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MAL goes big for 2020

D.C. tradition expected to draw thousands for queer kinkster fun

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MAL, Mid-Atlantic Leather, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Centaur Motorcycle Club takes over D.C. for its 44th annual Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend Friday through Sunday into the wee hours from its host venue the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill (400 New Jersey Ave., N.W.). This MAL also marks the 50th anniversary of Centaur MC.

Patrick Grady, a gay leather enthusiast who has watched his “tribe” grow over the years, is Centaur MC’s chairman for the events. He was introduced to the Centaurs back in the 1990s while he was the director of catering at the Washington Plaza Hotel. 

That chance encounter with Centaur members was life-changing for the still mild-mannered and soft-spoken gentleman who describes leather as a wearable art that invites others to touch and engage it.

“When I came into leather, it awoke some inner feeling,” Grady says. “But you don’t have to own leather to come to MAL. You just go there to have a good time.”

MAL is a three-day party for leather, kink and fetish enthusiasts that continues to grow in popularity with scores of packed venues across the district. It began in 1976 when Glenn Pitcher of the Links Motorcycle Club in New York booked a suite at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel and threw an intimate cocktail party for a few friends visiting from the west coast. 

The Leather Cocktails tradition, still a core feature of the current MAL event, began when one of the members dropped his metal cock ring in the hotel bathroom. The sound became a humorous signal opening the festivities. 

The Centaurs took over Leather Cocktails in 1984 to keep the tradition alive and added the Sunday brunch, a Leather Exhibit hall and the Mr. MAL contest. 

“It’s great to see everybody and welcome new people,” Grady says, excitement filling his voice. “I’m a Pisces, so, I’m always emotional. People take bets to see how long it takes me to cry at Leather Cocktails.” 

He says the reason behind MAL and the Centaur’s longevity is despite this year’s expected 3,000-5,000 attendees it still feels like a group of friends getting together for the weekend.

“I think it’s a testament to the members themselves,” he says. “We have 31 current, all volunteers. We all enjoy each other. We enjoy hosting MAL for the masses.”

Most of the events take place at the host hotel and a schedule is available at leatherweekend.com. However, bars and clubs across the district such as Uproar, the Green Lantern and the D.C. Eagle will be hosting special MAL edition events as well.

“We are honored to be a part of such an exciting weekend,” says Miguel Ayala, marketing manager for the D.C. Eagle. “Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend has grown leaps and bounds over the years thanks to the hard work and dedication of the Centaur MC.” 

Staff there is anticipating their largest crowds ever and will have additional food trucks on hand as well as a shuttle running from the host hotel to the bar Thursday through Sunday. 

The Red Bear is relatively new to D.C., with only a few years of experience working MAL weekend. Cameron Raspet, the founder and director of operations, says he and his staff are expecting big crowds throughout D.C. and hope to have a significant turn out at their events which includes a leather-themed drag show. 

Two groups adding diversity to the festivities this year are the People of Color Kink and Leather Experience (POCKLE) and Sadie V, a PoC leather community. Both groups are hosting MAL queer/transgender people of color kinky queer events Friday and Saturday at the Hampton Inn.

Tyesha Best, curator and owner of the POCKLE Project and social media coordinator for International Mr. Leather Inc., is looking forward to this year’s events as well. 

“I think leather opens doors,” Grady says of the event’s expansion. “Because you find people with a common enjoyment and a common feel. I’ve always felt with leather communities everyone is easy to talk with, approachable, supportive and they look after each other as well.”

Each year MAL continues to grow, culminating in last year’s $100,000 donation to D.C. charities including HIPS and Casa Ruby. But Grady says Centaur members hope to maintain the warm feel of a small gathering of friends. 

“We don’t want to become another IMF,” he says of the larger leather organization MAL supports. “We want everyone to have a good time instead of getting lost in the crowd.”

Though Grady currently doesn’t have a partner to share the weekend with, he is looking forward to the arrival of an English friend he met at an Irish event as well as meeting thousands of friends new and old. 

Weekend jam-packed with piggybacking parties

Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade file photo by Denis Largeron)

The Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend presented by the Centaur Motorcycle Club kicks off today at 4 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency (400 New Jersey Ave., N.W.). A full-weekend pass for this three-day event is $30. Friday only and Sunday only passes are $15 and passes for Saturday only are $20.

Most of the weekend’s official events take place at the Hyatt; however, other events and parties are also held at other venues around the city. Official events include Saturday evening Leather Cocktails, Sunday brunch, a Mr. MAL contest, a Leather Exhibit Hall and the Sunday night closing party. 

For a complete schedule and other details, visit leatherweekend.com.

Friday, Jan. 17

The Bear Happy Hour’s Leather Bear Party presented by D.C. Bear Crue is tonight from 5-10 p.m. at Uproar (639 Florida Ave., N.W.). Bears, otters and their furry friends are celebrated at this MAL weekend event. There is no cover charge, select drinks are $5 and free appetizers are handed out all night. Drink specials end at 10 p.m. Visit uproarlounge.com and Facebook events for details.

MIR at MAL: A Rubber Meet and Greet hosted by Mr. International Rubber is tonight from 7-10 p.m. at the MAL host hotel, Hyatt Regency (400 New Jersey Ave., N.W.). This cocktail party is an opportunity for rubber enthusiasts to meet, socialize and start the weekend off right. Part of the space will be black lit to show off colorized rubber wear. For more information, visit mirubber.com.

The Green Lantern (1335 Green Ct., N.W.) hosts Rough House: Leather Edition tonight at 9 p.m. This lights off, hands-on dance party features DJS offAxis, Lemz, Sean Morris and The Barber Streisand. Cover is $5 before 10 p.m. and $10 after with a free clothes check. More information is available at greenlanterndc.com.

Impact: Sauvage is a Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend kick-off party hosted by The Highwaymen TNT in the MAL host hotel at 10 p.m. TWiN spins the music until 3 a.m. for this MAL opening night event. Visit Facebook events for more information. 

Pervert: The Pleasure of Darkness is tonight at 10 p.m. at Karma D.C. (2221 Adams Place, N.W.). Tickets are $42 for this party featuring entertainment by DJ Cindel and Flavio Zarza. Hosts La Fantasy, Hilton Wolman Events and Matinee Group team up for this MAL weekend production. Visit seetickets.us/pervertdc for more information.

Furball D.C. hosted by the D.C. Eagle (3701 Benning Rd., N.E.) is tonight at 11:30 p.m. This MAL weekend kick off party offers a bus shuttle all night to the MAL host hotel as well as music by Dan De Leon. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. VIP tickets are $30. For more information, visit furballnyc.ticketleap.com.

Saturday, Jan. 18

Deviant (1348 H St., N.E.) hosts a circuit party and celebration for queer people of color in time for MLK and MAL weekend. This event sets things off tonight at 10 p.m. and features performances by Tryfe with special guest Mr. Maryland Leather 2020 “Sir Oya.” General admission is $30 and tickets are available at deviantevents.eventbrite.com.  

Spank, a hard-hitting all-night party presented by The Needle Exchange and Sequence, is tonight at 10 p.m. This event celebrates both the D.C. Leather weekend and the third anniversary of the D.C. Women’s March and features sets from DJ Lisa Frank, Juliana, Ash Lauryn and Juana with sounds by Grand Ancestor. The venue location will be sent to ticket holders on the day of the event. Visit bit.ly/SPANKDC for details.

Brut takes over the D.C. Eagle (3701 Benning Rd., N.E.) tonight at 10 p.m. DJs Dan Darlington and Morabito are set to spin NYC underground house music during this leather weekend party. Tickets start at $30 and are available at tickets.hedonicproductions.com. Find more information on this and other events at dceagle.com.

Sunday, Jan. 19

Harder, a hard tea dance party, is today from 3-9 p.m. at the U Street Music Hall (1115 U St., N.W.). This event recreates New York’s gay underground night scene with house music by Keenan Orr and Shaun J. Wright, an intimate space and a hardcore party crowd. Tickets start at $10 on bigneon.com. More information is available at ustreetmusichall.com.

Uproar’s (639 Florida Ave., N.W.) Sunday Beer Bust MAL edition kicks off today at 3 p.m. There is no cover for this event which includes a complimentary dinner buffet from 3-6 and the Beer Bust with DJ Mike Babbitt from 4-9. For more information on the venue and on Uproar’s first Daddy Night event, visit uproarlounge.com.

Sungay, an outdoor day party with leather aficionados, muscle boys, bears and more, runs today from 4-10 p.m. at Eden D.C. (1716 I St., N.W.). This party takes place at a multilevel nightclub to include three floors and an outdoor space equipped with patio heaters. DJs Jerac and Paulo Fagroso spin the music at this MAL weekend event. Visit seetickets.us for tickets and details.

JOX returns to the Green Lantern (1335 Green Ct., N.W.) tonight at 9 p.m. for a special MAL edition. This event features all-night drink specials, a $10 cover, music by DJ UltraPup and performances by the JOX boys. For details visit greenlanterndc.com.

Flashy Leather Edition hosted by Flashy Sundays (645 Florida Ave., N.W.) starts tonight at 10 p.m. The cover charge is $30 for this first Flashy event of 2020, celebrating both the MLK holiday and MAL weekend. Doors open at 10 p.m. with an extended bar until 4 a.m. TWiN and DJ Sean Morris will be spinning tunes on the main floor while DJ Mike Babbitt will be running the roof top all night long. Visit facebook.com/flashydc for details.

MAL Reaction Dance: The Official Closing Party of MAL is tonight at 8 p.m. at the 9:30 Club (815 V St., N.W.). Tickets are $35 in advance and $45 at the door. This intimate venue which launched hit makers like Lizzo plays host to the MAL weekend finale. For tickets and information, visit 930.com.

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Rodriquez scores historic win at otherwise irrelevant Golden Globes

Award represents a major milestone for trans visibility

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Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, on right, and Billy Porter in 'Pose.' (Photo courtesy of FX)

HOLLYWOOD – Despite its continuing status as something of a pariah organization in Hollywood, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has managed to cling to relevance in the wake of last night’s behind-closed-doors presentation of its 79th Annual Golden Globe Awards by sole virtue of having bestowed the prize for “Best Leading Actress in a Television Series – Drama” on Michaela Jaé Rodriguez for her work in the final season of “Pose” – making her the first transgender performer to win a Golden Globe.

The ceremony took place as a private, no-press-or-audience event in which winners were revealed via a series of tweets from the Golden Globes Twitter account. No celebrities were present (not even the nominees or winners), although actress Jamie Lee Curtis participated by appearing in a video in which she pronounced her continuing loyalty to the HFPA – without mention of the  longstanding issues around diversity and ethical practices, revealed early in 2021 by a bombshell Los Angeles Times report, that have led to an nearly industry-wide boycott of the organization and its awards as well as the cancellation of the annual Golden Globes broadcast by NBC for the foreseeable future.

While the Golden Globes may have lost their luster for the time being, the award for Rodriquez represents a major milestone for trans visibility and inclusion in the traditionally transphobic entertainment industry, and for her part, the actress responded to news of her win with characteristic grace and good will.

Posting on her Instagram account, the 31-year old actress said: 

“OMG OMGGG!!!! @goldenglobes Wow! You talking about sickening birthday present! Thank you!

“This is the door that is going to Open the door for many more young talented individuals. They will see that it is more than possible. They will see that a young Black Latina girl from Newark New Jersey who had a dream, to change the minds others would WITH LOVE. LOVE WINS.

“To my young LGBTQAI babies WE ARE HERE the door is now open now reach the stars!!!!!”

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As You Are Bar and the importance of queer gathering spaces

New bar/restaurant poised to open in 2022

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As You Are Bar had a pop-up venue at Capital Pride's "Colorful Fest" block party in October. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

More than just a watering hole: As You Are Bar is set to be the city’s newest queer gathering place where patrons can spill tea over late-morning cappuccinos as easily as they can over late-night vodka-sodas.

Co-owners and founders Jo McDaniel and Rachel Pike built on their extensive experience in the hospitality industry – including stints at several gay bars – to sign a lease for their new concept in Barracks Row, replacing what was previously District Soul Food and Banana Café. In a prime corner spot, they are seeking to bring together the disparate colors of the LGBTQ rainbow – but first must navigate the approval process (more on that later).

The duo decided on this Southeast neighborhood locale to increase accessibility for “the marginalized parts of our community,” they say, “bringing out the intersectionality inherent in the queer space.”

Northwest D.C., they explain, not only already has many gay bar options, but is also more difficult to get to for those who don’t live within walking distance. The Barracks Row location is right by a Metro stop, “reducing pay walls.” Plus, there, “we are able to find a neighborhood to bring in a queer presence that doesn’t exist today.”

