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Most Eligible LGBTQ Singles 2022

Our annual roundup just in time for Valentine’s Day



D.C. is home to tens of thousands of busy professionals working hard by day and searching for love by night. Each year, we look to highlight some of our city’s most interesting singles just in time for a Valentine’s Day date. 

Come celebrate on Friday, February 11th at our LGBTQ Skating Night at the Wharf Ice Rink. All the details can be found HERE.

Kristen Beckman, 29, occupational therapist

LGBTQ Singles, gay news, Washington Blade
Kriesten Beckman (Blade photo by Michael Key)

How do you identify? Lesbian

What are you looking for in a mate? Someone who challenges me, holds me accountable, a good communicator, kind and adventurous.

Biggest turn off? Superficial, rudeness, doesn’t try to see things from other perspectives.

Biggest turn on? Open-mindedness, spontaneous, cares about their health.

Hobbies: I play ice hockey for the Chesapeake Bay Lightning — come watch a game! I love hiking, camping, and just getting back into mountain biking.

How has COVID impacted your dating life? it’s definitely interesting out here. At times it seems harder to connect due to more online dating. It seems harder to meet people in person due to people staying in more.

Pets/kids/neither? I have two cats and a dog and definitely open to more!

Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? Hmm, I want to say yes, but depending on the differences, it could be tough to look past.

Celebrity crush: Missy Peregrym

One obscure fact about yourself: I used to play football in the LFL, it was an interesting time.

Jarrod Brodsky, 31, Healthcare Lawyer

Jarrod Brodsky (Blade photo by Michael Key)

How do you identify? Gay man

What are you looking for in a mate? Someone who is grounded, outgoing, authentic, comfortable expressing emotions, and who doesn’t take himself too seriously.

Biggest turn off? Apathy.

Biggest turn on? Silliness and spontaneity.

Hobbies: Swimming, karaoke, reading, meditation, and working out.

How has COVID impacted your dating life? I prefer making in-person connections, and COVID has definitely made that more difficult. At the same time, it has pushed me to be more outgoing when I do have opportunities for live interactions.

Pets/kids/neither? Dad to a dog and two cats.

Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? Yes, I like being around people who challenge my way of thinking.

Celebrity crush: Jake Gyllenhaal

One obscure fact about yourself: I was a springboard diver through college.

Katie Harrington, 35, Business Owner/Hairstylist

Katie Harrington (Blade photo by Michael Key)

How do you identify? Queer

What are you looking for in a mate? Someone who will rap in the car with me while on our way to have crabs and beer. Someone who is also down to stay in and cook a meal together while watching our favorite show. My ride or die.

Biggest turn off? Bad tippers and not putting your shopping cart back.

Biggest turn on? Confidence! Someone who loves themselves and treats others with kindness and compassion. Butch/top energy!

Hobbies: Spending time with my niece Edith, hanging out with my friends, Peloton, watching thrillers and documentaries, dancing to ‘90s/2000s rap and R&B.

How has COVID impacted your dating life? COVID has made dating pretty non-existent but that’s OK. I have spent the past two years opening my own business and really working on myself. I have been able to focus on becoming the best version of me so that when the world does slowly open up, I’ll be ready!

Pets/kids/neither? My dog Hari is my best friend. He is a senior Pekingese that I rescued right before the pandemic. He has been with me through quarantine, breakups, and is the sweetest guy. I honestly feel like we were meant to find each other.

Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? No.

Celebrity crush: Lily Rose (country singer), Sarah Paulson, Lena Waithe

One obscure fact about yourself: I have a B.A. in Dance from Point Park University.

Kareem ‘Mr.Bake’ Queeman, 35, Entrepreneur and TV Personality

Kareem Queeman (Blade photo by Michael Key)

How do you identify? Gay

What are you looking for in a mate? I appreciate a person with a sense of humor, with an understanding heart and mind and a drive to be a better version of themselves.

Biggest turn off? Someone who is unappreciative and lacks commitment and drive.

Hobbies: You can find me baking/cooking, reading, traveling — anything dealing with the arts.

How has COVID impacted your dating life? I actually haven’t really been dating in COVID. Chatting with people but no real connections. During COVID I’ve been working on myself.

Pets/kids/neither? I don’t have any, but open to the conversation of them.

Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? It depends — I’ll say this: I’m open to the conversation.

Celebrity crush: Jeremy Pope, Anthony Mackie, Adam Levine

One obscure fact about yourself: I love getting cards. And been collecting everyone I’ve received since 1994.

Bryan Frank, 46, Scientist

Bryan Frank (Blade photo by Michael Key)

How do you identify? Gay

What are you looking for in a mate? Someone who likes to be active and likes to be challenged. Triathlete? Hiker? Awesome! Kickball? Flag Football? Yoga? That’s cool too! A guy who: needs to laugh, sometimes even at themselves; is kind to themselves and others; can be equally happy staying in and binge watching the “Mandalorian” with a bottle of tempranillo or grabbing tacos from a food truck before catching “Rent” at the Signature Theatre; and will hold my hand as we do these things.

Biggest turn off? Taking yourself too seriously. Disrespecting others. A bad kisser.

Biggest turn on? Someone who has the confidence and desire to push their limits. A guy comfortable belting out show tunes in the car at the top of their lungs. And to be honest: great abs will always catch my eye.

Hobbies: I enjoy swimming, biking, and running (some might call that person a triathlete, I might be one). In addition, I really enjoy hiking (like to the top of Old Rag to watch the sunrise), anything that combines my love of cycling, vineyards/breweries, and traveling (think biking through the Provence region of France with stops for wine tasting), or watching a good movie (has anyone seen the new “Dune”?) or a good TV show (have you watched “Young Royals”?).

How has COVID impacted your dating life? As someone who works in the biotech field with COVID daily, in the beginning of the pandemic, thinking about doing anything outside of my “quaran-family,” like dating, was seriously stressful. Now that vaccines and therapeutics are available, I am excited to return to in-person dating.

Pets/kids/neither? All the things. I have two cats (Stitch and Kona). I love dogs. I would love to have kids, if that’s in the cards for me.

Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? Yes, but someone who is anti-vax or anti-science should probably not hit me up.

Celebrity crush: Orlando Bloom for a night in/Paul Rudd for a night out.

One obscure fact about yourself: I am starting to play the piano again. And weirdly, I can still play Beethoven’s Fur Elise from memory 30+ years later.

Craig Dillon, 29, Founder/CEO of Westminster Digital

Craig Dillon (Photo courtesy of Dillon)

How do you identify? Gay

What are you looking for in a mate? Smart, interesting, and funny. Oh, and someone who can help me understand the weird things in this country, like the blender in my sink — still not sure what to do with it.

Biggest turn off? Not being up for an adventure.

Biggest turn on? Humour, self deprecation and a touch of sarcasm. Someone who doesn’t take themselves too seriously and enjoys life.

Hobbies: I’m obsessed with movies. I also like going out with friends, photography, dining, and drinking wine.

How has COVID impacted your dating life? Well, I moved to the U.S. during the pandemic, so it has made meeting new people rather difficult. Also, something I realized during isolation is the amount of opportunity and sheer chance that takes place on any given day. So many missed occasions where you could have met a new and interesting person at the office, at a party, or during a random unexpected encounter.

Pets/kids/neither? Children, and each one can have a puppy. But I hate cats, I don’t trust them, they’re always up to something.

Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? I would prefer to, within reason. I love to debate, and I would enjoy someone who can challenge my ideas, and explore our philosophical and political positions together.

Celebrity crush: Jake Gyllenhaal or Lucas Hedges.

One obscure fact about yourself: I guess that I’m from England. But it’s not very obscure, for some strange reason it’s usually the first thing people notice about me.

Cara Eser, 32, DJ/Producer

Cara Eser (Photo by Caitlyn Willard)

How do you identify? Trans girl who likes girls

What are you looking for in a mate? Someone who can handle my quirks and keep up with my motormouth, likes spontaneity but doesn’t get mad when I need security. Someone who communicates, likes to laugh, and is willing to put air in my tires because I’m just simply bad at it.

Biggest turn off? TERFs, fatphobia, being rude to people in the service industry.

Biggest turn on? Good teeth that aren’t perfect, wit, and people who can read the room.

Hobbies: Avid cinephile — especially genre film — and coming up with the perfect things to say even if I’m 10 minutes too late.

How has COVID impacted your dating life? What dating life?

Pets/kids/neither? Allergic to dogs and cats, but I love them both and suffer happily. I don’t have kids, but would like to be a mom one day.

Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? *Sips tea in silence*

Celebrity crush: Recently it’s been Melanie Lynskey from “Yellowjackets,” but ‘90s-era Drew Barrymore will always have my heart.

One obscure fact about yourself: I sat across the aisle from Dennis Rodman once.

Bryan Van Den Oever, 41, Director of Marketing & Events

Bryan Van Den Oever (Blade photo by Michael Key)

How do you identify? Gay

What are you looking for in a mate? May I write “A big <@<&”? No. Okay. Seriously, he’s got to be ready to sling around his sense of humor because I love to laugh. Laughing together is bonding and very important to me. The rest of what I’m looking for is a gay cliché. You know, long walks in dark alleys or tall, dark, and with a traumatic back story.

Biggest turn off? Pretentious folx who care only about themselves or their place in the world. I’m a cis white guy. Trust me, we are the worst at being this type of person.

Biggest turn on? A man who has mastered the art of flirting. Bonus points if he directs the flirts toward me.

Hobbies: Typical geek stuff, board games, video games, reading, and anything Marvel. Once upon a time, I did a lot of physical hobbies, and maybe this is the year I go back to some of them.

How has COVID impacted your dating life? Profoundly. Red Bear Brewing Co. opened in March 2019, we had a smashing first year, but COVID-19 hit us and everyone in the service industry HARD! The brewery is my dream, so it’s taken all my attention and focus. As the ongoing pandemic has its ups and downs, I’ve realized it’s time to focus on me and my personal life. So, I dumped anxiety. He just wasn’t doing it for me anymore.

Pets/kids/neither? Bring them on! I love people and animals, so I would like either or both in my life. Preferably with a hubby by my side.

Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? Did you watch the news on Jan. 6, 2021? Republicans are a menace to everyone. No thank you.

Celebrity crush: Date: Michael B. Jordan. Dinner: Rebecca Sugar. Friends: Elmo.

One obscure fact about yourself: Before Red Bear Brewing, I was a certified Nuclear Medicine Technologist, performing diagnostic imaging using radioactive isotopes. Science is fascinating, and it works! Get vaccinated.

Adam Clark, 38, NGO Content Manager

Adam Clark (Blade photo by Michael Key)

How do you identify? Queer

What are you looking for in a mate? Someone that aspires to greatness and exudes peace.

Biggest turn off? Ethnocentrism, sarcasm, apathy.

Biggest turn on? Emotional intelligence, versatility, faith

Hobbies: Volunteering, meditation, horseback riding

How has COVID impacted your dating life? The pandemic has offered me the space to focus more energy on what I can provide my future mate.

Pets/kids/neither? I feel called to be a father, literally or figuratively.

Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? Of course. Every challenge is an opportunity for growth.

Celebrity crush: Bilal Baig

One obscure fact about yourself: I jumped out of a plane to break my fear of falling.

Consuella Lopez, 48, Hairstylist/Activist

Consuella Lopez (Photo via Instagram)

How do you identify? Trans woman

What are you looking for in a mate? Masculinity

Biggest turn off? Cheap

Biggest turn on? Height and weight

Hobbies: Exercising

Pets/kids/neither? Neither

Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? Yes

Celebrity crush: Too many

One obscure fact about yourself: I did 19 miles of cardio in one week.

LeAndrea Gilliam, 40, Grants Management & Housing Specialist

LeAndrea Gilliam (Blade photo by Michael Key)

How do you identify? Intersex

What are you looking for in a mate? Someone special, honest, stable, secure, caring, and craves adventure and new experiences just as much as I do.

Biggest turn off? Bad breath, a liar, overall poor hygiene and lack of respect for boundaries.

Biggest turn on? A nice smile, smells good and is a good kisser.

Hobbies: I like dancing to music I can vibe to, traveling, horror movies. I like to improve my life by reading and learning something new every day. I’m spontaneous and love doing whatever makes me happy.

How has COVID impacted your dating life? OMG! COVID has made dating much harder for me and far more laborious than ever before. I’m from the old school, I’m accustomed to meeting potential mates in person to explore my possibilities. For me in person offers more opportunities to find a romantic partner but unfortunately in person socializing is now considered a health risk. This virtual world of dating is truly for the birds.

Pets/kids/neither? No human kids but I have my doggie boo thang son Hermarry! He’s 4 a hybrid Pekechon

Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? I’ll say this: If I’m dating someone and our political views differ so widely regarding human values and human rights, probably not. I would want to date someone whose values and views on human rights align.

Celebrity crush: LL Cool J

One obscure fact about yourself: I love tropical weather and the long, hot summers. I don’t function well when I’m cold. Matter of fact, my face will literally break out in hives if it’s exposed to cold temps for 15 minutes or more. However, I won’t break out until I get in a warm space. It’s been that way since I can remember.

Heidi Niskanen, 28, Engineer

Heidi Niskanen (Blade photo by Michael Key)

How do you identify? Lesbian

What are you looking for in a mate? I am drawn to trustworthy people; individuals with a strong sense of self, authentic approach to life, that offer an empathetic ear to anyone in need of one, have always had my admiration and respect. I hope to find a person that believes in the importance of “tell me about your day” and being truthful even when it is inconvenient. Our scrapbook hopefully has lots of pictures and stories of bizarre everyday moments, many wonders of the world, and memories to look back to on all the anniversaries.

Biggest turn off? Pretentiousness

Biggest turn on? Wittiness

Hobbies: I spend a lot of my free time playing various sports or being outdoors. I volunteer as a crisis counselor and coach. I try really hard to be a good dancer, will never turn down an opportunity to learn a new recipe way above my skill level, and am often hungry for another Jennifer Rubin opinion piece. I dream of visiting a diner in every state, reaching the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, taking a selfie with a wild polar bear and teaching my children how to skate. I hope to visit museums and do more mountain biking this year.

How has COVID impacted your dating life? Raised the bar of when to meet in person. That said, COVID helped me become a better solo date.

Pets/kids/neither? Can’t wait to be a dog mom. Want children in the future.

Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? Absolutely. Zero time for conspiracy theories or alternative facts, however.

Celebrity crush: Michelle and Barack Obama

One obscure fact about yourself: I have never tried a peanut butter & jelly sandwich.


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Hip-Hop’s complicated history with queer representation

At 50, experts say the genre still doesn’t fully welcome LGBTQ inclusion



Rapper Lil Nas X faced backlash for his music video ‘Montero,’ but it debuted atop the Billboard 100.

I didn’t really start listening to rap until my college years. Like many queer Black children who grow up in the closet, shielded by puritanical Christianity from the beauty of a diverse world, I longed to be myself. But the affirming references I could pull from — in moments of solitude away from the wrath and disdain of family and friends — were in theater and pop music.

The soundtrack to my teenage years was an endless playlist of pop divas like Lady Gaga and Beyoncé, whose lyrics encouraged me to sashay my hips anytime I strutted through a long stretch of corridor.

I was also obsessed with the consuming presence of powerful singers like Patti LaBelle, Whitney Houston, and the hypnosis that was Chaka Khan. My childhood, an extrapolation of Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays spent in church groups, choir practices, and worship services, necessitated that I be a fan of throaty, from-the-stomach singing. But something about the way these artists presented themselves warmed my queer little heart. LaBelle wore avant garde geometric hairdos paired with heavily shoulder-padded blazers. Houston loved an elegant slender gown. And Khan? It was the voluminous red mane that gently caressed her lower back for me. 

Listening to rap music in college was a political experience. My sociology classes politicized me and so it was only natural that I listened to rap music that expressed trauma, joy, and hope in the Black experience. However, I felt disconnected from the music because of a dearth of queer representation in the genre. 

Nevertheless, groups like Outkast felt nostalgic. While delivering hedonistic lyrics at lightning speed, André 3000 — one half of the rap duo — mesmerized with his sleek, shoulder-length silk pressed hair and colorful, flowing shirts and trousers — a style that could be translated as “gender-bending.” Despite the patriarchal presentation rampant in rap and Hip-Hop, Andr​​é 30000 represented to me, a kind of rebellious self-expression that I so badly wanted to emulate but couldn’t because of the psychological confines of my conservative upbringing. 

My discovery of Outkast was also sobering because it was a stark reminder of how queerness is also often used as an aesthetic in Hip-Hop while actual queer people are shunned, rebuked, and mocked. Queer people in Hip-Hop are like backstage wingmen, crucial to the development of the show but never important enough to make a curtain call. 

As Hip-Hop celebrates 50 years since its inception in New York City, I am filled with joy because it’s been half a century of Black people owning their narratives and driving the culture. But it’s fair to ask: At whose expense? 

A viral 2020 video shows rapper Boosie BadAzz, famed for hits like “Set It Off” and “Wipe Me Down,” rebuking NBA star Dwayne Wade and award-winning actress Gabrielle Union-Wade for publicly supporting their then-12-year-old daughter after she came out as transgender. 

“Don’t cut his dick off, bro,” said BadAzz with furrowed eyebrows and a gaze that kept turning away from the camera, revealing his tarnished diamond studs. “Don’t dress him as a woman dawg, he’s 12 years. He’s not up there yet.” 

The responses from both Wade and Union-Wade were a mixture of swift, sarcastically light-hearted, and hopeful.

“Sorry Boosie,” Union-Wade said to an audience during a live podcast appearance at Live Talks Los Angeles. “He’s so preoccupied, it’s almost like, ‘thou doth protest too much, Little Boos.’ You’ve got a lot of dick on your mind.”

Wade also appeared on an episode of podcast, “I AM ATHLETE,” and looked directly into the camera.

“Boosie, all the people who got something to say, J-Boogie who just came out with [something] recently, all the people who got something to say about my kids,” he said. “I thank you because you’re allowing the conversation to keep going forward because you know what? You might not have the answers today, I might not have the answers, but we’re growing from all these conversations.” 

This exchange between the Wades and BadAzz highlights the complicated relationship between Black LGBTQ individuals and allies and the greater Hip-Hop and rap genres and communities. While Black queer aesthetics have long informed self-expression in Hip-Hop, rappers have disparaged queerness through song lyrics and in interviews, or online rants like BadAzz, outside the recording studio. 

And despite LGBTQ rappers like Queen Latifah, Da Brat, Lil Nas X, and Saucy Santana achieving mainstream success, much work lies ahead to heal the trauma that persists from Hip-Hop’s history of  patriarchy and homophobia. 

“‘Progression’ will always be relative and subjective based on one’s positionality,” said Dr. Melvin Williams said in an email. Williams is an associate professor of communication and media studies at Pace University. “Hip-hop has traditionally been in conversation with queer and non-normative sexualities and included LGBTQ+ people in the shaping of its cultural signifiers behind the scenes as choreographers, songwriters, make-up artists, set designers, and other roles stereotypically attributed to queer culture.”

“Although Hip-Hop incorporates queerness in their ethos, ideas, and trends, it does not privilege the prospect of an out LGBTQ+ rapper. Such reservations position LGBTQ+ people as mere labor in Hip-Hop’s behind-the-scenes cultivation, but not as rap performers in its mainstream distribution,” he added. 

This is especially true for Queen Latifah and DaBrat who existed in the genre for decades but didn’t publicly come out until 2021. Still, both faced backlash from the Black community for daring to challenge gender roles and expectations. 

Queen Latifah dodged questions about her sexuality for years before acknowledging her partner and their son in 2021. (Photo by DFree via Bigstock)

Lil Nas X also faced backlash for his music video “Montero” with satanic references, including one in which he slides down a pole and gives a character representing the devil a lap dance. Conservatives such as South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem accused him of trying to scandalize children. 

“You see this is very scary for me, people will be angry, they will say I’m pushing an agenda. But the truth is, I am,” Nas X said in a note that accompanied “Montero.” The agenda to make people stay the fuck out of other people’s lives and stop dictating who they should be.”

Regardless, “Montero” debuted atop the Billboard 100. 

In an article published in “Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society,” scholar C. Riley Snorton posited that celebrating queer visibility in mainstream media could be a problem as this kind of praise relies on artists presenting in acceptable forms of gender and sexuality expression and encourages representation that is “read alongside…perceptions of Hip-Hop as a site of Black misogyny and homophobia.” 

In the case of Frank Ocean, who came out in 2012 prior to the release of his album “Channel Orange,” his reception was warmer than most queer Hip-Hop artists because his style of music is singing, as opposed to rapping. Because of this, his music was viewed more as R’n’B or pop. 

“Frank Ocean ain’t no rapper. He’s a singer. It’s acceptable in the singing world, but in the rap world I don’t know if it will ever be acceptable because rap is so masculine,” rapper Snoop Dogg told the Guardian in 2013. “It’s like a football team. You can’t be in a locker room full of motherfucking tough-ass dudes, then all of a sudden say, ‘Hey, man, I like you.’ You know, that’s going to be tough.”

So what’s the solution for queer people in Hip-Hop? Digital media.

Williams, the Pace University professor, says that being divorced from record labels allows queer artists to be independent and distribute their music globally on their own terms. 

“We witnessed this fact with artists such as Azealia Banks, Cakes Da Killa, Fly Young Red, Kevin Abstract, iLoveMakonnen, Lil Nas X, Mykki Blanco, and Saucy Santana, as well as legacy LGBTQ Hip-Hop acts like Big Freeda, DeepDickCollective, and Le1f,” he said. “The music industry has experienced an increasingly mobilized market due to the rise of digital media, social networking platforms, and streaming services.”

“More importantly, Black queer Hip-Hop artists are historicizing LGBTQ+ contributions and perspectives in documentaries, films, news specials, public forums, and podcasts. Ultimately, queer people engaging in Hip-Hop is a revolutionary act, and it remains vital for LGBTQ+ Hip-Hoppers to highlight their cultural contributions and share their histories,” he added. 

(Hip-Hop pioneers Public Enemy and Ice-T will headline The National Celebration of Hip-Hop, free concerts at the West Potomac Park on the National Mall in D.C. on Oct. 6 and 7.)

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Cuisine and culture come together at The Square

D.C.’s newest food hall highlights Spanish flavors



(Photo by Scott Suchman)

Downtown got a bit tastier when “the next generation of food halls” opened its doors on Tuesday near the Farragut West Metro stop. Dubbed The Square, its half-dozen debut stalls are a Spanish-flecked mix of D.C. favorites, new concepts, and vendor-collaborative spirit.

After two years of planning – and teasing some big-name chefs – the market is, according to the owners, “where cuisine, culture, and community are woven together.”

Behind this ambitious project with lofty aims are Richie Brandenburg, who had a hand in creating Union Market and Rubén García, a creative director of the José Andrés Group who also was part of the team of Mercado Little Spain, the fairly new Spanish-themed Andres food hall in Hudson Yards.

Food halls have come a long way since the new Union Market awakened the concept a decade ago. Instead of simply rows of vendors in parallel lines, The Square has a new business model and perspective. This food hall shares revenue between the owners and its chef partners. Vendors are encouraged to collaborate, using one software system, and purchasing raw materials and liquor at scale together.

“Our goal was two-fold: to create a best-in-class hospitality offering with delicious foods for our guests; and behind the scenes, create the strong, complex infrastructure needed to nurture both young chefs and seasoned professionals, startups, and innovation within our industry,” says Brandenburg.

The Square has embraced a more chef-forward methodology, given that the founders/owners themselves are chefs. They’re bringing together a diverse mix of new talent and longtime favorites to connect, offer guidance to each other, and make the market into a destination. 

(Photos by Scott Suchman)

The first phase of The Square premiered this week. This phase encapsulates a selection of original concepts from well-known local chefs and business owners, and includes:

• Cashion’s Rendezvous – Oysters, crab cakes, and cocktails, from the owners of D.C. institutions and now-closed Cashion’s Eat Place and Johnny’s Half-Shell (Ann Cashion and John Fulchino).

• Jamón Jamón – Flamenco-forward food with hand-cut jamón Iberico, queso, and croquetas, sourced by García himself.

• Brasa – Grilled sausages and veggies are the stars here. Chef García oversees this Spanish street-food stall as well.

 Taqueria Xochi – Birria, guisado, and other street tacos, plus margs. Named after the ruins of Xochitecatl in Central Mexico, and from a Jose Andres alum.

• Yaocho – Fried chicken, juices, sweets, and libations.

• Junge’s – Churros and soft serve ice cream. Brandenburg and García both have a hand in this stall.

• Atrium Bar – The central watering hole for drinks. Atrium Bar serves cocktails, wine, and beer curated by The Square’s Beverage Director Owen Thompson.

“Having been part of Jose Andres’s restaurant group and getting to know Ruben and Richie, it’s amazing to see how their values align with ours at Taqueria Xochi. Seeing all these incredible chefs heading into Square feels like a full-circle moment,” said Geraldine Mendoza of Taqueria Xochi.

Slated for fall 2023, the next round of openings includes Flora Pizzeria, Cebicheria Chalaca, KIYOMI Sushi by Uchi, Shoals Market (a retail hub), and more. Additionally, chef Rubén García’s Spanish restaurant, Casa Teresa, will soon open next door to The Square.

The Square is just one of a handful of new food halls blossoming in and around D.C. Up in Brentwood, Md., miXt Food Hall is an art-adjacent space with tacos, a year-round fresh market, coffee, and beer. Across from Union Market is La Cosecha, a Latin marketplace with everything from street food to a Michelin starred restaurant and a festive vibe. Closer to The Square is Western Market by GW University, which opened in late 2021 with a buzzy, relaxed style.

For now, the Square is open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Square plans to open on weekends and extend hours to offer dinner service in the coming months. A few alfresco seats will accompany the hall.

(Photo by Scott Suchman)
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Charles Busch reflects on the paths he didn’t take in new book

‘Leading Lady’ a riveting memoir from legendary entertainer



'Leading Lady: A Memoir of a Most Unusual Boy' comes out on Sept. 12.

“Charles, I’m telling you, I go to plays in rat-infested basements where I’m the only one who shows up,” the late queer icon Joan Rivers once told the queer, legendary playwright, actor, director, novelist, cabaret performer and drag icon, Charles Busch. “I can see the actors peeking through the curtain and groaning, ‘Oh God, that old bitch in the fur coat is here. Does that mean we’ve gotta go on?’”

Busch reminded Rivers that she’d seen him perform in a rat-infested basement.

This is just one of the many stories that Busch, born in 1954, tells in his riveting memoir, “Leading Lady: A Memoir of a Most Unusual Boy,” which comes out on Sept. 12.

“Leading Lady” is a page-turner. Some of its tales of Busch’s life and career, such as his account of a Christmas party with Rivers as a guest, are dishy. Others, like his memories of trying to care for his beloved Aunt Lil, when he knew she was dying, would make even the Wicked Witch in Oz tear up.

The memoir, is, as Busch says on his website (, the story of “a talented artist’s Oz-like journey.” 

“Leading Lady” isn’t linear. This isn’t a detriment. Busch deftly intertwines memories of his life and career from his mom dying when he was seven to being raised by his loving Aunt Lil to being the author and star of the cult classic “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom” to watching Kim Novak handle fans to being the Tony-nominated writer of “Tales of the Allergist’s Wife” to being creative during the pandemic.

“Storytelling is a huge part of my life,” Busch told the Blade in a lengthy phone interview, “I get into various adventures and, I think, this could be a good story to tell.”

Interviewing Busch is like chatting with a fab storyteller over coffee or a glass of wine. Except that you’re talking to a legend who’s entertained and inspired queers (and discerning hetero audiences) for decades. (I’m wearing my “Vampire” T-shirt as I write this.)  

As a playwright, Busch writes “linear” plays, with a beginning, middle and an end, he said. As a cabaret singer, “the way I sing songs is telling a story,” Busch said.

Since childhood, he’s been creating vivid scenes in his imagination. From early on, Busch has felt as if he’s both a spectator and star in the movie of his life.

It seemed inevitable that he’d write a memoir. It’s the ultimate form of storytelling. “You reach a certain point in your life,” Busch said, “where you’re more reflective and see your life as a whole.”

“You reflect on the paths you didn’t take,” he added.

Busch spent his childhood in Hartsdale, N.Y. He had two older sisters, Betsy and Margaret. His mother’s death was devastating for Busch. His Aunt Lil and Joan Rivers have been among the women who have been “mothers” to Busch since his mom died.

Once, Busch said he and Rivers dined with friends. “Joan Rivers said ‘I wish I had a gay son I could phone at midnight and discuss whatever movie was on TCM,’” he recalled.

Busch would have loved to have been Rivers’s “gay son.”

Life in Hartsdale was hard for Busch after his mother passed away. His father was often absent and showed little interest in his children.

Things were miserable for Busch when his grandmother, for a time, cared for the family. He knew, as a boy, that he was gay and hated going to school where a movie-and-theater-loving kid who liked to draw wasn’t one of the cool kids.

Yet Busch forgave his “father’s failings,” he writes in “Leading Lady, “because he gave me the theater.”

Busch became entranced with the theater when his father, an aspiring opera singer who performed in summer stock, took him to the old Metropolitan Opera House in New York City to hear Joan Sutherland sing the role of Amina in Bellini’s “La Sonnambula.”

