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Weekly gay publication of Washington, DC including features on news, arts, politics, lifestlye, film, music, as well as events calendars, classifieds, home ads and free personals.

    Stage:

    The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is as American as apple pie -- especially as portrayed in the new production at Ford's Theatre. The musical about contestants and characters at a fictional regional spelling bee is also as American as its producing local theater company, based in the Civil War-era historical venue. Though director Peter Flynn could just as easily have created this for the Walt Disney Company. It's all wholesome, unobjectionable, feel-good fun, with light humor and even lighter drama, hardly any edge and a bit too much charm. Ultimately, if Flynn hadn't done such a sharp job casting a talented crew of local singing actors, there would be little to commend the whole shebang.

    Particulary so, given the frequency with which composer/lyricist William Finn and book writer Rachel Sheinkin's musical is staged. You wouldn't know the show registered as barely a blip on Broadway nearly a decade ago, when the original production ran for less than two years. Since then, Spelling Bee has become one of the most produced stage shows in the country, with school theater departments and local theater companies regularly tripping over themselves to offer competing productions in the same market.

    Spelling Bee

    Spelling Bee

    (Photo by Scott Suchman)

    It's easy enough to understand the show's mass appeal, which is not principally the spelling competition itself or even its quirky, colorful cast of characters. No, the gimmick is the ingenious idea of recruiting -- for every show -- four theater patrons to sit for a spell as contestants at the bee. The result is a more engaging show, as each regular-Joe contestant comes in for light, impromptu-style ribbing every time they approach the mike to spell a word. The ribbing comes mostly courtesy of Matthew A. Anderson, playing the sad-sack Vice Principal at the bee's hosting school; and Rachel Zampelli as the competition's stage-mom emcee. Zampelli gives a knockout performance as the sassy but slightly sweet emcee, whose everyday ordinariness transforms into a show-stopping superstar every time Zampelli belts another of her character's big numbers.

    The six scripted contestants in the show's competition are a multi-culti mix of American word nerds, filled with quirks and eccentricities far beyond their uniting affinity for orthography. Flynn and veteran Ford's costume designer Wade Laboissonneire hired and attired six adult actors, managing to make them look almost like the teenagers they portray, yet not enough to disguise the sense that awkward adolescents and angsty adults are cut from the same cloth. Among these adult children is a jock-in-development (played by Vincent Kempski) who loses his mojo, and the competition, after the public humiliation of being exposed with tented pants. Naturally, I'm referring to "My Unfortunate Erection" -- though Ford's dumps that original title to his number in favor of "Chip's Lament," and opts for sanitized alternate lyrics too. This dulling of edge is a serious strike against Ford's production, making it safe for Middle America's legion of visiting tourists.

    But Kevin McAllister is yet one more reason this cast makes Ford's version worth seeing. The local actor was the secret weapon in Ford's February musical production, Violet, but even those who saw Violet will be again awed by McAllister, an impressively un-showy, power-piped vocalist. The actor takes on two roles here: a minor part as one of the gay stage-dads, which he performs during the rare offstage moments of his primary character, the bee's counselor, a thuggish ex-con. The range he displays here is on a level that is rare -- even unmatched -- around town. McAllister's acting chops are so fine-tuned to character that he pulls off the feat of convincingly playing two diametrical characters here. Now that's a champion.

    KEEGAN THEATRE'S CURRENT PRODUCTION OF HAIR also features an acting champion -- specifically the entire ensemble cast of 20-something actors. Surely, many of the 22 singing actors just starting their careers here will become champions -- and stars -- in their own right, but here they're essentially playing older-generation variations of themselves. Where they've succeeded as an ensemble, guided by directors Mark Rhea and Susan Rhea, is in the natural ease and rapport they convey even in the subtlest of gestures, to say nothing of their rich harmonies in song. They're as unified as the show's Vietnam War pothead protesters, and they wholly convince you that this show dating to 1968 still has legs and relevancy today -- and not just because of the incredibly pro-pot sentiments conveyed in James Rado and Gerome Ragni's story and lyrics. The show's themes critiquing faraway wars and exploring teenage angst and listlessness are still common today.

    But the best argument for Hair in 2014 is the fact that Galt MacDermot's rock score still moves you. No matter how many times you've heard the song or seen it staged, "Let the Sunshine In" still surprises you with its emotional complexity and power. Musically, it's a force that dawns slowly until it becomes a rallying anthem for the lost. And the whole tribe sings in tear-inducing unison.

    The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (starstarstar 1/2) runs to May 17 at Ford's Theatre. Tickets are $18 to $52. Call 800-982-2787 or visit fordstheatre.org. Hair (starstarstarstarstar) runs to April 27 at Keegan Theatre. Tickets are $37 to $42. Call 703-892-0202 or visit keegantheatre.org.

    ...more

    Music:

    Sonia Rutstein recently met a man in Germany who inquired about her name.

    ''Oh, 'Rutstein.' This is a German name. Are you German?'' she recalls the man asking. ''And I said, 'Well, I was once.' And it felt really good to say that, because that's my heritage.''

    Germany has also become part of the Jewish-American folk artist's present-day life. ''My friends have been wondering if I'm speaking in German and French yet, because I've spent quite a bit of time now here in Germany and also in France,'' Rutstein says during a recent phone call from, naturally, Germany.

    SONiA

    SONiA

    (Photo by Terry Irons)

    But Rutstein, who records using just her first name, stylized as ''SONiA,'' is preparing to return to her homeland. The Baltimore native is coming back to promote the new album Broken Film with her band disappear fear – also stylized, but with lower-case letters – including a tour stop at Jammin Java Saturday, April 12. ''Most of the concert will be in English,'' she says, teasing that there ''may be a little in German,'' a language she's currently studying. SONiA will also sing a few songs in Spanish and in Hebrew drawn from her recorded repertoire, featuring lyrics often touching on progressive themes and LGBT rights.

    After a few years away, the lesbian artist anticipates returning to this year's LGBT Pride festival circuit. But she only expects to hit one or two events in the U.S. -- which is nothing like the near-omnipresence she had 15 or so years ago. ''I think I did like 20 festivals in one summer,'' she sighs, reminiscing about a year in the late 1990s.

    Rutstein's sights these days are mostly on the broader international summer festival circuit, with gigs anticipated at events in the United States and Canada as well as in Europe. She's also finalizing plans to perform at a large gay festival in Germany, where she recently wrapped a string of concerts in conjunction with a music convention.

    ''Most of my concerts have been sold out, which is so cool,'' she says -- just one among many positive experiences the she's had in the country. ''There's been, absolutely, just complete open-arms welcoming to me. I feel completely embraced.''

    disappear fear performs Saturday, April 12, at 7 p.m. Jammin Java, 227 Maple Ave. E., Vienna. Tickets are $18 to $20. Call 703-255-3747 or visit jamminjava.com.

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    Opinion:

    Celebrating my husband's birthday last week, there were a couple unintentional themes at play. I'd taken him to Puerto Rico for a long weekend, a place where it's impossible for me as a Washingtonian not to feel some kinship in an "American, but not United States" kind of way.

    A second theme was 9/11. I know, I know -- we're party people.

    One World Trade Center

    One World Trade Center

    (Photo by Joe Woolhead / Courtesy Silverstein Properties)

    The husbear's bestie, Jenny, down from the Bronx to help celebrate, was talking about a possible change to her commute, which pricked her memories of starting a new commute that same week of 2001 and not knowing how to get home from Manhattan once the trains were shut down. That, in turn, reminded me of walking from Columbia Heights down 14th Street to U Street that horrible morning. I had no idea that billowing smoke in the distance was the Pentagon in flames, no idea that the world had just experienced an event that would change everything.

    A third theme was birthdays, plural, as a week from my husband's birthday comes another. April 4 may be infamous for the miserable national memory of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, but it's also the anniversary of something great: It's the original World Trade Center's official birthday, 1973.

    While I'm just a bit older, my own unique journey beginning the weekend of the Stonewall Riots, those towers loomed large in much of my life. I was never in them, never lived in New York, but they were still ever present. As a kid, I was nuts for King Kong, the black-and-white original. Then, in second grade, the Jessica Lange remake came out. My sister took me to the theater where I sat mesmerized not only by buff Jeff Bridges, but by Kong's climb up one of the Twin Towers. Under the family's 1976 Christmas tree, I got a 3D paint-by-numbers kit of my ferocious monkey man atop the tower fighting for Dwan. The towers set the tone for the beginning of every childhood episode of Barney Miller. I'd seen them from the sky several times when changing planes in New York or Newark. My first real visit to the Big Apple wasn't until 1998, giving me a chance to spy them from the ground up as I made my way through Manhattan. The towers had nothing to do with my trip, but the stately sentinels offered a comforting presence of familiarity and continuity. A couple days after 9/11, I went to a screening of Big Eden. It was a wonderfully heartwarming movie, but with the towers as backdrop in the opening credits, certainly not easy to market.

    Soon, a reiteration of the World Trade Center will open -- One World Trade Center -- in mid-2014. I'm rooting for NYC Pride Weekend, myself, as April 4 doesn't seem at all possible.

    When plans for this tower were announced, I remember some arguing that it was too dangerous. "It will be a target." Yes, it will be. Just like marathons, British buses, Spanish trains, federal buildings and sandstone Buddhas. All the more reason to build it.

    One World Trade Center, whether in the 20th century or the 21st, is a center bustling with every possibility of ethnicity, class, orientation and outlook. From the subway maintenance worker in the basement to Anna Wintour ruling her above-the-clouds Vogue roost to the Vantone China Center, this publicly owned tower will continue to be a crossroads to influence the future. Whenever it opens, I'd love to see its birthday continue to be marked as April 4. We cherish the day of King's birth, not the day of his demise. April 4 can be a day that celebrates the possibilities of humanity to rise.

    Will O'Bryan is Metro Weekly's managing editor. Email him at wobryan@MetroWeekly.com. Follow him @wobryan.

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    News:

    District voters went to the polls April 1 to select nominees from each of the city's four major political parties for various offices in this November's general election, turning incumbent Mayor Vincent Gray and four-term Councilmember Jim Graham (Ward 1) out of office in their respective Democratic primaries.

    Gray, who has been the target of a federal investigation looking into a shadow campaign during the 2010 mayoral election, was frequently under attack and had flat-lined in polls following a plea deal with businessman Jeffrey Thompson, who pleaded guilty to directing illegal campaign contributions into a Gray shadow campaign and claimed Gray had known of the plan. Following Thompson's plea deal, Gray's chief rival, Councilmember Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) surged, consolidating the support of a number of anti-Gray voters who had previously considered other candidates until polls showed Bowser breaking away from the pack of challengers.

    Muriel Bowser

    Muriel Bowser

    (Photo via Mayor Gray's Flickr)

    Bowser triumphed over Gray by a 12-point margin, 44 percent to 32 percent, and won five of the city's eight wards, including her home base of Ward 4 and majority- or plurality-white wards west of Rock Creek Park and in the city's downtown and U Street corridors that had backed former Mayor Adrian Fenty (D) four years ago. Gray won three majority-African-American wards – Wards 5, 7 and 8 –largely on the east side of the Anacostia River. Based on results from the D.C. Board of Elections, Bowser also appears to have won handily in wards with high concentrations of LGBT voters.

    According to the Williams Institute, a UCLA School of Law think tank conducting research on sexual-orientation and gender-identity laws and public policy, the 2010 Census shows tracts with more than 20 same-sex couples per 1,000 households overlapping all or parts of 43 voting precincts in the District. Bowser won 36 of those 43 precincts, some by lopsided margins.

    Gray won in Precinct 20, a Ledroit Park precinct, and at Precinct 18, in the city's Shaw neighborhood. He also won three precincts – 67, 69 and 70 – in the city's Brookland and Michigan Park neighborhoods. Councilmember Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), who came in third overall with 13 percent of the vote, won two other precincts, 90 and 90, located near his Capitol Hill base.

    Overall voter turnout for the primaries was sluggish at many locations. Fewer votes were cast this year than were cast four years ago at every precinct in the city. Overall, voter turnout citywide was estimated at 22.5 percent, with turnout in some individual precincts dropping as low as 8 percent.

    Bowser now heads into the November general election as the presumptive favorite in a city where almost three-quarters of voters identify as Democrats. She will face gay Councilmember David Catania (I-At Large), who announced his candidacy earlier this month, as well as Libertarian Party nominee Bruce Majors and Statehood Green Party nominee Faith Dane Crannitch, who appears on the ballot as ''Faith.''

    In the D.C. Council races, incumbent Chairman Phil Mendelson and Councilmembers Anita Bonds (D-At-Large), Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), and Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) won their respective primaries, while Graham, one of only two out gay men to ever serve on the D.C. Council, lost his bid for re-election to challenger Brianne Nadeau. In the race for the Ward 6 seat being vacated by Wells, Wells's former chief of staff, Charles Allen, defeated former U.S. Senate staffer Darrel Thompson in the Democratic primary.

    Following her victory in the Ward 1 race, Nadeau gave a speech before supporters at Solly's U Street Tavern in the early morning hours Wednesday, April 2, in which she thanked Graham for his 15 years of service on the Council, despite a tough and, at times, heated campaign between the two.

    ''Tonight we're celebrating all the people of Ward 1, because we built this campaign with their voices in mind,'' Nadeau said. ''This campaign has never been about me. You've heard me say that before, and I mean it. This is about the people of Ward 1. … And now what we're going to be able to do is take all these voices to the Wilson Building!''

    Nadeau, now the Democratic nominee in Ward 1, will face off against Independent Bryan Weaver, who dropped out of the Democratic primary in January.

    Mendelson and McDuffie will run unchallenged in the general election, while Cheh faces Libertarian nominee Ryan Sabot and Allen faces Libertarian nominee Pranav Badhwar in their respective races. Bonds, as an At-Large member, will face three challengers – Republican Marc Morgan, Statehood Green nominee Eugene Puryear, and Libertarian Frederick Steiner – in a contest where the top two vote-getters are elected to the D.C. Council.

    David Catania

    David Catania

    (Photo via Mayor Gray's Flickr)

    While some political observers have expressed dismay over the prospect of a Council without any openly gay councilmembers, should Catania continue with his mayoral run and following Graham's defeat, the hand-wringing may be premature, as Morgan, a gay African-American and current ANC commissioner from Ward 1, stands a good chance of getting elected if he is able to mobilize a small but dedicated base of voters who can get him enough votes to come in among the top two vote-getters.

    At the polls, many voters expressed disappointment or anger with Gray, saying they felt the city needed a change in leadership. Fred Bowell, 56, and his partner, Doug Anderson, 47, both told Metro Weekly they were driven to the polls by their dislike of Gray and a ''throw the bums out'' attitude. Both men said they voted for Bowser in the U Street corridor's Precinct 22. The also both voted for Mendelson for chairman, but split their votes for At-Large and Ward 1 councilmember. Bowell voted for Anita Bonds and Jim Graham, while Anderson picked their respective challengers, Nate Bennett-Fleming and Brianne Nadeau.

    ''I just don't think Nadeau has enough experience for me to vote for her,'' Bowell told Metro Weekly. ''I look at whether a person has experience in government, not just business. That's what kept me from supporting Andy Shallal,'' he said, referring to the local businessman and restaurant owner who came in fifth place in the mayor's race with 3 percent of the vote.

    Asked which candidate was the best on LGBT issues, Anderson said that all the mayoral candidates were the same.

    ''It's kind of a given,'' he said. ''Maybe we're complacent, but I think someone who was vocally anti-gay wouldn't go very far in the city.''

    Mark Mastro, 41, who also voted at Precinct 22, did not want to share his choice for mayor, but did say he voted for Graham in the Ward 1 race, though he noted that even competitive elections such as that race were greatly overshadowed by the mayoral campaign.

    Although Mastro is a registered Democrat, he has fiscally conservative leanings, which he said would make him consider voting for Catania. In all interviews conducted on Tuesday by Metro Weekly at various precincts throughout the city, every Democrat polled – regardless of which candidate they were supporting in the primary – said they would at least consider a Catania candidacy.

    Liam Toohey, 33, who does not identify as LGBT but is supportive of candidates who are LGBT-friendly, voted at Precinct 23 in Columbia Heights. Toohey said he eventually voted for Tommy Wells, though it was a decision that came with reservations.

    ''It's tremendously important who gets picked, and I would hate to see a person win just because they got the most people to the polls,'' Toohey said, adding that he wanted to vote for a candidate who would support issues he cared about, such as education, small-business development, libraries and parks, and advocating that Virginia and Maryland contribute more funds to the operation of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

    ''I wasn't sure of who I'd vote for,'' Toohey said. ''I almost voted for Gray, because I'd prefer him over Bowser.''

    Toohey also said he voted for Mendelson, Bonds and Nadeau in the down-ticket Council races, though he also said he was ''less invested'' in his vote for Bonds.

    Toohey said that if Bowser were to win, he'd consider voting for Catania in the general election.

    ''As a Wells voter, there are enough issues that he was speaking to in his candidacy that the others weren't, and whoever addresses those issues is most likely to get my vote.''

    As results began to trickle in late in the night due to delays at the D.C. Board of Elections, it became apparent that Bowser had staked out a substantial lead over Gray, bringing smiles to the faces of Bowser supporters and disappointing many LGBT voters, particularly transgender women of color, many of whom see Gray as their only outright champion in city government. Several transgender voters organized a ''get out the vote'' campaign via word-of-mouth and social media to encourage transgender voters to cast their votes for Gray during the city's early voting period.

    ''Muriel Bowser didn't defeat Mayor Vincent Gray,'' transgender activist Jeri Hughes told Metro Weekly. ''[U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia] Ron Machen defeated Mayor Vincent Gray. The real loser in this race is the District of Columbia.''

    ''We have lost the best Mayor we ever had,'' she continued, referring to Gray's advocacy on behalf of the transgender community, such as launching a program to help transgender people receive job training.

    Lane Hudson, a local LGBT activist and one of the co-chairs of ''Gray Pride,'' the Gray team's LGBT outreach effort, posted a statement on Facebook following his candidate's loss.

    ''I am still proud of my mayor,'' Hudson wrote. ''He is one of the best public servants I have ever known. I will be taking some time to figure out my next steps. Will be listening very closely to what Muriel Bowser says and does to bring our party together, and also curious of the tone and approach that David Catania brings to this race.''

    In her victory speech, Bowser congratulated her supporters and campaign team, and extended an olive branch to supporters of other candidates, praising Wells, Reta Jo Lewis, and Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and vowing that Democrats would be ''united'' for November's election.

    ''I promised then, as I promise now, that I would run a campaign of integrity, of vision, and energy, and inclusion,'' Bowser said. ''I promised that our campaign would reflect the collective values of all of us in all eight wards.''

    Bowser supporters were ecstatic about her win.

    Sean Wieland, who worked on previous Bowser campaigns for Ward 4, called Bowser an ''effective leader who always considers the needs of every resident,'' listing her accomplishments during her time on the Council.

    ''Muriel will continue to move D.C. forward through education reform, infrastructure improvements and addressing other quality-of-life issues,'' Wieland said.

    ''I am over the moon that she won,'' LGBT activist and longtime Bowser supporter Christopher Dyer said of Bowser's victory. ''I think that her vision for D.C. voters is positive, and it was great to see that the voters responded to her.''

    Catania congratulated Bowser on her victory in an interview on Fox 5, but quickly transitioned into framing the general election as a choice rather than a referendum or a rubber stamp for a particular political party, foreshadowing his pitch to voters in the upcoming general election campaign. He also said the low turnout in Tuesday's election was ''not really an endorsement of the process, or candidly, the candidates.''

    ''This primary was really an election about who should not be mayor of our city,'' Catania told Fox 5. ''But the general election is different: The general election will be about who should be mayor of our city. … I look forward to a spirited debate about who can best secure the future of our city.''

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    News:

    The Next Generation Leadership Foundation (NGLF), the D.C.-based, national nonprofit aimed at encouraging and mentoring LGBT youth leaders, announced Thursday that it has opened nominations for the sixth annual Next Generation Awards, which recognize local LGBT leaders under the age of 30.

    Selected from community nominations, the honor celebrates the leadership and achievements of young LGBT people. The success of the Next Generation Awards, which were launched in 2009 and presented by Metro Weekly, led to NGLF's foundation last year. NGLF is also slated to sponsor its first annual Leadership Camp for graduating LGBT high school students in June.

    ''This is an exciting year for the Next Generations Awards,'' Sean Bugg, the executive director of NGLF and Metro Weekly's editor emeritus, said in a statement. ''It's our first year producing the awards as part of the Next Generation Leadership Foundation. We're looking forward to learning about the accomplishments and potential of all this year's nominees.''

    Nominations can be submitted online through Friday, April 11. The award winners will be announced in a special annual edition of Metro Weekly on Thursday, May 15, and presented at a reception Friday, May 16, at a location to be announced.

    ''We're proud to not only continue our support of the awards but to support the work of the Next Generation Foundation,'' Randy Shulman, publisher and editor-in-chief of Metro Weekly, said in a statement. ''As always, it's an honor for the magazine to be able to feature the best and brightest of our LGBT youth and young adults.''

    For more information about the Next Generation Leadership Foundation visit nglf.org.

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    News:

    The D.C. Office of Human Rights (OHR) today launched a new public-awareness campaign, ''Safe Bathrooms DC,'' aimed at making it easier for transgender people in the District to access facilities without fear of reprisal by ensuring that all single-stall restroom facilities in the District are gender-neutral.

    The requirement that single-stall facilities be gender neutral is already part of existing statute. When the District amended its Human Rights Act in 2006 to include nondiscrimination protections for individuals based on their gender identity or expression, it included a provision that required all entities covered by the act to allow individuals to use gender-specific restrooms or facilities such as dressing rooms, homeless shelters and group homes that are consistent with their gender identity and expression. It also clarified that single-occupancy restroom facilities were to use gender-neutral signage and replace older signs designating such bathrooms as being for ''men'' or ''women.''

    Still, the statute has been difficult to enforce, in part due to conflicting regulations between the District's Human Rights Act and regulations adopted by the D.C. Department of Health (DOH) and the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA).

    David Mariner, executive director of The DC Center, the city's primary LGBT community center, has said over the past few years that he and several volunteers have consistently been reporting non-compliant facilities to OHR, but that some establishments have resisted retiring gender-specific restrooms.

    According to OHR spokesman Elliot Imse, at the heart of the conflict over regulations was that both DOH and DCRA had adopted standard plumbing regulations, which state that if a facility has two single-stall bathrooms, one must be designated for men and the other for women. While OHR could inform businesses that they needed to comply with the Human Rights Act, there was no enforcement mechanism until last year when both DOH and DCRA changed their regulations to allow for gender-neutral, single-stall restrooms.

    Even after those conflicting regulations were resolved, the process to report venues that were non-compliant in relabeling single-stall facilities as gender-neutral remained cumbersome, as complainants needed to report to the Office of Human Rights and fill out a 20-question ''public accommodations complaint'' form, usually taking about 20 minutes to complete.

    At an April 3 event held at the local LGBT community organization Casa Ruby, one of the partners in the Safe Bathrooms DC campaign, OHR announced it was asking community members to utilize social media, such as Twitter, and the OHR website to report non-compliant bathrooms. The OHR's website form consists has only five questions, expected to require less than a minute to complete. Community members reporting non-compliant establishments also have the option of submitting a photo of the non-compliant restroom. OHR is also asking for photos of violations to be tweeted, along with the business name and location, using the hashtag ''#safebathroomsDC.''

    ''We are encouraging people to take 30 seconds to notify us via Twitter or our website when a single-occupancy public bathroom is not gender-neural, so we can get it changed,'' OHR Director Monica Palacio said in a statement. ''By working together, we can ensure the transgender community and others who prefer using gender-neutral bathrooms have an increased number of safe places to use.''

    To promote the Safe Bathrooms DC campaign, OHR has released a series of ads featuring awkward bathroom experiences, such as waiting in line, running out of toilet paper, or using a shoe to avoid touching a toilet when flushing. The tagline on each reads: ''Public bathrooms are challenging enough. Help make them a bit easier for our transgender community.'' The ads also include information about reporting non-compliant establishments via Twitter or the new OHR complaint website. Samples of the ads, as well as additional information on gender-neutral bathroom regulations, can be found at ohr.dc.gov/bathrooms.

    ''The success of this campaign largely depends on rallying the LBGT community and its allies to report non-compliant bathrooms using Twitter or our website,'' Palacio said in a statement. ''So we are encouraging people to share of Safe Bathrooms DC advertisements on social media, in the hope that together we can dramatically increase the number of single-occupancy gender-neutral bathrooms here in the District. We believe harnessing social media to raise awareness on this issue can inspire municipalities around the nation to begin their own efforts.''

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    News:

    The local Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV) group, a program of The DC Center and one of the key community partners in combating area hate crimes, is hosting a fundraiser social Tuesday, April 8.

    GLOV is raising money to continue major initiatives, including an LGBT-crisis hotline, outreach to community groups, LGBT cultural competency training, and collecting hate-crime data. Attendance is free, but a $10 donation is suggested.

    The happy-hour event also marks GLOV's first gathering since the announcement that its co-chair, Hassan Naveed, is stepping down. Naveed announced on April 3 that he will be leaving the organization in July to pursue a graduate degree from New York University.

    ''It has truly been an honor to serve as GLOV's co-chair for the past three years,'' Naveed said in an email to GLOV members and supporters. ''Our organization has grown tremendously and positively impacted many LGBT lives in our city.''

    The Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence happy hour fundraiser is Tuesday, April 8, 5 to 8 p.m., at Mova Lounge, 2204 14th St. NW. RSVP by joining the event's Facebook page.

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    Opinion:

    Several prominent gay writers deplored the furor that brought down Brendan Eich as CEO of Mozilla Corp. last week for supporting California's anti-gay Proposition 8. Andrew Sullivan blogged against "a fanaticism more like the religious right than anyone else." Jonathan Rauch tweeted, "I agree with @RameshPonnuru: trying to punish dissenters like Brendan Eich is no way to advance civil rights." Frank Bruni wrote in the Grey Lady, "Such vilification won't accelerate the timetable of victory, which is certain. And it doesn't reflect well on the victors."

    I have no wish to embrace what Sullivan calls "McCarthyism applied by civil actors," but I disagree. Eich's resignation exemplified the operation of the free market that conservatives usually celebrate.

    Fox News reporter Todd Starnes made Sullivan look restrained: "Why not demand that those who oppose gay marriage relinquish the right to own property? Why not take away their right to vote? Why not take away their children? Why not just throw them in jail? Why not force them to work in chain gangs? Why not call for public floggings? Or better yet, let's just strap them down on gurneys, stick a needle in their arm and rid the world of these intolerant anti-gay bigots once and for all."

    Actually, I oppose such traditional conservative measures. If vilifying those who disagree with you is wrong, Sullivan and Starnes might consider toning it down themselves. No major LGBT group even weighed in on the controversy before Eich resigned, unless you're somehow counting the OkCupid dating site. To agree with Ponnuru, Rauch had to overlook his denial that marriage equality has anything to do with civil rights.

    The victim mongering is preposterous. Eich is not being publicly flogged. He is not denied access to a loved one during a hospital visit because his marriage is not recognized in the state he is passing through. He is not forced to wonder whether a court will allow for-profit companies at whim to bar him from buying products and services like other people. He is not being smeared as a traitor in a Senate hearing room, as so many of Sen. McCarthy's victims were in the 1950s. That cheap comparison dishonors those who make it.

    Portraying a gay left as intolerant as its persecutors is hyperbolic and reinforces the right wing lie that anti-gay discriminators are the true victims. They are not. There is no movement to deny recognition to straight people's marriages. People attracted to the opposite sex are not targeted for hate crimes.

    LGBTQ Nation recently reported an Alabama case in which a mother who disapproved of her son's same-sex marriage is fighting to exclude his widower from his estate. Thank goodness the widower has the Southern Poverty Law Center on his side. Brendan Eich supported a law like Alabama's denying recognition to gay people's marriages. Such disgraceful treatment of loving couples is still happening, thanks to people like Brendan Eich. (And spare me the facile jibes; Barack Obama opposed Prop. 8.)

    This is not about speech. It is about our lives. To the extent speech is involved, Eich is not the only one with the right to his own views. The developers who balked at creating apps for Mozilla Firefox were seriously troubled over it. I am on the side of those who fight for equal protection for our families, a fight that is not over. America did not disarm in the Pacific after its victory at Midway; it fought on to the end.

    Those who call gay people intolerant for defending ourselves are twisting the concept beyond recognition. Civility is a virtue; but tolerance does not require us to treat a relentless assault against our rights as citizens like a disagreement at the dinner table.

    Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at rrosendall@starpower.net.

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    News:

    The D.C. Republican Party announced April 7 that it intends to place candidates who did not declare their intentions prior to the party's April 1 primary onto the general election ballot in November, potentially changing the dynamic in several local races, including the mayor's race.

    The D.C. GOP announced Monday that its chairman, Ron Phillips, advised the D.C. Board of Elections in March that the party would ''reserve its right to appoint a Republican candidate for any office for the General Election in the event that a Republican candidate for any such position does not participate in the April 1, 2014 primary election.''

    Democrats ran at least one candidate in each of the 10 local or federal races that were on the April 1 primary ballot, in addition to various offices on the DC Democratic State Committee. Republicans managed to fill only two of 10 slots on the primary ballot, with Nelson Rimensnyder seeking the office of nonvoting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives and Marc Morgan seeking one of two at-large seats on the D.C. Council.

    Of the three officially recognized ''minority'' – meaning non-Democrat – parties within the District, the Republicans fared the worst, as the Statehood Green Party managed to field four candidates for the April 1 primary, and the D.C. Libertarian Party managed to field candidates for seven of the 10 races.

    According to the D.C. GOP's statement, the D.C. Republican Committee, governing body of the D.C. Republican Party, will review potential candidates for mayor, D.C. Council seats and other positions and nominate them by vote to fill the ballot vacancies. All candidates must be reported to the Board of Elections by Sept. 8 to ensure placement on the November ballot.

    ''We look forward to vetting qualified candidates to appoint to various vacancies on the ballot this fall,'' Phillips said in the Republicans' statement. ''We especially look forward to joining the conversation and discussing issues that are important to the citizens of the District of Columbia, such as school choice, reducing the burden of regulations for small businesses, and the level of taxes in our community.''

    Tamara Robinson, the public information officer for the D.C. Board of Elections, said the Statehood Green Party and the D.C. Libertarian Party also have the right to place candidates on the ballot in the general election if they wish to do so.

    Perry Redd, an organizer for the Statehood Green Party, said his party is currently focused on the mayor's race, where its official nominee, Faith Crannitch, on the ballot as ''Faith,'' lost to a write-in candidate in the primary. Redd was, however, receptive to the idea appointing Green candidates in the Council chair's race and individual ward races where the Greens did not field candidates.

    Bruce Majors, the Libertarian Party's mayoral nominee and the chief organizer of the local party, told Metro Weekly he'd heard of the possibility that Republicans would seek to appoint nominees after some of his slate's candidates reached out to Republicans for support, only to be rebuffed. Majors said he assumed that the success of the Libertarians in recruiting candidates for most races on the ballot may have played a role in motivating Republicans to ramp up their recruiting efforts.

    Majors was open to the idea of filling vacant spots with appointed candidates. He said that the Libertarians had organized a write-in campaign on behalf of Kyle Walker in the Council chairman's race, and believed that Walker's victory there would enable him to appear on the November ballot. Majors said he had trouble recruiting candidates who would firmly commit to running in Wards 1 and 5, but that this longer Sept. 8 timetable might be enough to fill the spots, adding that the nonpartisan D.C. Board of Education may also now be of interest to his party.

    In his own race for mayor, Majors seemed unconcerned with the likely addition of a Republican in the race, noting there were 575 write-ins in the Republican primary for mayor, some of which may have been votes for Democratic Councilmembers Muriel Bowser (Ward 4) or Jack Evans (Ward 2) or Independent Councilmember David Catania (At-Large).

    ''If the Republicans run in the mayoral race, it will be very unclear who they're pulling votes from,'' Majors said. ''It probably doesn't help me to have a Republican candidate, though it probably hurts David Catania more.''

    Asked whether Republican candidates might make it easier for Democrats to win, should anti-Democratic votes be diluted, Robert Turner, executive director of the D.C. Republican Party, his party's goal is simply to elect credible and competent Republicans to office.

    ''Neither Bruce Majors nor David Catania nor Muriel Bowser are Republicans,'' he said. ''It is not our job to make their lives easier or worse. It's our job to find credible Republican candidates and get them elected.''

    Catania, who is already being attacked by Democrats who see him as Bowser's biggest threat in her bid for mayor, likely has the most to lose from a Republican candidate's entry into the mayoral race. But Catania has also worked on many typically Democratic initiatives, such as expanding health care for poor children, education reform and championing pro-LGBT legislation, which may make him more appealing to the District's overwhelmingly liberal electorate.

    A spokesman for the Catania campaign declined to comment.

    Besides the mayoral race, other contests that could be influenced by the entry of appointed Republican candidates are the D.C. Council chair race against incumbent Phil Mendelson (D) and the Ward 3 and Ward 6 races, where Libertarians Ryan Sabot and Pranav Badhwar are challenging, respectively, incumbent Democratic Councilmember Mary Cheh and Democratic nominee Charles Allen, a former staffer for Councilmember Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6).

    Even if all three parties – Republicans, Greens and Libertarians – were able to recruit enough candidates to fill out the remainder of their slates, there may be even more candidates to come. Independent candidates may join any of the 10 races, as well as for four ward-specific races for the D.C. Board of Education, as long as they declare themselves by June 13, and collect a requisite number of signatures by Aug. 6.

    In past years, several former Democrats, most notably former Councilmember Michael Brown and current Councilmember David Grosso, disaffiliated from the Democratic Party and ran as independents in order to seek at-large seats on the D.C. Council. Under District law, at least two of the Council seats must be reserved for non-Democrats. An entry by a former Democrat into the at-large race as an independent could hamper the chances of Republican nominee Marc Morgan, Statehood Green nominee Eugene Puryear, and Libertarian nominee Frederick Steiner. Incumbent At-Large Councilmember Anita Bonds, as the Democratic nominee, is widely expected to grab the first at-large seat, which is typically held by a Democrat.

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    Stage:

    An ideal evening at the theater for precocious high schoolers and the politically curious, Lawrence Wright's Camp David is a primer on President Jimmy Carter's brokering of an uneasy peace in the Mideast conflict as it stood in 1978. Written with mild humor, a certain passion and a storyteller's talent, this lesson in the vital and complex problems of this political and religious morass slips down with the ease of a geopolitical gel cap.

    Though it may not be overflowing with edge or insight, it's still no mean feat considering Lawrence covers not only the crisis as it stood then (both for the Mideast and Carter's presidency), but also the contemporary and ancient history that led to it and a generous dose of the personal histories of the key players.

    Camp David: Khaled Nabawy as Anwar Sadat, Richard Thomas as Jimmy Carter and Ron Rifkin as Menachem Begin

    Camp David: Khaled Nabawy as Anwar Sadat, Richard Thomas as Jimmy Carter and Ron Rifkin as Menachem Begin

    (Photo by Teresa Wood)

    Of course some hearing this will rightly wonder whether this ambition invites preachiness or over-simplification. Well, the answer falls somewhere between, "You can't please all of the people all of the time," and "Yes."

    There is no doubt that for some audience members -- the grey-haired, news-junkie, jaded Beltway-insider types in particular -- Lawrence's potted takes on the posturing and negotiations will all seem a little too contrived and sanitized. These are the same folk who may find the frequent injections of personal anecdote -- each with a painfully obvious subtext -- tiresome, if necessary. Thus, although Lawrence works hard to mitigate the simplifications by inserting contradictions, and somewhat tempers the educational narrative with humor, his goal won't work for everyone. Especially not for those who like their theatrical politics to operate on the plane of, say, Frost/Nixon.

    But for anyone who wants a very palatable and reasonably frank discussion of the barriers to compromise in the Mideast (still very much in existence today) or simply a trip down a particularly interesting memory lane, this piece will serve and compel.

    And however you view the vehicle, the cast makes a strong go of it with Richard Thomas delivering a Jimmy Carter that smartly never goes overboard into a political impression. Sporting an accent that only nods toward Carter's thick Georgian drawl, Thomas avoids caricature by trying instead to describe a more universal man; one with a lot of power but few answers. He is confident, tortured, driven, proud and very human. If his dissimilarity to Carter distracts, think of him as less of a portrait of the man and more as Lawrence's take on what it took. Although some will want more, most will agree that the architecture is intact.

    Matters are a little more complex when it comes to Lawrence's rendering of Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, the two leaders who come to the seclusion of the presidential retreat (Camp David), to consider negotiating a peace. Since any student of political history will know how the story ends, this is really about what may or may not have happened as these great men collided and wrangled on behalf of their people. Both had much to gain and much to lose. But with no media allowed, their negotiations were off-stage -- at least until any agreement was reached.

    Unfortunately, in the writing of these two, Lawrence's urge to educate looms large and thus, by necessity, the characters become far too obvious. In ways that are less than subtle, we learn that both men were the products of difficult lives and deep cultural traditions that informed their attitudes toward compromise with one another. Though the racism is delivered in careful (often humorous) context and the personal anecdotes are sometimes informative, it is all a bit too color-by-numbers. Hence the initial thought that this play will work well for the educated young, if not the politically initiated.

    Still, as Begin, Ron Rifkin confirms his theater chops with a nicely pitched interpretation of Lawrence's not overly subtle characterization. Rifkin starts with a credible accent and goes on to layer his Begin with a passion, fear and defiance that goes a long way to color the intractable man Lawrence offers. It is Rifkin's consistent and well-drawn picture of the person behind Begin's immovable position that makes his 11th-hour compromise all the more affecting. Who knows if it really went down that way? It captures the impossible distance between sovereign necessity and human frailty, whatever the nation, whomever the victims of conflict.

    A charismatic presence, Khaled Nabawy's Sadat exudes statesmanship and a kind of quirky self-possession. It would have given him an even more enduring and intriguing authenticity if director Molly Smith had opted for a lower volume and Lawrence had injected a bit more complexity.

    Rounding out the quartet is Jimmy Carter's wife, Rosalynn, who comes and goes like a wry commentator on the proceedings. Though she delivers some of the better comedy and Hallie Foote gives her an utterly memorable demeanor, her smug positioning as an unassailably all-American, all-wise wife and peace-broker is a toe-curler. It makes a play that might have been global, local, and turns a profound conundrum into an afterschool special.

    Still, it's a subject well worthy of a revisit and so consider compromising your own expectations and negotiate your way to an evening of history and politics.

    Camp David (starstarstar) runs to May 4 in Arena Stage's Kreeger Theater, 1101 6th St. SW. Tickets are $65 to $110. Call 202-488-3300 or visit arenastage.org.

    ...more

    Feature Story:

    Tom Goss is not bashful. Nor is he pushy. Put simply, he has a message to share and he'll do what he needs to express it. Often, that means touring. Goss has the miles to show for his career, still moving in an upward trajectory.

    This month, Goss, 32, is making a bold move to dedicate himself full time to this mission. He's leaving the job of nearly a decade he's held with Charlie's Place, a D.C. program to end homelessness run out of St. Margaret's Episcopal Church. His first European tour, with dates in Iceland and the U.K., begins later this month, and his new album, Wait, releases May 13.

    Tom Goss

    Tom Goss

    (Photo by Julian Vankim)

    Even with a new album, the song remains the same.

    "When I write, I'm the least guarded that I ever am," says the singer-songwriter. "So I think that my longing and my search for that really shines through. That's what people hear."

    That's the search that took him to Catholic seminary, and the search that got him to leave that behind, as well.

    "A lot of people self-identify as spiritual, not religious," he says, speaking about his message and pointing to "Rise," a song of his from 2008. "I'm not talking about 'Christ the redeemer rose on the third day.' That's not the lyric. But if the lyric is, 'Now it's time to say goodbye, and to leave our skins behind. Let the dusk drain the sun and rise,' that says a very similar thing. You could put that in a Christian context. Or you could put that in a spiritual context. I think the message is the same. It's about rebirth and renewal and reconciliation. I think a lot of my songs reflect that. I may not be doing the sign of the cross, but there's a wisdom and an authenticity that I'm sharing."

    It's something of what he shares with his husband, Mike, and with so many other artists with whom Goss revels in creating community. If you like, he'll certainly share it with you, too.

    METRO WEEKLY: Wait seems "poppier" to me than your previous work.

    TOM GOSS: Oh, yeah! I've always considered myself a pop writer. I love pop music. Not like 'N Sync or Backstreet Boys or Britney Spears or Lady Gaga, but I've always been trying to produce pop music.

    You think of The Beatles and that era of pop music, which is super-succinct writing, really fast changes, really hook-y melodies. A lot of the music we hear day to day is pop music, whether you're talking about country music or rock music or whatever. I've always thought of myself as someone who wants to write really concise, well-written pop songs.

    MW: But compared to your previous albums, Wait feels less sentimental, more toe-tapping.

    GOSS: Totally. I agree. I wanted to have a lot of fun on this record. People see me live and connect with me. They connect with me as a storyteller, somebody who can evoke emotions, because when they hear the songs live they're stripped. When I go into the studio to record with a band, the vision is a little different.

    MW: The first couple of tracks, particularly -- "It Only Takes Once" and "Take a Chance" -- I think will have people up, out of their seats, wanting to dance.

    GOSS: That's what I want! In a lot of ways, that's always what I've wanted. I had a couple big numbers like that on Turn It Around, as well, but I never want to do the same thing I've already done. I never want to just be creating the same sounds.

    I could spit out 50 love songs by the end of the day and they'd all be good and passable and evocative and all that kind of stuff, but I don't want to do that for the rest of my life. I want to do stuff that's different. It's super easy to write a soft, romantic, heart-wrenching song. That's nothing. But to write something that's going to get people to move? To write something that's going to incorporate a lot of different sounds? That's difficult.

    MW: I'm sort of reminded of your "That's Not My Name" cover. It seemed you were being dismissive, but it's a really fun cover.

