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Countdown to the games

Mark Hertzendorf, sailing, gay games, gay news, Washington Blade

Mark Hertzendorf says any serious sailer has accumulated some embarrassing stories. (Photo courtesy Hertzendorf)

This week in the continuing series on the LGBT athletes of Washington who will compete at the 2014 Cleveland/Akron Gay Games, we visit with Mark Hertzendorf of the Rainbow Spinnakers Sailing Club.

 

WASHINGTON BLADE: What is your sailing background?

HERTZENDORF: I took my first sailing class when I was a freshman in college at SUNY-Oswego on Lake Ontario. Although I sailed a bit on Lake Ontario that year, the training didn’t really take hold until years later. It was several years before I found out about Rainbow Spinnakers Sailing Club at Capital Pride. Since joining the Rainbow Spinnakers, I haven’t stopped sailing. I began sailing with them on the Potomac River from Belle Haven Marina using Flying Scots. After a number of years, I started dividing my time equally between sailing on the Potomac River and sailing in Baltimore Harbor mostly on Sonar23s — a racing boat popular in this area. More recently I’ve spent time sailing and fixing up my Catalina 25 currently located at Belle Haven Marina.

 

BLADE: Did you play any other sports growing up?

HERTZENDORF: My only other form of consistent exercise has been swimming.

 

BLADE: Will you be racing in the competitive division or the recreational division at the Gay Games?

HERTZENDORF: The Rainbow Spinnaker’s team will be racing in the recreational fleet. It’s a bit of a misnomer perhaps to refer to one of the fleets as recreational and the other as competitive. Both fleets will be competing fiercely. The terms are generally used to distinguish between fleets that will fly a spinnaker downwind, versus those that will rely on the standard jib or genoa sail. So, perhaps ironically given our name, our team will not be flying a spinnaker.

 

BLADE: Tartan Yachts is supplying the fleet to be used at the Gay Games. Will it be difficult to navigate a boat that is new to you?

HERTZENDORF: Navigating a new boat should not be difficult. I’ve sailed on many different types of boats, as have the other team members.

 

BLADE: What will your training regimen consist of leading up to the Gay Games?

HERTZENDORF: Our team members have limited racing experience since that hasn’t been the focus of Rainbow Spinnakers. Most of the team has signed up for a racing seminar at J-World in Annapolis. We haven’t settled on specific training schedule, but we intend to participate in local races throughout the season in preparation for the Games.

 

Mark Hertzendorf, sailing, gay games, gay news, Washington Blade

Mark Hertzendorf (Photo courtesy Hertzendorf)

BLADE: What is it about sailing that keeps you in the sport?

HERTZENDORF: There is nothing like being out on the water. A famous quote says, “A bad day on the water is always better than a good day on land.” There is always something new to learn and opportunities to improve your skill set. As you get older, you just get bigger boats.

 

BLADE: Any embarrassing sailing stories to share?

HERTZENDORF: Too many to count. If you don’t have any embarrassing stories to tell, you haven’t been a serious sailor. My favorite such story is the time I tried to impress my friends in Seattle with my relatively new sailing skills. The first day visiting my friends I rented a boat from the Center for Wooden Boats on Lake Union.  Inside of an hour I had managed to sail into a houseboat. A guy in a rowboat with his dog attempted to rescue me, but the effort ultimately required a power boat from the CWB. I swear it wasn’t my fault. Apparently the keel of the boat had not been lowered before they handed her off to me. This was a strange, old-fashioned wooden boat where the adjustment had to be made deep in the hull. This made it impossible for me to tact into the wind.

 

BLADE: Have you been to the Gay Games? What are you most looking forward to?

HERTZENDORF: This will be the first time I’ve participated in a serious race.  I am really looking forward to the opening ceremony and competing.

11
Mar
2014

Much to celebrate this Pride season

Pride season, gay news, gay politics dc

Capital Pride (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

We have a lot to celebrate this year as Pride season arrives. The biggest reason may be the Windsor decision handed down by the Supreme Court on June 26, 2013. Since that time, judges across the nation have based their rulings that states from Pennsylvania to Utah must recognize same-sex marriages on this decision. June 1 marked the day that same-sex marriages could begin in Illinois. Gov. Martin O’Malley signed a bill banning discrimination against the transgender community in Maryland and a petition drive to put that up to a referendum in the state failed.

In Texas, Houston Mayor Annise Parker signed the Equal Rights Ordinance. That signature came after an 11-hour Council session of which the city secretary said, “it was the largest public turnout Houston had ever seen at a City Council meeting.” We have seen many changes in federal policy that give same-sex married couples more rights and no less a conservative than Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) recently said that though he personally doesn’t support same-sex marriage it is inevitable that it will become the law of the land.

A year ago, “Kinky Boots,” based on a film adapted by Harvey Fierstein with music by Cyndi Lauper, won the Tony Award for Best Musical. Sunday we can look forward to out and talented Neil Patrick Harris winning this year’s Tony Award for best actor in a musical for “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” Larry Kramer finally saw his play, “The Normal Heart,” made into a successful film for HBO. Our community is still fighting about issues surrounding AIDS as seen by the recent debate between Kramer and columnist Andrew Sullivan about the impact of the drug Truvada.

The Pride parade Saturday will wind through the Dupont and Logan Circle neighborhoods. The parade is fun but has always been a little long. One way to shorten it would be to have all politicians and candidates participate together. Have the mayor lead off the parade with other politicians joining him/her in a line at the front. If there is still a clamor by any of them to have a separate contingent there could be a lottery and they would be interspersed throughout the parade, between the fun floats and bands, so people wouldn’t have to watch the first hour of just politicians.

Pride festivities have grown over the years and this year there are more than 30 official events listed on the Capital Pride website that span from Jewish Pride Happy Hour at MOVA to the Night Out at the Nationals. Many of the events listed cater to specific groups within the LGBT community because, like the rest of society, we are a diverse community. We are young and old, men and women, black, white, Latino and Asian and have representation in every religious denomination and all of us want to celebrate and showcase our Pride.

As we celebrate we should always take a moment to remember those who have helped to move us forward over the years. We need to think about and thank all those who both publicly and behind the scenes fought for our civil and human rights when it wasn’t easy to be out and proud. We must also remember those friends and loved ones who died of AIDS during the years when our community fought to bring attention to the disease our government was failing to respond to.

And as we celebrate our victories we need to pledge to continue to work toward full equality — to fight to ensure the rights of transgender persons and to continue the fight to pass legislation like ENDA. We also need to demand that the president live up to a promise he made to us in 2008, and which he has pointedly not kept, to sign an executive order protecting the rights of LGBT workers in federal contracting. While we may thank him for announcing a history project in front of the Stonewall Inn, I am sure nearly all of us would trade that for a signature on the executive order.

03
Jun
2014

Calendar: March 14-20

Hump Film Festival, calendar, gay news, Washington Blade

A still from one of the films to be screened next week as part of the Dan Savage ‘Hump’ Film Festival at Woolly Mammoth. (Still courtesy Justin Morrison and Kelly O.)

Calendar for LGBT D.C. for the week ahead.

Friday, March 14

 

Bachelor’s Mill (1104 8th St., S.E.) holds a happy hour from 5-7:30 p.m. tonight with all drinks half price. Enjoy pool, video games and cards. Admission is $5 after 9 p.m. Must be 21 and over. For more details, visit bachelorsmill.com.

Cobalt (1639 R St., N.W.) hosts free vodka Friday tonight from 9 p.m.-3 a.m. Free rail vodka 11 p.m.-midnight. Two DJs on two floors. Cover is $10. Admission is limited to guests 21 and over. For more information, visit cobaltdc.com.

 

Saturday, March 15

 

The Latino Queer Bilingual Writing Group hosts its monthly workshop today at the D.C. Center (2000 14th St., N.W.) from 12:30-2:30 p.m. The focus will be on memoirs. Open to writers of any genre and levels of experience to share creative work in Spanish or English. Workshop is free and no prior experience is necessary. For details, call 202-682-2245 or email washeg@gmail.com.

Young Artists of America perform an orchestrated version of Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown’s “Songs for a New World” at Winston Churchill High School (11300 Gainsborough Rd., Potomac, Md.) tonight at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. For details, visit youngartistsamerica.org.

Mr. D.C. Eagle 2014 hosts “Leather Invasion: 17th Street N.W.,” a St. Patrick’s Day weekend bar-crawl. The crawl begins at the Duplex Diner (2004 18th St., N.W.) at 7:30 p.m. and ends at Green Lantern (1335 Green Ct., N.W.) at 12:30 a.m. for the “Bears Can Dance” party, Jell-O shots and a price raffle. Money will be raised for SMYAL.

GLBT Outreach and Engagement (GLOE) hosts “Masquerade and Mischief: Purim Drag Ball” at the Washington D.C. Jewish Community Center (1529 16th St., N.W.) tonight from 8:30 p.m.-midnight. There will be a drag performance by Ms. Hilda Seaview and an amateur drag/costume parade and contest with prizes. Tickets are $25 in advance and $35 at the door. There is a free open bar for anyone who comes in costume. Food and desserts are included. Admission limited to guests 21 and over. For more information, visit betmish.org.

Cobalt (1639 R St., N.W.) hosts “Bare: Military Appreciation St. Pattie’s Day” tonight from 10 p.m.-3 a.m. Admission is free for those with a valid Military ID. There will be beer pong and flip cup on the first floor. Jameson and Fireball shots are $3. Domestic beers are $5. Music by DJs Rosie and Keenan Orr. For more details, visit cobaltdc.com.

 

Sunday, March 16

 

Chick Chat, an ages-50-and-over lesbian singles group, celebrates Women’s “Herstory” month with a tour of the Clara Barton House (5801 Oxford Rd., Glen Echo, Md.) today at noon. For details and to RSVP email woernerc@yahoo.com.

Perry’s (1811 Columbia Rd., N.W.) hosts its weekly “Sunday Drag Brunch” today from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. The cost is $24.95 for an all-you-can-eat buffet. For more details, visit perrysadamsmorgan.com.

 

Monday, March 17

 

United Soldiers and Sailors of America, a non-profit organization that supports combat wounded and their families, hosts a St. Patrick’s Day event at Jake’s Boiler Room (5018 Connecticut Ave., N.W.) from 4-11 p.m. Admission is $10 and includes a complimentary green beer and St. Patrick’s Day mug. There will be $5 Smithwicks and Harp, $8 Irish car bombs and $15 corned beef and cabbage platter. All proceeds benefit United Solders and Sailors of America. For details, visit jakesdc.com.

Rainbow Theatre Project presents a reading of the Noel Coward play “Long Island Sound” tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Source (1835 14th St., N.W.). It tells of an author seeking peace and quiet at a friend’s house who is interrupted by a large gathering of boisterous artists and socialites of whom he becomes the main attraction. About 20 local and student artists will present the reading. Rainbow Theatre Project is a new LGBT-specific theater company.

 

Tuesday, March 18

 

Transgender Legal Advocates of Washington (TransLAW) hosts its annual celebration and fundraiser tonight at Lost Society (2001 14th St., N.W.) tonight from 6:30-9:30 p.m. There will be an open bar with wine and specialty cocktails and light hors d’oeuvres from 6:30-7:30 p.m. There is a suggested $10 donation at the door but no one will be turned away for lack of funds. For more information, visit translawdc.org.

“Elton John: The Million Dollar Piano,” a filmed concert special of John’s “Million Dollar Piano” show at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, plays at AMC Mazza Gallerie (5300 Wisconsin Ave., N.W.) tonight at 7 p.m. as part of a special two-night event. There will be another showing on March 26.

 

Wednesday, March 19

 

Bookmen D.C., an informal men’s gay literature group, discusses “The Lost Library: Gay Fiction Rediscovered” edited by Tom Cardamone at the American Foreign Service Association (2101 E St., N.W.) tonight at 7:30 p.m. All are welcome. For details, visit bookmendc.blogspot.com.

The Tom Davoren Social Bridge Club meets tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Dignity Center (721 8th St., S.E.) for social bridge. No partner needed. For more information, call 301-345-1571.

 

Thursday, March 20

Freestyle Fitness presents “Go Live and Rewind,” a fitness dance party that benefits Capital Pride 2014, is at Town (2009 8th St., N.W.) tonight from 7-11 p.m. Enjoy music from DJ miGGL from the ‘80s, ‘90s and today from pop, hip-hop, Latin and more while getting a workout. For more details, visit facebook.com/freestylefitnessmoves.

Congressional Chorus presents “New York, New York: An American Cabaret” at Atlas Performing Arts Center (1333 H St., N.W.) tonight at 8 p.m. through March 23. A cast of 85 singers and dancers perform musical selection from notable people in the music industry from New York City including Stephen Sondheim, Billy Joel, Alicia Keys and Jay-Z. Tickets are $45. For details, visit atlasarts.org.

Dan Savage, gay author and co-founder of the “It Gets Better Project” brings his “Hump!” Film Festival to Woolly Mammoth Theatre (641 D St., N.W.) tonight with showings at 6, 8 and 10 p.m. These 15 short films discuss sexual situations and include straight, gay, lesbian and transgender stories. Tickets are $20. Screenings go through March 22. For more information, visit humptour.strangertickets.com.

Whole Foods (1440 P St., N.W.) hosts “Drag Bingo on P Street” featuring the Imperial Court of Washington tonight from 7-9 p.m.  There will be prizes and snacks. All proceeds benefit Whole Planet Foundation. For more details, visit wholefoods.com/events.

LGBT personnel assigned to the Pentagon meet at Freddie’s Beach Bar (555 23rd St., Arlington) today from 5-7 p.m. for happy hour. This monthly event (the third Thursday of each month) is open to military, Department of Defense civilians and military contractors who work in and around the Pentagon.

The band cut/copy plays Echo Stage (2135 Queens Chapel Road, N.E.) tonight at 7 p.m. Tickets are $35. Visit echostage.com for details.

13
Mar
2014

250,000 expected for Capital Pride weekend

Capital Pride, gay news, Washington Blade

The 39th annual Capital Pride Parade and Festival will be held this weekend. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

More than 250,000 people from the D.C. metropolitan area and the Mid-Atlantic region are expected to participate in the 39th Annual Capital Pride Parade on Saturday and the annual Capital Pride Festival on Sunday.

The parade and festival in recent years have served as the grand finale to a month of LGBT Pride-related events in the nation’s capital, including the annual Black Pride, Trans Pride, Youth Pride and Latino Pride.

As D.C.’s largest LGBT community event of the year, Sunday’s Pride festival was to include entertainment from nationally recognized headline performers, hundreds of booths representing LGBT organizations and LGBT-friendly groups and businesses, including corporate sponsors.

Several federal and D.C. government agencies were scheduled to set up booths at the festival, including LGBT employee groups with the FBI and the CIA. At least four D.C. government agencies, including the Office of Human Rights and the D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking reserved space for booths.

Although the White House isn’t participating in the parade or festival, President Barack Obama submitted an official letter of recognition, which is published in the Pride Guide, Capital Pride’s official publication.

“For generations, courageous lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans have spoken up, come out, and blazed trails for others to do the same,” the president wrote in his letter. “Festivals like Capital Pride bring opportunities to reflect on hard-won progress and the work before us still to forge a more just Nation,” he said.

Among the 170 floats and contingents set to participate in the parade, Capital Pride organizers say they are especially proud that for the first time ever, a U.S. Armed Forces Color Guard contingent was scheduled to march in the parade. The contingent was scheduled to perform its traditional presenting and retiring of the “colors” or U.S. flag at the start and end of the parade.

“We are very pleased that we asked and the Department of Defense agreed to provide us with a Color Guard,” said Bernie Delia, chair of the Capital Pride board of directors.

“It’s a wonderful step forward for everyone involved – for the country, for those LGBT members of the military,” he said. “I think it is a fantastic development for everyone.”

Former Minnesota Vikings player Chris Kluwe, an LGBT ally, was scheduled to serve as grand marshal for the parade.

Similar to past years, the festival on Sunday will be held on Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., between 3rd and 7th streets, with the U.S. Capitol as a backdrop to the main stage.  The festival exhibit hours are from noon to 7 p.m.

As a new feature this year, events on the main “Capitol” stage, including a dance party, will continue until sunset at about 9 p.m., according to an announcement by Capital Pride.

Among those scheduled to appear on that stage throughout the day were headliner performers Rita Ora, Karmin, Bonnie McKee, Betty Who and DJ Cassidy.

“We’re looking forward to an absolutely wonderful weekend,” Delia said. “We’ve got a phenomenal lineup for the entertainment on Sunday. And we’re thrilled that Chris Kluwe is our grand marshal for the parade.”

The parade was scheduled to kick off Saturday, June 7, at 4:30 p.m. at its traditional starting point of 22nd and P streets, N.W. Similar to last year, it will travel east on P Street to Dupont Circle, where it winds around the circle to New Hampshire Avenue and heads to R Street, where it will turn right on 17th Street.

With thousands of spectators expected to line 17th Street, where several gay bars and restaurants are located, the parade will pass along 17th Street then turn left on P Street, where it will travel past the official reviewing stand at 15th and P.

From there, the parade will continue along P Street to 14th Street, where it will turn left and travel north to its endpoint at 14th and R streets, N.W.

According to information released by Capital Pride, the lesbian group Dykes on Bikes of Washington, D.C. was designated as the lead contingent of the parade. Contingents of the Metropolitan Police Department of D.C., the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, the Arlington County Police gay and lesbian liaison division and George Mason University Police were scheduled as the next contingents.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and at least eight members of the D.C. City Council, including Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) and mayoral candidates David Catania (I-At-Large) and Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), were scheduled to lead their own parade contingents.

And at least eight candidates running for seats on the D.C. Council as well as Virginia State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), who’s running for a U.S. House seat, were scheduled to participate in the parade.

Visit capitalpride.org for more information.

04
Jun
2014

SPECIAL REPORT In their own words: elders facing poverty, ageism

Mary Paradise, Sage, ageism, gay news, Washington Blade

‘They never say ‘you’re too old.’ They say, ‘we want someone who graduated more recently,’ said D.C. resident Mary Paradise of her prolonged job search. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part look at how poverty affects elder members of the LGBT community and part of a yearlong Blade focus on poverty. To share your ideas or personal story, visit us on Facebook or email knaff@washblade.com. Click here to read previous installments.

 

Today — and every day for the next 16 years — 10,000 baby boomers, members of the generation born between 1946 and 1964, will turn 65, according to the Pew Research Center. About 1.5 million gay, lesbian and bisexual elders in the United States are gay. By 2030, that number is expected to increase to nearly 3 million, according to a report by Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), the Movement Advancement Project and Center for American Progress.

One in six Americans over 65 lives in poverty, according to the Congressional Research Service.

“For LGBT older adults, a lifetime of employment discrimination, among other factors, contribute to disproportionately high poverty rates,” the SAGE website states.

LGBT elders living in or near poverty aren’t just statistics. The Blade interviewed several LGBT elders, aged 50 and older, from St. Louis to Chicago to New York City to Washington, D.C. Here are their stories:

A little peanut butter, maybe some pizza or Ramen noodles is a typical meal for Robyn Sullivan, a 57-year-old transgender woman living in New York City, who struggles to pull together $25 a week for food. In the past, she’s lived in homeless shelters. Now, she lives in a cockroach infested third floor walk-up with four gender non-conforming struggling artists.

“This is the hardest place in the country to live if you don’t make tons of money,” said Sullivan, who suffers from clinical depression and arthritis. “They wanted me to work one day a week for eight hours at a construction site with my limitations to qualify for $190 of food stamps. Working there would be too dangerous.”

Her plight is common among transgender people, Sullivan said. “Dealing with transphobia is nothing I can win at.”

In the 1990s, Sullivan was a skilled software project manager. “I used to make six figures,” she said. “When I was living as a white male professional, I was getting privilege far beyond what any human being deserves. Then I needed to transition and there was the downturn in Silicon Valley.”

After a couple of years, her savings were gone.

“As you go along into poverty, there are things that make people avoid you,” said Sullivan, who now works part-time as a receptionist for SAGE. “I wasn’t hired for a job around the corner from here. They said I wasn’t trustworthy because I lived in a homeless shelter,” she said.

Sullivan encounters not only transphobia but ageism. “When you’re past 50, no company with a retirement plan will hire you,” Sullivan said.

Even with all that she endures, Sullivan says she doesn’t harbor regrets. “When I came out as a trans woman, I felt like I was the woman I was,” she said. “I chose to stop living a lie.  Knowing what I know now, I doubt I would have done anything differently.”

It’s not always been as good for him as it is now, 70-year-old Roger Beyers of Chicago told the Blade. But “nobody ever said, life’s going to be a bed of roses,” he said.

Beyers, who retired at 66 after working for 40 years for Jewel, a Chicago area grocer, is HIV positive.

“My income is less than $12,000 per year,” he said. “My housing is subsidized by Chicago House. Before I was admitted to Chicago House, I was on the verge of homelessness. I’m on Medicare and Medicaid.”

Medicaid pays for his HIV medication, Beyers said. “If I had to pay for it, it would cost $18,000. I couldn’t afford it,” he said. “If it were to collapse, I’d be in a fragile position.”

Though he struggles with issues of economic insecurity, he feels that he’s overcoming some of them, Beyers said. He recently started a part-time internship with the Center on Halsted in Chicago.

“My financial situation has dramatically changed,” Beyers said. “There’s a world of difference between living on Social Security and having money left over at the end of the month.”

For one day a week at the Center, he assists with an HIV counseling hotline. “I love it,” Beyers said. “I can say to an HIV-positive person: ‘I’ve been there, done that and survived it all.’”

He finds strength and joy from his boyfriend Eduardo. “A shout-out for my boyfriend! I may end up marrying this man,” he said.

Mary Paradise, 62, a Capital Pride board member and Washington, D.C. resident, has been looking for work for more than a year. She worked as a nurse for 42 years. Paradise, while working as a health marketing consultant, was laid off due to downsizing. Throughout her job search, she’s often encountered ageism, Paradise said.

“They never say ‘you’re too old.’ They say, ‘we want someone who graduated more recently’ or ‘you’re over qualified,’” she said. “I say to them, ‘you must want someone who’s younger.’”

It gets discouraging, Paradise said. She’s used up her savings and in three months her unemployment benefits will run out, unless Congress extends the benefits. “It gets scary,” Paradise said, “it’s a humbling experience. I’ve worked all my life. For Congress to think I’m lazy is insulting.”

But Paradise is optimistic. She volunteers at her church. “My faith is such that I believe I will be taken care of if I just keep moving forward,” she said. “I have friends who are wonderfully supportive. I have some job leads. Something will come my way that’s a perfect fit.”

Barbara Woodruff, ageism, gay news, Washington Blade

Barbara Woodruff, 64, of St. Louis says she gets by on her $633 Social Security check each month.

Like many baby boomers, Barbara Woodruff, 64, of St. Louis thought that she had plenty of money put away for retirement. But like far too many people, especially lesbians, she found herself with no savings when she reached retirement age, Woodruff said. She gets by on her monthly $633 Social Security check. Fortunately, Woodruff says, she has Medicare and Medicaid.

“Thank God, that paid for my medication when my thyroid went haywire,” she said. “I’m fortunate. I pay $202 in rent for a nice one-bedroom apartment. It’s HUD-subsidized through the Cardinal Ritter Senior Services housing program.”

Woodruff’s partner of 20 years died in a boating accident in 1988. “When she passed, I lost the house. It was in her name. We didn’t think about those things then,” she said.

Over the years, Woodruff has done everything from working in a nursing recruitment office to running, with a business partner, an event designing business to clerking at a convenience store. “You do what you have to do to put food on the table,” she said.

For several years, Woodruff stopped working to take care of her now deceased mother.  “Her Social Security was very little. But I’d do it again,” she said.

Because of her low income, Woodruff doesn’t go out to eat much. “The LGBT community is very supportive here. There’s a great lesbian hangout. I like to see my friends there. I can’t afford to go there now,” she said. “I eat less meat and a lot more fresh fruit and veggies for my health — meat’s expensive.”

Without the social safety net of health insurance and her housing subsidy, she doesn’t know if she’d be alive, Woodruff said.

“I wouldn’t do myself in,” she said. “My friends would make sure I’d have a place to live. I’d be grateful to have a room in their house. But it wouldn’t be my home.”

27
Mar
2014

Chris Kluwe talks Michael Sam, marriage, Redskins name

Chris Kluwe, National Football League, gay news, Washington Blade

Chris Kluwe (Photo by Joe Bielawa)

Former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe told the Washington Blade during a May 30 telephone interview that Michael Sam’s sexual orientation “definitely had something to do” with his low ranking in last month’s National Football League draft.

Kluwe — who is the grand marshal of this year’s Capital Pride parade — noted the Associated Press last year named Sam its 2013 Southeastern Conference co-defensive player of the year when he played for the University of Missouri. The outspoken punter who is now retired from the league said those with comparable rankings over the last decade have been drafted into the NFL no lower than during the second round.

“The only thing Michael Sam is is a first-round talent,” Kluwe says. “Michael Sam is definitely not a second-round talent.”

Sam had been projected to be drafted during the third or fourth round.

Observers noted his disappointing performance during the NFL scouting combine that took place shortly after he publicly came out during interviews with the New York Times and ESPN likely contributed to the St. Louis Rams choosing Sam during the seventh round.

Kluwe told the Blade that potential draftees who perform poorly during a combine may drop one and a half rounds — and not three as Sam did. He said the Rams choosing him so late in the draft is “an indication that there is something else going on there.”

“The only thing that is different about Michael Sam is his sexuality,” Kluwe says.

Sam coming out is a ‘brave step’

Kluwe says Sam did not seem “too nervous” about coming out when the two met during a dinner at the Los Angeles home of Howard Bragman, a gay Hollywood publicist, in February. The defensive lineman’s interviews with the New York Times and ESPN appeared the next day.

“It’s a brave step,” says Kluwe, noting Sam had been tipped to become the country’s first openly gay NFL player after coming out. “It’s great to see Michael be the one to do it.”

Kluwe told the Blade he hopes that Sam is “given a chance to succeed.”

“It’s tough to make it in the NFL and there’s so many plausible ways to get rid of someone,” Kluwe says. “I am hopeful that this is a situation where Mike is given a chance to show his talents, show if he can make it or not based on who he is as a football player, not who he is as defined by his sexuality.”

Kluwe also dismissed suggestions that Sam’s coming out has been too choreographed.

“There are a lot of people that pay attention to the NFL,” he told the Blade. “This isn’t like Pop Warner or little league. That just shows an understanding of the realities of the situation in that this is a historic moment.”

Kluwe added he feels using someone like Bragman allows Sam to “have ownership” and control over his message.

“You’re going to have to sit down and plan how this is going to go out,” Kluwe says. “That’s just reality.”

Kluwe: Vikings cut me because of marriage support

Kluwe, who played for the Vikings from 2005 until 2013, emerged as a prominent supporter of marriage rights for same-sex couples during the debate over a proposal that would have amended the Minnesota Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

“I don’t think discrimination should be enshrined in the state constitution,” Kluwe says. “I’m in a position to say something about it, so I should say something about it.”

Kluwe in 2012 sharply criticized Maryland state Del. Emmett Burns (D-Baltimore County) after he suggested then-Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo “should concentrate on football and steer clear of dividing the fan base” over the issue of gay nuptials ahead of a referendum on the same-sex marriage law that Gov. Martin O’Malley signed earlier in the year.

Kluwe said he initially found Burns’ comments against Ayanbadejo’s same-sex marriage advocacy as “kind of messed up.” He then proceeded to write a profanity-laced letter to the outgoing Maryland lawmaker who also voted against a transgender rights bill that O’Malley signed into law last month.

“Why do you care so much about what other people are doing with their lives?” says Kluwe, referring to Burns. “This isn’t going to affect your life in any way, shape or form. Why are you trying to tell other people that they can’t exercise their own free will? You’re essentially trying to take someone’s humanity away from them.”

Kluwe and Ayanbadejo — who guest edited the Blade’s sports issue last summer — in 2013 filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the case that challenged California’s Proposition 8.

The former punter earlier this year claimed his advocacy in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples prompted the Vikings to cut him from the team.

The team — which has claimed Kluwe’s performance and salary contributed to the decision — launched an investigation into the allegations. Kluwe told the Blade he “definitely” still feels his activism on gay nuptials prompted the team to cut him.

“It’s something where institutionally I don’t think the NFL has a policy has a place against same-sex rights, but I think on an individual level, there are a significant portion of people in the NFL that don’t believe same-sex rights are something worthy of respect,” he says. “That’s something that needs to be changed.”

Reluctance to change Redskins name ‘so stupid’

Kluwe also said he would have “been fine” with a U.S. boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics that took place in Sochi, Russia, over the Kremlin’s LGBT rights record. He also sharply criticized Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder over his continued opposition to changing the team’s controversial name.

“Yeah, it’s going to cost some money in the short-term,” Kluwe says. “In the long-term do you want your children looking back at you saying, ‘Yeah, Dad, he was a racist, yeah he didn’t do the right thing.’ It’s so stupid.”

05
Jun
2014

Calendar: March 28-April 3

Cher Lloyd, gay news, Washington Blade

Singer Cher Lloyd, who played the Capital Pride mainstage last summer, visits Rams Head Live in Baltimore next week. (Photo courtesy Rams Head Live)

Calendar for the week ahead in LGBT D.C. events:

 

Friday, March 28

The Latino History Project hosts its third annual “Mujeres en el Movimiento,” an event for lesbian Latinas to meet and connect, at MOVA Lounge (2204 14th St., N.W.) tonight from 6:30-8:30 p.m. The theme is “Celebrating Women of Color, Courage and Commitment.” There will be drinks, Latino music and a historical digital photo exhibit. There is a $5 suggested donation. For more details, visit latinoglbthistory.org.

Chef Art Smith hosts a private dinner as part of “Taste of Pride” at his restaurant Art and Soul (415 New Jersey Ave., N.W.) tonight from 7-10 p.m. Smith, who has appeared on numerous television specials including “ABC’s Lady Gaga Thanksgiving Special,” will prepare a three-course dinner with red wine. There will also be a meet and greet with him. Tickets are $60. For more details and to purchase tickets, visit capitalpride.org/taste.

Bachelor’s Mill (1104 8th St., S.E.) holds a happy hour from 5-7:30 p.m. tonight with all drinks half price. Enjoy pool, video games and cards. Admission is $5 after 9 p.m. Must be 21 and over. For more details, visit bachelorsmill.com.

Women in Their 20s, a social discussion group for lesbian, bisexual, transgender and all women interested in women, meets today at the D.C. Center (2000 14th St., N.W.) from 8-9:30 p.m. All welcome to join. For details, visit thedccenter.org.

 

Saturday, March 29

Washington Independent Review of Books hosts “Books Alive!,” a literary book conference for writers, agents and book lovers, at the Bethesda Marriott (5151 Pooks Hill Rd., Bethesda, Md.) today from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Speakers include best-selling author Jonathan Alter, cookbook author Joan Nathan and former Washington Post restaurant critic Phyllis Richman. There will also be pitch session for aspiring authors to meet with top literary agents. Tickets are $220 and include morning coffee and a box lunch. For more information, visit washingtonindependentreviewofbooks.com.

“Bring It On: The Musical,” a musical adaptation of the hit blockbuster movie “Bring It On” comes to Music Center at Strathmore (5301 Tuckerman Ln., North Bethesda, Md.) for two performances today at 3 and 8 p.m. The musical was on Broadway and written by Tony Award-winning writer of “Avenue Q,” Jeff Whitty. Tickets range from $31-81. For more details, visit strathmore.org.

Town (2009 8th St., N.W.) hosts DJ Chord, who will be playing pop music, tonight. Doors open at 10 p.m. Cover is $8 from 10-11 p.m. and $12 after 11 p.m. Drinks are $3 before 11 p.m. The drag show starts at 10:30 p.m. Admission is limited to guests 21 and over.

Sunday, March 30

 

Perry’s (1811 Columbia Rd., N.W.) hosts its weekly “Sunday Drag Brunch” today from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. The cost is $24.95 for an all-you-can-eat buffet. For more details, visit perrysadamsmorgan.com.

Adventuring, an LGBT outdoors group, holds a walking tour of the Battle of Spotsylvania this morning at 9 a.m. The tour covers seven miles of trails including the Bloody Angle, where two armies were locked in combat for nearly 24 hours. Bring a picnic lunch, bug spray and $10 for transportation and trip fees. They will carpool at 9 a.m. from the King Street Metro Station (1900 King St., Alexandria, Va.). For more information, visit adventuring.org.

 

Monday, March 31

 

University of Maryland’s Jewish LGBT group hosts Rabbi Steve Greenberg, an openly gay rabbi, at Theodore R. McKeldin Library at University of Maryland (Theodore R Mckeldin Library Campus Dr., College Park, Md.) in the special events room on the sixth floor tonight from 7-10 p.m. He will speak on “wrestling with God” as an openly gay Jew in the Orthodox world. For more details, visit marylandhillel.org.

The D.C. Center (1318 U St., N.W.) hosts coffee drop-in hours this morning from 10 a.m.-noon for the senior LGBT community. Older LGBT adults can come and enjoy complimentary coffee and conversation with other community members. For more information, visit thedccenter.org.

Us Helping Us  (3636 Georgia Ave., N.W.) holds a support group for gay black men to discuss topics that affect them, share perspectives and have meaningful conversations. For details, visit uhupil.org.

Nellie’s Sports Bar (900 U St., N.W.) hosts poker night tonight at 8 p.m. Win prizes. Free to play. For more information, visit nelliessportsbar.com.

 

Tuesday, April 1

 

Green Lantern (1335 Green Ct., N.W.) hosts its weekly ”FUK!T Packing Party” from 7-9 p.m. tonight. For more details, visit thedccenter.org or greenlanterndc.com.

The National Education Association (1537 M St., N.W.) screens “Always Be My Son,” a short documentary about a family struggling with a family member’s sexuality, tonight from 7-9 p.m. For more information, thedccenter.org.

SMYAL (410 7th St., S.E.) provides free and confidential HIV testing drop-in hours today from 3-5 p.m. For more information, visit smyal.org.

 

Wednesday, April 2

 

The Tom Davoren Social Bridge Club meets tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Dignity Center (721 8th St., S.E.) for social bridge. No partner needed. For more information, call 301-345-1571.

Bookmen D.C., an informal men’s gay literature group, discusses “The Queen’s Throat: Opera, Homosexuality and the Mystery of Desire,” an exploration of the relationship between gay men and opera, at Tenleytown Library (4450 Wisconsin Ave., N.W.) tonight at 7:30 p.m. All are welcome. For details, visit bookmendc.blogspot.com.

 

Thursday, April 3

British pop singer Cher Lloyd performs at Rams Head Live (20 Market Pl., Baltimore) tonight at 8 p.m. Lloyd is a former “The X Factor U.K.” contestant and received fame in the United States with her hit single “Want U Back.” Lloyd has previously performed at Capital Pride. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $22 in advance and $25 the day of show. For more details, visit ramsheadlive.com.

Broadway star Linda Eder performs at Wolf Trap (1645 Trap Rd., Vienna, Va.) tonight at 8 p.m. Eder played Lucy in the Broadway musical “Jekyll and Hyde.” She also has 14 solo albums and one duets album. Tickets range from $44-48. For more details and to purchase tickets, visit wolftrap.org.

Rude Boi Entertainment hosts “Tempted 2 Touch,” a ladies dance party, at the Fab Lounge (2022 Florida Ave., N.W.) Doors open at 10 p.m. Drink specials $5 and vodka shots $3 all night. No cover charge. Admission limited to guests 21 and over. For more details, visit rudeboientertainment.wordpress.com.

27
Mar
2014

Main stage mayhem

Main Stage, gay news, Washington Blade

Betty Who (Photo by Molly Cranna; courtesy RCA)

Capital Pride Festival
Capitol Main Stage
Pennsylvania Ave. between 3rd and 7th streets
Sunday
Noon-7 p.m.

Betty Who’s song “Somebody Loves You” went viral when it accompanied the YouTube video that featured a gay marriage proposal set to a flash mob in a Home Depot in Utah. The 22-year-old Aussie native has two EPs out and is working on her first full-length album.

Karmin is 28-year-old musical and personal partners Amy Heidemann and Nick Noonan known for their No. 1 Billboard Dance Chart hits “Brokenhearted” and “Hello.” Their debut album “Pulses” was released in March.

And Bonnnie McKee, 30, has written a monster string of hits for artists like Katy Perry, Britney Spears, Ke$ha, Christina Aguilera, Kelly Clarkson and more, eight of which have gone to No. 1. Last summer, her breezy song “American Girl” inspired a 7-Eleven-set video and she continues to work on a debut album.

They’re three of the acts headlining on the Capitol Stage at the Capital Pride Festival Sunday. We caught up with them by phone from Los Angeles — where all happened to be at the time — this week. Their comments have been slightly edited for length.

BETTY WHO

Betty Who, main stage, gay news, Washington Blade

Betty Who (Photo by Shane McCauley)

WASHINGTON BLADE: Spencer and Dustin, the guys in the Home Depot video, said they wanted you to sing at their wedding? Has that happened yet?

BETTY WHO: Yes, I sang at their wedding in Utah in February and it was like the most perfect, beautiful day of my life. I can’t imagine my own wedding being any more perfect.

BLADE: How did you feel when they asked you?

BETTY: They are the most sweet, amazing men in the world. It was just one of those days where I thought, “I could not be doing anything better with my time. My boyfriend played guitar for me so it was kind of very sweet the two of us. I sang an acoustic version of “Somebody Loves You” as their moms walked them down the aisle so it was kind of this beautiful small moment in time.

BLADE: How did it come about that you developed such a strong gay fan base?

BETTY: I’ve always been supportive, but you know, I didn’t set out initially to have that as part of my platform, though I always knew I would support gay rights. It just so happened when I put out my first EP, that the first few bloggers who picked up on it were these gay pop music blogs in New York, so it kind of worked out perfectly that my biggest demographic is LGBT. I’ve just spoken up for what I feel is right.

BLADE: Did you know gay people growing up?

BETTY: Our next door neighbor was my mom’s best gay friend and his partner, so I have definitely been surrounded by a very kind of wholesome and well-rounded community my whole life and it’s always been this wonderful thing, gay, straight, bisexual, transgender, whoever it was, it didn’t really matter. I was never taught to think of anybody differently. Then I got a little older and I had friends who came from very conservative backgrounds and I was confused as to why they thought that being gay made you different. I just didn’t get it. It was funny, it wasn’t about becoming open minded but putting myself in the shoes of people who were less open minded and going, “Oh, like not as everybody was as lucky as me to have this great experience and this really kind of you know urban community I guess. I grew up in the middle of Sydney, so I had always been around everybody.

BLADE: Have you done many Pride festivals?

BETTY: This will be one of the first ones. I’m doing this little tour through June called the “Hopeless Romantic Tour” and I think something like 80 percent of the shows are Pride festivals. It will definitely be very fun and wonderful and drunk, I imagine. I play Los Angeles, then Salt Lake City, then D.C. on Sunday. So that will be my first one on Friday.

BLADE: Do you know how long your set will be?

BETTY: I’m not sure. I think maybe 30 or 45 minutes.

BLADE: You mentioned singing at the wedding with your boyfriend. Is that Peter Thomas, your collaborator or someone elseBETTY: No, people ask me that all the time. He’s a good friend, but this is somebody else.

BLADE: Often you don’t really hear accents much from British and Australian singers. In your songs, your accent is there. Is that a conscious choice?

BETTY: It was definitely a choice because I think even Adele sometimes, she sings and you don’t hear her accent. So much about being a star today or a popular artist in the industry is about dong what makes you different and what makes you special and to me I always thought being Australian was something that definitely made me different. And I never wanted to suppress that part of who I am and where I came from.

BLADE: I know you’ve been in the U.S. since you were a teen so you may not know, but do you think it would have been harder to break a pop career in Australia than in the U.S.?

BETTY: I think being a really famous person in Australia is actually much harder than to come over to America and make a go of it. I remember all of these really famous and beautiful singer/songwriters that I loved growing up and then I came over to America, only a handful of my friends knew about them. I thought, “What do you mean she’s like the most famous person in Australia, what do you mean you don’t know who she is?” So I think because it might be different now because the internet has made such a difference. Spotify wasn’t really a thing and Pandora was just sort of starting to be popular, so I think that it’s probably a little bit different. It looks easier and made more sense for me to start my career from the ground up in New York and have my biggest demographic of fans be there.

BLADE: Did you and Peter realize you had musical chemistry immediately?

BETTY: I think he and I have always been musical soul mates. When we met we were like, “Oh My gosh, we like all the same music, this is perfect.” Surely we knew as friends and creative partners we knew we would be great together. I remember being at a party at his house and he was in charge of the playlist and I was like, “Every song on this is a smash. …Who is this person, we are destined to be musical friends,” and it ended up being Peter. So I think that was really easy and was very immediate but it took us almost three years to write music that we knew was perfect or to get it to a point where we didn’t think, “Oh, we should keep rewriting it.” When we wrote “The Movement” EP, that was the first body of work that we put together and said, “Oh my gosh, this is it, this is how we meant to do it,” all of that. I think in that process we had been working together three years.

BLADE: When you get to that point and find pop songs that work, do you feel you’ve cracked a code in a sense?

BETTY: I think it is kind of like we cracked a musical code. We had been writing an working together so long that at some point you just work together so well and you understand each other so well and so deeply that you are like, “We have to put this here, that worked on this song so it will work here.” …When we’re writing a song now, if there’s something that’s not working, we can say exactly why it’s not working. And what we need to change, or if it’s going really well we know why and we know how to keep it going.

BLADE: Do you still play cello?

BETTY: I do, but not in public. Just kind of on my own in my bedroom.

BLADE: Did you initially plan a classical career?

BETTY: I was at a classical high school Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan and when I left I had only applied to colleges for voice and songwriting. So I knew when I was leaving I wanted to go into pop, but it definitely took me a second to kind of get out of that mind frame. Because I remember  my first two semesters at Berklee (College of Music in Boston), I performed more playing cello for other people than I did singing my own stuff. So it took me kind of about a year at Berklee to figure out I definitely didn’t want to keep playing cello for other people and I definitely want to be singing on my own and doing that.

BLADE: Are you planning a full-length album?

BETTY: Yes, I am currently working on it actually. We hope to have it out sometime in the fall.

BLADE: Was “Somebody Loves You” particularly hard to write?

BETTY: The verses and chorus were done, like, in a night. But we didn’t have a bridge. I didn’t worry about it. We were in the middle of a semester and we didn’t have anything out, nobody knew who I was, so I took a break from it for a couple months. We had written it in, like, February, then when we went to record it in summer, I remembered, “Oh, I need to sit down and write this bridge” and I wrote it in like 10 minutes. …I think because we gave it so much space, the song as a whole kind of just worked because there was no pressure. But it wasn’t ’til we recorded it that we were like, “Oh fuck, this is amazing and we love it and feel really passionately about it.”

BLADE: You’re straight, right?

BETTY: Yes

BLADE: Do you have a gay best friend?

BETTY: Several, from all walks of life. My gay friend from college, from high school, from childhood. I kind of have a bunch of gay friends that have kind of all come to know and love each other which is perfect.

BLADE: Is Peter straight?

BETTY: Yes, to the dismay of many of gay best friendsBLADE: Is your family mostly here in the U.S.?

BETTY: It’s kind of split. My mom is American and my dad is Australian so my dad’s whole side is there but he and my mom and her side are all in America.

KARMIN

main stage, gay news, Washington Blade

Amy Heidemann and Nick Noonan of Karmin. (Photo courtesy of Epic Publicity)

BLADE: How long have you been rapping, Amy?

AMY HEIDEMANN: I want to say I’ve been free styling on the streets of Nebraska since I was a little girl, but that’s not the case at all. I was raised in a super Christian household so I wasn’t allowed to listen to most rap music that I love today, but I was able to sneak you know a couple burned CDs I got from school from my classmates. So I did learn to rap sort of on accident. I was practicing to be a singer and the rapping came later.

BLADE: You two met at Berklee (College of Music in Boston)?

NICK NOONAN: Yes.

BLADE: Were you planning a pop career then?

NOONAN: We were kind of all over the place. I was originally a jazz trombone player, believe it or not.

HEIDEMANN: I always had dreams of being an R&B superstar. My favorite singer growing up was Brandy. We started out more indie and kind of hipster when we were doing the covers and the pop thing just sort of happened. I don’t know if it was really intentional, but it’s been awesome.

BLADE: But do people go to school to study pop music?

HEIDEMANN: Actually it’s weird because at Berklee they kind of do. There aren’t many schools like it, maybe one in California. But yeah, like, they have hip-hop classes. I think the place Jessie J and Adele went to in London I think is really comparable.

BLADE: Did you immediately realize your musical camaraderie?

NOONAN: No, it took a minute. We were both doing music independently from each other and then after we graduated we decided to start the group.

HEIDEMANN: We literally had to learn new instruments.

NOONAN: Yeah, Amy started to rap and I started playing piano and she was playing guitar. It kind of started from the bottom up.

BLADE: Did you start dating first or making music together?

NOONAN: Dating.

HEIDEMANN: Yeah, dating three or four years before.

BLADE: What’s your current relationship status?

NOONAN: We’re still engaged and trying to figure out the marriage thing.

BLADE: Are you concerned that if things continue going well for you musically, there could be a Fleetwood Mac-type impassion on the personal front or are you far enough into it now to not worry about that?

NOONAN: That’s always kind of on our minds but honestly we’d been dating and knew each other so well before we got any attention that it was kind of like all the skeletons were out of the closet before. So there really isn’t much to hide anymore.

BLADE: “Brokenhearted” and “Hello” were both No. 1 dance hits. Did you realize you were onto something writing them as opposed to other songs?

NOONAN: We did know pretty early on. Even with the covers, the strongest thing for us is playing live, so we knew that if we had some kind of energy, some feeling to get behind and get on stage and play this, there are certain songs that have an energy there and really translate well live and that’s our biggest thing. We wanted to make sure that those songs had those elements. When it feels really good, feels right, usually those write themselves and they are a lot faster to write.

BLADE: Did you realize early on you had a strong LGBT following?

HEIDEMANN: Yeah, it was pretty early. I used to put the covers up and we used to read every single comment, which can be really bad because people can be super mean. But the gay audience early on, there was a lot of guys who were commenting on Nick’s attractiveness. We were kind of like, “Oh, this is awesome.”

NOONAN: We have a very theatrical performance style, there were kind of a lot of elements. We didn’t really go out trying to say, “OK, we’re going to go get the gays,” but it made sense and we started doing a lot of Pride festivals and you know how we feel about everything, it’s more of a civil rights issue for us. So it kind of just made sense.

HEIDEMANN: And those are the best shows. So we were kind of like, “Why are we wasting our time playing anywhere else?”

BLADE: How so? People are more relaxed at Pride events?

NOONAN: It’s just a completely different freedom and we’re able to feel that on stage, so they’re great shows.

BLADE: How so?

NOONAN: More celebratory, probably. The energy is more …

HEIDEMANN: Free

NOONAN: Free, I guess. We just did our first headlining tour and there actually was a lot of energy, we were kind of blown away, but still the Pride festivals, even if they didn’t know who we are, or people say, “I never heard of you before today,” they’re still — they want to love us, you know what I mean? That’s a very cool energy.

BLADE: How long will your set be at Capital Pride?

NOONAN: I don’t know. If it was up to us, it would be about 75 minutes, but I think we’re told maybe 30 or 40. So I don’t know.

BLADE: Your act obviously has gay sensibility. Was that something natural from your personalities, fashion sense and all that or did you play it up more when you started realizing you had gay fans?

HEIDEMANN: Definitely the first thing you said. Like I said, we had no idea that would be who we attracted, but that’s how we’ve been in our blood, in our veins, I’m very theatrical in my style. Fashion is incredibly important to me. We have this monochromatic thing. Even when you walk in our closet, it’s like a rainbow. Everything is organized by color so we didn’t really see it coming, but it’s the perfect fit, so it’s all worked out great.

BLADE: Why do you think LGBT rights are important?

NOONAN: Being gay is not new. it’s been around since the beginning of recorded history. It’s just a natural thing for us. Just kind of how we were raised and stuff to not see race or difference in religion to see people. … We really try to not have any of that stuff in our brains at all. … It’s crazy and very very cool how far it’s come in the last 10 years.

HEIDEMANN: Even four years ago. In my high school, there was only one guy who was semi-out. And it was like this huge taboo thing. I’m from the midwest. So it was super religious and pretty scary. I had a family member who came out recently and it was a struggle. So it is personal to us, but also exciting to be part of such an important part of history. And I know we’re going to be looking back and telling our kids about it and they’ll be like, “Really? Why would you ever discriminate against anyone?”

BLADE: You were born just a few days apart. Is there any astrological significance to that or is it just a random factoid?

NOONAN: It’s funny because we just went to an astrologer like last week. But we won’t go into that. We are both Tauruses, so there’s a lot of creativity but also a lot of stubbornness. Usually we get along very well, but when we butt heads, it’s like a colossal shitstorm.

BLADE: You said your parents were conservative, Amy. How are they now with what you’re doing?

HEIDEMANN: My parents are strict but they’re much better now. I know at the beginning it was a little stressful being from a little small town of 7,000 people, everybody is constantly asking about us, my parents are very protective and sometimes really worried about the stuff we encounter, but it’s getting easier. For a long time, it was hard for them to read like critical reviews of our music but it’s starting to become more of the norm I guess.

BLADE: Now that you’ve had a few hits, what’s your opinion of what it takes to break through on the U.S. pop landscape?

NOONAN: It’s mainly persistence. You look at the people now who are superstars, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, they bounced around from label to label for years before they had any success so persistence is definitely one of the biggest things. It is not the most talented people, it is not the best singers. It can help you for sure, but it does not guarantee you a damn thing. So that’s one of the things about the industry, you know, for us. We’re just now starting to semi hit our stride.

BLADE: I know your album is still pretty new. What’s next for you? More singles from that? What will you be doing the rest of the summer?

NOONAN: We’ll hopefully have more information for you soon but we’re always kind of writing and working on new music and obviously touring a lot.

HEIDEMANN: The album just came out and then we went on tour really quickly so it’s all really still fresh for us. There had been a lot of delays with the record  label.

BLADE: Is your appearance at Capital Pride a one-off or are you playing a couple Prides this year?

HEIDEMANN: We’ll be with you guys, then a couple dates in the midwest, then we’ll come back. It’s like a week-long mini-tour.

BLADE: Was there a tradeoff in signing with a major label?

NOONAN: It’s difficult, definitely.

BLADE: How so?

NOONAN: Just getting everybody on the same page.

HEIDEMANN: There’s a lot of turnover. You’ll work with a lot of different people, then they might move on to another company.

NOONAN: Differences of opinion. We’re not big fans of art created by committee.

BONNIE McKEE

BLADE: You just toured with Karmin this year, right?

McKEE: Yes, I’m excited to be reunited with them again. We did five weeks together and it was amazing. So much fun. They’re a really fun act and they have a great audience.

BLADE: Did you get to hang out much on the road?

McKEE: I knew them before. We had written songs together and we’re label mates, so it was fun.

BLADE: Was the “American Girl” video really shot in a 7-Eleven?

McKEE: It was actually an AMPM, but it was a quickie mart. We wanted to give some love to 7-Eleven, but they weren’t with me on that.

BLADE: You didn’t have to get permission to use Slurpee in the song?

McKEE: I never got a call about that.

BLADE: Obviously I know you could be playing a character in a video or even if it’s you, that’s not your entire persona, but the video presents you as this carefree girl sunbathing, changing clothes in a car wash and so on. Yet being a pop singer takes enormous work and discipline. Does your real life feel removed from that girl?

McKEE: I’ve been trying to take more time for myself recently. When you’re on tour, yeah, it’s a blast of course, but it’s also a lot of hard work. I’m trying to let myself be a little more carefree like the girl in the video.

BLADE: There was talk of you having an album out this spring. The first single was out last summer. What’s the status of that?

McKEE: Well, I want to do some more visual stuff. I’ve made a couple videos, I just put a single on iTunes and I’m also trying to sell “Sleepwalker” which I never officially put out. …So I don’t know when it’s going to happen. It’s all about timing, so when we get it set up properly, it will be out. I’m really a visual artist, so I think videos are really my sweet spot.

BLADE: Has there been label pressure to have a decent hit before putting the album out?

McKEE: It’s really up to them. I’m just showing up and playing for the people who want to hear me play. They’ll figure it out when they’re ready.

BLADE: How did you meet Katy Perry?

McKEE: At a thrift store in Los Angeles. We were both trying to sell our clothes and being rejected, so we kind of bonded over that and we’ve been friends ever since.

BLADE: When was that?

McKEE: Oh, maybe 10 years ago.

BLADE: When you write together, do actually sit down together or just send ideas back and forth?

McKEE: We it down in the room together, do a lot of spooning. We get in a bean bag chair together and kind of hash it out. We fight a lot over every line but that’s what makes it great. She’s a perfectionist and so am I.

BLADE: You’re friends too? You hang out?

McKEE: Yeah, when there’s time and if we happen to be in the same city, definitely. She always has extravagant birthday parties.

BLADE: Has your classical training growing up come in handy in the stuff you do now, like with knowing chord progressions and stuff like that, or is it apples and oranges musically?

McKEE? Really grateful to have the training I have but it doesn’t help much. I think the only way it really comes into play in my pop songwriting is, you know, keeping my voice healthy and knowing how to sing properly and not injure myself. That was the most valuable thing I learned. And also work ethic. It was just drilled into us in a world class choir. We were yelled at a lot. Really prepared me for real life.

BLADE: Some of the other acts who’ll be at Capital Pride who are eking out pop careers also had classical training. Do you think that’s just a coincidence or does the general rigidity of classical music make some people want to bust out and go crazy with fun pop stuff?

McKEE: I don’t know. Maybe the ones that are have had training, but so many just have the natural instinct and never had a lesson in their life.

BLADE: Did you always love pop music?

McKEE: Yes, always. I used to get in trouble because I’d have a solo and I’d sing it in a completely pop voice and they said, “You can’t sing like that in choir.” Well, why not? I didn’t know I was a pop singer until people started telling me that.

BLADE: Who were your favorite singers when you were 13, 14 or 15?

McKEE: I loved Whitney Houston, Fiona Apple. Mariah Carey of course. I really liked the divas. And Carole King. She was kind of the first person where I realized songwriting was something you could make a living doing and how important it is for the message to be coming from the artist.

BLADE: You identify as bi, right?

McKEE: Yes

BLADE: At the moment, though, you’re dating a man?

McKEE: Well up until a few years ago. I’m not seeing anyone now.

BLADE: Do people ever accuse you of saying you’re bi just to have street cred or something or do they take it seriously?

McKEE: I think it’s ridiculous. Do I have to prove to everyone that I’m bisexual? They want me to make out with girls publicly to prove it? That’s something I identified as when I was 12 years ago and I don’t feel I need to prove that to anybody. If I meet a girl I love, great. If I meet a boy I love, that’s great too.

BLADE: What do you have planned for D.C.?

McKEE: We get in kind of late the day before, unfortunately. I wanted to go to see all the monuments but I don’t know if we’ll have time for that. But I’m really psyched for Pride.

BLADE: You have a strong gay following?

McKEE: Yes, more than anybody else to be honest. I love it. I play a lot of gay clubs on tour. We did a lot of drag shows which are fun. Everyone there can just be themselves and that’s what I’m all about.

BLADE: Your hair is always these wild, great colors, but they tend to fade so fast. Do you have to constantly have it redone?

McKEE: Yeah, well luckily my friend is a hairdresser, I do it about every two and a half weeks but yeah, if you’re going to have crazy color, you have to — it’s a commitment for sure.

BLADE: Do you have times where you let it go more, like if you’ll be in the studio for awhile and not making as many public appearances?

McKEE: Oh, never! Never, no. I always keep it fabulous.

BLADE: Your publicist said you’re en route to the studio today. What are you working on?

McKEE: I’m writing a song for a movie but I can’t really talk about it yet. But it’s a song for a musical, which is fun. I’m looking forward to it.

BLADE: Why are gay rights important to you?

McKEE: It’s important for everybody to have a place where they can go and be themselves and celebrate themselves. I’m really grateful and excited to be part of that and to be in D.C. for that.

05
Jun
2014

Team D.C. Sportsfest

Team D.C., the umbrella organization for D.C.-area LGBT sports teams and leagues, held its annual Sportsfest at Room & Board on Thursday. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key) Sportsfest 

11
Apr
2014

Music in the Night

Hilton Hotels presented a “Music in the Night” cabaret with local talent at Town Danceboutique on Monday. (Washington Blade photos by Damien Salas) Music in the Night 

05
Jun
2014