BACH for the holidays …. and beyond

Volunteer Wanda Brown helps get ready for the Breakfast at Cathedral of Hope on Chirstmas Eve

I have been out of the office, on vacation, since Dec. 22, and when I got back to work today and started wading through the thousands of emails in my inbox, I found one from Hank Henley, asking if we could include some information in Dallas Voice about BACH, the weekly Breakfast At Cathedral of Hope program in which church volunteers prepare and serve breakfast to the homeless.

So I am including Hank’s write-up about BACH’s Christmas Eve event here on Instant Tea, just as he sent it to me:

Use the words “Bach” and “cathedral” in a sentence this time of year, and most people will picture the “Christmas Cantata” or “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” But at a certain church in Dallas, BACH stands for “Breakfast at the Cathedral of Hope,” a program that just celebrated its four-year anniversary in November. On Christmas Eve morning, while most of Dallas was nestled all snug in their beds, a small army of volunteers was in the kitchen at the Cathedral of Hope whipping up a hot and hearty breakfast for the homeless and needy that would be coming through their doors by 7:30 a.m. Under the direction of Rev. William Baldridge, Associate Pastor for Community Outreach, this weekly breakfast has grown from serving just 11 guests at the first meal to an average of 200 guests each Saturday morning.

And guests they are: receiving a hot meal served on china plates and with silverware and glasses. The guests may also receive a haircut after they eat, if they so chose.

This week, in addition to the usual food and drink, each guest received a bag with a blanket, hat, gloves, toiletries, water and food coupons. The gift bags were the result of the generous work of Jan Okerlund and Leslie Frye.

Leslie Frye, one of the volunteer coordinators, when asked how the volunteers feel about the work they do, said, “The real blessing is in the cooking for and serving those less fortunate, not only during this Season, but all year long.”

This Saturday’s volunteers included members of the church community of the Cathedral of Hope, members of the Turtle Creek Chorale and a group of 14 students from “I-CERV,” the “Ismaili Community Engaged in Responsible Volunteering.” They are here once a month, all year long. Kenneth Campbell, the Interfaith Services Director Volunteer Coordinator of the Memnosyne Foundation, brought these energetic and focused youth.

The Memnosyne Foundation is a wonderful organization whose mission is “to help a diverse people of the world consciously encourage an evolution of themselves and for future generations by providing the means to encourage positive, peaceful global collaboration.” The diverse crowd of leaders, volunteers and guests were certainly doing that on this morning.

And one guest, who guest shared his story quietly and privately with tears streaming down his face, personifies the spirit of sharing and giving. This time last year, he was on the street, living under a bridge and depending on the generosity of others to survive. He told me he could always count on a hot meal and being treated with respect when he came to BACH. This year, he is able to draw social security and is donating $25 a month to BACH. “They always fed me and helped me get through. Now I want to give back whatever I can. God blessed me and it’s what I want to do.”

Across the room, his hands deep in a bucket of soapy water, volunteer Jamie Rawson, spent the morning scraping plates and glasses, getting them ready for the dishwashers.

“There a few things a person can do which so clearly put Christmastime in perspective as doing something to help others. It is has been said so often as to become a cliché — but it is no less true for being a cliché. It is heart-warming to see so many people gathered to help provide for those in need. It is especially affirming to see so many young people from such a diversity of backgrounds. This has been the most fitting and rewarding way to truly start my Christmas.”

When the guests were finished with breakfast, finished visiting with friends and volunteers, finished with their haircut, and picked up their bag of supplies for warmth and comfort, they left the cathedral and headed back into the rain and the street.

As they left, Richard Boule greeted each of them and wished them a Merry Christmas.

“As I watched those people leaving the Cathedral after breakfast this morning, I could not help wondering where they were going and what each one of them had to look forward to this Christmas time. But I had the feeling that they were grateful for the humanity they were shown, so many left with a smile. May they be blessed.”

