A win-win arrangement

The generosity of Bert Gallagher and Hudson Ferus Vodka is paying off for the new company and for the LGBT community

gallagher-and-jacobson

Bert Gallagher

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Gay Realtor Brian Bleeker knows how difficult it can be to raise money for a cause. And he knows how difficult it is for someone planning a small-scale fundraiser to find corporate sponsors for those events.

It’s not that companies don’t want to help, Bleeker said. But they plan their budget, including their charitable giving, months in advance, usually too early for those planning smaller or last-minute events to apply. The companies also usually want a lot of information on the event so they can gauge what kind of return they expect on their investment. And that is often information that organizers for smaller events don’t really have.

And then Bleeker met Bert Gallagher, cofounder and co-owner of a relatively new company producing Hudson Ferus Vodka, and that changed. Bleeker said he met Bleeker through a representative for a local liquor distributor, and he invited Gallagher to attend a mixer for the DFW Federal Club.

“It was almost two years ago, and I think he was just really impressed by the amount of time and effort people were willing to put into something we believed in,” Bleeker said.

Gallagher asked to meet with Bleeker and other local organizers, and at that meeting, “He said, ‘What can I do to help?’

Before long Gallagher had joined the DFW Federal Club and the Lambda Legal Liberty Circle, and he was donating vodka to events for those organizations and more.

And although some might be amazed that a straight man is so willing to be involved in LGBT activism, for Gallagher, it’s a no-brainer.

Gallagher and his business partner Doug Jacobson had a publication based in San Antonio before they got into the vodka business, and their first real exposure to HIV/AIDS and LGBT activism came when they were asked to sponsor the Fashion Nation event benefiting AIDS service organizations in that city.

Working with Fashion Nation organizers, Gallagher said, “gave me the chance to see firsthand how events like that can impact people’s lives. We knew then that we wanted to continue to be involved in events like that.” And when he met Bleeker and other activists in Dallas, Gallagher saw a natural extension of that involvement for Hudson Ferus.

“It was so impressive to see how organized the people are, how galvanized they are to make a difference,” Gallagher said. “The work these organizations are doing is really amazing, and that feeling has been reinforced each and every time we have sponsored an event,” he said.

Gallagher and Bleeker said that the sponsorships are definitely a win-win arrangement: Event organizers get the chance to offer free drinks made with a premium vodka, giving those attending events the chance to donate more to the cause; and the folks at Hudson Ferus are seeing their popularity rising steadily in the LGBT community.

“Folks are going in to their favorite bars and asking for Hudson Ferus, and when enough people ask for it, the bars will start stocking it. That’s how we are getting into places,” Gallagher said.

Bleeker noted that he is constantly astounded by the generosity of Gallagher and Hudson Ferus. “He has given away hundreds, thousands even, of bottles of vodka,” Bleeker said.

But for Gallagher, again, it is a no-brainer. “To whom much is given, much is expected. We have been given so much, and this is one way to give back.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Monster’s ball

Porn star Michael Brandon endured prison and drug  addiction, but his road to recovery — and to Texas — began with an unusual partner named Monster

MAN OF A CERTAIN AGE | At 46, the once-twinky Michael Brandon has embraced his new-found role as a daddy to younger men who were barely alive when he started his porn career.

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES
Life+Style Editor

jones@dallasvoice.com

…………………….

BADASS TEXAS TOUR
Midtowne Spa,
2509 Pacific St.  July 29 at 8 p.m.

…………………….

Porn star Michael Brandon loves the cool weather in his hometown of San Francisco, but he is happily, and voluntarily, giving it up to come to Dallas.

“I actually have family there,” he says. “Legend has it my uncle was the CEO of Texas Instruments back in the day.” Not counting family reunions, the trip will mark the Dallas debut of his live show. So what exactly got him to Texas finally?

“I think I would have to credit Monster,” he says.

Monster, it turns out, is his pet name for his penis. Only if you listen to Brandon talk about it enough, it seems like a business partner rather than a part of his business.
Here’s how it happened.

“One of my fans, Topher, has been on me to come to Texas for years — ‘Bring Monster to Texas!’ he kept saying. For some reason, Texas wasn’t an easy nut to crack for me,” Brandon says. So superfan Topher took it upon himself to meet Monster in person, setting out on a campaign to get someone — anyone — to bring Monster and his owner to the Lone Star State.

“I’ll be damned if he didn’t get Midtowne Spa [on board],” Brandon says still a bit incredulously. “Midtowne doesn’t normally fly people in, but they agreed to this time — and it went from ‘just Dallas’ to a three-city tour.”

Brandon’s Badass Texas Tour — designed to promote the adult performer’s first hardcore sex film in several years, the fetish picture Badass — started in Austin Wednesday, and will bring him (well, them) to Dallas tonight at 8, followed by an appearance in Houston on Sunday.

To hear Brandon talk about it, it really is a collaboration, and one borne unexpectedly from tragedy.

In the 1980s, Brandon was, in his words, “fresh off the bus” when he came out of the closet with a vengeance. He was 24 and quickly got involved in the seedier aspects of gay culture. He was working at a bar when he answered an ad for XXX models. The photographer was impressed by the young man’s member.

“In the gay world, your cock can be your calling card on many levels — especially in the sex industry, and mine is really large,” Brandon quickly admits. But soon after he started doing porn, he developed an addiction to meth. It ruined his life.

TEXAS AT LAST | Brandon’s Texas tour resulted from an email campaign from a superfan.

“I was already 140 lbs. soaking wet without using anything, but I dropped even more — I was skinny as a rail. When I did the speed I stopped doing porn because I didn’t have any confidence in front of the camera. Then I started selling it, then did jail time, then prison time, then living on the streets. From 24 to 34, I saw eight-and-a-half years inside state penitentiaries. But those revolving doors kept me alive. Left to my own devices, I would have been dead. I should be dead. Dead! I’m talking skull-and-crossbones chemicals being shot into my veins. I’ve known people who did less than I did and can barely put two sentences together. Staying as strung out as I did, I would have been so out of it I would have walked in front of a bus.”

He spent 18 months in rehab, and it was really after that when “Michael Brandon” was born.

“’Michael Brandon’ was just my stage name but I started cultivating it as an entity and business,” he says.

Brandon won back-to-back performer of the year Gay VN Awards in 2001 and 2002 — the only porn actor to do so — and Monster was a big part of it.

“Part of the process [of recovery] is to learn who you really are, so I was reading reviews of me on an [escort evaluation site]. One review, the client was saying how nice my eyes were and called my cock a ‘monster.’ I thought, ‘Why don’t I give it an identity and take mine back? And it’s been a hit. Working together has been huge for my career. Monster gets his own birthday wishes, own emails, his — ‘can Monster come out and play?’ It’s been such a big marketing tool. No pun intended.”

Brandon took a break from porn and escorting when he met his true love, Marcos, “and in order to cultivate a healthy personal relationship, I stepped out from in front of the camera and basically had a monogamous relationship with him.”

That relationship ended after five years “in a blaze of glory” last October; in December, Brandon went back in front of the camera to make Badass. He was already 45 years old. But apparently as in-demand as ever.

“People ask me, ‘How long have you been in your industry?’ I sometimes answer, ‘How old are you?’ I get a lot of emails saying, ‘I have watched you since I was 12 years old.’ I wanna ask, ‘How old are you now, 15?’ Our community is youth-obsessed but I find the youth is obsessed with the papis and the daddies. I get these random emails that say, ‘I really like having sex with older men.’ When did that happen?”

