WATCH: Trailer for the Billie Jean King-Bobby Riggs movie ‘Battle of the Sexes’

We’ve been excited about the film Battle of the Sexes ever since we saw the first stills of newly-minted Oscar winner Emma Stone and Steve Carell as dead-ringers for tennis greats Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, who fought a famous charity tennis match in Houston back in the early 1970s pitting the top female tennis player of the time against an older, more experienced and heavily delusional Riggs. The event really kick-started feminism, gave rise to the term “male chauvinist pig” and cemented King as an icon. Now the trailer is available for the film, which comes out in September. Take a look!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Trans coach finds acceptance in small Rhode Island town

 

Stephen Alexander was a typical boy. He loved Transformers and Gobots (but did not find out until later that they were a product of Hasbro in Providence, R.I., just a few miles from his home in Chepachet). He spent hours with the neighborhood kids, playing basketball, baseball and Wiffle ball. “I never wanted to go home,” he recalls.

There was one problem: His parents treated him like a girl. That’s what they saw when they looked at his genitals.

And that’s why Alexander competed on girls teams at Ponaganset High School. He was a superb athlete — one of the best in the school’s history, male or female. He scored more than 1,000 points for the Chieftains’ girls basketball team, winning four consecutive state championships and earning All-State first team honors. He was offered a full scholarship for the basketball team at Stonehill College, a Division II Jesuit school in Massachusetts. But he gave it up, because being in the women’s locker room finally became too unbearable.

Majoring in religious studies, psychology and philosophy, Alexander sought to discover who he really was. His journey of self-discovery took him about as far away from Rhode Island as he could go: Tasmania. There he studied Buddhism. Studying further, through a Semester at Sea program, he finally understood himself as a transgender man.

“I tell people I’ve crossed the equator, the prime meridian and the gender spectrum,” he quips. He says the process took him from gender identity disorder, to gender identity difference, and finally to gender identity feelings.

He returned to his home town, and finally came out to his parents. But Chepachet is a very small place. Soon, he headed to the biggest city in the U.S.: New York.

Everyone knew him in Chepachet. In NYC, nobody did. That’s where he began his career as a teacher. It’s also where he had gender reassignment surgery. His parents, who had taken their own path to understanding their son, were there. Doctors told them that most parents seldom are.

But the pull of home was strong. His sister has two children, and Alexander wanted to watch them grow up. He returned to Rhode Island, and tried to figure out what to do next.

A female friend told him the boys middle school soccer team needed a coach. Alexander stepped in. Soon he was coaching their basketball and baseball teams. Tennis and volleyball followed. He coached boys and girls teams. He loved what he was doing. There were challenges — managing young adolescents is not easy, and their parents can be a handful, too — but that’s part of the joy of coaching.

Though he was in a small town, and most people there had known him as a champion female athlete, he says that being a trans man was never an issue. No one said anything to his face; no one complained to the school board. There may have been whispers, he admits, and perhaps one or two youngsters did not try out for his teams because of the coach. But if that happened, he says, “I never heard about it.”

He worked with coaches he’d gone to school with. He coached boys and girls whose parents he’d played sports with, or been taught by. Some of those adults still call him by the name they remember. They try to call him “Stephen,” but old habits die hard.

Perhaps they’re reminded by the banner hanging in the Ponaganset High School gym. It honors the few players who scored more than 1,000 points in their basketball careers. Alexander’s is there, with his girl’s name. There is one place his name does not appear: the Ponaganset Athletic Hall of Fame. His sister nominated him, but he has not been selected.

Alexander was surprised … but then again, he wasn’t. What people say behind closed doors is not always what they say to his face.

Alexander has a lot to say. He’s created a website called Transition Games (www.transitiongames.com), in part to highlight his public speaking career. “Stephen’s story brought me to tears, and to a new understanding of diversity in sports,” praises a college student who heard him talk.

“It’s so important to have conversations about transforming sports,” Alexander says. “We need to help kids recognize early what happens when we separate the sexes. There’s this notion that boys are better, faster and stronger than girls. Sports is really about finding out who you are, whoever you are, then working together to heighten competitiveness and honor your opponents. There’s still a lot of work to be done.”

And Stephen Alexander — a trans man, and boys and girls sports coach in rural Rhode Island — is doing it.