    GOSS: People loved that. I really started playing it because I hated the song. I was hearing it on the radio all the time. I thought, "There's nothing redeeming about this song." I just had all this negative energy about why I hated this song. And I thought, "Why don't I just make it my own and shed that negative energy?" Then, at the same time, people just really enjoyed it. I'd play it at shows and get the whole crowd to sing. I used to close shows with it, have whole rooms of people singing, and we'd do rounds. People loved it. Then, if The Ting Tings were on Letterman, I would get emails and phone calls about these people who stole my song. It was really, really funny.

    People love that song because it's fun and it's got attitude. At the same time, there's really not a redemptive message when you dig into it. For me, the challenge is always creating something that has that energy, that makes you happy and want to bop your head, but also has a redemptive message to it. There are very few people who do that effectively. That's the biggest challenge for me.

    MW: People want candy.

    GOSS: People do want candy. If you give them candy that they can break down and realize, "Wow, I have candy and I have a redemptive message," or, "and I'm talking about social justice," or, "and I'm talking about something greater than me," then that's an accomplishment.

    MW: So, you're like Gummy Vitamins.

    GOSS: [Laughs.] Yeah! I've got a whole bunch of 'em in the other room!

    MW: Seriously?

    GOSS: Yes! I love vitamin Gummys because they make me take my vitamins, but it's hard because I want to eat them all day. MW: How would you feel if a DJ got hold of one of the bouncier tracks off Wait? You could be in Provincetown doing your shows, and maybe walk into the Crown & Anchor and hear a Tom Goss remix.

    GOSS: I think there are going to be a lot of remixes off this record. I'm already working on one.

    One of the things I learned a lot from working with Rich Morel, and just from being such an admirer of his work, and from seeing how people responded to "Bears," and everybody's really into EDM right now, and that's something that's just going to grow and boom, when --

    MW: EDM?

    GOSS: Electronic dance music.

    Tom Goss

    Tom Goss

    (Photo by Julian Vankim)

    MW: Ah, sorry. I'm 44.

    GOSS: That's okay! When you think of yourself as a "singer-songwriter," what do you think of? You think Joni Mitchell. Or James Taylor. They're kind of like the models. That's what it is in its purest form.

    So, when people are like, "Hey, why don't we put this beat behind it?" they're really tense. Like, they really don't want to do that. I spent the past couple years trying to understand what it means to be an artist and embrace what's good and fun about that. That means being open to different opportunities. Instead of being closed and having a singular vision and saying, "This is the way it has to be," it's being open to say, "Wow, that's really interesting. That's really resonating with people. How can I learn from that?"

    MW: Your style of collaboration must be pretty agreeable, in that collaborators keep coming back.

    GOSS: Don't get me wrong: I have strong opinions. But, at the end of the day, my loyalties lie with what is best for the project. There's a certain kind of humility that has to come with being a good collaborative artist -- or a good artist at all -- who is open to listening and open to learning and open to hearing that your idea isn't the best idea in this specific moment. I think that's hard.

    MW: Are those values you were raised with? Something you learned later?

    GOSS: I think it's both. It's an evolution. My last record, which I'm very proud of, I played every single note on the record, every single instrument. That was really important. Before that, even though I was making these quality projects, doing amazing things and bringing a lot of people together, I'm not sure that I thought much of myself as an artist or believed in my own artistic vision as much. I don't want to say it came from a lack of self-confidence. I've always been able to say, "This is what I want."

    MW: You've got that competitive background, as a wrestling champ. But entering seminary shows your humility. It's an interesting mix.

    GOSS: That's a good insight, because I do think, all my life, I've always believed that I've failed at everything I did.

    MW: When did that change?

    GOSS: I don't know if that ever has really completely changed. I think it's because I grew up being so competitive, doing things that had very clear winners and losers, very much black-and-white things.

    MW: Beyond the wrestling?

    GOSS: Sure. Life! You're talking about sports. You're talking about school. I find competition really fun. It's my whole family. If you hung out with my family for 20 minutes, you would be part of 20 competitions. I grew up in a big gymnastics family. I was competing in gymnastics since I was 2. My parents owned a gym. I'm pretty aggressive, in general. I'm pretty straightforward. A lot of that's been tempered as I've gotten older, but I was pretty angry then, too. I was getting into a lot of fights.

    MW: At what age?

    GOSS: All of them. [Laughs.] I got expelled from school in ninth grade.

    MW: For fighting?

    GOSS: Yeah. I got into a fight with my football coach.

    MW: You didn't hit him, did you?

    GOSS: That's up for debate. I say I didn't hit him, but other people disagree. It was stupid. I was 14.

    MW: It's hard for me to imagine Tom Goss with anger-management issues.

    GOSS: Remember The Jenny Jones Show? Like, "My kid's out of control!" Or Cartman: "Mm-hmm, I do what I want." That was kind of me.

    MW: Could you handle a kid like you?

    GOSS: If I had a kid and my kid was like me? I don't know if I could or couldn't -- but I would.

    To be brutally honest, when I think about it, it makes me sad. I feel bad for the fear that I caused my family. I feel bad for some of the things that I did. I feel bad for the tension I created, especially between me and my mom and the rest of my family.

    MW: After puberty, after adolescence, did your hormones calm down?

    GOSS: I essentially went from fighting, to fighting as a sport. I went to college to fight. If you're doing a sport in college, especially wrestling, it's all consuming. I used to envy people in other sports, because you could go to practice and then come home and have a life. Wrestling's different. It's the time when you're not at practice that's the hardest. You can't eat meals for days on end. Or you can't drink water. You're running three times a day in between practice. And you're doing it all because you want to want to beat somebody else physically. You want to literally beat them up.

    It just got really old for me. The idea of moving back to Wisconsin and teaching social studies to be a wrestling coach -- because that was really the track -- it just felt horrible. The idea of it felt like the most horrible trap I could ever have been part of.

    Tom Goss

    Tom Goss

    (Photo by Julian Vankim)

    MW: How do you feed that competitiveness now?

    GOSS: I guess I was saying all that because, for me, the idea of being an artist is so different. It's not who "wins" at the art. I have very little musical competition. I don't feel like that has any place in this business. I do feel like sometimes that gets stirred up, but I push it back down. The music business is different because it's so up and down. Somebody loves you. Somebody hates you.

    MW: So, that's sort of where the feeling of failure comes in? Because there's no referee to hold your arm up and tell you that you're the champion?

    GOSS: My point is that I'm so competitive that if this is my bar, as soon as I get close the bar rises. My competitiveness in this industry is to always want to do better. It's not to compete against a thing or a person. Being successful in art, to connect with people in art, is to be as authentic as you can possibly be to yourself. If you're authentic and you can speak authentically, people will connect with that. The competition is not, "I want to beat this person down." The competition is, "I want to be the most authentic and fully integrated self that I can be." Which is a totally different mindset.

    MW: That's difficult to quantify, a lot harder to "win."

    GOSS: You can't. You quantify it by how much money you make. You quantify it by how many Facebook "Likes" you get. You quantify it by the stupidest shit.

    MW: Does your husband help you temper that edge?

    GOSS: My husband's way crazier than I am. [Laughs.] That's one of the few things we'll actually get in fights about.

    The other thing about this is you can't take anything personally. If somebody doesn't book you for a gig or somebody doesn't call you back -- and these can be people you have relationships with, or not -- Mike takes that stuff, if he finds out about it, very personally.

    MW: Mike is very protective?

    GOSS: Super protective. He's protective of me and he's very protective of the things that I do and the talent that he believes that I have. It's hard. When he sees other people doing well, he wonders why I didn't get that specific thing.

    It's hard, because I feel like it's that way in the community, as well. I feel like a lot of musicians get stuff and hold it, and they don't want to share and they don't want to collaborate and they don't want to create community. How many CDs do you own? You don't buy one CD. It's not like you win if you sell this CD. You win if you create this community of people that is supportive. It's not one or the other. It's about, how do we create something that people want? How do we create this whole community of goodness?

    If you think about -- especially indie artists -- artists that get big, it's because they created this community, because a bunch of people got together and collaborated and helped bring more people into the message they had to offer.

    MW: What is your message?

    GOSS: It's funny. If you asked someone else, I think they'd say my message is love. I believe that my message is truth. I think that my message, especially on this record, is authenticity. I'm always searching for truth. I'm searching for that thing that is good and that is true and that is right. And that is bigger than me. A lot of me believes there's not much beyond this.

    MW: Having left seminary, what is it that you do believe?

    GOSS: I don't think there's anything else. And that scares me: the idea that we live, we do our thing, and then we die. Maybe someone remembers us for 10 years or 20 years. But -- be honest -- 50 years later? Do you know who these statues are around D.C.? These people have statues in circles! And most people are like, "Enh, it's a guy on a horse." You know what I mean? A big piece of me doesn't want to believe that.

    I always want to believe that there's something bigger and there's something greater. I'm always searching. So far, the only thing in my life that speaks, like it just is what it is and cuts through the shit, is love. When I see people acting out of love, whether that's with their husbands or wives or children or friends, when they're acting selflessly, that's truly seeing who they are and what is good about the world. That's what I always want to be representing: The one thing that's biggest and best and all encompassing and that draws us all together.

    MW: Has the tour for Wait already begun?

    GOSS: No. I'll be going over to Europe, playing Iceland and the U.K. The record doesn't release till May 13, but it will be great to get a first European tour under my belt and to just play these songs a lot more.

    MW: And you're the one on the phone arranging all this?

    GOSS: Yeah. It's always kind of a delicate process. I've been getting pokes from Europe a lot the past year or so. I've been really afraid of it. I love touring. Touring is where the bulk of my income comes from. But the idea of putting a big, upfront chunk of change down is a little nerve-wracking.

    MW: It's not the sort of thing banks want to give you a loan for?

    GOSS: Nah. Well, I've never asked -- maybe they do. [Laughs.] Essentially, I had this period of time where I could do it. I was having conversations with some folks and their dates were matching my dates. Really, to be honest, I spent the money on the plane tickets so I had to do it. [Laughs.] That's what I did! It's been great. I really like the idea of it, and I'm excited to see what comes of it. It's a whole new monster. Everybody says Europe is way better than the states in terms of touring, for making money, for reception.

    MW: One of the venues you're playing, London's Manbar, hosts quite a few fundraising gigs. Are there particular social causes you get behind?

    GOSS: Besides the fact that I've spent the past eight years running a meal program for the homeless? For the most part, anybody who's asked me to do an event for them, I pretty much always say yes.

    Obviously, most of my experience, my knowledge base, is in the homeless community. I'm going to plug my organization, Charlie's Place, because I'm leaving there in a week.

    MW: You're leaving to dedicate yourself full time to your music career?

    GOSS: Yeah. I've been at Charlie's Place for eight years, started as the program director. I was there every morning at 6, when we feed 50 to 80 clients. I was the only employee there. About a year and a half later, I had a really great opportunity to start going on the road full time. I also understood my limitations of being one person who does all the development, who does the volunteer coordination -- who does everything. That's kind of why I pitched a development role. "Look, you need somebody in there whose sole focus is the clients, in a capacity that helps them transition off the streets. They shouldn't have to worry about money. I can do this, and I can do this part time, and I can do this telecommuting."

    Of course, I also said, "I'm going on the road. I have to take this opportunity first. I love you guys, I don't want to leave, but...." And they said it was a great idea, so I've spent the past six years doing solely development. I do a lot of that from home, a lot of it from the road. It's kind of gotten to the point, just to be really honest, it's too much to juggle. That's been happening for years. There have been times when I've had to turn down gigs because of work. That's life. Whatever. But, yeah, over the past year or so, as things continue to just be more hectic -- I shot this movie, Out To Kill, that'll release in the summertime.

    Tom Goss

    Tom Goss

    (Photo by Julian Vankim)

    MW: I don't know about this.

    GOSS: I will tell you about it. It's a film by Rob Williams, who's done a lot of movies. He's had some of my music in his movies, so we know each other. Out To Kill shot in November in Tampa. It's a really fun murder-mystery/comedy-type thing. There's a character named Justin Jaymes. He's a really bad, gay pop star. Really hyper-sexual, really manipulative. That's the role I play. It was an interesting opportunity to do some acting that was -- I believe -- really different from myself. And to have an opportunity to write songs for a movie in a whole different context. I did a music video for one. It's probably one of the worst things you'll ever see, but it's hilarious.

    MW: What's the song?

    GOSS: It's called, "You Don't Know How Hard." It's all about, "You don't know how hard it is to be this hot." It's really funny.

    I've been getting some pokes on and off for acting the past couple years. I'm not an actor, I've never really done that, so I didn't really think much about it. But when this opportunity came along, it seemed like a really good fit.

    MW: Does Mike go on tour with you?

    GOSS: Mike obviously has to work, like a normal person, but comes sometimes. He'll take a week off and he'll do Portland to Los Angeles with me, or something like that. I can show you a map, it's really cute, with different lines to all the places we've driven together.

    MW: You must be putting a lot of miles on your car.

    GOSS: We got a new car this week. There are 242,000 miles on my car. It's done. So we bought a new car this week. But it's so nice that we're afraid to drive it and it's just been sitting in our garage. We got a Ford C-Max. It's a hybrid. It's big and it gets good gas mileage. As soon as we got it, Mike was like, "Oh, no, this is too nice. You can't take this car on the road!" I tend to agree with him, but I have to.

    MW: With your star rising, being out there more, you lose some privacy. And fans can be pushy.

    GOSS: I'm pretty lucky. But, yeah, sometimes people are pushy and weird.

    MW: But no restraining orders?

    GOSS: No, that was more the seminary days. [Laughs.] Pre-seminary and seminary, I had a lot of stalkers. As horrible as it was, it taught me a lot about boundaries.

    Mike and I are monogamous, which I think is different in this community. That's fine. But I don't think people necessarily expect that, especially in the bear community. I think, a lot of the time, people assume something else. For the most part, people know and they're super respectful, but some people like to push the boundaries. If I'm standing there and somebody comes up and decides they like my ass and want to touch it, I'm more than happy to grab their hand and take it off my ass and tell them to stop. I don't have any problems with that. I'm not a super-timid, shy person.

    MW: I'd be worried, like, Mike's not home, it's 1 a.m., and I think I just heard someone in the bushes.

