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Fisette not running for U.S. House seat

Jay Fisette, Arlington County Board, gay news, Washington Blade

Gay Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette won’t run for Rep. James Moran’s seat. (Washington Blade file photo by Jeff Surprenant)

Gay Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette announced late Wednesday that he has decided not to run this year for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Rep. James Moran (D-Va.).

Fisette was among about a dozen prominent Northern Virginia politicians, including gay State Sen. Adam Ebbin, mentioned by political observers as potential candidates to run in the June 10 Democratic primary to seek the nomination for Moran’s seat in the 8th Congressional District.

The overwhelmingly Democratic district includes parts of Arlington and Fairfax counties and most of the City of Alexandria. The winner of the primary is expected to easily win the general election in November.

“Many friends and colleagues have asked of my interest in running for this seat and have encouraged me to run,” Fisette said in a statement. “While appreciative of those comments, I have decided that I will not seek this position,” he said.

“One reason for my decision is the contrast between the dysfunctional climate on Capitol Hill and the can-do atmosphere in Arlington,” Fisette said. “The state of politics at the national level is disheartening, with the outsized influence of shrill, well-financed forces and the disintegration of sincere efforts to forge compromise, respect one’s colleagues and realize the potential of government to make people’s lives better.”

Fisette became the first known openly gay elected official in Virginia in 1997 when he won election to an at-large seat on the five-member Arlington Board, which serves as the county’s governing body. He has won re-election four times since then by wide margins, with his latest electoral victory last year.

Although Ebbin has yet to make an official announcement, a prominent gay Democratic activist in Arlington has said “the word is out” that Ebbin plans to run for the congressional seat.

Ebbin became the first out gay to win election to the Virginia General Assembly in 2003 when he won his race for a seat in the House of Delegates. He won election to the State Senate in 2011 in a district that covers most of the territory of the 8th Congressional District.

In a related development, the Washington Post reported that Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) planned to announce on Thursday he was forming an exploratory committee to assess whether to run for the 8th District congressional seat. Businessman and former Navy fighter pilot Bruce Shuttleworth announced his candidacy for the congressional seat last week. Both are Democrats who have expressed strong support for LGBT rights as have all of the Democrats thought to be considering running for Moran’s seat.

In his statement saying he isn’t running, Fisette added, “There are many qualified Democrats who could represent the Eighth District very capably. I will work with our party’s nominee to secure a victory in the November election and keep the Eighth District in the progressive ranks.”

23
Jan
2014

Witeck won’t run for Congress; backs Ebbin

Bob Witeck, gay news, Washington Blade

‘I plan to give my unqualified support to Adam Ebbin now,’ said Bob Witeck. (Photo courtesy of Bob Witeck)

Gay public relations executive Bob Witeck informed the Blade on Sunday that he won’t run for the U.S. House seat in Northern Virginia being vacated by retiring Democratic Congressman James Moran and will instead support state Sen. Adam Ebbin’s bid for the seat.

Ebbin, who’s gay and a Democrat, served for eight years in the Virginia House of Delegates before winning election in 2011 to the Virginia Senate. He announced his candidacy for the congressional seat last week.

“Over the weekend, and upon careful consideration and lots of conversations with my partner, I have decided not to run for the 8th District congressional seat,” Witeck said in a statement.

Witeck, a longtime LGBT rights advocate, was among more than a dozen Democrats who either announced their candidacy for the 8th District seat or said they were considering running for the seat  in the June 10 Democratic primary. The winner of the primary is considered the strong favorite to win the general election in November in the heavily Democratic district.

In a statement released to the Blade, Witeck said the race has attracted other highly qualified candidates.

“While I am sure that I can work hard, raise funds and be competitive, I am equally if not more happy to get behind the ultimate Democratic nominee – so long as that candidate is as committed to LGBT equality, human rights and economic fairness issues that I care about,” he said.

Witeck said he’s a longtime supporter of the mission of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, a national organization that helps elect openly LGBT candidates running for public office.

“I therefore plan to give my unqualified support to Adam Ebbin now,” he said. “He is working doggedly to win the primary, and I’ve spoken to him today to give him my help.”

