Melrose Hotel gets recognition for historic preservation efforts

By Staff Reports

Oak Lawn hotel one of 200 hotels, resorts to be honored by Historic Hotels of America as “‘distinguished properties’

Warwick Melrose Hotel, Dallas, located in the heart of Oak Lawn, is one of more than 200 hotels and resorts throughout the country that has been recognized by Historic Hotels of America for preserving and maintaining its historic integrity, architecture and ambiance, Warwick Melrose officials announced this week.

Thierry Roch, executive director of Historic Hotels of America, said, “By inviting the Warwick Melrose Hotel, Dallas into our collection of distinguished properties, we are continuing to encourage historic preservation while at the same time showcasing this hotel’s rich history. Our goal is to bring these historically special hotels and their authentic experiences to the attention of the traveling public.”

Larry McAfee, general manager for the Warwick Melrose said the hotel’s management and staff are “excited and proud to be a member of such a fine collection. We look forward to a long and prosperous association.

To be selected for membership in National Trust Historic Hotels, a hotel must be at least 50 years old, listed in or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places or recognized locally as having historic significance.

The Warwick Melrose Hotel, Dallas was built on farm land originally owned, in 1876, by Civil War veteran Col. George Mellersh. The hotel was designed by Chicago architect C.D. Hill in the classic Sullivanesque Chicago style
The composition of red brick with terra cotta base trim and flat roof was a style favored by many Dallas builders. When it was completed in 1924, the hotel quickly became known for its elegant atmosphere and gracious hospitality.

The National Trust Historic Hotels, a nonprofit membership organization, was established in 1989 with 32 charter members. It is now a diverse collection of properties ranging form large luxury hotels in major cities to small-town inns, country retreats and polished resorts throughout the country.

Historic Hotels of America is a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and has identified more than 200 hotels that have faithfully maintained their historic integrity, architecture and ambiance. A directory of member hotels can be purchased for $4 by sending a check to National Trust Historic Hotels of America, P.O. Box 320, Washington, D.C. 20055-0320.

Rooms at any of the member hotels can be reserved by calling 800-678-8946 or at www.historichotels.org. Reservations made through Historic Hotels of America support the National Trust.

For more information visit www.nationaltrust.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 26, 2007

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Grand ol’ party honors leaders

Alexander Nicholson, left, Lory Masters and Jarrod Chlapowski were among those honored during Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas’ 11th annual Grand Ol’ Party fundraising dinner on Saturday, Oct. 20. The event drew 53 people to the Nana Restaurant at the Hilton Anatole Hotel, according to chapter President Rob Schlein. Masters received a “Courage to Lead” award along with Patrick Sammon, president of the national group; former Army linguists Nicholson and Chlapowski, who are campaigning against the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy; Carla Halbrook, vice president of the Dallas chapter; and Halbrook’s life partner Brian Welker, treasurer for the state chapter.



This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 26, 2007

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Anniversary

Craig Mayfield and Jim Wrightsman celebrated their 10th anniversary on Oct. 17 with close friends. Mayfield is a registered massage therapist, and Wrightsman is a licensed professional counselor. They live with their dog Zack in Oak Cliff.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 26, 2007

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Deaths


Sean Patrick O’Connell, 51, died at his home on Sunday, Oct. 14.

O’Connell was born Aug. 28, 1956 in New York and had lived in the Dallas area for more than 25 years. He was a U.S. Air Force veteran. O’Connell was the “hairdresser to the stars,” and was associated with saLon.

He is survived by his father, John O’Connell, and his brothers, Michael O’Connell, Richard O’Connell, William O’Connell and James O’Connell. He is also survived by his beloved pug, Bailey.

Funeral services were held Tuesday, Oct. 23, at Hanneman Funeral Home in Nyack, N.Y. A funeral mass was held in his honor on Wednesday, Oct. 24, at St. Gregory’s Church in Garnerville, N.Y., followed by burial at Mt. Repose in Haverstraw, N.Y. A memorial service was also held Saturday, Oct. 20, at Cathedral of Hope in Dallas.

Notes of remembrance may be sent to the family via e-mail to InMemoryOfSean@hotmail.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 26, 2007

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Bush library “‘inevitable’ at SMU

By David Webb Staff Writer

Faculty member fighting proposal hopes officials will reach compromise that excludes “‘think tank’



Susanne Johnson

Associate Christian education professor Susanne Johnson says she is now resigned to the prospect of the Bush Library being built on Southern Methodist University’s campus but with limitations.

