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More ‘Mega’ networking with gay chamber

Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, CAGLCC, the Chamber, Town Danceboutique, gay news, Washington Blade, Mega Networking Event

CAGLCC Mega Networking Event. (Washington Blade file photo by Joe Tresh)

The Capital Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (CAGLCC) hosts its sixth annual “LGBT Mega Network and Social Event” at Town (2009 8th St., N.W.) on Wednesday from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

CAGLCC has brought together thousands of LGBT professionals to mix, mingle and recruit new employees in a social setting for the past three years. Through CAGLCC’s partnership with 30 other LGBT networking and social groups, LGBT professionals are able to make connections at the District’s largest LGBT professional networking and social event.

Admission is free. For more information and to register, visit


Queery: Mike Larson

Mike Larson, CAGLCC, gay news, Washington Blade

Mike Larson (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Washington’s LGBT business community will be mingling tonight as CAGLCC (Capital Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce) holds its annual awards dinner “Indulge in Business Excellence” at the Mayflower Renaissance (1127 Connecticut Ave., N.W.).

The Chamber ( created the awards to showcase the achievement and impact of LGBT business and community leaders in the region. Mike Larson, a sales executive at Spectrum Printing and Graphics and a former Chamber president, is slated to receive the Distinguished Service Award, only the second time it’s been given.

“I’m very humbled,” the 46-year-old Pittsburgh native says. “The award is wonderful, but what I really treasure are the relationships I’ve developed in the Chamber.”

Larson got involved in 2005 and eventually chaired a community service committee for the Chamber.

“There’s a lot of business we can do with one another and it’s nice to keep those dollars within the community,” Larson says. “I’ve done a huge volume of business through contacts I’ve made directly related to the Chamber.”

Larson came to the area 18 years ago after stints in both Virginia and Pennsylvania. He and Pippa, his 10-year-old schnauzer, live in Petworth. Larson is single and enjoys baking, working on his house, boating and gaming in his free time.


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

Twenty-seven years, my paternal grandparents. I knew they thought “being gay” was wrong. They always loved me unconditionally and eventually my grandmother became supportive of me being gay. When I divorced four years ago, I think she was more upset about my partner not being part of the family any longer than the fact that I was getting divorced!


Who’s your LGBT hero?

I have two — Frank Kameny, for his early, strong, unwavering voice for the LGBT community and Dana Beyer who is an intelligent, well-spoken, strong woman who helps keep our community focused on equality for all.

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

Nellie’s. I am not much of a late night guy, but always enjoy watching a Caps game or hanging out with friends at Nellie’s.


Describe your dream wedding.

My wedding back in 1995 wasn’t legal, but it was an incredible celebration with family and friends. I was the first of my siblings to marry, so my mom had a ball with the planning.


What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?

Helping to build a vibrant community in the Petworth neighborhood. I serve on the board of Friends at Petworth Library and have worked on various neighborhood beautification projects.


What historical outcome would you change?

The death of my mom. She died way too young! Losing her as a mom was horrible, but the LGBT community lost an incredible advocate who touched so many and helped to make the Pittsburgh and Chicago LGBT communities much better places for all parents, friends and LGBT folks.


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

The death of Steve Jobs. He impacted so much of how we live today through technology.


On what do you insist?

Love thy neighbor as you love yourself. One of the best lessons I learned from a childhood of going to church.


What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?

“Missing the kids but the boat is beautifully clean and almost ready for the season! — at Hartge Yacht Harbor.” It was accompanied by pictures of my beautiful niece and nephews and one of my friend’s boat that I help him maintain.


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

“Fabulous!” As my co-worker says, “That’s your word.”


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

Nothing. As Frank Kameny said, “Gay is Good.”


What do you believe in beyond the physical world? 

A greater force that helps center my life and gives me peace in turmoil.


What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders? 

Don’t forget any of our brothers and sisters in the fight for full equality. Sometimes it’s not the popular thing to do, but it is the right thing.


What would you walk across hot coals for?

To protect my family and friends from danger. Or a great piece of key lime pie.


What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?

That all gays are wealthy. Not true and sometimes the legal inequality of being gay cannot be righted for those with less means than others.


What’s your favorite LGBT movie?

“Beautiful Thing”


What’s the most overrated social custom?

Thank-you notes


What trophy or prize do you most covet?

Yard of the month. I have a brown thumb, so it will never happen until I pay someone to landscape.


What do you wish you’d known at 18?

The importance of a healthy diet.


Why Washington?

So much green space, incredible architecture and a vibrant LGBT community.



The Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (CAGLCC) held its annual awards ceremony at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel on Friday. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key) CAGLCC Awards 


Fall collection

The Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams store on 14th Street revealed its fall 2013 collection at an event cosponsored by the Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and Studio Santalla on Aug. 22.  Randy Fiser, CEO of the American Society of Interior Designers, served as the guest speaker. (Washington Blade photos by Tyler Grigsby) buyphoto 


Queery: Chanel Turner

Chanel Turner, FOU-DRE Vodka, gay news, Washington Blade

Chanel Turner (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Chanel Turner says her realization that many drinkers view vodka as something to be masked, inspired her to create something that “could be consumed naked.”

By day, the 29-year-old Queens, New York native works as a government contractor. But since 2009, she’s been using much of her free time to create, market and sell her own vodka.

It started with about six months of research into what it would take to create a vodka, what kind of base would be used, what kind of distillery would work best and a legion of other considerations. Working with collaborators in South Carolina, the basis for FOU-DRE came out of an eight-month experiment. Turner selected the 88th formula that was sent to her to test and thus her brand, an 80-proof vodka that has flavors of pomegranate, ginger, kiwi and lime infused in it during the distillation process — the flavors in many vodkas are added later, she says — gave her something different.

Turner started selling in January and FOU-DRE is now available in the Maryland/D.C. area. Her company just expanded into New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. Look for her Saturday at the expo from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park (2660 Woodley Park Rd., N.W.) where she’ll be offering samples and selling bottles for $35. Visit for a list of local spirits shops where FOU-DRE can be purchased.

“This is my baby, this is what I would love to do full time,” Turner, a lesbian, says. “It’s been a family-funded business. My mother helped with a lot of the funding. I have a staff of about 10 people helping me with this and yes, I would like to give it my full attention if possible at some point.”

Turner came to Washington to go to college on a basketball scholarship at Bowie State University when she was 18.

She’s single and lives in Upper Marlboro, Md. She enjoys computer programming, working out, cooking and relaxing on the beaches of Jamaica in her free time.


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

I’ve been in the life since the age of 16. The hardest person to tell was definitely my mother.


Who’s your LGBT hero?

Bayard Rustin


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

HR 57


Describe your dream wedding.

That would be to have all family members present. It will be a wonder if that happens.


What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?

Bullying. I grew up witnessing kids from all different walks of life being bullied for various reasons. This is something that really got under my skin and I always felt the need to defend them.


What historical outcome would you change?

The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King


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

The passing of Michael Jackson.


On what do you insist?

I insist that people practice truth and honesty no matter what they feel the outcome may be.


What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?

“Confidence is silent. Insecurities are loud.”


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

“The Come Up”


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

Remain true to self and not become a statistic.


What do you believe in beyond the physical world?

I believe in the heavens, not necessarily in hell. I believe that beyond life here on Earth, there is a paradise. Once our flesh leaves this earth and returns back to dust, our spirit lives on within this paradise.


What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?

That we can’t change people’s minds but hopefully we can change perspectives. The goal should be to get people to understand us, but they don’t always have to agree.


What would you walk across hot coals for?

I would run across hot coals to save someone’s life.


What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?

Just because I like women doesn’t mean I like ALL women.


What’s your favorite LGBT movie?

Not sure if this would count, but I enjoyed watching Kerry Washington in Spike Lee’s “She Hate Me.”


What’s the most overrated social custom?

That would be American football.


What trophy or prize do you most covet?

Best Athlete Award in high school


What do you wish you’d known at 18?

I wish I had known the power of economics and the stock market at age 18.


Why Washington?

Washington gives me solitude. I get a little bit of the city life like New York and I have the option of the suburban life like Florida.


The Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and Capital Pride produced the LGBT business expo,, at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel on Nov. 9. (Washington Blade photos by Jon Wooten) buyphoto 


Gay biz chamber names 2013 award recipients

David Franco, Chris Delucchi, Amanda Simpson, Washington Blade, gay news

Awardees include David Franco, Christine Delucchi and Amanda Simpson (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

The Capital Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce has named five individuals and one company as recipients of its 2013 Annual Awards, which will be presented at its April 19 gala ceremony at the Mayflower Renaissance Washington, D.C. Hotel.

“The awards recognize excellence in business, dedication to community, and development of new entrepreneurs,” the group said in a statement.

“We are thrilled with the slate of honorees,” said CAGLCC President Ernesto Santalla. “From promoting equality in corporate boardrooms to knocking on doors as volunteers, these are people and businesses that are committed to making a difference in the LGBT community.”

The award categories and names of the recipients, as released by CAGLCC, are:

  • Excellence in Business Award, honoring long-term achievement for the greater benefit of D.C. metro area and national LGBT community: David Franco, founder of the Universal Gear “chain of men’s retail fashion,” with stores in D.C., New York, Chicago, Atlanta and Rehoboth Beach, Del.
  • Business Leadership Award, honoring an LGBT individual for their leadership, accomplishments and example for the D.C. area LGBT community: Christine Delucchi, “who has drawn on her 30-plus years of marketing and public relations experience to launch two strategic communications firms.”
  • Corporate Ally Award, recognizing a non-LGBT business that has made significant accomplishments in partnering with the LGBT community: KPMG, the international consulting firm.
  • Emerging Entrepreneur Award, honoring an LGBT individual, group or business that has demonstrated entrepreneurial spirit and success in new and creative endeavors in the LGBT community: John Caldwell of Malvin, Riggins & Co.
  • Community Advocacy Award, honoring an individual, group or organization whose activism has benefited the health, well-being and position of the Washington area LGBT community: Amanda Simpson, “who under President Obama became the first-ever out transgender woman political appointee.”
  • Volunteer of the Year Award, honoring an LGBT individual for outstanding dedication and service to the broader LGBT community: Ashley Smith, “well-known in the community for his work with both the Human Rights Campaign and the D.C. Coalition of Black LGBT People.”

Calendar through April 25

CHAWbaret, Take a Chance on Me, gay news, Washington Blade

‘CHAWbaret 10: Take a Chance on Me,’ a musical show dedicated to risk taking and gambling, runs on Saturday evening. Most of the cast members are LGBT. (Photo courtesy Megan Cheek)

Friday, April 19

The D.C. Center (1318 U St., NW) hosts a “silent lunch” in honor of Day of Silence today at noon. Day of Silence brings attention to anti-LGBT harassment in schools and those who participate in the day take their vow of silence in hopes that their comrades will address the problem. The lunch provides a space for those who are participating and need a silent place for lunch. The Center will also be putting together a “Wall of Silence,” made of different quotes and pictures sent in from the community. For more information, visit

The Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce honors exceptional business leaders in the area at the Mayflower Renaissance (1127 Connecticut Ave., NW) this evening at 6:30 p.m. The awards dinner was created to showcase the impact of LGBT business and community leaders in the Washington region. Tickets range from $175-$465. Visit for more information.

The Northern Virginia Jewish Film Festival screens the film “Life In Stills” by Tamar Tal tonight at 7:15 p.m. at the Angelika Film Center and Café (2911 District Avenue, Fairfax, Va.). The film tells the story of Miriam Weissenstein and her grandson Ben Peter as they try to defend their family’s Tel Aviv photo studio from demolition. Weissenstein’s late husband was the unofficial photographer for Israel and documented the country’s political and daily life from the 1930s until he died in 1992. Tickets for this particular screening is $11. Attendees can also buy a festival pass for $60. Visit for more information

Life In Stills trailer

The noon-time pipe organ series “Magical, Mystical, Musical Machine” resumes today at National City Christian Church after going on hiatus in November. The church had to provide restoration to its sanctuary and famed pipe organ as a result of the August 2011 earthquake. This concert will feature organist Kristine Adamaite and saxophonist Artis Semanis from Latvia. This performance is free. For more information, visit

Saturday, April 20

Burgundy Crescent, a gay volunteer organization, volunteers today at Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation at Falls Church PetSmart (6100 Arlington Blvd., Falls Church, Va.) starting at 11:45 a.m. For more information, visit

The AFI Silver Silent Cinema Showcase (8633 Colesville Rd., Silver Spring, Md.) begins today at 2 p.m. and features silent film actors Mary Pickford, Harold Lloyd, Janet Gaynor, Charlie Chaplin and Laurel & Hardy. Tonight’s showcase is “Sparrows,” with Pickford starring as the oldest girl of a group of orphans held as slaves in a “child farm” in a Southern swamp. Tickets for this screening are $7-$11.50. For more screenings and their tickets, visit

Trailer for Mary Pickford in Sparrows

The Capitol Hill Arts Workshop presents “CHAWbaret 10: Take a Chance on Me,” an evening performance featuring pop songs, standards and show tunes that celebrate gambling, taking chances and the risks we face tonight at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 5 and 8 p.m. at CHAW (545 7th St., SE). The performance features members of the D.C. Cabaret Network, including Amy Conley, Tim Gavagan, Maris Wicker and Dean Reichard. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Visit for more information.

Filmfest D.C. continues this evening with the screening of the “The Parade” at the Avalon Theatre (5612 Connecticut Ave., NW) at 4:30 p.m. The film follows a gay rights march organizer and the prejudiced former soldier he hires to provide security for one of the events. The film recently won the Panorama Audience Award at the Berlin International Film Festival. Tickets for this individual screening are $12. Following it is a screening of “Laurence Anyways” at Landmark E Street Cinema (555 11th St., NW) at 6 p.m. The film follows Laurence after he tells his girlfriend he wants to become a woman. Tickets are $12. Attendees of the festival can buy individual tickets at each location’s box office or may purchase the director’s package, which is 10 tickets for $95, or the weekday package, which is four tickets for $39. For show times, locations and more information about the films, visit

Laurence Anyways trailer

Sunday, April 21

Special Agent Galactica hosts her show “Across the River!” at Freddie’s Beach Bar (555 S. 23rd St., Crystal City) from 7-9:30 p.m. tonight. The show begins in the era of gin and juke joints, Vaudeville and Sinatra, and ends with rock and pop acts. Admission is free. For more information, visit

Monday, April 22

The D.C. Center (1318 U St., NW) holds coffee drop-in for the senior LGBT community today at 10 a.m.-noon. The Center will provide complimentary coffee and a community to chat with. For more information, visit

Bears do Yoga is this evening 6:30 p.m. as part of a series at the Green Lantern (1335 Green Court, NW). This is part of a basic yoga series that takes place every Monday and is open to people of varying body types and experience. There is no charge. For more information, visit

Tuesday, April 23

Capital Pride and the D.C. Center host “A Toast to Pride Happy Hour” at Lost Society (2001 14th St., NW) this evening at 6 p.m. The venue evokes an underground, Victorian atmosphere. For more information, visit

Green Lantern (1335 Green Court, N.W.) hosts its Safer Sex Kit-packing program tonight from 7-10:30. The packing program is looking for more volunteers to help produce the kits because they say they are barely keeping up with demand. Admission is free and volunteers can just show up. For more information, visit             

Wednesday, April 24

Whitman-Walker Health (1701 14th St., NW) holds its HIV+ Newly Diagnosed Support Group tonight at 7. It’s a confidential support group for anyone recently diagnosed with HIV and the group welcomes all genders and sexual orientations. Registration is required and attendees must call 202-797-3580 or email For details, visit

Thursday, April 25

Eight-time Grammy winner Gladys Knight brings her rich soulful voice to the Strathmore (5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda, Md) tonight at 8 p.m. Tickets are $58-$128. For details, visit

Gladys Knight – Love Overboard

Martha Stewart gives a lecture on learning, teaching and inspiring others to do what they love and enjoy at the Smithsonian Craft Show today at 11 a.m. at the National Building Museum (401 F St., NW). This particular event is $50 to attend and has limited seating. The festival continues until Sunday at 5 p.m. General admission is $15, a two-day pass is $20 and special group rates are $10. For more information, visit


CAGLCC Awards Dinner

The Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce held its annual awards dinner at the Mayflower Renaissance on Friday. Honorees included Amanda Simpson, David Franco, John Caldwell, Ashley Smith, Christine Delucchi and KPMG. (Washington Blade photos by Blake Bergen) buyphoto 


Universal Gear celebrates 20 years on Saturday

David Franco, Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce Awards Dinner, gay news, Washington Blade

David Franco said the success of his business ‘is measured by the relationships we develop and the sense of community with those we serve.’ (Washington Blade photo by Blake Bergen)

The clothes have changed since the first store opening 20 years ago.

As Universal Gear celebrates its platinum anniversary on Saturday with an all-day customer appreciation event, serving Champagne and cake and giving away $20 gift cards with purchases of $100 or more, one trend is still in vogue. The men’s clothing establishment remains a landmark commercial enterprise and an ever-popular retail destination for men’s casual dress and athletic wear.

The Capital Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce this month honored co-founder and owner David Franco with the organization’s 2013 “Excellence in Business” award. In accepting the honor at the CAGLCC annual dinner last week, Franco noted that the longtime success of the business “is measured by the relationships we develop and the sense of community with those we serve.”

On Saturday, April 24, 1993, during the weekend of the “March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation” that attracted nearly a million people to the National Mall, the first customers lined the blocks outside a new clothing store catering to gay men. Located above the former Trumpets Restaurant and Lounge at the corner of 17th and Q streets, where Franco was also a business partner, the then-named Off Gear was at the epicenter of the city’s gay business district in the Dupont Circle area.

Once inside, seasonal “club wear” offerings of the era were quickly snatched up – a pair of “Daisy Duke” frayed-hem denim shorts, printed vest or tan nubuck construction boots with stripe-accented white athletic socks among them – in preparation for going out later. In fact, Franco recalls the wildly successful store launch as akin to a nightclub opening.

With D.C. overflowing with locals and visitors for the gay rights event, it was a momentous chapter in local LGBT history and a frenetic time for Franco. Launching the store in less than six months with then business partner and former architect Keith Clark, now an artist in Ft. Lauderdale, the entrepreneurial duo sped toward a grand opening coinciding with the equality march.

Franco additionally served as co-chair of the “Spring to Life” mega-dance party at the Old Post Office Pavilion that night benefiting the march and AIDS research. He was also a partner at the time in the legendary former Tracks nightclub that hosted round-the-clock events throughout the weekend.

After a brief foray adding women’s fashions at a second suburban Rockville location that prompted a name change to Universal Gear, the original store expanded to include an upper level in 1996. Refocusing exclusively on menswear, the addition of successful stores in Chicago, Atlanta and the first of what are now two New York City locations over the next five years followed. A Rehoboth Beach store opened in 2011.

Seismic cultural shifts including gradual dissolution of “gay ghettos” and growth in online shopping options, along with the recession, led to store closings in Atlanta and Chicago after a decade of brisk business. In November 2008, the D.C. store followed its customers to Logan Circle, opening a spacious retail space in a new mixed-use building on 14th Street. A second Manhattan location was launched in Hell’s Kitchen last spring. In-store celebrations are scheduled at all four current locations.

The D.C. store will move north on 14th Street in December to storefront space in a new residential building being built near U Street by the real estate development firm Franco operates with a business partner.

Proud of this weekend’s milestone, Franco leads Universal Gear into a third decade adapting to, and reflecting, the constant changes in the marketplace of fashion – and the communities it serves.

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