03
Feb
2014

Joseph F. Vivalo, Jr. dies at 53

Joe Vivalo, obituary, gay news, Washington Blade

Joseph F. “Joe” Vivalo, Jr. in 1987.

Joseph F. “Joe” Vivalo, Jr., 53, a former resident of Washington and Arlington who was active in political and AIDS charity fundraising and events management, died in Key West, Fla., on Feb. 5.

His death was from suicide, according to Terry Michael, with whom Vivalo shared an apartment on Capitol Hill in 1986-87 and again in 1992-93. Vivalo, who was gay, worked as a waiter at Mr. Henry’s restaurant, Michael said, after moving to the District from Portland, Ore., in July 1986. Living in New York from 1988-92, he returned to Washington in November 1992, where he resided again on Capitol Hill and later in the Logan Circle area, before settling in Arlington. At the time of his death, Vivalo had been living and working at a guesthouse in Key West.

A native of Youngstown, Ohio, Vivalo was a director of the Pallotta TeamWorks AIDS Ride in Washington in the late 1990s and was director of the Whitman-Walker Health AIDS Walk in 2000, when he also produced a fundraising concert for Whitman-Walker at the Kennedy Center, featuring singer Patti LaBelle. He worked in several AIDS walks in Manhattan in the late 1980s.

Specializing in arts and entertainment fundraising, Vivalo was fundraising director for former U.S. Rep. and 1984 Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro, in her unsuccessful race for the U.S. Senate in New York in 1992. He had served in the Mondale-Ferraro presidential campaign in Portland, Ore., in 1984, as a young field worker. He worked on the Clinton-Gore Inaugural Committee in Washington in 1992. And he was on the facilities management staff of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. in 2012. For a time, he ran a bike restoration business in Arlington.

Born Dec. 30, 1960 in Youngstown, Vivalo was a son of the late Joseph Vivalo and Marie Ann “Dolly” Vivalo, who survives, along with siblings Debbie, Jeff, John, Katie, Jacqueline, Michael and Kimberly. He is also survived by friends in the Washington area, including Walter Quetsch of Capitol Hill, at whose Fire Island cottage Vivalo was a frequent guest during the past two decades, and Washington attorney Jim Prunty, whom Vivalo met during his years in Portland.

Vivalo attended Ohio University, where he earned a degree in political communication. He was an active swimmer in high school and college. He had a passion for dance music and was a friend of the late San Francisco disco icon Sylvester James, “who visited Joe at our apartment on Capitol Hill in late 1987,” Michael said, noting that “Sylvester’s ‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)’ and ‘You Are My Friend’ tracks became Joe’s signature songs.”

A memorial service for Vivalo was held in Youngstown Feb. 8.

12
Feb
2014

Setting the retail pace

Kathy Dalby, Pacers, gay news, Washington Blade

‘People want local small businesses to win,’ says Kathy Dalby, ‘and we have to earn that every day.’ (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“The formula is simple, really,” says Pacers Running Stores executive vice-president of retail and managing partner for events Kathy Dalby, “but, like any small business, we have to work our tails off.”

Five Washington-area running specialty stores serve as unique centers for an ever-burgeoning number of running enthusiasts. Combining customer-centric retail with community-building races has been key to expanding the successful enterprise. The independent business has grown to both a multi-store retail operation with an affiliated events company.

The first D.C. location, near Logan Circle at 1427 P St., N.W., opened in summer 2010, joining current Virginia storefronts in Alexandria, Clarendon and Pentagon Row in Arlington, and Old Town Fairfax. All serve as hubs for local runners – offering a full range of running gear along with training advice, motivation and coaching, and a robust schedule of regular fun-runs and special race events.

The original Old Town Alexandria location, a short sprint from the King Street Metro, opened its doors in 1991. Twelve years later then-employee and former University of Virginia collegiate runner Chris Farley, now corporate owner and general manager, acquired the business with the angel investment of his family.

Like other store employees and managers, Dalby started working part-time on the shop floor – a continuation of a college stint working at a running store in California. Moving to the area following studies at Michigan State and with a master’s degree in public health, she landed a law firm job specializing in Medicare reimbursement. Dalby soon discovered, however, that the quintessential Washington occupation was not to her liking.

