Cocktail Friday: Spectre Martini

Despite middling reviews (including one from me), the 24th James Bond film Spectre wiped up at the national and international box office last week, and should coast into the holidays on top. And one reason, of course, if 007′s drink of choice, the vodka martini. Belvedere Vodka (a sponsor of the film) shared with us James’ preferred martini — shaken, of course … not stirred.

2 oz. Belvedere vodka

1/3 oz. dry vermouth

1 Sicilian green olive (and a splash of brine)

Making it: Gently muddle a few olives in the bottom of a mixing glass. Add remaining ingredients and shake hard with ice. Double strain to a chilled martini glass. Garnish.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Great Scott! Dallas Street Choir taps opera heavyweights for concert of show tunes

Jonathan Palant

Jonathan Palant

Among his musical projects, maestro Jonathan Palant (formerly artistic director of the Turtle Creek Chorale) proudly leads the Dallas Street Choir, a chorus made up of homeless and disadvantaged people. The singers are all volunteers, and most have little if any musical training. But Palant gets them to make some beautiful music.

So you can understand why some serious singers would be jealous Friday night, when the choir takes to the stage of Hamon Hall (inside the Winspear Opera House) to appear with some of the best-trained voices in the world. Cast members from the recently-acclaimed world premiere opera Great Scott — Frederica von Stade, Joyce DiDonato, Ailyn Perez, Rodell Rosel and Anthony Roth Constanzo — will join Palant and Great Scott composer (and pianist) Jake Heggie for a concert benefiting the Street Choir called The Opera Lovers’ Broadway: Great Voices Sing Broadway’s Favorite Hits.

If you haven’t seen Great Scott, this is a chance to see some of what you’re missing; if you have, it’s an opportunity to revisit these voices and do something great for Dallas’ homeless community.

General admission is $60, and limited VIP seats (which include a signed program) are available for $100. The concert is Friday, Nov. 13 at 7:30 p.m. 214-871-5000.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Tasting Notes: High steaks

RCSH ToastLots of news in the area of beef in Dallas this week. First is the official opening last night of the newest Ruth’s Chris Steak House (the 147th) in Dallas’ Uptown area. Its address is Cedar Springs, but it’s a far cry from the old Ruth’s Chris on Cedar Springs just outside the Cathedral of Hope, which closed a number of years ago. Rather than a ribbon-cutting, RCSH opened with a “steak cutting,” and a thick-cut filet certainly is a good way to inaugurate a beef factory. (The resto also made a donation to Big Brothers/Big Sisters of $9,000, raised during the soft opening last weekend. I even met BB/BS Lone Star’s new CEO, Pierce Bush, the grandson of Bush 41. Nice guy. Kinda short. … We didn’t talk politics.)

Sundays through Fridays from 4:30–6:30 p.m. is happy hour, with $8 food options, including full-sized sandwiches and other items (some normally as much as $20) selling for just eight bucks. The decor is nice, the bar spacious, the servers friends. I’ll check it out for a review as soon as I can. (Until then, check out some photos from the opening below.)

If you want to have a beautiful evening at a more established steakhouse, SER Steak + Spirits at the top of the Anatole has quite an offer for you. On Wednesday (Nov. 11), the restaurant is hosting an exclusive wine dinner … well, really a champagne dinner.

Clovis Taittinger, the eldest child of Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger who heads the legendary estate (based in Riems, France) will present bubbly pairings from his brand at the four-course dinner (plus dessert). Among the items served will be the latest cuvee, a 2006 Comtes de Champagne blanc de blanc. It’s very limited seating, so they haven’t even revealed the price, but if you want to check out the rare experience, call 214-761-7479. The dinner begins with a reception at 6:30 p.m.

You probably will spend a lot less on Wednesday if you attend a beer dinner at Kent Rathbun‘s newest restaurant, Hickory. Franconia Brewery will serve local craft beers matched to the four-course dinner, for $55. For reservations, call 972-712-7077.

Knife Fight 1Former Rathbun chef Tre Wilcox will compete tonight on the Esquire Network’s new series Knife Fight, airing at 9:30 p.m. Wilcox will face off against Spanish chef Luis Bollo of NYC’s Salinas (the judge is former Top Chef winner Ilan Hall) … On Monday, Nov. 16, NorthPark Center‘s latest eatery, chef Tim ByresThe Theodore, opens. … This Saturday is the Indian holiday of Diwali (Festival of Lights), but India Palace on Preston and LBJ will celebrate on Wednesday with a special dinner, offered from 5:30–10 p.m. … closer to the gayborhood, Scott Gottlich‘s new Kansas City-style barbecue joint, 18h and Vine (located locally on Maple Avenue), is open for lunch and dinner.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Kennedy Davenport needs your help

KennedyDavenport-edWhen we interviewed Drag Race contestant and local drag diva Kennedy Davenport earlier this year, we talked about how she was still living in the same Oak Cliff home where she grew up. But recently, that situation was called into question. Following the death of her father, Kennedy continued to pay the mortgage, but now the mortgage company has called in a balloon payment of $33,000 due around Dec. 15. So Kennedy has started a GoFundMe page asking for fans’ support in raising the money so that she and four other family members can stay in their home. After less than a week, Kennedy has already raised approximately half of the money (impressively, from about 550 donations), but there’s still a way to go. Click on the link if you want to help out.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Sylvia Rivera photo enters National Portrait Gallery