Johnson, who launched a letter-writing campaign opposing the library to the school’s trustees in December, said she hopes to achieve a compromise. The library is inevitable, she said, so the best that can be hoped for is the creation of a presidential library and museum without the proposed conservative policy institute attached to it.

“I’ve changed positions out of some pessimistic realism,” Johnson said. “This is a bitter pill, but I’ll swallow it. That’s compromise.”

Johnson said continued opposition to the total project would likely result in the “whole package” coming to town.

“I would rather say to others, let’s compromise,” Johnson said. “Let’s accept the museum and the library but not the institution.”

Johnson said the library and museum would be historical in nature, but the policy institute would be a platform for Bush to continue his political agenda after he leaves office.

“I think it is inappropriate for us to extend that to him,” Johnson said. “We should be studying history but not promoting his political agenda. This is not a partisan issue. It is an academic issue.”

Johnson said the institute would be more appropriate for a campus like the Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., rather than a reputable liberal arts college like Southern Methodist University.

“By design, the institute would fulfill its own mission and purpose by telling people what to think and to influence people to align with a particular agenda,” Johnson said. “That runs counter to open inquiry and academic freedom.”

The Rev. Michael Piazza, president of Hope for Peace and Justice and dean of the Cathedral of Hope, wrote in an opinion piece that he has been concerned about the debate taking place almost exclusively on the school’s campus.

Piazza said Bush’s “think tank” would tarnish the reputation of the city at a time when it is just becoming to be known as “inclusive and progressive in its composition and vision” across the country.

“What frightens me is that the city of Dallas has watched this debate with detached interest, but we have yet to engage the issue ourselves,” Piazza said. “What frightens me is that our leaders are completely unaware that the city is about to become forever associated with what history may record as one of the worst presidencies ever.”

Johnson said the recent announcement by a small group of United Methodist bishops and ministers that they were launching a petition drive asking Southern Methodist University to withdraw as a site for the library could help drive a compromise.

“If it comes down to one large pressure group saying, “‘Let’s drop the entire package,’ it actually makes a compromise seem like a potentially more attractive solution,” she said.

Johnson said she is disappointed that the school’s students have stayed out the debate.

“The students think we’re a bunch of pointy-headed liberals,” Johnson said. “I haven’t run across a student yet that think it’s a bad idea.”

Johnson said she knows there is a group of progressive students on campus, but they have yet to surface.

“We need the support of a group of students,” Johnson said. “I’m hoping they would do something like we grown-up adults can’t do, like a sit-in or a march with placards. I think that would be great. If it started, some faculty might join.”

Johnson said most of the student body appears to be influenced by a “combination of apathy, quietism and conservatism.”

Johnson said she is pleased by the results of her letter-writing campaign because it helped lead to discussion between faculty members and the school’s administration. The faculty learned that the school’s original proposal omitted the partisan policy institute, but Bush’s planning committee stipulated it must be included for Southern Methodist University to be considered as a site, she said.

“Perhaps, at the behest of the faculty, there is some chance they might decide to go back to the planning committee and say, “‘Let’s negotiate on this some more,’” Johnson said.

Johnson noted that regular meetings between the university’s faculty and administration are scheduled, and she is hopeful that will result in progress for her cause.

But at a meeting with 125 faculty members Wednesday night, Jan. 24, the school’s president Gerald Turner reiterated that the planned presidential library is a three-component package deal that includes the policy institute.

Turner told the faculty members that the competitiveness for the Bush Library among several universities had led the administration to be secretive about the plans for the project. Southern Methodist University was recently named as the preferred site.

Patricia Ann LaSalle, the school’s associate vice president and executive director of public affairs, said in a statement that the library, the museum and the institute “are not separable but are part of a package.”

“The George W. Bush Library would be a tremendous resource for research helping generations of students and scholars examine presidential decision-making during this era in U.S. history,” she said. The Bush Institute would bring speakers, officials and dignitaries for interaction, creating opportunities for our faculty, students and the public to engage in dialogue on key issues. As has been said, the institute would report to the Bush Foundation and would appoint fellows. Any institute fellows who wish to have a joint appointment to SMU in some capacity would be considered according to SMU’s academic standards, policies and procedures through the appropriate academic department and school within SMU.”

For information about the opposition to the Bush Library visit www.stopthelibrary.com.

E-mail webb@dallasvoice.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 26, 2007

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Local Briefs

By Staff Reports

Cultural diversity training to begin

The Resource Center of Dallas will host a daylong series of panel discussions with a focus on LGBT issues Friday, Oct. 26.

The event, called Cultural Diversity Education Training, is sponsored by the Dallas County Syphilis Elimination Coalition.

There will be panel discussions on GLBT 101; GLBT Domestic Violence; JEWEL Joining & Educating Women and Empowering Leaders; the Dallas County Syphilis Elimination Coalition; Adult & Young MSM; GEAR Gender Education, Advocacy & Resources; and Female Impersonators.

The event, which includes lunch, begins at 8:55 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. It is free and open to the public. For more information, call the Resource Center at 214-528-0144 .

Holiday food fundraiser to be held

The Resource Center of Dallas’ Food Pantry/Nutrition Center will hold its third annual “Something To Be Thankful For” holiday fundraiser on Nov. 4, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., at J.R.’s Bar and Grill, 3923 Cedar Springs Road.

Cassie Nova will be the host for the event, which will include glamorous drag performances and an auction of merchandise and gift certificates donated by local merchants, including Bill Moore at Advanced Skin Fitness, Lucky’s Caf? and Hollywood Nails and Spa. Performers will also donate their time and their tips to the Food Pantry.

This event has raised almost $13,000 in its first two years, and Food Pantry officials hope proceeds from this year’s event will help offset the more than $100,000 in federal funding cuts to the pantry. The Food Pantry provides weekly grocery shopping for as many as 1,000 clients living with HIV and AIDS.

Women’s Chorus to hold gift gala

The Women’s Chorus of Dallas will host its Gifts & Glitter Gala, “City Lights,” on Nov. 10 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the Women’s Museum at Fair Park. The event and will feature both a live and silent auction of items including artwork, travel packages, rides in fighter jets and biplanes, autographed sports memorabilia and more.

The event will also include gourmet food, cash bar and live music performed by The Women’s Chorus of Dallas.

Tickets are $25 in advance and $35 at the door and may be purchased by calling 214-520-7828. .

“‘Sexy and Black All Over’ scheduled

Women of Distinction and WNBA star Sheryl Swoopes will present “Sexy and Black All Over” on Nov. 23, from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 14315 Midway Road in Addison.

Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door, with reserve seating available. RSVP online at www.rsvpvip.com/SexyandBlack.

A “singles meet singles” event will be held from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. in a private suite. There will also be live auctions during the event. Parking is free and drink specials will be available. Black attire is required. For more information, go online to www.dallasfamily.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 26, 2007

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Transgender issues topic of forum

By Beth Freed

Judges, litigators hear information on challenges facing trans people



Jessica Davis

Changing your gender requires cutting through a lot of red tape, and in Texas, that means defending your decision to a judge.

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and Gender, Education, Advocacy & Resources (GEAR) partnered to present the Transgender Legal Forum at the Resource Center of Dallas last week. Eight judges and several litigators joined more than 30 community folks to learn about the legal hardships that transgender people face.

According to organizers, the judges were attentive and inquisitive, and often chimed in on the legal debate.

Jessica Davis, a founding member of GEAR, gave a general overview of gender identity and expression. Gender identity is how someone feels on the inside about their gender, she said, while gender expression is the person one presents to the world. Those two don’t always line up and they can change over time, she said.

Gender theory commonly refers to the gender spectrum, with masculine on one pole and feminine on the other. Most folks fall in between, and this can also shift over time. Changing one’s gender expression is usually the climax of a lifetime of longing for transgender folks, said Davis, who also works at the Resource Center as an executive administrative assistant.

“For a lot of transgender individuals, changing your name and gender is monumental in transition,” she said. “They are celebrated as a second birth.”

Even though the city of Dallas does have a non-discrimination ordinance that covers employment, housing and public accommodations for trans people, there is no system in place to facilitate changing documents, said Davis. She said that some judges have refused name and gender changes because they will not be “activist judges.”

“As in the GLB communities, the transgender community faces many legal issues,” said Davis. “At each point, while our community shares issues facing us all, there is a bit of a twist [for transgender folks].”

In order to change one’s gender mark on a Texas driver’s license, the Texas Department of Public Safety requires a court order. Corrected birth certificates are issued by the Texas Department of State Health Services’ Vital Statistics Office, and passports are issued by federal passport processing centers.

Cole Thaler, a transgender rights attorney for Lambda Legal spoke on the process transgender people go through to change their name and gender on documents.

“Many transgender people have difficulty obtaining identity documents that accurately reflect gender,” he said. “The hurdles are typically the result of government officials who don’t understand that transgender people are accurately presenting ourselves to the world, and that both law enforcement and safety goals are served by issuing proper identification.”

Davis noted that presenting one’s passport and driver’s license, when it doesn’t match their gender expression, can cause “undue stress and embarrassment.” She argued that facilitating the changes would aid security procedures rather than hinder them.

Thaler went on to discuss workplace discrimination claims, family law issues and privacy concerns. Currently, he is working on a discrimination claim for a Houston woman whose job offer was revoked when the employer learned she was transgender.

Thaler said he was pleased with the strong turnout of legal professionals at the forum.

“It is particularly important for judges to learn about the legal issues facing the transgender community, because gender transition often brings transgender people into the courtroom if for no other reason than a name change,” said Thaler. “The judges in attendance at last week’s presentation will already have a working knowledge of the legal context and the transgender community itself.”

Davis concurred, but said that it will take more than one night and one talk to make a significant change.

The Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance and the Stonewall Democrats both showed their support at the forum.

Although Stonewall President Jesse Garcia said that he wished more folks from the LGBT lawyer community and the trans community had attended, he thought the meeting was quite informative. He said he learned that 60 to 90 percent of the transgender community is unemployed and that there is a high rate of suicide, as well.

“Our transgendered brothers and sisters just want to live their lives independently, but stigma and ignorance relegates some to living in the shadows,” Garcia said.

To learn more, go online to LambdaLegal.org. GEAR sponsors a mixer at Ciudad on Oak Lawn Avenue on the last Thursday of every month.

E-mail freed@dallasvoice.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 26, 2007

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Soundout

By David Webb

5 questions with Paul Parks



Paul Parks is director of development and public relations for AIDS Services of Dallas, which provides housing for HIV-positive people. His career at the health services group has spanned 10 years. He was raised in Eldorado, Ark., and he studied sociology and sacred music with a concentration in organ at the Centenary College of Louisiana at Shreveport. He has lived in Dallas for 17 years and has worked at two AIDS services groups, in addition to Our Friends’ Place, an Episcopal home for girls.

Why have you dedicated your work career to the HIV field?
As someone who is HIV-negative, it is a way for me to give back. I’m very fortunate.

Why is your work for AIDS Services of Dallas so important to you?
I know how essential housing is to health care for HIV-positive people. It provides the basic necessity that people living with HIV must have to comply with the regiment of their medications.

Have you lost many friends to AIDS?
In my age group, I’ve personally lost no one. We knew about the disease. Fortunately, we were on that edge where we had the education to prevent becoming infected. But my family has lost friends, and I’ve lost many friends at ASD.

Why do you think HIV education worked with you when it did not with so many people?
When I came of age and began working, people were dropping every week. I used to open up the newspaper every week just to read the obituaries. That convinced me I had to know better and had to avoid infection.

What do you think the future holds for the HIV infection epidemic in the long term?
The one thing I hope we do not see with all of the meth use is another wave of infections. But that’s what I fear is going to happen to younger people. The drug makes users hypersexual and less likely to practice precautions.

Soundout is a weekly column featuring people whose jobs and interests have an impact on the daily lives of members of the LGBT community. It features those who often go unnoticed by the press and community. If you’d like to recommend someone to cover in this column, editor@dallasvoice.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 26, 2007

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Emerging activism in Mexico silenced

By David Webb Staff Writer

Matamoros gay man who spoke out in media for gay rights murdered



David Web – The Rare Reporter

The brutal murder this month of an affluent gay activist in the Texas bor-der town of Matamoros, Mexico, is being viewed as a great loss for the LGBT community on both sides of the Rio Grande River.

And it is raising concerns that his death could forever remain a mystery.

The body of Jose Ernesto Leal Lopez, 42, was found Jan. 15 in his home. He had been beaten over the head and stabbed several times in the throat.

Police found a bloody trail leading from Lopez’s bedroom downstairs to an outside door where he apparently collapsed and died, according to a report in the San Antonio Express-News.

Relatives reported the death to police after an anonymous caller alerted them to trouble at Lopez’s house.

Lopez, who was the owner of a successful salon and a popular emcee at one of Matamoros’ three gay nightclubs, was last seen leaving a club with a man named Mauricio, police investigators said.

Police said robbery had been ruled out as a motive because $5,000 was found inside the house, and the victim’s 2006 Nissan Altima was parked outside.

The homicide is being investigated as a “crime of passion,” and police dismissed concerns that Lopez’s groundbreaking gay activism in the region might have led to his death.

But questions are being raised about the investigation by Lopez’s brother, Rafael, 43, who said he had never heard of Lopez having a friend named Mauricio. The brother said he understood there was supposed to be twice as much money in the house as police found because of a vacation Lopez planned to take to Las Vegas.

For his family, friends and gay activists in the U.S., the timing of Lopez’s death is too suspicious to ignore. Just days before his death, Lopez held a press conference calling for lawmakers in his state of Tamaulipas to pass a same-sex civil union law like the ones passed in Mexico City in November and in the state of Coahuila on Jan.11.

He recently had also spoken out against Matamoros police officers, whom he accused of arbitrarily arresting residents for being gay and fining them $84 to be released.

Lopez’s activism had started just six months ago after the club Moulin Rouge and its patrons named him the “proudest gay person in Matamoros.” After that, he reportedly began speaking out in the media about anti-gay discrimination in the workplace and advocating for gay rights a first for the city of 500,000.

Lopez’s high-profile activism was unusual, not only for Matamoros, but also for the U.S. side of the border in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. His murder and the suspicions around it may very well be seen as a grim reminder of intolerance in the area and the inherent dangers of speaking out.

The Mexican culture is known for its strong religious values mostly Roman Catholic and its machismo male image.

Although there is a fairly large LGBT population in the Valley, most of its members tend to be closeted. With the exceptions of McAllen and South Padre Island, gay bars have always struggled to stay in business in the other U.S. Valley cities, such as Harlingen and Brownsville. Gay residents from the U.S. side of the border both Anglo and Hispanic flock to Matamoros’ nightclubs, despite the reports of drug violence that have hurt the business of the city’s straight nightclubs.

Jesse Garcia, secretary of Dallas’ new Gay LULAC group and a native of Brownsville, said Lopez’s murder reminds him of why he left the Valley. Although he sometimes thinks of returning to his hometown, he is unsure if he will actually ever move back.

“It’s very sad to hear,” Garcia said. “It hurts my heart to know someone who is doing something similar to what we’re doing may have been struck down because of their activism. I’m afraid he paid the ultimate price.”

Garcia said Lopez’s activities were the first he had heard of gay activism on either side of the border in the Valley.

Texas Stonewall Democrats, of which Garcia is also a member, has had difficulty establishing a chapter in the Valley, he added.

“It is still a very closeted community,” Garcia said. “There are no signs of gay life.”

Garcia said he is also concerned that Matamoros police will never find Lopez’s killer.

“By the official coming out and saying it is a crime of passion, it makes me think the case is sealed,” Garcia said. “I have little faith this will be seriously investigated.”

Sergio Chapa, formerly a reporter with the Brownsville Herald, said his experience as a reporter in Matamoros leads him to believe the thoroughness of police investigations involving gay victims depends upon their social status.

“It does change with a person’s status in society when they are closeted or come from a good family,” Chapa said. It is not unusual for crimes involving gay members of prominent families to be hushed up, he said.

A Tamaulipas state prosecutor has vowed that officials will “look for the truth” in Lopez’s murder, but those familiar with the Mexican justice system remain skeptical.

The success of such an investigation and whether the LGBT community on both sides of the border demands that it takes place will undoubtedly determine whether anyone dares to follow in Lopez’s footsteps to fill the void his murder has left.

E-mail webb@dallasvoice.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 26, 2007

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Query of the Week

By John Wright

Is it reasonable for a bar or club to increase cover charges and/or drink prices for special events like Halloween and Pride?

“If people are stupid enough to pay it, then the bars deserve it.”

Bill Johnson
Hair designer

“I don’t have a problem with that because I work at a bar. The money goes to good use. It helps pay for security and all that, which makes things safer.”

James Crook
Bartender/DJ

“Well, if they were to keep it cheaper, more people would
probably go. I mean, we don’t have a lot of money.”

Jerry Sanchez
Barista

“No. They’re making twice the amount of money they normally do, and it’s already overpriced.”

Brandon Myers
Bank employee

“No. I think it’s price-gouging. There are like 20,000 people down here. Do they really need to raise the price?”

Jonathan Murcer
Barista

Have a suggestion for a question you’d like us to ask? E-mail it to editor@dallasvoice.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 26, 2007

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