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Editor: Laura Douglas-Brown

“Until equality is respected everywhere and there is universal acceptance of human rights for all regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, I will continue to speak my mind. I have the freedom to do so and nobody can take it away from me. Every other gay person in the world deserves the same.”

Deputy Editor: Dyana Bagby Web Manager: Ryan Watkins Art Director: Bo Shell Contributors: Melissa Carter, Brent Corcoran, Jim Farmer, Shannon Hames, Topher Payne, Matt Schafer, Steve Warren, Ryan Lee

— Sir Elton John, speaking out against anti-discrimination in the Ukraine, in an opinion column published in the Guardian, a UK newspaper. (, July 1)


Publisher: Christina Cash

National Advertising: Rivendell Media, 908-232-2021


Richard Eldredge, Sandy Malcolm, Lynn Pasqualetti, Robert Pullen All material in the Georgia Voice is protected by federal copyright law and may not be reproduced without the written consent of the Georgia Voice. The sexual orientation of advertisers, photographers, writers and cartoonists published herein is neither inferred nor implied. The appearance of names or pictorial representation does not necessarily indicate the sexual orientation of that person or persons. We also do not accept responsibility for claims made by advertisers. Unsolicited editorial material is accepted by the Georgia Voice, but we do not take responsibility for its return. The editors reserve the right to accept, reject or edit any submission. Guidelines for freelance contributors are available upon request. A single copy of the Georgia Voice is available from authorized distribution points. Multiple copies are available from the Georgia Voice office only. Call for rates. If you are unable to reach a convenient free distribution point, you may receive a 26-issue mailed subscription for $60 per year. Checks or credit card orders can be sent to Tim Boyd, Postmaster: Send address changes to the Georgia Voice, 1904 Monroe Drive, Suite 130, Atlanta, GA 30324. The Georgia Voice is published every other Friday by The Georgia Voice, LLC. Individual subscriptions are $60 per year for 26 issues. Postage paid at Atlanta, GA, and additional mailing offices. The editorial positions of the Georgia Voice are expressed in editorials and in editor’s notes. Other opinions are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the opinion of the Georgia Voice and its staff. To submit a letter or commentary: Letters should be fewer than 400 words and commentary, for web or print, should be fewer than 750 words. Submissions may be edited for content and length, and must include a name, address and phone number for verification. Email submissions to or mail to the address above.

NEWS Drag star Sharon Needles provokes racism debate. Page 21 Mayor Kasim Reed not ready to say ‘I do’ to gay marriage. Page 22 News in brief: YouthPride moves, drag performer slain, anti-gay counseling student loses. Page 25

Joining Hearts dives into 25th year. Page 29 Food Porn: Playing it safe, with spices and sex. Page 31 Theater: ‘Evelyn in Purgatory,’ ‘Best Little Whorehouse.’ Page 33 Event: Pure Heat community fest in Piedmont Park. Page 35

— Newsday columnist Amelia Camurati, chiming in on the controversy after Oreo put a rainbow cookie on its Facebook page in honor of Gay Pride Month, drawing boycott calls from some social conservatives. (Newsday, June 29)

Books: New LGBT reads for hot summer days. Page 37 Photos: Trans & Queer Prom. Page 39

“I consider myself fortunate to be in the best marriage I know. It’s an amazing thing, yet I do have same-sex attractions. Those things don’t overwhelm me or my marriage; they are something that informs me like any other struggle I might bring to the table.”

— Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, which is dedicated to helping people not act on same-sex attraction, in an interview about why he is distancing the group from those who say they can “cure” homosexuality. (Associated Press, June 27)

Photos: PFLAG’s ‘Out with the Stars.’ Page 41

Publicity photo

Sales Executive: Marshall Graham

Community. Page 6 People. Page 8 Places. Page 10 Eats. Page 10 Arts & Entertainment. Page 12 Nightlife. Page 14 Shopping & Services. Page 16 Pets. Page 18


“Homosexuality isn’t going anywhere, nor is the support for gay men and lesbians and their rights across the country. You don’t like the rainbow cookie picture? Or the two men in a Father’s Day ad? That’s fine. Go right ahead and waste your time and energy fighting a pointless battle.”

Publicity photo via

Associate Publisher: Tim Boyd


Publicity photo

The Georgia Voice


COMMUNITY Stonewall Month wraps up with Augusta Pride. Page 42 Photos: Evening for Equality, Pride Run. Page 45

“’Magic Mike’ is the purest reflection of the ‘It Gets Better’ sentiment — a movie so gleefully homoerotic, it can give a boost to bullied teens everywhere. … ‘Magic Mike’ is for women the same way ‘Playgirl’ is for women: it’s sort of an open secret that gay men look, too.” — Reviewer Louis Peitzman, asking “Is ‘Magic Mike’ the greatest gay movie ever made?” (BlackBook, June 28)

Photos: Atlanta Braves ‘Out in the Stands.’ Page 46

CALENDAR Pages 48-51

COLUMNISTS That’s What She Said: Melissa Carter’s Scrabble scorcher. Page 53 Domestically Disturbed: Topher Payne’s marriage milestone. Page 54



fter two months of online balloting and thousands of votes cast, we present your favorites in dozens of categories — our third annual Best of Atlanta awards. We’ve heard it said that these awards are “a popularity contest.” That is most definitely and intentionally true. There is one criteria — and only one criteria — for our Best of Atlanta awards: your votes. In May, during our first round of voting, you told us on a “fill in the blank” ballot your favorites for awards in categories of Community, People, Places, Pets, Eats, Arts & Entertainment, Shopping & Services, and Nightlife. The top-three vote-getters were named finalists and moved on to the second stage of multiple-choice voting, which lasted through June 25. Some individuals, organizations and companies let readers decide their fate unprompted, while others mounted organized campaigns — especially through Facebook — to garner votes. We think both approaches are valid, and the fact that a business or group has fans who are devoted enough to vote every day is a great reason to check them out. If you’re thrilled to see a place or person you love among the winners, be sure to congratulate them. And if you’re sad your favorite choice didn’t make the top three, plan to vote early and often, as they say, next year. Either way, plan to join us from 6:30-10 p.m. on Friday, July 6, for our annual Best of Atlanta party — a free gathering at Altitude at the W Midtown featuring DJs Vicki Powell and Mike Pope, food and cocktails, and Emcee Melissa Carter presenting our awards at 9 p.m. Congratulations to all of our winners, and thank you to our entire community for making LGBT Atlanta such a great place to live, work, party and play.

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GA Voice

July 6, 2012

Best of Atlanta Photo by Bo Shell


COMMUNITY Best Charity Benefit Toy Party Long considered the close of Atlanta’s social season, Toy Party,, put on by For the Kid in all of Us (, collects thousands of toys and dollars to provide children with holiday gifts. The Joining Hearts Pool Party (, scheduled for July 21, nabbed second place as it raises funds to support housing for people with HIV. Atlanta’s HRC Gala Dinner (, a black-tie event in May which raises money for the national Human Rights Campaign, finished third.

Atlanta’s biggest LGBT event is also the most popular with Atlanta Pride ( claiming first place by a large percentage. The annual festival, set for Oct. 13-14 this year, features all stripes in the LGBT rainbow proudly waving their flags and enjoying entertainment. Out On Film (, the LGBT film fest scheduled for Oct. 4-11, enters its 25th year with a second place in this category. Atlanta’s HRC Gala Dinner ( finished third.

Best HIV / AIDS Nonprofit AID Atlanta

Atlanta’s largest supplier of free HIV testing and organizer of the Oct. 21 AIDS Walk Atlanta, AID Atlanta ( was named the city’s best HIV/AIDS nonprofit in 2012. Positive Impact (, which focuses on mental health services and other support for those impacted by HIV, placed second. Jerusalem House, (, which helps providing housing for low income individuals with HIV, came in third while Joining Hearts ( finished fourth.

Photo by Brent Corcoran/RNZ Photography


Best House of Worship

St. Mark United Methodist Church

For the third year, Saint Mark United Methodist Church ( is our reader’s top House of Worship. Saint Mark was one of the first mainstream Atlanta churches to welcome LGBT people and now counts several gay and trans members among its leaders. First Metropolitan Community Church ( finished second and New Covenant Church of Atlanta ( was third.

Best LGBT Blog or Website Project Q Atlanta

Once again Project Q Atlanta ( was named best blog Matt Hennie and Mike Fleming continue to bring their cheeky style of Atlanta events, entertainment and news to the web. Between Women TV (www. was second and Queer B.O.I.S. ( was third.


Photo by Dyana Bagby

Best Event Atlanta Pride

BEST SPORTS TEAM/ ORGANIZATION: Atlanta Bucks Rugby, represented by 2012 MVP Johnathan Kilgore and Team Captain Joe Pennington.

Best LGBT Nonprofit Lost-n-Found Youth

Best Sports Team/Organization Atlanta Bucks Rugby

Atlanta’s only organization specifically created to provide immediate help for homeless LGBT youth, Lost-n-Found Youth ( operates housing and a hotline for young people living on or near the streets. Senior organization SAGE Atlanta (, a project of the Health Initiative, was second and The Health Initiative (www.thehealthinitiative. org) itself placed third.

The Atlanta Bucks ( play hard on the pitch and off. Whether competing against straight teams or donning frocks for their annual charity Purple Dress Run, the Bucks are our readers’ choice. Atlanta’s WNBA franchise Atlanta Dream (www.wnba. com/dream) placed second, Hotlanta Softball League ( was third. Please see BEST, continued on Page 8

* Search Facebook for winners with no web addresses.

We’re responsible for our bodies and the choices we make. We fight HIV by speaking up and knowing our status.

We get tested.

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Best of Atlanta

PEOPLE BEST, continued from Page 6 Photo by Bo Shell


Best Female Activist Linda Ellis

It’s been a banner year for Linda Ellis, executive director of The Health Initiative (www., who was invited to the Easter Egg Roll at the White House and also received on behalf of the Health Initiative this year’s Dan Bradley Humanitarian Award at the HRC Dinner. Realtor Barb Rowland ( placed second and ally Laura Gentle, founder of the “I’d Give the Shirt Off My Back” campaign for the homeless (, came in third.

Harlan Smith is a research assistant (counselor) for a serosorting HIV intervention study with the SHARE Project, through the University of Connecticut, based in Atlanta. He is also a former employee and current volunteer of AID Atlanta (, where he was an HIV testing specialist. At AID Atlanta, Smith created the Red Project, a safer sex program, which is still in use today, and was the lead HIV testing specialist for the Evolution Center. Last year’s winner Chandler Bearden of Positive Impact (www. placed second, Rick Westbrook of the Atlanta chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and Lost-n-Found Youth ( came in third, and Georgia Equality Executive Director Jeff Graham finished in fourth (

Best Transgender Activist Tracee McDaniel and James Sheffield

This was a tight race for all nominees, ending in the first-ever exact tie for GA Voice Best of Atlanta awards. In first place are Tracee McDaniel, longtime transgender activist and founder of Juxtaposed Center for Transformation (, and James Parker Sheffield, director of organizational development for The Health Initiative ( and former executive director of Atlanta Pride. Placing second was Giselle Lawn, an active member of Saint Mark United Methodist Church (

Best Local Athlete Ben Cohen Rugger and straight ally Ben Cohen actually lives across the pond, but he founded his international anti-bullying StandUp Foundation


Photo by Bo Shell

Best Male Activist Harlan Smith

Photo by Ryan Watkins


( in Atlanta and regularly visits the city to support local events — most recently to throw out the first pitch at the Atlanta Braves’ “Out in the Stands” game — and spread the word about his nonprofit that combats LGBT bullying and homophobia in sports. He’s also an honorary member of the Atlanta Bucks and rode on the team’s float in last year’s Atlanta Pride parade. Dave Bellevue of the Atlanta Bucks (www.atlantabucksrugby. org) placed second and Sean Fitzgerald of the Atlanta Rainbow Trout ( finished third.

Best Business Person Bill Kaelin Bill Kaelin of Bill Kaelin Marketing ( is all over Atlanta, marketing events and promoting such clients as gloATL, Scoutmob, 5 Napkin Burger and the

and the subject of the documentary “AKA Blondie,” (, which tells the story of a complex figure. She is also no stranger to LGBT issues — she was once married to a gay man and dates women as well as men. Placing second is favorite politician and straight ally U.S. Rep. John Lewis. Cathy Woolard, the first gay person elected to office in Georgia, placed third.

Best OTP Activist Johnathon Murphy As owner of LeBuzz (www.thenewlebuzz. com) in Marietta and organizer of the Marietta Rainbow Festival celebrating its third year July 25-27, Johnathon Murphy ensures those not living close to Midtown still can enjoy plenty of LGBT events and parties without a drive ITP. Isaac Kelly, founder of the growing Augusta Pride (, placed second and Mike Chadwick of Athens Pride ( placed third.

Best Local Politician Best Straight Ally U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Atlanta)

BEST TRANSGENDER ACTIVIST: Tracee McDaniel Georgian Terrance Hotel, earning him the title this year. Frank Bragg, owner of Radial Cafe (, placed second while Rad Slough, owner of Urban Body Fitness (, finished third.

Local Icon Blondie Hands down a favorite of GA Voice readers, Blondie easily soared to the top as the city’s Local Icon. A longtime stripper at the Clermont Lounge who is famous for crushing cans between her breasts, she is also a poet

Atlanta’s LGBT community has a hero in U.S. Rep. John Lewis (, who was easily voted to the top spot as both Best Local Politician and Best Straight Ally by GA Voice readers. He was recently honored by Georgia Equality at its Evening for Equality event with the Champion of Equality Award and never fails to speak out on his support of LGBT issues in Congress. Placing second in the Local Politician category was Atlanta City Councilmember Alex Wan ( while state Rep. Simone Bell (www.simonebell. com) placed third. Laura Gentle ( placed second as Straight Ally while Juliana Illari, a popular blogger with Blog for Democracy (, placed third. Please see BEST, continued on Page 10 * Search Facebook for winners with no web addresses.

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Best of Atlanta

Photos via Facebook

PEOPLE BEST, continued from Page 8

Biggest Foe The Republican Party When it comes to foes, it’s the Republican Party ( which is deemed to be the biggest enemy to LGBT people. With stances against marriage equality and promises from its presumptive presidential candidate Mitt Romney to repeal the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” there doesn’t seem to be much room for us under the GOP tent. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal ( finished in second, just a few votes ahead of blowhard and former presidential hopeful and U.S. Rep. Newt Gingrich (

PLACES Best First Date Atlanta Botanical Garden This year the Atlanta Botanical Garden ( edged Piedmont Park ( and third place restaurant Apres Diem ( to be the top choice place to take a first date. The three Midtown establishments have long been the top date choices for gay Atlanta with Piedmont Park and the Botanical Garden switching the top spot back and forth.

Best Place to Take Out of Town Guests Best Place to Take the Kids Georgia Aquarium The Georgia Aquarium (, with its wall-sized glass windows into an aquatic world, is Atlanta’s most popular tourist attraction, and GA Voice readers agree. It’s also where we gayby boomers love to take our kids — in addition to its kid-friendly exhibits, the Aquarium boasts a huge play area and touch tank In Best Place to Take Out of Town Guests, Atlanta Botanical Garden ( placed second and Piedmont Park ( was third. Zoo Atlanta ( placed second for Best Place to Take the Kids and Piedmont Park ( placed third.

Best Asian Best Takeout/Delivery Doc Chey’s Noodle House

BEST BURGER: Farm Burger

Best Place to Take Your Conservative Brother-in-Law Blake’s On the Park We created this category to showcase our readers’ sense of humor, and you didn’t disappoint. Popular gay bar Blake’s On The Park ( was named best place to take your conservative brother-inlaw — maybe he will be swayed by a gaggle of beautiful gay men, or at least picked on by the drag queens. All-male strip club Swinging Richard’s ( was the second choice while burly gay bar The Cockpit (http://thecockpit-atlanta.blogspot. com/) was the third option.

EATS Best Bakery Highland Bakery

Highland Bakery (www.highlandbakery) continues to wow readers with its delicious treats and creative menu, repeating as champion in the Best Bakery category. The display cases alone are enough to activate saliva glands, but even the beauty of the pastries does not prepare customers for the deliciousness that awaits their tummies. Alon’s ( finished a close second, and Southern Sweets (www. took third.

Best Burger Farm Burger The homegrown goodness of Farm Burger ( has earned it the blue ribbon in this beefy category. With all-natural, grass-fed meat, the two Farm Burger locations (Buckhead and Decatur) offer burgers that satisfy the appetite and the conscience. Grindhouse ( bulged its way to second place, with third place going to Steak ‘n Shake (

Best Bar Food Roxx When it comes to munching while drinking, there’s no place our readers prefer more than Roxx Tavern. While a full-service restaurant, the crowd and ambiance can make any meal feel like a boys’ or girls’ night out. Brick Store Pub ( finished in second place, followed by Burkhart’s (

Having helped establish a bustling dining district in the Morningside neighborhood, Doc Chey’s (www. returns to the winner’s circle as Best Asian restaurant. With a comfortable ambiance and delicious cuisine, Doc Chey’s is a favorite for lunch and dinner, as well as for hosting meals benefiting Atlanta Pride. And the food is just as good in the comfort of home, with Doc Chey’s also winning Best Takeout/Delivery. Best Asian: Little Bangkok ( secured second place, with third going to Nam Phuong ( Best Takeout/Delivery: K Squared Meals ( finished in second, followed by Casseroles (

Best Breakfast Ria’s Bluebird

There’s no better place to start the day (or possibly recover from a weekend hangover) than Ria’s Bluebird (, which repeats as champion in the Best Breakfast category. The food here has gained national acclaim and a permanent spot in the hearts of LGBT Atlantans. Radial Cafe ( and Pot & Pan took second and third place, respectively. Please see BEST, continued on Page 12 * Search Facebook for winners with no web addresses.

July 6, 2012

GA Voice

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GA Voice

July 6, 2012

Best of Atlanta

EATS 10 12

Best Value Eats In a runaway victory, Eats ( once again proved itself a reader favorite when looking for good food without breaking the bank. Especially during lean times, we are grateful to be able to get a home-cooked meal for under $10. S&S Cafeteria (www. and Kathmandu Kitchen & Grill ( took second and third, respectively.

BEST, continued from Page 10

Best Brunch Radial Cafe

Best Overall Restaurant La Tavola

Photo via Facebook

The weekend specials and endearing menu of Radial Cafe ( made it the fan favorite for brunch spots. The win marks a repeat for the Candler Park restaurant, proving that its commitment to local products are appreciated by LGBT Atlantans. Second place went to Einstein’s ( with Roxx rounding out the top three.

For the second year in a row, the top prize among restaurants goes to La Tavola (www. in Virginia Highland. The upscale eatery offers delectable plates at superbly reasonable prices, and some of the best Italian food in Atlanta. Roxx earned a solid second place, followed closely by Cakes & Ale (

Best Dessert Cafe Intermezzo


The dimly lit dining room in Cafe Intermezzo ( offers the perfect setting for an evening treat, such as any of the iconic sweets found at the Buckhead eatery. Cakes & Ale ( edged into second-place finish, just ahead of Southern Sweets (


Best Late Night Landmark Diner

Best Mexican No Mas Cantina Located just south of downtown, No Mas Cantina ( was voted as the best place to go when craving some south-of-the-border goodness. The Mexican eatery is a favorite for an everyday dinner, and is popular with gay groups looking for a festive place to hold events. Las Margaritas (www. claimed the silver medal, while the bronze went to Los Loros.

Best New Restaurant The Fifth Ivory The Fifth Ivory ( has brought a whole new flavor to Midtown, fusing Southern hospitality with the camaraderie of an Irish pub. The food, wine and entertainment of a piano bar have made the restaurant an instant favorite. STK (www.stkhouse. com) debuted in second place, with Campagnolo ( coming in third.

Best Art Gallery Decatur Market & Gallery Publicity photo

When the clubs let out and the stomachs are growling for grub, Atlanta partygoers prefer no place other than Landmark Diner ( Located alongside the nightlife strip on Cheshire Bridge, the Landmark provides convenience and comfort food as well as plenty of eye candy. R. Thomas ( came in second place, while third went to Taco Cabana (

Best Outdoor/Patio Joe’s on Juniper It’s a three-peat for Joe’s on Juniper (, which once again was voted as the cutest spot to enjoy food outdoors. The expansive patio provides a great space for people-watching, which is usually as delicious as any meal on the menu. Roxx garnered the second most votes, and Harbour Bar & Fish House ( took third.

Best Italian/Pizza The Iberian Pig For a taste of Europe, our readers need to go no further than The Iberian Pig ( in Decatur. The modern Spanish restaurant serves up cured meats and cheeses, with exquisite attention to style and flavor. It’s not your traditional pizza joint, but perhaps it is the pizza-like flatbread “cocas” that put Iberian Pig in first place. One Midtown Kitchen ( claimed second place, followed by Apres Diem (

Best Local Chef Kevin Gillespie (Woodfire Grill) After kicking ass on the Bravo reality show, Kevin Gillespie of Woodfire Grill ( earns the crown of Top Chef of gay Atlanta. Not only does Gillespie bring some serious Southern cred to the palate, but the furry hunkster is the dream of many bear fantasies. Kevin Kusinski of K Squared Meals (www.ksquaredmeals. com) earned second place, while Billy Allin of Cakes & Ale ( finished third.

If you’re looking for that priceless painting or piece of jewelry, or a fun night at a gallery opening, Decatur Market + Gallery ( is your pick. This was a competitive category, though, with only 30 votes separating this and second place Kai Lin Art (www. Third place is Bill Lowe Gallery ( and fourth place is Jackson Fine Art (

Best Local Artist Alli Royce Soble Eclectic artist/photographer/mixed media specialist Alli Royce Soble ( — an Atlanta native — is your favorite here. Soble is known for her individualistic style, such as exhibiting her work in all sorts of atypical spaces. Finishing in second place was Phillip Bonneau and third was Drew Green.

Best Vegetarian Cafe Sunflower

Best DJ Vicki Powell

In a true nail-biter, Cafe Sunflower (www. claimed the crown as the top spot for the meatless crowd, edging out Radial Cafe ( The Buckhead restaurant turns Caribbean, Asian, Mediterranean and Southwest cuisine into delicious works of art. Third place went to Panahar Bangladeshi & Indian Cuisine (

The top vote getter for a disc jockey to spin infectious records and make you dance all night is Vicki Powell. Vicki is a club/ event fixture and has also brought crowds to the popular Sunday Service at Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room & Ping Pong Emporium. In second place is Mike Pope, third Bill Berdeaux and fourth Pat Scott.

Best of Atlanta

Photo by Bo Shell

Best Drag King Justin Atlanta Since 2000, Justin Atlanta ( has been entertaining crowds with his patented high energy performances. A magazine cover boy, terrific dancer and winner of the Mr. National MI (Male Impersonator) in 2010, Justin is your choice here, just nosing out second place Devon Liquor by 11 votes. In third is Gunner Down and fourth is Hayden McCord.

Best Drag Queen Ruby Redd Ruby Redd, a familiar face who has performed all over the city and internationally, is Atlanta’s favorite drag queen. Among other appearances, Ruby helms the popular Birdcage Bingo and brings down the house with her razor wit. By a mere three votes, however, Ruby edged out second place Nicole Paige Brooks and newcomer Edie Cheezburger came in third.

a via Facebook

It’s been a huge year for Amber Taylor ( and the Sexual Side Effects – where she is the lead singer and guitarist — and her work has not gone unnoticed. Besides numerous local gigs, Amber and company debuted the video of their first single, “All She’ll Ever Hurt.” Dylan Michael placed second and Amy Andrews of The Lovely Drifters was in third.

Photo by Kevin Th omas Garci

Best Musician Amber Taylor (The Sexual Side Effects)

BEST DRAG K ING: Justin A tlanta

Best Live Music Venue Eddie’s Attic Even without Eddie at the Decatur hot spot anymore, Eddie’s Attic ( remains the top choice to hear live music. Whether it’s a new band or a reliable crowd pleaser, Eddie’s is a fun night out, plain and simple. In second place is Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center ( and third Smith’s Olde Bar (

Best Party Promoter Bill Kaelin

Bill Kaelin ( launched his own marketing firm in 2009 and has highprofile clients across the country. With regular parties and restaurant launches, such as the recent opening of 5 Napkin Burger in Midtown, Bill is your fave in this category. In second is Chris Coleman ( and third Barry Brandon. Please see BEST, continued on Page 14 * Search Facebook for winners with no web addresses.

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& ENTERTAINMENT BEST, continued from Page 13

Best Actor/Actress Best Playwright Best Writer/Poet Topher Payne Your fave in these three categories is the ubiquitous Topher Payne (, who writes and acts almost nonstop. Whether he’s in high heels tackling one of the “Designing Women” or doing an about face and playing David Frost, he brings absolute joy to his work. A tireless playwright, he opens another show this week in the ATL — the drama comedy “Evelyn in Purgatory.” Does this man ever sleep? For Best Actor, Timothy Gray finished second and Charles Green came in third. For Playwright, in second place is Johnny Drago and in third place Timothy Gray. For Writer/Poet, Michelle Daniel is your second fave and Amanda Kyle Williams (www. third.

Best Niche Bar Best Place to Meet Men Atlanta Eagle No bar caters to its crowd the way the Atlanta Eagle ( welcomes leather enthusiasts, bears, BDSM explorers, and more. From pageants to monthly bar nights for numerous leather organizations, the Eagle leads all in bringing kink to the club. Although known as a leather bar, The Eagle has always been hospitable to all comers, and was also recognized by readers as the Best Place to Meet Men. Best Niche Bar: Second place went to Mary’s ( with The Cockpit (www. finishing third. Best Place to Meet Men: Burkhart’s (www. flirted its way to second place, with Mary’s ( rounding out the top three.

Saving itself from the brink of extinction last year, Actor’s Express (www.actorsexpress. com) has rebounded with a robust year, full — as is always the case — with a heavy dose of LGBT fare. This season alone we’ve seen “Spring Awakening” and “Next Fall” onstage. In second place was OnStage Atlanta (www. and in third is Process Theatre (

Photo by Bo Shell

Best Theater Company Actor’s Express Photo by Dyana Bagby


touch, serving up strong drinks and a warm smile at the neighborhood bar. The silver medal in cocktail slinging went to Eddy Herrera of Burkhart’s (, with the Atlanta Eagle’s Tony Jackson (www.atlantaeagle. com) taking the bronze.

cocktails at the always vibrant Whisky Park bar in the lobby, or attending a gay function in the ballroom upstairs, nowhere does chic like The W. Seocnd place went to The Livingston ( and the Lowes Hotel (www. loweshotels,com/Atlanta-hotel) came in third.

( used its charm to earn second, and The Cockpit ( took third.

Best Place to Meet Women My Sister’s Room

Best Drag Show The Armorettes

Every night is Ladies’ Night at My Sister’s Room (, which reclaimed its top spot as the Best Place to Meet Women. The long-time lesbian bar has been reinvigorated with new energy, and continuously proves its commitment to showing lesbians can party with the best. Second place went to Mary’s ( and LeBuzz (www. finished in third.

The campy kindness of The Armorettes ( has kept the long-time drag troupe a favorite among gay Atlantans. With their regular drag shows and Easter Drag Races, the Armorettes raise thousands of dollars for AIDS charities each year. The girls of Dragnique clawed their way to second place, with Bingo with Ruby Redd taking third place.

Best Karaoke Best Neighborhood Bar Mary’s

The king of the dance clubs this year is Jungle, which attracts some of the biggest DJs to Atlanta each month. The Atlanta Eagle ( finished a strong second, followed closely by The Heretic (


Best Bartender Michael Adkins, The Model T Michael Adkins of The Model T (www. is the man with the golden

Best Hotel Bar The W Midtown For a sexy night out in the city, our readers get their prettiest for The W Midtown (www. Whether it’s meeting for

The reigning champion defends its title once again, as Mary’s Mary-oke (www. returns to the victor’s circle in the Best Karaoke category. The tipsy crooning at Mary’s has endured as a Gay-T-L institution, making the East Atlanta bar a mustvisit venue, which is why readers also selected Mary’s at the Best Neighborhood Bar. Best Karaoke: Burkhart’s Blue Monday ( sang its way to second place, with Balls Deep at the Atlanta Eagle ( deep-throated its way to third. Best Neighborhood Bar: The Model T

Best Dance Floor Jungle

Best OTP Bar LeBuzz When readers are looking for a vacation from the intown scene, LeBuzz (www.thenewlebuzz. com) is worth the drive. Second place went to Savannah’s Club One (www.clubone-online. com) and third place went to Club Argos (www. in Augusta. Please see BEST, continued on Page 16 * Search Facebook for winners with no web addresses.


WINNER Best Business Person 2012


Best Party Promoter 2012 Keeping Diversity Alive in Atlanta and Around The World For Over 15 Years


Be sure to check out our brand new website courtesy of

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NIGHTLIFE BEST, continued from Page 14 Courrtesy photo

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Best Theme Night Sunday Service at Church

Best Overall Bar Burkhart’s This year’s top prize among bars and pubs goes to the venerable Burkhart’s (www., where strong drinks, drag shows and questionable karaoke rule the night. The Ansley Square staple has helped north Midtown remain one of the gayest areas in the city, and is adored by readers. The Atlanta Eagle ( and Mary’s ( finished second and third, respectively.


& SERVICES Best Bank Wells Fargo It’s everywhere all over Atlanta these days — Wells Fargo ( is your favorite place to store your funds and manage financial decisions. That the establishment is one of the most gay-friendly around is an added bonus. In second is SunTrust (, third is BB&T ( and fourth is Fidelity Decatur (

Best Bookstore Best Gift Store Brushstrokes With a wide selection of bestsellers, old favorites and gifts for the most spoiled recipient, Brushtrokes ( is your top choice as bookstore and gift store. New this year have been the store’s author appearances, hosted by neighboring gay bar Mixx. Best Bookstore: In second is Barnes and Noble ( and third Charis Books and More (

Courrtesy photo

With DJ Vicki Powell on the turntables, the faithful flock to Sunday Service at Church (Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping-Pong Emporium) in the Sweet Auburn district. It sometimes feels sacrilegious to have such a good time on the Lord’s Day, but as we all know, the seventh day was made for partying. The Manshaft party ( nabbed second place, while Roll Back at the Atlanta Eagle (www. earned third place.

Best Chiropractic Service Midtown Life Studio Need your back whipped into shape – or help working out that neck crick? Your fave place to do so is Midtown Life Studio (www.midtownlifestudio. com), which also offers massage. The team of Dr. Greg, Laura and Glenn has proven to be a potent combination. Runner-ups are Sherwood Chiropractor Center ( and Sandy Chiropractor ( Best Gift Store: Your next favorites are Heliotrope ( and then Melrose on Ponce (

Best Clothing Store Boy Next Door

For the latest in seasonal fashions, Boy Next Door ( is a longtime favorite. Gay men flock there en masse to find the sexiest and trendiest fare around. In second is Saks Fifth Avenue ( and Drew Lewis (www. finished next.

Best Coffeehouse Starbucks at Ansley Mall According to our readers, there’s no better local place to grab some java than the Ansley Starbucks ( store/14958/). The coffee is reliable and the joint is always hopping with people – perfect for a meeting or to just curl up on the laptop. Second place is Java Monkey (www. with third going to Dancing Goats ( dancinggoatscoffeebar) in Decatur and fourth to Kavarna (

Best Hotel The Georgian Terrace Best Dermatologist Dr. Mack Rachal

The well-respected Dr. Mack Rachal ( is part of the staff at Midtown Medical Associates as well as Piedmont Hospital and Crawford Long. Known for his punctual visits and lack of waiting time at his office, he nosed out second place Georgia Skin Specialists ( by seven votes. In third is Olansky Dermatology Associates (

Best Florist Twelve Flowers and Boutique Now in business for 16 years, owner John McDonald has made Twelve Flowers and Boutique ( a great place to stop for a wide array of flowers for weddings and all sorts of special events. The store has turned floral art into something highly unique yet personal. Second place went to Foxgloves & Ivy Floral Design Studio ( and third is Maud Baker (

An Atlanta landmark, The Georgian Terrace ( has Southern hospitality in spades, world class facilities and the famous Livingston Restaurant and Bar, literally across the street from the Fox Theatre. The hotel is worth checking out even if you live in Atlanta. Second place is the W Midtown (www.whotels. com/Atlanta) and third Loews Atlanta (

Best Gym LA Fitness The best place to stay in shape — or get whipped into shape — is the reliable LA Fitness (, which has locations literally all over the Atlanta metro area. The gym has stayed current to keep the gay men and women coming. Urban Body Fitness (www. and Core Body Fitness ( round out your top picks. Please see BEST, continued on Page 18 * Search Facebook for winners with no web addresses.

July 6, 2012

GA Voice


GA Voice

July 6, 2012

Best of Atlanta


& SERVICES Photo by Bo Shell

16 18

Best Tanning Salon Toucan Tan From tanning beds to spray tans that make you look like you spent two weeks at a beach, Toucan Tan ( is tops for that bronze, sexy look. Besides its Midtown location, Toucan has two other suburban locales. Simply Sun Tanning ( is in second place and third is Palm Beach Tan (

BEST, continued from Page 16

Best Hair Salon Helmet With its stable of some of the most likable and talented stylists in town, Helmet (www. is the place you want your hair done – right. Its Midtown location might be the hub but there are four other locales as well. Crimpers Hair Salon off Cheshire Bridge ( was your next favorite followed by Axiom on Piedmont. (

Best Home Décor Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams For the best in quality home furnishings, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams ( is your favorite shop according to your votes. Inventory is updated quickly and the tastes run from modern to traditional. It’s followed by Horizon Home ( in second and Bobby Berk Home ( third.

Best Jeweler Worthwore Jewelers

With two locations, one in Amsterdam Walk and Decatur, Worthmore ( is LGBT Atlanta’s fave jeweler. With an endless supply of watches, bracelets and earrings, as well as wedding or commitment rings, it’s no surprise. Second place is Decatur City Jewelers ( and Colorstones (

Best Lawyer/Legal Services Kitchens New Cleghorn, LLC With a team of law professionals that is almost unsurpassed, Kitchens New Cleghorn ( is your top choice.

Best Real Estate Agent Justin Ziegler Also known for his leadership with LGBT organizations, Justin Ziegler ( is fairly new to real estate but has made a quick impression. Friendly and enthusiastic, he knows his stuff and co-owns the Common Ground Real Estate team. Second place is Patti Ellis (, who is an outspoken advocate for her gay son, and third goes to Jo Gipson ( agent/jo_gipson). Joyce Kitchens, Randy New and Jeff Cleghorn fight for their clients and causes, including LGBT equality. Following them in second is Greg Nevins of Lambda Legal (www. and Atlanta Eagle attorney Dan Grossman (

Best Liquor Store Tower Beer, Wine and Spirits Tower ( has everything you could ever want in a liquor store as well as alcohol you probably didn’t realize you wanted or needed until shopping. Besides a Buckhead location, Tower can also be found in Doraville. In second place is Green’s on Ponce ( and in third is Ansley Wine Merchants (

Best MD Dr. Scott Parry Intown Primary Care’s Dr. Scott Parry ( is the doctor you want to see most. He’s pleasant, conveniently located, has a of slew LGBT and nonLGBT clients and his office always makes time for walk-in needs. In second place is Georgia Reproductive Specialists (www.ivf. com) and third Dr. John Perry.

Best Pharmacy Ansley Kroger Besides being in a location that is super easy to find, the Kroger store at Ansley Mall (www. has knowledgeable and personable pharmacists who make the wait for prescriptions go by painlessly. Your next top favorites are Absolute Care ( and BioScrip (

Best Spa Blue Medspa Blu Medspa ( is the place to go for relaxation and plain pampering, the kind most of us can’t get at home. It’s been called one of the top 55 spas in the country by Conde Nast Traveler and those who’ve been inside understand why. Second place went to Natural Body Spa ( and third Urban Body Spa and Salon (

PET CARE Best Veterinarian Briarcliff Animal Clinic Briarcliff Animal Clinic ( was our readers’ top choice to take the “kids” for their regular check-ups and emergency issues. Pets Are People Too ( finished second and Buckhead Animal Clinic ( was third.

Best Pet Store/Supplies Best Pet Grooming/Boarding Best Pet-Friendly Event The Pet Set

The Pet Set ( was the favorite place for our readers to get their pet supplies and pet care. Between its two locations, the store offers daycare, grooming, supplies and boarding. Its Photo Day even took first spot in our readers’ hearts for Pet-Friendly Event. For Best Pet Store, chain store PetSmart ( was voted second and City Dog Market ( third. For Best Grooming/Boarding, Piedmont Bark ( was second and The K-9 Coach ( came third. For Best Pet-Friendly Event, Bark in The Park was second and PALS Spokespet contest Pet Cotillion ( was third.

July 6, 2012

GA Voice


Sharon Needles pokes holes in Atlanta’s LGBT community



‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ star provokes debates over race, ‘art’ By Dyana Bagby “Love you nigger.” When Sharon Needles, winner of season four of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” used those words to autograph a photo of herself after an April performance in Nashville, she ignited a controversy that followed her to Atlanta late last month. Out of drag, Needles is a white gay man. The autograph recipient identifies as a queer woman of color. For critics, including the small group of activists who protested Needles’ June 27 performance at Atlanta gay bar Jungle, the contrast makes Needles a racist who had no right to use the slur. For Needles and her fans, it’s part and parcel of an artistic approach built around being provocative and pushing boundaries. For both sides, the conflict reveals deep divisions over race and identity within the LGBT community.

Left: Sharon Needs performed June 27 at Atlanta’s Jungle night club. Though she avoided using racial slurs during her act, she tore up a Bible, saluted Satan and blended up a wad of tips with what appeared to be vodka. Above: Some 15 protesters stood outside the club from 9:30 10:30 p.m. with signs that said, ‘Racists: Sashay Away!’ among other things. (Photos by Bo Shell)

Apology, but not public

Passions ran high during Needles’ Atlanta appearance — for both critics and supporters. Two activists invited to meet with the drag star before the show stormed out after Needles refused to offer the public apology they wanted, though she did state that she would stop using the intensely controversial word. But while they were supported by several other protesters who lined up outside the gay bar to challenge the show, inside the club, more than 300 people cheered Needles as she performed a provocative number to “Beautiful People” by Marilyn Manson that included tearing up a Bible, pouring vodka and dollar bills into a blender, churning them up, drinking the concoction and then spewing it into the crowd. At the end of the show, most of the crowd also agreed to shout “Hail Satan” at Needles’ bequest. Yet before the show ended, Needles donated more than $1,000 to Lost-n-Found, an Atlanta organization for homeless LGBT youth. Prior to the show, Needles’ management asked for a meeting with protest organizers, attended by Enakai and Maura Ciseaux. The media was also invited to sit in. Aaron Coady, aka Needles, said he has removed the racial slur from Sharon Needles’ vocabulary and personally apologized to the Ciseauxs. But when they asked for a public

apology, perhaps in the form of a written statement, Coady refused, saying if he were to do so he would do it on his own terms. Coady defended Sharon Needles as a “clown” who wants to shine light on the darkest parts of our society and then laugh at those dark parts of who we are so we are no longer afraid of them. “If people educated themselves on the type of work I do and didn’t just judge it by my costume choices and simple screen shots on Tumblr and really investigated why I use the imagery I use, I’m really more on their side than they think,” Coady said after the Ciseauxs walked out of their meeting with him. “Sharon is an example of current social anxieties who is designed wholeheartedly to put government to question, mock concept of wealth... We also do things that question power of language,” Coady said. The character is intended “to mock these things [people] really are afraid of and mock these things that control our society...and try to put a comedic twist to it,” he said. “But I understand it is not designed for ev-

eryone or isn’t consumed the way that I want it to,” Coady said. “I definitely understand how it can be misinterpreted. Sometimes I don’t even trust my own work. Sometimes I am not sure which direction [I am going] and I am constantly growing and evolving.”

Talking about racism

The recipient of the autographed photo of Needles is Catiriana Reyes of Philadelphia, who identifies as a queer radical faerie and is friends with several Atlanta LGBT people. She is helping organize a national boycott of Sharon Needles. “A few years ago in Kentucky I led a protest against Shirley Q Liquor [a white drag performer who does blackface] and that really showed me how our community is divided on race,” Reyes said. Reyes posted the photo of Sharon Needles on her Facebook page, asking her friends what to do. She also posted a note on the topic, stating in part, “Knowing how charged that word is and using it for shock value screams racism. The first thing that a

racist says is that I am not a racist. We have all heard this before.” In an interview, Reyes said she wasn’t prepared for the backlash she received for posting the photo of Needles. “It’s difficult to see all the people saying bad things about me — that I forged it, it wasn’t her handwriting. They are trying to attack my character,” Reyes said. But Reyes also said she felt empathy for Needles because the drag star has been a victim of violence by those who disagree with her persona. “I don’t think acts of violence are helpful,” Reyes said. “But this shows that for 20-30 years when we don’t talk about racism and just pretend it’s not there, things don’t get better. I’m glad our community is starting to talk about the racism inherent in our community so we can start to change it,” she added. Brent Star, an Atlanta drag personality who went to the Sharon Needles show at Jungle, said he believes as Needles’ fame grows, she will have to realize the words she uses are more likely to grab attention. “I don’t think that the ‘over-the-top, pushthe-envelope’ artist Sharon Needles is racist nor prejudiced, but with her new fame, she’s learning how to curb her enthusiasm and I hope she’ll be a little more careful with her choice of Please see NEEDLES, continued on Page 26

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Atlanta mayor to meet again with activists on gay marriage Reed not ready to say ‘I do’ after first conversation By Laura Douglas-Brown and Ryan Watkins Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed would like to meet again this month with a group of LGBT advocates who want him to endorse full marriage rights for same-sex couples. The mayor suggested the second meeting after a discussion held June 27 at City Hall. “I would compare it to somebody coming out, that he has got to take time to think about what is meaningful to him. This was an educational process and he was very open and it was a very warm and friendly discussion,” said Ken Britt, one of the activists who met with Reed, after the June meeting. “In fact he has offered to have a follow up session in July to talk more about this.” Reed has been under increasing pressure to voice support for marriage equality after President Barack Obama announced his support in May. Gay teacher and activist Charlie Stadtlander started a Facebook page after Obama’s announcement titled, “Mayor Reed, It’s Time to Evolve on Marriage Equality.” The June 27 meeting was attended by Stadtlander; Britt, a longtime gay politico who is running for Georgia House; attorney Lawrie Demorest of Alston & Bird; Pastor Dennis Meredith of Tabernacle Baptist Church; and attorney Doug Brooks, who is married and has children. The meeting at City Hall was not open to the press and Reed did not give interviews after it ended. Those who attended described the meeting as candid and positive, but said Reed did not announce a change in his position on marriage equality during the gathering. “The mayor had a productive meeting and he looks forward to further discussions with the LGBT community,” Reese McCranie, Reed’s deputy director of communications, said in a written statement. In interviews at City Hall immediately after the meeting, all of the gay attendees described the conversation as productive and open. Britt said that while Reed did not say that he plans to announce support for gay marriage, his impression was that the mayor will eventually reach that position. “One thing he did say that I think we are all taking with us is that tolerance is a two-way street and we really have to give him some time to continue on his journey to think about this,” Britt said. “I think he will come out on the other side in the right place.” Stadtlander said the mayor stressed that his current lack of support for gay marriage is a

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed stressed in a June conversation with activists that his opposition to marriage equality is based on personal beliefs rather than political strategy. (Photo by Dyana Bagby)

“personal” issue and is not based on political considerations. According to Stadtlander, Reed made it clear “this is a very personal issue for me and it is something that when I get there you are going to know that I really am there, and that it is not political.” Stadlander said he believes supporters of marriage equality should continue to advocate to Reed “in a way that recognizes that the mayor has been there with us and continues to be there with us.” Meredith said he left the meeting with a more positive outlook on the mayor and “I think he is probably more there than he is representing.” “I think he was very open and very honest,” Meredith said. “I think it was an excellent meeting.” Reed, a LGBT ally during his terms in the state House and Senate, supports civil unions but created controversy during his 2009 mayoral bid when he declined to support full marriage rights for gay couples. In the wake of Obama’s announcement, Reed said he was still struggling with the issue of supporting full marriage equality. “While I am still wrestling with my own personal beliefs on the issue of marriage, I deeply appreciate the contributions gays and lesbians make to our city every single day and I remain committed to Atlanta’s vibrant and diverse LGBT community,” Reed said.

July 6, 2012

GA Voice

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YouthPride moves to house in West End, also home to Christian addiction ministry? YouthPride, the troubled Atlanta LGBT youth agency, has moved to a house located at 955 Washington Place in Atlanta’s West End neighborhood, according to its website. YouthPride was evicted from its Edgewood Avenue home on June 1 for non-payment of rent and posted a series of delayed openings before finally announcing the new address June 21. Executive Director Terence McPhaul refused an interview June 21 at the new location. He and board members continue to decline interviews on the status of the organization, which has been mired in a financial and leadership crisis since December 2011. Questions from GA Voice in the wake of the agency’s pleas for donations revealed the YouthPride board had not met in more than a year and did not have the five members required by the organization’s bylaws. Leaders now refuse to speak publicly about YouthPride, so whether the agency is now in compliance is not known. The YouthPride website lists the agency’s hours as Monday through Friday, 3-8 p.m., and Saturday, 3-6 p.m. Fulton County property tax records show 955 Washington Place is owned by Rodney K. Turner, who is pastor of Mount Vernon Bap-

YouthPride’s apparent new home is a house in the West End area of Atlanta. (Photo by Dyana Bagby)

tist Church in Atlanta. Turner has a history of working with AIDS ministries and is founder of Product of the Power Ministry, Inc. , according to his online biography. In non-profit corporation records filed with the Georgia Secretary of State in March, the ministry’s address is listed as 955 Washington Place. Product of the Power is dedicated to “a biblical approach to breaking through the power of sin and addiction,” according to its website. — Laura Douglas-Brown & Dyana Bagby

July 6, 2012

GA Voice

Suspect arrested in slaying of Atlanta drag queen; Dunwoody police seek other possible victims Dunwoody police have arrested Christopher Williams, 20, of Stone Mountain in the killing of Roberto Calderon-Guzman, 28, known to many in Atlanta’s nightlife community as drag artist Noxy Cassandra Calderon. Williams is charged with murder and possession of a firearm while committing a felony and is currently being held in the DeKalb County Jail, said Sgt. Mike Carlson of the Dunwoody Police Department. Noxy Cassandra Calderon was shot and killed on Friday, June 22, in her apartment at Peachtree Place Apartments on Peachtree Place Parkway. On Noxy Cassandra Calderon’s Facebook page, she identifies as female.

Carlson said the motive was robbery and that Williams was targeting transsexual sex workers that he sought out on Dunwoody police say they also know of at least one other transsexual person who was allegedly attacked by Williams in DeKalb County and are asking others who are victims to come forward by calling Det. Jesus Maldonado at 678-382-6925. “We know of two victims right now. It appears the other victim was robbed on Wednesday prior to our victim. We don’t know why he shot our victim,” Sgt. Carlson said. — Dyana Bagby

Anti-gay counseling student loses lawsuit against university Jennifer Keeton, a former graduate counseling student who sued Augusta State University for expelling her because her beliefs went against ethical guidelines for being a school counselor, had her lawsuit dismissed on all counts in federal court. The ruling, by U.S. District Court Judge J. Randal Hall on June 22, said Keeton had no claim to argue that the university was biased against her because of her religious beliefs including homosexuality is

immoral. As a graduate student in counseling who hoped to be a counselor in secondary schools, Keeton would have to follow the ethical guidelines of being a counselor that included not allowing personal beliefs interfere with judgment. Hall’s ruling upholds the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on a lower court case that also ruled Keeton’s lawsuit was unfounded. — Dyana Bagby


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‘Drag Race’ winner ignites race debate NEEDLES, continued from Page 21 words,” Star said. “However, I’m more hurt and offended at just knowing that racism does exist within our own community. How do we expect to get support and respect from the straight world when we can’t love ourselves?” Star added. Comments on the GA Voice Facebook page, website and YouTube page show a definite debate over what is over the top and what is art — although the comments are overwhelmingly in support of Sharon Needles. “That guy [Enakai Ciseaux] is a complete idiot that does not understand anything about art or anything about how fucked up censorship is. He’s basically saying ‘Hey Sharon, some people don’t get it and are offended, so if you don’t change what you do then you’re an asshole.’ “Does he not understand that uptight churchfolk have probably done the exact same thing to Madonna, and all his other little gay-pop-idols, for being too sexually provocative? Does he think they should have compromised their art over that?” wrote jksteiner1974 in the comment section of a video of the discussion between Needles and Ciseauxs. Wrote Kathryn Whitmore of Texas on the GA Voice website: “I don’t know which is worse... having a prominent figure in a community be a terrible role model for her community by using harmful archaic language... or seeing a community divide itself yet again when its primary goal is spreading a message of love and support of one another.”

Drag drama impacts Atlanta Sisters

The drama over Needles’ appearance also punctured Atlanta’s local chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the drag nun community service troupe. A novice Sister and radical faerie who goes by Aroara Thunder was expelled from the chapter after voicing disappointment that Rick Westbrook appeared on stage as Sister Rapture Divine Cox to accept the $1,000 for Lost-n-Found Youth, where he serves as executive director. Aroara Thunder, whose real name is Jonathan Hicks, was one of about 15 protesters outside. In an international email group for the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, he wrote of his dismay that the Atlanta chapter would be so willing to accept money despite the controversy surrounding Sharon Needles. Sister Dixie Normous, real name John Lunsford, asked that Hicks apologize to Westbrook on the same Sister forum. When Hicks refused, he was expelled. A portion of the exchange on the forum, dubbed DISH by the Sisters: Sister Rapture Divine Cox/Rick Westbrook stated, “Ms. Needles has never claimed to be

Catiriana Reyes of Philadelphia received this autograph that ignited the controversy.

perfect but is an artist and tries to shine a light on some of the horrors that are in the world. Especially to the marginalized youth that feel there is no one that gets them, which most of us have felt at one time or another. Art is Art, some pretty a lot not...When an apology is offered, it should be accepted in good faith until proven otherwise — at least that is my belief.” Responded Aroara Thunder/Jonathan Hicks, “Defending ‘art’ that oppresses people of color and minorities is just an assertion of cis-gendered male white privilege. If some straight man was making ‘art’ about oppressing queers, we would be screaming our fucking lungs out. I refuse to be silent when someone is harming people I love. Period. As a Radical Faerie and as a Sister, I believe whole-heartedly in practicing radical love. I will radically love Aaron Coady with every fiber of my loud, angry, faggoty, femme, fabulous fat body. This does not, and will NEVER mean, that I will show complacency when he is doing fucked up racist things.” In an interview, John Lunsford, aka Sister Dixie Normous, who oversees the novice Sisters, said other chapters of Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence supported the Atlanta chapter in deciding to expel Hicks/Aroara Thunder after he did not apologize. “He was removed from the organization because of the way he handled his comments [about Rapture Divine Cox],” Lunsford said. “He chastised that member in a very public forum and we have very specific rules regarding public speaking.” Hicks said in an interview he did not believe a Sister email group was a public forum and that he did nothing wrong. “A private Sister channel is not the public,” he said. “It’s very unfortunate. I’ve been with this organization for over a year and that they would decide to get rid of me so quickly was disappointing.”

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29 A&E Packed annual pool party heats up to help people with HIV By Shannon Hames A sea of bodies partying poolside in Piedmont Park doesn’t usually conjure up the mental image of altruism, but on July 21, the Joining Hearts main event pool party will mark its 25th year of helping people living with HIV/AIDS. The equal beneficiaries of the fundraiser are AID Atlanta, the city’s largest HIV service provider, as well as Jerusalem House, Atlanta’s oldest and largest provider of permanent housing for low-income and homeless individuals and families affected by HIV/AIDS. “It started out in 1987 as one small black tie gala. Now, we have six different types of events throughout the year. The pool party is our biggest,” says Kerry Loftis, president of Joining Hearts. “It generates close to 50 percent of all of the funds that we raise for housing people living with HIV.” Last year, Joining Hearts’ fundraising goal was $150,000 for Jerusalem House and AID Atlanta. “We actually surpassed that goal and were able to donate $180,000,” says a proud Loftis. “We raised the bar this year. We set a really lofty goal of $250,000, which is an enormous increase over last year. Times are tough and people need more assistance now so we want to contribute more. We also set it at $250,000 to try and commemorate our 25th year doing this event.” The party is notorious for selling out early and this year is no exception. General admission tickets are gone and since capacity can’t increase and ticket prices stay consistent, the revenues from the event need to increase by new sponsorship and new patrons in order to meet the new goal. “Over the last few years, our corporate sponsors have really increased. Delta Air Lines is a big one that we started working with last year. We’ve been able to grow these sponsorships including local businesses like the 5 Napkin Burger, Zocalo, Las Margaritas… businesses like that.” Loftis has observed that the Joining

Hearts brand has been so successful that businesses are now seeking them out for sponsorship of their events. “We used to have to go out and try to get sponsors for our events but in the past few years, they’ve started to come to us. The Joining Hearts name and brand has attracted a lot of these sponsors. It all boils down to how well we’re tied to the community. At the end of the day, the community support and the contributions are what drives our donations and attracts sponsors,” he says.

DJs, fireworks and more

The pool party this year will have a few special surprises, according to Loftis. “We’re going to have some local personalities that will be making an appearance at the event. We’ve upgraded the VIP lounge this year. In addition to having premium liquors, the Delta flight attendants will be serving cocktails. They’re very popular with the guests. They will come and wait on our VIPs and they donate their tips to Joining Hearts. We also have a great tradition of having fireworks to remember those who we’ve lost to HIV/AIDS,” he says. There is no big, gay pool party without a DJ, so Joining Hearts is bringing in a blast from the past for this anniversary celebration. “Some years ago, Don Bishop was a really popular DJ at these parties. We wanted to bring him back and give him an opportunity to spin. He played back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s when the AIDS crisis was really erupting. We want him to bring back some of the old dance music that the guys down here love,” Loftis says. In addition to Don Bishop, Joining Hearts has invited DJ Roland Belmares from Los Angeles to spin.

Last year’s Joining Hearts raised more than $180,000 for Jerusalem House and AID Atlanta. DJ Roland Belmares (above) returns to spin, closing for local DJ Don Bishop (Party photos by Dan Lax, Belmares publicity photo)

MORE INFO Joining Hearts Saturday, July 21, 4-11 p.m. Piedmont Park Pool 400 Park Drive, Atlanta, GA 30309 “He’s been our DJ on several occasions. We took a survey last year and he was one of the favorites that our patrons wanted to have back for our 25th anniversary so we’re bringing him back,” says Loftis. “We’re stepping back to that time where we originated in the 1980s and how we’ve progressed over the years. We’re trying to bring back some nostalgia from the past and take us to the pres-

ent day and into the next 25 years.” For Jerusalem House and AID Atlanta, the party is more than a trip down memory lane. It’s about the survival of the people that they serve. Jon Santos, co-interim executive director of AID Atlanta, explains the importance of these funds. “The funds that Joining Hearts gives to AID Atlanta specifically go to housing assistance. It helps our clients with rent/ mortgage or utility payments. It fills a gap for about 300 people who directly benefit from the fund each year. They have nowhere else to go to when they have to make a decision between paying for medications that will keep them alive or keep a roof over their heads,” Santos says. “A few years ago, the amount of rent was 15-20 percent less than it is now. When Joining Hearts gives us money, we break it up into 12 months and that helps us administer it so we don’t run out of it in the first month or two,” he says. Although admission to the event is sold out, there is one way that is still possible for party-goers to gain entrance. “People can still go to our website and become a patron starting at the $250 level. We still have a good ways to go towards the $250,000 goal. If people go to our website to sign up to become a patron or even a corporate sponsor, then they would still be allowed to come to the event as a VIP guest. But they need to do it now,” advises Loftis.

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July 6, 2012


#4: Playing it safe, with spices and sex Which risks are worth taking?

“Is it spiiiicy?” a man at the second meeting of the Food Porn Supper Club whined to the server. They were at Stir It Up in Little Five Points and the whiner was determined to find the blandest thing on the menu. “Jamaican food is by definition spicy,” someone at the table said. “But it’s not all spicy-hot.” Robert, host of the club, wanted to tie the whiner up and torture him with Scotch Bonnet chili peppers, the world’s hottest. Nothing annoyed him as much as people’s aversion to spicy food. He’d given up taking most friends to ethnic restaurants along Buford Highway, for example. Even after all the fretting and handwringing, at least half of them ended up actually liking the food. Still, Robert grew tired of feeling like he was leading a dangerous expedition amid savages who lived on red-hot chillies. But he couldn’t resist choosing Stir It Up in Little Five Points for the second meeting of the Food Porn Supper Club. He regarded it as the best Jamaican restaurant in Atlanta and,

Food Porn is a fictional series by longtime Atlanta food critic Cliff Bostock. Set in real Atlanta restaurants, it chronicles the adventures of Robert, a gay man in search of a husband — or at least a good meal. truly, most everything besides the jerk chicken was mildly spicy. Best of all, owner-chef Christopher Williams’ food was always fresh – not served in the steam trays typical of most Jamaican restaurants in Atlanta. About 20 people showed up for the dinner, a number that nearly filled the small main dining room. About half had come to the first meeting, including Brandon, the muscular Emory professor with whom Robert had a date the week before. As people drifted to the table, Brandon waved a gold-wrapped condom at Robert, who, embarrassed, looked away quickly. Then, sitting down, he noticed a condom on

his plate and on every plate at the table. “Okay, whoever brought the condoms, thanks,” Robert said, laughing. “I brought them,” Chase, a hipsterish man of about 25, confessed. “Since this is all about food porn, I thought they would be appropriate. As you know, rates of HIV infection are increasing dramatically among young gay men and…” “I didn’t come here to discuss HIV and condoms,” barked Bud, a middle-aged man seated near Robert. “I’m just encouraging safe sex,” Chase replied. “Nobody has a right to tell me what kind of sex I should have,” Bud replied. “If two guys want to have unprotected sex, it’s their business.” Robert felt a wave of eye-rolling impatience sweep over him, but, before he could start his lecture on community health, food began arriving. His favorite was the classic jerk chicken smoked on the premises with a layer of herbs and flavors that did have a sting just short of fiery. But other dishes, like the brown stew chicken and yellow curry, were milder and just as delicious. While the service, run by Vivian Williams, was incredibly hospitable, dishes did tend to arrive erratically, because the chef prepares just about everything from scratch. It was hard to complain, considering the absurdly low prices.

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Recommended Stir It Up 1083 Euclid Ave. NE, Atlanta, GA 30307 Good choices: Jerk chicken, salt fish & cabbage, brown stew chicken, stewed oxtails, rice & peas, plantains, mac & cheese, pound cake with rum sauce Robert didn’t hear a word of complaint as everyone ate their food. Conversation turned to reminiscing the Hotlanta River Expo, the first circuit party in America, held summers here in Atlanta from 1979 to the early 2000s. Robert told the story of how the founder of the party would not permit distribution of condoms at Hotlanta events after the AIDS epidemic started. He thought they would spoil the party atmosphere. Later, he contracted HIV and died of AIDS. Before dying, he wrote a letter of apology to the gay community. That shocked many present. “If condoms had been used from the beginning of the epidemic, thousands of lives would have been saved,” Robert said, while Bud shifted in his chair anxiously. But all anxiety subsided when the restaurant’s pound cake drenched in rum arrived at the table.

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THEATER by Jim Farmer

Local gay playwright offers ‘Breakfast Club’ on teachers Payne’s ‘Evelyn in Purgatory’ set in world of public education Essential Theatre’s triumvirate of new shows this summer includes a world premiere from tireless gay playwright Topher Payne. His latest is “Evelyn in Purgatory,” which he laughingly calls “The Breakfast Club” for teachers. It’s the story of a group of public school teachers, crammed into a tiny office at the Department of Education, awaiting disciplinary hearings. “They’re being punished, but nobody in charge cares enough to even observe them,” says Payne, also a GA Voice columnist. “The teachers have no information on how long they’ll be there, or what they’re supposed to be doing. So they’re just stuck in the system. But you can only do nothing for so long, so they get to know each other, have screaming fights, start a book club, learn French, and workshop a screenplay.” Payne says he grew up a sissy kid in Mississippi and his own experiences helped shape the new play. “I went through a couple years of hell in Mississippi public schools,” he admits. “It was constant. One of the things I wanted to explore in this show was the perspective of the educator in that scenario. Why do some teachers step in, while others choose to ignore the abuse of queer youth by their peers? In this story, it led to a really inter-

Left: Topher Payne’s ‘Evelyn in Purgatory’ opens July 5 via Essential Theatre at Actor’s Express. Right: Jeffry Brown plays Sheriff Dodd and Cathe Hall Payne plays Miss Mona in ‘The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,’ opening July 6 at Onstage Atlanta. (Courtesy photos)

MORE INFO ‘Evelyn in Purgatory’ July 5 – Aug. 5 Essential Theatre at Actor’s Express 887 W. Marietta St., Atlanta, GA 30318

esting story for one of the teachers.” The writer says it has been a learning experience to create a straight character talking about their perception of the gay community. “It forces me to be empathetic, and really try to understand where other people are coming from,” he says. Payne’s play won the Essential Theatre’s Playwriting Award competition, which guaranteed it a production this season. Friends with a lot of teachers, Payne has listened and digested their tales. “I’ve collected a heap of stories over the

‘The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas’ July 6 – Aug. 4 at Onstage Atlanta 2597 North Decatur Road, Decatur, GA 30033 years,” he says. “When I heard an NPR report about the disciplinary process in New York public schools, I thought, ‘Oh, baby. Make that one a play.’ In a pressure cooker like that, strangers trapped together, the funny stuff gets way funnier, and the conflicts get brutal.”

‘Best Little Whorehouse’

The musical “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” has just opened at Onstage Atlanta

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with a major LGBT contingent. Its director Charlie Miller is gay, its leading man Jeffery Brown is gay, and its Miss Mona herself is a lesbian – Cathe Hall Payne. Inspired by the real life chicken ranch in Texas, “Whorehouse” was a stage musical before becoming a movie with Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton. Brown stars as Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd, who is having a relationship with Mona, who runs the noted town brothel. Brown says he is nothing at all like the dimwitted sheriff, but Payne feels she can relate a lot to her character. “I am cut from that cloth,” she says. “My grandmother shot my grandfather in the ass – these are my folks!” “Whorehouse” is meant to entertain, but is very topical as well, says Brown. He notes the “hypocrisy” in the musical of politicians railing against the whorehouse but going to it at night. Its says feels the show is a perfect fit. “We had a great run with ‘The Great American Trailer Park Musical’ last summer and we wanted to do something like it,” Miller says. It’s the first time the musical been performed in Atlanta since Neighborhood Playhouse staged a version a decade ago and the Fox Theatre hosted an awful Ann-Margret touring production just before that. Besides its leading man and woman, “Whorehouse” stars openly gay DeWayne Morgan as Melvin P. Thorpe, who kicks up his heels in the well-known number, “The Sidestep.” The cast and crew are happy to be able to stage “Whorehouse” at their current location. The Suburban Plaza – where the company performs – is being gutted to make way for the new Walmart in Decatur. Miller says they have known about the situation for a while but were assured they would be able to finish the run. They anticipate being in the space until after the Christmas season, but are actively seeking a new home.

DIRECTORY LISTINGS To advertise, email

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by Dyana Bagby

Black Gay Pride to include Piedmont Park festival

Vision Community Foundation, Traxx Girls team up for first ‘Pure Heat’ festival

Piedmont Park has long been a popular Sunday destination for Black Gay Pride revelers seeking a break from the hectic party schedule of the annual Labor Day Weekend celebration. Now what began as an organic, informal gathering will become an organized event on the Black Gay Pride schedule. This year, for the first time, there will be a “Pure Heat Community Festival” in Piedmont Park to include live entertainment, HIV testing, vendors and more. The event will be sponsored by Traxx Girls and the Vision Community Foundation, a program of the Vision Church. Led by Bishop O.C. Allen — whose partner, Rashad Burgess, is the CDC’s Chief Capacity Branch Director of HIV/ AIDS, STD & Tuberculosis — the Vision Church is an affirming congregation that welcomes LGBT worshippers. While it is sure to draw comparisons to October’s Atlanta Pride, organizers say the Labor Day event will be unique. “Atlanta Pride has been doing this for over 15 years and we’re not trying to piggyback on what they are doing,” says Avian Watson, director of communications and sponsorship for Traxx Girls Inc. and Pure Heat Atlanta Labor Day Pride Weekend. Watson is also deputy director of the Vision Community Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works on such issues as helping the homeless, providing HIV testing, mentoring youth and offering a GED program. The foundation also works with Traxx Girls to raise funds for breast cancer research. “And this is broader than just Black Gay Pride weekend. This is about community,” Watson adds. Last year, an estimated 8,000 people gathered in Piedmont Park on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, Watson said. Traxx Girls hosted a hospitality tent, giving out free water with a DJ spinning. This year they want to offer more to those in the park. Money raised from the festival will go to the Vision Community Fund to use on its projects, such as helping the homeless, Watson says.

‘Vision’ of helping others

Last month, the Vision Community Foundation honored Grammy-winning artist Chrisette Michele for her work with the foundation, especially for helping neighborhoods plant gardens.

July 6, 2012

GA Voice

handling your family jewels since 1994

Chrisette Michele (left), with Jennifer Holliday, was honored by the Vision Community Foundation last month for her work in helping the nonprofit. (Photo by

MORE INFO Pure Heat Community Festival Sunday, Sept. 2, Noon-8 p.m. Piedmont Park Jennifer Holliday, the original Effie from “Dream Girls,” was also on hand to celebrate the Vision Community Foundation by singing and sharing her story of struggling with multiple sclerosis. “We have fed over 4,000 people, equipped over 1,000 people with their HIV/AIDS status, graduated 10 adults from our GED Program all of which are in their second year of college, mentored and motivated youth, and work with Traxx Girls, Inc. to offset our Breast Cancer Initiative,” Watson says of VCF. In addition to food, alcohol and merchandise vendors, there will be live entertainment from a Grammy-winning artist, a gospel showcase, hair competition, J-Sett competition and a DJ battle. House music will be played at the pavilion in the park where there will also be a dance floor. Watson promises the festival would not take away from what has been happening in the park already for years. She hopes it will enhance the experience for people who enjoy Sunday in the park, whether they are from Atlanta or from across the U.S. coming to one of the largest Black Gay Pride events in the nation. “We haven’t strayed away from what’s happened at the park. This is for the community and we need the community to step up. We need those who specialize in HIV testing, breast cancer, GED, education, literacy to step up because this is for them,” she says. “Pride has 20-plus parties and [Sunday in the park] brings together 8,000 people in an unorganized fashion, so why not have the festival and all of us step up together?”

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by Gregg Shapiro

Proud pages

Check out these new LGBT reads for hot summer days

Too hot to do anything but sit inside? These new offerings from LGBT writers will give you plenty to read whether in the midst of a heat wave, or if you’re lucky enough to be on the beach or by the pool.

Rocking and reeling

• Hal Leonards’s Music on Film series presents books about two movies close to queer readers’ hearts: “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (Limelight Editions, 2012) by Dave Thomson examines what is, to this day, still one of the gayest movie music musicals of all time, cult or non-cult; and “Purple Rain” (Limelight Editions, 2012) by John Kenneth Muir looks at Prince’s groundbreaking 1984 movie debut. • Punk cabaret diva and first-rate belter Storm Large recounts her life with a bipolar

mother as well as her own sexual awakening and exploration in the memoir “Crazy Enough” (Free Press, 2012)

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Chaz Bono is the triumphant story of the most famous trans man of our time.

• “Film Noir: The Directors” (Limelight Editions, 2012), edited by Alain Silver and James Ursini features queer filmmaker Nicholas Ray and the iconic Ida Lupino among its many subjects.

• “Transitions of the Heart: Stories of Love, Struggle and Acceptance by Mothers of Transgender and Gender Variant Children” (Cleis, 2012) edited by Rachel Pepper, consists of 32 essays written by mothers from all walks of life.

Trans-formative texts

Poetry of Pride

• Featuring a new epilogue, the paperback edition of “Transition: Becoming Who I Was Always Meant to Be” (Plume, 2011/2012) by

• “He Will Laugh” (Lethe Press, 2012), Doug Ray’s powerful debut poetry collection relates the story of how two young men met, fell in love, and the profound impact of the suicide of one of them. • Something to look forward to in September — prolific lesbian writer (and author of “Heather Has Two Mommies”), Leslea Newman offers “October Mourning” (Candlewick Press, 2012), a cycle of poems about Matthew Shepard.

Telling the truth

• Edited by Sarah Moon, with contributing editor James Lecesne, the Y/A anthology “The Letter Q” (Arthur A Levine Books/ Scholastic, 2012), features more than 60 writers and illustrators corresponding with “their younger selves.” • Written and illustrated (with watercolors) by the late gay writer Clyde Phillip Wachsberger, “Into The Garden with Charles” (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2012) is a memoir about “growing old and falling in love.” • Picking up where Clint Eastwood’s Hoover biopic “J. Edgar” left off, Darwin Porter’s “J. Edgar Hoover & Clyde Tolson” (Blood Moon, 2012), promised to be an investigation into “the sexual secrets of America’s most famous men and women.” • Told in brief, insightful essays, “Red Nails, Black Skates: Gender, Cash, and Pleasure On and Off the Ice” (Duke University Press, 2012) tells of queer critic Erica Rand’s experiences in the slippery world of ice skating.

Fictionally speaking

• Earning her comparisons to Mary Renault, Madeline Miller’s acclaimed novel “The Song of Achilles” (Ecco, 2012) retells the “Iliad” with a queer twist. • The debut novel by codirector and head promoter Justin Like Zirilli, “Gulliver Takes Manhattan” (Amazon Encore, 2012), tells the story of the titular Gulliver who escapes to New York to make a new beginning, leaving everything behind in L.A. • In the historical romance “Purgatory” (Bear Bones Books, 2012), poet and writer Jeff Mann writes about two young Civil War soldiers, fighting on opposite sides, but falling in love.

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PHOTOS by Brent Corcoran/RNZ Photography

TQ Nation’s ‘Staches and Lashes’ Prom TQ Nation held a “Staches & Lashes” Trans/ Queer Prom at the Phillip Rush Center on June 23. Dozens of people showed up to celebrate and dance to the beats of DJ Missy & JackDaddi.

July 6, 2012

GA Voice



PHOTOS by Dyana Bagby

PFLAG Atlanta goes ‘Out with the Stars’ PFLAG Atlanta packed Lambert Place on June 23 with its “Out with the Stars” awards dinner. The Outstanding Work as a Parent award went to Patti and Jeff Ellis, who created www.familyacceptance. com after their son, Adam, came out to them. Also honored was Em Elliott of Georgia Equality and the Georgia Safe Schools Coalition with the Outstanding Work as an Educator Award; Abby Drue and The Ben Marion Institute for Social Justice for Outstanding Work as a Nonprofit; and Jessica Maslanka, an organizer with JustUsATL who was successful in creating the first Gay Straight Alliance at her high school in Monroe. Receiving a special PFLAG Achievement Award for their hard work for many years with PFLAG were Dale and Mary Lynn Myrkle. (Photos by Dyana Bagby)

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Join the discussion. Be part of the GA Voice community on Facebook and Twitter.

Augusta Pride hits new attendance record By Laura Douglas-Brown With voice shaking, Holly Garner dropped to one knee on the stage at Augusta Pride to ask Brittaney Pulliam a life-changing question: Will you marry me? “Since we got together, I knew she was the one for me,” said Garner, 27, who arranged the public proposal as a surprise to Pulliam, 21. “We already have the wedding planned, she just never officially asked me to marry her,” added Pulliam, describing their planned ceremony in Savannah. “I am very shocked that she actually did it. She is normally a shy person.” The heartfelt proposal and declaration of love captured the spirit of the third annual Augusta Pride. The June 23 festival drew an estimated crowd of 10,500, according to organizers, setting a new attendance record while still maintaining a close-knit community atmosphere. The morning began with a parade through downtown Augusta that featured everything from waving drag queens to golf carts decorated with rainbow flags. A few religious protesters were easily drowned out by cheers from Pride supporters who lined both sides of the street to watch the floats and marchers. After the parade, onlookers filed into the Augusta Commons to enjoy vendors, food, speakers and entertainers, including headliners Tom Goss, Dee Hemingway, She N She and Josh Zuckerman. “I think it was phenomenal,” said Augusta Pride President Travis Jenkins in an interview as the festival ended. “Our attendance went up by a third, our sales went up by a third, and I think everyone had a great time.” Among the throngs who celebrated in sweltering heat were people from all walks of life, including more LGBT young people and more straight allies than in previous years. “I’m here to support my brother,” said Lindsey Kelley, 21, who clapped when a stage emcee asked for all of the straight people in the crowd to identify themselves. “There are more [supporters] here this year than last year.” Her brother, Kyle Kelley, age 18, came to

Remembering Stonewall Month

Photos by Laura Douglas-Brown

Third annual fest draws thousands to sweltering Augusta Commons

As cities around the nation celebrated LGBT Pride the last weekend in June, Atlanta observed Stonewall Month with a series of events sponsored or co-sponsored by the Atlanta Pride Committee. In the following pages, take a look back at Stonewall Month events including Augusta Pride, Evening for Equality, the Pride Run, and the Atlanta Braves “Out in the Stands” night. For photos of earlier Stonewall Month events, including the East Point Possums show, visit the festival with his boyfriend of almost a year, Jamin Summers, 16. “I’ve been coming since the first one. It’s really cool to see the whole city engaged in it. It is really nice,” Kelley said. Added Summers, who was attending his first Augusta Pride: “I didn’t know there are this many [LGBT people] in Augusta. I like it.” Gay youth weren’t just wellrepresented in the crowd. With his supportive family in the audience, Sam Wilson, founder and president of the gay-straight alliance at Augusta’s Greenbrier High School, took to the stage to rally Pride attendees to work together to end discrimination. “Homosexuality is not an adult issue. It is not an issue at all,” Wilson said. After the 1969 Stonewall Riots, “the gay community went from the community that wasn’t talked about to the group that won’t shut up, and I proudly wear that badge,” he said, calling on LGBT young people to now lead the way. “This is our generation’s fight and we are a force to be reckoned with,” Wilson said to extended cheers.

‘Biggest crowd I have ever seen’

Festival vendors ranged from LGBT businesses and nonprofits to more general vendors who turned out to sell drinks and food to the

jubilant crowd. At the booth for OUTlandish, billed as Augusta’s gay social network, volunteers gave out temporary tattoos of the group’s logo as fast as they could apply them. “A lot of people have come out today, so I think we got a great response,” said Calli D’Andria of nearby Aiken, S.C. Margaret Woodard, executive director of Augusta’s Downtown Development Authority, welcomed attendees from the Augusta Pride stage. “On behalf of the Downtown Development Authority, the city of Augusta and our entire community, we are honored to have you here,” she said. “This is the biggest crowd I have ever seen. This is awesome.” The theme of the 2012 festival was “It’s Time,” with a list that included “for a cure, marriage equality, equal rights, love & unity, stop bullying, stand proud.” It could also represent how this year was the

time for Augusta Pride to mature and come into its own. “This year compared to the first year — total 180,” said Isaac Kelly, founder and now past president of Augusta Pride. “The size of the crowd is still growing, and not only that, but we also have less resistance from the city. The first year, our mayor asked [the legal department] if it was ok. This year, he said, ‘This is a great event for the city.’ “I almost cried when I heard that,” Kelly said. “It is a huge difference. We have got that momentum and it is still going.” The growth in Augusta’s LGBT community mirrors the growth of the city’s Pride festival, Kelly said. “There are more people coming out in Augusta, there are more people out in their employment, they are out at home… We have heard so many success stories,” he said. “I can safely say that we have actually saved lives.”

Community Photos by Laura Douglas-Brown

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PHOTOS by Dyana Bagby

Georgia Equality’s ‘Evening for Equality’ Hundreds attended the 8th annual Evening for Equality hosted by Georgia Equality, the state’s largest LGBT advocacy organization, held June 22 at Twelve Hotel at Atlantic Station. Gay and gayfriendly candidates were sprinkled throughout the attendees who gathered for the organization’s largest annual fundraiser. U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Atlanta) received the Champion for Equality Award and gave a stirring speech about getting into “good trouble” that had the crowd on its feet. Larry Lehman, executive director of AID Gwinnett/Ric Crawford Clinic, received the Guiding Star Award; Jerry Gonzalez, founder and executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, was awarded the Allen Thornell Political Advancement Award; and Darlene Hudson and Craig Washington, founders of the Bayard Rustin/Audre Lorde Breakfast, were honored with the Community Builder Award.

PHOTOS by Dyana Bagby

2012 Pride Run

in the annual More than 300 participated nt Park with mo Pied at Pride Run on June 23 House and lem usa Jer g ttin proceeds benefi men’s division, Atlanta Pride. Winning in the rew Sullivan, 23. as he did last year, was And a Dubcova, 31. The female winner was Katarin Thompson, Ron , In the men’s master division ter’s dimas ale fem 48, took the title, and the 50. n, nso Joh la vision winner was Pau o V A G e h .t w w w it is v s, to o h For more p

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PHOTOS by Ryan Watkins

Atlanta Braves host ‘Out in the Stands’ On Wednesday, June 27, 2012, the Atlanta Braves hosted the second annual Out in the Stands LGBT fan night. Proceeds from this year’s event went to international rugby star Ben Cohen’s antibullying StandUp Foundation. Cohen attended, mingled with fans and threw out the first pitch of the game. The Braves ticket office estimated selling more than 300 tickets. (Photos by Ryan Watkins)

GA Voice


July 6, 2012


BEST BETS 07.06 - 07.19


There are two ways to add your events to our online and print calendars. Submit your info to or e-mail details to

Photo by Dyana Bagby


Saturday, July 7 In honor of Sister Ursula Polari’s 54th birthday, grab a Sunset Tea at Burkhart’s for the weekly summer Sunset Garden Event. A portion of the proceeds go to the Atlanta Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. 7 - 10 p.m. at Burkhart’s, 1492 Piedmont Ave., Atlanta, GA 30309,

Friday, Julyes6the 2012 Best of Atlanta

GA Voice celebrat uplus our entire comm winners and nominees, y tar en e party. Complim nity, with our annual fre ats be d an . 6:30 - 7:30 p.m wine and liquor from get d Mike Pope. Don’t for an ll we Po by DJs Vicki er ow nfl Su fe Ca , ing ter the food from Feast Ca Award presentation at ts. ee Sw ern uth So d an de 6:30 - 10 p.m. at Altitu 9 p.m. See you there! , NE t ee Str h 14t n, 188 at the W Atlanta Midtow hT FaL e/L .m .fb /on Atlanta, GA 30361, http:/

Friday, July 13

Photo by Dyana Bagby

DJ Lydia Prim starts an evening at Heretic featuring the famed Freemasons. 8 p.m. - 4 a.m. at the Heretic, 2069 Cheshire Bridge Road, Atlanta, GA 30324,,

Sunday, July 8 GA Voice’s best local DJ Vicki Powell hosts her monthly patio party at Church with special guest Stefan Kallweit. 7 p.m. - 12 a.m. at Sister Louisa’s Church, 466 Edgewood Ave., Atlanta, GA 30312,

Wassup ‘N ATL hosts their upscale First Friday party with DJs Trouble and Angel X with MC Wild Thang on the mic. 10 p.m. - 3 a.m. at Jungle, 2115 Faulkner Road, Atlanta, GA 30324,

Friday, July 6 - Monday, July 9 The Southern Bears presents the 2012 Atlanta Bear Fest, “Roman Holiday.” The four-day bear/admirer event includes pool parties, bar nights, vendors, concerts, bingo, movies, dinners and more. Most events held at the Courtyard Northlake Marriott, 4083 LaVista Road, Tucker, GA 30083,

Publicity Photo

Saturday, July 7

Wednesday, July 11 It’s Luau night for this month’s PALS Bingo, hosted by Bubba D. Licious and Brent Star. Doors at 6:30 p.m., program at 7:30 p.m. at Jungle, 2115 Faulkner Road, Atlanta, GA 30324,

Famously one of the biggest parties on the dive bar calendar, Mary’s hosts its annual Bastille Day Blow-Out. Expect a big crowd for French disco, French cocktails and “let them eat cake” realness. 9 p.m. - 3 a.m. at Mary’s, 1287 Glenwood Ave., Atlanta, GA 30316,

Courtesy photo

Friday, July 6

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< MORE LGBT EVENTS: Visit our website for our extensive daily calendar, including nightlife schedules, sports, worship services and community organization meetings.

“Strapped & Dapper” is a workshop for Southern, masculine-identified people of color that covers sexual communication, sexual health, money, power and so much more. 7 - 9 p.m. at the Rush Center, 1530 Dekalb Ave., Atlanta, GA 30307,,

Just $10 gets you a bottomless cup of beer at the For the Kid in All of Us Beer Bust. Expect a DJ and a few fun giveaways to help raise funds for the group’s signature summer event, Backpack in the Park, on July 28. 1 - 5 p.m. at Joe’s on Juniper, 1049 Juniper Street, Atlanta, GA 30309,

Thought it will technically be Sunday morning at the members-only Xion when she takes the turntables, DJ Lydia Prim keeps the party going all night long. 3 a.m. at Xion, 2241 Faulkner Road, Atlanta GA, 30324,

Ladies, get your party going early on Saturday with one part comedy show and one part house party. Ladies at Play hosts LOL with comedy by Julie Osborne Entertainment and follows with house music by DJ Yusef. 6 - 10 p.m. at Aurum Lounge, 915 Peachtree St., Atlanta, GA 30309, www.ladiesatplay. com,

The Sandy Springs Artapalooza, a part of the gay owned and operated Atlanta Foundation for Public Spaces series of festivals, offers local arts and crafts from 150 painters, photographers, sculptors and more. Saturday 10 a.m. - 7 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. at the former Target located at 174 Johnson Ferry Road, Sandy Springs, GA 30328,

Saturday, July 7 - Sunday, July 8

Sunday, July 8

Lunch, lounge and be lazy every Sunday afternoon at Silent Sundays at the W Midtown. Expect towel service, cocktail and lunch services and mellow music on the WET pool deck several floors up. 12 - 7 p.m. at the W Atlanta Midtown, 188 14th Street, Atlanta, GA 30361,

Monday, July 9

Writing With Intent is open to writers of fiction and creative non-fiction; group offers motivational exercises, constructive criticism and more to keep you on track. 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Charis Books & More, 1189 Euclid Ave. NE, Atlanta, GA 30307, Contact the organizers in advance before joining the Domestic Violence Survivors Support group hosted by the Health Initiative every Monday. 7 - 8:30 p.m. at the Rush Center, 1530 Dekalb Ave., Atlanta, GA 30307,


GA Voice

Publicity photo by Wendy Patrick

Tuesday, July 10

Voted GA Voice Best Musician, Amber Taylor and her band the Sexual Side Effects open for Girl in a Coma, who are signed with Joan Jett, at the Earl. Taylor is the trans woman who fronts the band and Texas-based Girl in a Coma has two lesbians in the band — bassist Jenn Alva and drummer Phanie Diaz. 9 p.m., The Earl, 488 Flat Shoals Ave., Atlanta, GA 30316.

Saturday, July 14

Wednesday, July 11

Frisky Monkey, with gay frontman Juan Cezar, joins gay singer/songwriter Guyton Maurice, Meredith MacDonald and Trey Hawkins for an evening of genre-bending music. 8 - 11 p.m. at Kavarna, 707 East Lake Drive, Decatur, GA 30030,

The Atlanta Lesbian & Gay Chamber of Commerce hosts a Business Builder Lunch. 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Soho in Vinings, 300 Paces Ferry Road, Atlanta, GA 30339,

Thursday, July 12

The Atlanta Steering Committee of the Human Rights Campaign hosts an evening in support of gay Ga. State House District 56 candidate Ken Britt. Suggested minimum donation of $25. 6 - 8 p.m. at 5 Seasons Brewing Company Westside, 1000 Marietta Street, Ste. 204, Atlanta, GA 30318,

DJ Escape takes over the turntables at Heretic, with a reduced cover before 11 p.m. 10 p.m. at Heretic, 2069 Cheshire Bridge Road, Atlanta, GA 30324,

The gay-owned Atlanta Foundation for Public Spaces hosts the Chastain Park Summer Movie series every Thursday in July. Tonight’s feature: “Mirror Mirror.” Sundown at the hilltop meadow just off Park Drive in Chastain Park, Atlantic Station’s Movies in Central Park offers a free, outdoor screening of “Grease.” Film starts at sundown in Atlantic Station, 1380 Atlantic Drive, Atlanta, GA 30363,,

Friday, July 13

Join the social networking ladies of Fourth Tuesday for their monthly lesbian happy hour, every second Friday. 6 - 9 p.m. at Mixx, 1492 Piedmont Ave., Atlanta, GA 30324,,

Holy ‘90s explosion: Everclear, Sugar Ray, Gin Blossoms, Lit and Marcy Playground join forces for the Summerland Tour 2012. 7 p.m. at Chastain Park Amphitheater, 4469 Stella Drive, Atlanta, GA 30327, Dunwoody’s Stage Door Players present Cole Porter’s musical “High Society,” the story of the Lord family as they plan the wedding of their daughter as ex-husbands, nosey reporters and all manor of chaos get in the way. Through Aug. 5. Thursday - Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2:30 p.m. at Stage Door Players, 5339 Chamblee Dunwoody Road, Ste. D, Atlanta, GA 30338, Famously one of the biggest parties on the dive bar calendar, Mary’s hosts its annual Bastille Day BlowOut. Expect a big crowd for French disco, French cocktails and “let them eat cake” realness. 9 p.m. - 3 a.m. at Mary’s, 1287 Glenwood Ave., Atlanta, GA 30316,

Saturday, July 14

MEGA Family hosts a “Maybe Baby” seminar for potential LGBT parents. Learn about the many options, costs involved, time frames to consider and how age or geography might factor into your decision. 9:30 - 11:45 a.m. at the Rush Center, 1530 Dekalb Ave., Atlanta, GA 30307,

Interested in helping improve the lives of homeless or at-risk LGBT youth in Atlanta? Joining Lostn-Found’s volunteer training is a good start. Background checks will be required to complete the training class and work with the youth so download the forms, bring $10 and be ready to lend a hand. 2 - 6 p.m. at Positive Impact, 60 11th St., Atlanta, GA 30309,,

Wednesday, July 18 The Big Gay Game Show brings together Atlanta celebs and classic TV game shows for a night of fun and fundraising for Lostn-Found, a service organization committed to Atlanta’s homeless LGBT youth. 7:30 - 10:30 p.m. at Jungle, 2115 Faulkner Road, Atlanta, GA 30324,

Atlanta’s Every Womyn hosts a Spoken Word/Open Mic Poetry Expressions fundraiser for LIft Up Atlanta, a volunteer organization to help the homeless. 7 p.m. at the LIttle 5 Points Community Center, 1083, Austin Ave., Atlanta, GA 30307,

Photo by Dyana Bagby

Dance/electronic legend Kaskade brings the big beats and club tracks to Atlanta for the “Freaks of Nature” tour. 8 p.m. at the Tabernacle, 152 Luckie St., Atlanta, GA 30303,

Photo by Dyana Bagby

Saturday, July 14

Help plan the Atlanta Trans March, part of Atlanta Pride in October. 7 - 8:30 p.m. at the Rush Center, 1530 Dekalb Ave., Atlanta, GA 30307, “Beyond the Short Term: African-American Women Loving Women and Creating Strong Families” is a three-part book club on Mignon R. Moore’s book “Invisible Families: Gay Identities, Relationships, and Motherhood Among Black Women.” 7:30 - 9 p.m. at Charis Books and More, 1189 Euclid Ave., Atlanta, GA 30307,



Publicity photo

Already excited about the Dyke March at Atlanta Pride this fall? Bring your feedback from 2011 and your ideas for 2012 to a Dyke March planning meeting from 7 - 8:30 p.m. at the Rush Center, 1530 Dekalb Ave., Atlanta, GA 30307,

July 6, 2012

Bedlam hosts its WackedOutBlackOut Part 4 Party, a clothing-negligible glow-in-the-dark party. Be prepared to get messy as DJ Shane V spins. 9 p.m. - 4 a.m. at XS Ultra Lounge, 708 Spring Street, Atlanta, GA 30338, Wassup N ATL presents “The Ultimate White Party,” for grown men who are “upscale, but not uptight.” Admission is free until 1 a.m. if you’re wearing white. 11 p.m. - 5 a.m. at the Georgia Freight Depot, 35 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Atlanta, GA 30312,


Thursday, July 19 Join infamous drag personality and GA Voice “Best of Atlanta” winner Ruby Redd for the truly Dirty Boy Bingo. 10 p.m. at Cockpit, 465 Boulevard, Atlanta, GA 30312,

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Benjamin M. Perlman Gary Nelson Bill Fleming Gerald Lowrey C. Michael Bozeman & Jason Wright & Harry Knox Glen Paul Freedman Casey Lawing Gregory R. Nevins Christie Ayotte Harry Harkins Commissioner Jamie Ensley Joan P. Garner Jamie Roberts Drew Plant & Tommy Lee & Bill Golden Jeff Riley Friends of Athens PRIDE & Doug Sturgess Gail Cowie Jeremy Greenup & Jean Spencer Jimmy Paulk

Michael Petty Paul Horning Joy C. Barnes Judge Dax Lopez Ray Deeb Kathleen Womack & Jerry Gonzalez Rep. Keisha Waites Kenneth Britt Rep. Pat Gardner Kenyatta & Jamal Mitchell Rep. Rashad Taylor Sen. Doug Stoner Larry Kosten & Kyle Williams Seth & Nathan Woodard Persily Matt Pieper Michael D. Shutt Steve Koval & Brian Madej Sumner E. Riddick, II & Doug Carl Michael Grover & Nunzio Lupo Tracy L. Elliott


Cox Enterprises, Inc. Wells Fargo & Company Gilead Sciences King & Spalding, LLP Making Projects Work, Inc. Waste Management Grady Health System Atlanta Symphony Orchestra St Mark United Methodist Church Atlanta Pride Committee

AID Gwinnett / Ric Crawford Clinic Boybutante AIDS Foundation AID Atlanta Kitchens New Cleghorn, LLC Koehler & Riddick The Schapiro Group Fenuxe Magazine The Georgia Voice Project Q Atlanta



Sunday, July 15

PFLAG Atlanta hosts its monthly 3rd Sunday Meeting. 2:45 p.m. at the First Metropolitan Community Church, 1379 Tullie Road, Atlanta, GA 30329,

Monday, July 16

“T&F Transitionz: a Project of the Feminist Outlawz” is an open forum to discuss gender and facilitating dialogue and activism around social issues led by feminists Buttonz and SJ. 7 - 9:30 p.m. at Charis Books & More, 1189 Euclid Ave NE, Atlanta, GA, 30307,

Tuesday, July 17

The Atlanta Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce hosts a prix fixe Business Builder Luncheon. $20, cash only, RSVP to 11:55 a.m. at Hudson Grille, Brookhaven Station, 4046 Peachtree Road, Atlanta, GA 30319, “Beyond the Short Term: African-American Women Loving Women and Creating Strong Families” is the second in a three-part book club on Mignon R. Moore’s book “Invisible Families: Gay Identities, Relationships, and Motherhood Among Black Women.” 7:30 - 9 p.m. at Charis Books and More, 1189 Euclid Ave., Atlanta, GA 30307,

Wednesday, July 18

The Atlanta Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce hosts a prix fixe Business Builder Luncheon. $20, cash only, RSVP to dr.olt@ 11:30 a.m. at Marlows at the Doubletree Hotel, 4156 La Vista Road, Tucker, GA 30084,

Thursday, July 19

Charis and Cliterati’s Open-No Mic features writer, performer, musical and educator Ryka Aoki alongside Karen G, Theresa Davis and members of the Art Amok Slam Team. 7:30 - 9 p.m. at Charis Books and More, 1189 Euclid Ave., Atlanta, GA 30307, Atlantic Station’s Movies in Central Park offers a free, outdoor screening of “Forrest Gump.” Film starts at sundown in Atlantic Station, 1380 Atlantic Drive, Atlanta, GA 30363,, The gay-owned Atlanta Foundation for Public Spaces hosts the Chastain Park Summer Movie series every Thursday in July. Tonight’s feature: “Letters to Juliet.” Sundown at the hilltop meadow just off Park Drive in Chastain Park,

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Friday, July 20guest Kelly

Neko Case and special Hogan play an intimate show for ’s the Atlanta Botanical Garden . at p.m 8 . den Concerts in the Gar 1345 , den Gar al anic the Atlanta Bot 09, Piedmont Ave. NE, Atlanta, GA 303 .org www.atlantabotanicalgarden

UPCOMING Saturday, July 21

DJ Don Bishop sets the mood for DJ/Producer Roland Belmares to take the stage at Joining Hearts 25 Pool Party. The super-popular (and usually sold out) annual event raises funds for AID Atlanta and Jerusalem House. Open bar. 4 - 11 p.m. at the Greystone and Aquatic Center in Piedmont Park, Atlanta, GA 30309, The B-52s celebrate their 35th anniversary with a tour that, of course, stops in their home state. 8 p.m. at the Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree Street, Atlanta, GA 30308,

Tuesday, July 24

Nicki Minaj blows the roof off the Fox Theatre on the Atlanta leg of her Pink Friday Tour. 7:30 p.m. at the Fox Theater, 660 Peachtree St., Atlanta, GA 30308,

Wednesday, July 25

Jungle welcomes hosts its monthly Fantasy Girls Cabaret featuring local performers Savannah Leigh, Summer Knight, Envy Van Michael, Starr Sanchez Sherrington, Nicole Paige Brooks and special guest performer and “Ru Paul’s Drag Race” fan favorite Latrice Royale. 9 p.m. at Jungle, 2115 Faulkner Road, Atlanta, GA 30324,

Wednesday, July 25 Saturday, July 28

The 3rd annual Marietta Rainbow Festival will be a “Circus” this year. The four-day event hosted by the North Georgia Rainbow Coalition and Lebuzz features special performances from more than 100 entertainers, a vendor area and more at Lebuzz, 585 Franklin Road, Marietta, GA 30067,

July 6, 2012

GA Voice


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July 6, 2012




It’s getting hot in here A scorching Scrabble game rivals the record heat

The recent temperatures over 100 degrees brought headlines warning people how dangerous such weather can be. The intent was to remind people not to get overheated or dehydrated by spending a lot of time outside. However, no one gave warning about the dangers of being stuck in the air conditioning with your family, and in my case, taking part in an epic Scrabble battle. My mother and I play Words with Friends online, so it made sense that when Katie and I went to visit her last weekend we would lay out the Scrabble board and play face-to-face. My sister, who also plays online, was part of the dining room table competition. The game began without incident. I was the scorekeeper, listening to my mother and sister begin their ritual trash talking, as Katie poured the wine. We each had a turn with an even score, and then it happened: My sister played a non-traditional word that is accepted on Words with Friends. If you don’t play Words with Friends, it’s basically Scrabble without the trademark. When it is your turn the computer lets you know if the word you attempt is accepted, relieving you from having to consult a dictionary. The result is players attempting the most random combinations and hoping something sticks. When words like QI or HM score you points, you have a false sense of intelligent satisfaction. But when you attempt to translate that to an authentic Scrabble board, trouble soon follows. Katie has never played Words with Friends, and was the first to protest when my sister, Melanie, attempted one of the aforementioned twoletter words. Arguing that the word is accepted online, Melanie grabbed my mother’s iPad to prove her point. But Katie argued if the challenged word could not be found in a tattered paperback dictionary we had available, then no points would be awarded. Unfortunately for my sister, the dictionary did not support her efforts. That is where the tension started. As each turn passed, small sarcastic jabs were spoken between Katie and Melanie regarding the authenticity of words being played. My mother and I

Melissa Carter is also a writer for Huffington Post. She broke ground as the first out lesbian radio personality on a major station in Atlanta and was one of the few out morning show personalities in the country. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCarter

chose to stay out of the ribbing, since our scores at this point were not competitive with theirs. I am not sure it is ever a good idea to begin discussing serious topics in the heat of battle, but maybe family members think it will serve as a distraction from a potential argument already in progress on the game board. Investments. This new debate started out innocently enough, with Katie asking Melanie what conservative investments she thought would bring about the biggest return. But somehow that train of thought led to the advice of decades past that buying property was the most secure place for your money. (Yes, this was in the background as I am simply trying to figure out how to play tiles that included no vowels.) The light-hearted conversation that followed centered on our current housing market. Melanie described disappointment in her property tax calculation based on a home value higher than what she could sell it for, as Katie expressed relief in profit earned from her rental properties. That was about the time my mother complained that the random Central American music channel blaring from a TV in the next room was too loud for her to concentrate. I had a Panama City Beach water bottle nearby to stay hydrated from the heat inside and out, and was excusing myself every 15 minutes to pee. Looking back, I couldn’t tell you who won that Scrabble game. By the time the final tile was mercilessly played, it was long after Mom’s clock had struck midnight. What I do know is the next time media outlets start warning of the dangers of extreme heat or other natural disasters, maybe they should also include suggestions on how to survive time spent in close quarters with those you love, and fight with, the most.

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July 6, 2012

GA Voice



GA Voice

July 6, 2012




After the truth comes out A wedding anniversary becomes a milestone for the whole family

This story starts with the ending. Mama and Daddy celebrated their 40th anniversary last weekend — impressive by any standard, and even more so when one considers the fact that they were 19 and 20, respectively, when they eloped. Neither statistical odds nor conventional wisdom was on their side, but they grew together and built a life. Not every leap of faith has that kind of payoff. It is a moment worth celebrating. I called with congratulations. Mama said their shared hope is that my sister and I will build equally strong partnerships with our husbands. That was the term she used, “Your husbands.” Mama made no distinction between her daughter’s marriage and her son’s, and both were lumped in with her own. Marriage equality has been achieved in the Payne family. The beginning of this story happens 12 years prior, on Mother’s Day 2000. That was the unfortunately timed Sunday morning when my parents put the pieces together and called me in Atlanta at the crack of noon to ask if I was gay. I’ve never been filled in on the details of exactly how that discussion went. When they asked, point blank, what exactly the relationship was between my “roommate” and me, I confirmed their fears, and the line went dead. The phone was no longer necessary. I was fairly certain I could hear their screams all the way from Mississippi. For my parents, my coming out was the final infuriating twist in the epic drama of raising a son who they loved without question, but could not begin to comprehend. A bullied fat kid who wore costumes to school and quoted “Designing Women” episodes. A teenager who got kicked out of two of the best schools in the country, gave up formal education altogether at 17, and decided his career path would be as a playwright and essayist, despite no one making a living doing that since the late 1800s. They’d tried to accept, even embrace, all of this. But my homosexuality felt like a final assault on their hopes for my happiness. The only men they’d ever known to be gay were haphazardly closeted and married to miserably optimistic women, or they were outcast from

Topher Payne is an Atlanta-based playwright, and the author of the book “Necessary Luxuries: Notes on a Semi-Fabulous Life.” Find out more at

their families and living with HIV. In their minds, that’s what my future held: misery, then death. After my death, their religion explained, I would be punished for eternity. They were terrified. All those years of trying to support their confounding offspring had been wasted. That fear and betrayal manifested as rage. It is the inescapable truth when you come out: A concept you’ve been grappling with for quite some time, arriving at some measure of self-acceptance, is going to be presented to your loved ones in a single moment. In a bestcase scenario, they will have had suspicions, and done a little prep work of their own. But it’s going to slap some people in the face. When that happens in your own life, or if it already has, there are two things you need to do. First and foremost, take care of yourself. Surround yourself with people you trust, because you’re going to need those folks to remind you of what is true, and what is right. You are still an extraordinary creation, and the only life worth living is one lived in honesty and love. The second, more daunting task: Allow that love to extend to those who react with fear and confusion. Their reaction has nothing to do with you. It is the result of their own expectations and perceptions. Your coming out results in a moment of crisis, as they’re forced to re-evaluate the way they see the world. Let them know you’re open to helping them get through that challenge, but not at the expense of your own identity. Some will never come around. Those people are toxic. They are dealing with some demons that have nothing to do with you. But others, after an initial lousy reaction, will commit to rebuilding. The morning I came out was the moment my parents and I finally began to understand each other. We didn’t know that at the time. But we worked together, and the result is so much stronger than what was ever there before. That’s how families survive, it’s how marriages last for 40 years, and ultimately, it’s how we’ll change the world.

The Georgia Voice - 7/6/12 Vol.3, Issue 9  
The Georgia Voice - 7/6/12 Vol.3, Issue 9  

This week's issue is all about the nominees and winners of our third annual Best of Atlanta reader survey. Also included, Sharon Needles rec...