    GOSS: Oh, no, I've never had anything like that. I feel like I'm a little bit of a broken record, keep speaking about authenticity, but I think something that draws people to what I do is I'm open and honest about me and my life and my love. If you come to my shows, you're going to hear stories about Mike. You're not going to come out of my show thinking, "Oh, Tom's available." You're going to come out of the show loving Mike as much as I love Mike, because you're seeing Mike through the eyes of me, who loves him so much.

    It's funny. I think people like Mike more than they like me. That's fine -- I love Mike! I hope everybody loves Mike. But when I pass through towns -- and he's been to a lot of the places I've toured -- people inevitably ask me if Mike is coming. I know that if Mike is coming, more people are going to show up to my show. It's hilarious. People see Mike as this really amazing, great guy. He's huggable. That really helps people when they approach me to see me as someone they respect as having a great thing going on. And I do. I don't have any interest in messing with that balance. It's a really great balance.

    MW: Is there a part of you that would like to just keep his head down, stick with a job like Charlie's Place full time and not have to worry about the touring, promoting your work, all of that?

    GOSS: I really like my career and I think I've done a lot of really great things.

    The thinking about Charlie's Place, I really had to ask myself, "Is this it?" Because if this is it, I can balance it for another 10 years, where my career is now and Charlie's Place. But the answer was, "This is not. This is not the apex for me. I can do more. I can do better. I can create new, beautiful things -- and I really want to." The only way to do that is to let Charlie's Place go. Part of me feels like an idiot for leaving, because it's been so good to me. But I see so many more possibilities, so many beautiful things I want to create, so many people I want to meet.

    With the exception of being away from Mike, which is always hard, I feel happiest when I'm on the road. Every day, I'm in a new place. I'm meeting new people. I do all this because I want to connect with people. I want to meet people and hear their stories. And I want to tell mine. That's when I'm happiest.

    Tom Goss's next Washington date is Saturday, May 31, at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, 600 I St. NW. Tickets are $15 to $20. For tickets, visit tomgossmusic.net. Wait, releasing May 13, will also be available at tomgossmusic.net.

    ...more

    Business:

    Think you know what to expect at a typical awards dinner? Great, but that's not what you'll find when the Capital Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (aka the Chamber) celebrates its 24th anniversary and honors a diverse group of local business and community leaders at its Annual Awards Dinner and Gala on Friday, April 25, at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel.

    Chamber Vice President Katie McElroy, owner of the event-planning company Katie Rose LLC, says this year's event has been redesigned with more entertainment under a new theme: Indulge in Business Excellence.

    Max Major

    Max Major

    "We are really excited to be the organization that acknowledges and commends businesses and leaders within the local LGBTA community, and we are honored and humbled by this responsibility," says McElroy. "The Chamber has created this event to break the mold and elevate the Annual Awards Dinner beyond the typical D.C. gala that can feel sterile and routine. We want to treat our nominees and the community to an evening of opulence and grandeur that will indulge all your senses."

    Guests will be charmed, delighted, wooed and astounded by the entertainers participating in this year's gala, where awards are given out in several categories: Excellence in Business, Business Leadership, Emerging Entrepreneur, Corporate Partner, and the Volunteer of the Year Award. More information is available about this year's nominees online at caglcc.org.

    As part of this year's exciting changes to the event's programming, honorees will be announced at the dinner during a special awards presentation by this year's master of ceremonies, magician Max Major. Twice voted D.C.'s "Best Performance Artist" by readers of the Washington City Paper and voted "DC's Hottest Bachelor" by Inside Edition, Major will use a combination of magic, psychology and charm to entertain attendees while he pulls the award winners "out of the hat" of nominees in each category.

    Entertainment will also be provided by the Rorschach Theatre, acclaimed for its fierce performance style and its bold use of theatrical space. The company will delight guests with its interactive, rococo-themed, in-costume and in-character performances throughout the evening.

    "We are very grateful to have been part of such a warm and supportive community in Washington for the last 14 years, so we always love the opportunity to give back," says Rorschach's co-artistic director, Jenny McConnell Frederick. "Collaborations like these are essential in ensuring a really vibrant commerce ecology of our city -- and we know it's going to be a blast!"

    Also performing will be singer Darsha Davis, who will treat attendees to an intimate set of soulful contemporary classics. "The opportunity to celebrate this year's award candidates and 'movers and shakers' in our area is awesome," says Davis.

    The event will also feature the Royal Auction, sponsored by Malvin, Riggins and Company P.C. The auction consists of luxury items ranging from high-end clothing and accessories to special edition artwork. Some of this year's auction items include a TAG Heuer men's watch, donated by Tiny Jewel Box, and a DeLonghi Nespresso espresso maker, donated by Bloomingdale's. This year, the Chamber offers the opportunity to bid online prior to the dinner, including "Buy Now" prices. For more information about the auction, visit the Chamber's website.

    Beyond the entertainment and Royal Auction, the value in attending the gala is the opportunity for networking. As described by Silvia Tergas, dinner co-chair and Chamber board member: "You can make new connections, meet a lot of decision makers, and build relationships. This is a fantastic business opportunity, wrapped in an evening of fun."

    The Chamber's Annual Awards Dinner and Gala is Friday, April 25, at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel, 1127 Connecticut Ave. NW, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tickets, starting at $210, and sponsorships are available on the Chamber's website.

    The Chamber Means Business. For more information visit caglcc.org or facebook.com/CAGLCC. On Twitter, follow @DCLGBTBIZ

    Robert E. McLean, a CAGLCC member, owns REM Association Services, a full-service association management company in Arlington.

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    News:

    The Wanda Alston Foundation, which operates the Wanda Alston House providing housing and support services for homeless and at-risk LGBT youth in the District, announced Tuesday evening that the foundation has put in place additional controls to prevent misuse of funds following the revelation that a staff member, since removed, used funds for personal use.

    According to a statement released by the foundation that was sent to the donors and media, the foundation's board of directors asked an external accountant to conduct a review of all accounts. That accountant determined that no government funds had been misused. The foundation also apologized for the misuse of funds and offered assurance that problem had been resolved.

    Christopher Dyer, a member of the foundation's board of directors, told Metro Weekly that the foundation had also reached out to donors via phone to inform them and reassure them of the importance of their support.

    The board of directors has added additional safeguards to prevent a similar breach in the future, to include requiring that all disbursements be made by check, and increasing restrictions for direct withdrawal of foundation funds.

    ''The board moved swiftly to address the misuse of funds, and is confident that the strict financial controls that have been instituted in its wake will prevent any future issue of this type,'' the board said in its letter to donors. ''The Foundation is a young organization. As it finds increasingly secure footing, its accountability to you, our donors, is paramount.''

    Although the statement did not directly name the staff member in question, the statement follows an abrupt announcement in mid-March that named Pettigrew the interim executive director of the Wanda Alston Foundation and announced the sudden departure of Brian Watson, the former executive director, who left ''to pursue other activities,'' according to a press release announcing Pettigrew's appointment.

    ''Once the funds were discovered missing, the staff member immediately resigned and has agreed to a repayment plan,'' the board's letter reads.

    Watson was a former employee of the transgender service agency Transgender Health Empowerment (THE), which shut its doors last year after the organization filed for bankruptcy as a result of mismanagement, failure to pay federal employee payroll taxes, and failure to pay employees for hours worked. According to bankruptcy-filing documents, Watson is among several creditors owed thousands of dollars in unpaid wages by THE. Watson was also among the first class of Metro Weekly Next Generation awardees, in 2009.

    Attempts to reach Watson for comment were unsuccessful.

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    News:

    About 20 community activists and advocates rallied Friday outside the John A. Wilson Building, which houses the mayor's office and the D.C. Council chambers, to call for the repeal of ''prostitution-free zones'' (PFZs), which opponents say has lead to profiling and harassment of transgender people, particularly transgender women of color.

    The April 11 rally, organized by the local service organization HIPS (Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive) was held with the dual purpose of calling for a repeal of PFZs, as well as standing in solidarity with Monica Jones, a transgender woman and sex-worker advocate in Phoenix, who was arrested for ''manifestation of prostitution'' under a police sting operation and anti-prostitution diversion program known as Project ROSE (Reaching Out on Sexual Exploitation) one day after she spoke at a rally protesting the program. Jones, who has said she was not engaging in prostitution at the time of her arrest, was slated to appear in Phoenix Municipal Court Friday and plead not guilty to the charges against her. Simultaneously, demonstrations similar to the one in D.C. were scheduled to occur outside the courthouse in Phoenix and elsewhere.

    HIPS rally against ''prostitution-free zones''

    HIPS rally against ''prostitution-free zones''

    (Photo by John Riley)

    Outside the Wilson Building, demonstrators, including representatives from some prominent LGBT groups, held signs calling attention to the Jones case and offered fliers arguing against programs such as Project ROSE and D.C.'s PFZs. The demonstrators also engaged passerby in conversation, urging D.C. residents to contact their councilmembers to ask them to repeal the PFZs.

    ''We're just trying to encourage D.C. voters to contact their councilmembers and let them know that they think prostitution-free zones are a bad law that needs to be removed from the books,'' said Emily Hammell, director of development at HIPS. ''It's used to profile trans women of color, and it's also probably unconstitutional.''

    D.C.'s PFZ provision, introduced nine years ago, allows the chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) to declare a particular area a ''prostitution-free zone,'' which then grants police authority to order groups of two or more people in a PFZ to disperse. It also lowers the bar for probable cause leading to an arrest. Such zones can be labeled prostitution-free for any length of time, at the discretion of the chief of police.

    At a January 2012 hearing regarding a failed bill, proposed by Councilmember Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7), that would have expanded and made permanent existing prostitution-free zones, MPD Assistant Police Chief Peter J. Newsham testified that the purpose of PFZs is not to make arrests for prostitution, but to act as a tool that MPD officers can use to disperse people whom they believe may be trying to engage in commercial sex work. Following that hearing, as a result of outcry from critics and the logistics of enforcing PFZs, MPD halted its implementation and said it was working internally to rescind its general PFZ order.

    Both transgender-rights advocates, who decry what they see as police profiling of transgender women of color, and sex-worker advocates, who seek to provide support and assistance to those who put themselves at risk in the commercial sex trade, oppose PFZs, arguing that the creation of PFZs doesn't affect root causes of prostitution. Rather, they argue, PFZs push such activity further underground, increasing the risk of harm to sex workers.

    Furthermore, opponents of PFZs also note that the provision's legal foundation is shaky. During the debate over the bill to make PFZs permanent, Ariel Levinson-Waldman, a spokesman for the office of D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan, testified before the Council that the attorney general believes PFZs may be unconstitutional.

    Elizabeth Saracco, director of programs at HIPS, says repeal advocates are considering a court challenge if the D.C. Council fails to take the law off the books.

    ''Ultimately, we just need to work together to make a happier, healthier community for everyone to live in, rather than attack individuals in the community,'' says Saracco.

    ''MPD definitely wants to build a relationship with transgender individuals in Washington, D.C.,'' she says. ''I think they want the same thing HIPS wants, in a way: just a happy, healthy community where people can live peacefully. We've been in talks with them to repeal the prostitution-free zones, because in nine years it hasn't done anything useful. It hasn't put an end to prostitution, it hasn't bettered people's lives in any way.''

    Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), a critic of PFZs who was skeptical of their practicality during his 2012 Council run, has co-introduced a bill with Councilmembers Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) and David Catania (I-At Large) to repeal PFZs. The bill has since been co-sponsored by Councilmembers Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), the chair of the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee that the bill must pass to receive a vote by the full Council, and Marion Barry (D-Ward 8). Grosso was the only Councilmember to appear in person at the rally.

    ''I think it was a bad idea to start with,'' Grosso said of the creation of PFZs. ''I think people recognize now that it's an easy way to violate someone's human rights, and it's time to get rid of them and get them off the books.''

    Grosso told Metro Weekly he believes he'll get the seven votes necessary to repeal PFZs, noting that as more is learned about the practice, some Councilmembers, even those who supported making the zones permanent, have changed their minds.

    ''When I came into office, I said that I was going to have a human rights framework to establish all my policies with, and this is one more opportunity for me to do that,'' Grosso said. ''In fact, I think all of my colleagues are catching on to that now, recognizing that we can't legislate without recognizing that people are affected by the laws that we create in ways that sometimes discriminate.''

    Grosso added that he expected some residents in certain areas of the city to oppose the repeal, but insisted it was the right thing to do.

    ''I've been in neighborhoods we're they've touted these as something that's effective and useful, and they're just wrong,'' he said. ''And so, what you do, as a leader in this city, in my opinion, is you stand up and you say to the community, 'Hey, this is not working right, it's really discriminatory, and they need to be repealed.' So there are going to be some neighborhoods who push back, but, in the end, it's our job to say to them that they're not right.''

    Kayley Whalen, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's executive office board liaison at, also attended the rally, as did representatives from the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA), a local nonpartisan LGBT political advocacy group.

    ''I came here today because I believe that trans women of color should feel safe walking down the streets of their neighborhoods, both in D.C. and in Phoenix, Arizona, where Monica Jones was arrested,'' Whalen said. ''I firmly believe that we need to stand up against police profiling and harassment and criminalization of trans women for sex work.''

    Whalen said the Task Force found in its National Transgender Discrimination Survey that profiling is particularly hard on transgender women of color, with 41 percent of African-American transgender women and 25 percent of transgender Latinas reporting police harassment, or being arrested and detained due to gender-based profiling. Whalen said that PFZs simply give police ''extra leverage'' to profile or harass transgender women they suspect of engaging in sex work.

    ''What we need instead of programs like Project ROSE that 'save trans women from themselves,' is we need programs developed for and by trans women that help empower them,'' Whalen said. ''We need to support organizations like Casa Ruby DC; the TransLife Center, of Chicago House; or the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, that are working directly to empower trans women of color to take control of their destiny and their own advancement in society.''

    GLAA members have testified before the D.C. Council that PFZs do not withstand constitutional scrutiny, an argument also backed by groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union. On April 3, GLAA sent letters to the five members of the Council's Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, as well as to Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) and Grosso, outlining the constitutional concerns with PFZs.

    ''Even though the Council is a legislature, and you would think legislators would be eager to legislate, there's often a hesitance to act unless there's no other alternative,'' GLAA President Richard Rosendall said of the Council's inaction. ''In this case, we and our allies, including the ACLU, made the case during the hearing on Yvette Alexander's permanent PFZ bill in 2012, we made the case that it was unconstitutional, it didn't work, and caused a lot more problems than it solved. And then police officials indicated that they would stop using them, apparently until this got resolved. But then there was an admission that they weren't using the PFZs to make arrests, but just to make people move on. One of the reasons they weren't doing arrests was it wouldn't hold up in court.''

    Rosendall said profiling within PFZs happens ''routinely and egregiously'' to transgender women of color, even when they are not engaging in prostitution. He added that non-transgender people, both within the LGBT and straight ''ally'' communities, need to speak out in favor of repealing PFZs, rather than dismiss the issue because it doesn't directly affect them.

    ''Those of us who don't fit the profile need to step up for our trans sisters, and the Council needs to get this passed,'' Rosendall said. ''It's unconstitutional, and it's not solving any problem. I think our legislators have a responsibility to at least do no harm. In this case, the laws against prostitution are used to target a particular population, many of whom have been driven into sex work because of discrimination. Adding an arrest to their record solves nothing and only increases the burden on them, creating a vicious cycle.''

    Rosendall urged the Council to act this year. Mayor Vincent Gray, who is supportive of repealing PFZs, was recently defeated in his re-election bid, fueling a sense of urgency.

    Of the 13 members of the D.C. Council, five back the bill to repeal PFZs. Finding two more votes may be a challenge, as many of the remaining councilmembers have appeared supportive or sympathetic to keeping PFZs in place.

    The 2012 permanent PFZ bill was co-introduced by Alexander, Barry, former Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5), former Council Chairman Kwame Brown (D), Councilmember Vincent Orange (D-At Large) and Councilmember Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), the Democratic nominee and presumptive favorite to become the District's next mayor. It was co-sponsored by Councilmembers Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Catania, although Catania later withdrew his support of the measure.

    Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) helped defeat the 2012 bill in committee, largely over constitutional concerns, but told The Washington Post in 2012 that he thought PFZs were useful in disrupting the sex trade. Councilmember Jim Graham's position on repealing PFZs is unknown, although Graham did introduce a bill in 2009 aimed at creating ''no loitering zones,'' similar to PFZs and ''drug-free zones.'' Graham later withdrew the bill.

    Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) expressed concerns about profiling and the constitutionality of ''permanent'' PFZs during his 2012 special-election victory, saying that if the District is going to establish PFZs, they need to be able to withstand potential court challenges. Councilmember Anita Bonds (D-At Large) had not yet been elected to the Council at the time the permanent PFZ bill was considered.

    ...more

    News:

    Equality Maryland PAC, the political action committee for the Free State's most prominent LGBT-rights group, announced on Monday it was endorsing state Sen. Brian Frosh (D-Montgomery Co.) in the race to succeed Attorney General Doug Gansler, an LGBT ally who is pursuing a bid for governor.

    Frosh, a longtime supporter of LGBT rights, chairs the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, which oversaw deliberations regarding both the marriage-equality bill during the 2011 and 2012 sessions and the recently passed bill to prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, credit and public accommodations based on gender identity or expression.

    ''Brian Frosh has been a firm ally and leader on LGBT issues in the General Assembly,'' Carrie Evans, the executive director of Equality Maryland, said in a statement announcing the endorsement. ''He has the maturity, experience and commitment to be an effective advocate for the LGBT communities of Maryland as our next Attorney General.''

    Equality Maryland PAC's endorsement decision was based on Frosh's responses to a questionnaire and an in-person interview with staffers and board members from Equality Maryland, as well as some of the organization's regular members. Both Frosh and one of his two opponents in the Democratic primary, Del. Jon Cardin (D-Baltimore Co.), submitted questionnaires and were interviewed. Del. Aisha Braveboy (D-Prince George's Co.), Frosh's second Democratic opponent, was determined to be ineligible for Equality Maryland's endorsement because of her vote against the marriage-equality bill in 2012.

    ''Equality Maryland members were already aware of Brian Frosh's record of support on our issues,'' Timothy Williams, the chair of Equality Maryland PAC, said in a statement. ''During his interview with us he spoke convincingly about his commitment to fairness and how his own convictions were shaped by the example of his father, who supported civil rights for African Americans as a member of the Montgomery County Council more than 50 years ago.''

    Frosh's endorsement marks Equality Maryland PAC's second endorsement for statewide office and its fifth endorsement of a non-incumbent. The PAC has endorsed Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D) and his running mate, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, in the race for governor and lieutenant governor.

    ''Senator Frosh has more than 35 years of experience as a practicing attorney and has served in the General Assembly for 27 years,'' Stephanie Bernstein, Equality Maryland board chair, said in a statement. ''He understands the duties of the Attorney General and articulates a clear vision for how this office can continue to move Maryland forward on fairness or equality. We strongly urge the LGBT community and its allies to support Senator Frosh in his bid to be Maryland's next attorney general.''

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    News:

    Supporters of marriage equality seeking to overturn Virginia's constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, along with the office of Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, filed appellate briefs April 11 in the case of Bostic v. Schaefer urging the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen finding the marriage ban unconstitutional.

    Allen, a federal judge for the Eastern District of Virginia, ruled in February that the ban violates the due process and equal protection clauses guaranteed under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

    On Friday, Herring explained why the court should apply the most demanding ''strict scrutiny'' standard to Virginia's same-sex marriage ban, why the ban fails the ''strict scrutiny'' and ''rational basis'' tests, and why the court should act now to protect the fundamental right to marriage that is denied to same-sex couples in the commonwealth.

    ''All Virginia families deserve to be treated fairly and equally, and that, our Constitution guarantees to each of us,'' Herring said in a statement released by his office. ''I remain committed to ensuring both sides of this argument are heard in court as this case advances so we can get a definitive ruling, but since I changed the Commonwealth's legal position in January, every federal court that has considered the question has agreed that marriage equality is constitutionally required, including the resounding opinion in our favor in Virginia.''

    Herring's brief also refutes arguments made by the appellants, clerks George E. Schaefer of Norfolk and Michelle McQuigg of Prince William County, as well as 21 others who filed amicus briefs. Herring says the ban should be subject to strict scrutiny because of discrimination and animus against gay people and their lack of political power under Virginia's laws.

    Among other arguments put forth by the opponents of same-sex marriage, Herring points out that while some Virginians may have voted for the Marshall-Newman Amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2006 to ensure that their ''strongly held values'' were ''reflected in the law,'' religion cannot justify state-sponsored discrimination.

    Herring also took aim at arguments advanced by McQuigg labeling marriage as necessary for procreation, noting that ''it is irrational to think that banning same-sex marriage will make heterosexual couples more likely to marry and have children of their own,'' and that there is no evidence that same-sex marriage harms heterosexual marriage.

    Herring also defended same-sex families who are harmed by the ban by attacking McQuigg's argument that banning same-sex marriage is necessary to protect children. Herring wrote that McQuigg ''fails to explain why [the state] has a compelling interest in excluding gay people from marriage, thereby making it harder for gay parents to raise their children. McQuigg does not even mention the legal and economic benefits of marriage that are locked away from same-sex couples – such as spousal privilege, tenant-by-entirety ownership, inheritance rights, statutory beneficiary status and medical decision-making authority, to name a few.''

    Herring's brief also states that Virginia State Registrar of Vital Records Janet Rainey will continue to enforce the ban on same-sex marriage until a definitive judicial decision can be rendered. Herring asked that any injunction against the ban be stayed until the U.S. Supreme Court resolves the issue.

    Besides Herring, the legal team of Ted Olson and David Boies, lead counsel in the Bostic v. Schaefer case, also filed a brief arguing that Virginia's marriage prohibition is unconstitutional and must be subject to heightened scrutiny.

    ''Virginia has singled out gay men and lesbians and enshrined in Virginia's Constitution and statutory code that they are different, that their loving and committed relationship are ineligible for the designation 'marriage,' and that they and the children they raise are unworthy of that 'most important relation in life,''' the legal team wrote in its brief.

    ''No less than Virginia's anti-miscegenation laws, Virginia's Marriage Prohibition flatly contradicts the 'cherished protections' that Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses provide for 'private choices of the individual citizen regarding love and family.'''

    Adam Umhoefer, the executive director of the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), which is sponsoring the Bostic v. Schaefer case, said the foundation looked forward to presenting its case before the Fourth Circuit on behalf of thousands of gay and lesbian Virginians and their families.

    ''In the last five months, every federal judge to rule on the question of marriage for gay and lesbian Americans has decided in favor of equality,'' Umhoefer said, ''And we are confident the momentum will continue through this appeal at the Fourth Circuit.''

    Lawyers for two other couples, in Harris v. Rainey – a case seeking to overturn the marriage ban from the Western District of Virginia that was previously certified as a class action lawsuit – also submitted briefs to the court arguing that the ban violates the 14th Amendment and should be subject to ''heightened scrutiny'' because of systematic discrimination against same-sex couples by the commonwealth of Virginia, which does not recognize any form of relationship or contract between same-sex couples, even if they are legally married elsewhere.

    ''Although heightened scrutiny is required, Virginia's marriage bans are unconstitutional under any standard of review,'' counsel for the Harris plaintiffs, which included lawyers from Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Virginia and the law firm Jenner and Block, wrote in their brief. ''Tradition is not a legitimate purpose that, standing alone, can justify disparate treatment.''

    Like Herring and the Bostic lawyers, the Harris legal team also refuted arguments claiming there is a compelling state interest in preventing same-sex couples from marrying.

    ''The lack of any rational connection between Virginia's marriage bans and a legitimate state interest reinforces the inevitable conclusion that the primary purpose and practical effect of the bans is to impose a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma upon same-sex couples in the eyes of the state and the broader community, rendering the bans unconstitutional.''

    The appellants and opponents of same-sex marriage are required to submit briefs responding to the plaintiffs' and Herring's arguments by April 30. The Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case on May 13.

    ...more

    Feature Story:

    This is what you don't want.

    You don't want to see your dish displayed as Ted Allen briskly lifts the silver cover. Because that means, as Allen brusquely intones, "You've been chopped."

    Since January of 2009, Allen has been hosting the popular Food Network show that pits four chefs (and sometimes celebrities) against one another in a unique cook-off that features three courses -- an appetizer, entree and dessert -- cooked at a breathless pace, and incorporating four generally very disparate, seemingly incompatible ingredients. After each course, one of the chefs is eliminated.

    The chefs have to contend with absurd mystery ingredient combinations like pickle juice, herb stems, overripe tomatoes, fish carcass for the appetizer; fenugreek, new potatoes, bison short ribs, cheese spread in a jar for the entree; and cooked corn cobs, pitcher of sangria, duck sauce, stale plain doughnuts for the dessert course. What is it they say these days? Oh, right. Om nom nom.

    Ted Allen

    Ted Allen

    (Photo by Peter Ross)

    The people who dream up the ingredient combinations for Chopped are clearly either full-on sadists or genuinely believe that culinary magic can be arrived at combining fruit punch with chicken feet. Even Allen admits that not all the dishes are appetizing. "Sometimes it's terrible," he confides. One of the Food Network's most enjoyable, enduring competitions, Chopped owes much of its success to Allen, whose on-screen persona is best quantified as equal parts warm, remote and unforgivingly stern.

    In person, Allen is nothing but warm. A former member of the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy posse, for which he served as "food and wine specialist," and prior to that a journalist who penned culinary articles for Chicago magazine, Allen still contributes frequently to Esquire magazine, and was recently handed the hosting keys to yet another Food Network show, America's Best Cook, which premiered Sunday, April 13. On it, home cooks from different regions of the nation are mentored by Food Network celebrity chefs as they vie for a $50,000 grand prize. That buys a lot of Kraft Mac & Cheese.

    But Allen also has a philanthropic side, and as such serves as an ambassador to Dining Out for Life, helping to promote the nationwide event in which participating restaurants donate a portion of their day's receipts to worthy causes that help to feed the infirm and homebound.

    In the case of our city, the beneficiary is Food & Friends, which helps to keep people living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other illnesses not only well-fed, but in healthy nutritional balance. It's one of our area's most enduring, important services, and though it sprung out of the gay community, it has evolved over the years to reach far beyond its initial bounds, enveloping all who are in need of its services.

    In advance of Dining Out for Life, Metro Weekly talked with Allen about the event, as well as his time spent on Chopped, where he reveals, among other things, his favorite "weird" ingredient of all time.

    Hint: It comes in a can. And sounds spectacularly unappealing. Om nom nom, indeed.

    METRO WEEKLY: You are one of four Dining Out for Life ambassadors, nationwide. What do you like most about this event?

    TED ALLEN: I really love this event because in a single day it raises $4 million to fight HIV and AIDS in cities all across the county, while at the same time, encouraging people to go out and spend money in local restaurants, thus helping the economy, helping my friends who are chefs, hopefully helping diners discover something really delicious, and playing a meaningful part in the fight against HIV and AIDS. It's such a win-win-win, I can't stop being involved with it.

    MW: We've been a supporter of it here, for Food & Friends, for years. One thing we've noticed over the years is that fewer restaurants seem willing to give at the 100 and 50 percent level. Of course, that's voluntary and any amount is obviously appreciated by the organization, but why do you think it's decreased?

    ALLEN: I'm not privy to official statistics inside the organization itself, so this is just me talking. Whenever anyone's trying to raise money for anything, the restaurant community is always the first place they go, and the restaurant community always steps up. That having been said, if there has been a decrease in the percentage that many restaurants are able or willing to put in, I can only imagine that it's because of the economy over the last five or six years. It's made life difficult in a business where the margins are always tight. If you're making 10 percent profits in the restaurant business, you're doing a great job. Also, I think the demands on everybody for philanthropy has just gone through the roof. Since the original Dining Out for Lifes, lots of other people have started doing a Dining Out for this and Dining Out for that. That said, someone who used to give 100 -- if they can still give 50, God bless 'em.

    MW: Where do you usually do Dining Out for Life?

    ALLEN: The irony is that New York City, being a place that was basically ground zero for the AIDS epidemic in the first place, is so well served with organizations that deliver food to people and raise money for AIDS and HIV that they don't actually do a Dining Out for Life here. I have in the past gone to Philadelphia to celebrate it. But this year I will be in a studio on April 24, shooting Chopped, so I don't get to go. When I have done it, I try to do drinks and appetizers at one place and dinner and dessert at another place to kind of spread it around a little bit.

    MW: Let's talk about Chopped. Great show. How long have you been doing it now?

    ALLEN: It's been about five years. We have made 257 episodes. We have not aired all those yet. We have new ones coming out now, and they will be coming out for a while.

    MW: Watching you on it, you seem to genuinely enjoy it.

    ALLEN: I love it. I love all the judges. I have great friends there. We're super fortunate that the show's been so successful. The only thing about it that I don't like is getting up at the crack of hell. I hate that. And I don't like being on my feet for 12 hours. But talking about food with these gifted New York City chefs all day is such a treat for me -- it's a blast.

    MW: I'm not generally a huge fan of the food competition shows, but I like Chopped because of the bizarre combinations of ingredients you hurl at the chefs.

    ALLEN: Lamb testicles and chicken feet.

    MW: It's often remarkable that they can actually make something good out of the disparate ingredients they're given.

    ALLEN: Sometimes it's terrible. It's very difficult to cook anything good with the ingredients we give them, under those conditions.

    Ted Allen

    Ted Allen

    (Photo by Peter Ross)

    MW: Do you personally get to taste everything?

    ALLEN: I taste anything that looks really good. Every once in a while someone really hits it out of the park and the judges always fix me a little bite. It's just so impressive when someone can do that. It's a very specific skill and it really has very little reflection on your actual talents as a chef day-to-day. Every chef [in their own kitchen] gets to pick their own ingredients to a certain extent and has a chance to try them out and plan and dream and research. And the ability to make something out of lamb testicles and chicken feet and Pabst Blue Ribbon in 20 minutes without cutting off your thumb is a very specific and different talent.

    MW: The competitions are shot in real time?

    ALLEN: Yes.

    MW: That's incredible. It's brilliantly photographed and edited. But, God, what a nightmare it must be to edit.

    ALLEN: One episode of Chopped takes 37 days to edit. We have nine or 10 cameras, each of them coming out of a 12-hour shoot day. They probably shoot about seven or eight hours of tape each. All that stuff has to be viewed in the raw, on a single monitor with all nine cameras at once, in different little squares. It's unbelievable to me -- I can't believe anybody could do that job.

    It sounds so trite to say we're a close family, but we just are. We have a great director and a team of camera operators. They're all freelancers, but they all come back because they love to work together and it's kind of like shooting a basketball game. It's fun for them to shoot. Many of the same people have done the cake competition shows, and those are not fun for them to shoot because [contestants] have two hours to bake a cake and there's no action. It's just [host] Ron Ben-Israel in the room and a cake in the oven gradually getting larger.

    MW: You've had a really interesting career. Obviously you don't plan a career like this, but, looking it over, are you happy with the way it's turned out and where you've ended up?

    ALLEN: I couldn't be more grateful. I loved writing for magazines and newspapers, too. But I think anybody who gets to work in a field that they love -- in my case talking about and tasting and thinking about food -- that's a very fortunate person. To get a chance to work in television and have a show that takes off is such a rare thing. I'm kind of amazed by it. The only thing about it that's kind of difficult is that it's really hard to plan for the next act, as every show ends. I have a couple of things in the hopper, but the ratings for this show are nowhere but great, so I don't think it's ending anytime soon.

    It amazes me that as long as we've been doing it, it's still basically the same game show. I don't get bored. I think that's something to be really grateful for. We always have different competitors, our judges rotate, we have different personalities, we have different ingredients, there's always something new to learn and talk about. I couldn't be happier. The network's great to me. I'm very fortunate.

    MW: You're well known as a gay man, and you're hosting this popular show, but it's never really brought into focus at all. It's just another example of just cultural assimilation. I'm saying that's a good thing.

    ALLEN: I agree with you. I think that's something Food Network deserves some credit for. In fact, the LGBT presence at Food Network is reflected all the way at the top, starting with our president, Bob Tuschman, who's openly gay. There are lots of gay people in the executive suites and the ranks of the producers.

    MW: Was there ever any doubt that you now know of before they selected you as host?

    ALLEN: I'm sure they had their doubts. Whenever you put somebody in the host position, you wonder if they can carry the show. And I don't have to carry the show because the stars of our show are the competitors. And then I've got the judges to lean back on, as well. I'm sure you would always wonder if this person is going to work out whether they're gay or what gender or race or whatever it might be. But this was actually the second show Food Network has put me in charge of and they've been nothing but great. No one has ever said, "Hey, stay away from those pride parades!"

    MW: What's your favorite thing to cook at home?ALLEN: Ironically, when you consider where I work, I'm very much a slow-food guy. I actually don't even like to cook things that are done quickly. I love to braise things. I love to put a roast in my smoker -- like a pork roast -- and cook it for eight hours until it's just fall-off-the-bone tender. Stir-fry? I'll eat it once in a while if I'm in a hurry and because it's delicious and I like it.

    But what really gets me started is slow and low, long-developed flavor. Long-simmered sauces.

    I've taken a lot of inspiration from our judges, because I've spent so much time talking to them and I've learned a lot -- [chef and Chopped judge] Scott Conant taught me a lot about cooking pasta and about making polenta. And the secret to polenta is cooking it for a very long time. Scott cooks his for about three hours. Very low temperature. It's just cornmeal, but it becomes something sexy and silky and sensual. I love stuff like that.

    MW: What's the weirdest ingredient you've ever encountered on Chopped? Where you were like, "I can't believe they put this into the mix."

    ALLEN: In a competition that's seen at least three or four kinds of testicles, it's kind of hard to narrow it down to one ingredient. But I'll tell you my favorite weird ingredient: a whole chicken in a can. I don't know why anybody would want such a thing, but it does exist. I think they probably can the chicken raw, seal it and then cook it, because when you open it and plop it out, it comes slipping out with a bunch of gelatin. It's hideous -- and the skin is on it and the skin's all rubbery-looking. It must have been developed for bomb shelters or something. It's just such an appalling ingredient, that's what I like about it.

    MW: I've never eaten chicken in a can, nor do I think I want to. And I've never eaten testicles. Hmmm. I probably shouldn't put it that way.

    ALLEN: [Laughs.] I was going to try to save you, but too late. I did an interview about an hour ago where I said, "You know it's not like I want to eat polish sausage every day of the week, but...." I really think I should have rephrased that.

    New episodes of Chopped air Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on the Food Network. America's Best Cook airs Sundays at 9 p.m. Visit foodnetwork.com.

    Dining Out for Life is Thursday, April 24. For more information on the national event, and to find a city near you, visit diningoutforlife.com. For the local D.C. event, benefiting Food & Friends, visit foodandfriends.org/dol. A complete listing of participating local restaurants follows.

    ...more

    Clublife:

    Where have all the cowboys gone?

    Would you believe, Paula Cole, to Town? In fact, this Saturday, Town welcomes cowboys, drag queens and geeks -- oh, my!

    "I'm hoping that people in the local community will realize that LGBT country dancers are alive and well," says Cullen Ruff, a member of the DC Rawhides. After a couple years in the church hall at Dupont Circle's Church of the Pilgrims, this country-western dance group christens the large second floor of Town Danceboutique as its new home, every other week starting this Saturday, April 19. It'll also be the first Saturday since the closure of Remingtons, D.C.'s longstanding LGBT country-western venue that had fallen on hard times. "When Remingtons was drawing bigger crowds," Ruff recalls fondly, "it was a popular place not only for the dancing, but for meeting people in a setting where you felt like you could talk to people. Very relaxed. You didn't find a lot of attitude there."

    The DC Rawhides aim to continue that tradition at Town with a party dubbed Town & Country. The hoedown starts with dance lessons at 7 p.m., then runs through to 10:30 when the second floor transitions from mostly country music to Town's regular EDM/club music and dancing that's a bit more individual and freestyle.

    "I think it will appeal to a broader range of people, even people who don't think they like country music," Ruff says of Town & Country. He notes that about a quarter of the music played will be pop/club hits, to accompany some of the choreographed line dances and even a few couples dances. "The thing about social dancing," he says, "is that there's much more of a camaraderie with this than your average disco or club-type dancing. You connect with people more."

    And those who don't know how to do social dancing needn't worry, even if they miss the hour-long lessons before each event. "We have people, we see ourselves as 'dance angels,'" promises Ruff, "who want to make sure we go introduce ourselves to people who may be new and to help them practice their step until they're comfortable doing this on their own."

    There's plenty more, however, to top this Saturday at Town. Starting at 10:30 p.m., both floors will serve as a themed party inspired by Awesome-Con, the annual event at the Washington Convention Center that draws in science fiction, fantasy and comic lovers by the thousands. Town is calling this night devoted to cheeky geekdom "Star Whores: The Empire's Got Back."

    "There are a few official after-parties during Awesome-Con at straight clubs," says Town's Ed Bailey. "But as far as I know, we're the only gay place that's even kind of recognizing that it's going on."

    DJ Hector Fonseca will spin his usual electro/tribal/EDM music, which can be occasionally spooky and no doubt a bit loopy or out-there for some, while Kid Madonny will dress up the club in sci-fi-themed decor. The weekly first-floor drag show will find Lena Lett, Shiqueeta Lee and Ba'Naka leading the drag cast performing scary pop-culture spoofs as well as inevitably competing for the crown: "Biggest Star Whore of Them All!"

    Town & Country is Saturday, April 19, with lessons starting at 7 p.m., then dancing until 10:30 p.m., when Star Whores takes over at Town Danceboutique, 2009 8th NW. Cover is $5 for the whole night including Town & Country, or $8 10 to 11 p.m., $12 after. 21 and older. Call 202-234-TOWN or visit towndc.com.

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    Music:

    Matthew Hemerlein will perform as Lo-Fang at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue next weekend, for a concert not two months since the pop musician's debut at Echostage.

    "It was nice to play someplace I'd never even been before," says Hemerlein, who opened for Lorde. "It's great to see new places opening in D.C."

    lo-fang

    Lo-Fang

    (Photo by Grant Singer)

    Those aren't merely idle words from an itinerant musician, one who also expects next weekend "to see lots of familiar faces and hang out a little bit," adding for good measure: "I love D.C."

    In fact, the 30-year-old Hemerlein grew up outside Columbia, Md., and lived in D.C. as recently as two years ago. Back then the singing multi-instrumentalist was regularly making the rounds of local performance spaces and open-mike spots -- as well as doing the occasional good deed, such as modeling and promoting a designer T-shirt to benefit the Human Rights Campaign's marriage-equality work. "I really respect the movement and everything that they're working towards," says Hemerlein, who's straight.

    Hemerlein's sound merges his strings-heavy classical upbringing with modern-day pop, which started generating international buzz years ago, most notably in Iceland. "For such a small place, it's amazing that so many world-class people come from out of that culture," says Hemerlein, who was tapped to play the heralded Iceland Airwaves music festival in 2011 and stayed on in Reykjavik afterward to soak up the sonic air. In addition to the Nordic country's pop patron saint Bjork, you can also hear austere electronic influences from Icelandic acts GusGus and Sigur Ros on the Lo-Fang set Blue Film. For that absorbing debut album released earlier this year, Hemerlein worked with Australian producer Francois Tetaz, best known for his Grammy Award-winning work with Gotye.

    After hearing an early copy of Blue Film, Lorde, the New Zealand teenager born Ella Yelich-O'Connor, handpicked Hemerlein for her first U.S. tour, and even sang with him onstage. But any future plans with Lorde or anyone else will have to wait. Hemerlein's sole focus at the moment is on his own headlining U.S. tour, performing with two supporting musicians.

    "I'm going to be playing lots of instruments onstage," he says. "There's going to be a certain level of improvisation that we weren't really able to do at the Lorde show."

    Lo-Fang performs Saturday, April 26, at 8 p.m., at

    Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, 600 I St. NW. Tickets are $15 in advance or $18 day of. Call 202-408-3100 or visit sixthandi.org.

    ...more

    Opinion:

    Roughly 12 years ago, I was toiling on the floor of a pal's dining room, constructing a banner. I'd just begun dating the man I'd eventually marry, and was keeping myself occupied during our first stretch apart since meeting. He was off riding his bike to raise money for Food & Friends, as I slapped together a ''welcome home'' banner with which to greet him on the National Mall.

    I've never volunteered for Food & Friends myself, but I've certainly married into the family. Working in LGBT media in D.C., there's actually a sort of prohibition against volunteering for them. I'm not supposed to get that involved with organizations I may be reporting on. And, through the years, I've certainly reported on Food & Friends. I toured the Northeast facility shortly after it opened in 2004. I've collected recipes from staff for a feature story. My favorite Food & Friends story is from 2005, when Councilmember David Catania (I-At Large) tapped the organization at a moment's notice to deliver 400 hot meals to the D.C. Armory to feed Hurricane Katrina evacuees.

    Other stories – not mine – relating to Food & Friends had to do with Pallotta TeamWorks, which managed the ride my now-husband was on when I made his banner. That relationship ended when Pallotta TeamWorks tanked amid criticism of its business model. Food & Friends Executive Director Craig Shniderman has also taken some flak for his $350,000-plus salary. While in my perfect world charities wouldn't be necessary as government would smoothly and efficiently make best use of taxes to eliminate social ills – and, yes, I know perfection does not exist – I don't have any issue with Shniderman's salary. After all, the guy who runs D.C.-based LivingSocial is reportedly worth $180 million, according to Complex. And plenty of starting K Street lobbyists seem to fare at least as well. Feeding about 3,000 clients across 5,300 square miles – give or take – I think Shniderman certainly earns his keep, whether running around 17th Street in drag during Dining Out for Life, recruiting his family to help prepare Food & Friends' Thanksgiving meals, or just steadily growing an organization that is a lifeline to so many in need.

    In these years since I made my banner – which was a big hit, by the way – I find myself still not a volunteer, but married into the Food & Friends family. These days, I recuse myself from writing news coverage of the organization. I would recuse myself from attending the volunteer appreciation dinners, as I don't in any way deserve the tasty buffet, but my husband insists I accompany him. Last Thursday, I was very glad to be there, though, to watch our friend Claudia receive her certificate of recognition for five years of service, delivering meals far and wide. And I'll be at Chef's Best next month, as this is my husband's first year on the host committee, his last days-long fundraising ride being a few years ago. From each according to his ability, as the communists say.

    Till then, there is Dining Out for Life, and I hope to be there, too. As of this writing, I don't yet know where – whether it will be a 25 percent or 100 percent sponsor, or somewhere in between – but we'll certainly be there. And I will be there with gratitude for the restaurants that participate, for the many volunteers who make it all possible, and to Food & Friends for doing work that makes the world a far better place than it would otherwise be.

    Will O'Bryan is Metro Weekly's managing editor. Email him at wobryan@MetroWeekly.com. Follow him on Twitter @wobryan.

    ...more

    Dance:

    Ask Moses Pendleton about his dance company Momix's next show in D.C. and he'll give you a perfectly lucid description -- and then crack wise.

    "Botanica is a show that hopefully gives you the feeling of going through the four seasons, using basically the garden and natural world as inspiration," he says, continuing on a bit before stopping to laugh. "Of course there is the opportunity to dream if you don't like the show. If you have that kind of concentration."

    Momix

    Momix

    (Photo by Max Pucciariello)

    Little doubt Botanica, which Momix performs next weekend at Lisner Auditorium as presented by WPAS, is as engaging and full of whimsy as its creator. Pendleton jokes that he first performed at Lisner with Pilobolus, the acclaimed company he co-founded before Momix, "Way, way, way back to the beginning of time."

    Pendleton formed Momix in 1981, which was years before other less-dance-centric companies, from Cirque du Soleil to the Blue Man Group, emerged to help sell the mainstream on the idea of physical, even surrealistic, theater. The idea didn't come to Pendleton by dream. "I was born and raised on a dairy farm, and my dream was to be a skier," says the man born in Vermont who spent his summers as a teenager skiing in Oregon. But after he broke his leg in a college skiing accident, Pendleton took a dance class, "just by accident, to get back in shape." And that's how his background as an athlete clearly inspired what has become his career as a "dancer/athlete, putting an aesthetic on the athletic."

    "I spend a lot of time decanting the past in various conversations," Pendleton initially says about plans for his future. Turns out the man who recently turned 65 is gradually working with "a few trusty assistants" to archive and digitize his materials for an eventual memoir. "The memoirs of an amnesiac," he teases. Pendleton also spends extended periods every day walking and swimming. (He retired from dancing years ago.) And that physical activity helps fuel his creativity and his unabated passion for defying expectations, certainly when it comes to his choreography.

    "If people leave with a little less gravity in their step," Pendleton says in a final comment about Botanica, "it'll be successful."

    Momix perform Friday, April 25, and Saturday, April 26, at 8 p.m., at Lisner Auditorium, The George Washington University, 730 21st St. NW. Tickets are $28 to $48. Call 202-994-6851 or visit lisner.org or wpas.org.

    ...more

    Feature Story:

    A complete guide to all participating restaurants as of press time, by neighborhood, including meals and what percentage of each bill will be donated to Food & Friends. This year's Dining Out for Life takes place on Thursday, April 24th. Please note that RESERVATIONS ARE SUGGESTED at most restaurants. Please call ahead or visit OpenTable.com. For an up-to-date list of restaurants visit foodandfriends.org/dol.

    WASHINGTON, D.C. MARYLAND VIRGINIA

    Adams Morgan

    18th & U Duplex Diner

    2004 18th St NW(202)265-7828Dinner, 25%American

    Cashion's Eat Place

    1819 Columbia Rd NW(202) 797-1819Dinner, 25%American

    La Fourchette

    2429 18th St. NW(202) 332-3077Lunch & Dinner, 35%French

    L'Enfant Café and Bar

    2000 18th St. NW(202)319-1800Dinner, 25%French

    Little Fountain Café

    2339 18th St. NW(202)462-8100Dinner, 35%American

    Mintwood Place

    1813 Columbia Road NW(202)234-6732Dinner, 25%American

    Napoleon Bistro

    1847 Columbia Rd.(202) 299-9630Dinner, 25%French

    Perry's

    1811 Columbia Road NW(202)234-6218Dinner, 25%American

    Brentwood

    Sala Thai Restaurant

    2300 Washington Place NE(202) 635-6999Lunch & Dinner, 25%Thai

    Capitol Hill

    Banana Café & Piano Bar

    500 8th St SE(202) 543-5906Dinner, 25%Cuban

    Café Berlin

    322 Massachusetts Ave. NE(202)543-7656Lunch & Dinner, 25%German

    Hank's Oyster Bar on the Hill

    633 Pennsylvannia Ave SE(202) 733-1971Dinner, 25%American, Seafood

    Las Placitas Restaurant

    517 8th St SE(202) 543-3700Dinner, 25%Latin American

    Ninnella Restaurant

    106 13th St. SE(202) 543-0184Dinner, 25%Italian

    The Old Siam

    406 8th St. SE(202) 544-7426Dinner, 25%Thai,Sushi

    Trattoria Alberto

    506 8th St SE(202) 544-2007Dinner, 25%Italian

    Chevy Chase

    Arucola Osteria

    5534 Connecticut Ave NW(202) 244-1555Lunch & Dinner, 25%Italian

    Cleveland Park

    Cactus Cantina

    3300 Wisconsin Ave NW(202) 686-7222Lunch & Dinner, 25%Tex-Mex

    Columbia Heights

    The Heights

    3115 14th St. NW(202) 797-7227Lunch & Dinner, 25%American

    Downtown

    Georgia Brown's

    950 15th St NW(202) 393-4499Dinner, 25%American

    Dupont Circle

    Annie's Paramount Steakhouse

    1609 17th St. NW(202) 232-0395Dinner, 100%American

    Beacon Bar & Grill

    1615 Rhode Island Ave NW(202) 872-1126Dinner, 25%American

    Bistrot Du Coin

    1738 Connecticut Ave NW(202) 234-6969Lunch & Dinner, 50%French

    Café Dupont

    1500 New Hampshire Ave.(202)797-0169Dinner, 25%French

    Darlington House

    1610 20th St. NW(202) 332-3722Lunch & Dinner, 25%American, Italian

    Dupont Italian Kitchen

    1637 17th St. NW(202) 328-3222Dinner, 25%Italian

    Floriana

    1602 17th St. NW(202) 667-5937Dinner, 35%Italian

    Grillfish

    1200 New Hampshire Ave NW(202) 331-7310Lunch & Dinner, 25%American, Seafood

    Hank's Oyster Bar & Lounge

    1624 Q St. NW(202) 462-4265Dinner, 25%American, Seafood

    James Hoban's Irish Restaurant

    1 Dupont Circle, NW(202) 223-8440Lunch & Dinner, 25%Pub

    La Tomate

    1701 Connecticut Ave NW(202)667-5505Dinner, 25%Italian

    Lauriol Plaza

    1835 18th St. NW(202) 387-0035Dinner, 25%Tex-Mex

    Level One Restaurant

    1639 R St. NW(202) 745-0025Dinner, 25%American

    M Street Bar and Grill

    2033 M St. NW(202) 530-3621Lunch & Dinner, 25%American

    Mai Thai

    1200 19th St. NW(202)452-6870Dinner, 25%Thai

    Mourayo

    1734 Connecticut Ave NW(202)667-2100Dinner, 25%Greek

    Pesce Restaurant

    2002 P St. NW(202) 466-3474Dinner, 35%Seafood

    Foggy Bottom

    Founding Farmers

    1924 Pennsylania Ave NW(202) 822-8783Lunch & Dinner, 25%American

    Tonic at Quigley's Pharmacy

    2036 G St. NW202-296-0211Dinner, 25%AmericanFriendship Heights

    Le Chat Noir

    4907 Wisoncsin Ave NW(202) 244-2044Dinner, 35%FrenchGeorgetown

    Café La Ruche

    1039 31st St. NW(202) 965-2684Dinner, 50%French

    Don Lobos Mexican Grill

    2811 M St NW(202) 333-0137Dinner, 25%Mexican

    Neyla

    3206 N St NW(202) 333-6353Dinner, 25%Mediterranean

    Peacock Café

    3251 Prospect St. NW(202) 625-2740Dinner, 35%American

    Atlas/H Street

    Le Grenier

    502 H St. NE(202) 544-4999Dinner, 25%French

    Logan Circle

    Commissary

    1443 P St. NW(202) 299-0018Lunch & Dinner, 25%American

    Le Diplomate

    1601 14th St. NW(202) 332-3333Dinner, 25%French

    Logan Tavern

    1423 P St. NW(202) 332-3710Lunch & Dinner, 25%American

    Nage Restaurant

    1608 Rhode Island Ave NW(202) 448-8005Dinner, 25%American, Seafood

    Pearl Dive Oyster Palace

    1612 14th St. NW(202) 319-1612Dinner, 50%American

    Posto

    1515 14th St NW(202) 332-8613Dinner, 50%Italian

    The Pig

    1320 14th St. NW(202) 290-2821Dinner, 25%American

    Veranda

    1100 P St. NW(202) 234-6870Dinner, 25%Mediterranean

    Mt. Vernon Triangle

    Busboys and Poets

    1025 5th St. NW(202) 789-2227Dinner, 35%American

    Sixth Engine

    438 Massachusetts Ave NW(202) 506-2455Dinner, 25%AmericanThe Palisades

    Blacksalt Fish Market & Restaurant

    4883 MacArthur Blvd. NW(202) 342-9101Dinner, 25%Seafood

    Penn Quarter

    Asia Nine Bar and Lounge

    915 E St. NW(202) 629-6355Dinner, 25%Asian

    Poste Moderne Brasserie

    555 8th St. NW(202) 783-6060Dinner, 25%American, French

    Tosca

    1112 F Street, NW(202)367-1990Dinner, 100%Italian

    Petworth

    Sala Thai Restaurant

    3716 Georgia Ave NW(202) 629-1643Lunch & Dinner, 25%Thai

    Shaw

    1905

    1905 9th St NW(202) 332-1905Dinner, 25%Ethiopian

    Dino's Grotto

    1914 9th St. NW(202) 686-2966Dinner, 25%Italian

    Shaw's Tavern

    520 Florida Ave NW(202) 518-4092Dinner, 50%American

    Thally

    1316 9th St NW(202) 733-3849Dinner, 25%American

    U Street

    Busboys and Poets

    2021 14th St Nw(202) 387-7638Dinner, 35%American

    Café Saint-Ex

    1847 14th St NW(202)265-7839Dinner, 25%French

    Eatonville

    2121 14th St. NW(202) 332-9672Dinner, 35%American

    JoJo's Restaurant

    1518 U St. NW(202) 319-9350Dinner, 25%American

    Marvin

    2007 14th St. NW(202) 797-7171Dinner, 35%American

    Sala Thai Restaurant

    1301 U St. NW(202) 462-1333Lunch & Dinner, 25%Thai, Sushi

    Woodley Park

    New Heights Restaurant

    2317 Calvert St. NW(202)234-4110Dinner, 25%American

    Bethesda

    Black's Bar & Kitchen

    7750 Woodmont Ave.(301) 652-5525Dinner, 25%American, Seafood

    Freddy's Lobster and Clams

    4867 Cordell Ave.(240)743-4257Dinner, 25%Seafood

    Hard Times Café

    4922 Del Ray Ave(301) 951-3300Dinner, 25%American

    Guapo's Restaurant

    8130 Wisonsin Ave(301) 656-0888Dinner, 25%Tex-Mex

    Sala Thai Restaurant

    4828 Cordell Ave(301) 654-4676Lunch & Dinner, 25%Thai

    Trattoria Serrento

    4930 Cordell Ave(301) 718-0344Dinner, 25%Italian

    Garrett Park

    Black Market Bistro

    4600 Waverly Ave.(301) 933-3000Dinner, 25%American

    Hyattsville

    Busboys and Poets

    5331 Baltimore Ave(301) 779-2787Dinner, 35%American

    Potomac

    Amici Miei Ristorante

    1093 Seven Looks Rd.(301) 545-0966Lunch & Dinner, 25%Italian

    Rockville

    Il Pizzico

    15209 Frederick Rd.(301) 309-0610Dinner, 35%Italian

    Mosaic Cuisine and Café

    186 Halpine Rd.(301) 468-0682Dinner, 25%French

    Silver Spring

    8407 Kitchen Bar

    8407 Ramsey Ave.(301)587-8407Lunch & Dinner, 25%American

    Cubano's

    1201 Fidler Ln.(301) 563-4020Dinner, 35%Cuban

    Petes's New Haven Style Apizza

    962 Wayne Ave(301)588-7383Dinner, 25%Pizza

    Takoma Park

    Mark's Kitchen

    7006 Carroll Ave.(301) 270-1884Lunch & Dinner, 25%American

    Republic

    6939 Laurel Ave. (301) 270-3000 Dinner, 25% Seafood

    Alexandria

    Chadwicks

    203 The Strand(703)836-4442Dinner, 25%American

    Annandale

    Foxfire

    6550 Little River TPK(703) 914-9280Dinner, 25%American

    Arlington

    La Cote D'Or Café

    6876 Lee Highway(703) 538-3033Dinner, 25%French

    Clarendon

    Delhi Club

    1135 N. Highland St.(703) 527-5666Lunch & Dinner, 35%Indian

    Petes's New Haven Style Apizza

    3017 Clarendon Blvd.(703)527-7383Dinner, 25%Pizza

    Crystal City

    Freddie's Beach Bar & Restaurant

    555 23rd St S.(703) 685-0555Dinner, 100%American

    Falls Church

    Clare and Don's Beach Shack

    130 N. Washington St.(703) 532-9283Lunch & Dinner, 35%Seafood, Vegetarian

    Merrifield

    Ovvio Osteria

    2727 Merrilee Dr.(703) 573-2161Dinner, 25%Italian

    Sea Pearl

    8191 Strawberry Lane Suite 2(703) 372-5161Dinner, 25%Asian, Seafood

    Old Town Alexandria

    Hank's Oyster Bar Old Town

    1026 King St.(703) 739-4265Dinner, 25%Seafood

    Pentagon City

    Thaiphoon at Pentagon

    1301 S. Joyce St. D4(703)413-8200Dinner, 25%Thai

    Shirlington

    Guapo's Restaurant

    4028 Campbell Ave(703) 671-1701Dinner, 25%Tex-Mex

    Busboys and Poets

    4251 S. Campbell Ave.(703) 379-9757Dinner, 35%American

    ...more