Ellen’s other Joe

Posted on 18 May 2017 at 12:28pm

 

Joe Dombrowski never expected to end up on Ellen after his fourth-grade students at Oakland Elementary in Royal Oak, Mich., hilariously attempted to spell made-up words — and a queen’s name from RuPaul’s Drag Race — as an April Fools’ joke. But then again, Dombrowski never expected the legendary prank, which he orchestrated, filmed and posted to his social media, to seize the attention of admirers from around the world… including Ellen DeGeneres.

Just days after the video went viral, the 28-year-old teacher was a guest on the comedian’s talk show. But it wasn’t attention he was after. In addition to receiving a generous $10,000 check from Shutterfly made out to Oakland Elementary (and $10,000 for him personally) — the school largely educates children from low-income families — the teacher and now-famous trickster says he was elated that “Ellen really gave me a platform to put such a positive light on education, which is where my heart is.”

That crazy, surreal day, his heart was in the right place, but his head? Not so much. Instant internet fame will do that to you.

“Once Ellen called, it truly hit me how big this whole thing had gone,” Dombrowski tells me, still reeling from the experience. “When I watched the interview, it all started coming back, and I just realized that I blacked out completely during it.”

This is how he remembers it: Ellen kissed him, he made her — major daytime talk-show host, Glamour Woman of the Year honoree, Emmy winner, Dory — laugh, and then the two shared a special behind-the-scenes moment. During a commercial break, Dombrowski expressed to her how her confidence as an out lesbian — and the fact that “she’s such a strong role model for all people, especially the LGBT community” — helped transform him into a confident, out gay man, both privately and professionally.

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WATCH: Trailer for the Billie Jean King-Bobby Riggs movie ‘Battle of the Sexes’

Posted on 17 May 2017 at 8:55am

We’ve been excited about the film Battle of the Sexes ever since we saw the first stills of newly-minted Oscar winner Emma Stone and Steve Carell as dead-ringers for tennis greats Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, who fought a famous charity tennis match in Houston back in the early 1970s pitting the top female tennis player of the time against an older, more experienced and heavily delusional Riggs. The event really kick-started feminism, gave rise to the term “male chauvinist pig” and cemented King as an icon. Now the trailer is available for the film, which comes out in September. Take a look!

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Trans coach finds acceptance in small Rhode Island town

Posted on 16 May 2017 at 10:40am

 

Stephen Alexander was a typical boy. He loved Transformers and Gobots (but did not find out until later that they were a product of Hasbro in Providence, R.I., just a few miles from his home in Chepachet). He spent hours with the neighborhood kids, playing basketball, baseball and Wiffle ball. “I never wanted to go home,” he recalls.

There was one problem: His parents treated him like a girl. That’s what they saw when they looked at his genitals.

And that’s why Alexander competed on girls teams at Ponaganset High School. He was a superb athlete — one of the best in the school’s history, male or female. He scored more than 1,000 points for the Chieftains’ girls basketball team, winning four consecutive state championships and earning All-State first team honors. He was offered a full scholarship for the basketball team at Stonehill College, a Division II Jesuit school in Massachusetts. But he gave it up, because being in the women’s locker room finally became too unbearable.

Majoring in religious studies, psychology and philosophy, Alexander sought to discover who he really was. His journey of self-discovery took him about as far away from Rhode Island as he could go: Tasmania. There he studied Buddhism. Studying further, through a Semester at Sea program, he finally understood himself as a transgender man.

“I tell people I’ve crossed the equator, the prime meridian and the gender spectrum,” he quips. He says the process took him from gender identity disorder, to gender identity difference, and finally to gender identity feelings.

He returned to his home town, and finally came out to his parents. But Chepachet is a very small place. Soon, he headed to the biggest city in the U.S.: New York.

Everyone knew him in Chepachet. In NYC, nobody did. That’s where he began his career as a teacher. It’s also where he had gender reassignment surgery. His parents, who had taken their own path to understanding their son, were there. Doctors told them that most parents seldom are.

But the pull of home was strong. His sister has two children, and Alexander wanted to watch them grow up. He returned to Rhode Island, and tried to figure out what to do next.

A female friend told him the boys middle school soccer team needed a coach. Alexander stepped in. Soon he was coaching their basketball and baseball teams. Tennis and volleyball followed. He coached boys and girls teams. He loved what he was doing. There were challenges — managing young adolescents is not easy, and their parents can be a handful, too — but that’s part of the joy of coaching.

Though he was in a small town, and most people there had known him as a champion female athlete, he says that being a trans man was never an issue. No one said anything to his face; no one complained to the school board. There may have been whispers, he admits, and perhaps one or two youngsters did not try out for his teams because of the coach. But if that happened, he says, “I never heard about it.”

He worked with coaches he’d gone to school with. He coached boys and girls whose parents he’d played sports with, or been taught by. Some of those adults still call him by the name they remember. They try to call him “Stephen,” but old habits die hard.

Perhaps they’re reminded by the banner hanging in the Ponaganset High School gym. It honors the few players who scored more than 1,000 points in their basketball careers. Alexander’s is there, with his girl’s name. There is one place his name does not appear: the Ponaganset Athletic Hall of Fame. His sister nominated him, but he has not been selected.

Alexander was surprised … but then again, he wasn’t. What people say behind closed doors is not always what they say to his face.

Alexander has a lot to say. He’s created a website called Transition Games (www.transitiongames.com), in part to highlight his public speaking career. “Stephen’s story brought me to tears, and to a new understanding of diversity in sports,” praises a college student who heard him talk.

“It’s so important to have conversations about transforming sports,” Alexander says. “We need to help kids recognize early what happens when we separate the sexes. There’s this notion that boys are better, faster and stronger than girls. Sports is really about finding out who you are, whoever you are, then working together to heighten competitiveness and honor your opponents. There’s still a lot of work to be done.”

And Stephen Alexander — a trans man, and boys and girls sports coach in rural Rhode Island — is doing it.

— Dan Woog

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ZimSculpt at Dallas Arboretum

Posted on 16 May 2017 at 10:24am

More than 100 hand-carved Zimbabwean sculptures will remain on display in the Dallas Arboretum through July 31. Some of the sculptors are on hand each day creating new works and talk about while showcasing their techniques. The exhibit is called ZimSculpt.

The Dallas Arboretum is on Garland Road overlooking White Rock Lake and is open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Admission is $15 per person and parking is $15. Parking and admission is free with membership.

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WATCH: The new launch trailer for the limited-run return of ‘Will & Grace’ this fall

Posted on 15 May 2017 at 2:38pm

The broadcast TV networks host their “upfronts” this week, announcing what made it to the fall lineups and what go the axe. Many of those announcements have already been made, including one show that got a slot without even having to audition. Will & Grace, the pioneering sitcom that won Emmys for all its cast (as well as best series) during its initial run from 1998 to 2006, returns after more than a decade off the air for a limited run of 12 episodes this fall.

Of course, you probably already knew that. What you might not have see yet is the fun little promo video, which does a great job of whetting your appetite for more of Karen & Jack …. I mean Will & Grace. Enjoy.

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Katy Perry to play in Dallas Jan. 14

Posted on 15 May 2017 at 10:13am

Katy Perry’s latest album, Witness, is set to drop on June 9, and she’s already booking North American arena tour dates, including Dallas.

Perry will bring her concert to American Airlines Center on Jan. 14, but tickets go on sale as early as this Thursday at 9 a.m., via the Ticketmaster Verified Fan presale. (If not already a member, you have to register by Tuesday.) Citi cardmembers can start purchasing at noon Thursday. General ticket sales begin May 22 at 10 a.m. At ticket purchases include a pre-order for Witness: The Album.

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Goldie Hawn and Amy Schumer on ‘Snatched’ and gay fans

Posted on 12 May 2017 at 11:28am

“We’re serious bitches, too,” says Amy Schumer, nearly in tears. The comic firecracker is seated next to national treasure Goldie Hawn, and the screen icon has just made a touching revelation: She used to comfort men dying of AIDS.

Perhaps that isn’t the kind of heartwarming reveal you’d expect during a sit-down for their action-comedy, Snatched, opening today, but as this onscreen mom-daughter duo joke about a potential gay-themed sequel (the ladies already have several queer-centric working titles; for Schumer, the joke writes itself), it’s clear nothing is off topic. They’re just happy to be here speaking to gay press, which has Schumer “very elated.”

“This will be our favorite interview of the day,” the 35-year-old raves from a hotel bungalow in Santa Monica. Beaming, Hawn shares her enthusiasm: “It will be!”

Snatched is Hawn’s first movie since 2002’s The Banger Sisters. But donning a signature frilly, shoulder-less, royal blue dress, it seems like just yesterday the 71-year-old’s frothy charm enraptured gay audiences on Laugh-In in the late ’60s, and later, in 1996’s First Wives Club and, of course, Death Becomes Her in 1992.

“It’s fun doing press with her,” says Schumer, as Hawn, en route, recharges at the hotel’s nearby buffet line before breezing in. “It’s also relaxing, because she’s like a mom — you’ll ask her something, and you’ll be looking for a sound bite and then we’re out of time and I’m like, ‘OK, cool. Good job.’”

Before being snatched up for their next interview, Hawn and Schumer got real about their respective gay followings, how Hawn thinks Schumer still has time to pursue a lesbian relationship and their commitment to “fight to the death” for LGBT people.

— Chris Azzopardi

Dallas Voice: Why has it been important to you both to advocate for the LGBT community, especially now, in this political climate? Schumer: I can’t remember a time I didn’t. When I was in high school, people weren’t really out yet. I think it’s more now. It was a different time even then, but it was never a question. It was never a choice. It was, “Yeah, of course.”

Hawn: Being an ally for LGBT people and an ally for all people, transgender or whatever — to me, that’s a human story. I feel there are injustices in the world that I’ll stand up for, and I think that it’s important to realize that the world is filled with these kinds of issues. We’re dealing with intolerance and what’s going on with deportation and what’s happening with Mexicans and what’s happening with people who are Muslim. There are so many things, and if you can’t stand up for it, then you’re not standing up for humankind. Because that’s who we are. We all have skin and blood, and we’re all made of the same things. I have a note that I will probably needlepoint one day: “Love knows no gender.” And it doesn’t. Love is something in the heart and in the mind, so why would you chastise anyone for that? And this is something that I feel very strongly about.

Schumer: Also, we’re both people who will stand up to the death for our gay friends and gay people and what’s going on in Chechnya and the fear of what will happen in the coming years. We’ll be there to fight alongside our gay friends.

Hawn: You know what I used to do? This is interesting. When we went through the AIDS period, it was a very scary time, and I would go visit guys and I’d get in bed with them just to be there with them.

Schumer: Come on, think about that.

Hawn: Oh, I just remember.

Schumer: Aw, Goldie. And great — now we’re all crying.

Amy, on behalf of gays everywhere, thank you for being instrumental in bringing Goldie back to the big screen. Hawn: Awwww!

Schumer: You’re welcome!

Hawn: Oh my god, so sweet.

You were missed, Goldie. Schumer: Dude, yeah. I completely agree, and I feel the same way. I just stayed on her, and we did it together.

Hawn: You were the one, I gotta tell you. It really was Amy.

When in your career did you two first know you had a big gay following? Hawn: Gosh, honey, this is a long time ago. I think when I first came on — it started then. The early days. There wasn’t a moment in my career, never a moment. I was a dancer, and I grew up and that’s who I was. There was no issue. I mean, I had a tremendous amount of gay friends, so my whole life was basically like that while dancing. So, I never noticed who was gay or who was straight. For me, it was like that.

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Kelly Osbourne: The gay interview

Posted on 11 May 2017 at 10:14am

Fourth in a series of interview with musicians

Hollywood spitfire and staunch LGBT ally Kelly Osbourne is feeling tense about her first book, There Is No F*cking Secret: Letters from a Badass Bitch. After all, “What if I change my opinion by the time it comes out?!” she says, laughing because it’s true.

Then there’s our revealing interview, where the opinionated 32-year-old actress, singer and now author — and daughter of Ozzy and Sharon — let her candid thoughts loose on topics ranging from her sexuality (“everybody’s gay”) to her openness about dating women and her issues with celebrities who feign lesbianism for publicity. And that recent controversy over her statement regarding President Donald Trump? She admits it really got to her. Turns out, even badasses cry sometimes.

— Chris Azzopardi

Dallas Voice: Your book, which covers your personal journey to self-acceptance, could have a positive influence on so many young people trying to find themselves. Kelly Osbourne: Oh, thank you so much! It’s the most vulnerable thing I’ve done in a while, I can’t lie. I’m kind of like, oh my god, I’ve actually done this, because for the first time in my life I wanted to take my power back, and instead of people telling me who I am, I wanted to tell them.

Who are some of your favorite badass bitches? I mean, Elton goes without saying. Just people who’ve made a difference in my life, like Liza Minnelli. I think Lil’ Kim. It’s anyone who just learned to be themselves and take responsibility for who they are.

When were you first aware you had an LGBT following? I don’t remember a time in my life when I haven’t been submerged in the LGBT community. It’s the only community that, even though I shouldn’t have belonged [laughs], accepted me. It was the only world I ever really felt comfortable in, because, and I say it in my book, I don’t know what it feels like to fit in.

What do you attribute that bond to? I think my relationship, especially with the drag community and the drag world, became so prevalent at such a young age because of Boy George, of course, and Blitz Kids and that huge movement in the U.K. I think drag queens choose how they want you to see them and they do that knowing that they’re probably going to get a lot of shit for it, and that’s what magic is. That’s like, “Fuck you, this is who I am,” and you can wake up every day and be whoever you want to be. I love that.

When did drag first come into your life? It’s never not been in my life. I mean, my mom was calling up [a drag club] in San Francisco; I was, like, 11 or 12 and being snuck into a drag bar. It was amazing. And there was a time I went to go see Cyndi Lauper on tour when she was playing in the U.K., and she used to have, like, 20 drag queens on tour with her. I was probably about 9 or 10.

You have to understand, my favorite childhood pastime was putting my mom’s lacy underwear and bustier on over my clothes — because I wasn’t allowed to wear them any other way — and going to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Rocky Horror is still, to this day, one of my favorite movies of all time. I loved the makeup. If you look really closely at the “Time Warp,” you’ll see where I get all my hair colors from. But yeah, everyone else was watching Annie, and I was watching Rocky Horror Picture Show and singing about sweet transvestites.

How much of your gay submergence do you credit to your mother? It’s equally my mom and my dad. In rock ’n’ roll, you were the outcasts back then and outcasts tend to find each other, especially in London.

How about Boy George — what was his influence on you? I remember staring at my TV, thinking, “Is it a beautiful woman or a beautiful man? It doesn’t matter.” He was the first person to break down barriers. He single-handedly changed people’s perspective so much. And he’s such a smart man! If you ever sit down and have a conversation with him about his political views and his opinion of the gay community, he says things that are so spot on and so important because he’s lived long enough through good times and bad times to see what things really are. I love talking to him. And he has the most beautiful eyes you’ve ever looked into!

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PHOTOS: Scenes from House of DIFFA Arabesque

Posted on 10 May 2017 at 1:55pm

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Lea Michele: The gay interview

Posted on 10 May 2017 at 10:58am

 

Third in a series of interviews with musicians.

Lea Michele knows exactly where her life is headed. “It’s just gonna be me in bed with gay people and I’m gonna be alone forever like Cher,” the powerhouse playfully foretells, “and that’s totally fine by me.” If you’re like Michele — theater-kid-turned-Broadway-queen, and then, with TV’s Glee and Scream Queens, the apple of Ryan Murphy’s eye — it’s a natural fit. And so be it. “That’s just the story of my fuckin’ life, all right.”

Not the whole story, though. The rest involves brainstorming the 30-year-old singer’s “dream girl” make-out sessions and what Glee episodes she likes the most.

— Chris Azzopardi

Dallas Voice: I loved that you were drinking red wine while singing The Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” when you reunited with your Glee co-star Darren Criss recently. Lea Michele: Listen, that’s just a typical night for me, let me tell you! I mean, we just wanted it to be casual, like a chill time, us hanging out. We didn’t want it to feel too performed. We just wanted it to be a little peek of what Darren and I do for fun together.

How much wine did you enjoy during the recording of your new album, Places? No wine during the recording of Places, I’ll tell you that. It was too vocally challenging, so none in the recording studio!

This album is more intimate than your debut. You take it down a few notches, and it sounds like you’ve realized that you don’t need to be the pop artist that some people might think you should be. Thank you. Can you do all of my press for me and tell everyone that?

Ha! Sure, I’m for hire. How did you apply what you’ve learned about yourself as a recording artist to Places? I learned a lot from my first album [2014’s Louder]. I definitely think a lot of things contributed to that album: I took a lot of people’s opinions into play, as well as just being a lover of pop music myself and also working on Glee at the same time, so I had a lot of factors kind of coming at me.

I worked on this new record over the past three years, and I really just took the time to be quiet and think about myself, and I was finished with Glee, so I was no longer in the recording studio for that. I just took the time to figure out really, truly who I am as an artist, what kind of music I want to make, and at the end of the day, I’m from Broadway, I’m a theatrical singer, there’s no way around that.

When I did this record, no one told me to change anything; no one told me to sound any different. And this is it, this is me. It’s a true representation of who I am, and all I can hope is that people like it. If they don’t, that’s OK for me now at this point in my life. You know, I’m 30 years old, and I know I can sing. I just hope that people like it and that’s all you can really do. At a certain point, you just have to let it go into the universe.

Did you feel differently making your first album? Did you feel like people were trying to put you in a box? No, I just think that I was sort of influenced a little bit more personally. I was putting myself into a box! No one was really making me do anything – I was the one that was saying, “I want a song that sounds like Katy Perry” and “I want this song to sound like Kelly Clarkson.” But in the recording studio this time, I was like, “No. It can’t sound like anyone but me.”

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