‘We must make noise’

Speaking at Black Tie Dinner, deaf activist and actress Marlee Matlin urges LGBT community to never give up the fight

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TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Recalling the barriers she has faced as a hearing-impaired person in a hearing world, and especially as a hearing-impaired actress in the entertainment industry, Academy Award winner Marlee Matlin told the capacity audience at the 30th annual Black Tie Dinner last weekend that “we must make noise as often as we can” to win the fight for equality.

Matlin recalled how she overcame the barrier of her hearing impairment as a child, and later while working in the entertainment industry, with the support of her family and friends.

When critic Rex Reed said that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science members voted Matlin best actress winner in 1986 for her role in Children of a Lesser God, they only did so out of pity, Matlin said it was her old friend Henry Winkler who “reminded me that I could be anything I wanted to be.”

And when she was attacked by a “small but vocal” group of deaf activists for speaking rather than signing the names of the nominees when she presented the 1988 best actor Oscar, Matlin said it was Whoopi Goldberg who told her, “Girl, it’s time to do what’s right for you.”

It was the guidance and friendship she got from them and from other friends and family that helped her defy the critics and overcome the obstacles in her path.

“No one should ever take no for an answer,” Matlin told the Black Tie audience, speaking in sign translated. “We can break down the barriers of prejudice if we work together. Every day, I vow never to give up the fight.”

While tying the fight for LGBT equality to her own battle to overcome prejudice against the deaf and others with physical challenges, Matlin also explained her own personal tie to the LGBT community, other than her role as a lesbian on The L Word: One of her brothers is gay.

When her brother told their parents he is gay, Matlin said, “They said that was OK, as long as he settled down and married a doctor.” Today, she added, her brother and his partner, a doctor, have been together for 26 years.

“We have to make noise,” Matlin continued. “We must all make noise on Twitter, on Facebook. We must make noise to our elected officials, as often as we can. We must fight every day until hate and discrimination are eliminated.”

And, she said, those fighting for equality can’t allow their opponents to set up barriers to deflect them from their goals.

“The only barriers out there for all of us are all up here, in our minds,” she said. “There are those who try to handicap our minds with hate, with fear and prejudice. We cannot let them do that.”

Matlin capped off an evening that included a speech by Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese and entertainment by emcee Caroline Rhea and singer Taylor Dayne.

This was the first year the Black Tie committee has brought in someone to emcee the dinner, and Rhea kept the audience laughing throughout the night. The comedian also helped pump up proceeds for the event by donating two tickets to attend Hugh Jackman’s one-man show now on Broadway with Rhea, and then meet Jackman after the show. Two individuals paid $12,500 each for the tickets.

Dayne and a single back-up singer, performing a mixture of her new songs and her iconic hits, had the audience dancing in the aisles and crowding the edge of the stage, raising their smart phones to take photos and shoot video as Dayne danced and sang.

Also during the evening, gay veteran Eric Alva, a former Marine who was the first U.S. serviceman injured in the invasion of Iraq, was presented with the Elizabeth Birch Equality Award for his work in pushing for repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, gay actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson of ABC’s Modern Family was presented with the Media Award, and local advocates Chet Flake and his partner, the late Bud Knight, were presented with the Raymond Kuchling  Humanitarian Award.

In accepting the award, Alva said that although in the days immediately following his injury — he lost a leg when he stepped on a land mine — he wished he would have died, he has since found renewed purpose in advocating for LGBT equality, in the military and elsewhere.

“I just could not resolve the sacrifice I made with the way my country treated me like a second-class citizen,” Alva said. “I’ll stay in the fight with you, and we will stay in the fight together until it’s finished.”

In accepting the Kuchling Award, Flake explained that he and Knight had never consciously decided to volunteer in the LGBT community — “It just happened. And one thing just led to another. When we saw something that needed to be done, we just tried to do it.”

Flake also applauded the progress the LGBT community has made. “Dallas has evolved tremendously,” he said. “Our community has become more respected, because people have become more educated.”

Black Tie Co-chairs Nan Arnold and Chris Kouvelis noted during the dinner on Saturday that tickets to the events had been sold out since August, the earliest sell-out in the event’s history.

Arnold said this week that final totals have not yet been determined. She said checks will be distributed to Black Tie’s 17 local beneficiaries and to the Human Rights Campaign during a reception Dec. 15 at the Dallas Museum of Art.

—  Kevin Thomas

Starvoice • 08.19.11

By Jack Fertig

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAYMarlee+Matlin

Marlee Matlin turns 46 on Thursday. Matlin is the youngest woman at 21 to win the Oscar for best actress for Children of a Lesser God in 1981. She gained a new fan base by going lesbian as art professor Jodi Lerner in The L Word. She placed second in this year’s season of The Celebrity Apprentice.

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THIS WEEK

Venus and the sun entering Virgo should point the way to clean, simple aesthetics, but aspecting Uranus and Pluto on the way could trigger some very drastic housecleaning. Thorough is good; ruthless, not so much. “Pirate Jenny” captures the dark side. Nina Simone sings it on YouTube.

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VIRGO Aug 23-Sep 22
Every birthday brings you closer to your remaining accomplishments. Consider how you can change the world. Your most daring ideas need harnessing and work. What’s stopping you?

LIBRA Sep 23-Oct 22
Your situation at home provokes anxieties. Focus on your responses. With focus, you can minimize the angst. With clearer insights you improve the external situations triggering them.

SCORPIO Oct 23-Nov 21
When friends get on your nerves, shrug it off. Turn that irritability into productive criticism. Think before speaking, to improve techniques and productivity without dissing your colleagues.

SAGITTARIUS Nov 22-Dec 20
If you must channel Bette Davis at work, be harder on yourself than everyone else. Being brilliant doesn’t get you ahead; getting the job done does. Stay on track and get the job done brilliantly.

CAPRICORN Dec 21-Jan 19
Turn that critical mind on your own roots, your sense of your childhood and family. Talking with siblings can help if you can listen with open heart and mind. It may not be easy.

AQUARIUS Jan 20-Feb 18
Focus on sexual health. A complete physical check-up is always a good thing. Meditate also on your needs and desires. Are they at odds? Are they realistic? You may have some hard choices.

PISCES Feb 19-Mar 19
Feeling the pinch can strain a relationship. As long as your partnership comes first, pooling resources makes any future more affordable.

ARIES Mar 20-Apr 19
Rushing to succeed, you step on colleague’s toes. Apologize and exercise some foresight and consideration. Your teamwork skills are key to maximizing your own accomplishments.

TAURUS Apr 20-May 20
Your idea of fun has more to do with embroidery or repairing furniture than shaking your bootie. Taking on challenges doesn’t mean following a herd. Your friends love you as you are.

GEMINI May 21-Jun 20
Reconciling family issues and sexual values is more complicated than hiding the “gay” when Mom comes to visit. When tempted to criticize relatives, try asking questions instead.

CANCER Jun 21-Jul 22
Dressing and acting like a martinet could start a hot scene in the bedroom; in real life it’s a turn-off. Keep your eyes and ears open; your words well-measured and discrete.

LEO Jul 23-Aug 22
Sexual healing is real; shopping isn’t. Amorous adventures at least offer possible rewards along with the risk. Think ahead about your financial, spiritual and physical health in any event.

Jack Fertig can be reached at 415-864-8302 or Starjack.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 19, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Oscar recap

The gayest film in this year’s Oscar race, The Kids Are All Right, went home empty-handed, but lesbian-themed Black Swan — with Natalie Portman as a sexually confused ballerina — took best actress and at least two openly gay winners ascended to the podium during Sunday’s incredibly dull ceremony.

Lora Hirschberg, co-winner of best sound mixing for Inception, sent a shout out to her wife, and Iain Canning, lead producer on best picture winner The King’s Speech, thanked his boyfriend during the three-hour-plus telecast that saw James Franco seeming as bored as the rest of us … although looking smoking hot in a white leotard at one point.

My own predictions proved fairly accurate, including the best live action short God of Love with a gay gag.