— Dan Woog

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: The new launch trailer for the limited-run return of ‘Will & Grace’ this fall

The broadcast TV networks host their “upfronts” this week, announcing what made it to the fall lineups and what go the axe. Many of those announcements have already been made, including one show that got a slot without even having to audition. Will & Grace, the pioneering sitcom that won Emmys for all its cast (as well as best series) during its initial run from 1998 to 2006, returns after more than a decade off the air for a limited run of 12 episodes this fall.

Of course, you probably already knew that. What you might not have see yet is the fun little promo video, which does a great job of whetting your appetite for more of Karen & Jack …. I mean Will & Grace. Enjoy.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Katy Perry to play in Dallas Jan. 14

Katy Perry’s latest album, Witness, is set to drop on June 9, and she’s already booking North American arena tour dates, including Dallas.

Perry will bring her concert to American Airlines Center on Jan. 14, but tickets go on sale as early as this Thursday at 9 a.m., via the Ticketmaster Verified Fan presale. (If not already a member, you have to register by Tuesday.) Citi cardmembers can start purchasing at noon Thursday. General ticket sales begin May 22 at 10 a.m. At ticket purchases include a pre-order for Witness: The Album.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

PHOTOS: Scenes from House of DIFFA Arabesque

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Dallas Voice receives 7 Lone Star Award nominations

The Houston Press Club today announced the list of finalists for its annual Lone Star Awards, recognizing excellence in journalism across Texas, and Dallas Voice staff and contributors received seven nominations.

The awards are for work published in print or online in the preceding calendar year. The club also recognizes television, radio, magazines, student journalists and public relations professionals.

Executive Editor Arnold Wayne Jones received three nominations. He is a finalist in Print Photography for an image he took for his travel story “Phoenix Rising.” Jones will also compete against himself for two Internet Opinion pieces he wrote: “Winter Is Coming: Reflections on the Frightening Power of Demagoguery,” about the effect of Donald Trump’s election as president; and for “David Bowie Allowed You to Be Gay,” an appreciation of the lingering impact of David Bowie’s career, written after the musician died last year. Jones received three awards last year from the HPC, including Feature Story (first place), Print Journalist of the Year (second place) and Criticism (third place).

Senior Staff Writer David Taffet received two nominations. One is for News or Feature Story for his piece “Rehabilitated?,” about the regrets expressed by a man convicted of a gay bashing in 2011. Taffet is also a finalist for Newspaper Journalist of the Year.

Managing Editor Tammye Nash received one nomination — she will compete against Taffet for Newspaper Journalist of the Year.

Finally, Cassie Nova aka James Love was nominated for Newspaper Commentary for her piece “Cassie Gets Serious About Orlando,” in which she considered the horrors of the Pulse Nightclub shooting.

The awards will be handed out at Rice University in Houston on June 10.

—  admin

Young gay Frenchmen more likely to support right-wing nut job Marine Le Pen

It’s an accepted norm that gays tend to be more politically liberal, for obvious reasons, and that young people are more liberal than their older counterparts. You’d expect, then, that young gays would be among the most liberal of demographics. But in France, the opposite appears to be true.

Hornet, a gay social network, recently surveyed its French users about the country’s upcoming national election for president, which pits left-leaning Emmanuel Macron against hard-right fringe candidate Marine Le Pen. More than 5,000 users were questioned, with about half under 30 and half over. Those 18–29 supported Le Pen with about 45 percent; those over 30 supported her only 35 percent, which is in line with national polling in general. And over 50? Her support dropped to 20 percent.

Even the 20 percent seems staggering to me, since she is an overly racist, homophobic, right-wing nut job by all accounts. But in some ways, the idea that older gay men are more woke about Le Pen does make some kind of sense: They have had to fight for decades for rights younger people probably take for granted, and older demos are typically more engaged in politics. It’s a sad state, though, that younger people cannot see to vote in their own best interests.

The run-off election is Sunday.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Tasting Notes: May the Fourth, Cinco de Mayo and more

Thursday is May the Fourth, a fauxliday for Star Wars fans. Friday is Cinco de Mayo, aka May 5, and traditionally an exciting holiday for those who love Mexican food and drink. And Saturday is the Kentucky Derby. So lots to keep in mind these days. Here are some events coming up to keep in mind.

First, Q Tacos at Macho Cantina, the new name and concept of Quesa, is open on Cedar Springs, just in time for Cinco de Mayo. All week, they are serving $6 Avion Tequila margaritas and boilermakers, plus the house sangria. And Friday night will feature a DJ on hand from 8 p.m. til 2 a.m. My review of Q Tacos will appear next week, but the short version is: Go there!

Tacodeli, which I have praised for having some of the best salsas around, has decided to release those salsas outside their restaurants. Starting Friday, the dona (spicy), roja (medium) and verde (mild) salsas will be on sale at Whole Foods stores in Texas, as well as Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. (Tacodeli is based in Austin.) The price is $6.99 per 12 oz. container.

Tricky Fish in Richardson is celebrating May the Fourth with a party, constant screening of Star Wars movies and specialty items like The Ham Solo burger, and cocktails like The Yoda, the Death Star and Java the Hut.

One of my favorite restaurants of last year, the Southern-themed Grayson Social, is marking Derby Day with  a brunch that included a variety of juleps (cucumber lime, lavender mint, etc.) for just $8 or a flight of three for $15.

The second of three planned restaurants from Headington Companies has opened in the Design District. This week Sassetta, an Italian resto at Hi Line and Oak Lawn, opened for dinner. It joins neighbor Wheelhouse and the soon-to-open Go Go.

And finally, congrats to John Tesar, who commemorated the publication of his new book, Knife, with a signing at The Highland earlier this week. The cookbook shows how to make Texas-style steakhouse cooking at home. Congrats, chef.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

OPERA REVIEW: ‘Norma’

Marina Costa-Jackson and Elza van der Heever in ‘Norma.’ Photo by Karen Almond

During intermission at the Dallas Opera‘s opening night of Norma, one of my seat-neighbors turned to me and said, “My only complain about this production is the title — ‘Norma’ just seems like a name out-of-place in the ancient world.” “Yeah,” I said. “How about The Real Housewives of Gaul.” She chuckled, not because she was being nice, but because it’s true. Norma (sung by soprano Elza van den Heever) is a Druid high priestess in Roman-occupied France who has been carrying on an affair with the Roman overlord Pollione (tenor Yonghoon Lee), though he pledges himself to the virginal Adalgisa (Marina Costa-Jackson). When the women compare notes, and both realize that Pollione is both father to Norma’s children and Adalgisa’s betrothed. You can hear the collective grumble in the audience as they expect one of the women to up-end a table and sing the newly-discovered aria “Oh no she betta don’t!” as Maury Povich reveals who, in fact, is the real baby daddy.

But, like Debbie and Liz, Norma and Adalgisa don’t take out the betrayal on each other, but on the man who done them wrong. Suddenly, it’s less Teresa Giudice and more Witches of Eastwick.

Norma isn’t a comedy, but it does has some stirring melodrama that feels as real and current as realiTV. It’s humanity is what anchors it. But its music is what makes it soar. Bellini’s gift for bel canto is that even the heels and low-register male voices, as well as the women, simply delight your ears with their powerful and lovely singing. They could be referring to the fishmonger’s wife cleaning out the toilet, and you’d roll your eyes in ecstasy.

The production is as gorgeous to look at as it is to listen to. John Conklin’s protean set, beautifully lit by Thomas C. Hace so that it literally transforms the locale and the mood without moving a stick of furniture, evokes all the passion of the story, as well as its danger, with enviable ease. There’s also a whiff of lesbian attraction between Norma and Adalgisa, which complicates and illuminates the plot and character development. It;s too bad the show wasn’t a sell-out on opening night — an opera this good deserves to be seen by as many people as possible.

At the Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St. April 26, 29 and May 7.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

BREAKING: WaterTower announces 2017-18 season

Today, WaterTower Theatre announced its first season under the direction of new artistic director Joanie Schultz, pictured. The five-show main season will include the following:

Pride and Prejudice (Oct. 13–Nov. 5). An adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel, which Schultz will direct.

Elliot, a Soldier’s Fugue (Jan. 26–Feb. 18, 2018). A regional premiere from Pulitzer Prize winner Quiara Alegria Hudes, which looks at the effect of war on a Puerto Rican family.

Bread (April 13–May 6), a world premiere from native Dallasite Regina Taylor. It’s set in Oak Cliff.

The Last Five Years (June 8–July 1). A two-hander musical where a could work out where their relationship went wrong… in reverse. Directed by Kelsey Leigh Ervi.

Hand to God (Aug. 3–26). A Tony favorite from a few years ago, this play tells the story of a young man who allows his Christian puppet to roil his suburban Texas community. Schultz will direct.

In addition, two non-season presentations will be offered. The Great Distance Home, a world premiere conceived and directed by Ervi, will be the theater’s holiday show, Dec. 1–17. Then the Out of the Loop Festival appears to give way to Detour: A Festival of New Work, which takes place March 1–4, 2018.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones