Drawing Dallas

Even without TBRU in town, Bear Hamilton’s name says it all … or maybe it doesn’t

MARK STOKES  | Illustrator
mark@markdrawsfunny.com

Name and age: Bear Hamilton, 49

Spotted at: Kroger on Cedar Springs

Occupation: Theatre technician

Beginnings: Born to a Marine Corps officer father and New England schoolteacher mother, Bear’s early years were nomadic, living in North Carolina, Virginia, California and Okinawa, Japan. Living overseas left an indelible impression. Maturity came to him early. He sported a beard and already had a pipe smoking habit by the time he was in high school: “My peers found me odd and different and reminded me of that on nearly a daily basis.”

The world is his stage: This 6-foot-11, 250-lb. hunk of a man always dreamed of being an actor and singer, and now performs in plays and musicals across North Texas (he’s played Daddy Warbucks in Annie, Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, Jud Fry in Oklahoma!, Bill Sykes in Oliver! and a slightly crazed-looking biker on billboards around the Metroplex), and he leads Black Hat Saloon, a country rock band.

Bear likes to cook, camp and fish. He loves classic cars, trucks and Harley-Davidson motorcycles. He has an eclectic taste in movies, and a large DVD and videotape collection to prove it. It’s no secret that he enjoys good food and has a wide, varied taste for it. He also enjoys a good pipe or cigar, often with a glass of bourbon or a good beer.

Bear It all: Bear looks to be the quintessential gay bear, though he doesn’t wear his sexuality on his sleeve. “I see myself as a man first, a homosexual second. I don’t feel any more ‘pride’ in being a homosexual any more than being male, or white, or a person of size. What pride I have comes from the achievements I’ve made. My faith plays an important role, but I don’t usually profess it. I am grateful for my faith family who embrace me for what I am and who I am.” As he stares down the barrel of his 50th birthday, Bear has been reminded of late how much life changes with one of his favorite sayings: “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”

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

—  John Wright

Gaydar says it crushes the gay app competition — we tried to take a look and were disappointed

Watch out Grindr and Scruff, Gaydar is hot on your heels. Gaydar.net unveiled its new app today on iTunes. By the looks of the chart below, it should be just what dudes need to hook up, or at least make friends. Some of the options sound pretty nice. You can select what you’re looking for (to chat, to date, to, you know) and change it on a daily basis. Sometimes a guy just doesn’t want a boyfriend. You know who you are.

Anyway, check out side-by-side comparisons.

—  Rich Lopez

DRIVE! 2010 • Driver’s seat

Changing cars is like changing clothes for Classic Chassis’ James Gudat

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

Classic Chassis member James Gudat
HOW HE ROLLS | Despite having a reliable, newer Dodge Ram truck to do most of the heavy lifting, Classic Chassis member James Gudat opts for one of his many vintage cars for everyday driving, like this awesome Matador. (Rich Lopez/Dallas Voice).

In Drive, we try to look at what’s on the horizon for new cars and upgrades of our favorite models. But for a sizeable group of gay Dallasites, older is better.

The Classic Chassis Car Club provides a place for vintage car aficionados to meet and share their gearhead passion. Many of its nearly 150 members are multiple car owners. But few have as many as James Gudat, who garages more than two dozen cars at his East Dallas home and in Canton. Ironically, he uses his vintage rides more than his “new” car, a 1995 Dodge Ram truck.

For more information, visit ClassicChassis.com.

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Name: James Gudat

Day job:  There are a couple of things I do. I’ve had an assortment of rental properties for the last 20 years, and four days a week I go into the office of Connectrac, a great place that my longtime friend Clint Strong created. I am really spoiled there. The two facilities that we have occupied in the last four years have space set aside in the warehouse for parking my vehicle of the day. It’s super to drive into the building and not have to worry about door dings, sun, hail or any other unfavorable elements.

What kind of car: I have 30 of them.

Say what? Yeah.

Which do you drive on a daily basis? It depends on the weather, what has air in the tires, a charged battery … and not two or three cars behind it.

Seems like it’d be tough to go through all to find out which to roll out with. What do you have to choose from? The group of wayward cars is a hodgepodge, which includes a 1928 Studebaker President (which is all original and runs but looks like it’s 82 years old), a 1958 Nash Metropolitan and a 1979 Pacer wagon. I love wagons and fixed up duplicates of the ’63 Rambler wagon and ’73 Ambassador wagon with woodgrain sides.

