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Lily Tomlin to be honored with foot and handprint ceremony at Chinese Theatre

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Lily Tomlin (Photo courtesy PRNewsfoto/Turner Classic Movies)

A bona fide LGBTQ icon is soon to join the ranks of some of the greatest stars in the history of Hollywood by having her hand and footprints imprinted in the world-famous courtyard of the TCL Chinese Theatre.

Turner Classic Movies (TCM) announced last week that it will honor veteran acress and comedian Lily Tomlin with a hand and footprint ceremony at the landmark movie house during the network’s upcoming TCM Classic Film Festival. The Tony, Grammy, eight-time Emmy and two-time Peabody Award winner will be honored on Friday, April 7.

The hand-and-footprint tradition began in 1927, when then-owner Sid Grauman honored stars Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford at the first ever ceremony. Since then, though the theater has changed owners, the ceremonies have continued, and the forecourt outside the main entrance has long been one of Hollywood’s most-visited spots for fans looking to stand in the footprints of their favorite stars.

TCM began holding ceremonies at the theatre in 2011, honoring actor Peter O’Toole during their second annual Classic Film Festival. They have honored a different Hollywood legend each consecutive year since then, including Kim Novak, Jane Fonda, Cicely Tyson, and Billy Crystal.

Tomlin will be the tenth star to be honored by the network.

Ben Mankiewicz, TCM’s primetime anchor and official host of the TCM Classic Film Festival, had this to say about the actress:

“Lily Tomlin’s talent has endured for fifty years because she knows who she is. She’s managed to play broadly drawn roles alongside more nuanced characters without a hint of falseness. Not long ago, Tomlin told The New York Times, ‘I wanted people to see the characters as human beings. And see themselves in them, too.’  The humanity she finds in the women she plays has enabled her to transition, seemingly with ease, from groundbreaking work on “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” to four Emmy nominations for “Grace and Frankie,”where she co-stars alongside another seminal artist, Jane Fonda. There’s a consistent richness to her work, in comedy and drama, as well as on stage in her innovative one-woman show, “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe,”and on the big screen. Whether your favorite Lily Tomlin performance is “The Late Show,”or “9 to 5,” or “Nashville” wait, I’m not done…  or “All of Me,” “Flirting with Disaster,” “I Heart Huckabees,”or “A Prairie Home Companion,”you know all of those pictures were made more memorable because Lily Tomlin was among the cast. It’s hard to imagine a more deserving artist to have her hand and footprints cemented outside Hollywood’s signature classic movie house.”

In addition to her decades-long career as a performer, Tomlin has long been a respected and visible member of the LGBTQ community, as many LGBTQ media outlets, like LGBTQ Nation, have been quick to point out. She has been with her partner, film producer and writer Jane Wagner for nearly fifty years (the couple married in 2013), and they are staunch advocates and activists for LGBTQ rights and other causes. They are both benefactors of the Los Angeles LGBT Center. In December, the actress was arrested at “Grace and Frankie” co-star Fonda’s weekly “Fire Drill Fridays” climate change protest in Washington, D.C.

The 2020 TCM Classic Film Festival takes place Thursday, April 16 – Sunday, April 19, 2020. It will feature an extensive lineup of classic movies, appearances by legendary stars and filmmakers, presentations and panel discussions, special events and more.

For more information and tickets visit the TCM website.

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Meet the ‘CEO of Everything Gay’ who just bought the Abbey

Tristan Schukraft, who owns Mistr, takes over iconic LA nightclub

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Tristan Schukraft with equine friend at the Varian Stable in Newmarket, United Kingdom in 2019. (Photo courtesy Schukraft)

WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Tristan Schukraft laughs when I suggest he’s building a gay empire, but he doesn’t deny it. 

When it was announced last month that the owner of the iconic Abbey and Chapel nightclubs in Los Angeles had entered into an agreement to sell the business to Schukraft, it seemed like a strange move for the jet-setting tech CEO. 

But the portfolio he’s building – founder and owner of the telemedicine app for gay men Mistr, owner of the queer nightclub Circo and Tryst Hotel in Puerto Rico – appears to be bent toward Hoovering up more pink dollars by getting involved in an ever wider section of queer life.

The Los Angeles Blade spoke to Schukraft at The Abbey during its annual tree-lighting fundraiser for the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation about what he plans to do with the storied nightclub, and how he became one of America’s most visible gay moguls.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

BLADE: Why the Abbey? 

SCHUKRAFT: Well, I wanted to make sure it stayed in the hands of the gay community. You know, it’s an institution. It’s a cornerstone of West Hollywood gay life, but more importantly, it’s I think it’s a cornerstone of the gay community far beyond West Hollywood, right? 

BLADE: Looking at your background in tech companies, your recent shift into the nightclub and hospitality industry seems like a bit of a left turn.

SCHUKRAFT: You know, I’ve been drinking here for a long time. So now, after all that investment, I’m actually gonna start getting money back. I basically bought it so I can get free drinks. 

You know, at the end of the day, I’m an operations guy. I’m a technology guy. I own hotels. With hotels, you have bars and restaurants, so it’s not too far off the track. It’s a little off track. Why not? Right? 

You know, after watching “The Birdcage,” I always wanted my own hotel [like Robin Williams’s character in the 1996 film] and somebody shattered my dreams the other day by telling me it was a nightclub. I’m like, what? It was a nightclub? And then I watched it, and it’s true, it was a nightclub. So, now I have a nightclub. Yeah, so it all started with “The Birdcage.” 

BLADE: You’re known for being a disrupter of the things that you invest in. Is there a disruption plan for the Abbey, or for Weho? Are you planning to change things here? 

