Feet don’t fail

Recently all but dead, Lin Wang helped Frontrunners catch its second wind

DFW Frontrunners members Steven, left, and Kevin, right, set the pace with new members like Moe, center, to powerwalk for fitness with the group when they meet every Saturday morning to hit the Katy Trail.

DFW Frontrunners members Steven, left, and Kevin, right, set the pace with new members like Moe, center, to powerwalk for fitness with the group when they meet every Saturday morning to hit the Katy Trail.

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer

When Lin Wang came to Dallas and thought about joining the DFW Frontrunners, he encountered a fizzled-out band of running enthusiasts with an expired website.

“I found an email to an old contact, but no one answered,” Wang says. “Then I learned from someone that it died out a few years ago.”

But Wang’s enthusiasm is infectious, and his spirit has helped bring the group back to life.

Frontrunners isn’t just a Dallas thing — it’s an international affiliation of LGBT running and walking clubs that first began 28 years ago in San Francisco. Wang had been an active member of both the Pittsburgh and New York City chapters, so when he moved to Dallas in the summer of 2010, he was surprised to find that in a city of its size, the group basically didn’t exist.

“I don’t know why it went away,” he says. “With all the other sports groups, there is such a demand for athletics in this large LGBT community.”

So he started the rebuilding.

DFW Frontrunners had been so out-of-date that the international association told him to just register the group as “new.” With the help of Julio Chong, the group changed its meeting place from White Rock Lake on Saturday mornings to a more central spot in Lee Park. For the group to succeed, Wang felt it needed to be closer in the ‘hood.

“Julio and I did this together,” Wang says. “We started small, but the biggest group we’ve had is about 15 members and we now have close to 20 active members.”

Wang recalls the decisions to have the first group meeting last June.

“It was a horrible time to begin because of the summer,” he laughs, recalling the sweltering heat of 2011’s record-breaking season.“ But we had to prove this was not a dead organization. We welcome anyone who wants to join us.”

With a diverse group including some straight members, Frontrunners meets at the Robert E. Lee statue and then proceeds to the Katy Trail. Groups can then walk or run in their preferred direction, eventually meeting back at the statue. Then it’s off to breakfast.

Like any gay sports organization, Frontrunners also pushes the socializing aspect of a club. Fellowship is a booster among those working on their fitness levels. Local activist Latisha McDaniel has met some of her personal goals as a member along with broadening her circle of friends.

“[Frontrunners has] been a great experience and has really increased my love of running,” she says. “It has given me a new jump start and a good way to meet new people.”

McDaniel even improved her fitness level. She started with the walking group, but has graduated to running and even surprised herself with her abilities.

“I’ve participated in two races since joining and about to run in another one,” she says. “I did a few races in college but haven’t really done anything since moving to Dallas.”

“We’re not gonna scare people away who like walking,” Wang adds. “We always make sure one person walks so others feel fine to join in.”

Wang intends for Frontrunners to be much more than the weekly meetup. He’s used Facebook and Twitter to get the word out on the group and to entice online members to join them in person. He has had the group participate as volunteers for the White Rock Marathon as a water station team and expect to repeat that this year. He also wants to push the group into hosting Dallas’ first Pride race.

We’re focusing hard on doing the first-ever event,” he says. “St. Louis has one and we think that it could be an integral part of our Pride festival. It would be a different way to have and witness a different Pride involvement. And we’d like to tie it in to an organization and the race can be a viable fundraiser.”

Although Wang would like to accomplish all this in 2012, it’s more realistic to expect everything in place by Dallas Pride 2013. In the meantime, the group hopes to expand membership and enjoy the health and fellowship that accompanies it. And for now, you can join without paying membership dues.

“We’re in the process of becoming a nonprofit and so we may have to charge in the future,” he admits. “but we expect it would be very minimal. We don’t want to push anyone away.” The only running away he wants to see is on the trail.

For more information, visit Frontrunners Dallas.org or meet up with them Saturday mornings at 8:30 a.m. under the statue at Lee Park.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 17, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

Romancing the tune

Serenading a lover always works for out singer Nancy Beaudette

Nancy_Beaudette_color

ACOUSTIC DIVA | Beaudette blends her Celtic and folks sounds with some spirituality and compassion.

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Nancy Beaudette is ahead of her time. Literally. Feb. 14 isn’t until next week, but Beaudette and her girlfriend have already celebrated Valentine’s Day: A gift exchange, a relaxed morning in the hot tub and a long walk on a gorgeous Massachusetts day.

“Oh and we had a wonderful Chinese dinner,” she adds.

That’s what happens when a working musician hits the road — you celebrate the Hallmark moments when you can. For Beaudette, right now there is no calendar other than her tour. She’ll be playing throughout the month, including a stopover in Fort Worth on Saturday. She’s fine with it. At 50, with a healthy discography under her belt dating back 30 years to 1982, Beaudette is finally doing the “musician thing.”

“This is the first time I’m doing music without having a full-time job,” she says. “I’m embarking on a lifelong dream of songwriting and performing.”

Romance isn’t lost in Beaudette’s brand of folk. Like any singer, she’ll croon about love, but she also sings her fair share of heartbreak songs. She’s quick to point out that love is not all fuzzies and wuzzies. There are layers of complex issues that she deals with through her music, including a split from her wife of 22 years and from her church. She covers both on the title track of her last album, Honestly.

“The song is the language of divorce, but it was really about my emotional connection between my church and me,” she says. “It was devastating.”

Having the benefit of legalized marriage in her native Canada, Beaudette and her wife were excommunicated by the Catholic Church after they exchanged vows. An active member and choir director for 25 years, the blow had devastating effects; she cites it as the reason her marriage failed, but she found therapy in music.

“I journal a lot and music has been helpful,” she says. “Those pages are a great place to get to my raw emotions.” (Ironically, her church still performs all of her music.)

Despite such drama, Beaudette hardly has a bitter tone. She’s ebullient and optimistic and clearly enlivened by her new relationship and perhaps by her nebulous future with music. Her smile is practically evident through the phone line.

“I left my town, fell in love, got a performance visa and now I’m living with Chris in Massachusetts,” she says. “The U.S. market is so much larger and much more competitive, but it’s been very positive and my trips to Nashville have been very inspiring.”

The last time Beaudette came to Texas was for a conference in Waco in the mid-‘90s. This time, she anticipates a proper introduction to the Lone Star State. As with any non-Texan, she’s banking on an epic experience.

“I think everyone says this, but I hear everything is bigger in Texas,” she quips. “I’m looking forward to seeing it. I’ve met some really delightful women from Houston who will be hosting a house concert when I’m there. And the Open Door people have been so kind. The glimpse I’ve seen so far is pretty welcoming.”

She’ll also perform at Agape MCC’s Sunday morning service. Despite being hurt by a religious institution, she’s determined to use it as a bolster to her spiritual and musical side. Besides, it goes hand-in-hand with her Charter for Compassion work, a movement with the mission to “restore compassion to the center of morality and religion.”

“I’m not the first gay person to be hurt by a church,” she says. “We are spiritual and looking for ways to express it. I get to talk about the charter I’m involved with. The movement is growing all around.”

Pursuing her dream and spreading her message, Beaudette should have a fulfilling tour, but with all that, she still wants to be with her lady and serenade her with a song — that is if Chris doesn’t beat her to it.

“She’s a singer-songwriter too so we have lots in common. She’ll sing to me,” she says. “I serenade her all the time. It always does the trick.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 10, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Deaths • 11.04.11

Studer.JohnSpanke

John "Spanke" Studer

John “Spanke” Studer was born in Beattie, Kansas on April 10, 1955 to Ted and Margaret Studer, and died peacefully at his home on Oct. 31, at the age of 56.

Studer was an active member of the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, volunteering his services as a docent as well as in the church’s baking ministry.

He was also well known for his significant contributions to AIDS Services of Dallas.  According ASD’s President and CEO Don Maison, Studer served on the agency’s board for several years and over the past 20 years he catered and hosted  Spanke’s Toilet Paper Parties, collecting thousands and thousands of rolls of toilet paper, toothbrushes, soap and other personal items ASD residents and raising between $2,000 to $5,000 twice each year throughout that time.

Studer also served on the boards of of the Dallas Bears, Texas Bear Association and the Resource Center Dallas. In June, Dallas Bears named him Bear of the Year in recognition of his years of service to the community and his work in this year’s successful Texas Bear Round-Up.

He touched the lives of many friends and all who knew him understood he had a heart as big as the gentle man he was.

A memorial service will be held at the Cathedral of Hope, 5910 Cedar Springs Road, on Friday Nov. 4 at 10 a.m., followed by a reception at the church. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be sent to AIDS Services of Dallas

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 4, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Overcoming fear and finding passion

Landon Starnes had to step outside his comfort zone to compete as Lotta Pink in the Miss LifeWalk Pageant

lotta1
Landon Starnes as Lotta Pink

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Talk to Landon Starnes about his involvement with LifeWalk, the annual walkathon benefiting AIDS Arms and its partner agencies, and you’ll hear

Starnes repeat the words “passion” and “fear” a lot.

Starnes said he let fear rule him for too long. But in the end, there’s no doubt that “passion” wins out.

Starnes, who works as a hairdresser, said that he was diagnosed with HIV in October 1998. But he wasn’t prepared to deal with reality, and so for years, he said, “I ignored my diagnosis emotionally.”

But then some friends began to encourage him to confront his HIV status by getting involved in LifeWalk, specifically by joining the Guys and Dolls LifeWalk team.

Starnes said it took him awhile to get up to speed, and he was involved with LifeWalk just “off and on” for several years. But three years ago, he decided to really take the plunge and has been an active member of the Guys and Dolls team ever since.

This year, even that got ratcheted up a notch when Starnes finally gave in to his teammates’ cajoling and entered the Miss LifeWalk Pageant.

“My team had been asking me for two years to enter the pageant, but I declined every time. I was just scared to death to do drag,” Starnes explained. “But this year, I decided to accept the challenge, even though it scared me.”

The first challenge was to come up with a character, so “I started brainstorming about a character, about who I would be,” Starnes said. “I started thinking about things I, as a person, am passionate about. And I am passionate about the singer Pink.

“Her music gets to me in a way that no one else’s does,” Starned continued. “Her lyrics inspire me. I think, if I had to pick just one, my favorite Pink song is ‘Glitter in the Air.’ It says, ‘Have you ever wished for an endless night?’ ‘Have you ever thrown a fistful of glitter in the air?’ It made me look into myself, literally. Last summer, while we were on a road trip, my friends and I stopped and actually threw a fistful of glitter in the air. It was silly and fun, and now it is a memory that will last forever.”

But there is one line in the song, Starnes said, that really touched him, one lyric that made him think and gave him the determination to set aside the fear that had held him back: “Have you ever looked fear in the face, and said, I just don’t care?”

It was, Starnes said, a spark that made his passion for LifeWalk and for doing something to help others blaze even brighter.

“I knew I wasn’t going to try to be Pink, but I love what she does. So I decided I would kind of pay tribute to her with my character,” Starnes said.

And so, Lotta Pink was born.

And lo and behold, Lotta Pink won the Miss LifeWalk title on her first try, helping Starnes bring in about $7,000 for LifeWalk this year, bringing his total over all his Guys and Dolls years to about $11,000.

Starnes said he and Lotta Pink obviously have a lot in common. “We share our passion for the cause, first of all, and second, we both want to step outside the box,” Starnes said. “I was afraid of doing drag. But my favorite quote is ‘Do it scared,’ so that’s what I did. I stepped outside the box and challenged myself, and in doing that, I learned that fears are just fears, nothing else.”

Starnes said that while his fears still remain to some degree, Lotta Pink “has no fear,” and she is helping him overcome his own.

“It’s easier when you can put on a wig and some makeup and kind of step outside yourself,” Starnes said. “Now, learning to step out without that disguise is what comes next!”

Knowing that what he does is all to help AIDS Arms and the clients the agency serves makes it even easier to put the fear aside, Starnes said.

“The Guys and Dolls team works all year, not just on the day of LifeWalk. And the people at AIDS Arms work all year trying to help other people. I love AIDS Arms, and I love what it stands for,” Starnes said. “The walk itself is symbolic, to me. It’s a short walk, yes, but just going through the movement of walking allows you to release your passion.

“Everybody who participates is there for their own reasons, but whatever the reason, they are passionate about it,” he continued. “That alone speaks volumes. The biggest thing that came out of all this for me was seeing how good people really are.”

Again, it all comes down to overcoming fear and fully realizing the passion.

“It’s so important for everyone to find their passion, whether it’s LifeWalk or something else,” Starnes said. “Finding my passion has lifted me to a whole new level of awareness, understanding and joy. It’s just such a positive energy when you are around all these people at LifeWalk who work so hard to make a difference in other people’s lives. It’s helped me find a happiness I have never known before.”

AIDS Arms LifeWalk will be held Sunday, Oct. 2, at Lee Park. Registration begins at 11:30 a.m., and the walk begins at 1 p.m. For more information, go online to LifeWalk.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Death • 12.24.10

Heather MorrisonHeather Morrison, 45, died Wednesday, Dec. 15. She was a proud and active member in the LGBT community and a member of the Cathedral of Hope where she had served as the facilities and operations manager for many years. She also played in the CoH orchestra, where her amazing talent on the trumpet could be heard on many solo occasions. Additionally, Morrison was very proud to serve as the assistant conductor and the director of Jazzful Noise.

She carried her passion for music to her next position at Texas Health Resources Presbyterian Hospital Dallas where she had recently been promoted to security supervisor. Morrison started a choir and within the first few months, she had 60-plus members who loved and admired her. She was also loved by the hospital staff.

While Morrison was at the hospital, a high level administrator paying respects said, ”If we had a vote on the favorite employee, out of the 6,000, Heather would win!”

Texas Health Resources has officially renamed the choir to The Heather Morrison THR Choir. She was so loved by THR that they have honored her with an engraved brick in the THR Memorial Garden.

Morrison’s life will be celebrated in a service at her home church, Cathedral of Hope. It will be a service filled with the music that she so loved and used as a platform to share her love of life and her love of God. A date has not been set at this time. For information, e-mail CelebrateHeather@ gmail.com.

Also at this service, in honor of Morrison, Donald D. Campbell, the funeral director and assistant funeral home manager at Moore Funeral Home in Arlington, will participate. He can be reached at 817-804-2423 or Donald.campbell@sci-us.com. He has been a blessing and a fount of information in this difficult time. Information important to the final wishes of our loved ones will be available as well as notaries. If you would like to receive an e-mail copy of these documents to have ready to be notarized, please e-mail CelebrateHeather@ gmail.com with the subject line “Legacy.” The family hopes it will be one of Morrison’s legacies, that wishes be honored and loved ones be acknowledged.

Morrison was preceded in death by her father, Thomas Aaron Morrison; and grandparents, John and Mary Mitchell and Charles and Mary Morrison.

She is survived by her loving partner, Annabelle Bowden and step-son Christian Bowden; her mother, Jane Mitchell Morrison; brother, Matthew James Morrison and wife, Tina; sister, Kelli Ann Fredericksen and husband, Donovan; nieces and nephews, Chris, Andrew and Lauren Fredericksen, Ally and Lee Morrison and Chrysse Morrison Leach; one great-nephew, Jamie Leach; numerous loving members of her family of choice and many, many friends.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 24, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Stone stepping into a quieter life

Founder of PFLAG-Dallas, Late Bloomers leaving group to focus on painting, involvement with church

Tammye Nash  |  nash@dallasvoice.com

Stone.Pat
Pat Stone

The Tuesday night, Dec. 14, meeting of Late Bloomers was a bittersweet event for Pat Stone. It marked her last meeting as leader and an active member of the organization she founded 13 years ago. But it also marked her first full steps into the next stage of her life.

Stone, who started Late Bloomers for women life herself who came out as lesbian later in life, was also one of the founding members of the Dallas chapter of Parents, Family and Friends of

Lesbians and Gays in 1992. Stone and her former husband helped start the PFLAG chapter in support of their lesbian daughter and were the driving force behind the Dallas organization in its early years.

She was president of the Dallas chapter for five years and was also on the national PFLAG board.

Then in 1997, after coming out as a lesbian herself, Stone started Late Bloomers to give other women coming out later in life a place other than nightclubs to go where they could meet other women like themselves and to learn about the LGBT community.

Stone said this week that her decision to leave Late Bloomers was, in truth, a decision to retire from her nearly 20-plus years as an activist on LGBT issues. Now, she said, she will concentrate on her life with her partner as part of a vibrant LGBT community in the Cedar Creek Lake area, her involvement with Celebration on the Lake Church, and on her painting.

“It’s been 13 years since I started Late Bloomers, and I just think the time is right to move on,” said Stone, adding that the monthly trip into Dallas for the group’s meetings from her home on Cedar Creek Lake was becoming increasingly arduous.

“I think it’s time [for Late Bloomers] to find someone local to lead the group,” she said. “I am stepping away from it for so many different reasons.”

One of those reasons, she said, is that she didn’t want to get “burned out, and I could feel that starting to happen.”

That is in due, in part, she said, to the fact that “the last couple of years were pretty rough” as she dealt with the break-up of a long-term relationship, the death of her mother and, later, the beginning of a new relationship.

“Linda [Sands] and I are living at the lake, and I think it is just time for us to concentrate on a quieter life out here with my friends. And I want to get back to my oil painting, too,” Stone said.

“I have begun doing more paintings that are geared to the elderly, researching on the types of things that older eyes can more readily pick up on, like plainer backgrounds and things like that,” she explained. “I have been in contact with the Mabank Nursing Home, where my mother lived at the end of her life, and I want to do paintings to donate there, paintings that the residents there can see better and that might make them think of all their good memories.”

