Gun Barrel City mayor stops police harassment at gay bar

GarlowsEmployees of Garlows, a gay bar located on Cedar Creek Lake about 60 miles southeast of Dallas, said police surveillance of the bar had been going on for several weeks before a number of patrons were stopped by police on April 5. Several were arrested for DUI. The bar’s owner was arrested for public intoxication while he was walking home.

Retired Dallas Voice reporter David Webb reported:

On April 5, following a drag show at the gay bar, patrons leaving the bar met as many as five squad cars sitting outside of the bar. Drivers who failed to signal whether they were turning left or right were stopped, according to sources at the scene. Several DUI arrests were made. One squad car followed the operator of the bar as he attempted to walk home and and handcuffed and jailed him on a charge of public intoxication, allegedly without testing him for intoxication.

Gun Barrel City mayor Paul Eaton told Webb surveillance would end immediately, saying he acted as soon as he heard about it.

Cedar Creek Lake has been home to LGBT retirees and weekend home owners for several decades. Garlows, in GBC, is the second gay bar in the area. Also, Celebration Church on the Lake, founded with help from Celebration Church in Fort Worth, has a large LGBT membership and is located in nearby Mabank.

David’s full report is here.

 

—  David Taffet

Saying goodbye to Friends

Nationally known Cedar Creek Lake bar closes after 15 years

Friends-001

BUSINESS DRIES UP | Owner Leo Bartlett said low lake levels caused by the ongoing drought resulted in fewer visitors to the area, forcing him to shut down his club for good. (David Webb/Dallas Voice)

DAVID WEBB  |  Contributing Writer
davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com

GUN BARREL CITY — For 15 years Friends was the little gay bar that did it all in the most unlikely of settings, but it came to a sad end just before Christmas.
Friends owner Leo Bartlett sent out a message on Facebook Dec. 20 saying he was closing the iconic gay bar, and he never unlocked the doors for business again. Situated in the middle of one of the most conservative areas of the state, the humble little private club had featured charity drag shows and raised many tens of thousands of dollars — benefiting homeless animals, the elderly, the poor and HIV patients — for years.

Known not only throughout Texas but literally around the world, Friends often saw visitors from far away who had read or heard about the bar. Reporters for major mainstream U.S. newspapers like the Washington Post contacted the bar’s management for comments on LGBT issues. In 2007, Out magazine named Friends one of the top 50 gay bars in the world, saying the atmosphere was the friendliest in the state, the fish tank was filled with well water and the drag queens’ hairdos tended to be big, much like they were.

In a clever complement to the drag shows, a local theater group known as Friends Players put on variety shows that were well attended by the lake’s gay and straight residents alike. The entire cast, including performers in full drag, traveled down the road to the American Legion Club a couple of times each year to put on performances.

But now, the music, acting, dancing and laughing are just memories for Bartlett, who opened the bar door late one afternoon this month to allow a few customers to retrieve several pieces of personal property. The walls that once were covered with pictures of bewigged drag queens wearing tiaras are now bare.

“It’s all over,” Bartlett said as he stood in the sunlight flowing through the open door into the dark bar. “I said my goodbyes on Facebook. It’s all there to read. I’ve thanked everyone. There’s really nothing else to say.”

Bartlett said sending out the Facebook message was painful for him, and he didn’t want to have one last party in the bar to mark its closing, although many former customers had hoped he would.

Bartlett.Leo

Leo Bartlett

“It would just be a funeral for me,” said Bartlett, who noted the bar’s net revenue had been on the decline for about three years, just as with many other lake businesses. “I didn’t see any point in that. I’ve already said my goodbyes.”
Bartlett said economic conditions on the lake led to Friend’s closing, and he didn’t blame it on the competition from a new gay bar, Garlow’s, that opened nearby two years ago.

He disputed the popular opinion among some members of the lake’s LGBT community that there weren’t enough customers on the lake for two gay bars, and that the newer, more attractive Garlow’s had stolen his customers.

