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.



DFW Film Critics name ‘Birdman’ best of 2014

Posted on 15 Dec 2014 at 10:04am

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).


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.


A few people we think of when we think 2014

Posted on 11 Dec 2014 at 2:27pm
BWDP_Bruce profile-1

Bruce Wood

Tomorrow’s edition of Dallas Voice reveals our annual choice for LGBT Texan of the Year. I won’t spoil who we chose, but in going over the year in my mind, some names stuck out — they were on my mind during 2014 a lot, for a variety of reasons. For instance, Bruce Wood — a friend and also one of the most frighteningly talented artists Texas has ever seen (I swear that’s not an exaggeration) — passed away, far too soon, at age 53 this past May. We did a cover story about Bruce the following week, cause he touched so many lives.

The community also reacted strongly to the passing of Chris Miklos, a muscleman popular in the bear community, but also a medical researcher who did a lot of good for people. Just a few weeks ago, I was stunned and saddened by the death, at age 31, of Brandon James Singleton, an actor, dancer and funny, skilled writer (he contributed a terrific series to Dallas Voice in 2012 about turning 30). Just as recently, two community leaders — Paul Lewis, a former executive with Caven and Steve Bratka, a huge fundraiser for the Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats — passed away.

Wed Steve Dan

Noviello and Bedner

Not everyone who resonated died, of course. Mark Pharris and Victor Holmes of Plano won a marriage equality against the state of Texas — bully for them! And bully, too, for Jack Evans and George Harris, who finally tied the knot last March after more than decades as a couple (though not legally binding, their retired pastor wanted to make a statement to the Methodist Church). TV personality Steve Noviello did enter wedded bliss — legally — to his partner Doug Bedner in New York. Matt Miller brought the Gay World Series of Softball back to Dallas, and we were all glad to see thousands of athletes out at the clubs. And Stephan Pyles got more recognition for his cuisine for his new restaurant, San Salvaje. We were also pleased as punch when our favorite radio commentator, Rawlins Gilliland, did his first live spoken word show … and it was such a hit, he did several more.

There were some important allies who we cheered on, as well, from failed gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis and lieutenant governor hopeful Leticia Van de Putte. Local chef John Tesar caused such a stir in the foodie community, we were happy he was on our side as a gay-friendly restaurateur. And Dale Hansen raised the bar high early on with his full-throated advocacy for gays in sports.

Think we left off someone important? Possibly — feel free to weigh in with comments. Then again, maybe they are in tomorrow’s paper — or even on the cover! Check it out Friday!


WATCH: Meet the new season of queens on ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’

Posted on 09 Dec 2014 at 7:16am

Season 7 contestant Ginger Minj, a self-described ‘cross-dresser for Christ.’

Bring out my girls! It’s almost time for season 7 to start of everybody’s favorite reality show, and the Logo network has revealed the lineup of queens competing on the next season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Meet them here.


What’s the best gayborhood in the U.S.? C’mon, you know …

Posted on 08 Dec 2014 at 12:38pm

Cedar SpringsThe Out Traveler just compiled a list of the top 10 gayborhoods in the U.S. The big’uns are all there: Seattle’s Capitol Hill (No. 9). West Hollywood (No. 7). Fort Lauderdale’s Wilton Manors (No. 6). But what’s above The Castro (No. 3)? Why, li’l ol’ Oak Lawn!

Yup, according to the publication, the eateries and clubs (face it: We have quite a few bars in the Crossroads!), the proximity to both downtown and right here in the Design District (where the Voice offices are now located) and the friendliness of the residents (yee-haw, Texans!) make it the favorite in the land. And they didn’t even mention the warm weather, the Halloween street party, the excellent gay media (ahem) the shopping and much more that serves to explain why we call Dallas home.

So can we please get away from this “Dallatude” thing?


Gay ways to celebrate the season without breaking the bank

Posted on 08 Dec 2014 at 7:30am

Freshly baked sugar cookies tied with festive bakers twine and rAll that money you’ve saved for the better part of a year so you can celebrate the holidays in style gets spent quickly when you’re buying gifts left and right and planning your warm-weather escape as soon as the tree is tossed out onto the curbed. To save where you can, take a look at these nine ways you can make the yuletide gayer without breaking the bank.  Mikey Rox


1. Host a holiday potluck dinner. Who doesn’t like to go out for a fancy dinner around the holidays to indulge in life’s tasty pleasures? But we can’t always afford a $100-or-more restaurant or bar tab. As an alternative, consider hosting a potluck where each of your guests will bring a dish for everyone to enjoy. You can make this a sit-down dinner or you can keep it informal by hosting a small cocktail party where everyone can chat, drink, and dig into the expansive buffet.

2. Attend (or throw) an ugly Christmas sweater party. Ugly Christmas sweater parties have become a tradition over the past few years, and I can almost guarantee that someone in your circle (maybe you?) is throwing one. If you settle on a place that isn’t particularly gay, gather your gaggle for a guerrilla effort to make a night to remember. Find the ugliest Christmas sweaters imaginable at your local thrift shops … or your own closet.

3. Schedule an at-home movie marathon. When the weather outside is frightful, a night on the couch is so delightful. Pick up a few snacks and drinks, and invite your besties over for a holiday movie marathon. Some of my favorites include classics like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, the Home Alone series and even Make the Yuletide Gay, the adorable coming-out-at-Christmas story by gay Texan Rob Williams. You may be able to find these movies — or whichever flicks suit your fancy — on streaming services to which you subscribe, or you can find them on the regular TV schedule and record them on your DVR in advance of the movie marathon.

4. Start a Secret Santa program. If you’re strapped for cash, quell some of the anxiety by suggesting a Secret Santa gift exchange among your friends and/or co-workers instead of a free-for-all that can quickly spiral your budget out of control (set a reasonable dollar limit — $10 is usually good). If you currently only exchange a gift or two with a couple friends, this might not be for you, but if you have a large group of comrades, it’s an easy-on-the-wallet avenue to explore.

5. Plan a gay-themed white elephant party. Along the same lines, there’s the white elephant party: Each participant brings one wrapped gift to the gathering (also with a price cap of $20 or so) and the group decides in which order participants will select from the pile of gifts, generally by numbers randomly drawn from a hat. Once a gift is opened, it can be stolen by the next in line if they don’t particularly like their gift or, in most cases, just like any of the previous gifts better. This practice continues until the last person has opened the last gift, which ultimately gives that lucky duck the pick of the litter. Lots of fun and laughter at this inexpensive, home-based holiday event.

6. Bake goodies for neighbors and colleagues. Get into the spirit of the season by dusting off those cookie sheets, muffin tins and loaf pans. Turn up the holiday tunes and get cookin’ with a few batches of your signature baked goods, package them in holiday-themed tins (cheap from the dollar store) with nicely tied ribbons or bows and deliver them with a note of holiday greetings.

7. See a special holiday performance/fundraiser at your favorite gay bar. There’s always a jolly drag show taking place at your favorite gay hangout between now and New Year’s with Santa on the mind, and sometimes they serve as fundraisers for local food banks, Toys for Tots or the Resource Center.

8. Round up your crew and volunteer. Not everyone is as fortunate as we are, and those circumstances really start to take their toll on people around holiday time. That’s why it’s important to give some of your time and energy to show you care about your fellow Americans by volunteering, especially for gay causes. Whatever you do, the important part is that you and your friends are getting out there and giving back.

9. Snap up post-holiday clearance deals for next year.  One of my all-time favorite parts of the holidays is the post-Christmas clearance deals on décor and other holiday paraphernalia. I generally wait until about five days after Christmas when Target has slashed prices from the starting discount of 50 to 75 percent, but it tends to be heavily picked through by that point. Nonetheless, you can still walk away with a bunch of incredible deals. Wait a little longer and the discounts delve into the 90 percent-off range at certain stores, and that’s just a no-brainer. The shelves will look like the apocalypse has started, but you’re literally paying a few cents for whatever’s left to enhance your holiday home in the future.



Cocktail Friday: The Equality Cosmo

Posted on 05 Dec 2014 at 12:43pm

Gay culture is all about celebrating equality, and Equality Vodka does that exactly — a portion of proceeds go to support nonprofits serving the LGBT community. So when you drink their Equality Cosmo, remember, you’re not just doing your tastebuds a favor, you’re also helping out a charity. And with the holidays now upon us, this Santa-colored beverage makes an ideal cocktail for entertaining.

2 oz. Equality Vodka

1/2 oz. Patron Citronage

3 oz. cranberry juice


Making it: Combine all ingredients plus a squeeze of lemon in a shaker filled with ice, and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a lemon wedge.


New 007 film promises to be gayest yet … but ‘The Hobbit’ is still gayer

Posted on 04 Dec 2014 at 12:21pm
Ben Whishaw

Ben Whishaw

Skyfall, the last installment in the James Bond series, was about as gay as a spy thriller can be, with a clearly gay villain (Javier Bardem) hitting on a bondaged 007 (who didn’t seem offended at all, and even flirted back). But the upcoming one — which we just learned will be called Spectre — has even more gayness, though much of it behind the scenes.

In addition to the return of out actor Ben Whishaw, pictured, as Q, Lea Seydoux (who had steamy lesbian sex in last year’s Blue is the Warmest Color) and out actor Andrew Scott have joined the cast, which once again will be co-written by out scribe John Logan. And Daniel Craig is in it again, and we’ve long had our suspicions (fantasies?) about him.

Of course, gay blockbusters aren’t all that rare anymore. Consider: The main cast of the upcoming The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, includes Ian McKellen, Luke Evans, Lee Pace and Stephen Fry. And that got me thinkin’ — isn’t it funny how gay Middle-earth is? Indeed, most of the residents correspond to gay “types:” Hobbits are pocket gays; elves are twinks; dwarves are bears; wizards are grey wolves; and orcs … I dunno … butch lesbians?


Gay art at the DMA

Posted on 04 Dec 2014 at 7:55am

Art Issue Cover 11/28In this week’s Art Issue, I did a story on Mark Leonard, the (gay) conservationist at the Dallas Museum of Art tasked with restoring and preserving important items in the collection. But a few weeks ago, during Gay History Month in October, Taylor Jeromos — an intern with the DMA and its Arts & Letters Live program — did a blog post on the museum’s website honoring out artists of the past whose work can be found in the collection. It’s a really interesting mini-history. Enjoy it — link to it here — and the other stories in our Art Issue (about fashion design [also a subject of art at the Crow Collection right now], pop art and abstract art among them).