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Carol Curtis: Hillcrest’s ‘piano wench’

By Ben Cartwright

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two part story.

A few decades ago, it wasn’t uncommon to find a gay piano bar, or at least a piano in several gay bars. Only a handful of these types of establishments still exist across the country, where people can come together for drinks in a low-key environment, while listening to live piano music and singing. Los Angeles’ last gay piano bar, The Other Side, closed in 2012, but luckily LGBT San Diegans have at least two left: Martinis Above Fourth in Hillcrest and The Caliph in Bankers Hill.

While Martinis Above Fourth has expanded to include all sorts of live entertainment and ticketed shows some nights of the week, they still have live piano and vocal entertainment by community favorites, such as Don LeMaster, Ria Carey, Janice Edwards, Nathan Fry and Andy Anderson on select nights each week.

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Innermission impresses with ‘Ordinary Days’  

By Jean Lowerison | Theater Review

Everyone in the world is (or has been) lonely. Composer Adam Gwon’s pop opera “Ordinary Days” introduces us to four people in New York who make connections, which may or may not become permanent.

I know, you’ve seen this a million times before, but Gwon’s little chamber opera charms with fine melodies and often clever lyrics.

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How Todrick Hall found his yellow brick road

By Chris Azzopardi

Todrick Hall grew up in Plainview, Texas, with a dream to be “one of these black women who could sing all these crazy notes.” It is, after all, in his blood —his cousin is none other than “Dreamgirls” song slayer Jennifer Holliday.

But first, as a child, the aspiring soul singer found life in “The Little Mermaid,” replicating Ariel’s crimson hair with a red towel on his head and gadgets and gizmos a-plenty. Clasping a fork, he created a makeshift fishtail by binding his feet together with a water hose. Meanwhile, to channel another hero of his, Catwoman, he got his hands on some blue tape, nails and a jump rope, which doubled as his whip and tail.

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Hillcrest CityFest Street & Music Festival returns

Posted: August 4th, 2017 | Arts & Entertainment, Features, Music, Top Story | 2 Comments

By HBA Staff

With nearly 100 years of history, the Hillcrest Business Association continues to shape the story of our community. And since 1984 — that story along with the story of the Hillcrest sign — is celebrated with CityFest, an annual street fair and music festival that draws over 150,000 people to the heart of the community every August.

It all began in 1886 when the region known as University Heights began to grow northward. Subdivisions soon popped up to border Balboa Park and in 1907, William Wesley Whitson opened the “Hillcrest Company” to sell parcels of land, giving birth to the community of Hillcrest.

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Top-floor boss

By Frank Sabatini Jr. | Restaurant Review

Ingrid Funes has figuratively and literally made her way to the top since leaving her native El Salvador at age 15 to pursue a restaurant career in Los Angeles.

Now the executive chef of Cusp Dining & Drinks, where customers are afforded opulent views of La Jolla from an 11th-floor dining room and bar lounge, Lunes proves that you don’t have to be a man or an alumna of some highfalutin culinary school to achieve success.

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Pride moments

Posted: July 21st, 2017 | Features, Pride, Top Story | 1 Comment

By Morgan M. Hurley | Editor

For the first time in many years I watched the Pride Parade from the sidelines rather than partake in it in the contingents. We had just launched our @Gay_SD Instagram account and I was spending the day documenting what I saw, so I could upload to our Instagram account. And what an amazing day it was (until the Verizon cell towers maxed out of capacity and I lost my phone in an Uber for the rest of the weekend).

But despite possible protests, division over longtime community leaders, political battles over new hirings and future departures, and the conflict of our divided nation, this was a Pride celebration for the record books.

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Where the girls run the show

Posted: July 21st, 2017 | Arts & Entertainment, Features, Music, Top Story | No Comments

By Joyell Nevins

S-A-N Diego, wuh oh! Where the rock meets the roll! S-A-N Diego, wuh oh! Where the girls run the show!

Damn right. As a girl, I might be slightly biased. As an aunt, though, and a member of society, I am justifiably ecstatic by the presence of a “Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls” in San Diego, of which the above is part of their theme song. Melissa Grove and her dedicated team of volunteers — including local musician and proud LGBT activist Laura Payne — have taken a concept started by Girls Rock Camp Alliance and made it thrive in San Diego.

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Transforming UC San Diego, inside and out

By Ian Morton | Profiles in Advocacy

The specific issue was whether or not a business should have to make a wedding cake for a same-sex ceremony. The broader ramifications were whether a privately owned business could deny services based on the patron’s perceived sexuality or gender identity.

As a former pharmacy technician, I remember wondering what would happen if a small town’s local pharmacy or private medical practice were suddenly allowed to deny services or medications based on these factors, and how horrifying that would be for LGBTQ individuals.

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‘Animal Crackers’ is bonkers!

By Jean Lowerisonn | Theater Review

“The world would not be in such a snarl, had Marx been Groucho instead of Karl.”  —Irving Berlin

Leave your critical and logical faculties at home when you head for Cygnet Theatre’s wild and woolly staging of the classic goofball Marx Brothers musical, “Animal Crackers.” 

Most people know the 1930 film “Animal Crackers,” a truncated version that cut most of the songs. Now, Cygnet Theatre recreates the era and brings back the brothers in Henry Wishcamper’s stage adaptation of the original 1928 Broadway musical.

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Backseat dining

By Frank Sabatini Jr.        

It was a reservation for two.

“We have the car for you,” said the hostess to our bewilderment, while leading us toward the rear section of the warehouse-style dining room and past a busy, open kitchen.

Within moments a shiny red Fiat perched a couple feet off the ground came into view. Its front seats were missing and the side doors were ajar. Implanted inside was our table, an attention-getting perch that sent my tall spouse into a moment of panic.

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Together strong

By Morgan M. Hurley | Editor

Richard “Rikke” Bahena, known to many in the community as the manager of the popular local watering hole #1 Fifth Ave., is also a photographer. While he was never professionally schooled in the art of photography, he has what the business calls “an eye” for the craft. This quality, coupled with Bahena’s passion for how he “sees the beauty in all things” has resulted in a body of work that has adorned the covers and pages of various local magazines, newspapers, books and record albums over the years.

“As an artist there is nothing better than to see your work all over the place making an impact and creating something powerful,” he said. “But what I care the most is the message I have as a human being, where we all matter and deserve respect, equality and to be treated with dignity, justice, and offered the same opportunities.”

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The power of music

By Jess Winans

What was supposed to be another fun Saturday night spinning records at a popular Orlando gay club turned into a nightmare for Ray Rivera. In the early hours of June 12, 2016, Rivera — whose stage name is DJ Infinite — was playing hits and preparing to wind down the large crowd on the dance floor at Pulse Nightclub’s outdoor patio. He loved watching them dance to the beats he created, beaming with pride and knowing that it was there, at that club, they could truly be themselves.

Suddenly, Rivera’s beats were interrupted by gunshots that fateful night, where 49 members of the LGBTQ community and allies were killed during one of the most horrific mass shootings in American history.

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A marriage of beer and liquor

Posted: July 7th, 2017 | Features, Food & Drink, Profiles, Top Story | No Comments

By Morgan M. Hurley | Editor

Since opening up just in advance of Pride weekend five years ago, Hillcrest Brewing Company — touted as the only LGBT-owned brewery in the world — has become a welcome addition to the gayborhood. Their popular pizzas, tangy wings and array of house-made craft beers and guest craft brew taps draw people from all over to their humble, industrial-style space.

Each year they brew up a special “one-off” craft beer for Pride week, and there is another change this year, one that may take some by surprise: Hillcrest Brewing Company now has a liquor license.

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Grapes, suds and coffee

By Frank Sabatini Jr.

The most commonly asked question by first-time visitors to Negociant Urban Winery is, “Do you make the wines here?”

According to co-owner John Rinaldi, their jaws often drop when he answers “Yes,” despite stacks of wooden barrels forming the backdrop to a modest-size tasting room and wine-making facility that formerly housed a tanning salon.

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Tracing San Diego’s queer history

By Archives Staff | Out of the Archives

On a bright December day in 1970, 60 or so San Diegans gathered in Presidio Park with balloons, face paint, and guitars to take part in a monumental picnic. Despite homophobia and hostility toward gays prevailing as a mainstream position of society at that time, these folks came together to publicly express and celebrate their sexuality. The crowd danced, sang, played games, and displayed posters asserting their right to be out and proud. In the spirit of civil rights activism, the event was declared a “Gay-In.”

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