SCHUKRAFT: Not a major disruption here at The Abbey. I’m gonna put my touches on it. But yeah, it’s a pretty well-oiled machine. We’re definitely going to focus on our values of being LGBTQ. I got some ideas for new nights and I definitely want to make it an epicenter of the gay community. And I think there’s opportunities to take it beyond West Hollywood.

BLADE: Can you give any kind of sneak peek at what you’re thinking? 

SCHUKRAFT: East Coast. That’s your sneak peek right now. East Coast. 

I think you’ll see in a couple months what I’m gonna do with the Abbey. But you know as far as taking it outside of West Hollywood, I see there’s opportunities on the East Coast right now. 

I think that’s where David [Cooley, the founder and current owner of The Abbey] and I really we both appreciate the value of The Abbey brand. I think it’s world famous, right? It’s the biggest gay bar. It’s one of the longest lasting. Obviously you have the Stonewalls of the world. But this is like a bar where people go on a regular night versus a tourist attraction. Maybe for some it’s a tourist attraction, but I mean, it really is an institution. It’s a community gathering point. It’s a name that people recognize that we can bring into other communities. 

BLADE: Do you have any plans to put a hotel somewhere here? 

SCHUKRAFT: [Laughs] People are like, “Are you gonna paint it blue for Mistr?” Or, “You’re gonna make it a hotel?” But no, we’re not building a hotel here. That would be terrible to build. I mean build a hotel and Abbey would be out. I don’t think the Abbey’s ever closed in 33 years, besides COVID. Minus that, it’s never closed for construction. You know, when David did his expansion, it was always open. 

I was looking at those old photos and I’m like, oh my God, I remember the wall of candles. I’ve been coming here a very long time. 

So you’re more or less like keeping the same sort of operation going here, keeping the team in place?

The team, I mean, I think that’s what kind of really makes The Abbey unique. It’s like a place where everybody knows your name. 

When I bought the hotel in Puerto Rico, obviously I don’t know anyone. Buying here. I’m like, oh, yeah. I know Todd. I know everybody, right? Not everybody, but a majority of people. And I think that’s why people come here. Because it’s their staple. They go every Sunday. They know they have their favorite bartender. So, you know, everybody will be kept in place, no changes to personnel. 

BLADE: You gave an interview to Authority Magazine where you said you promised your partner that you wouldn’t be starting up any new businesses. How did you get him on board with jumping into becoming a WeHo nightlife impresario?

SCHUKRAFT: I broke that promise two or three times since I said that. I mean, no, I just buy him gifts to make him happy.

I work long hours, right? And he’s like, I don’t know why. 

BLADE: You’ve created and run several tech companies. How did you get started in that business? Where did that money come from? 

SCHUKRAFT: I started my very first company at 21 with a $10,000 loan. I was living in Hong Kong at the time. I think my father really wanted me to come back [to California]. My dad’s a corporate guy, not a big risk taker, but he’s like, ‘I’ll give you $10,000 to start your company.’ It wasn’t enough to start the company, so I imported 437 Razor scooters and I thought I was gonna sell out in two weeks. It was very popular at the time – this is like 23 years ago. It took me six and a half weeks. I was selling them out of my truck. I went to every swap meet in Southern California. Sold the last six on Christmas Eve and learned a couple lessons in business from that. But with the money I made from selling those scooters combined with the loan, I started my first company, which was like an Expedia for airline personnel.

And then I got into e-ticketing, and at that time, I didn’t know how to turn on the computer. So, I really surround myself with people that know what they’re doing, that are experts. So, do I know how to run a bar? No, but I’m an operations guy and I hire the talent to make it happen. That’s how I got started and I built that company and others along the way. 

BLADE: Other than that first $10,000 loan from your parents, you’re basically self-made then? 

SCHUKRAFT: Yeah. You know, I looked for investment. I did end up raising $18 million for my second company, but I put in a lot of money. I mean at 25, my first company was going really well, and there was this e-ticketing mandate and I said, oh there’s a real opportunity here. And I had a home and was doing good for a 25-year-old, and I kind of leveraged it all. And I thought, “Oh my God, what did I do? I just fucked up my whole life. Why did I do this?” Anyways, I got that first investor, got that first client, and it just kind of took off from there. 

BLADE: And now with Mistr, The Abbey, your Puerto Rico clubs, are you starting a gay empire? 

SCHUKRAFT: The CEO of Everything Gay, yes. I have a few more things. You know, all the businesses are very complementary, right? So, you come to The Abbey, then you go to the Tryst Hotel or Circo in Puerto Rico, and obviously all of the people that come here or the Tryst, they’re all perfect candidates for Mistr. So yeah, so it looks a little weird. But it is very complementary to our various business units

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Out & About

Film about queer icon to premiere in Virginia

‘Slayed: The Untold Story’ playing at Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse

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A scene from 'Slayed: The Untold Story.' (Screen capture via YouTube)

The film premiere of “Slayed: The Untold Story” will be on Tuesday, Dec. 12 at 6 p.m. at Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse.

The film is a riveting documentary that charts the audacious journey of Kai ‘Stud Slayer’ Brown, a fearless queer icon who shattered taboos about Black masculine women in an unforgiving era.

Following the screening there will be a discussion panel and question and answer session. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased on Eventbrite

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Out & About

Gay Men’s Chorus is here with Christmas cheer

Holiday singalong held at Hotel Zena

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The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington will host a holiday singalong on Tuesday, Dec. 12. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington will host a holiday singalong on Tuesday, Dec. 12 at 5 p.m. at Hotel Zena. 

The event will begin with drinks in the Hotel Zena bar followed by the singalong. Tickets start at $10 and can be purchased on Eventbrite.

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