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Behind the scenes with Kathy Griffin

Posted: 29 Apr 2018 07:50 AM PDT

White House Correspondents Dinner, gay news, Washington Blade

Blade editor Kevin Naff with guest Kathy Griffin on Saturday night. (Washington Blade staff photo)

Many people have asked why the Blade chose to invite comedian Kathy Griffin to its table at Saturday's White House Correspondents' Dinner.

The event is a celebration of the First Amendment. As a longtime LGBT rights advocate, a comedian and provocateur, Griffin has made a long and successful career out of exercising her First Amendment right to free speech. The stunt last year in which she posed with a mock severed head of Donald Trump — which needlessly led CNN to fire her from a longstanding New Year's Eve hosting gig with Anderson Cooper — was a textbook case of satire, which is constitutionally protected speech.

Thus, the decision to invite Griffin proved an easy and obvious one. (We also invited Stormy Daniels, but her attorney, Michael Avenatti, told me without irony that it would be too much of a "sideshow" for her to attend.)

Griffin didn't disappoint, bringing her quick wit and fearless, LGBT-centric sense of humor to the dinner table. I met her and her boyfriend, Randy Bick, on the red carpet and held her purse as she posed for photographers and granted a series of TV interviews. Inside the heavy purse was a stapler; it turns out she suffered a last-minute wardrobe malfunction leaving the hotel, breaking a strap on her gown. After it was repaired, she feared a repeat and asked to borrow the stapler, just in case.

She proved a good sport throughout the night, posing for an endless stream of selfies with (mostly gay) fans who congratulated her on surviving the Trump machine's attacks in the aftermath of the photo scandal. When asked how her famous mom Maggie is at age 96, Griffin replied, "drunk."

The only awkward moment came when Deputy White House Press Secretary Hogan Gidley tried to squeeze past our table. Griffin stopped him and said, "How do you sleep at night?" Gidley replied, "Very well, thank you." When Griffin expressed doubt about that, Gidley asked, "Are we really going to do this?"

That's when things got interesting. Griffin, in her trademark style, retorted, "Yes we are, suck my dick! No, really, suck my dick!"

There was some back-and-forth, then Gidley, who was holding a Tecate, announced he was off to enjoy his Mexican beer "before we build the wall and you can't get these anymore." That prompted a farewell "fuck you" from Griffin, triggering nervous laughter around our table.

Later, when Politico's Josh Dawsey was announced winner of the Merriman Smith Award for his story about the resignation of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer — who was seated at the table next to us — Griffin stood up and applauded loudly in his direction, eliciting guffaws from our neighbors.

One personal highlight of the night: the Blade's Chris Johnson was honored as the honorable mention for the Merriman Smith award for a story he broke in December about Trump firing all members of his AIDS advisory committee. Chris's name was called and he stood to a round of applause from the room. That would have been unthinkable 40, 30, 20, 10 or even five years ago, when much of the journalism and political elite of D.C. wouldn't deign to acknowledge the gay press, much less honor one of its journalists. Congratulations to Chris for his dogged work in the White House, pressing officials to address our community's issues.

Another noteworthy moment came when gay country singer Ty Herndon took to the podium to perform "America the Beautiful" and "God Bless America." Unlike last year, the party drew current and former members of the administration, including Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Kellyanne Conway, Spicer, Reince Priebus and Omarosa Manigault-Newman. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein attended, too, drawing curious stares from many.

But the highlight of the evening's entertainment came when Michelle Wolf delivered a riotous keynote, roasting everyone from Trump and Sanders to Sean Hannity and the Democratic Party. Afterward, Griffin raved, saying she "loved" the performance, despite some audience discomfort with an abortion joke. I was surprised by the mainstream media's depiction of Wolf having bombed and offended the room. She did what any fearless comedian should do in that moment — skewer everyone and make us all laugh at ourselves.

Which brings us back to Griffin. Comedians occupy a unique and important role in our popular culture. We've long turned to them for incisive social commentary delivered with a sting; they say out loud what most of us are thinking. Attacking a comedian for doing her job as Trump and his cronies did to Griffin is petty and betrays deep insecurities. So, thank you, Kathy Griffin for making us laugh and for holding your own in the face of scorching attacks by those humorless GOP bores.


Kevin Naff is editor of the Blade. Reach him at knaff@washblade.com.

With hate crimes on the rise, what’s to do?

Posted: 28 Apr 2018 02:31 PM PDT

Vigil Against Hate, hate crimes, gay news, Washington Blade

Police are looking for three suspects in an anti-gay attack last week.

You've probably heard all about it by now, or even seen the horrific cell phone video capturing most of it. Just after midnight on Sunday, April 15, two gay men were viciously assaulted on the corner of Vermont Avenue and U Street. Sort of a strange place for such a thing to happen, given that it's practically in sight of the entrances to three of the city's busier gay bars, one of which, for better or worse, was recently named the best in the nation.

These instances are always jarring, especially when they happen in your own city, in stretches of pavement you pound with regularity. It's even more jarring given the statistics surrounding it — LGBTQ hate crimes are on the rise here at home and around the world. It's depressing. And I'm not so naive to think that Obama's magic gay marriage wand would have done away with this sort of thing. But I was hopeful that it might help.

People are struggling to find a cause for this uptick in hate. D.C.'s own top cop Police Chief Peter Newsham admitted that, "it's hard to say exactly what the increase is due to." This much is certain, It seems to be an angry age we find ourselves in. And it's certainly not just the queer community feeling the brunt of this. Hate crimes generally seem to be on the rise across the board. Even instances of anti-Semitism are up. Here in Washington, D.C., there were 66 instances of bias-related crimes in 2015 and 107 in 2016. Last year saw at least 163 instances. So where is it all coming from? Certainly, there is some from-the-top-down blame to go around.

When Obama announced in 2012 that he had 'evolved' on gay marriage, it provided a tone of acceptance that other Americans were able to draw from (just look to Maryland for an example of this). So, when it comes to tone and trendsetting, can the same be said for the current administration, meaning can this sort of thing cut the other way? Is President Donald Trump to blame for the uptick in bias-related hate crimes? Well, maybe. At the very least he might be an unindicted co-conspirator. And this is not all that farfetched. It's been proven that the man and his rallies incite violence. Any cursory reading of his Twitter feed shows that he has no boundaries whatsoever. The man sitting in our highest office has no qualms about petty insults and name-calling. And this sort of hateful and reckless rhetoric tends to trickle down.

So what's to be done? Know that soon, something has to give. And it will certainly break our way. But until then, take a cue from others. Yes, it is incredibly disheartening that someone posted the video of the assault on Twitter, as if to brag of it and further humiliate the victims. But at the end someone does come to their aid, and someone called for help. It's in these worst of times that people can show the best in themselves. Take solace in the fact that the community raised over $20,000 for the two victims. And know that a local gay dentist volunteered his time and skill to repair their cracked smiles, charging nothing for his services. Know there's a lot of love out there to counter this trickle down of hate.

In the long run, eventually something has to give. And if these waves of hate tend to come and go, the next crest may be ours. So until then, stay vigilant, stay active, and stay charitable.


Brock Thompson is a D.C.-based freelance writer who contributes regularly to the Blade.

Gay Day at the Zoo is May 6

Posted: 28 Apr 2018 02:02 PM PDT

Gay Day at the Zoo, gay news, Washington Blade

Gay Day at the Zoo (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

Gay Day at the Zoo celebrates International Family Day at the Smithsonian's National Zoo (3001 Connecticut Ave., N.W.) on Sunday, May 6 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

This will be the Smithsonian National Zoo's first year recognizing International Family Equality Day which occurs on May 7. There will be rainbow-themed activities including sloth bear enrichment, otter enrichment, giant panda ice treats, great ape enrichment, giant panda enrichment, meet-a-farm animal and more. There will also be field games with prizes and live music.

For more information, visit facebook.com/gaydayatthezoo.

Bluf: D.C. returns to the Eagle

Posted: 28 Apr 2018 01:42 PM PDT

Leather Pride, gay news, Washington Blade, Bluf: D.C.

(Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Leather Pride presents Bluf: D.C. at the D.C. Eagle (3701 Benning Rd., N.E.) on Sunday, May 6 from 4-9 p.m.

There will be drink specials and cigar smoking on the patio. Dress code is leather. Men and women welcome. This event occurs the first Sunday of every month.

For more details, visit dceagle.com.

Farrow to present book at Sixth & I

Posted: 28 Apr 2018 01:26 PM PDT

Ronan Farrow, gay news, Washington Blade

Ronan Farrow (Photo by Brigitte Lacombe)

Politics and Prose presents journalist Ronan Farrow with Mary Louise Kelly at Sixth & I Synagogue (600 I St., N.W.) on Thursday, May 3 at 7 p.m.

Farrow, who identifies as part of the LGBT community, will discuss his book "War on Peace: the End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence," a commentary on the decline of diplomacy and the rise of the military industrial complex gathered from his first-hand experience working in the State Department. He will be in conversation with Kelly, co-host of NPR's "All Things Considered” and former national security correspondent for NPR. Farrow's investigative journalism on the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault allegations earned Farrow a 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. Admission is $18. Admission including a copy of "War on Peace" is $30. Two tickets and a copy of the book is $45.

For more information, visit sixthandi.org.

Rainbow Families to hold conference

Posted: 28 Apr 2018 12:57 PM PDT

Rainbow Families, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo courtesy of Rainbow Families)

Rainbow Families hosts its 2018 Family Conference and Gathering at Georgetown Day High School (4200 Davenport St., N.W.) on Saturday, May 5 from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.

Virginia Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) and Maryland gubernatorial candidate Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (seen here) will be the conference's keynote speakers. There will be workshops and panels focused on LGBT family planning and parenting. Workshops will include Paths to Parenthood, Creating Families; Educating Our Children, Welcoming Schools; Raising Our Children, Parenting and Healthy Families and more. A kids camp for children 2-and-a-half years old through elementary school age and programs for tweens and teens by COLAGE will also be offered. Advanced registration for members is $70 and $105 for non-members. On-site registration is $85 for members and $120 for non-members.

For more information, visit rainbowfamilies.wildapricot.org.

HOME & GARDEN SPRING 2018: Thrift store adventures

Posted: 28 Apr 2018 11:14 AM PDT

Goodwill, gay news, Washington Blade, thrift store

A newly expanded Goodwill in Charles Town, W.Va. (Blade photo by Joey DiGuglielmo)

You probably already know if you're a thrift store-inclined person or not. I never particularly thought I was until a few years ago. There's a Goodwill across from my gym and I found myself stopping by weekly. This started about five years ago.

I soon learned two things — thrift stores (especially certain ones) are gold mines of second-hand finds but you have to go regularly to find the good stuff. Pop in once or twice a year and you'll wonder what the big deal is.

Aside from increasing your odds of landing a good find, going regularly also gives you a sense of how common or uncommon certain items are. It gleans your pounce-or-pass instinct over time.

If you're a Miss Pixie's (1626 14th St., N.W.) shopper — and she's great for certain things — obviously you're gonna pay a lot more because you're paying for her highly curated inventory and her no doubt exorbitant rent. I've splurged and bought some major pieces there in the last few years because, although they were fairly pricey (like $600 for an industrial metal apothecary-type cabinet), years of flea market and thrift store shopping (and antique shopping in general) gave me a strong sense of how unlikely it would be to find comparable items elsewhere.

Goodwills, though, are like Pixie's minus the kitsch/cool factor and there's a whole lot more crap to sift through. But that's also part of the fun. I don't consider it a fail whatsoever if I leave my weekly Goodwill visit empty handed. I know the goodies will be there soon enough.

You also have to train yourself to be judicious — your home, especially if you live in a small space, can get overrun with junk you don't need if you're not careful. But that's also the beauty of Goodwill — you don't want it, you just take it back. Sometimes with books, VHS tapes (yeah, I still watch them on occasion — you'd be surprised how much good stuff never made it over to DVD or Netflix) and LPs, I sometimes think of Goodwill more as a library where you just return whenever. No due date or late fees!

Home decor wise, I've had the best luck with funky, off-the-beaten path items that you just luck into. Last weekend I got a 5 ft.-tall, four-tiered circular shelf with a storage area in its base for all of $6. Luckily it slid easily into my car when I put the front passenger seat down. It's great for plants, tchotchkes (I'm a whore for kitschy tchotchkes) or whatever. I was tired of cologne bottles clogging up my bathroom sink and window sill so now they're there.

Goodwill Industries, which has its headquarters in Rockville, Md., and bills itself as an LGBT-affirming employer, is also great for household items you don't realize you don't have until you go for them and they're not there — like ramekins or margarita glasses. Yeah, you could get the same stuff at the outlets or make do with bowls or tumblers you already own, but that's no fun. I'm fussy about stemwear but at the same time I don't want to spend a lot.

You'll also quickly discover that all Goodwill stores are not created equally. Some are much cleaner and better organized than others. If you don't mind driving a little or you happen to be out in the exurbs, the two biggest, brightest and cleanest ones I know of are in Frederick, Md. and Charles Town, W.Va. The gargantuan Frederick, Md., location (5831 Buckeystown Pike, Frederick) has several rooms and is almost as big as a Target. If you go, definitely make time to visit the nearby Old Glory Antique Market (5862 Urbana Pike, Frederick), just feet away and one of the best antique malls I know of in our area.

The Charles Town Goodwill is at 136 Patrick Henry Way in Charles Town, W.Va., and is newly expanded. Probably not worth a drive just for it, but make time for it if you're out that way for something else. Smaller but still decent are ones in Shepherdstown, W.Va., and Winchester, Va. Hagerstown's is nothing to write home about. I rarely have much luck there or at the one off Rt. 1 just past Old Town in Alexandria, Va.

What are the other great thrift stores in the region? E-mail me (joeyd@washblade.com) and I'll include them in a future column.

HOME & GARDEN SPRING 2018: Sights and smells of spring

Posted: 28 Apr 2018 11:07 AM PDT

garden events, gay news, Washington Blade

Flowers in bloom last spring at Hillwood Estate. Hillwood hosts its Divas Outdoors movie night on Friday, June 15. On Sunday, Sept. 9 it will host a family picnic with Rainbow Families. (Photo courtesy Hillwood)

It's the season of garden tours, farmers' markets and flea markets and Washington and the region are bustling as usual. Here are some highlights.

Queer Radicals, a group of queer George Washington University students, and the GroW Garden host Queer Gardening Hours in the GWU GroW Garden (2300 H St., N.W.) today (Friday, April 27) from 1-3 p.m. The group will tend to the garden, which supports Miriam's Kitchen. After gardening, there will be a small potluck lunch. Attendees are invited to bring a dish to share with the group. For more details, visit facebook.com/gwqrad.

Flower Mart at the National Cathedral is Friday, May 4 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. (just one day this year) with floral displays, family activities, musical entertainment and more. Vendors will be on hand selling herbs, flower and produce. It's free. Registration and details here.

The 90th annual Georgetown Garden Tour is Saturday, May 12 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. starting at 31st and O streets. The self-guided tour will visit eight private gardens sponsored by the Georgetown Garden Club. Tickets are ?? and include an afternoon tea. Details at georgetowngardenclubdc.org.

The Delaplane Strawberry Festival in Delaplane, Va., bills itself as the largest strawberry festival in the region with two days of family activities, live entertainment, children's games, pony rides, a petting zoo, raptor exhibit, antique cars, food and crafts. It will be held rain or shine on May 27-28 at Sky Meadows State Park (11012 Edmonds Lane, Dalaplane, Va.). It's about 55 miles west of Washington. Tickets are $20 per car in advance or $25 at the gate. 

