Putting the ‘Gay’ back into Gala

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THIS PAST HALLOWEEN WEEKEND, you couldn’t get a hotel room in Washington for love or money. I wish I could say that the hordes descending on the country’s symbolic heart were heading for the posh Friday night opening of Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture at the National Portrait Gallery, the first-ever “gay show” of national significance. Instead, the biggest draw was the next day’s “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear,” the brainchild of those conjoined twins of TV satire, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. They pushed no explicit political agenda, but their call for sanity sounded to most ears like a plea to counter the ignorant right-wing hysteria that has for so long kept GLBT images—and much else—out of the public eye.

As if that weren’t enough to keep the queer culturati busy, Sunday was Halloween—practically a national gay holiday—and the whole weekend was the final leg of the midterm elections. Talk about synchronicity. Talk about over-determined themes for a news feature. Talk about the challenge of packing a varied enough wardrobe for all these Big Events!

The opening reception for Hide/Seek fêted 500 invitees in the skylighted atrium of the National Portrait Gallery (NPG), amid potted palms and sideboards of miniature hors d’oeuvres so piss-elegant they came with nametags, like “Fig, Speck, and Monarch Ash Crostini.”

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