Cocktail Friday: In time for Thanksgiving, the Mayflower

Posted on 11 Nov 2016 at 1:43pm

7266e3de-mayflower-drinkWe’re on the cusp of Thanksgiving — less than two weeks away — and the weather is beginning to reflect that, with cooler temps. Our palates change too around this time, and it’s even shown in the drink recipes that are emerging. Jonathan Bona, bar manager at the Pyramid Restaurant inside the Fairmont Hotel (he was recently at The Four Seasons), has created this potent potable, and shared the recipe. Or you can ask Jonathan for it directly at the Pyramid, where it will be offered throughout November.

1 oz. Remy Martin VSOP cognac

1/2 oz. Mount Gay Black Barrel rum

1/2 oz. apple cinnamon shrub (chefs Brandon and Chris Dempsey’s new D&D Shrubs company makes one)

2 dashed Angostura bitters

Making it: Combine all ingredients in a mixing breaker and stir with a bar spoon for 30 seconds. Rim a rocks glass with cinnamon and Demerara sugar. Strain over fresh ice. Garnish with a fan of apple slices.

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David Sedaris returns for Arts & Letters Live

Posted on 10 Nov 2016 at 10:15am

David-SedarisIn tomorrow’s Dallas Voice, I have an interview with Patricia Cornwell, lesbian author of the Kay Scarpetta mystery novels, who is closing out the Dallas Museum of Art’s Arts & Letters Live Series next week. And at the same time comes word of the spring A&L series, and the return — for an eighth time — of gay humorist David Sedaris.

Sedaris will appear at the Winspear Opera House on April 28, reading new and unpublished material as part of the museum’s 26th anniversary of live readings. Pre-sale tickets are now available to members of the DMA, KERA and the ATTPAC Circle. Tickets go on sale to the general public on Nov. 14, starting at $35. You can buy them here.

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TBRU registration opens today at noon, with many changes

Posted on 09 Nov 2016 at 10:02am

Smiling bear on a black backgroundIf you need a distraction from today’s politics, here’s a suggestion. Today at noon, registration opens for TBRU 22: Boot Camp, the 22nd annual Texas Bear Round Up, presented by the Dallas Bears. There are some big changes ahead. For one: New venue — the Dallas Hyatt Regency Downtown Hotel, which can hold every registrant under one roof. Another: The dates — instead of March, the event takes place May 18–21, 2017. That might be good or bad news for you, depending on your social calendar.

Anyway, at noon you can sign up here. Furry men in Speedos frolicking by the pool. If that doesn’t cheer you up, I’m out of ideas.

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Winter is coming: Reflections of the frightening power of demagoguery

Posted on 09 Nov 2016 at 9:51am

Jones, Arnold WayneI still remember, with amazing clarity, my middle school’s race for class president. Two candidates stand out: Brian Koehr and Paige Apple. I was friendly with both, although not close friends with either. Brian was happy and enthusiastic; Paige was quiet and studious. Going into their candidate speeches, I honestly didn’t know who I was going to vote for. I seem to recall being favorably disposed toward Brian.

To this day, the essence of their speeches stays with me. Paige’s was along the lines of, “Here’s my plan for what we all need to do to make this a better school;” Brian’s was along the lines of, “Pizza day every day in the cafeteria!” I voted for Paige, and hoped for the best.

Brian won by a landslide.

That was my first experience with the nature of politics, and the power of the vote.

The truth was, who became class president then didn’t matter. There’s probably no more toothless job in America. Brian, Paige… They were both going to do the same thing — give a speech at homecoming, pick a theme for the school dance, get their faces in the yearbook smiling back. Memories. It was all for show, a gesture toward citizenship, a lesson learned.

And it did instill in me — and probably everybody in school that day — the awesome power of demagoguery: A candidate who will say what the people want to hear has an edge over one who speaks hard truths. That’s not always the case, of course. Sometimes the hard truth is resonant and the pandering rings false. Voters can surprise you.

And certainly they surprised us all Tuesday night.

Brian Koehr was a nice guy in a powerless position who made meaningless promises that had no lasting impact beyond the insulated microcosm of eighth grade. That is not the same with Donald Trump. He is not a nice man. He is not powerless. He is not benevolent. And soon he will wield as much power as any human ever has.

His agenda is chilling. Among his campaign promises: Repeal the Affordable Care Act (and replace it with…? He won’t say); appoint ultra-right-wing justices to the courts, including the Supreme Court; build a wall between the United States and Mexico, whatever the diplomatic cost; impose a ban on, and even deport, Muslims, irrespective of their citizenship status; overturn marriage equality.

I know Trump supporters who allay my concerns about what his presidency will look like by saying, “Don’t worry — he’s not going to do all the things he says.” Then why in the world did you vote for him? Anyway, those are just some of the things he has publicly advocated. What about the ones he hasn’t even thought of? If even half of these come to fruition, it would be devastating for every single person I know.

Even if you can’t trust what he says, what will America under Trump look like? Presumably, it will be one forged by Mitch McConnell and others in the Republican Party who will exploit Trump’s inexperience with the political system to their own end. In many ways, I’m more afraid of a Mike Pence presidency then a Donald Trump presidency. Pence has core values, however twisted, and political experience. He can actually get an agenda through.

What will Trump do? That’s what has me as scared as I have ever been about the future of my republic.

And I’m about as “safe” as you can get. I am a middle-aged, middle-class, white male. Aside from not being Christian or straight, I’m as mainstream as a person can be in this country today.

Still, as a journalist, I feel vulnerable. Donald Trump has waged a war on journalism, encouraging disparagement and violence against the journalism pen at his rallies. If I feel that way, imagine how it must feel to lesbians recently married who now wonder whether their entire union could be overturned by the stroke of a pen? Imagine what it feels like to be a DREAM Act-er concerned over deportation, or a Muslim, or a disabled person, or someone with health insurance for the first time.

I fear for them. I fear for them much more than I fear for myself. And they are my friends.

Twelve years ago, I asked a colleague: If he could hand-pick the nominees of both parties, but could have absolutely zero say in the outcome of the election, who would he choose? My very liberal friend grinned widely and said, “Easy! Hillary for Democrats. And Mike Huckabee for the Republicans. He’s a nut job. He could never get elected. In the bag.” I said, “Sure, it’s nice to think that, but what if did win? Could you live with that?” My colleague brushed away my concerns. “Never happen!” he assured me. “Voters couldn’t be that badly fooled.”

I was not so confident then. I couldn’t imagine a world in which the presidency of the United States was run by someone who honestly believed that the earth was 5,000 years old and that Adam and Eve played with the dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden. “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people,” H.L. Menken opined.

Mike Huckabee concerned me, but at least a right-wing fundamentalist is predictably nutty; not so much an inexperienced businessman with multiple bankruptcies, shady business dealings, a disastrous personal life and temperament more akin to a mental patient than a statesman. Huckabee may have been dangerous, but even he was manageable. He had limits. I wonder how manageable Donald Trump will be, from the left or the right. I suspect even diehard Republicans, when they are done cheering for their victories in the Congress and their defeat of the much-hated Hillary Clinton, will brush the sleep from their eyes in a few days, and realize what their policy is hath wrought.

It is the nature of Americans to be optimistic, to hold out hope for the best in people and make lemons out of lemonade. Fight the good fight, and win or lose, move onto the next one. There is honor in the battle, whatever the outcome. I suspect we will all do that, if not tomorrow, eventually. Maybe not all of us, and maybe not soon. I have serious doubts now for myself.

This has never been a more somber, sobering and frightening time in my adult life. Not the Cold War. Not 9/11. Those were forces from outside that seemed to threaten our survival.

These threats — those of fellow citizens endorsing a hollow candidate with no concrete, constitutional ideas — come from within. Millions of our fellow Americans watched as Donald Trump mocked the disabled, made inane promises, threatened his opponents, disparaged women, committed sexual assault, lied about everything from anti-American protests to his taxes, bred race-hatred and McCarthy-esque suspicions about our fellow Americans.

And they voted for him. They said, “We trust you.”

I have my doubts about that. I don’t think this was about trust. I think this was about animosity toward the opposition. Hillary Clinton didn’t lose this election last night — she lost the moment Obama won in 2008, when the GOP resolved to undermine him at every turn and sow seeds of contempt and conspiracy, mount racial divides and whisper campaigns. They spent eight years priming the pump for a coup. And they won while we all looked on, mouths agape, cattle in the abattoir, lining up brainlessly, uncomprehending of what was happening.

The small bright spot seems to be that Clinton apparently received more popular votes than Trump. That’s cold comfort (ask Al Gore), but it does give me a pinhole of light to stare at. Sometimes you have to experience the scourging to appreciate the salvation.

I still believe in hope. I have to. But I’ve never felt such ennui about my fellow citizens. “Apres moi, le deluge,” the monarch said.

Better grab a towel.

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Roy Cohn, ‘Angels in America’ and Trump

Posted on 07 Nov 2016 at 3:23pm

cohntrumpPerhaps this weekend you were able to get to the Kalita Humphreys Theater to check out Uptown Players‘ production of Tony Kushner’s epic play, Angels in America, Part 1: Millennium Approaches. (If not, there’s still time, and my review will be in Dallas Voice this weekend.) One of the main characters in the play is a real-life person, Roy Cohn, who died of AIDS in August 1986, despite being a homophobic right wing nut job — Sen. Joe McCarthy’s right-hand man and an instrumental player in assuring the execution of alleged spy Ethel Rosenberg. A terrible man, a blight of a human being.

He was also Donald Trump’s mentor.

Yeah. Listen careful to the craven, evil advice Cohn delivers in Angels. Then think if you can translate that into the current political situation.

This isn’t anything new. Media from the New York Times to CNN to The Advocate have written about the relationship this year, but it didn’t really gain traction. Kinda makes you wonder. When former Weather Underground radical Bill Ayers was tied to Obama, it stuck like white on rice. But Cohn was a terrorist of a different sort, and a direct mentor of Trump. Trump admits it. So why wasn’t it covered more?

I know I’m preaching to the converted, but keep this in mind with all your conservative friends and family. When they complain about the “shady” dealings of “Crooked” Hillary, remind them that her opponent advocated red-baiting, witch-hunting, blacklisting political underhandedness. And see what they say.

And then see Angels in America to see what I’m talking about.

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Cocktail Friday: Picantitos

Posted on 04 Nov 2016 at 2:01pm

img_7743My recipes on Cocktail Friday are a combination of modified classics and originals — some of which I forage from mixologists, some of which I come up with on my own at home. But today’s is kind of a hybrid: It’s a cocktail I mixed, from a mixologist’s recipe. Last week, I stood behind the bar with David Edessa at Lounge 31 in Highland Park Village, and we recreated one of the restaurant’s fan favorites, which has recently returned to the menu: The Picantitos. I poured and shook it myself, and we modified it some from the standard” recipe (I prefer club soda to Sprite, and upped the jalapeno quotient) but this is one of the more refreshing drinks I’ve had lately — perfect for while the weather is still warm but which would work in the cool of late autumn.

1.5 oz. Tito’s vodka

2.5 oz. sweet and sour mix

4 jalapeno slices

1 basil leaf

Club soda

Making it: Combine vodka, mix and jalapenos in a Boston shaker with ice; “smack” the basil to release the oils and add it in. Shake vigorously. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Fill with soda. garnish with a fresh basil leaf and some more slices.

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Brokeblack mountain

Posted on 04 Nov 2016 at 12:37pm

North Texas native Trevante Rhodes on the making of Moonlight, the most acclaimed modern gay romance since Brokeback Mountain

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Trevante Rhodes, above, plays the oldest version of Chiron, who struggles with his feelings for his best friend Kevin, played by Andre Holland, below, in ‘Moonlight.’ (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Not to sound overconfident, but as soon as Trevante Rhodes was cast in the indie film Moonlight, he knew he was making a hit. Not that he could predict the box-office receipts — who could? — but a hit in the sense of an instant classic, a cinematic winner … oh, hell, just call it what it is: A great film.

“As [arrogant] as it may sound, when I read it for the first time, I knew [it would work] because it’s so personal,” says Rhodes. “From Page 7, I knew this was something I had to do. I thought, I have to tell this story! I’m a romantic, and it’s an epic love story, man!”

And a love story in many unexpected ways: Between African-American men living troubled lives in the inner city of Miami. Moonlight — adapted by writer-director Barry Jenkins, from a semi-autobiographical story by MacArthur “Genius” Grant laureate Tarell McCraney — is told in three chapters, all centered around the same kid. In the first chapter, Chiron (now called “Little”) is about 8 (played by Alex Hibbert), and comes under the protection of a local drug kingpin named Juan (Mahershala Ali), who shelters him from his drug-addled mother Paula (Naomie Harris). Chapter 2 meets Chiron (Ashton Sanders) about 10 years later, as a moody high school kid grabbling with issues of sexuality. By the third chapter, Chiron is known by the street name Black (Rhodes), a badass drug dealer, finally hoping to find a way toward self-acceptance. Throughout, it’s Chiron’s friend Kevin who anchors him… and stokes his sexual longing.

20151116_015419_Moonlight_D25_0375.tifThe challenge facing Rhodes — a native of Little Elm who admits to falling into acting “by happenstance at the end of college” — was “summarizing” Chiron’s journey at the end … and doing so with little guidance from the first two chapters. “We shot in sequence, but Barry was really adamant that Andre Holland [who plays the adult Kevin] and I not watch the [footage of the earlier chapters],” he says. “We wanted to look for similarities in what they were doing, but Barry really wanted us to focus how we changed so drastically. I think that was liberating for me as an actor” to do that.

He had to fill in a lot of blanks about what happened to Chiron in the intervening years between his chapters, but he plays it close to the vest (“I won’t go too deep because it’s like a magician telling you his secrets,” he says), but “In my mind, he spent some years in jail and after that he developed this life and adapted to what the world’s mold of him should be.”

That is a large part of the message of Moonlight — should you conform to expectations society has of you, or break free? Rhodes says embodying Chiron’s inner conflict was something he related to — but for different reasons than the character he played.

“We all have identity issues and we all struggle with insecurity and with trying to find out who we are and what love is,” Rhodes says. “Yes, it’s a very specific story about gayness and blackness, but it’s about humanity — a human life. And we use these very specific topics as a conduit for a universal story. I dealt with issues not so much in regard to sexuality or my relationship with my mother, but I was bullied some and that spoke to me, But the differences were really enticing to me [as an actor]. Back in middle school and high school, I felt that being a hyper-masculine, physical being was my way of projecting success out into the world. I thought if I had this physicality about me, as well as being able to articulate myself appropriately, [others would think], ‘Hey, that guy has it all figured out.’”

Rhodes didn’t, of course. And that’s where he found the core of his character.

“Chiron is someone trying to find out who he is, and has to fortify himself to project what masculinity was to him,” he says. “I look at love on a scale of 1 to 10, and most settle for 6 or 7. But Chiron found his 10 when he was like 8 years old! [He needs to realize], I can be tough and gay and happy with the guy I love. I need to live my truest life or at least attempt to experience it.”

Moonlight opens today in North Texas. For a review, see Page 41.

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‘Moonlight’ is the unmissible film of the season

Posted on 04 Nov 2016 at 6:00am

20151024_Moonlight_D09_C1_K1_0303.tifIn Greek mythology, Chiron was a centaur — half man, half horse. He was both wild and artistic, a hunter and a healer: Two identities within a single body.

That description begins to explain the character named Chiron in Moonlight, easily one of the best films of 2016 and the most poignant love story since Brokeback Mountain. We first meet Chiron (Alex Hibbert) as a sensitive 8-year-old, maneuvering the mean streets of Miami — trying to avoid bullies as well as his cracked-out mom (Naomie Harris, who’s amazing). The local drug kingpin, Juan (Mahershala Ali), takes notice of Chiron, and, with his girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monae, who’s revelatory), becomes a surrogate father, even as Chiron wonders whether, as the other kids say, he may be “a faggot.” He’s not, Juan insists — he might be gay, but that’s not the same. He has strength.

The remainder of Moonlight — divided into two more chapters, with Chiron as a teenager (Ashton Sanders, pictured) and a young man (Trevante Rhodes) — is about Chiron coming to terms with those competing identities. Can he be a strong black man and in love with his best friend?

It would be nice to say that Moonlight plays out predictably along that course, but the truth is anything but. Writer-director Barry Jenkins fashions a surprising and sensitive and profound journey for this character and those in his orbit. Like Chiron, it’s tough and dense, but in search of the tender essence inside.

The performances are uniformly intense and heartbreaking. This is a film that dares to challenge its audience to dispel expectations and discover humanity in unlikely places. It’s as if Boyz n the Hood were recast with Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist. Moonlight is the unmissible film of the fall.

Five stars. Opens tomorrow. Read our interview with star Trevante Rhodes in Friday’s Dallas Voice.

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Texan Rob Redding, on being out… on the sidelines

Posted on 02 Nov 2016 at 8:41am
redding

Out trainer Rob Redding

In nearly 10 years of this column, we have reported on dozens of LGBT athletes and coaches. We’ve interviewed gay fan groups and referees. We’ve talked about the Gay Games, and the (largely) straight Olympics. But we’ve never done a story on athletic trainers.

In the wide world of sports, trainers play a key role. They work intimately with athletes, diagnosing injuries and shepherding young men and women through physical therapy to get them back on the field. Trainers’ jobs are hands-on — literally — while their training room is often a safe haven, where athletes can talk freely about their greatest worries and deepest fears.

So, like other therapists (psychologists, etc.), many athletic trainers do not talk about themselves. Particularly if that talk would involve same-sex partners. That makes Rob Redding unusual. He’s the athletic trainer at Henderson State University. It’s a Division II school in small-town Arkansas … and he’s completely out.

In some ways, Redding is a typical trainer. He grew up two hours south of Houston, in Victoria, Texas, where football was king. He played “one day” in junior high, but found his calling because the high school athletic trainer was a great role model. Redding followed suit, and earned a scholarship to Texas A&M University.

He spent four years after graduation working at a high school, four more at a junior college, then another four at California Baptist University. He’s been at Henderson State — a “much better fit” — for the past nine years.

Redding loves his work. He’d thought about practicing medicine, but realized doctors see patients for just 15 or 20 minutes, in an office setting. “There are no relationships,” he notes. “But athletes really talk to trainers. They’re in a safe space. It’s personal, and very fulfilling.”

Redding first thought he might be gay in high school. He was sure in college. He never had overt experiences with homophobia — but, he says, “It was a typical Southern atmosphere. I heard the jokes and the negative things. They get imprinted on you.”

At California Baptist, he made a conscious decision to stay in the closet. It was not a happy time. When he moved to Henderson, he knew he could no longer hide … or lie. “If anyone asked, I promised myself I’d tell,” he says.

Redding started by calling out athletes for making anti-gay comments in the training room. Soon, he says, “people probably knew” he was gay.

Redding was assigned to the football and baseball teams. He had a great relationship with head football coach Scott Maxfield — with whom he had worked at a previous school — on and off the field. About five years ago, on one of their daily walks around the track, Redding came out to him.

Maxfield had one question: “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

Once Redding had the backing of the head coach — and his wife, whom he told the same night — the rest of the process was easy. It culminated in a story he wrote for Outsports last month. He wrote: “I am at every practice and travel to every game with my teams. I am responsible for evaluating and treating injuries to my student-athletes. A lot of time this requires close physical interaction with them. While I am very professional with all my interactions, I have long worried about how the athlete would feel if the guy doing a deep-tissue massage on his hamstring was gay.”

Those fears were unfounded. Redding realized that being honest allowed him to do his job even better.

Henderson State University is a safe place, “administratively, and with students and coaches,” Redding says. “There are a bunch of good people here.”

He’s been uplifted not only by Henderson’s athletes, who really don’t care about their trainer’s sexuality, so long as he gets them back on the field quickly, but by the responses of strangers to his Outsports story. A closeted trainer in Texas thanked him for providing hope. A Pac-12 trainer who is out to a small group of people called Redding an inspiration for showing what it’s like to be fully out.

Redding does not have many professional role models. But at an Outsports “reunion meeting” in Chicago this summer, he heard stories from gay student-athletes, coaches, administrators, journalists … and even a few athletic trainers. That helped him understand the power of openness and honesty.

This year, Redding will speak about diversity at an NCAA Division II administrators’ meeting. He’ll tell his story, and hopes it will inspire others.

Athletic trainers shun the limelight. “We’re support staff,” Redding notes. “We’re just here to help. But if I can help reach folks who are in the closet, I’m happy to do that.”

— Dan Woog

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The Weeknd announces Starboy Tour, in Dallas next May

Posted on 01 Nov 2016 at 8:37am

tw_starboy_press_12-smRecording artist The Weeknd, who released his latest album, Starboy, just last month, has announced dates for his tour in support of the disc. Starboy: Legend of the Fall 2017 World Tour (Phase One) kicks off on Feb. 17, 2017, in Stockholm, Sweden, but will wind its way to Dallas on May 4, at the American Airlines Center. Presale begins this morning at 10 a.m.,  for Cici cardholders (check out CitiPrivatePass.com if you are one), but general sales begin on Friday, Nov. 4 on Ticketmaster.com (here’s a direct link).

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