AUTO: Seek and you shall find

Nissan’s modern-family-friendly Quest: Finally a minivan that’s (almost) cool

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LIVE LIKE A DUNPHEY | Driver’s seat styling doesn’t take a backseat in the Quest LE ... though the backseat, with built-in DVD player, may be too good for the kids. (Photo courtesy Nissan)

CASEY WILLIAMS  | Auto Reviewer
crwauto@aol.com

Whenever my partner and I watch Modern Family, we see too much of ourselves in Mitchell and Cam’s relationship. We debate which of us most resembles the characters — my partner would be the one to present our baby as The Lion King,  and I can completely queen out over something trivial. However, it’s another star of the show that would be welcomed by double daddies.

Nissan’s product placement of the all-new Quest mini-van was uber-smart. Although driven by Claire in the show, it’s easy to imagine two dads and their adopted offspring heading off to a fabulous vacation in that sleek bus. The streamlined toaster’s distinguished wrap-around rear glass sits atop creased bodysides, 18-in. alloys and a chrome grille that could part wind for an Infiniti or two flaming queens.

As big as the Quest is — and it is huge — it comes off as a much smaller vehicle until you creep upon it.

Nobody thinks minivans are cool nowadays … not that they ever did. But the joy of owning one sneaks up on you. The Quest’s interior is absolutely dance-club spacious with seating enough for seven. If little ones are in your future, six of your nearest and dearest friends will love going anywhere with you. Point the nose in any direction and slide aboard.

Friends slip through the power sliding rear doors, open either of the dual sunroofs (rear riders get their own), and climate control their individual zones. You could throw Manny in the back and never hear his adolescent pontifications again. Front passengers have heated seats and ride in thrones that smell like cow butter and are more luxurious than those in a Gulfstream jet; rear seats fold flat to throw in bicycles, a Nelson credenza or enough regalia for a production of La Boheme.

Play a CD of the opera through the van’s 13-speaker Bose audio system, recline your seat and pretend you’re there. Or put in a DVD to see it on the roof-mounted flatscreen. In-dash navigation, rear camera, blind spot warning system, Bluetooth phone connections, USB input for MP3 players and XM Satellite Radio bring you back to the current time with a full suite of toys.

My sister, who has three kids, was impressed with the Quest. Under the rear floor is a deep well to store valuables out of sight. Wide pockets in the doors are big enough for baby gear and have places to hold water bottles. Consoles between the front and middle-row seats hold drinks, iPads or anything else a modern family carries. If you can carry it, this van will haul it.auto-02

When Claire needs to make a quick get-away from another awkward situation, they’ll throttle down on the standard 260hp 3.5-liter DOHC V6 engine, connected to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Most CVTs reel up and down their gear ratios maintaining a shrill somewhere between a Weed Eater and a screaming cat. Not so the Quest’s. It’s quiet, smooth and enables excellent 19/24-MPG city/hwy. ratings — not bad for a 4,500-lb. truck.

“Quiet” describes the overall experience. Large mirrors are separated from the body to minimize wind noise as the aero body slips through air without causing a stir. The chassis absorbs bumps without drama, steering is tight and power is always at the ready. Cruising beyond 80mph was easy. I even took down a pickup truck on a hilly two-lane. Four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist, and electronic stability control quiets the mind’s fears.

Like Jay and Gloria’s house on Modern Family, the overall sense of the Quest is understated quality. The seats feel and smell like they could be in a Bentley, padded materials cover even the rear doors, the leather-wrapped steering wheel feels expensive, and the woodgrain and silver finishes on the center dashboard are nicely styled. My partner and I found ourselves really enjoying a long drive, ready to head out into the vastness of America to find ourselves again, knowing full-well at any time we could stop, flip the seats, and find ourselves finding ourselves.

As everything about the Quest is tech-laden and high quality, it comes with a price tag that only a loaded modernist can afford.

Base prices start at $27,750, but our well-equipped test model came to $43,715. Still, you won’t find a luxury SUV so well equipped with half the interior space for less. Minivans aren’t cool, but the Quest is a fab choice for any alternative family.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 17, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

BearDance event during Pride at … Sue Ellen’s?

When I spoke with BearDance co-founder Mark Trimble for this story, we got to talking about how the normally TBRU dance event will evolve into something bigger. And why not? The guys know how to raise some big bucks for local nonprofits. They made a healthy donation to the Dallas Bears, which in turn, doled out the money to their beneficiaries.

On Facebook last week, the BD guys announced and invited people to the SwitchParty BearDance at, of all places, Sue Ellen’s, during Pride weekend. How are the ladies gonna like that? Don’t worried, they’ve got it covered, according to this explanation on their event post:

BearDance is bringing back DJ Blaine to spin for a hopping dance party on Friday of Dallas Pride Weekend, September 16th. BearDance is partnering with Caven Enterprises to sponsor this SwitchParty, so the bears are getting Sue Ellen’s and the girls get live music back at TMC. Come out, dance, and socialize with all the bears, cubs, otters, daddies, musclebears and friends as we mix things up, take back the dance floor, and trade spaces with the girls! As always, this non-profit event has a charitable component and the $15 cover charge proceeds at the BearDance will be going to AIDS Arms.

You got some time to plan. Mark your calendars for Sept 16. at 9 p.m.

—  Rich Lopez

HRC Family Project to host gay day at Dallas Zoo

Lions and tigers and bears aren’t as big a deal as the HRC Family Project’s latest event. The Project will host the LGBT Family Day at the Dallas Zoo on Saturday, which may be the first kind of “gay day” for the zoo. The blog 2 Daddies, 1 Love/2 Mommies 1 Love posted the event details. It’s an all-day affair but families can come and go as they please.

Families will gather at 10:15 a.m. at the carousel for a meet and greet and from there, they can either explore as a group or break off on their own. The group will then meet for lunch at the Serengeti Grill.

But they aren’t limiting it to just families. If you just like going to the zoo, they say you can join as well.

 

—  Rich Lopez

The thin red line

WHO’S YOUR  DADDIES? | William Marshall Warren plays a cross-dressing orphan in this new satire.

Musical parody ‘Trannie’ toys with controversy but (sort of) rises above it

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer
stevencraiglindsey@me.com

It’s amazing how two little letters added to a word can make such a big change. By taking the legendary Broadway musical, Annie, and putting a simple “TR” in front, a small-town theater has created a parody that will forever change the way you look at cute little red-headed moppets singing about mañana.

Despite what a lightning rod the mere word “trannie” is to controversy, in the context of this new musical, it’s a necessary evil in order for the whole gag to succeed. It’s never made completely clear whether the title character is transgender or a transvestite, but the orphan’s search for her two dads and meaning in the world defies most labels. Except funny, which would apply wholeheartedly.

Tucked away in a tiny theater that looks like an old garage in Grapevine, Ohlook Performing Arts Center is just the kind of place you want to see pregnant teens dancing about and singing a song called “It’s A Knocked Up Life.” The fact that it’s BYOB and has late-night-only showtimes makes the cheap admission even more enticing. And what’s not to like about a show where the length of intermission is only as long as it takes patrons to use the single public restroom? Two members of our party were even asked to go pee behind a trailer so the show could go on.

Written by Matthew Lord and directed by his wife, Jill Blalock Lord (yes, this comes from a straight couple), the show has genuine moments of inspiration and some truly demented lyrics. It’s got the high-school-drama-club charm of a single piano accompanying the singers, but it’s that homespun quality that keeps the X-rated dialogue that much more off-kilter. Taking place at Unplanned Parenthood, a gay bar called The Manhole and Hooker’s Alley, and with musical numbers like “STD,” “Sleazy Street” and a newly imagined “Tomorrow,” it’s full not just of showstoppers, but pretty solid parodies.

In the lead, William Marshall Warren is a wisp of a man, but he infuses Trannie with just enough heart and old-fashioned gumption to elevate the whole thing to something with a sincere message and not just pondering. Sure, some people may not find the joke as funny as others and some may be put off by the low-budget production, but in the end, it does exactly what every small theater company should do: Experiment. Take risks. And make sure there’s at least one sight gag involving anal beads.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

Your son’ll come out, tomorrow

SLEAZY STREET | Redneck Tenor Matthew Lord takes more potshots at the Bush Administration than gay people in his parody of ‘Annie.’

What’s a straight guy doing mocking a classic with the word ‘Trannie’? Making people laugh, that’s what

MARK LOWRY |  Contributing Writer
marklowry@theaterjones.com

It’s a beloved tale of musical theater: girl escapes orphanage, goes on quest for her parents, sings about tomorrow and ends up with a life of luxury and love — not to mention a spiffy red ’fro — with her new Daddy.

Make that two daddies. Trannie, a full-out parody of the aw-shucks family musical Annie, makes its world premiere this weekend in a tiny shed in the shadow of Grapevine’s squeaky-clean Main Street district.

The show follows the adventures of a transvestite (not transsexual) who leaves behind her prostitute pals and searches for the men who gave her up when gay couples were denied adoption rights. She sings in a nightclub called the Manhole, eventually discovering her dads, thanks to a cherished pearl necklace they once gave her.

Songs in the show include “I’m Gonna Come Out Tomorrow,” “It’s a Knocked-Up Life,” “S.T.D.” and “Sleazy Street,” which any musical queen will recognize as trash parodies of Annie hits. But despite being created by a heterosexual man, this is not a case of straight folks making fun of the T in LGBT. Nor of the G, L or B.

“I’ve been on the phone with my gay friends about this for a year, asking them ‘Can I write this?’” says Matthew Lord, the straight guy who created it. “I didn’t write this lightly. But I decided that if everybody wrote to whom they are, then nothing would ever get written.”

Lord grew up in San Francisco in the ’70s and ’80s, using his vocal talents to make a career of musical theater and opera. He has performed at the Met, originated a role in Andre Previn’s opera A Streetcar Named Desire and, as Nero, made out with three countertenors nightly in a production of Monteverdi’s The Coronation of Poppea. But he’s best known as a founding member of the locally based 3 Redneck Tenors. That group, which made it to the semi-finals of America’s Got Talent in 2007, performs opera, Broadway and popular as trailer-dwelling mullet-heads, so satire is in Lord’s veins.

As for credibility with the gay community, he knows he has nothing to worry about.

“I was one of two straight men in the San Francisco Opera chorus in the ’80s, I would go to their birthday parties at The Stud,” he says. “I grew to have this incredible understanding of not understanding why the rest of the world [didn’t accept] homosexuality. Except for the sex part, I’m as gay as they come.”

Trannie was born from a casual conversation after Ohlook, Lord’s theater company, had performed Annie. The theater is a school that performs more traditional musicals, but also does a late-night series with shows like Evil Dead the Musical, Reefer Madness and The Rocky Horror Show (Ohlook’s two-time Rocky was Jeff Walters, now Clay Aiken’s boyfriend).

For anyone upset about the use of the un-P.C. title, it’s all in good fun.

“Trannie is the most sane character in the show,” Lord says, adding that it addresses issues like prostitution, homelessness and closed-minded politicians. “It makes fun of everything and it makes fun of nothing, you know what I mean? There’s nothing hurtful in it.”

Well, there are slams at the Bush administration, with a parody of the Annie song “We’d Like to Thank You Herbert Hoover,” substituting the lyrics for the policies of George W. Bush.

Will it be irreverent, filthy and touching? Yes, yes and that’s the plan. Will it be funny? Bet your bottom dollar.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 25, 2011.

—  John Wright