Fundraiser for gay Pride VIP’s foundation moved from Republican Texas lawmaker’s home

Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie

A fundraiser for British rugby star Ben Cohen’s anti-bullying foundation has been moved from the home of a Republican Texas lawmaker, after an Instant Tea post about the event stirred controversy Thursday.

Jeff Hickey, a gay Dallas resident who’s organizing the Sept. 16 fundraiser for Cohen’s StandUp Foundation, said he chose to move the event from the Highland Park home owned by State Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie.

Cohen’s foundation is focused on combating anti-gay bullying, and two days after the fundraiser Cohen will be a special VIP guest at Dallas’ gay Pride parade. Rep. Pitts, meanwhile, has an anti-gay voting record and supported an effort to ban LGBT resource centers from college campuses in Texas earlier this year.

“It created a firestorm politically,” Hickey said of the Instant Tea post, written by Daniel Williams. “Within one day, it was diverting all the attention and resources.

“Within the course of just a couple hours, it made it’s way to London and Austin and all over the place,” Hickey added. “The entire message was lost, and that was extremely disappointing to a lot of people.”

Hickey said the post prompted Cohen’s representatives in London to contact him, and at one point the rugby star’s entire four-day visit to Dallas was in jeopardy.

“Ben’s got a very sensitive brand and a very popular international brand, and they’re not interested in that brand being messed up in Texas politics,” Hickey said.

HIckey said it was an “unfortunate situation” and he understands both sides of the issue, including Instant Tea’s desire to report on the issue. He also said he was “very honored” that Pitts offered to host the event and noted that the state representative voted in favor of two anti-bullying measures backed by Equality Texas in this year’s session.

Asked how Pitts came to host the fundraiser in the first place, Hickey said, “I was approached by some people that said we could possibly do it at his house.” But Hickey declined to say who those people were or elaborate. Pitts hasn’t returned a phone call seeking comment.

Hickey said the fundraiser will now be held at a private residence in Oak Cliff. Anyone interested in attending can email info@dallasstandsup.com.

—  John Wright

Bill White says LGBT vote ‘absolutely critical’

Democratic challenger says he expects ‘a very close election’ as he works to unseat incumbent Perry

John Wright  | Dallas Voice wright@dallasvoice.com

OPPOSITE SIDES  |  Democrat Bill White, above, has courted LGBT votes in his bid for Texas governor, including making appearances at the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas meetings (above). Republican Gov. Rick Perry (below) has courted anti-gay conservatives, suggesting that same-sex marriage hurts job growth.
OPPOSITE SIDES | Democrat Bill White, above, has courted LGBT votes in his bid for Texas governor, including making appearances at the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas meetings (above). Republican Gov. Rick Perry (below) has courted anti-gay conservatives, suggesting that same-sex marriage hurts job growth.

A strong turnout from LGBT voters is “absolutely critical” to his chances of unseating Republican Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday, Nov. 2, Democrat Bill White told Dallas Voice this week.

In an exclusive interview, White said he expects “a very close election” and that gay voters in Texas shouldn’t stay away from the polls because they may be frustrated with a perceived lack of progress on LGBT issues in Washington.

White declined a request for a phone interview but agreed to answer questions via e-mail.

“It’s absolutely critical. This will be a very close election,” White said when asked about the importance of the gay vote. “I’m proud of my support in the community and so grateful to all the volunteers who have been raising funds, making phone calls, and knocking on doors to spread the word about the choice we have for the future of our state. This is no time to stay home. Whatever is going on nationally, we have major issues facing our state and need a leader to take them on.”

White, the former Houston mayor, is widely considered a strong LGBT ally, and he appeared in Dallas’ gay Pride parade in September.

White had a gay brother who died several years ago and has said he voted against Texas’ 2005 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, which was championed by Perry.

However, White hasn’t made LGBT issues a major part of his gubernatorial campaign, presumably in part because they might be used by Perry to energize right-wing voters.

Some Democrats seeking statewide office, including Barbara Ann Radnofsky and Hank Gilbert, have published policy statements in support of LGBT equality on their websites.

“Actions speak louder than words, and I have a track record of inclusive leadership,” White said in response to a question about why he hasn’t focused on LGBT issues. “That’s why I’ve received a rare endorsement from the Human Rights Campaign. Rick Perry wants to divide Texans — it’s what we’ve seen from him for decades. He’d rather divide for his personal political purposes than bring people together to get things done. Major corporations in our state, like Shell Oil for example, know that being inclusive makes them more competitive. But Perry recently made some comment saying that Texas’ job growth was somehow tied to the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. What? It just shows you how clueless a professional politician is.”

White was referring to Perry’s comment during a campaign stop in Temple in August, when the incumbent said: “There is still a land of opportunity, friends — it’s called Texas. We’re creating more jobs than any other state in the nation. … Would you rather live in a state like this, or in a state where a man can marry a man?”

Dallas Voice also asked White whether, as governor, he would support or sign bullying legislation that provides specific protections for students based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Texas public schools.

Asher Brown, a gay 13-year-old from the Houston suburbs, committed suicide in September after his parents say he was bullied relentlessly at school. Asher’s suicide was one of several across the country in recent months by teens who were gay or perceived to be gay.

“Asher Brown’s suicide is a heartbreaking tragedy,” White responded. “I’ll support policies that prohibit school and workplace discrimination and harassment of any kind, and I’ll work hard to build an atmosphere of respect in Texas.”

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

—  Kevin Thomas

Can Razzle Dazzle be revived?

Group of business owners, nonprofit reps call for meeting to set up board, discuss options for reinstating Dallas’ June Pride event

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

Scott Whittall
Scott Whittall

More than 25 years ago, organizers for Dallas’ gay Pride parade moved the event from its original Gay Pride Month date in June to September in recognition of an early court ruling striking down the state’s sodomy law.

Even after that ruling was overturned, parade organizers decided to keep the parade in September, in part to escape the oppressive heat of the North Texas summers.

But that was OK, because Dallas still had Razzle Dazzle Dallas to celebrate Gay Pride Month every June.

Razzle Dazzle Dallas had been held at the Dallas city impound lot, at Fair Park, at Market Center — and it finally ended up as a street party on Cedar Springs. It featured DJs, live music performances, vendor booths, informational booths and, of course, beer, food and lots of dancing.

It was the party of the summer.

But by the turn of the 21st century, Razzle had begun to lose some of its dazzle. Attendance dropped; profits dropped, and costs soared. The last Razzle Dazzle party was held in June 2004.

But while the party may be gone, it has not been forgotten. Now, a group of business owners and nonprofit representatives are working to bring it back.

“There are a lot of different nonprofits and business owners, both on and off the Cedar Springs strip, who have been talking about it,” Scott Whittall, owner of Buli Café and president of the Cedar Springs Merchants Association, said this week.

Whittall said the idea of reviving Razzle Dazzle first surfaced a few months ago when he, Brick owner Howard Okon, Jimmy Bartlett and Resource Center Dallas’ Henry Ramirez “started kicking the idea around.”

He said, “A lot of people talk about the fact that we love having our Pride parade in September, but at the same time, we feel like we are missing out on June Pride. I, for one, think we have the greatest LGBT community in the world here in Dallas, and there should be a good reason for people to come to Dallas in June to celebrate Pride. Razzle Dazzle used to be that reason. And it will be again.”

Whittall said that the core group has had several exploratory meetings, “asking questions like ‘Can we do it again? Should we do it again? Is there enough interest to revive Razzle Dazzle?’”

The answer, he said, seems to be a definite yes.

“I don’t think I have talked to even one person who didn’t get excited when they just heard the words ‘Razzle Dazzle.’ Everyone has their own memories of Razzle Dazzles from the past, and everyone so far loves the idea of bringing it back,” Whittall said.

Now they want to bring the idea to the community and get as much input as possible. To that end, there will be a meeting Thursday, Oct. 28, and every local organization, nonprofit, church, business, sports team and Pride organization is invited to send representatives.

“We have held off on putting an actual board together. Hopefully we can do that at this next meeting,” Whittall said.

“But we want it to be a good mix of nonprofits and business owners and organizations who are willing to commit to making this happen. If enough people get excited about it, if enough people come to this meeting and make the commitment, we can make it happen.”

Whittall said “nothing is set in stone yet,” but those who have been discussing the idea have already come up with a general plan for a new, revitalized and expanded Razzle Dazzle Dallas. “We all remember what worked and what didn’t work, and having that in mind, we have some ideas.

First and foremost, it has to be what it was always meant to be — a charity event. Everything that is raised has to go back to the charities that work to make it happen.

“We understand that this first year will be all about pulling it together and getting it going again. But we also believe that we can put together a great event that will just keep getting better,” he said.

