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Five trips you can take to mark Thanksgiving this year / GayCities Blog

Five trips you can take to mark Thanksgiving this year

(Photo: Shutterstock)

Thanksgiving, like the rest of the 2020 holiday season, is going to be very different this year. Everyone is encouraged to do as little traveling as possible to help slow the spread of coronavirus. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t take a virtual journey or enjoy a local beauty spot. Here are five suggestions for how to take your mind away from home.

Head for an outdoor gay hangout with a friend for a picnic

If you’re blessed to live somewhere like Miami, spending a few hours on the gay beach at 12th Street (on South Beach) is a low-risk way of marking Thanksgiving – and plenty of local restaurants are serving takeaway orders.

San Francisco’s Dolores Park offers a gay ‘urban beach’ in its southwest section, while Rehoboth Beach in Delaware offers its LGBTQ-friendly ‘Poodle Beach’ section. If there’s no gay outdoors hangout nearby, pick a local beauty spot you’ve not visited before, or try to hunt down some stunning fall scenery. Keep a social distance if heading out with a friend from a different household and respect local COVID prevention measures.

Immerse yourself in a travel book by a gay writer

Calum McSwiggan and his travel memoir: Eat, Gay, Love
Calum McSwiggan and his travel memoir: Eat, Gay, Love (Photo: Twitter)

Check out The Black Penguin by Andrew Evans, in which the author travels from Washington DC to Antarctica, largely by bus, and comes out to his Mormon family in the process. Tim Anderson’s acclaimed Tune in Tokyo: The Gaijin Diaries, follows the US writer’s time in Asia. British broadcaster Sue Perkins, of The Great British Baking Show fame, has published East of Croydon: Travels through India and South East Asia, while Eat, Gay, Love is a new travel memoir by fellow Brit, Calum McSwiggan (above).

Enjoy a classic, queer road-trip movie

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

The queer road trip movie has become its own sub-genre, with such journeys offering plenty of opportunity for personal development, drama, intrigue and romance. Classics include The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994), in which three drag queens cross the Australian outback. Felicity Huffman was Oscar-nominated for her role in Transamerica (2005), in which she plays a trans woman on a journey to meet the son she never knew she had. Director Gregg Araki’s The Living End (1992) has been described as a gay Thelma and Louise, in which two young, HIV-positive men hit the road after one kills a homophobic police officer.

Related: 10 awesome queer road trip flicks to inspire your future travel fantasies

Join a virtual tour

Michael Venturiello of Christopher Street Tours offers gay bar history lessons online via Airbnb
Michael Venturiello of Christopher Street Tours offers gay bar history lessons online via Airbnb (Photo: Airbnb)

Both Airbnb and Amazon Explore (in beta testing in North America), now offer a wide range of virtual tours. On Airbnb, join a drag queen cocktail masterclass courtesy of ‘Sangria and Secrets with Drag Queens’, educate yourself on how to make pasta with Italian chefs, learn to sing a festive song with a Broadway performer, or enjoy a virtual tour and history lesson about some of New York’s most famed gay bars.

There are now literally hundreds of experiences to choose from – with YouTube also offering a huge array of far-flung walking tours and cookery lessons.

Start planning your next vacation on Black Friday

(Photo: Jacek Dylag on Unsplash)

Lastly, although travel options are limited right now, that doesn’t mean you can’t start planning a trip for next year. Airlines are offering some of their cheapest deals as they try to tempt travelers back, and many are going even lower with their Black Friday deals.

It’s now widely expected that coronavirus vaccines will be rolled out during the first half of 2021, so don’t expect these cheap deals to last forever. You could book yourself a bargain getaway if you act now.

Legendary Chicago dive bar, Manhandler Saloon, closes after 40 years / GayCities Blog

Legendary Chicago dive bar, Manhandler Saloon, closes after 40 years

Manhandler Saloon
Manhandler Saloon (Photo: Facebook)

The COVID pandemic’s impact on businesses continues to rage on. The most recent gay casualty is Chicago’s Manhandler Saloon, at 1948 N. Halsted.

Manhandler Saloon first opened its doors in 1980. As its name suggest, it was a place you could in the hope of being manhandled in the back room area! It marked its 40th anniversary in September. However, the COVID pandemic of recent months has taken its toll. Chicago is a city that has seen a resurgence in cases in recent weeks.

Related: Chicago gay bars and clubs

After several months of closure, the Manhandler reopened in late summer, making full use of its outdoor yard for socially distanced drinking. However, it finally called last order on November, 9.

The bar posted on social media that it was closing on that date, inviting regulars to come down for one last goodbye. Afterward, it posted a simple message: “Thank you all! 1980-2020.”

Many men shared their memories of happy times at the venue.

“Thank you for all the fun times, the memories, the fun in the back. You will truly be missed. Won’t be another place like The Manhandler!” said one – a sentiment echoed by others.

Related: The iconic gay venues that won’t be returning after COVID-19 

2020 has seen a deluge of LGBTQ bars closing across the US. This is partly due to landlords increasing rents or leases expiring, but has also been greatly accelerated by the COVID pandemic. Other sex venues to have closed this year include the legendary Blow Buddies in San Francisco and The Crew Club Sauna – the last remaining bathhouse in Washington DC.

Bars to have closed include The Stud (San Francisco), Parliament House (Orlando), and Flaming Saddles (West Hollywood). Check out a fuller list here.

Cruise company apologizes after saying “trashy” trans not wanted at LGBTQ event / GayCities Blog

Cruise company apologizes after saying “trashy” trans not wanted at

Royal Yacht Albatross in Singapore
Royal Yacht Albatross (Image: YouTube)

It’s cheering to see travel and tourism operators catering for the LGBTQ community… when they get it right. Sadly, an incident last week in Singapore shows that some can still get things very wrong.

Royal Albatross Superyacht is a luxury, ‘tall ship’ schooner based in Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore. It takes bookings for corporate charters, weddings and other private events, as well as hosting a popular dinner cruise for members of the public.

It recently decided to hold a dedicated LGBTQ dinner cruise. It got in touch with a local LGBTQ dating app, Prout, to ask them if they’d help promote it on social media. Prout duly posted information about the cruise to its Facebook page.

Related: Gay couple’s hotel photo shoot prompts praise and criticism in Singapore

However, soon after the posting appeared, the company contacted Prout to ask questions about its followers.

“Within 10 mins of our social media and telegram post going public, the company contacted us to ask if there were any “transsexuals” following us,” a spokesperson for Prout said on Facebook last week.

“After further communication, the company said that they are open only to those who are “classy and willing to spend”, and not targeting the “trashy transsexual kind who only want to create trouble”. Upon hearing this, we immediately took down all the posts related to that event.”

Prout went on to condemn the company.

“Firstly, as a LGBTQ community group, we want to emphasize that marginalized communities are not here to be exploited by brands and companies to tap on the pink dollar for. If a company is not truly inclusive and does not contribute to uplifting the community, we have no wish to collaborate with them.

“Secondly, to call the trans community “trashy” is offensive and degrading. Transgender persons have historically been discriminated, and it is utterly dehumanizing to use the word “trashy” as it reinforces stigma against them.”

It also criticized the person who had contacted them for using the term “transsexual”, which has largely been replaced with transgender, and which some trans people find offensive.

Prout also posted screenshots of the exchange.

Related: This Vancover pandemic street art showcases pride in Asian men

Not long after Prout’s Facebook posting, Royal Albatross Superyacht took to Facebook to issue a prompt apology. It said the event aimed to “provide a private romantic dinner cruise experience without judgment.”

It went on to say, “Yesterday, a staff member communicated privately with someone and used a bad choice of words to address our target audience. The comments do not represent the position of this company, we retract them entirely and we apologize. We have since corrected the staff member and we will ensure we are more sensitive when it comes to our future communications. In hindsight, we were naïve not to take into consideration the diversity of the entire LGBTQ+ community. We are sincerely sorry to have offended by what was said, it was not our intent to exclude any particular group. We welcome everyone.”

It went on to say that the LGBTQ event had been put on hold while they better educate themselves.

“We have suspended our #LoveIsLove sail as we need to educate ourselves on the diverse communities. We invite any group organizers who would be interested in helping us and or holding events like these to contact us privately. Again, we apologize to anyone that was offended.”

The ship’s founder and CEO, Peter L Pela told Coconuts the event would go ahead at a later date.

“We have already started looking into providing diversity training to our staff as we do need to understand more about the sensitivities involved. I would also like to add we are only postponing our plans to hold such an event and we are looking forward to holding a successful event in the future where everyone is welcome.”

How Kid Flash will vanquish the super-villainous Trump / GayCities Blog

How Kid Flash will vanquish the super-villainous Trump / GayCities

Cori Reese as the DC speedster Kid Flash

Starting four years ago, our democracy was marauded by the super-villainous Trump and his Legion of Doom administration. These criminals ravaged our environment, stole $1.5 trillion from ordinary taxpayers and gave it to the rich, and neglected to effectively respond to a pandemic, resulting in 7 million infections and the deaths of over 200,000 beloved Americans.

Our country’s best chance of banishing these Masters of Evil is to overwhelmingly vote them out on November 3rd.

To help accomplish this mission, we’ve assembled America’s Mightiest queer cosplayers to strip down and spandex up. As part of our GayCities weekly Cosplay The Vote series, we set out to talk to some of our favorite gay geeks across the country, serving up their best cos-lewks in order to remind everyone to get their sweet little behinds to the polls on November 3–if they don’t vote earlier by mail.

This week, we kiki’ed with Cori Reese, a cosplayer from Columbus, Ohio most notable for portraying the CW iteration of Kid Flash, about voter ID laws, quarantine, and cosplaying with his partner.

(For more heroic hotness, be sure to check out our Cosplay the Vote interviews with Courtney Grant, Paul Charles, Sky Fernandes,  and Kjeezy.)

Visit the LGBTQ Nation Voting Center


Cori as a gender reversed Wakandan Dora Milaje

Why is this election important to you?

It’s important to me because the last election I didn’t get to vote. I had just moved to a different state, I moved from Texas to Ohio, and I couldn’t get my current ID in time. I felt like my voice was silenced. With everything going on with Trump, I was really disappointed I couldn’t vote. I was really excited to vote this year. With everything going on it’s time for a change.

In the 2020 election, what is the most important issue for you?

I feel like as a gay person our rights are being taken away. In another four years who knows what can happen. We’ve seen what’s happen with the coronavirus.

You’ve been in Ohio for a while now. Would you consider that a red state?

Driving around and seeing all the blue signs, I wouldn’t consider Ohio a red state. I lived in western New York, the smallest city with a whole bunch of Republicans, and I consider that a red state.

Cori as Spider-Man being overtaken by the Venom Symbiote

For those of us not in Ohio, what would you say is the most pressing issue for your state.

The fact that we keep getting coronavirus cases. I don’t know what’s going on, but people aren’t taking the mask-wearing seriously. People think they are above masks or anything else that can stop this pandemic.

You are in Columbus, Ohio. Are you in quarantine at the moment?

We’re not really in quarantine. They have the emergency order for the masks, and the quarantine travel ban. I had to go back to New York to a couple of months ago to get stuff out of storage and they tried to make me quarantine for 14 days. I’m like, I’m only gonna be here for ten hours at the most. I’m not going to quarantine for two hours. But those are the restrictions we have right now.

What are you able to do in Columbus at the moment.

Restaurants are open, gyms are open. It’s one thing I don’t get. We can eat in a restaurant but we can’t go to the movies.

Other major events we can’t attend at the moment are comic book conventions. Have you attended any of those?

I got to attend Wizard World in Cleveland before the pandemic. It was at the beginning of March, then low and behold the next we were locked down. My partner and I wore our Captain Marvel costumes. We’ve been together for 3 years now.

Cori serving some alien Kree couture

What is it about Captain Marvel that resonates with you?

My partner wanted to make a statement for the actress Brie Larson that was getting so much backlash for playing Captain Marvel. We thought she was fantastic. He wanted to cosplayer as a way to defend her.

Cori and his partner in Captain Marvel couples costumes

One of my favorite cosplay lewks of yours is Kid Flash, who on the CW Flash is portrayed by an actor of color. Why is it important to see prominent heroes portrayed by people of color?

As a person of color, I feel like we don’t get enough recognition. Or if we do, it always comes with a “but” or a “yet.” We can’t just say, “He was a great Kid Flash.” We have to add, “He’s Black.” People of color have a mission to also be prominent. We’re just like everybody else.

Cori and his partner as CW heroes Green Arrow and the Flash

What’s your biggest hope for 2021?

Every year my hope is the same: peace, harmony, and love everywhere. It doesn’t always happen, but I always hold on to that hope that one day it will.

Elvira unites with Los Angeles LGBTQ Center for free Halloween virtual screenings / GayCities Blog

Elvira unites with Los Angeles LGBTQ Center for free Halloween

Halloween is likely to be pretty different this year. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, clubs remain closed across whole swathes of the world so the opportunities for partying are more limited.

However, there are ways you can mark the occasion with others online. Camp horror icon Elvira has teamed up with the Los Angeles LGBT Center for a special, virtual screening event taking place this Friday (October 30).

Related: Gay Los Angeles

In connection with Shout! Factory TV, Elvira will host two free online screenings of her 2001 movie, Elvira’s Haunted Hills. The screenings will take place at 7 pm and 9 pm PT. The 7 pm screening will also include a virtual costume contest. Anyone interested in entering must submit photos of themselves in their outfit in advance to lalgbtcenter.org/costume 

Elvira, the gothic vamp played by actress Cassandra Peterson, earned herself a huge cult following on the release of the 1988 comedy horror film, Elvira: Mistress of the Dark. It spawned numerous sequels.

Whilst watching this Friday’s movie, viewers will also be encouraged to donate to the LA LGBT Center via the Text-to-Donate mobile phone platform, to help it continue to offer its vital services during these difficult times. To join the fun, go to lalgbtcenter.org/watch this Friday evening.

Related: Gay bars in Los Angeles

“What better way to start celebrating Halloween than with shrieks of laughter from the comfort of your own home!” said the LGBT Center’s Membership Associate Kimberly Fisher.

“We are thrilled to partner with Shout! Factory TV to highlight the entertainment company’s profound commitment to honor our authentic selves in visual media. And to have Elvira herself hosting this special ‘live scream’ event is certainly a treat—not a trick!”

Depressed that Halloween won’t be the same this year? Check out a recent video from Elvira encouraging people to celebrate in any way they (safely) can!

Related: Gay Los Angeles has a super stylish new coffee house

Todrick Hall, Lance Bass and others share their hometown LGBTQ recommendations / GayCities Blog

Todrick Hall, Lance Bass and others share their hometown LGBTQ

Travel booking company Orbitz is marking LGBTQ History Month in the US by teaming up with some LGBTQ celebrities and influencers.

The corporation has launched its own micro-site, Orbitz.com/Pride, to showcase hotels dedicated to welcoming all LGBTQ guests. It’s also asked its influencer partners to recommend things to do for visitors who may be touring their respective home towns.

The featured tours include LGBTQ highlights in New York City, Austin, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Miami.

“The pandemic has impacted so many parts of our daily lives, including the travel industry and the destinations and small businesses that rely on it,” says Carey Malloy, Brand and Marketing Director at Orbitz. “While many of us are still at home right now, we wanted to find a way to celebrate the places that bring joy and meaning to so many in the LGBTQIA community.”

Related: Explore these iconic New York gay bars from home, plus other virtual experiences

If you check out the Orbitz Instagram, you’ll find virtual tours of each city throughout this month, led by the featured influencers. New stories will be added and highlighted using the hashtag #HappyPlace.

For example, here’s NSYNC’s Lance Bass giving you a tour of his favorite parts of Los Angeles.

Amongst Lance’s recommendations are the Mondrian Hotel (“my go-to place to host friends and family that visit for years”), the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and the dog-rescue center, Vanderpump Dogs. Unsurprisingly, he also highly recommends Rocco’s WeHo (“the most inclusive bar and restaurant on the planet”), the bar he happens to own!

Todrick Hall also offers his West Hollywood recommendations on Instagram, which include The Abbey, the Los Angeles LGBT Center (“a great resource for the community but also visitors as they host live events”), and the Matthew Shephard Human Rights Triangle.

Hall also offers a rundown of things to do in his home state of Texas. Among his recommendations are the lesbian-owned Hotel San Jose in Austin, the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas (“the largest predominately LGBTQ church in the world”), and the Round-Up Saloon in Dallas (“A favorite of mine. It was the first time I saw gay men line dancing.”).

Also featured in the series are travel influencer couples Allie and Sam (@allieandsam), who offer their lowdown on Miami, and Matt and Beau (@ProbablyThis) on New Orleans.

New York City gets two tours: one from Ravi Roth (above) and lesbian couple Gabi and Shanna (@27travels on Instagram).

Finally, trans entrepreneur Chris Rhodes offers recommendations for Austin, Texas. Rhodes namechecks gay bar Cheer Up Charlies and the queer-owned Austin Motel among his highlights.

Sky Fernandes on how to vanquish the villainous Trump / GayCities Blog

Sky Fernandes on how to vanquish the villainous Trump /

Gaymer Sky Fernandes cosplaying an anthropomorphic version of Super Mario Bros baddie Bowser

Starting four years ago, our democracy was marauded by the super-villainous Trump and his Legion of Doom administration. These criminals ravaged our environment, stole $1.5 trillion from ordinary taxpayers and gave it to the rich, and neglected to effectively respond to a pandemic, resulting in 7 million infections and the deaths of over 200,000 beloved Americans.

Our country’s best chance of banishing these Masters of Evil is to overwhelmingly vote them out on November 3rd.

To help accomplish this mission, we’ve assembled America’s Mightiest queer cosplayers to strip down and spandex up. As part of our new GayCities weekly Cosplay The Vote series, we set out to talk to some of our favorite gay geeks across the country, serving up their best cos-lewks in order to remind everyone to get their sweet little behinds to the polls on November 3–if they don’t vote earlier by mail.

This week, we kiki’ed with Brazilian-born Angeleno Sky Fernandes, a professional model, and gaymer who talked immigration, the minimum wage, and the importance of queer representation in video game culture. (For more heroic hotness, be sure to check out our Cosplay the Vote interviews with Courtney Grant and Paul Charles.)

Visit the LGBTQ Nation Voting Center

Why is this election important to you, Sky?

The political climate has become divisive, especially when Trump got elected. Now is the time to bring democracy back. I don’t think Biden is the best option, but it the best option we have to take Trump out of office. There is so much he can do in four years, eight years is a lot of damage. Can you just imagine the damage?

What’s the biggest issue that concerns you?

Mostly social issues concerning minorities, LGBTQ, people of color, and immigration issues. They are driving issues for me.

Let’s discuss immigration. You were born in Brazil. Why do you think it’s important for first-generation Americans like yourself to participate in our democracy?

I wasn’t born here, but I live here. People are going to keep coming, people are going to keep going. We’re here to make the place better. We’re not here to compete or trash people who were born here. We’re all in this together. We need to work together to improve where we live.

Sky serving a geek chic lewk

What do you feel is the biggest threat facing first generation Americans?

When you are first-generation, you still have a lot of cultural background from your country of origin. There are a lot of stuff you have to adapt to. Your parents usually come from a lower-income demographic compared to those who are here for a longer time. So there’s that issue. There’s also a sociocultural shock.

Why is it important for the gays to vote in this election?

We’re a minority, we have special needs. We need the government to have policies that specifically target us. California is fine most of the time because we have state rules that protect us from discrimination in employment and housing. I think as a minority we need to make sure we are electing people that are protecting us. We need to have civil rights like everyone else.

Like same-sex marriage. We won that, and now they are trying to take it away.

This drives me crazy. One of the Supreme Court Justices is African-American (Clarence Thomas) and married to a white woman. Back in the day that was illegal. Why is he trying to do something similar? I honestly don’t understand that.

Backing up a bit, you mentioned living in California. What do you feel is the biggest issue facing Los Angeles?

The cost of living. We’re not getting paid enough. You’re supposed to be able to live on a full-time job. But, we’re not. It’s crazy. What is it, around $14 in LA? And the rest of the country is like $7 or something.

Are you still working during Covid?

I get some gigs. I do quality testing for video games, and modeling. But I used to work at a restaurant, so I’m not working.

As a gay geek, you said you are game testing, and you are still cosplaying. Of all the characters you have cosplayed, which resonates with you the strongest?

I really like Samus from Metroid. I do a boy version of the zero suit from Smash Brothers. That’s one of my favorites. It’s so easy to wear, and I really like Samus. She’s this bounty hunter, and at the end of the game you realize it’s a woman. And Milo, the gym leader from Pokemon Sword and Shield.

Sky as a genderbent Samus from Metroid

Is that the swole guy in the shorts?

The buff one! When they announced the trailer, I called my friend and said, “We have to make this!”

Sky as Pokemon Sword and Shield grass type gym leader Milo

You mentioned gender-bending in your cosplay. Why is queer representation important in cosplay, and geek culture in general?

When I was growing up, I didn’t see positive queer representation in games. Most villains were queer coded. But they were villains. Now we have characters like Ellie from The Last of Us. In Final Fantasy XIV, there’s a Ceremony of Eternal Bonding, like marriage. If you are a guy character you can marry a guy, if you are a girl character you can marry a girl.

So pretty much next year we won’t have gay marriage in America, but we’ll have it in our video games. And speaking of next year, what is your biggest hope for 2021?

I hope Trump is voted out of office. And I hope the Democrats stick more to the people. I prefer them over the Republicans by far, but they need to be more for the people and less for the establishment. It’s crazy this country has so much money and resources and we don’t have access to basic human rights like health care and education.

I think we’re due for that.

These six gay bars received grants from HRC to help them survive COVID / GayCities Blog

These six gay bars received grants from HRC to help

Partying on the El Rio patio in pre-pandemic times
Partying on the El Rio patio, in San Francisco, in pre-pandemic times (Photo: El Rio)

Six U.S. bars serving the LGBTQ community are among the businesses to receive grants from advocacy organization HRC (Human Rights Campaign) to help them survive the pandemic.

Across much of the world, gay venues are struggling to survive. Trading conditions were tough before the pandemic. Lesbian bars, in particular, have fallen in number dramatically over the last decade. Now, with lockdown restrictions in many areas, the situation is dire.

Related: The iconic venues that won’t be returning after COVID-19

HRC has patterned with broadcaster SHOWTIME to launch its ‘Queer to Stay’ grant initiative. It announced the ten queer-run recipients of it ‘LGBTQ+ Business Preservation’ grants last week.  The successful businesses were selected from a huge number of applicants. The exact size of the grant has not been revealed, with a HRC spokesperson telling the Bay Area Reporter only that it’s, “five figures.” Each business will receive the same amount.

“We must preserve affirming, welcoming community spaces for LGBTQ+ people – including young people who may not have supportive families or communities at home,” said HRC President Alphonso David in a statement.

“HRC is thrilled to be partnering with SHOWTIME to support LGBTQ+-serving businesses in order to ensure that they can continue to provide a space for LGBTQ+ people to express ourselves freely, find community and be our authentic selves.”

The bars and clubs to receive grants were the following.

The Alibi Lounge, New York

The Alibi Lounge (Photo: Facebook)
The Alibi Lounge (Photo: Facebook)

The Alibi Lounge in Harlem is one of New York City’s only last remaining black-owned LGBTQ venues. It’s been in danger of shuttering since the start of the pandemic.

“The award is great recognition for the hard work that we do every single day,” its owner, Alexi Minko, told GayCities. “In a pragmatic way it will help with everyday, common expenses for a small business (rents, salaries, we had to pay sales tax on the 21st for instance).

“We also have a fundraising campaign on GoFundMe called “Everyone Needs An Alibi“. We have been humbled by the level of support! Supporting a small local business is investing in the long-term future of a neighborhood, especially when the small business is black gay-owned in a minority-dominated area!”

Related: NYC’s last Black-owned gay bar fights for survival

Pearl Bar, Houston

The Pearl Bar is Houston’s only lesbian bar. It posted a message about the grant to its Instagram last week, saying, “It has been a hard road getting through this, but between our community and this ‘Queer to Stay’ initiative, we are excited to open slowly starting this weekend.”

Bar owner Julie Mabry said in a statement, “We deserve to spend our money where we are treated with respect and welcomed from the moment we walk in the door. Even through this pandemic, it has become more obvious than ever that there is still a lot of hate in this country and I think now more than ever we need to protect our safe spaces.”

El Rio, San Francisco

(Photo: El Rio)
(Photo: El Rio)

El Rio has a history going back to 1978 when it was opened in the Mission district by Malcolm Thornley and Robert Nett as a Leather Brazilian bar. They retired in 1997 and the bar was taken over by Dawn Huston. General manager Lynne Angel told Bay Area Reporter that El Rio brings together, “an extremely diverse intersection of communities in San Francisco,” and that “the heart of our community includes LGBTQ+ communities of color and their friends.”

The bar is currently closed, as per San Francisco city restrictions. Huston told BAR, “Currently, we are in hibernation mode and plan to use the funds to maintain ourselves until we can safely reopen.”

Herz, Mobile

Herz is the only lesbian focused space in Mobile, Alabama.

“We are so grateful for the grant as it has allowed us to make some much-needed repairs, as well as meet the demands of the business that would have otherwise been extremely difficult to meet,” manager Rachel Broughton told GayCities.

“With recent hurricanes, curfew, and bar closures we have seen a significant decline in business and we’re not sure when the curfew will be lifted in our area. The grant from HRC and SHOWTIME has made all of the difference in the world!

The bar would still welcome more funding via a new Crowdfunder it’s launched.

My Sister’s Room, Atlanta

My Sister’s Room has been Atlanta’s premier lesbian bar for almost a quarter of a century.

“Being one of the most diverse bars in the country where everyone is welcome makes a huge impact on our community. People want to come where they see a reflection of themselves,” said owners of My Sister’s Room Jennifer Maguire and Jami Maguire to the Georgia Voice.

“People have been coming to My Sister’s Room for years for gatherings, community, or in times when they need a friendly face. They know that they have a place to come home to. We hope to continue the legacy another 25 years.”

Blush & Blu, Denver

“Distinct drinkery” Blush and Blu is the last remaining lesbian bar in Denver, Colorado (compared to 15 years ago, when there were around five bars catering to queer women).

“We are so proud to be selected as a recipient of the #QueerToStay business preservation initiative!” the bar said in on Instagram. “Thank you @HumanRightsCampaign and @Showtime for putting a focus on LGBTQ+ businesses as we navigate these uncertain times.”

Besides the aforementioned bars and clubs, four other businesses received grants: Amplio Fitness in Rocky Rover, OH; Doyenne barbershop in Charlotte, NC; Freed Bodyworks – a wellness and yoga center – in Washington DC; and SalonBenders, a hair salon in Long Beach, CA.

Related: ‘Sit On My Face’ fundraiser helps San Francisco gay bar survive pandemic 

Drag Race queens hit the road for Halloween drive-in shows across US / GayCities Blog

Drag Race queens hit the road for Halloween drive-in shows

Two drag hosts from the Drive-In Drag show
This way for the drive-in… (Image: Voss Events)

Halloween – like everything else about 2020 – is likely to be very different this year. That said, it provides the perfect excuse to get creative with a facemask!

As bars and clubs remain closed across much of the U.S., and house parties are not advised, those wishing to mark Halloween may be interested in a spooky-themed drive-in drag show set to tour the U.S next month.

Voss Events organize events featuring many of the former RuPaul Drag Race queens. It’s already organized drive-in drag shows featuring Canada Drag Race queens in Canada.

A previous Drive In Drag show audience (Photo: Voss Events)
A previous Drive In Drag show audience (Photo: Voss Events)

For October, it’s running a U.S. Drive ‘N Drag: Halloween show featuring: Asia O’Hara; Aquaria, Yvie Oddly; Kameron Michaels; Kim Chi; Violet Chachki and Vanessa Vanjie.

It costs $69 per car per two people (with $25 for additional passengers). VIP tickets cost $139, and get your vehicle closest to the stage (which going by comments on online forums, is worth the extra expense). Tour dates are as follows:

October 9-11: Neshaminy Mall, Philadelphia.
October 13-14: Emerald Square, Boston.
October 16-18: Newpark Mall, San Francisco.
October 23-25: Park Meadows, Denver.
October 29-31: Westfield Sunrise Mall, New York City.

The queens will be appearing live on stage, with the action relayed on big Jumbotron screens. Each queen will be playing the part of a trapped soul, recounting how they came to die “from obscure causes … Each soul will share her chilling tale of death in an immersive stage performance that is sure to fright and delight.”

Food will be available from food trucks and there will even be Drag Brunch options for performances earlier in the day.

(Photo: Voss Events)

Related: Paige Turner on 2020 pride season: “It’s even more important to stand together”

Producer Brandon Voss said in a statement, “Our wildly popular drive-in productions are proving the drag show must go on even through a pandemic! The show has been adapted to be even more interactive than the original arena production, bringing performances and haunts into the parking lot for an immersive experience we are dubbing a Haunted Parking Lot for a good scare.”

(Photo: Voss Events)

Get intimate with the regular guys of one of world’s gayest cities, Sydney / GayCities Blog

Get intimate with the regular guys of one of world’s

We can’t wait until travel resumes. In the meantime, here’s a chance to travel virtually to Australia for close ups of the guys of Sydney.

The photos for this article were all shot pre-COVID in Sydney, Australia.

GayCities exclusively shares a selection of the photos along with a bit of behind the scenes commentary by Elska Magazine editor and photographer Liam Campbell.

Gary P

Gary taught me about Sydney. Before I arrived, I knew that it had a positive reputation as one of the gayest cities in the world, but that it also had a negative reputation as being home to a lot of racism. Gary inspired me to go out there and be more of a journalist. So I started contacting and chatting with a lot of Aussie POCs and discovered that many feel unwelcome in Sydney. It was so upsetting, but if there is a silver lining to such a terrible situation, it’s that the white men I spoke to about it were also very aware and concerned. Gary does belong there, and it really should be somewhere that’s welcoming to all queer people regardless of where they or their ancestors were born.

Stephen G

My arrival in Sydney was quite surreal. Not only was I groggy after a very long string of flights, but the air was a strange brown-orange color due to a raging season of wildfires (this issue was photographed in late January, 2020). But somehow, as if by magic, rain poured down after I arrived at Stephen’s place for the first shoot of the week. With that rain came a change in the colour of the light to something more cool and flattering; and following the rain the whole city was covered in a thin layer of dirt. Many people had been wearing masks to protect from the ash in the air, and this rain gave us a few days of easy breathing. Little did Sydneysiders know that only a few weeks later would they need to get their masks out again, but this time not because of ash but because of Covid-19. When I look at this picture of Stephen though, I remember this brief oasis of normality and like everyone else hope to get back to that feeling soon.

Rhett P

One of the most fun aspects of doing my job, other than the travel, is meeting so many people. In every city I visit, I usually meet upwards of a dozen local men who I then spend a few hours with, walking around their neighborhood, basically just hanging out but with a camera. Rhett was one of those guys who I just got on with instantly. I can be quite shy, but he cracked my shell instantly, and soon we were bantering and joking with each other. The only problem was that at first, I felt a little uncomfortable about how open I could be. That’s because he was just so masculine that it made me feel a bit like I was back in high school with the jocks and bullies. So I just told him about my first impression, and he laughed – “Don’t worry, I’m gay.” That instantly put me at ease, and also reminded me that I need to snap out of being nervous about straight guys, or anyone. If anyone has a problem, I should be unafraid to defend myself. Rhett told me about his own struggles as a trans, gay man, and he really inspired me to be more fearless.

Dan C

In most cities I visit, I tend to avoid tourist areas. When I did an issue in London, there were no shots of Big Ben or Tower Bridge; when I did an issue in Los Angeles, there was no Hollywood sign in the background of any pictures. Instead, I just like to focus on everyday ‘authentic’ neighborhoods, but in Sydney I just couldn’t resist doing one clichéd setting. That’s because I just really wanted to see the Sydney Opera House, and since I only had four days in the city and fourteen photoshoots to do, I’d have no time for sightseeing unless I combined it with work. Dan was gracious enough to drive me over to The Rocks, and then we did some shots with the Opera House, by Circular Quay, and under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The best, or most interesting, shot of all though is one I can’t share here, it’s in the print mag if you want to see it. In that pic, Dan is sitting on a bench under the bridge, and something sort of pops out of his short shorts. I warned him, but he said he didn’t mind if I took the photo anyway. I shouldn’t have been surprised at his attitude – he wrote his story about being a keen nudist after all.

Rhodes H

With Rhodes, we met first in the heart of Sydney’s gayest district, Darlinghurst. There we grabbed some shots in and around the main drag, Oxford Street, before going back to his place for the second part of the shoot. This part is often the most challenging because you don’t know what a person’s home will be like – if it will be big, bright, or inspiring. In Rhodes’s case, he had a really small flat, basically just one room with a washbasin and a single small window. It was going to be a tough job, but we decided to just black out the window, turn all the lights off, and use a table lamp to cast a spotlight on him, creating shadows while he moved around on the bed. Despite the initial worry I had when I arrived at his home, it turned out to be one of the most fun and interesting shoots I’d ever done.

Richard S

It was unbelievably hot in Sydney, and my shoot with Richard was the hottest – just over 40 C (104 F), even at 10 am when we met. This was at the end of my week of shooting, and it was also the end of a brief respite before the wildfires reignited (my last shoot, later that evening with John A created some of the ‘ugliest’ outdoor images everywhere, not because of him but because of the dirty sky, which smelled strongly of burning and made it difficult to breathe). Anyway, I remember rushing our photoshoot, at least the outdoor part, and that as soon as we got to Richard’s flat, he turned the fans on and I stood in front of one to cool off while he fetched me something cold to drink. I ended up blocking that fan for myself throughout the shoot, while Richard kept cool by getting undressed, definitely one positive side to doing a nude photo session!

Timur S

Whenever I meet someone who’s lived in other countries, I get so excited and you can’t shut me up. Timur was originally from Kazakhstan, but also lived in Moscow and Shanghai before finally settling down with his new husband in Sydney. Naturally, I was asking for advice about doing an issue in Elska in Almaty and beyond. He didn’t really have a lot of advice for Kazakhstan though, but he knew plenty of guys in Russia and China who he knew would love to take part. If only I could actually travel again! I don’t know when I’ll be able to shoot another Elska, but I will be waiting impatiently until I can, and I look forward to presenting more local boys and local stories from more cities soon.

Liam Campbell is editor and chief photographer of the indie print mag, Elska, a project that involves traveling around the world, getting to know some regular local guys, and introducing them and their city to the world through honest photography and personal stories.

Elska Sydney is out now in a limited edition print version and in an e-version. A behind-the-scenes companion zine called Elska Ekstra Sydney is also available from the Elska website.