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The year in queer

Cartoon bears and lesbian barbers. These were a few of our favorite things.

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Best hump-day bookends
Chicago’s alt queer-party scene has needed a jolt (how many times can Chances spin off itself?). Enter Queer Social Club and Northern Lights (both on Facebook), two parties happening the first and last Wednesday of each month, respectively. The brainchild of bartender Pete Del Re from Archie’s Iowa and Rockwell Tavern in Humboldt Park (where the event happens), QSC merges a chill homo vibe with rotating events such as whiskey tastings, art shows and free buffets. At Parlour bar in Rogers Park, DJs Ali McDonald and Erik Roldan and performance artist Nicole Garneau have joined queer forces for Northern Lights, a night of dance and performance that’s featured dance trio Double DJ and performance artists Joseph Ravens and Saucy Cockteau. Did we mention the place is always packed?

Hottest Chicago winter night
On March 6, the fourth annual Chicago Takes Off, a striptease gala to benefit TPAN, warmed our insides (and our nether regions) with its randiest and most subversive outing yet. With revisionist versions of vintage TV shows, it gave new meaning to the term boob tube. Facts of Life in drag? Check. Batman and Robin in Speedos? Check. Gilligan’s Island’s Ginger and Mary Ann pole dancing on a palm tree? Check. Fifty dollars on admission well spent? Check.

Kindest community effort
To call it a boondoogle would be putting it mildly. In March, Howard Brown Health Center, the LGBT health-care org, was hit with allegations of mismanaged funds connected with a decades-long HIV/AIDS research study, resulting in a substantial loss of money. In November, the org acknowledged other revenue shortfalls and made a lifeline appeal for $500,000 by year’s end. The community responded swiftly and creatively with matching grants, impromptu benefit parties and confessional YouTube videos stressing the importance of the 36-year-old org. At press time, it was 75 percent toward its fund-raising goal.

Chicago’s funniest home video
Using Xtranormal, a DIY Web tool that creates animated shorts based on text commands, Boystown regular Dan Bardo’s spot-on lampoon of the Sidetrack crowd has earned more than 14,000 YouTube hits (keywords: “Gay Chicago”) as well as our devoted admiration. The fuss? Two cartoon bears debate whether to spend their night out at mainstay bar Sidetrack. One bear protests, “But we’ve gone there every night this past week.… There are over 20 bars in gay Chicago to choose from.… The music is not that good there.” The other repeatedly responds, in a robotlike voice, “I don’t care. I want to go to Sidetrack’s [sic].” It’s the most uproarious parody of Boystown we’ve ever seen. The best line: “I have spent so much money there, I’m sure I own three percent of the bar.” Priceless.

Best consolation prize
On November 30, the Illinois House passed HB 2234, a.k.a. the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act, 61-52. The hard-fought legislation adds Illinois to the roster of states allowing same-sex marriages, domestic partnerships or civil unions. Sponsored by State Rep. Greg Harris, the bill offers couples (gay or straight) basic protections such as emergency medical decision-making power and access to state spousal benefits but falls short of marriage equality. “We’re finally on the bus,” quipped a Facebook user. “We might be at the back of it, but at least we’re on it.” How true. The law takes effect in June.

Worthiest runners-up…
Secret supper clubs are all the rage. In May, we wrote about Yo Soy Supper Club, boyfriends Mikey Corona and Brian Riggenbach’s night of Mexican-Chinese fusion cooking with a dash of live performance and heaps of love. We were told performance trio DAAN would “blow our dicks off.” It did just that at events all over town, including an IML weekend celebration at Berlin. Gallerists Kara Wabbel and Sierra Berquist proved a cut above the rest after closing their art gallery barbara&barbara and relaunching a hair parlor of the same name in June that specializes in gender-neutral cuts. We discovered a garden of earthly and cinematic delights with Movies in the Garden, a summertime screening series at Andersonville’s Catalpa Commune. We may have said farewell to Wild Pug in October, but our eyes are fixed on the new kids on the block: Boystown’s D.S. Tequila, Rogers Park’s Parlour and River North’s Downtown Lounge.

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