Chaz Bono to receive Elizabeth Birch Equality Award
 at Black Tie Dinner

Chaz Bono

Chaz Bono will receive this year’s Elizabeth Birch Equality Award, co-chairs of the 2012 Black Tie Dinner announced today.

“While Chaz has found fulfillment in his work as a national activist, one of his greatest values in the GLBT community lies in reaching out and raising awareness on a grassroots level among young minds,” said Black Tie Dinner Co-Chair Chris Kouvelis. “Via his high national profile, Chaz continues to create visibility, increase awareness and impact change for transgender issues.”

Chaz Bono is an LGBT rights advocate, author and speaker. Most recently, Chaz received the GLAAD Media Award and was honored for his OWN documentary, Becoming Chaz, which chronicled the struggles of his gender reassignment journey. He also received the Stephen F. Kolzak Award, which is given by GLAAD to an LGBT entertainer for promoting equality. Chaz embarked on uncharted territory last fall when he appeared on Dancing With The Stars.

Born Chastity, to Sonny and Cher Bono, Chaz came out as a lesbian to his parents at 18 in 1987. He did not come out publicly until April 1995 in an interview with The Advocate, and spoke about it publicly on the air for the first time ever on Lambda Weekly when he was in Dallas for National Coming Out Day

Chaz has contributed as a writer-at-large to The Advocate and became spokesperson for the HRC, promoting National Coming Out Day. Chaz also served as Entertainment Media Director for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

The Elizabeth Birch Equality Award honors national leaders, and is given in recognition of the inspirational leadership of former Human Rights Campaign Executive Director Elizabeth Birch. This award is given to an individual, organization or company that has made a significant contribution of national scope to the LGBT community.

Birch received the first award and last year decorated veteran Eric Alva, the first servicemember injured in the Iraq War received the honor. Other recipients have included Showtime Networks/Robert Greenblatt, Alan Cumming, Sharon Stone, Bishop V. Gene Robinson, Judy Shepard and American Airlines.

—  David Taffet

Lucilo Peña to receive Kuchling Award

Lucilo Peña

Architect Lucilo Peña will receive the prestigious Kuchling Humanitarian Award at this year’s Black Tie Dinner, the event’s co-chairs announced in a release today. Peña, who currently serves as president at Billingsley Co. in Dallas, is a longtime supporter of local LGBT and arts organizations.

He served on the national board of the Human Rights Campaign from 2000 to 2008. Locally, Peña served as co-chair of HRC’s Major Donor and Capital Campaign committees, and as a founding committee member for “Straight Talk on Gay Issues,” a series of events to reach out to allies.

Peña has been a trustee of the Dallas Museum of Art and a member of DMA’s Executive Committee since 2002. He’s been a member of the Board of Directors of the AT&T Performing Arts Center since 2010 and helped create the AT&T PAC/Gay and Lesbian Fund for Dallas, the release states.

The Kuchling Humanitarian Award is given to individuals who have made extraordinary gifts of their time and talents on behalf of the LGBT community. It is named for the late Raymond Kuchling, former manager of economic development for the city of Dallas and a founder of the organization that became Black Tie Dinner Inc. For a full list of previous Kuchling winners, go here.

“It will be an honor to present the prestigious Kuchling Humanitarian Award to this outstanding community leader this fall,” BTD co-chair Chris Kouvelis said. “Lucilo ideally reflects our theme for this year’s dinner: ‘Affair of the Heart.’ In whatever Lucilo gets involved, it is truly an affair of his heart, and he pours his heart into every project. He is an inspiration.”

Last month, Black Tie announced that J.C. Penney will receive this year’s Media Award. Black Tie has yet to announce the winner of the Elizabeth Birch Equality Award. The 2012 dinner is set for Saturday, Nov. 3 at the Sheraton Hotel Dallas. For more info, including tickets and sponsorship opportunities, go here.

Read the full release after the jump.

—  John Wright

LISTEN: MicahB and Kyan Loredo team for “Never Fail” (and will perform it Friday)

As a producer, songwriter and DJ, MicahB carved himself a healthy niche of gigs within the community. From major fundraisers like Black Tie Dinner to his weekly ’80s themed happy hour Cocktails. Then he bounced on out of here to relocate to West Hollywood to further his musical endeavors. And now we have proof of that.

He teamed up with singer Kyan Loredo for this latest track “Never Fail.” And as MicahB returns to Dallas this weekend, he brings Loredo with him to perform the song at Friday’s special edition of Cocktails.

“He will be performing our song which has been going off at the clubs here in West Hollywood and we’re excited to showcase it in our old stomping grounds,” he posted on his Facebook event notice for Friday.

In the meantime, here’s the recorded version of “Never Fail.”

—  Rich Lopez

Black Tie kicks off season with FW reception

FORT WORTH — Black Tie Dinner kicked off the season with a reception at the T&P railroad building in Fort Worth on Thursday night.

BTD Co-Chairs Mitzi Lemons and Chris Kouvelis announced the theme for this year’s dinner — “An Affair of the Heart.”

“‘An Affair of the Heart’ is exactly what Black Tie Dinner is,” Kouvelis said. “Thousands of people coming together solely to make a difference in the lives of so many.”

Holding the event in Fort Worth was a first for the dinner committee. The location was the lobby of the restored train station that has been renovated into lofts and is the western terminus for the Trinity Railway Express that originates at Union Station in Dallas.

About 250 people attended.

The 31st Black Tie Dinner will be held on Nov. 3 at the Sheraton Dallas.

—  David Taffet

Scenes from the 2011 Black Tie Dinner — Part I

Photos by Chuck Dube (Dallas Voice/MarceloMedia)

PLEASE NOTE: Images will take a few moments to load.


—  John Wright

Scenes from the 2011 Black Tie Dinner — Part II

Photos by Chuck Dube (Dallas Voice/MarceloMedia)

PLEASE NOTE: Images will take a moment to load.


—  John Wright

Taylor Dayne can’t stop the music

Taylor Dayne can’t stop the music

More than 20 years after she packed the gay bar dance floors with her debut hits, the songstress is still going strong, and says her performance at Black Tie is a ‘win-win’ for her and her fans

Dayne.TaylorRich Lopez  |  Staff Writer

Helping out LGBT people is nothing new for singer Taylor Dayne.

She can’t quite recall when she knew she was a hit with the gay community: Over the course of her 23-year career in pop music, she’s played venues of all sizes, but she did notice early on how a certain fan base seemed to keep showing up.

“It’s kinda hard to remember, but I would perform very specific shows and then some gay clubs and it dawned on me,” she said.

With an explosive debut, thanks to her platinum selling 1988 debut Tell It To My Heart and the more sophisticated follow-up Can’t Fight Fate a year later, Dayne became a quick force to be reckoned with on the charts.

But her pop hits were just as big on the dance floor, and Dayne was resonating across the queer landscape.

“I’ve had wonderful relationship with gay and lesbian fans for years. I’m so glad to be doing Black Tie because I have a great core of fan base here,” she said. “It’ll be a good show with lots of fun and for a good cause. It’s a win-win.”

Dayne’s performed at gay bars and Pride events in Boston, Chicago and the Delaware Pride Festival. But appreciation of her work in the community was clearly evident in 2010 when she was asked to record “Facing a Miracle” as the anthem for the Gay Games.

“That was quite an honor and then they asked me to perform at the games,” she said. “It was very emotional for me. The roar of the crowd was great.”

Even after two decades, Dayne remains just as committed to music as she was in 1988. She’s embraces her sort of “elder” status in pop music and instead of seeing the likes of Nikki Minaj and Katy Perry as rivals, she enjoys what they are bringing to the landscape of music now.

“I love listening to all the new stuff going on. There is some great talent out there. It’s nice to know I was some inspiration to them, the way ladies like Debbie Harry and Pat Benatar were for me. The cycle goes on,” Dayne said.

But they still push her to keep in the game. She admitted, “I’m pretty competitive that way.”

This year, Dayne released the single, “Floor on Fire,” which made it to the Billboard Dance/Club Charts Top 10.

At 49, Dayne doesn’t show signs of slowing. Along with a rumored second greatest hits album, she recently wrapped up filming the indie movie Telling of the Shoes and she’s a single mother to 9-year-old twins. Juggling it all is a mix of emotions, but her confidence pushes her through.

“I can say I’m a great singer, so when it comes to decisions, I’m fine about recording and performing,” she said. “But I would say I work really hard at acting. It’s nerve-wracking but it’s also amazing. But I’m not a novice at any of this.”

With her children, she doesn’t make any pretenses about the difficulty of being both a musician and a mom — as long as she instills the proper principles in them.

“We don’t try to get wrapped up in small time crap,” she said. “At the end of day it’s about having a good heart and they have great heart.”

It’s likely she’ll show the same at Black Tie.

—  Rich Lopez

Solmonese fears 2012 setback


LAST NIGHT | Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese speaks at a previous Black Tie Dinner in Dallas. Solmonese will be leaving HRC next March, making this weekend’s event the last Black Tie Dinner he will attend as president of the national LGBT advocacy organization.

Outgoing HRC president says community must fight for Obama

JOHN WRIGHT | Senior Political Writer

Joe Solmonese admits he’s “very concerned” about President Barack Obama’s prospects for re-election.

But Solmonese says he’s equally concerned about how the LGBT community — and his successor at the Human Rights Campaign — would respond if Obama loses.

Solmonese will step down as president of HRC after seven years in March. On Saturday, Nov. 12, he’ll make his final appearance as the group’s president at the Black Tie Dinner, of which HRC is the national beneficiary.

In an interview last month with Dallas Voice, Solmonese focused largely on the importance of 2012 elections, saying that depending on their outcome, major advances during his tenure could be all but erased.

“I don’t think that he’s going to lose,” Solmonese said at one point, attempting to clarify his assessment of Obama’s chances. “I think that if everybody does what they need to do, I think there is just as good a chance that Barack Obama will be re-elected, but I’m as concerned that he could lose.”

Solmonese said Republicans already have a majority in the House, Democrats have only a slim majority in the Senate, and “everything about these [2012] elections points to us having real challenges.”

“I think that if everybody who has gained from the Obama administration does everything they need to do over the course of the next year, he’ll get re-elected,” Solmonese said. “But I would be lying if I said I’m not very concerned about the prospects of him getting re-elected.”

Solmonese said the message he wants to send to the LGBT community is that Obama has done more for us than any other president, and that the movement has seen more gains under the current administration than at any other time in its history.

“If we care about continuing with the forward motion that we’ve experienced, then we as a community need to do everything possible to re-elect Barack Obama,” Solmonese said. “And we can talk about and debate and press the administration on his ability to do more, and him coming out for marriage, or anything else that we want to talk about, but now is the time to sort of decouple that from all of the work we need to put into getting him re-elected. Because at the end of the day, it comes down to a choice, and the choice isn’t even hard for me: It’s Barack Obama or any of these other people who are running against him.”

Despite his concerns about Obama’s chances, Solmonese said he has no misgivings about leaving HRC seven months prior to Election Day. He said he made a commitment to give the organization six months notice, and his contract expires in March.

He said announcing his resignation at the end of August allowed HRC to begin the transition process, which will be completed when his successor takes over, midway through the Republican primary. Solmonese also said he’ll continue to be involved with the organization through next year, assisting with its efforts around the November election.

“I’m a lot more concerned about what happens the morning after the elections,” Solmonese said. “I’m a lot more concerned about this organization and its leader being in the best possible position to navigate those waters, and either we are contemplating a second term with Obama and a continuation of our agenda and perhaps a decidedly different Congress, or we’re contemplating President Mitt Romney and all of the implications that means for our community, and I want whoever is in this seat leading this organization contemplating where we go from there, to have had some time under their belt to figure that out.”

Asked whether that means he believes Romney will be the Republican nominee, Solmonese clarified that anyone claims to know definitively “doesn’t’ know what they’re talking about” — but he added that he thinks the former Massachusetts governor is the “odds-on favorite.”

And while Romney may appear less anti-gay than some other GOP presidential hopefuls, Solmonese called him “someone you have to be careful of” because “he’s essentially beholden to no issue.”

“He adopts a position that works best for the political predicament he finds himself in,” said Solmonese, a Massachusetts native who’s watched Romney’s political career closely. “So, while he was seemingly pro-gay as he attempted to unseat Ted Kennedy, and his rhetoric isn’t harsh and he doesn’t have the same sort of narrative that a Rick Santorum has, he’s effectively said that he doesn’t believe in the repeal of ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ and that he would support the federal marriage amendment. But what we don’t know, just like we didn’t really anticipate with [President] George [W.] Bush, is how beholden he is going to feel to the hard right once he becomes president.”

It was Bush, of course, whose administration was pushing a federal marriage amendment when Solmonese joined HRC in 2005. The marriage amendment, Solmonese said, represents the worst possible thing that could happen to the LGBT community, because it would enshrine discrimination into the Constitution. And although the threat of the amendment may seem like a distant memory to some, Solmonese warned that it could easily resurface. Which is why, he said, the 2012 elections are the biggest challenge HRC faces going forward.

“I think the elections loom largest because what the elections really represent to me is the potential for us to really stop, potentially derail and ultimately set back a lot of the progress that we’ve made,” Solmonese said. “What also concerns me then is that the community be braced for that, and we understand that we’ve been in these places before, and the measure of who we are and how we’ll be defined, is how we react in those moments, the degree to which we stay in the fight and make sure we continue to press forward regardless of the outcome of the election.”

Solmonese said he fears the progress of the last several years may lead to complacency. And he said based on his experience, when the LGBT community suffers setbacks, instead of regrouping and uniting, people have a tendency to lose their way and point fingers.

“If we lose, if the outcome is negative, if we go from the march toward marriage equality and the repeal of DOMA and the positive direction that we’ve been in, to a president and a Congress who decide they’re so troubled by all the success we’re having with marriage they want to take up the fight again to pass the federal marriage amendment — well, boy, we’ve come full circle from where we were back in 2005, the last time that happened,” he said. “And you can react to that in one of two ways. You can say this is the inevitable ebb and flow of social change, so pull up your boot straps and let’s get going and turn that around again — and understand that that sort of energy that the other side has around something like that is a reaction to their own fear of the progress we’ve made — or you can become very dispirited and depressed and disenfranchised and decide that it’s our own doing, it’s our own lack of progress, it’s our own failing. And that would be the worst possible thing that we could do.”

—  John Wright

Project to document Dallas LGBT history begins

Jack Evans, left, and George Harris

A donation of $1,000 was received to help kick off PROJECT: Dallas GLBT History, and about 20 people attended the first meeting last week.

The idea of documenting the history of the LGBT community in Dallas came from Jack Evans and George Harris earlier this year around the time they celebrated their 50th anniversary.

The focus will be on organizations and events as viewed through the experiences of individuals who were involved. The group hasn’t decided how the project will be distributed.

“It was an enthusiastic group,” said Evans. “The focus will be on the history of the community as told through the eyes of those who experienced it.”

At the next meeting the group will decide the form of the project, which will probably be some combination of video and written format. To start, they will choose about three organizations and three individuals to begin remembering and documenting.

Evans said he hopes the project will be housed at the Phil Johnson Library at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center. But the video portions may also be available online.

He said that the people who attended were an incredible source of information about a variety of pieces of the Dallas LGBT community. He said Paul Williams will be invaluable in documenting the history of the Turtle Creek Chorale and several people who have been part of the Black Tie Dinner committee for years, including Mary Mallory and Robert Emery, are participating.

The next meeting will be Sept. 15 at ilume. Anyone interested in participating can contact Jack Evans and George Harris.

—  David Taffet