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Introducing Dorothy Awards Honoree Robb Bartolomeo

Published Feb 4, 2011

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As part of our series of articles on the Dorothy Awards, we are reviving our interviews with our honorees so you can get to know them a bit better.  Co-President Joshua O'Connell recently chatted with Robb Bartolomeo on his contributions to the community, both with him and his club, Gotham Citi, which is about to celebrate its 15th anniversary.

How long has Gotham Citi been open in New Haven? What prompted you to open it?

It’s been open since 1996. At the time, me and my friends were unhappy with what nightlife was out there. We were popular people and we wanted to operate a club the way we thought it should be run; the type of music we wanted to hear in an area we wanted it to be.

Do you consider yourself an activist for LGBT issues?

I don’t consider myself an activist by nature; I consider myself actually very conservative in my beliefs and my values, but I feel that the club is involved in activist issues by default. I believe the club does bring change into the community by its presence and its reputation.

What impact do you think you and Gotham Citi have had on New Haven and Connecticut?

The club brought gay nightlife back to New Haven; gay nightlife in New Haven had been gone since 1991 with the closing of Kurt’s. We anchored the revitalization of the ninth square district and brought gay nightlife into the mainstream with our location being so prominent on the corner of Church and Crown St. in 1999.

What do you do in your spare time?

I handle my real estate business, I enjoy renovating and building things, travel.

In your mind, what is the most important LGBT issue facing our local community today, and what can we do to address that issue?

The most important issue is the gay youth issue. People think we've gotten past all of the inequalities, especially in a place like New Haven, but instead we're growing complacent and what results is unfortunate instances like the teen suicides or gay bashings. Our youth are feeling it the worst.  I think the best way to combat that is to go back to our roots and become an exclusive community as we were. We lost community by being part of the mainstream, and with that we lost our focus.

Who is your personal LGBT icon?

Many. Harvey Fierstein, Larry Kramer, Paul Lynde, Judy Garland, Michael Bennett.

Who or what inspires you?

That’s easy – the community.

I know that you are a big part of the annual “New Haven Pride” event; why is that event so important to you?

In 1997, I met with Rick Stillson, Frank DeMayo and John Allen and we felt that pride should be a statewide event, not just based in Hartford. I made a commitment to them that I would do everything in my power as long as Gotham Citi was there to make New Haven one of the events to complete that goal.

What can we expect from you – and Gotham Citi – in 2011?

Gotham Citi will continue to lead the trend in gay nightlife and continue to evolve to stay current with the trends.

Where do you hope to see yourself in five years?

That’s a hard question to answer. After my sixth anniversary, I really didn’t see myself being here five years from now. Having held the largest dance party for 15 years, we’ll just have to play that one by ear and see where tomorrow will lead us.

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