MetroBall signs Belinda Carlisle as headliner

Posted on 18 Dec 2014 at 12:01pm
Belinda Carlisle V

Belinda Carlisle

MetroBall, which takes place on June 5 at S4, has signed Belinda Carlisle of the Go-Gos as its headliner.

MetroBall benefits the Greg Dollgener Memorial AIDS Fund and over the past decade has raised more than $275,000.

Carlisle was the lead singer for the Go-Gos, before beginning a solo music career in 1985. The Go-Gos became the first all-girl band to hit No. 1 on the charts by writing and playing their own songs.

Throughout the early 1980s, the Go-Gos remained one of the most beloved bands in America, with hit songs like “We Got the Beat” and “Our Lips Are Sealed” dominating radio and MTV. The discography of Carlisle’s solo career includes seven studio albums, three compilation albums and 31 singles. Her memoir, Lips Unsealed, was published in 2010 by Crown Archetype.

Belinda has a gay son. Earlier this year she and her son, James Duke Mason, spoke to a PFLAG group about Mason’s coming out. Duke is an actor, writer, candidate for the West Hollywood City Council and the grandson of the late British actor James Mason.

The $30 advance tickets for MetroBall are now on sale here.

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Hollywood, offensive speech and why ‘The Interview’ actually matters

Posted on 18 Dec 2014 at 10:02am

TheIntSome neocons like to argue that the protections afforded by the First Amendment really only apply to political speech — that artistic speech of a non-political nature simply isn’t subject to the same rigorous scrutiny. (Even political speech to them doesn’t include, apparently, blocking traffic or wearing T-shirts on the field at sporting events) And while no one has probably ever referred to what Seth Rogen does as art, the free expression issues raised in the controversy over his new film, The Interview, reach the level of serious discussion.

If you haven’t heard, the comedy — which was supposed to screen for local critics tonight and open in Dallas on Christmas Day — is a about the comical attempts of a talk show host and his producer to assassinate Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s dictator. Last month, pro-North Korean factions hacked the private servers of Sony (the parent company of Columbia Pictures, which is releasing the film), and disclosed all sorts of embarrassing details about the company, and threatened to blow up movie theaters who dared screen the film which dares parody the leader of the most oppressive regime in the world. In other words, to these guys, there is no such this as protection for free expression of ideas, even stupid ones. (I suppose they have that in common with a lot of folks at FoxNews — ironic, since FoxNews specializes in stupid ideas.)

Yesterday, Sony caved to pressure, and yanked the film from distribution, not even planning  for a video-on-demand or DVD release at a later date. The ironic thing was, many hours after the decision had been announced, commercials for The Interview we’re still appearing on cable TV shows, promising a movie viewers would never see.

Without defending the specifics of The Interview (which I have not seen), keep in mind what this says about society: The Interview is a fantastical comedy, albeit about one real person (highly fictionalized). Comedy is key to this. But what other films actually opening on Christmas Day? A story about another real person, only it’s a true story: Louis Zamperini was brutally tortured by the Japanese during World War II (Unbroken); astonishingly, Japan has not required that the film be censored, nor have Japanese-American groups threatened terrorism for portraying their people in a negative light. Another true story is about a gay man, who also happens to be the greatest mathematician of the 20th century, who was unjustly treated by the horrific homophobia of the British system in the 1950s (The Imitation Game). To date, Queen Elizabeth has not demanded an apology. And in the Dec. 25 release American Sniper, real marksman Chris Kyle methodically uses a long-range rifle to kill a prepubescent boy in Afghanistan, then immediately turns his site on the boy’s mother and takes her out as well. (They were wielding grenades at U.S. troops.) The Islamic community so far has not declared a jihad on the studio.

Then there’s a movie in which a key plot point is a young African-American orphan is kidnapped (Annie) … a movie where a witch practicing dark arts casts spells to keep a couple barren, and people die as a result of their bad behavior — no happy endings in Into the Woods … even in The Gambler, African-Americans and Koreans are portrayed as thuggish gangsters (I guess impugning South Koreans is OK)  All in all, this season at the movies is rife with controversy, downbeat themes, violence, injustice, and brutality — often at the hands of people who might otherwise be offended at the characterization. But only the comedy about a country that doesn’t even know the Internet exists is being pulled from theater.

To be fair, Sony didn’t have many options. Major theater chains had refused to show the film, citing safety concerns. But think about what this statement says on the same day the U.S. announced efforts to normalize relations with another oppressive dictatorship, Cuba. It’s a message that tyranny wins, and self-expression isn’t an absolute. The loudest voices can drown out the sensible ones. It’s sad that all this time, we were worried about North Korea having nuclear capabilities, when all they really needed was wifi.

It would appear that the neocons have been proven right: Freedom of expression may very well be dead … and not just in North Korea.

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Ben Whishaw: The gay interview

Posted on 18 Dec 2014 at 8:53am

Ben Whishaw, right, in ‘Lilting’

As our final lead-up to The Hollywood Issue on Friday, we offer up an interview with the notoriously private Ben Whishaw, who — aside from his work in films like Skyfall and Cloud Atlas — will be appearing soon in Paddington and the supernatural drama LiltingLawrence Ferber tracked down Whishaw and Lilting’s writer/director Hong Khaou.

Lost in translation

Language isn’t the only barrier that stands between a gay man and the non-English-speaking mother of his dead, closeted boyfriend in Lilting.

The feature debut of Cambodian-British writer/director Hong Khaou, this elegant chamber drama stars acclaimed British actor Ben Whishaw (Skyfall, Cloud Atlas) as Richard, who enlists a translator and attempts to forge a bond with Cambodian-Chinese Junn (Hong Kong actress Cheng Pei Pei of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon), the retirement home-bound, prickly mother of his recently deceased partner, Kai (Andrew Leung). Although Junn and Richard mourn the same person, Kai never came out or divulged the nature of his “friendship” to mom, and the jaded, sourpuss Junn disliked Richard from the get-go .…

Khaou previously worked for London-based LGBT film distributor, Peccadillo Pictures, and directed a pair of acclaimed short films, Spring and Summer. Thanks to his experience watching and distributing queer-themed films, he learned a few important lessons to apply to his own delve into feature filmmaking. “I wanted to make sure the kissing was correct,” he shares. “I remember having a conversation about that with the actors. It’s such a difficult detail to get right. I understand certain actors, if not gay, they have that trepidation, but if you’re an actor and take on kissing, you want to make sure to convey it correctly. I was very aware the kissing was right!”

Khaou shot the indie film over a tightly scheduled 17 days. Specifically citing John Sayles’ 1996 Texas-set feature Lone Star and 2011’s Martha Marcy May Marlene as cinematic influences on Lilting, Khaou also drew heavily from his own family life when writing the script. Born in Cambodia, his family fled to England during the 80s while he was a child. His mother struggled to learn English upon arrival, and even now has trouble with the language. One thing she does understand, however, is that her son is gay. “Her reaction [to my coming out] was fine,” Khaou says. “The build up was agonizing. I was shaking and petrified, but having told her she was fine.”

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WATCH: Naked athletes frolicking. Yeah, that (NSFW)

Posted on 17 Dec 2014 at 4:22pm

The rowers for the Warwick crew team original made a naked calendar as a fundraiser. Now they do it, in part, to support gays in sports. Bully for them!

Watch the NSFW video below.

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Socially conscious shopping tips for the Dallas holiday shopper

Posted on 17 Dec 2014 at 2:18pm
Armani

While Neiman’s gets a miserable score, gay Giorgio Armani scores a shameful zero

If you’re still holiday shopping and want to make sure your LGBT dollars are going to companies with the best policies for its employees, one place to look is Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index.

It’s been out for awhile, but for the holiday shopping season, I’ve pulled out some highlights for local Dallas shoppers.

Department stores

Let’s say you’re looking for something from a local department store. That’s a no brainer, because what’s more gay than Neiman Marcus?

Well, local and gay friendly? J.C. Penney for one. Plano-based J.C. Penney gets a 95. Neiman’s scores a miserable 15. In the 1950s, Jack Evans was once fired from the store because he was gay. They couldn’t do that now or they wouldn’t have a staff, but they also offer few protections and no benefits to their LGBT employees.

So if you’re counting out Neiman’s, what about the rest of NorthPark’s anchors? Macy’s and Nordstrom get 100 percent. Dillards? Not so much. 30.

If you’re shopping at the Galleria, the new Belk gets a failing 15.

Elsewhere in NorthPark

Abercrombie, American Eagle, Gap, Nike and Tiffany rate 100

Kenneth Cole, Ralph Lauren: 90

Aeropostale: 85

H&M: 70

J. Crew: 30

Foot Locker, Donna Karan, Burberry, Guess, Urban Outfitters: 15

Ann Taylor, Giorgio Armani, Gucci, Versace, Express, Skechers: These are the ExxonMobils of the mall that offer no protection and no benefits to their LGBT employees. And Versace was gay and so is Armani. I guess just because you’re gay (or built your retail empire on the reputation of someone who was) doesn’t mean you don’t say fuck you to those who work for you or your LGBT customers. If Armani just had a no-cost nondiscrimination statement that included sexual orientation and gender identity, he’d get a 15. Shame on him for not saying, “Of course we won’t fire our gay, lesbian and transgender employees.”

Local chains

What about other local chains? Pier 1 and Radio Shack are both based in Fort Worth. Radio Shack: 30. Pier 1: 15.

Do the Dallas-based The Container Store or Michaels do better? Both rate a pitiful 15.

Strip centers:

Shopping for the lesbian on your list may be easy this year. Home Depot gets a 90, but, across the street, Lowe’s only gets a 30.

Target: 100

Office Depot and Staples: 100 (Office Max: not rated)

Ross: 70

Bed, Bath and Beyond go below: 30.

Big Lots: 15

Dollar stores

Dollar stores aren’t all the same. Family Dollar and Dollar Tree rate just 30, while Dollar General gets a more respectable 70.

Drug stores

Both CVS and Walgreens rank 100.

Groceries

Safeway (which owns Tom Thumb) gets 100.

Kroger rates 85.

Whole Foods could do better with a 75.

Central Market: 40.

Trader Joe’s: 30.

Aldi, Fiesta and my favorite local supermarket Rio Grande: not rated.

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Kiesza: The gay interview

Posted on 17 Dec 2014 at 8:17am

Kiesza

Continuing our lead-up to The Hollywood Issue this week, we chat with “Hideaway” singer Kiesza, who’s long be an ally to the gay community. But is she more an Mariah or Whitney fan?  — Chris Azzopardi

Even before making the streets of New York City her own private dance floor for “Hideaway,” Kiesza was courting the queers. The lead single off the 25-year-old’s major-label debut, Sound of a Woman, has certainly boosted her appeal within the community — who could resist the sports bra and suspenders look? — but the gays and this former sniper-in-training for the Canadian Army actually go way back.

On her way to the airport, Kiesza called to chat about pretend-marrying her gay best friend, how Barbra Streisand taught her to sing and her request for the drag queens.

Dallas Voice: Have you been feeling the gay love yet?  Kiesza: I’ve been feeling it before any other love, actually. Even before “Hideaway,” when I was doing other projects, the gay community was always the community that supported me as a brand new artist. I always felt supported by the gay community before anyone else, so it’s a really special community to me.

When did you know the gay community was in love with you?  I would actually meet the people who were coming to my shows and it showed me who my audience was, and I had a very strong gay following, which is amazing. They’re so enthusiastic, and they come dressed in clothes that emulate my own style. They’re always going the extra mile.

You know you’ve made it when guys are doing you in drag.  Yeah, I saw some people doing “Hideaway” in drag, which is amazing. I wanna go to a drag show and see someone performing “Hideaway” live!

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Jeffrey Tambor of ‘Transparent:’ The gay interview

Posted on 16 Dec 2014 at 8:17am

Our Hollywood Issue comes out Friday, so we thought we’d do a lead-up with celebrity interviews from the world of entertainment. Kicking everything off? Our Chris Azzopardi‘s piece on the controversial new streaming series Transparent, where he talks to star Jeffrey Tambor and associate producer Zackary Drucker (herself MTF). 

When a show makes its mark on society, it’s more than just TV — it’s history.

In 2014, we met Maura, the protagonist of the brazen, boundary-breaking Transparent, a dramedy centered on a 70-something male-to-female’s journey in coming out to her family. Written by Jill Soloway (Six Feet Under) and produced by Amazon with a standout lead performance from Jeffrey Tambor, the show is being heralded as an Emmy contender for its authentic look at trans life.

Dallas Voice: Jeffrey, what drew you to the Maura character?  Jeffrey Tambor: I was coming into Los Angeles from my home in New York, and I was doing a talk show and my representatives, who are tremendous, are always on the lookout for really good things. They sent me this script by Jill Soloway, and I got off the plane — I had about a 15-minute drive to my hotel — and by the time I got to the hotel, I had read this. I called them and I said, “I’m in, I’m in, I’m in. Let me meet Jill.”

Jill and I met the next day — we had a great meeting — and then that afternoon I saw her movie Afternoon Delight, and I called her again. You know, in the pilot, I don’t have that big of a role, but you could just see how beautiful that family and their dynamic was. You could see that Jill was after big themes, but the people were so real, so authentic and so accessible, and so I just said, “I’m in.”

