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

Couple pledges $2M to RCD

Donation tagged to help pay for construction of center’s new facilities

CeCe Cox
Cece Cox

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

In what has been described as the second-largest gift ever given to an LGBT organization by a living donor, Dallas couple Eric V. Culbertson and David W. Carlson have pledged $2 million to Resource Center Dallas, officials announced this week.

RCD Executive Director and CEO Cece Cox said the donation would be used to help pay for construction of a new building that will consolidate programs and double the agency’s available space. Property has been purchased for the new building on the corner of Cedar Springs and Inwood roads.

Cox said that the center has already hit the 30 percent mark in its effort to raise the $12 million needed for the new facility.

“We’re aiming to break ground in 2014 and move in 2015,” she said.

Cox said that the donation was a result of building a strong relationship but the money was pledged after the couple took a tour of the center’s facilities.

She said they told her, “We had no idea you did all this.”

Culbertson is the owner of Salon Three-Thirty located in Uptown at 2510 Cedar Springs Road. For the past several months he has offered yoga classes at Resource Center Dallas through his new non-profit group, Strength Through Yoga, which takes “the empowering aspects of yoga to organizations and individuals who can use it to heal and strengthen the mind, body and soul.”

Carlson is the founding chief financial officer of GameStop. The Grapevine-based video game and entertainment software retailer has more than 6,500 stores worldwide and is ranked 255th on the Fortune 500. GameStop has been the presenting sponsor of Black Tie Dinner for several years.

Carlson retired from GameStop recently and is now co-owner of Uptown Energy Fitness in West Village.

The couple declined to be interviewed for this story but released comments in a statement.

“The driving force for our donation was the center’s staff,” Culbertson said. “They make [the center] what it is, working so hard and doing so much.”

“After touring all the facilities, and understanding the full scope of services, we knew that the center needed to have a new building, and very soon,” Carlson said.

Cox said she wanted others in the community who are not familiar with Resource Center Dallas to come tour the facilities.

“I want people to come meet our staff. They’re so passionate and so great at what they do,” Cox said. “We are the only organization who does what we do. We started in this community and are still in this community.”

She said that in Dallas two-thirds of new HIV infections are in the LGBT community, higher than the national average.

“People are living longer so we’re caring for them longer. And our dental program is one of only two in Dallas,”  that is providing care to people with HIV who cannot access care elsewhere, Cox said.

Although the Nelson Tebedo Clinic recently added a new dental room, the new building will allow the agency to increase services.

In addition to HIV services, RCD runs a number of programs for the LGBT community, Cox said, adding, “There’s more and more demand for our cultural competency training.”

The center recently completed sensitivity training for 700 Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission employees statewide, and Communications and Programs Manager Rafael McDonnell, who has participated in most of the TABC training classes, said that the last class included TABC Administrator Alan Steen.

Cox said that the state agency recently signed a new contract with Resource Center to continue services. She also pointed out the counseling program RCD provides in conjunction with Southern Methodist University.

David Chard, dean of the SMU School of Education that administers the program, said that when he began the program he was told that no one would want to participate in it. He said there has been a waiting list of counseling students who want to work at RCD.

Cox said that the program is currently limited by lack of space. She said that the lunch program is one of the center’s great successes. United Way representatives told her that they saw a real sense of community among those who participated.

“They could go elsewhere for a meal,” Cox said, but they come to the Resource Center where they are welcomed.

To expand programs, Cox said RCD needs its new building. She is looking to develop more relationships like that with Culbertson and Carlson.

“Donors are relationships,” she said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 5, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

CSMA announces new event schedule for 2011

First Wednesday events are ending, but Whittall says quarterly Wine Walks, other regular events will make up the difference

JEFFERSON JOHNSON  |  Staff Writer
intern@dallasvoice.com

Although Cedar Springs Merchant Association is ending its monthly First Wednesday parties, CSMA President Scott Whittall, co-owner of Buli, said this week a calendar of quarterly Wine Walks and monthly events have taken effect.

“We changed our First Wednesday event to a quarterly event for 2011,” Whittall said about one of the first obvious changes taking effect this year.

First Wednesday now will be replaced with a quarterly Wine Walk, he explained. “The wine walks are always a really good turnout and people like the concept.”

Every wine walk will feature a new $5 commemorative glass for guests to take into participating stores to mingle, browse and shop, with the wine offered compliments of the individual stores.

Whittall says it’s also a great way for customers to meet and greet the owners.

By selling commemorative glasses, CSMA hopes to make some money back, which accounts for the cost of the glasses. Proceeds will also help fund future events, plus the glasses will give wine walks a sense of occasion, he said.

Whittall said that even though the Cedar Springs Arts Festivals in both 2009 and 2010 failed to reach their fundraising goals, the spring festival will return this year.

This time, Whittall said, organizers know what pitfalls to watch for, what to do and what not to do.