When it’s nice, I take out a convertible, or a hardtop and roll down all the windows. When I need attention, one of the 1970s cars in a factory original over-the-top two-tone paint scheme. Other times, I feel like a luxury ride so I pull out a 1956 Continental Mark II (the rarest car in the group) or a 1966 Imperial LeBaron. If I feel like hot rodding, I will pull out the 1979 Camaro (triple black with nice cast wheels and white letter tires) or my bad boy car, a 1972 Pontiac Grand Prix SJ with a powerful 455, Posi-track and no emission controls.

I have no idea what that means, but I want to ride in it. It isn’t restored so it has rough edges, but it’s a real kick to get behind the wheel and stick your foot in it. Laying big black rubber strips is almost a thing of the past and most cars now simply cannot do it. Still, sometimes it’s fun to not grow up.

Where did your love of cars come from? Aunt Sylvia gave me a model of a red 1968 Lincoln — I loved that toy and still have it. Aunt Louise was always a car gal with a new car every four years or so. Some of the best memories were in those cars. I still have my first car I bought 33 years ago.

Which is your most modern car? I have a ’95 Dodge Ram. The newest old one is a ’82 Lincoln Mark VI coupe. I think it’s a very pretty style with the triple pastel French vanilla paint. The leather seats are butter soft and it drives like a modern car. It gets about 20 miles to the gallon in town and 25 on the highway. Since it’s smaller — by old car standards — I can fly into a parking spot at warp speed and watch the hood ornament swing around without fear of totaling everything around me.

What do you like about your truck? It gives me the pulling power to haul almost anything that I need to. It’s the only new vehicle I have ever bought, and now it’s 15 years old, but still going strong. It looks good but not near as flashy as newer trucks. It never lets me down.

The best part about driving vintage cars is… It is the memories of family and events and the fun of being different. I like looking down a hood that’s a mile long. The wagons are great when I need to haul something like Christmas presents.

The worst? Pushing a car out of an intersection after it has just stopped running and walking home to get the truck to gather supplies to revive it.

Eesh. No thanks. You don’t want to have a wreck with one of these old cars. They are much more durable with stronger metal bodies and thick windows. A new car would fall apart if it hit any of these. Knock on wood that it doesn’t.

You must have some big stick shifts. Actually most are automatics — the only standards are the Studebaker, the Metropolitan and, of course, the 1963 Chevy firetruck which does have the largest stick.

That’s what I wanted to hear. What is it about cars today that doesn’t compare to the old ones? They have no flash or style. It’s hard to get excited about another 4-door sports sedan that looks like a two-week-old bar of soap.

There are some exceptions. The new Challenger, Mustang and Camaro are pretty fun.

Do you go to the throwback diners like Keller’s Drive-In? I have gone to two of the cruise nights at Keller’s. We rotate our monthly cruise events around the Metroplex to keep things interesting.

Do you play oldies music really loud while driving about in a classic car? I enjoy the tunes in the cars. They all have radios except for the Studebaker.  Most are AM-FM and some of the ’70s models even have working 8-track players. The ’74 Lincoln Town Car has an enormous sound system with a high power receiver, amps, speakers and dual 14-inch sub woofers that take up most of the trunk. That car will rock with the best. It plays classical music with a depth that is moving, but, of course disco sounds really good, too.

How do you maintain 30 vintage cars? If I let a car sit too long it gets cranky. They  develop leaks everywhere and it looks like your driving the Exxon Valdez around. I try to rotate all of the running tagged, insured ones so every few weeks they are driven. Twice a month, I drive to my storage in Canton to trade out a car and bring one back. The 60-mile trip helps keep the cars running much better.

Can I have one? In the last 25 years, I have only sold less than a handful of cars. There will be a time I’ll need to pass them onto someone else to enjoy, but not for a while. Anyone can have a vintage or classic car, but can you handle the care and upkeep that they demand?

No. If the question is, can you have one of those cars I have become the caretaker of, then the answer would be “not just yet.”

Dang.

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The big reveal: McLaren goes commercial

McLaren Automotive has been making cars for 20 years, but unless you frequent a racetrack, chances are  you’ve never seen one or even known where you could get one for a test drive. But starting next year, you need look no further than Dallas.

Park Place Motorcars is teaming with the British Formula One specialists to sell McLaren’s new production model. And it will only set you back $225,000.

The big reveal came about a month ago, when bigwigs with Park Place and McLaren pulled the sheet off the MP4-12C, an unwieldy title that reflects the company’s Project 4 carbon fiber model. And it is stunning.

The aluminum body, 2,866-lb. luxury sports car weighs 200 pounds less than rival models, with every gram being accounted for. A high exhaust system decreases drag by not allowing emissions to come out under the chassis. And the interior styling is comfortable and surprisingly roomy.

It’s certainly not a car for everyone — definitely not every pocketbook — but as car fantasies go, you can’t dream much bigger.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 5, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Because we all have our struggles

By Polly Browning Team Ride With Pride

We all have stories, our universal commonality. We have stories of experiencing joy and laughter. Some of us experience pain and hardship on a daily basis, while others of us support and care for those who struggle.

We all share one constant: We share in the making of these stories, either alone or with others.

No matter, once again, this coming Sept. 25-26, on what is the 10th anniversary of the Lone Star Ride, we all come together and know we are not alone. For two days and three nights, I get to be “just a number” again: Number 202, one rider among many.

I get to blend in and be a part of something much bigger than myself, much bigger than us all.

I have been asked to share my story. I’m humbled and hope I can do more than speak for myself, which is way too lonely. I’ve learned that our words and experiences are more alike than different.

My name is Polly Browning. I may not live in Dallas (too far from my Longhorns!), but as of September 2009, my wife and I (me being a rookie rider and Sarah being the rookie sweeper — and the cutest one, in my opinion) will now be temporarily located in Dallas once a year.

How did I get here? Laura Kerr invited me to ride a few years ago.

I remember her telling me at the time, “Polly, I need to warn you. If you say ‘yes,’ be prepared because you will be addicted to it and will be a ‘lifer,’ forever committed.”

I took on the challenge. And I immediately fell in love with this organization and its members.

As a psychotherapist, I have worked with many individuals and their families impacted by HIV and AIDS. It has been an important cause my family has supported.

But why would I choose Lone Star over staying and riding in Austin? All you have to do is come to the closing ceremonies of the Lone Star Ride, bring an open heart and watch, listen and let it all in. You will experience something indescribable and you will understand.

There simply are no words for it. For all participants, observers, whomever, you simply cannot go away with an untouched heart. Laura, I love you dearly for believing in me enough to introduce me to Lone Star.

I am a licensed clinical social worker. I am currently in the fourth year of my doctoral studies in the social work department at the University of Texas — Austin. As such, convincing me to participant in the Lone Star Ride wasn’t too difficult.

My personal path took a drastic turn in my first year in my Ph.D. program. I became someone I didn’t know at all.

I was in horrific pain. I was unable to compose my thoughts, either verbally or in writing (just a tad important to a student). I lost most of my ability to write, to move my fingers and most joints, including my feet, and my back. Any slight breeze (regardless of temperature) felt like razor blades on the skin of my arms, hands and feet.

My eyesight was affected. My ability to balance was gone. It became impossible for me to walk on my own. My wife, Sarah, got me a really cool blue walker and committed herself to making a belt to brace me in so I could be pushed around.

I was diagnosed with a rare auto-immune disease: RSD, or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, now called CRPS. They are still trying to figure the rest out.

The types of doctors I began seeing were foreign to me. I had every blood test, MRI, scanning this and X-raying that, and doing it again and again. The patients in the waiting area were often diagnosed with terminal illnesses, most much older than me. (It’s okay to ask — I’m 45 years young.)

No longer was I the helper, the server, the therapist. Now I was the client, the patient. The one who needed to learn how to ask for help, a skill I had not yet developed very well.

After fighting back, I began to let help in. I had to let go of my vanity, all my humility and accept the fact that I couldn’t solve it on my own.

After having a serious back surgery filled with titanium and fusions, I was restricted to lying on my back for three months, no less. I was allowed a total sitting time of 15 minutes a day. My bright blue turtle “torso” brace I wore 24/7 became my best friend. (One of my professors actually told me after that it showed off my “girlish figure!” Ha!)

That was on April 31, 2008. After I was cleared several months later, my orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Spann, told me to start to cycle for my rehab.

I was still wearing my brace 24/7. Did they even make cycling jerseys big enough to cover a brace? I’d never seen anyone in the Tour de France wearing one.

So I suggested that I learn how to play soccer for my rehab. Dr. Spann again suggested cycling, being a cyclist himself.

My wife’s best friend, Laura Kerr, knew where I was at in recovery, physically, emotionally and mentally. She knew I thrive on challenges, and she suggested — and re-suggested — that I set a goal of riding 180 miles that following September in the Lone Star Ride. Yep — five months after being cleared.

Now it’s history. I said “yes,” showed up in my bright blue turtle brace, and pretended that I knew something of what I was doing.

