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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.


Music & Concerts

Here is the Earth Day anthem we forgot we needed

Singer/songwriter Anne Stotts releases Water to Blood as our collective call to action as we mark Earth Day



Anne Stott/Los Angeles Blade

HOLLYWOOD – The evolution of Earth Day, from its inception in 1970 to the global movement it is today, has been accelerated by dire and extreme climate change events that do not seem to have garnered the political attention they deserve. Cataclysmic events have underscored the reality of global warming in the face of industries and populists who want to deny it. 

Earth Day 2024 is a day that united millions in the past and continues to inspire action towards environmental sustainability and conservation today.

As glaciers melt and weather systems buckle, we need a call-to-action anthem. Just as We Are the World unified hearts and minds against famine and starvation, we need to blast the climate change cause to reach souls where other agendas may be keeping their minds in the dark. Music transcends barriers, connecting with people on an emotional level and inspiring change in ways that statistics and reports cannot. 

Anne Stott’s Water to Blood is the anthem we need this Earth Day. It strives to inspire us all, and the powers that be, to address the climate crisis NOW.

You can squeeze the earth til it’s dry and the people til they’re weak, build a wall so high you can’t hear the screams, but so far we’ve had fires, floods and now the plague. This empire’s dying cause it can’t face change. The time’s here now, it’s not coming… it’s come.           Water to Blood

Incisive. Vibrant. Dramatic. Anne Stott is a singer/songwriter of cinematic alt-rock, an actor, and an apolitical rabble-rouser. Her “bad girl to the good girls and good girl to the bad girls” energy infuses her music and live performances with edgy compassion while her elastic style embraces eighties pop and nineties grunge infused with a modern moody atmosphere.

Produced by Blondie/Rufus Wainwright producer Barb Morrison, the Water to Blood anthem smashes the psyche to its core, leaving the listener energized, motivated, and with a sense of urgency that too much time has passed to ignore our collective environmental crisis any longer.

“The Right Wing is so GOOD at spinning,” Anne Stott tells me when we sat down for the Rated LGBT Radio podcast. “My hope for this song is that it will motivate people who haven’t been engaged in climate change to get more active and it will be a comfort and it will help rejuvenate and energize those who have been devoting their lives to make change. I think the production of the song combined with the lyrics creates a nice synergy of political takedown and an optimistic, motivational vibe. And I definitely have both of those sides. I am always deeply moved by people standing up for what is right and if this song can contribute to people’s struggle to protect our future on this planet that would make me really happy”

As a quirky queer singer-songwriter and film actress that splits her time between Cape Cod and New York City,  Anne wields a unique worldview as someone who was formed by growing up internationally.

Born in Philadelphia, she grew up in Luxembourg and moved to the UK, then Minnesota and New York City.  She moved to Provincetown in 2007 for a writing retreat for a few months and ended up staying. She busked in the street outside of the town hall and got discovered by director David Drake, who cast her in a play at the local art house. 

She was involved in political activism (she was a member of the Lesbian Avengers) but “hit a wall” because she wanted to do something more creative. She has released two albums of original music, Love Never Dies and Pennsylvania.

Who does she see as the biggest villains against a climate change solution? Big Plastics, and Big Oil. “The plastics industry and the oil industry are going to hold on to their propaganda until they can milk every penny they can from the planet,” she says.

Being in New York City when wildfires in the east clouded the sky, Anne was impacted. “It was like something out of a horror movie,” she recalls. “We HAVE to stop calling these things anomalies. The anomalies are no longer ‘anomalies’. I have to stop myself from calling these ‘distinct events’, no, this is the normal now and it is really scary, and it is really hard to own that.”

Is there hope? “I am very inspired by the youth movements around climate change. They are not as big in the news right now, but there is a lot of engagement with people in their 20s and their teens, and that is very inspiring.”

“I think of the government coming together for the Manhattan Project and the development of the atomic bomb. We need that level of commitment, drive, and expertise to come together to look at this from all angles. People want to do more, but we have shaped this culture around convenience, and it is hard to walk that back individually,” she adds.

 When she is not saving the world, Anne and her music is a bewitching synergy between Joni Mitchell and Chrissie Hynde, performing sincere and engaging personal songs as well as those about social change and political takedown.

The Water to Blood climate change track launches today to coincide with Earth Day. It will be also on her upcoming album Watershed Synapse Experience which comes out in September. (Also produced by Barb Morrison).

In the meantime, she will be releasing more singles from thought-provokers on racism, to a hot dance track. While you wait, download Water to Blood, turn up the volume and wake up everyone in listening distance.

Literally and figuratively – because the crisis isn’t coming, it’s come.



Rob Watson is the host of the popular Hollywood-based radio/podcast show RATED LGBT RADIO.

He is an established LGBTQ columnist and blogger having written for many top online publications including The Los Angeles Blade, The Washington Blade, Parents Magazine, the Huffington Post, LGBTQ Nation, Gay Star News, the New Civil Rights Movement, and more.

He served as Executive Editor for The Good Man Project, has appeared on MSNBC and been quoted in Business Week and Forbes Magazine.

He is CEO of Watson Writes, a marketing communications agency, and can be reached at [email protected] 

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Online Culture

LGBTQ+ casual encounters app Grindr switches up

With Roam, you will be able to temporarily place your profile in a new location ahead of travel and form local connections before you arrive.



Grindr/Los Angeles Blade graphic

WEST HOLLYWOOD – The world’s largest LGBTQ+ casual encounters app announced last week that it was introducing a new feature that expands its connective capacities. The West Hollywood based company noted that users have identified new uses for the app, ranging from long-term relationships and networking to local discovery and travel advice.

Grindr says that its app is the connective tissue for the gay community all over the world, including in many countries where it is illegal to be gay. 

In a company blog article written by George Arison, Grindr’s Chief Executive Officer published on April 16, he stated:

For decades, the global LGBTQ+ community has physically connected in cities around the world, creating hubs, or Gayborhoods, for local gay, bi, trans, and queer people to freely express themselves, enjoy a sense of safety and intimacy, and foster community through spaces created specifically for us

However, not all of us are able to access a physical Gayborhood

[…] We’re announcing Roam, a new feature that allows you to temporarily place your profile in a new location ahead of a trip. Roam is the first of many future Gayborhood features we are launching, and it unlocks new travel functionality to bring you one step closer to other Grindr users around the globe

Roam allows you to ‘visit’ a new geography to explore other profiles, be seen by members of the local community, and chat with people in that location. Roam is currently in testing in several markets and will be launching broadly later this year.

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After 25 years, a forgotten queer classic reemerges in 4K glory

Screwball rom-com ‘I Think I Do’ finds new appreciation



Alexis Arquette and Christian Maelen in ‘I Think I Do.’ (Photo courtesy of Strand Releasing)

In 2024, with queer-themed entertainment available on demand via any number of streaming services, it’s sometimes easy to forget that such content was once very hard to find.

It wasn’t all that long ago, really. Even in the post-Stonewall ‘70s and ‘80s, movies or shows – especially those in the mainstream – that dared to feature queer characters, much less tell their stories, were branded from the outset as “controversial.” It has been a difficult, winding road to bring on-screen queer storytelling into the light of day – despite the outrage and protest from bigots that, depressingly, still continues to rear its ugly head against any effort to normalize queer existence in the wider culture.

There’s still a long way to go, of course, but it’s important to acknowledge how far we’ve come – and to recognize the efforts of those who have fought against the tide to pave the way. After all, progress doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and if not for the queer artists who have hustled to bring their projects to fruition over the years, we would still be getting queer-coded characters as comedy relief or tragic victims from an industry bent on protecting its bottom line by playing to the middle, instead of the (mostly) authentic queer-friendly narratives that grace our screens today.

The list of such queer storytellers includes names that have become familiar over the years, pioneers of the “Queer New Wave” of the ‘90s like Todd Haynes, Gus Van Sant, Gregg Araki, or Bruce LaBruce, whose work at various levels of the indie and “underground” queer cinema movement attracted enough attention  – and, inevitably, notoriety – to make them known, at least by reputation, to most audiences within the community today.

But for every “Poison” or “The Living End” or “Hustler White,” there are dozens of other not-so-well-remembered queer films from the era; mostly screened at LGBTQ film festivals like LA’s Outfest or San Francisco’s Frameline, they might have experienced a flurry of interest and the occasional accolade, or even a brief commercial release on a handful of screens, before slipping away into fading memory. In the days before streaming, the options were limited for such titles; home video distribution was a costly proposition, especially when there was no guarantee of a built-in audience, so most of them disappeared into a kind of cinematic limbo – from which, thankfully, they are beginning to be rediscovered.

Consider, for instance, “I Think I Do,” the 1998 screwball romantic comedy by writer/director Brian Sloan that was screened last week – in a newly restored 4K print undertaken by Strand Releasing – in Brooklyn as the Closing Night Selection of NewFest’s “Queering the Canon” series. It’s a film that features the late trans actor and activist Alexis Arquette in a starring, pre-transition role, as well as now-mature gay heartthrob Tuc Watkins and out queer actor Guillermo Diaz in supporting turns, but for over two decades has been considered as little more than a footnote in the filmographies of these and the other performers in its ensemble cast. It deserves to be seen as much more than that, and thanks to a resurgence of interest in the queer cinema renaissance from younger film buffs in the community, it’s finally getting that chance.

Set among a circle of friends and classmates at Washington, D.C.’s George Washington University, it’s a comedic – yet heartfelt and nuanced – story of love left unrequited and unresolved between two roommates, openly gay Bob (Arquette) and seemingly straight Brendan (Christian Maelen), whose relationship in college comes to an ugly and humiliating end at a Valentine’s Day party before graduation. A few years later, the gang is reunited for the wedding of Carol (Luna Lauren Vélez) and Matt (Jamie Harrold), who have been a couple since the old days. Bob, now a TV writer engaged to a handsome soap opera star (Watkins), is the “maid” of honor, while old gal pals Beth (Maddie Corman) and Sarah (Marianne Hagan), show up to fill out the bridal party and pursue their own romantic interests. When another old friend, Eric (Diaz), shows up with Brendan unexpectedly in tow, it sparks a behind-the-scenes scenario for the events of the wedding, in which Bob is once again thrust into his old crush’s orbit and confronted with lingering feelings that might put his current romance into question – especially since the years between appear to have led Brendan to a new understanding about his own sexuality.

In many ways, it’s a film with the unmistakable stamp of its time and provenance, a low-budget affair shot at least partly under borderline “guerilla filmmaking” conditions and marked by a certain “collegiate” sensibility that results in more than a few instances of aggressively clever dialogue and a storytelling agenda that is perhaps a bit too heavily packed. Yet at the same time, these rough edges give it a raw, DIY quality that not only makes any perceived sloppiness forgivable, but provides a kind of “outsider” vibe that it wears like a badge of honor. Add to this a collection of likable performances – including Arquette, in a winning turn that gets us easily invested in the story, and Maelen, whose DeNiro-ish looks and barely concealed sensitivity make him swoon-worthy while cementing the palpable chemistry between them  – and Sloan’s 25-year-old blend of classic Hollywood rom-com and raunchy ‘90s sex farce reveals itself to be a charming, wiser-than-expected piece of entertainment, with an admirable amount of compassion and empathy for even its most stereotypical characters – like Watkins’ soap star, a walking trope of vainglorious celebrity made more fully human than appearances would suggest by the actor’s honest, emotionally intelligent performance – that leaves no doubt its heart is in the right place.

Sloan, remarking about it today, confirms that his intention was always to make a movie that was more than just frothy fluff. “While the film seems like a glossy rom-com, I always intended an underlying message about the gay couple being seen as equals to the straight couple getting married,” he says. “ And the movie is also set in Washington to underline the point.”

He also feels a sense of gratitude for what he calls an “increased interest from millennials and Gen Z in these [classic queer indie] films, many of which they are surprised to hear about from that time, especially the comedies.” Indeed, it was a pair of screenings with Queer Cinema Archive that “garnered a lot of interest from their followers,” and “helped to convince my distributor to bring the film back” after being unavailable for almost 10 years.

Mostly, however, he says “I feel very lucky that I got to make this film at that time and be a part of that movement, which signaled a sea change in the way LGBTQ characters were portrayed on screen.”

Now, thanks to Strand’s new 4K restoration, which will be available for VOD streaming on Amazon and Apple starting April 19, his film is about to be accessible to perhaps a larger audience than ever before.

Hopefully, it will open the door for the reappearance of other iconic-but-obscure classics of its era and help make it possible for a whole new generation to discover them.

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Celebrity News

Jodie Foster honored at TCL’s Chinese Theatre handprint event

Foster holds the distinction of being the 2nd person to win multiple Oscars before age 30 & the only openly LGBTQ woman to win 2 Oscars



Jodie Foster at her Hand & Footprint Ceremony outside Hollywood's TCL Chinese Theatre Friday, April 19, 2024. (Screenshot/YouTube ET)

HOLLYWOOD – Celebrated Oscar winning actor Jodie Foster marked her 10th wedding anniversary to her wife director Alexandra Hedison with her addition to a legendary list of Hollywood stars, by leaving her hand and footprints in cement outside Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatre on Friday.

The ceremony was emceed by her longtime pal and friend actor Jamie Lee Curtis and Turner Classic Movies host, television personality Benjamin Mankiewicz. As she added her handprints, footprints, and autograph to the cement casting she took her shoes off and went barefoot.

“The person that I have to thank the most, really, is my wife Alex, who I cannot believe was so generous to give up our 10-year anniversary day to come and do this with me,” said Foster, adding, “This is my life,” she told the standing room only crowd. “I love my life, and I’m so grateful that all of you guys think I’m OK.”

Foster’s over fifty year career in Hollywood has seen her win Oscars for her performances in the category of Best Actress for 1988’s film The Accused and 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs. She was also nominated as Best Supporting Actress for the 1977 film Taxi Driver, 1995’s Nell. This past year Foster was nominated for her role as Best Supporting Actress in 2023’s Nyad.

Nyad, is a biographical sports drama film about sixty-year-old swimmer Diana Nyad’s multiple attempts in the early 2010s to swim the Straits of Florida, starred Annette Bening in the leading role as Foster portrayed Bonnie Stoll as Nyad’s athletic trainer. 

Also attending Friday’s ceremony was Diana Nyad who stood alongside Foster’s wife.

Foster holds the distinction of being the second person to win multiple Oscars before the age of 30. She is also the only openly LGBTQ woman to win two Academy Awards for acting, although she was not publicly out until after both wins.

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Rob Anderson knows you think he’s annoying

The Blade sat down with the Instagram comedian and “Gay Science” author about viral fame, cringe comedy, and why gay men can’t sit in chairs



In an out-of-character moment, Rob Anderson is seated properly on the grand stairs in West Hollywood Park. (Photo by of Rob Salerno)

By Rob Salerno | WEST HOLLYWOOD – Rob Anderson understands why you might’ve blocked him. Over the last four years, Anderson has attracted more than four million followers across Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok.

But as he launches his latest book, Gay Science, collecting and expanding on his viral comedy video series that examines gay stereotypes through the “totally scientific method,” he’s become pretty blasé about the pitfalls of being promoted by the social media algorithms.

Anderson says he understands that despite his enormous success, the various social media platforms often push content at people who aren’t interested.

“I guess it is so annoying,” he says with a laugh. “So when people block me, I’m never like, ‘Ew.’ I’m like, ‘No, it’s annoying. I get it,” 

“When I first started making videos and then my followers were growing, I was blocking people left and right and for the same reason. I don’t hate them. It’s annoying to see this thing on my feed,” he says. “Those Instagay couples that were always taking pictures. I blocked all of them.”

Anderson spoke to The Blade in West Hollywood, where he’s in town to promote Gay Science at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books with a panel discussion on “The Gay Agenda” on April 21 – two days before the book becomes available at bookstores everywhere. 

He says he created the “Gay Science” video series to poke fun at and reclaim stereotypes about gay men.

“I made my first video about why gay men like iced coffee because I wanted to have fun with those sorts of stereotypes I find online. Like why do gay guys run like that? Why do they write like girls, you know, and then all the other fun stereotypes that we’ve kind of like made up about ourselves like why we can’t sit in a chair the right way, because apparently we love having stereotypes,” he says.

For the book, Anderson applies the same skewed scientific take to explain more than 50 different stereotypes across the entire LGBT spectrum. So the book has chapters that ask “Are Pansexual People Living Better Lives?” “Does College Make People Bi?” and “Do Lesbians Hate Electricity?”

“I challenged myself to write about everyone. I think everyone deserves to have something to laugh at because things are so awful politically. So asexual people, intersex, non-binary chapters. There’s a chapter ‘Did trans people invent pronouns?’ And, like everything else, the chapter proves that’s right.” 

Gay Science doesn’t take on the question of why so many gay men find Anderson annoying, but he has some theories.

“I attracted the attention of gay people, and some people choose to take that and give you back love, and then some people choose to take that and hate on you,” he says. “It’s really not even about me. It’s always about them, like something they’re going through.”

“And honestly, I get it. Being gay is hard and we had a lot of tough times growing up, and then once you come out, you struggle to feel accepted in a gay space.”

Maybe he can study this in Gay Science Volume 2.

And sometimes that backlash has just made Anderson even more powerful. 

Two years ago, when he was about to go on his first comedy tour, a Twitter user from Washington, D.C. shared a now-infamous opinion about Anderson’s $100 VIP meet-and-greet tickets.

“ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS TO MEET R*B AND*RSON? When I can see him sucking dick on the dance floor at the after party for free? I’ll pass,” wrote @livefreeordavid.

The tweet generated thousands of likes, retweets and comments – many of them even more hateful. But the upshot is that Anderson sold out his D.C. shows within days and the rest of his tour shortly after. Anderson says he only learned about the tweet months later, when someone tagged him in the thread.

“I just kind of kept it. I screenshot it. I’m like, I just need to remember this. When people hate on you, it’s gonna be good. And I had to bring that back up again recently because I was on [Watch What Happens Live] for Gay Science and someone on Twitter was like, ‘Oh, how embarrassing. He’s the bartender.’ They’re trying to hate on me for like being on TV.” 

Some of Anderson’s zen attitude to toward the haters can also be attributed to a recent successful shift in his content. While he was working on the book Gay Science, he paused making new videos in the series – all that new content is in the book. 

Instead, he started posting video recaps of movies and TV shows from his youth, which has attracted a broader audience. 

“I’d been rewatching Seventh Heaven and I was like, actually this show is ridiculous. I’m just gonna post about these shows. And those took off because it’s more universal. My audience has grown since then, and now it’s mostly not gay people.”

“I really feeling like the content that I’m making is still gay. Like I’m a gay guy and you can tell that I’m not straight, but I get a lot less hate. Isn’t that crazy?” 

“Not just supportive, but fun DMs that were like, ‘you need to do this movie because this is so fucking crazy.’ And it was because women are involved now and they’re just better than men,” he says. 

Maybe that’s another topic for future volumes of Gay Science.

Gay Science will be released in stores April 23.


Rob Salerno is a writer and journalist based in Los Angeles, California, and Toronto, Canada.

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Out CBS reporter Jon Vigliotti recounts covering a warming planet

“I always loved storytelling,” said Vigliotti who grew up in the village of Mount Kisco in New York & now lives in Southern California



CBS News national correspondent Jonathan Vigliotti has written a new book about climate change. (Photo Credit: Iván Carrillo)

By Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor | HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – In 2018, Jonathan Vigliotti was working as a foreign correspondent based out of CBS News’ London bureau. To say it was a coveted journalism job would be an understatement.

Yet, as he recounts in his debut book, “Before It’s Gone: Stories From the Front Lines of Climate Change in Small-Town America,” Vigliotti’s life would be upended professionally and personally by a warming planet. During a Cape Cod vacation that August with his family and husband, Iván Carrillo, Vigliotti fielded a call that had him making a hasty exit — leaving his lobster dinner untouched — to catch a flight for Southern California.

He was sent to cover a wildfire encroaching on the city of Lake Elsinore in Riverside County. The impromptu assignment led to him relocating to the national broadcaster’s Los Angeles Bureau the next year and taking on the natural disaster beat.

“In the time between then and now I have covered historic hurricanes, thermometer-shattering heat waves, record-breaking droughts, mega wildfires, back-to-back ‘hundred-year floods,’ unprecedented blizzards, and never-before-seen mudslides,” he writes in the prologue of his book.

Released in April by One Signal Publishers/Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster Inc., the book not only recounts his experiences covering a warming planet these past six years. It also serves as a memoir of his rising through the journalism ranks, from working for the NPR station based on the Bronx campus of his alma mater, Fordham University, to now being a national correspondent for CBS News.

“I always loved storytelling,” said Vigliotti, 41, who grew up in the village of Mount Kisco in New York.

Speaking with the Bay Area Reporter by phone, Vigliotti said he’s been a nature lover his entire life. He spent hours exploring the woods by his childhood home. When his parents joined the fight to stop a housing development that would have bulldozed his forested retreat, Vigliotti learned about the fragility of ecosystems and how collective actions can protect such places.

“It had a lasting impact on me,” he said. “My work as a professional journalist always has gravitated toward environmental stories.”

His book is broken into four parts centered on the elements of fire, water, air, and earth. The tragic events he’s covered are paired with solutions to mitigate the effect rising temperatures are having on communities across the U.S. (Vigliotti writes about reintroducing beavers to ward against wildfires in an excerpt of his book for this week’s Guest Opinion.)

“One of the reasons why I wrote the book is I feel climate change is abstract to people. Even people who may be climate deniers, I think that comes from a lack of understanding,” said Vigliotti. “One of the best ways to understand climate change is radicalizing our weather is to be there on the front lines. Through our reporting, I try to visually connect those dots for people.”

‘No warning’

A theme throughout the book is the oft repeated — and disingenuous — phrase, “There was no warning.” Time and time again local officials have known beforehand the threats their communities face from climate change, said Vigliotti.

“Why this happens is hard to say, but I do believe a lot of people find climate science to be overwhelming,” he said. “The solutions oftentimes seem daunting.”

Rather than dismiss climate change as “some politicized issue,” he hopes his audience sees it as the threat it is to their livelihoods and hometowns. He utilizes the term “habitat changes” in the book when writing about what is occurring due to changing climates.

“If saying climate change is a barrier for some people, maybe you don’t need to say it,” said Vigliotti. “As long as people understand weather is changing and an increased threat to communities on the front lines, the more people are willing to take action. That is my finding at least,” he said.

He believes the planet still has time before it’s gone.

“We are a very intelligent species, us humans. We have proven time and time again we have a unique ability to adapt, unlike some other species,” said Vigliotti. “I think we have an opportunity if we listen to the warning signs and take action to rebuild or upbuild our communities so they are resilient.”

Even more so than in his on air segments, Vigliotti is front and center throughout the book, talking to readers in the first person.

“I wasn’t sure how much of my own experience would be a part of this book. It documents my education and my understanding of the role climate change is having,” he said. “I felt like if I was going to invite readers into my world, I needed to be as honest as possible in those moments where I am sharing my personal experiences.”

Professionally, Vigliotti said he “never actively” hid being gay. But as he explains in the book, he routinely was “straightening out my gay” when sent to report in places like the Middle East.

An assistant news director at the Milwaukee TV station where he once worked advised him to “rein in the fagginess,” he writes. He also disclosed losing a network job “because the main anchor at the time didn’t like the way I ‘tracked.'”

Vigliotti told the B.A.R. he publicly came out in either 2011 or 2012. He credited gay CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, who is also a correspondent for CBS News’ “60 Minutes” newsmagazine, for giving him the courage to do so.

“The role I think he had in giving a voice to other journalists who were also quote-unquote closeted … I don’t know him personally but I am forever grateful for that,” said Vigliotti. “It gave me a way forward and a way to be more authentic as myself and more transparent without having to hide parts of myself.”

Doing so in his book marked a departure from his usual reporting focus.

“I have always believed as a journalist my role is to disappear into the background and to give a platform to the people I am interviewing. I always naturally shied away from sharing too much of myself to begin with,” said Vigliotti.

To not reveal his own story in his book would have been a disservice to his interview subjects, he reasoned.

“I have come to expect so much from people who are often sharing the worst moments of their life with me. I felt it would be a hindrance to not return that favor,” said Vigliotti, who is at work on expanding his nightly news broadcast’s coverage of small-town America.

The book doesn’t mark an end to his coverage of natural disasters. He plans to continue heeding the call when such assignments break.

“I do love California and do find a sense of purpose covering these kinds of stories,” said Vigliotti, who lives in Hollywood. “I will continue covering extreme weather events.”

The book can be purchased online here: (Link)


The preceding article was previously published by the Bay Area Reporter and is republished with permission.

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Time’s 100 most influential people of 2024: LGBTQ+ honorees

The list of the 100 Most Influential People of 2024 includes several LGBTQ celebrities & activists who champion queer rights



Actor Elliot Page said that "[It's] a tremendous honor to be featured in TIME’s 2024 #TIME100 list." Page was among several LGBTQ+ honorees. (Photo Credit: Time magazine)

By Amber Laenen | WASHINGTON – Time magazine on Wednesday unveiled its highly anticipated list of the 100 Most Influential People of 2024, and it includes several LGBTQ celebrities and activists who continue to champion queer rights.

Among the notable figures that Time recognized is actor Coleman Domingo, who portrayed civil rights activist Bayard Rustin in the biopic “Rustin.” Domingo, among other things, is the second openly gay man nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of a gay character.

Other people on the list are:

  • Actor Elliot Page, known for his roles in “Juno” and “The Umbrella Academy.” His recent memoir, “Pageboy,” sheds light on his journey as a transgender man, inspiring audiences amid ongoing challenges to trans rights.
  • Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson.
  • Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, a Ugandan LGBTQ rights group.
  • Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, an LGBTQ activist in Sri Lanka who led the effort to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations in her country.

Time’s list also includes other LGBTQ influencers, such as fashion designer Jonathan Anderson, reproductive biologist Katsuhiko Hayashi, chef Dominique Crenn, and healthcare advocate Ophelia Dahl.


Amber Laenen is a senior at Thomas More Mechelen University in Belgium. She is majoring in journalism and international relations. Amber is interning with the Blade this semester as part of a continued partnership with the Washington Center.

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What to expect at the 2024 National Cannabis Festival

With performances by Wu-Tang Clan, Redman, and Thundercat, the 2024 National Cannabis Festival will be bigger than ever this year



Juicy J performs at the 2023 National Cannabis Festival (Photo credit: Alive Coverage)

WASHINGTON — With two full days of events and programs along with performances by Wu-Tang Clan, Redman, and Thundercat, the 2024 National Cannabis Festival will be bigger than ever this year.

Leading up to the festivities on Friday and Saturday at Washington, D.C.’s RFK Stadium are plenty of can’t-miss experiences planned for 420 Week, including the National Cannabis Policy Summit and an LGBTQ happy hour hosted by the District’s Black-owned queer bar, Thurst Lounge (both happening on Wednesday).

On Tuesday, the Blade caught up with NCF Founder and Executive Producer Caroline Phillips, principal at The High Street PR & Events, for a discussion about the event’s history and the pivotal political moment for cannabis legalization and drug policy reform both locally and nationally. Phillips also shared her thoughts about the role of LGBTQ activists in these movements and the through-line connecting issues of freedom and bodily autonomy.

After D.C. residents voted to approve Initiative 71 in the fall of 2014, she said, adults were permitted to share cannabis and grow the plant at home, while possession was decriminalized with the hope and expectation that fewer people would be incarcerated.

“When that happened, there was also an influx of really high-priced conferences that promised to connect people to big business opportunities so they could make millions in what they were calling the ‘green rush,'” Phillips said.

“At the time, I was working for Human Rights First,” a nonprofit that was, and is, engaged in “a lot of issues to do with world refugees and immigration in the United States” — so, “it was really interesting to me to see the overlap between drug policy reform and some of these other issues that I was working on,” Phillips said.

“And then it rubbed me a little bit the wrong way to hear about the ‘green rush’ before we’d heard about criminal justice reform around cannabis and before we’d heard about people being let out of jail for cannabis offenses.”

“As my interests grew, I realized that there was really a need for this conversation to happen in a larger way that allowed the larger community, the broader community, to learn about not just cannabis legalization, but to understand how it connects to our criminal justice system, to understand how it can really stimulate and benefit our economy, and to understand how it can become a wellness tool for so many people,” Phillips said.

“On top of all of that, as a minority in the cannabis space, it was important to me that this event and my work in the cannabis industry really amplified how we could create space for Black and Brown people to be stakeholders in this economy in a meaningful way.”

Caroline Phillips (Photo by Greg Powers)

“Since I was already working in event production, I decided to use those skills and apply them to creating a cannabis event,” she said. “And in order to create an event that I thought could really give back to our community with ticket prices low enough for people to actually be able to attend, I thought a large-scale event would be good — and thus was born the cannabis festival.”

D.C. to see more regulated cannabis businesses ‘very soon’

Phillips said she believes decriminalization in D.C. has decreased the number of cannabis-related arrests in the city, but she noted arrests have, nevertheless, continued to disproportionately impact Black and Brown people.

“We’re at a really interesting crossroads for our city and for our cannabis community,” she said. In the eight years since Initiative 71 was passed, “We’ve had our licensed regulated cannabis dispensaries and cultivators who’ve been existing in a very red tape-heavy environment, a very tax heavy environment, and then we have the unregulated cannabis cultivators and cannabis dispensaries in the city” who operate via a “loophole” in the law “that allows the sharing of cannabis between adults who are over the age of 21.”

Many of the purveyors in the latter group, Phillips said, “are looking at trying to get into the legal space; so they’re trying to become regulated businesses in Washington, D.C.”

She noted the city will be “releasing 30 or so licenses in the next couple of weeks, and those stores should be coming online very soon” which will mean “you’ll be seeing a lot more of the regulated stores popping up in neighborhoods and hopefully a lot more opportunity for folks that are interested in leaving the unregulated space to be able to join the regulated marketplace.”

The national push for de-scheduling cannabis

Signaling the political momentum for reforming cannabis and criminal justice laws, Wednesday’s Policy Summit will feature U.S. Sens. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the Senate majority leader.

Also representing Capitol Hill at the Summit will be U.S. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) — who will be receiving the Supernova Women Cannabis Champion Lifetime Achievement Award — along with an aide to U.S. Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio).

Nationally, Phillips said much of the conversation around cannabis concerns de-scheduling. Even though 40 states and D.C. have legalized the drug for recreational and/or medical use, marijuana has been classified as a Schedule I substance since the Controlled Substances Act was passed in 1971, which means it carries the heftiest restrictions on, and penalties for, its possession, sale, distribution, and cultivation.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services formally requested the drug be reclassified as a Schedule III substance in August, which inaugurated an ongoing review, and in January a group of 12 Senate Democrats sent a letter to the Biden-Harris administration’s Drug Enforcement Administration urging the agency to de-schedule cannabis altogether.

Along with the Summit, Phillips noted that “a large contingent of advocates will be coming to Washington, D.C. this week to host a vigil at the White House and to be at the festival educating people” about these issues. She said NCF is working with the 420 Unity Coalition to push Congress and the Biden-Harris administration to “move straight to de-scheduling cannabis.”

“This would allow folks who have been locked up for cannabis offenses the chance to be released,” she said. “It would also allow medical patients greater access. It would also allow business owners the chance to exist without the specter of the federal government coming in and telling them what they’re doing is wrong and that they’re criminals.”

Phillips added, however, that de-scheduling cannabis will not “suddenly erase” the “generations and generations of systemic racism” in America’s financial institutions, business marketplace, and criminal justice system, nor the consequences that has wrought on Black and Brown communities.

An example of the work that remains, she said, is making sure “that all people are treated fairly by financial institutions so that they can get the funding for their businesses” to, hopefully, create not just another industry, but “really a better industry” that from the outset is focused on “equity” and “access.”

Policy wonks should be sure to visit the festival, too. “We have a really terrific lineup in our policy pavilion,” Phillips said. “A lot of our heavy hitters from our advocacy committee will be presenting programming.”

“On Saturday there is a really strong federal marijuana reform panel that is being led by Maritza Perez Medina from the Drug Policy Alliance,” she said. “So that’s going to be a terrific discussion” that will also feature “representation from the Veterans Cannabis Coalition.”

“We also have a really interesting talk being led by the Law Enforcement Action Partnership about conservatives, cops, and cannabis,” Phillips added.

Cannabis and the LGBTQ community

“I think what’s so interesting about LGBTQIA+ culture and the cannabis community are the parallels that we’ve seen in the movements towards legalization,” Phillips said.

The fight for LGBTQ rights over the years has often involved centering personal stories and personal experiences, she said. “And that really, I think, began to resonate, the more that we talked about it openly in society; the more it was something that we started to see on television; the more it became a topic in youth development and making sure that we’re raising healthy children.”

Likewise, Phillips said, “we’ve seen cannabis become more of a conversation in mainstream culture. We’ve heard the stories of people who’ve had veterans in their families that have used cannabis instead of pharmaceuticals, the friends or family members who’ve had cancer that have turned to CBD or THC so they could sleep, so they could eat so they could get some level of relief.”

Stories about cannabis have also included accounts of folks who were “arrested when they were young” or “the family member who’s still locked up,” she said, just as stories about LGBTQ people have often involved unjust and unnecessary suffering.

Not only are there similarities in the socio-political struggles, Phillips said, but LGBTQ people have played a central role pushing for cannabis legalization and, in fact, in ushering in the movement by “advocating for HIV patients in California to be able to access cannabis’s medicine.”

As a result of the queer community’s involvement, she said, “the foundation of cannabis legalization is truly patient access and criminal justice reform.”

“LGBTQIA+ advocates and cannabis advocates have managed to rein in support of the majority of Americans for the issues that they find important,” Phillips said, even if, unfortunately, other movements for bodily autonomy like those concerning issues of reproductive justice “don’t see that same support.”

(Editor’s note: Tickets are still available for the National Cannabis Festival, with prices starting at $55 for one-day general admission on Friday through $190 for a two-day pass with early-entry access. The Washington Blade, one of the event’s sponsors, will host a LGBTQIA+ Lounge and moderate a panel discussion on Saturday with the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs.)

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NBA referees required to wear logo of anti-queer airline Emirates

Emirates airline logo patches adorn uniforms worn by gay ref Bill Kennedy and trans nonbinary ref Che Flores



Emirates A380 Economy Class. (Photo Credit: Emirates)

NEW YORK — Although the national airline of Dubai announced a new global marketing partnership with the National Basketball Association back on February 8, it’s only now that some have noticed that for the first time, commercial patches promoting Emirates are now prominently displayed on every NBA referee’s uniform. 

That includes out gay NBA ref, Bill Kennedy, who publicly came out in 2015 a week after he ejected a player for hurling homophobic slurs during a game. And the Emirates logo is also part of the uniform worn by the first trans nonbinary NBA referee, Che Flores. 

Out NBA referee Bill Kennedy. (Screenshot/YouTube CBS Sports)

As of press time, neither Kennedy nor Flores have commented on the sponsorship. Kennedy is in his 26th season with the NBA; for Flores, this is their third season. As Sportico reported in February, “financial terms of the tie-up have not been disclosed.” 

But as Outsports noted last weekend, that presumably lucrative contract the NBA signed with Emirates puts the league in cahoots with the Emirate of Dubai, which is one of seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates, or U.A.E., where homosexuality is illegal, and punished by death, according to Equaldex. Gender transitions are illegal there, too, and nonbinary identity is not legally recognized. There are no LGBTQ+ protections from discrimination whatsoever, adoption by gay couples is illegal, LGBTQ+ citizens cannot serve in the military or donate blood, and conversion therapy is perfectly legal. 

It’s been this way in the U.A.E. for generations, but despite that, the NBA appeared all too happy to jump in bed with bigots. 

“Emirates is a world-class airline that shares our commitment to engaging fans around the world in new and creative ways,” said NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum in a statement released by Emirates on Feb. 8.  “As basketball continues to be recognized as the fastest growing sport globally, this collaboration will showcase the excitement of the NBA to the millions of people who fly Emirates every year.”

When asked about the U.A.E’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws last year by the StarTribune, Tatum said: “The values of the NBA go with us wherever we go. It doesn’t mean that we agree with all the laws and policies in the more than 200 countries and territories where we do business. We don’t. But what we make sure is whenever we do an event in a particular market, that the values of the NBA, that those travel with us: the values of diversity, inclusion and of equity.”

Emirates does tout its support of women and “gender equality in the workplace” on its website.

The head of Emirates used the word “pride” to describe his feelings about the deal, without a trace of irony.

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum inspecting a Emirates A380 Economy Class. (Photo Credit: Emirates)

“We are proud to establish a global marketing partnership with the National Basketball Association to become its Official Global Airline Partner,” said His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Emirates Group Chairman and Chief Executive. “This collaboration will also see Emirates become the league’s first referee jersey patch partner and the inaugural title partner of the NBA Cup.  With basketball’s popularity around the world, we are excited to work with one of the most globally recognized and prestigious professional leagues.  The NBA is a valuable addition to our sponsorship portfolio as it allows us to connect with a vast global fanbase, including in the U.S., where the game is an integral part of the country’s sport culture.”

The airline itself is controlled by the Dubai government’s principal investment arm. Emirates is already partnered with eight soccer teams, and owns Arsenal FC’s stadium naming and front-of-shirt rights. The airline also sponsors three of tennis’ four Grand Slam events, as well as one of cycling’s top teams — UAE Team. Added together, Emirates is a sponsor across 24 international sports properties, according to Sportico

While both the WNBA and NBA have long been advocates of the LGBTQ+ community, this new partnership appears to put Emirates above any other allyship, according to the airline’s own statement. For example, the NBA changed the name of its 2025 NBA In-Season Tournament to the Emirates NBA Cup. Emirates signage appeared throughout Gainbridge Fieldhouse at the All-Star Game in Indianapolis, and was seen by fans in 214 countries and territories in 60 languages on television, digital media and social media. And there’s more, according to the Emirates press release: 

“The sponsorship will also allow Emirates to enjoy a presence at other marquee league events, including as a partner of NBA Crossover – an immersive fan event at NBA All-Star – and as the presenting partner of the NBA Finals Legacy Project, which features the dedication of new NBA Cares Live, Learn, or Play Centers in each NBA Finals team market.  Emirates branding will also be visible through virtual in-arena signage and on top of the backboard during nationally televised NBA games, beginning with the 2024 NBA All-Star Game.

“Fans will have the opportunity to watch NBA content on all Emirates flights via the airline’s inflight entertainment system, including long-form documentaries, player profiles, interviews and more.

“The marketing partnership will also allow basketball fans to purchase a wide range of official NBA merchandise, including basketballs, sportswear and vintage collectibles, with co-branded collaborations to follow later this year.  The merchandise will be sold at the official Emirates Store at Emirates’ Headquarters in Dubai and online at, which delivers worldwide.  Emirates Skywards members can also redeem Miles to purchase items from the exciting range.”

Kennedy, Flores and every other NBA ref have been wearing the Emirates patch since the NBA All-Star Game in Indianapolis on Feb. 18, broadcast live around the world. The patches promote an airline operated by a country where being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or nonbinary is punishable by death. 

Yet they’re only now being noticed. 

Closeted referees have to wear them, too. And starting in 2025, so will refs working in the WNBA, a league that openly welcomes out LGBTQ+ coaches and players. Even the NBA’s minor league refs will be required to wear those Emirates patches later this year.

The Blade has reached out to the NBA, WNBA and Emirates for comment.

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WNBA star Brittney Griner & wife Cherelle expecting first child

“Can’t believe we’re less than three months away from meeting our favorite human being,” the WNBA star shared with Instagram followers



Cherelle & Brittney Griner are expecting their first child in July. The couple shared the news on Instagram. (Photo Credit: Brittney Griner/Instagram)

PHOENIX — One year after returning to the WNBA after her release from a Russian gulag and declaring, “I’m never playing overseas again,” Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner and her wife announced they have something even bigger coming up this summer. 

Cherelle, 31, and Brittney, 33, are expecting their first child in July. The couple shared the news with their 715K followers on Instagram

“Can’t believe we’re less than three months away from meeting our favorite human being,” the caption read, with the hashtag, #BabyGrinerComingSoon and #July2024.

Griner returned to the U.S. in December 2022 in a prisoner swap, more than nine months after being arrested in Moscow for possession of vape cartridges containing prescription cannabis.

In April 2023, at her first news conference following her release, the two-time Olympic gold medalist made only one exception to her vow to never play overseas again: To return to the Summer Olympic Games, which will be played in Paris starting in July, the same month “Baby Griner” is due. “The only time I would want to would be to represent the USA,” she said last year. 

Given that the unrestricted free agent is on the roster of both Team USA and her WNBA team, it’s not immediately clear where Griner will be when their first child arrives. 

The Griners purchased their “forever home” in Phoenix just last year. “Phoenix is home,” Griner said at the Mercury’s end-of-season media day, according to ESPN. “Me and my wife literally just got a place. This is it.”

As the Los Angeles Blade reported last December, Griner is working with Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts — like Griner, an out, married lesbian — on an ESPN television documentary as well as a television series for ABC about her life story. Cherelle is executive producer of these projects. 

Next month, Griner’s tell-all memoir of her Russian incarceration will be published by Penguin Random House. It’s titled Coming Home, and the hardcover hits bookstores on May 7.

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