“We hope to have more than 100 artists and vendors,” Whittall said, compared to last year’s 70 or so.
Whittall said CSMA is known for its interesting fundraising events, like underwear auctions, and for throwing a great street party.

“We’re always racking our brains to come up with some new and exciting fundraisers,” like the Super Street Party the association is holding on Cedar Springs during Super Bowl weekend next month.

The Super Party, sponsored by Bud Light, is one of the larger events CSMA has planed, Whittall said. He said it will be similar to the annual Pride parade, but with a football twist.

Whittall also stressed that the event is not affiliated with the National Football League in any way, but that he hopes it will draw out-of-towners to the area and help spotlight Cedar Springs.

The purpose of all the CSMA events, Whittall said, is to have fun while raising funds to benefit and help beautify the gayborhood.

The bars and merchants along the Cedar Springs strip are faring well, Whittall said. But, he added, “Cedar Springs is not immune to the economic climate.

Whittall said that times have changed over the last 30 years and that Cedar Springs needs the support of the community to survive and thrive. The more support they get, the more money will be available for events and projects.

“Unfortunately, money is everything,” said Whittall.  “It’s hard to go out and raise funds.”

He said CSMA’s solution is to give donors something — like a wine walk or an arts festival — in return, as opposed to simply asking for a donation. More importantly, he added, donations to CSMA come back to the community in several forms.

CSMA uses funds collected to build streetlights for more safety, to improve signage and sidewalks, among other planned improvements, he said.

“The big message here is support,” said Whittall. “It’s the heart of the gay community of Dallas, and we are dedicated to keeping it just that.

“Everybody here is committed to seeing Cedar Springs be here another 30 years,” Whittall concluded. “But we need help. We need everybody’s support to make sure that does happen.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 21, 2001.

—  John Wright

Trans fit

Chris Bruce proudly and bravely went from 230-lb. male bodybuilder to 180-lb. female fitness guru Chris Tina Foxx

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

A?MODEL?OF?HEALTH  |  Chris Bruce went from hulking male bodybuilder, inset, to proud trans trainer Chris Tina Foxx, above.
A MODEL OF HEALTH | Chris Bruce went from hulking male bodybuilder, inset, to proud trans trainer Chris Tina Foxx, above.

Chris Bruce has always been the kind of person who takes chances.

When he was still in his teens, he knew he could sell ice to an Eskimo and began his foray into entrepreneurship. After college, he established himself as a salesman, then took a big risk by investing a sizeable chunk of money into a start-up; a few years later, he was co-owner of a multi-million-dollar wholesale business, which he later sold for a handsome profit.

At the same time, he married his high school girlfriend, had two kids and pursued his interest in fitness and bodybuilding, eventually achieving 230 pounds of muscle over his 6-foot-1 frame.

Today, at 41, Bruce weighs in at 180 pounds, though often standing 6’3” — that’s when she’s wearing heels.

That’s because, over the last year, Chris Gary Bruce has transitioned into Chris Tina Foxx Bruce, a male-to-female transgender.

It hasn’t been easy. But Bruce has rarely taken the easy path, and her trans identity is something she is proud of.

As a boy, Bruce knew he was different. He cross-dressed for years, but discretely. His work in sales meant he traveled extensively, which allowed him to wear women’s clothes while on the road. Like many transgenders, he’d go through a “purge” phase, where he’d toss all his women’s clothing, vowing never to do it again.

But it wasn’t just the clothes; Bruce identified as a woman.

What at one time was a shameful secret is now a proud part of her identity. She no longer hides in hotel rooms, but lives openly as a woman.

“My purpose is to let the world know who I am and being transgender is nothing to be hid,” she says. That’s one of the reasons for her campaign for transgender equality: “Be Bold. Be Proud. Be Yourself.”

It has been a long, difficult process, though. Bruce’s cross-dressing led in part to a divorce in 2007, though her ex-wife didn’t find out he was trans until earlier this year.

“She hates it,” Bruce says. She worried about how her children — a boy, 12, and a daughter, 8 — would react, but so far they have adjusted well.

Bruce’s transition began in earnest about four years ago, after separating from her wife.

“I went out dressed as a woman for the first time in 2005 when I was in Houston,” she says. A mentor helped her; she has since passed away. She went to New Orleans for Halloween with a then-girlfriend, both dressed as sex dolls, though the girlfriend left when she began taking female hormones.

Bruce first stepped out in female dress in Dallas in January 2009, and found the experience liberating.

“[Trans people] need the gay area of town for training wheels,” she says. “We have it so good here. Cedar Springs is a consolidated, well-structured safe zone for us.”

It’s slightly odd, though, as Bruce never identified as gay — although, technically, would now identify as lesbian.

“People don’t realize: Transgender has nothing to do with sex,” Bruce says. “I’ve never been attracted to guys, but that’s the first assumption many people make.”

It doesn’t bother her, though. Bruce has felt largely embraced by the Gs, Ls and Bs as well as the Ts of the community. Some of her best friends now are gay men.

“More girls ask me out now than when I was a man,” she says. As pictures can attest, Bruce was a handsome man and never had trouble getting dates. Now, she mostly dates bisexual women and some lesbians. “I think women are very open-minded,” she says.

Bruce had her first surgery — some face work and breast implants — on Dec. 26. From there on, there’s been no turning back.

“I just started telling my family about this last Christmas. My mom and sister have been so supportive. I said, I’m not asking for your permission or your acceptance — this is just how it is.”

She’s even reconnected with old high school friends on Facebook. Her father, though, has not spoken to her since she came out, and she quit her corporate job in March once she couldn’t hide as a man anymore.

Bruce has continued to follow her bliss. She has worked part-time as a personal trainer for years, and continues to do so; she estimates losing very few clients since transitioning.

As enthusiastic as Bruce is about her fitness career, even more motivating is her quest for equality.

“People have said to me, ‘You’re not real …’ Real what?” she asks. She also finds it puzzling that she can legally marry a woman while gay men can’t marry their partners. There’s still a lot of work to so.

That’s OK, though. Chris Bruce has never shied away from a challenge. It’s what made her the woman she is today.

Learn more about Bruce by visiting DiscoverHealthandFitness.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 29, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Oak Lawn shooting victim undergoes 2nd surgery

Doug Tull in serious condition but is expected to recover; police say video from nearby bank camera did not record shooting or license plate

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Doug Tull
Doug Tull

Doug Tull remained hospitalized this week after being shot during an aggravated robbery in Oak Lawn on Aug. 30.
At about 1 a.m. that Monday, two men jumped from a car directly in front of Tull as he walked along Brown Street, and robbed and shot him at point blank range.

A third man drove the car into the drive-through lane of the American National Bank on Oak Lawn Avenue.

Tull made it to Pekers on Oak Lawn Avenue where co-owner Ron Nelson called for emergency help.

Tull was taken to Parkland Hospital where doctors repaired damage to his large and small intestines, liver and stomach. The bullet, however, remained in his body.

Doctors at first thought the bullet was lodged in Tull’s rectum and they had hoped that it would pass naturally. But on Tuesday, Sept. 7, Tull began running high fever, and doctors operated to remove the bullet.

Tull remains in serious condition.

Police hoped to identify the car used in the attack from surveillance tape taken by the bank. However, a police spokesperson said that while they believe they saw the car on the video, the license plate is unreadable and the camera did not record the shooting, which happened across the street.

Tull said the car is an older, gray, four-door Nissan Altima. He identified the men as African-American, weighing about 150 pounds each and all in their early 20s.

The parking garage manager at the Crescent returned a check with Tull’s address by mail that a cashier found in the lot. Tull confirmed that the check had been folded and in his wallet that was stolen.

When contacted by police, officials at the Crescent gave a copy of their surveillance tapes to police. But the cameras were not pointed in the direction of the car and a police spokesman said the tape was not immediately useful.

The police spokesman said they would retain the tape, which may prove useful for later corroboration.

Darwin Kopaska is a friend of Tull’s and has been with him daily since the shooting. He said that over the weekend, Tull began complaining of pain in his lower back that was more severe than that in his abdomen. The area where the bullet was lodged began to swell. He was taken into surgery at 4 a.m. on Tuesday.

Kopaska also said doctors were concerned about fluid building around his lungs and a urinary tract infection.

After the operation, doctors said the bullet looked like a 9 mm.

Kopaska said that Tull’s mother, brother and sister arrived late last week from out-of-town.

Kopaska said another friend he identified only as Loveta was helpful in contacting Tull’s employer and arranging for short-term disability for him. Tull has worked for Texas Instruments for about 25 years.

Tull was expected to remain in the hospital through this week but is expected to fully recover.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 10, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Atlanta police investigate fatal shooting of gay nightclub owner, black Pride organizer

Associated Press

ATLANTA —Police are investigating the shooting death of the co-owner of a popular gay nightclub.

Authorities say 50-year-old Durand Robinson was found shot dead in the middle of an Atlanta street early Wednesday, Aug. 25 following a possible carjacking. Robinson was co-owner of the gay nightclub Traxx and an organizer of the city’s black gay pride celebration.

Atlanta Police spokesman Carlos Campos says Thursday officers are “pursuing all possibilities at this time.” He said authorities have reached no conclusion “whether his sexual orientation or involvement in the gay community played a role in his shooting death.”

Witnesses tell Atlanta police he had gotten into an argument with someone just before shots rang out. Friends say they believe he may have been the victim of an attempted carjacking, but police say they don’t have a motive or suspect.

—  John Wright