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With Absolut Elyx, a groundbreaking LGBT marketer toasts inclusivity

Absolut, Altos tequila, Jameson, Malibu and Absolut Elyx introduce “Not Your Average Family.”



Absolut Elyx CEO, Jonas Tahlin introduces a new LGBT campaign featuring Pernaud-Rcard brands. Rick Zbur, Executive Director of Equality California stands by. (l). (Photo by Troy Masters)

Monday night, under an amber Los Angeles sunset sky, Absolut Elyx CEO Jonas Tahlin toasted Equality California with a salute to International Transgender Day of Visibility. The spirited reception featured the iconic spirits brands of Pernod Ricard and about 100 guests.

The event brought together tastemakers and bar industry folks to sample signature Pernod Ricard family brand cocktails and help raise money for Equality California.

Equality California is the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization with more than 800,000 members. The organization recently expanded its mission to become more national in scope, representing LGBTQ people and allied communities to institutions of power, not only in California but across the U.S. It has even opened offices in Washington, DC to that end.

Rick Zbur, Executive Director, speaking about the work of Equality California, gave an example of the agency’s national impact: “Our work is hardly done. We’ve spent a lot of time responding to the threats of the Trump administration, including rollbacks on LGBTQ students in our schools and of course his doubling down on efforts to ban transgender people serving in the military. We were one of four organizations to sue the Trump administration and we were successful in getting a nationwide injunction (in California)…and we know that it’s going to stand,” Zbur said.

Rick Zbur address the crowd at Elyx House. Daniel Clarke, Brand Director and Leader of the company’s LGBTQ Employee Resource Group stands by (l). (Photo by Troy Masters)

This year, Pernod Ricard will launch what they’re calling an on-premise program, partnering with Equality California, its first ever multi-brand campaign targeting the LGBTQ market, featuring, Absolut, Altos tequila, Jameson, Malibu and Absolut Elyx. Called, “We’re Not Your Average Family.”

Claudia Charriez (R) Miss Shalae (L) strike a pose for Absolut. (Photo by Rebekah Sager)

The campaign will showcase the spirit of togetherness, and equality, because, “just like you, we believe all of our brands are equally tasty,” Daniel Clarke, Brand Director and Leader of the company’s LGBTQ Employee Resource Group, said at the event. For every drink bought under the program, Pernod Ricard will donate a portion to Equality California.

Absolut’s history in the LGBTQ community is a long one.

When the company initially attempted to import the product to the U.S. 1979, the LGBTQ community was an early adopter. The brand met a lot of resistance from trade. Vodka, at the time, was sold in a discrete, simple bottle without any design sense, so it was unexpected that an unknown Swedish brand, selling vodka in what looked like a design-savvy apothecary bottle could revolutionize a genre.

“We were on the outside looking in. Exactly the same thing happening with the LGBTQ community at the time,” Jeffrey Moran, Vice President of Influencer Engagement and Marketing Activation Services Pernod Ricard told the Los Angeles Blade.

“We also had a pretty intrepid distributor who happens to lean into the gay community. He was a frequent patron of clubs such as Studio 54 in New York City, as well as others. And he started to look around and no brands are talking to the gay market. So, through relationships, he started to get the bars to stock the product, and get people to taste it and slowly he began to build up a consumer pull,” Moran said.

The company placed its first ad “Absolut Perfection,” in a gay publication like After Dark and the New York Native, at a pivotal time when brands weren’t talking to the gay community, as it was the 1980s and the perception was that the community was too risky for marketers.

This campaign appeared in cutting edge and alternative publications, including LGBT newspapers and magazines, nationwide.

“It (the marketing) was the first time a brand said openly and unabashedly, ‘we’re going after this consumer’ and slowly but surely we put money behind,” Moran said. In time, Absolut became the LGBT media’s largest advertiser.

Since then, the company has had a 25-year plus relationship with GLADD, a multi-year relationship with HRC, the Trevor campaign, and now Equality California.

“Today’s our first formal LGBTQ event in Pernod Ricard USA history. It’s not the last though. Sometimes I feel brands opportunistically jump on the bandwagon. But the owners of Absolute are incredibly committed to the cause. And to celebrate that we have achieved a perfect score with the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index two years in a row. So it’s coming from a place that’s not opportunistic, but something we deeply care about,” Absolut Elyx CEO Jonas Tahlin said last night.

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Bars & Parties

Mama G plans wild Halloween celebration

Join Ariana Grande’s mom for music, costume contests, and more



By Susan Hornik | HOLLYWOOD – Want to attend an exciting, unique party for Halloween hosted by Ariana and Frankie Grande’s mom? Check out Diamond Dog Entertainment’s inaugural “Mama G’S Halloween Happenings 2021,” which takes over The Bourbon Room Oct. 28-31. 

“I adore Halloween and have been known on the East Coast for hosting grand and wild Halloween parties,” enthused Joan Grande in an exclusive interview with the Los Angeles Blade. “After last year’s pandemic and cancellation of almost every holiday, we were all in desperate need for a Mama G Halloween event!”

The soiree is jam packed with intrigue, and will feature the world premiere of “Horror Camp: A Musical Massacre,” an abundance of live music and costume contests. Halloween-themed food and drinks will also be available for purchase.

“‘Horror Camp,’ is a 80’s and 90’s jukebox musical that spoofs the horror movies of the past,” she noted. “This year we are joined by the greatest cast of people known from Broadway and television: Marissa Jaret Winokur, Frankie Grande, Constantine Maroulis, Emma Hunton, YouTube’s Queen of Reactions, Maya Tomlin, and many other surprise veterans of song, stage, and TV.”

Mama G Grande thinks of Halloween as an “incredibly special” holiday.

“I love the rush and thrill of the unexpected scare, the music associated with Halloween, the strong tones, chords and orchestrations used to create that underlying feeling of fear and fright … sometimes you hear a melody and your hair stands on end, that is wonderfully fun for me,” she explained. I also love the feeling of being free to dress up in a way that perhaps you wouldn’t normally, whether it’s using a lot of makeup, putting on wigs and being in different characters.”

“Following the Musical, the party, which is hosted by Drag Queens greats Shangela and Eureka, continues, with performances as well as their judging our costume parties, with prizes totaling $1,500 each night,” she added.

“I am thrilled to work with Mama G and bring some HalleBOO to Hollywood!” Shangela told the Blade. “Anytime a Grande is involved, whether it’s a family party or a full-out function, I know it’s sure to be a good time!” 

To win the cash prizes, plan on wearing a costume that will stand out.

“Each night is themed — with every costume contest, the main contributing factor for me is EFFORT…and SMART!  I love a well thought out, complete costume…you know, no (grave) stone unturned!” she quipped.

Mama G’s son, Frankie Grande, a fan favorite during his time on CBS’ “Big Brother,” is thrilled that his mom has been working so hard on this event.

“I am so proud of my mom for all that she has achieved in her life as a mother and businesswoman and now she has this overwhelming desire to give back through the arts. I’m so honored to be her partner in Diamond Dog Entertainment. So come party with us this Halloween — we’ll have a gay old time!”

Another highlight of the event: a special midnight screening of the cult classic “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” 

“I loved Rocky Horror from a very early age, because of my mother playing it for me as a child and seeing the Broadway show,” said Frankie. “The first time I dressed up as a character from the show was when I was cast as Frank N Furter in the LA production of ‘Rocky Horror.’  And of course ever since then, he is one of my favorite characters to dress up as.”

Even though they have been busy planning the event, Frankie and Mama G have found time to watch television, seeing Ariana make her debut as a judge on NBC’s The Voice.”

“I love everything about Ariana being on ‘The Voice!’ She is a brilliant musician, both technically and naturally gifted, with a heart bigger than the universe, which she doesn’t hesitate to share. I think that is why she is such a gift to the show.”

If you are headed to New York for Halloween, Mama G has activities for you there as well.

“We are producers for a pair of plays on Broadway. ‘Is This A Room,’ which just opened last week to rave reviews including The New York Times’ Critics Pick, and ‘Dana H,’ which opens this weekend. These two plays are about two extraordinary women and their harrowing experiences told in their very own words. I highly recommend that you see these shows when you are in New York City, they are glorious.” Tickets, which start at $39, and VIP packages are now available for purchase online here.

All guests must show proof of vaccination or proof of a negative PCR COVID test within 48 hours. Masks will also be required when guests are not eating or drinking.

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Bars & Parties

Lesbian Bar Project to the rescue

Founders complete second year fundraising campaign to save businesses



Directors Erica Rose and Elina Street created a documentary about the history and significance of lesbian bars. (Photos courtesy Lesbian Bar Project)

NEW YORK – The Lesbian Bar Project, a New York-based group founded by lesbian filmmakers Erica Rose and Elina Street, raised $117,000 last year to help the nation’s lesbian bars stay in business during the height of the COVID pandemic.

Among the bars receiving financial assistance from the project was San Diego’s Gossip Grill and D.C.’s A League of Her Own. Owner Dave Perruzza said he and his staff were grateful to receive a $7,000 check from the Lesbian Bar Project early this year when the bar was closed under the city’s COVID shutdown order. There are no identified lesbian bars in Los Angeles that are part of the project.

The two women say their 2021 fundraising campaign for the project will raise well over $100,000 as part of their continuing effort to support the nation’s remaining 21 lesbian bars.

“Like a lot of things during COVID, we took a lot for granted,” Street told the Blade in describing how she and Rose reacted when their city’s three remaining lesbian bars – two in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn – shut down like most other bars and restaurants during the peak of the COVID public health restrictions in 2020.

“Erica and I felt very connected to the bars there,” Street said. “And we started these discussions of, we miss our cherished spaces. And now they’re closed. Where do we go?”

With their filmmaking skills as a backdrop, and with the knowledge that the already diminishing number of lesbian bars across the country were struggling to survive under COVID, the two started a fundraising campaign for those bars called the Lesbian Bar Project. Among other things, they produced a video Public Service Announcement with archival scenes of lesbian bars and the women who patronized them.

With financial support from the Jagermeister liquor company’s Save the Night campaign, which was launched to provide financial support for nightlife businesses such as bars and restaurants, Rose and Street arranged for the production of a separate 20-minute documentary film about the role lesbian bars play in the lives of those who patronize them. Rose and Street are listed as the film’s directors.

Among those serving as executive producer and appearing in the documentary is Lea DeLaria, the lesbian comedian, actress and internationally acclaimed star of the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black.”

 Also appearing in the documentary is Jo McDaniel, longtime D.C. lesbian activist and bartender and manager at several D.C. gay bars who helped Perruzza open that bar as the city’s first full-time lesbian bar since the closing of the famed D.C. lesbian bar Phase One nearly a decade ago.

McDaniel says she left her job as A League of Her Own’s manager last year to undertake, along with her life partner Rachel Pike, the start of a new D.C. LGBTQ welcoming bar called As You Are, which began operating online. McDaniel says she and Pike are actively looking for a storefront building in which to open As You Are as an in-person café and bar with a dance floor that will be welcoming to lesbians and the LGBTQ community in general.

The documentary, which helped generate support for the project’s fundraising efforts, can be viewed on the group’s website free of charge at

Earlier this month, the national dating app called Hinge announced it was entering into a partnership with the Lesbian Bar Project and would make an initial donation in August of $50,000 to help the project support lesbian bars in need of financial aid.

The announcement said Hinge would educate all its U.S. users about the “importance of LGBTQIA+ establishments” and encourage its LGBTQ members to visit one of the bars for a date.

“The bars that comprise the Lesbian Bar Project are not only a safe space but an essential part of LGBTQIA+ culture,” said Justin McLeod, founder and CEO of Hinge. “Our hope is that this support will help these sacred spaces to stay open through this summer and beyond,” he said in the company’s statement.

The Lesbian Bar Project website provides a list of the 21 lesbian bars that the project has supported. In a notice on the website, Rose and Street note that their initial fundraising campaign for 2021 has been completed, and a financial statement with information on how much has been raised will be released around the time of Labor Day weekend.

Rose told the Blade that until she and Street decide the project’s next plan of action, they are calling on people to donate directly to one or more of the 21 lesbian bars listed on the website.

However, a notice on the website says three of the bars – Cubbyhole of New York City; Sue Ellen’s of Dallas; and Wildside West of San Francisco, “have graciously decided to opt out” of the 2021 pool of funds raised to allow for more contributions to the other bars in greater need.

“In the late 1980s, there were an estimated 200 Lesbian Bars across the country,” a statement posted on the Lesbian Bar Project website says. “These bars are disappearing at a staggering rate, and we cannot afford to lose more of these vital establishments to the fallout of COVID-19,” the statement says.

Rose and Street said the decline in the number of lesbian bars, which began long before the onset of the COVID pandemic, is due to a number of factors, including the overall success of the LGBTQ rights movement. The two said nondiscrimination protections in state and local laws and the landmark 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, opened the way for lesbians and LGBTQ people in general to feel comfortable patronizing bars that were not specifically catering to lesbians.

They said that like its impact on gay bars in general, the rise of the Internet and online meet-up sites has also had the effect of enabling lesbians to meet each other outside of bars and other “brick and mortar” establishments. 

“So, it’s like all of these factors combined with the pandemic are why many of these places are disappearing,” Rose said. “And that’s why Elina and I jumped into action. Our goal is always to raise awareness. The money raised is definitely a bonus,” she said. “We wanted to raise awareness and tell the stories of these bars. That’s going to make sure we remain indelible in our culture and ensuring our survival.”

Rose was referring to one of the themes of her and Street’s 20-minute documentary – that the in-person interaction offered by lesbian bars and LGBTQ bars in general provides, among other things, an important part of LGBTQ culture and the diversity of LGBTQ people that online and virtual venues cannot provide.

“We believe what makes a bar uniquely Lesbian is its prioritization of creating space for people of marginalized genders; including women, non-binary folks, and trans men,” according to the statement posted on the Lesbian Bar Project website. “As these spaces aim to be inclusive of all individuals across the diverse LGBTQIA+ community, the label Lesbian belongs to all people who feel that it empowers them,” the statement says.

“Without space, we lose power, validity, communal safety and access to intergenerational dialogue,” the statement adds. “With the support of our community, we can make sure these bars receive not only the financial assistance they need but the reference they deserve. When our history isn’t protected, we must protect it ourselves.”

Following is a list of the 21 remaining lesbian bars in the United States released by the Lesbian Bar Project: 

A League of Her Own — Washington, D.C.

Alibi’s — Oklahoma City, Okla.

Babes of Carytown — Richmond, Va.

Blush & Blu — Denver

Boycott Bar — Phoenix

Cubbyhole — New York City 

Frankie’s — Oklahoma City, Okla.

Ginger’s — Brooklyn, N.Y.

Gossip Grill — San Diego, Calif.

Henrietta Hudson — New York City

Herz — Mobile, Ala.

My Sister’s Room MSR — Atlanta

Pearl Bar — Houston

Slammers — Columbus, Ohio

Sue Ellen’s — Dallas

The Backdoor — Bloomington, Ind.

The Lipstick Lounge — Nashville, Tenn.

Walker’s Pint — Milwaukee, Wisc.

Wildrose — Seattle

Wildside West — San Francisco

Yellow Brick Road Pub — Tulsa, Okla.

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Arts & Entertainment

West Hollywood’s ‘Out On Robertson’ official launch

The Robertson program is having its official ribbon-cutting ceremony, Saturday, May 1, 2020, at 7 p.m.



Soft launch of OUT on Robertson, April 17, 2021 (Screenshot via KCBS LA)

WEST HOLLYWOOD – Mayor Lindsey P. Horvath, Mayor Pro Tempore Lauren Meister, and city council members John D’Amico, John M. Erickson, and Sepi Shyne are set to celebrate the official launch and ribbon cutting of WeHo’s OUT on Robertson program May 1.

Because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on local businesses, especially restaurants, in August 2020, the City began its Temporary Outdoor Expansion Permit program, known as OUT Zones, by offering streamlined approval for businesses to use sidewalks, on-street parking spaces, and private parking lots as areas to expand operations.

Starting Saturday, April 17, the City expanded that program with a ‘soft launch’ of OUT on Robertson, a pilot program that closes N. Robertson Boulevard south of Santa Monica Boulevard and north of Melrose Avenue to vehicular traffic each Saturday and Sunday, between 6 p.m. on Saturday and late-night on Sunday, in order to transform the restaurant/retail area into a pedestrian zone with COVID-19 safety protocols.

“Closing this highly trafficked and bustling stretch of Robertson will provide a pedestrian-safe space that allows for appropriate social distancing as the Public Health Department eases capacity restrictions while still monitoring the spread of the virus,” said City of West Hollywood Councilmember John M. Erickson. “COVID is not over and we all must remain vigilant about protecting our own health, and the health of others. I’m looking forward to safely seeing you — at a distance and with your most fabulous masks on — OUT on Robertson!”

The Robertson program is having its official ribbon-cutting ceremony, Saturday, May 1, 2020, at 7 p.m. 

OUT on Robertson will embrace, on weekends, what compact OUT Zones throughout the City have been offering for months: a place to enjoy sunny days and balmy nights while maintaining social distance, aligning with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s health and safety protocols, and supporting community businesses.

People exploring West Hollywood’s OUT on Robertson are reminded that the City of West Hollywood has a mandatory face-covering requirement and people are urged to be mindful of maintaining six feet of social distancing for dining, shopping, and personal care under the sun and stars

Plentiful parking is available in the five-story West Hollywood Park structure located at 625 N. San Vicente Boulevard, adjacent to the West Hollywood Library. Additional parking is also available at 650 N. La Peer Drive. For those using rideshare services, the City has established Drop Zones at the corner of Melrose Avenue and N. Robertson Boulevard.

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