LGBTQ San Diego County News | March 2024 | Vol. 4., Issue 35

Page 1

‘Thank you, Jeri’

Jeri Dilno’s astounding legacy will live on

Local LGBTQ community icon, Jerelyn “Jeri” Dilno, passed away peacefully on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, 2024, surrounded by many of her chosen family. Following news of her passing, social media was ablaze with memories, historical and more recent photos, and loving, cherished attributes and stories of her decades of connections to so many.

Jeri was a true San Diegan, graduating from both Point Loma High School and San Diego State and after a short stint in the military – and then starting her activism in Pennsylvania – she returned to live out her life here in the city and LGBT community she loved. She was even one of the very first

with the producer of ‘Ru

On Wednesday, Feb. 28, the San Diego City Council Chambers hosted the Bayard Rustin Honors.

Founded by Nicole Murray Ramirez and local Latina activist Carolina Ramos in 2018, the annual event was established to celebrate the life of Bayard Rustin and Black History Month.

To date, all honorees have been African American, but this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award is being presented to openly gay Academy Awardwinning producer (Milk, American Beauty, Silver Linings Playbook) Bruce Cohen, who also co-produced the recent award-winning “Rustin,” a film about civil rights and LGBT icon, Bayard Rustin. Cohen will be presented the lifetime achievement honor by California’s Secretary of State Shirley Weber.

Other honorees this year include National City’s Vice Mayor Marcus Bush, City of San Diego’s Chief of Race and Equity Kim Desmond, educator Myesha Jackson, transgender activist Tracie Jada O’Brien, Black Panther (San Diego Chapter) Henry Wallace, and Deputy District Attorney Dwain Woodley. National Black civil rights activist Mandy Carter of South Carolina will be a special guest speaker, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Choir of San Diego

will be featured, and Mayor Todd Gloria will also be in attendance.

Rustin, who was arrested nearly two dozen times for his civil rights activism in the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s, was a mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King, and helped organize the March on Washington in 1963.

In August of 2013, President Barack Obama presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Rustin (posthumously, as Rustin passed away in 1987), in honor of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Rustin’s lifelong partner, Walter Naegle, accepted the award on Rustin’s behalf later that year at a White House ceremony.

It was then Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company, Higher Ground, which they launched post-presidency, that co-produced the Rustin film with Cohen. The film’s star, openly gay actor Colman Domingo, is up for an Academy Award for his performance as Rustin.

LGBTQ San Diego County News interviewed Cohen; we talked about the film and his upcoming trip to San Diego.

(Morgan Hurley) As many say, telling Rustin’s story was long overdue. How and what made you get involved in telling it?

(Bruce Cohen) I had seen “Brother Outsider,” a terrific documentary about Bayard in

the 1990s, so he had been on my radar as an LGBTQ icon who was in danger of being lost to history and deserved his due. Julian Breece and Dustin Lance Black, whom I had worked with on “Milk,” were working on a script about him and when Lance sent it to me, I absolutely loved it and told him I would be honored to try and help shepherd it to the screen.

Why do you think it took so long to get his story told?

(Cohen) Getting stories told about characters from underrepresented communities is always harder than it should be

and Bayard was both black and openly gay! But Hollywood has been making a concerted effort of late to present more of these stories to audiences – who are craving them, by the way – and that helped a long overdue movie about Bayard finally get made.

What was it like to work with the Obamas?

(Cohen) Working with the Obamas was one of the great thrills of my producing career. The movie would not have gotten made without their

NEWS BRIEFS P7 See RUSTIN page 5 See JERI page 2 >>> THEATER P12 >>> DINING P13
“Luck is believing you’re lucky.”
Tennessee Williams
Talk of the town Idina Menzel shines Some cheeky pizza
>>> NEWS P40 > INTERVIEW P15 C ON TACT US 619- 432-LG BT
Dan Levy’s grief explained
An interview
stin’ Bruce Cohen honored in San Diego for a lifetime of contributions
Morgan M. Hurley and the San Diego LGBT Community (l to r) California Secretary of State Shirley Weber and Bruce Cohen after she presented him with the Bayard Rustin Honors Lifetime Achievement Award, Feb. 28, at San Diego City Council Chambers..(Photo by Bob Lehman) (l to r) George Biagi, Gilberto Mercado, and Jeri Dilno, taken on Sept. 16, 2016, on her 80th birthday. (Photo courtesy George Biagi)



residents of the North Park Seniors Apartments, the first known LGBTQ affirming housing complex in the nation, which is where lived until Feb. 14.

A humble but fierce activist, for decades she has had her hands in every aspect of our LGBT community here in San Diego, with impacts well beyond it. Her devotion to LGBT equality was only equaled by her passion for women’s rights.

The following biography of Jeri was shared by Nicole Verdes (she/they), Lambda Archives’ managing director. It says things way better than we ever could have, so we sought permission to share it. Nicole’s historical sentiments will be followed by comments and memories from various other members of our community who knew Jeri well and loved her dearly.

When it comes to trailblazers and historymakers in our local LGBTQ+ community, there are, as to be expected, always a handful of standouts. One individual whose legacy and impact exceeds more than what most of us can expect to contribute to the world and to our movement in one lifetime is Jeri Dilno.

Lambda Archives is saddened to learn that Jeri passed away yesterday at the age of 87 after an incredible life lived in service of her community. She often volunteered at Lambda Archives identifying details in photographs and, of course, sharing countless stories from her life that were both entertaining and insightful.

Born and raised in San Diego, Jeri joined the Airforce after attending San Diego State University in 1958, however she received a dishonorable discharge in 1961 after being investigated, along with eight others, for being gay. Jeri fought the charges and later had her dishonorable discharge changed to honorable, establishing her commitment to pursuing LGBTQ+ rights.

After living in Philadelphia for a brief time, Jeri returned to San Diego and helped found the first permitted San Diego Pride march in 1975. She served as the first female executive director of the San Diego LGBT Community Center (then The Gay & Lesbian Center) from 1975 to 1977 and chaired the board of The Center from 1978 to 1980.

She also served as president of the San Diego Democratic Club from 1987 to 1991; was co-chair of the LGBT Democratic Caucus from 1989 to 1991; and a delegate at the National Democratic Convention in 1988, 1992, and 2000. From 1993 to 1995, Jeri held the position of editor at the Gay & Lesbian Times (GLT) at a time during the AIDS crisis when organizations such as ACT UP and Queer Nation held large protests. A dedicated journalist, she once posed as a straight couple alongside Mel Merrill to attend a conservative church meeting that was held to discuss the overturning of the Human Dignity Ordinance.

Along with many other activists, she campaigned against the Briggs Initiative, which would have allowed LGBTQ+ teachers and allies to be fired. Jeri has received a great deal

of recognition for her political involvement and activism, including being one of the Grand Marshalls — alongside Jess Jessop — in the 1989 San Diego Pride parade; having March 25, 2006, declared “Jeri Dilno Day” by Mayor Maureen O’Connor; and receiving many awards such as the Harvey Milk Award at the 1988 Nickys; the 1990 Jess Jessop memorial Founders Award from The Center; and the

On Sept. 21, 2019, on her 83rd birthday, Assemblymember Chris Ward presented Dilno with an honorary street, titled Jeri Dilno Way on the corner of Park Boulevard and Howard Avenue in North Park.

Aside from her accomplishments in service of the LGBTQ+ community and her passionate involvement in local political activism, Jeri was known and loved for her sense of humor, her ability to enthrall people with storytelling, and for enjoying the occasional vodka gimlet.

Not one to shy away from showing her full humanity while telling stories, she had this to say about her first “lesbian encounter” in an oral history recording preserved by Lambda


“I met a woman when I was 18, going on 19 and she was 25 and so she introduced me to lesbianism – let’s put it that way

[laughs]. And I was very “Oh yeah, this works. This is what I’ve been missing all this time.”

In a Facebook exchange that took place in 2021, focusing on

the use of the word “dyke,” Jeri offered the following:

“I have been called a dyke, a lesbian, a queer, a feminist among other names. I found that the label was someone else’s label for me. I am all these and more and am comfortable with all of them. I do not accept the power the speaker thinks their comments have over me. I respond with: “Thank you for noticing – and my name is Jeri.”

Thank you, Jeri. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you. Nicole Verdes

Jeri once said, “Knowing our history is important to our future,” which is very true. Following are some memories of that history she spoke of.

Toni Atkins (Senate President pro Tempore Emeritus)

Jeri Dilno was an absolute trailblazer and a mentor to many in the LGBTQ+ community for decades! She was a civic leader and a community treasure. More than that, I was fortunate to call her my friend.

She was a diehard feminist and supported women’s reproductive rights. She also was a proud veteran and military service member.

Jeri loved to dance and enjoy meals and good conversation with friends. I loved her optimism and her ‘never give up’ attitude! She had a hearty laugh, a quick wit, and twinkling eyes to accompany the laugh.

She was wicked smart. She knew her political history. We had some good times, and I have so many great stories and memories! I will miss my dear friend who was always there for me.

Doug Case (political director for Senate President pro Tempore Emeritus Toni Atkins; former president of the San Diego Democratic Club, 1991-92; former president of San Diego Democrats for Equality, 2011-14)

I first got to know Jeri when I joined the board of the San Diego Democratic Club (now San Diego Democrats for Equality) in 1988 when she was president. Over the years she was a source of political wisdom, perspective and wit for me and many others. She understood the importance of sharing our community’s history with younger generations.

She remained active until the end. She was one of Senator Atkins’ appointments to the California Democratic Party State Central Committee. Knowing that she was a little frail, I checked with her to see if she still wanted to attend the convention in Sacramento last November (2023). Her response was ‘absolutely!’ She not only attended every session but was thrilled to be a part of the process. Her energy and enthusiasm will be missed.

Sharon K. Parker (former volunteer, secretary and board president of Lambda Archives, 1991-2010, now retired and a resident of Pennsylvania)

Jeri Dilno was someone with whom I had the privilege of both volunteering and working. Our paths initially crossed at The Center and also when I volunteered during Pride. I had the opportunity to sit and interview her for an Archives project in the early 2000s. Later, she joined us for a period of

volunteering at the Archives and made San Diego history come alive while chatting as we did tasks.

I also worked with Jeri at AIDS Foundation San Diego for a while. Her work ethic and writing integrity and savvy were

Nenette Agulto (former board member, San Diego Pride, 2013-19)

Jeri was a pillar of our community, and her presence and light will greatly be missed. Her guidance as a mentor and board emeritus, while I was serving my six years on San Diego Pride board, was invaluable.

refreshing to one who shared the same. When we could grab a few minutes for quick chatting, it definitely created a welcome diversion from the usual workday activities.

One of my fond memories of one-on-one time with Jeri was attending a SDSU women’s basketball game together in the late 1990s. Watching my favorite sport with someone who shared my love of the game was such a treat! Jeri had the VIP status, so we sat courtside – practically under the basket! I also got to mingle with local celebrities in the VIP room a little before the game and at halftime. It is such a fond memory, together with the time chatting in the car as I drove her home.

Along with others in the community, my life was touched by Jeri and San Diego was made richer by her presence.

George Biagi (former editor of the Gay & Lesbian Times, and communications director for former Third District City Councilmembers Christine Kehoe and Toni Atkins)

I met Jeri in the early 1990s when I was the editor of the Gay & Lesbian Times and publisher Michael Portantino and I hired Jeri as our assistant editor — by far the best hire we ever made at the paper.

Jeri was a fierce advocate for the women’s community and for underserved and underrepresented people across our community. Looking back, those were some of the best, most productive years of my life getting to spend 60-hour weeks sideby-side with Jeri in our cramped editorial office. It was akin to getting a one-on-one master class on LGBT and feminist history and politics.

We were so proud of what we were able to accomplish with the newspaper and were so pleased to be able to use the paper’s editorial content to do whatever we could to help elect Christine Kehoe as San Diego’s first openly LGBT elected official. That time together formed the basis of our friendship, which spanned the next 30 years. How fortunate was I to share the same space and time with this amazing human being. Jeri’s passing is a monumental loss for our community.

As with any board tenure, a lot of tough decisions had to be made. The fact we were able to seek guidance from Jeri, who had literally been there since “day one” of San Diego Pride, is something boards around the world aren’t privy to. She can never be replaced. RIP Jeri, hopefully you’re dribbling the basketball again in heaven.

William Rodriguez Kennedy (former co-chair of San Diego Pride, 2010-13, former president of San Diego Democrats for Equality, 2016-19)

Jeri Dilno was not only a trailblazer, she was a torchbearer who cleared the path and lit the way for generations who still follow in her footsteps in the struggle for justice and equality.

And yet, in addition to her heroic qualities and achievements, I remember a woman who was both strong and kind. Who faced-off against bigotry and injustice while finding time to laugh and dance. She stood against the darkness, but she found the light and she shared it with the world around her. We are all better for it. ▼

There will be a Celebration of Life for Jeri Dilno at the San Diego LGBT Community Center’s auditorium on Sunday, March 17, at 3 pm. The Center is located at 3909 Centre St., in Hillcrest.

Dec. 16, 1993 cover of the Gay & Lesbian Times, celebrating its sixth anniversary. (clockwise from left) Doug Richardson, James Colt Harrison, Jeri Dilno, George Biagi, and publisher Michael Portantino. (Courtesy George Biagi) Caption: Jeri with then-fellow board member, Will Rodriguez Kennedy during San Diego Pride. (Facebook) Susan B. Anthony Achievement Award from the San Diego chapter of NOW. (l to r) Jeri Dilno with Toni Atkins (Facebook) Jeri’s senior picture at Point Loma High School (Courtesy Lambda Archives)

Hillcrest Honors a dazzling success

The second annual Hillcrest Honors awards celebration was held Monday, Feb. 5, at Uptown Tavern, with hundreds of community members braving the rain to attend the party that some are calling “the talk of the town.”

Co-founded by Benny Cartwright and Rick Cervantes, the Hillcrest Honors were created to uplift the people, organizations, businesses and events that make Hillcrest such a unique neighborhood.

In late 2022, Cervantes and Cartwright decided to select community members to spotlight on the popular @ HillcrestSanDiego Instagram account, created by Cervantes. After receiving a good response to that, the pair decided to have a celebration to honor the various standouts they highlighted in categories like Fabulous Bartender, Fabulous Nightlife Event, Heart of Hillcrest, Hillcrest Icon, Fabulous Business, and more, using the name “Fabulous” in honor of the Hillcrest Business Association’s moniker for the neighborhood, “Fabulous Hillcrest.”

The first (2023) Hillcrest Honors, also held in February and at Uptown Tavern, was a success and many participants spoke about what a nice time it was celebrating with the community. After receiving such positive feedback, Cartwright and Cervantes decided to make

this an annual tradition, and the second year’s event was so popular and well attended that they have already decided to move to a larger venue for next year and beyond.

The evening included remarks by Councilmember Stephen Whitburn, along with Honorary Mayor of Hillcrest Nicole Murray Ramirez. During Murray Ramirez’s presentation, he also announced the first ever “Honorary Hillcrest Government,” which includes a city council, sheriff, first lady, city manager, and more. Of course, all of these were for fun, but will bring together some of Hillcrest’s most active citizens to discuss community issues and how to make the neighborhood a better place.

Among Nicole’s list of new “honorary government members” are: Honorary Deputy

Mayors Benny Cartwright and Moe Girton; Honorary City Council President Ryan Bedrosian; several Honorary City Councilmembers, including Rick Cervantes and Morgan M. Hurley; Honorary First Lady Paris Quion; Honorary Sheriff Brian Jining; and Honorary City Manager Benjamin Nicholls. Murray Ramirez presented each with a framed official certificate.

Following Murray Ramirez’s presentation, the Hillcrest Honors show began. The evening included stand out drag performances by host Kickxy Vixen Styles, Silas Vixen, Keex Rose, and Disco Dollie, and the presentation of the awards.

Nearly 140 community members, organizations, businesses, and events were honored across 29 categories – the full list can be viewed at All


In our last issue, February 2024, Volume 4, Issue 33, on page 2, we shared a complete list of the 2023 Hillcrest Honors honorees. Under the “Fabulous DJ” category, the names for the “Fabulous Security Guard” category were inadvertently duplicated. The correct honorees for Fabulous DJ should have been identified as: DJ Autumn Leilani, DJ Jon Williams, DJ K-Swift, DJ Kinky Loops, and DJ Zareen. We regret the error.

honorees not only received a special certificate from the Hillcrest Honors, but also commendations or recognitions from numerous elected officials, including congress members Scott Peters and Sara Jacobs, State Assemblymember Chris Ward, County Assessor Jordan Z. Marks, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, and City Councilmember Stephen Whitburn. A team of 30 volunteers assisted Cartwright and Cervantes in producing the event

in the days leading up to as well as the day of, with major support from the staff and management of Uptown Tavern. A special party was held last week at Number One Fifth Avenue to thank the volunteers for their role in making the event happen.

Cartwright and Cervantes are currently in the process of securing a larger venue in Hillcrest for next year’s event, tentatively scheduled for Monday, Feb. 3, 2025.

New for next year will be the creation of an “Academy” – a group of past honorees and volunteers who will vote for the next set of honorees. The Hillcrest Honors does not operate on a popular voting system.

A nomination period will open in November 2024, giving community members the opportunity to share about potential honorees. Following the nomination period, the “Academy” will be presented with the options for the year and make their selections. Honorees will be announced on the @ HillcrestSanDiego Instagram page throughout December 2024.

Photo galleries from the second annual Hillcrest Honors event can be seen at ▼

Photos by @r.sanchez._ and @arykapphotography
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understanding of the importance of Bayard’s contribution to history, passion for getting a movie about him completed and belief in the filmmaking team we assembled to do it.

What an incredible cast and performances the film had. What made Colman the producer’s choice for the film?

(Cohen) The legendary George C. Wolfe, our visionary director, took the lead on the decision to cast Colman, with the entire filmmaking team agreeing that he was the absolute perfect person to step into Rustin’s prodigious shoes. We loved the power of an out gay actor playing an out gay character and Colman, even before his extensive research and preparation, brought to the role a lot of the same characteristics Bayard possessed – his brilliance, charisma, sense of humor, zest for living and overall mischievous bad-assery!

What was it like for you watching the filming unfold?

As a producer – I bet it can be both uplifting and nervewracking at the same time.

(Cohen) Every film has its challenges and our primary one was Covid. We prepared the entire Washington DC shoot at the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument twice and then had to cancel as a result and then finally, on the third try, we were able to get it done. But the nerve-wracking tension of that schedule and how it affected the budget was ultimately easily outweighed by the sheer uplifting excitement of re-creating the March on Washington on the exact spot where it actually happened… almost exactly 60 years later!

The film festival circuit can be grueling but also exhilarating – and you are absolutely no stranger to the Oscars (congrats on all your accolades, by the way) – are you excited about the upcoming Academy Awards?

(Cohen) Thank you so much for that. After months of awards events these days, the Oscars is absolutely the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow! And so, yes, the thrill of attending never gets

old for me – it's an entire evening of pinch-me moments – and to get to be there this year to cheer on Colman is beyond exciting. His Best Actor Oscar nomination is a very powerful step on our quest to make sure the film helps ensure Bayard Rustin’s legacy will live on in history.

We are excited that you are coming to San Diego for the Bayard Rustin Honors. Our local icon Nicole Murray Ramirez (founder of the Honors) has been instrumental in pushing awareness for so many historical LGBT icons himself – Harvey Milk of course (we have a street named after him, the US postage stamp, the Navy ship, etc.), Matthew Shepard, and of course Bayard Rustin. When did you first meet Nicole?

(Cohen) I met Nicole when she was working on the stamp campaign for Harvey Milk and she and I fell in activist love at first sight. It was her hope that the visibility of the film could help make the stamp for Harvey happen and now we are hoping for the same successful result for the Bayard Rustin stamp.

What do the Bayard Rustin honors mean to you?

(Cohen) Over the 8 years I’ve been fighting to get this film made and then seeing it through to completion, I have come to be in awe of and fallen in love with Bayard, both as an activist and as a person, so it's hard for me to imagine a more meaningful honor than to receive one in his actual name, now that the film has been in theaters, is on Netflix, and Colman is nominated for an Academy Award.

With a production company named Bold Choices, we must ask: What will be your next endeavor?

(Cohen) My next film is Zoe Kravitz’ directorial debut, BLINK TWICE, a thriller starring Naomi Ackie and Channing Tatum, from Amazon/MGM, in theaters on Aug. 23. The film “Rustin” is currently available for streaming on Netflix.

Morgan M. Hurley is the editor-in-chief of this newspaper. You can reach her at editor@ ▼

Colman Domingo (center) is up for the Best Actor Academy Award for his portrayal of Bayard Rustin. (Still from the film courtesy Netflix).(Still from the film courtesy Netflix) (l to r) Bruce Cohen, director George C. Wolfe, actor Colman Domingo, and producer Tonia Davis at the Washington DC screening of “Rustin,” November 2023. (Courtesy Netflix) (l to r) Colman Domingo and Barack Obama at the Washington DC screening. Obama and his wife were producers of the film. (Courtesy Netflix)


Beware of scams and price gouging after a dis aster

San Diego rarely has to deal with weather so severe and disastrous that a state of emergency is declared. But when it does happen, as it did in late January and early February, when a monster storm caused flooding and other devastating effects, be warned that scammers will inevitably prey on homeowners and tenants trying to rebuild what they lost.

The recovery process for people suffering from disasters, including their homes and businesses getting flooded, is difficult. The District Attorney’s Office will not tolerate any unlawful activity by greedy businesses, contractors or scammers who would seek to financially exploit victims of a disaster.

For example, price gouging and unlicensed contracting during a state of emergency is not only a crime, it also can further victimize someone who may have already suffered a heavy loss.

A state of emergency was declared in San Diego after the storm on Jan. 22, in anticipation that resources and assistance from the state and federal government may be needed. Natural disasters are already devastating. So, when scammers show up at our doors pretending

to care about damage to our home or property – ready to spike prices in a time of need, it’s truly the definition of adding insult to injury.

During a declared state of emergency, it is illegal for a business to increase its prices for essential goods or services by more than 10 percent, unless they can show their own costs have been increased.

Here is what the statute applies to:

• Food (including for animals)

• Goods or services used for emergency cleanup

• Medical supplies including isopropyl alcohol and antibacterial products

• Home heating oil

• Building materials

• Housing

• Transportation

• Gasoline

In addition, it is a misdemeanor for a hotel or motel to increase regular rates by more than 10 percent during a declared emergency and for 30 days following the state of emergency. Consumers should be extremely cautious if approached by aggressive agents, adjusters

or contractors after a disaster.

Most businesses are honest and have good intentions, but there are always bad actors waiting to take advantage of disaster victims.

Working as an unlicensed contractor during a state of emergency is a felony.

Keep these tips in mind when selecting a contractor:

• Ask for proof of licensing such as a pocket license and a second photo ID.

• Always verify that the license number matches the contractor of whom you are dealing with.

• Beware of scare tactics, odd calls or unsolicited contacts.

• Make sure the contractor carries workers’ compensation and liability insurance.

In the aftermath of natural disasters, debris-clearing scams often surface. Do not provide payment upfront and be sure to ask where the debris is being taken. Scammers often ask for money up front and then disappear. Sometimes they dump debris on a neighbor’s property or park, which may cause you to be responsible for the costs and penalties.

The public is also warned to be cautious when dealing with

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persons soliciting for purported “victim relief” charities. Many legitimate organizations seek contributions during or after an emergency, but scammers often use phony charitable pleas in times like these.

Potential contributors should insist on seeing proper credentials before offering to help.

Also, make sure you thoroughly vet anyone posing as an insurance agent to verify that the person is a legitimate professional.

Violations of the price gouging statute are subject to criminal prosecution that can result in a year in jail and or a fine of up to $10,000. Violations are also subject to civil enforcement actions including civil penalties of up to $2,500 per violation, injunctive relief and victim restitution.

If you would like to file a price gouging complaint, call the District Attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit at 619-531-3507.

Editor’s note: This editorial is being provided as a public service to our readers. If you or your organization would like to provide us a public service editorial, please contact to submit your content for review and consideration. ▼



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Following the swift departure of Fernando Lopez from San Diego Pride last November, the organization’s board of directors has opened the search for its next executive director. Pride staffers Sarafina Scapicchio and Jen LaBarbera are currently serving as interim co-executive directors until a new leader is hired.

Noah Lomax, board co-chair, said that the organization has retained Blair Search Partners to coordinate the search.

Over the last couple of months, the San Diego Pride board hosted a series of town hall meetings with staff, volunteer leaders, and general community members, as well as a survey, to solicit input on crafting the position description and to hear what people would like to see in Pride’s next leader.

The position is being advertised with a salary of $150,000-$160,000 per year, with benefits, and is a hybrid role with an office at San Diego Pride’s North Park facility.

Reporting to the board of directors, the executive director will assume overall responsibility for the success of San Diego Pride, including overseeing its $5 million budget.

The position description lays out the responsibilities for the position and minimum requirements. Community members are encouraged to help spread the word about the opportunity and encourage qualified candidates to apply.

The position description can be found here

Those with questions regarding the process, or who wish to directly refer a candidate for the role, should contact Shira Jacobs of Blair Search Partners at


The San Diego LGBT Community Center’s Ageless Artists group just put out a call for artists for their upcoming Ageless Artists Art Show and Fair 2024, which will take place April 27, from 1 to 4 pm, in The Center’s auditorium.

The event is part of The Center’s Senior Services programming and aims to celebrate the talents of participants of The Center’s 50+ and Better Together’s Ageless Art group, but others are encouraged to apply.

Entry registration started Feb. 26, and is open through March 29. You must identify as LGBTQ+ and be 50 years of age or older to participate.

“The art show also serves as a platform to recognize and honor the immense talent that often goes unrecognized, highlighting the invaluable contributions of LGBTQ+ artists 50 and over in our community,” representatives from The Center stated in their newsletter. “We invite all art enthusiasts, friends, family, and the public to join us for an afternoon of art, refreshments, and wine! Several of the artists

will also have their art available for purchase.”

Artists can submit their art by visiting or in person at The Center.

Attendance is free to the public, but you must be 21 and up to enjoy the art show and fair.

The Center is located at 3909 Centre Street in Hillcrest. For more information about guidelines or the event itself, email



Gossip Grill, one of the few remaining women’s bars in the nation, will celebrate its 15 anniversary later this year (Oct. 17 is the tentative date for that), but in February, it celebrated 10 years at its current location at 1220 University Ave. Its prior location, just two blocks east, at 1440 University, was once the longtime home of Cafe Eleven restaurant.

While the bar area was a bit cramped, that location served Gossip’s food and drink clientele well for five years, and is located in the same parking lot as Hillcrest Brewing Company.

Once Gossip moved on, the structure remained empty for a long time, and was then home to Oscar Wilde’s Irish pub for a short time before becoming empty again for years. It is currently being redeveloped and will soon be a wine bar/ restaurant called Cellar Hand, owned by Pali Wine Co.

Gossip’s current location has had its fair share of ups and downs, most notably a fire last fall, but its popularity has thrived in the new location, with its outdoor patio bar, indoor bar and dancefloor, catchy menu and brunch fare and those indispensable DJs – all despite the naysayers regarding the move in the beginning.

Owner Moe Girton recently took to social media with a video to offer her thanks to her crew and customers.

“I just wanna give a big shout out to Gossip on their 10 year anniversary of the date that we moved from the old Gossip to the new Gossip. No, it’s not our official anniversary, that will be in October, but it is the anniversary of us making the big move to a bigger location,” she said. “Thank you to my staff and guests, especially the ones that have been with us along the way. Without all of you, there would not be a Gossip Grill. You are all our family, friends, and our ‘ride or dies.’ I can’t wait to see where we go from here.”

Girton said so many people told her not to make the move all those years ago, because the location was “cursed.” Many remember and did believe that very thing, because the location had once housed three different LGBT bars and restaurants in a very short period of time before Gossip moved in; many may remember Eden, Universal, and The Range, the latter of which had enjoyed a successful run just down the street where Negociant is now, at 1263 University Street, before moving to 1220, where it fizzled within months of moving. To learn more about Gossip Grill, visit



Drag out your bell bottoms and your disco balls, because for one weekend in April it will feel like Saturday Night Fever all over again when the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus (SDGMC) return to debut their latest performance, “FREAK OUT! A Disco

Extravagaaanza,” on Saturday, April 20, at 7 pm, at the historic Balboa Theatre, which has been home to the chorus for many years. A matinee will follow on Sunday, April 21, at 3 pm. Both shows will be ASL interpreted.

Dr. Charles “Charlie” Beale, who joined SDGMC as their artistic director in 2022, will direct the chorus through songs from the “glamorous world of 1970s disco.” The show will feature songs by Marvin Gaye, Kool & The Gang, ABBA, of course the Bee Gees, and many more.

“FREAK OUT! A Disco Extravagaaanza will feature the 1970s sparkle and pizazz you have come to expect with SDGMC, including fun choreography, roller skating, awe-inspiring performances, and unique arrangements that highlight the vocal talents of the Chorus,” stated their press release.

As one of their two largest fundraisers of the year, proceeds will go support the Chorus’s mission of providing inclusive artistic expression, community engagement, and positive social change. According to their press release, Charlie, their artistic director, is “ the founder and current president of the Global Alliance of Queer Choirs, a new choral organization that brings a global perspective.

A powerful voice in the queer choral movement, and in turbulent and uncertain times such as we find ourselves in today, Charlie is especially passionate about music as a way to unify, heal and bring people together.

The Balboa Theatre is located at 868 Fourth Ave., downtown. SDGMC requests you arrive an hour prior to showtime. For more information and tickets, visit



The legendary frontman of Food Network’s popular Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, will be showing up to Baja Betty’s on Tuesday, March 5, from 2:30 – 4 pm, with arms full of Santo Tequila. Santo is the spirit company Fieri and Sammy Hagar launched in 2019. Promoted as “Happy Hour Shots and Cocktails with Guy Fieri,” unfortunately, that’s all we can report about it. There aren’t any more details, though we tried to gather them.

Fieri the foodie and Haggar – who is no stranger to spirits having launched Cabo Wabo tequila decades ago – have a number of different tequila spirits they are presenting to long time fans and new followers. And Fieri is no stranger to San Diego – or Hillcrest – for that matter. He famously featured Crest Cafe on his “Triple D” show, as well as El Indio in Mission Hills, Crazy Burger in North Park, Hob Nob Hill in Bankers Hill, and OB Noodle House, among many others. A full list

of episodes featuring San Diego establishments can be found by visiting

According to their website, Santo Tequila has a blanco, a reposado, an anejo tequila that has aged 24 months, and a 110 proof blanco tequila that is right on the edge of legality. In addition, the spirit that Haggar and Adam Levine developed together in 2017 is also in the mix, and it is a Mezquila - a blend of Mezcal and tequila. Let’s hope all are available for tasting March 5. If not, you can buy right from their website, Baja Betty’s will be celebrating its 20th anniversary serving drinks, food and fun to the Hillcrest community this year. Stay tuned for the extended happy hours! Baja Betty’s is located at 1421 University Ave., in Hillcrest.



San Diego’s LGBTQ performance theater, Diversionary, is celebrating their annual gala this year with a unique theme. Called the Icon Ball, it is very different from past galas, where this year they plan to “celebrate LGBQTIA legends and icons, past and present.”

The lavish fundraising event will take place Saturday, March 23, from 6 pm to midnight at the Natural History Museum, located at 1788 El Prado, in Balboa Park.

“Sashay into an iconic and legendary evening celebrating the third oldest LGBTQIA+ theatre in the nation! Come dressed as your favorite LGBTQIA+ legend, trailblazer, activist, diva or icon – or just dress festively as your legendary and iconic self,” says the organization’s promotional materials.

The event will include dinner, “show-stopping” performances, an awards ceremony, and a high energy dance party under the museum’s atrium.

Since this is their annual fundraiser, they have made every effort to be inclusive at various price levels and participation, from enjoying only the dance, to just dinner and dancing, to taking in the whole shebang of the entire evening.

Tickets for just the dance party, which starts at 9 pm, are just $50 for early bird tickets, $75 after March 8, so act fast. These include three hours of dancing with a live DJ and a “grazing table.” Drinks can be purchased. If you wish to have a night of dinner and dancing, it will cost $250 per person, and you can get a table for 10 but must call ahead to reserve. $100 of each ticket is tax deductible.

For $500 you will be considered part of the “Legendary Circle,” and will receive prime

seating, a drink ticket, gift bag and wine and champagne table service. You’ll even be included in the evening’s program. $300 is tax deductible.

A regular table for 10 is priced at $2,500, and includes dinner, the performances, and dancing, with $1,000 tax deductible.

A VIP table for 10 will be $3,500 and include all that the regular table receives, plus preferred VIP seating, 10 drink tickets, 10 gift bags, and wine and champagne table service. $1,500 of the cost of the ticket is tax deductible.

VIP tables and Legendary Circle tickets are both limited. For more information, call Jesse Marchese, director of development and the resident dramaturg at 619-220-6830 x209 or email at jesse@

To learn more about the event, who will be honored, or to purchase tickets, visit


The annual Taste of Hillcrest is fast approaching and tickets are now available. The 2024 event takes place Saturday, April 13, from noon – 4 pm on the streets of Hillcrest.

Identified as San Diego’s largest self-guided culinary tour (which is saying something!) attendees can enjoy small bites from over 30 of Hillcrest’s new and long standing restaurants. Cuisine includes food options from all over the world.

Early bird tickets are $35 plus a small service fee per person, and while this event is open to all ages, many sample tastings may include alcoholic beverages, so IDs will be required at check-in to identify those 21 and older with a wrist band.

Only a limited number of early bird tickets are being made available. Once those tickets sell out, the price will go up to $40 per person. Limit 8 tickets per buyer.

Two check-in locations, where you will show your receipt and receive your tasting passport and map, or purchase your tickets: Hillcrest Business Association at 1601 University Avenue on the east end of Hillcrest near the Pride flag, and Hairspray Salon at 141 University Avenue on the other end, two blocks west of the Hillcrest sign.

Once you have your map and passport in hand, the organizer’s have a tip: “Since this is a self-guided walking tour, feel free to explore the neighborhood at your own leisure. We recommend starting from Park Boulevard and heading west to Third Avenue to avoid the crowds!”

To get tickets, visit ▼


What a group of bartenders did to help feed those with AIDS

Part II: Continued from February 2024, Volume 4, Issue 33 of

Not knowing anything about putting together an event as large as we had imagined, we were not even close to being prepared to introduce this first “Bartenders Christmas Charity” to our community. But we had already stuck our feet in the water, so there was no turning back.

By now, we had a few more people that believed in us, especially our family of bartenders and Michael Portantino with his paper, the Gay & Lesbian Times.

Paying out of our own pockets at the time, Nigel and I had posters, table tents and flyers made to help promote our one-night event in all the gay bars. It was beginning to become the talk of the community, because with all the bartenders promoting the event, you could find our posters hanging in the restrooms of every participating establishment. We posted them there on purpose, because sooner or later, everyone would likely use the restroom, so we put the poster where they would most likely be seen and read. The two of us agreed that our goal for our first-ever fundraiser would be to raise $5,000 dollars. We really had faith that we would reach this goal, giving our bartenders and our community an easy way to be included.

It just so happened that my then wonderful roommate David Koehn had invited me to go to Chicago for a couple of days for my Christmas present months before Nigel and I decided to embark on this adventure. After Chicago we headed over to visit with David’s family in Michigan, to celebrate Christmas. So, I left it all with Nigel and Michael Lunsford to handle collecting all the donations after the big night of giving back to this worthy charity. It was in good hands.

We had furnished a 5 x 7 manila envelope to each of the bartenders, with their names, the bar they worked at and the amount they were donating, to make it easier to collect and keep track of all these amazing bartenders’ generosity. While it was unfortunate that I’d be out of town, I was excited to visit Chicago for the first time, but I also wanted to experience the excitement of the giving that would be happening in the entire gay community here at home. The night before I left, I made sure I did my part in giving back as well. I gladly put all my promotional materials on my bar with a sign

that said, “I will be donating half my tips tonight to support Special Delivery to feed those living with AIDS/HIV.”

I was able to donate about $300, which was more than half of what I made that night, mainly because my customers were tipping me very generously. I was still able to take a good amount of tips home.

So off I went to Chicago, which was somewhere I had always wanted to go to. It was so much fun and such a beautiful, clean city. After a couple of days, David rented a car and we drove to his mom’s house in Plainwell, Michigan. I met his entire family, and it just so happened to be the evening of the “Bars Christmas Charity” event. I was so excited to talk to Nigel the next day to find out how the night went. I knew there was still a lot to do, like pick up the envelopes from all the bars, and then count the money. I did call Nigel just to say hello and he said once everyone’s envelopes were collected, and he had counted all the donations, he would give me a call.

I remember as if it was yesterday; David’s mom and several of the other relatives had prepared a delicious family feast, and afterwards we were all in the living room relating and talking, when the phone rang, and it was Nigel. I got up and asked if I could go downstairs to the basement so I could talk to Nigel without any interruptions. I was excited and nervous at the same time.

After saying our hello and checking on each other, I said, “So, how did it turn out?”

Nigel said, “I have good news and I have bad news, which do you want to hear first?”

“The bad news,” I said, “let’s just get that out of the way.”

Then Nigel proceeds to say: “Well we did not reach our goal of $5,000.” My heart sunk to my stomach, and then, before I could get a word out, he said, “But the good news is we raised $7,500 dollars.”

OMG, I started screaming for joy and crying and felt so much happinesses that our community came through. We always had faith that this would work. I was so loud, dancing for joy and talking so loud, David had to come down to see if I was ok. I was so happy, we were both so happy. That first event got Nigel and I so fired up that we knew we needed to continue this and start planning for the coming new year.

Ruth Hendrick was so blown away with the outcome, she was so touched that all these bartenders would donate half of all their tips, and the fact that our community came out to support those bartenders was overwhelming for all of us.

It was an amazing feeling the day that we presented Ruth with that check for $7,500; to me it ia still one of the proudest moments of my life. I had never done anything like this ever before, so to do it with my best friend, Nigel, and all these generous bartenders, and a community that embraced a simple idea, was a memory of good I will always cherish.

Bobby Haas, who was the president of the board of Special Delivery in 1997, came to Nigel and I after that first event and asked if he could help us continue this incredible idea and even make it bigger.

Well of course Nigel and I were glad to have someone who knew more about fundraising than the two of us did. Now things were about to get bigger and better and a charity organization would soon be in the works.

Nigel and I started to talk to people we knew and get them involved and we worked around

their talents. Debbie Yoakum was our one-and-only woman who was ever involved with our project. We all agreed we needed to come up with a name that described our new charity organization. Debbie played a major part in this; she had a friend who helped the three of us, (Nigel, Debbie, and I) create a name and mission statement, which would change how we would get our community even more involved. It was a great concept and a lot of fun working together to put all these positive words together

into sentences, and we watched everything fall into place.

We finally decided on our organization name and then we were able to construct our mission statement.

“Our mission is to generate hope and love, inspire participation, and enrich the quality of life, by serving our community. We are a team of dedicated volunteers committed to embracing the needs of the abused, sick, and hungry, uniting a community to make a powerful difference and inspire all people to create Ordinary Miracles.”

Again, due to space, this story will continue in the April issue.

I hope you will continue to follow my journey of how a community came together to be involved as they helped change a small part of our world, called San Diego, to create Ordinary Miracles for our brothers living with AIDS/HIV.

These are the shoulders I stand upon.

–Big Mike Phillips is a local photographer, bartender, and longtime LGBT activist and fundraiser. You can reach him at

(l to r) Big Mike, Ruth Henricks (executive director of Special Delivery), Larry Aston (then photographer for the Gay and Lesbian Times), and Nigel Mayer. (Courtesy Lambda Archives) The original list of bars and bartenders Nigel and Big Mike hoped would participate in the Bartenders Christmas Charity event. (Photo by Big Mike Phillips)
We can be better

In general, life for me is good. I’ve got a good job, great friends, a place to live, a nice car, am part of a wonderful community, and all the things that many people strive for are mostly working out. But this past month has been rough, and I think it’s important to share because we all have a responsibility to make sure we are treating each other with respect in our community.

In fact, my original column for this month was going to be about something completely different, but I’ll put that idea on hold for another month.

On Feb. 5, Rick Cervantes and I hosted the second annual Hillcrest Honors celebration, which was a dazzling success. We welcomed hundreds of community members on a very

For almost four years, the San Diego County Human Relations Commission has become a most controversial and divisive commission with public outbursts of homophobia and anti-semitism. One commissioner actually said that the LGBTQ community, and especially transgender people, are an “abomination before God” and that we are all going to Hell.

Other commissioners have made anti-semitic comments repeatedly at meetings and have never been called out of order. This brand of hate speech has continued on some commissioner’s social media pages, as well as in public.

Supervisor Terra LawsonRemer has sadly and absolutely let her LGBTQA and Jewish communities down by not taking a stance on this issue for almost

wet, rainy night to Uptown Tavern to celebrate 137 people, businesses, organizations, and events, who were honored this year for their contributions in making Hillcrest such a fabulous neighborhood. We knew when we started this awards program that we were never going to make everyone happy, but we didn’t realize the level of vitriol some people would spew at us online.

I addressed this briefly in my January 2024 column, but as the event approached, the chatter online continued. On one Instagram account that was created to share anonymous “confessions” about Hillcrest, for a while, it basically turned into a space for people to dump on the Hillcrest Honors, Rick, and me, and all anonymously of course. We also heard from friends who work in the service industry that “this person” or “that person” was sitting at the bar trashing our celebration.

And of course, there were the whispers about why certain people were chosen and rumors that we only “choose our friends and supporters.” Which is far from the truth, as this year, I don’t even personally know half of the honoree list. They were all taken from community nominations that were submitted in November. Our goal in this has always been and will always be to uplift the many people who work hard to make Hillcrest a place so many of us want to be.

What’s so wrong with that idea?

After the Honors celebration passed, and we weren’t even done

basking in the success of it all, more anonymous messages came. These were direct to Rick or me, and even more vile in tone.

One person, writing from a social media account that had four posts, no profile photo, and three followers, wrote to me that they were going to “expose the threatening and abusive side” of the Hillcrest Honors, Rick,and me. Screenshots were taken and this account was immediately blocked.

Then, a couple weeks ago, there was a pro-Palestine rally that marched through Hillcrest, with a call for a ceasefire. As I do when any sort of march travels through Hillcrest, I like to document it, no matter my thoughts on the issue.

Before I continue, I will make it clear: War sucks. People being murdered by governments or terror groups is against everything we stand for as humans. I’d love to see a day when governments stop fighting each other and harming innocent civilians, so of course I support a ceasefire in the Middle East.

But my post was intended to document a march going through the neighborhood, without providing any commentary. Because of the lack of commentary (not expressing a viewpoint on the matter in my post), the dogpiling of messages came in. One person even called me an example of “gay shame” on their social media story.

I know that if I expressed an opinion on the matter I would have been attacked either way – so I have chosen to publicly

stay out of it. It’s an issue I have no control over, but for anyone wondering, I have clearly stated my beliefs above.

But the harassment and bullying was intense. So intense that I deactivated some of my social media accounts because I want to be left alone. I absolutely love working for and advocating for the LGBTQ and other marginalized communities – it’s what I’ve spent my adult life doing. But it’s gotten to a point where those of us who care about doing the right thing and supporting the most vulnerable among us, have started fighting each other so much that we’re not getting anything done and letting the “other side” win. We’re a diverse community of people, but I think many of us want the same end goal, we just might not have the same ideas on how to get there.

We need to work through those issues so together, we can be a bigger force, and win. But when we attack people who are on our side, we lose them.

In fact, just before turning 39 in 2019, I left my longtime work at the San Diego LGBT Community Center, and decided to take a break before turning 40 in May 2020. I was burned out from serving the community and being a visible force and took some time to reflect. From that, I thought that what I wanted was to take a back seat, find a wellpaying job that wasn’t involved in the community, and to just enjoy the second half of my adult life doing things I wanted to do.

For a while, I thought that was going to be the case, but I realized that I just can’t sit back. I love my community and I have the knowledge, ability, and resources to make my community a better place. So I’ve stepped way back up and will do anything and everything to bring my community together – and I almost let a few anonymous social media accounts get me down.

I was really upset for several days last week, and Rick was practically emotionally paralyzed by it. But then we realized, this is more about those people’s issues than our own. If they truly had issues with one or both of us, or the work we do, a mature person would reach out, ask to have coffee, or even a phone call to talk things out. My contact information is never hard to find.

I beg of our community to set aside our jealousy, insecurities, and strange hatred for each other, and celebrate each other’s accomplishments, build community, and be kind to one another. Many of us fought hard to get to a place like Hillcrest, where we could be free, and the last thing we expect is to be further harassed by members of our own community.

We can do better. I’m not giving up, but I can’t say the little jabs and messages don’t hurt. Thanks for listening.

–Benny Cartwright is a longtime activist and community leader. Reach him at Follow him on Instagram @BennyC80 ▼

County Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer has let us down

four years. It has actually been Supervisor Nora Vargas, who, even before she was elected to her current role as chair of the board of supervisors, has been constantly behind scenes and in public statements trying her best to fix this now broken county commission.

In fact, Supervisor LawsonRemer has only focused on this commission when it came to re-election time – and just weeks ago, she actually voted to reinstate an anti-semitic commissioner. The day after this vote she stated to the press that she “now regrets this vote” but has still not done anything about it.

I must commend Supervisors

Joel Anderson and Jim Desmond for voting in opposition to the reappointment of this anti-semitic commissioner.

Supervisor Lawson-Remer could have become a profile in

courage and stood tall against anti-semitism and homophobia/ transphobia. Instead, she stood by as this hate speech by commissioners continued and continued. I previously was a strong supporter of Supervisor Lawson-Remer, but I can not and will not support her again.

I commend the board of supervisors for recently suspending the San Diego County Human Relations Commission, a commission that I lobbied for over 36 years to be reinstated, and named after San Diego civil rights icon and former county supervisor Leon Williams.

I sincerely apologize to former Supervisor Ron Roberts, former District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, and former Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, who worked with me to get this commission reinstated with the hope of bringing the community together. Unfortunately, this has

become a commission that divides communities.

And I most sincerely apologize to Leon Williams for what this commission has become.

This commission has already spent over $120,000 of taxpayer funds on two separate consultants who accomplished nothing. And now, the chair of the commission wants to spend even more money to hire more consultants!

Consultants are not the answer … a new commission is the only answer.

–Nicole Murray Ramirez is a lifelong Latino and LGBT activist and advocate, a longtime city commissioner, and is the Queen Mother of the International Imperial Court of the Americas. He can be reached at ▼

Support our paper by donating at LGBTQSD .news
Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer (D), District 3, vice chair, San Diego County Board of Supervisors (Courtesy photo)

Young and old

It’s that time of year again, Spring, the time of renewal, revitalization, and time to get out of the house and enjoy the fresh air. It’s also the time of year that I start to think of ways I would like to help invigorate the Trans community. More and more I believe that now is so important for us to come together as one community. We are so fragmented, so many small groups who engage with each other, but no one else.

I especially want to connect the younger Trans folks and the elder Trans folks. We can teach each other so many things, but how to make this happen is still a mystery to me. But wouldn’t it be great if we could find ways to interact, to teach our youth about our past and what it was like to be Trans back in the day? Wouldn’t it be great if our youth

could interact with our elders and show them what great things are happening now?

Our Trans youth who are in their teens have so many resources nowadays. There is the Hillcrest Youth Center, where teens can meet each other and make new friends, have important discussions, as well as get support. There is the Chula Vista Youth Center, where our South Bay youth can engage with each other as their San Diego counterparts do. In North County, they have the North County Resource Center, where groups are held, and engaging with youth is an important part of their mission. San Diego Pride also has a youth program to engage youth in the same wonderful adventures.

Many of the youth that attend the offerings available throughout the county are Trans youth. Due to the political climate in our country, I would think that many Trans youth would avail themselves of these services. The kids engage in so many different activities, celebrate each other and find joy in their lives.

Our LGBTQ youth are very lucky, they have a place to go, a physical building just for them. It’s safe and private, where they can talk about pretty much anything that is on their minds. What an amazing gift to give our youth. Support, engagement, fun, and meeting new friends who are like themselves. As I have learned over the years working with youth and their families, being with people who are like us can make a huge difference in the quality of life for our kids.

I also run a chapter of an organization known as Transforming Family (part of the Los Angeles-based nonprofit, Community Partners). We meet once a month to support parents of Transgender youth. While the parents meet, we also offer a youth meeting for teens. Hopefully our Tween group will be back up and running soon and we have a wonderful play area for our littles. All the kids who attend are Trans youth and many have never met another Trans youth before they came to us.

The parents are given peer-topeer support from other parents. We have even had grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings attend. For more information on my group please email me at There is a similar group for the North County parents, but any family member is welcome to mine. So many opportunities for our Trans youth to engage and thrive.

But there is another group, who could really use a place to thrive, to get together with peers and enjoy each other’s company –our LGBTQ Seniors.

So many folks disappear into the greater community and are never heard from again, to which I say, good for them! Seniors, however, are a population who also begin to need resources, peer support, and social time. Especially Trans seniors who are around my age, 71 and older. So many of my senior peers were never able to avail themselves of medical transition surgeries, or procedures like electrolysis and others that help Trans folks blend into society better.

Notes from the Hillcrest Town Council: Candidates come to Hillcrest

Prior to Hillcrest Town Council’s regularly monthly February meeting, two prospective politicians asked to come and speak. In announcing the “meet and greet” with Genevieve Jones-Wright (mayoral candidate) and Coleen Cusack (city council candidate), several other candidates asked to share the spotlight.

While the HTC had opted to support our sister community Bankers Hill and their candidate forum held Feb. 19, we found ourselves having an impromptu panel. We plan on holding a full forum after the primary later this summer.

Appearing before the Hillcrest Town Council (HTC) at our Feb. 13 meeting were a representative of mayoral candidate Larry Turner (who was out on patrol as a current member of the San Diego Police Department) and Ellis California Jones III. Candidate Cusack has attended several of our recent events and has become a known and involved person, and although under the weather, Genevieve joined us via Zoom.

Stopher Vallejo (representing Senator Toni Atkins), Will Rodriguez Kennedy (representing Scott Peters), and Logan Braydis (representing Councilmember Stephen Whitburn) started the

meeting with nearly an hour of addressing community concerns.

This was followed by updates on the Kiwanis Club of Hillcrest All-Inclusive by Benny Cartwright, the Uptown Parking District Board by Miah Earn, and a representative from Power San Diego. We then focused on those who seek to represent us. The first question, a softball from me (Jason), asked the four candidates in attendance a litmus test of authenticity and neighborhood awareness:

“It’s Friday night, you’re in Hillcrest, where you goin’?”

Larry Turner’s representative: “Baja Betty’s.” Solid answer.

Coleen Cusack: “Gossip Grill all the way!”

The room erupted in cheers with Miah interrupting to rave about trivia and drag bingo.

Genevieve Jones-Wright: “My favorite Italian restaurant, Arrivederci!”

Great answer.

And Ellis, what about you? Where you goin’?

Ellis California Jones III: “I’ve been to Five Guys.”

Great answer, we also have a Michelin Star sushi restaurant in the same parking lot. I invited Ellis out with the board sometime to show him around the neighborhood.

One of the big issues I see is when folks need some kind of medical intervention. Which, if you know me, you know I can certainly vouch for my own interaction with the medical community. As we get older, our bodies start to break down, problems arise and we often have to go to our local emergency rooms. Since many Trans elders are alone with no family, they have to endure these visits and procedures alone. It’s hard enough for younger Trans people to go see a doctor or go to the ER, and have to explain about their bodies. Believe it or not, most medical professionals have no knowledge about Trans people, nevermind our bodies. Having to deal with explanations, outright discrimination, and even bullying by the medical community is heartbreaking, and for our Trans elders it can be so devastating. What if there was a place where our Trans elders could go? A place just for them, or maybe we could even share it with our LGB siblings. This is a dream of mine, but unless I win the lottery, I don’t see it coming true. There must be a way where we can find spaces for our Trans elders to meet, just to socialize, hangout and talk about our specific needs. Also a place with resources specific to Trans elders, well at least resources that tell us where safe resources might be. It’s also hard now to find our Trans elders. Although I interact with some, I know there are more out there. There has to be a way. Once we do connect though, I would love to keep it going, I would love to find other Trans folks who are willing to

be a buddy to a struggling elder. I would love to have an event where the Trans elders could meet and interact with our Trans youth. I think most Trans youth don’t even know we exist. We owe it to all our elders actually, to reach across this wide river and connect with each other.

Most youth I interact with have no idea how our lives were back in the 1950s and ’60s and on. I swear some of these kids think they invented trans, lol.

If anyone out there is interested in pursuing this with me, please contact me!

SOS – Save Our Seniors. There is a national LGBTQ senior organization (and website) that has been around for decades –SAGE – that published “Gaining Visibility: The ChallengesFacing Transgender Elders,” By Sean Kennedy. You can read it here

Also, don’t forget Trangender Day of Empowerment, coming up on April 5. See you there.

–Connor Maddocks (he, him, his) is a Transgender activist, trainer, speaker, and advocate. You can reach him at neon411@ ▼

While we did not reach out to the candidates to invite them to a dedicated forum, we have some stalwart, dedicated folks chomping at the bit to represent the good people of the 92103.

Additionally, while many of us on the board and in the neighborhood are avowed progressives, what I love about our community is how welcoming we are to everyone who shows up.

When I say “You belong in Hillcrest,” I mean it!

I even offered my dog Ruby to Ellis to keep him warm, since it got a bit chilly on the back patio at AWOL, where our meeting is held.

There is a diverse set of candidates vying to serve Hillcrest with honor, integrity, and distinction. They might disagree on how this will be done, but regardless of your particular political persuasion, there is someone for each person to choose.

Get your ballot in, it already has postage applied.

The Hillcrest Town Council is a community organization of active and interested residents of the neighborhood of Hillcrest. The meetings are open and anyone can attend. They meet on the second Tuesday of each month on the back patio of AWOL, located 1475 University Ave., in Hillcrest. To learn more, visit ▼


Surprise food bags for cheap

The global app “Too Good to Go” is gaining steam in a number of U.S. cities and counties, including San Diego. The system connects businesses that have surpluses of food with everyday consumers who are willing to show up at the businesses shortly before they close for the day to pick up the sweet or savory goods they ordered. What awaits are packages of food, often listed on the app as “surprise bags,” that are sold at around one-third of their average retail prices – if not cheaper.

Too Good To Go’s mission is to reduce food waste while helping restaurants, cafes and bakeries make a little pocket money on their day’s leftover foods that would otherwise get tossed into the garbage. Only foods that haven’t passed their use by date can be sold over the app.

Since the concept was introduced to San Diego last year, a number of well-known kitchens have jumped on board. They include Mr. Moto Pizza, The Cravory, Manolo Farmers Market in National City, Hob Nob Hill, California Fish Grill, the lesbian-owned Sugalab Sweets, and many more. Most of the surprise bags we perused on the app start as low as $3.99.

Alan Skla of De Lux Farms in Clairemont is among the growing list of sellers taking part. The company is a distributor of international coffee, hot sauces and snack foods.

“When we import products in abundance, we now sell them off through the app,” he said. “Italian coffee, for example, which is priced at Whole Foods for $14.95 per tin, might go for only $5.99 for two tins through Too Good To Go.”

All transactions are made over the app, which continually updates the businesses that are selling their overstock on the current and following days.

Tapas heaven

Not since the closing of Tapas Picasso in Hillcrest some years ago, have we gotten this excited about a similar Spanish-style concept that just hit the San Diego food scene.

Finca Tapas & Bottle Shop in North Park is the brainchild of Juniper & Ivy alums Dan Valerino and Joe Bower. The duo, along with restaurateur Ricardo Dondisch, present a tapas-centric menu sprinkled with modern California twists — but without veering too far off the classic art of crafting a wide variety of delectable small plates.

Spanish and California wines set the stage for such tapas as smoked trout with egg, avocado, bacon and English muffin; roasted cauliflower with miso cream; bone marrow on sourdough with red pepper jelly; and a jazzy version of patatas bravo with jalapeno crema and roasted garlic.

The 90-seat restaurant greets with a warm industrial feel. It lends to an open kitchen, a curvy bar, wellspaced table seating, and a bottle shop where customers will find organic and biodynamic wines.

The restaurant is open seven days a week for dinner only 3066 North Park Way, 619-202-3564,

The Colonel is pushing the envelope again. First it was KFC’s cholesterol bad boy called the “double down,” which featured bacon, cheese and special sauce tucked between two fried chicken filets. That creation has since flown the coop after enjoying sporadic success around the world.

Now it’s the “chizza,” a hybrid of pizza and chicken Parmesan that debuted at most U.S. outlets on Feb. 26. The creation uses a pair of KFC’s extra-crispy filets and slathers them with marinara sauce, melted mozzarella cheese and sliced pepperoni. It was first introduced in the Philippines in 2015 and has appeared semi-regularly on KFC menus in Mexico, Germany, Thailand and India.

Served in a miniature, insulated pizza box, the “chizza” sells for $9.99, or $12.99 with fries and a drink. The company says it will be available for a limited time only, at least through the month of March.

Fast food oddity

Did you know ...

… that it has been nearly 40 years since Special Delivery founder, Ruth Henricks, took over The Huddle in Mission Hills? That kind of staying power equates to a century in restaurant mortality.

Today, the modest family-run restaurant is still going strong with popular dishes such as Denver omelets, pork chops with eggs, and “Del Mar Fair” cinnamon rolls, in case you can’t wait for the earlysummer event.

“Our menu has hardly changed over the years,” said Henricks’ son Daniel, who works at the restaurant.

His parents purchased the business in 1986 from his aunt. Although the building operated as a diner under various owners since the late 1950s, it dates back to the 1920s when it was a small ice cream shop.

In 1991, Henricks launched Special Delivery in The Huddle’s adjoining space. The nonprofit food pantry and meal-delivery service started as a way to feed AIDS patients and continues functioning to help nourish those living with severe illnesses. Few may know that Henricks has established lasting partnerships with generous food donors such as Trader Joe’s in Hillcrest and Lazy Acres in Mission Hills. 4023 Goldfinch St., 619-291-5950.

The Shawarma GuyS land in la meSa

What started out as a wildly successful food truck in South Park that was featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, has materialized into a La Mesa brick-and-mortar eatery where Australian Wagyu beef rules the day.

The top-rated Shawarma Guys uses the luxurious meat in plates, wraps and atop fries. It is the only Middle Eastern-style kitchen in San Diego that features Wagyu in all of its beef dishes. The menu also extends to chicken and vegan shawarma, plus falafel, dolma, Iraqi salad and more.

Since its expansion into East County, the “guys” plan on opening yet another location later this year in Mira Mesa at 9690 Reagan Rd, #103. Their La Mesa shop is located at 5525 Jackson Drive, #B. 619-825-5150,

Late-night cookies

San Diego’s third location of Insomniac Cookies is coming soon to the North Park address that formerly housed Delifruits

Locally, the Philadelphia-based bakery chain has kitchens in The Gaslamp Quarter (542 Fifth Ave.) and Pacific Beach (1007 Garnet Ave.).

The company is known for delivering warm cookies and housemade ice cream sandwiches to households as late as 3 a.m. on certain days of the week. It also accommodates walk-in customers starting at around noon.

Popular sellers from the cookie menu include chocolate chunk, oatmeal raisin, vegan birthday cake, and gluten-free chocolate chip. There are also “cookie cakes” made in six and 10-inch sizes and crafted for various occasions. 3066 University Ave., 619-816-1232,

A local Facebook user scored this goodie box on Too Good to Go for $5.99 from Christy’s Donuts in Point Loma. (Facebook) The Huddle in Mission Hills attracts a devoted patronage (Photo by Frank Sabatini Jr.) San Diego’s hottest tapas restaurant has opened in North Park. Food (Courtesy Finca) Something that resembles pizza at KFC (Instagram) Fast-casual wagyu beef in La Mesa (Courtesy Shawarma Guys) –Frank Sabatini Jr. has been writing about food in San Diego for over 35 years. He launched his own food blog during the pandemic, called, “The Hash Star,” which you can follow at He can be reached at frank.


A March 21 preliminary hearing has been set for a man who is charged with sexually assaulting four men in his Escondido apartment after meeting them on the Grindr app.

The hearing in Vista Superior Court may go several days involving Tobias Tremayne Bartee II, 28, who is charged with forcible oral copulation, forcible sodomy, kidnapping, robbery, and assault.

The incidents took place in 2023 and Escondido Police said four men told them they were lured to an apartment after chatting with a man on the Grindr app and agreed to meet.

The photo of the person they were meeting was of a white male, but Bartee is black. All four told police that when they knocked, Bartee told them he was a roommate of the man they were seeking.

Two victims said they were assaulted at gunpoint and the two others were also overcome. The men told police they were forcibly restrained and sexually assaulted.

Bartee has pleaded not guilty and remains in the South Bay Detention Facility without bail.


A gay man who represented himself in the arson of his food truck was convicted by a jury on Feb. 21, of arson and grand theft, after he had accepted $100,000 in donations from the GoFundMe website in the wake of the fire.

Avonte Ahikim Hartsfield, 27, faces a maximum of up to seven years and four months in state prison, said Deputy District Attorney Judy Taschner.

The jury deliberated about 7 1/2 hours over two days before also convicting Hartsfield of two counts of presenting false information about an insurance claim after the Oct. 3, 2021, fire that occurred at 1 a.m. in a Kearny Mesa parking lot.

Hartsfield was arrested Jan. 16 on another case in another jurisdiction and he remains in the central jail without bail. He may be ordered to pay back some of the people who gave donations to the GoFundMe effort.

San Diego Superior Court Judge Kimberlee Lagotta set sentencing for March 20. Hartsfield fired his trial lawyer in June 2022, after a judge allowed him to represent himself.

Hartsfield had long argued that he was a target of a hate crime “because I’m black and because I’m gay,” but he had difficulty presenting evidence of that, other than his own statements.

However, Hartsfield was heard on a police tape recording admitting to accidentally starting the fire with a rice cooker in his vegan Rollin Roots truck. He said he saw a spark while trying to keep some rice warm.

“I panicked. I didn’t think of putting it out,” Hartsfield was heard saying on the tape, which was played to jurors.

“I’m always super afraid of being electrocuted,” he also said on the tape. “The truck fire was still accidental and I still wanted it investigated.”

The abrupt shift from calling it a hate crime to admitting he started the fire accidentally was something Hartsfield had difficulty explaining to Detective John Clayton, who eventually told him on tape he believed Hartsfield was lying to him.

Clayton asked Hartsfield where his rice cooker was located in his food truck. Hartsfield replied it was on the floor.

The detective said the fire investigator had said a fire could not start if the rice cooker was on the floor and the fire appeared to be set deliberately.

“Well, that’s not the case,” Hartsfield can be heard replying on the tape.

“I know for a fact that you started the fire. Do you want to keep going with the lie?”

Detective Clayton said on tape. “There was never any indication that anyone else was involved other than you.”

Clayton testified that Hartsfield received approximately $125,000 in donations from the public and a $20,000 check from Sycuan tribal officials. The GoFundMe organization refunded $25,000 to some

donors, said Christopher Bayless, a District Attorney investigator.

To read more background on this story, see Vol. 4, Issue 19, or online at


Six General Superintendents of the Church of the Nazarene have overruled the denial of an appeal by former Nazarene pastor Dee Kelley who lost his preacher’s license in a church trial in August 2023, over an essay that was supportive of LGBTQ marriage.

The brief February ruling only allows Kelley to continue appealing his denial of his license. Their ruling is in response to the denomination’s District Superintendent Tom Taylor, who sent out letters saying Kelley’s farewell message to First Church of the Nazarene voided any appeal and was improper. Taylor stated that Kelley had “preached” at his final service to the congregation that he has led for nearly two decades.

“We conclude justice is best served by allowing the appeal to move forward,” wrote the superintendents, who added there was “ambiguity in the [Nazarene] Manual’s definition of ministerial activity.”

“The objection [by Taylor] is, therefore, overruled,” the order stated.

It was Taylor who started the controversy by bringing charges against Kelley after Kelley had written a three page essay in the book, “Why the Church of the Nazarene Should Be Fully LGBTQ+ Affirming,” which was published in April, 2023.

Kelley, who was pastor at First Church for 17 years, asked for dialogue in the essay to discuss same-sex relationships and marriage, and is an ally of the LGBTQ community.

To read the complete background on this story, see Vol. 4, Issue 23, or online at

–Neal Putnam is a local crime reporter. You can reach him at ▼



1 Game of queens

6 Banana stalk

10 Nuts and bolts

14 Novelist Bret

15 Lorca’s house

16 Male actor named Julia

17 No longer lying with one’s partner

18 Anti-oxidant berry

19 Wine region of da Vinci’s land

20 34-Across won an Oscar for this movie in 1994

23 Doris Day’s “___ Sera, Sera”

24 Dumbo’s “wings”

25 S&M delays?

27 Without qualification

30 Most like Dorothy Parker’s humor

32 Light tune

33 Big name in e-commerce

34 Recent EGOT winner

37 34-Across won a Tony for this in 2000

41 “Xanadu” grp.

42 It may fall near acorns

45 Woman who doesn’t date men

46 Chapel with a Michelangelo ceiling

48 Inked up














1 Online room type

2 Diced meat dish

3 “Ziegfeld Follies” costume designer

4 Drag queen’s high heel, perhaps

5 Aileen Wuornos’ kind of killer

6 Gives the once-over

7 Jockey’s gear

8 Morales of “La Bamba”

9 Platform beneath your first mate

10 Constellation over Sydney

11 34-Across won a Grammy for this in 1992

12 Practical jokers

13 Most cunning

21 Direct ending

22 Monster head?

26 Enchanted Disney girl

27 Hauls ass

28 Palmer of “The Boys From Brazil”

29 Choir section

30 Oompa Loompa creator

31 Baseball heartthrob Sandberg

33 Give the finger to, perhaps

35 Bete ___

36 “Desert of the Heart” author

38 Like sexual relationships, ideally

39 Threesome minus one

40 Warhol of soup fame

43 Slightly

44 Porn film staples

47 “Lions and ___ and bears …”

49 Will’s presidential namesake

51 Compensate

52 Goes down (on)

53 Gossip from Ted Casablanca, e.g.

54 Atop

55 “Nuts!”

56 Decide not to swallow

60 Benjamin Britten’s zed

61 Make a blunder

SOLUTION on page 15

Land of O. Wilde
Cheerful willingness
for a farewell
here in 2023
34-Across won an Emmy
Start of an Evan Wolfson memo
Second word of a fairy tale
Blow away
It may come before 69
Give for a while
“See ya”
Intense attraction, with “the”
Some of Mary’s lambs
Look from Snidely

Idina Menzel still ‘defying gravity’in brand new work at LJ Playhouse

I knew when I moved to San Diego from New York 20-plus years ago, that one of the main things I would miss was my access to Broadway. I wish I’d known then that it wouldn’t be an issue.

I now realize how fortunate I am to be able to travel New York City (NYC) a few times a year to check out what’s on the boards, but I also see how lucky I am to have such incredible theater right here in my own San Diego backyard. A recent visit to the La Jolla Playhouse proved my point.

Redwood, a brand new musical, is now playing at the La Jolla Playhouse through Sunday, March 31.

This original work is both written and directed by Tina Landau with music by Kate Diaz. Set in the iconic forest of Northern California and featuring only five actors, Redwood is a prime example of why a show doesn’t need bells, whistles and a chorus line of dancing boys (which I certainly don’t mind) to work. Sometimes, less is more, and that is part of why this terrific production succeeds.

Redwood tells the story of Jesse Meyers, portrayed by Tony winner Idina Menzel (who was also involved with the conception of the production) and her journey of grief, self discovery, forgiveness and healing.

After struggling with a lifeshattering loss, one day Jesse gets in her car and drives away from her overwhelming life in NYC; leaving her partner, Mel (De’Adre Aziza), and everything behind, in search of something she doesn’t even know she is looking for.

Along the road, she meets several random characters (each played by Zachary Noah Piser), all of whom remind her of what she is running from. Her journey ends up in the redwood forest of Eureka, California, where she meets Finn (Michael Park) and Becca (N’keki Obi-Melekwe). This is where Jesse’s journey of selfdiscovery begins and eventually leads her back to life.

As a long-time lover and fan of the powerhouse known as Idina Menzel, I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed. And I wasn’t. From the moment she first walks on stage, Menzel never leaves until the final light slowly dims on her.

With a performance that conveys the depths of grief that is

eventually balanced with healing, I was completely committed to Menzel’s Jesse and her journey. The music is perfectly tailored to her voice. When she hits those big notes, which are part of why she is accurately branded as one of the “Queens of Musical Theatre,” she knocks them out of the park.

After following her career for over two decades, I could see glimpses of many of the other characters she’s played over the years in her performance; however, I never lost sight of the character that was on stage in front of me.

While Redwood is absolutely a star vehicle for Menzel, it also features a strong supporting cast of actors. I just wish that as an audience, we got to know them more. If there was a second act, these characters would surely be more fleshed out; however, in a one-act production that runs 1 hour and 50 minutes without an intermission, we really only get a glimpse of them and who they are. As veterans of the Broadway stage, each of the supporting actors all bring their characters to life with ease.

Michael Park – who will always be Jack Snyder from “As the World Turns” and an original cast member of Dear Evan Hansen in my mind – was charismatic, with an almost paternal quality in his role of Finn, who gives Jesse her opportunity in the forest.

Park’s rendition of the song, “A Little Bit Wild,” was entertaining, accompanied by his “Dad” moves.

N’Keki Obi-Melekwe, who blew me away as Tina Turner on Broadway a couple of seasons ago, plays the role of Becca with a sense of dry humor and a very “by the book” attitude. If you see the show, take note of what she explains about having to buy a helmet as a black woman; she’s 100% right! She also has a great song called “Little Redwood.”

While De’Adre Aziza’s Mel was played with a genuine sense of love and concern for Jesse, it seemed her character was only necessary to drive the story. I kept wanting more for her to do, other than wait for Jesse to be ready to return back to their life together.

On a side-note, when she and Menzel were singing together, for a fleeting moment, I couldn’t help but think I was having a flashback to watching Maureen and Joanne in RENT.

Zachary Noah Piser, who plays a mix of characters, only pops in and out of the story, but his big number, “Still,” near the end of the show, is worth the wait. I’m a self-admitted crybaby at the theater, but judging by the sniffles all around me, I wasn’t the only one moved to tears.

I would be remiss to not acknowledge the sixth and only non-human cast member of the company, “Stella,” the tree.

Another aspect that makes this production work is the tech. As we walked into the Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theater, I noticed that the entire space was a blank, white slate, including a completely empty stage, which immediately piqued my curiosity. Bravo to media designer, Hana S. Kim, and lighting designer, Scott Zielinski, for transforming and providing the immersive feeling of sitting in the middle of the redwoods. I was completely

blown away. At the talkback after the show, it was mentioned that there are 20 projectors to provide the visuals that fill the space of the theater. Honestly, it was just like being on a ride at Disneyland. I’m curious to see if this one will find its way to NYC and how the intimacy of it will be replicated in one of the larger, Broadway houses. It definitely has the substance and the star power already on its side to make the transition. One thing I will say is that if it makes it to the Great White Way, I will absolutely be buying my ticket. It’s great to see original pieces being produced in this day and age, where so many of the new works are just “jukebox” musicals; it’s even better when we are treated to one as beautiful as this.

If you are able to find a ticket to Redwood before it closes, don’t hesitate to buy it. Single tickets are being released here and there for the sold out run that ends on Sunday, March 31. La Jolla Playhouse is located 2910 La Jolla Village Dr. For tickets and more info, visit

–Originally from upstate New York, Chris Barone (aka “Miss B”) has been a part of the San Diego/Hillcrest community for 20 years. You probably know him mostly from Baja Betty’s, where he has worked since opening in 2004. Keen eyes may even remember him from his now retired drag persona, “Shalita Buffet.” Besides theater, his interests include cooking, traveling, New York Yankees baseball and anything involving Dolly Parton. You can reach him at christopher5409@ ▼

(l to r) N’Keki Obi-Melekwe and Idina Menzel in La Jolla Playhouse’s production of “Redwood” (Photos courtesy La Jolla Playhouse) (l to r) Zachary Noah Piser Idina Menzel on set of “Redwood”

Dan Levy Talks Grief and the Importance of Chosen Family

The ‘Schitt’s Creek’’creator plays a grieving husband in his directorial film debut, ‘Good Grief’

The grief was very real for Dan Levy, who [had two losses] over the span of a couple of years during the pandemic. And then he did something very Dan Levy with that grief — he opened a blank page and got to work on “Good Grief,” a Netflix film, out now, that he wrote, directed and stars in.

The film is the “Schitt’s Creek” creator’s first major endeavor after his Emmy-winning show became a sleeper hit as the world shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, when we sheltered in place (in front of our TVs). In “Good Grief,” Levy plays Marc, an artist we meet at a Christmas party that ends tragically for his husband, Oliver (Luke Evans), who dies in a car accident right outside their place. Marc is left trying to make sense of his sudden loss and what he didn’t know about Oliver’s life before it ended, which takes him to a secret flat Oliver had in Paris. With Marc on his unexpected journey to healing his shattered self, are his dearest friends, Sophie (Ruth Negga) and Thomas (Himesh Patel).

I recently spoke with Levy about the film, which he sees as an opportunity to flex new creative muscles, including his portrayal of a character who may be as stylish as David Rose, even if he isn’t him, exactly.

(Chris Azzopardi / CA) It’s nice to have you back in regular conversation, Dan. It’s been a few

years. The world was on a real Dan Levy kick for a while.

(Dan Levy / DL) [Laughs.] I think it’s nice to take a break. It’s nice for everyone to take a break. You don’t want to ever overstay your welcome. So I’m happy that there’s something that I care about that I’m able to talk about now.

(CA) What goes through your mind when something that is so personal to you gets its wings and is released into the world?

(DL) Well, it’s tough because it’s done. And I care deeply about it, and that’s all that really kind of matters to me outside of the viewers that watch it and hopefully find some point of connectivity in it. It’s always a very sort of awkward thing to kind of have to sell your work.

But I’m really happy with it and it’s a movie that I know that I would like to watch and one that speaks to my life right now in a way that I feel is quite truthful. And yeah, it’s a weird thing to put it out there and then have people do what they will with it.

But at the end of the day, I’m grateful for the opportunity, ultimately. It’s a 180 from what people have come to know me from. And those opportunities don’t get handed out all the time. So I was really grateful that some people over at Netflix were willing to go in this new direction with me. And yeah, I’m just glad that there’s a movie out there that speaks to my life in a meaningful way, that speaks to friendship and found family and the fact that, for a lot of people out there who are without kids and without partners, that friendships are the great loves of our lives.

(CA) Did you draw from your own found family for the film?

(DL) I did. You know, I was realizing once you get into your 30s — I’m 40 now, but was 37 when I started developing the film — relationships change. Really good, long friendships. The more your life takes on weight, the more that applies to friendships and what we’re willing to compromise and what we’re willing not to, and the hard conversations we need to have in order to invest in our friendships so that they can have life going into the next 40 years of our lives.

It’s uncomfortable at times, but I’ve been finding myself having really meaningful, truthful conversations with friends through this desire to be OK. If you have a friendship that’s a decade or two decades old, there’s going to be some stuff that you need to talk about at some

And it’s good because you can put your life into a swath of different characters, and you’re able to ask questions of yourself and others by way of dialogue and the way that different characters interact with each other and process tragedy or love.

It’s all been this wonderful catharsis of sorts, and this movie was huge for me in that sense. It led me to this path of understanding that culminates in a scene toward the end of the movie between my character and [actor] Celia Imrie, where she ultimately says, “To avoid sadness is also to avoid love.” That was one of the big takeaways from this whole experience for me, and it just ended up on the page. And I didn’t really know where it came from, and yet it all was leading to that for me, that kind of revelation of the importance of being OK with sadness and letting it in and trying to understand it.

point, like an actual partner. And it’s about normalizing that, and the fact that those hard conversations are essentially an act of love. It’s an investment in a meaningful relationship.

(CA) How did working on this film help you process your own feelings around grief?

(DL) Writing it really was the first step. I was going through some grief. I lost my grandmother and I lost my dog [Redmond]. And it was the only thing I could do, really. I wasn’t able to articulate it vocally. And I sat down at my computer and just started to write an outline for this film, and it came quite naturally. And it has nothing to do with my own personal grief, but everything to do with the feelings and the detangling of those feelings and trying to understand what it all means.

So as a writer, I tend to put everything down on the page and see what happens. Between “Schitt’s Creek” and this movie,

(CA) In your own experience and through your exploration of grief, how do you think queer people are impacted differently when it comes to loss?

(DL) I guess I can only really speak to my own experience, because I think the community has experienced grief in so many different ways. And people are going to process it in so many different ways. I think for me, that really manifested in the friendships. In this idea of having a safety net of friends there to help you. Because I think for a lot of people in the community, they don’t have family to turn to. I’m very lucky that I do. But I think this idea of friendships helping to soften the blow of some real tragedy speaks to the community as a whole.

(CA) In both “Schitt’s Creek” and now “Good Grief,” wealthy characters comment in various ways on social class. Is there something you’re still trying to say about that topic with this movie?

After the smashing success of Schitt’s Creek, Dan Levy wrote, directed and starred in “Good Grief,” now streaming. (Courtesy Netflix). Levy directing “Good Grief.” (Courtesy Netflix)
See LEVY page 16 Q-Puzzle solution from page 13

(DL) I think so. I mean, I think in a way, the character of Marc is such an avoidant, and essentially sort of ran away from his mother’s death into the arms of a very handsome and successful writer. And so Oliver’s success, I think there was something nice about showing a gay man who’s successful and living a wonderful life, despite the odds, despite where he came from. I think we hear through his father’s eulogy that it wasn’t the easiest upbringing, and yet he succeeded. So there was something nice about showing that.

But for Marc, it was all distraction. He was able to really run away from his sadness into the arms of this beautiful new life that was soft and comfortable and exciting and sexy and all of those sort of wonderful things that would allow him to quickly not forget, but repress. So this indulgence before helped to really set up Marc’s relationship to his husband’s success, and ultimately realizing that he doesn’t need it. He doesn’t need that life in the end. He needed something a little bit more grounded, and he needed a life that was more defined for himself.

(CA) When we spoke in 2018, “Schitt’s Creek” hadn’t become the cultural phenomenon that it eventually became. And kind of overnight, even though I know it was not overnight for you …

(DL) It kind of was, though. I think it was over the pandemic, which felt like both forever and a complete blink.

(CA) How weird to feel that during a pandemic, right?

(DL) It continues to be a very strange thing. I talk to the cast about it. It’s a very weird thing to go indoors for two years and come out a completely different person socially. It’s really disorienting. And you don’t get to be out and about and slowly start to understand that people know who you are.

It’s a very harsh confrontation of the fact that your life is completely different and your relationship with privacy is completely different. And it also doesn’t allow you any time to understand that you are, in fact, recognizable. So I think of that as a great opportunity, because there’s no ego attached to quote-unquote “fame” at this point, because we’re all still confused about what’s going on, to be perfectly honest.

[Actor] Emma Corrin is a very close friend of mine, and they went through something very similar with “The Crown” over the pandemic as well, where suddenly everyone knew who they were, and yet we were all indoors. So we’re still kind of thawing to this new version of our lives. You can’t complain about it, obviously, because it’s off the back of great success and opportunity, but it is certainly disorienting and so weird.

(CA) Were you even more eager to leave your house after or during the pandemic to understand what it might feel like as “Schitt’s Creek” became a success?

(DL) No. It forced me into my house even more. [Laughs.] Now it takes more to get me out of the house, to be honest. Because it’s not something that I love, frankly. I accept it because it’s part of the job, but it’s certainly not something that I’m lusting after. And so yeah, it’s been very strange. It’s been wonderful. It’s great to hear people. I think fans of the show are so generous and so kind with how they approach me and the things that they say and the comfort that the show has brought them. So I think some fandoms can be really, really intense. I think the “Schitt’s Creek” fandom community is very kind.

(CA) They have a Canadian sensibility, even though they might not be Canadian?

(DL) Exactly. We’ve somehow succeeded in just Canadianizing our wonderful fans of the show.

(CA) Did you think intentionally about how to move yourself away as an actor from David, considering how iconic that character has become?

(DL) It’s a wonderful thing, because there’s a real personal connection, I guess, to the

character and people feeling like they know me. I’m in some ways very close to David, and in some ways completely opposite. I think 80 episodes of doing the same character was the greatest experience, and yet you come out of it and you have a desire, as I think all actors do, to flex a different kind of muscle. And for me, I wanted to get into something a bit more dramatic. Unfortunately, given the culture of our industry, I only was receiving lesser versions of David Rose to play in other shows and movies.

And so I set out to write something for myself that I thought was a challenge. It was all very guttural. It was very instinctual. I didn’t have to strategize. I tended to just listen to where my gut was telling me to go. And it was a great challenge. And as an actor, it really forced me to shake some habits that had formed over 80 episodes of playing an incredibly elastic, reactive human being. The character of Marc in this movie is so still and so calm, and shaking some of those impulses to broaden the performance was a real challenge.

with every actor, frankly, from Ruth [Negga] and Himesh [Patel] to Kaitlyn [Dever] and Emma. Everyone was playing slightly against type, which was really exciting to me.

(CA) Have you ever sent a David meme or GIF?

(DL) No. I’ve never sent a David GIF. I have sent an Alexis GIF. I think that’s as far as I’ll allow myself to go. I’m too scared of what it looks like to send a GIF of yourself. It’s the Canadian in me. I could never. It’s way too arrogant.

(CA) I have to ask you a question that everyone has been wondering: When will there be a “Schitt’s Creek” revival?

But I hope for anyone who becomes identified by way of a character: We should be so lucky. There’s that. If people recognize me as David Rose for the rest of my life, let that be the case. It’s so rare that you get to participate in anything that affects people in that kind of way. But at the same time, I wish for any actor who is kind of being put in a box by way of their previous performances, that they’d be given the opportunity to show range. I think we’ve seen historically really great comedy actors excel in drama: Robin Williams, Tom Hanks, Jim Carrey We have to shift this idea that if someone becomes recognizable for one thing, that that’s somehow all they can do. I love the idea of pushing actors outside of their comfort zones. And I think this movie did that

(DL) I don’t know if we’ll ever do it. You end on a high note. Listen, we as a culture want, want, want, want, want. We want it now. It’s binge culture. We want to watch an entire season of a television show in two days because that’s what we want. And yet, I think to not give people what they want is cool. And I think it forces them to return to the show. Think about all the shows that overstayed their welcome. You will never go back and rewatch episodes of those TV shows. The shows that I go back to over and over and over again are the shows that left at just the right time, and I go back because I want that feeling again. I think we are in a culture now that’s even more critical than when “Schitt’s Creek” ended, frankly. And so I don’t know. If I wake up one day with an idea for a movie or a Christmas special or something, and it is fucking brilliant and uses everybody to the best of their ability, and all of our actors can come back and feel excited to be there and feel like we’re doing something fresh and new, great. That idea has not come to me, and I’m not entirely sure it will. But we will see.

–Chris Azzopardi is the editorial director of Pride Source Media Group and Q Syndicate, the national LGBTQ+ wire service. He has interviewed a multitude of superstars, including Cher, Meryl Streep, Mariah Carey and Beyoncé. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, Vanity Fair, GQ and Billboard. Reach him via Twitter @chrisazzopardi. ▼

Levy (left) as Marc, an artist we first meet at a Christmas party that ends tragically, and his husband, Oliver, played by Luke Evans (Courtesy Netflix) Deep in thought before the funeral. (Courtesy Netflix) Levy on set of “Good Grief.” (Courtesy Netflix) FROM
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