Having “always been entrepreneurial in spirit and with an events background,” Dalby explains, led her to make a career change. “I love how we have integrated those two things,” she adds, engaging in “authentic and community-focused relationship building.”

Many of the approximately 25 full-time employees and 60-some part-timers come from similar backgrounds. When being fitted for the right running shoe, customers might be assisted by a former or current mortgage broker, architect, librarian or other professional.

“We make an investment in both the people and the customers of Pacers,” Dalby says, noting the “genuinely small business” enjoys long-time employee retention. She points out that the business is “proud to hire customers for both store positions and to assist with race events.”

Last weekend, the Pacers-sponsored 10th annual “Jingle All the Way 8K” drew nearly 4,500 and filled downtown District streets with Santa-costumed runners in a light snow. The first store event was held in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 – surprising staff when 4,000 runners turned out, raising $120,000 in relief funds.

Pacers has been a sponsor of D.C. Front Runners, the LGBT-and-friends running club, and Capital Pride.

Alongside fundraising well over half-a-million dollars for local charities, the company recently launched its “DCXC Project” supporting development of distance running and fitness programs at area schools. By working with cross country and track programs, and supported by vendor partners such as New Balance, Pacers helps engage youth in the sport of running while encouraging life-long fitness habits – including among underserved communities.

The same philosophy guides the award-winning business – named a “Top 50” national running store for seven years – in its approach to customer service. Pacers staff, including two trainers rotating among stores, guide those just starting out or getting back into a running regimen by connecting them with other runners and running groups to achieve their training goals.

More than an endorphin empire for professional runners, Pacers has built success one stride at a time. “People want local small businesses to win,” Dalby points out, “and we have to earn that every day.”

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

17
Dec
2013

Queery: Allan Armus

Alan Armus, gay news, Washington Blade

Alan Armus (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Allan Armus says it’s good for LGBT faith-minded folks to join forces on occasion.

“So often we hear that this or that church is against LGBT people and have taken it upon themselves to speak for some church, synagogue or mosque,” he says. We want to prove that they’re not really representing their faith community. By joining together, we achieve a critical mass. We’re … saying you don’t have a monopoly on what you’re saying on what the faith means and how it should treat LGBT people.”

The 30th anniversary Pride Week Interfaith Service is Tuesday evening at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational United Church of Christ (945 G St., N.W.). Rev. Harry Knox, president of Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice will speak. Shirli Hughes & Ovation will provide music (details available at capitalpride.org under the events listings). About 200 attend most years.

“It is my belief that every religion has some element of truth and no religion has all the truth,” Armus, treasurer at Bet Mishpachah, says. “And I think these religions that say everybody must be my religion are misguided.”

Armus has been active at Bet Mishpachah since he came to Washington in 1983 He got involved with the Washington Area Gay & Lesbian Interfaith Alliance (which changed into the Celebration of the Spirit Coalition in 2000) in 1985, just a few years after it formed. This year’s Interfaith Service will incorporate elements of services from previous years for the anniversary.

Armus, a 69-year-old Fairview, N.J., native is retired from Verizon Communications where he was director for finance until 2000. His late partner, Mark Goldfarb, died in 1999.

Armus lives in Arlington and enjoys music, volunteering, theater, motorcycles, meditation, reading and massage in his free time.

How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell? 

I came out to myself in 1979, then gradually came out to family and friends. It was no big deal to my family and my late partner’s family. We were both loved and accepted completely. The only question I got was, “Why did you wait so long to say it?”

Who’s your LGBT hero? 

Harvey Milk

What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?

The Eagle

Describe your dream wedding.

One with my dream man.

What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?

Social justice for everyone.

What historical outcome would you change? 

The Holocaust

What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime? 

Shortly after moving to the D.C. area, I was invited to the opening night party of the Paul Taylor Dance Company and met the lead male dancer, whom I had a crush on. I got so flabbergasted upon meeting him that I couldn’t speak and just babbled incoherently. He smiled at me, then walked away to meet others. From that time on I knew I would love it here in D.C.

On what do you insist?

Punctuality and honesty

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet? 

A snarky remark to a snarky friend who was stuck at an airport; something about check-in vs. chicken.

If your life were a book, what would the title be?

“He Did the Best He Could”

If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?

Nothing. Now if they found a pill that could make me lose weight and have big muscles, then we could talk.

What do you believe in beyond the physical world?

That the creative power of the universe made everyone of us to experience our lives to the fullest. That the spirit within us is a gift from that source that we must return in the same or better condition than when we received it. That if you look deeply into the eyes of another you can see that divine spirit within them as well of the reflection of your own spirit.

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?

Don’t turn our friends and supporters into our enemies. Be grateful for whatever help they can provide. It’s OK to push for our rights, but don’t push so hard that someone gets hurt.

What would you walk across hot coals for?

To eliminate groundless hatred and bigotry.

What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?

That all gay men are limp wrested, effeminate queens; only some of us are that way.

What’s your favorite LGBT movie? 

Short Bus”

What’s the most overrated social custom?

People asking, “How are you?” when they really don’t care.

What trophy or prize do you most covet?

I don’t seek any prizes (other than the Publishers Clearing House Grand Prize.)  If someone says thank you or good job after I’ve done something, that’s great.

What do you wish you’d known at 18? 

That I was gay. When I look back, I recognize all the signs, but I was just very naive and oblivious to them in myself.

Why Washington?

I moved here with my job at the break up of the Bell System.

29
May
2013

Proud to be an ‘A’ at Capital Pride

By ATIMA OMARA-ALWALA

This weekend, members of the LGTBQQAA community will descend on Washington for America’s third-largest Pride festival. For many years, I have participated in the mission of obtaining equality for all Americans. Within the community’s string of letters, I’m very glad to be counted as the final “A” — the allies.

As the Pride Parade makes its way from Dupont Circle to Logan Circle, community members and supporters have a lot to celebrate. Twelve states and Washington, D.C. have now approved marriage equality. But, we are pushing for more.

As the Mr. & Miss Capital Pride pageant gets underway at Phase 1, a clerk at the Supreme Court, about four miles away, is, I hope, working on a majority opinion that will overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, thereby opening the federal rights and responsibilities of marriage to all couples.

Pride events across the country have a lot to celebrate but I think it is important to take a quick look back at how we have finally arrived at this place.

For those of us that love political polls and messaging documents, Third Way’s Director of the Social Policy & Politics Program, Lanae Erickson Hatalsky, has written one of the best message guidance ever seen. Based on their several polls, including Third Way’s July 2011 poll, they found that a commitment narrative is the most effective in transitioning the sentiment of voters to favor marriage equality.

A message carried by straight couples about gay couples wanting to join the institution of marriage has proven, in polling and in practice, to be the most effective argument to shift public opinion.

While I would like to claim all the credit for us “straight surrogates,” a huge driver of national support for marriage equality is our nation’s demographic shift. Older Americans are no longer with us and their hetero-normative views have not been passed down. As younger Americans that have grown up with gay and lesbian couples take to the ballot box, the pendulum is swinging to the right side of history.

As of March 2013, poll after poll showed a majority of Americans supporting marriage equality including 73 percent of Americans under the age of 30 per CBS. The ABC/Washington Post cut their data differently, finding extremely high support among younger Democrats 18-49 (73 percent) and Republicans 18-49 (52 percent).

However, the rest of the GOP has not joined younger Republicans, Democrats and independents in supporting equality. But, hope springs eternal and middle-aged and older Republicans both showed significant drops in opposition to marriage equality.

Still, as a proud member of the Democratic Party, I’m thrilled to state that a majority of Democrats in all age groups support marriage equality.

The LGTBQQAA have much to celebrate and I will certainly be lifting my brunch mimosa to the equality dozen this year but we still have a long way to go.

My gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in 37 states still cannot join the institution of marriage that my husband Clay and I joined last year. The Supreme Court still needs to overturn DOMA and 29 states still allow employers to fire LGTBQQA employees.  I must sadly confess that I live in one, the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Virginia continues to be on the wrong side of history and the wrong side of the Potomac. I love the Commonwealth and it is my home but I have to say: “Seriously, Richmond, come on! Maryland and D.C. have equality can we maybe get our act together? We aren’t the cool kids anymore — we’re vintage, in a bad way.”

So this Pride weekend, let’s all celebrate our successes and get back to work on Monday!

Atima Omara-Alwala is vice president of the Young Democrats of America; she is running to be the organization’s first African-American president. She is a former board member of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia and lives in Arlington with her husband, Clay.

05
Jun
2013

New cycling club debuts

OutRiders, Arlington, Gay News, Washington Blade

A recent gathering of the new OutRiders Arlington group. (Photo courtesy OutRiders)

Every year at Capital Pride, the LGBT sports teams of Washington take over a section of the Sunday Pride Festival to promote their clubs. A common question over the years has been, “Why aren’t there more options for cycling?”

CHECK OUT ALL OF OUR PRIDE COVERAGE HERE!

A few clubs such as Adventuring have offered recreational biking as an offshoot of their other activities, but none have focused solely on cycling. Last month, the OutRiders Arlington emerged as a new club to fill the cycling void. The group was founded by Scott Binde and Lee Mitchell and both are avid cyclists with a long history of leading bike rides.

“Both of us have a passion for cycling,” Binde says. “We have been plugged into the D.C. cycling community for years and even our vacations include cycling.”

There are no fees to ride with the cyclists and the group meets every Tuesday at 6:15 p.m. at the Clarendon Metro Station. There have only been two rides so far and the group is already attracting a diverse base of about 15 cyclists.

“We are looking to draw LGBT bike enthusiasts along with their straight allies,” Binde says.

The rides vary in difficulty and range from 12-25 miles. They utilize multi-use trails in the Arlington area, connecting one trail to the next and also venturing into bike-friendly residential areas. Depending on the amount of sunlight available, the treks last at least 90 minutes and all rides are pre-ridden by the leaders of the group.

The OutRiders will continue the bike series through August, and possibly longer based on interest. They are considering the possibility of weekend rides.

“Cycling is so accessible and most everyone knows how to bike,” Binde says. “We wanted to create something informal versus a highly structured sporting club.”

The next ride is Tuesday and the route is an 18-mile, moderately hilly loop which will pass by Ford Ward, an earthen Civil War era fort, and utilize the scenic Holmes Run Trail.

The wooded (yet paved) trail includes a forded stream crossing where sand and gravel can sometimes accumulate. Riders may want to leave their skinny tire bicycle at home or just walk their bike over the few feet of this section.

The group will convene by 6:15 p.m. at the Clarendon Metro station elevator entrance (Wilson Blvd. and Hudson St.), and the ride starts promptly at 6:30 p.m. Bring helmet and water.  Free on-street parking is available.

After completing the ride each week, the cyclists get together for optional socializing at spandex-friendly restaurants in the Clarendon area.

Contact the ride leader for additional information at vabikelegs@yahoo.com. You can also RSVP at their meetup site by searching OutRiders Arlington.

Show your pride, take a ride.

06
Jun
2013

Queery: Juan Carlos Loubriel

Juan Carlos Loubriel, Whitman-Walker Health, HIV/AIDS, gay news, Washington Blade

Juan Carlos Loubriel (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

When it comes to the task of having to tell a client he or she is HIV positive, Juan Carlos Loubriel has seen all the reactions you could imagine.

“Some people have tears, some are just in shock, others are very quiet and just sort of need a little space,” he says. “Sometimes you just need to be quiet and give them time to process it. It’s quite amazing how different human reactions can be.”

Thursday is National HIV Testing Day and Loubriel echoes the oft-heard advice that it’s good to be tested every six months.

Even for gay men who always use condoms?

Loubriel says yes in accordance with CDC guidelines.

“Knowing your status can help save your life and save other lives,” he says.

The 34-year-old San Juan, Puerto Rico native started in HIV prevention work in San Juan at a health department. His father, who was bisexual, eventually died of AIDS about 12 years ago inspiring Loubriel to stay in the field.

