lee Radziwill, of course, was Jacqueline Kennedy’s sister.

Through the late 1960s, Capote claimed to be writing his masterpiece, his tour de force based on his swans, but several deadlines passed for it. He was sure Answered Prayers “would turn him once again into the most talked-about author in America.”

Instead, when an excerpt from it was published, his swans got very ruffled feathers.

Every time you stand in line for groceries, the tabloids scream at you with so much drama that you either love it or hate it. Or, in the case of “Capote’s Women,” you cultivate it.

And that’s infinitely fun, as told by author Laurence Leamer.

Happily, though, Leamer doesn’t embellish or disrespect these women or Capote; he tells their tales in order, gently allowing readers’ heads to spin with the wild, globe-hopping goings-on but not to the point that it’s overdone. While most of this book is about these seven beautiful, wealthy, and serially married women – the Kardashians of their time, if you will – Capote is Leamer’s glue, and Truman gets his due, as well.

Readers who devour this book will be sure that the writer would’ve been very happy about that.

“Capote’s Women” should be like catnip to celeb-watchers of a Certain Age but even if you’re not, find it. If you’re a Hollywood fan, you’ll want to get a lock on it.

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