Crystal City’s Center Of LGBTQ Life Is a Purple Beach Bar–With Barbies

Published May 19, 2017

I first stepped through Freddie’s lavender entrance on a date with a startlingly pretty girl, and my stomach was flipping. We were there for the king show. For the uninitiated, that’s queer women performing as their masculine alter-egos in ripped muscle tees and drawn-on facial hair over The Weeknd and Bieber beats. I was too nervous to eat most of my Reuben, but a few beers later I had stopped being awkward, I think. The interior is stacked with plastic flamingos and Barbie dolls–delightfully tasteless and oddly calming, a physical eye-roll at pretension. The drag queen MC with red flowers in his beard had us belly-laughing. It all felt like being enveloped in a big gay hug.

Even in the age of queer-friendly settings on Tinder and OkCupid, it’s hard to understate the importance of spaces like Freddie’s–for battle-hardened butches and bumbling baby gays and everyone else. My date and I emerged grinning and slightly tipsy, trying to figure out who was going to ask who to make out. We’d advanced not half a block before two bros loomed over us, liquor on their breath, demanding high fives. It was dark by that time. Worryingly they trailed us, complaining about what assholes we were when we didn’t comply–a harsh reminder that we were back out in the “real world.” Still, on the Metro ride home I felt peaceful just knowing Freddie’s existed.

Over the years, the odd purple beach bar has been a safe haven for queer people of all stripes. Before Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was struck down, the rainbow-festooned walls shielded gay service members who wanted to be themselves in peace. Its proximity to the Pentagon made it an ideal haunt. It’s also become the unofficial hangout for Washington’s trans community. The patrons are an unusually diverse bunch. There are even straight people–owner Freddie Lutz wanted it that way. The Arlington native is the son of an Army colonel, and he takes pride in cultivating a place where everyone can feel welcome as they are. He wants to bring people together…read more here.

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