McDaniel points out that the area has a deep queer bar history. Western bar Remington’s was once located in the area, and it’s a mere block from the former Phase 1, the longest-running lesbian bar, which was open from 1971-2015.

McDaniel and Pike hope that As You Are Bar will be an inclusive space that “welcomes anyone of any walk of life that will support, love, and celebrate the mission of queer culture. We want people of all ages, gender, sexual identity, as well as drinkers and non-drinkers, to have space.”

McDaniel (she/her) began her career at Apex in 2005 and was most recently the opening manager of ALOHO. Pike (she/they) was behind the bar and worked as security at ALOHO, where the two met.

Since leaving ALOHO earlier this year, they have pursued the As You Are Bar project, first by hosting virtual events during the pandemic, and now in this brick-and-mortar space. They expressed concern that receiving the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) liquor license approval and the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, or ANC, approval will be a long and expensive process.

They have already received notice that some neighbors intend to protest As You Are Bar’s application for the “tavern” liquor license that ABRA grants to serve alcohol and allow for live entertainment (e.g. drag shows). They applied for the license on Nov. 12, and have no anticipated opening date, estimating at least six months. If ABRA and the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board give final approval, the local ANC 6B and nearby residents can no longer protest the license until the license comes up for renewal.

Until approval is given, they continue physical buildout (including soundproofing) and planning their offerings. If the license is approved, ABRA and the ABC Board can take action against As You Are Bar, like any bar, at any time if they violate the terms of the license or create a neighborhood disturbance that violates city laws such as the local noise ordinance.  In the kitchen, the duo snagged Chef Nina Love to develop the menu. Love will oversee café-style fare; look out for breakfast sandwiches making an appearance all the way until close. They will also have baked goods during the day.

McDaniel and Pike themselves will craft the bar menu. Importantly, they note, the coffee bar will also serve until close. There will be a full bar as well as a list of zero-proof cocktails. As with their sourcing, they hope to work with queer-, minority-, and women-owned businesses for everything not made in-house.

Flexible conceptually, they seek to grow with their customer base, allowing patrons to create the culture that they seek.

Their goal is to move the queer space away from a focus on alcohol consumption. From book clubs, to letter-writing, to shared workspaces, to dance parties, they seek an all-day, morning-to-night rhythm of youth, families, and adults to find a niche. “We want to shift the narrative of a furtive, secretive, dark gay space and hold it up to the light,” they say. “It’s a little like The Planet from the original L Word show,” they joke.

Pike notes that they plan on working closely with SMYAL, for example, to promote programming for youth. Weekend potential activities include lunch-and-learn sessions on Saturdays and festive Sunday brunches.

The café space, to be located on the first floor, will have coffeehouse-style sofas as well as workstations. A slim patio on 8th Street will hold about six tables.

Even as other queer bars have closed, they reinforce that the need is still present. “Yes, we can visit a café or bar, but we always need to have a place where we are 100 percent certain that we are safe, and that our security is paramount. Even as queer acceptance continues to grow, a dedicated queer space will always be necessary,” they say.

To get there, they continue to rally support of friends, neighbors, and leaders in ANC6B district; the ANC6B officials butted heads with District Soul Food, the previous restaurant in the space, over late-night noise and other complaints. McDaniel and Pike hope that once nearby residents and businesses understand the important contribution that As You Are Bar can make to the neighborhood, they will extend their support and allow the bar to open.

AYA, gay news, Washington Blade
Rachel Pike and Jo McDaniel signed a lease for their new concept in Barracks Row. (Photo courtesy Pike and McDaniel)
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Need a list-minute gift idea?

Books, non-profit donations make thoughtful choices

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‘Yes, Daddy’ by Jonathan Parks-Ramage is the story of a young man with dying dreams of fame and fortune, who schemes to meet an older man.

You knew this was coming.

You knew that you were going to have to finish your holiday shopping soon but it snuck up on you, didn’t it? And even if you’re close to being done, there are always those three or five people who are impossible to buy for, right? Remember this, though: books are easy to wrap and easy to give, and they last a while, too. So why not head to the bookstore with your Christmas List and look for these gifts.

And if you still have people to shop for, why not make a donation to a local non-profit in their name? A list of D.C.-area suggestions follows.

BOOKS: NONFICTION

If there’s about to be a new addition to your family, wrapping up “Queer Stepfamilies: The path to Social and Legal Recognition” by Katie L. Acosta would be a good thing. In this book, the author followed forty LGBTQ families to understand the joys, pitfalls, and legalities of forming a new union together. It can’t replace a lawyer, but it’s a good overview.

For the parent who wants to ensure that their child grows up with a lack of bias, “Raising LGBTQ Allies” by Chris Tompkins is a great book to give. It’s filled with methods to stop bullying in its tracks, to be proactive in having That Conversation, and how to be sure that the next generation you’re responsible for becomes responsible in turn. Wrap it up with “The Healing Otherness Handbook” by Stacee L. Reicherzer, Ph.D., a book that helps readers to deal with bullying by finding confidence and empowerment.

If there’s someone on your gift list who’s determined to get “fit” in the coming year, then give “The Secret to Superhuman Strength” by Alison Bechdel this holiday. Told in graphic-novel format (comics, basically), it’s the story of searching for self-improvement and finding it in a surprising place.

So why not give a little nostalgia this year by wrapping up “A Night at the Sweet Gum Head” by Martin Padgett? It’s the tale of disco, drag, and drugs in the 1970s (of course!) in Atlanta, with appearances by activists, politics, and people who were there at that fabulous time. Wrap it up with “After Francesco” by Brian Malloy, a novel set a little later – in the mid-1980s in New York City and Minneapolis at the beginning of the AIDS crisis.

The LGBTQ activist on your gift list will want to read “The Case for Gay Reparations” by Omar G. Encarnacion. It’s a book about acknowledgment, obligation on the part of cis citizens, and fixing the pain that homophobia and violence has caused. Wrap it up with “Trans Medicine: The Emergence and Practice of Treating Gender” by Stef M. Shuster, a look at trans history that may also make your giftee growl.

FICTION

Young readers who have recently transitioned will enjoy reading “Both Sides Now” by Peyton Thomas. It’s a novel about a high school boy with gigantic dreams and the means to accomplish them all. Can he overcome the barriers that life gives him? It’s debatable… Pair it with “Can’t Take That Away” by Steven Salvatore, a book about two nonbinary students and the troubles they face as they fall in love.

The thriller fan on your list will be overjoyed to unwrap “Yes, Daddy” by Jonathan Parks-Ramage. It’s the story of a young man with dying dreams of fame and fortune, who schemes to meet an older, more accomplished man with the hopes of sparking his failing career. But the older man isn’t who the younger thinks he is, and that’s not good. Wrap it up with “Lies with Man” by Michael Nava, a book about a lawyer who agrees to be counsel for a group of activists. Good so far, right? Until one of them is accused of being involved in a deadly bombing.

For the fan of Southern fiction, you can’t go wrong when you wrap up “The Tender Grave” by Sheri Reynolds. It’s the tale of two sisters, one homophobic, the other lesbian, and how they learn to forgive and re-connect.

NON-PROFIT GIVING

Like nonprofit organizations throughout the country, D.C.-area LGBTQ supportive nonprofit groups have told the Blade they continue to rebuild amid the coronavirus pandemic, which disrupted their fundraising efforts while increasing expenses, at least in part by prompting more people to come to them for help.

This holiday season, if you’re looking for a thoughtful gift, consider making a donation to one of our local LGBTQ non-profit organizations in someone else’s name. This list is by no means exhaustive, but a good place to start your research.

Contributions to the LGBTQ supportive nonprofit organizations can be made via the websites of these local organizations:

• Blade Foundation, which funds local scholarships and fellowships for queer student journalists, bladefoundation.org

• DC Center, our local community center that operates a wide range of programming,  thedccenter.org/donate

Food & Friends, which delivers meals to homebound patients, foodandfriends.org

HIPS, which advances the health rights and dignity of those impacted by sex work and drugs, hips.org

• SMYAL, which advocates for queer youth, smyal.org

Wanda Alston Foundation, which offers shelter and support for LGBTQ youth, wandaalstonfoundation.org

• Whitman-Walker Health, the city’s longtime LGBTQ-inclusive health care provider, whitmanwalkerimpact.org

Casa Ruby, which provides shelter and services to youth in need, casaruby.org

• Us Helping Us, which helps improve the health of communities of color and works to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS on the Black community, ushelpingus.org/donate

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