TransgalllerySylvia Rivera, the trans activist who shot to prominence as one of the leaders of the Stonewall Riots, has been a polarizing character in gay rights, but her influence is undeniable. So prominent is she, it might be surprising it took until last month for her to become the first trans person enshrined in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. The gelatin silver print from 2000 (also featuring Christina Hayworth and Julia Murray) was taken by Luis Carle. Congrats to the trans community.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Cocktail Friday: Halloween Edition, Part 3

Dram-BOO-ie Royale

Dram-BOO-ie Royale

I know what you’re thinkin’: Halloween was last month! Geez! But follow, drinkers: Halloween is Gay Christmas, and like Christmas, it needs more like 12 days to celebrate, not one (heck, we even do the parade and the costume party on separate nights!). So, here are a few more fun concoctions. And remember: You can’t spell “devilish” without “delish.”

Dram-BOO-ie Royale

This honeyed take on the kir royale sounds frightfully good.

1 oz. Drambuie

1 oz. Hendrick’s gin

1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice

1/2 oz. honey syrup

2 oz. champagne

Making it: Combine all the ingredients except the champagne in a shaker will ice and go to town. Strain into a flute. Finish by slowly topping with bubbly.




1 oz. Solerno blood orange liqueur

1 oz. fresh beet juice

1 oz. fresh carrot juice

1 oz. orange juice

1/2 oz. lemon juice

1/2 oz. fresh ginger juice

Making it: Roll ingredients with ice in a shaker and strain over fresh ice ins rocks glass. Garnish with a slice of ginger.

The Haunted Spirit

The Haunted Spirit


The Haunted Spirit

2 oz. Reyka vodka

3/4 oz/ fresh lemon juice

3/4 oz. mulled wine syrup

Making it: Make the syrup by reducing 32 oz. of red wine, 32 oz. sugar and 4 oz. of muling spices for 10 minutes, and allowing to cool (save the leftovers). Then pour all ingredients in a shaker with ice and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a spidery clove of star anise.


—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Shaken, not stirring: ‘Spectre’ falls short

DanielGCraigSpectreFollowing the artistic, entertainment and box-office success of 2012′s Skyfall, it seemed inevitable that the newest James Bond venture, Spectre, would pale, at least a little, by comparison. But there was reason to hope: Much of the creative team was back (star Daniel Craig and a solid supporting cast, director Sam Mendes, co-screenwriter John Logan and of course the folks at Eon Productions) and the through-line that has been developing since Craig took over — Bond’s slow development from thuggish assassin to sophisticated Ahab, hunting his white whale — continues. The tetralogy of Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall and now this are effectively a mini-series within the larger universe of Bond. These are good things.

But we have now been given the longest-ever Bond film, and one that, despite all the punching, often fails to pack a punch. And I’m not sure why.

The cold-open stunt (one of the tropes of 007), featuring an out-of-control helicopter twirling over Mexico City’s jam-packed main plaza, feels only non-threatening, like acrobats working with a net. A car chase through the nighttime streets of Rome is the least thrilling ground action I can recall from the series, and the romantic scenes lack spark. It is, as King Mongkut might have said, “a puzzlement:” Every element is there, but they don’t ignite. Where’s the fire amid all this smoke?

But while the alchemy is missing here, Spectre isn’t a disaster by any stretch. Quantum was one of the worst entries in the canon, this one is merely a disappointment. Maybe it’s us — maybe we’ve grown tired of the recurring bits that make Bond films so iconic (I did enjoy Sam Smith’s theme song played over thoughtful opening credits). And the care with which the screenwriters have taken to develop James’ character and tie together plot threads from the last three films before finally reintroducing us to Blofeld (MI6′s nemesis in the past, who hasn’t been seen since 1981… perhaps because Austin Powers’ Dr. Evil made him seem less diabolical than comic). And though he gets too-little screen time, Christoph Waltz ably captures Blofeld’s abiding insanity — sort of a psychological flip-side to James, and the successor to Heath Ledger’s Joker.

Spectre has too many positives like these to completely write it off, but best to go in open-eyed and skeptical. Expectations will do you in.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Stage reviews: ‘Grand Hotel,’ ‘Picnic’

Pyeatt and Deaton in ‘Grand Hotel’

Maybe you can blame the rain, but opening night at Lyric Stage‘s production of Grand Hotel was not a sellout, and that’s a shame. For some years now, Lyric has been doing the kind of musicals no one does anymore outside the opera world: Large-scale, huge cast, full-orchestra full-on revivals of classics of the Golden Age of B’way and beyond. It’s easy to get folks excited about Rodgers & Hammerstein and Sondheim; it’s a harder sell, apparently, to let them know just how good a forgotten hit like Grand Hotel is (in ran from 1989–1992, and won Tommy Tune one of his gazillion Tony Awards).

The upside is, you should be able to score some good seats to the final performances of the show, being given a glorious production in Carpenter Hall. The score, largely rewritten by the great Maury Yeston prior to its original opening, is a lush and extravagant old-school collection of waltzes and jazz and assorted genres that all come together in a sung-through presentation. When Christopher J. Deaton — playing the beleaguered, cash-strapped, but endlessly charming Baron — hits the final note on the ballad “Love Can’t Happen,” you’re convinced we are living in our own Golden Age of musicals … and its center is Irving, Texas.

Grand Hotel is a portmanteau of stories, all intertwining in the lobbies and suites of a Berlin luxury hotel in the interbellum just before the Great Depression. A beset bellhop (Anthony Fortino) must choose between career and family (and the unwanted advances of his supervisor); a 50-ish ballerina (Mary-Margaret Pyeatt) struggles with self-doubt while her devoted, closeted assistant confidante (Jacie Hood Wencel) pines unrequited; a dying bookkeeper (Andy Baldwin, who lets loose in a heart-breaking turn) finds new meaning when he meets an conniving secretary (Taylor Quick) intent on becoming a star; and on and on. Fully 28 actors appear with three dozen musicians, hoofing and huffing for two-and-a-half hours. This truly is a grand Hotel.


Maya Pearson, Stephanie Dunnam, Haulston Mann, John Ruesegger and Grace Montie in ‘Picnic’ (Photo by Linda Harrison)

Over at Theatre 3, things are getting steamy with William Inge’s satire of sexual hypocrisy, Picnic. Inge was a closeted gay man who explored the realities of sex in the 1950s in a way no one other than Tennessee Williams was attempting, but unlike Williams’ Southern Gothic excesses, Inge imbued his stories with a Midwestern sensibility. Blanche DuBois was unstable; schoolmarm Rosemary is simply horny and desperate.

People were horny before the sexual revolution, something that made Inge’s plays a decade earlier seem quaint; he fell out of favor in the 1960s, after winning an Oscar for Splendor in the Grass, one of the most frank depictions of teenaged puppy love put onscreen.

Sex oozes from Picnic, especially in the persona of Hal Carter, played by Haulston Mann. Mann (aptly named) is a muscular, cocky sort, who doesn’t walk on the stage so much as he struts across it. His drool-worthy physique sets the women of this small Kansas town aflutter with desire, from high-school tomboy Millie (Maya Pearson) to randy ol’ gal Mrs. Potts (Georgia Clinton) and the aforementioned Rosemary, played to tragicomic perfection by Amber Devlin. Rosemary pretends to be happily spinstered, renting a room in the house of the widowed Mrs. Owens (Stephanie Dunnam), but secretly craves a man, even if it’s perpetual bachelor Howard (David Benn, who looks like Mitt Romney but who gets a whole lot more sympathy).

Hal’s appearance primarily screws up the budding romance between Millie’s sister Madge (Grace Montie) and her beau, town rich-kid Alan (John Ruegsegger), an old fraternity brother of Hal. Hal “ruins” Madge, but also sets her free. That’s the irony of sex in the 1950s: Folks were starting to realize it wasn’t shameful, but liberating.

Picnic can feel clunky at times (the bromance between Hal and Alan reeks of awkward homoeroticism, and their discussions feel forced), but it can be unexpectedly funny (Inge himself called it a romantic comedy), but the cast at work here — especially Devlin, Ruegsegger and often Mann — makes it endlessly watchable. It’s enjoyable to rediscover a nearly-forgotten classic of midcentury theater.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Drive-by tasting: Cedar Springs Tap House

IMG_6052It was rainy last weekend — the kind of day you just want to work a half-day and snuggle up with cocoa and a Labrador in your lap. But a man’s gotta eat, too, and work, and so some of us from the office carpooled over to the Cedar Springs Tap House in the ilume. Why? Because of a lunch deal we couldn’t resist: Burger and a Beer. The deal is pretty simple: Come in for lunch 11 a.m.–3 p.m. Monday through Friday, and you can get a burger with all the fixins and fries (or fish and chips), plus a half-sized draft beer, for $5. Sounded too good to be true.

But it wasn’t! We enjoyed our custom-ordered burgers (even though mine came with onions when I asked for none and no cheese) as well as the cold, refreshing brew that was just what gave the day its capper. The burger and fries were both surprisingly good (for five bucks, you never know what to expect) and the vibe at CSTH is friendly and fun. There’s also an evening deal on Wednesdays of a ribeye steak and baked potato. Not a bad way to get your protein when you’re hungry and on a budget.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

LISTEN: Judy Garland gets schooled on how to sing ‘The Trolley Song’

CMSGays love our Judy Garland. I mean, how can you not? The talent, the pain, the tragedy, the voice (and, incidentally, the Stonewall Riots). She had a plaintive, sad, powerful voice that she wielded brilliantly on standards like “Over the Rainbow,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “The Man That Got Away,” “Get Happy” and, of course, “The Trolley Song.” But I just head a cover from jazz artist Cecile McLorin Salvant. I know it’s probably heresy to say, but the way she adapts and arranges this classic novelty song elevates it … even above the original, in my view. Take a listen (below). What do you think?

—  Arnold Wayne Jones