Busch was saved from a life of boredom and bullying when Aunt Lil, his mother’s sister, took him to live with her in Manhattan. There, like Auntie Mame, she raised him. She prodded him into applying to the High School of Music and Art in New York City. He was accepted there.

After high school, Busch graduated with a bachelor’s degree in drama from Northwestern University in 1976.

“My Aunt Lil is the leading lady [of the title of his memoir],” Busch said, “she was the most influential person in my life.”

One of the reasons why Busch wrote “Leading Lady” was to paint a full portrait of her. “It was important that it not be this kind of gauzy, sentimental memory piece,” he said, “making her out to be a saint.”

Aunt Lil adopted Bush when he was 14. Her goal was that he would go to college, become independent, be a survivor – make a place for himself in the world.

“I don’t know what would have happened if she hadn’t stepped in,” Busch said.

“She was very intellectual,” he added, “I’ve never met anyone [else] with such a pure devotion to thinking. It was a little intimidating.”

Aunt Lil’s standards for caring – for giving of oneself – were so high that it was almost impossible to meet them. “She believed that you should anticipate what people would need,” Busch said, “before they told you.”

Looking back, Busch is most proud of himself when, “I’ve gone past my natural self-absorption,” he said, “when I’ve thought of someone else.”

Busch is being too hard on himself. In “Leading Lady,” and when interviewed, he’s caring and curious as well as witty, savvy, and as you’d expect, a bit campy.

His sister Margaret died recently. “She declined gradually over nine months,” Busch, said, choking up, “I gave her my bedroom and I slept on my sofa.”

Like many of her generation, Aunt Lil didn’t understand queerness or drag. But she loved Busch. She didn’t go to see his productions, he said. “She could have gone like other parents,” he said, “and been tight-lipped. And said something nice that she didn’t believe.”

But “she didn’t want to lie or be hurtful,” Busch added, “so, for her, it was: can’t I just love and support you, and not go?”

Aunt Lil didn’t get Busch’s sexuality. But she knew about secrecy. Busch learned of a terrifying secret that his aunt had long kept hidden. In the 1930s, during the Depression, Aunt Lil worked as a nurse. One day, when she worked overtime, one of the patients suffered a burn. She had to leave nursing. “Her sister in a nasty mood revealed this,” Busch said, “Aunt Lil never discussed it.”

In the 1970s, Busch had trouble getting into theater because there were only roles for actors playing straight male characters. “The only way I could get on stage was to write my own roles,” he said, “I have a rather androgynous nature.”

Busch found that the feminine within him was a place of authority and strength. “I’m fine when I play male characters,” he said, “but I’m better when I play female characters.”

Why this is so liberating for him is a bit of a mystery to Busch. “But I accept and love it,” he said.

Times have changed since Busch made his first big splash with “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom.” “In 1985, being a drag queen was considered a negative,” Busch said, “my generation of drag performers bristled at being referred to as drag queens.”

Busch no longer bristles. “I feel like the characters,” he said, “I enjoy costumes and getting the right wig.”

“But, I go from male to female not through trickery or anything visual, I transfer through my soul.”

In “Leading Lady,” Busch recalls AIDS and other dark moments from the past. Many of his friends and colleagues died from AIDS. “AIDS was the World War II of our generation,” he said.

But Busch, in his memoir and in his life, isn’t only looking back. He’s very much in the present. Busch is embarrassed to say he was lucky. During the pandemic, devastating to many, he made art. He did play readings on Zoom and finished writing “Leading Lady” which he’d worked on for 14 years.

During the pandemic, Busch with Carl Andress co-wrote and co-directed the movie “The Sixth Reel.” The film’s cast includes Busch, Julie Halston (Busch’s longtime muse), Margaret Cho and Tim Daly.

Busch describes the film, an homage to the Hollywood madcap movies of the 1930s, as “a comic, caper movie.” 

“I play a disreputable dealer in movie memorabilia,” Busch said, “a legendary lost film is found, and I see it as my ticket out of debt.”

The “Sixth Reel” is playing from Sept. 21 to Sept. 27 at the LOOK Dine-In Cinema West 57th Street in New York City.

“I hope the run in New York will encourage people to distribute this little movie,” Busch said.

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