In the past, Razzle Dazzle Dallas was a one-night fundraising party. But Whittall and his cohorts have envisioned something much bigger for Razzle Dazzle’s rebirth, taking it from a one-night dance party to a five-day celebration.

“Cedar Springs is still the hub, the heart of the LGBT community in Dallas. But we have LGBT communities spread out everywhere now,” Whittal said.

“We want the party to include everyone.”

Tentative plans have the new Razzle Dazzle taking place in the first week of June 2011, starting with First Wednesday Night on Cedar Springs. Then the party would move south the next day for First Thursday in the Bishop Arts district.

On Friday night, there would be an organized “bar-hopping” party featuring LGBT clubs both on the Cedar Springs strip and elsewhere. During the day on Saturday would feature a street festival on Cedar Springs, building up for the big bang on Saturday night.

Plans are to have the Saturday night party held at an indoor event venue with dancing, booths from community organizations and possibly a separate live cabaret show, with shuttle transportation provided to and from the city’s various centers of LGBT nightlife.

“Saturday night would be the big event, of course, but we want to take it even a step further and have some sort family event, a picnic or something, in the park on Sunday to wind everything up,” Whittall said. “We think it is a great idea, and we really hope everyone else will think so, too.

“For those who really remember Razzle Dazzle, we think it’s time to bring it back,” he continued.

“We’re living in good times right now, in terms of the community really working together. The economy has been tough, and that has made all of us have to learn to work together even better to keep things going.

“So we think this is the perfect time to revive Razzle Dazzle, to bring it back and celebrate our community.”

For information on the Oct. 28 organizational meeting, e-mail info@razzledazzledallas.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 22, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Countdown to Pride continues

As of this post at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Dallas’ gay Pride parade was just 100 hours away. And if we weren’t so busy trying to crank out this ginormous special issue that hits the streets Friday, we’d probably be able to feel the excitement building.

Anyhow, in case you’re wondering, the weather forecast for Sunday afternoon is holding steady: Mostly sunny, with a high of 91, a light breeze and no precipitation. A little toasty, but it could be worse. Besides, you’re not going to be wearing much anyway, right?

And speaking of letting it all hang out, here’s Wednesday’s line-up of Pride-sanctioned events from the Dallas Tavern Guild:

Pride with Miss Wanda
Dallas Woody’s
She’s a classic…Miss Wanda and her special guests.
$3.00 Amaretto Sours
11pm to 1am – No Cover
4011 Cedar Springs
Dallas, Texas 75219
www.dallaswoodys.com

Mr. Bear Round Up Contest
Round Up Saloon
Come out and see the bears in action and cheer for your favorite furry guy!
Cash prizes. No entry fees. Applications available at the front door.
9:00 pm
3912 Cedar Springs Road
Dallas, TX 75219
www.roundupsaloon.com

Little Chalupa’s Pride Karaoke
The Brick/Joe’s
$25 CASH PRIZE to best singer as voted by crowd.
9pm -1am
2525 Wycliff
Dallas, Texas 75219
www.brickdallas.com

Underwear Night – Wear Your Pride
Dallas Eagle
10:00 pm
5740 Maple Avenue
Dallas, Texas 75235
www.dallaseagle.com

Shantal and Dreamgirls Show at midnight (12am)
Kaliente
Karaoke starts at 9pm
Drink Specials – $2 wells / $2 domestic from 9pm – 11pm
No Cover
4350 Maple Avenue
Dallas, Texas 75219
www.kaliente.cc

—  John Wright

Dallas Pride events for Tuesday

Dallas’ gay Pride parade is just 125 hours away, and last-minute calls for volunteers and marchers are going out. Visitors are undoubtedly starting to trickle in from out of town, and did we mention the parties? Among tonight’s bashes are the Round-Up’s Mr./Miss/Ms. Pride competition, with winners earning a spot on the bar’s parade float, and the Bare Chests and Bare Backs Night at the Dallas Eagle, which sounds like a hot way to counter this heat. Here’s a full list of Tuesday’s  Pride-sanctioned activities from the Dallas Tavern Guild:

Legacy 21st Birthday Bash
Monica’s Aca Y Ala
Join us as we celebrate the 21st birthday of Legacy counseling. Great food, silent auction, live auction, entertainment and a evening of recognition for this great agency.
2914 Main Street
Dallas, Texas 75205
214-520-6308 ext 1

Pride Showtunes
Dallas Woody’s
Show the world how gay you are celebrating the best in showtunes from classic films, broadway hits and the best of the TV hit show Glee.
$2.00 Wells from 9pm to 11pm
9pm to 1am – No Cover
4011 Cedar Springs
Dallas, Texas 75219
www.dallaswoodys.com

Mr/Miss/Ms Pride Contest
Round Up Saloon
Come out and support your favorite candidate for the Mr/Miss/Ms Pride Contest. Winners will ride on the round Up float in the Pride Parade. Cash prizes. No entry fees. Applications available at the front door.
9:00 pm
3912 Cedar Springs Road
Dallas, TX 75219
www.roundupsaloon.com

Tyler’s Pride-Tastic Happy Hour
The Brick/Joe’s
$2.00 SKYY VODKA’S, food, fun & games
4pm – 9am
Pride Talent Search -11:30pm
IDA MAE WATERGATE’S Comedy & Variety Talent Search Competition
2525 Wycliff
Dallas, Texas 75219
www.brickdallas.com

Bare Chest and Bare Backs Night
Dallas Eagle
10:00 pm
5740 Maple Avenue
Dallas, Texas 75235
www.dallaseagle.com

Karlota & Her Divas Show at midnight (12am)
Kaliente
Karaoke starts at 9pm
Drink Specials – $2 wells / $2 domestic from 9pm – 11pm
No Cover
4350 Maple Avenue
Dallas, Texas 75219
www.kaliente.cc

—  John Wright

WATCH: Bill White on why he’s coming to gay Pride in Dallas — ‘I think parades are great’

We weren’t sure of the topic when we headed down to the Hyatt Regency this morning to catch a press conference featuring Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bill White. But we figured since Valdez is the nation’s only lesbian Latina sheriff — and since White is coming to Dallas’ gay Pride parade in a few weeks — we’d better go check it out.

As it turned out, the press conference was about White’s border security plan, which Valdez really likes. But Instant Tea also managed to sneak in a question about White’s upcoming appearance in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade — which was announced Monday night by Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. If you can forgive the shot of a pantleg at the beginning of the video, above is White’s response to our question, as well as some footage of Valdez talking about White and LGBT issues afterward. Enjoy!

—  John Wright

Bill White to appear at Gay Pride in Dallas

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bill White will appear in Dallas’ gay Pride parade on Sept. 19, according to an e-mail we received Monday night from Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. As mayor of Houston, White made a habit of appearing at Pride. And this is a smart move, because he’ll need a big turnout from the LGBT community all over the state to defeat Gov. Rick Perry. The right-wingers are going to vote for Perry anyway, and it’s doubtful that moderate Republicans and Independents will be turned off by this appearance. From Stonewall Democrats Vice President Jay Narey:

“It’s election season once again — and I have a very special announcement that I would like to make to all of you. We will have a very special guest walking with Stonewall Democrats in the Alan Ross Pride Parade on September 19th. Bill White, the Democratic Nominee for Governor of Texas will be joining us and walking with Stonewall in the Parade! We are thrilled and honored that he will join us and look forward to a very special day.”

According to White’s campaign, he’s also slated to appear at a press conference with Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez on Tuesday morning, Sept. 7. The press conference will be at 10:30 a.m. at the Hyatt Regency Dallas, 300 Reunion Blvd. The e-mail sent by White’s campaign Monday doesn’t say the reason for the press conference, but it’s possible that Valdez will be formally endorsing White.

—  John Wright

Leppert to miss gay Pride parade

Mayor Tom Leppert appears in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade in 2007.

For the second time in four years, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert will miss Dallas’ gay Pride parade. Chris Heinbaugh, Leppert’s openly gay chief of staff, told Instant Tea that Leppert has a “longstanding personal commitment” on the day of the parade, Sept. 19.

Leppert, a political conservative, surprised some when he appeared in the parade his first year in office. He became only the second Dallas mayor ever to appear at gay Pride, after Laura Miller. Leppert missed the parade in 2008 due to a family matter, but attended the parade again last year.

Heinbaugh declined to elaborate on Leppert’s “personal commitment” this year. Heinbaugh said he believes all 14 of the other council members, with the exception of Vonciel Jones Hill, have said they plan to appear in the parade this year.

Last year, all but two council members, Hill and Carolyn Davis, were at Pride.

—  John Wright