GDMAF fundraiser brings Sweet Savage back to Dallas

fundraiser

David Hearn doesn’t come off like your usual party promoter. He has a little bit of Texas twang mixed with some quiet reserve. You might never believe Hearn is the guy behind the annual Metro Ball and Friday’s Gaga-a-Gogo party at the Brick.

“Well, I hosted what had always been known as the Virgo Party and that started 22 years ago,” he says. “It got too big for my small Plano house so I moved it to Dallas.”

But Hearn isn’t just a guy throwing parties — at least not anymore. Now, both annual events are for a reason and that’s the Greg Dollgener Memorial AIDS Fund, named after his partner, whom he lost to the disease in 1994. Two years later, the fund was created and over time, the fund has helped those with unique needs.

“We step in and help with issues that are a bit different,” he explains. “We helped replace one person’s tires so he could travel to his doctor. We worked to get one man a refrigerator because he had medicine that needed to kept cool. Where agencies can’t quite help, we can.”

But with funding cutbacks and a troubled economy, GDMAF works to keep up through  special events. Friday’s Gaga-A-Gogo party fulfills that, but also brings back the iconic Dallas drag queen Sweet Savage as Lady Gaga, pictured.

“We’re glad she’s coming to do this,”  Hearn says. “I know many of the people will remember her from days before.”

Dressing up in costume was a big part of Hearn’s old parties and with a nod to that, he encourages those to partake in the Gaga “hat and hair” contest. While Savage goes all out with her look, guests can get their own bad romance on with a Gaga-esque hat or ’do.

“We tried to make this event a little smaller, but with plenty of fun things to do,” he says. “We know its hard to continue to give, but we just hope to up the level of donations and continue to help relieve some of the stress people inevitably face.”

— Rich Lopez

The Brick, 2525 Wycliff Ave.
7 p.m. $20.
GDMAF.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Grace, slick

Grace Jones returns, accessibly, while CSS continues to party on

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STORM WATCH | Grace Jones returns with her first U.S. release in 22 years. ‘Hurricane’ pushes Jones into softer territory but gets the dub treatment in a double-disc package. (Photo by Lawrence Watson)

 

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

 

Let’s clarify something upfront: Hurricane is not a brand new Grace Jones album. Die-hard fans likely already have the disc, which was only available as an import … until now. Her “new” album is about to drop in the U.S. for the first time, so to give it a sort of refresher, Hurricane comes as a double disc.

We haven’t heard from Jones in a while. Her last stateside release was 1989’s Bulletproof Heart, known mostly for the num-one dance hit “Love on Top of Love.” She’s kept busy since then, just not so much on these shores.

While Hurricane may be an unfortunately timed title, the album displays a far more accessible Jones. We almost get to see into her, though not before opening with the declaration of This is my voice/my weapon of choice (“This Is”). We immediately hear her signature voice in a rap that morphs into singing.

But it’s what surrounds her voice that takes it to the next level to open strongly. A heavy bassline track is both hard and lush, filling the ears with hypnotic vibrations. This is the kind of sound you want blaring out of your speakers while at a stoplight to annoy everyone around you. She goes on about the plight of society and the travails of war, but the beat is something to get lost in, and her voice maintains a cool vibe.

But it’s with “William’s Bond” that she takes us elsewhere. A modern take on some ‘60s European mod, you expect psychedelic circles to appear. The song goes from a hip groove into a dance jam with such subtlety, you barely realize you’re moving faster along with the beat. It’s one of the best moments of musical trickery in a long time.

Jones is both burdened and blessed by her image. That iconic warrior is apropos for, say, “Warm Leatherette.” We may not want her to be soft, but when she is, it’s lovely and surprising. She pulls back on the tender “I’m Crying (Mother’s Tears),” a delicate song that floats like a feather. Here is some of that Sade-esque sound that works well for Jones. She’s so strong in appearance that I forget to look past that to see an as-impressive singer.

A similar sound happens but with some injection of energy on “Love You to Life,” a sexy tune where her voice purrs in your ears like a puma’s whispers. She knows her talents and never abuses their power.

It’s the second disc that makes this Hurricane even more attractive. It gives Hurricane the dub treatment with laid-back beats that drive each new version forward. Just don’t expect full song versions: The remixes take out a lot of vocals, but the beats are both fresh and classic. Dub fans will likely get a thrill, while others may be a little put off by the sparse remixes.

Either way, Jones reminds us that she’s not just some pop culture reference, but that she is a true talent that should be remembered for her voice as well as her look.

…………………………………………….

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BRAZILIAN WHACKS | South American band CSS may have queer members, but they are less about messages and more about rocking and dancing in ‘La Liberacion.’

It’s easy to get excited over CSS’ new album. Like LMFAO, they pride themselves on fun party music; unlike LMFAO, CSS is good. The Brazilian-based queer-centric band doesn’t try to offer overly philosophic messages, they just want to rock out and dance, and La Liberacion proves that in spades.

The album almost plays out in three acts, starting with club-ready tunes. “I Love You” sets the tone with such a hooky upbeat, it’s easy to let it play on. Heavy on synths, the song is followed up by the similarly cute and boppish “Hits Me Like a Rock.”

CSS is easy to infect the ears with adorable confections but they never insult the listener. And they drop in wonderful touches that make the sound their own. As “Rock” bounces along, the guitar drop-in is refreshing.

“City Grrrl” is probably the last title for a song you expect to start of with Spanish guitars. Once they served their purpose the song pushes into Ke$ha territory with heavy synth textures. They open with this troika of dance tunes that’s the kinda stuff you wish DJs would play all night.

They retreat a bit with “Echo of Love” and “You Could Have It All.” Both lean toward a more pop sound, but break away from the energy of the first three songs. While “Echo” displays some tropical flavors, “You Could” does lose some magic with a monotonous beat.

CSS somehow sticks to the same vibe, but goes rock ‘n’ roll in the latter part of the album. The title track is sung in Spanish and lends to the rock side of their electro-rock genre. The album shifts here into harder sounds that still move along well. They aren’t as fun as the first half, but show the band’s versatility, which only adds excitement.

Hinting at sounds of vintage Blondie and The Waitresses, “Partners in Crime” and “Red Alert” employ clever hooks and piano assaults. They rock hardest with “Ruby Eyes” and “Rhythm to the Rebels.” Even the titles sound tough. CSS morphs into a female-tinged assertive version of Green Day but don’t get too much into your face by sticking with pop stylings, although the scratchy guitars and bad-ass drums in “Rebels” push the album to it’s most intense.

They finish with “Fuck Everything” which has appropriate driving force and funny lyrics like I wanna rip my eyes out/and scream fuck everything. Who hasn’t? But CSS makes magic with their third release. At times it plays like a split personality, but remains maturely cohesive but with a youthful energy.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

H4PJ calls on Dallas City Council to support LGBT-inclusive bullying policy for DISD

The Rev. Michael Piazza

The Rev. Michael Piazza, executive director of Hope for Peace and Justice, is slated to address the Dallas City Council this morning and ask the council to pass a resolution encouraging the Dallas Independent School District “to do everything in their power to prevent bullying,” according to David Plunkett, a spokesman for H4PJ.

In the wake of last month’s gay teen suicide crisis, H4PJ has been circulating a petition, which has more than 1,000 signatures, calling for DISD to adopt fully inclusive anti-bullying guidelines that provide specific protections for LGBT students. DISD’s board of trustees is  considering a new anti-bullying policy, but as currently written, the proposed policy doesn’t include sexual orientation or gender identity. DISD trustee Lew Blackburn told Dallas Voice this week he plans to introduce a substitute policy that does include sexual orientation and gender identity. Blackburn, along with LGBT advocates, have urged people in the community to contact the other trustees and urge them to support Blackburn’s proposal. DISD’s new anti-bullying policy could be up for a final vote as early as next week.

Courtesy of Plunkett, here’s the text of Piazza’s remarks:

I am here to present a petition signed by 1,000 people requesting that the Dallas City Council pass a resolution encouraging the Dallas Independent School District to do everything in their power to prevent the bullying that has led to far too many suicides of young people. Just down I-45, 13-year-old Asher Brown took his life in September. Then, earlier this month, just north on I-35 in Norman, Oklahoma, 19-year-old Zach Herrington took his life following a toxic debate at a city council meeting.  We are asking you to encourage DISD to ensure the protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children.

I could speak to you today as someone who was a pastor in this city for 22 years at the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender church. I could speak to you as the President of Hope for Peace & Justice whose petitions I present. However, I’d like to use my two minutes to appeal to you as a parent. I have two teenage girls. One is a junior at the School for the Talented and Gifted, and the other is a senior at the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.

My partner and I might have sent our daughters to private schools, but it was very important to us that they attend public schools where most of the children in this city receive their education. It hasn’t always been easy for them.

My oldest daughter was in Harry Stone Middle School when the state of Texas passed a constitutional amendment that denied marriage equality to her parents. Next month my partner and I will celebrate our 30th anniversary. So, you can imagine my daughter’s surprise when her language arts teacher told her students, during class, to be sure their parents voted in favor of the constitutional amendment because, and I quote, “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” Fortunately, my daughter was secure enough to raise her hand and ask, “Excuse me Mrs. Smith, but then who did create Adam and Steve?”

Her teacher said, “I guess you must know some of those people,” to which Jerica replied, “Only just about everyone in my life who loves me.”

Jerica knew how to handle herself, but imagine for just a moment if you had been a small boy struggling with your sexuality and heard that teacher’s words. Imagine if you had been a child who had been abused at home and so filled with rage that you were looking for someone to bully. That DISD teacher, at one of our best magnet schools, just gave you all the justification you needed.

As a father, I beg you. Make a statement that this is not who we are in Dallas and that we know our children are not our own, but they are ALL — gay, lesbian, transgender or heterosexual — children of God. Thank you .

—  John Wright

Hope is a dangerous thing …

… And the LGBT community must find a way to give hope to youth struggling against bullying, bigotry and discrimination

“Hope is a dangerous thing,” a line from the movie The Shawshank Redemption, is a concept our community should embrace.

Like you, I have been deeply disturbed by recent reports of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teen suicides.

As heartbreaking as they are, the greater tragedy may be that such suicides have been happening all along, but no one has paid any attention.

Studies have shown repeatedly that LGBT teens are four times more likely to attempt suicide. But, until recently, that has been a statistic without faces and names. Perhaps now these young men will force our country to pay attention.

That is faint consolation, but it does mean their lives and deaths won’t be in vain.

It is tempting to rail against fundamentalist religions of all stripes that have given the “moral” justification for an atmosphere of bullying and abuse. Fundamentalist Islam leads to suicide bombers, and fundamentalist

Christianity leads to suicidal teenagers.

Our anger at them is justified, but, ultimately, it doesn’t do much to help the problem.

So what can we in the LGBT community do? How can we help?

Well, this is where hope comes in.

For 22 years, I was a leader at the Cathedral of Hope. Although I am no longer there, the memories I relish most are the times I talked to people who discovered that what their fundamentalist parents or church had said about them had been a lie. They were angry, angry enough to get involved and do something.

Too often our anger turns to cynicism, so we practice “horizontal violence,” taking our anger out on one another. Rumors and gossip and catty remarks aimed at one another will not change the world or heal our own wounds.

We are also prone to turn our anger inward, and all too many members of our community struggle with depression.

It is well past time that we put our anger where it belongs. Let it energize us to volunteer, write letters, post Facebook rants and come out. (After all, Monday, Oct. 11 is National Coming Out Day.) We must use the energy of our life to change things.

All of us have had times when we felt rejected, oppressed and depressed. Most of us overcame those feelings.

Remember how you did it and then figure out a way you can help others.

Are there places you can volunteer where, as an openly gay or lesbian person, you might give hope to a child who is growing up feeling different? Isn’t it past time you spoke to your family and told them the truth about how right-wing policy and fundamentalist religion is hurting you personally?

Next time a co-worker makes a homophobic joke, pull them aside and tell them that, while you aren’t thin-skinned, it worries you that those kinds of remarks are why so many gay and lesbian kids commit suicide.

I have a dear friend named Daryl who turned 50 this week. He has had AIDS for almost 30 years. At his party, we played that Gloria Gaynor song, “I Will Survive.”

He is my hero because, even before there were any treatments for HIV, he fought the disease and led small group programs for men who had only their attitudes to see them through. He came out as a person living with

AIDS in a day when there were no protections and much bigotry.

It wasn’t enough for him simply to survive; he worked to help others who were in the same boat.

You and I are in the same boat as those teenagers. It isn’t enough for us to have survived to adulthood. We have a moral obligation to challenge and confront oppression every chance we get.

Oh, yes, it might cost us. Many years ago, I was fired as a pastor for being gay and, later, I was fired as a therapist for speaking at a gay Pride rally. I’ve had my tires slashed and the paint on my car scratched nearly off. Two churches I served were firebombed. I have been picketed and spat upon, and have had numerous death threats through the years.

Yes, this fight can cost you, but my only regret is that I wasn’t able to do more.

Hopefully, there is still time. Hopefully, there is still time for you, too.

We can, and must, change the world in which teenage lesbian and gay people are growing up. We must do so in a public way so that they have hope.

It will terrify our fundamentalist and right-wing friends because, “Hope is a dangerous thing.”

The Rev. Michael Piazza is president of Hope for Peace & Justice, a nonprofit organization that is equipping progressive people of faith to be champions for peace and justice. He also serves as co-executive director of the Center for Progressive Renewal, which is renewing progressive Christianity by training new entrepreneurial leaders, supporting the birth of new liberal/progressive congregations, and by renewing and strengthening existing progressive churches. He served the Cathedral of Hope for 22 years, first as senior pastor and later as dean.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 08, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas