Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Gay marriage celebrant questions whether the "gay bar is dying"

Take a look at this article on MSN slate: “The Gay Bar: Is It Dying?” by June Thomas. It’s long, and a more complete version can be purchased as an ebook. The author reports adjourning to the Stonewall Inn after the victory in the gay marriage vote in New York State.  (The link is here.)

It seems to me that dance bars, the best ones, still get pretty full by around midnight Fridays and Saturdays, at least in Washington and in my recent trip to Minneapolis.  I expect to find the same later this year on Cedar Springs in Dallas. 

But it’s true, gay “culture” is much less insular than it was during the “Age of Me”, even the 1990s, when I wrote my first book.   And the “privacy” of the innards of a gay bar (as she mentions), especially a dance floor, in the age of digital cameras, blogs, Facebook and YouTube is certainly questionable. That’s another issue. 

One problem new gay clubs find increasingly could be zoning. In more cities, neighborhoods don't want new bars, dance clubs, or strip clubs in redeveloping areas.  This has been a problem in Washington DC and, according to my recent visit, Minneapolis. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Poll shows British Muslims more supportive of "gay rights" than generally believed

Ian Dunt has an interesting story in UK Politics, reporting that British Muslims are more supportive of equal rights for gay people than believed, given that the religion as a whole has a reputation for extreme anti-gay bias. The link is here

Today, CNN broadcast a number of letters regarding the recent passage of gay marriage in New York State.  Some viewers reflect the libertarian sentiment: the state should get out of “marriage” altogether, leave it to the church, and let civil unions contracts work equally for same-sex and opposite-sex couples. Simple logic. But at least one viewers went back to "religion" as to what is "un-Christian".

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Visit to Secrets/Ziegfelds, which survived the building of Nationals Park in Washington

Last night, I visited Secrets/Ziegfelds (site), the one major club remaining in the Anacostia area of Washington DC after the construction of Nationals Park and other major real estate development in the area since 2006.

The club is near the now handsome Anacostia River Bridge with its blue lights, just SW of Nationals Park, and near some warehouses.  Right behind it is Water Street, which I used to park on back in 1971 when I worked for NAVCOSSACT in the Washington Navy Yard (as a civilian computer programmer, after Army service).   And, sorry,  the “Secrets” have nothing to do with “One Republic’s” catchy song on Sirius XM’s Blend. It’s the quiet bar up a short stairway above the small dance floor.

I got there early and found street parking easy, with plenty of metered spaces still free in this part of town at night (that’s not true at U Street).  The staff seemed well tuned in to the Washington Nationals, and had been to the “gay night” at the Park when the Nats beat Seattle 6-5 with a walk-off in the bottom of the ninth inning. They knew about manager Riggleman’s sudden resignation, when the team was finally winning.

That’s even more ironic, because years ago there were many other clubs in the Navy Yard area (double irony, given “don’t ask don’t tell” – but then I found gay discos alive and well in little Pensacola FL, a Navy town, during a 1998 visit).  The gaudiest club in the 1990s had been Tracks, a few blocks to the Northeast, on the other side of South Capitol Street.   There would follow the Velvet Nations, with the Blue Room and Great Hall, which closed in 2007 with the real estate development. (The stadium opened in 2008.)  Town-DC essentially replaces Velvet Nations/Tracks  in another part of town, Shaw (where there is some land and easier permits).  There had also lived the Edge, with the dancers, and at one time there had been a place called the Lost and Found, which Frank Kameny had told me about when I came out.  

In recent years, night clubs (although usually straight ones) and strip clubs have attracted controversy in Washington from nearby residents wherever they have tried to get permits, particularly in NE.  Noise has been a concern of some residents around Dupont Circle.   It’s been an issue recently in Minneapolis, as I blogged recently. But partying and “clubland” are facts of life in central cities, and essential to their economies.
As for the rest of the club visit, first, it was slow – and the club showed a black and white video about modeling by rugby players in France, rather like a little “indie” film.  There was a curious scene where a woman puts a kind of prod repeatedly all over a man’s chest and body.

The drag show started at 11:30, and many of the performers were true “females”.  One did somersaults -- Valkyries style.  And they were pretty aggressive in seeking the tips.   There were no “Secrets”.  They asked -- how many straight people were there, and how many T's and B's-- and people told.  Curiously, no one mentioned the off-the-press gay marriage victory 230 mile NE, in New York.

There's something else about this particular bit of real estate development -- it forced all the poor people out, to PG County. And it's in low-lying areas, the first to flood in a future hurricane. 

Last picture: a game lost to St Louis in 2010.

Update: Aug 25, 2018 

Wilkipedia gives a detailed history of the club's move in 2009 for Nationals Park and how its liquor license move was handled. The old property had been taken by eminent domain. It's true that the loss of a lease or even of a property to eminent domain does not protect a club from complying with restrictive zoning and liquor laws, especially for nude dancing. This is indeed a problem.  Since the club already moved, is it safe now? 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Obama won't use the GM world, and NYS Senate is deadlocked: UPDATE: gay marriage passes in NY

The gay marriage vote in New York State seems to come to a head, perhaps on one or a few GOP state senators, who quibble over the wording of religious exceptions. The latest Reuter’s story is here

At a $1250 a pop “Gala with the Gay Community” in NYC Thursday at the Sheraton, President Obama said “gay couples deserve the same legal rights as any other couple in this country.” But he stopped at using the GM word (I don’t mean “General Motors Bailout” either). He’s afraid of GOP quotes?  Seth Meyers is a bigger problem on Nightline. CBS has a link here  (the article has some html problems).

I won’t get to NYC’s Gay Pride March – but in the 1970s we called it “Christopher Street Liberation Day”.  In 1978, I played softball for Boots ‘n’ Saddle afterwards, and got a bases-loaded single in a field on Leroy street.   Tuesday the Village saw its Summer Solstice “111 Bicycles Ride” (my “drama” blog). 

When you don’t have equal rights, things can be taken from you.  Obama (as have other Democrats like Kerry) have had to travel across one of Clive Barker's Dominions where civil unions were once seen as good enough.

Update 6/25:

By now, everybody knows. New York State passed the bill -- in the middle of the night on a weekend. Washington Blade's take on this and on the White House strategy is here.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Baltimore's Pride: Block Party more crowded an ever, short but colorful parade

Well, I got to “church” on time, that is, the Pride Parade in Baltimore yesterday, compared to my “performance” last week in DC.  Using private transportation helped – a private car going 50 miles seems to be more dependable than Metro going six miles during track work and single tracking.
For parking, I wound up in Penn Station ($14), where Amtrak was making a commercial video outside.

It's just a ten minute walk from the Station to the heart of the Baltimore's community" Charles and Eager Sts.

Nearby, on Charles Street, there was another community celebration called "Be Sure".

One irony was that the Baltimore Orioles were losing at the same time in Washington to the Nationals, winning their eight straight. It seems that the rule is, don't have Pride and home town baseball in town at the same time. 

There was a lot of orange in the parade – not ING, but orioles, and politicians. Although Charles Street was crowded, the parade was fairly short.  Bears were in evidence.

There was a small outdoor disco at the far end of Eager Street.  

The Block Party was the most crowded ever. I went down to the Charles Center theaters – the Basque restaurant – when the lines for food were so long.  I went to the Hippo when the disco opened, but one had to exit from Charles Street, and get through a crowd that was impenetrable. The crowds could be better managed. 

But once inside the disco, I saw the “dirty dancing” as aggressive as anywhere.  The sunken floor was pretty packed by 10:30 PM.

The Hippo also offered a drag show and Karaoke bar, in the "free" part of the property.  Saw at least one Boy Scout uniform, don't know if it was for real.

Outdoors, there was mess when the Block Party ended.  Maybe that's normal.  It seems like a shame.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Census, adoption policy organizations report increase in same-sex-couple adoptions, out of sheer need!

The New York Times ran an important story about gay couples and adoption on Tuesday, June 14, based on 2010 Census reports, “Adoptions by Gay Couples Rise, Despite Barriers”, link here.

The story, by Sabrina Tavernise, focused on a male couple in Ohio that had adopted eight children, including five siblings.

Only two states now specifically prohibit adoption by same-sex couples, Utah and Mississippi. But in many states, only one partner can have legal custody.

The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute is mentioned as reporting an upward trend. It had published a paper favoring that states cooperate with same-sex couple adoptions where the couples are stable and able to raise children, in 2008, link here. Now the, the newspaper story reports bluntly, same-sex couple adoption increases for two basic reasons: “the need for homes for children currently waiting for adoption — now about 115,000 in the United States — and the increased acceptance of gays and lesbians in American society.”

Bus stops in Minneapolis have seat banners encouraging adoption and foster care by single people.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Should gay couples make pre-nuptial agreements before marrying?

I got an email from someone associated with a law firm in Connecticut, Terbrusch, which recently conducted a webinar on how gay partners need to be careful about their wealth even in states where gay marriage is legally recognized. Many complications can occur, particularly if one partner moves out of state; a divorce or legal separation may become impossible,

The firm has a white paper on why every couple should have a pre-nuptial agreement, and I suppose that applies to gay couples, too. Here is their link.

They also have a domain name “preups for all” here.

Is this cynical? Does a culture of “look out for number 1” undermine marriage in the gay world just as in the straight world? Does it turn all marriage into "civil union"? In Virginia, gay couples can't even "do that".
William and Catherine still say, “we were glad.”

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Proposition 8 Judge need not recuse himself, according to court ruling

A federal judge, Ware, has ruled that Judge Walker did not need to recuse (disqualify) himself from the Proposition 8 hearings because he himself might benefit from his own ruling. There’s plenty of rhetoric on both sides. For example, the Sacramento Bee published this editorial today, link 

For an "opposing viewpoint", the National Review’s Ed Whelan proffers “a short series of posts” arguing for recusal. Why should it take a whole “world series”?  He does make a point about “attenuated interest”.  But it seems as if Prop 8 supporters are grabbing for lifelines, because their own issues are failing on their own weight. The introductory offer link is here.

Nevertheless, in my own life, I’ve experienced “conflict of interest”.  When I had published my first book in 1997, dealing heavily with the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy as it had been at the time, I had been working for a company that specialized in selling life insurance to military officers.  The company had been acquired by a more versatile company, and I transferred to the larger company in Minneapolis in 1997, where I would live for six years, to avoid this conflict. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Capital Pride festival holds off the lightning storms: two stage areas, two beer gardens

The Washington DC Capital Pride is said to be the third largest in the nation (is Minneapolis in Loring Park first?).  On Sunday, June 12, the festival was well attended in oppressive humidity, which started to become relieved around 3 PM as breezes from a cold front approached. The thunderstorms, with copious lightning thar caused widespread power outages in Arlington Sunday night (the Ballston Common was shut down) only briefly affected the Pride Festival.  Outdoor evens in thunderstorms in areas not protected by very tall buildings could be dangerous.  

This year there were two “beer gardens” on either side of the performance stage, near the front. But there was also a small Family Area. 

The Event (pun attended – Sean Walker from the NBC series would have fit in) was to be non-smoking, even outdoors -- but I saw some (not just in the alcohol areas). When an attractive man takes out a cigarette – that’s depressing!

In general, some people’s personal  appearances, so compelling in a closed space like a disco or even an ordinary setting, become underwhelming in broiling sun and in a crowd.

Around 3 PM the Washington DC Gay Men’s Chorus performed two numbers, one with crutches juggled as a prop.  I believe that the first song was called “I Am Just Telling You” and it sounded a lot like the music of John Rutter  (it resembled one of the items in the Catherine-William wedding).  The other was jazzier.  If someone (as from the Chorus) can identify the pieces, please comment here.  The Chorus has an “It Gets Better” video.  Try this link

There was also an Arts Stage that was playing a jazz concert when I popped in.  I think the group was DC Different Drummers playing a show called “Turn the Beat Around” (link).   Again, I hope someone from DCDD can identify the exact music.

The most complete description of the performances seems to be at Metro Weekly, here
 Note also the satire of Sarah Palin:

Sunday, June 12, 2011

DC Pride March starts and end on time; street and club festivities all happen earlier; a hail storm INSIDE a club

Well, I got careless yesterday about getting to “the church” on time – that is, Pride DC.  I played around on the computer, lost track of time, and then got delayed forty minutes by weekend track work on the Metro. I bought a sandwich, and arrived in the march area a little before 8 PM.  I found that not only had the March (like the second movement of the Schumann Fantasy) started on time, this year police had insisted that it end on time.  I couldn’t even find any floats to see over at Thomas circle.  For picture coverage, "your" best bet is to check Metro Weekly. 

JR’s  (Washington DC) started its outdoor party earlier than usual, with the sun still up.

Cobalt’s dance floor always fills earlier for Pride. Last night, it was fairly swinging by 10 PM.   One person from the music world recognized me. 

There occurred an indoor a hail storm. Occasionally (although not consistently, like at the Saloon in Minneapolis), the club will send fog out into the air. This time, I was night next to the fog machine, and I felt hail and sleet pellets hit the back of my neck and face, and slide down under my shirt.  Some sleet hit the floor.  I guess not all hail storms need to form at 25000 feet.  All of this after DC had dodged all the surrounding thunderstorms for Pride.  And we’re recovering from a heat wave.  
The Washington Post has a story about the Saturday evening march and particularly about Cobalt's float in the parade (and the preparations done to a few employees) here:

Friday, June 10, 2011

Many soldiers in liberal areas or in non-combat MOS's believe DADT is completely repealed; it isn't!

I had the pleasure to sit with an Air Force reserve NCO (female) today on a train, and got into some discussion of the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell”.  She said, “it’s official. We’ve all had the training. No one thinks it’s an issue any more.”

That may be true in practice about military bases, especially guard units, around Washington DC and most bases in the “blue family” Northeast. It’s probably true at the Pentagon.

Nevertheless, SLDN repeatedly warns, the job is not done, and it is still not safe to come out. Here is the latest SLDN link  called "share/risk".

Thursday, June 09, 2011

NYC Mayor Bloomberg gives speech supporting same-sex marriage billin state; NY1 has a tracker on legislature vote now

New York City station NY1 has a tracker on the voting in the New York State legislature on same-sex marriage, link here

The site offers a video (not embeddable) on final push this session for a vote on Cuomo’s same-sex marriage bill. The House is in better shape than the Senate, link.

One week ago, Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave a speech at Cooper Union encouraging that the state adopt same-sex marriage.  Bloomberg is now an Independent, but he was formerly a Republican.  Bloomberg noted the birth of the modern Gay Rights movement in New York City in 1969.

Monday, June 06, 2011

"The Saloon": Minneapolis gay bar is a national institution; more on "Boom/Bulldog" and "Front/Ground Zero"

Saturday night, I did have a chance to resurrect my days of old, particularly in the 2002-2003 period, with a visit to The Saloon on Hennepin Ave. in Minneapolis. This time, there was a co-party with the GLBT Film Festival as part of the Minnesota Independent Film Project.

The place has added a new room where there used to exist an outdoor patio. Now, Minneapolis apparently has chased smokers outside, just have many other cities.  And patrons, especially younger adults, like it.  The new room is upscale, with some abstract sculpture.

The long dance floor used to have three stands, but now there are more of them, and they are flush together to form elevated areas.

There is a shower stall for dancers, with a no photography sign in front of it (which might be required by a local or state law).  The dance floor was filled with fog or mist, which would make photography difficult, although some people were still shooting videos.

The other “institution” in Minneapolis is the Gay 90s, with its dancers, many rooms, and drag shows upstairs. The scuttlebutt is that younger straight couples go to the 90s to “play it safe” with their adventures; if a straight man wants to experience some real voyeurism, he takes his girl friend to the Saloon, too. Plenty of national celebrities, not all gay, have been there at one time. 

The Saloon is a bit of an informal national institution.  The website is (website url) this. There is a similar establishment with the same name in Kansas City MO which I visited in 2006.

(For some reason, is not working right now; the cache does work.)

The Minneapolis Star Tribune did have a disturbing story June 6 about disturbances in the entertainment district of Minneapolis, “Cracking down on Mayhem in Clubland” by Tom Morgen and Matt McKinney (subscription required). The immediate blocks near the Saloon were not involved, but areas closer to the 90s were (as was 1st Ave N, behind Hennepin). 

By the way -- what used to be "The Boom" on the East Bank is now "The Bulldog", same floor plan, but now a "regular" sports bar.  I told the waitress that in Washington DC "Nellie's" really works as a gay sports bar. But I ate my last dinner at The Boom on Aug. 23, 2003 before leaving The Churchill Apts for good Aug. 24, 2003 to return to DC for family reasons. It was a sad drive back.

The "Ground Zero", where weird SM shows (including straight) used to happen, as well as "The Front", with its archeology museum, appear to still be there.

By the way, it looked as though Shinders, the wonderful newsstand about a block from The Saloon across Hennepin, is closed. I loved that place, finding all those books there by Noam Chomsky after 9/11.

Below: The Gay 90s on Hennepin (2002 Gay Pride Parade):

Sunday, June 05, 2011

AGCMCC hears final sermon from Rev, Paul Tucker in Minneapolis, about justice; 30th anniversary of first CDC reports on AIDS noted

Rev. Paul Eknes-Tucker gave a farewell sermon this morning at All God’s Children Metropolitan Community Church in Minneapolis, a brief address in which he said that “justice is the eraser by which we remove the pencil boundaries that keep people confined.”  Of course, most people have experiences not under their control that threaten to fence them in. (This sounds like Job.)  Everything one owns is in a sense in trust.  The only thing one can depend on is being of value to others. But, for me, I still am committed to the idea that I must follow my own personal calling to be of value to others.  No hucksterism allowed.

The sanctuary was full today, and I, arriving slightly late in my rental car and having to remember the exact location after seven years, sat in the back row. I received communion from him. 

A large congregation, AGCMCC  is in a large, wide building and is well attended.  The MCC in Richmond VA has a very similar building, but, for that matter, so does the First Baptist Church on Monument Ave. in Richmond, where a pastor who knows me pretty well  (from First Baptist in Washington DC) now ministers. 

Pastor Paul also noted that today was the 30th anniversary of the first CDC reports in 1981 warning of the upcoming epidemic that would become known as AIDS. He talked about the success of modern medications in his own case in keeping HIV managed.  He has not announced his next plans.

Friday, June 03, 2011

MN: needless state constitutional battle over gay marriage slammed by Outfront

There is another battle over a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, in Minnesota, where I lived 1997-2003.  The group Outfront Minnesota has a useful listing of the “three myths” about the situation, here.

 The article mentions a curious case back from 1971 about a discrimination case at a university library (Baker), that at the time had attracted a lot of attention.

Marriage is already limited to one man and one woman in Minnesota by state statute. The situation, on the surface, reminds one of Marshall-Newman in Virginia. 

The social climate in Minnesota, however, is, in practice, quite a bit more liberal than in many other states (such as VA) where anti-marriage amendments have been proposed (outside of California and Prop 8, of course). Billboard ads from the gay community appear in downtown Minneapolis and in some other parts of the city.   A few of the clubs (The Gay Nineties and the Saloon) are known nation-wide.  Pride flags also appear in June, and the Loring Park weekend the last weekend of June is one of the largest in the nation. (I remember that in 2002 some people had to be treated for heat exhaustion as the temperature rose to 102 – it does get very hot there in the summer; this is the Midwest, after all.)   Major employers are particularly vocal about diversity programs.  

Indeed, locals tell me that conservative GOP delegate Michelle Bachmann, generally viewed as an innocent part of the tea party, ties to the Christian Right and holds anti-gay views.  (Bachmann supposedly won her seat through gerrymandering, a topic of a recent indie film.) There are some Bible thumpers there, who tend to stand out in the otherwise blue climate.  The think tank "Center for the American Experiment" generally tends toward libertarianism (it has had John Stossel and some Cato members as a guest speakers) but Katherine Kersten has written, in a 2000 anthology, an essay about "Textbooks Push the Needs of ‘Self’ Over Marriage."  

As for the divide within the right over social values, I note this also.  Around the time of Y2K, the Libertarian Party of Minnesota had been effective, appearing at Pride, putting me on television, and running several candidates (including one graduating college student) for public office.