Stone continued, “I will be 68 this month. That’s not ancient, but I just think it’s time to concentrate on my community here at the lake and my involvement with the church and the things I want to do now.”

Stone said the enormity of the change she is making by leaving Late Bloomers hasn’t really hit her full force yet, although she began to really see it during last Tuesday’s meeting. “There was a full house there. It was sad for me. I shed a few tears. But I was able to get through it,” she said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 17, 2010.

She said many of those who attended Tuesday talked about how much Late Bloomers has meant to them through the years. Some recalled how scared they were to attend their first meeting, but how the members of the group have, over the years, become like family to them, and how the group has helped give a specific voice within the community to women who come out later in life.

Stone said she had been worried that the group might not continue after she left, but that her fears were allayed at this week’s meeting.

“I know things are different now than they were 13 years ago. But I sure wouldn’t say that this group isn’t needed any more,” she said. “There are still women out there who are going through this [coming out process as older women], and they need specific kinds of help. Women who come out later in life still face some very specific issues that other people don’t face.”

Stone said she was glad to hear on Tuesday that Late Bloomers members want to keep their group going, and that new leaders are already stepping up.

“They said this group meant to much to them to let it die,” she said. “So a new committee was formed to transition the group. They even met that night. They are dividing up the duties and are determined to continue. I was so proud of them and the fact that so many stepped up to the plate to save the organization.”

Among the new leaders for Late Bloomers is Linda Harwell. Anyone with questions or who wants to be involved with the group can contact her at 410-868-8244.
While there is certainly a degree of sadness that comes with the decision to turn her life in a new direction, there is also a sense of satisfaction and excitement at the adventures to come, Stone said.

“It’s been almost 20 years that I have been involved in activism, and it is hard to step away from that,” she said. “But I am happy and content that I have helped many parents of gay and lesbian kids, as well as women who have come out later in life.

“Dallas has a great gay and lesbian community, and I am just so proud to have been a part of it for all these years.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 17, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

A curtain falls

Propmaster Rick Gilles, DTC’s butchest employee, leaves to be with his man

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

Rick Gilles
GO WEST | While finishing up work at DTC’s production studio, Gilles is planning his big move to California — for love. (Rich Lopez/Dallas Voice)

Two loves separated by long distance. One left for his future. The other stayed for their future. But now, happily ever after is about to begin.

Quick, what is that? Tagline in a movie trailer for the next sappy Reese Witherspoon rom-com? No, but it is based on a true story. After 14 years in Dallas, Rick Gilles is packing up and heading west to be with his partner Shannon Swindle. Once they are reunited after a year-and-a-half separation, the plan for Gilles is to settle in, get a job and begin planning their wedding next year (initially scheduled for this year). It’s a real-world romance just in time for Prop 8 being overturned.

“I started realizing that I wasn’t going to get the wedding I wanted,” Gilles laughs. “We had been talking about it for a little while, but with the stress of moving, we postponed until next year. We want it outdoors in Napa Valley with close family and friends. And that isn’t going to come particularly cheap.”

Swindle built a sweet reputation as the pastry chef at Craft in Dallas’ W Hotel, but last year he was transferred to the Los Angeles location. He’s been living in an apartment, waiting for Gilles. But as the properties master for the Dallas Theater Center, Gilles had his own full plate — namely, moving into the new Wyly Theatre. After 14 seasons working at the DTC, he couldn’t bring himself to just leave without seeing it flourish.

“Part of the reason the move didn’t happen earlier was I had been working on getting this theater open,” he says. “I really wanted to see that to fruition and see it go through a full season.”

When Gilles wasn’t constructing sets and working on props for the stage, he was an active member of the Leather Knights (see sidebar), where he found something beyond his leather interest: He could also make an impact on the local LGBT community that he doesn’t foresee in L.A.
“When I lived there before it took a lot more effort, time and money to be involved,” he says. “With Leather Knights, I could fit into my schedule and help the community and contribute my talents.”

Perhaps the hardest part of Gilles’ move isn’t just leaving his longtime tenure at DTC, but chiefly because, he isn’t all that ready to leave Dallas. Coming here from Buffalo (though originally from California), Gilles has made his connection to the city.

“I’ll be really sad to leave here,” he admits. “Dallas has treated me exceptionally well. I love this job and I love Dallas a lot. But ultimately, I’m really excited about the future. We’ve been living apart long enough.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 6, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens