‘Throwing Shade’ Podcast becomes a TV show… tonight!

Posted on 17 Jan 2017 at 8:50am

Erin&BryanBFor years, we’ve been big fans on the Podcast Throwing Shade — which, as they say, addresses issues important to women and gay men, so basically like a talk show on Lifetime TV. The hosts, Bryan Safi and Erin Gibson, are native Texans with a dishy, funny but socially-conscious take on the world. We discussed all that with them last summer in this interview. At that time, they talked about their new TV show — part current affairs, part pre-recorded bits — which would begin airing this month. Well, that time has come! Tonight on TVLand at 9:30 p.m. local time, Throwing Shade, the TV program, will make its debut. It’s on my season pass already, and I hope y’all will show your support as well. During Fauxnauguration Week, we could all use a little shade.


STAGE REVIEW: ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’

Posted on 12 Jan 2017 at 3:19pm

Curious-IncidentWe are in the era of post-modern theater, like it or not. And I don’t always like it.

Theater is a dynamic art form, and three cheers for experimentation and finding the “new normal.” But for about the last decade, plays have relished a little too much in reminding us that they are plays, while trying to turn a “night at the theater” into a sensory overload. Projected sets. Ear-splitting musical cues that occur suddenly. Lighting designs that approximate film editing more than staged-scene transitions. Sometimes, some combination of these work (American Idiot, The Lieutenant of Inishman, Chinglish); sometimes they don’t (Dirty Dancing springs horribly to mind).

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, now at the Winspear Opera House, falls generally into the “plus” column of these po-mo plays, though it feels more sizzle than steak. Based on Mark Haddon’s book (for years, the biggest-selling book in British history), it tells the story of 15-year-old suburban kid Christopher. Christopher is “special needs” — the word “autism” is never used, though it’s clear he falls on the spectrum of savants with underdeveloped social skills. Christopher hates to be touched (even by his parents), he cannot tell a lie (though he proves himself adept and selective truth-sharing), he’s good at math but not at metaphor (he able to sit for his “A levels” — roughly the equivalent of SATs in the U.S. — two years early, but doesn’t understand when people say “I’ve got my eye on you” or “you’re the apple of my eye”). His manias conspire when he discovered the brutally murdered dog of a neighbor, and determine to figure out who committed the crime. (The reveal is not at all surprising.) This leads him, in Act 2, to run away to London in search of a different set of answers.

The novel, which is told from Christopher’s perspective, is an “unreliable narrator” book, a chance to see the world through the unique eyes of its complex protagonist. The play can’t do that exactly, so Christopher’s story — in the form of his journal — is read aloud by his teacher (with repeated references to the fact we are actually watching a play about that story); we get inside Christopher’s head by the use of sound, movement and lighting effects that turn the electrified cube that is the set into a puzzle box. It’s as loud and weird to us as the world must seem to Christopher.

That works effectively… for about half the 150-minute performance time. When Christopher is set loose in London — navigating the tubes, wandering the streets, encountering strangers — it turns into an almost psychedelic nightmare that makes its point long before the adventure ends.

It’s that awkward admixture — Act 2 begins with a nerve-shattering drum beat, without so much as the lights dimming to warn you to put away your cell phone — that makes Curious a slight conundrum: You appreciate it more than you enjoy it.

CuriousIncident1181rThe same was true, to be frank, with director Marianne Elliott’s last stateside production, War Horse. (Curious is the longest-running new play on Broadway to open since 2000; War Horse is No. 2.) War Horse used life-sized puppets to tell its prosaic story of a boy and his quadruped; Curious uses similar “wows” to tell its story of a boy and his pet rat. But for both, the equation adds up to less than the sum of its parts; the pacing drags, and the effects lose their punch eventually. (The same is true of the full-frontal male nudity in Naked Boys Singing.)

Before the gimmicks overstay their welcome, however, you’re delighted and intrigued by the stagecraft, which employs Tony-nominated choreography to move Christopher around his environment, a protean stage of hidden doors and LED lights and primary colors that set and re-set the mood. But it all meanders eventually, until you’re not entirely sure what you’ve seen. On opening night, the audience jumped up in applause at the end, appropriately impressed by the energy and creativity. That is, the audience members still there — a fair amount of attrition occurred during intermission. Whether the defectors missed out on the full impact or got the point quickly and moved on it anyone’s guess.

At the Winspear Opera House through Jan. 22.


