LA LGBTQ community unites to support Hot Donna bar


Here’s who you might meet at Hot Donna’s Clubhouse: a woman who started selling “Girls Gays & Theys” shirts after being put on leave during the pandemic; a former contestant of a queer reality TV show; DJs, singers, drag kings and burlesque artists; a modeled couple who formalized it on a swan boat; old friends, recent transplants from LA, and people who will ask you to sit with them if you look alone; hundreds of people ready to drive to any part of LA for an inclusive space.

This is a sample of those who attended a fundraiser for Hot Donna’s on a recent scorching Saturday afternoon at Pan Pacific Park. Members of the crowd were decked out in their finest summer outfits – crop tops, matching sets in tropical linen, flowy tank tops and sundresses, trendy sportswear, vans, sandals and combat boots – to dance to. , come out and vibrate.

It was part a block party, part a festival, part a concert and part a reunion. For many, it was the first time they had come to a party – let alone a predominantly queer space – since the closures last year.

Technically, the Hot Donna’s Clubhouse does not yet exist. It’s an idea, a concept, a hope for an inclusive LGBTQ party space shared by hundreds of queer Angelenos but without a permanent location. But if – more likely when – it opened in a place of bricks and mortar, it would immediately transform the LGBTQ bar scene in LA.

The Hot Donna’s Clubhouse was envisioned by Lauren Richer, a 32-year-old casting director, as a space designed for a community of “queer women and gender equality”: lesbians, women, non-binary people and the transgender community. Queer people of color. Homosexuals of all body types.

the Los Angeles County’s latest lesbian bar, the Oxwood Inn, closed in 2017. The main options for the demographic that Richer draws to the city are pop-up parties like Divorce Party and Gay Astrology or gay bars, which tend to cater to cisgender white males and favor alcohol, drink, and partying.

But at the clubhouse, guests could grab coffee from a gay-owned roaster in the morning and dance to “Dancing Queen” and “good 4 u” in the evening, like they did at an after party. -party at the Naughty Pig in West Hollywood. Think the Planet from “The L Word” – Richer does not only want to open a bar, but an “experiential” space.

The event gave the energy that the clubhouse proposes to give.

Participants participate in a water balloon toss during the Hot Donnas Clubhouse event at Pan Pacific Park in Los Angeles.

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

“The purpose of the pop-up in the park was to really give [a sense] of what it would be like to be at Hot Donna, ”said Richer. “You could be there during the day, meet people, have fun anyway. If you wanted to have a drink, so much the better. Otherwise, you could have something to eat or you could get a tattoo from a non-binary queer artist. “

The pop-up was also aimed at raising funds to open a location, somewhere around Silver Lake or in West Hollywood, ideally this year. The evening and the afterparty raised more than $ 20,000.

Richer has been planning to open the clubhouse for years. The pandemic gave him time to focus on the project and start recruiting allies, volunteers and a team with the help and support of the queer community of LA. Friends put her in touch with friends in the shopping space, people started reaching out to help or offer advice.

Liza Katsman, 32, met Richer through a mutual friend in the queer community. Katsman, who has an MBA with a major in entrepreneurship, thought she would just talk to Richer over the phone to give him some advice, but the relationship developed when she started helping investors, recruiting staff and to finalize the vision. She is now responsible for the development of the brand.

“It’s unbelievable to me. I love it, ”she said of the popularity of the event. “But is it surprising? No. I knew there would be massive turnout, I know people are looking for the community.

A person, left, in a yellow jacket and boxers and a brown cowboy hat, next to a person in a purple spandex and pink fur jacket

Jace Rubino as Drag King Prinze Valentino, left, poses with burlesque-playing Ruby Bacchemin as Ruby Roulette at the Hot Donna’s Clubhouse pop-up party.

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

When Jace Rubino, a 29-year-old drag king who performs under the stage name Prinze Valentino, and his partner Ruby Bacchemin (stage name Ruby Roulette), a 27-year-old burlesque and hula hoop artist, discovered the Hot Project of Donna, they gave of their time. The couple, who met in a mixed queer drag and burlesque troupe in Cincinnati, moved to Los Angeles four months ago.

It’s not enough to have gay clubs that cater to cisgender men, who have a different culture, they said.

“Sometimes we feel invisible there, so it’s really important that we have that space,” said Rubino. “As soon as I heard about it, I was like, ‘I have to contact them, I want to collaborate.'”

For both of them, Saturday was their first live performance after months of Zooms and Twitch streams.

“It was exhilarating,” said Rubino, still wearing gold shorts he had worn during his performance on “Danger! High Voltage” by Electric Six.