My 14-year-old son, Sayer, had committed himself to training with me and riding the full two days with me. My wife, Sarah, committed herself to being on the sweep crew. It was a family affair from beginning to end. I became cyclist number 202, and Sayer became rider number 203. Sayer inspired many in his willingness to ride along side his mom.
I’ve been excited and ready to ride this year, but God has a sense of humor. Several weeks ago I came back out of remission. I feel different. I feel abnormal. I feel my pain. But it’s often an invisible pain to others. Sometimes I feel embarrassed by not being able to “do.”

But in 12 days, I get to just be a number again. I will be back in my brace and will be ready to ride again in twelve days, with the grace of my God.

Something deep inside tells me that many of us want to be a part of, wanting to shed our skins that cause us to feel different while dealing with our own barriers.

Some of us participating in Lone Star ride in cars; some of us ride on bikes with two or more wheels. Some of us walk on two healthy feet. Some of us require help when we walk.
Some of us ride on motorcycles and are assigned the role of protecting the riders on the routes. Some of us are strictly cyclists. Some stand on corners smiling and shouting endless cheers of encouragement.

Some of us drive our cars, sweeping and picking up riders, ready with cold AC, peanuts and snacks, cold grape Gatorade, and most important, a nice soft seat. Some of us are more behind the scenes: the medical crew, the pit crews, the training crews, the organizers, and most importantly, the people who set up the catering.

There are family and friends who come and support all of us. They share memories and stories of previous riders who have lost their lives. They trust that their tears will be received with gentleness and love. These families bring pictures of lost loved ones on t-shirts, reminding all of us why we do it.

Without the willingness of these families to share their stories, the closing ceremonies would just not be the same.

No matter what our role, or how many wheels we ride on, we all come together. We link ourselves together on the last weekend of September, and try our best to make a difference in the lives of so many living with AIDS.

To donate to Polly Browning or another Lone Star Ride participant, go online to LoneStarRide.org.

Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS takes place Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 25-26, beginning and ending each day at the American Airlines Training and Convention Center, located on Hwy. 360 N., at Hwy. 183, in Fort Worth. Friends and supporters of LSR participants are invited to attend closing ceremonies on Sunday, beginning at 6 p.m.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 17, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Texas schools that don’t protect kids against anti-gay bullying now risk Title IX lawsuits

Stacy Dorman and Debi Ellison have convinced the U.S. Department of Education to investigate their bullying complaint against the Birdville Independent School District.

Two pieces of good news, if you will, on the bullying front today.

First, the Georgetown Independent School District has settled a lawsuit brought by the mother of now-16-year-old Ryan Mitchell, who has reportedly endured years of bullying based on his perceived sexual orientation.

Neither Texas nor the federal government explicitly prohibits anti-gay bullying in schools. But this lawsuit is part of a very positive trend in which the U.S. Department of Education under President Barack Obama is treating anti-gay bullying as a violation of Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on gender in any education program that receives federal funding. Austin’s KXAN.com reports:

“This is the first suit that the Texas Civil Rights Project has brought under title 9 alleging discrimination based on gender stereotyping and sexual orientation,” said Todd Batson, with the Texas Civil Rights Project. “However, that’s a developing area of the law.”

“I was spit on. I was knocked unconscious. My books were thrown in the trash. My finger was broken, lots of stuff,” said Ryan Mitchell, 16. “People called me gay, faggot on a daily basis.”

Terms of the settlement haven’t been disclosed, but they will include the district working with the Anti-Defamation League’s anti-bullying program, No Place for Hate.

Meanwhile, a little closer to home, a lesbian couple has succeeded in convincing the Department of Education to investigate — under Title IX — longstanding complaints of bullying against the Birdville Independent School District.

The couple, Stacy Dorman and Debi Ellison, allege that their 12-year-old son, Caine Smith, has been the victim of sexual harassment, also prohibited by Title IX. We don’t know all the details of the case, but we’re guessing the bullying is at least partly related to the fact that Caine has two moms and long hair. CBS 11 has the story.

UPDATE: We should know better than to post something like this without calling Ken Upton at Lambda Legal. Upton sent over a lengthy e-mail clarifying — and correcting — my legal analysis. In a nutshell, Upton says public school students have long been protected against anti-gay bullying under the constitutional rights of equal protection and free speech. “I just wanted to be sure we point out that while this administration has demonstrated that it cares more about the health and well-being of students than some prior administrations, and the full weight of the Department of Education indeed does change the equation in our favor, these protections are not new. More parents and attorneys willing to represent students need to be aware of them.” I’ve posted Upton’s full analysis after the jump.

—  John Wright