Last weekend was the third weekend of August, one in which Madison’s LGBT+ community celebrates and puts on a show. Normally, that would have included a parade up State Street and a rally around the Capitol Square. This year, however, thanks to city ordinances, police department demands, and organizational logistics, event organizers went back to the future, as it were…
There’s an anniversary in our family this week that I imagine we’ve forgotten about because we’ve been so busy. I didn’t, however, although for a moment I forgot exactly which day it occurred. For sure, though, it was in the month of May. And definitely for sure, it occurred 20 years ago today (May 16, 1999). This was the day that the older of my two sisters graduated from college.
Sis has been in the health care world for her entire professional life, and during the 1990s she went for further schooling, starting out at UW—Green Bay for a couple of semesters before transferring to UW—Madison. And 20 years ago, our entire family spent the weekend herein Madison, where we all saw Sis walk up to that stage, grab that diploma, and turn her tassel from right to left.
At the time I write this, it’s not just Saturday morning, but the last Saturday of April. On this day, traditionally, the Crazylegs Classic takes place. As loyal readers of this blog may recall, I’ve run the 8-kilometer-long Crazylegs each of the last three years (2016, 2017, and 2018). Each time, it was a great experience, though naturally the first of those three was the most amazing.
This year, however, I’m skipping Crazylegs. No it’s not necessarily because the event’s 8K course will go nowhere near Capitol Square (its traditional, and inspiring, staging area), thanks in part to the same ridiculous City of Madison permit changes that will prevent an LGBT pride parade on State Street this year. And it’s not because the finish line setup and post-race party wasn’t as fun as many of my fellow participants had hoped it’d be. (The east side of Camp Randall? *ugh* A DJ instead of a live band? *yawn*) And it’s not because that around the time this year’s race begins at 10AM, Madison will start to get whopped by a nasty spring snowstorm (miserable weather has never stopped Crazylegs before).
If you’ve read some of my blog posts over the past year or so, you’ve sensed a lament of retail fashion and department store outlets succumbing to the pressures of nimble competition and owners who want to make a profit on their investment. It doesn’t matter whether it’s selling clothes or toys, whether they catered to a younger or older crowd, or even if they were prominent in online sales. If a store closes up shop, it leaves an empty space in your nearby mall/plaza/whatever, creates queasiness in city and mall managers, and definitely leaves a big pit in an avid shopper’s heart.
Unfortunately, what’s been a leading reason for these stores/chains shuttering is bankruptcy. It’s been happening with Shopko, which declared Chapter 11 in late January and has announced more than several store closures since then, including their last 3 locations here in the Madison area. For Shopko, not only is their misfortune the result of withering competition, it also involves keeping lining further the pockets of their
vulture private equity owners. At the beginning of this month, it was revealed that Shopko had to borrow over $179 million from financial lenders to pay dividends and “consulting fees” to the investment firm that owns it. Some of that money — $13.5 million worth — could have gone to the State of Wisconsin in the form of taxes and other fees Shopko still owes the state. Yeah, that’s a lot of money, and who knows what Shopko’s fate could be right now if it went to where it should have gone (i.e. the taxman, employees, debtors) instead of the fat-cat owners who want only one thing: A quick return on their investment. Continue reading
By now, you’ve perhaps heard of the hopefully happy news in the world of retail shopping: Sears is going to stick around a little longer. A couple of weeks or so ago, a U.S. bankruptcy judge allowed a plan by the chairman and biggest shareholder of Sears’ and Kmart’s parent company to stay in business, beating back challenges by creditors of the company who wanted a liquidation.
So, the judge’s approval means that Sears’ 425 stores will stay open, and its 45,000 employees will remain on the job. While that’s good news, naturally, it’s not all sunshine and lollypops at the moment: Sears Holdings has been under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since October, and since that time has closed several of its stores, including its location at West Towne Mall, just down the road from where I live. And it still has to find a way to attract those who left it behind for the likes of Walmart, Target, and Amazon.
One month ago, I wrote in this post about Plan B, the LGBT-oriented nightclub on Williamson Street that you see in the above photo, and how wound up in a very unflattering light. To sum up: Back in December, some drag performers had a cow when club staff forbid them from changing in their usual dressing room. The queens called out the club on social media, with some of them severing ties with Plan B. Several other performers and patrons said “I can top that story” and called out club ownership for how they ran the club, one owner in particular for his treatment of staff and customers, and one security staffer for an incident with a black patron.
When the dust settled, Plan B was sold, with founding owner Rico Sabatini returning to take ownership of the club. It also led to some reflecting of what Plan B became under the previous ownership — that is, a club that was and still is widely popular but lost its original focus of being a safe and inviting haven for the LGBT+ community.
Time to get back on my high horse blogging-wise and share some news about a prominent LGBT-oriented venue here in Madison. Well, at least it was originally established to be a positive part of our community.
The building you see above is at 924 Williamson Street. Until over a decade ago, it was the longtime home to Star Photo Service; look closely at the upper front façade and you can make out a faded star that once was Star Photo’s marquis sign.
Then in August 2009, during Madison’s pride weekend, the ownership team of Rico Sabatini and Corey Gresen opened the nightclub Plan B on this site. The club’s opening came after 2½ years of not just finding a location for the club but also remodeling it for suitability. (The name “Plan B” is a nod to the false starts and changes in plans that preceded its opening.)
Virtually from the get-go, Plan B became a very popular spot, one where Madison’s LGBT community could meet, converse, drink, dance, perform, and be themselves. Speaking of performing, Plan B has been home to regular drag performances over the years, not only from national performers but those from here in Madison and Wisconsin. Trixie Mattel (yes, that Trixie Mattel) was a part of Plan B’s drag cast before hitting it big not once but twice on RuPaul’s Drag Race. And Plan B has not limited itself to the inside of the club either, as it’s used its parking lot and the street in front of it to stage its Fruit Fest block party every June. Continue reading
Back in September 2017, I posed for a professional photographer for the first time, doing so before the camera of Katie Berry at Smoketree Photography. Three months later (December 2017), Katie, her partner, and their friends in the Everyday Gay Holiday art studio/collective on Atwood Avenue threw a holiday get-together for their friends in the LGBT+ community — a “HOLIgay” party. While I’m not a party person, I jumped at the chance to doll myself up, snack on some food, and mingle with other LGBT+ people from the Madison community.
Being the photographer that she is, Katie set up a corner in the studio to let the partygoers use her fancy camera and snap a few free selfies in front of a festive “toyland/horse/holiday/winter wonderland” setting. Not wanting to pass up a photo opportunity while looking fabulous, I took the remote and snapped a few photos. There I was in red hair, soft sweater, and patent vinyl Forever 21 skirt, and Katie’s remote clicker in hand, smiling and being all beautiful for the camera. (Oh, the Santa hat was among the available props in the studio.)
It’s been a few days since the 2018 general elections here in the United States. As with every election season, the 2018 conclusion had some good, bad, and very best news:
- The good news about that is that we no longer have to put up with awful campaign attack ads dirtying up the airwaves (at least until 2020 or *sigh* late 2019).
- The bad news is that not every candidate with a forward-thinking viewpoint won their election (as the saying goes, you can’t win ’em all *sigh*).
- But the very best news? Well, let me get off this bullet point and tell you…
Okay, the very best news is the advancements of bright, shining, forward-minded political stars on Tuesday night, the biggest highlight being the biggest takeaway of the night, at least among many political pundits: The Democratic Party gained the majority of seats the House of Representatives! That means that America now has a little bit of a check and balance against You Know Who and his myopic, misogynistic, anti-everything administration.
I want to share with you a little personal tidbit I left out during my recap of the OutReach Awards Banquet I attended last week Friday. And I want to preface this by saying that I have never told anyone I’ve worked with or encountered in my professional career that I dress up as Allison, nor do I have any plans to do so. And there have been only two people who have seen me present as both female and male, and both of them have seen me in male mode only once.
All that being said, there was someone I’ve encountered in my professional male-mode past who was literally inches from me at the OutReach banquet.