Mi Diva Loca tonight at Sue Ellen’s

Livin’ la Diva Loca

Get your New Year on with Mel Arizpe and Laura Carrizales as Mi Diva Loca tonight. The partners in life and song turn top hits into their own with subtle rearrangements and way fab voices. Besides, live music should be your resolution for 2012.

DEETS: Sue Ellen’s, 3014 Throckmorton St. 7 p.m. SueEllensDallas.com.

—  Rich Lopez

What’s love got to do with it? Locals let us into their hearts, share some Valentine’s Day tunes

Last year, in the print product, I wrote up a Valentine’s mixtape which was filled with all types of love songs. The only thing was finding those that weren’t gender specific, and that can be a total bitch. Or maybe it’s just my anal retentiveness. So instead of going through the hassle again, I asked local peeps with a penchant for music what songs struck that heartfelt fuzzy chord with them. I asked why their selection stuck out and if there are any gay aspects to it whether by an out artist or not gender-directed. The selections ran the gamut. Check ‘em out below.

—  Rich Lopez

Sing like no one’s listening

Forget drag, leather contests and two-stepping — karaoke is the one night in gay clubs where everybody comes out

CLICK HERE TO VIEW A KARAOKE SLIDESHOW

RICH LOPEZ  |  Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

One cold Tuesday night in December, the Round-Up Saloon’s parlor bar has a handful of people inside. Some are partaking in well drink specials; others are furiously texting, and one guy can’t seem to leave the bartender alone.

But in a few minutes, they will all be focused on the same thing: Whether to get on stage or just sing along as they settle in for a night of karaoke.

Despite public speaking being a fear on par with death for most Americans, the post-American Idol world finds a slew of gay clubs featuring karaoke nights — and they are among the most popular events out of the week.

Just what gets people to step up to a microphone on a regular basis — or have others turn out to watch them?

As it turns it out, it’s so much more than just singing a song you like.

“Although it doesn’t happen with every singer, it’s fun to watch someone be so uninhibited, whether they are good or bad,” says Andrew Phifer.

Phifer has done it once to, of all things, the theme from TVs Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Mostly, though, he prefers to watch others, usually at the Round-Up.

Last year’s Voice of Pride winner Mel Arizpe hosts karaoke at the club, lining up singers and songs for “Tittie Tuesday Karaoke;” in between songs, she points out the several regulars who have a certain uninhibited quality.

A prime example was the man singing Styx’s “Mr. Roboto” and trying to engage the audience by asking, “Who remembers the ’80s?”

“Karaoke caters to everyone,” Arizpe says. “Who doesn’t wanna belt ‘Pussy Control,’ with 30 other people singing right along? Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you really haven’t until you’ve come out to watch.”

Little Chalupa at Joe’s

Where the Round-Up gets progressively more crowded on a school night, Joe’s Place at Wednesday night karaoke, with host Little Chalupa, is a lighter bunch.

No more than a handful of people at a time are in the bar, but the enthusiasm is just as high.

Duets by Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson are covered, and one man with a Michael Jackson fetish ad-libs the songs while Chalupa offers something else to the mix: Spanish-language songs.

Even one dancer in his undies from the Brick side of the club will sing.

Likely not by design, the stage at Joe’s on this hump day evening definitely has more than enough of its share of “serious singers.” The smaller crowd didn’t dissuade these vocalists from taking to the stage as if auditioning for American Idol. They want to assure that all 17 of us hear their talents.

Putting their vibratos to the test, the mostly male crowd signs on for fleeting stardom, if just for a moment — until their next song makes it to the top of the list.

“I think there are three types of karaoke singers,” says Josh Warr, a visitor to the Joe’s who is also straight. “The people who take it seriously probably had some theater and have this in them to do. You have people like me who’ve sung in a band and just do what we do for fun. Then there are those who can’t sing worth a damn and can’t help but be silly about it.”

Warr does a good rendition of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” with some added humorous touches that go over like a, well, brick. Those gathered are clearly waiting their turns to be the next top diva.

Is it that one moment that drives them to almost over-perform? Ben Mitchell thinks so.

The local author has sung with the Turtle Creek Chorale, and although it’s been years since his last karaoke performance, he admits there is a surrealistic quality that makes being onstage a special moment.

“You get to be on stage performing in front of an audience, and it is the closest thing to being a ‘star’ that we ever get,” he says.

Arizpe agrees.

“Gay or straight, everyone wants to be a star,” she says. “Along with that, I think what attracts gay audiences is the environment — the lights, the stage, the showtunes … not to mention music from Lady Gaga and Glee.”

Save for Warr, the stars at Joe’s this night weren’t tongue-in-cheeking their performances. While the vocal talents aren’t the stuff Grammys are made of, they wouldn’t cause ears to bleed, either.

The guy covering Celine Dion couldn’t meet her key with his low register but impressively nailed a long note. “Michael Jackson guy’s” “Thriller” might be blasphemous, but his heart and ego are into it. His friend, though, chose Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” but sang it in the key of Beyonce.

At one corner of the bar, Little Chalupa sits at his laptop lining up singers and songs and even getting onstage himself for some Kid Rock. Hosting karaoke gigs four nights a week at Sue Ellen’s, Alexandre’s and Joe’s, he’s a pro at the game in the Dallas gay club scene.

Starting as a bartender at Woody’s, Chalupa began his stint as a host there and eight years later, he’s become the go-to guy for karaoke. Along the way, he’s learned a few things about the scene.

“Although every bar is having karaoke, it has to do with the host, and a supportive staff,” he says. “Spectators will really enjoy themselves a lot more and come back. The host has to make it fun and keep a flow. Sometimes I have 30 people waiting on my list.”

Chalupa reiterates the one popular reason people do this — simple fun. Whether he’s gigging at Joe’s or Sue Ellen’s, his crowds may be different, but the payoff is the same.

For him, it’s a bigger payoff when they really can’t sing.

“The ones who can’t sing and do it are having the most fun. I have a lot of bad singers, but that’s what motivates other people to get up there. I’ve devirginized a lot of non-singers,” he laughs.

He admits though, he’s not overly fond of the self-appointed divas, many of whom were taking his stage at Joe’s.

“The seriousness I don’t like. Some people do that because this is the time for them to show off — if they have talent, “ he says. “Or sometimes people walk in, put their song in and leave only to come back when it’s their turn. That’s not fair to people who are there. I’m there to make money for my place.”

Save for the few “talented” singers, Chalupa knows people are having a fine time. Whether it’s the ladies at Sue Ellen’s, an older crowd at Alexandre’s or his younger participants at Joe’s, Chalupa really just celebrates that spirit in someone to risk making a spectacle of themselves — and it mostly turns out well.

Barbara’s Pavillion

Barbara’s Pavilion in Oak Cliff is a popular spot for many reasons: Its gay friendliness, its neighborhood feel and its karaoke.

A diverse crowd lines the bar on this Sunday night. The place isn’t overly busy, but by 7 p.m. when the singing starts, the regulars are already at it. That’s proven by the married couple who gaze into each others’ eyes while dueting on Moulin Rouge’s “I’ll Fly Away.”

There are some familiar faces here from my recent night at the Round-Up. “Pussy Control” lady takes her turn with Blondie and later with Four Non Blondes. The employees even get in on the action.

Of all the clubs I visited, Barbara’s is the least intimidating. This is where everybody knows your name. They don’t know mine, but friendly attempts at conversation don’t go unnoticed.

And after every song, the crowd claps and hoots — even if a singer sounds like a pained animal waiting to be put out of its misery.

“I don’t really sing, I just like to scream my songs out,” says Angela Johnson. “Really, this is my therapy.”

Motivations run the gamut when it comes to karaoke. Arizpe says it brings confidence out in people, but I’m not so sure. Singing in front of strangers overall is one of the more vulnerable situations to put yourself in.

Natural singers who are good don’t have to worry, but the majority of us are up there to be potentially laughed at and — worse — judged.

It can be like a rollercoaster ride: Maybe it’s the thrill of danger while knowing you’ll finish safely.

Or you’re just haven’t had enough cocktails, like Justin Bradford who has had his fair share of mike experiences at the Round-Up.

“I like drinking the liquid courage that allows me to belt out whiskey-drenched vocals in the likes of Tanya Tucker,” he says.

“That allows me to momentarily bask in the spotlight of talent, because in reality, I have a terrible singing voice.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 14, 2011.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW A KARAOKE SLIDESHOW

—  John Wright

Queer locals of 2010

Twelve months isn’t all that long a time, but the impact someone can make on an entire year during any part of it can reverberate well beyond the calendar year. When we thought back on the culture in 2010, these are the 10 men and women who stood out most — for good or bad.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Israel Luna, filmmaker, left

Kelli Ann Busey, ticked-off activist, center
The most vocal debate in the gay community about the arts that occurred on a national scale started in Dallas, as Busey, a trans woman, objected to the title of Luna’s “transploitation” revenge melodrama Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives. GLAAD got involved, protests were lodged when the film played at a festival in New York City, accusations and insults flew … it wasn’t always (ever?) pretty, but it did get people talking.

Mel Arizpe, Voice of Pride winner, right
After numerous attempts, Arizpe delighted her fans by winning VOP in August as a soloist and for a duet with her girlfriend … who herself came in second overall. Talk about keeping it all in the family.

……………………………………………………

Jorge-Trinity

Jorge Rivas, photographer, left
Following Adam Bouska’s NOH8 photo campaign, Rivas started Faces of Life, a series of portraits of locals aimed at raising money for AIDS Arms. Like Bouska, Rivas hopes to take it nationwide.

Trinity Wheeler, theater queen, right
Wheeler hasn’t lived in Texas for a while, but when he returned to his hometown of Tyler to direct The Laramie Project, he faced vocal resistance. The play was still put on, and became a success.

……………………………………………………

Jeffrey-Jack

Jeffrey Payne, leathermen, left

Jack Duke, leathermen, right
Payne, the outgoing International Mr. Leather of 2010, was nearly replaced by Duke, who ended up in third place overall. Payne set a high standard as IML champ, having an award named after him and starting a foundation to help the hearing impaired within the gay community. Duke has led an active role in the leather scene locally, statewide, nationally and internationally, showing the world Dallas knows leather culture — and gentlemen.

……………………………………………………

Danielle-Harold

Danielle Girdano, cyclist, left
Girdano wanted to raise money to bring awareness to teen
suicide even before the issue made national news, so she biked from Minnesota to Dallas, pulling in just in time for the Pride parade.

Harold Steward, arts visionary, right
Steward gave the black LGBT community a shot in the arm, co-founding the Fahari Arts Institute which hosts the popular Queerly Speaking series at the South Dallas Cultural Center.

……………………………………………………

TKO-Softball

Team TKO, softballers
Member teams of the Pegasus Slow-pitch Softball Association did gangbusters at the annual World Series in August, but none did better than the players on Uptown Vision’s TKO, who collectively won the B-
Division trophy by defeating the Long Beach Rounders in the NAGAAA tourney in Columbus, Ohio. When it comes to sports, it’s hard to beat a Texan — Tony Romo notwithstanding.

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

—  Kevin Thomas

Voice of Pride winners Mi Diva Loca team with local band helloeARTh for YouTube covers

Mel Arizpe, right, of Mi Diva Loca just posted a video on her Facebook where she and her partner Laura Carrizales (and other half of Loca) teamed up with local band helloeARTh for a cover of Rihanna’s “Only Girl.” The band’s M.O. is to team up with local singers and rappers and perform a cover on video to post to YouTube. That’s the nutshell.

In this video, the sound’s a little rough, but MDL’s voices are a good match with the funksters playing. Initially, I thought it was a one-time thing, but then Arizpe told me they also recorded a video for a cover of Cee Lo Green’s “Fuck You.” I thought ‘Oh, shiz,’ and was quick to search for it. It’s not too bad either, although the recording pulls in more of the music than the ladies’ voices. But when they start belting it out, it’s outta control. And by that I mean pretty priceless.

Both videos are below.

—  Rich Lopez

WATCH: Capacity crowd marks Transgender Day of Remembrance at Cathedral of Hope

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

A capacity crowd filled the Interfaith Peace Chapel at Cathedral of Hope to mark Transgender Day of Remembrance on Sunday night, Nov. 21.

Nell Gaither, a steering committee member for GEAR, served as MC. She noted the recent spate of suicides among gay youth. GEAR is the transgender program of Resource Center Dallas.

Among transgender adults, 40 percent have attempted suicide, a rate 25 times higher than among the rest of the community, she said.

She said 20 percent of transgender people had been refused healthcare treatment and even more experience harassment in a medical setting.

Among transgender people of color, 35 percent live below the poverty level.

A portion of the memorial was dedicated to Alexander Allison, a local trans man who committed suicide this year.

Among the speakers were Resource Center Dallas Executive Director Cece Cox.

Cox thanked the transgender community for answering her many questions so she can be a better ally. She also commented on the growing visibility of the transgender community.

“When someone tries to make me feel invisible, it makes me feel ‘less than’ and that doesn’t feel good,” she said.

Former Mayor Pro Tem John Loza said the community needs to do more than just tell LGBT youth that in 10 years it will get better — it also must provide the tools for them to get there.

“But there is reason for hope,” he said.

He listed recent gains the transgender community has made, including the election of the first transgender judge in California and Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s appointment last week of Phyllis Frye as a municipal court judge. He lauded Dallas Independent School District’s new enumerated anti-bullying policy that includes gender identity and expression.

As Aaron Barnes and Dorian Mooneyham read the names of 30 transgender victims of violence, members of the community lit candles and laid red roses on a table. Two of those victims were from Houston.

Mo Snow gave closing remarks. “I don’t want to be the reason my partner is discriminated against,” he said, calling her the most loving person he’d ever met.

For the third year, the Women’s Chorus of Dallas ensemble MosaicSong opened and performed during the ceremony. Voice of Pride winners Mel Arizpe and Laura Carrizales also performed.

—  David Taffet

Dallas’ vocal adrenaline

VOP runners-up raised the bar for everyone this year

Voice of Pride winner Mel Arizpe knew this was a great year to win the contest, with the new groups category and the trip to England, but she also knew it was the toughest yet. She and the other finalists all agree the competition was stronger than ever: Third through fifth place took home prize money, but also released a collective sigh just to make it on the proverbial podium this time around.

Runners-up Juliana Jeffrey, Angie Landers and Robert Olivas give some insight to their experience at this year’s competition and how firsts always seem to happen, no matter how long they’ve been competing.

— Rich Lopez

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The Bridesmaid: Juliana Jeffrey, 2d  runner-up
Competition songs: “Here Comes Goodbye” by Rascal Flatts and “So Small” by Carrie Underwood.

Why these songs? I love the Underwood song, no question. I pick songs I really love or feel like I’m going through. I was just like Eek! But I don’t think my first song was a good choice.

What changed from last year? The talent was a lot better. Everybody was good and I think more people are finding out about it. It felt different this year — there wasn’t a lot of bonding like before. Every year I’ve made a friend. There was a lot more pressure.

TROIKA | Jeffrey, left, Landers, center, and Olivas gave the also-ran list star power. (Dallas Voice/ Arnold Wayne Jones)

Did the trip to England affect your performance? Who doesn’t wanna go to England? But personally, I try not to think about the prizes. It’s added stress. I like amazing singers and that makes me wanna be better.

You’re a VOP veteran. Would you rather win or keep placing and racking up change? Hey, all I can say is my rent is paid! The reason I do it every year is because I have so much fun with people I meet. We hang out.

Any immediate musical plans? I’m 29 but I don’t really have anything to show for my singing. So, I need to get more serious about that. But I gotta work these 40 hours a week. It’s tough, but I gotta make a demo.

Any thoughts on next year’s Voice of Pride? I know what to expect and I know what motions to go through so that’s relaxing. I think next year I will broaden my song choices. I just don’t wanna put myself in a box. I tell myself I’m gonna step out of this country box, but I never really know what judges are looking for. I just go with what feels good and pray for the best. I just try to do me.
The Breakthrough: Angie Landers, 3d runner-up
Competition songs: “I Drove All Night” and “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion.

Any second thoughts? No, though I tend to think that I should have shown my country side as well as my pop side. There’s always next year.

How was it when your name was called? Oh my gosh, it was such a surreal moment.

Do you pick songs you like or that will sound good? I only perform songs that touch me or I enjoy, but for competition I try to choose songs that show off who I am and what I can do.

How do you prepare? Practice — in my living room!


The Dude: Robert Olivas, 4th runner-up

Competition songs: “Hey, Soul Sister” by Train and “Remember When It Rained” by Josh Groban.

Why these two? I love those songs and I wanted to show my range. I’ve been paying attention to the judges’ comments and I wanted to win the crowd. But dang, the gays love their women singers.

Yeah, you were the highest placed male this year. The competition was gonna be so strong and it was all about the women this year.

How’d you strategize? I made it my business to go to the preliminaries and see the competition. I’ve grown to see what judges are looking for.

When did you start singing? I started singing about four but didn’t have training until my girlfriend at the time talked me into taking a vocal class at UTEP.

What did you learn about yourself this time? I’ve only made finals three times so I’m proving that I can be consistent.

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It takes two

Mel Arizpe, far right, and Laura Carrizales had quite  summer. The real-life couple took the No. 1 and 2 spots in the solo competition at Voice of Pride and scored the inaugural group competition victory. As Mi Diva Loca, the duo won over the crowd with their second performance, a medley of pop hits which might have been risky. “Because it wasn’t a whole song, we wondered if the judges would see past that into our harmonies,” Carrizales says. “These were just songs we liked.” They also got to perform at Pride in Manchester, England.

If you missed ’em before, though, you can catch them (plus third place Juliana Jeffrey) riding in the parade Sunday, followed by a performance at the festival in Lee Park afterward.

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

—  Michael Stephens