Having a hard time coming out? Here are some phrases to help

Posted on 10 Jan 2017 at 8:51am

Sometimes, it’s difficult to say the words: “Mom… Dad… I’m gay.” You panic. What will they say? How can five letters do so much? Have I sprung it on them too quickly?

Fear not. We have some alternative ways you can come out that may soften the blow. There are the old-school ones — “I’m a confirmed bachelor,” “I’ll never be the marrying kind,” “I’m a Friend of Dorothy,” “I’ve started dating someone… I think you will like this person….They are very lovely.” But we have some much more modern versions. Insert as warranted for your situation.

“I want to be a theater major at Baylor.”

“Cam and Mitch are like role models for me and my friends.”

“Bey has it all over Nicki, m’kay?” (Optional: Head roll and finger snap.)

“Bob is my roommate.” (You live in a studio. With one bed. And your parents have visited.)

“Debbie Reynolds and George Michael in one week?!?!… I just can’t.”

“Who care about a Grammy — I want to win a Tony.”

“Who does Donald Trump’s hair? No one good, I promise you.”

“I got you tickets to Cher’s latest farewell tour. I thought we could go together.”

“Who’s Russell Wilson?!?!?…. Oh! Ciara’s husband.”

“You’re not actually wearing a sweater set to church are you, Mom? Grrrl.”


Golden Globe winners have a gay ol’ time

Posted on 08 Jan 2017 at 10:04pm

The Golden Globes had an entertaining opening number parodying ‘La La Land,’ which went on to win seven awards, a record number in the history of the awards.

The Golden Globe awards did something unusual last night — it entertained not as a drunken rude trainwreck but as a funny festival of film (and TV). Following the opening parody musical number — wherein the typically puppy-whiny host Jimmy Fallon did an extended tribute to nominee La La Land — Fallon got off some terrific one-liners, many jibing the President-Elect. (Look forward to the brain-damaged tweets to critique it).

The award packs some early surprises. Frontrunner best picture Moonlight lost its first category, for best supporting actor nominee Mahershala Ali, to the excellent Aaron Taylor-Johnson for director Tom Ford’s chilling Nocturnal Animals. (Taylor-Johnson bested some of the best nominees of the night, including Jeff Bridges for Hell or High Water, Simon Helberg for Florence Foster Jenkins and Dev Patel for Lion.)

It wasn’t all bad news for Moonlight, though — the film ended up with one win: Best Motion Picture/Drama. It was also my No. 1 film of 2016.

Viola Davis was a popular sentimental win for Fences (supporting actress), but the most heartfelt moment of the night was surely Ryan Gosling, winner as best actor in a musical or comedy for La La Land, in his acceptance speech honoring his wife for all of her sacrifices as he pursued his career.

That wasn’t the film’s only win, though. Best song and score went to La La Land, including out co-lyricist Benj Pasek, whose writing partner Justin Paul tributed “to musical theater nerds everywhere,” as well as to writer-director Damien Chazelle for his screenplay and as best director, actress Emma Stone and best comedy motion picture for a total of seven awards — a record. (Barring ties, no film could win more than nine or ten; no TV show could win more than five.)

As expected, Casey Affleck won best actor in a drama for Manchester by the Sea. He’s the unchallenged frontrunner for the Oscar. The brooding French actress Isabelle Huppert won for the thriller Elle.

Zootopia was the surprise winner for animated feature (opposite Moana, Sing and Kubo and the Two Strings) but it did give the film’s gay director, Byron Howard, the opportunity to thank his husband.

In the TV category, Atlanta (my No. 2 show of 2916) stood out among a lot of gay-friendly series to take best comedy series and best actor for series creator Donald Glover, while out actress Sarah Paulson won best actress in a miniseries portraying Marcia Clark in The People v O.J. Simpson, which also won best limited series (my No. 5 show). It was out-matched by three wins for The Night Manager (actor/miniseries, supporting actor and supporting actress). The Crown on Netflix won best actress/drama (Claire Foy) and best drama series.

Meryl Streep won the Cecil B. DeMille Award for career achievement, delivering a powerful, political speech.

Here are all the winners.

Motion Pictures

Supporting Actor: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Nocturnal Animals.

Original Score: La La Land.

Original Song: “City of Stars” La La Land.

Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, Fences.

Actor/Comedy: Ryan Gosling, La La Land.

ScreenplayLa La Land.

Byron Howard, right, thanked his husband while accepting the Golden Globe for ‘Zootopia.’

Animated Feature: Zootopia.

Foreign Film: Elle.

Director: Damien Chazelle, La La Land.

Actress/Comedy: Emma Stone, La La Land.

Motion Picture/Comedy: La La Land.

Actor/Drama: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea.

Actress/Drama: Isabelle Huppert, Elle.

Motion Picture/Drama: Moonlight.



Actor/Drama: Billy Bob Tornton, Goliath.

Actress/Comedy: Tracee Ellis Ross, Blackish.

Series/Comedy: Atlanta.

Sarah Paulson, winner for best actress in a miniseries, for playing Marcia Clark in ‘The People vs. O.J. Simpson.’

Actress/Miniseries: Sarah Paulson, The People vs. O.J. Simpson.

Miniseries or TV MovieThe People vs. O.J. Simpson.

Supporting Actor: Hugh Laurie, The Night Manager.

Supporting Actress: Olivia Colman, The Night Manager.

Actor/Miniseries: Tom Hiddleston, The Night Manager.

Actress/Drama: Claire Foy, The Crown.

Series/Drama: The Crown.

Actor/Comedy: Donald Glover, Atlanta.


Cecil B. DeMille Award: Meryl Streep.


Top tables

Posted on 06 Jan 2017 at 6:30am

10 new restaurants that most resonated in 2016


AROUND THE WORLD | The lamb loin at Flora Street Cafe, above, is just one of the dishes that made it the restaurant of the year. Other highlights: the katsudon cutlet at Top Knot, below; the handmade ricotta ravioli ragu at Sprezza, top opposite; and the trompo tacos and combination quesadillas at Trompo, bottom. (Photography by Arnold Wayne Jones and Kevin Marple)


ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Executive Editor

Restaurants are an oddly egalitarian pop culture phenomenon. TV shows can “find” their audiences in reruns, movies’ success can depend on good marketing and distribution, but then be later discovered on cable or Netflix and gain a new life. But restaurants are chimeras. They are not static, like a film or a CD or a season of a TV show; they change depending upon many factors, from their staffs to the training to the attention of the chef to the menu to the neighborhood. Even the greatest of them eventually shutter. And even the best — as far as critics are concerned, at least — can fail to catch on with diners, depending on parking or price point or just the death of buzz.

A critic can only say what makes a great restaurant (or a bad one); what we cannot do is make you like it (if you have preferred deep-dish Chicago pizza since childhood, no amount of prose can convince you thin NYC style is superior, no matter how many adjectives we layer on like pepperonis). And a caravan of effusive encomiums can’t predict the future — my waiter happened to make a great wine recommendation; your experience may vary.

It’s why I call my year-end list Top Tables, because these are the new restaurants (usually since about Autumn 2015 and ending 12 months later, though there are some exceptions from late 2016; but look for many late-2016 openings — Kabuki, Sugarbacon Proper Kitchen Lakewood, HG Sply Co. Fort Worth, Flying Fish, TorTaco, V-Eats Modern Vegan, Beto & Son and a host of others — to be considered for my 2017 list) that captured dining in Dallas in the previous year. (Just missing this year’s list: Julia Pearl, Whistle Britches, Street’s Fine Chicken, 18th & Vine BBQ and Tacodeli.)
There might be better meals out there, or fancier décor, or slicker service, but not necessarily places that stuck with me more regarding my dining life. I stand by all of them.

Restaurant of the Year:
Flora Street Café by Stephan Pyles
The naming of Stephan Pyles’ Flora Street Café as the best restaurant of the year is less a selection than an inevitable apotheosis, a kind of beatification or consecration of what really set North Texas’ dining scene apart in 2016. It wasn’t a question of being “good” or “better than someone else;” it was a matter of absolute culinary perfection, the kind that gave Pyles his reputation in the first place. (He cribbed the name from his first success, Routh Street Café — a reminder that as far as he’s come, he’s not far from his roots.)

There’s the décor — a wall of glass windows bring the tree-lined parts of Flora Street into the building itself; a whimsical light fixture pops from the ceiling like a perpetually blooming flower — which only enhances the sense of harmony between nature and man’s mastery of it in the form of culinary wizardry. There’s the warm, coddling elegance that makes you feel instantly ensconced in attentiveness. There are the subtle touches (small, discrete barrels upon which female diners may set their purses; the check, delivered rolled in a block of wood with a pen included, like some 18th-century scrivener’s desk set; the canelles of sweet butter) that add classiness.

And then, of course, there is the food itself, more curated than prepared. Each category (starters, entrees, desserts) is accompanied by a literary quote or poem as refined as the execution. Pyles’ renowned affinity for south-of-the-border delicacies (huitlacoche in the empanadas, cod prepared escabeche-style) elevated with his exacting standards transform even a prosaic fisherman’s dish like ceviche into a winding rope of amberjack specked with mango-lillikoi reduction and Marcona almonds.


The katsudon at Top Knot


The handmade ricotta ravioli ragu at Sprezza

This isn’t going to be your daily lunch hangout or a casual dinner date. It feels like an event. I guess because it is.
2330 Flora St. FloraStreet.com.

The Rest
2. Top Knot. Last year’s No.1 restaurant, Uptown’s fine-dining sushi success Uchi, figures again this year with Top Knot, its upstairs sister restaurant. You have to respect the culinary lineage of these two. At Top Knot, the most common items are elevated to gourmet status (French toast gets a Thai twist at brunch, for instance). The kitchen is adept at taking food down inventive rabbit holes. If you’ve never tried katsudon (rice topped with a breaded cutlet and gently fried egg), you’re missing out on an essential Japanese dish rarely found in North Texas. And you can wash all of it down with a well-priced cocktail menu with choices like pamplamousse and whiskey punch. It’s all top-knotch. 2817 Maple Ave. TopKnotDallas.com.

3. Filament. Matt McCallister (a protégé of Stephan Pyles) is one of Dallas’ bright lights in the cheffy constellation, someone who takes many risks — some of which don’t always pay off, but which get you excited in their high-wire-act ballsiness. That’s how it seems at Filament, his Deep Ellum diner — part warehouse, part shabby-chic Southern manse. From the New Orleans-inspired tile floor to the old-fashioned accessories, you feel at home with the menu that reinvents country classics. The barbecue chicken is glazed in DrPepper sauce; the shrimp and grits Mexicanized with chipotle. Then there are outside-the-box items like the bonito flake johnnycake, dancing evanescently on the plate. Perfect — the food here not only moves, it moves you. 2626 Main St. FilamentDallas.com.

4. Sprezza. A blind spot in Dallas cuisine has always been excellent high-end Italian food. Pizza? Yes. A good paparadelle here and there? Certainly. But consistent hand-crafted Italian? You can count them on one hand. But now you need to go to your thumb: Sprezza, which contributed to the resto renaissance in Oak Lawn (it has given buzz to Maple Avenue along with neighbor 18th & Vine BBQ, which just missed my finalists). The secret of great pasta is the rustic texture, which is designed specifically to grip various sauces, oils and vegetables to their highest flavor usage; these handmade ravioli, triangoli, bucatini and more accentuate the fresh flavors and the richness of the in-house bolognese, the shaved pecorino, the creamy burrata. You enjoy these treats (which evolve with a tweaked menu almost daily) in a bright, light-filled dining room with a large, inviting bar. Bravo!  4010 Maple Ave. SprezzaDallas.com.


Trompo tacos and combination quesadillas at Trompo


The new Kitchen LTO space, above, provides an even better neutral canvas for the art and food than its Trinity Groves incarnation. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

5. Trompo. So, great restaurants have a great location, superior service, warm atmosphere, an extensive menu and a laudable wine list, right? Well, not so much. Sometimes they are a total hole-in-the-wall that offers bottle of Topo Chico through a window and delivers your meal in a polyurethane clamshell. At least, that’s how they do it at Trompo, a taqueria I adopted early (I was its first-ever customer, as well as first-ever reviewer) and have not lost my passion for. Owner Luis Olvera makes a small menu of three tacos and thee quesadillas, either with trompo (a vertical rotisserie of paprika-spiced pork, sliced onto a hot tortilla and grill-finished), bistek (sliced beef) or paneer-and-nopales (vegetarian), garnished lightly (cheese is added for the quesadillas) and with housemade salsas adding heat. It’s simplicity turned into taste-bud porn: Sensual, satisfying, unique. Olvera will be opening a new version in Oak Cliff this year with slightly-expanded offerings and seating, but we’ll always fondly recall our first love. 839 Singleton Blvd.

6. The Theodore. Where Filament focusses specifically on Southern cuisine, chef Tim Byers — himself a Southern-influenced cook — takes a broader American approach to the food at The Theodore. There’s chicken and waffles  (coconutty!) for the Dixie fans, but also a traditional New England lobster roll, fluffy fish and chips and perhaps the best meatball appetizer I’ve had this decade. It’s an eclectic menu (including inventive cocktails) that surprises with each mouthful. NorthPark Center, 8687 N. Central Expressway. TheTheodore.com.

7. Grayson Social. My initial impression of Grayson Social was a slight puzzlement. The website has no thorough menu listed, and the cocktail list looked extensive but overly sweet and directionless. I went in, frankly, as a skeptic. I emerged a convert. The drinks do tend a bit to the floral side, but not unduly so, and they have a hand-crafted quality that makes the bar menu fun to explore. But chef Daniel Tarasevich has designed some big-idea dishes with a Southern flair. (With Filament, The Theodore, Kitchen LTO, Mudhen Meats & Greens, Julia Pearl, Whistle Britches, here and elsewhere, redux Southern cooking was probably the major theme of 2016… other than tacos. See elsewhere on this list.) Look for a full review soon. 1555 Main St. GraysonSocial.com.

8. Montlake Cut. 2016’s first major restaurant opening remained one of the year’s best, and the principal reason is probably authenticity. Nick Badovinus was already known for his casual concepts with high-end execution of comfort foods at popular spots like Neighborhood Services and The Porch. But this seafood-centric resto — which overtook the same space as the similarly-themed Spoon — may be his most personal place yet, a Valentine to his Pacific Northwest upbringing. Take, for instance, the NW clam chowder, a piping and potent stew of al dente cubes of russet potatoes (the signature tuber of the Northwest), chewy clams, salty-peppery lardons of bacon and a great crunch from, I suspect, celery and onion — it’s his mom’s recipe, so I’d never ask outright. But that’s the kind of hominess that gives a restaurant heart: Montlake Cut even serves coffee from a Seattle roaster … and it’s not Starbucks. Like I say: Authenticity. 8220 Westchester Drive. MLCDallas.com.

9. Kitchen LTO (v2.0). Technically, this restaurant opened “too late” to be on this list, but it worked its way on for several reasons: First, it’s the re-launch of a concept that closed in 2016 (in Trinity Groves) and emerged in November in Deep Ellum, so there’s a history here. Second, the very nature of the concept is to re-invent itself every six months, so wait too long and you’ll miss what it’s all about: New and exciting food and décor. It’s a risky proposition, but proprietress Casie Caldwell has upped her game with this new iteration. The space is more tailored to her vision — more warmth, more intimacy — and current chef Josh Harmon has gussied up some dishes (miso-praline bacon, as decadent as it sounds), done playful takes on others and generally created a kind of culinary playground. 2901 Elm St. KitchenLTO.com.

10. Resident Taqueria. I swooned over more than one taco joint this year. There’s a talent to tell a story on a pallete as small as a tortilla. But the three-dollar tacos at Resident Taqueria, on the secluded side of a corner strip mall in northeast Dallas, are as thoughtfully conceived and executed as you’d find at the nicest Parisian brasseries  — they are artfully magnificent mini-meals.

They are sizeable, first off, and three can take you through a tasting tour of the diversity and complexity of a great taco. The glazed pork belly perches like a queen atop a bed of lightly-vinegared slaw and coins of cucumber, crowned by a tiara of microgreens. It’s a taco of surprising beauty, but the rich flavors justify your decision to stop lookin’ and start eatin’. A tremendous mound of slow-cooked pulled chicken with peanuts and mole almost overwhelms the tensile strength of the single tortilla, so woof it down quickly. And vegans should appreciate the caramelized cauliflower with kale chips and lemon epazote aioli, with a choice of smoky guajillo, tangy verde or spicy arbol salsas. 9661 Audelia Road. ResidentTaqueria.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 6, 2017


RIP Rachel Masters

Posted on 05 Jan 2017 at 4:37pm

Dallas Voice has just learned of the passing of Jimmy Clem, aka Rachel Masters, former show director at The Rose Room.

We extend our condolences to Jimmy’s family and friends, and will update our blog with information on memorial services when that information becomes available.


The ‘Curious Incident’ of movement choreographer Steven Hoggett’s career

Posted on 05 Jan 2017 at 9:19am

When people think of “choreography,” the first image that comes to mind is probably of arabesques and plies, pirouettes and chorus line kicks.

Steven Hoggett has none of that.

I’m actually trained in English literature, not dance,” the Brit quips. “But I did choreography as soon as I realized I could not make a living at English.”

“Make a living” undersells what he does. For much of the last decade, Hoggett has been in-demand in the U.S. and the U.K. for his unique take on choreography — usually more along the lines of “director of movement” and “stager of dances.”

