Delia Jasso to recognize employees featured in city’s ‘It Gets Better’ video

Councilwoman Delia Jasso addresses an audience of  about 80 people at the LGBT Pride month kick-off Wednesday in the Flag Room at City Hall. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Councilwoman Delia Jasso at Dallas City Hall

Councilwoman Delia Jasso will recognize Dallas city employees who participated in the city’s “It Gets Better” video released in January at the council briefing tomorrow.

The video includes 13 LGBT city employees who told their coming out and bullying experiences. They talk about challenges they faced, hoping to inspire others who are struggling with their identity. Also featured are Mayor Mike Rawlings and City Manager Mary Suhm.

The video is part of the It Gets Better Project, whose mission is to communicate to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth around the world that their situations will get better, and to create and inspire the changes needed to make it better for them.

At tomorrow’s council briefing, Councilwoman Delia Jasso will recognize the city employees who participated, as well as Ed Oakley, Gregg Kilhoffer and Caven Enterprises, who funded the video’s production.

The meeting takes place at Dallas City Hall, Council Briefing Room – 6ES, 1500 Marilla St. tomorrow at 9 a.m.

—  David Taffet

Ex-TMC manager sues Caven

Former TMC: The Mining Company manager Roy Puente has filed a lawsuit against Caven Enterprises Operations Supervisor Donald Solomon, President Gregg Kilhoffer and CFO Ben Polachek. Puente, who is acting as his own attorney, claims the three made false and defamatory statements against him.

In his suit, Puente is claiming libel and slander and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Puente worked for Caven from November 2010 until September 2011.

Caven issued the following statement in response to Puente’s lawsuit:

“Caven Enterprises is aware of the suit that has been filed by Mr. Puente against certain of its managers. The managers and the company dispute the basis for the lawsuit and intend to vigorously defend the case. We look forward to resolving this case through the judicial process.”

The defendants filed exceptions to the suit, and the first hearing will be held on Nov. 16.

The case is set for non-jury trial on Nov. 4, 2013, with mediation ordered before that date.

Read Puente’s suit here and the defendants’ response here.

—  David Taffet

JR.’s Bar & Grill to sorta close for major renovations starting in early Feb.

Caven announced today that JR.’s Bar & Grill will be closing its first floor area for renovations, but that the second floor will remain open. So happy hour is safe, but it sounds like the bar is getting some impressive redos according to Caven president Gregg Kilhoffer.

“Everything is being improved, floor to ceiling”, he said. “Our guests can expect a familiar space, but with a new feel, new fixtures, new audio and video and new state-of-the-art technologies that will improve the customer experience.”

The parent company mentioned renovations will commence after the end of business on Feb. 5 and expected to go on for about six weeks. The bar’s regular schedule of events will be moved down the block to TMC: The Mining Company along with some of the JR.’s staff. The upstairs area will remain open on the weekends. When first floor renovations are done, they’ll flip the bar and close off the second floor to continue the upgrades.

“I hope our guests will be patient during this process,” Kilhoffer added.  “Change is good, and we think the results will be worth the inconvenience and the wait.”

—  Rich Lopez

LifeWalk steps off Sunday in Lee Park

Nobles says that park will not be fenced this year but is worried about added cost and barrier affecting next year’s event

KICKING UP THEIR HEELS | The LifeWalk organizing committee gets ready for Sunday.

 

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

New requirements by the city of Dallas could affect proceed totals from this year’s AIDS Arms LifeWalk, and at least one more new requirement is expected to be added to the list next year, according to LifeWalk organizers.

The 21st annual LifeWalk steps off from Lee Park on Oct. 2 at 1 p.m. for the 3.2-mile walk. Registration begins at 11:30 a.m. Last year’s event raised $401,000 and this year’s goal is $500,000.

Although thousands of people are expected for the event, Lee Park will remain unfenced this year, even though the city has said such gatherings will require fencing in the future.

Officials with the Dallas Tavern Guild, which stages the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade and the Festival in Lee Park each year as part of Dallas’ annual LGBT Pride celebration, decided to get ahead of the new requirement by fencing in Lee Park this year for the festival, although the city requirement had not yet gone into effect.

Tavern Guild officials also chose to charge a $5 admission fee to the festival this year to help offset expenses and raise extra funds that will be distributed to parade beneficiaries.

The admission fee raised the ire of some in the community, and attendance at the festival was down compared to last year. But Tavern Guild Executive Director Michael Doughman said the drop was not significant, and noted that the admission fee brought in about $25,000 that will be divided among beneficiaries.

But AIDS Arms Executive Director Raeline Nobles said new city requirements have already had an impact on LifeWalk, and she is worried that the new fencing requirements could affect next year’s walk.

“There were a lot more expenses from the city this year,” she said. “It really hits the bottom line.”

The cost of fencing next year will add an additional, unwelcome expense. But Nobles said she isn’t going to worry about that until after this weekend’s event. Right now, her main concern is getting people out to participate in this year’s fundraiser.

“Anyone can participate in LifeWalk,” Nobles said. “You can walk alone or bring friends or join a team. We even have poop-out vans: In case you can’t walk the entire three-mile route, someone will pick you up and bring you back to the park to have a good time.”

She also invited people to just come to the park and cheer.

“We need cheerleaders at the start and finish and at the water stations,” Nobles said. “We have pompoms for anyone who wants to cheer the walkers on.”

Registration for LifeWalk is $40 for people and $10 for dogs participating in LifeBark. People get a T-shirt and dogs get a bandana to show their support for people with HIV.

AIDS Arms is the primary beneficiary of LifeWalk, but other organizations also receive funds from the event, including AIDS Services of Dallas, Legal Hospice of Texas, Turtle Creek Chorale, The Women’s Chorus, Bryan’s House, Resource Center Dallas and the Greg Dollgener Memorial AIDS Fund.

Money raised goes toward programming rather than capital costs. The chorale uses funds for their HIV fund, including giving tickets to performances through the year to people with AIDS.

Nobles praised that effort, saying that socializing is an important holistic element in treating HIV.

The Women’s Chorus will present a program at AIDS Arms in March on National HIV Women’s Day. Those expenses, Nobles said, should be covered by the group’s LifeWalk proceeds.

Nobles said it would be tempting for AIDS Arms to use the money to finish paying off the agency’s new Trinity Health and Wellness Center in Oak Cliff. She said that the new facility cost more than $2 million, and AIDS Arms needs to raise just $35,000 more to pay off the facility.

Trinity Health and Wellness Center opened in September and will have its formal grand opening in two weeks.

But despite the temptation, AIDS Arms will instead use proceeds from LifeWalk to support programs for clients at Trinity as well as at AIDS Arms’ older clinic, Peabody Health Center in South Dallas.

AIDS Arms also uses the money to administer HIV tests to more than 3,500 people a year and for case management for more than 3,400 people.

LifeWalk began in 1990 as a fundraiser for Oak Lawn Community Services. When that agency closed, management of the event moved to AIDS Arms.

LifeWalk Co-chair Marvin Green noted that his Green Team will mark its 20th year of participation in LifeWalk. He said he put the team together for the first time in the second year of LifeWalk because he had already lost 20 friends to AIDS.

That first year, three team members raised $75. This year, the 32-member Green Team has collected about $22,000.

Co-chair Fred Harris said that there were quite a few new teams this year.

“We’re reaching out to new communities,” Harris said. “There’s new energy. We’re branching outside Oak Lawn.”

He said teams are using creative new ways to raise money and AIDS Arms has actively brought in new sponsors such as Chipotle.

“Stoli is coming with a first-ever LifeWalk drink,” Nobles said. Returning sponsor Caven Enterprises will serve beer and Ben E. Keith donated iced tea.

Harris said planning has gone well, and that “LifeWalk is a well-oiled machine.”

Harris said he has seen more use of social media this year than ever, reaching out to people outside the Metroplex.

“This year Facebook has become a very powerful tool,” he said, not just for fundraising but also for recruiting walkers.

Last year, about 3,500 people walked, and this year, “Registration is ahead of where we were this time last year,” Harris said.

Waterpalooza, another AIDS Arms event, was moved to Pride weekend this year, just two weeks prior to LifeWalk. Harris said they took advantage of that event to sign up teams and walkers and generate excitement for this weekend’s walk.

Among the new teams, Harris said, are the DFW Sisters.

“Their efforts have been tireless,” he said. “They raise the bar.”

Nobles said that WFAA Channel 8 morning anchor Ron Corning will serve as M.C. in Lee Park. Although he’s appeared at several events since arriving in Dallas, this is the first big public event the openly gay television host has emceed.

LifeWalk received the Human Rights Campaign family-friendly designation, and Nobles said there will be bounce houses, clowns and face-painting for children.

Harris said the event is pet-friendly as well, “because pets are our family.”

There will be games and puppy pools for dogs as well as doggie adoptions, Nobles said.

She said the day would be a lot of fun but asked people to participate because the need is greater than ever.

“With the growth in the number of newly-infected people in Dallas County who need help in this economy, we’re seeing people who never would ask but must,” she said.

Next year, Nobles said, she would like to see LifeWalk return to Oak Lawn, but new city regulations for events may change those plans. Among the events changing plans this year because of the city involved Lone Star Ride.

Last year, Lone Star Riders participated in LifeWalk on bike. This year, city regulations banned bikes from walks so LSR riders who participate will have to walk.

Green was thinking about bigger plans for future LifeWalks. Other cities that raise more money stage longer walks. He said he’d love to use the new Downtown Deck Park that should be completed next year and dreamed of seeing LifeWalkers crossing the new suspension bridge that should be open in March 2012.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Pride 2011 • The mom of Caven Enterprises

Chris-B.1-cropped

From cooking Thanksgiving dinner for Daire Center clients to heading up the team that builds the Caven parade float, parade co-grand marshal Chris Bengston has been a force behind the scenes of the community for 26 years

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

GRAND MARSHAL

When Caven Enterprises’ Chris Bengston saw the list of people nominated for grand marshal of Dallas’ 2011 Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, her name was not on it. And she wasn’t at the Dallas Tavern Guild meeting where her name was added.

So when Caven Enterprises President Gregg Kilhoffer called her to come back to the office, she had no idea what was going on.

When Kilhoffer called, he told her that there was an incident at one of the bars and her name was involved. So Bengston ran back to the office as quickly as possible, frantically trying to figure out what she had done.

Actually, everyone at Caven Enterprises just wanted to see her face when she found out that she would be one of this year’s Pride parade grand marshals.

What they saw there on her face was shock.

To Bengston, all of the events she planned and dinners she cooked and money she raised for practically every organization in the city over the years was just something she always did out of love for the community.

“I guess people were paying attention to what I was doing,” she said, still incredulous that she would have been named to lead the parade.
Kilhoffer calls Bengston the company’s mom.

Before moving to Dallas, Bengston was married. Her husband served in the Army and went to Vietnam.

“When he came back, things didn’t work out,”she said, adding that she just never remarried.

“That’s just the way things worked out,” she said.

But when she was in her 40s, Bengston became pregnant, even though, she said, “I wasn’t supposed to be able to get pregnant.”

Her son, Alex, was the first Caven baby. He’s now a sophomore at Texas State University in San Marcos.

But while Alex was the first Caven baby, he wasn’t the last.

“What’s neat,” Bengston said, “are the number of employees with children now.”

Kilhoffer said several employees became like a dad to Alex.

When Alex was young, Bengston took a number of young Caven employees along with her son on a variety of outings — to the Fort Worth Zoo or the Arboretum or sporting events. She exposed many young people to things they’d never done before.

Kilhoffer said Bengston gave many of the company’s young employees the family they never had. He said she was “Caven’s own Youth First Texas” and “It Gets Better” campaign before either existed.

“I’m constantly getting emails about her, thanking her for going above and beyond,” Kilhoffer said. “She’ll drop anything she’s doing to help anyone.”
Bengston has been involved in hundreds of projects over the years that benefited the community.

One of her fondest memories is working with the Daire Center, an adult daycare center for people with HIV/AIDS, when it was part of Oak Lawn Community Services. Kilhoffer remembers the annual Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners that Bengston cooked for the center.

“At 4 in the morning, she’d call to see where I was,” he said. She was already preparing the holiday meal.

He said she spent days, not just cooking, but doing all the shopping and making more than just a ham or turkey. She wanted to make sure, he said, that people who had nowhere else to go would have a holiday celebration that started with hors d’oeuvres and didn’t end until they had her homemade desserts.

“I could go on and on,” Kilhoffer said. “She’s been involved in so many things. Everyone knows they can call on her and she’s the volunteer who will make things happen.”

For years, Bengston and fellow Caven employee Donald Solomon have been involved in the holiday gift project for students at Sam Houston Elementary School. That school, located just a block behind the Cedar Springs bars, is one of the poorest in the Dallas Independent School District. Each year, Caven employees, led by Solomon and Bengston, make sure that every child at the school gets a gift at Christmas.

And before the school year begins, they make sure that there are enough school supplies. During the year, Bengston will get calls from the school for additional items, and she always responds. The Oak Lawn Library also has relied on her help when they’ve needed supplies.

“For Razzle Dazzle Dallas [revived this year by Cedar Springs Merchants Association, of which Caven is a member], she was the one who calmed us down and kept us focused,” Kilhoffer said.

Bengston organized a fundraiser after Hurricane Katrina for people who had been evacuated from New Orleans and were staying at Reunion Arena. And she’s helped stage fashion shows in an alcohol-free Rose Room, located in Caven’s Station 4 bar, to benefit Youth First Texas.