Bachir accepted. Wearing a bodycon lavender dress and firefighter red wig in a 1940s-style bun, she strutted through the audience after Rubino’s act to the stage, where she danced and did a hoop on ” Make Me Feel “by Janelle Monae.

“There is nothing quite like being on stage with real people around you,” she said. “The energy is totally different, and it was overwhelming, but oh, it feels so good to be back. I feel like I’m a whole person again.

As artists like Rubino and Bashir took to the main stage, where dozens of guests stretched out on picnic blankets or braved the scorching heat of the amphitheater’s concrete seats, others took part in games like throwing water balloons and human deadlift (in which, exactly like this, a human is lifted off the ground).

This part of the day was hosted by Queer Field Day, which was co-founded by Lilly Brown and married couple Adrianne and Kayleen Casey this spring.

A person on all fours in a grassy field surrounded by others smiling and clapping

Friends cheer on Chrissy Barron, 30, who won the push-up contest with 56 push-ups at the Hot Donna’s Clubhouse fundraising pop-up.

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Chrissy Barron, a 30-year-old Crossfit fan who works as VP of Marketing, described the party vibe as supportive and loving – but she also didn’t come out to play. She topped the push-up contest with 56 impressively accurate push-ups (and a celebratory twerk).

“Oh my god, so many endorphins,” Barron said after his victory. “I’m so competitive so it’s really ridiculous.”

Barron was there to support her friend she met on the first Queer Field Day, Alexis Radig. Radig, a 32-year-old product designer, opened HeyGay !, a clothing and merchandise store, while on leave during the pandemic. The shop sells shirts with slogans like “girls gays & theys” or embroidered with different pronouns.

At one point, Jenna Brown, a 27-year-old actress, took part in the LGBTQ season of “Are You the One?” from MTV. and host for her sister Lilly’s Queer Field Day, approached.

Jenna, dressed in a black crop top, ripped jeans and black combat boots, had animated the push-up contest, alternating encouragement, criticism of mediocre push-ups and inconsistent screams from a drill sergeant into a megaphone.

The two spoke briefly about their push-up prowess. Soon a small group is formed. Jenna and Barron were joined by Radig and Vic Molina, a 24-year-old and recently transplanted baseball agent in LA whom they met that day.

“I know several people who have already met girlfriends here. There are people who met at Queer Field Day and it warms my heart to levels I can’t explain, ”Jenna said. “Connecting gay people is my goal in life. “

Brown’s older sister Lilly, 30, co-founded Queer Field Day after several of her TikTok followers noticed how many queer friends she had popped up in her videos. One of them suggested that he organize a meeting for people looking to mingle. Lilly estimates that around 300 to 400 people showed up to the first Queer Field Day event in May in Venice Beach.

On social media, Lilly overheard several people say that they had lived in Los Angeles for years and didn’t know how to find queer events. She was familiar with wrestling – after moving to Los Angeles in 2014, she immediately began going to parties hosted by Whitney Mixter, a cast member of Showtime’s “The Real L Word” documentary, to meet people.

“I just got lucky to have watched this show… but there was so much more going on that I didn’t know,” Lilly said.

Brown emphasized the importance of having a place online, searchable, that isn’t a party moving from place to place, and how that space would give people a sense of security. “It’s just a place where you can get the warm embrace that you need your whole life,” she said.

A couple, both in black pants and sports bras, hold hands

Ari Julien, 24, an assistant in the entertainment industry, left with graduate student Trae Wagoner, 25.

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Ari Julien, a 24-year-old assistant in the entertainment industry and her partner Trae Wagoner, a 25-year-old graduate student, were there to meet a woman who was helping plan the event.

“That’s what you do, right?” You are volunteering for their event. I try to support myself here, ”joked Julien. “We actually didn’t even know it was for a lesbian bar until today or yesterday which was even better.”

Julien said a place like Hot Donna’s would give lesbians and queer women a place to hang out to hang out and socialize. She and Wagoner met last year on the Bumble dating app, when Wagoner was living in Arizona, and they’re now living with a dog.

“Look at the turnout, are you telling me there’s no business for a lesbian bar?” Julien said, pointing to the hundreds of people gathered in the park. “All of these people are looking for spaces like this. “

Wagoner said she has only been to one lesbian bar in her life – a small place in Arizona where the music is country and the dancing is a step in two.

“I felt so comfortable immediately, I almost had tears in my eyes when I was there,” she said.

The experience was magical.

“Having that here would be even better,” she said.

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