Photo by Alexander John at last week’s Hot Mesh (l-r): his best friend Eli, who handles music, Icon Ebony-Fierce, and Josh Schonewolf bartending.
Josh Schonewolf and I met at Supper for happy hour to talk about a few things. I sent him a couple links that I’d read and been thinking about: a HuffPost story about gays being bullies to other gays, and this bummer of a NY Times feature about being 20-something and coming to the idea of work in new ways. Schonewolf’s embarking on a new chapter in his life, promoting and producing events, largely gay-themed, and it’s already starting to take off in pretty thrilling ways. He’s already somewhat of a big name in the gay community via his blog, Josh Can’t Cook, which he started in 2010. He gets stopped on city sidewalks (outside of Philadelphia, too), has been featured in the pages of Philadelphia Gay News and has dates’ roommates bug out when they find out they’re going for drinks with Josh Can’t Cook.
The blog started as a stress-relief from a soul-crushing finance job he maintained just to have a job. The Temple ‘05 grad studied communications with a TV/media performance focus but found himself in an office full of women that he wanted to destroy. Not with malice, of course, just, ya know, because the office environment can do that to a person. The site boasts 1 to 5,000 page views a week and he tries to publish twice a week including awards for restaurants and recipes. The blog’s not going anywhere, though – he’s slated to start shooting 20 episodes next week. He’s only made 15 since the blog’s inception but they’re no joke. Even at three minutes in length, he prepares about a dozen jokes for each and has a crew help him with production. They get made in his home’s kitchen in Newbold and starting in April or May he’ll start revealing his new ’season’ to the world.
Schonewolf loves a party, but he’s a pretty atypical nightlife personality. He told me he loves the phrase “Life’s a party, all you have to do is RSVP,” and I really believe he means it. He just likes to throw parties and that’s how it all got started. He threw a Halloween hat party and had a blast with it. Then things got serious and he made his first philanthropic event debut with a benefit for New York’s Ali Forney Center on a Friday night last August. 300 people came and 30 gifts were provided from various area businesses. I was curious about the logistics and I dug: What does it cost if your event flops? Typically, at a place like Tabu Sports Bar & Lounge, if your crowd doesn’t make it to a bartab point ($500), you have to pay the difference. Schonewolf brought his checkbook but he didn’t have to write one – it was a hit.
Then this winter he hosted Josh’s Drag Ball, a fundraiser for Philadelphia’s The Attic Youth Center, that corralled 15 queens and even pulled one in from RuPaul’s Drag Race (Milan from Season 4). It was a freezing cold night in December but the people came. But this brings us to one of the primary subjects of hour snack chat – we are drowning in drag. Drag’s fun and we love it. But he’s interested in bigger and better events that don’t use drag as the primary crowd bait. He and Brandon Robert of PhillyDragopolis are officially working together to produce some big events in the future. Ideas in the pipeline are food-adjacent events. Yes, there’s a drag brunch that happens at Fire & Ice in Old City once a month, but he also has hopes for working with talented young chefs and LGBT local musicians. Think a locally-based Top Chef or a Voyeur-based American Idol. He kept some secrets but we’ll be hungrily looking for details as they emerge.
The idea of dwelling in the world of gay nightlife and event production’s frightening to me. Gay people can be really mean to other gay people and it’s sad. It’s something that our own Goddess Isis tries to refrain from with her positivity in the phrase “Be a light.” Or as they say in Paris is Burning, “We’re not going to be shady, just fierce.” And Josh is like a fierce Real Housewife. He loves the whole franchise and has often asked me who my favorite housewife is. I can’t answer that – I only watch without sound on the treadmill. But one night at Stir he asked me for a housewife tagline; you know, the one sentence self-descriptive introductions they give at the beginning of each episode. It’s generally a “I may look like this but I’m actually that.” I improvised ‘I may be a writer but I can read even better.’ I was pleased with myself mostly because Josh cheered me on. “YES!” Well, when I read Josh I see a light.
Josh runs a party on Monday nights at Tavern on Camac called Hot Mesh, and hosts a party called Ratchet on Wednesday nights at Tabu Sports Bar & Lounge.