We Your People
Meet some of Philadelphia’s most accomplished — and inspiring — gay and lesbian personalities.
We your people are making history every day and every night. With inspiring sights, snazzy shops and action-packed bars, clubs and restaurants, Philadelphia is full of fun.
Isn’t it time you joined us?
With such an original city, it’s no surprise that Philadelphia boasts so many revolutionary gay and lesbian men and women.
Read on to meet some of Philadelphia’s most accomplished — and inspiring — gay and lesbian personalities.
And once you’re more familiar with some of Philadelphia’s GLBT personalities, get to know all our gay-friendly, gay-owned and gay-operated attractions, restaurants, boutiques, events and accommodations. You’ll find all of this and much more at Gay-Friendly Philadelphia.
Affiliation: Matthew Izzo boutiques
His Story: Matthew Izzo opened his first shop in Philadelphia in 2002, and business has been booming ever since. Izzo, a pedigreed Manhattan interior designer, opened his business here because “Philly is fresh. I fell in love with the architecture and newness of it. I was tired of being one of a bunch. Here, I could make a name for myself.”
Izzo’s accomplished that task, with a furniture and home accessories shop, a thriving design business, a hip clothing boutique and a hair salon, along with his Web site, www.matthewizzo.com. When he has time, he paints what he calls “soothing water concepts,” in a mix of acrylic and oil.
An upholstery line is next to launch. “I dress people, I show people how to live, and then they can get their hair done.” How would he describe his style? “My look is urban, but with a European flare.
RJ Thornburg and Warren Muller
Their Story: Together for almost 10 years, RJ Thornburg and Warren Muller are partners in business and in life. After a chance meeting at Buddakan in Historic Philadelphia’s Old City, the two were inseparable.
Thornburg, a self-proclaimed “fabulist,” and Muller, a talented luminary, see the immense local talent in the city, and they do their best to support and nurture that through their business/studio/gallery, bahdeebahdu. In their gallery, the couple displays an eclectic mix of art and art-furniture, both functional and ornamental. Here, interior design meets installations, light sculptures and fantastical exhibitions.
They are proud papas to two daughters from Thornburg’s previous marriage. Their oldest daughter, who will graduate from Ursinus College this year, is following in her fathers’ creative footsteps by working with popular muralist Meg Saligman.
The pair believes that people make a city, and Philadelphia’s non-discriminating residents make it a gay-friendly—or just plain friendly—destination.
Affiliation: Charlie Salon
His Story: The Philly-born and-raised Charlie Potje, owner of his self-named salon, says his favorite activity is strolling through the different neighborhoods, each of which lends its own distinct characteristics to the spirit of the city.
He thinks Philadelphia is beautiful, and he should know — he is in the beauty business.
Everyone who works at his “Gayborhood” salon thrives on making other people look as good on the outside as they feel on the inside with cuts, color treatments, manicures, waxing, makeup services and full bridal party services.
Stephen Carlino and Dennis Fee
Affiliation: Tavern on Camac
Their Story: Stephen Carlino and Dennis Fee, both lifetime residents of Philadelphia, have been together for 12 years, and they have two cats, one dog and a thriving restaurant and bar to show for it.
Their four-year-old Tavern on Camac, nestled on one of Philadelphia’s most charming streets, features fine dining downstairs and a lively second-floor nightclub, Ascend Lounge, where guys and gals get their groove on during karaoke and weekend dance parties.
Carlino and Fee live in the Fitler Square area of Center City, and their favorite Philly activity is to walk the Schuylkill River Trail with their Siberian husky, Nikolai. They can’t pick just one thing that makes Philadelphia a great destination. Friendly people, small neighborhoods, historic attractions, museums, fun bars and restaurants and the walkability are on their short list!
Affiliation: Philadelphia Gay News
His Story: Mark Segal isn’t one to sit on the sidelines. The journalist/publisher/activist was involved in New York’s Action Group and infamous Stonewall Riots of June 1969, a trigger to the militant gay movement. That same year he also became a member of the Gay Liberation Front and founded the Gay Youth Group, which remains Manhattan’s longest existing GLBT organization.
A few of his proudest accomplishments include protesting a lack of GLBT coverage on the national news in the early 70s, action which resulted in all three networks signing agreements to stop stereotyping gays and lesbians in programming and to cover news that affected the gay/lesbian community.
In 1976, Segal founded the award-winning Philadelphia Gay News, a weekly publication known for its impassioned point of view. Segal has protested the treatment of gay people in Cuba, hosted the country’s first gay talk radio show and founded the Pride of Philadelphia Election Committee to strengthen the political muscle of the local gay and lesbian community. He also sits on the board of the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association.
Michael Sparano and Rocco Giancaterino
Affiliation: Salon Royale Court
Their Story: It’s not every day that you can get your hair done and pick out the perfect mirror for the foyer. But that’s exactly what clients can do at Salon Royale Court, an artful combination of two businesses under one roof: a full service hair salon and an antique store specializing in 19th- century and early 20th-century English, French and American antiques.
Located on two floors of their 11,000-square-foot Rittenhouse Square mansion, Salon Royale Court seamlessly combines Sparano and Giancaterino’s dual passions. “We treat it more like a studio than a hair salon,” said Sparano, who had an antique shop in Chestnut Hill before moving into town. He manages the business, while Giancaterino serves as artistic director for the salon.
Everything in the place, from the rugs, to art on the walls, to the lamps and vases, is for sale. Most of the inventory is mid-range decorative antiques and accessories—affordable enough to tempt customers to add that special mirror or hallway runner onto their bill for highlights and a manicure.
Greg DeShields and Tom Love
Affiliation: DeShields, Temple University School of Tourism and Hospitality Management; Love, Thomson Reuters
Their Story: Greg DeShields and Tom Love first met at a networking event in New Hope, Bucks County, and their relationship has been going strong for 15 years. When asked what makes Philadelphia a top gay-friendly destination, they cite the city’s inclusion of different types of people, no matter their race, religion or orientation. And all these people add to Philly’s distinct character.
In their spare time from work at Temple University and Thomson Reuters, DeShields and Love enjoy traveling and digging around in their well-kept garden. Philadelphia’s diverse restaurant scene also keeps the couple busy, although they indulge in Stephen Starr’s Barclay Prime when they’re in the mood for upscale dining.
Valerie Safran and Marcie Turney
Affiliation: Lolita, Bindi, Grocery and Open House
Their Story: There’s nothing new about women in the kitchen. But lesbian partners running their own cafés and restaurants, now that’s a story not run often enough. For Valerie Safran and Marcie Turney, owning their own Philadelphia restaurant was the only way to go. The women met six years ago at Valanni restaurant, a bistro where Safran waitressed and Turney cooked. Both women were eager to strike out on their own.
The couple took a risk and debuted Open House, a home accessories shop on 13th Street, in October 2002. Lolita, a contemporary Mexican restaurant across the street, came next. Creative fare, house-made margarita mix (bring your own tequila) and attentive service have put this intimate restaurant firmly on the Philadelphia dining map. The pair then opened Grocery, a café and market, also on 13th Street. Their newest venture, a modern Indian BYOB restaurant named Bindi followed in December 2007.
Safran and Turney believe that Philadelphians are open-minded and love their city—two attributes that combine to make a perfect gay destination. And as for their favorite thing to do in the city—eat, of course. Dmitri’s, Amada, Supper and Osteria are just a couple of their picks for delicious food.