If you would like to help with BACH, please call Rev. Baldridge at the Cathedral of Hope at 214-351-1901.

You can see more photos from the Christmas Eve Breakfast at Cathedral of Hope after the jump.

—  admin

The Jackie Hall Experience for Christmas Eve at Sue Ellen’s

Are you experienced?

After witnessing Jackie Hall’s performance at Twist Dallas earlier this year, we couldn’t wait till she got her voice down to the gayborhood. And that happens tonight. The Jackie Hall Experience welcomes in Christmas tonight with a slew of rock, R&B and of course, Christmas carols for the night. Do all that Christmas Eve stuff early and hit up the club for a voice to remember. Seriously, how she’s not a bigger star is beyond us.

DEETS: Sue Ellen’s, 3014 Throckmorton St. 9 p.m. SueEllens.com.

—  Rich Lopez

Livin’ the Vida

Richard Vida revisits ‘Les Miz’ in a grand revival

La-Vita

MASTER OF THE HOUSE | Rirchard Vida returns to ‘Les Miz’ 18 years after his B’way run.

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

“Show people don’t have holidays,” Richard Vida says with a sigh. Though he’s not complaining. In fact, he kind of likes it.

“In New York City, Christmas is packed. You’ll always have a show Christmas night, though on Christmas Eve, it depends. Before 9/11, we always had matinee and evening shows on New Year’s Eve. When I was doing Les Miz in the old days, when it was still three hours and 15 minutes, it got out at 11:45 and we were right in Times Square at midnight.”

A lot has changed since those days. Evening shows in Dec. 31 are canceled and Vida is on tour, not in New York. But one thing hasn’t changed: Vida is still doing Les Miserables.

Not the entire time, of course — and not in the same way. Vida was a replacement in the original production back in the 1980s, playing the thieving Montparnasse for two years. He loved the show.

“I was a dancer at the time, doing all the big dance shows. Les Miz was my first non-dancing show but I was blown away by it.

The original production of Les Miz ran until 2003 — closing a decade after Vida’s run in it. He went on to act in numerous TV shows, movies and musicals in the intervening years. “So imagine my surprise, 18 years later, to be playing Thenardier in the 25th anniversary production.”

Surprised, because as much as he enjoyed the experience, he’d had it. So when his agent asked if he’d be interested — advancing from one the bandits to their sleazy leader, Thenardier — he passed. His agent asked, before deciding, if he would go see the production. He did.

“It was the best version I have seen,” he says. “It’s been reorchestrated and newly conceived. Technologically it’s just beautiful — no more turntable! The backdrops are actual projections of Victor Hugo paintings. It’s so imaginative.At intermission, I called my agent and said not only am I interested in doing it, it’s mine.”

The process has been illuminating, now that he approaches it not as young dancer but as a seasoned actor in middle age.

“I already knew the role, but what is interesting was, when I re-read all 1,236 pages of the book and as an older person, I understood it better. I have the life experience to play this unredeemable, despicable human being. The comedy comes through, but he’s dark. And it’s so completely the opposite of who I am in real life.”

Les Miserables is one of the most successful — and divisive — musicals in history, a long-running hit about the failed 1832 Paris uprising. It’s a sweeping epic based on what is generally considered one of the great novels of the 19th century, but has its detractors as bombastic, although the characters are sharply drawn and the complexities of the book are masterfully synthesized.

Hmmm… students who take up arms against the rich hierarchy in the streets. Sounds a little like Occupy Paris, no?

Vida’s not so sure.

“In some [curtain speeches], Several presenters have said this is the French Occupy Wall Street, but I’m not so sure patrons are making that correlation. I don’t see it being the same thing. I think of it more as an allegory, and the religious awakening that turns your life around,” he says.

It’s certainly turned Vida’s life around. This is his eighth national tour, and the first one where he’s been able to travel with his partner, who is the show’s musical conductor.

“It’s fantastic that we are working and traveling together after 18 years,” Vida says.

That’s almost enough to soften the hardest of hearts … maybe even Thenardier’s.

… Nah, don’t count on that.

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

—  Kevin Thomas

Beyond Turkey

There’s so much more than the ordinary to be thankful for from Dallas restaurants

IMG_1881-copy

LITTLE LAMB | The earthy depth of lamb, mushroom risotto and a rich demi-glace conjure up autumn without cleaving to traditional ideas of the holidays. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Thanksgiving always conjures up thoughts of turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie, and while those staples are comforting, there is so much more to an autumnal menu than those familiar standbys. And Andre Natera, executive chef at Pyramid inside the Fairmont Hotel Downtown, has come up with some inventive ways to ring in fall without cleaving to the ordinary.

Mixing it up not just for the season, but for specific plated dinner offerings on the Thanksgiving and Christmas meals, Natera’s theme exudes sophisticated comfort, starting with the butternut squash bisque (available now only on Turkey Day, but hopefully on the full menu soon). A dollop of oil and slight bite from chorizo turn a simple vegetable soup into a tremendous savory experience.

But you don’t need to be there on Thursday to fully appreciate the scope of the flavors, from a surprising heirloom carrot salad ($10) wrapped around goat cheese to a butter-poached lobster perched on a stone-grits-stuffed ravioli provides a whimsical — and wholly satisfying — variation on the Southern specialty of shrimp and grits.

The hearty, earthen flavors of roasted lamb ($33), served with mushroom risotto and crisp Brussels sprouts, are accented by a rich Zinfandel demi-glace and pitch-perfect preparation.

As always, desserts are a winner, especially the smartly conceived pineapple upside-down cake, which turns a ‘70s-era dinner party joke into a robust and tangy closer. With his current fare, Natera has devised probably his best menu since coming to Pyramid: Inventive, thematically unified, intensely seasonal and executed with all the warmth of a hearth on Christmas Eve. And he did so without relying on turkey or ham. That’s something to be thankful for.

Pyramid is open for brunch buffet and a plated dinner on Thanksgiving Day ($49.95), and offers “turkeys to go” as well.

TASTING NOTES: THANKSGIVING EDITION
Many Dallas restaurants will be open on Thanksgiving, offering those who don’t feel like cooking at home the chance to still enjoy a feast. Among the specials:

Craft — Prix fixe dinner including appetizers, desserts, a selection of side dishes and choice of turkey, prime rib, salmon and more for $85/adult, available 11 a.m.–8 p.m.

Nana — Both a four-course brunch and a select menu for dinner (including bottomless mimosas) are available, starting at $65/adult.
The Second Floor — Chef J Chastain has the kitchen at his Galleria restaurant going all day, with a three-course dinner from 11 a.m.–11 p.m. for $49 (add $20 for wine pairings).

Mignon — In Plano, enjoy a traditional buffet of butternut squash soup, roasted turkey, stuffing, dessert and more from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. for $40/adult.
Some restaurants have pre-Thanksgiving takeout services. The Grape will prepare a smoked Amish turkey dinner or a maple-glazed ham with all the fixin’s from $165–$275 (serves up to 15). La Duni is offering its luscious cakes for pickup on Wednesday until 9 p.m. Pre-order online at LaDuni.com and get a 5 percent discount with the promo code CAKE.

The annual Beaujolais Festival, which for me has always symbolically kicked off Thanksgiving week, comes to a new locale (the new Omni Hotel) on Nov. 18, 7­–9:30 p.m. You can roam around the fancy new digs while swigging some good French (and even Texas!) wines, and tasting bites from local chefs. Tickets are $55. Visit FACCDallas.com for more information.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 18, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

After losing bitter custody battle, lesbian mother Debie Hackett of Dallas takes her own life

Debie Hackett with her son, from her Facebook page

Another suicide in the LGBT community this week showed that bullying isn’t the only reason people take their own lives.