Even though your role is slight during the pilot, your presence is massive.  Tambor: Thank you. The key scene, I think, in that pilot is around that table. That barbecue scene — I could watch that on a loop for the rest of my life. I remember when we were filming that and every face I looked into was just filled with genius and light and quicksilver moods. It’s really a real coup of casting.

With so few representations of transgender people in the media, and trans visibility being at the forefront culturally, what kind of responsibility did you feel to Maura and to the trans community?  Tambor: A huge responsibility. I had nervous self-tappings on my shoulder the whole time. I don’t think I have been as nervous as when I did the scene when I had to come out to my daughter Sarah [Amy Landecker]. I was shaking, and not because I was nervous about being good, or nervous about being talented, or nervous about learning the lines — I wanted to do it right. I turned to Jill many times during the making of this, and to Zackary and [co-producer] Rhys Ernst many times, and said, “This is big. This is huge.” You would feel it at times and think, “This is so much more than all of us put together. This is a big movement.”

Zackary Drucker: Jeffrey brings a tremendous amount of humanity to this role, and from a very internal place without falling into stereotypes or tropes of other representations of trans people that we’ve seen. I think that this show is a huge step in the right direction, and as a trans person, I have a lot of hope, actually, that there are many more to come. This is one big step for bringing trans people into pop culture and into television and film.

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Another sports hero for gay people: Billy Bean

Posted on 15 Dec 2014 at 4:18pm

Billy BeanIn this week’s print edition, which hit stands on Friday, we announced our selection for LGBT Texan of the Year, and with little surprise, it was Texas native (and Dallas Cowboy recruit, though short-lived) Michael Sam. But Sam isn’t the only outhlete who impressed us this year. Brittney Griner, Tom Daley, Jason Collins and Robbie Rogers all spoke out.

But as sports writer Dan Woog observes in this piece, it was also a former athlete who started to get a lot accomplished behind the scene, by becoming MLB’s first Ambassador of Inclusion: Billy Bean.

During his entire baseball career, Billy Bean says he lived in a “tiny, dark closet.”

In 1995, he walked away from the sport he loved. He felt he could no longer hide his sexuality. But he also believed he could not be out as a professional athlete.

Bean went on to successful careers in radio, television, restaurants and real estate.

Then last year, while he was attending the Nike-sponsored LGBT Sports Coalition meeting in Portland, Major League Baseball came calling. A high-ranking official admitted, “This phone call probably comes 15 years too late.”

A month later, MLB made it official: Bean was named its first Ambassador for Inclusion.

Underlying its importance, the announcement came on a big stage: during the annual All-Star game in Minneapolis.

Bean’s new job highlights Major League Baseball’s evolution on LGBT issues, and its confidence in that path. A year ago, the organization formulated a policy prohibiting players from harassing and discriminating against others based on sexual orientation. Now they’ve named an openly gay former player to a league-wide position and given him wide latitude to figure out exactly what his job entails.

The first thing Bean did was put together an “all-star team” of experts. Representatives from GLAAD, Athlete Ally, You Can Play, PFLAG and other groups made themselves available to help educate players.

But as a former player himself, Bean knows that the demands on athletes’ time are great. So he’s reaching out further, to each MLB team and to their fans as well.

He’s doing it like the singles hitter he was. Bean is not going for a dramatic home run; he’s spraying hits around the field.

During the World Series, for instance, he met with San Francisco Giants CEO Larry Baer. In the midst of so many distractions — “the whole world was watching the team,” Bean notes — the executive listened, and told Bean how important his work was.

Then, Bean traveled to Phoenix for the annual meeting of all 30 MLB general managers. Later this winter he will be part of the Rookie Career Development Program, educating professional baseball’s youngest athletes about LGBT issues.

He’s opening up dialogues with every team. Each has its unique culture. Teams like the Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs have created inclusive environments, and done outreach to LGBT fans. Many other teams, though “don’t discuss the subject much,” Bean says. “My job is to bring positive attention to it.”

These days, people are willing to listen. “That’s the greatness of baseball,” says Bean. “They understand it’s not fair for one (gay) player to shoulder the burden of this new frontier. It’s important for an organization to understand that these issues impact and involve everyone.”

Bean was not hired to work with the one or two MLB players who may be in the process of deciding whether to come out. His job is to help the sport understand that there are gay players, executives, broadcasters and fans — in varying stages of “outness” — and to embrace everyone in the wide baseball community.

Baseball has come a long ways from 1995, the year Bean retired. “If things were like this when I was playing, my life would’ve been very different,” he says.

He points with pride to the New York Yankees. One of his first initiatives this summer was to take general manager Brian Cashman and assistant GM Jean Afterman to the Hetrick-Martin Institute, the nation’s largest social services agency for at-risk LGBT youth. The executives showed off their 2009 championship rings, then encouraged the teenagers to be true to themselves and follow their passions … wherever those might lead.

“That’s the power of baseball,” Bean says. “It can be very exciting and inspiring. Our job now is to even the playing field, so that everyone feels they can participate.”

A few months ago, at the LGBT Sports Coalition meeting in Portland, Bean met four college baseball players. Thrilled at the chance to talk with a former Major Leaguer, they described their fulfilled, exciting lives as gay athletes today.

“Ten years ago,” Bean says, “if you met people like that they’d be in dire circumstances. But the arc of the conversation has changed. I feel really grateful to be part of it.”

MLB commissioner Bud Selig acknowledged the past when he introduced Bean to the media. “I wish our game had someone in place” to whom Bean could have turned as a player, Selig says. “A friend, listener, a source of support.”

Billy Bean is doing exactly that today — not just for players, but coaches, managers, executives and fans as well. As a player he was not a home run hitter, but as “Ambassador for Inclusion” he’s definitely a grand slam.

 

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DFW Film Critics name ‘Birdman’ best of 2014

Posted on 15 Dec 2014 at 10:04am
Still10

Ellar Coltrane, star of the Texas-based ‘Boyhood’

The Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association, of which I am a voting member, named the fantasy film Birdman as the top film of 2014 in its annual poll. Runaway favorite also took nodes for its star, Michael Keaton, who won best actor; Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for direction and screenplay; and for its cinema-tography. Second on the list was the Texas-based  Boyhood, which took place over a 12 year shooting scheduling.

The other films in the top 10 were The Imitation Game (No. 3), The Theory of Everything (No. 4), Texas-bred filmmaker Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel (No. 5), Whiplash (No. 6), Gone Girl (No. 7), Selma (No. 8), Wild (No. 9) and Nightcrawler (No. 10).

Reese Witherspoon was named best actress for Wild. Runners-up for best actor include Eddie Redmayne (as Steven Hawking) in The Theory of Everything, Benedict Cumberbatch (as gay mathematician Alan Turing) in The Imitation Game, Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler and Timothy Spall in Mr. Turner. Runners-up for best actress were Julianne Moore, Still Alice; Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl; Felicity Jones, Theory of Everything and Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night.

Best supporting performance nods went to actor J.K. Simmons in Whiplash and actress Patricia Arquette for Boyhood. Runners-up for supporting actor were Edward Norton for Birdman, Ethan Hawks, Boyhood, Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher and Alfred Molina, Love Is Strange; supporting actress also-rans were Emma Stone, Birdman, Keira Knightley,  Imitation Game, Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year and Laura Dern, Wild.

Also named as the best directors were Richard Linklater, Boyhood (who was also the second-place finisher for Boyhood), Anderson, Budapest; David Fincher, Gone Girl; Ava DuVarnay, Selma.

Force Majeure was named best foreign language film (followed by Ida, Winter Sleep, Leviathan and Wild Tales);  Citizenfour was named best documentary (followed by Life Itself, Jodorowsky’s Dune, The Overnighters and The Great Invisible); The Lego Movie took best animated feature. Best score went to Interstellar (which placed second for its cinematography).

The association also gives the Russell Smith Award, named for the late gay Dallas Morning News film critic who championed indie films, to Boyhood.

Read more about the association here.

Friday is Dallas Voice’s Hollywood Issue, which will include reviews of a number of new films and celebrity interviews; our Dec. 26 issue will include my own list of the best films of 2014 (which includes many from the critics’ poll).

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Cocktail Friday: Torched Old-Fashioned

Posted on 12 Dec 2014 at 12:25pm

KC_Torched Citrus OF_BottleWhen most people say they enjoy an old-fashioned holiday, they mean “traditional.” When I think of an old-fashioned holiday, I mean “bourbon.” Jeff Hammett, an Austin-based bartender, came up with this twist on the old-fashioned old-fashioned that sounds very new-fangled. Hey, maybe someone should invent a drink called the New-Fangled. Dibs!

2 parts Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve bourbon

5 dashes Angostura bitters

1 part simple syrup (with a hint of clove)

Orange and lemon rinds

1 part soda

Making it: With a food torch, scorch the citrus rinds. In a shaker, muddle the rinds with the syrup and bitters, then add the bourbon. Add ice and stir. Strain over ice into an old-fashioned glass. Top with a spritz of soda water.

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