‘Becoming Chaz’ airs Tuesday night on OWN

Chaz Bono

I first heard about Becoming Chaz, the documentary about Chastity Bono’s transition to Chaz Bono, back in March, and I decided then and there I would be watching the doc when it aired on the new Oprah Winfrey Network in May. Of course, now it is May, and I had forgotten about the documentary until I saw this article, “The reluctant transgender role model,” about the program by Cintra Wilson in The New York Times.

I felt like Wilson, in her article, focused a little too much on Chaz’s mom, Cher, and what she thought about the transition. But I was impressed that Wilson admitted that while she considered herself open-minded and liberal, she discovered in watching the documentary that she wasn’t as open-minded as she thought when it comes to transgenders. I think that’s true for a lot of people.

So anyway, I thought there might be other folks out there like me who want to see the documentary but who needed a reminder, so here it is: Becoming Chaz airs Tuesday at 8 p.m. Central time. I have DirecTV, which airs OWN on Channel 270. On AT&T U-Verse, it’s Channels 256 and 1256. Charter broadcasts OWN on Channel 225, and on DISH Network, it is on channels 189 and 885. (If your cable provider isn’t listed here, check the OWN homepage here which lets you find it based on your zip code.)

And here is a promotional trailer for the film:

—  admin

OWN and ‘Becoming Chaz’

When I first heard that Oprah Winfrey was starting her own network — aptly called the Oprah Winfrey Network or OWN — I was expecting something like Lifetime or even The Hallmark Channel. Who knew we’d end up with a cross between Logo and Bravo and CNN?!

OWN is the home, of course, of Lisa Ling’s “Our America” series which has had installments so far featuring transgender people (“Transgender Lives”) and ex-gays (“Pray the Gay Away”). And today, I saw for the first time a short trailer about “Becoming Chaz,” a documentary on Chastity Bono’s transition to Chaz Bono which will include interviews with Chaz’s gay icon mom, Cher. It premiers in May on OWN

Here’s the trailer. I know I’ll be watching.

—  admin

If he could turn back time…

… Dallas drag legend Wayne Smith wouldn’t change a thing. After all the stops and starts, he leaves leaves town reflecting on a career of laughter, music … and a nip slip

STEVEN LINDSEY  |  stevencraiglindsey@me.com

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DO YOU BELIEVE IN LIFE AFTER WAYNE? | You’ll have to — next week the Cher impersonator and his handsome husbear head to life in the Midwest. (Gregory Hayes/Dallas Voice)

WAYNE SMITH FAREWELL
The Round-Up Saloon,
3912 Cedar Springs Road.
Jan. 11 at 8 p.m.  Free.
Hungdinger, 4000 Cedar Springs Road. Jan. 12 at 8:30 p.m.

…………………………

For nearly 20 years, Cher has performed almost nightly along the Cedar Springs strip.

“What’s this?” you say. But oh, yes. With a voice and appearance so convincing, patrons react to her as if she’s the real superstar, not Dallas native Wayne Smith performing what has become his signature role.

Known for being friendly and outgoing to everyone who crosses his path, it’s Smith’s singing prowess that has sets him apart from the many drag performers who lip-synch. He’s a true impersonator and a remarkable performer who has helped define Dallas’ gay scene for the past two decades.

But not so much the future of it. Smith will be missed by thousands as he packs up his bags next week to move with his husband Ben Wilson to Columbus, Ohio. It only takes a quick glance at his Facebook page to see how many lives he’s touched here.

In true Cher fashion, Smith isn’t going gently into his Texas retirement. He’ll give multiple farewell performances, with the final curtains this week at the Round-Up Saloon, Hungdinger and the Drama Room.

But performing isn’t the only major event of the week. Tomorrow, he and Wilson celebrate their third wedding anniversary (they were legally married in Stowe, Vt.); a few days after he turns 50.

“I don’t mind. AA-Freakin’-RP!” he jokes about his age. “It’s wonderful to be this old because I’ve done so much with my life. I had a hit children’s books; I sold 67,000 toys at Neiman Marcus, I had a fashion show at the Beverly Hills Hotel, I had my own salon one street over from Rodeo Drive and so much I can’t even remember. I was even a question on Hollywood Squares!”

Smith left Dallas after high school because he thought Los Angeles would be a better place to live as a gay man.

