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2018 Best of Gay LA Awards

All of your favorites, from bartenders to activists and more

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Best of Gay LA

Welcome to the inaugural Best Of Gay LA Awards presented by the Los Angeles Blade. There were hundreds of nominations in 25 categories and thousands of votes. Here we present your picks for the best LA has to offer along with editors’ choices in most categories.

LOCAL HERO: JON DAVIDSON

Best of Gay LA, gay news, Los Angeles Blade

Jon Davidson (Photo courtesy of Davidson)

Jon Davidson has been fighting for the rights of the underdog for most of his adult life.

An attorney focused on the LGBTQ community and people living with HIV, virtually since graduating from Yale Law School in 1979, Davidson has fought and won some of the most important cases facing LGBT Americans. But, as he says, ultimately it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the long game.

“What I’ve learned is that one of the realities of doing the LGBT rights litigation that I’ve spent most of my career doing, is that sometimes you can lose the case, but still win. Because those sorts of cases end up educating people about the things that are wrong,” Davidson told the Los Angeles Blade.

He became interested in politics in high school, around the time of Stonewall. He was boycotting grapes and lettuce in support of California farm workers and he protested the Vietnam War. He says he was excited about political change. He started taking cases pro bono.

His first big case was no small potatoes. He sued the city of Los Angeles on behalf of homeless people. Not long after, he says, in 1985 a lot of his friends started to get sick. He started looking for a way he could help.

Davidson teamed up with attorney and activist Susan McGreevy, who was at the ACLU at the time. She enlisted his help in writing the first brief to the U.S. Supreme Court about AIDS. It was about whether people with contagious diseases could be considered disabled and protected against discrimination under a law called the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The goal was to convince the courts that AIDS was a disabling condition.

“At the time, the Reagan administration was arguing that contagious diseases couldn’t be considered disabilities because that would mean that people with AIDS would be protected from discrimination,” Davidson says.
Another local case got a lot of attention when Davidson was working with a gay rights organization that no longer exists, on behalf of a man threatened with eviction for hanging a gay Pride flag off his apartment’s balcony. The building’s argument was that people would think it was a “gay building.” Davidson argued that people put American flags on their balconies, so why not a Pride flag?

Davidson left private practice in 1988 to work for the ACLA of Southern California. He was there for eight years, and then joined Lambda Legal, where he worked for more than 20 years.
It was Davidson’s work on a case against the Boy Scouts of America that brought much national acclaim. He was the lead lawyer on the Curran v. Mount Diablo Council of the Boy Scouts of America, a case that went to California Supreme Court. He lost the case, but it was part of the fight to get people to understand that the Boy Scouts were engaging in discrimination.

Davidson also helped out on the Dale case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that the constitutional right to freedom of association allows a private organization like the Boy Scouts, to exclude a person from membership when “the presence of that person affects in a significant way the group’s ability to advocate public or private viewpoints.” In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that opposition to homosexuality is part of BSA’s “expressive message” and that allowing homosexuals as adult leaders would interfere with that message. It reversed a decision of the New Jersey Supreme Court, which had determined that New Jersey’s public accommodations law required the BSA to readmit James Dale, who the BSA expelled after Dale went public about being gay.

Davidson says despite losing those cases, the suits against the Boy Scouts outed the organization as discriminatory and ultimately led to a lot of pressure on them to change their position – both social and financial pressure.

“I used to joke that I’ve spent the bulk of my career fighting for LGBT people to serve in the military, get into the Boy Scouts, serve in the Los Angeles Police Department, and to get married, but I didn’t want to do any of those things. But those are four of the most conservative institutions we have in this country and they all in many ways epitomize being an American citizen,” Davidson says.

He and his longtime partner celebrated their 13th anniversary this year, which they count from the time they moved in together.

“I believe that an attack on any member of this nation or the world is an attack on all of us. But I decided more than 30 years ago I wanted to put my professional energies into and work on behalf of my community, which I define as the LGBT community and those living with HIV. That’s what spoke to me and where I felt there was a need,” he says. But, he adds, “A big part of the battle is also to remember that our community also includes several other groups who’ve been targets of the Trump administration – poor people, people of color, Muslims, people from other countries, you name it – it’s frightening. Our community needs to address the fact that many of the gains we made didn’t really help those most marginalized in our community.” (REBEKAH SAGER)

BEST BARTENDER: ANTHONY SALDANA

Anthony Saldana (Photo by Brett Saari Photography)

He prefers to be called a bartender rather than a mixologist, but Anthony Saldana is Micky’s top man behind the bar.

“We are more fine-tuned for speed and agility than mixing fancy drinks, because it’s always so busy,” Saldana told the Los Angeles Blade.

Born and raised in Ontario, in the inland empire, Saldana has lived in LA for the last 10 years, and worked at Micky’s for most of that time.

His first job after finishing UC Riverside was at Target as an executive manager. He says he was making $70,000 but on his first visit to Weho, a friend came running out of Micky’s with his shirt off, and told him they were hiring.

“I went in and spoke with the manager, who tore my shirt off in the office. He takes one look at me, and says I can start Monday. I told him about my Target gig and what I was making. He laughed at me and said I’d make double that,” he says.

Saldana waxes poetic about the days before the straight crowd discovered Weho.

He explains that straight guys come in to hit on drunk girls, but they don’t drink as much.

Trained using YouTube videos, this is the fourth year he’s won a Best Bartender title. In 2013, Grindr awarded him Best Bartender. He was flown to Vegas to receive the award.

“I don’t know why I keep winning, because I’m kind of an asshole,” he admits sheepishly. He adds, “If you come into my bar, and you act shitty I’m going to call you out on it. I’m very protective of my customers. I’ve jumped over the bar and thrown people out. I take shots with all of my customers. They literally love it.”

Saldana left home at 17 to “do his own thing.”

Now fairly distant from his family he says people don’t get to choose to be born into a family. “I want to choose who I love. I don’t want to be forced to love people I don’t even get along with. I travel a lot, and I take my friends wherever I go.”

His family found out about his being gay via social media. He almost married a girl. He has some complicated views on being gay, and says he gets pretty deep with customers about them all the time.

“I was born a straight man. I was in love with this female, it wasn’t until my sophomore year I had my first gay experience. I think as a child something very small could alter your thought process. I feel like the gay community always says ‘oh, you’re born gay,’ but if 10 percent of the community is born different than the other 90 percent, then that would make it a disability. I would hate to think that being gay is a disability. Personally I don’t want to be thought of as born gay… But, I’m gay now.

“I definitely appreciate a beautiful female though… and have this girl Natalie in my life that I call my wife. We’re inseparable and we do everything together, and I swear she would get married in a heartbeat, but sexually I just can’t do it. I associate with being gay,” Saldano says.

Single and dating, he has a staunch rule about never dating customers. He’s pressured a lot by men, and says he’s had to tell people he’s straight because it’s easier than telling men he’s not interested.

Despite turning a few guys away, Salgado gets gifts — lots of them. At Christmas he received a Cartier love band worth $10,000. “I mentioned that I’d always wanted one, and the next thing you know it’s getting screwed on my wrist,” he says. He’s been given a Mercedes, taken on trips, and even had someone give him money for his sick father.

“I mean people will give 10 to 20 percent to a church, whereas in the gay community they’ll give 20, 30 or 40 percent to the bars,” he says.

Although he’s known by the tattoo inked on his flat stomach, complete with washboard abs, the days of bartending shirtless are over.

A gym rat, Saldano says to keep his liver from completely failing, he only does shots of tequila, and his favorite is Don Julio anejo – always with a slice of orange. (REBEKAH SAGER)

MICKY’S

8857 Santa Monica Blvd.

310-657-1176

mickys.com

BEST BARTENDER, EDITORS’ CHOICE: CORY ZWIERZYNSKI

Cory Zwierzynski (Photo courtesy of Zwierzynski)

Bartender and star of “What Happens at The Abbey,” Cory Zwierzynski is the editors’ pick for Best Bartender. For nearly 25 years, The Abbey has dominated gay nightlife in West Hollywood. And Cory is almost as famous, thanks to his starring role on “What Happens at The Abbey.”

“When you start working at The Abbey,” Corey told the Los Angeles Blade, “it’s like joining a big family. We don’t just work together; we have a good time together. We have so many regulars at The Abbey that they are all part of the family too.”

Corey’s favorite moment at The Abbey so far? “People dancing to Diana Ross’ music on the dance floor with Diana Ross. It doesn’t get more memorable than that.”

THE ABBEY

692 N Robertson Blvd.

310-289-8410

theabbeyweho.com

BEST DJ: STEVE AOKI

Steve Aoki (Photo courtesy of Aoki)

Steven Hiroyuki (Aoki) is one of the world’s most influential DJs. He certainly has the whole EDM circuit world jumping at venues around the world. But he’s really just an ordinary guy who grew up Newport Beach and attended USCB.

He holds degrees in feminist studies and sociology. But while in college, a spark captured his imagination when he produced a do-it-yourself record and began running underground concerts at Isla Vista, a section of residential land adjacent to UCSB. The venue became known as The Pickle Patch and it changed Aoki’s life. 

In his early 20s, Aoki built his own record label, which he named Dim Mak – a reference to his childhood hero, Bruce Lee.

Aoki has won and been nominated for a number of industry awards, both in annual competitions and in magazine rankings. In 2007, he was named Best Party Rocker DJ by BPM Magazine, Best DJ of the Year by Paper Magazine, and Best Set of the Season at the Ibiza Awards. Several years later, in 2012, he was named #15 in the Top 100 DJs in DJ Magazine, and was named America’s #2 Best DJ. Also in 2012, he won an

EDM Effect Woodie Award by MTVu, and the following year he was nominated for his first Grammy.
In 2014, Aoki was awarded two Guinness World Records, one for the “longest crowd cheer,” and also for the “most amount of glow sticks for thirty seconds.” Aoki performed at the 2015 Ultra Music Festival in Miami Beach on May 21. He also earned the Guinness record for “most traveled musician in one year,” with 161 shows in 41 countries in 2014.

To say he has been successful is an understatement.

He is the founder of the Steve Aoki Charitable Fund, which raises money for global humanitarian relief organizations and medical research. In 2015, he was named Global Ambassador for the Best Buddies program, a non-profit devoted to young people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Learn more at steveaoki.com

BEST DJ, EDITORS’ CHOICE: SHANE IVAN NASH

Shane Ivan Nash (Photo courtesy of Nash)

As a transgender activist and talented musician, Nash has consistently shared his story and his music, helping to inspire others. When asked what he loves most about DJing, Nash said, “Your profession requires you to party, dance and create a collected consciousness. The nightlife is the release from life—we’re all on the same beat, in the same moment.”

Of his work with the LGBT community, Nash said, “I’ve helped countless people in the community start their endeavors including Trans Chorus LA and as a board member for LA Pride, I fought for the trans representation.” Learn more at ShaneIvanNash.com.

BEST CHEF: STUART O’KEEFFE

If you haven’t heard of chef Stuart O’Keeffe, then you clearly haven’t been invited to the right A-list Hollywood dinner parties.

A small town Irish hottie, who now lives in West Hollywood, O’Keeffe made a name for himself on the Food Network’s “Private Chefs of Beverly Hills.”

“I was always obsessed with America and always wanted to be on TV,” O’Keeffe told the Los Angeles Blade.

His first gig in the U.S. after culinary school in Ireland was in Napa Valley working at Meadowood Napa Valley. But restaurants didn’t suit him. He says he didn’t like the way people were treated.

“I knew I was destined to do what I wanted without the stress. I thought there must be another way, and I kind of started doing dinner parties in my apartment for friends, and they’d tell people about them. I was also working as an executive assistant, and started getting hired for private parties.

O’Keeffe can’t talk a lot about who he works for, but will mention a few celebs he says have “eaten at his tables” – stars such as Sharon Stone, Jennifer Aniston, Justine Bateman, Harrison Ford, Cindy Crawford, Jane Fonda and Christina Aguilera.
O’Keeffe has been at his job long enough and has become well known enough that he doesn’t suffer fools and although his clients tend to be high-maintenance, he lives to cook for others.

“I want people to be nice. I’m not going to bow down to people. I’m well equipped to do this. I won’t stand for people being rude. I’m fair. I mean, how much do you value yourself really,” he says.

So, why do celebs keep calling him back? He says straight up, it’s the way he looks. “I’m a cute guy from Ireland. A lot of women, I overhear them asking if I’m straight or gay. It can be funny in a really sweet way,” O’Keeffe says laughing.

He’s currently single and dating. He likes to meet guys through friends or at a bar. He says his favorites are the Abbey, Revolver and Chapel. He meets people through friends mostly, and doesn’t do the app thing. He says he’s tried it, but it’s not personal enough and he’s too old school.

O’Keeffe says the “power gays” don’t hire him much.

“They have their set people they use… I think people think that I don’t do this anymore because I do so much TV, or because they think I’m above it. But, if I have time in my schedule, I’ll do it. I don’t really turn down things. I like to keep busy. I’d like to do more things,” O’Keeffe says.

His goal is to have his own TV show on the Food Network. He has another cookbook coming out later this year, and he wants to open a restaurant in the next year or two.

He envisions a show where he can travel around the U.S. — a kind of Irish guy fish out of water. He says he loves rural America, and thinks the people are funny and sweet. They remind him of the small town he grew up in — Nenagh, not far from Limerick.

He says Irish food is different than people think. “We have some of the best meat and fish in the world where we are,” he says.

His signature dishes are chicken cacciatore, short ribs, individual baked Alaska, and a killer flourless cake – “Jennifer Aniston told me my cake was good, so it must be badass.”

For a guy that makes his living off people who don’t cook for themselves, O’Keeffe believes a major problem with Americans in general is that they don’t cook at home enough.

“People need to get back in the kitchen and start cooking. There’s so much joy in that. And it’s healthier,” he says. He adds though that he actually hates to shop. “One of the most annoying thing about cooking is going to the store and shopping for the ingredients. I tell people to go shopping one day, and cook the next day. Cooking can be stressful if you don’t know how to do it.”

When O’Keeffe isn’t cooking for actors and Hollywood executives, you can find him on Mondays at the farmer’s market, on Gardner and Fountain streets, or at his local Whole Foods.

He lists Jar, Rossoblu, and Cecconi’s as his favorite restaurants in LA.

As for his TV aspirations that dream has certainly come true, if you count Food Network,  “Stuart’s Kitchen” which aired in Ireland and New Zealand, appearances on Marie, CBS’s “The Talk,” “The Home and Family Show,” and Republic of Telly and Asiana Airlines featured Stuart in its national “Fly with Color” campaign.

EDITORS’ CHOICE, BEST CHEF: SUZANNE TRACT

Suzanne Tracht (Photo courtesy Tracht)

Chef and owner of the critically acclaimed Jar Restaurant, Suzanne Tracht has won international praise for her culinary adventures at Jar. Her countless appearances on the “Today” show, Food Network, and Extra, as well as her multiple awards led her to be  inducted into the Fine Dining Hall of Fame and participating in Fortune magazine’s Most Powerful Women Summit.

“Relating to people and making them feel warm and welcome isn’t hard and you can do it in many ways, which is why I cook,” Tracht said. “I like feeding people and making them happy.”

JAR

8225 Beverly Blvd.

323-655-6566

thejar.com

BEST BUSINESSPERSON: BRAD LAMM, BREATHE LIFE HEALING CENTER

Brad Lamm (Photo courtesy of Lamm)

Fifteen years ago Brad Lamm was a self-proclaimed total mess. He was bulimic. He smoked two packs of cigarettes a day. He was an alcoholic, addicted to meth, and he supplemented all of this by taking Xanax. In 2002, he got clean.

Lamm’s journey to help others grew into an empire with two treatment centers that have helped numerous people in the LGBTQ community get clean and sober.

“I knew I was gay at 5 years old,” he says. “When I took my first drink at 15, I was deliciously soothed. By the time my first partner died in 1989, I was 19 years old and convinced not only was I going to die, but we were all going to die.”

He added, “We were part of this sad infected class with no upside… Gay men in my generation, pre-HIV cocktail, it was more than a death sentence, it was a shame sentence. It was a downward spiral. It was a grizzly and gruesome death. And I’d already been cast out of my family.”
ACT UP became Lamm’s upside. Although he was still getting high at the time, he fell into a clan he calls “purposeful,” working to make progress and trying to save his life.

“I found a place for my rage, but I thought I was going to die from alcohol and drugs, so when I didn’t, it was an amazing ‘ah-ha’ coupled with helping others, and it was all congruous with my trauma survival and being a gay man,” Lamm says.

It was in Lamm’s search for what to do with his life after getting clean that he found doctor Dr. Judith Landau, a South African psychiatrist focused on “invitational intervention,” a trauma-informed approach to helping families help their families.

“Essentially you invite your family to an intervention and the work starts from there. It suited me and it coincided with enormous energy I had around, never thinking I’d stop this litany of things that were killing me,” he says.

Lamm’s entre into the work Landau was doing eventually led to starting an intervention practice himself in New York, 13 years ago, and it really took off thanks to contacts he’d made in his former life as a TV weatherman.

“Some of the same skills I had as a journalist and some of the people I grew up in that industry with were now in TV running shows, and they knew about my remarkable turnaround.

“The ‘Today’ show said come and do a show on recovery, and Oprah said come and do a docu-series on food and that became “Addicted to Food,” an eight-part series produced for her. Then Dr. Oz said come help launch the show. And I did like 30 stories. That was the rocket fuel to this mission of helping my recovery community and their families reduce its suffering,” Lamm says.

Five years ago, Lamm opened a trauma-informed treatment center that would accept health insurance,  Breathe Life Healing Center in Los Angeles.

“Meth and alcohol was my struggle, drug and hurt, so to see treatment in my community is powerful,” he says.

He and Scott Sanders, a Tony, Grammy and Emmy winning television, film and theater producer (Sanders produced the musical “The Color Purple” for Broadway), were married and it was the first gay wedding Oprah attended.

He says he sees so much of himself in the Celie character from “The Color Purple.”

“You’re at the end of the rope and you’re so beaten down, and then all of a sudden instead of cutting Mister’s throat, you choose grace and find your way. And part of that is forgiveness. But forgiveness doesn’t mean I need to live up to anyone’s version of who I need to be,” Lamm says.

Lamm says the headline of his life continues to be defined by something famed author, Alice Walker said to him 13 years ago.

“She told me that ‘the power of you is not your story, but that you’re a ‘bodhisattva.’ I was like, what’s that? She told me to go and look it up. It means, the one who goes into the lake of fire to help another out. That’s the beauty of every person to help another. The very wreckage of my past becomes the crown jewel of my ability to help another,” Lamm says.

BREATHE LIFE HEALING CENTER

8730 Sunset Blvd.
800-929-5904

EDITORS’ CHOICE, BEST LGBT BUSINESSPERSON: OLIVER ALPUCHE, REDLINE

Oliver Alpuche (Photo courtesy of Alpuche)

When asked what inspired the business venture that led to the opening of this premier gay bar in DTLA, Oliver Alpuche said, “I’ve lived downtown for eight years and noticed that the LGBTQ community was growing, but we had nowhere to go and meet each other. Downtown deserves a dedicated queer space 365 days a year.”

That paved the way for the DTLA Proud Festival, which Oliver created. “DLTA Proud is committed to celebrating everyone’s story, to spreading optimism, to growing our community and to expanding our definition of diversity,” he said. “I love Los Angeles because of how diverse it is.”

REDLINE

131 E 6th St.

redlinedtla.com

BEST LAWYER: S. CHRISTOPHER WINTER

S. Christopher ‘Kit’ Winter (Photo courtesy of Winter)

S. Christopher (“Kit”) Winter didn’t always want to be a lawyer.

“I wasn’t one of those kids who had a clear idea of what I wanted to be when I grew up,” he said. “I could envision myself doing a lot of different things. It all seemed interesting.” That curiosity is reflected in his varied career in New York between graduating from Yale in 1987 and starting law school at UCLA in 1994. “I had a little bit of career ADD after college,” Winter said. “I worked in advertising sales, graphic design, desktop publishing – and I always had a side gig.”

Those side gigs included promoting parties at Limelight, Sound Factory and other New York nightclubs featuring DJs such as Frankie Knuckles, Little Louie Vega, and Junior Vasquez; bartending at various restaurants in the West Village and Chelsea; and working catering jobs for clients including Madonna.

“I think people were surprised when I decided to go to law school,” Winter laughs. “It wasn’t something that you would have necessarily thought was in my future.”

Surprising or not, Winter excelled at law school, graduating UCLA law in 1997 in the top 10 percent of his class and winning numerous academic honors. For more than two decades since then, Winter has been practicing law in Los Angeles, in settings ranging from large national law firms to his current solo practice.

“I don’t believe in fighting for the sake of fighting,” Winter says about his philosophy. “My goal as a lawyer is to help my clients navigate their legal challenges as quickly and affordably as possible.”

Winter’s practice is focused on serving as outside general counsel to small-to-medium sized companies, encouraging his clients to take a proactive approach to avoiding legal problems and crafting effective strategies to address problems. His legal background includes experience in litigation, intellectual property and general business law, and he has authored portions of treatises relating to privacy law and technology transactions.

Winter doesn’t specifically target his practice to the LGBT community, although he says he represents a diverse group of clients.

“I’m a ‘gay lawyer’ because I’m gay and I’m a lawyer,” he jokes. “I’ve been out of the closet since I was a teenager.”

Indeed, Winter has a long history of LGBT activism extending back more than 30 years. As an undergraduate at Yale, he was the co-chair of the Gay & Lesbian Co-op (with the late Sarah Pettit, a founding editor of OUT magazine), and part of a group of students who successfully lobbied the Yale Corporation to include “sexual orientation” in the university’s non-discrimination policy in 1986.

“I was sort of a big gay on campus,” Winter recalls, “writing op-eds in the Yale Daily News, arranging protests, that kind of thing.” Asked whether he contributed to the environment that led the Wall Street Journal to label Yale the “Gay Ivy” in 1987, Winter laughs, “I’d like to think so. I definitely left Yale a gayer place than I found it.”

Winter moved to New York City in 1987, in the middle of the AIDS crisis and shortly after the founding of ACT UP.  “It was a terrifying time,” Winter says. “While my straight friends from college were starting their careers or heading to graduate school, gay men were trying to survive an apocalypse.”

Winter became involved in ACT UP and found a home in gay publishing, working first at the New York Native, New York’s gay newspaper, and later serving as the founding advertising director of Outweek magazine.

He later served as the production manager of QW, a gay newsweekly (Troy Masters, Los Angeles Blade publisher was a founder and publisher of QW) for which he also briefly penned the advice column under the moniker “Queer Abby.”  “I don’t think we thought much about trademark law back then,” Winter laughs. After working as a freelance desktop publisher at various Conde Nast titles including Mademoiselle, Allure, and Details, Winter decided to pursue the challenge of a career in law, and hasn’t looked back since.

“I love being a lawyer,” Winter says. “Legal issues can be overwhelming to people, and can be fatal to businesses. Helping my clients get through that successfully is very rewarding.”

Winter is married to Patrick Jensen, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.  They live in Silver Lake and have two dogs and two cats.

This year will mark Winter’s fourth time riding in AIDS/Lifecycle to raise money for the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

EDITORS’ CHOICE, BEST LAWYER: LAURA W. BRILL, KENDALL BRILL & KELLY LLP

Laura W. Brill (Photo courtesy of Brill)

A lifetime focus on cases that promote equal rights, make Laura Brill a force in the fight against discrimination.

“One of my briefs in the early 1990s argued in the case of Lawrence v. Texas (a challenge to a state anti-sodomy statute) that discrimination based on sexual orientation was a type of sex discrimination and that the statute should be ruled unconstitutional on that basis. That same argument has been made many times over the years…this theory is now gaining recognition by courts and administrative agencies, including most prominently, in cases relating to employment discrimination.”

In the case Colin v. Orange Unified School District, Brill helped pave the way for Gay Straight Alliances. Brill discussed this significant moment: “We got the first preliminary injunction requiring the school to allow the club to meet and use school facilities just like any other club. One of my favorite moments since then has been going to gay Pride events more recently and seeing the huge numbers of wonderful high school students marching with their Gay Straight Alliance banners. I’m so happy to have had a part in helping kids have a safe environment at schools.”

“My New Year’s resolution is to do all I can to increase voter registration rates, especially among young people and especially in the LGBTQ community. Many people don’t know that young people can pre-register to vote when they are 16 or 17. Then when they turn 18 they will be automatically registered to vote,” Brill said. “Most people don’t know about pre-registration, but we need everyone registered so we can make sure government policies reflect our priorities, instead of the opposite.”

Kendall Brill & Kelly LLP

10100 Santa Monica Blvd

310-556-2700

Laura W. Brill

BEST ALLY: MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti in his office (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

EDITORS’ CHOICE, BEST ALLY: LISA VANDERPUMP

Lisa Vanderpump (Photo by Toglenn; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

As an entrepreneur, avid activist, author, television personality, and restaurant owner of LA staples such as Pump and SUR, Lisa Vanderpump is an LA icon. She has consistently stood up for the LGBT community, having worked as a spokesperson for GLAAD, led the AIDS Walk Los Angeles, served as grand marshal of 2017 Long Beach Pride, worked with Desert AIDS Project, The Trevor Project, the LA Gay & Lesbian Center and more.

In addition to advocating for the LGBT community, Vanderpump created The Vanderpump Dog Foundation, working to help end animal abuse. She somehow also found time to produce “Vanderpump Rules,” the smash reality TV show. She’s the ultimate philanthropist who really does it all. Vanderpump has a love for all living creatures that shines through in her humanitarian efforts, making her a model ally.

BEST DRAG SHOW: LEGENDARY BINGO AT HAMBURGER MARY’S

Jeffery Bowman and cast members from Legendary Bingo. (Courtesy Legendary Bingo)

Beautiful drag queens, fantastic food, money, charities…Bingo! Legendary Bingo at Hamburger Mary’s is not just a great drag show, it’s a fantastic and sometimes wild night out. Jeffery Bowman is almost as legendary as Hamburger Mary’s.

HAMBURGER MARY’S

8288 Santa Monica Blvd

323-654-3800

EDITORS’ CHOICE, BEST DRAG SHOW: LYRIC HYPERION, GREEN EGGS AND GLAM

Lyric Hyperion Theatre & Café

2106 Hyperion Ave.

323-928 2299

BEST BAR: THE ABBEY

Where else are you going to see Diana Ross or Elon Musk tear up the dance floor? The Abbey is arguably the best-known gay bar in all of the U.S. and always a fun night out with your besties. It’s a treasured LA icon and so is owner David Cooley.

THE ABBEY

692 N. Robertson Blvd.

310-289 8410

EDITORS’ CHOICE, BEST BAR: REVOLVER

WeHo loves the oversized drinks and darts in the back at this famous video bar.

REVOLVER

8851 Santa Monica Blvd.

310-694 0430

BEST RESTAURANT: SUR RESTAURANT AND LOUNGE

“Real Housewives” star Lisa Vanderpump’s SUR is a great place for people watching, and the upscale food is, well, impressive. It’s definitely a see-and-be-seen scene that can’t be missed.

SUR

606 N. Robertson Blvd.

310-289 2824

EDITORS’ CHOICE, BEST RESTAURANT: Cecconi’s West Hollywood

The Northern Italian cuisine is spectacular, the decor a kind of elegant retro Roman-chic with outdoor seating. True luxe.

CECCONI’S

8764 Melrose Ave.

310-432 2000

BEST GROCERY STORE: TRADER JOE’S   

Quite simply, the best place to go shopping for unique, curated food brands.

TRADER JOE’S

7310 Santa Monica Blvd.

323-969-8048

EDITORS’ CHOICE, BEST GROCERY STORE: PAVILIONS

Extensive selections of the highest-quality foods. And, at least in WeHo, it’s where the boys are.

PAVILIONS

8969 Santa Monica Blvd.

310-595-1730

BEST REAL ESTATE AGENCY: THE COLLECTIVE REALTY

Experienced real estate agents who negotiate well for their clients. One reader said, “The Collective is the concierge service of boutique realty. And Andy Vulin is the best real estate investment teacher I ever met.”

EDITORS’ CHOICE, BEST REAL ESTATE AGENCY: BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY

Find the most luxurious West Hollywood or Beverly Hills home of your dreams and call Berkshire Hathaway, because no one can close it faster or more fairly. Readers praised their attentiveness to detail.

BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY

131 S. Rodeo Dr.

310-844-6434

BEST STYLISTS: SHORTY’S BARBER SHOP

Whatever level of service you require for your coif, Shorty’s is the place to go.  It’s the very best place in West Hollywood for a drop in fade. People travel from all over Los Angeles to the unmistakable storefront on Fairfax.

SHORTY’S

755 N. Fairfax Ave.

323-297-0554

EDITORS’ CHOICE, BEST STYLIST: MARCO PELUSI

Celebrity hairstylist Marco Pelusi has the best tips for looking great. “Ask your stylist to do a gloss or a shine treatment when you’re next at the salon,” he recommended. “Your hair can often dry out and look dull, lifeless, and frizzy during winter months; the added shine treatment will boost the condition of your hair and make it look healthy.”
MARCO PELUSI

636 N. Robertson Blvd.

310-967-0999

BEST CAR DEALERSHIP: BEVERLY HILLS BMW

One reader commented, “At Beverly Hills BMW, I walked through and decided what I wanted and with no pressure at all I left with the $90,000 ride of my dreams. No hassles, no pressure. Just great service and a brilliant ride.”

BEVERLY HILLS BMW

5070 Wilshire Blvd.

877-794-4678

EDITORS’ CHOICE, BEST CAR DEALERSHIP: HONDA OF HOLLYWOOD

Honda of Hollywood has one of the best full-service shops of any dealership in Los Angeles. Our favorites are the 2018 CRVs and HRV. Great quality SUVs at a realistic price.

HONDA OF HOLLYWOOD

6511 Santa Monica Blvd.

323-466-3247

BEST MEDICAL PROVIDER: CEDARS SINAI URGENT CARE

World-class urgent care from one of the world’s leading medical institutions.

EDITORS’ CHOICE, BEST MEDICAL PROVIDER: SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA MEN’S MEDICAL GROUP

Doctors you can talk to and advice that’s easy to take because they are just like you. Comprehensive, fully loaded and state of the art.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA MEN’S MEDICAL GROUP

9201 Sunset Blvd.

310-550-1010

BEST FITNESS FACILITY: 24 HOUR FITNESS

One of the busiest places in WeHo, 24 Hour Fitness is as much a family for some as it is a gym.
24 HOUR FITNESS

8612 Santa Monica Blvd.

310-652-7440

EDITORS’ CHOICE, BEST FITNESS: EQUINOX FITNESS

A little bit of luxury goes a long way during a hard workout. Outstanding, modern and clean facilities are what make Equinox worthy of Editors’ Choice.

EQUINOX FITNESS

8590 Sunset Blvd.

310-289-1900

BEST MARIJUANA DISPENSARY: MEDMEN

Since Jan. 1, MedMen has experienced lines down the block and its fans are true believers in the almost Apple Store experience of boutique weed products of every kind. Founder Andrew Modin, almost overnight, has become a business sensation in West Hollywood and is now ramping up to take it national.

MEDMEN

8208 Santa Monica Blvd.

323-848-7981

EDITORS’ CHOICE, BEST DISPENSARY: ZEN HEALING WEST HOLLYWOOD

Some say it has one of the highest-grade selections of any store in Los Angeles.  Its edibles and medicinal choices are outstanding.

ZEN HEALING

8464 Santa Monica Blvd.

323-656-6666

BEST HOTEL: WALDORF-ASTORIA

One of the world’s leading hotel names is now at home along Santa Monica and Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. Unprecedented luxury is just the tip of the iceberg of the Waldorf experience. After watching it soar skyward during construction, you know you want to spend the weekend there. Staycation!

WALDORF-ASTORIA

9850 Wilshire Blvd.

310-860-6666

EDITORS’ CHOICE, BEST HOTEL: JEREMY HOTEL

Soon to experience a name change — think One Hotel — The Jeremy, as everyone now calls it, is an astounding architectural gem and gorgeous hotel overlooking Rainbow City. It’s not only a great place to stay, it’s also a destination. 

JEREMY HOTEL

8490 Sunset Blvd.

310-424-1600

BEST HOUSE OF WORSHIP: FOUNDERS METROPOLITAN COMMUNITY CHURCH

The house that MCC founder Troy Perry built is a rollicking, down home gospel of faith and a beacon in the fight and one of the most consequential  cornerstone establishments of LGBT history in LA.
FOUNDERS

4607 Prospect Ave.

323-669-3434

EDITORS’ CHOICE, BEST HOUSE OF WORSHIP: KOL AMI

One of the most significant Reform synagogues in America is also one of the most innovative. A powerhouse of Jewish tradition and thought, Rabbi Denise Eger is devoted to community and social justice.

KOL AMI

1200 N. La Brea Ave.

323-606-0996

BEST LGBT SOCIAL GROUP: IMPULSE GROUP LA

Impulse Group is an international group that advocates change toward  healthier sexual lifestyles among gay men in 18 cities around the world, based in Los Angeles. Founder Jose Ramos felt stronger community bonds and family building among peers can reduce HIV rates and save lives. Turns out he was right.

IMPULSE GROUP LA

EDITORS’ CHOICE: BEST LGBT SOCIAL GROUP: VARSITY GAY LEAGUE

California’s largest LGBT recreational sports league is celebrating 10 gay years!  A robust and well-organized calendar of Kickball, Dodgeball, Bowling, Tennis, Soccer and Volleyball. Who says gays don’t do sports? Will Hackner and Andrew Miller want to know.

VARSITY GAY LEAGUE

BEST MUSEUM: LOS ANGELES COUNTY MUSEUM OF ART

LACMA is a world-class museum and with its expansion, including an incorporation of Hollywood movie and Oscar history, it’s unrivaled. Many outstanding collections and community events, like outdoor films, make it a treasured institution.

LACMA

5905 Wilshire Blvd.

323-857-6000

EDITORS’ CHOICE, BEST MUSEUM: THE BROAD

One of the most important modern museums in the western United States is also one of the most iconic landmarks in DTLA. Eli Broad’s massively important contemporary art collection almost wound up in a building that would have been where the new Waldorf is today.

THE BROAD

221 S. Grand Ave.

213-232-6200

BEST NON-PROFIT: AIDS HEALTHCARE FOUNDATION

AHF provides services to more than 600,000 HIV+ individuals in 15 U.S. states and 36 countries worldwide and is the largest AIDS service organization in the world. Michael Weinstein founded the agency as a hospice when no hospital would care for AIDS patients and since then has grown it into a billion-dollar non-profit.

AIDS HEALTHCARE FOUNDATION

6255 W. Sunset Blvd.

323-860-5200

EDITORS’ CHOICE, BEST NON-PROFIT: LOS ANGELES LESBIAN & GAY CENTER

Founded by Morris Kight in 1969, LA’s LGBT Center is now the world’s largest LGBT social service agency and community center and is in the middle of an expansion that will revolutionize its reach. Lori Jean, its CEO, has become one of the most important LGBT non-profit leaders in the U.S.

LGBT CENTER

1625 N. Schrader Blvd.

323-993-7400

BEST VET: LAUREL PET HOSPITAL

A truly empathic provider of outstanding medical services for generations of LGBT community members in West Hollywood.

LAUREL PET HOSPITAL

7970 Santa Monica Blvd.

323-654-7060

Dr. Mark Nunez

EDITORS’ CHOICE, BEST VET: Dr. MARK NUNEZ, formerly of VETERINARY CARE CENTER, now Medical Director of VCA Miller-Robertson Animal Hospital.

Dr. Mark Nunez was previously Veterinary Care Center’s go-to doctor, known for going the extra mile to save your pet.  Dr. Nunez recently accepted a new position as Medical Director of VCA Miller-Robertson Animal Hospital

VCA Miller-Robertson Animal Hospital
8807 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90069
310-657-7050.

BEST LA ATTRACTION: GRIFFITH OBSERVATORY

The go-to place for all family visits and the south-facing slope of Mount Hollywood offers views that just can’t be beat.

GRIFFITH OBSERVATORY

2800 E. Observatory Rd.

213-473-0800

EDITORS’ CHOICE, BEST LA ATTRACTION: HOLLYWOOD BOWL

The iconic outdoor theater celebrates everything about Los Angeles and features some of the greatest names in music, under the stars.

HOLLYWOOD BOWL

2301 N. Highland Ave.

323-850-2000

BEST RED CARPET EVENT: HRC LA DINNER

The Human Rights Campaign brings out the star power each year in Los Angeles and is famous for an exuberant red carpet experience. On March 10, 2018 you have your next chance to take a walk.

EDITORS’ CHOICE, BEST RED CARPET: OUTFEST

The world’s most important LGBT film festival is also becoming one of LA’s most anticipated events.

(Mary Jo De Silva contributed to this article)

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Michael Kearns, the Godfather of LGBTQ+ authenticity

Michael’s work has been described as “collisions of sex and death, of eroticism and grief,” but he has truly dug to an even deeper level

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Michael Kearns by Keida Mascaro

HOLLYWOOD – The arc of LGBTQ+ history over the past 50 years has been one of constant upheaval and evolvement. From a period when it was both illegal and insane to be gay, through the achievement of being able to serve openly in the military, to marriage equality and the ability to create families to today’s fight against the tyranny against Trans people, the movement has not stopped to take a breath.

Michael Kearns, the first recognized “out” actor on the Hollywood landscape, has been a visible presence through it all. More importantly, he has always” been visible on the gay scene. In the seventies he epitomized the free love and erotic freedom that many gay men lived. He was featured in classic gay porn movies and did a PR stint as the face of the “happy hustler.”  

“That was my introduction to a lot of people,” Michael told me when we sat down for a chat on Rated LGBT Radio. “I kind of captured the zeitgeist of the times, the freewheeling seventies. We forget that there was that period of time when sexuality was joyful and exciting and thrilling.”

In the eighties he was visible in mainstream media as a gay man playing gay men characters. In 1983, Michael was cast in a minor role on the Cheers Emmy winning episode “the Boys in the Bar.”  He was instantly recognized for his gay sexual iconic status by LGBTQ audiences, even though the population at large did not know who he was. The casting director who fought for his casting was Stephen Kolzak, who would himself become a prominent AIDS activist before he died at 37 in 1990. Stephen casted Michael to make a statement. He wanted to signal to the LGBTQ community that Cheers had our backs. “He was one of the only ones that had the guts,” Michael remembers.

“There were a lot of stereotypes in television regarding gay portrayals. I was pegged and cast in some of those roles. I did play the stereotype, but rather than a straight guy playing those roles, I brought authenticity. I was real. Straight guys playing gay would always spoof the role. They were always ‘winking’ and signaling to the camera ‘I am not really that way.’  So, the performances are by in large horrible, even with some academy award winners. The actors were constantly saying that it was not who they were—if they weren’t making that clear on the talk shows, they were doing it in the performance itself.’ Michael says.

Michael soon morphed into an HIV positive man playing HIV positive characters, while off camera becoming a visible and vocal AIDS activist. “It was a new kind of cliché. They had to always make me look horrible. The ghastlier the better. They could not have an HIV character who looked normal—as I did when I arrived at the set. Finally, I had enough and refused to do that anymore.” Michael then immersed himself in theater where he found greater character honesty and truth.

 As gay men captured their identities in the 90s as husbands and fathers, Michael was there too—becoming one of the first gay men to adopt a child.  It is that role, as a father, that Michael has said is his greatest.

Today, Michael has been a driving force behind QueerWise, a multigenerational writing collective and performance group. Through QueerWise, Michael gives poetic voice to talent that would otherwise be voiceless. Its members include published poets, writers of fiction and non-fiction, playwrights, singers, musicians, social activists, dancers, actors artists and teachers. 

This weekend, on Sunday October 17th, QueerWise launches its latest work, The Ache for Home. 

“The Ache for Home is a video presentation of heartfelt stories from formerly homeless/unhoused individuals in and around West Hollywood. It was developed through a mentorship program facilitated by QueerWise members. The production represents citizens-turned-writers who share their inspirational stories from those glamorous streets and sidewalks, ranging from soaring self-acceptance to narratives of truth-telling defeats,” states Michael. The production can be seen on QueerWise’s YouTube Channel starting 5pm October 17.

The Ache for Home features a young cis male with a passion for music and art, who finds joy “when I can put a smile on someone’s face and give back”, a retired mixed race bisexual government worker who is a voracious reader and literacy advocate, two trans males share their experiences of living on the street, and a former resident playwright who was homeless for 44 days and nights in the city. “I am thrilled at our inclusion of transmen in this work,” Michael says. “It is a poorly represented community within a poorly represented community.”

On current controversies with media and transgender targeting, particularly the Dave Chappelle issue, Michael remarks, “I am glad it is generating passion. It is bringing up conversation on the plights of black trans women who are victimized at an alarming rate, we should not say victimized… we should say murdered. I am glad we are shedding light on that.”

Michael’s work has been described as “collisions of sex and death, of eroticism and grief,” but he has truly dug to an even deeper level. The Ache for Home takes its inspiration from the Maya Angelou quote, “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” Michael Kearns work has always encouraged us to go, and live, “as we are.” He is the amalgamation of eroticism, grief, healing, and appreciating the richness of life itself.

He is the godfather of LGBT+ authenticity. In earlier days, he may have represented sex, he may have walked us through a period of darkness and death into the arms of the creation of the new family. He has now brought us home, and when we look at him, we see a new quality.

Wisdom.

********************

Rob Watson is the host of RATED LGBT RADIO, a national podcast and he’s one of the founders of the evolequals.com.

A gay dad, business man, community activist and a blogger/writer, Watson is a contributor to the Los Angeles Blade covering entertainment, film, television, and culture with occasional politics tossed in.

********************

Listen to the show here:

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Schock treatment: an interview with Gina Schock of the Go-Go’s

Drummer on her new book and upcoming Hall of Fame induction

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Too much of the Go-Go’s is never enough. In the 40 years since the all-female punk band burst on the scene with its unforgettable debut album “Beauty and the Beat” to some of the band members’ solo careers that followed its break-up to its ongoing reunion and the eye-opening 2020 documentary about the band, we just can’t get our fill. 

But wait, there’s more! Gina Schock, the Go-Go’s legendary drummer (she’s got the beat!), has just published a sensational coffee-table book, “Made In Hollywood: All Access with the Go-Go’s” (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 2021) that features photos from Schock’s own stock, as well as her own personal recollections of her life in music. She made time for an interview before the publication of the book as well as the Go-Go’s long-awaited induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame later this month.

GREGG SHAPIRO/WASHINGTON BLADE: I’d like to begin by congratulating you, as well as the rest of the Go-Go’s, on your upcoming induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. How do you feel about it?

GINA SCHOCK: It took so long for this to happen, and at first we were sort of like, “Hell’s bells! We don’t even care anymore.” Every year, we’d think “Maybe it’s gonna happen next year,” and it just wasn’t happening. Then it happens! We were all dumbfounded. We couldn’t really believe that we were nominated and then we got inducted! Everybody was pleasantly surprised. This is kind of great, kind of neat. I’m really happy about this now [laugh].

BLADE: At the same time, your memoir “Made in Hollywood: All Access with the Go-Go’s,” is being released. What did the experience of writing such a book mean to you?

SCHOCK: Actually, Gregg, it’s not a memoir. Kathy (Valentine) wrote a memoir. Mine is actually a book of photography.

BLADE: Right, but you also tell your story in the book.

SCHOCK: There’s a lot of writing in it, too. But I basically put this together because I had tons and tons of photographs. I’ve been moving them all over. Putting them in the closet here, under the bed there. I was like, “I have to do something with this. All these years of taking photos of the band.” Of course, everybody in the band was like. “Gina, you really need to put a photo book together!” I finally found the right guy to do it with and he helped me get it together, organize it, and help me work on the book. I couldn’t believe that along with the list of my credits will be photographer and author. It’s kind of mind-blowing. Things that you don’t think you’re capable of, and then when you have an opportunity to do something and maybe make a difference…certainly for The Go-Go’s. This needed to be out there. This is way long overdue; a book of photos with all of us. Photos that I’ve had that people have never seen. Also, you’re getting these photos from a band member’s perspective. With writing from one of the band members about what was going on during that period of time.

BLADE: I’m sure that looking at the pictures brought back lots of memories, but were you also a journal or diary keeper?

SCHOCK: Check this out! I don’t have a journal, but since 1978, Gregg, I have been keeping daily planners every single year. I’ve written down things that were going on during that time period. Not big, long stories, but this happened today, that happened yesterday, next week we’re going to be doing this. I used that as my reference. It was invaluable in the process. I now need to make room for them in the closet. I’ve got them all in drawers in cabinets in my office. It’s like, “OK, there’s no more room here [laughs]!” They were invaluable, like I said, in putting this together. What exact date did this happen? What was going on in November of ’83? It was important to have.

BLADE: Do you see the book as an extension of Alison Ellwood’s 2020 Go-Go’s documentary?

SCHOCK: No, but I’ll tell you that 99% of the photos in Alison’s documentary are mine.

It’s not an extension of that. This book has been in the works for decades. I just needed to find the right person to help me get it together. But when Alison was interviewing, I’d show her a photo and she would say, “Gina, can we come back and get some of these photos for the documentary?” I was like, “Of course, you can!” The majority of what you saw are my photos.

BLADE: The book is full of marvelous personal history details, such as performing with the late Edith Massey, known to many from her performances in some of John Waters’ movies. What do you think Edie would think of the book?

SCHOCK: She would be, [imitating Massey] “Oh, Gina, I’m so happy about your book! Finally, it’s about time!” Bless her heart and soul. I was doing an interview yesterday and I said, “If it wasn’t for Edie, I don’t know if The Go-Go’s would exist. Certainly not in the way that they have for the last more than 40 years. Things happen in a magical way, how it all comes together. No one really knows why somebody meets someone on that particular day at that particular time, and then something comes out of that that you can’t believe. Edie gave me the opportunity to come out to LA and San Francisco and New York and actually play in clubs. We got to play at Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s; what a thrill that was. Then to come to LA and do three nights of the Nuart Theater and then play The Warfield up in San Francisco. That was the first time I’d ever been on a plane! After doing that with Edie, the minute I got back to Baltimore I realized it was time to make a move. It gave me the courage to believe that I could go back to any one of these places and I’m going to do something! By the way, Edie was such a lovely person. A sweetheart.

BLADE: Another scoop for the readers that I loved was the part about the Go-Go’s performing with ska in the early 1980s, leading to the collaboration with Terry Hall on the song “Our Lips are Sealed,” which was a much bigger hit for the Go-Go’s than for Terry’s band Fun Boy Three. Do you know how he felt about that?

SCHOCK: I have no idea how he felt, but I’m sure he was happy because all Terry Hall  was hearing was “ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching [laughs].” I think Terry was quite happy about that. I would be. When Jane brought in the song, she was scared to death to play it for us because it was basically like a love letter that she readjusted a little bit lyrically and put some chords and a melody to. She played it for us, and we were like, “Jane, this song’s great!”

BLADE: We are all saddened by the recent passing of Charlie Watts, drummer for the Rolling Stones. In your book, you wrote about the Go-Go’s opening for The Rolling Stones. Can you please say a few words about what Charlie meant to you as a fellow drummer?

SCHOCK: There were two drummers that were my heroes growing up. That was Charlie Watts and John Bonham (of Led Zeppelin). Those two guys are part of the reason I started and kept playing drums. To think that many years later I actually got to meet my hero and talk to him. I got to sit on his drum kit! I talked to his drum tech!

That was one of the biggest thrills of my life. Then to be able to just open for the Stones, I mean, God! Wow, what a thrill! He was, of course, a gentleman. Very quiet kind of guy; soft-spoken. A lovely guy; very personable, very sweet. I didn’t have a lot of time to talk to him, but when I did my heart was pounding. I couldn’t believe it. Meeting David Bowie was the same sort of thing. You have such adoration for these people. The impact they have on your life in many ways, not just musically.

BLADE: You put some personal thoughts and experiences in the book, including your open-heart surgery to correct an atrial septal defect, yours and the band’s encounters with drugs and recovery, the break-up of the band and issues with songwriting revenue. Was it painful or freeing to revisit these subjects?

SCHOCK: It was a little bit of both. It brought up some really heavy things that went down. But all those things have been ironed out and taken care of. Everything is good now and it has been for many years. The songwriting splits were a big part of why the band broke up. It seemed very unfair to me. I have to tell the truth [laughs]. I have to be honest with the people that I’m working with. They are my family, and nobody can hurt you worse than somebody in your family. I think I explained it all in the book the best that I can.

BLADE: Following the original break-up of the Go-Go’s, you formed the band House of Schock with Vance DeGeneres, brother of Ellen DeGeneres. What are the chances that, aside from the Smothers Brothers, two funny people would come from the same womb?

SCHOCK: Yeah, right [laughs]? It’s crazy, right? Vance was fresh out of New Orleans and I don’t know how I met him; (through) a friend of a friend or something. We hit it off right away. I don’t like to do anything by myself, Gregg. I always want a partner in crime. I like a team! That’s why I always want to be in a band. I never want to be a solo anything. I like being in a band. I like having other people to bounce ideas off of. I’m not the greatest at anything, but I’m pretty good when you put me with somebody else who’s talented as well. Vance and I worked great together. Ellen had just come to town and she was just starting out in the comedy clubs. We’d meet and have dinner. She’d ask me lots of questions about who I thought was a good agent to see. It was very sweet to watch everything happen for her. One of the funniest things, I told this to somebody the other day, I’ll never forget this. Ellen said to me, “Gina, do you think if I make a lot of money one day, would you sell me your house [laughs]?” I don’t remember what I said, but I’ll never forget her asking me that. Because Ellen could buy a city block!

BLADE: In 2018, the Go-Go’s went to Broadway with the musical Head Over Heels, featuring the band’s music. What was that experience like for you?

SCHOCK: That was another unbelievable moment being in the Go-Go’s. To think that this punk band, so many years later, has a musical on Broadway is absurd. But it happened! It’s another crazy thing that just happened! There’s a lot of work involved, don’t get me wrong, and years and years of being in this band and working our butts off to achieve the status that we have in the industry. But it was still an incredible thrill. To meet all the Broadway actors and all, my God, those people can really sing and act! I was never a big fan of Broadway, but I am now. I was knocked out! They’re so fucking talented. It’s such a thrill to watch them interpreting our songs woven into this 17th-century short story.

BLADE: Recently, Belinda’s son (James) Duke (Mason), posted a happy birthday message to you on social media in which he referred to you as his “Auntie.”

SCHOCK: Yes! I love Dukie! I watched that little boy grow up. I just adore him. I will always be in his life. He’s very precious to me.

BLADE: When Duke came out, Belinda became a very outspoken advocate for the community. Would you mind saying a few words about your connection to the LGBTQ+ community?

SCHOCK: I don’t know what my relationship really is. All I know is that I’m who I am. I’m a musician and I will fight for anything or anybody that has had a difficult time in society. Just live your life. Society creates its own do’s and don’ts and rights and wrongs for people, which is just a load of crap to me. Everyone should be allowed to be who they are, and love who they want to love, and marry who they want to marry. Love is love; it has no gender. It’s the most important thing we can give to one another. It’s what this world needs now more than ever. Never think for a second you haven’t got the right to love whomever you fall for because love is always right. It is a human right! 

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Everything you need to know about WorldPride 2021

Party in Scandinavia with the happiest people on Earth

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Confetti rained down in New York’s Times Square at Stonewall 50 WorldPride New York’s closing ceremony two years ago. (Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

By Mikey Rox| NEW YORK – It’s been two years since Stonewall 50 – WorldPride NYC 2019 became the largest international Pride celebration in history, but the “bye” year of 2020 wasn’t due to the pandemic. 

The global celebration has been held every odd-numbered year since 2017 given its massive logistical undertaking (with sporadic celebrations in 2006, 2012 and 2014 before then), and WorldPride Copenhagen – Malmö 2021 couldn’t have come at a better time. 

Hundreds of thousands of cooped-up queer revelers and allies will flock to the twin host cities in Denmark and Sweden, respectively, from Aug. 12-22, to party with the happiest people on the planet, a delightful distinction provided to the Scandinavian countries by the United Nations’ famous World Happiness Report. (The United States ranked No. 19 in the most recent report, FYI.) 

So what’s in store for this year’s all-out progressive-flag-flying festival? Read on for more.

Two LGBTQ anniversaries in Denmark

If you can believe it, it’s been 70 years since Danish doctors in 1951 performed the world’s first successful genital reconstruction surgery, a medical marvel that provided hope to transgender people the world over. This year is also the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Gay Liberation Front’s Danish chapter, which has been instrumental in blazing trails toward equality for the country. Look how far it’s come.

Opening ceremonies kick off in Copenhagen

In conjunction with Copenhagen Pride, WorldPride will officially start late afternoon on Aug. 13, but in adherence with COVID-19 protocols the opening ceremony won’t be held in WorldPride Square (at least not as of press time; things could – and probably will – change). That potential snafu notwithstanding, Denmark welcomes vaccinated U.S. travelers, and if any testing is needed, both PCR and antigen tests will be available free to everyone, including tourists, 24/7. Copenhagen is OPENhagen again.

WorldPride Square will be open for the rest of the fest

WorldPride Square, a makeshift village of sorts (similar to the Olympics) located within Copenhagen’s main square, will provide a gathering place for all attendees that have traveled far and wide. LGBTQ+ and non-governmental organizations spanning the globe will set up shop in the square to greet pedestrians, provide information, and invite folks to get involved. Art exhibits also will be a centerpiece of the village, alongside a street-food market and bars with plenty of space to relax. 

EuroGames will be held simultaneously

If you enjoy watching athletes compete in variety of sports that range from boxing and badminton to dancing and dodgeball, add the spectator-friendly EuroGames to your list of to-dos while you’re in Copenhagen. If you want to get hands-on, consider signing up to become a volunteer at the games, to be held Aug. 18-20; EuroGames’ website is currently accepting those applications. 

Spread out and explore other WorldPride villages

While WorldPride Square will serve as the jump-off for the 10 days of festivities, other available villages will allow crowds to spread out and explore their individual interests. In addition to Sports Village for EuroGames athletes and fans, other villages will focus on kids and families, youth, women, and the queer community, among others. Programs and content of these villages will be target-audience specific but open to everyone.

You might have a brush with royalty

Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark, Countess of Monpezat, is patron of Copenhagen 2021, making her the first-ever royal to serve in the role for a major LGBTQ+ event. Say hi if you spot her; she knows a queen when she sees one.

Despite pandemic protocol, the show will go on

Organizers have said in an official statement that despite some COVID-19 restrictions, they’re “continuing to plan for full delivery of all Copenhagen 2021 events taking into account the guidance and recommendations” of government agencies. Doubling down, organizers have promised they will not cancel or postpone events. 

Now there’s only one thing left to do: Let’s go!

Mikey Rox is an award-winning journalist and LGBT lifestyle expert whose work has been published in more than 100 outlets across the world. Connect with Mikey on Instagram @mikeyroxtravels)

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