Last July, I wrote about Debie Hackett, who was fighting with her former partner for visitation rights with their son. An appeals court gave her the right to assert her parental rights and sue for visitation and the case was remanded to the lower court. When I spoke to her, she was hopeful that she would be able to see her son soon.

This month she lost her case.

Despondent, Hackett took her own life on Christmas Eve.

Could interpretation of laws to discount a same-sex relationship be the underlying cause of this needless death?

A friend of Hackett’s sent me an e-mail to let me know what had happened and asked that as a tribute I post suicide-prevention information.

Local counselor Candy Marcum said that, surprisingly, December is not necessarily the worst month for suicide. In Hackett’s case, the loss in court combined with loneliness on the holiday must have been too much for her.

Grieving friends and family can only wonder if there was something more they could have done. Marcum said the warning signs are not always apparent and counsels those grieving not to blame themselves.

Ann Haas of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention specializes in prevention in the LGBT community. In a November article, she listed a number of warning signs for suicide. To read them, go here.

—  David Taffet

WATCH: Biden says Obama is preparing the ground for the inevitable: Gay marriage

While President Barack Obama says his views on same-sex marriage are “evolving,” Vice President Joe Biden is a little more to the point. In an interview on Good Morning America on Christmas Eve, Biden said he believes same-sex marriage is “inevitable.” He also drew a comparison between marriage equality and the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Here’s Biden’s full response, which you can watch in the above video at about the 5:45 mark:

“I think the country’s evolving, and I think there’s an inevitability for a national consensus on gay marriage. That is my view. But this is the president’s policy. But it is evolving. I think the country’s evolving. I remember the first time he met with the joint chiefs, I was with him. He said, ‘Gentleman, I want you to prepare you now.’ I want to end ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ So he prepared the ground so that it was so widely accepted as it is today by the military, and I think the same thing is happening across the country with regard to the issue of marriage.”

—  John Wright

Local briefs • 12.24.10

CoH plans Christmas Eve services

Cathedral of Hope United Church of Christ will hold five Christmas Eve services beginning at noon Friday, Dec. 24, with “A Shopper’s Christmas Eve” in the Interfaith Peace Chapel. Shoppers can buy gifts in the Sources of Hope gift shop, have their packages wrapped and worship during their lunch hour.

The Children and Families Service, with sing-alongs, puppets and more begins at 5 p.m., followed at 7 p.m. by Mass en Español in the Interfaith Peace Chapel.

Traditional candlelight communion worship services will be held at 9 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Services are free and open to all.

Pavillion holds Stocking Stuffer drive

The stocking stuffer benefit for Legacy Founders Cottage hospice continues through Friday, Christmas Eve, at Barbara’s Pavillion in Oak Cliff.

Patrons are asked to donate gifts to fill up the gigantic stockings at the bar and then donated to the Founders Cottage. Wish list items includes paper towels, Lysol, coffee, gift cards for groceries, disposable adult diapers (medium), cleaning supplies, hard candy, trash bags, Ziploc bags, disposable tableware, wipes, non-powdered latex gloves, games, etc.

Barbara’s Pavillion also has Christmas stockings on hand that patrons can purchase and decorate, with proceeds also benefiting Legacy Founders Cottage.

ONE Church in new location

The ONE Church, the only LGBT-affirming Apostolic Pentecostal church in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, now holds services each Sunday at 6 p.m. at Resource Center Dallas, 2701 Reagan St.

The church also holds prayer service each Thursday from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., followed by Bible study from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., also at Resource Center Dallas.

Tuesday Night Fellowship is from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Buffalo Wild Wings on Lemmon Avenue at Douglas Avenue.

For more information go to the church’s website at Dallas1Church.org.

Sadlek wins MTAR award

The MetroTex Association of Realtors has announced that Mark Sadlek from Republic Title is the 2010 Affiliate of the Year award winner. The announcement came at MTAR’s annual awards and charity event.

Sadlek has served on the MetroTex board of directors and is a MetroTex Leadership Academy Graduate, currently serving on the Leadership Committee.

He also serves on the Human Rights Campaign’s Board of Governors and as co-chair of the Federal Club. He co-founded and chaired Leadership Lambda Inc. in Dallas and has done planning and fundraising for Design Industry Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA).

“I have been amazed with Mark’s dedication to MetroTex this year,” said 2010 MetroTex President Kay Weeks of Ebby Halliday Realtors. “His contributions to our organization reflect his professionalism and devotion to the real estate industry.”
MetroTex has honored one of its affiliate members with this award annually since 1982.

Stonewall Denton elects officers

DENTON — Stonewall Democrats of Denton County, now completing its third year, has elected new officers for 2011.

Eloy Machuca of Flower Mound was elected as the second president in the chapter’s history. Outgoing founding President John McClelland did not seek re-election.

“I was honored to have lead this chapter and in becoming the first openly gay elected official in the county in my final year,” said McClelland. “Our members put a lot of faith in me. I felt it was the perfect time to get some new blood on our executive board.”
Joining Machuca will be Vice President Courtney Medina of Flower Mound, Treasurer Tod King of Lake Dallas and Secretary Stacey Langley of Denton.

“Our new officers are representative of our chapter being male, female, Caucasian, Hispanic, gay, straight and bisexual,” said Machuca. “Stonewall is intended to fight for everyone.”

Stonewall Democrats of Denton County has been instrumental in holding a Pride Weekend in the city of Denton, organizing rallies for the Prop 8 rulings, providing scholarships for community organizations and promoting progressive Democratic candidates.

Estate-planning seminar set

Attorney John McCall and Sparkman Hillcrest Family Service Director Ron Boson are sponsoring a free estate-planning seminar on Jan. 2 at 2 p.m. at Oak Cliff Coffee in the Bishop Arts District. Complimentary coffee and refreshments will be served. Seating is limited so call 214-942-1100 to reserve a seat.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 24, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Best Bets • 12.24.10

Friday 12.24

‘Twas the night before Christmas
You aren’t short for candlelight and Christmas Eve services. These places of worship are LGBT-friendly and offer a spiritual way to start your celebration.

DEETS: Cathedral of Hope, 9 and 11 p.m. services. CathedralofHope.com.,
Oak Lawn UMC, 5:30 and 11 p.m. services. OLUMC.org.,
White Rock Community Church, 7 p.m. WhiteRockChurch.org.,
First Unitarian Church of Dallas, 6:30 and 8:30 services. DallasUU.org.

05.28-Leslie-Jordan-2008Thursday 12.30

Getting to the church on time
Church revivals might conjure up suppressed
memories, but we think that won’t be a problem here. WIth Leslie Jordan’s Church Revival, the Emmy-winning actor makes church time funtime with his Southern boy wit and humor. Sister Helen Holy will be your guest hostess. And likely the two will keep you from speaking in tongues.
Just laughing in them.

DEETS: Sare Ellen & Samuel Weisfeld Center,
1508 Cadiz Road. 7 p.m. $100.
LegacyCounseling.org

Thursday 12.30

Here a bear, there a bear
If you’re feeling cold in these winter nights,
head to the Dallas Eagle for the Bear of the Year contest. With all that fur, you should warm up just nicely. Even if you can’t snuggle up close, the beef alone should turn the place into the hottest spot in town. Who will be Dallas’ next top bear?
See for yourself.

DEETS: Dallas Eagle, 5740 Maple Ave. 10 p.m.
DallasEagle.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 24, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Tuna fresh

New sets, new costumes but same classic cast as ‘Tuna Christmas’ rings in the new year in North Texas. So what is life like there in a post-DADT world?

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  |  jones@dallasvoice.com

105_Vera_lounge
FELIZ NAVIDAD, LUPE! | Vera Carp (Jaston Williams) will have a traditional, Christian Christmas if she has to kill for it. Welcome to Tuna, Texas.

A TUNA CHRISTMAS
Eisemann Center,
2351 Performance Drive, Richardson. Dec. 28–Jan 2. $29–$59.
972-744-4650.
EisemannCenter.com

…………………..

It’s not that Jaston Williams dislikes Christmas — it’s that growing up, it wasn’t exactly The Brady Bunch Holiday Special.

“We always called Christmas ‘blood and holly’ around my house,” Williams cracks with his signature Texas twang. “My mother could really make it rough. When there was company or a party you’d go from this loose experience to Franco’s Spain in a second. I figured it out by the time I was a teenager that I wasn’t wild about this holiday at all. This whole nostalgic, let’s-go-home-for-Christmas thing? Nah. Give me a good hotel with an open restaurant and room service anytime.”

Still, the holiday has been pretty good to Williams. With his writing, acting and now producing partner Joe Sears, Williams is enjoying more than 20 years of steady winter employment with A Tuna Christmas, which returns to the Eisemann Center for a week-long run Tuesday. The first sequel to their hit play Greater Tuna (nearing its 30th anniversary), it’s the only one of the shows to have a run on Broadway (earning a Tony nomination) and has been a staple of the season.

If you haven’t seen it (what’s wrong with you?), it tracks life in a tiny Texas town on Christmas Eve as the quirky residents (all played by Williams and Sears) reinforce and undermine stereotypes about small-town attitudes. And even at its age, it still seems fresh.

“We wrote is as Reagan had just come into power — that’s how old we are,” Williams recalls of the original play. “It was in response to the Moral Majority and their idiotic notions” — and Tea Partiers aren’t far removed from that. And contrary to popular opinion, they do not update the script.

“People constantly say, ‘You’ve added so much!’” Williams says. “I don’t even deny it anymore. Especially with Tuna Christmas we’re trying not to change things — though God help you if your cell phone goes off with Dede onstage. It’ll be like being locked in a phone booth with Patti LuPone.

“The temptation to comment on what’s going on today is so strong that if we started we’d never stop. So it’s set in time. No one in Tuna has a computer; they still have cords on the phones. And no one tweets — they’ll fine you. Vera has banned the word. It sounds dirty enough to ban.”

None of which is to say the show doesn’t get a makeover every so often. The duo still rehearses regularly, tweaking bits and polishing moments, and the current production features all-new sets and costumes.

“Joe and I are producing it ourselves now,” says Williams. “All these people who produce theater and want people to think it’s really, really hard so they won’t do it. But it was kinda like being in the Mafia. You think, ‘I’ve been watching this jerk kill people for 15 years — why can’t I do it?’ We’ve scaled it down and made it better. I’m very proud of it.”

Williams himself is closer to living the Tuna experience than ever — though its different in many ways to the one imagined 30 years ago. He and his partner, Kevin, moved with their adopted teenaged son to the little burg of Lockhart, Texas, and are proud to see the culture developing.

“One thing I can say about small-town people is, they believe their lyin’ eyes: They see two men raising a child and taking out the trash and they are changing their attitudes [about gay people]. It’s pretty amazing.”

(Williams is tickled as most gays are “don’t ask, don’t tell” was repealed, though, and thinks it was dumb to enact in the first place: “I was in the gay bars in the ‘70s. You get the right lesbian pissed off with weapons and they’re gonna take some territory. The ones who should really be afraid of gays in the military are our enemies.”)

The guys are off from performing Dec. 24 and 25, but will be doing a New Year’s Eve performance in Richardson, which Williams calls “one of the stranger nights of the year to perform, You really want to do a good show but it’s such a bizarre holiday. People feel obligated to have some transformative experience and they know they aren’t going to.” Though if they go to Tuna, they just might.
Merry Christmas, Jaston.

“And a Merry Tyler Moore to you, too,” he answers.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 24, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas