In January, Phase 1, a lesbian bar in Capitol Hill that’s been open since 1970, appeared to close for good. The closure turned out to be only temporary, allowing the bar to upgrade its sound system and lighting, but until it finally reopened in late March the future of one of DC’s last lesbian spaces seemed murky at best.
A slate of gay bars and spaces, including the Hung Jury, Apex, Omega, and Remington’s, have closed in DC in the last few years, but many of the city’s lesbian spaces—Lost and Found, The Other Side, Pier 9—had closed years earlier.
Earlier this week, we spoke with historian Bonnie Morris about what the loss of gay and lesbian spaces means for DC’s LGBT community, the “mainstreaming” of gay culture, and why lesbian bars have had a tougher time than bars catering to gay men. Morris, a part-time women’s studies professor at Georgetown and GW, grew up in Bethesda and went to college at American University in the early eighties. She’s also a board member at the Rainbow History Project, a group chronicling LGBT history in Washington.
You were in a panel discussion at the Library of Congress a few weeks ago, “Lost Lesbian Spaces.” Can you explain what that loss is, exactly?
It's very generational, specific to people who came out in the seventies and eighties when, although DC was better than most states, there weren't very many protections for gay and lesbian people.
There were two very different communities then, with far more places for gay men to congregate, including some really wonderful bars, restaurants, and clubs. Women primarily had Phase 1 on Capitol Hill, The Other Side, Lost and Found, and the Pier 9, near what's now the Nationals baseball stadium. Tracks, the dancefloor, really brought everyone together—even my mom went dancing with me. That was really a good place to be kinetic. You didn’t go there to have a cultural conversation.
The Hung Jury was really popular, beginning in the mid-'80s, and closed in the early years of the twentieth century. Apex in Dupont Circle was really popular for women's nights. But you could essentially walk to multiple places from any Metro stop. When I came out the drinking age was 19, so there was much more of a floating university population, and then everything changed really quickly. A lot of people's formative memories might have been in any one of these bars, or—if they weren't in a relationship or an activist—they might have seen the full range of DC’s population there.
It's really hard to reconstitute what some of these places were like. What's intriguing is two big changes that my college students talk about. There's so much getting together in cyberspace, you don't really need a physical site, you don’t really need a particular place to get into that serves your population, your tribe.
And people are coming out earlier, while they're still in school, often before they can drive, so they’re not really making it to spaces like these.
Except for the televisions over the bar, F. Scott Fitzgerald himself might have fit right in at Thornwillow Press’s party for A Fitzgerald Companion, a slim and precious homage by Steve Garbarino to one of his heroes, whom he calls “the literary mascot of the Jazz Age.” The Great Gatsby scribe’s favorite drinks were served as a combo played Jazz Age tunes. And, of course, the Washington area is Fitzgerald’s home, after a fashion: He and his wife, Zelda, are buried at St. Mary’s Church in Rockville, Maryland. Their only daughter, “Scottie,” lived in Georgetown, wrote for the Washington Post and other publications, and was an occasional participant in and chronicler of the social scene. (She died in 1986.) Garbarino, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and a culture writer for the Wall Street Journal, has his own connection to the area: “I spent the summers in Rehoboth, which led to a love of DC,” he said.
Aimed smartly at the Christmas stockings of Fitzgerald fans, the 32-page volume was handmade with love at publisher Luke Ives Pontifell’s tiny press in upstate New York. “You can touch the type, you can feel it—on very beautiful paper,” said Pontifell, the book in one hand and an Old Fashioned in the other. There are only 250 signed and numbered copies, $65 a piece, and another 26 partly leather-bound special editions in a clamshell box, at $585. Both are available at the Thornwillow boutique at the St. Regis.
Garbarino, who described himself as “the bearded guy with the very fat Michael Caine glasses,” said the book was inspired by a story he’d written on New York bars Fitzgerald liked in his time and bars he would possibly like today, and by the puzzle of our enduring fascination with Fitzgerald. “People relate to him,” said Garbarino. “Fitzgerald walked that weird line of telling a cautionary tale but going, ‘Ain’t we havin’ fun?’”
And why wouldn’t we? Waiters passed marinated scallops with caviar, gougères, pork belly canapés, and calamari sliders. The bartenders stayed busy pouring Champagne, mixing Old Fashioneds, Sidecars, and French 75s—still standards on the St. Regis cocktails list.
If you want to replicate the good life at home, note that Garbarino includes a few recipes for what he calls “bee’s-knees-terrific signature drinks.” He gave us permission to republish this one, called Fitz’s Gin Rickey.
Vice President Joe Biden is a familiar and exuberant presence at a lot of events in Washington, and when he appears he typically bounds onto the stage. But that was not the case on Sunday evening at the annual Ford’s Theatre gala. Biden was remarkably subdued, speaking in a quiet near-monotone during his opening remarks to an audience of corporate power players and members of Congress and the Cabinet. Rather than stay for the show, which is typical, he departed immediately after his remarks. A short time later, the evening’s host, actor Richard Thomas, gave some explanation: “We got a call about an hour ago letting us know that Vice President Biden wouldn’t be able to stay for the show.” Then he cracked that for half of the audience “that’s a disappointment and for the other half a sigh of relief.” When the comment prompted weak chuckles, he said, “That was in the script!,” earning a much bigger laugh.
After the show, when guests gathered for a buffet dinner at the National Portrait Gallery, members of the cast said they, too, were surprised by Biden’s brief drop-by. In years past the Vice President or President stays for the full show. What the cast members said they’d heard backstage was that Biden was tired from a trip—he’d just returned from a six-day Latin American and Caribbean swing—and was not feeling well. He did not do a backstage meet-and-greet with the cast, but he did spend a few moments with a group of first responders who were among the evening’s honorees. (We have a call into his office to learn the official reason for his early departure.)
In his remarks, in which he called Ford’s a “hallowed hall of American history,” Biden mentioned the first responders he’d met backstage. They included Sergeant David Kullgren* of the Newtown, Connecticut, Police Department and Douglas S. Fuchs of the Redding, Connecticut, Police Department, who both responded to the December Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings; Matt Patterson of the Lynn, Massachusetts, Fire Department, who was on the scene and responded to the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings; and Robert Payne, of the West, Texas, Volunteer Fire Department, who responded to the April 17 fertilizer plant explosion. They “lost some of their brothers and sisters [and] saw some of the most horrible things anyone has ever seen,” Biden said. “They continue to rebound. To them I say, ‘God bless you.’” Later the men were introduced onstage.
Valentine’s Day, intrigue, and rare treasures combined to create a romantic evening at Hillwood Museum, inspired by both James Bond and czars. Apart from the new exhibition in the dacha and the jewels on the display in the mansion, guests had three ways to get in the mood, and two involved vodka. At the Visitors Center, while on a screen in the background Sean Connery as Bond outsmarted many opponents in From Russia With Love, guests made their way to three bars. One served Russian wine. The other two offered vodka, either the James Bond way—a martini straight up, shaken, not stirred—or a choice of Russian standard vodkas served neat and chilled after traveling through an elaborate ice sculpture. The most popular was the premium Imperia.
The Aloha State welcomed attendees in classic Hawaiian style, offering them leis as they processed through a saber arch and onto the concourse surrounding the ballroom at the Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel for the Hawaii State Society Inaugural Ball.
Society president Kohono Mossman described the tenor of the evening perfectly in his welcome address: “a celebration in true Hawaiian style—with good music and good food.”
The standout among the stations of sushi, dim sum, and butler-passed trays of hors d’oeuvres were the whole roasted suckling pigs, carved in front of guests at stations in the front of the ballroom.
After an enthusiastic kickoff to the festivities by the Kamehameha Schools Warrior Marching Band, the evening continued with musical acts that included the Aloha Boys and Amy Hanaiali’i Gilliom, a five-time Grammy nominee for Best Hawaiian Music Album.
Among the evening’s distinguished guests were US senators Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, and Representative Tulsi Gabbard.
Last night, the Artists & Athletes Alliance hosted a party for ServiceNation at DC Coast. It drew a smattering of notables (including former Redskins defensive back Fred Smoot, actor Omar Benson Miller of 8 Mile and CSI: Miami fame, vice presidential sons Hunter and Beau Biden, and congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard) for speeches about the importance of military service paired with a raw bar, passed snacks, and drinks.
Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden opened the program as soon as he arrived by thanking brother Hunter for joining the Navy Reserves at age 41, as a public affairs officer. He went on to remind the group why he cares so much about American soldiers, particularly those returning from combat, saying: "The fallen angels return home through our home state of Delaware." He was followed by newly minted congresswoman Gabbard, a combat veteran from Hawaii who continues to serve in the Hawaii National Guard. After Gabbard's remarks, several attendees came up to thank her for her service, call her an inspiration, and ask to take her picture. The house was packed—so much so that it got hard to move around or take pictures that weren't close-ups of nearby people—but most partygoers didn't seem to mind.
Sometimes the guest list is what sets one party apart from all the others. That was certainly the case with the late-night inaugural soiree hosted Saturday at the Madison Hotel by six Washingtonians who have infinite connections and influence: Ann and Vernon Jordan, Buffy and Bill Cafritz, and Vicki and Roger Sant. The Jordans and Cafritzes hosted a similar party four years ago, and it was the first glimpse anyone in Washington got of the Obama inner circle, in particular presidential senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and then-Social Secretary Desirée Rogers.
With a second inauguration, that curiosity factor is gone. This time around, in a room where just about every guest was connected in one way or another, it was interesting to see actress Ashley Judd, who arrived with her friend Mark Ein. Attending this particular party was as much as saying that yes, she is serious about running for the Senate in Kentucky. So far she’s said she’s taking a look, but there were people at the party (not the least of them Jordan) who can help her get from a Hollywood acting career to a Washington political role.
New York, Maryland, and Delaware shared the stage Sunday night at the Fairmont Hotel, hosting an inaugural ball together for the first time. “We weren’t expecting the same crowds as four years ago,” explained Richard Schrader, director of the New York State Society. It wasn’t hard to see New York’s stake in the hotel’s downstairs rooms, where attendees could nibble on the state’s famous snacks and treats, such as Schrader’s favorite, Antoinette’s sponge chocolates. But a pair of glamorously dressed New Yorkers also got a taste of Maryland’s cream of crab soup. “Cream of what?” we overheard them asking as chefs ladled out samples.
Sunday night Washingtonian hosted an inaugural ball at the Smithsonian National Air and Space museum. More than 850 guests showed up in their formal best to enjoy cocktails, food, and dancing amid air and spacecraft. Get an early look at the festivities with some of our favorite photos tweeted throughout the evening, and check back in for lots more pictures.