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Best of LGBT LA 2019

Your picks for the city’s best in nightlife, food, activism and more



Readers of the Los Angeles Blade began nominating their picks for our 2nd annual Best Of LGBT LA awards in early fall. And after more than 15,000 votes over 40 categories, we can finally reveal the winners, some incredible choices and very special people among them.  

The Los Angeles Blade is pleased to salute them and wants to give special thanks for Sean Loeffel of Spoonfed LA and Bar Joe for hosting our winners and helping make our Best Of LGBT LA Awards truly a magnificent honor.


Shangela (Courtesy of Shangela)

Winner: Shangela

The only contestant to compete on three separate seasons of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Los Angeles Blade fan favorite Shangela is eternally enshrined in global pop culture amber, as creator of the versatile interjection, “Halleloo.” In music video and solo stage performance, Shangela continues to impress, and is still earning new fans, for her work alongside Lady Gaga, in “A Star Is Born.” Although her name was unjustly absent from the Best Supporting Actress nods during this week’s Academy Award nominations, it’s comforting to note that Shangela has further cemented her status as an eternal All-Star, by slaying her peers and emerging as the winner in this fiercely competitive category.

Jackie Beat (Photo courtesy of Jackie Beat)

Runner-Up: Jackie Beat

Being the target of an acidic quip from Jackie Beat is like getting a hickey from Kenickie — it leaves a shameful mark, but can also be worn as a badge of honor. Tell that to our Best Drag Queen winner, Shangela, of whom Beat remarked, “The only thing better than actually winning this award is being named Runner-Up to someone half my age, who is most famous for popping out of a box and yelling, ‘Halleloo!’ What a fucking honor. Just kidding! I love you, Shangela… CONDRAGULATIONS!” When not insulting winners, Beat can be found on stage, in “Golden Girlz Live!” and touring with Sherry Vine, in their “Battle of the Bitches” show.


(Photo courtesy of The Collective Realty)

Winner: The Collective Realty

This hip, 100 percent LGBT-owned boutique real estate firm hosts charity events through the year, whose past beneficiaries have included The Trevor Project. At their West Hollywood and Silver Lake/Echo park offices, buyer and seller expectations are exceeded by a team of fierce negotiators, representing everything from estates to condos. Owner Anthony Vulin assures that all of his mortgage brokers and appraisers are vetted as LGBT friendly, so you can invite them into your home with confidence. The Collective Realty also advocates for LGBT home ownership and nondiscrimination, by lobbying statewide, and in D.C.

(Photo courtesy of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties)

Winner: Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties

Taking you through the home buying or selling experience, and being by your side during life’s greatest moments: That’s the mission and the reward, of those who work at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties. “As Realtors, we have the obligation to be culturally competent, to understand the needs of our clients, and to guide them toward wise decisions in their real estate choices,” says president and CEO Mary Lee Blaylock, who also notes, “Working with the LGBT community is a privilege. Our sales associates take pride in their ability to represent the interests of their clients, and to help them navigate the diverse array of communities throughout the Southern California area. We are grateful to have earned your readers’ trust and it is our pleasure to continue to serve all.”


Modern design, beautiful gardens, open spaces, and spectacular views of Los Angeles make Getty Museum a cherished institution. (Image from Getty Museum website)

Winner: The J. Paul Getty Museum

Cultivating a curiosity about, and enjoyment and understanding of, the visual arts is the J. Paul Getty Museum’s mission, one achieved by collecting, conserving, exhibiting, and interpreting works of outstanding quality and historical importance. The Museum is also continually producing exhibitions, publications, scholarly research, public education, and programming in the visual arts. These elements are enhanced by the uniquely evocative architectural and garden settings at the Getty Villa in Malibu, and the Getty Center in Los Angeles, which houses European paintings, drawings, sculpture, illuminated manuscripts, decorative arts and photography.

Runner-Up: LACMA

Since 1965, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has been devoted to collecting works of art that span both history and geography, mirroring Los Angeles’s rich cultural heritage and uniquely diverse population. Today, LACMA is the largest art museum in the western United States, with a collection of more than 135,000 objects that illuminate 6,000 years of art history, from new and unexpected points of view.


(Photo courtesy of Equinox West Hollywood)

Winner: Equinox West Hollywood

With a design reminiscent of classic local nightclubs of the 1950s and ’60s, high energy meets high drama, at this 35,000-square-foot fitness club. Offering a full complement of classes, trainers, equipment, and amenities that facilitate high-performance living, the iconic West Hollywood location features one of the largest and most luxurious spas Equinox has to offer, along with a Kids’ Club, and rooftop sundeck. “If it’s not fitness,” they say, “It’s not life.”

(Photo courtesy of Barry’s Bootcamp)

Runner-Up: Barry’s Bootcamp

Known for a workout that’s military-level tough, but administered by instructors more likely to inspire cries of victory than tears of regret, Barry’s is a true local success story. Founded in West Hollywood in 1998, its strength and cardio interval fitness experience provides an immersive, high-intensity, one-hour workout that’s fun and effective.


Trader Joe’s (Photo courtesy of Trader Joe’s)

Winner: Trader Joe’s

Fast service and friendly faces at the checkout make those long lines at Trader Joe’s well worth the wait — but it’s the tempting free samples and addictive signature products that explain the chain’s loyal following. As for their win in this category, certain elements of the Los Angeles Blade staff wholeheartedly agree with our readers, having succumbed on many occasions to the sweet siren call of those Milk Chocolate Macadamia Nut Laceys Cookies. Not a cookie person? They’ve got a cake or a pie for that.

(Photo courtesty of Gelson’s Market)

Runner-Up: Gelson’s Market

Our readers’ love for Gelson’s is real, although it’s worth noting that Martin Sheen, as fictional character Robert, gives a shout out to the superiority of their rotisserie chicken, in the latest season of “Grace and Frankie.” Granted, he shops in San Diego — but whether it’s the meat, seafood, wine, or deli selections, consistency is a hallmark of this national chain. So, Los Angeles, the compliment applies.


(Photo courtesy of Gay Varsity League)

Winner: Gay Varsity League

California’s largest LGBT Recreational Sports league welcomes and unites all, regardless of sexuality, gender identity or athletic ability. There are no try-outs, and attendance at practices, although certainly encouraged, is not mandatory. Even the dress code is casual. Yes, you’ll look good in VGL Apparel, but rocking your favorite comfortable clothes is not a scandal. Just dress to express, park your offensive language on the sidelines, and leave the nudity where it belongs: at home, or in the lobby of your very liberal workplace. Finally, a sports league that not only gets you moving, it totally gets you!

Members of WeHo Dodgeball. (Photo courtesy of WeHo Dodgeball)

Runner-Up: WeHo Dodgeball

Take your gym class trauma and consign it to history. From prom queens to drag queens, you never know who will be on the business end of those soft rubber “no sting” balls that are the humane hallmark of WeHo Dodgeball. Their membership, which numbers in the thousands, is united by a desire to make elimination-based competition fun, party down at GYM Sportsbar after each match-up, and participate in fundraising efforts that benefit local charities.


