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Storm’s Sullivan becomes first out bisexual player in pro hockey

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Manchester Storm defenseman Zach Sullivan (Image via Twitter)

Yet another figure in the world of professional sports has come out of the closet.

Last weekend, Manchester Storm defenseman Zach Sullivan came out as bisexual on social media. According to Outsports, he is believed to be the first professional ice hockey player to do so during their career.

The 25-year old UK hockey player made his revelation as his team’s Elite Ice Hockey League held its first-ever Pride weekend, in partnership with You Can Play. Hockey website RMNB reports that support for the weekend was league-wide; individual teams selected a local LGBT+ charity to work with, with initiatives ranging from the use of Pride tape, specially designed Pride jerseys, raffles and auctions to win player’s shirts, Pride merchandise for sale, and some proceeds going to directly to LGBT+ organizations. The weekend received heavy promotion across social media and in national and local news coverage across the UK.

Ahead of Sunday’s game between the Storm and rival team the Dundee Stars, Sullivan took to Instagram and Twitter with a the following post:

“With this being the first ever EIHL #PrideWeekend I feel now is the best time to speak about what I have known for many years. I have battled with mental health problems over this issue and with the support, understanding and acceptance from my family, friends and teammates, I finally feel read to say; I’m bisexual. I have never been more proud to wear a jersey before, especially one that celebrates all gender identities and sexualities.”

His post on Twitter was accompanied by a photograph of himself and teammates Cam Critchlow and Jared Aulin, each of them wearing the Manchester Storm Pride jersey.

#PrideWeekend #ICanPlay #YouCanPlay @officialEIHL @Mcr_Storm pic.twitter.com/2FH6AtDZ4f

— Zach Sullivan (@ZachSully11) January 26, 2020

Response to Sullivan’s revelation came quickly from both fans and players of the Storm, as well as from fans and players of other teams both within and outside of the Elite League, and was described by RMNB as “overwhelmingly positive.” The Tweet currently has 6.6K likes and 1.1K retweets, while the Instagram post has nearly 1700 likes.

Among the many supportive comments:

“Huge thanks for your courage in sharing your story, @zachsully94, & being proud of who you are! Your authenticity & bravery will make a difference in the lives of more lgbtq youth worldwide than you can imagine. Much continued success & #BeTrue! ? ? ?️‍?♥️” (@gamcockgrad84 on Instagram)

“To be open and honest on who you are will forever be the best desicion you will ever make. So proud of you!” (@hans.morten.storsveen on Instagram)

“So proud of you. This shows how important having this weekend is for our sport it’s allowed you to live your truth and just be you.” (@DaytonDevil on Twitter)

“Sending much love your way. Not sure you’ll ever know how you’ll have helped gay hockey fans like myself. #icehockeypride #stormtheice (@theicehockeynut on Twitter)

Following Sullivan’s initial social media posts, Manchester Storm posted a follow-up statement on their website, in which they said were “extremely proud of Zach,” and called him “a role model for so many people, young and old, in the sporting world.”

The statement also included additional comments by Sullivan, who explained, “I’m not doing this in the hope of any publicity. I’ve always been a very private guy, but I realise that I have a unique opportunity to do some good. If I can be open and honest about my sexuality, then hopefully that will give other hockey players around the country the same confidence to do the same.”

Manchester Storm went on to beat the Dundee Stars 3-0 at Sunday’s game. One fan who attended the game, Hilary Keane, told RMNB “When they called his name and number as he stepped onto the ice for warmups the cheer was noticeably louder than it was for any other player. Then, when he was called to do the ceremonial puck drop the entire building cheered and got on their feet for him.”

On Monday, Sullivan went on radio station BBC Manchester, where he told an interviewer:

“I think it’s a journey that everyone has to take at their own pace. By no means, just because I’ve done it, do I expect hundreds of other people to do it, that’s not what I’ve done this for. If me saying this can help someone else feel better about themselves or move them a little bit further on their journey, then that’s my end target. Everyone’s different, but at the end of the day everyone’s still human. It doesn’t matter who you are, or what you believe in, or who you fall in love with. My suggestion is to just be yourself and take it at your own pace.”

Sullivan’s opening up about his bisexuality comes just a few months after Jon Lee-Olsen, goalkeeper for Denmark’s Rungsted Seier Capital, became one of the few professional hockey players ever, and possibly the only one currently playing in the world, to come out openly as gay.

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Photos

PHOTOS: Black Pride Opening Reception

Billy Porter headlines program at start of weekend activities

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Billy Porter performs at the Opening Reception of DC Black Pride 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Black Pride 2024 began at The Westin Washington, DC Downtown with an Opening Reception on Friday, May 24. The “Rainbow Row” resource fair was held in conjunction with the reception and featured community organizations and other vendors’ booths.

The reception was hosted by Anthony Oakes. Earl Fowlkes, outgoing chief executive officer and president of the Center for Black Equity, was honored by a mayoral proclamation. Performers included Billy Porter, Paris Sashay, Keith Angelo, Bang Garcon, Black Assets, Marcy Smiles and Sherri Amoure.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Books

Architecture junkies will love new book on funeral homes

‘Preserved’ explores how death industry evolved after WWII

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(Book cover image courtesy of Johns Hopkins University Press)

‘Preserved: A Cultural History of the Funeral Home in America’
By Dean G. Lampros
c.2024, Johns Hopkins University Press 
$34.95/374 pages

Three bedrooms upstairs. That’s a minimum.

You need a big kitchen, a large back room would be a bonus, you want lots of bathrooms, and if you can get a corner lot, that’d be great. The thing you need most is a gigantic all-purpose room or maybe a ballroom because you’re planning on a lot of people. As you’ll see in the new book “Preserved” by Dean G. Lampros, not all living rooms are for the living.

Not too long ago, shortly after he took a class on historic preservation, Dean Lampros’ husband dragged him on a weekend away to explore a small town in Massachusetts. There, Lampros studied the town’s architecture and it “saddened” him to see Victorian mansions surrounded by commercial buildings. And then he had an epiphany: there was once a time when those old mansions housed funeral homes. Early twentieth-century owners of residential funeral homes were, in a way, he says, preservationists.

Prior to roughly World War II, most funerals were held at home or, if there was a need, at a funeral home, the majority of which were located in a downtown area. That changed in 1923 when a Massachusetts funeral home owner bought a large mansion in a residential area and made a “series of interior renovations” to the building. Within a few years, his idea of putting a funeral home inside a former home had spread across the country and thousands of “stately old mansions in aging residential neighborhoods” soon held death-industry businesses.

This, says, Lampros, often didn’t go over well with the neighbors, and that resulted in thousands of people upset and lawsuits filed. Some towns then passed ordinances to prohibit such a thing from happening to their citizens.

Still, funeral home owners persevered. Moving out of town helped “elevate” the trade, and it allowed Black funeral home operators to get a toehold in formerly white neighborhoods. And by having a nice – and nice-sized – facility, the operators were finally able to wrest the end-of-life process away from individuals and home-funerals.

Here’s a promise: “Preserved” is not gruesome or gore-for-the-sake-of-gore. It’s not going to keep you up all night or give you nightmares. Nope, while it might be a little stiff, it’s more of a look at architecture and history than anything else.

From California to New England, author Dean G. Lampros takes readers on a cruise through time and culture to show how “enterprising” business owners revolutionized a category and reached new customers for a once-in-a-deathtime event. Readers who’ve never considered this hidden-in-plain-sight, surprising subject – or, for that matter, the preservation or re-reclamation of those beautiful old homes – are in for a treat here. Despite that the book can lean toward the academic, a good explanatory timeline and information gleaned from historical archives and museums offer a liveliness that you’ll enjoy.

This book will delight fans of little-know history, and architecture junkies will drool over its many photographs. “Preserved” is the book you want because there are other ways to make a house a “home.”

The Blade may receive commissions from qualifying purchases made via this post.

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Theater

‘Evita’s Return’ offers different take on Argentinian icon

Posthumous look at mummified first lady’s travels is not fiction

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Fran Tapia (front) Back L-R Facundo Agustin, Luis Obed Velazquez, Tsaitami Duchicela (back) Oscar A.Rodriguez, Rodolfo Santamarina, and Sofia Grosso. ( Photo by Stan Weinstein)

“Momea en el Clóset (Mummy in the Closet): Evita’s Return”
Through June 9
GALA Hispanic Theatre
3333 14th St., N.W.
$50
Galatheatre.org

Whether alive or dead, Eva Perón wielded her own brand of political power. After her death in 1952, Eva’s cult of mostly poor and working-class followers remained devoted to their Santa Evita. Her husband, Argentina’s president Juan Perón, fostered adulation by having her wasted body painstakingly embalmed, and displaying the waxen corpse like the incorruptible bodies of sainted Roman Catholic luminaries. But when the anti-Peronistas took power, they had other ideas; storing her away far from sight seemed a better idea.

Typically works about Argentina’s first lady focus on her unbridled ambition and ascent from anonymity to fame, but the strikingly original “Momea en el Clóset (Mummy in the Closet): Evita’s Return” — now at GALA Hispanic Theatre — is different. The collaboration of GALA’s producing artistic director Gustavo Ott (book and lyrics) and Mariano Vales (music and lyrics) spotlights the events following Eva’s death from cervical cancer at just 33.  

At the center of this entertaining madness is winning out actor Fran Tapia as Eva, a corpse sporting a ball gown and the trademark platinum blonde chignon, standing stiffly in a closet, more a mobile cabinet actually. In death, she realizes a silent dignity with flashes of an unyielding passion for social justice. 

The Chilean award-winning Tapia possesses a stunningly emotive voice, quickly evidenced in the show’s first number “Evita, Evita,” when near death Eva bravely addresses the needy crowd whom she endearingly calls her descamisados (the very poor). Simultaneously, the smug anti-Peronists — bourgeoisie and military types — sing “cancer is homeland,” “cancer is love.” They relish the idea of her dying and are counting the minutes to her imminent demise. 

So, the scene is set. Eva’s shabby posthumous story unfolds – performed in Spanish with eloquent English surtitles. Sprinkled with humor and poignant bits, it’s a dramedy, reflective of then and today. 

Unlike Eva’s “Rainbow Tour” of 1947 when Argentina’s newly minted first lady was introduced to Europe with mixed results, her death journey is an obscure low-rent, outing. She finds herself in a Milanese cemetery with some particularly pesky souls, each who apparently strode the earth in different centuries (all cleverly costumed by Becca Janney). 

For a time, she lands with an increasingly cynical Perón (stentorian-voiced Martín Ruiz) in Spanish exile. With him are new wife Isabel (Camila Taleisnik), portrayed as a reluctant and inept replacement for Evita, and scheming political cum spiritual adviser López (Diego Mariani).

As crazy as it sounds, GALA’s current offering isn’t a work of fiction. At the top of the show, it’s made perfectly clear that any resemblance to the truth is factual. Director Mariano Caligaris’ inventive, fearless staging along with Valeria Cossnu’s exhilarating choreography, make for exciting storytelling. 

Music inspired by Latin rhythms of samba, reggae, bachata, tango, tarantella, and waltz (by way of Bavaria) is directed by Walter “Bobby” McCoy and performed live by a fabulous unseen seven-person orchestra. 

Grisele Gonzalez’s serviceable, multi-tiered set design affords the various prerequisite balconies and perches. An upstage scrim is perfect for the projections (Hailey Laroe) of grimy actual footage from Eva’s funeral and subsequent violent skirmishes involving fascists against the people. 

The cast is uniformly terrific. They sing, dance, and act with equal skill, and whether playing protesters, clerical staff, or handsome Argentinian soldiers, they look the part. Most are required to interact with the cadaver in differing ways from timidly to less than respectfully. 

Making his GALA debut, wonderfully able Rodrigo Pedreira shows off his versatility as Dr. Ara, the man tasked with making the dead woman presentable for public consumption, as well as a general whose butch exterior is belied by the occasional mincing walk and longing looks directed at his cute aide-de-camp (Luis Obed Velázquez).

As she travels, mummified Eva says “And once again the moving begins. They move me through offices, basements, garages. They cover me, package me, label me, and off I go traveling again! We come from fascism and toward fascism we go.”

Alive or dead, Eva was never able to successfully crack Buenos Aires’ famously tough high society, but she found fans elsewhere. 

Over about 14 years as a displaced dead body and beyond, Tapia’s Eva embodies the spirit of Argentina’s millions, the common people. They return the dedication: Candles are lit. Prayers are offered. Intercession is sought. Life goes on, but Eva isn’t easily forgotten.

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