The only standing ovation I saw was for Billy Crystal, who hosted eight times. That was a signal: Let’s rise for the guy who actually did a good job hosting this show.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Oscars not exactly gay heaven, but we’ll take it

Many gays are still smarting from the upset victory of Crash over Brokeback Mountain at the Oscars five years ago, but somehow, the lack of a clear frontrunner among many of the gay-content pictures this time around doesn’t feel as dramatic. Still, here would be the ideal queer surprises at the awards (they air Sunday at 6:30 p.m. on ABC).

Best picture, best original screenplay: Lisa Cholodenko’s lesbian family film The Kids Are All Right, is up for four awards, including best picture, which it won’t win. But Cholodenko and her co-screenwriter Stuart Blumberg have an outside shot at a writing award. They are up against the favorite, David Seidler for The King’s Speech (which also has the momentum for best picture). Then again, Seidler’s other screen credits include several animated films and a made for TV movie with Liz Taylor. It’s not like giving it to the lesbian would insult his art. And if King’s Speech does beat The Kids … well, everyone can root for a queen, and there are several in that movie. And gay uber-producer Scott Rudin is twice nominated, for The Social Network and True Grit. Pretty good odds.

Best actress: For a time, Annette Bening, pictured above, seemed a strong sentimental favorite to win as the totally gay half of the complex relationship in Kids, but Natalie Portman has come on strong with her SAG and Globe wins for Black Swan. Still, Portman’s character has same-sex fantasies about her dance rival Mila Kunis, so the LGBT community can claim a victory if either wins.

Best supporting actor: Mark Ruffalo as the straight dad in Kids is a longshot, as is Jeremy Renner, the villain in The Town (and, if Perez Hilton is to be believed, gay himself). They’ll probably lose to Christian Bale in The Fighter, but any would add a little hottie beefcake to the acceptance podium.

Live action short: Here’s an office pool tie-breaker you can get behind. Among the largely un-gay short film nominees is God of Love, pictured, a Jim Jarmusch-esque comedy about a homely man who acquires the power of Cupid. He uses it to seduce women … and at least one man. It’s quirky and fun, and among a perfectly fine slate of nominees, the stand-out.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition.

—  John Wright

A very gay night at the Golden Globes

The Golden Globes were about as gay as an awards ceremony can get Sunday night, with plenty of queer winners across the TV and film categories.

The Kids Are All Right, lesbian director Lisa Cholodenko’s family portrait of two gay women, won best picture/comedy or musical and best actress/comedy for Annette Bening. The Cher-sung song “You Haven’t Heard the Last of Me” from Burlesque, won best song. Scott Rudin, the gay producer whom screenwriter Aaron Sorkin declared the greatest living producer of film, won best picture/drama for The Social Network.

But TV was where the gays really succeeded. Glee, from gay creator Ryan Murphy, won best TV comedy series, as well as best supporting performers for the of the openly gay cast members, Chris Colfer and Jane Lynch. Lynch thanked her wife and kids, and Colfer, visibly surprised, gave a shout-out to fighting anti-gay bullying. Best actor in a TV comedy went to gay actor Jim Parsons for The Big Bang Theory, who mentioned his husband Todd without referring to him as his life partner.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Victoria, victor

Tony-winning Dallasite Victoria Clark comes home for concert with TWCD

MARK LOWRY  | marklowry@theaterjones.com

V-Clark-3
Victoria Clark

Wyly Theatre
2400 Flora St.
Dec. 19. 7 p.m. $20–$48. 214-520-7828.
TheWomensChorusofDallas.com

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Broadway was not what Victoria Clark had expected.

The Hockaday School graduate always knew she wanted to perform, studying opera in Austria and at Michigan’s prestigious Interlochen Arts Academy and matriculating Yale University before headed for New York’s Great White Way. She had a vision of what it would be like.

“I thought everyone was going to come to work with big moustaches and capes and be drinking and crazy,” she says, laughing. “But they would say things like ‘I couldn’t find a parking space’ or ‘my son is having trouble in English,’ talking about what normal people talk about. I think I wanted them to be more eccentric.”

Some 25 years after her first show (she was cast as an understudy in Stephen Sondheim’s Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Sunday in the Park with George), Clark has proven that the normalcy of working in New York theater is just fine — and that you can make a living at it (with insurance and benefits, even).

She had supporting roles in revivals of Guys and Dolls, How to Succeed… and  Cabaret, then won a best actress Tony Award in 2006 for the Adam Guettel-Craig Lucas musical The Light in the Piazza. She takes center stage again this weekend, as she returns home to perform with

The Women’s Chorus of Dallas in its annual holiday concert at the Wyly Theatre.

Clark grew up in the Greenway Park area near Inwood Road and Mockingbird Lane. Although her parents weren’t especially artistic, their children found outlets for creativity. Clark’s brothers dabbled in bands, and her sister, Dawn Prestwich, became a screenwriter with an impressive list of television writing credits.

For Clark, though, it was all about singing — something her grandmother encouraged. She also developed a love for it at Hockaday, where she attended all 12 years, and became involved in drama as well.

“I remember that we learned to do everything,” she says. “We made the blintzes for You Can’t Take It With You and then ate them [in the show].”

One of her instructors, Ed Long, who’s still at Hockaday, encouraged her to attend Interlochen. Her choral director at First Community

Church, Don Herman, and Ed DeLatte of the now-closed Dallas Repertory Theatre, were both influential in pushing her to keep training her voice.

So she did, always finding the not-so-strange world of New York theater a welcoming place. She admits there have been many missed opportunities along the way, such as when she didn’t take the offer to workshop one of the Stepsisters in Sondheim’s Into the Woods (“When you get in early in a job like that, unless you kick someone in the shin or something like that, and you do a reasonable job, they ask the same group back”).

But one big opp she wasn’t about to pass over was Margaret Johnson, the American mother on vacation in Italy whose daughter falls for a hunky Italian man (played by Glee’s Matthew Morrison), in The Light in the Piazza.

“We did it three times, in Seattle and Chicago and then New York, and the show kept getting better and better,” she says. “The part was not written for me, but by the end I felt that it was. Pretty quickly they liked what I was doing with it.”

But even after 20 years of working in New York at that point, she was still not always confident. “Like every project, every day I was afraid I would get the call and they would tell me I was going to be replaced. Luckily Adam is very picky about voices and he liked my singing. That’s the one thing I could bring: I have a distinctive sound.”

That sound might bring her to Broadway again this spring, in a project that she can’t talk about yet. And it’s one that will charm audiences on

Sunday night with the Women’s Chorus. She’ll sing “Fable,” her big number from Piazza, as well as songs from her 2008 debut record, Fifteen Seconds of Grace, along with carols with the chorus.

And it’s a good bet that there won’t be any eccentrics with moustaches and capes hanging backstage — unless you count Santa.

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

—  Kevin Thomas

I wish I were Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep, left, and Sandra Bullock celebrate their joint Best Actress win at the Critics Choice Awards
Meryl Streep, left, and Sandra Bullock celebrate their joint Best Actress win at the Critics Choice Awards

Okay. I never thought I’d say this, but I wish I were Meryl Streep. Or actually, I wish I had been in Meryl Streep’s place last Friday night at the Critics Choice Awards when Sandra Bullock laid one on Meryl!

I don’t watch awards shows, or keep up with them at all, but apparently Bullock and Streep tied for the Critics Choice Best Actress award (Streep for her role in “Julie & Julia” and Bullock for her role in “The Blind Side”). And Sandra grabbed hold and gave Meryl a big ol’ smooch to celebrate.

Then at the Golden Globe Awards on Sunday, Streep won Best Actress in a comedy and Bullock won Best Actress in a drama. From what I read at GossipSauce.com, they are both up for Best Actress at the SAG Awards this coming Sunday and at the Oscars.

Ms. Bullock, if you’re out there somewhere reading this, just let me make one thing perfectly clear: I have always loved you, and if you wanted to stop by the Dallas Voice offices some day and give me a big ol’ kiss, I wouldn’t mind at all. Even my wife wouldn’t mind!

—  admin