“I went out there to be the next Bob Mackie. Instead, I ended up working for him, which was great because I got to shop with Cher and hang out with people like Marie Osmond, Betty White and Carol Burnett, which was really incredible.”
One fateful Halloween, Mackie talked him into dressing up as Marilyn Monroe; he won a costume contest with his outfit. From such humble beginnings came the drag legend.

“Somebody approached me from La Cage, the original club in Los Angeles that started the show in Vegas. They were starting a new show at the Fontainebleau Hilton in Florida and they needed a Marilyn.” He also had to come up with a second character; a friend convinced him to do Dolly Parton. But one little nip slip changed his attitude forever.

“It was a total disaster,” he laughs. “I think I was the first person to have a wardrobe malfunction. I was doing Marilyn in the pink dress from ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ and every time I raised my arms, my nipples showed. The producer was watching me with his hands over his eyes and I thought, ‘Oh this is great.’ I’d already done Marilyn in a couple of gay bars and I knew I was the best ever. I was a diva, girl. That is really the day when I learned humility.”

Convinced he’d blown his chances, he was persuaded to give it another shot — with a twist.

“I turned it into a comedy act,” he says. “We had big neon poles around the stage and I pretended that my boobs got stuck and I had to pull one around the other side. Everyone was walking in, the performers and the staff, and they were all standing there laughing.”

He was hired on the spot and for a year, he performed in the famed La Ronde Showroom, a stage once graced by Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra. When the Florida show closed, Smith was invited to join the cast in Hollywood — and finally got to play Marilyn.

“In Hollywood, if you’re Marilyn, you’re the star of the show. She’s on everything. She’s on toilet paper!” he laughs. “It was the best thing that could have ever happened because I really learned to perfect character makeup. I did Norma Desmond, Marilyn, Dolly — I even got to do Lucille Ball because she personally asked me to impersonate her when she was at a birthday party for Milton Berle at the club. If the room had blown up that night, we would’ve lost so much Hollywood royalty. The room was just packed full of people. It really was amazing.”

Ball never got to see his impersonation of her because shortly after her request, she passed away. To this day, he has a picture of the star from a scene in Mame, which she autographed, “To Wayne, Love Lucy.” It’s one of his most treasured pieces of career memorabilia. “I broke up with a boyfriend while I was performing in Aruba and had a friend break into my apartment in Los Angeles to make sure he got that picture back. And he did!”

In 1989 — shortly after If I Could Turn Back Time was released — Smith ventured into performing as Cher. After a year abroad where he performed Marilyn, Dolly and Cher, he landed back in Dallas and has been performing here ever since: First at Moby Dick, then at Woody’s, Mickey’s, and his latest home, the restaurant/cabaret Hungdinger. For much of his time in Dallas, Smith performed as Cher five to six nights per week up and down the Strip.

“I’ve had an incredible, incredible career here in Dallas. I really have never wanted for work. I’m giving up five nights a week to go to ‘what if’ in Ohio,” he says.

He may not know what lies ahead, but he’s sure of his mark on the world.

“I used to feel like I haven’t done anything with my life. But my dad actually taught me a long time ago that I had. He asked me how many people I’d performed for over the years,” Smith recalls. Between all the shows at La Cage and on TV, they estimated that he’d entertained millions of people. “My dad asked me, ‘Did you make those people forget their problems for a little bit and laugh? How many people can say that?’”

It dawned on him that what he does is much more than just sing a bit in clubs.

“Yeah, some people say I’m an attention whore, or just a drag queen, or just a female impersonator, but you know what? I’ve had people come up to me who are sick or had somebody die in their family to thank me for helping them forget their problems, even if just for a little while. I’m a court jester. I just wear different outfits,” he says.

But though he’s leaving town, this is definitely not the end of Smith — wherever he may end up.

“I’m not Cher, I’ve never claimed to be. But if I can mimic it enough that people still like it, I’ll keep doing it if I’m in a wheelchair gummin’ it to I Got You Babe.”

And that’s something plenty of people would gladly pay to see.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

RuPaul promotes new season with some (unauthorized) help from Cher

The new season of RuPaul’s Drag Race starts next month, and the drag diva isn’t above stealing (pardon, “homaging”) from her target audience’s favorite icon to promote herself. Any similarities to Cher’s Burlesque poster is purely intentional.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Watch: The Cast of ‘Burlesque’ — Cher, Christina Aguilera, Stanley Tucci, Cam Gigandet — Speak Out on Anti-Gay Bullying

Burlesqu

Earlier this month we sent Towleroad's Josh Koll to talk with the cast of Burlesque — Cher, Stanley Tucci, Christina Aguilera, and Cam Gigandet. While their discussion of the film was much like what you've seen in plenty of other interviews, we thought we'd highlight what they told him about another topic that has saturated the news lately — bullying.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP

Check out Nathaniel Rogers' review of the film here.

Josh Koll also writes the blog Josh & Josh are Rich and Famous.

Burlesque1



Towleroad News #gay

—  admin

News: Australia, iPad, Cher, North Korea, The Vatican

 road Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart step out to do a Q&A for John Cameron Mitchell's Rabbit Hole.

 road The owner of The Abbey in West Hollywood on what makes his bar a success: "Anyone who walks through my gate is a VIP. Everyone is gonna be treated the same."

Aust  road New Nielson polls shows strong support for marriage equality in Australia: "The poll, published on Monday in Fairfax newspapers, found nearly 60 per cent of people support same-sex marriage, with 37 per cent against. The same poll also shows the federal coalition leads Labor by 51 points to 49 on a two-party preferred basis."

 road Disney decides it's done with movies based on classic fairy tales.

 road Gay and lesbians rally in the Bronx: “For so long the Bronx has been very quiet about LGBT issues. This particular event sparked the feeling to doing something and how do you do it—you do it in unity.”

 road Desperate Housewives will go on with one less housewife.

 road North Korea shows American scientist new secret nuclear facility: "He had been “stunned” by the sophistication of the new plant, where he saw “hundreds and hundreds” of centrifuges that had just been installed, and that were operated from what he called “an ultra-modern control room.”

Cher road Cher knows her limits: “Look, I have a very narrow range. I’ve never tried anything more than playing who I am. If you look at my characters, they’re all me.”

 road Steve Jobs and Rupert Murdoch to team on an iPad-only newspaper: "There will be no "print edition" or "web edition"; the central innovation, developed with assistance from Apple engineers, will be to dispatch the publication automatically to an iPad or any of the growing number of similar devices."

 road If you think adult pandas are cute, wait until you see a picture of a newborn panda.

 road One-time correspondent professor Pontifical Academy of St Thomas Aquinas in the Vatican tells German magazine: “It must be acknowledged that a large number of Catholic clerics and trainee priests in Europe and the United States are homosexually-inclined,”

 road Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I has a big box office weekend.

 road Paris Hilton fulfills part of her 200 hour community service.

 road Arrests made at a sit-in on Ottawa in to mark Transgendered Day of Remembrance.


Towleroad News #gay

—  admin

Video of the day: Yes, you can do drag to The Beatles

The Beatles were the big buzz over the Interwebs this week when Apple made the “big announcement” that they were adding their music catalog to iTunes. We just wanted to get in on the action a bit ourselves. Especially when a Twitter pal said this is the only Beatles cover I needed to hear. I think he may have been right.

Allow me to present to you Cher, Tina Turner and Kate Smith performing a medley of Beatles’ classics. It’s priceless and the rainbow backdrop and marching band only make it better.

—  Rich Lopez

Cher, Christina Speaks Against Bullying

CHER CHRISTINA AGUILERA BURLESQUE X390 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COMCher tells gay teens that the people who survive adversity in high school are the ones who achieve more later in life, while Christina Aguilera says if her son comes out as gay to her, she will love him for his
individuality.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  admin

Cher And David Letterman Discuss Her Son Chaz Bono’s Transition

They both stumbled repeatedly over their pronouns, but last night Cher and David Letterman had a frank discussion about Chaz’s transition and what the difference is between being gay and being transgender. Cher’s loving support is amply evident and Letterman’s questions and comments show that perhaps he learned something after being widely criticized for an anti-trans skit early this year. Let’s hope the language police aren’t too hard on either of them for their his/her missteps. Context, and all that. The bit about Chaz begins at 12:30 in the first clip and continues through the second. (Note that these clips are not from CBS and may disappear from YouTube.)

Joe. My. God.

—  admin

Cher: The Musical Coming Soon?

CHER X390 (CHERWORLD) | ADVOCATE.COMFilmmaker Andy Fickman said he is working on a theatrical piece based on the life and career of pop legend Cher.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  John Wright