Shop Made in D.C. offers DIY Paper Flower Making with Alison Kirby on Friday, May 4 at 6 p.m. at the shop (1330 19th St., N.W.). The 60-minute class will teach patrons how to make their own Mother's Day bouquet with paper flowers. Snacks will be offered. Tickets are $50.61.

Van Ness Farmers Market has its opening day on Saturday, May 5 from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. at 4401 Connecticut Ave., N.W. with locally grown fruits, vegetables, kids' activities, live music, arts and crafts. The market is held every Saturday through November in front of the UDC Law School in Van Ness near Acacia Bistro & Wine Bar. It's a short walk from the Van Ness Metro exit on the red line.

MISA Floral offers an intro floral arrangement workshop at Steadfast Supply (300 Tingey St., S.E. no. 140) on Sunday, May 27 from 1-3 p.m. Florist Michelle Samson, owner of MISA, will teach you how to care for cut flowers and send you home with a summer arrangement. Flowers, vases and tools are included in the two-hour workshop. A second workshop will be held on June 24. Tickets are $75. 

A Homebuying & Mortgages Seminar will be held at the Capitol Hill branch (1391 Pennsylvania Ave., S.E.) of Signal Financial Federal Credit Union on Wednesday, May 9 at 5 p.m. hosted by loan officer Rob Cohen. It's free. 

Temple of Nyame (1501 T St., S.E.) holds its Spring Rites Celebration on Sunday, May 27 from 2-6 p.m.. This community celebration and planting ritual features drumming and dancing as attendees "attune ourselves to the forces that give life, harmony, balance and peace." It's free but donations will be accepted and can be made online in advance.

Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens has events throughout spring such as gardener's focus events (April 28, May 1, et. al.), hanging basket workshops (May 5), "Gardens Alive!" a preschool event (May 9, 10, et. al.), container garden workshop (May 12), "The Fashionable Life of Dina Merrill" (May 22), "Divas Outdoors presents Marie Antoinette" (June 15) and much more.

Merrifield Garden Center has a bounty of spring events planned as usual this year such as "What's New with Magnolias and Hydrangeas?" (May 5), "Wildlife Habitats: a Naturalist's Garden" (May 6), Spring Blooms Nursery Tour" (May 19) and more. Events vary at Merrifield's three local locations (Gainesville, Falls Church and Fairfax) so double check that before planning to attend. 

An overdue honor for Bayard Rustin

Posted: 28 Apr 2018 11:00 AM PDT

Black History Month, Bayard Rustin, Freedom Fighters, gay news, Washington Blade

Bayard Rustin (Washington Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle)

An open letter to the Montgomery County Board of Education and the greater community at large:

You have done an incredibly unique and wonderful thing in naming your elementary school in Rockville for Bayard Rustin. You have indeed made a conscious choice to right a tragic cultural wrong and to be on the right side of history.

Naming your school in honor of Bayard Rustin is truly not only an inspirational symbol but a recognition and an affirmation of not only Bayard Rustin but of so many students and adult community members who have been ignored and marginalized for far too long.

I am the chief activist for the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice, a newly formed community activist center and educational enclave I founded after having taught for almost 25 years at the same school I attended as a student. I have served as the "Champion of Equality" for the state of New Jersey, on the world stage as a Fulbright MF Scholar to Japan and most recently as the NEA's "Social Justice Activist of the Year," the first person to be recognized as such for works primarily in the LGBTQIA arena.

Bayard Rustin has long been an inspirational figure to me in my life's work to be a friend to the friendless and a voice to the voiceless, but sadly his name and his great works have been lost to history. Even more tragically, this is not a case of oversight; it is indeed an act of homophobia and fear. Bayard Rustin was, hyperbole aside, the very essence of the Civil Rights Movement, but his contributions therein were ignored simply because of whom he loved.

History shows that he was the primary architect of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. He inspired the Freedom Riders to venture forth on their great journey. He helped bring the principle of non-violence to the Civil Rights Movement, directly from his studies in India with Mahatma Gandhi. But many folks do not know who Bayard Rustin is or was. He was forcibly erased from the story of the Civil Rights Movement because of a simple heartbreaking truth: He was a gay man and he would not disavow who he was or who he loved so he had to work in the shadows, shunned by the very folks to whom he gave so much.

He was not only not given his due respect, but he was not given the basic kindness that we all deserve. This cannot and will not happen again. We need to recognize and love and respect each and every one of us, regardless of personal, philosophical, religious or any other differences that separate us and allow us to see anyone as "other." Bayard Rustin's story really is a great microcosm of what inclusivity, or in his case, the lack thereof, can mean, and how much inclusivity can help or harm a movement or an individual therein.

You have now done your part to right a tremendous and devastating historical wrong. You have indeed inspired your students and your community by naming this school after this incredibly important man and you actively and unequivocally show how your district, your schools, you as a people, can come together and not only accept each other's differences but indeed respect and embrace them. This honor will also serve as catalyst for what the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice now hopes to achieve and will work passionately toward: Creating a nationwide drive to name other schools for important and inspirational figures in the LGBTQIA community. If any readers of the Blade would like to be of service in this endeavor, please feel free to contact us at centerforsocialjustice.blogspot.com.

We need to show these kids that we stand for them and with them. Remember that arc of justice will bend only if we do the good works to make it so.

You have done that in your support of your students who need it in so many ways by having done this simple thing: naming their school in honor of a man who stood up for them at a pivotal time in our history and got nothing in return but being knocked down for doing it.

You showed them (and us all) where you stand now by standing up for Bayard Rustin and in turn for them as well.


Robt Seda-Schreiber is chief activist for the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice.

HOME & GARDEN SPRING 2018: Home makeovers

Posted: 28 Apr 2018 10:54 AM PDT

renovation projects, gay news, Washington Blade

Major renovation projects can feel daunting at the outset but consider the longterm cost/benefit analysis before you decide. (Photo by Steve Herder; Herder Photography via StatePoint)

(StatePoint) — Building a new home? Overhauling an existing one? Here are three renovation ideas that will add beauty and value.

Expand your living space

Don't let that basement sit unfinished and unused. Substantially expand your home's livable areas by turning your attention to the bottom floor. Finishing a basement is an involved project, potentially requiring electrical and plumbing work, insulation, drywall and more, but the end result is worth the effort and expense. And some of the less technical aspects of this renovation could even be DIY-ed.

Before getting started, consider what type of space would most benefit your household long-term. You may even be able to recoup some cost of the investment. For example, turning your basement into an at-home fitness center means ditching the costly gym membership. Want to reduce time and money on your commute? Your basement may just make an ideal home office.

Add a focal point

Is your interior design in need of a little something? The right eye-catching elements can make a room pop while adding vitality to your living spaces. A fireplace, for example, adds ambiance and comfort while also creating a natural gathering space.

New models pair the charm of a traditional open-front fireplace with the design flexibility of gas models. The Phoenix TrueView from Heat & Glo offers the convenience of gas without the glass, giving homeowners an unobscured view of the flames against the traditional brick or fade-resistant reflective black glass liner. An optional Bluetooth speaker system allows one to hear the fire as well as see it, making it a focal point for the ears as well as the eyes.

Boost the backyard

If you find that your household spends very little time in the backyard, figure out why. Is there a lack of shade? Are there not enough places to sit? Take a poll so you can diagnose the problem and take steps to correct it. Consider also how to make this space usable for a larger portion of the year, such as adding a fire pit or an enclosed, heated patio. Also consider aesthetics. A bit of landscaping can make your backyard as visually appealing as your home's interiors.

This season, consider the renovations that will go furthest to boost your home's livability, beauty and value.