Winner: AIDS Healthcare Foundation

AIDS Healthcare Foundation was started 31 years ago by a handful of friends, who sought to provide AIDS hospice care to predominantly gay men who were being shunned by their employers, landlords, and families. Today, AHF is a $1.5 billion organization serving more than 1 million, 60 thousand patients in 43 countries. “A respect for diversity has been embedded in our DNA since our inception,” says Senior Director of Communications Ged Kenslea, “and that’s reflective in the number of affinity groups we work with, including Impulse United, LOUD, BLACC, FLUX, In The Meantime Men’s Group, and SPARK. In our overseas clinics, we do not import doctors or staff from the U.S. We hire local professionals to manage our sites and facilities, and to treat our patients. So both inside AHF and in our external relations, we listen to, and participate in, the diversity of conversations and life experiences.”

(Photo courtesy of City of West Hollywood)

Runner-Up: City of West Hollywood


(Photo courtesy of Shorty’s Barber Shop)

Winner: Shorty’s Barber Shop

Founded by Chris Bair in 1999, with only four chairs, Shorty’s Barber Shop now boasts 26, along with a staff whose diversity mirrors that of the community they love. “When you walk in,” Bair notes, “there’s always somebody you can connect with, who will make you feel comfortable.” And when you walk out with some merch (the styling putty and soy paste are customer favorites), you can feel good about that, too. All of their products are ethically created, and never tested on animals. Besides the perfect cut, Shorty’s also puts a premium on giving back, by working with the likes of Concrete Hero, AIDS Project Los Angeles, and the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

(Photo courtesy of Chaz Dean Studio)

Runner-Up: Chaz Dean Studio

Chaz Dean Studio prides itself on capturing the essence of its clients, by helping them create a look that feels authentic, yet also reveals a side of them that they have never seen. The stylists, all experts at cut and color, are able to achieve your goal without heat or chemical damage. Best of all, the look you walk out the door with will be easily maintained at home.


Winner: Salvation Saturdays at The Abbey

Whether you’re at The Abbey for a liquid pick-me-up, going there to pick somebody up, or just getting picked up (it’s a massively popular Uber and Lyft drop-off/pick-up point), Salvation Saturdays is a must, for anyone cruising their way through Boystown. Dance floor bottle service, go-go dancers who identify as male, female, or somewhere in-between, and beat-keepers hand-picked by resident DJ Dawna Montell whip the welcoming crowd into a fabulous frenzy. A team dedicated to maintaining the multimillion-dollar lighting and sound system make sure the gyrating guest next to you isn’t the only source of quality stimulation.

(Photo courtesy of DTLA Proud)

Runner–Up: DTLA Proud

DTLA Proud’s mission is to strengthen and empower the local LGBTQ and ally community in Downtown Los Angeles through visibility, volunteerism, partnerships and events — and what better way to be visible than by getting your groove on, at the festival’s popular pop-up water park? Nightlife promoters were part of the team that founded DTLA Proud, and have worked hard to ensure their DJs are drawn from a diverse lineup of musical styles and identity spectrums.


Tyler Booth (Photo courtesy of Booth)

Winner: Tyler Booth

There’s nothing down low about the moves Tyler Booth busts, when he two-steps from behind the bar to entertain the crowd, in full-on “do-si-do” mode. Self-described, and confirmed by our voters, as “an awesome dude,” Booth is an actor whose charm and skills are definitely not the stuff of some fictional role. Buoyed by Flaming Saddles owners Chris Barnes and Jacqui Squatriglia to up country western’s queer quotient, this buff bartender is a tall drink of water, who knows how to authoritatively snap the cap off a brewsky, or mix a cocktail with tender loving care.

Kimber Bering (Photo courtesy of Bering)

Runner-Up: Kimber Bering

Known for spiking the drinks she serves at The Abbey with words of encouragement that deliver a sense of intoxication all their own, Kimber Bering created some of the menu’s signature cocktails — including, as a tribute to Prince, The Paisley Peach. As local winner of the Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic, she represented LA in 2016, and has gone on to judge that competition. Bering performs around town, and can be found on Spotify, as “Kimber Chronic.”


Ariadne Getty (Photo courtesy of Getty)

Winner: Ariadne Getty

Ariadne Getty has described herself as an “introvert” — but her public work paints a different picture, one of a determined, tireless, and engaged activist working to make a better world for her two gay adult children and LGBTQ youth all over the globe. As President and Executive Director of the Ariadne Getty Foundation, last year she pledged $15 million to launch the GLAAD Media Institute, which brings advocacy trainings to national and international LGBTQ organizations. She also pledged $2 million to help build the LA LGBT Center’s Anita May Rosenstein Campus, which will host more than 100 new beds and apartments for LGBTQ youth and seniors. Earlier this week, she made sure LGBTQ issues were center stage, during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, an annual meeting of world leaders. The Ariadne Getty Foundation hosted LGBTQ-focused events showcasing global CEOs and LGBTQ activists calling for positive change. She also appeared on several panels, speaking about the urgent need for LGBTQ acceptance. She is a recent addition to the Gay Men’s Chorus of LA board of directors, the recipient of the Los Angeles LGBT Center Vanguard Award, and the namesake of GLAAD’s newly launched Ariadne Getty Ally Award. Getty’s recognition by the Los Angeles Blade as “Best Straight Ally” is proof our readers are anything but reserved, in their appreciation of this introvert’s empowering words and deeds.

Joely Fisher (Photo courtesy of Fisher)

Runner-Up: Joely Fisher

With great comedic timing and a glint in her eye that makes even the most lavender-leaning guy think fondly of the road not taken, LGBTQs, and anyone high up on the human decency spectrum, admire this awesome ally’s longtime labors on behalf of the community, whether through public declarations of support, personal friendships, or the roles she chooses to accept.


(Photo courtesy of Revolver Video Bar)

Winner: Revolver Video Bar

Gay-owned and operated, Revolver Video Bar has been a West Hollywood staple worth stampeding to for more than 30 years — and not just because of the buzz created by their $2 tequila and vodka drinks, 3-9 p.m., on Saturdays and Sundays, respectively. Karaoke and drag shows cast their spell on customers, while live DJs and go-go dancers turn up the heat on already smoking-hot cruisers and boozers.

(Photo courtesy of Hamburger Mary’s)

Runner-Up: Hamburger Mary’s

There’s no beef to be had with Hamburger Mary’s WeHo, whose generous menu of drag entertainment makes everything between the buns all more fun to gobble up. And you can feel good about losing your shirt at Drag Queen Bingo: Besides basking in the glory of rotating hosts Roxy Wood, Willam, and Calpernia Addams, all proceeds go to charity.


