E! gets into gay realiTV with ‘What Happens at The Abbey’

Posted on 28 Mar 2017 at 9:50am

Two weeks ago, I wrote about how Logo was about to debut a new series called Fire Island, following a clutch of hedonist gayboys as they navigate the shallow waters of East Coast life on a gay resort island. Last week, I wrote how VH-1 is now the official home of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Now comes word that the E! channel is getting into queer realiTV with a new series, What Happens at The Abbey. Stealing a paraphrase of the Las Vegas slogan, the show follows behind-the-scenes activities at the famed West Hollywood gay bar. The series will debut on “Sunday Funday,” i.e., May 14 at 9 p.m. Central. Here’s a teaser for the series:

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Coming out in sports … as gay, and as a soccer player

Posted on 27 Mar 2017 at 8:46am

 

When you grow up in Minnesota, you play hockey. If your family is “masculine and sports-oriented,” you play lots of other sports too.

Ryan Adams was a hockey player, a soccer goalkeeper and a varsity tennis star.

But, like so many gay men, he knew as young as 4 that he was different. He left the macho environment of hockey after Bantams (a level of youth hockey) and stopped playing soccer in high school. Looking back into the haze of adolescence, Adams can’t even remember what year he quit. The mix of sexuality, sports and “a bit” of bullying was too much.

It did not help that for as long as he could remember, his father made anti-gay jokes. The effect was so strong that for a couple of years after coming out Adams could not even go to a Pride parade.

“I’ve evolved so much since then,” he says in wonderment. His family has, too … including his dad.

Coming out was complicated. Adams had a full military ride to a ROTC program at a Catholic college, ranking third among 46 cadets. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was still in effect. The Air Force was overstaffed though, so he was allowed to leave without paying back his tuition.

Exploring the gay world online, Adams found a new life in Nashville. It was a big, important change. But at 21 he moved back to Minneapolis, and began living his life openly and proudly.

He found a Facebook group of LGBT people involved in social and athletic activities like bowling and raising money for AIDS causes. When he learned of a coed LGBT soccer team — and heard about the Gay Games and World Outgames — he realized what he’d been missing. The young man who had been turned off by the sports world wanted back in.

The Twin Cities Jacks became a major part of Adams’ life. Founded in 2007, they’re the only LGBT soccer club in Minnesota. They field teams in local, national and international tournaments; host social outings for LGBT fans; promote the game, and educate other soccer organization about homophobia in sports. Players of all skill levels are welcome. Allies are encouraged as well.

Adams, who had earned a master’s degree in sports management and now works full time for a college marketing organization, rose quickly through the volunteer ranks. “I wanted everyone to have a chance to live healthy lives, and make friends,” he says.

He notes that despite increasing openness, “we’re still in an era when a gay adult may be playing sports for the first time in their life, or be out as an athlete for the first time. Lifting that emotional burden is so important. It’s amazing to play a sport as exactly the person you are.” What was once a “hindrance” for many, he says, “now draws us together.”

That sense of fulfillment and camaraderie has opened many eyes. TC Jacks’ outreach to allies has helped straight soccer players experience the world in a new way. A lawyer and his wife who moved to Minnesota from rural Iowa had known only one gay person ever. But they found the Jacks, and became passionate, devoted friends of the LGBT community.

The Jacks use their popularity to influence the broader soccer world. Minnesota United FC begins play in Major League Soccer this year. The Jacks are helping team officials become “socially responsible” — beyond simply sponsoring one Pride Night a year — and have engaged supporters groups, too. “They’re incredibly LGBT friendly,” Adams says.

Beyond the Twin Cities, Adams has taken on leadership roles too. He served the International Lesbian & Gay Football Association in an interim role, and has begun a soft launch for an organization called US LGBT Soccer.

The goal for that group is to offer a home for LGBT players, coaches, administrators and fans around the country. A unified organization can provide a national association for clubs; offer resources and best practices, so that new teams and leagues do not have to reinvent the soccer wheel; tie together LGBT supporter groups of professional clubs; recruit, train and aid LGBT referees; partner with pro leagues to combat homophobia — and create an LGBT national team to represent the United States in foreign tournaments.

There are not many sports with such outreach to all members of their community. There are not many team sports with such global appeal as soccer, either. There are not many people with the energy and vision of Ryan Adams.

But there are plenty of Ryan Adamses in the LGBT sports world — men and women who understand the power of athletics to provide community, competition and fun to everyone, in a healthy, open and affirming environment. As a new year dawns, their work endures.

— Dan Woog

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BREAKING NEWS: ‘Fun Home’ to open ATTPAC’s 2017 season

Posted on 26 Mar 2017 at 8:01am

The Dallas Summer Musicals snared what is certainly the most-anticipated theatrical tour of the next few years — the already-announced Hamilton. But what is probably the second biggest musical tour will be coming to Dallas thanks to the AT&T Performing Arts Center … and you won’t have to wait until 2018 to see it. Fun Home, the multiple-Tony-Award-winner, including best musical, will open ATTPAC’s 2017-18 season, the organization just announced.

Set in a funeral home, Fun Home it tells the story of a girl who comes to understand her own sexuality… and that of her father. It will kick off the five-show season, running Sept. 13–24 at the Winspear Opera House.

Fun Home will be followed by two familiar musicals — Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas: The Musical, Dec. 5–17 and immediately after Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I, Dec. 19–31. There’ll be a bit of a break until The Humans, a comedy that won a best play Tony nomination last year, May 9–20, 2018. Finally, Bright Star — a bluegrass musical co-written by Dallas native Edie Brickell and comedian Steve Martin — will end the subscription series June 12–24.

In addition, two additional shows will be presented outside the season subscription: the 20th anniversary of Riverdance, March 20–25, and the ever-popular Jersey Boys, May 22–27.

Season tickets can be purchased here.

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Topsy Turvy: A bright star in dark times

Posted on 24 Mar 2017 at 10:59am

Brandi Amara Skyy reviews the Turtle Creek Chorale’s “Topsy Turvy” concert, continuing tonight and Saturday night, March 24-25, at City Performance Hall. (Photos courtesy Turtle Creek Chorale)

 

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

Call me a bad gay, but I had never been to a Turtle Creek Chorale concert before last night.

Not knowing what I was getting myself into, I texted a few of my closest friends who are devoted fans (and season ticket holders) to get a feel for what to expect. My good friend Dana said, “You’re in for a nice surprise. They always combine serious with comedic moments.”

He was right.

The evening was filled with … surprises — something that in this day and age of the internet is not necessarily what we expect. It’s far too easy to Google the happenings of the latest episode of our favorite shows prior to even the show airing the first time, let alone us watching it. Or to attend a show and be moved by the visuals, but not by the message.

So when I received the email with the set list being performed last evening (the names are not supposed to be known to the audience until after the show has ended), I made the decision not to open it. Because if Sean Baugh, the artistic director, wanted me to ride the wave and be surprised, I wasn’t about to deny him — or myself — the pleasure of this rarity.

And in this arena — the element of surprise — Topsy Turvy is a massive win. From song inclusion to talent to flow, Topsy Turvy does what it sets out to do — not just tell a story, but create and share an experience.

The Chorale promises “one of the most energetic and full-force arrays of musical selections our audience has ever experienced,” and I can feel, based on the audience’s energy and attention (minus the blonde wine-gulping girl sitting two seats to my left who completely ignores Rule No. 2 (Don’t Sing Along) when the finale hits) that this particular show and evening is in fact, different from all the rest.

I feel it too, even though I have no prior knowledge to compare it to.

But I’m not going to lie, this is probably the hardest review I’ve ever had to write because I refuse to spoil the experience by referring to the songs in the show by their name. So I will only reference them by the number in which they appear in the show.

The Topsy Turvy experience is billed as songs you thought you knew, and they drove that artistic theme home by reshaping pop, musical and LGBTQ classics into arrangements and styles we’ve never heard before (I’m thinking about songs 14 and 18 in particular). The visuals, the big top and all the dancers are stunning. And B.J. Cleveland is not only excellent and captivating as our ringleader, he is right there to help usher us through the two-hour experience (although I did miss him in the beginning of the second half).

The Thursday audience, teased for being the least vocal of the three-day bunch, rose to their feet for a song (hint: No. 5) and I rose for one as well (you’ll know it when you experience it). My personal favorites? Numbers 4, 5, 9,14, 17, 19, 21 (and a certain “whistler” in No. 3). These seven pieces were elegantly thought out, choreographed, and fully realized — and executed.

And while the soloists were spectacular, every single chorale member stole my heart that evening because they were so full of love for what they do. You could see it. But more importantly you could feel it.

Were some pieces in Topsy Turvy more successful than others? Yes. Were some pieces more polished? Yes. Is there room for improvement? Always.

But did the TCC deliver on their promises? Hell, yea — and then some.

What I love most about attending events, shows, and art in our community is just that. WE are a community. And both Bruce Jaster and Sean Baugh made sure to drive that point home to the audience every chance they got. And with all the talk about arts funding being cut and walls waiting to be built, we — I — needed to hear that as a community we are more inclusive now than ever.

Whether you are a devoted fan who has season tickets or you’re like me and new to the whole TCC experience, this show is a bright light in dark uncertain times, with just the right amount of camp, adult humor, laugher, nostalgia, and seriousness to keep me thoroughly invested — and entertained.

Topsy Turvy runs tonight and Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. at Dallas City Performance Hall.

Go.

Brandi Amara Skyy is a drag artist who writes and plays in magic. You can find out more about her and many projects at brandiamaraskyy.com.

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DSM gives at-risk teens a behind-the-scenes look at ‘Kinky Boots’

Posted on 23 Mar 2017 at 11:58am

Next week, the Tony Award-winning, highly empowering musical Kinky Boots — about a drag queen who helps save a struggling shoe manufacturer, and opens some eyes in the process — returns to Fair Park Music Hall, courtesy of Dallas Summer Musicals. Among those who will be attending one of the first performances will be about two dozen folks who probably have never even seen a play, not to mention one of this caliber … and with this message.

Next Thursday, 25 at-risk LGBTQ youth (ages 12–18) will be treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of Kinky Boots. DSM has teamed with the Resource Center‘s Youth First program to expose these teens to the power of theater and the inner-workings of a major national tour. It’s an insight few sophisticated theatergoers get a chance to experience. Among the activities will be a backstage tour, a meet-and-greet with DSM staff, a boxed dinner, free tickets to the performance and a past-show Q&A with members of the cast. And they will also get an idea of career opportunities in show business, and how to be fabulous while doing so.

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‘Missing Richard Simmons’ Podcast ends, but the mystery remains

Posted on 21 Mar 2017 at 1:28pm

When the Podcast Missing Richard Simmons dropped on Feb. 15 — barely a month ago — it landed precisely on the third anniversary of the last time the guru of fitness and self-love had been seen in public. He had called into the Today Show a few months back, he had posted items (apparently) on social media, and some of his closest colleagues had said they had seen him in person and he seemed “fine.” But the mystery remained: Why had someone famous for nearly 40 years for getting intimately involved in the lives of his followers — a man who had developed a cult where a hug was more effective than a criticism, where he continued to teach his regularly aerobics class in Beverly Hills, open to anyone — why had he just disappeared? No “thank you for your support, I’ve decided to retire” tweet… no “I’m closing my studio and everyone is invited to sign up for their last class with me” sign outside Slimmins… not even, it turned out, a phone call to many of his dearest friends, nor press release from his management explaining himself. He ghosted us, and one of his friends — gay filmmaker and novice Podcaster Dan Taberski — set about with Missing Richard Simmons to figure it out.

It attracted my attention, in no small part, because I have recently written a piece about my ex, who has also vanished without a trace. Taberski and I wanted to know the same thing: Was this person alive? Lucid? Safe? Healthy? Or had he just grown tired of us — of the world — for his own reasons and walked back into the shadows. Had be pulled a Greta Garbo: He just vanted to be let alone.

The Podcast was always planned for six weekly episodes, and according to Taberski, he started not knowing where he would finish. But each Wednesday for five weeks, we have waited to hear what he had unearthed, from claims of elder abuse (Simmons is now 68) to stories he had grown a beard a la Howard Hughes (could Mason jars or urine be far behind?) to worries over suicidal depression after the death of his beloved Dalmatians.

I had planned to write a post this morning teasing the finale, which was set to drop tomorrow. But then Taberski snookered us all, and the final episode of MRS came out last night, nearly 48 hours early. Taberski did it, he said, because of “developments” that made it important to get out there asap.

And… and…? Well, that’s the way a Podcast ends: Not with a bang, but with a whimper.

Nothing really new in the finale. No confessional face-to-face with Richard. No stunning reveal that he has transitioned into a female (I have posited, jokingly, that he had secretly become Kellyanne Conway). No sad, grainy photo that revealed he was on his death-bed. Nope. Taberski concluded that Richard had simply decided he had spent enough time in the spotlight and wanted to be out of it. Entirely. Without explanation. He’d given enough of himself.

It was not a disappointment to hear that, but you can’t call it wholly satisfying, either. We love a mystery, but we also love the witness-stand-confession, the “A-ha!’ moment, the Bond villain summary. Real life isn’t so tidy, especially when you start in the middle with nothing more than a microphone and your curiosity.

Richard Simmons is a private citizen now, no explanation required. Don’t like it? Well, go sweatin’ to the oldies and get over it.

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Got a favorite bartender? Tell them to prove it

Posted on 21 Mar 2017 at 8:41am

For the 11th year, Bombay Sapphire Gin is sponsoring the international Most Imaginative Bartender Competition, seeking to find the best mixologist in the world at turning a simple adult beverage into a work of art. Bartenders from Dallas, Houston New Orleans and Austin can face off in one of 12 regional competitions, until a dozen finalists are pegged to go to England later this summer.

If you have a favorite mixologist, or you are one, why not make the effort to check out the competition here. Entries will be accepted through April 13. Good luck!

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Gay Power Ranger making history

Posted on 20 Mar 2017 at 6:36pm

So, just within the last week, I was watching TV when something came on about the new Power Rangers movie, and I sighed deeply and proclaimed that the Power Rangers were stupid and annoying and I would NOT be going to see that movie.

(My partner appeared a bit insulted, letting me know that Power Rangers had been a VERY popular show around the whole world that MANY years, so there must be something good about them. I think she was/is a fan. I know our sons are fans.)

Anyway. I remained convinced that there was NOTHING that could get me to go see the Power Rangers movie. Until today. When Director Dean Israelite and actor BeckyG confirmed that the Yellow Ranger, Trini, is gay.

That means that Power Rangers is “the first big-budget superhero movie to feature an LGBT protagonist,” The Hollywood Reporter notes.

Israelite calls the moment that another character realizes that Trini is not having “a boyfriend problem,” and is instead having “a girlfriend problem” a small but pivotal moment.

Israelite told Hollywood Reporter, “For Trini, really she’s questioning a lot about who she is. She hasn’t fully figured it out yet. I think what’s great about that scene and what that scene propels for the rest of the movie is, ‘That’s OK.’ The movie is saying, ‘That’s OK,’ and all of the kids have to own who they are and find their tribe.”

BeckyG, who plays Yellow Ranger Trini, told ScreenRant, “Power Rangers has always represented diversity and they’re always been ahead of the curve on a lot of things and although it may be a touchy subject for some people, I think it’s done in a very classy way, and not only that, in a way that’s really real, because you don’t know, Trini doesn’t know herself, and it’s that moment where she says out loud, ‘I’ve never said any of this out loud’ and that line, where, you know, Zordon says ‘You must shed your masks to wear this armor.’ It’s true. People should accept themselves for who they really are and be proud of that and take ownership of that first and learn that self love to really be happy. …”

David Yost, the openly-gay actor who played The Blue Ranger in the 1990s TV show Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, told ScreenRant, “They really stepped up to the plate. I think so many people in the LGBTQI community are going to be excited to see that representation.”

Yost said in 2010 that he left the show in the 1990s because he was constantly harassed over his sexual orientation, although others associated with the show said there was no anti-gay sentiment on the set, and that Yost had been a pain to work with.

So now, I guess I have to go see the Power Rangers movie so I don’t lose my gay card. At least the “special effects” should be better these days.

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5 gaycations with a purpose

Posted on 20 Mar 2017 at 12:56pm

 

Gay polo!

I’ve never been interested in an all-gay getaway. The idea of making the annual 4th of July pilgrimage to Fire Island, or boarding an Atlantis cruise, just doesn’t appeal to me. My lack of interest in spending days on end with thousands of drunk, oversexed gay folk, however, doesn’t mean I can’t have a memorable gaycay. If you’re in the same boat (or dangling from its side), here are a few getaway ideas with an LGBT agenda to plan this year.

Ride for AIDS. The most prominent AIDS ride is the seven-day, 550.3-mile bike ride down the coast of California, beginning in San Francisco and ending in Los Angeles (June 4–10). If that sounds too daunting of a task, you still can participate in the annual AIDS/LifeCycle. For about $100, the organization will set you up with everything you need to volunteer along the route, including food and lodging. Over the course of the week, you’ll assist the 2,500-plus cyclists and more than 500 roadies who pull off this incredible feat of endurance and determination by providing hydration to riders, serving lunches, packing the trucks and picking up trash; dirty job, sure, but somebody’s got to do it. Fair tradeoff, considering that you’ll enjoy priceless views of a large swath of the West Coast for the cost of a single Bennie. (If you don’t wannas go to Cali, then do a volunteer vacay wherever your heart takes you.) For more information visit, aidslifeycle.org.

Gay wine tasting!

Gay Wine Weekend. LGBT oenophiles can one-up each other with their knowledge of delicious vintages — or just kick back and get lit — at Gay Wine Weekend in Sonoma County, California, July 14–16. The three-day grape escape features tasting excursions, champagne brunches, wine auctions and pool parties, and kicks off with a VIP welcome reception and winemaker dinner. Before heading home, venture off the beaten path to discover some of the 425 wineries that call the region home. Hosted by Out in the Vineyard, GWW benefits Face to Face, Sonoma County AIDS Network. Cop your tix at outinthevineyard.com.

MiFo LGBT Film Festival. For the past 19 years, the former Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival — rebranded as MiFo, which now includes the former Fort Lauderdale Gay & Lesbian Film Festival — has committed itself to entertaining and educating the public through international and culturally diverse films, video and other media that provides should-be-required glimpses into the LGBT experience. The Miami edition, running April 21–30, offers a robust schedule of programs, including regular screenings, parties, a spotlight on female filmmakers and culinary/cinema infusions. Can’t make it to Magic City this spring? Hit up the Fort Lauderdale edition Oct. 7–16. Fill your calendar at mifofilm.com.

Gay Baltimore!

HONfest. You’ll feel like an extra on the set of a John Waters film at the 23rd HONfest (June 10–11), a one-of-a-kind wink-and-nod to the area’s “Hon” culture, which began humbly as a regional term of endearment in the Hampden neighborhood of Baltimore City in the 1950s and ’60s. Sky-high beehives, cat-eye glasses and over-the-top, time-capsuled costumes that rival any drag queen’s getup keep this hyper-local gala of gaudiness a time-honored tradition in a town known more for its steamed crabs than its commitment to fashion. Warp over to honfest.net to begin your transformation.

International Gay Polo Tournament. Polo-playing Prince Harry may be out of your reach, but you can ogle the next best things at the 8th annual International Gay Polo Tournament (who knew there was such a thing?) at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington, Fla. April 6–9. Put your hosting skills to the test in an elaborate tailgating competition, clink glasses of bubbly with fellow Ralph Lauren-clad well-to-dos, and make an appearance at the Gay Polo League VIP tent on tourney day to indulge in tableside service with an open bar before stomping the divots. Interpret that however you’d like. Saddle up at thepalmbeaches.com.

— Mikey Rox

 

 

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