Saturday, January 10, 2009

Queer as ...WTF?

This story's got everything you need in a batch of Queer as Folk episodes, except it wasn't shot in Toronto: A-gays, a mayor, a bath house and a corpse.

Club Pittsburgh's owners often open their home for philanthropic events

Almost every week, Peter Karlovich and Steven Herforth open the doors of their $2.5 million Mount Washington home to Pittsburgh's gay, arts and nonprofit communities.

In October, they hosted the Persad Center's "Spell" Halloween party and City Theatre's "Season Shake Up," with 300 attendees. In September, Quantum Theatre held its own season kickoff event there, with cocktails, dining and dancing on the house's disco floor.

"Both Steve and Peter have been very generous with City Theatre," said Greg Quinlan, the managing director. "We're glad to have both of them associated with our organization."

Mr. Karlovich and Mr. Herforth also are owners of Club Pittsburgh, the Strip District establishment that was the scene of a death Sunday and the target of a June complaint to the city alleging open sex, the sale of paraphernalia and the screening of pornography.

The city's Bureau of Building Inspection issued a "cease and desist" order in August, asserting that the club was in violation of its occupancy permit as a health and fitness center. The order was later rescinded after Mr. Karlovich and Mr. Herforth met with Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's chief of staff and top city lawyers.

The mayor, who has used their home for a fundraiser, denied this week that the pair received special treatment. Many in the nonprofit sector have come to their defense, highlighting their charitable work.

"The only way to describe Steve is as incredibly generous, kind and always willing to help in any way he can," said Kathi Boyle, executive director of the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force, which counts Mr. Herforth as a board member. "He's been a tremendous asset to the agency."

Neither Mr. Karlovich nor Mr. Herforth responded to a call seeking comment yesterday.

In a posting on, Mr. Karlovich defended himself and his partner, saying the city's complaints about his club were based on factual errors and minor violations that were later corrected.

"We have done nothing wrong. We love this city and our community," he wrote. "We will continue to do what we can to improve this city as a whole and our gay community in particular."

Mr. Karlovich also expressed sorrow for the death of Cleophus Pettway, 31, of Youngstown, Ohio, whose body was found in a private room at Club Pittsburgh. He said the club's Web site,, would provide information about helping Mr. Pettway's family raise money for funeral expenses.

For one very strange year, I lived in Pittsburgh between college and moving to New York City. It may have changed, but back then it was like a little bit of Cleveland, surrounded by Appalachia. In between working for a dance company, then night shift at a pastry cafe, I produced odd performance art, plays and made videos in a massive loft right out of Flashdance. But there wasn't a shower.

Once, a band party got invaded by some local hicks, who started a fight until the cops came. Good times!

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