But Brandon isn’t complaining. Despite a drug relapse — he has been clean for a second time almost three years now, following a nine-month binge that nearly destroyed him again — he’s as happy and focused and well-adjusted as he’s ever been. And like Lady Gaga, he credits his little — well, not so little — Monster.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 29, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Shooting victim recovering

Doug Tull ran to Pekers after being shot in the chest and remains in fair condition at Parkland Hospital

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer  taffet@dallasvoice.com

Doug Tull
POINT BLANK | Oak Lawn resident Doug Tull, shown smoking outside Illusions in 2009 in this file photo, remains in fair condition at Parkland Hospital after being shot at point blank range early Monday morning. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

A 49-year-old Oak Lawn resident was shot during a robbery early Monday morning, Aug. 30, when he was walking alone in his neighborhood. Doug Tull is recovering at Parkland Hospital following surgery to repair damage from the gunshot wound to his upper abdomen.

Frank Holland, the owner of the bar Pekers, was in his bar when Tull entered at about 1 a.m.

“He walked in the door and said, ‘Help, I’ve been stabbed,’” Holland said.

He said his business partner Ron Nelson ran behind the bar and called 9-1-1.

Nelson said he thought Tull was kidding until he saw the blood.

“Before he [Nelson] hung up, there were two police cars here,” Holland said. But ambulance response was much slower. Holland caught the entire incident on camera and said it took 6½ minutes for the emergency vehicle to arrive.

A witness who asked not to be identified saw the shooting from his apartment.

“I was sitting out on my porch,” he said. “Doug crossed Shelby and Brown walking toward Oak Lawn.”

He heard the confrontation but was too far to help stop it.

He said he heard Tull yell, “I don’t have any money” and then a shot and called police.

So when Tull arrived at Pekers, the police were already on their way to the area.

Tull said that he was walking toward Oak Lawn Avenue and a car pulled up from behind him. He said it stopped about five feet in front of him. Two young men got out of the car.

“I kept walking. They were pointing at something as if looking at a building,” he said. “I kept walking.”

He said when he realized something was wrong, he tried to run, but the assailants were too close and jumped him.

When they demanded money, Tull said he didn’t have any on him. They knocked him to the ground. One of the attackers went through his pockets, took his wallet and then shot him.

Tull thought he had been stabbed.

“I didn’t hear a gunshot,” he said. “I didn’t see a flash.”

Before they fled, Tull said he managed to pull a canister of mace from his pocket and spray one of the assailants.

Tull said the two attackers ran to the car waiting in the bank parking lot across the street, yelling, “Mace! Mace! Mace!”

Holland said he told the police that what he saw was a round puncture wound in Tull’s abdomen. He said the shooting must have been at point-blank range.

There was confusion at first about where the incident took place. The original police report said the shooting occurred at Shelby and Brown streets.

Tull later told police that he was attacked in front of the barbershop across Brown Street from the American National Bank parking lot.

Police were checking with the bank to see if their cameras recorded the incident and caught the license plate of the car. After the two attackers got out of the car, the driver pulled into the bank’s drive-through lane.

Tull identified the suspects as three black men in their early to mid-20s, driving an older four-door, gray Nissan Altima. They were dressed in white T-shirts and jeans and weighed about 150 pounds each.

After the attackers fled, Tull ran to Pekers less than a block away.

Tull was taken from the bar to Parkland Hospital where he was in intensive care for a day. Although the bullet entered his body directly under his heart, the only damage was to his stomach, liver and large and small intestines.

While operating, doctors were unable to find a bullet. Later x-rays found it lodged in his rectum. They said it may pass out of his body.

“Doctors can’t believe how fast I’m recovering,” Tull said from his hospital bed on Wednesday, Sept. 1.

The gunman was aiming down, he explained. The bullet shot at point blank range apparently ricocheted off of Tull’s sternum, which is why it did not exit his body. Although the incision made to repair his internal organs is more than six inches long, Tull was out of bed and walking by Wednesday. His right arm is bruised, he said, because the assailants were bouncing on his arm. He has a cut across his forehead but no other facial injuries.

Frank Holland
Frank Holland

On Wednesday, his friend Darwin Kopaska checked Tull’s mail. The parking garage manager at the Crescent sent Tull a check that one of his cashiers found in the parking lot. Tull confirmed that the check had been folded in his wallet.

Dallas Voice passed that information to police who are checking video at the Crescent parking garage to see if their cameras caught the assailants’ car.

Police detectives and LGBT police liaison Laura Martin are looking into the attack.

Tull said that no anti-gay epithets were shouted during the incident but police are not ruling out the possibility it was a hate crime.

While several other attacks have taken place near the Oak Lawn entertainment district recently, this is the first street shooting in awhile.

In May four men with baseball bats assaulted two men on Throckmorton Street near Congress Avenue. In 2008, Jimmy Lee Dean was beaten in a brutal attack just a block off the main Cedar Springs strip.

On April 16, 2007, Jose Landa was shot to death in a parking lot on Cedar Springs Road after stopping to get cash at the ATM on the street.

Police have warned people not to walk alone citing safety in numbers. However, when Jimmy Lee Dean was attacked, he was walking with Michael Robinson. The attack in May involved a couple walking together, and Jose Landa was with his wife and several friends.

Along with the incident report, police issued a neighborhood warning after the Tull attack. After the May baseball bat attack, police were criticized for not alerting the community sooner.

Apartment complexes in the area have not been as vigilant in passing along the warning. The witness said that management in his complex has remained silent on the attack.

In a separate incident, a jogger found a man unconscious on the jogging trail along Turtle Creek Boulevard early Friday morning, Aug. 27.

At about 7:15 a.m. police were called to assist the injured Oak Lawn man. It was not apparent at the time what happened to Shawn Stumph, nor do police know how long he had been there.

He was found laying unconscious on the trail near Bowen Street. A section of the guardrail along a now-closed section of road is missing above where Stumph was found. The drop to the creek bed below is about 30 feet.

Police are not sure if Stumph fell or was pushed in an attack, but said his wallet was in his pocket when he was found and there was no sign of a struggle. Stumph was rushed to Parkland Hospital and remains in critical condition in intensive care. He has extensive head injuries and is not able to answer police questions.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Deadly vices

Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man, by Bill Clegg (Little, Brown and Company, 2010), $23.99

Portrait of an Addicat as a Young ManIn the new book Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man, author Bill Clegg’s addiction was far from harmless. In the end, in fact, it almost killed him. And it all started out so innocently.

Like many college students, Clegg and his roommates enjoyed a good time. They smoked a little pot, drank and serial-dated women, pulled pranks, did cocaine, and got high again.

His introduction to crack came from the first man he ever had more-than-fleeting sex with. A hometown lawyer, a man he had known forever, invited Clegg to his apartment for a drink. They talked about the man’s kids and his wife, made out a little, and then the man disappeared into the bedroom. He came back with “milk-colored crystals” and a clear glass tube.

After his first gulp of crack, Clegg says of himself, “He misses the feeling even before it’s left him and not only does he want more, he needs it.” And from then on, he needed it all the time.

But that (the night of firsts) was all before Clegg repeatedly lied to his friends and family. It was before he left his boyfriend, Noah, at an important film festival in order to fly home to get high. It was before he slept with other men in seedy hotels. His first hit from the clear vial was before his business partner changed the locks.

And it was before Clegg nearly died from the drug that had ruined his life.

Reading Portrait is a different kind of experience. This book makes you squirm, and you’ll want to get through each page quickly, not because the story is good (which it is), but because reading about what Clegg lived is hard to endure.

Starting with a major binge, then moving back and forth between childhood memories and fuzzy recollections of being high, Clegg walks a tightrope between wry humor and wrung-out horror. Early memories are written in third-person, giving them a remote feeling and adding more tenseness to this already-raw memoir.

If you relish a tough-to-read story with edge, you’ll want this one. Like any craving, Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man will be impossible to let go of.

— Gregg Shapiro

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 3, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas