Gay pride celebrations are typically marked by rainbow parade floats, bedazzled drag queens and lots andlots of Cher. A great excuse for a party, Pride is also about overcoming oppression with the most effective non-violent tools we've got: honesty, love and unabashed displays of queer identity. In a world where mainstream media fails to represent the full range of human sexuality, pride celebrations are not only fun but a necessary occasion for support and acceptance.
On Friday at 7 p.m., the William Way Center (1315 Spruce St.) will invite performers and community members to share their stories of coming to terms with queer identity. Appropriately titled "Being Queer Saved My Life," the event will focus on solidarity within the LGBTQ community, exploring all the joys and hurdles of veering from a straight-life path. Among the many talented perfomers are local trans activist Rae Drew, author Freddy Shelley and Philly Gay Calender creator Steve McCann. Each performer will be given ten minutes to monologue, recite poetry, speak, sing, etc., and audience members will have a chance to share their own stories during an open-mic segment. A great kickoff to Pride Weekend, all proceeds will go to local LGBTQ organizations, including The Morris Home, a new recovery home specifically for trans inviduals. $10.
Philly's favorite balls-to-the-wall drag comedy troupe will present their performances through a different medium starting this weekend. The Light Room Gallery (2024 Wallace St.) will host a photographic retrospective of the most memorable performances and antics of the Dumpsta' Players, starting June 3 and running through June 30.
The Players you know and love for their satirical and outrageous acts will be celebrated with the work of five Philadelphia photographers. Gregory Carafelli, Jason Colflesh, John Donges, Tom Sheeder Jr. and Al Wachlin Jr. will all exhibit photos displaying 15 years of the group's standout performances and backstage moments.
For extra credit, check out episodes of their shows on Comcast 66 and Verizon Fios 29/30 on Tue., June 5 at midnight and Fri. - Sat. June-8-9 at 11 p.m.
Spice up your First Friday with a heavy dash of drag, a hot kick of carnies and a side of storytelling, stunts and debauch at Thank Goddess it’s OMG!: Dueling Divas Sing Live. This will be the sixth time around for the variety show, each one offering a new cast of entertainers.
This month’s show is presented by The Notorious OMG, known for inducing reactions appropriate to his/her name. The Goddess Isis will be singing, dancing and chatting over chicken with the audience, (you’ll see). And there will be performances by Anessa LaRae, Serena Starr and Missy Mary Wanna. Pay the cover and the first drink is on the house.
10 p.m., $10, Tabu Lounge and Sports Bar, 200 S. 12th St., 215-964-9675.
Just got word that a couple new queer parties will be starting in the next few weeks:
On Sat., May 12, Ashley Gagnon and Karina McIntyre will premiere Pulse, a two-level dance and lounge soiree at Smokin' Betty's (116 S. 11th St., 215-922-6500) at 10 p.m. Former Scene and Stimulus turntablist DJ Kash will provide the (mostly house) tunes. Don't get too comfy at this one, though. Word is it's meant to serve as a teaser for a recurring monthly jam that's starting in August. Admission is $5.
On Thu., May 17, slick Indian eatery Tashan (777 S. Broad St., 267-687-2170) will open its doors for Desilicious, a new third-Thursday bash that benefits a different LGBTQ charity each month. More of a mix-and-mingle affair than a hardcore rager, the evening will feature food and drink specials starting at 7 p.m. For a taste of what kind of nibbles you can expect, check out CP food critic Adam Erace's review.
After fleeing his sleepy boyhood home in the Poconos in 2009, Cesar Fernandez moved to Philly in search of a more-queer-friendly niche. Little did he know this would be the birth of Celia Supernova!. I caught up with Ms. Celia at Tabu Lounge, where she'll be performing in Sinful Sundays on April 1.
City Paper: Tell me how you started doing drag.
CF: When I was 10, my sister had a Repunzel wig she bought for Halloween. I was always wearing it, and I literally have videos of me [wearing it while] lip-syncing to Britney Spears. I didn't realize the significance of what I was doing at the time, but I guess that could be considered my first attempt at drag. Then, in my first year in Philly, my roomate's boss was hosting a cupcake-eating contest and everyone was encouraged to come in costume. She dared me to come in drag, so I went to some store in the Gallery and tried on nine different dresses. It actually felt really natural to shop for women's clothes.
CP: How did you move from cupcake drag to your first live show?
CF: One of my roomates moved ... next door to the queen [Goddess Isis] who runs the Sinful Sundays show at Tabu. On the Fourth of July, I went to a barbecue at their house and I got to talk to the queen himself, who was super-sweet. He invited us to the show, and we loved it. I couldn't stop thinking how I wanted to be up there. When I told Isis, he was such a sweetheart about the whole thing. Any insecurities I had melted away. It was so nice to have someone in the drag community say, “You have my support”. It felt like it didn't matter how much I sucked, I had someone who believed in me.
Two events last Saturday night did their best to fund Philadelphia gay-related charities. In both cases, each did their damndest to out-glam and drag things up.
The AIDS Fund 13th annual Black-Tie GayBINGO event at the Crystal Tea Room featured GayBINGO hostess Miss Carlota Ttendent (Michael Byrne from Action AIDS) and her klatch of Bingo Verifying Divas (BVDs) in fabulous glittering gowns. Honorees for the evening included radio maven/community affairs director Loraine Ballard Morrill (Favorite Straight Person of the Year), William Way Community Center’s Chris Bartlett (The Founders’ Award Recipient) and Garry Stover and Steve Terrill (Volunteer Awards Recipients) for their tireless efforts regarding HIV reacted causes. “I’m happy to tell you that the funds raised were up 25 percent from last year, totaling $40,000” says event rep Cari Feiler Bender.
After that, I headed to Voyeur to the party benefiting Equality PA that starred songstress Erika Schiff, performance artiste Power Infiniti, hostess Sherry Vine, house-music crooner Kevin Avaince and Gunner, the Gunnerworld porn presence whose birthday was the main thrust of the evening. Dancing boys, high hair and trying to maneuver one’s way off the swing was the order of the night. No tally yet as to how much was raised for their charity but you can donate here, and be certain that Schiff and Gunner will be doing something similar very soon.
Josh Middleton on the LGBTQ scene.
Gay birds of a feather may flock together, but that doesn't mean they always get the chance to work together. And local performance artist Lance Pawling thinks that's a damn shame. So the longtime Dumpsta Players performer decided to gather a bunch of his gifted friends and "harness their talents into a single event": A Merkin Dream Cabaret.
Named for a hair piece Victorian women wore on their hoo-has so their "wigs would match the carpet," Pawling describes Merkin as a cabaret-styled evening of sketch comedy and standup mixed with drag ("and anti-drag") performances. Corralled by hot-mess MC Messapotamia LeFae, the eleven performers include the evening's co-producer and local comedian Alejandro Morales, who'll perform drag as Shenanigans Hannigan; standup comedians Val Temple and R. Eric Thomas; and Murmuration, a "musical improv" trio comprised of Russell Kotcher (violin), Andrew Marsh (keyboard, vocals) and Eric Coyne (cello).
Pawling says he'll also present his newest drag persona, Alaya Richmin, that he explains is "more classy" than his usual alter ego, the über-sexed and just plain raunchy Nueva Gabor (pictured). Oh, and he promises a steady supply of merkins that people can try on throughout the show. Ewwwww!
Sat., Feb. 4, 7 p.m., $7, Tabu Lounge and Sports Bar, 200 S. 12th St., 215-964-9675, tabuphilly.com.
Photo by John Donges
Femmes, step into your high heels and join the roadshow! This Friday, Philly’s anarchist and radical bookstore, Wooden Shoe, will host Beyond Visibility: Illuminating and Aligning Femmes. The free event will include “unplugged” performances of all types — puppetry, music, burlesque, spoken word — and several of Philly’s most famous femme-identified performers like Mesapotamia LeFae (pictured), Laura Rabbit, and The Notorious OMG. ScrewSmart's Rebecca Alvarez will also mediate a post-performance panel at which artists and audience members will have the chance to raise awareness and build community through lively discussion.
Beyond Visibility is part of a project that's traveling around the country to promote Baltimore's August 2012 Femme Conference, which will feature empowering lectures, panels, workshops and performances. For the past six years, the project has worked to unite femmes and allies by creating an open dialogue about gender, and to build a cohesive forum where identity can be celebrated and explored. Join the conversation (and the fun) for a night of femme-fabulous entertainment and bonding.
Fri., Jan. 20, 8 p.m., free, Wooden Shoe Books, 704 South St., 215-413-0999, woodenshoebooks.com.
Photo by Sasha Aleiner
James Hormel is of a rare breed in the gay community: he’s determined, he’s experienced and he’s an ardent activist over the age of 70. The nation’s first openly gay ambassador, appointed in 1999 by President Clinton, Hormel faced down the right-wing political machine when stigmas on gay men were several times more potent to a reputation than they are today. Hormel, of course, lives to tell the tale some 13 years later in his new book, Fit to Serve: Reflections on a Secret Life, Private Struggle, and Public Battle to Become the First Openly Gay U.S. Ambassador (Skyhorse, Nov. 15), a reflection on his contentious public battle in the process of being appointed ambassador.
Hormel will appear today at local gay-lit hotspot Giovanni’s Room to promote his book. And judging by his apparent continued perseverance as an advocate of equality, as well as philanthropy on the whole, this elder is one that is still going strong.
City Paper: It’s been a long time since 1997 — what was the inspiration to write the book now rather than, say, ten years ago?
James Hormel: Well, I suppose in some sense I should have done it ten years ago when the material was fresher; it took me a while to assemble my thoughts about what I wanted to write. It also took me awhile to realize that I needed assistance, so I talked to my friend Erin, a former journalist, and we decided to work on it together… I guess that was more than five years ago. It was a period of gestation. I also didn’t have a journal [of the events], so we had to interview a lot of people.
CP: You took on political office as a gay man at a time when supporters were probably a little harder to come by. What advice would you give a gay person with political aspirations, and would you say there should be an orchestrated “process” of coming out, or should they go in with a “take it or leave it” attitude?
Hormel: It’s interesting, because times have changed a great deal. Just within my lifetime, I remember as an adult when the first state decriminalized homosexual acts in 1960 or so… conditions have changed. Also, more people have been willing to come out, and so the general public, I think, knows people who are gay, where as they really didn’t fifty years ago. There was a survey done in the mid-’70s that indicated only 57 percent of the population thought they knew someone who was gay. Then there’s all the other visibility through television and the entertainment industry, which is very funny, because the entertainment industry itself is probably one of the most homophobic environments around. But what comes out is a lot of positive exposure for the LGBTQ constituency.
The folks at William Way Community Center have quickly become known for organizing rich, fulfilling “Way Gay U” workshops for an affordable cost or, as is the case here, free of charge with registration. The center’s latest offering, an artsy-fartsy zine-making workshop co-facilitated by seasoned graphic artists and zine fanatics Coco Riot (pictured) and 100 Butches author Elisha Lim, looks to be one of the its raddest forums yet.
The workshop promises a comfortable discussion and working environment for aspiring graphic artists on all ends of the spectrum, with zero experience being required to attend and draw from the afternoon’s activities. Riot and Lim will lead the class in pinpointing examples of good and bad work in the world of graphic design and offer attendees the opportunity to get in touch with their inner starving artist by applying lessons from the workshop to their own zine creations. All productions from the class are non-digital, instead focusing on hand drawings.
The instructors of the workshop, who will teach in both English and Spanish, aim for participants to walk away with inspiration to express desires for social change and embolden passions for LGBTQ issues by illustrating a content-packed mini mag. Still, workshop facilitator Coco Riot says no one – gay or straight - should shy away from the opportunity.
“You don’t need to be queer or LGBT to come to this workshop,” says Riot. “We are all able to produce cultural pieces that we can share with other people who have had similar experiences to us.”
Sat., Dec. 4, 1-3 p.m., free, William Way Community Center, 1315 Spruce St., 215-545-4078, leeway.org.
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