From inside Dallas’ convention center hotel

Photos by John Wright/Dallas Voice

—  John Wright

Perfect match

Bob Nunn and Tom Harrover have been a couple for 4 decades. But it wasn’t until a near tragedy that they realized they were truly meant for each other

LIFE GOES ON | Nunn, right, and Harrover stand before a project commissioned for the convention center hotel. Four years ago, Nunn was near death because of kidney disease. (Rich Lopez/Dallas Voice)

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Bob Nunn agrees with the adage that the longer a couple lives together, the more they begin to look alike. Nunn and his partner Tom Harrover might not look that similar on the outside, but they match in a way that few couples do.

Let’s start with some history.

The two have that classic meet-cute that began on the wrong note. As Nunn tells it, Harrover was the dullest person he’d ever met —the two just didn’t like each other. Then, following a spontaneous invitation to a midnight movie, they ended up hitting it off. That movie led to conversation and then dating.

Forty-two years later, they still watch movies — as Nunn puts it, “I couldn’t get rid of him.”

A job in Houston took Nunn away from Harrover for three months, but old-fashioned letter writing kept the newbie relationship afloat.

“Tom had been writing me letters. He’s a very good writer,” Bob boasts. “He basically proposed to me by letter.”

They committed to each other, moving in and pursuing their careers: Harrover in architecture and Nunn teaching art. For 37 years, they lived in “a fabulous house” in Hollywood Heights. Life was good.

Then their life took a sharp turn.

“When we got together, Tom knew I had a kidney disease,” Nunn says. “Nothing was really a problem until about 30 years after we met — my kidneys began to fail and I had to start dialysis.”

Nunn registered with Baylor for the national organ donor list, but the experience was frustrating:  They received little response or encouragement from the hospital.

“Bob was on a downhill slide and the frustration with Baylor seemed like they were stonewalling us,” Harrover says. “We talked about going to Asia even. It felt like they didn’t want to deal with a senior-age gay couple.”

A LITTLE DAB’LL DO YOU | Bob Nunn is officially retired from teaching art, but continues to paint.

Then Harrover suggested something novel: He could donate his kidney to the organ list, with the idea that Nunn could get a healthy one.  Sort of a kidney exchange.

In desperation, they went back to their physician, who enrolled them in St. Paul Hospital’s then-new program for kidney transplant. The experience was a complete turnaround. Nunn was tested and processed immediately while Harrover prepped for his organ donation to an anonymous recipient.

Kidney transplants require a seven-point match system; a minimum of three matches is necessary for the recipient to be able to accept the organ into the body.

The tests revealed that Harrover’s kidney matched Nunn’s on all seven points.

“We assumed I would donate mine for use elsewhere,” Harrover says. “It never occurred to me that we’d be a match. The odds for that are off the charts.”

“See what happens when you live together for so long?” he chuckles.

Just six months after entering St. Paul’s program in 2007, they were on the operating table. They were the first direct living donor pair in the program. “It was all fairly miraculous,” Nunn understates.

Four years later, both men are doing well. Although officially retired, they both continue to work: Harrover does the occasional contract job while Nunn is currently on commission for an art project at the new convention center hotel. Outside of any official work, each interjects their quips about home, life be it cooking together or working on the lawn.

The obvious question for them might be “What’s the secret?” But they don’t see it just that way. Their relationship boils down to the obvious virtues of trust, respect and compromise.

“Selfishness doesn’t rear its ugly head in this relationship,” Harrover says. “You just have to be willing to accommodate, support and encourage what the other is interested in.”

Nunn agrees. “I would not be doing what I’m doing without his support.”

Nunn says if there is a secret, it’s akin to the dynamic on a playground: Like each other and share. If you don’t share your whole life, there isn’t a relationship, he says. At this point, Harrover says it would be impossible to separate. On paper, they are so intertwined with their house and financials, he jokes they are “Siamese twins.”

They’ve witnessed a lot in their decades together, including something they never expected to come to pass in their lifetimes: Same-sex marriage. Coming from a time when just being gay conflicted with moral codes set by their jobs, they wonder over the progress made in recent years. (They were officially married in Boston in October 2009.)

“I’m confident that it will happen for everyone,” Harrover says. “I’m sorry that it’s moving at a glacial pace, but it has that same inevitability as a glacier. We’ll get there.”

