Outrageous Oral: Four Dallas Icons On Stage Together for the First Time

Posted on 22 May 2015 at 10:45am

Four legendary performers spoke about their careers as “charity drag queens” at the May 21 edition of Outrageous Oral in The Rose Room.

Outrageous Oral is the oral history project of The Dallas Way. Videos of the presentations are available online.

Although the four — Michael Lee, Sister Helen Holy, Edna Jean Robinson and Patti le Plae Safe — had all worked with each other many times, this was the first time the four had all performed together. All are known for what they called “charity drag,” raising money for LGBT and AIDS organizations, rather than pageants and professional drag — although Edna Jean and Patti have both won national pageant titles.

During the ’80s and ’90s, Michael Doughman performed as Michael Lee. He said he hadn’t been in a dress in several years and had to borrow the dress he wore. His performance for The Dallas Way he called his last. Rather than heels, he wore house shoes as he recounted how he became “a man in a dress,” which he called simply “funny.”

Rodd Gray continues to perform as Patti le Plae Safe. He recounted the years when he performed seven nights a week to raise money for every AIDS organization in town. He said it never mattered how much money he raised, as long as he was raising money.

Paul J. Williams told how his Helen Holy character evolved and then circulated through the audience picking out individuals and groups to show how she’s just a liiiiiiiittle bit better.

Edna Jean used video and pictures to tell her story. For more than 20 years, she’s appeared in videos, on TV, in movies and on stage, entertaining and raising money for groups throughout the LGBT community.

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25 Stories of LifeWalk: Raeline Nobles

Posted on 22 May 2015 at 10:19am

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Raeline Nobles

LifeWalk, the  5K held each October to raise money for AIDS Arms and other North Texas AIDS service agencies, marks its 25th year this fall. And to celebrate, each Friday for the 25 weeks leading up to the event, AIDS Arms is posting another Story of LifeWalk.

This week’s story comes from Raeline Nobles, AIDS Arms’ longtime executive director, who retired a few years ago.

Check it out here.

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Ty Herndon to perform at Pride

Posted on 22 May 2015 at 9:45am
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Michael Doughman, left, and Ty Herndon

During his Outrageous Oral presentation at the Rose Room last night (Thursday, May 21), charity drag queen Michael Lee aka Michael Doughman announced that out country star Ty Herndon will perform in Reverchon Park as part of Dallas’ Pride celebration in September.

Doughman is executive director of the Dallas Tavern Guild, which stages Dallas Pride.

The Pride parade and festival takes place on Sunday, Sept. 20. The festival has been moved from Lee Park to Reverchon Park this year for the first time.

Former Dallas resident Herndon came out in November 2014. He performed at Texas Gay Rodeo Association’s first Texas Tradition Rodeo Music Fest.

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A message for black SGL/gay men:

Posted on 22 May 2015 at 7:35am

Buster SpillerWake the hell up!

June is rapidly approaching, and we will soon know if the U.S. Supreme Court will deliver a landmark ruling deciding whether the U.S. Constitution requires states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and whether states must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Thinking about this takes me back to when I was a new LGBT activist in 1994, bright-eyed and bushy tailed and ready to take the world by storm by burning down bridges of bigotry and ignorance.

When I came out, I didn’t gently open the closet door; I kicked that SOB down. And there was no turning back.

I immediately connected with an old friend, the Rev. Philip V. Matthews, a former minister at Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, who I didn’t know was a gay man when we first met while doing outreach in an area housing unit for persons living with AIDS. Phil was the foundation through which my activism was birthed.

In addition to attending CoH for a brief period (sanctuary from my United Methodist Church home), I was provided with books and materials to read about the LGBT community, homosexuality, religion, and historic/contemporary black figures in the LGBT movement. It changed my life.

Phil had started a small group of black men — 12 members — who met in each other’s homes once a month to dialogue about all of these subjects over a simple meal and drinks. These men were professional, educated, well-spoken — and what you would call “masculine.” After attending for the first time, I liked what I saw and expressed a need to Phil to extend the scope of the group beyond its 12 members. I received his blessing and moved forward.

Within a year, the group known as The Men’s Gathering — Dallas (TMG-Dallas) grew to 120 members, with meetings at the former Oak Lawn Community Services Center “Daire Room.” We also started meeting outside of our standard monthly meeting just for fun, building a complete community.

I was able to secure funding through Dallas Urban League Inc. for program support for condom distribution, presentations and pre-post survey data collection, making our activities more well rounded.

We and other minority/black LGBT organizations also garnered local and national attention through co-sponsorship of the former National Black Gay and Lesbian Leadership Forum in 1996.

The forum was usually hosted alternately in Los Angeles or a city on the East Coast; Dallas was the first southern city to host the event. My “official” public coming out was marked by a cover photo and story with myself and other black LGBT leaders in the No. 1 black weekly newspaper in Dallas.

Topics of discussion were selected very strategically, and sometimes discussions included attendance from folks other than black gay men — like lesbians or the non-black partners of some members.

One issue that usually ignited deep conversation was community labels, i.e., masculine/feminine, top/bottom, butch/femme. I have to admit those meetings perplexed me because my dating/LTR choices have always been dictated by a person’s personality traits and characteristics, not solely the outside appearance or bedroom proclivities.

After serving as president of TMG-Dallas for two years, I stepped down to start my theater company, still keeping in touch with members periodically. My desire to move on had a lot to do with internal strife and conflict regarding how public we were going to be as an organization.

Some members wanted complete anonymity while others, like myself, wanted complete exposure. I was already visiblly representing the organization, including appearances in print and on radio talk shows (some gospel), and I didn’t see the need for a veil of secrecy. I connected our organization with non-gay organizations to perform community service projects and during my tenure, had our group march in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom parade as an official entry. As we marched down each block holding our 10-foot banner, complete with African-inspired motifs, I couldn’t have been more proud of us as black men.

But in the end a vote was taken and secrecy won. Rather than return to another closet, I moved on. After 3-4 presidents and a floundering membership, the group eventually went defunct —  but not before spawning brother organizations in Houston (started by a former officer of the Dallas group) and one in the Michigan/Ohio area.

That was 15 years ago. Recently, I was on a Facebook friend’s page — a black gay male — and a picture of Derrick J. and Miss Lawrence, stars of the hit Bravo show Fashion Queens, was posted with the caption, “This is how Andy Cohen and BRAVO displays the gay BLACK MAN……HOUSTON WE HAVE A PROBLEM!!!!!!!!”

I commented that I didn’t think there was anything wrong with either male, and in return I was told that we need to see more masculine black males on a national platform to earn respect. I thought about my TMG-Dallas days, took a deep breathe, and replied:

“We’re disrespected, period, and those two men living their lives have little to do with it. We can present ourselves as the MOST masculine men possible and the black community will still think of us as men who want to be women and f***** in the ass.

“You need a culprit to blame for our misery, try the black church, that same place we go to weekly to get our spiritual ass whuppings which we faithfully SUPPORT. When black gay men not like Derrick J. and Miss Lawrence have the COURAGE to stand up to the black church, our families, and to others and call them ALL on their s***, effeminate males like those two will cease to be an embarrassment.

“We have to stop these internal divisions. We can’t depend on the white LGBT community to do it for us. We’ve ridden their coattails for too long.”

What is it about being masculine that is superior to being feminine? Why is one state of being preferred over the other? Does patriarchy still have that strong a hold on how we perceive women? Is being a woman, looking like a woman or adopting habits associated with women (i.e., certain clothing, makeup, shoes, etc.) wrong and not desirable?

Why do we hate women?!

With all of the strides that have been made in the LGBTQ movement (a lot of it with minimal black LGBT involvement), I continued to sit there completely dumbfounded as comments kept coming, most affirming the poster’s sentiment — including some from straight black females, which was really puzzling.

We are on the cusp of history as a LGBT community, one I have worked on to see this day. As a newly married person, the significance of this day cannot be understated. It is the single most defining moment of my life as a black SGL/gay man, a moment those before me like Langston Hughes, Richard Bruce Nugent, Countee Cullen, Claude McKay, Wallace Thurman, Alain Locke, Bayard Rustin, James Baldwin, Alvin Ailey, Sylvester, Glenn Burke, E. Lynn Harris, Phil Reed, Roy Simmons and countless others couldn’t have envisioned seeing.

And all my black brethren can concern themselves with is how a person chooses to present themselves publicly. Are you fucking kidding me?!

The more things — and times — change, the more they stay the same. Black SGL/gay men: WAKE THE HELL UP!

Buster Spiller is a longtime activist and award-winning playwright from Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 22, 2015.

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Narvaez sworn in for 6 year term on Dallas County Schools Board

Posted on 21 May 2015 at 5:17pm
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Dallas School Board Trustee Omar Narvaez, left, was sworn in by Judge Ken Molberg on May 20.

Judge Ken Molberg swore in Omar Narvaez for a six-year term on the Dallas County School Board. Narvaez was appointed to fill a vacancy last year and was elected to his first full term.

Narvaez’s name was to appear on the May municipal ballot, but he and board chair Larry Duncan were unopposed. Rather than expend almost $1 million in county schools funds, Narvaez and Duncan were declared the winners in their races. Both were sworn in at the regular monthly meeting on May 20.

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Oregon governor signs reparative therapy ban into law

Posted on 21 May 2015 at 4:58pm
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Oregon Gov. Kate Brown

Kudos to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown for signing House Bill 2307 into law, making Oregon the fourth jurisdiction — behind California, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia — to protect LGBT youth from the dangers of conversion therapy.

The ban goes into effect immediately.

The law protects LGBT youth from mental health providers attempting to change their sexual orientation or gender identity through practices that are linked to substance abuse, extreme depression and suicide.

Brown is the state’s second female governor and the country’s first out bisexual governor.

Banning “gay cures” has been gaining wider acceptance. The practice is condemned by every medical and psychological association.

In Texas, state Rep. Celia Israel introduced a similar measure that did not get out of committee.

Earlier today, we reported the Central Conference of American Rabbis condemned the practice as well.

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BREAKING: Accord reached on Pastor Protection Act, guaranteeing religious freedom and marriage equality

Posted on 21 May 2015 at 2:33pm

Texas-CapitolA bill reaffirming the rights of clergy to refuse to perform marriages — including same-sex marriages — that violate their religious beliefs has passed in the Texas House on a bipartisan vote, after its sponsor reassured legislators clergy may only refuse to perform those marriages in their official capacity.

SB 2065 passed 141-2 after questions about whether clergy members who also serve as county clerks, justices of the peace or in other government capacities may deny licenses to same-sex couples, interfaith couples and other couples they may find objectionable.

In a moving statement before its passage, openly lesbian Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-El Paso, commended the bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney, for carrying it. She told the floor she believes LGBT justice and religious freedom may coexist.

Despite rumors that Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia, intended to try and attach his anti-gay HB 4105 to Sanford’s bill as an amendment, the amendment never came. HB 4105 would have withheld pay from county clerks issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. It died last week without coming to a vote.

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UPDATE: Gates tells Boy Scouts to change policy

Posted on 21 May 2015 at 12:37pm
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Boy Scouts President Robert Gates

Robert Gates, president of the Irving-based Boy Scouts of America, has called on the organization to change its policy on gay scout leaders.

“I remind you of the recent debates we have seen in places like Indiana and Arkansas over discrimination based on sexual orientation, not to mention the impending U.S. Supreme Court decision this summer on gay marriage,” he said.

He said he wasn’t asking the board to make any changes at this meeting, but said he was speaking to them as bluntly as he did when he headed the CIA and Defense Department.

“We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be. The status quo in our movement’s membership standards cannot be sustained,” he said.

Gates said more councils will contest the gay ban and the BSA could revoke their memberships. As states implement nondiscrimination policies, he said, the Boy Scouts could simply be ordered to change its employment policies.

“We must all understand that this probably will happen sooner rather than later,” he said.

Gates said it was better to act sooner and create policies that would allow church-chartered troops to set standards consistent with their religious beliefs and allow others to follow their beliefs.

Resource Center CEO Cece Cox released the following statement:

“The Center supports President Gates’ call for the Boy Scouts of America to end the ban that has forced LGBT Scout leaders to lie about who they are. It is a common-sense reflection of where the nation is on LGBT issues and involvement in everyday life.

“We urge Scouting leadership to take formal action and repeal the ban. Qualified LGBT Scout leaders should be able to participate in and contribute to an iconic American institution where honesty and trustworthiness are bedrock principles, without a dated and arcane policy standing in the way.

“The announcement from President Gates is yet another step toward comprehensive change that the Center first called for in February 2013. We would like to see the Scouts ensure open participation in all its activities by adopting a comprehensive LGBT nondiscrimination policy. The Center is hopeful that Scouting will make this positive change.”

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FILM REVIEW: In time for our fashion issue, a look at designer ‘Saint Laurent’

Posted on 21 May 2015 at 12:24pm

1Even though Yves Saint Laurent began his career working at the House of Dior, he was more of the successor to Chanel in the universe of French fashion, updated for the swinging ’60s and indulgent ’70s with elegance that was also wearable comfort. (“Chanel freed women; I empowered them,” he famously said). He is credited with modernizing the smoking jacket/tuxedo look (especially for women) — a fact DIFFA used as a theme for several of its own recent collections — and when fashion was in freefall, he was the most consistently praised designer in the world.

You’ll learn virtually none of that, though, from watching Saint Laurent, which is surprising considering that the film runs a hefty two-and-a-half hours … even more so when you consider the vast majority of the film takes place during his heyday (and the rest in retrospect late in life, from a position of authority and perspective). Where is the exposition that puts YSL in context, both as a man and a brand? In short, not much. Maybe Saint Laurent, which is in French and a huge hit already in France, assumes its audience already knows the broad strokes about the man, the way Spielberg’s Lincoln doesn’t tell us much about the Great Emancipator’s humble beginnings in a log cabin. But the time commitment begs that it share more than it does.

One problem is that the director, Bertrand Bonello, doesn’t seem to know what kind of film he’s making: It is like Blow, a drug-fueled Virgilian decent into the hell of addiction? Is it intended to be like Coco Before Chanel, a fashion biopic, or even Valentino: The Last Emperor, a documentary about a moment in time presented here as a docudrama? Is it a boardroom drama about the business of fashion? Or perhaps he’s making a Parisian version of Tales of the City, as it graphically (lots of full-frontal!) shows YSL’s sex life, from his non-exclusive relationship with business partner Pierre Berge (Jeremie Renier) to his full-on sex parties? I still can’t tell.

And yet, Saint Laurent isn’t bad, just disappointing. (Frankly, the spate of fashion-centered films in the last few years is awash in bad biopic contrasted to excellent documentaries). Gaspard Ulliel, as Yves, does a compelling job portraying the designer, who suffers from creative block but struggles through. (He’s also quite easy on the eyes). It’s a strong, intense performance that is disserved by scenes that drag along pointlessly. You get a better sense for fashion from Iris (at the Magnolia) and Dior and I (at the Angelika).

Opens Friday at Magnolia.

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DFW Style Daily previews Dallas Voice Swimsuit Edition

Posted on 21 May 2015 at 11:09am

Our friends at DFW Style Daily did a wonderful write-up of our upcoming Swimsuit Edition, which comes out tomorrow. You can read about it here, and see a few exclusive photos (that you won’t even see at Dallas Voice!) Thanks Lisa!

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