25 Dallas Notables

Posted on 21 May 2009 at 4:49pm


Robert Moore

How do you take stock of 25 years?

The staff of Dallas Voice reflects on our years of publishing in the pages of this 25th anniversary commemorative edition.

You will find stories on Dallas Voice in these pages, yet our work would be very unimportant if it were not for the achievements of the people whose stories
we reported.

As I look back, some names have figured prominently through the years. They are the leaders whose contributions created the community and institutions that you and I enjoy today.

As part of our assessment of the last 25 years, we went to work to select and recognize 25 Dallas Notables — men and women from all walks of life: activism, politics, arts, culture, sports, business, media and religion.

We asked readers to send us their suggestions for inclusion on the list, along with statements of support. Readers submitted more than 100 names. The editorial staff and I narrowed that initial slate to 25.

Any selection process like this is difficult and inherently biased. We admit that. Many people worthy of recognition are not represented. Yet we are confident that the North Texas LGBT community was fundamentally changed and enriched by the 25 people we have chosen.

Along with those who made the final list of 25, we look ahead at the Future Pioneers. They are individuals who are creating the LGBT community of the years
to come. We predict you will read their names repeatedly in stories yet to be written.

For the Dallas Voice staff and me, this is a time for asking questions of ourselves just as we have questioned others through the years. Louise Young, whom I respect as much as anyone I have met in my 25 years of publishing, says it best in the final lines of the 25 Dallas Notables section: "This is really a time of reflection, a milestone in our lives when we are starting to look back and say,
‘Have we made a difference?’ I think we can both say, yes, we have."

Gratefully, I agree. We have made a difference.
Robert Moore




STEVE Atkinson

Steve Atkinson has been successfully organizing support for non-discrimination ordinances and policies since he chaired the Lesbian/Gay Political Coalition of Dallas in the early 1990s. He later served on the board and as president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance and credits each success on groups of people who worked together.

Atkinson played a role in getting the city of Dallas’ employment non-discrimination policy passed in 1995, and following that success, Atkinson worked with the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Board, on a similar guideline later that year.

In 1996, at Atkinson’s instigation, Dallas Independent School District implemented an anti-harassment policy that includes sexual orientation. That was followed the next year by a gay-positive broadcast standards policy covering district-produced and student-produced programs.

Finally, in 2002, the Dallas City Council enacted a comprehensive non-discrimination ordinance covering housing, employment and public accommodations in the city — and again, Atkinson was there helping push the change.

In addition to the various local groups he headed, Atkinson served on the board of the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas, now known as Equality Texas, for 10 years and chaired that statewide group for six years. He currently co-chairs the Human Rights Campaign’s Board of Governors.

Last summer, Atkinson married his partner, Ted Kincaid, in San Francisco. This summer, they celebrate 20 years together.

Kincaid is an artist whose work is in the collections of the Dallas Museum of Art as well as Houston and San Antonio’s museums. Belo, American Airlines and Neiman Marcus have purchased his works for their corporate collections.
Atkinson sells real estate with Keller Williams.

For his volunteer work in the LGBT community, Atkinson was honored with the Extra Mile Award and the DGLA Texas Freedom Award. He has been grand marshal of the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade and in 2002, was voted Best Gay and Lesbian Role Model by readers of the Texas Triangle.

— David Taffet

FRANK Caven

A  former car salesman from Philadelphia would seem unlikely to become the premier impresario of gay bars in Dallas but Frank Caven was unpredictable. He was also a very good businessman, and knew a fertile market when he saw it.

Caven bought his first bar in Dallas in 1970. An old mansion behind the current location of Marty’s Liquors on Rawlins Street was a struggling bar called "The Gilded Cage." Caven transformed it into the Bayou Club and, with an expanded dance floor, he offered Dallas its first gay disco.

From there he opened other bars, including the Old Plantation on the site of the current Dallas Museum of Art and the Candy Shop on the site of the current Sue Ellen’s.

At that time, Cedar Springs was a declining retail strip whose one bright spot was the Old Warsaw Restaurant. Caven understood that the large gay and lesbian population that already lived in the area was a ready-made market and soon had opened other clubs along the street as well as improving retail properties to create the "gayborhood" it is today.

Caven’s entrepreneurship was not limited to Dallas. He opened clubs that were effectively clones of his Dallas successes in Houston, Tampa, and other cities. But Dallas remained his primary focus.

Caven did more than just operating nightspots. He contributed heavily to the community, especially when it was being devastated by the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. Many LGBT organizations in Dallas benefited from his contributions.

Though often controversial and sometimes a ruthless businessman, Frank Caven was respected and beloved by much of the Dallas LGBT community. He died in 1988, but the company bearing his name still continues to thrive.

Today, Caven Enterprises is owned by its employees and is still deeply involved in support for the LGBT community and the city as a whole.

At the corner of Cedar Springs and Oak Lawn stands a small park with a modern obelisk topped with what some characterize as a mirror ball. It is dedicated to Frank Caven, the man who was once called the "King of Clubs."

 — Hardy haberman

Jesus Chairez

Before Valiente and a local LGBT LULAC chapter, Jesus Chairez was one of the few visible gay Latinos in Dallas.When Spanish media "wanted a sound-bite from a gay Latino, I was it for the longest time," says Chairez.

In 1993, Chairez began hosting "Sin Fronteras," which means "Without Borders," on KNON-FM.

"The idea was do interviews and talk," he says. "I ran out of gay Latinos to interview after the first month."

Between interviews, he played international Spanish music. Listeners contacted him, requesting more music. The station agreed to a format change and, while Dallas has many Spanish stations, Chairez was the only one playing such a range of music from around the world and doing the show primarily in English.

While "Sin Fronteras" attracted a diverse audience, he started each week with the song "A quien le importa" ("What does it matter to you?"), a song that is a gay anthem in many Spanish-speaking countries, Chairez says.

He used the program to host shows at Latino clubs, created events around National Coming Out Day and did commentary in Spanish at the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade.

"During Hispanic Heritage Month I would showcase prominent gay Latinos," he says.

After 12 years, he left "Sin Fronteras," but remained at the station as a KNON board member. His volunteer worked extended beyond radio, and he also served on the board of Teatro Dallas.

In addition, Chairez is an artist known for his black-and-white Mexican street scene photography. He started a Latino arts collective known as A.R.T.E. (Artists Relating Together & Exhibiting), which mounted shows around the Dallas area.

In his professional life, Chairez started working for the federal government when he graduated from high school. His last position was with the Consumer Products Safety Commission as a product investigator.

In 2006, he accepted an early retirement offer and earlier this year moved to Mexico City.

­­— David Taffet

HOWIE Daire

Candy Marcum says she met Howie Daire through her roommate. "Howie and I met one day at The Bronx," she says. "I was struck by that great big mustache and smile."

­Daire began his career as a Dallas elementary school teacher. With a masters’ degree in counseling, he volunteered in the county jails, helping prisoners with their people skills so they might be more successful upon release.

For fun, he also worked as a bartender at the Bayou Landing, a popular gay dance bar that was located across from where the Crescent now stands.

But he also wanted to put his education to work for the LGBT community, and Marcum says he went to New York and Houston to study the gay and lesbian counseling centers already operating there.

"He had some funding from someone named Joe Fleming," she says, and Daire used that money to found Oak Lawn Counseling Center in 1981.

Before the Dallas Voice began publishing, Marcum says options to publicize new services to the LGBT community were limited. Daire went from bar to bar to talk to bartenders about the new center. Before long, business was so brisk, he left teaching to devote himself full time to the center.

In January 1982, Daire attended an all-gay mental health conference in Houston where he first learned about what was then called GRID — Gay-Related Immune Deficiency Syndrom. We know it now as HIV/AIDS.

Marcum says, "After that, AIDS hit hard and fast." And Daire transformed the counseling center into Oak Lawn Community Services to try and respond to the disease’s devastation.

One of the programs he helped found at Oak Lawn Community Services was an adult daycare center to relieve the caregivers for people with AIDS during the day and to provide socialization for persons living with AIDS. After his death from AIDS in 1986, the program was renamed the Daire Center. It is operated today by AIDS Interfaith Network.

Daire was also one of the early writers for the Dallas Voice. He contributed an always lighthearted counseling column called "Dear Howie." He was also involved with Razzle Dazzle Dallas, an annual June party that during the late 1980s was the largest AIDS fundraiser in the city.

— David Taffet


Deb Elder


I accidentally leased space for my jewelry business in Crossroads Market," says Deb Elder describing how her activism career began.

In its early days, Crossroads Market was cooperatively owned by a number of people, each with their own counters or departments.

"I entered the zone," Elder says about those days that coincided with the early days of the AIDS epidemic. "All of my friends were dying."

She joined a number of groups, including Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, and in 1993 became its president.

Elder was one of three co-founders of a group called Lesbian Visionaries, which folded into DGLA under her leadership. For the first time, youth were represented on the board as well.

DGLA had just helped Mica England win her discrimination lawsuit against the Dallas Police Department, and thanks to the organization’s work with newly appointed Police Chief Ben Click, the first official liaison to the LGBT community was appointed.

DGLA during Elder’s tenure also spearheaded the effort that led to implementation of a diversity training program for the police department. That program continues today.

Elder also served on the boards of the Resource Center of Dallas, Oak Lawn Community Services, the Texas Human Rights Foundation and Dallas Legal Hospice (now Legal Hospice of Texas). Mayor Steve Bartlett named her "mayoral volunteer of the year." And the LGBT community gave her the Extra Mile Award and named her grand marshal of the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade.

Elder has been in the real estate business since 1992.

She met the Rev. Mona West, at the time pastor at Cathedral of Hope, in 1997, and they have been a couple since. When West became senior pastor of Church of the Trinity MCC in Sarasota, Fla. in 2005, Elder moved her real estate business to Florida, too. Then last year, West became director of clergy training and development for Metropolitan Community Church and the couple moved to Austin.

Elder says, "Dallas was very formative for me. It’s part of who I am — just like my parents."

— David Taffet

Erin Moore and Patti Fink

I do the job, then she gets interested in it and she does it better," Erin Moore says about her partner, Patti Fink. They have been together eight years.

The couple met attending National Coming Out Project meetings. Fink chaired that group for three years. She confronted the Dallas Morning News about their policy requiring "reams and reams of paper supporting the ad" the group runs annually featuring signatures of members of the LGBT community and friends.

Ironically, she says, she proposed turning the ad into a special section and for the first time in the newspaper’s history, they won a national award for a special section in the family category.

Moore became president of Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance in 2004 and for two years Fink served on the board. She became president in 2007. Moore became a member of the Human Rights Campaign’s Board of Governors. Fink followed.
In 2004, Fink went to the Democratic National Convention as a Texas delegate. In 2008, Moore had her turn at the convention in Denver.

"It’s a challenge to figure out when we can have dinner together," says Fink. "Used to be we’d go to the same meetings."

But their interest in politics does help propel the relationship. Today, Moore serves as president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas and is vice president of the statewide organization. As president of DGLA, Fink serves on that group’s non-partisan political action committee.

Fink co-hosts "Lambda Weekly," the LGBT Sunday talk show on 89.3 KNON-FM, something Moore did for a number of years.

When not doing political work, Fink is a product analyst for a healthcare software company. Moore came to Dallas with a master’s in journalism as staff advisor to student publications at Southern Methodist University. Today she is art production manager for an advertising agency.

— David Taffet


Gary Fitzsimmons

Before moving to Dallas in 1990, Gary Fitzsimmons was active in partisan campaigns in Austin and that city’s Lesbian/Gay Political Caucus. In the 1980s, that group was successful in lobbying Austin’s city government to pass three non-discrimination ordinances in housing, public accommodations and employment — and creating the Human Relations Commission to enforce it.

Years before there was Stonewall Democrats, he worked with Lesbian/Gay Democrats of Texas.

"I’ve always been a campaign person," Fitzsimmons says, and he has been elected precinct chair and selected to serve on the Democratic Party’s state executive committee.

When Fitzsimmons was elected Dallas County district clerk in 2006, he acknowledges he was part of a Democratic sweep of countywide elections. But of more than 40 candidates on the ballot, he earned the seventh-largest margin. That was quite an accomplishment for someone who was the target of an anti-gay robo-call campaign.

Fitzsimmons’ immediate reaction to those calls, he says, was panic. But then he contacted the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which turned those calls into a national fundraising campaign for his candidacy.

He also learned that those kinds of calls generally do not work, and he says he actually gained votes as a result.

He says he chose the office of district clerk because the incumbent was one of the most vulnerable county officials and the job was a good fit based on his experience working with non-profits. But Fitzsimmons says he loves county government.

"This is where it’s at," he says and lists county programs with which he has worked since coming into office. "AIDS education services, health and welfare programs, disaster preparation, homeland security. Dallas County coordinated receiving all those folks who came in from Ike. The swine flu epidemic, jail health. These are all challenges interesting to me personally."

Fitzsimmons will seek re-election in November 2010.

— David Taffet


Mark Frazier

As owner of the Dallas Eagle, becoming involved in the National Leather Association was a natural for Mark Frazier. He became president of the local chapter and later of the international organization.

But he and business partner Matt Miller opened the Dallas Eagle as a leather/Levi bar, he says, because "at the time, my job was transitioning to Kentucky. Matt’s was eliminated."

They got the idea of opening a bar and there wasn’t a leather bar in Dallas.
Sports have been a major part of Frazier’s life since high school and college where he ran track and played football. After school, he says, he took up running, went from football to softball and became involved in rodeo.

After moving to Dallas, Frazier participated in The Texas Gay Rodeo Association in both livestock and camp events and served as president of TGRA in 1991-92.

Many bars sponsor teams, but Frazier also participated on the Eagle’s softball team. He became commissioner of the Dallas softball league and presented the bid to the national organization that brought almost 1,000 men and women to Dallas for the 2004 softball tournament.

Always important to Frazier is how he is giving back to the LGBT community.
Frazier says, "We always supported groups from sporting events to anyone raising money."

In 2004 he counted how much money had been raised for AIDS organizations and gay and lesbian groups. He says they had distributed over half a million dollars, collected one dollar at a time.

In 2003, he and Miller opened a second bar, Woody’s, on Cedar Springs.
After 13 years at the Eagle, he and Miller sold the bar in December 2007 to a new group of investors that included one of his bartenders. In January 2008, Frazier sold his interest in Woody’s to Miller.

Frazier went back to school to supplement his business and management degree with a master’s in health care management. This June he will earn his nursing degree.

Unsure what he’ll do with his new degrees, he says, "I’ll find a way to give more back."

— David Taffet

Monica Greene

Once the rising star of the Dallas restaurant scene, Eduardo Greene shocked everyone when he gave up his successful restaurants and took off in pursuit of his dream.

That dream was to become the person he always felt he should be, and that person was female.

After a lot of personal struggle and hard work, Eduardo began the transition to Monica, and in 1995 headed to Belgium with borrowed funds to have gender reassignment surgery. After a painful recovery, Monica returned to the Dallas restaurant scene with a splash.

Instead of hiding who she was, Monica celebrated the change in public and in her advertising for her newly rechristened restaurant. What was once Eduardo’s Aca y Alla, became Monica’s Aca y Alla.

Her advertisements in the Dallas Observer became legendary. One favorite summed up much of her experience, "For every Chromosomal X in my body, there’s a ‘why’ in people’s minds."

Over time the business flourished again and Greene was hailed as Dallas’ grand hostess. In 2005, she ran for the District 2 seat on the Dallas City Council, eventually losing a hard-fought and, at times, bitter campaign to Pauline Medrano.

Today, Greene lives in Aspen, Colo., where she owns a vegetarian restaurant on the top floor of the Explorer Bookstore & Bistro on Main Street. Her restaurant here in Dallas’ Deep Elum district is still doing well after 16 years.

For transgender people, Greene is an example of someone who successfully pursued her dreams both personal and in business. Her courage and candor as well as her culinary savvy have made her not just successful, but endeared her to thousands of friends and patrons.

— Hardy Haberman

Phil Johnson

Phil Johnson is a storyteller.

He tells stories of being in the Army during World War II in a group of stenographers and typists, many of whom were gay men.

He tells stories of meeting downtown on Elm Street, Dallas’ theater row, for "Gay Thursdays."

He tells stories of the frequent raids on the gay bars most Dallas LGBT people have never experienced.

As a storyteller, Johnson embodies a tradition of oral history and he knows it. But he also knows that the spoken word soon fades, and that is why he has been a dedicated reader and collector of LGBT historical documents and literature.

His personal library forms the basis for the Phil Johnson Historic Archives and Research Library at the Resource Center Dallas, which now holds more than 7,000 books, CDs and DVDs on LGBT subjects.

Johnson was also one of the first members of many local LGBT organizations. including the "Circle of Friends" formed during 1965. Just a few years later he was grand marshal in Dallas’ first gay Pride parade. He continues to be a visible and vocal activist for LGBT causes today.

Johnson also participated in efforts to get the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in the early 1970s. And he has been an avid supporter of the Gay Games, winning medals in swimming at numerous Gay Games competitions.

Anyone who has heard Johnson speak knows what a treasure he is and what joy he takes in painting vivid images with his words and gestures. Recently, he was awarded the Kuchling Humanitarian Award by the Black Tie Dinner for his legacy of activism and, of course, his storytelling.

— Hardy Haberman


Christine Jarosz

Christine Jarosz remembers the Lesbian Resource Center fondly. Every Friday night, she recalls, they held a community dinner at their Skiles Street building in East Dallas.

"Lots of spaghetti," she laughs, describing all the varieties of sauce she ate over the years.

Educational forums and talent shows were held monthly. Peer counseling was available. The LGBT community’s first library, located at the Lesbian Resource Center, had more than 2,000 books by and for women.

Opened in 1984, Jarosz says the center was a source of pride for women, even those who wouldn’t ever go. She says there was security in knowing it was there.

The Lesbian Resource Center remained open for eight or nine years, Jarosz says, until the cost of maintaining the old building became too great. When the center closed, they took the concept of community to local neighborhoods and created a new organization, the Women’s Communities Association.

WCA created 46 neighborhood networks throughout the Dallas area and North Texas to provide services for women without traditional support systems, including the elderly, immigrants and disabled women as well as lesbians. Today the group has 650 members.

Annually, Women’s Communities Association sponsors an essay contest called "Words of Women." Winning essays are read at the International Women’s Day celebration at the Women’s Museum at Fair Park.

Having devoted her entire life to helping other women, Jarosz says, "Call it a calling." She says she didn’t set out to do what she does; it just happened.
"All of a sudden, you just realize, ‘This is why I’m here.’"

— David Taffet

Don Maison

In February, Don Maison celebrated 20 years as executive director of AIDS Services of Dallas. That makes him possibly the longest serving head of an AIDS organization in the country.

Maison was working as an attorney when a new organization called the PWA Coalition of Dallas was formed, and he helped the fledgling organization, now known as AIDS Services of Dallas, with some legal problems. After  the organization’s first residential facility for people with AIDS, Revlon Apartments, opened, the coalition received a grant and could afford an executive director. Mike Merdian, the group’s co-founder who died of AIDS in 1993, encouraged Maison to apply for the position.

"When I heard how many applied, I was sure others had better qualifications to run a non-profit," he said. But he was the one who got the job.

One reason for the success of ASD is the organization’s focus. Over the years, Maison says they tried a few additional programs, but he called them distracting.
"Let’s do one thing well," he says.

Today they operate four apartment complexes for individuals and families living with HIV/AIDS.

He also credits a wonderful staff through the years. In particular, Maison talks about his vice president and chief operating officer Mike Anderson, who also celebrates his 20th anniversary with ASD this spring.

Maison calls him, "the first straight man to work in AIDS in Texas." He says that in 20 years, the two have never had an ethical disagreement.
About his personal life, Maison says, "I don’t have one."

For his 10-year anniversary with the organization, he took about a month off to travel in Asia. He was planning another trip for his 20th, but didn’t want to leave before the No Tie Dinner fundraiser in March.

He hopes to squeeze a trip in, but it will have to come before September’s Lone Star Ride from which ASD also benefits.

— David Taffet

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 22, 2009.

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