“He found out very late and at the time the medications weren’t very good,” he says. “I decided I was very passionate about the topic and really wanted to encourage awareness.”

He came to Washington about five years ago and has been at Whitman-Walker for four years. He’s engaged to Derek Neal and lives in Arlington. He enjoys working out and singing karaoke in his spare time.

 

How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?

I have been out for six years. The hardest person to tell was my mom. She has been so supportive ever since I talked to her about being gay.

 

Who’s your LGBT hero?

I have so many different LGBT heroes who have fought hard for the rights we have today and who continue fighting for the rights we don’t have yet. Too many people’s lives have been taken just for being gay. They are my heroes.

 

What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?

Sometimes you can find me at JR.’s or Number Nine.

 

Describe your dream wedding.

A destination wedding on the beach.

 

What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?

There are so many issues that I am most passionate about. I feel very strongly about the need for immigration reform. I am also very passionate about access to health care. I have become more and more passionate about politics because it can impact so many issues related to equality, human rights and our future.

 

What historical outcome would you change?

There are too many things that could and should be changed, but we learn from our mistakes and even from tragedies. Our history, the good and the bad, has made us who we are today: a more open and democratic society.

 

What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?

When I was 17 years old I auditioned for a role in the play, “The Passion of the Christ” through a Puerto Rican theater company. I was chosen to play the role of one of the Roman Soldiers. Ricky Martin, who was just getting famous with his first solo album in Spanish, played the role of Jesus Christ. It was a great experience! I will also never forget attending a Whitney Houston concert in Puerto Rico in 1994.

 

On what do you insist?

Honesty

 

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?

To my Dad on Father’s Day, who passed away of renal failure brought on by his HIV: Missing you Dad … But in my thoughts … you are here … and you will always be in my heart. Happy Father’s Day.

 

If your life were a book, what would the title be?

“Believe in Yourself”

 

If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?

Get married right away before my fiancé hears about it.

 

What do you believe in beyond the physical world? 

God

 

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?

We need to embrace all issues affecting diverse LGBT groups, including men of color, Latinos, etc. We need to speak with one voice. We cannot be divided by race, class, gender, religion or nationality.

 

What would you walk across hot coals for?

Love, family and faith.

 

What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?

Pretending to be something you are not.

 

What’s your favorite LGBT movie?

“Philadelphia”

 

What’s the most overrated social custom?

Being asked, “What do you do,” before a proper introduction.

 

What trophy or prize do you most covet?

My fiancé gave me a “best boyfriend” trophy early on in our relationship. I keep that on my desk at work. I also won a “best actor” trophy in high school.

 

What do you wish you’d known at 18?

I wish I would’ve known that being gay is not a sin, so I could accept myself at an earlier age.

 

Why Washington?

My mom moved to Virginia 15 years ago with her husband and I moved to join them.

19
Jun
2013

Library of Congress acquires papers of Lilli Vincenz

Lilli Vincenz, gay news, Washington Blade

Lilli Vincenz was a pioneer in the gay rights movement beginning in the early 1960s. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Lilli Vincenz, 75, a D.C.-area resident who worked with Frank Kameny as a pioneer in the gay rights movement beginning in the early 1960s, has donated to the Library of Congress some 10,000 papers, photographs, 16-mm films and memorabilia collected over a period of 50 years.

In a statement released on July 25, the Library of Congress said the papers and other items, which document Vincenz’s “personal biography and the larger gay rights movement,” will be available to researchers and the public once the materials are organized and catalogued.

The statement notes that Vincenz was one of the first lesbian members of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., the nation’s first full-fledged gay civil rights organization co-founded by Kameny and then D.C. gay activist Jack Nichols. It says Vincenz became the first editor of the organization’s newsletter, The Homosexual Citizen.

In that capacity, Vincenz and lesbian activist Nancy Tucker co-founded in 1969 an independent gay newspaper as a spinoff of the Mattachine newsletter called the Gay Blade, which later evolved into the Washington Blade

“She marched in the historic [gay rights] picket of the White House on April 17, 1965, participated in annual July 4th gay rights demonstrations in Philadelphia, and was part of the delegation that met with U.S. Civil Service Commission officials in 1965 to discuss the continued federal ban on hiring homosexuals,” the Library of Congress statement says.

“Vincenz was also an early member of the Daughters of Bilitis, a national lesbian rights organization, wrote a bi-weekly column for the New York-based Gay magazine, and was interviewed often by the media with other lesbian leaders,” the statement says.

The Library of Congress statement says the donation of Vincenz’s papers was made through her agent, Charles Francis, the co-founder of the Kameny Papers Project, which donated Kameny’s papers to the Library of Congress in 2006.

Vincenz and her partner Nancy Davis live in Arlington, Va.

30
Jul
2013

Scaled-back ‘Saigon’

Miss Saigon, Signature Theatre, Diana Huey, Kim, Theater, gay news, Washington Blade

Diana Huey as Kim in ‘Miss Saigon’ at Signature Theatre. (Photo by Christopher Mueller; courtesy Signature)

‘Miss Saigon’
Through Sept. 29
Signature Theatre
4200 Campbell Ave. Arlington
tickets start at $40
703-820-9771
signature-theatre.org

When “Miss Saigon” ran on Broadway in the ‘90s, there was big buzz surrounding the production’s life-sized helicopter.

The audacious prop was used to recreate the iconic photo depicting the fall of Saigon in 1975 to the Viet Kong when hordes of terrified pro-American Vietnamese fought for spots on a few C.I.A. aircrafts taking off from rooftops. Those who were left behind knew they’d likely be executed. For Signature Theatre’s version, director Eric Schaeffer — in his typical paring down fashion — merely suggests a helicopter, retaining the suspenseful element while losing the impractical spectacle.

From the composers who gave the world “Les Miserables” (Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil), the hugely successful “Miss Saigon” is a hard driving, sung through, rock opera based on Puccini’s 1904 classic “Madama Butterfly.” Its eclectic, ballad-heavy score is served beautifully here by a talented cast and a stellar 15-person orchestra tucked away on a perch behind corrugated metal panels. Despite some cloying spots and clunky lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr., the music works. Memorable tunes include “The Heat Is On,” “I Still Believe,” “Why God Why?” and “The American Dream.”

Signature’s Schaeffer (who is gay) has also halved the 40-person Broadway cast, allowing his take to focus more intimately on the musical’s love story: U.S. Marine Chris (likable Gannon O’Brien) temporarily rescues wide-eyed, Vietnamese bar-girl Kim (vocal powerhouse Diana Huey) from a life of prostitution. Saigon falls and Chris goes home to Atlanta where he marries. Unknown to Chris, Kim has given birth to their son. Kim does what she has to stay alive, driven by the desire to one day reunite as a family. Eventually, Chris and his wife travel to Vietnam to meet the boy. A happy ending for all is hard to imagine.

But the best scenes of Signature’s “Miss Saigon” take place in Saigon’s sleazy hooker bar Dreamland and (later) a similar joint in Bangkok. It’s in a dimly lit, alcohol-fueled Dreamland that war-weary Marines and desperate Vietnamese civilians come together against a backdrop of feverish partying. And it comes off splendidly in Signature’s not huge MAX Theatre.

Dreamland is the domain of the Engineer, a host/pimp played by the unctuous and terrifically entertaining Thom Sesma (who played the role in the show’s second national tour). He bullies a chorus of sexy bar girls led by experienced Gigi (Cheryl Daro). The eye-catching Daro makes a big impression singing “The Movie In My Mind,” a dream about a new life in America, but unfortunately her part essentially ends there. The rest of the cast includes Erin Driscoll as Ellen, Chris’ outwardly sedate spouse. Chris Sizemore is Chris’ Marine buddy who after the war works to reunite Vietnam-born Amerasian children with their American fathers. Christopher Mueller plays menacing Thuy, an unpleasant figure from Kim’s past.

“Miss Saigon” can be melodramatic and overwrought — it’s not for everyone. But Signature offers an opportunity to see it done particularly well.

05
Sep
2013