The pink boas and Prada pumps of the pride parade, while fab, fail in representing the bulk of DC gay culture. Stereotypes can be fun to
mock cover (just look at our coverage of Little Richard and the High Heel Race).
However, for alt-gays, 2007 also outed a list of great gay things about our District to be proud of. 2007 saw DC native Tim Gunn make it work by returning to his role in Project Runway, joining Liz Claiborne as Chief Creative Officer, authoring a book, staring in a new series for Bravo and guest starring in Ugly Betty. Fellow native, and uber fag hag, Henry Rollins also returned to DC for a spoken word tour and gave the shortest interview in BYT history.
Here is a list, for 2007, of 10 Great Gay Things about DC:
BIG BEAR CAFE
Opening a hipster coffee shop at the intersection of the Shaw neighborhoods of Ledroit Park and Bloomingdale would normally be seen by neighborhood activists as a gentrifying move. But when the Big Bear Cafe opened in 2007 on the formerly desolate corner of 1st and R Streets, NW it was welcomed as a center of neighborhood activity.
Owned and operated by a Stu and Lana, a young straight couple who live adjacent to the cafe, the space has built a steady following of decades-long residents, gay neighbors and a hipster clientele. The cafe hosts the seasonal Bloomingdale Farmers Market, art showings and local musicians. And with its name, it has the ability to attract evenmore gay customers. It has already held its first “bear night” for the gay community, providing discounts to any self-identified bear. www.bigbearcafe-dc.com
BLOW OFF (Bob Mould and Rich Morel)
What started off as a small gathering of friends at the Velvet Lounge on U Street now fills the cavernous 9:30 club each month. Blowoff is a collaboration of Bob Mould (Husker Du, Sugar…author of that little tune called the Daily Show theme song) and Rich Morel (remixer to the A List). The two DJs spin an eclectic mix of rock, new wave, pop and dance before a crowd of burly bears and hipster kids.
In 2007, with the absence of a large-scale dance venue in the District, the event began to attract circuit-type party goers who could more easily identify with Whitney Houston than the White Stripes. The duo also launched a second Blowoff party in New York. Regulars have vocally hoped that the opening of the gay, dance club Town would siphon off the newbies. That will be determined in 2008, but in the meantime Morel and Mould are willing to provide all with an education in rock-and-roll. www.blowoff.us
The deliciously lipstick lesbian DJ Ca$$idy risked risked losing the crowd of her popular Electrotease party when she moved the event from the DC9 to the Rock & Roll Hotel on H Street, NE. The new venue was promising, but was difficult for urbanites to reach without a car – and cabs at the new venue were notoriously difficult to catch back home after the party closed.
Yet, rechristened Garutachi the party grew and eventually became an official hangout for Brightest Young Things. While not a gay-specific event, the party attracts the attention of homos clad in skinny jeans and rock-and-roll haircuts. The annual “Underwear Party” ups the gay attendance and on Garutachi nights which coincide with the BYT Stylistics showcase it is nearly impossible to guess “Hipster or Gay?” due to the fabulous, post-ironic dress of the crowd dancing to DJ Ca$$idy. www.myspace.com/garutachi
Drag queen Ella Fitzgerald became the face of the DC gay community when the District decided to bulldoze an entire gay commercial district to make way for the new Nationals stadium. In the 1970s, many gay establishments were forced into a run-down neighborhood on the Anacostia waterfront in Southeast – out of sight from tourists and DC proper. The District-led segregation of the gay community grew the area into a welcoming mixture of drag showcases, dance clubs, strip bars and sex shops which attracted rural visitors and right-wing politicians who frequented the neighborhood without worry of being bothered by outsiders.
The District still hasn’t accounted for the blocks of gay businesses now laying under the home plate of the new stadium (promises of relocation have been held up for over a year). However, Ella Fitzgerald, the matron of the drag community in the capital, has helped ensure that performers formerly featured in Southeast have found new homes at other venues in the District.
When Dr. Frank Kameny was fired by the federal government in 1957 for being gay, his dismissal marked a beginning in the modern gay rights movement. Four years later, Kameny founded the first gay civil rights organization in Washington and organized a gay protest of the White House in 1965.
The 82-year-old advocate is well-known in established gay political circles. The Library of Congress was chosen in 2007 as the home of his papers. And in the fall, the Smithsonian Institution announced that memorabilia created by Kameny would be housed in the Museum of American History. Kameny’s protest signs and “Gay is Good” buttons can currently be seen on in a display case that sits between Jerry Seinfeld’s “puffy shirt” and Thomas Jefferson’s writing desk.
District gays colonized the nightlife of Columbia Heights decades before gentrification set in. For years, a Black gay clientèle flocked to Nob Hill before its closure. Reopened as Wonderland, the bar still attracts neighborhood gays uninterested in trekking down the hill to Dupont Circle. The bar even produced a monthly gay party in 2006.
These days, the gay clientèle of bars like Wonderland have integrated themselves with the larger crowd. The gay community in Columbia Heights has also developed an enthusiasm for pupusas – the flat, Salvadorian snack of dough filled with meat or cheese. Claiming it as the new jumbo slice, the pupusa is a perfect stand-in symbol for the gay community that has long-thrived in Columbia Heights.
SHEA VAN HORN (Crack)
In 2006, nightlife promoters Shea Van Horn, Chris Farris and Karl Jones collaborated to create the quarterly nightlife event Crack – an irreverent showcase of local talent, comedy coupled with a rock-and-roll dance party. Under his stage name of Summer Camp, Van Horn has entertained largely-gay audiences at the DC9 by birthing the Christ child onto stage, performing comedy in a burqa and spinning dance rock in the DJ booth.
“This isn’t a bunch of guys performing Barbra Streisand or Celine Dion,” Van Horn told Brightest Young Things in May. “Our event is more like a fun mix of shock, theatre and performance art.”
In 2008, Crack returns on Saturday, February 2nd at the DC9 with “The Circus.” The show begins promptly at 10pm. Tickets are $8. Talented freaks are invited to join the show by applying at www.crackdc.com
SHOWTUNES AT JRs
Hipster gays may shun traditional gay establishments in an attempt to establish their indie cred. However, it is difficult to dismiss the weekly showtunes showcase at JRs on 17th Street. The night packs both floors of the long-and-narrow bar with beer-drinking, Broadway-singing gays. Video monitors overhead play clips of Liza, Les Mis and plenty of Barbra Streisand.
Even if you don’t know anything about showtunes, Monday nights at JRs is a must simply for the friendliness of the crowd. Groups who gather not knowing anything about the musical Wicked may be in for a shock at how vocal the crowd can grow as the music reaches its crescendo. Visitors lucky enough to be at the bar when the theme from Oklahoma is played will be entertained by the unison singing of substituted lyrics to “Okla-homo” by what seems to be the entire bar.
The District sports numerous gay sports teams include rugby, soccer, softball, football and swimming. DC is also home to the DC Divas, a professional lesbian football squad (okay, its officially a “women’s” team).
While athletics has always been a strong component of the gay community in DC. 2007 brought new attention to the DC Strokes, a gay-centered crew team. The club grew in prominence with its charitable “Men of Strokes” calendar which showcased plenty of the club’s athletic abs. Apart from competing in Mid-Atlantic meets, the team hosts the annual Stonewall Regatta and coaches crew clinics for those interested in learning about the sport of rowing. While other gay-inclusive rowing clubs (Capital Rowing Club, etc) have long-maintained a community service component, 2007 saw the DC Strokes develop their own focus on service to the DC community. www.dcstrokes.org
The four authors of TheNewGay.net would argue that not every gay enjoys dishing on Britney over brunch. The DC-based gay blog describes itself as a place for “everyone over the rainbow.” Rather than ranting about overpriced appletinis, the new gays post on The Pogues and conduct interviews with indie artists like Ted Leo.
In October, the blog posted on a gay couple kicked out of the U Street Rite-Aid pharmacy for hugging while shopping the aisles. TheNewGay.net then organized a flash-mob in response which produced spontaneous gay-hugging throughout the store – gaining a large amount of media attention to the management’s discriminatory practices. Where traditional gay media in the District focus mostly on mainstream gay culture, the guys (and gal) over at TheNewGay.net refreshingly take up the hipster beat. www.TheNewGay.net
Honorable Mention: Not so much an honorable mention as an actual great gay thing about DC (but the list was limited to 10). Rehobus inaugurated its luxury coach service from Adams Morgan to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware in 2007. The service makes it possible for those without a car to escape to the summer gay getaway without driving. In 2008, Rehobus looks to expand its pickup locations to other points including U Street. www.rehobus.com