Silent partners

Posted on 11 Mar 2010 at 9:26am
By RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

Two Brenham gents bring their antiques roadshow to Fort Worth art fest

SMALL-TOWN GAY CHARM | Michael Briddin, left, and Ed Fulkerson bring subdued country camp to the home of Blue Bell Ice Cream.


ON DISPLAY
Dolly Johnson Antique & Art Show
at Will Rogers Memorial Center,
3400 Burnett-Tandy Road, Fort Worth.
Friday–Saturday. Opens at 9 a.m. $7.
DollyJohnsonAntique andArtShow.com

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Everyone knows Brenham, Texas, as the home of Blue Bell Ice Cream. But Ed Fulkerson and Michael Briddin, who co-own Leftovers Antiques Home and Mercantile in Brenham, ended up there without regard to ice cream.

Fulkerson and Briddin had peddled their home décor at shows across Texas for a number of years. But when they finally decided to open a brick-and-mortar shop, they chose Brenham for more practical reasons.

"We looked for an appropriate location for a couple of years," Fulkerson says. "It had to be on Highway 290, which connects Houston and Austin — there is a lot of traffic between the two. Plus, Michael is fifth-generation from here."

This weekend, though, the duo takes their wares on the road again: They’ll be part of the Dolly Johnson Antique and Art show in Fort Worth.

Fulkerson and Briddin are partners in business and life, although they admit the latter is as delicate a subject as a piece of vintage lace. In small-town Texas, the gay presence isn’t a big one and even with two men running an antique store, they are out without being, um, "out." Fulkerson moved to Brenham from Comfort and so both have the wherewithal to approach the gay thing in their city with subtlety.

"Are we partners? Depends on whether we’ve had a tough day or not. We’re partners but then we like to kill each other. Ya know, shit happens," Fulkerson laughs.

Joking aside, they have made peace with their identity and the mentality of their hometown. They haven’t come across prejudice, but then they aren’t posting rainbows everywhere, either.

 "We have not had any animosity but we don’t wear a sign," Fulkerson says. "Customers who come in, they get to know us. It is kinda difficult in a small town.

If there is a gay community, it’s very small. Most wouldn’t confirm it."

Fulkerson laughs because he thinks his next admission is going to get him in trouble with the gay community: "If we’re asked, we just say we’re brothers." But he has his reasons.

"When we say we’re brothers it’s to someone who may not be able to handle it. There are some big mouths in Brenham," he says with a note of sass.

However, he and Briddin wouldn’t trade it in for anything. They dig the life they’ve created for themselves with the shop and their pets. If they need some community, they’ll head to Houston just a half hour away. They travel for antique shows and sometimes hit up the scene there. Otherwise, it’s not as compromised a life as it may sound.

"It’s a great life. It has a double edge sword to it. You know everybody but, at the same time, you know everybody. It’s much more laid back. But there’s something about a small community that we love."

They live up that idea by even going simple on their favorite Blue Bell ice cream.
"We love the homemade vanilla," Fulkerson says. "It takes a lot of Blue Bell to keep this body in shape."   

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Bright lights, bi city

Divas Las Vegas by Rob Rosen. Cleis Press (2009). $14.95. 287 pp.

You might never believe it if you didn’t seen it for yourself. Mere steps into the terminal at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas, there are, indeed, slot machines: Rows and rows of them in all their light-flashing, cha-chinging, whooping glory. Just off the plane, excitement.

And that’s just the beginning. There’s lots to do in Sin City — even more, if you’re looking for a lost antique. But in Divas Las Vegas, an old relic could mean trouble anew.

When Bill Miller (known to his friends as Em) lost his job through the sale of his beloved bookstore, he was sad — for about 10 minutes. His share of the sale amounted to $30,000, which was just the balm Em’s newly-unemployed soul needed. The other salve was that it was Vegas night on Antiques Roadshow, and Em loooves Antiques Roadshow.

But what he saw astonished him. Years before, Em’s mother inherited a vase that had been a sore point in her childhood. As a kid, she was never allowed to go near it and she always hated the thing. Once it was hers, she sold it at a garage sale for two dollars, then regretted her rashness soon after.

The vase was featured on the show; it was appraised at $25,000.

Accompanied by his BFF, Justin, and a suitcase filled with two fabulously-sequined chorus-girl costumes, Em flew to Vegas to make his mother happy.

But while Vegas is filled with beautiful boys and kitschy shows, it’s also filled with danger and intrigue. First, the newest owner of the vase turned up dead, then two strangers were murdered in the hotel in which Em and Justin were staying.

Adorable men flashed in and out of the picture like faulty Vegas light bulbs, and old flames flared up. But when one of their new boy-toys got in trouble and vanished, Em and Justin realized that it wasn’t about the vase any more.

Take two men with a flair for fashion, add a beautiful bisexual woman, a handful of Middle Eastern hotties and a chain-smoking cabbie. Mix in several murders and a hopelessly horrid vase, put them in Vegas and shake gently. Open, and serve on a beach because Divas Las Vegas is the perfect escape read.

Rosen creates a campy, rompish, slightly naughty semi-mystery novel that is hilariously fun, fun, fun. I loved Em so much (and maybe Justin a little more) that I couldn’t wait to see what they’d come up with next. This story is enjoyable in a way that you’ll almost wish you’d been there.

If you’re looking for something light as a headdress feather but as addicting as a one-armed bandit, Divas Las Vegas is for you. To miss this good-time novel would be a sin.

— Terri Schlichenmeyer

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 12, 2010.

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