Profile in Sports: Out photographer Jeff Sheng shoots and scores

Posted on 17 Jul 2015 at 8:31am

4BKBThere are many ways for athletes to be fearless. They can stand at the plate with the bases, in the bottom of the ninth. They can attempt a difficult dive. Rocket down an icy ski jump. Or they can come out of the closet as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

It took Jeff Sheng many years to overcome his fears. But in the years since, he has made it his life’s work to honor the fearlessness of over 200 young men and women.

Growing up in Southern California, Sheng was a competitive tennis player. Yet fear overtook him as a high school senior. He was starting to come out as gay. Unable to reconcile his sexuality with his sport, he quit playing.

The next year, at Harvard University, he met a closeted water polo player. Sheng could not go to games as his boyfriend (that fear again) and after a few months the relationship ended.

7DIVBy senior year, Sheng’s ex was out — and on the cover of Genre magazine. “He was confident — an inspirational figure,” Sheng recalls. Having studied photography, he decided to focus his talents on gay college athletes. It seemed like a good way to honor their fearlessness.

In 2003, the universe of out sports figures was small. Friends of friends recommended subjects: a rugby player and squash player at Brown. A Harvard rower. A high school athlete, the first Sheng had ever heard of.

He photographed them after their workouts. They were sweaty and tired, but comfortable, and in their elements. The shots were powerful, and moving.

The first 20 or so subjects were almost all white, and lesbian, gay or bi. In 2005 Sheng BKB2began meeting athletes who called themselves ‘gender queer.” He knew he had to be more inclusive.

The next year, the Queer Alliance at the University of Florida — where he’d photographed a female softball player who filed a lawsuit alleging discrimination — invited him to show his photos. A mix-up prevented gallery space from being used. Sheng suggested a hallway nearby. Despite fears of vandalism, he mounted the exhibit. The final piece was text, explaining that every photo showed an LGBT athlete.

A high school debate meet was going on. The teenagers looked at the exhibit, then read the statement with shock. They seemed awed and impressed — not giggly or nasty.

6WT“I realized I needed to put the photos in student centers and athletic buildings, where everyone could see them and have their assumptions challenged,” Sheng says. Around the country — at schools from Penn to USC — the reaction was always: “I didn’t know gay people looked like that!”

He kept working too. By 2010, he’d photographed 100 athletes.

Despite positive attention on college campuses, the project — called Fearless — did not receive mainstream attention. Sheng suspected it was because he was an Asian tennis player, not a white football star.

But now he was not fearful. He was angry. He redoubled his efforts.

“I could have stopped,” he says. “But I wanted to make this project so big, no one could 3Paraignore it.”

Now, no one can. Sheng has amassed 202 photos of LGBT college and high school athletes. They play every conceivable sport, and represent every type of self-identification. They look strong, proud, happy … and fearless.

They are also no longer solely photographs in a traveling exhibit. Three years ago, Sheng began work on a book. Fearless: Portraits of LGBT Student-Athletes, published earlier this month.

Sheng has taken the title literally. Sandwiched in between the stunning photos (with accompanying explanatory text) is the photographer’s own story. He’s taken 30 years of his life and shared it with readers. Sheng includes unpublished photos from his first relationship with the water polo 5DIGplayer — and details about the two times he considered suicide.

A Kickstarter campaign raised $50,000 — half the amount needed to self-publish. (Mainstream publishers told Sheng there was no audience for his book.) The money covered a fantastic design team: a young gay male couple and their female assistant. They came up with the idea of eight different covers, and eight spines, each a different color. When placed together in stores, they’ll form a rainbow flag.

Fearless is a gorgeous, 300-page full color book. The photos and layout symbolize “the very beautiful, diverse community I’ve grown into,” Sheng says. They include a number of trans athletes. As part of Sheng’s own journey, he no longer uses headings like “Boys Tennis” or “Women’s Crew.” Now it’s “Casey, Soccer, University of Wisconsin.” The message is simple, proud, fierce — and very fearless.

Fearless will be introduced at the Nike LGBT Sports Summit in Portland next month. On July 21, it will be featured at the WNBA Los Angeles Sparks’ “Pride Game” at the Staples Center. To order a copy, go to www.fearlessproject.org.

— Dan Woog 

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REVIEW: ‘Ant-Man’

Posted on 16 Jul 2015 at 1:36pm

BF-08760_REver since Marvel teamed with Disney to create the Marvel Cinematic Universe, attending movies has been more like reading a serialized soap opera in Spandex that film-going. We’ve had three Iron Mans, a pair each of Avengers, Thor and Captain America, a few out outliers (Hulk, Guardians of the Galaxy) and many more in the pipeline. And that doesn’t even include the tangled web of Spider-Man reboots, which makes it seem like we’re all reliving Groundhog Day. Eventually, it’s a cacophony of sound effects and needless 3D extravaganzas. Some are better than others (Cappie, so far, gets my vote as the best of the lot), but they all have a sameness to them after a while.

Which is why Ant-Man stands apart. Like the first Iron Man, it has a snarky star (Paul Rudd, a sort of less cynical version of Robert Downey Jr.) and a comedic sensibility that lightens up even some of the nastier bits (when the mad scientist unsuccessfully experiments on minimizing a cute lamb, what’s left is a teaspoon of goo, meaning this is the first lamb to become its own side of mint jelly). It’s a hip caper film, gussied up in a comic book adventure. (Marvel considers Ant-Man the final film in its “Phase One” of the movie series of the three proposed phases. Phase Two starts next spring with Captain America: Civil War.)

HEL0680_comp_v083.1173And because Ant-Man comes so late to the game of MCU, it doesn’t have to spend a lot of time on backstory: We know who some of these characters are already, which means its both an “origins movie” and a “mission movie” — we don’t get bogged down in either. (A mid-movie comic duel between Ant-Man and Falcon gives a gimmicky but not unwelcome nod to the MCU, and Stan Lee eventually makes his requisite cameo … about 30 seconds before it’s over.)

Surprisingly, the minimization set-pieces — with Ant-Man the size of an insect, where water from a tap looks like a tsunami — don’t seem as cheesy as they have ever since the days of The Incredible Shrinking Man. It’s all in fun.

Especially with Rudd and much of the supporting cast, including an endearing Michael Douglas as the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym. But the kickiest performance comes from Michael Pena as Rudd’s unexpectedly sophisticated criminal running buddy — he shines with so much good will and energy, you almost forget what a sourpuss Evangeline Lilly is as the budding love interest. Who needs lame romance when you have ginormous Thomas the Tank Engines and a villain with a kick-ass stinger? This summer actioner really has legs … like, six of ‘em.

Now playing in wide release.

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Tallywackers wants you to have a quickie

Posted on 16 Jul 2015 at 10:55am

Tallywackers’ BYOBurger, starting today.

A quicker. A nooner. Involving Tallywackers.

Get your mind out of the gutter, we’re talking about lunch.

Yup, the genitalia-inspired Lemmon Avenue restaurant has launched new lunch, brunch and drink menus, including daily specials under $10.

The $9.99 quickie lunch is available Monday through Friday, with a different on-to-go item each day (Monday: chicken penne; Tuesday: grilled ham and cheese; Wednesday: fried chicken sammy; Thursday: build-your-own burger; Friday: meat loaf). Saturdays and Sundays, a new brunch menu is available, as well as  mimosa for $4 and a mix-your-own bloody mary bar.

In addition, the start of the week will be Martini Monday with $4.50 gin or vodka martinis open to close; happy hour runs 4–7 p.m. each day.

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You can be part of a ‘Sordid Wedding!’

Posted on 16 Jul 2015 at 8:32am

Del-Shores-32Del Shores — he of the snarky Texas-twanged rants against religious hypocrisy and homophobia, in works from Southern Baptist Sissies to Queer as Folk— is primed to begin filming his latest movie, the first official sequel to his signature hit Sordid Lives. A Very Sordid Wedding puts your favorite characters in the receiving line of a gay wedding — which, thanks to SCOTUS, is now just called “a wedding” — and will begin filming soon in the Metroplex. But the groundwork isn’t done yet. Shores and his producer (and Dallas Voice contributor) Emerson Collins will join Louise H. Beard for a fundraising and location scouting tour of North Texas this week. If you want to be part of the producing team, you can attend an investors’ informational meeting Friday in Fort Worth or Saturday in Dallas (both at private homes, starring at 7:30 p.m.). The minimum buy-in is $25,000, but if you don’t have that much cash in a drawer, you can always pool some money with your friends … and be on the cutting edge of the marriage equality movement.

To learn more, email Del at DelShores@me.com. And if you see him around town looking at sites, come up and say howdy!

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Hilary Duff: The gay interview

Posted on 15 Jul 2015 at 1:32pm

Chris Azzopardi admits: He wasn’t especially a Hilary Duff fan. And then he interviewed her.

Convert. Totally.

In their rangy interview, the former Lizzie McGuire star talks about marriage equality, her fascination with Grindr and why she took a break from showbiz.

HilaryDuff1“I’m like the dorky kid on the bus who’s like, ‘Hiiii.’”

Wait a minute. Is that you, Lizzie McGuire? Maybe? No.

It’s Hilary Duff, razzing on her cold-ridden, congested-sounding self as she does a nasally nerd impression. And though Duff is known to millennials (and their moms) for originating the dorky Disney icon in 2001 — which, she admits during our interview, has been “torturous” — the 27-year-old is ready to move on. Actually, she’s been ready. It’s the rest of the world that just can’t seem to let Lizzie go.

During an insightful and surprisingly candid conversation, Duff spoke about her career as a whole just hours following June 26’s landmark Supreme Court ruling, which granted full marriage rights to LGBT Americans. The child star-turned-music maker also talked about her latest album, Breathe In. Breathe Out., eight years in the making; the long break she took to find her true self; and not knowing how to be a “totally normal girl who doesn’t give a fuck.”

Dallas Voice: You’re a longtime ally of the LGBT community, and you also have many gay friends, so you must have been thrilled about the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality. What does that momentous moment mean to you?  Hilary Duff: Oh my gosh. I’m so excited. What a big day. It’s a huge step toward equality. Everyone should be able to be who they are, love who they want and marry who they want. It’s 2015; for us to still have judgment about people being gay is ridiculous, so I can’t believe it’s taken this long. It’s definitely a big day in history, and I’m just so excited.

Considering you’re not feeling well, you probably won’t be celebrating just yet.  Actually, I do have a party happening at my house tonight for my assistant/best friend. We just worked through her birthday during album release week, and I feel so bad, so we’re finally celebrating at my house tonight. But we’ll be celebrating [marriage equality] as well, I’m sure. It definitely deserves a big toast. Do you have a partner?

I don’t have a partner, no. Is being on Tinder key to finding “the one?” Perhaps you can give me some dating advice. What are Hilary Duff’s tips for finding a husband?  Obviously, I haven’t been so lucky. No – I don’t know. I would not, uh — I would not go with me on Tinder. I don’t know! God. Geez. Maybe the right thing will be in the air tonight.

Lately you’ve been a Tinder enthusiast; have you experienced Grindr?  Well, I haven’t physically actually experienced it, like I don’t have it on my phone or anything, but it’s basically the same thing as Tinder, right? I know because my makeup artist, who’s one of my best friends, has used Grindr a lot and he’s told me all about it. I get to hear all the stories.

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Garth Brooks is back, and that’s especially good for gay folks. Here’s why

Posted on 15 Jul 2015 at 8:56am

Garth-Brooks

It’s been 17 years since Garth Brooks went on a live concert tour that took him to the Metroplex. Well, that drought ends on Sept. 18 and 19, when he will appear at American Airlines Center for two concerts.

If you’re not a country music fan, you might not fully grasp how significant this is. Brooks was a sensation in the 1990s, the biggest country star — and one of the biggest crossover musicians — in history. He was a hit-maker, releasing about a dozen albums (including studio, live and compilation) in less than 10 years. And he scored 13 — 13! — Top 10 singles in a row, including 12 Top 5. And what is significant about that 14th release? It only hit the Top 20, peaking at 12 — still a hit, but not a runaway. The song was called “We Shall Be Free,” and it shocked conservative shit-kickin’, boot-scootin’ country fans at the time. Not only did it promote liberal values (i.e., American values, like freedom of religion and speech), but it also contained the following lyric: When we’re free to love anyone we choose / when this world’s big enough for all different views

Ummm … did Garth Brooks, the biggest music star in history, just come out — in 1992! — in favor of … gay rights?!??

You’re damn right, he did.

Brooks’ sister is openly lesbian, and he may be a country-boy, but he ain’t no bigot. Brooks won over a lot of gay fans with that one … and he paid a price.

For more than a decade, he’s cooled it, rearing children with wife Tricia Yearwood. But he’s back, and he was right: As of now, we all are free to love — to marry — anyone we choose.

I’ll be there. (You can too, starting at 10 a.m. July 24. Click here.)

Below is a performance of the song recorded in Houston last month — just two days after marriage equality.

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WATCH: Andrew Christian ‘Let the Games Begin!’ video with Dallas Voice model

Posted on 14 Jul 2015 at 11:07am

10406640_10203775863378994_2949604321539858376_nIn 2014, we kicked off our first-ever Swimsuit Edition with a cover graced by a local model, named Arad. Arad was great to work with in addition to being as ripped as a dress on prom night. His career has just soared since then, with lots of underwear modeling and personal appearances. Then earlier this year, he was hired by Andrew Christian; he’s even the “profile” picture for Andrew Christian on Facebook.

He’s also one of the stars of this hot new video by the gay underwear brand. You can’t miss Arad, but he’s not the only eye candy. Enjoy!

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Memorial service tonight for Jac Alder

Posted on 13 Jul 2015 at 7:47am

jacalder01Jac Alder, the long-serving founder and artistic director of Theatre 3 who died in late May at 80 after a long illness, will be remembered in a memorial service tonight.

The service will be held at City Performance Hall, 2520 Flora St., in the Downtown Arts District. Complimentary parking will be provided at the Lexus Silver Parking Garage next door. It begins at 6 p.m.

Friends and colleagues, as well as fans of Theatre 3 and Alder’s more than half-century of dedication to theater in North Texas, are all invited to attend.

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REVIEW: First look at Festival of Independent Theatres

Posted on 11 Jul 2015 at 2:09pm

StageThe fun of any theater festival is discovering new works and new voices and energetic approaches to storytelling. Of course, the risk is not all those voices are harmonious, not all of those works have merit.

The excitement, then, in realizing that The Show About Men (which I previewed here) — now at the Festival of Independent Theatres — is better and more surprising that I could have imagined, is palpable. The premise — a straight woman and her cast of men (a mix of gay/straight) brainstorm about the essence of manhood, and turn it into a show that’s part dance, part barroom sing-along, part standup and more — doesn’t do justice to this whimsical and insightful performance piece.

It starts as you might expect something experimental and self-consciously “edgy” to be: In darkened silhouette, six men line up on a stage, only in boxers, talking directly in epigrammatic observations. Then the music starts (all of the songs are original), and the catchy lyrics and engaging melodies draw you in, especially with a ribald sense of comedy: Dick… and balls / Hanging from my gut / Right between my thighs and adjacent to my butt …. And you get it: This show will be as diverse and crass and funny and sensitive and reflective as the male animal himself. The show is simply a hoot, and a true departure for FIT with its use so movement, song, jokes and real-life confessional stories.

The cast is uniformly good, though the standout is surely Colby Calhoun, whose insights into being a effeminate man in the modern world are stingingly funny and insightful. But all the stories — kind of grown-up versions of Free to Be You and Me — paint a hopeful yet complex picture of mahood.

The only bad thing about The Show About Men? For the other two performance this weekend (Saturday and Sunday at 5 p.m.) it’s paired with Dangerous Things On Dark Nights by 2013 Booker T. grad Naomi Cohen. It’s logline — “It was written by a teen millennial … about teen millennials” misses the point that neither youth nor an in-person perspective are evidence of quality. It’s as if Cohen read For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide, watched iCarly and listened to pop ballads from the ’70s and decided a mashup would be a good idea. It is not.

The play is a mess: Three largely uninteractive (but related) monologues by three teen girls and the petulant, misdirected actions that get them into trouble. They smoke and resist authority figures; they go out drinking and driving; they are embarrassed by their parents. Perhaps these are supposed to be insights, instead of the tritest of teenaged cliches; it’s hard to tell, since there isn’t an original idea bouncing around this slow, very poorly acted show. Duck out at intermission after seeing The Show About the Men, or catch it at one of its three other performances at FIT through Aug 1.

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Cocktail Friday: Bastille Day Edition

Posted on 10 Jul 2015 at 1:15pm

Le Vert Cooler

If you’re a francophile, you know that July 14 is Bastille Day, the French equivalent of America’s Fourth of July. And as a francophile, you probably want to raise a glass in support. Of course, you could toast with a glass of wine (France is know for its many wine regions), but this is a cocktail recipe blog — what to do?

Simple: Make a cocktail made with Lillet, an aperitif wine that has been around since before the French Revolution and which blends well with spirits for its own cocktail. There are three kinds of Lillet — not surprisingly, the Rose, the Blanc and the Rouge (just like wine!). Here are two recipes, one with Blanc and one Rose … both delicieux!

Lillet Rose Spritz

Le Vert Cooler

2 oz. Lillet Blanc

1/4 oz. St-Germain liqueur

1 oz. sparkling wine (champagne preferably!)

Grapes, thyme.

Making it: Muddle about 10 grapes with 2 sprigs of fresh thyme, then add Lillet and the st-Germain, in a Mason jar. Screw on lid and shake vigorously for about 10 seconds. Top with bubbly! Salud!

Lillet Rose Spritz

1 oz. Lillet Rose

1 oz. dry grapefruit or citrus soda

Fresh grapefruit

Sage.

Making it: Add Lillet and soda in a wine glass, and top with ice. Garnish with sliced grapefruit and sage leaf. Bonne sante!

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