“I honestly don’t really know [why that’s my niche],” he admits.” Certainly in terms of work, here in the States I have been doing more movement that [traditional choreography].” It started with his work on the Green Day jukebox musical American Idiot. “Producers and directors saw that work as not the traditional step-ball-change. Since then, I never tend to get the jobs that require the particular tropes and methods [of dance choreography]. There’s a lot of boys [in New York City] who do that kind of job very well. So I tend to get this sense of [being hired] for less orthodox shows, because what I do is not choreography in the strictest sense of the word. And I’m very happy with it.”

Consider this: Among his credits are not only American Idiot (which itself was a compelling and edgy but far-from-traditional musical), but also Once (the Tony Award-winning, based on the Oscar-winning Irish film, set almost entirely in a pub), Rocky The Musical (doing fight choreography), the plays Peter and the Starcatcher and The Crucible, and the reason we are talking, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which opens Wednesday at the Winspear Opera House for a limited run.

Curious, based on a book that was, until 50 Shades of Grey, the top-selling novel of all time in England, concerns a teenaged boy, Christopher, who lives on the autism spectrum. He noticed everything, and sets out to solve the mystery of the killing of his neighbor’s dog. Much of the story is told from his skewed perspective of the world, so it was up to Hoggett and his collaborator, Scott Graham, to integrate that sense of disconnect with the movement in the play.

How do you do that, though, without all the musical cues that come with a score?

“All of that is as easily attributable to a script as to a score — there’s a textual rhythm, looking for the rhythm in the dialogue or the narrative. But also, what are the gaps — what’s not on the page that needs to be there? We let choreography tell a story, and Curious has lots of that kind of opportunity. It’s one single boy’s world viewpoint.”

He faced similar challenges on Once, which Hoggett says the create team considered “a play with some songs in it, as opposed to a group of songs with no book to it. There happened to be moments where it lifted itself into song and then came down into a play. To my mind, it was about being as delicate as possible — slight choices instead of rash choices. Movement should be threaded through the narrative.”

One element of his kind of work is a mixed blessing — Hoggett tends to work with actors “who have a proclivity for movement as part of the storytelling more that ‘dancers’ — in fact, in America, I have yet to work with ‘dancers.’ So you have to create a physical palette for everyone in the room. No one can do what the think they can do on Day One, so it’s always a clean slate, always a fresh start. On the other hand, I can never rely on anything physically in my cast, so it’s always about thinking on your feet. But it doesn’t feel intimating. I love it.”

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time plays Jan. 11–22 at the Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St. Tickets available at ATTPAC.org.


Year in Review: Sports

Posted on 04 Jan 2017 at 6:55am

Cyd Ziegler

It’s the time of year when we show gratitude… and LGBT folks (and their allies) have a lot to be thankful for.

Not as much as if the presidential election had gone the other way, of course. From a gay point of view, a Vice President Pence is at least as scary as a President Trump. The men (or women, but don’t hold your breath) who could wind up on the Supreme Court may well roll back many of the hard-earned rights the LGBT community has gained over the past few decades. We are in uncharted waters, and the seas are likely to be very, very rough.

Fortunately, there is smoother sailing on the LGBT sports front. Over the past few years — especially during 2016 — gay issues and athletics have moved from a corner of the locker room out into the center of the arena. A tipping point was reached, then passed. Gay, lesbian and bisexual athletes and coaches are no longer seen as rarities, outliers or freaks. Allies are no longer afraid to speak up. Americans understand that we are indeed everywhere. “Gay sports” has moved from oxymoron to “ho-hum.”

So when we sit down to dinner this year, and say (Will and) grace, let’s give thanks to all the men, women, organizations and institutions that have helped get us where we are today.

For nearly 20 years, for example, Outsports has been the go-to website for LGBT sports news and commentary. Quietly, doggedly — but with spirit, humor and joy — Cyd Ziegler and Jim Buzinski have told stories about out competitors, coaches, referees and administrators. In the beginning, many of those tales were filled with fear and worry. Over time, they brimmed with hope. Now, they’re almost uniformly positive.

Each story is different. Yet taken together — this experience at a religious school, that one on a curling team; this one describing a welcoming lacrosse culture, that one ending with a hug from a formerly unenlightened homophobe — they offer a clear, comforting picture of a segment of society that has changed quickly and significantly. The mainstream media has not taken much notice of the shift, but Outsports has. In fact, Outsports has made those changes possible.

HudsonTaylor1Hot on Outsports’ heels, in terms of value to the LGBT sports world, is Athlete Ally. The brainchild of Hudson Taylor, the straight University of Maryland wrestler whose decision to put a Human Rights Campaign sticker on his headgear sparked first a backlash, then a movement, Athlete Ally has emerged as a potent educational and advocacy force.

The organization provides public awareness campaigns, programming, tools and resources. It’s mobilized an impressive list of “Ambassadors,” at over 80 colleges and including over 100 professional athletes. Through speaking engagements, op-ed columns and social media, Athlete Ally has moved the needle of public perception significantly. In doing so, it’s helped make LGBT people aware of the importance of allyship and intersectionality. We often say that sports teaches lessons of value far away from the playing fields. These can be some of the most important ones.

Sports teams and leagues themselves have hopped aboard the gay athletics train. Nearly every major league club now sponsors some variety of “LGBT Night.” Teams respond quickly to isolated incidents of unwarranted behavior, like homophobic chants or signs in the stands, and intemperate comments by players and coaches. Those are (thankfully) fewer and farther between these days. And while the motive may be partly financial — gay and lesbian fans buy tickets, too — it’s also indicative of societal shifts. Change once came slowly to the sports world. Now it mirrors the real world.

For 34 years, the Gay Games has promoted equality in and by sports. Calling itself “the world’s largest sports and culture festival open to all,” the Games (which legally cannot be called anything close to the “Gay Olympics”) are, well, like the Olympics but with broader participation, less commercialism and a ton more fabulousness. Every four years, the Gay Games makes a major statement about the value of diversity and inclusion. Want to be part of the next one? It’s in Paris in August 2018.

That’s a lot of things to be thankful for. But websites, non-profits, teams and organizations are not really what drive change.

The LGBT sports movement would not be where it is now without the courage and conviction of the countless men and women (and boys and girls) who have come out of the closet. By standing up — in their locker rooms, on their fields and in the sports pages — they have enabled countless more to be who they are. They’ve opened the eyes and hearts of their teammates, coaches and fans. They are the true story of gay athletics.

And for that, we are very, very thankful.

— Dan Woog


6 ways to start the year as the best gay you can be

Posted on 03 Jan 2017 at 8:05am

Another new year means another set of resolutions. But given the kind of 2016 that most of us had, 2017 demands a different sort of resolve. Sure, you can still kick the smoking habit and cut back on the drinking and lose a couple pounds — if those are commitments you want to make for yourself — but we also need to remember to include bigger-picture concepts that keep our lives as a whole cohesive and in a continued pursuit of positivity. Here are six ideas to give you that fresh start we all so desperately need right now.

Organize your personal and professional life. I’m self-employed, and as a result I have the luxury of taking the last week of the year off not only to relax and celebrate the holidays with my family and friends but also to prepare for the year ahead. I make a big list of to-dos right before Christmas of items I’d like to accomplish to get my personal and professional life in order so I can hit the ground running when I’m back at it in January. At home, I like to deep clean and organize the house, which is somewhat chaotic this time of year with all the holiday trimmings, and where work is concerned, I delete unused files on my computer, sift and expunge expired emails, prepare client schedules for the months ahead, and — on a day where I’m feeling particularly patient — organize my taxes so I can cop that refund ASAP. Completing these tasks while I have the extra time during break keeps me just busy enough to not get bored between holidays, but it also makes the transition into a new year that much smoother.

Eliminate the literal and figurative toxicity. There’s no denying that 2016 was a real bear. It took its toll on all of us emotionally and mentally, the genesis for most of which can be blamed on the lead up and subsequent fallout of a highly contentious election year. But that’s all over now, and it’s time to move on. Think positive, and steer clear of any negativity that tries to infiltrate your life — particularly on social media. Maybe a hiatus is order. If that’s what you need to clear your head and start thinking straight again (wink), shut it down and distance yourself until you feel ready to engage. Take it from me that you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how freeing the stepping-away experience can be. You may never want to go back.

Focus on your physical, emotional and mental well-being. I wholly believe in living your life at 110 percent. Eat healthy; exercise most days of the week, if only for 30-minute sessions; and stimulate your brain by reading or playing strategy games (yep, mobile games apply), both of which are scientifically proven to enhance your creativity. If you find it difficult to schedule in this “me time” due to a hectic schedule, compromise and do what works for you. Plan a night or two a week, for instance, to make a new recipe, or drop in on a class at your gym to find the fitness motivation that you might not otherwise have on your own. It’s up to you how so long as you’re doing it.

Practice tolerance. It seems like no matter where you turn, the scene is straight-up vitriol. This year, rise above the fray. Don’t let bad attitudes bring you down, and show compassion for those who are having a hard time finding their inner peace. Remember, we don’t all have to agree on everything, but we do need to respect one another. If respect isn’t reciprocal, however, you owe it to yourself to distance yourself from the negativity and focus on brightening your own light. It’s the only one that matters in the end.

Uphold your convictions and fight for your rights. Just when we thought it was safe to be LGBT, along comes a new political regime that, on the surface at least, threatens all we’ve worked to accomplish civilly over the past few decades … which means that 2017 is no time to rest on our laurels. We don’t know yet what’s coming our way, but whatever happens we must be prepared to fight for our rights. Stay proud, stay vigilant, and most importantly stay on the right side of history. Do that, and together we’ll always come out on top.

Set new goals and map out paths to success. I’m a goal setter through and through, and I’ve found that the only way I have success in reaching them is to build an actionable plan around the end game. For example, if you want to increase your savings this year, it’s important to set weekly or monthly savings goals that, little by little, inch toward that larger sum. If you’d like to take a much-needed vacation, start planning ahead by researching what it’ll cost in terms of transportation, lodging, food, activities, shopping and other expenses that you may incur. Whatever your lofty goals are, you’ll have an easier time meeting them when you break down into smaller tasks what it’ll take to get there. The payoff will be that much sweeter as well; you earned it and you deserve it. Happy New Year!

— Mikey Rox


Year in Review: Memorable celebrity quotes of 2016

Posted on 02 Jan 2017 at 8:09am

A lot happened in 2016, especially in the world of celebrity gabfesting with our Chris Azzopardi. Acting queen Meryl Streep spoke affectionately to me about her lifelong love for the LGBT community. Country queen Dolly Parton revealed that she, naturally, has been a confidante to her own gay and lesbian family members. And then there’s Joe Jonas, who shared his fondness for S&M, potentially inspiring some adventurous bedroom behavior this year. Here’s a collection of some standout quotes from Hollywood queens… and one horny JoBro.

Here are some of the memorable comments from family and allies.

“I’ve grown up with gay people and been in love with gay people.” — Meryl Streep

“I have a song called ‘Outside’ that a lot of people from the gay community have always said they grew up listening to and were like, ‘That helped me come out to my family.’” — Mariah Carey

“I’ve had many people through the years who I have helped to feel good about themselves. I say, ‘You need to let people know who you are and you need to come on out.’” — Dolly Parton

“I would be blessed with a gay son.” — Gwen Stefani

AbFab“We love you, sweetie darlings!” — Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie actresses Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders

“There are a lot of people, and time does this, who are going to be severely embarrassed for their bias and intolerance. And they’re going to have to live with that; that’s going to be their legacy. I refuse to have that as part of my legacy.” — Michael Buble

“I’m not saying ‘Will & Grace’ is responsible for gay marriage; I’m saying that maybe there was an element that helped in some way.” — Megan Mullally

“I think some of the shoes I wear are ugly but they don’t hurt. I just don’t want my feet to hurt anymore.” — Cyndi Lauper

LenaDunham1“There are thousands upon thousands of voiceless LGBT people within even just the Mormon community who feel like they can’t ask questions and can’t have doubts and can’t be themselves. I want to be able to give a microphone to those people.” — Tyler Glenn

“When we get married we want our wedding party to just be our two sisters in tuxedos. Jack has a straight sister, I have a queer sister; they’d be our best men/women and we’ll call it a day. That’s our dream.” — Lena Dunham

TitussBurgess1“It’s definitely fun when you bring some whips and leather and whatever you may be into – a little bit of S&M – into the bedroom.” — Joe Jonas

“I know what dark places feel like and I know what the absence of love and community feels like, and if I had a me when I was growing up to see, I would have perhaps been familiar to you guys a lot sooner than two years ago.” — Tituss Burgess

“In my teenage years, I was very girly. I remember when I used to go on a French exchange in Paris and all the locals called me ‘mademoiselle’ because they thought I was a girl.” — Hugh Grant

“I was a funny kid and that was one thing I always knew I had. You know how you’re insecure as a kid? I was like, ‘Well, I know I’m funny.’” — Jane Lynch