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This studly two-Dad family is storming America

Direct from Austria – and with a German TV crew in tow – these lovable daddy influencers are our hottest new imports



Photo courtesy of Mike and Sebastian Hilscher

Just a year and a half ago, handsome Vienna-based couple Mike and Sebastian Hilscher posted their first video to YouTube, a touching highlight reel of their recent Bora Bora wedding featuring their adorable young daughter Mia. Originally just meant for family and friends, the video’s picture-perfect beach backdrop, the guys’ own movie star good looks, and their powerful and palpable love for each other and their daughter helped the clip go viral – and a pair of daddy influencers was born.

That wedding video has now been viewed nearly a quarter of a million times, and it spawned a collection of some 60 Mike and Sebastian videos and counting on YouTube alone – not to mention their rapidly growing Instagram presence – in which the guys’ sparkling personalities and frank honesty about themselves, their relationship, and the trials and triumphs of double-dad parenthood are helping them take social media by storm. 

Now the guys and Mia are set to launch their next chapter as the latest residents of Southern California, settling in the gay-friendly enclave of Palm Desert. Following them along for the journey will be a German film crew from the popular German TV show Goodbye Deutschland!, which for 15 seasons has told the real-life stories of expats from German-speaking countries to all points around the globe.

So why California? “It was always clear to us that it had to be California,” says Mike, the taller of the hunky two papas, unless you count Sebastian’s voluminous hair. “We just love this state. Coming from Austria, where two-dad families are viewed skeptically and gay acceptance is questionable, it’s just relaxing for us to live in an environment where we’re not the oddballs.”

Their original plan was actually to become Angelenos. “We had even already chosen an apartment, but then we noticed that Los Angeles might not be so family-friendly,” Mike shares. “When we happened upon the Palm Springs area and looked it over, we fell in love immediately. There is no better place for us. We are absolute fans.”

While the guys are naturally excited about the prospect of growing their social media presence from their new U.S. home base, there’s much more behind their emigration story – including first and foremost, hopefully a new sibling for Mia. “The main reason we are coming to America is that we’re planning our second baby by surrogacy and want to be part of the pregnancy,” explains Mike. “Our surrogate lives in Florida, so we’ll commute regularly to visit her. We know stories of parents who couldn’t pick up their baby due to travel restrictions during COVID and we didn’t want to take that risk either, which is why we’re coming to the USA. What began with this thought has matured into an emigration plan.” 

Fittingly enough on several fronts, Mike and Sebastian met at a pre-party for Vienna’s famous Love Ball in 2015. It was just before Mia’s birth (also through surrogacy), and Mike had long planned on being a single father to her. As he shared in one of the couple’s videos, Mike went into the Love Ball thinking it would be his last big party night before fatherhood. ” I was so looking forward to being a dad, but this one last time I wanted to go crazy, he says.” Instead, he wound up meeting Sebastian that night, and by the time Mia was born three or for weeks later, they were a couple. They’ve been a two-dad family ever since.

Photo courtesy of Mike and Sebastian Hilscher

“We have a very strong vision that got us into social media in the first place,” Mike explains. “Our vision is to normalize two-dad families, and we believe this is only possible through visibility. In the last few months, our social media channels have grown so much that it’s now a full-time job to look after them.” 

Mike especially likes that he’s been able to utilize his experience as a psychological consultant with some of their followers. “I bring my expertise to individual consultations, especially in the area of ​​family planning for LGBT couples, and also advice for LGBT young people in dealing with their sexuality and finding their identity. I have at least two to three consultations a week, free of charge of course.”

Consulting is just one of Mike’s many successful and varied career chapters. In the early 2000s, when he was in his early 20s, Mike sang in a popular Austrian pop band called Sugar Free, and even won an Amadeus Award, the country’s top music prize. He later went on to pass the bar exam and run a successful facility management company, and he also wrote a best-selling children’s book.

For his part, Sebastian is hardly a slacker. At just 24, he won a major national competition with his innovative concept for transforming democracy into the digital age. He pumped the $150,000 prize money into the highly successful construction business that he still runs – he’ll return to Austria periodically to that company flowing, and he’ll meanwhile be introducing its products to the American market.

“Sebastian will continue to do his company, but I will concentrate full-time on our work in the social media area,” says Mike. “We’ve been fully committed to driving the success of our social media. It’s our declared goal to become one of the big players in this area in order to be able to change something for the better.”

After the craziness of packing up their lives in Austria, the young family won’t be slowing down any time soon – the first weeks of their California schedule are already jampacked. “We will first be busy shooting the TV show, then our own cameraman will come with us to produce some episodes for our YouTube,” says Mike. “Of course we have Mia’s first day of school, moving into the house, buying a car, moving into the new office, etc. We’re also looking for our infrastructure, meaning gym, a dance center for Mia, and so on. Then we also have the jet lag, and Mia has to study English as well learn the German curriculum. So we certainly won’t get bored.”



PHOTOS: Jackie Cox and Jan at Pitchers

RuPaul’s Drag Race alums join local performers at gay sports bar



Jan performs at Pitchers on Wednesday, March 29. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

RuPaul’s Drag Race alums Jackie Cox and Jan performed at Pitchers DC on Wednesday, March 29. Other performers included Cake Pop!, Venus Valhalla, Brooklyn Heights, Jayzeer Shantey and Logan Stone.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Arab-American playwright delves into queer themes in ‘Unseen’

Mosaic production entwined with heartbreak and humor



Mona Mansour at first rehearsal for Mosaic's production of ‘Unseen.’ (Photo by Chris Banks)

Through April 23
Mosaic Theater Company at Atlas Performing Arts Center
1333 H St., N.E.

New York playwright Mona Mansour is best known for exploring her Arab-American identity, but with her most recent work “Unseen,” now playing at Mosaic Theater, she delves into queer themes, shining a light on her own sexuality. 

“Doing a gay-themed play had been nagging at me for a while,” explains Mansour via phone from a cozy coastal town in Connecticut where she’s taking a short break from the city with her girlfriend, a children’s book author. “So, when I started writing about a woman with a camera, it just seemed to fit.” 

Entwined with heartbreak and humor, “Unseen” focuses on Mia, an American conflict photographer who wakes up in her off-and-on girlfriend Derya’s apartment in Istanbul with no idea of how she got there. In a cross-cultural, time-shifting journey, Mia, neither sanctimonious nor self-congratulatory about her work, wends through Istanbul, Gaza, Syria, and an art gallery in Philadelphia, confronting personal and professional challenges. 

At turns, the women’s relationship can be described as estranged, fiery, adversarial, sexy, and romantic. 

“With each rewrite I increasingly stacked the deck in Mia and Derya’s favor,” says Mansour “Early on, one might have said, ‘boy, I don’t know about these two.’ But now, there’s love along with the contentiousness.”

But will the women make it as a couple? Mansour suggests an after-play thing where the audience makes bets. 

“What’s clear is that Mia can’t keep going on as she has been, and though the play doesn’t take us to this, what I think personally is that we as a country can’t keep going in the way we have either. Those are things I think are around the play, but for me as writing, putting those ideas into a play into a character’s mouth, I feel like I shut down. It’s tricky. 

“Theater is a tough business and kicks your ass but there’s a reason we all do it,” she continues. “I’m a cynical person in a lot of ways, but I’m definitely not interested in writing plays that when the lights come up, the first thing people say is ‘where are we going for cocktails?’. Those are fine too, and I’ve done silly plays in the past, but just not now.”

Mansour likes a Washington audience. Her play “The Vagrant Trilogy,” a stunning piece about a displaced Palestinian family in exile, debuted at Mosaic in 2018 before moving to New York’s Public Theater last year. She credits the play with her having recently received the prestigious Arts and Letters Award in Literature from one of the country’s foremost cultural bodies, The American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Growing up in a Southern California suburb, the daughter of a Lebanese immigrant father and an American mother from Seattle, Mansour was obsessed with Patty Hearst’s kidnapping and battles of World War II. She says, “We weren’t the rich family who took off for a week in Tahoe, though sometimes I would have liked that. We had a stream of cousins coming to stay with us during the Lebanese Civil War.”

For Mansour, coming out to her parents shortly after meeting her first girlfriend in the mid-90s was a mixed bag: “It was a thing for my ‘moderny’ Lebanese dad,” she says. “But my mother accepted it instantly.” She recalls a gay friend at the time saying “I’m gay for 14 years and haven’t told my mom. You’ve been gay for five minutes and have already come told your mom and hugged it out.” 

Before writing, Mansour acted, including a stint studying at Second City Chicago and improvising with the Groundlings Sunday Company: “I was good enough to know when I wasn’t good. I write way above what my own punching ability was, but I always feel like someone else can do it.”  And with “Unseen,” she has written three meaty tracks for three women, here played by Katie Kleiger, Dina Soltan, and Emily Townley. Directed by Johanna Gruenhut.

“As the bringer of images, Mia is part of a system, a system that I, Mona, think about all the time. But you can’t address a system of endless wars in 90 minutes,” she says. 

Without spelling it out, Mansour’s work makes audiences think about the big questions. “That’s my hope,” she adds. “I want them to come to that same psychic space without literally leading them there and plopping them down in a chair. You know, even when I agree with someone, I don’t like to be lectured.”

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This Zurich bar was once a meeting place for a secret gay society

Barfüsser is now Kweer and attracting a new generation of diverse patrons



Kweer in Zurich has a long history as a gay-friendly bar.

In 1942, as the Nazis were bombing their way around Europe, a quiet revolution was forming in Switzerland. The Swiss government decriminalized homosexuality that year, and the legal victory emboldened a group of gay men who had been secretly publishing a magazine. Der Kreis, a.k.a. The Circle, featured news, sexy stories and artwork, all about gay life in Switzerland, and most importantly there were details for upcoming parties at a nightclub in Zurich. With pages published in German, French, and English, The Circle was a lifeline for its subscribers, perhaps serving as their only glimpse of life beyond their oppressive reality. 

With the absence of anti-gay laws in Switzerland, and the social scene created by The Circle’s publishing team, Zurich became one of the gay capitals of the mid-20th century, where bands played for raucous parties and attendees dressed as their gender of choice. Just to the north in Germany, the Nazi regime arrested suspected homosexuals and imprisoned them in concentration camps, but gay Germans could take trains to Zurich and spend the weekend, dancing and drinking and engaging in taboo activities of the night.

Zurich’s police tolerated the publishers of The Circle, on the condition that members had to be at least 20 years old. But social attitudes in Switzerland were still predictably conservative, and any public exposure of a homosexual lifestyle was grounds for immediately losing your job and eviction from your home. The Circle’s parties were cloaked in secrecy. Attendance was restricted to registered members, and those registration lists were stored in a member’s home, in an oven filled with wood, ready to ignite should the police invade looking for evidence for blackmail. 

Those blackmail attempts began in the 1960s. Several gay men in Zurich were murdered by male prostitutes, but the killers claimed the “gay panic” defense, as if they had been coerced into being paid for sex by predatory older men, and the Swiss courts set them free. Mainstream press jumped on the story, also portraying the killers as the victims, and painted an image of Zurich as a pit of debauchery, which riled up the public. The police, embarrassed by the city’s distasteful image, interrogated The Circle’s publishers and threatened them with exposure if they did not disclose the names of their members. The publishers never caved to the threats, but the harassment led to the demise of The Circle, which ceased production in 1967, and those legendary parties disappeared.

All is not lost to history, however. In the 1950s, a bar opened in Zurich’s Old Town historic district; called Barfüsser, it was owned by a liberal-minded husband and wife couple who defiantly hired a waiter who had been fired from his previous job for being gay. That bit of gossip spread quickly, mostly among the waiter’s gay friends, and business flooded in, leading to Barfüsser quickly becoming one of Zurich’s first gay bars. Women sat in the front, and men congregated in the back room, and it was in that back room where The Circle held meetings, amid the antics of dancing boys and drag queens and other shenanigans occurring around them. 

Barfüsser soldiered on for decades and eventually closed in the early 2000s after the owners retired. The space was leased to a new business, a sushi restaurant, but in 2022 the restaurant moved out, and two local nightlife impresarios claimed the historic building. Marco Uhlig, who owns the nearby nightclub Heaven, a hotspot for Zurich’s twink scene, and Sam Rensing, who owns restaurants outside of the city, worried that “the space might be occupied by a big gastro-chain,” as explained by Rensing, and they wanted to return to its roots in European gay history. So they opened a bar there once again, now with the new name in the German spelling, Kweer.

The new Kweer is a beautiful lounge, with long serpentine couches and a small stage for shows, and the space opens early in the day as a coffeeshop, then changes to a posh cocktail bar in the evening. As progressive as it was in the 1950s when they hired their first gay employee, the bar is just as progressive now: instead of the self-imposed split of women in one room, men in the other, the crowd is entirely gender-friendly, with young patrons embracing their chosen pronouns and giving the place some fresh energy.

“We made sure to pivot the place as a queer space,” said Rensing. “We really thought that it was imperative, that this place became a thriving queer space again, as it had been in the second half of the last century.”

Kweer exterior (Photo courtesy of Dan Renzi)
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