But nothing compares to the bond Harrover and Nunn already have, a shared intimacy few couples could imagine. Same-sex marriage was merely unlikely; what they have experienced is miraculous.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 29, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Full text of Rob Schlein’s letter to Tom Leppert

Log Cabin Dallas President Rob Schlein

Earlier we told you that Rob Schlein, president of the Dallas chapter of Log Cabin Republicans, read aloud a letter he’d written to former Mayor Tom Leppert during the group’s monthly meeting on Monday night. Schlein was kind enough to send over the full text of his letter this afternoon, and we’ve posted it after the jump.

—  John Wright

Hunt considering run for mayor

Angela Hunt

LGBT political leaders praise her advocacy for the community, say they want to see who else enters race

RELATED STORY: Openly gay candidate considers run for Hunt’s District 14 seat

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt, who represents one of the gayest districts in the city, announced Wednesday, Jan. 12 that she is considering a run for mayor in municipal elections set for mid-May.

“It’s still something I am considering,” Hunt told Dallas Voice on Thursday. “I have been really honored that some folks I respect have encouraged me to consider running. So now I am talking with folks whose opinions I respect and value, discussing what I can bring to the table and how I might be able to lead our city into the future.”

Hunt said she will make her decision on whether to run for mayor based on where she believes she can do the most good for Dallas.

“To me, it’s not about my title, but about what I can accomplish,” she said. “If I can accomplish the most as a council member, then that’s terrific. But there are things I would like to see us do as a city, things the citizens are asking for, and if I can best accomplish those things as mayor, I will run.”

Hunt said she would like to see the city’s elected officials change their priorities, because she believes that is what the city’s residents want.

“When I talk with folks, they are frustrated with the idea that we are focusing on creating a city for tourists rather than residents,” she said.

She said that high-dollar projects like the Trinity River Park toll road, the new bridge over the Trinity River and the Convention Center hotel “take focus off the acute, more immediate needs of residents, while the residents want to see their parks taken care of and their streets taken care of and the city’s infrastructure taken care of.”

“The citizens want us to focus on making our city a great place to live rather than a great place to visit,” Hunt said.

Hunt added that she expects LGBT issues and HIV/AIDS issues to continue to come before the council from time to time, and that she will continue to be an advocate for the community when that happens.

“I think when we are looking at funding issues that may affect the LGBT community — things like funding for HIV/AIDS programs — that’s when having voices on the council that are strong advocates becomes absolutely critical,” she said. “I don’t think anyone on the council now is anti-LGBT. But there is a difference between folks who are not opposed to certain issues affecting the LGBT community, and those who are staunch advocates who will pick up on those issues and move forward with them.”

Hunt said she has appointed several openly LGBT people to city boards and commissions, and that she hopes “I have shown my door has always been open.” And she said she has many supporters in the LGBT community who have encouraged her to run for mayor.

“I have been very honored by the response I have received, very appreciative of that,” Hunt said.

LGBT political leaders praised Hunt’s advocacy for the community, but said there are still too many variables up in the air to start making endorsements yet.

“It’s not a surprise” that Hunt is considering running for mayor, said Erin Moore, former president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas and current vice president of Texas Stonewall Democrats. “There have been rumors since the Pride parade [in September] that she was going to run.

“She has been fairly progressive on our [LGBT] issues anytime something has come up. There have been some mixed reviews on her; she has her supporters and her detractors in our community,” Moore said. “But I would say her heart is definitely in the right place, which is a good thing, for sure.”

Still, Moore added: “Right now we’re not sure who is actually running. It’s a very competitive game.”

Current Stonewall Democrats of Dallas President Omar Narvaez also praised Hunt’s record on LGBT issues.

“She has a pretty positive record, especially from two years ago when the council was deciding whether to cut the HIV/AIDS funding out of the city budget,” Narvaez said. “She stepped up and worked with us to try and keep that from happening, and when it became obvious the cuts would happen anyway, she worked with us to try and save as much of the funding as she could.”

Patti Fink, president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance and Moore’s spouse, said she believes Hunt would be “a very viable candidate in a citywide race,” having raised her visibility with strong stances on high-profile issues, including plans to build a toll road through part of the Trinity River Park and building a city-owned hotel near the Convention Center downtown.

Hunt opposed both proposals, although both eventually passed.

“She has certainly been a strong advocate for our community in the time she has been on the council,” Fink continued. “There haven’t been that many LGBT issues that have hit the horseshoe since she was elected. She wasn’t there when the city passed the non-discrimination ordinance [protecting LGBTs]. But she has been a leader in stepping up on issues when we have asked her to.

“I think she is an advocate for the community, rather than just a supporter who follows others,” Fink said.

Both Fink and Narvaez stopped short of saying they would endorse Hunt for mayor, noting that their respective organizations would be screening candidates and making endorsements in municipal elections soon.

“We will be starting our PAC meetings in a week or two, then we will start sending out endorsement packets and setting up screenings with candidates,” Fink said. “We anticipate a wide range of candidates coming our way, asking for endorsements.”

Fink also noted that DGLA’s PAC has in the past endorsed a number of past and current City Council members that might run for mayor this year. That means the DGLA endorsement will not be automatic for any one candidate.

Narvaez said Stonewall Democrats will also be making endorsements in city elections this year for only the second time.

Originally, because Stonewall is a partisan organization that will endorse only Democrats and city races are non-partisan, the organization did not endorse city candidates.

Screenings for city candidates seeking Stonewall’s endorsement will be held March 19.

“I personally hope that she [Hunt] will decide to run and that she will ask for our endorsement,” Narvaez said. “We will have to wait and see what happens. Also, it will be interesting to see who might try to win her [District 14] seat if she runs for mayor. There very well might be some LGBT people running for that seat.”

Fink agreed. “I think we have some incredibly qualified people in our community, and I would love to see some of those people step up and run for that seat,” she said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 14, 2011.

—  John Wright

Is Gold’s Gym the new Target?

Robert Rowling

A few years back we wrote about how, unlike the vast majority of lodging chains, Omni Hotels doesn’t offer domestic partner benefits to its employees.

Our reporting prompted the Irving-based company to agree to offer DP benefits at the city of Dallas’ new convention center hotel, which is being built by the city and will be operated by Omni. It remains to be seen whether Omni makes good on this promise, which didn’t come directly from the company but was communicated through city officials who were trying to get voters to sign off on a bond issue to finance construction of the hotel.

Anyhow, in our initial story, we told you a little about the owner of Omni parent company TRT Holdings, Highland Park billionaire Robert Rowling. Rowling is a big-time Republican donor who’s contributed funds to some virulently anti-gay politicians over the years, including former Pennsylvania Congressman Rick Santorum.

So it wasn’t overly surprising to learn last week, via Politico, that Rowling is among the leading donors to American Crossroads, the new group co-founded by Karl Rove. As Change.org notes, American Crossroads is working to help elect some of the biggest bigots on the ballot this year, including Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle.

Rowling has kicked in $2 million to American Crossroads, which puts him behind only fellow Texan and Houston homebuilder Bob Perry, who’s contributed about $7 million. Bob Perry, of course, is best known to the LGBT community for helping to bankroll, to the tune of $100,000, the state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2005.

In fact, Rove has drawn heavily on his Texas buddies in general to fund American Crossroads, as other major donors include Trevor Rees-Jones, president of Dallas-based Chief Oil and Gas; and Dallas billionaire investor Harold Simmons, of Swift Boat and Bill Ayers fame.

But none of the contributions to American Crossroads has drawn as much attention from the LGBT community as Rowling’s, which appears to be generating a virtual firestorm in the gay blogosphere. That’s because in addition to Omni Hotels, Rowling’s TRT Holdings owns Gold’s Gym, and apparently the only thing we hold more sacred than shopping at Target is working out.

Change.org has launched a petition, which now has more than 1,700 signatures, calling on Gold’s Gym to stop supporting anti-gay politicians, and the story was picked up by Towleroad, Joe.My.God. and The Advocate over the weekend.

In other words, it looks like Gold’s Gym is the new Target, so to speak, and aren’t we lucky to have the owner living right next to our gayborhood in Highland Park? But if Gold’s Gym is really the new Target, shouldn’t Omni Hotels be the new Best Buy?

—  John Wright

LGBT community must keep pressure on Omni Hotels to become gay-friendly

A conceptual drawing of the Convention Center hotel.
A conceptual drawing of the Convention Center hotel.

The city of Dallas has secured commitments from investors to buy $479.8 million in bonds to finance construction of the Convention Center hotel, according to The Dallas Morning News. Mayor Tom Leppert says a groundbreaking for the hotel will be held within a few weeks, and construction could be complete by early 2012. So what better time to post this column I wrote recently about the company that will operate the hotel, Irving-based Omni Hotels, and its recent decision to offer domestic partner benefits to employees at the facility. The column was intended for the print edition of Dallas Voice a while back, but got bumped due to a lack of space. Read it after the jump.

—  John Wright