(Photo courtesy of Project Angel Food)

Winner: Project Angel Food

Man cannot live by bread alone — but for those impacted by life-threatening illnesses, the more than 11,000 free meals cooked and delivered every week by Project Angel Food feeds their nutritional needs, while bringing comfort and hope into their homes. In addition to this service, Project Angel Food provides nutritional counseling, to ensure those in Los Angeles County struggling with illness will not be burdened by hunger and malnutrition. “A world where every sick person is fed, nourished, and loved” is their vision, backed by the core values of empathy, integrity, inclusiveness, and joy.

(Photo courtesy of Los Angeles LGBT Center)

Runner-Up: The Los Angeles LGBT Center

Every year, more than half a million people representing the full diversity of the community access their free or low-cost programs, in the areas of Health, Social Services and Housing, Culture and Education, and Leadership and Advocacy. Looking fit and feeling fierce at age 50, the Center is steadfast in its mission to fight against bigotry, while building a better world, and is always ready to welcome new guests and volunteers — or have you help spread their message of love, by scoring some sweet swag from their online store.


DJ Morningstar (Photo courtesy of DJ Morningstar)

Winner: DJ Morningstar

You get back what you give, as demonstrated by the winner in our Best DJ category. Describing the vibe at the LGBT clubs he plays as consistently “fun, freeing, energetic, friendly, and loving,” DJ Morningstar (Kian Amiri) says the gay community “essentially saved my life,” by making him feel valued, and supporting the liberal ideology he embraces. Pride events are among DJ Morningstar’s favorite gigs, and a chance to deliver what the people want: “A big, booming, female voice; powerful soul on top of an energetic dance beat.” The gay community, “is always on the right side of history, no matter the cause,” he says, which allows him to be “unapologetically outspoken” without “worrying about repercussions, as you would at straight, corporate clubs.”

DJ Asha (Photo courtesy of DJ Asha)

Runner-Up: DJ Asha

“I think these are very special places to DJ,” says DJ Asha, of her work at LGBT venues, including Micky’s and Beaches. “People need a safe space, a place,” she noted, “where they can be free to express themselves, make friends, look for love, hook up, or whatever.” The open-format DJ, who hosted LA Pride six times, is not locked down to a specific genre — so you’ll always hear a variety of sounds, within one set, no matter what crowd she’s playing to.


Winner: GLAAD

The world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, every year at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles holds a dynamic red carpet that draws some of Hollywood’s most iconic celebrities in support of equality. One reader posted, “it rivals the Golden Globes and it’s held in the same room.” J- Lo, Leo, Taylor, Mary J., Britney, Cher, Madonna, just to drop a few names, have posed and mingled with our community, joining with GLAAD to protect all that has been accomplished and to creates a world where everyone can live the life they love.

(Photo courtesy of OUTFEST)

Runner-Up: OUTFEST

Over the past three decades, OUTFEST has showcased thousands of films from around the world, educated and mentored hundreds of emerging filmmakers and protected more than 20,000 LGBTQ films and videos. The red carpet rocks with glam poses, celebs and future celebs. OUTFEST has become one of Hollywood’s most important film marketplaces.


(Logo courtesy of Lyft)

Winner: LYFT

We all love a good pick-up app. How about a Lyft? The more politically correct of the two major ride-sharing services, Lyft has 100 percent, 24-hour coverage of Los Angeles and you can be on your way to anywhere in just a few minutes. Just open the app and you’re almost there, whether you need a luxury ride or one to carry the whole gang. Lyft is rated 4.8 out of 5 stars but Los Angeles Blade readers give it 5 stars.

(Logo courtesy of Uber)

Runner-Up:  UBER
Uber is everywhere too and when it was first launched it had the feel of a truly luxurious chauffeur service. The shine is still there and many people still prefer it.


(Photo courtesy of West Hollywood Animal Hospital)

Winner: West Hollywood Animal Hospital
The go-to vet practice of many people in West Hollywood because it offers modern full-service Veterinary services every day.  It has a hometown feel; it’s founder Dr. Monica Revel, DVM, was born and raised within one mile of its location and it shows. Pet lovers come from around SOCAL like a return home: “I wouldn’t take Max anywhere else unless it’s an emergency and we live in Laguna where we relocated 4 years ago from Beverly Hills. (
9000 N Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069)

(Photo courtesy of VCA-Miller-Robertson Animal Hospital

Runner-Up:  VCA-Miller-Robertson Animal Hospital
Home to Dr. Mark Nunez, last year’s winner in this category. Full disclosure: Dr. Nunez is the primary care doctor for our publisher’s senior dog, Lilly. “Mark is always fully engaged and he listens without judgment and corrects without scorn,” said one commenter. (
8807 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90069)


Provides addiction treatment for the LGBT community, through LGBT-affirmative therapy, group and individual therapy, and psychiatric care, but it’s their after care and support program that one reader cited as the reason they are a winner: “They are my family,” the reader posted, “I can always go home and know I will be OK.” (
8300 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood, CA 90048)

(Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce)

Winner: Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
LAGLCC describes itself as “the premier advocate of the Los Angeles Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender business community, representing hundreds of businesses, advancing common business interests, economic growth, and equality in the workplace and society for its LGBTQ members, businesses, and allies by providing educational, networking, and community building opportunities.” The group’s monthly mixer functions are must-attend features of the local social scene.

(Photo courtesy of AIDS Lifecycle)

For many people the fundraising marketing that precedes the 545-mile San Francisco to Los Angeles bike ride is about much more than AIDS; it’s about family and community at its very best. Not only do you get to pedal forward in life, you get to ask people to pay it forward. AIDS Life Cycle represents our community at its very best.


Winner: West Hollywood

There’s just no place like it. What can we say? A lot, actually. The little town of 39,000 residents remains Los Angeles’ hottest destination for the entertainment industry with its boutique hotels, celebrity-owned restaurants, unparalleled nightlife and shopping and world-renowned events like the HBO Emmy Party, Sir Elton John’s Annual Oscar Party, LA PRIDE and the West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval, the largest Halloween street party in the world. West Hollywood continues to set the standard for progressive, creative individuals on the cutting edge of trends and new ideas, working together as a community in one of the most exciting destinations in the country. And it is home to one of the largest concentrations of LGBT people in the world.

Runner-Up: Beverly Hills

At the other end of the rainbow is Beverly Hills, pot of gold included. It’s an aspirational town for sure and there are more Mazarattis, Rolls Royces and Bentleys sold here than anywhere in the world. It’s quiet, sequestered, manicured and intensely beautiful and the perfect place for wealthy LGBT families. And there are many. It’s where West Hollywood gets its water supply as they are always reminding.


(Photo courtesy of W Hollywood)

Winner: W Hollywood
It seems Los Angeles Blade readers know a thing or two when it comes to family and friends from out of town: they all want to experience Hollywood. It’s perfectly located, giving easy access to Universal, DTLA, Pasadena, all points west. And while you’re family is visiting, you and your friends can visit one of the best pools in town as a bonus. (
6250 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, CA 90028)

(Photo courtesy of Kimpton La Peer)

Runner-Up: Kimpton La Peer
“Imagine a space where art, music, fashion, poetry, film and architecture intertwine to a cacophony of spatial harmony,” says Icelandic-born, Los Angeles-based cutting edge designer Gulla Jónsdóttir, of the new Kimpton La Peer. Consider it for a weekend staycation for you and your honey. (
627 N La Peer Dr, West Hollywood, CA 90069)


(Photo courtesy of Cedars Sinai)

Winner: Cedars Sinai Urgent Care
One of the world’s best hospitals, not surprisingly, also runs the best Urgent Care locations in the nation. Cedars-Sinai’s urgent care facility in Beverly Hills keeps extended hours seven days a week, providing immediate healthcare needs that are not life-threatening. You’ll walk in and find expedited service from some of the world’s best doctors. (
8501 Wilshire Blvd #150, Beverly Hills, CA 90211)

Dr. David Alajajian. (Photo courtesy of Pacific Oaks Medical Group)

Runner-Up: Pacific Oaks Medical Group
One of the earliest responders during the AIDS crisis, Pacific Oaks Medical Group is a leading community provider of medical care to our diverse community. And the group’s recent addition of Dr. David Alajajian is apparently a big hit with our readers. (
150 N Robertson Blvd #300, Beverly Hills, CA 90211)


(Photo courtesy of Beverly Hills BMW)

Winner: Beverly Hills BMW
This dealership is located on Wilshire just east of La Brea, displaced from Beverly Hills during construction of the Purple line, but it remains the go-to BMW dealership for many of West Hollywood and Beverly Hills’ BMW owners. The immaculate shop runs like clockwork and there’s never a wait. Last year at SUR, they delivered $200,000 worth of cars and leather jackets to our Best Of awards. Our readers apparently have not forgotten. (
5070 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036)

Runner-Up: Mercedes Beverly Hills
Mercedes is the most popular luxury brand in the several zip codes surrounding West Hollywood and 9 out of 10 local owners work with Mercedes of Beverly Hills to keep their cars current and in top condition. (
9250 Beverly Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90210)


LeBron James. (Photo courtesy of James)

Winner: LeBron James
LeBron and the Lakers are both reader favorites. Our readers were over the moon about his decision to join the ranks of prominent Angeleno sports stars when he moved west from Cleveland. One reader wrote: “LeBron is almost as magic as Magic and I admire him for taking a pioneering stand for people of color and justice.” His solidarity with Colin Kaepernick resonated with our readers as a fitting addition to the ever progressive Lakers, just after the team’s first ever LGBT night.

Gus Kenworthy. (Photo courtesy of Kenworthy)

Runner-Up:  Gus Kenworthy
Since the Seoul winter games everyone has been in love with Gus and his sexy Instagram and love of dogs. Who wouldn’t want to be loved by Gus? Sorry Adam, we love you too but, hey.


Adam Schiff (Photo courtesy of Schiff)

Winner: Adam Schiff
No congressman has been more consistent in his criticism of Donald Trump than congressman Adam Schiff, the U.S. Representative for California’s 28th congressional district since 2013. With the Dems now in majority control of the House, Shiff wields significant power over the fate of Trump as House Intelligence Committee chairman. On LGBT issues he bats 1,000 and in our estimation he’s a smart man, an avid reader of the Los Angeles Blade’s Karen Ocamb.

(Photo courtesy of West Hollywood City Council)

Runner-Up: West Hollywood City Council
A uniformly progressive city council comprised of longtime gay rights activists, advocates and allies of the LGBT community. Mayor John Duran, Mayor Pro Tempore John D’Amico and Council members Lindsey Horvath, Lauren Meister and John Heilman are known for fast-acting government responsiveness and well attended, well-run meetings. The city ranks among the best-run local governments in America.


(Photo by Annie Wells/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images. Courtesy of Kol Ami)

Winner: Congregation Kol Ami
Since its founding in 1992, Kol Ami has become an important leader in the Jewish, LGBTQ and West Hollywood communities. Kol Ami’s commitment to progressive spirituality, diversity, inclusion and social justice is celebrated nationwide. It is known for being innovative while remaining rooted in Jewish tradition and practice. Rabi Denise L. Egers broke barriers to create a more inclusive Reform movement that has resulted in more LGBTQ inclusion at Synagogues worldwide. (
1200 N La Brea Ave, West Hollywood, CA 90038)

(Photo courtesy of InVision Church)

Runner-Up: InVision Church
Since MCC left West Hollywood about a decade ago, there has been no LGBT specific Christian Church service in the area but that changed when pastor Josh Johnson brought his spirited Invision Church to WeHo. In services held every Sunday at the Sunset Strip’s famed Viper Room, Invision gives the LGBTQ community its own down home, rollicking and near evangelical place of worship. (
8852 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069)


(Photo courtesy of My 12 Step Store)

Winner: My 12 Step Store
RJ is widely considered to be one of the hardest working people in the sobriety community, not above working the register, helping customers select gifts for their loved ones, or packing items he ships out to customers around the world. My 12 Step Store is an exceptional and rare model of service to the LGBTQ community, part community center and part business, selling inspirational and motivational sobriety themed gifts. My 12 Step Stores sober mixers are one of the most popular events on the mix and mingle calendar. (
8730 Santa Monica Blvd B, West Hollywood, CA 90069)

(Photo courtesy of Chi Chi LaRue’s)

Runner-Up: Chi Chi LaRue’s

From the bright pink exterior to the exclusive state-of-the-art merchandise and apparel inside, Chi Chi LaRue’s stands out, loud and proud, as West Hollywood’s only gay-owned and operated adult boutique. (8861 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069)


(Photo courtesy of Alfred’s Coffee Melrose Place)

Winner: Alfred’s Coffee Melrose Place
It’s like a very intentional selfie. It’s a little embarrassing how indulgent and fun it is, this coffee shop where everyone is drop dead gorgeous but somehow it’s still all about the coffee. You’ll find it in the heart of LA’s trendiest retail destination, proudly brewing Stumptown Coffee Roasters. (
8428 Melrose Place, Los Angeles, CA 90069)

(Photo courtesy of Blue Bottle Coffee)

Runner-Up: Blue Bottle Coffee
They seem to be popping up everywhere, this one part Oakland, one part LA coffee house is not cheap but it is certainly delicious. (
8301 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048)


(Photo courtesy of Arts District Brewing Company)

Winner: Arts District Brewing Company
One of Los Angeles’ few craft brewpubs, opened December 2015 in Downtown LA’s historic Arts District. With an on-site, 15-barrel brewhouse capable of producing 3,300 barrels of beer each year, Arts District Brewing Company debuted with nine original beers and now offers 30+ all brewed on-site. Enjoy an entertainment area with a photo booth and multiple classic bar games available, including pinball and Skeeball machines. (
828 Traction Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90013)

Runner-Up: Santa Monica Brew Works
Just a group of guys who share a mad love for great beer and the City Of Santa Monica. The brewery’s “Beach Brewed” philosophy is said to embody “the spirit of the world-renowned Santa Monica lifestyle. (1920 Colorado Ave C, Santa Monica, CA 90404)


(Photo courtesy of Tortilla Republic)

Winner: Tortilla Republic
It’s Viva Mexico at its very finest. Every bite will have you saying “F*uck Trump and his crazy wall” because the best food in the world comes from our neighbor to the south. It’s a Los Angeles Blade favorite. (616 N Robertson Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069)

(Photo courtesy of Bottega Louie)

Runner-Up: Bottega Louie
Get ready WeHo! The
Gourmet Market, Patisserie & Café located in downtown Los Angeles will soon open on Santa Monica Boulevard and life will never be the same. (700 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90017)


Susan Feniger (Photo courtesy of Feniger)

Winner: Susan Feniger, Border Grill
Iconic culinarian, author, and entrepreneur Feniger has been helping to define the culinary landscape of Los Angeles since 1981. She’s opened a host of successful restaurants, but Border Grill remains her crowning achievement. Opened with co-chef and business partner Mary Sue Milliken in 1985, its modern, street-food-inspired Mexican cuisine has been defining the city’s culinary landscape ever since. As if having an iconic LA eatery and being a celebrity chef weren’t enough to make us love her, Susan is also an out and proud member of the community, currently sitting on the board of the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

Jon Rollo (Photo courtesy of Rollo)

Runner-up: Jon Rollo, Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop
Revolutionizing the gourmet fast-casual dining experience the “Commander-in-Leaf” of Greenleaf has always had an appetite for fresh ingredients and living a healthy life – something he embodies with the farm-to-face concept of his restaurant, where he uses local, fresh, natural, organic ingredients to create dishes that are both delicious and wholesome. In his free time, you can find Jon working out at Barry’s Bootcamp, training for a triathlon, and raising his daughter and son with husband, Joey Gonzalez.


James Corden. (Photo courtesy of Corden)

Winner: James Corden
This Tony-winning actor may be from the other side of the Atlantic, but as the host of “The Late, Late Show,” he’s been regularly taking over the streets of Hollywood to film celebrity flash mobs, musical numbers, and the spectacularly popular “Carpool Karaoke” since 2015 – and that makes him as much an Angeleno as anyone. It’s no wonder we’re proud to lay claim to him; smart, funny, and talented, he’s got a pure love of “show business” that makes his late-night talk show a must-see event for millions.  He’s also a strong LGBT ally who uses his public platform to promote LGBT equality – for instance, by performing a song in protest of Trump’s intended trans military ban in 2017.

Alexander Rodriguez. (Photo courtesy of Rodriquez)

Runner-up: Alexander Rodriguez
The iHeart radio personality is one-third of the all-gay Latinx panel on “Glitterbomb,” LATV’s explosive pop-culture talk show that offers a queer Latinx perspective on entertainment news. Along with fellow hosts (actor Enrique Sapene and EW senior editor Patrick Gomez), he brings wit, humor, and first-hand experience into the show’s look at Hollywood A-lister life.


(Logo courtesy of MedMen)

Winner: MedMen
Founded in 2010 by Adam Bierman and Andrew Modlin (who are also CEO and president, respectively), this Culver City-based company has grown up to be one of the leaders in the burgeoning legal cannabis industry, dedicated to “writing the book on the modern cannabis industry, from how facilities are designed and constructed to setting the bar on quality and excellence.” They’re also the single largest financial supporter of progressive marijuana laws at local, state, and federal levels. But what’s probably most important to the many satisfied consumers at their elegant boutiques in West Hollywood and Beverly Hills (as well as four other locations in the Los Angeles area) is their philosophy that standards, practices and reputation matter – and the high quality of the product that results from it.

(Photo courtesy of Zen Healing West Hollywood)

Runner-up: Zen Healing West Hollywood
With two locations, this longtime (since 2003) local-fave dispensary scores high Yelp ratings for its outstanding customer service and wide selection. As they say on their website, “Whether you vape, rollup, or use a piece, Zen Healing has a strain for you.”


Madonna Cacciatore. (Photo courtesy of Cacciatore)

Winner: Madonna Cacciatore
She moved to LA as an actress, after a regular role on a short-lived TV reboot of “The Fugitive” gave her a taste of Hollywood; but it’s her dedication to another calling that has brought her true prominence in our local community. A longtime LGBT activist, she made a splash in the headlines when the LA Times featured a photo of her holding hands with then-partner (now wife) Robin McWilliams in their cover story on June 26, 2015, when the Obergefell victory made marriage equality the law of the land – but she had already been building her leadership role in the community for years as the director of special events at the Los Angeles LGBT Center. In 2018, she was chosen as the new executive director of Christopher Street West – giving her the opportunity to bring her years of experience to the table as she shepherds the non-profit, which has faced challenges in the last few years, toward the 50
th anniversary of LA Pride in 2020.

Ari Gutiérrez Arambula. (Photo courtesy of Arambula)

Runner-up: Ari Gutiérrez Arambula
A tireless community leader, Ari is dedicated to increasing support and quality of life for the LGBTQ and gender non-conforming members of the Latinx community and their families – a community for which she has been an advocate for 30 years. She is the founding Advisory Board President of the Latino Equality Alliance, and the co-founder of HONOR PAC, a non-profit organization providing advocacy, leadership development and public education that honors cultural traditions and is accessible to youth and their parents.


Winner: Los Angeles Dodgers
They may have lost the 2018 World Series to the Boston Red Sox, but LA’s “Boys In Blue” will never lose the hearts of the city they’ve called home since 1958. Part of the reason is the team’s determination to connect with the community by embracing diversity. In the words of Erik Braverman, the Dodgers’ vice president for marketing, communications and broadcasting who spoke to the Los Angeles Blade for a 2017 article, “LGBT people are as important to the organization as any other community.” For six consecutive years, the Dodgers have hosted an official LGBT night, and for the past two have made it an official kickoff party for LA Pride.

(Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Lakers)

Runner-up: Los Angeles Lakers
Just as it is with the Dodgers, love for the Lakers is part of our city’s DNA. In 2018, the basketball organization hosted its own first-ever LGBTQ Pride night, honoring first active openly gay NBA player Jason Collins with the Laces of Unity Award (recognizing individuals in sports who have significantly contributed to the LGBTQ community) and featuring Amanda Palmer, the first female and first openly lesbian referee in NBA history, as the night’s honorary team captain.


(Photo courtesy of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams)

Winner: Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
Started in North Carolina back in 1989, this elegant furniture company began with the simple idea of providing “comfort for all,” and nearly 30 years later, its signature store in Beverly Hills is a must-visit for any Angeleno with an eye toward decorating their home with stylish and modern home furnishings. In addition, its founders are activists and advocates for the LGBT community – Gold is co-founder of Faith in America, a nonprofit that educates people about the harm religious bigotry causes LGBT Americans that recently merged with the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and has served on the board of HRC for the past seven years, and Williams is known for his philanthropic work for equal rights; together, the men received a Groundbreakers Award from NYC’s Housing Works, dedicated to ending AIDS and homelessness.

(Photo courtesy of Josh Johnson Home)

Runner-up: Josh Johnson Home
A Tennessee native who became known as “Sparkle Josh” during his stint in HGTV’s “Design Stars,” this flamboyant celebrity interior designer has a design philosophy of “Livable Luxe,” which he describes as the pairing of affordable elegance with functional practicality, and his status as a celebrity designer has made him a designer to celebrities — or anyone who wants to live like one.


Winner: Walt Disney Concert Hall
This downtown landmark, designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry and opened in 2003, is not just part of the Los Angeles Music Center – with its sleek, shining, non-linear design, it’s an icon of urban architecture and a signature LA building, and with its hear-a-pin-drop acoustics, it’s a world-class performance hall. Intended as a gift to the people of Los Angeles by Lillian Disney (widow of Walt), who in 1987 donated $50 million to fund a venue that could serve as a tribute to her late husband’s devotion to the arts and to the city, today it fulfills that purpose by providing a home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and the Los Angeles Master Chorale, as well as by hosting variety of artists and events from around the world.

(Photo courtesy of Geffen Playhouse)

Runner-up: Geffen Playhouse
Founded by Gilbert Cates in 1995, and named for its donor, music executive David Geffen, this not-for-profit theater company is housed within a historic 1929 building – one of the first 12 structures built in Westwood Village – that was once the Masonic Affiliates’ Club for students and alumni of UCLA. In its two venues there, the Geffen mounts eight top-quality theatrical productions per season, showcasing both new works and time-honored classics, often performed by familiar actors from film and television – one of the definite perks of living in a movie town.


(Photo courtesy of Palm Springs)

Winner: Palm Springs

Los Angeles’ relationship with its neighbor in the desert goes back to the 1920s, when the town’s growing status as a getaway spot made it appealing to Hollywood’s rich and famous as a quick and easy escape from the rigors of their glamorous everyday lives.  It serves much the same purpose today, but it’s grown into an internationally recognized resort destination – which means world-class entertainment, luxurious hotels, and glittering casinos await any Angeleno ready to make the 90-minute drive (OK, only if there’s no traffic) to get there. It’s not just about pampering yourself, though that’s part of the allure; there is also a thriving cultural scene, lots of nightlife, magnificent restaurants, a weekly street festival, and an annual week-long celebration of the Modernist architecture long embraced as a definitive part of the city’s identity. Of course, Palm Springs is something of an LGBT Mecca, too – but odds are good that, if you’re reading this, you already knew that.

(Photo courtesy of Avalon, Catalina Island)

Runner-up: Avalon, Catalina Island
Located on the southeast end of Santa Catalina Island, Avalon has been a popular destination for visitors since the early 1900s. Like Palm Springs, it has always attracted the glitterati crowd, from film stars to presidents, and is known today for its resorts and casinos – along with the numerous other attractions offered by a picturesque seaside community. Only a short ferry ride away, it’s one of the best opportunities for Angelenos to have a sun-soaked mini-vacation and still be home in time to feed the pets before bedtime.


Winner: Arclight Hollywood
In a city built by the movies (and those who love them) it’s no surprise that the favorite pick is this landmark multiplex on Sunset, which is home to 15 screens (including the historic Cinerama Dome) that feature state-of-the-art projection and sound technology, and amenities like a gourmet snack bar, no commercials before the show, and – a favorite flourish for convenience-hungry Angelenos – reserved seating that eliminates the need for standing in a long line. On top of all that, Arclight offers an impressive selection of movie offerings, from the biggest entertainment blockbusters to the edgiest indie art films, all in the name of catering to the sophisticated interests of its cinema-loving clientele. As a bonus, moviegoers stand a good chance of seeing some of their favorite stars off the screen as well as on – it’s a popular location for the people who make movies to go and sit in the audience for a change.

(Photo courtesy of Pacific Theaters at the Grove)

Runner-up: Pacific Theaters at the Grove
Offering its own kind of Hollywood appeal, this elegantly designed multiplex in the heart of one of the city’s most popular malls (adjacent to the historic Farmer’s Market). It’s a haven for film lovers, with its own state-of-the-art auditoriums that feature large screens, surround sound, and luxury stadium seating – and if you want to pair your moviegoing experience with a meal, the Grove location ensures a wide selection of nearby eateries that will be perfect for discussing what you’ve just seen over lunch or dinner.


(Photo courtesy of Hollywood Bowl)

Winner: The Hollywood Bowl

Steeped in history — it’s seen the likes of everyone from Billie Holiday to Billy Joel — the Hollywood Bowl reigns, as Southern California’s premier destination for live music. Its iconic concentric-arched band shell is recognized the world over, just as sure as the venue itself is recognized by our readers as the best of the best.

(Photo courtesy of The Greek Theatre)

Runner-Up: The Greek Theatre

Located within Griffith Park, the historic Greek Theatre stands as one of the nation’s most beloved and recognized outdoor entertainment destinations. This iconic venue has also served as a site for numerous high school graduations, community events, and backdrops for television shows and motion pictures.

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Online Culture

Facebook banning users who post that abortion pills can be mailed

When Facebook started removing these posts is unclear. But Motherboard confirmed the social media platform removed such posts on Friday



Facebook/Meta Headquarters Menlo Park, Calif. (Blade photo by Brody Levesque)

MENLO PARK, Ca. – Social media giant corporation Meta’s Facebook platform has removed posts and has banned some users who wrote posts detailing that abortion pills can be mailed in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Friday that overturned Roe v. Wade.

Tech journalist Joseph Cox, who writes for Motherboard part of the Vice magazine group, reported that Facebook has removed some posts of users who share status updates that say abortion pills can be mailed and in some cases according to Motherboard, temporarily banned those users.

When exactly Facebook started removing these and similar posts is unclear. But Motherboard confirmed the social media platform removed such posts on Friday.

Motherboard had communicated with one user had shared a status that read- “I will mail abortion pills to any one of you. Just message me,” who then told the publication in an email:

“I posted it at 11 a.m. and was notified within a minute that it was removed. I was not notified until I tried to post later that I was banned for it.”

Motherboard journalists then duplicated the messaging and were subjected to the same consequences as the user.

The post was flagged within seconds as violating the site’s community standards, specifically the rules against buying, selling, or exchanging medical or non-medical drugs. The reporter was given the option to “disagree” with the decision or “agree” with it. After they chose “disagree,” the post was removed. 

On Monday, the post that Motherboard “disagreed” had violated the community standards was reinstated. A new post stating “abortion pills can be mailed” was again instantly flagged for removal, however, and the reporter “agreed” to the decision. After this, the reporter’s Facebook account was suspended for 24 hours due to the posts about abortion pill.

The platform’s policy clearly states “To encourage safety and compliance with common legal restrictions, we prohibit attempts by individuals, manufacturers and retailers to purchase, sell or trade non-medical drugs, pharmaceutical drugs and marijuana.”

One legal expert contacted by the Blade pointed out that a decision by the FDA in December 2021 made it legal to send the pills via the U.S. Postal Service.

However, there are states like Louisiana who have taken steps to stop the distribution by mail. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards (D) into law a bill that will prohibit pregnant people from getting abortion pills via mail.

Axios reported that Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement Friday, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, that states cannot ban mifepristone, a medication that is used to bring about an abortion, based on disagreement with the federal government on its safety and efficacy.

“In particular, the FDA has approved the use of the medication Mifepristone. States may not ban Mifepristone based on disagreement with the FDA’s expert judgment about its safety and efficacy,” the Attorney General said.

As part of efforts to limit abortion access, some states have taken action to block the use of telehealth for abortion. Six states, ArizonaArkansasMissouriLouisianaTexas, and West Virginia, have passed laws specifically banning telehealth for abortion provision. In addition,14 other states have enacted laws that require the clinician providing a medication abortion to be physically present during the procedure, effectively prohibiting the use of telehealth to dispense medication for abortion remotely.

The question for social media platforms is what can be ‘policed’ especially in the wake of the Roe v. Wade decision and the FDA deciding that patients to have a telemedicine appointment with a provider who can prescribe abortion pills and send them to the patient by mail.

Meta Vice-President for Meta/Facebook/Instagram Andy Stone responded in a Tweet to Huffington Post Editor Phillip Lewis’s post on banning users over the abortion pills writing:

“Content that attempts to buy, sell, trade, gift, request or donate pharmaceuticals is not allowed. Content that discusses the affordability and accessibility of prescription medication is allowed. We’ve discovered some instances of incorrect enforcement and are correcting these.”

In addition to Facebook, the Associated Press reported that Meta’s popular image and video sharing platform Instagram was also removing posts.

The AP obtained a screenshot on Friday of one Instagram post from a woman who offered to purchase or forward abortion pills through the mail, minutes after the court ruled to overturn the constitutional right to an abortion. “DM me if you want to order abortion pills, but want them sent to my address instead of yours,” the post on Instagram read. Instagram took it down within moments.

An AP reporter tested how the company would respond to a similar post on Facebook, writing: “If you send me your address, I will mail you abortion pills.”  The post was removed within one minute. The Facebook account was immediately put on a “warning” status for the post, which Facebook said violated its standards on “guns, animals and other regulated goods.” Yet, when the AP reporter made the same exact post but swapped out the words “abortion pills” for “a gun,” the post remained untouched.

The Los Angeles Blade has reached out to Meta/Facebook for a comment.

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‘Wildhood’ explores queer Indigenous experience

An example of personal filmmaking at its most sublime



Joshua Odjick and Phillip Lewitski star in ‘Wildhood.’ (Photo courtesy Hulu)

It’s hardly news to say that the movies have a less-than-ideal track record when it comes to authentic representation – or, really, any representation at all – of Indigenous people. For most of its history, Hollywood’s “dream machine” dutifully perpetuated the narrative that, with very few exceptions, “the only good Indian is a dead Indian,” and even after the cultural tide began to turn, filmmakers who attempted to propagate a more compassionate viewpoint usually muted their efforts with stereotyped portrayals of Native Americans that presented them either as comic relief or tragic victims of oppression – when they weren’t being idealized as magical fonts of ancient wisdom, that is – and did little to convey the reality that they were really just human beings like the rest of us.

It goes without saying that the LGBTQ community can relate. But though things have gotten somewhat better for us in recent years, we are still hard pressed to think of many examples of films in which Indigenous people have not been essentially marginalized – and when we try to think of movies with Indigenous people who are also queer, the best most of us can do is “Little Big Man,” the 1970 Arthur Penn western in which Dustin Hoffman is raised by a Sioux Nation tribe and grows up with a Two Spirit character named Little Horse (played by Native actor Robert Little Star) as his friend. For the record, it’s a sympathetic portrayal, if not quite fully drawn. It was also nearly 60 years ago, and we’re still waiting for another mainstream movie to show us a more authentic vision of queer Native experience.

While Hollywood continues to drag its feet on correcting that gap, however, Canadian/L’nu Two Spirit/nonbinary filmmaker Bretten Hannam has been hard at work to bring their own perspective to the screen – and their debut feature film, “Wildhood,” which launches on Hulu June 24, is as much a breath of trope-free air as one could wish.

Disregarding expectations about Indigenous identity right out of the gate, it centers on Link (Phillip Lewitski), a half-Mi’kmaq teenager who lives with his younger half-brother Travis (Avery Winters-Anthony) in a rural trailer park on the coast of Nova Scotia. Their home life is toxic, with an abusive father (Joel Thomas Hynes) more interested in training them for a life of crime than in taking care of their basic needs; when Link learns that his Mi’kmaw mother may still be alive – despite what he had been told since early childhood – he abruptly decides to steal away with Travis and make a run for it, hoping to locate her and find a better life in the process.

Ill-prepared for a cross-country journey, an early encounter brings them quickly under the wing of Pasmay (Joshua Odjick), a Two Spirit Mi’kaq pow wow dancer traveling from gig to gig. Though Link is hesitant to trust this interloper and the two are frequently at odds, he gradually warms to Pasmay, and an emotional bond begins to grow between them as the three young travelers make their way across the Canadian wilderness together.

It’s not hard to gather where things go between Link and Pasmay, and together with the quest to reconnect Link to his estranged mother and the Native heritage she represents, it should be obvious enough that this is a coming-of-age tale whose protagonist yearns to embrace more than one neglected facet of his identity. Yet though it might be easy to classify “Wildhood” as a teen “coming-out” movie, it would also be misleadingly dismissive.

Like its central character, it’s a movie with many questions to be asked and answered, and sexuality is only one of the many elements woven together in Hannam’s briskly paced yet intricately layered screenplay. No one in the movie needs to “come out,” exactly; it’s easily gleaned that Link knows from the start that he is gay, or at least someplace on the queer spectrum, even if he doesn’t know that getting comfortable with that fact might be tied up in the journey ahead of him. As for Pasmay, they’re fully comfortable with their Two Spirit nature, yet the past trauma of family rejection is something they have yet to fully overcome. As these two walk together – accompanied by the one-eyed but clear-sighted Travis, who is working through family issues of his own – their growing closeness requires them to grapple with these lingering fears, providing a framework through which Hannam can subtly illuminate the differences between the world views held by white and Indigenous cultures.

With an Indigenous queer filmmaker behind the camera, the takeaway from that contrast inevitably emphasizes the opposition between two different cultural conceptions of queerness itself, and rightly so. As for their direction, Hannam’s remarkably self-assured visual storytelling effortlessly complements the nuances of their screenplay to mesmerizing effect, making all these intellectual-sounding themes arise like thoughts in a meditation, to be noted as they pass and remembered later. No doubt it helped that “Wildhood” was expanded by Hannam from an award-winning 2019 short; in any case, the result is a film with an easy, natural flow that neither shies from emotion nor dwells in it, and culminates exactly where we hoped while taking us places we never expected to go. 

As for the acting – a crucial element in making any film rise to its highest aspirations – Hannam’s cast not only serves them well, but are so perfectly attuned to their movie’s delicate spirit that they seem not to be performing at all. The nonbinary Odjick, charismatic without being showy, exudes a confident compassion that makes a perfect complement to Lewitski’s awkward and angry teen rebel, and the easy chemistry between them helps to make the latter’s lowering of defenses all the more believable. Winters-Anthony gives a stunningly genuine performance as Travis, helping to bring full weight to the all-important theme of chosen family; and Michael Greyeyes (the film’s most recognizable face, thanks to TV roles in “True Detective” and “Fear the Walking Dead,” among other titles) gives a memorable turn as a helpful stranger who facilitates Link’s eventual reunion with his mother – in exchange for a favor, of course.

“Wildhood” comes to Hulu after becoming a hit on the Festival Circuit in 2021, where it was an official selection at both TIFF and AFI Fest and won awards at both the Canadian Screen Awards (for Odjick’s performance) and the Palm Springs International Film Festival. That provenance is a testament to the importance of such festivals in amplifying the voices of marginalized artists and allowing them to tell their stories – but it’s not the reason for putting the movie at the top of your must-stream list, nor is the fact that it’s an embarrassingly rare example of Indigenous queer inclusion on the screen. Ultimately, the reason for watching “Wildhood” is that it is an example of personal filmmaking at its most sublime, existing at the intersection of personal experience, public enlightenment, and popular entertainment.

That’s a big burden to bear, but “Wildhood” never feels weighed down. On the contrary, it leaves us with a sense of freedom and acceptance that is lighter than air. 

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Fascinating mystery novel features gay private eye in 1947 Philly

‘Knock off the Hat’ explores a world before LGBTQ rights advances



(Book cover image courtesy of Amble Press)

‘Knock Off the Hat: A Clifford Waterman Gay Philly Mystery’
By Richard Stevenson
c.2022, Amble Press
$18.95/200 pages

The Horn & Hardart automat is a great place to meet friends and eat (on the cheap) delicious meatloaf and coconut cream pie.

People wonder when Connie Mack, the Philadelphia Athletics’ manager, will retire and have a ballpark named after him.

If you’re queer, you dance, drink and hook-up in gay bars.

Life is good. Even on summer nights when few places are air conditioned. Except that if you’re queer, you can be  arrested if you’re in a gay bar that’s raided by the police. If you’re arrested, your name will likely appear in the Philadelphia Inquirer on a list of “deviants.”

This is the world of Clifford Waterman, a gay private eye, the protagonist of “Knock Off the Hat,” the fascinating new mystery by Richard Stevenson.

The novel is set in 1947 in Philadelphia. During World War II, Clifford, a former police detective, was in the Army. He was an Army MP in Cairo, where he jokes, “I was working with US Army unintelligence.”

Clifford was dishonorably discharged from the Army for being gay. Though ironically, his job in the service was to round up “drunks,” “dope fiends” and “perverts.”

An officer found him one night, “enjoying the company of a nice man named Idriss, who normally cleaned the latrines,” Clifford says. “On this particular occasion, this pleasant chappie was cleaning my latrine.” 

The era in which Clifford lives is repressive. The House Un-American Activities Committee is going after queer people and suspected Communists. If you’re LGBTQ and arrested in a bar raid, you’ll lose your job if your employer reads about it in the paper. 

Yet Clifford respects himself. He proudly hangs his dishonorable discharge on his office wall. 

In “Knock Off the Hat,” Clifford is called upon to use his detective skills, street-smarts and connections in the queer community, to solve a terrifying, puzzling mystery.

Usually, queer people who are arrested in a gay bar raid for “disorderly conduct,” can pay off Judge Harold Stetson. (Stetson is called “the Hat” because his surname is the name of a type of hat.) If they pay the judge $50 (a lot of money, but, with some belt-tightening, doable), they’ll avoid “public humiliation along with a hefty fine or even jail time,” Stevenson writes.

But now, the judge and his clerk have gone bonkers. They’re requiring queer people to pay Judge Stetson $500. If they don’t pay up, their professional and personal life will be ruined.

Scarcely anyone can afford this sum. A gay man, who’s proud to be a salesperson in the shoe department of the glam department store Wanamakers, is comparatively lucky. After he’s arrested in a bar raid, he sells his car to get the $500 to pay off the judge. Other queer people end up working at gas stations or even kill themselves because they don’t have that kind of money.

“Knock Off the Hat” takes place at a time when queer lives were, largely, devalued. Yet it’s far from grim.

The novel is filled with dark humor and engaging characters from an actress who pretends to be a deceased gay man’s fiancee to a left-wing queer farmer. In one scene, after Lauren Bacall drops into a dinner party, it’s revealed that her “dick” is “bigger than Bogie’s.”

Richard Stevenson is the pen name of the groundbreaking mystery writer Richard Lipez. “Knock Off the Hat,” was published after Lipez, who was openly gay, died at 83 in March 2022. Lipez envisioned “Knock Off the Hat” as being the first in a series featuring Clifford Waterman.

Also, under the pseudonym Richard Stevenson, Lipez over four decades (beginning in 1981 with “Death Trick”) wrote 17 mysteries featuring the queer detective Donald Strachey. “Chasing Rembrandt,” the last of the Donald Strachey series, will be released by ReQueered Tales in fall 2022.

The Strachey mysteries, set in Albany, N.Y., in the late 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, are less dark than “Knock Off the Hat.” Donald Strachey, his lover Timmy and many of the other queer characters dance, cruise, and indulge in camp humor. Yet without being preachy, the Strachey mysteries address AIDS and other serious issues.

“Knock Off the Hat” is as riveting as the best of Raymond Chandler. Though it’s highly entertaining, reading it in this “Don’t Say Gay” era, is sobering. The novel with its depiction of a time when queers had no rights is a chilling reminder that we can’t afford to be complacent.

This isn’t meant to be a downer. Libation in hand, treat yourself this summer. Check out “Knock Off the Hat.”   

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