Bengston’s also involved with GayBingo, held monthly in the Rose Room, helping Resource Center Dallas and a variety of other beneficiary organizations raise money. And she helps with LifeWalk. And the Pink Party, which raises money for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

Much of the $50,000 that the Dallas Bears raised for community groups at their weekend round-up this year came from the Bear Dance — an event that Bengston made sure went off without a hitch.

“In the ’80s and ’90s, Caven lost quite a few employees to AIDS,” Kilhoffer said. “She [Bengston] was such a help to those who were dying, and to their partners. She sat in the hospital and comforted so many people in their last days.”

For years, Bengston spent the night before the parade building Caven’s parade float along with three friends. Then she spent parade day working behind the scenes.
So she’s rarely gotten to just enjoy the parade.

But after she was named grand marshal this year, Bengston said she asked those three friends — Scott Pepin, Stacy Golf and Bill Scott — to join her in the carriage to enjoy the parade with her.

Bengston said she does the things she does because she’s worked in the LGBT community for 26 years and she wants to see it remain strong.

“I am truly blessed,” Bengston said. “I’ve made a very nice living and appreciate all of the years of memories and acceptance. I’ve had the best times of my life here.”

And she plans to keep on giving. But there’s one lesson she said she learned that keeps her humble after years of working with Caven.

After staging so many fundraising events at the Rose Room, Bengston said, “There are so many guys who look better in an evening gown than I do.”

For more information on Caven Enterprises, go online to Caven.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

BearDance event during Pride at … Sue Ellen’s?

When I spoke with BearDance co-founder Mark Trimble for this story, we got to talking about how the normally TBRU dance event will evolve into something bigger. And why not? The guys know how to raise some big bucks for local nonprofits. They made a healthy donation to the Dallas Bears, which in turn, doled out the money to their beneficiaries.

On Facebook last week, the BD guys announced and invited people to the SwitchParty BearDance at, of all places, Sue Ellen’s, during Pride weekend. How are the ladies gonna like that? Don’t worried, they’ve got it covered, according to this explanation on their event post:

BearDance is bringing back DJ Blaine to spin for a hopping dance party on Friday of Dallas Pride Weekend, September 16th. BearDance is partnering with Caven Enterprises to sponsor this SwitchParty, so the bears are getting Sue Ellen’s and the girls get live music back at TMC. Come out, dance, and socialize with all the bears, cubs, otters, daddies, musclebears and friends as we mix things up, take back the dance floor, and trade spaces with the girls! As always, this non-profit event has a charitable component and the $15 cover charge proceeds at the BearDance will be going to AIDS Arms.

You got some time to plan. Mark your calendars for Sept 16. at 9 p.m.

—  Rich Lopez

Caven helps AIDS Interfaith beat the heat

Caven Enterprises donated 600 bottles of water to AIDS Interfaight Network. Pictured behind S4 on Cedar Springs Road, from left, are AIN drivers Israel Torres and Mike Archbold, Caven Director of Events Chris Bengston, Caven CFO Ben Polachek and Caven Vice President Carol McClung.

As temperatures rose to 106 in Dallas on Monday and topped 100 for the 25th consecutive day on Tuesday, officials at AIDS Interfaith Network were concerned about their low-income and homeless clients with HIV.

The Centers for Disease Control warns that people with chronic medical conditions such as HIV are less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperature. Also, they may be taking medications that can worsen the impact of extreme heat. The CDC recommends drinking more water than usual and not waiting until thirsty to drink.

Travis Gasper, AIN’s director of development, put out a call to local businesses. He said that within an hour, Caven Enterprises responded with a donation of 600 bottles of water to hydrate clients in the extreme heat.

The end of the month is AIN’s busiest time because clients line up to get their DART passes.

“These passes provide access to life-saving medical care, meals and social services,” said AIN Associate Director Edgar Carmona. “Our staff distributes passes as quickly as possible, but it’s not unusual to have lines outside AIN throughout most of the day. We knew we had to do something to help them survive in this heat.”

—  David Taffet

FW Councilman Joel Burns, rugby star Ben Cohen will be among dignitaries at Dallas Pride

Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade dignitaries for 2011 include, from left, male co-grand marshals Gary Miller and Alan Pierce, female grand marshal Chris Bengston and honorary grand marshal Joel Burns.  British rugby star Ben Cohen, pictured below, is special VIP guest for the Pride festivities this year.

Round-Up Saloon owners— and life partners — Alan Pierce and Gary Miller will share male grand marshal honors for the 2011 Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade on Sept. 18, and longtime Caven Enterprises employee and community volunteer Chris Bengston will be female grand marshal, according to information released by the Dallas Tavern Guild, the organization of local LGBT nightclubs that puts on the parade each year.

Gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns, who made national headlines last year with his emotional speech during a council meeting to tell LGBT teens considering suicide that life does get better, will be honorary grand marshal. The theme for this year’s parade is “It Only Gets Better.”

The Tavern Guild is dedicating its annual Pride Guide — the magazine published at the first of September each year to detail Dallas Pride activities — to the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce. And British rugby star Ben Cohen, who has campaigned against homophobia and bullying, will be the Tavern Guild’s special VIP guest at the parade this year.

Ben Cohen

—  admin

Station 4 DJ named as opener for Kylie Minogue’s North Texas show at Verizon Theatre

Caven’s Rick Espaillat sent word out this week that Station 4 DJ Erik Thoresen was named as the opening DJ act for the Kylie Minogue show this May when it comes to Verizon. That’s quite a big deal for a local DJ, but how did it happen exactly? Thoresen emailed me the deets on how he landed the sweet gig. Plus, it probably didn’t hurt he had some heavy players in his corner.

“I was recommended by several people about three weeks ago. StraightOut Media & Marketing, The Karpel Group, AEG Live, and my boss at Caven Enterprises all emailed me showing interest in having me open the show. I replied with all my information, and I got the call Wednesday at lunch telling me I got the gig,” he said.

Even though the Station 4 dance floor can get pretty packed, Thoresen, nicknamed “Hefty Lefty,” says that’s nothing compared to what he’ll be spinning for at the show.

“I’m blown away! It will be the largest crowd I’ve spun for, so I’m a little nervous,” he says.

Minogue is pretty huge in both the dance and gay music scenes, so not only is Thoresen about to get a bigger stage, he’s doing it with someone crucial to what he does.

“Kylie has been a icon of club music since I’ve been clubbing, so its a real honor to be chosen for this event. Its gonna be a blast, can’t wait to see all my friends there.”

—  Rich Lopez

Changes coming on Cedar Springs

BYGONES | The Bronx closed last weekend after 35 years. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Warwick announces plans for Bronx location; JR.’s remodel starts; new restaurants opening soon

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Two restaurants closed on Cedar Springs Road last weekend, but new businesses are opening, and at least one long-time club is being remodeled.

The Bronx, the oldest gay-owned business on Cedar Springs that had operated for 35 years, has been sold to the Melrose Hotel.

Officials with Warwick, the owner of the Melrose Hotel, released their plans for the real estate on Wednesday, April 6.

“The current plans call for a large and pillar-less ballroom which would be complemented by additional meeting and conference space in a nearby building. The construction of a spa and a swimming pool is also under study,” Warwick said.

The property has a 10-story height restriction on the property because it is on the Love Field glide path. While the building occupied by The Bronx is in great shape, the attached building that was last occupied by Spanish Village, is not salvageable.

Both would likely have to be razed to make room for Warwick’s planned improvements.

On Thursday, April 7, Rick Espaillat, a spokesman for Caven Enterprises, reports that work was beginning that day on a month-long project to remodel JR.’s Bar & Grill, which has been located on the corner of Cedar Springs and Throckmorton for 31 years.

The remodeling project will, among other things, give the club a ground-level patio along Cedar Springs Road.

The last time JR’s underwent significant renovations was 1998, when the second floor and balcony were added, Espaillat said. The club will remain open during the project.

The other restaurant that closed last week was Hung*dingers.

Danny Sikora bought the lease from the former owner and will move his restaurant, Thairrific, from its Forest Lane location to Oak Lawn. Despite its current location, hidden in a rundown shopping center in Far North Dallas, that restaurant won the 2011 Readers Voice award for best Asian food.

Sikora said work has already begun on the move.

“We’ve gotten the space about 80 percent cleaned out,” Sikora said.

He said that Hung*dingers installed a new kitchen when they opened less than three years ago. He expects his restaurant to be ready to open on Throckmorton Street in six to eight weeks.

Two other restaurants are under construction in the same building at 4000 Cedar Springs Road.

Scott Jones, owner of Macho Nacho in the original Hunky’s location, said he is waiting for delivery of some furniture and expects to open around April 18.

Coffee Lab, in the former space occupied by Obscurities, is still under construction with no set opening date.

Issues with permits and parking have delayed any changes at another Cedar Springs Road business: Scott Whittall said that they are rethinking plans for Buli, the café which the owner had originally intended to turn into a piano bar by enlarging into the vacant space next door.

Staff writers John Wright and Arnold Wayne Jones contributed to this report.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 8, 2011.

—  John Wright