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Sam Smith shares new video as release date announced for album

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Sam Smith (Image courtesy of the artist)

It’s been three years since Sam Smith’s last album, but they are back – with a Valentine’s Day surprise for their fans.

On Thursday, it was announced that Capitol Records will release Smith’s third album, “To Die For,” on May 1. To mark the occasion, the non-binary singer shared the title track, along with its accompanying video.

The new track opens with a sample from the 2001 cult film “Donnie Darko,” before enveloping listeners with the sounds of soaring strings and evocative piano, as Smith lends his distinctive vocals to the plaintive confession, “I just want somebody to die for.”Smithrecorded the song with Jimmy Napes and Stargate, also their collaborators on 2017’s 4x certified Platinum single, “Too Good At Goodbyes.”

For the official video, Smith recruited behind-the-camera help from Grant Singer (The Weeknd, Lorde), who also directed the video for 2019’s “How Do You Sleep?” The clip is set outside a Los Angeles wig shop, where amongst the many mannequin heads with perfectly coifed hair is a wigless one with Smith’s face. As the likeness sings “To Die For,” happy couples and families pass the shop over the course of several seasons, with most never even noticing the bald singing mannequin – until at last, left all alone, a twist of fate comes to break him free.

Smith explains the melancholy tune, “I wrote the song with Jimmy Napes and Stargate in L.A. during a time of self-discovery and heartbreak. This is for all the lonely hearts out there on another Valentine’s Day xx”

The album is now available for preorder at Smith’s website. Fans who pre-order it there in digital format will instantly receive the new single, as well as “How Do You Sleep?”, which has amassed over 600 million streams worldwide, “I Feel Love,” Smith’s celebratory cover of Donna Summer’s disco classic, “Fire on Fire” (from the “Watership Down” soundtrack) and Smith’scollaboration with Normani, “Dancing with a Stranger,” a number one UK and US hit which has achieved Platinum status in 19 countries, and been streamed over 2 billion times worldwide.

You can watch the video for “To Die For” below.

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Out & About

Calendar: May 7-14

Events in the week to come

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gay events dc, gay news, Washington Blade

Friday, May 7

The DC Center hosts “Friday Tea Time,” a social hour for older LGBTQ+ adults at 2:00 p.m. via Zoom. For access to the Zoom link and more information, contact [email protected].

Saturday, May 8

Today, the DC Center will host a support group for LGBTQ people of color at 1 p.m. via Zoom. This peer support group is an outlet for LGBTQ people of color to come together and talk about anything affecting them in a space that strives to be safe and judgement-free. The event includes activities like watching movies, poetry events, storytelling, and just hanging out with others. For more information, visit thedccenter.org/poc or facebook.com/centerpoc, or email your interest to [email protected].

Join the DC Center for the LGBT Community and the DC Department on Aging and Community Living (DACL) for a three-part storytelling workshop series focusing on the craft of storytelling. Today’s workshop is titled, “Beyond ‘Once Upon a Time’: Story Structure and How to Use It,” will be led by writer and communications consultant, Erin Becker. For more information, you can reach out to [email protected].

Sunday, May 9

The D.C.-area Transmasculine Society hosts “Partners of Transmasc Support Group” at 4 p.m. via Zoom. The group discussion creates a partner-only space where individuals can support each other through the unique issues they face. Partners of all genders and sexual orientations are welcomed. The group is facilitated. To register for the event, visit Eventbrite.

Monday, May 10

LGBT older adults and friends are invited to the “Center Aging Coffee Drop-In” at 10 a.m. via Zoom. This event is an opportunity to have friendly conversations and discuss current issues you may be dealing with. For more information, visit Center Aging’s Facebook page.

Tuesday, May 11

The DC Center’s Coming Out Discussion Group will be at 7 p.m. via Zoom today. This event is a peer-facilitated discussion group that discusses coming out experiences and topics as it relates to doing so. For more information, visit Coming Out Discussion Group’s Facebook page.

The Trans Support Group will be hosted virtually at 7 p.m. via Zoom. This event is intended to provide emotionally and physically safe space for trans-identifying people and those who may be questioning their gender identity/expression to join together in community and learn from one another. All who identify under the trans umbrella or are unsure, and seek to continually reinforce our principles of respect, acceptance and protection through ongoing input from our attendees are welcome. Contact [email protected] for more information.

Wednesday, May 12

Today, Defend Yourself hosts “Get Empowered: A Self-Defense Happy Hour” at 6:30 p.m. at the DC Center. This self-defense class will cover how to respond to negative situations through verbal and physical self-defense methods. This class is open to all genders. To get registered, visit: defendyourself.org/find-a-class.

Thursday, May 13

Taiwanese American Professionals Washington, D.C. area (TAP DC) hosts a free online mental health talk beginning at 7 p.m. The event features Claudia Nguyen, a Licensed Graduate Professional Counselor based in D.C. In this session, Claudia will guide attendees through topics such as racial trauma and dismantling racism. To register for the event, visit: facebook.com/TaiwaneseAmericanProfessionalsDC.

Friday, May 14

Women in Their Twenties and Thirties (WiTT) hosts a social discussion group for queer women in the D.C. area that begins at 8 p.m. This event will provide participants with the opportunity to make new friends, have new experiences, and explore the city with other great queer women. You can find more information by joining WiTT’s closed Facebook group: facebook.com/groups/womenintheir20s.

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Arts & Entertainment

Rehoboth Beach welcomes Christopher Peterson back

Drag legend to perform weekly beginning July 4

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Christopher Peterson, drag, gay news, Washington Blade
Drag legend Christopher Peterson. (Photo courtesy Peterson)

Christopher Peterson will celebrate 25 years of performing his brilliant show EYECONS when he brings it back to Rehoboth Beach this summer. He will be at Clear Space Theatre every Saturday at 10 p.m. and Sunday at 9 p.m. from July 4 to Sept. 5.

I have seen the show a number of times over the years from when he performed at the Renegade showroom (youngsters may not remember the Renegade out on the highway) to now at the Clear Space Theatre, so I am biased in saying it is always worth the price of a ticket. In fact it is worth a lot more because Christopher is an amazing talent. In addition to his own show he can be seen in “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” at Clear Space.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Christopher. He has lived in Key West, Fla., for years and performs there during the winter and when he isn’t booked around the country. Christopher told me he was born Moncton, New Brunswick but grew up in Halifax (actually Dartmouth across the harbor) Nova Scotia, Canada 58 years ago.

We talked about gay life today and I asked him when he came out and he responded: “in the womb.” He told me he always knew who he was even before he knew you could call it gay. He told me he was lucky and grew up in a family that always accepted him for who he was. I asked him if he was excited about coming back to Rehoboth and he told me he sometimes thought of this as his final ‘widow tour’ as it is his first time back at the beach since he lost the love of his life, James Mill, in September of 2019. They were together for 35 years and James was not only his partner in life but in business. Many in Rehoboth knew James and will miss seeing him at Christopher’s side. He was a beautiful man.

Christopher has been called North America’s greatest female impersonator and though I haven’t seen all of them, I have seen enough to thoroughly concur with that. He not only impersonate the characters, he seems to become them. He never lip-syncs but sings their songs and talks in their voice. Christopher once said his only vocal training was in high school and in church choirs but you would never know that when listening to him sing. Christopher also designs all of his own costumes and they are incredible. It’s amazing how quickly he can change from Marilyn Monroe and become Cher with just a new gown and new wig that he has stashed in the closet at the side of the stage. The transformation is mesmerizing.

Over the years he has impersonated so many iconic women, including Marilyn Monroe, Carol Channing, Madonna, Joan Rivers, Reba McEntire, Bette Midler, Tina Turner, Julie Andrews, Barbra Streisand, Liza Minnelli, Judy Garland, Eartha Kitt, Cher, Bette Davis, and Lucille Ball. He will add a new character once in a while if he feels comfortable having tried them out — one being Lady Gaga.

I asked him if he has a favorite character and he said, “That’s like asking me if I have a favorite child. These are all my children and they each represent something special to me.” He said, “as an example Streisand is the voice and Garland is the heart.” I remember he was once quoted as saying Judy Garland is his favorite to do and since he told me she represents the heart it didn’t surprise me as Christopher has a big heart. He often saves her for the end of the show and when you see her you leave wanting more.

I asked Christopher about the weirdest thing that ever happened during his show. He told me the story about an evening during the show, when he talks with an audience member, he leaned over the stage and began to chat with a table on the right of the stage and asked an older gentleman, Christopher called him Mary, how he liked the show. After saying he loved it the next thing Christopher saw was Mary keeling over. Turns out he had a heart attack. Christopher said he told the audience there would be a pause in the show and asked if there was a doctor in the house. One came forward and attended to the man and called 911. The gentleman seemed to recover and after they took him out on a stretcher the show went on. Christopher said this has happened more than once at his shows. Maybe it’s the excitement.

I asked him if any of the women he impersonates have been to see the show and was surprised when he said no. I would think any of those still alive would be honored to see how Christopher does them and shows them off so well.

This will be an exciting summer in Rehoboth and Christopher is prepared for visitors to come to the show and still follow any restrictions in effect for the pandemic. The theater has said it will continue to abide by all COVID restrictions in order to ensure the safety of both the actors and the audience. Clear Space Theatre has been doing this all winter and doing it safely.

I urge anyone who has never seen Christopher Peterson to get your tickets early as anyone who has seen him will be buying tickets to his shows and you don’t want to miss this chance to have a great fun evening in the theater.

Christopher Peterson as Lucille Ball. (Photo courtesy Peterson)

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Television

‘Halston’ promises sumptuous look at rise and fall of a fashion icon

Gay designer defined women’s style for an era

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Ewan McGregor as Halston and Gian Franco Rodriguez as Halston’s sometime lover, Victor Hugo. (Photo courtesy Netflix)

When we hear the name “Halston,” our first thought is not likely to be of his status as an LGBTQ hero – except in the sense that he designed clothes for best friend Liza Minnelli.

Yet Roy Halston Frowick, who became the first “celebrity designer” in a career that defined women’s fashion for an era and paved the way for the age of influencers by making his identity synonymous with his brand, can be clearly seen today as a queer pioneer. A gay midwestern boy whose grandmother gave him a love of sewing, he rose to fame after designing the famed pillbox hat worn by Jacqueline Kennedy at her husband’s 1961 inauguration, and spent the next decade building a reputation fueled by the celebrity of a growing list of famous clients while honing a style that combined functionality, elegance and comfort in a way that seemed perfectly in tune with the rising women’s liberation movement.

The empowering ease and “effortless” sex appeal of his designs came to epitomize ‘70s style, a signature feature of the Disco Era that has cast its not-so-subtle influence on every generation since, and the fashion house he started became legendary in an industry that was still tightly controlled (like every other industry) by straight men. It was an accomplishment that might have gone unheralded by most at the time, but which historical perspective reveals as a groundbreaking moment in the LGBTQ community’s rise from the shadows.

Unfortunately, Halston’s fall from glory – marked by his loss of control over the company he started, through a series of corporate acquisitions that might fairly be described as nefarious – and subsequent 1990 death from AIDS-associated Kaposi’s sarcoma still largely overshadows his reputation (if not the fashions he created) in the popular imagination. But thanks to the arrival of the new Netflix limited series “Halston,” which drops on May 14, that is about to change.

Created and directed by Emmy-winner Daniel Minahan, the five-episode biographical portrait stars Ewan McGregor as Halston, and follows the legendary designer as he leverages his single, invented name into a worldwide fashion empire synonymous with luxury, sex, status, and fame, literally defining the ‘70s and ‘80s era New York in which he lives, before a hostile take-over forces him to battle for control of his most precious asset – the name Halston itself. McGregor is joined by a cast that includes Bill Pullman (as Halston’s business associate David Mahoney), Krysta Rodriguez (as Minnelli), Rebecca Dayan (as Elsa Peretti, another close Halston friend), Gian Franco Rodriguez (as Halston’s sometime lover, Victor Hugo), David Pittu (as Halston illustrator and creative director Joe Eula), Rory Culkin (as Joel Schumacher), Kelly Bishop, Sullivan Jones, and Vera Farmiga – and as even a quick look at the publicity shots of each of them in full costume for their roles is enough to verify that the series has gone out of its way to meticulously recreate the look and feel of Halston’s glamorous world.

The series found its way to the screen thanks to Minahan’s interest in “Simply Halston,” a bio penned by Vanity Fair writer Stephen Gaines. Working with producer Christine Vachon, he began work on adapting the book as a feature-length film, but the scope of the story made honing it into a two-hour-ish running time a daunting task, and the idea was shelved. The option on the book then passed through a series of other hands, but when the rights became available again, Vachon approached Minahan with the idea of revisiting the project as a mini-series, and, as Minagan says, “it just clicked.” It wasn’t long until Ryan Murphy reached out (through Alexis Martin Woodall, president of his production company) to express his interest, and things “started moving very quickly.”

“Working with Ryan is a unique experience,” says Minahan, who previously worked with the powerhouse producer on “The Assassination of Gianni Versace.” “He draws the best out of people, and he demands excellence from everyone who works with him. He has an uncanny sense for story, and I’ve been fascinated for years by the tone he’s able to strike in his work and the depth of emotion that he’s able to express.

He also says Murphy had “a unique relationship” with the material that helped inform the end product. “[He] grew up in Indiana […] then he worked building an empire as a gay man in a corporate world as Halston did, so he was really generous with his experience. A lot of that made it into our scripts. We were very lucky to have him be involved.”

As for McGregor, Minahan says that although he had considered a whole list of actors for the starring role, the “one and only meeting” he had was with the popular and prolific Scots actor. Though McGregor identifies as straight, he has long been an LGBTQ ally, with a history of sensitive and insightful performances in gay roles (most notably the fictionalized amalgam of Iggy Pop and Lou Reed he portrayed in Todd Haynes’ glam-era fantasy, “Velvet Goldmine”), and according to Minahan, his work as Halston is nothing short of immersive.

“Watching Ewan transform into Halston was fascinating,” he says. “When he arrived in New York, he asked for a room where he could work undisturbed with some props — True cigarettes, which are the same brand Halston smoked, cigarette holders, Flair pens like Halston used, scissors, fabric, a black turtleneck, a tape measure, and some yellow lined notepads.” The actor also worked with costume designer Jeriana San Juan, acquiring a detailed familiarity with the technical minutiae involved with designing and assembling clothes – even going so far, according to San Juan, as studying her eye movements while she worked “so he could better track his eyeline when he’s designing as Halston in the show.”

Of course, it’s one thing to capture the physical reality of a true-life character, and quite another to infuse that character with an inner life that honors their experience. From the fabulous ferocity he displays in the show’s trailer, the versatile star of movies as wide-ranging as “Trainspotting,” “Moulin Rouge,” and the middle “Star Wars” trilogy looks to have delivered a career-topping performance – and if there’s any doubt whether he can convey the authenticity required to illuminate the drive that took Halston to the pinnacle of the fashion world when it was still run by a conservative and closed-minded “boys’ club,” his delivery of the line, “I’ve been an outsider my entire life, till one day I just stopped giving a flying fuck,” should put it to rest.

With what could become one of the season’s most acclaimed performances at the center, and its sumptuous depiction of an iconic era through San Juan’s costumes and the world-building of production designer Mark Ricker, “Halston” looks to be a benchmark for “prestige” TV in 2021.

In any case, thanks to the enduring fascination its subject and his legacy still hold for millions of fans and admirers, queer and straight alike, it’s sure to be at the top of a lot of “must watch” lists when it debuts on May 14.

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