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By Staff, November 2017 Issue. Meet the rest of the Class of 2017 here.
From bake sales and doggie adoptions to ballroom competitions and pajama parties, one local bar has set itself apart when it comes to giving back to the LGBTQ community. And, while he maintains it’s his staff that has been the secret ingredient, it’s Jeffery Perales who has been at the helm of Kobalt from the very beginning.
Perales, who became part owner of the bar in 2010, runs the day-to-day operations and his business partner, Robert Mancuso, keeps his finger on the pulse of the business and works behind the scenes.
“We will be celebrating 12 years in business in 2018,” Perales said. “A big part of our staying power is my staff. Whereas several bars have a high rate of turnover, most of my bar staff have been here five years or more. We have all become friends and take care of each other. Like most families we have our ups and downs but in the end, we have a common goal: to succeed. The work culture we've created here extends to our patrons. We do our best to be welcoming and empathetic. In return, our customers keep coming back. We take care of them and they take care of us.”
At a time when gay and lesbian bars are closing at an alarming rate, Perales said he’s accepting that change is constant and exhibiting a willingness to evolve is key.
“In the age of the dwindling gays bar I have found it more important than ever to be welcoming and inclusive to all,” he said. “More gay people are comfortable going to straight bars because the environment and culture has shifted … I think for [our] bars to remain relevant and competitive we must accept the fact that a gay bar can still cater to the LGBTQ community and be welcoming to our straight neighbors, friends and allies.
Despite landing in the top two many times, Kobalt had never brought home the Dancing for one•n•ten (formerly Dancing With The Bars) trophy – until this year. Not only did Stella Prince and Freddie Maese’s performance win the People's Choice Award, but they also raised a record-breaking $22,373 in their quest for the trophy.
“The win was truly a team effort,” Perales said. “I was continually blown away by the generosity of our patrons and the buy in from my staff and Stella’s dance partner, Freddie Maese. The win was truly a team effort. We raised the money by putting on many small events and reaching out to close friends and colleagues in the community. We never gave up and kept raising money until the deadline. The cause, one•n•ten, was our biggest motivator. In the end we raised almost double the amount that the first-place team managed to raise last year.”
Almost any weekend there are fundraising events for one cause or another being hosted at Kobalt.
“The community has given a lot to us,” he said. “Winning isn't the goal when it comes to fundraising for me. It feels good to do it and it is truly meant to give back to our community. We are all vested here so this is a motivator for others to follow. If a small bar like Kobalt can achieve fundraising successes like we have, then the much bigger establishments can achieve comparable results as well.”
Being so connected to various organizations – and customers – throughout the LGBTQ community has had an unexpected outcome side effect for Perales: A community voice via several mainstream platforms.
“Being a voice for the community is something I've never sought out, but when approached I never turn away,” he said, referring to his television interviews, including talking safety protocols following the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando. “For far too long the voices of the LGBTQ community have failed to reach the mainstream audience. As a result, the issues that are important to us have fallen on deaf ears. If an opportunity presents itself and I feel I can lend my voice in a meaningful way then I will do what I can to help make a difference.”
It’s Perales’ voice, in fact, that has opened up another facet of the community to him. While he’s been singing for as long as he can remember, it’s his involvement with the Phoenix Metropolitan Men’s Chorus for the past 13 years that has added another dimension to what it means to be part of the LGBTQ community.
“I personally believe that involvement in local community organizations, joining a board of directors for a local nonprofit, joining subcommittees or simply supporting LGBTQ friendly businesses enrich and help diversify what it means to be LGBTQ,” he said, adding that his experience with the chorus helped him become more outgoing and less shy.
“Running a bar requires interacting with people from all walks of life [and] often feels like I’m putting myself on a different stage of sorts,” he said. “[With the chorus], I tried out for solos and put myself out there on purpose to help alleviate my fear of being in front of people.”
Whether you’re considering becoming involved in fundraising, joining a group or a sports league, dedicating you time to an organization by serving on a board or even just singing karaoke, Perales believes it’s all essential to the maintaining the balance, diversity and necessary evolution within our community (and beyond).
“When you dedicate your time to a cause, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons,” he said. “Do only what you can with the time you have. Passion can sometimes lead to over-committing ourselves without considering the other responsibilities we have. A balance between work, volunteerism and just having fun is what has worked for me.”
And when asked what’s his next endeavor will be, his answer was perfectly Perales, “I’m currently working on big changes at Kobalt that will be unfolding in the coming months.”
Web-Exclusive Q&A with Jeffery Perales
Echo: You're originally from Castroville, Texas; what was it that brought you here? And what year was that?
Perales: I moved to Phoenix in 2001 after finishing my studies in Houston. I accepted a graphic design position at a game development company here in the Valley. I moved here not knowing anyone so I had to build my social network from the ground up.
Echo: Was there a defining moment when you knew that this was YOUR home/community? And what was that like?
Perales: After my game development contract ended, my choices were to move back to Texas or go to California. I knew I wanted to stay in Phoenix because of the friends I had made and the great experiences I was having. Luckily, I was able to land another graphic design position that kept me in Phoenix. Several years later I met Robert, who is now my business partner at Kobalt. I was involved with Kobalt from the inception. I designed the logo for the bar and produced all the promotional artwork.
Echo: What advice do you have for other gay bar owners and operators out there, knowing that the odds of success are no longer what they once were?
Perales: Don't be afraid to try new things. Get to know your fellow bar owners and competitors. They can be your best source of advice. There is a reason some have been around for so long. I recognize that my bar isn't for everyone so I recommend other bars and clubs that might fit their needs more. Recommendations always seem to come back around. I believe when my friends are successful then I'm successful.
Echo: Speaking of, how do you define success?
Perales: My definition of success is hearing laughter filter into my office from the front of the house. If my customers are happy then I am happy.
Echo: You've won countless awards – "Best Gay Bar" (Phoenix New Times), Best Happy Hour (Echo Magazine), to name a few – in a nutshell, what sets Kobalt apart?
Perales: I truly believe I have the best staff in Phoenix. They are the face of the bar. They are the ones who are willing to take chances along with me and put on events that help raise the bar – no pun intended.
Echo: Rumor has it that you're quite competitive. That quality of yours combined with your commitment to giving back to the community, has made for some incredible fundraising just this year alone. Why is giving back to the community so important to you?
Perales: The community has given a lot to us. Winning isn't the goal when it comes to fundraising for me. It feels good to do it and it is truly meant to give back to our community. We are all vested here so this is a motivator for others to follow. If a small bar like Kobalt can achieve fundraising successes like we have then the much bigger establishments can achieve comparable results as well.
Echo: What are your favorite events to host and why?
Perales: My favorite annual event to host is our Adventures in Hangovers Party that happens every year on New Year’s Day. Although New Year's Eve has traditionally been a favorite for most, we have monopolized the following day and made it our own. No other bar does anything quite like this event and it has become a tradition for many people.
Most recently, we organized an inaugural event called Doggies and Drag Show. We helped get 11 dogs adopted that day and raised money for the Arizona Animal Rescue Mission along with Maricopa Animal Care and Control. Kobalt and some of the Valleys most talented drag queens helped raise awareness of the homeless pet issue, [and] plans for the next are already in the works.
Echo: In your estimation, how do sub-communities within our bigger community – like the Phoenix metropolitan Men's Chorus – enrichen and diversify what it means to be LGBTQ in Arizona?
Perales: At times, people get overwhelmed by current events that are taking place in the world and our country these days. This turbulence has made people feel resigned to the idea that they can affect change due to the sheer scale and number of events taking place that adversely affect the LGBTQ community. I personally believe that involvement in local community organizations, joining a board of directors for a local nonprofit, joining subcommittees or simply supporting LGBTQ friendly businesses enrichen and help diversify what it means to be LGBTQ. If we work at a grass roots level we can make a BIG difference.
Echo: Similarly, tell us about your kick team, the RouwdyRuff Boys. What has being involved with this group of guys meant to you? From your experience, why are LGBTQ sports leagues, and the fellowship that they foster, important to the bigger scope of the community?
Perales: LGBTQ sports leagues are incredibly important in our community. I avoided some team sports as a child because I always felt different and uncomfortable and feared being forced 'out.' I decided to join the Rowdy Ruff Boys Kickball team because they were all like me. All skill levels are welcome and the environment provides a safe space where we can finally be a part of that team we never felt comfortable in as a youth. The same goes for all LGBTQ sports leagues I've been a part of.
Echo: Who are some of your role models/inspirations and why?
Perales: My business partner, Robert Mancuso, is one of my greatest role models. He has taught me that kindness can and will win the day and that potential conflicts are best met with calmness and a steady hand. Like the adage says, “You get more with sugar than you do vinegar.” This has proven to be true with all our dealings.
Echo: Do you consider yourself a role model? Why/why not?
Perales: I am an extremely a shy person. Therefore, I've never really considered myself a role model. I've always tried to be the best version of myself and always put my best foot forward. Anything I try doing I always do my personal best. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes not. I am honored to be considered a role model but I've never sought or considered myself to be one.
Echo: Where do you see yourself five years from now? And where do you see PFLAG Phoenix five years from now?
Perales: In five years I see myself being more involved in our greater LGBTQ community. I can also see myself potentially joining a board for a local nonprofit, perhaps PFLAG.
Club Skirts presents The Dinah — the annual music festival and pool party weekend and the largest lesbian event worldwide — is taking over Palm Springs from September 21st through the 25th.
Now celebrating its 31st year, the star-studded weekend will kick off a five-day party known to draw in upwards of 15,000 women from around the world.
This year, for the first time ever, the event will take place in Palm Springs’ most iconic hotel, The Margaritaville — formerly The Riviera — famous in the ’60s for its role as celebrity central, drawing the likes of Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Sammy Davis Jr., and Sonny and Cher.
Photo courtesy of The Dinah
“I think it is definitely a rite of passage and a bucket list item,” said Mariah Hanson, ”and it’s a beacon in a way. I think that what we create there is so magical and so inspiring that you hear about it and you want to be a part of it because it’s life-changing.”
Hanson explained that the magic is intentional. She said along with her staff, they set to produce an event that is diverse, welcoming, and life-changing.
“We create a world for five days where people are united by the common theme of just acceptance and diversity and living in a world you want to live in,” Hanson said.
Hanson said she is proud to offer what she says is one of the “most diverse, inclusive, celebratory events.” She said The Dinah recognizes that our community is very diverse, and she wants everyone to feel welcome.
The festival includes various performances by nationally-renowned recording artists, massive pool parties with world-famous DJs and go-go dancers, red carpet events with celebrity guests and musicians, and meet-and-greets with lesbian celebrities.
The Dinah pool party
Photo courtesy of The Dinah
While in previous years, the Dinah events centered mostly on pool parties, the Dinah of the past decade has flawlessly amped up the pool parties, while also simultaneously becoming an enormous music festival, drawing in huge superstar artists over recent years, such as Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Chaka Khan, Meghan Trainor, Iggy Azalea, Eve, Salt ‘N Pepa and more, many of them while they were just on the cusp of hitting the big-time.
Hanson explained that she has a formula, a set of ever-changing criteria, that she uses to book acts. She has a knack for finding artists to perform at the Dinah who is on the cusp of enormous stardom.
“My favorite example is Lizzo, who headlined the Sunday afternoon pool party in 2017,” said Hanson. “Nobody really knew who she was, and she’s a major star now. No one will ever see her in that small of a venue.”
Hanson has another incredible all-female entertainment line-up again this year.
“I’m excited to offer the lineup we have. I think it’s powerful. It’s almost all queer except Taylor Dane, but she’s welcome because she’s so cool!” said Hanson.
Taylor Dane, 80s pop icon, is taking over the stage at Friday night’s Black & White Ball and is bringing her full band for a special Dinah performance. The GRAMMY-nominated powerhouse’s groundbreaking debut single "Tell It to My Heart" turned her into an overnight star in 1987. She followed the smash hit with 17 Top 20 singles including “Love Will Lead You Back.” Co-headlining Friday night is a breakout hip-hop artist, Haviah Mighty, who is poised to follow the footsteps of Lady Gaga, Bebe Rexha, Iggy Azalea, and Lizzo. She is the first Black woman to win the Polaris Music Prize.
On Saturday night’s Hollywood Party, Fletcher, one of the most electrifying queer artists to burst onto the scene, takes center stage. The GLAAD-nominated artist has a slew of hit singles including “Undrunk”, “Bitter”, “girls girls girls”, and “Cherry.” Her new single “Her Body is Bible” is out now and her debut album is being released this month.
“You don’t want to miss any of these acts,” Hanson said.
Club Skirts The Dinah pool party
Photo courtesy of The Dinah
All of the weekend’s pool parties, night parties, and concerts will take place at the Margaritaville. The opening and closing parties will both be held at AsiaSF, a new hotspot to both kick-start and close the weekend.
Hanson said she is excited for the Dinah this year and hopes it will, as always, be an amazing experience for all who attend.
Hanson said her message for attendees, other than to pace themselves, is always the same.
“Don’t be afraid to meet new people. Don’t be afraid to reach out and share your stories and listen to other people's stories because there’s people from all over the world coming.”
Hanson negotiated some great rates with the host hotel, Margaritaville, and it currently has a waiting list. Email email@example.com to get the Dinah discount and to add your name to the waiting list.
For more information and for tickets, please visit The Dinah.
Michael Feinstein has become an iconic singer of the modern era. He has entertained audiences and world leaders alike with his jazz standards. Recently he began working with Liza Minnelli to produce a unique stage show that celebrates her mother, Judy Garland's, 100th birthday.
Mr. Feinstein took time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions and give us some insight into his creative process, the future of jazz, and the production of this one-of-a-kind show.
Why do you feel the classics still resonate today?
One of the things I love about the music that I primarily sing is that the songs transcend the time in which they were created. They truly are timeless in the sense that they still have incredible power and energy in what they convey to audiences. I always compare them to the timelessness of William Shakespeare or Beethoven or Michelangelo in that people don't experience any of those things and say they're old.
They still resonate with the heart and they have a contemporary sensibility because certain fundamental emotions are forever. The songs that I sing are so amazingly crafted that they're malleable and they can be performed and sung and may any different ways. And that's one of the reasons they survive because they're just adaptable.
And that's one of the fun things about it. Every time I sing one of these songs, it feels fresh to me. And I also know that there are maybe people in the audience who've never heard these songs before. So I'm mindful of trying to present them in their best suit. If you will.
Did Judy Garland influence you more when you were a kid or as an adult?
Judy Garland, what an amazing person; incredible performer. As a child, like most of my generation, anyway, I first became aware of Judy Garland in connection with the 'Wizard of Oz.' That movie was shown every year as an annual event on television. And we would always go to my aunt and uncle's house and watch it there because they had a color television. But the true art of Judy Garland was introduced to me later in my life, when I became aware of her many recordings and other films that she made at MGM, and she had two distinct careers. One was the 28 feature films she made at MGM from 1937 until she was unceremoniously fired by them in 1950.
Then there was her adult concert career from 1951 to 1969. In that period, she performed over 1100 concerts and made classic record albums. And that's such a rich period of American culture and also music. And so the show that I'm doing is a true celebration of the extraordinary joy she brought to her and the pathos and the sadness that's conveyed through the way she sang ballots. It's a multimedia celebration with home movies supplied by the family, a rare recording of hers singing acapella. And I accompany her on the piano that I actually discovered of a song no one had ever heard her sing before. So it's a, a rich program."
In your opinion, has jazz fallen by the wayside in contemporary music, or is it just reserved for a more distinguished crowd?
I think jazz falls into the same category as American popular song, the classic American popular song in that it will always survive, it will always have an audience and perhaps it's more specialized today, but it's the kind of music that people discover when they're a little bit older and then it becomes a permanent part of what they listen to.
Are there any modern songwriters who you feel could be as prolific as Mr. Gershwin?
Well, uh, I believe that Bob Dylan is incredibly prolific. There are many other songwriters who have a work ethic that produces a lot of material. Diane Warren, I'm told, writes every single day, The songwriter Michel Legrand composed, well over 200 film scores as he composed every day. So there are probably songwriters who wrote more than Gerwin, but will their songs be heard in a hundred years as widely as George Gershwins? That I don't know the answer to.
Do you think the best songs are written when the world is in turmoil or when it's more at peace?
Music always reflects the time in which it is created. Uh, if you look at the songs of world war II, the were lots of songs of patriotism that were very, um, what's the word --- jingoistic. Things like, 'Johnny get your gun, get your gun, get your gun.' All these songs about fighting for what's right. And those songs have not lived as long as the love songs that were written in that time.
For example, 'White Christmas' was written at a time when the world was just entering the second world war and that song has lived, and the patriotic songs, uh, have not worn well, even though the sentiment is there. They were very much of their time. I think that there is a certain kind of inspiration that comes out of turmoil. A lot of songs written during the American depression have become lasting standards.
Things like "As Time Goes By.' That was later featured in the movie 'Casablanca' and that sort of thing. So I think that good songs can be written in any time, but perhaps there's more, uh, passion conveyed when there are problems in the world,
Does music constantly play in my subconscious?
Absolutely. Yes. Music is always playing in my brain and that doesn't bother me because sometimes it's music. I know, and sometimes it's new music. That's how I, I come up with the idea for a tune. My friend, George Firth, who died a number of years ago was a brilliant librettist. He wrote the book for the Sondheim shows 'Merrily, We Roll Along,' and company. And he once said that anything that you're whistling or humming in your brain is a subconscious window to what one is really thinking about or what they're really feeling.
So if he ever heard anybody humming or whistling, he would say, what are you singing? What are you humming? He wanted to know the title of the song, because that was his armchair psychoanalysis of what that person was, was going through.
What will the audiences be treated to at the Scottsdale show?
Well, it's a centennial tribute to Judy Garland. And as I mentioned previously, it's multimedia with photographs that have never been seen before, this incredible home recording of Judy Garland, which I found in a house that she once lived in behind a fake wall.
It's just a weird story. Uh, so I'll be accompanying her in this song. So it's a world premiere of Judy Garland singing something that nobody's ever heard before. And I also sing a couple of things that were written for her that never saw the light of day.
And then a lot of familiar things. It's a celebration of the best of her MGM years, and then the concert years, the iconic Carnegie Hall show, and it's a very immersive experience, both, visually and emotionally. The audience reaction has been, spectacular, and I'm very grateful. The enormity of trying to pay tribute to someone with a career, as large as Judy Garland's certainly was not easy, but I feel like we've nailed it.
I had a team of people who helped to put it together, notably, Judy Garland's daughter, Liza Minnelli, who executive produced the show and was very much influential in helping to shape what it's about. It celebrates the incredible art that she gave all of us. It doesn't delve into the tragedy because that's the tabloid stuff. But the reason people remember her at all is because of the talent. And so that's what I celebrate.
Show & Venue details:
Valley audience members can join Feinstein for this celebration of Judy Garland at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, 7380 E. 2nd St., Scottsdale, Arizona. There will be two concerts at 3 pm and 7 pm on Sunday, March 20, 2022. Tickets start at $79. For information click here or visit or call 480-499-TKTS (8587).
All guests age 12 and older must provide a negative COVID-19 PCR test, taken within 72 hours of the performance date, along with photo ID, to attend performances. As an alternative, guests may provide proof of full vaccination. Masks are highly encouraged to protect artists, staff and patrons. For full health and safety protocols click here.
- Michael Feinstein to Share Gershwins' Legacy in Song - OutVoices ›
- Michael Feinstein to celebrate Judy Garland at Scottsdale Arts ... ›
Musical icon Michael Feinstein is coming to Scottsdale, Arizona on Sunday, March 20, 2022. His smooth voice and playlist of American standards will soothe audiences of all ages in this special live performance. Feinstein is known for having worked with George and Ira Gershwin, two of the most prolific songwriters in history.
His appearance in Scottsdale will pay tribute to another of entertainment's most iconic voices: Judy Garland. The actress and singer would have celebrated her 100th birthday this year. Her music still lives on in the hearts of millions.
Concert is Executive Produced by Liza Minnelli
Audiences are invited to join a nostalgic and spectacular musical exploration of Garland’s illustrious career. Executive produced by Liza Minnelli, this performance will be packed with special surprise moments as Feinstein honors Garland’s unparalleled talent and charisma.
This brand-new multimedia show features big screen film clips, never-before-seen photos, rare audio recordings, great music and good humor. Feinstein will lead you on a historical journey through Garland’s amazing life, telling stories he learned from Minnelli — Garland’s daughter — and from the legend’s close friends.
Audiences will be treated to recently discovered and previously unheard musical arrangements while gaining rare insight into the enduring Garland mystique.
“We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to celebrate the iconic Judy Garland on her 100th birthday, especially knowing the authenticity and love that went into this project with her daughter Liza Minnelli as the executive producer,” said Abbey Messmer, programming director at the center. “With the Ambassador of the American Songbook leading this journey, it’s certain that we’ll feel Judy’s spirit when we hear songs like ‘Get Happy’ and ‘Come Rain or Come Shine.’”
Photo courtesy of Michael Feinstein.
The Great American Songbook
Feinstein has built a dazzling career over the last three decades, bringing the music of the Great American Songbook to the world. From his multi-platinum-selling recordings that have earned him five Grammy nominations to his Emmy-nominated PBS television specials, his acclaimed NPR series and concerts spanning the globe.
Feinstein's New Album to Feature Music Icons
His live performances, film and television appearances, and 35 albums — including the upcoming release of “Gershwin Country,” featuring duets with country superstars like Dolly Parton, Brad Paisley, Vince Gill, Lyle Lovett, Alison Krauss and more — have made Feinstein an all-star force in American music.