“There were enough customers,” Bartlett said. “There just wasn’t enough participation. If you talk to the owners of the straight bars, you will hear the same thing from them. Everybody is having trouble.”

The lake has a sizable LGBT community made up of retirees, Dallas commuters and natives, but many just don’t enjoy the bar scene. The gay and lesbian population increases greatly on weekends, holidays and during the summers when LGBT second-home owners are in residence, but many of them also prefer not to go out to the nightclubs.

Last summer’s drought — which caused the lake to drop almost 8 feet, leaving boat docks sitting in sand and beaches where water once stood — finished Friends off, Bartlett said. People avoided the lake, and that made all of the lake’s businesses suffer, resulting in several businesses shutting down in 2011, he said.

“It was time for me to close,” said Bartlett, who also separated this year from his longtime life partner who had helped him run the bar. “It was 15 good years. That’s what is important.”

For many customers though, the closing has left a void, and some seem almost resentful about it. Many of Bartlett’s customers would not go to Garlow’s out of loyalty to Friends, but others who went to both bars are also disappointed. And some who didn’t go to Friends at all also expressed dismay.

Friends’ closing is a loss to the lake’s LGBT community, said Troy Luethe, who with his life partner owns a bed and breakfast in nearby Ben Wheeler. The couple once participated in the Friends Players productions and visited the bar socially as well.

“I think it is sad,” Luethe said. “I never like to see a business fail, and it was part of the history of the area and held a lot of memories for me and others.”

For Jennie Morris, another former member of Friends Players, it is more personal. She also went there socially to meet with her friends.

“I feel like I lost a good friend, really, and one of my major connections to the community,” Morris said. “As a member of Friends Players it has left a pretty big hole there, too.

Friends was my Cheers, I guess — a place where everybody knows your name. Friends was safe, comfortable and like an old flannel shirt — just home.”

Several former customers of Friends declined to comment for the story, saying they had mixed emotions. Some people complained that Bartlett ran the bar too much like a nonprofit organization rather than a business, and blamed its closing on that.

Michael Slingerland, owner of Garlow’s, said he was shocked when he first heard about Bartlett announcing the closing of Friends. Slingerland formerly worked part time at Friends as a bartender before opening his own business, which appears to be doing well.

“We’ve talked about it a lot here,” Slingerland said. “It’s really sad.”

Slingerland said he had hoped for a cooperative effort between the two bars that would have helped both prosper, but that never happened.

“We could have helped each other out a lot,” said Slingerland, who envisioned back-and-forth traffic between the two clubs.
Regardless of what factors led to the closing of Friends, it is now a reality that the bar is gone for good. Although Bartlett has said he has no plans to return to his nativeArkansas, he is exploring other options for his future life in the Cedar Creek area.

“I’m thinking about a number of things,” said Bartlett, who acknowledged being a “hermit” since he announced the closing.

In the meantime Bartlett has listed the building for sale or lease with a gay Cedar Creek Lake real estate agent. The ad might run something like this: “Little private club with an unusually intriguing past available for new operator and members.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 20, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Gun Barrel City bar Friends closing

Leo Bartlett, owner of Friends in Gun Barrel City, announced Tuesday, Dec. 20, on his Facebook page that the bar is closing.

“Due to uncontrollable events, the clubs doors must be closed,” he wrote.

The bar has been a center of activity for the LGBT community around Cedar Creek Lake for about 20 years. Pageants, shows, food drives and charity events took place regularly at Friends. The most recent charity drive was a collection for Toys for Tots.

The closing was announced suddenly. Events were posted through January.

“From the bottom of my heart, I have never thought that this notice would go out,” Bartlett wrote. He called the closing a “heartbreaking decision.”

A number of financial factors apparently contributed to the closing of Friends but this summer’s drought, the worst in Texas’ history, was also likely a contributing factor. The lake level was down almost eight feet — far enough that many boat ramps were closed so weekend residents stayed away.

Friends is located in Gun Barrel City, located centrally on Cedar Creek Lake, which is about 60 miles southeast of Dallas. The lake was built by the city of Fort Worth to supplement its water supply in 1964 and is the fourth largest lake in Texas.

The area began attracting LGBT lake house buyers in the 1980s. Many Dallasites bought weekend houses there but the area has also attracted a number of LGBT retirees and other full-time residents.

Since Friends opened almost 20 years ago, other LGBT businesses and organizations have grown around the lake. LGBT-friendly Celebration Church on the Lake in nearby Mabank grew with help from Celebration Church in Fort Worth. Garlows, a second LGBT bar in Gun Barrel City, opened several years ago. Gay campground Circle J Ranch is near the lake in Eustace.

In addition, two cities on the lake have elected gay mayors.

The gay bars draw not only from lake residents but also from nearby Corsicana and Athens as well as a number of other smaller towns in Navarro, Henderson and Kaufman counties.

—  David Taffet

Thanksgiving weekend at Cedar Creek Lake

I know there are a lot of LGBT folks in the Metroplex who have weekend/vacation homes down south on Cedar Creek Lake, and I am sure there are others who plan on spending their long holiday weekend in that area with friends and family. And that’s not even counting all the LGBTs who live on the lake full time.

So if you will be spending Thanksgiving and the weekend on the lake and are looking for something fun to do once all the turkey is gone, checkout Friends, one of two LGBT bars in Gun Barrel City.

Friends, 410 S. Gun Barrel Lane, opens early on Thanksgiving Day, with football playing on the big screens and a big Thanksgiving Dinner served at 6 p.m. Leo and the gang will supply the turkey and all the trimmings, but those coming to share the meal are welcome to bring their own side dishes, too.

Friends also continues its food drive through the holiday weekend, in support the American Legion Post 310′s annual Christmas basket program for families in need. So if you have some extra canned goods or dry goods in your pantry, or if you want to pick up some extra when you go shopping, be sure to take them over and drop them off at the bar.

Then you can wind up the weekend Saturday night with Friends’ annual Mr./Ms./Miss Cedar Creek Lake Pageant starting at 9 p.m.

The other LGBT club in town is called Garlow’s, so you might want to check them out, too, while you’re in town. Garlow’s is located at 309 E. Main St. in Gun Barrel City.

—  admin

UPDATE: Gay Seven Points mayor resigns, says his indictment stems from anti-gay bias

Seven Points Mayor Joe Dobbs, left, and his partner Michael Tayem with one of Dobbs’ supporters following his election last year.

Gay Seven Points Mayor Joe Dobbs has submitted a letter of resignation after being indicted on criminal charges in connection with an alleged incident at the Cedar Creek Lake city’s municipal building on Aug. 16, according to a statement released to Dallas Voice.

Dobbs’ life partner, suspended Seven Points police officer Michael Tayem, relayed a prepared statement from the mayor during a brief telephone interview Friday afternoon. Tayem, who also was indicted in connection with the alleged incident, said the mayor could not provide any additional information until he consults with his attorney.

In the statement, Dobbs attributes his legal problems to “retaliation” and anti-gay discrimination.

“The charges appear to be retaliation in response to a criminal offense I reported,” Dobbs said in the statement. “We think a lot of it is also related to my being gay. We can’t think of any other reason.”

Tayem said Dobbs resigned because he could no longer justify the stress.

“Joe put in a letter of resignation because it is not worth the stress anymore,” Tayem said. “After everything we’ve done, it’s just not worth it anymore.”

—  admin

Clawson in concert at Celebration on the Lake

FROM STAFF REPORTS

Celebration on the Lake Church presents a free, live concert by Grammy-winning singer and songwriter Cynthia Clawson on Saturday, July 30, at 7:30 p.m. in the church’s chapel at 9120 Highway 198 in Payne Springs, near Cedar Creek Lake.

The concert celebrates the church’s sixth anniversary. Those planning to attend are asked to RSVP on the church’s website, COTLChurch.org, or by calling the church at 903-451-2302.

Clawson has received a Grammy and five Dove awards for her work as songwriter, vocal artist and musician during a career spanning more than four decades and 22 recordings. She began singing at age 3 when her father, a pastor, asked her to sing in church. She graduated from Howard Payne University with a major in vocal performance, and is perhaps best known for her performance of “Softly and Tenderly” in the soundtrack for the Academy Award-winning movie, Trip to Bountiful.

Clawson and her husband, author and playwright Ragan Courtney, live in Houston. Samples of her music are available online at the Celebration on the Lake Church’s website, COTLChurch.org, and on YouTube.

Celebration on the Lake Church was established eight years ago as a satellite church under the direction of Celebration Community Church in Fort Worth, led by the Rev. Carol West. The Celebration on the Lake became independent of the Fort Worth church six years ago and is now led by Pastor Kathy Bowser. The church, which holds services each Sunday at 10 a.m., contributes to a number of programs in the community, including Toys for Tots, Mabank Nursing Home, Meals on Wheels, Family Resource Center, the Library at Cedar Creek Lake, Humane Society of Cedar Creek Lake and others.

Although the church began as a primarily LGBT congregation, all people are welcome, Bowser said.

—  John Wright

Carol ‘Daredevil’ West set to rappel down XTO Building in downtown Fort Worth Friday morning

The Rev. Carol West, senior pastor for Fort Worth’s Celebration Community Church, is going “Over The Edge” Friday morning, June 24, right about 11:20 a.m. — and she’s raising money for the church in the process.

The Rev. Carol West

West will be joining a host of other Cowtown dignitaries and celebs — including Mayor Mike Moncrief, the TCU mascot and Hot Dog Man (yes, in full hot dog costume — who will all  be taking turns rappelling down the side of the 26-story XTO Building, 714 Main St.

I am not sure of all the details, but from what I can gather — from this story in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and the Celebration Community Church website, and the Downtown Fort Worth Inc. website — Over The Edge is a special events company that offers “signature rappelling events for nonprofit organizations.” Those who participate pay $1,000 for the honor of risking their necks, and I believe folks can donate money to their favorite daredevil to raise money for their cause.

I believe the rappelling starts around 7 a.m. West’s time slot, as I said, is about 11:20 a.m.

You know, I have known Carol West for at least 20 years or so (and have been dying for her to show me the best bass fishing spots on Cedar Creek Lake for at least half that long), and I can’t say I’m surprised she’s doing this. I mean, after all, she has great faith and a great love for her church and her community. She’s bound to be the best one out there.

And I will be there with camera in hand, so watch for photos of the Rev’s spectacular feat tomorrow on Instant Tea.

—  admin

CEDAR CREEK LAKE: Gay Kemp officials leave office; Seven Points council may finally meet

Openly gay Seven Points Mayor John “Joe” Dobbs, left, and his former partner Michael Tayem, right, are shown with a supporter.

Openly gay Kemp Mayor Matt Ganssle, who won the office in the Cedar Creek Lake town two years ago, was defeated by a challenger in a 97 to 26 vote last week. Ganssle’s colleague on the council, openly gay Councilman Jerry Hazelip, did not run for re-election, so he was also replaced by a newcomer.

Gannsle and Hazelip reportedly were both fatigued by the resistance of oldtimers in the community toward any progressive ideas they put forth. Ganssle apparently did not put up any campaign signs or do much else in an attempt to get re-elected.

In Seven Points, openly gay Mayor Joe Dobbs, who was elected one year ago, may finally be able to preside over a functioning city council as newly elected council members take office. For the past year, several incumbent council members, including one who owns the Dairy Queens in both Seven Points and Kemp, refused to attend meetings or to resign after Dobbs’ election. That led to no quorums and no meetings.

Dobbs, who won office by a landslide despite his opponents’ gay-bashing tactics, has run city business mostly on his own for the past year, relying on the advice of the city attorney to keep the city afloat. The city had been nearly paralyzed already by an FBI investigation and felony indictments of a former municipal judge, the former mayor and a former councilman on corruption charges.

—  admin

LOCAL BRIEFS: COTL Church holding garage sale, ‘Economics of Equality’ panel set

COTL Church holding garage sale

Celebration on the Lake Church Church on Cedar Creek Lake will hold its second annual Mega-Garage Sale fundraiser Saturday, May 21 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The sale will offer furniture, appliances, clothing, household items, decorative items and more, all donated by the congregation and community.

Under the guidance of Pastor Kathy Bowser, Celebration on the Lake Church offers outreach programs that include contributions to Toys for Tots, Mabank Nursing Home, Meals on Wheels, the Library at Cedar Creek Lake, Humane Society of Cedar Creek Lake and others.

Celebration on the Lake Church holds Sunday services at 10 a.m. each week in the sanctuary at 9120 Highway 198 in Payne Springs. For more information, go online to COTLChurch.org or call 903-451-2302.

‘Economics of Equality’ panel set

The Out & Equal DFW Regional Affiliate and Resource Center of Dallas will present a panel discussion on “The Economics of Equality” on Tuesday, May 24, from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., at the Resource Center, 2701 reagan St.

Panelists are Rebecca Solomon of Bank of America, Roger Poindexter with Lambda Legal and attorney Rebecca Covell. RCD Executive Director Cece Cox will moderate.

Topics will include tax disparities faced by same-sex couples, inheritance and retirement issues and developing inclusive workplace policies.

Admission is free, and a light breakfast will be served.

For information, call 214-528-0144.

TDWCC meeting Monday

The next general meeting of Texas Democratic Women of Collin County will be held Monday, May 23, at 6:45 p.m. at the Preston Ridge Campus of Collin College, 9700 Wade Blvd. in Frisco, in Founders Hall, Shawnee Room F148.

The speaker will be Dr. Richard Adams, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician, discussing the topic of children in Texas and their health and well-being.

Adams has researched and published widely on issues related to children with special needs and has chaired the Committee on Children with Disabilities for the Texas Pediatric Society. In 2004, he was the recipient of the “Advocate of the Year” award from the Texas Chapter of the National Association for Nurse Practitioners, and he was recently selected to the executive committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Children with Disabilities.

TDWCC meets the fourth Monday of each month at Collin College. For more information, go online to TDWCC.org.

—  John Wright

Must’ve at least been a Freudian slip: Cedar Creek newspaper headline links gay mayor to ‘shack up’

A Cedar Creek Lake newspaper headline accompanying a story quoting gay Seven Points Mayor Joe Dobbs caused just about everybody’s jaw to drop recently.

The Cedar Creek Pilot headline read, “Seven Points Police Department has shack up.” Absolutely no one in the small community about 60 miles southeast of Dallas believes that the headline on the story was a mere mistake. At the very least, it’s being viewed as a Freudian slip, if not an outright attack on the mayor and his life partner, who is a Seven Points police officer.

In the story the mayor was interviewed about four vacant positions on the police force. Dobbs’ partner, Michael Tayem, who is currently on administrative leave, is a subject of the story. A complaint against Tayem is reportedly under investigation by outside law enforcement agencies.

The newspaper’s Web site carried the same story with the headline, “Seven Points Police Department has shake up.” An e-mail to the publisher of the Athens Daily Review, who supervises the Cedar Creek Pilot’s publication, failed to gain a response about the headline. No correction of the headline was observed in the next edition of the weekly newspaper.

—  admin