Rawlings ‘personally’ supports marriage

Dallas mayor won’t sign pledge but says gay couples should have the right to wed

Rawlings.Mike

Mike Rawlings

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

Although he declined to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage this week, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings declared Thursday, Jan. 19 that he personally supports the right of gay and lesbian couples to wed.

Rawlings has elected not to join a group of more than 75 mayors from across the country who’ve signed a pledge circulated by the group Freedom to Marry in conjunction with the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting this week in Washington, D.C.

Under fire from the LGBT community for not signing the pledge, Rawlings explained that since becoming mayor last year, it has been his policy to avoid partisan political issues or social debates that don’t directly impact city government.

“This one obviously was very difficult for me, because I personally believe in the rights of the gay community to marry,” Rawlings said Thursday in an exclusive interview by phone from Washington, where he was still attending the conference. “I think this [same-sex marriage] is way overdue and we need to get on with it, but that’s my personal belief, and when I start to speak on behalf of the city of Dallas … I’ve got to be thoughtful about how I use that office and what I want to impact, and that’s why I decided to stay away from endorsing and signing letters like that.”

Daniel Cates, North Texas regional coordinator for the LGBT direct action group GetEQUAL, responded that if Rawlings really supports marriage equality, he should sign the pledge, which was set to be formally released at a press conference Friday morning, Jan. 20.

“I think he’s doing the same thing that a lot of politicians do, and that’s saying what he needs to say to get the LGBT vote,” Cates said.

After Dallas Voice reported on its website Wednesday night that Rawlings didn’t plan to sign the pledge, Cates launched a Facebook page and an online petition encouraging people to contact the mayor by phone, email and fax, and ask him to change his mind.

Cates said he may also organize a marriage demonstration outside City Hall in February — but was still hoping Rawlings would reverse course and sign the pledge on Friday.

“If he supports us, we need him to put his money where his mouth is,” Cates said. “Otherwise what he’s proving to me, personally, is that he supports us when it’s going to get him votes or money.”

Rawlings.Pride

SIGN OF SUPPORT | Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings throws beads while riding on the city float in the 2011 gay Pride parade. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

During his campaign last year, Rawlings said during a candidate forum that he voted against Texas’ 2005 constitutional amendment banning both marriage and civil unions. But before Thursday, the closest Rawlings had come to publicly endorsing same-sex marriage was in an interview with Dallas Voice during his campaign, when he said he felt the issue was “irrelevant” and “we should get beyond it and let people do what they want to do.”

Paula Blackmon, Rawlings’ chief of staff, said Thursday afternoon that 50 to 60 people had contacted the mayor’s office about the marriage pledge, with the vast majority saying he should sign it.

“People are communicating with us,” said Blackmon, who compared the public response to outcry over the city’s handling of the Occupy Dallas protests.

Rawlings said in addition to the LGBT community, he was getting pushback from his son and daughter, who he said were raised to reflect his personal beliefs about marriage equality.

“I’m catching a lot of grief in my family right now, just so you know, so I respect how people are feeling about this issue, and I understand it,” he said.

Other mayors who’ve signed the pledge include Michael Bloomberg of New York, Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, Annise Parker of Houston, Jerry Sanders of San Diego, Thomas Menino of Boston and Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles.

Jackie Yodashkin, a spokeswoman for Freedom to Marry, said the full list of mayors who’ve signed the pledge would be revealed during Friday’s press conference to kick off the campaign, called Mayors for the Freedom to Marry.

However, Yodashkin told Dallas Voice that as of Thursday, Houston’s Parker and Austin’s Lee Leffingwell were the only ones from Texas who’d signed the pledge. About 20 mayors from Texas, including Fort Worth’s Betsy Price, pre-registered for the Winter Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, according to the website.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 20, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Size does matter

Dallas graphic designer John March turned his eye toward apparel with Big Ol’ Boy, his clothing line for bearish gents

Big-Ole-Boy

THE ORIGNAL BIG OL’ BOY March, left, was tired of having no fashionable choices in large-sized clothes; his line of tees and caps have given bigger men a reason to shop. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

When John March wants something done right, he does it himself — or rather, if he wants it to fit right, he makes it himself.

March was frustrated that comfortable clothing options for him and his bear friends were limited and hardly any fun stylewise. Most men would just, ummm, grin and bear it, but not March: With a few ideas and determination, he set out to create a line that offered quality clothes with some winks along the way.

“Bears, muscled guys and bigger men tend to be an underserved market when it comes to clothing,” March says. “Part of my marketing theory was to start with bears because I think of myself as a member of the community and I think I have an idea of what they like.”

A graphic designer by trade, March didn’t see much out there that was all that appealing from a design standpoint. At big and tall shops, apparel for larger men was either of poor quality, way overpriced or both. In essence, bigger men were sort of held hostage by not having anyone willing to make stylish clothes that fit.

That was the genesis of Big Ol’ Boy.

With some humor and a stockpile of sketches, last spring March started his online store of shirts and caps that cater to big guys. Ever since, he’s been making an impression in the community and beyond.

“We’ve had lots of women calling orders in for their own big boys,” March says. “There are companies out there that cater to bears, but it’s just sort of generic. I think we’ve seen that people embrace the idea of a brand and by creating an overall brand geared toward bears and big men, then they might appreciate the fact someone is thinking about them.”

Currently, March’s line is composed of short- and long-sleeved tees with whimsical designs.

Sport graphics and slogans such as “Big Ol’ Jock” with a jockstrap image or “Big Ol’ Biker Boy” that takes a spin off the Harley-Davidson logo have proved popular with his gay following. But his biggest seller is a Tabasco-like label with “Hot Stuff Spicy & Saucy” sprawled across it. You’d almost think he’d get sued for copyright infringement.

“Fortunately, I know enough about trademark and copyright laws to do this,” he says. “But I did check with my lawyer. The difference is that I’m using this as parody and not on a competing product. But I wanted to use images that are rooted deep in our sensibilities like the logo or constellations for the Ursa Major shirt.”

Of course, March targeted what he knew, and teamed up with the guys of BearDance and the Dallas Bears for this year’s Texas Bear Round Up. It was obvious but also a stroke of genius.

“The feedback has been great,” he beams. “We did sell some at the TBRU vendor market and we did well with the BearDance events. I plan to work with them in the future.”

March recently added to the Big Ol’ Boy with a new line of polos — his first addition to the brand. With more than 300 design concepts in his catalog, he expects to introduce a new graphic tee on a consistent basis.

“With the polos, guys can wear them to work,” he says. “We have other ideas for items beyond that even. With each new item, we want to grow to a point to offer a wide range of items, build a community of loyal customers and listen to what they want.”

Although he wouldn’t consider himself a fashion designer, he does include himself as a client, which helps in creating his looks. With a group of friends as his sounding board, he would say that Big Ol’ Boy very much reflects his sensibility — even if he is more a preppy than a T-shirt guy.

This being his first business venture, March had to learn fast. Whether it was translating graphic art onto fabric or learning the benefits of ringspun cotton, he’s found his groove.

“I would like people to discover this sort of organically,” he says. “Maybe they’ll see the shirt on somebody or run across it online. Sure I may not be much of a T-shirt person, but now I get to make my own and I’ve never seen one I didn’t like!”

To see the collection, visit BigOlBoy.com.

…………………………..

LOVE THIS T

TShirt2
Making activism fashionable, Revenge Is has created the “All Love Is Equal” tee (also a tank). Made of eco-friendly materials, the line means to spread the gay-friendly message that all people should have the right to marry … and look hot while saying it. Five percent of net sales benefit Marriage Equality USA.
RevengeIs.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 20, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

A Del in concert!

(And he won’t cancel!) Shores returns to his native Texas bruised but busy

Del-Shores-32

NATIVE SHORES | Winters provided the backdrop for Del Shores’ comedy, but his Hollywood connections include directing Oscar hopeful Octavia Spencer in her next film role. (Photo courtesy Alan Mercer)

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Already, 2012 looks to be a busy year for Del Shores. That wasn’t among his New Year’s resolutions, but it has ended up being a blessing for him right now. Having something to do distracts him from those empty moments. After separating less than two months ago from his partner of almost 10 years, singer/actor Jason Dottley, spending quiet times alone was the last thing Shores wanted.

“With something this tragic, I have to stay busy,” he says. “This is a huge tragedy in my life. The depression comes in so I’m taking care of myself by writing or preparing other works. Just keeping occupied is so important. I couldn’t survive otherwise.”

As irony would have it, 2012 could end up being Shores’ biggest year yet. The Winters, Texas, native kicks it off in the Rose Room with a standup performance Jan. 27. For this show, he specifically returned to Dallas to film his performance for an upcoming DVD release. And for good reason: He feels the love here.

“I’d rather just go to Dallas,” he says. “I have the hugest fan base there and I should go back to the city that loves me the most to film the show. I love it so much.”

Just a year ago, Shores started a new phase of his career by adding “standup comedian” to his resume with a performance of his new act, Sordid Confessions, at the Rose Room. In fact, he’s less a comic than whip-smart storyteller, but he acknowledges that audiences who saw him last year should expect new stuff this time.

Does that mean he’s adding some of his recent personal drama to the bit? Not just yet.

“I haven’t yet put anything about it in my show,” he admits. “I can’t pretend that the elephant isn’t in the room, but I don’t plan to disrespect what we had … not yet at least!”

The closest he plans to get right now is reciting some letters of support he received after he announced his divorce publicly last November.

They were genuinely heartfelt, but hilarious enough to add to the show.

Shores is also writing the screen adaptation of his play Yellow, and is completing a new play about four women called This Side of Crazy. He’s also collaborating with his Sordid Lives star (and long-standing best friend) Leslie Jordan on the mockumentary The Happy Hullisters, about a gospel family hanging onto their last shred of fame. The plan is to begin shooting it in Dallas starting in June; Tony Award-winner Levi Kreiss and comedian Caroline Rhea (who MC’d this year’s Dallas Black Tie Dinner) attached to the project.

“I’m getting my acting company back together for this. And I’ll be in the Hullisters!” Shores beams. “I am embracing the actor in me. I’m still in negotiations to do one more Sordid Lives film that would be a sequel to the movie, but a prequel to the series. And I’m hoping to open [the play] Yellow in Dallas as well. Maybe I’ll be busy for the next two years!”

Shores is also in post-production of his play-turned-movie The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife starring newly-minted Golden Globe winner and likely Oscar nominee Octavia Spencer. Spencer is reprising her role she originated onstage for the play as LaSonia (pronounced “lasagna”) Robinson. Shores admits that if she wins an Oscar it could help his movie, but he was already suitably moved by her Globes win.

“This couldn’t have happened to a better person,” he says. “When she won, my daughter and I were sobbing like Mexican women at a funeral.”
When Shores posted a note on his Facebook page last November (it began, “It saddens me to inform you that Jason Dottley and I are divorcing”), the obvious question among his friends was, “What happened?” But even Shores doesn’t quite seem sure. Soon after his announcement, Shores received notes of support, but also some not so friendly. That added to the shock of his marriage ending. (Dottley was contacted for this piece but declined to comment.)

“We were this couple held up to the light as an example of gay marriage in a working relationship,” he says. “I had no idea this was coming.

My marriage ended, just like straight people. I had to start a process of healing.”

But were there no signs, no inkling of what was to happen? Shores searches for the words, but stammers as he decides whether to answer and what to say. And then finally:

“Let me put it this way,” he begins, “I’ve been working in the entertainment business for a really long time, I get a lot of actor-auditions. For some, I come up with reasons I don’t cast certain ones, but the bottom line is, ‘I don’t want you to play this role.’ And so no matter what was said or the reasons behind it, the bottom line was Jason said, ‘I don’t want to be married to you anymore.’ And there was no negotiation on any level.”

For a moment, he pauses. That inevitable lump jumps into his throat and one of Texas’ funniest funnymen all of a sudden isn’t laughing.

“There is never a great day,” he admits, choking up. “There are partial good days but good days … not yet. It happens.”

Creative types have the luxury of turning pain into their art and it’s easy to imagine Del Shores turning this pain into a comic masterpiece. He insists he’ll heal and move on. Eventually. Born gay into a Southern Baptist family in Texas, life hasn’t always been the easiest. And at the very least, he may take the advice of one fan, a straight woman, who wrote him.

“She told me there was one thing good about a breakup,” he says, “New dick!”
Badum-bum.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 20, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Going bi (coastal)

2 weeks, 2 cities, 2 coasts! Part 1 of our U.S. winter east-to-west tour: NYC

follies-30

BERN THE FLOOR | Bernadette Peters returns to B’way for more Sondheim in the smash revival of ‘Follies.’ (Photo courtesy Joan Marcus)

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

What’s it like to, in one week, clock time on both major coasts in America’s two largest cities? For New York in winter, it’s all about theater; in Hollywood, it’s about the movies (and the weather, a welcome break from the cold). And both have great places to eat.
First up: NYC. This time of year, the wind bites through you there, so a trip has to be based on the theater season, which is at its midpoint. Some of the hits have become apparent and new ones promise something great in the spring.

Follies isn’t the not-to-miss Sondheim experience that A Little Night Music was last year — at least after Bernadette Peters took over for Catherine Zeta-Jones — but it is all Bernadette, without replacement — though she shares the limelight with Jan Maxwell, who almost steals the show. Seldom staged because of its huge cast, elaborate costumes and sets, Follies is a nostalgic take on the fate of musical theater as viewed from 40 years ago; little has changed.

But it also crystallized Sondheim’s peculiar thematic preoccupation with nostalgia. See it, and you instantly realize how many of his shows are about the wistful, bittersweet resignation from looking back on one’s youth: In Follies, the younger selves of the ageing chorus girls; in Sweeney Todd, a life lost to a corrupt judge; the rekindling of a long-dead romance in Night Music; the simplicity (or not?) of the fairy tale world of Into the Woods. This production is a wonderful reminder of that and much more, beautifully performed by an exceptional cast.

Follies closes this weekend; not so Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, which officially opened last week. The quintessential American opera, set along Charleston’s Catfish Row, it evokes rural life through the sound of the spiritual mixed with honkytonk abandon. This new production, with the incomparable Audra McDonald in the lead and Dallas’ own Cedric Neal among the company, was the only show every employee at the TKTS booth unconditionally recommended … and for good reason. Get up and see it.

Both of those shows are revivals; original musicals are in short supply this season — at least those with any staying power. Bonnie & Clyde and the Dallas-bred Lysistrata Jones died quickly (the latter despite a rave in the New York Times; still, look for Liz Mikel a possible Tony nominee in May). Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark continues to draw crowds in amounts equal to the contempt held by the theater community, but it has been around since 2010 thanks to a record-setting six months of previews.

The big new musicals of the season have yet to open: Rebecca, Once, Newsies, Ghost and the pastiche Nice Work if You Can Get It (more Gershwin). So go up now for some plays, which are significantly less expensive to see and good seats are more readily available.

Another revival, Athol Fugard’s The Road to Mecca, isn’t totally successful, although its tight second act — featuring a tremendously devilish performance by Jim Dale as a sleazy preacher in South Africa trying to trick an old lady into giving up her house — nearly vindicates the logy first act, which prattled on endlessly and without seeming point. By the end, though, you realize the message of faith versus religion versus spirituality, plus you get to see a classic theater actor, Rosemary Harris, onstage right next door to Spider-Man (she played Aunt Mae in the film versions — how’s that for coincidence?).

The best new plays now running should be on any theatergoer’s list. Seminar is Theresa Rebeck’s smart, fast-paced comedy about a pompous but oh-so-perceptive writing teacher instructing four aspiring novelists about how bad they really are … and how they could be great. As the sardonic anti-hero, the magnificent Alan Rickman commands the stage. At a climactic point, he delivers a monologue that could have seemed trite and mawkish, except that Rebeck’s writing is so strong and he’s such an accomplished actor it works wonderfully. Hamish Linklater provides a terrific foil, and Lily Rabe, as a tart upper-class dilettante, handles Sam Gold’s bullet direction masterfully. No one even pauses for the laughs. That’s a good way to get audiences back  — so they can hear the jokes they missed this first time.

David Henry Hwang returns to Broadway with his best play since the gender-bending M. Butterfly. Chinglish(which closes Jan. 29) pits a plainspoken Midwesterner against the opaque business customs and complex social rules of China, but the point is broader. The problem of communication is not just between two cultures, but between men and women, and business-folk trying to gain an edge. Intelligently plotted and sharply directed by Leigh Silverman (the use of supertitles projected on the dazzlingly versatile set is inspired), it benefits from a memorable performance by Jennifer Lim as a canny Chinese functionary.

PUBLIC_Library_Detail

GRADE A | Public, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Nolita, offers great food in a high school themed setting. (Photo courtesy Public)

Of course, a theater trip to New York necessarily includes more than theater: You have to eat while you’re there, and the tradition of the pre- and post-theater meal is as honored as the show itself. It’s easy to get stuck along the stand-bys around Times Square (I always stop by John’s Pizzeria), but two newish restaurants — one far uptown, one far down — make for inventive off-the-beaten-path dining experiences.

Public, a Michelin-starred resto in Nolita, boasts something few Midtown restaurants can: space. Inspired by a public high school: Its dining rooms are lined with card catalogues, its security-glass doored bathrooms so authentic you expect to get a swirly, its menus presented on clipboards in a style that calls an exam paper (for a minute, I worried the waiter would grade me on how well I ordered). If it were all gimmick and no follow-through, these conceits would probably seem annoyingly twee, but they take a backseat to the food.

Its fusion dining from chef Brad Farmerie, with diverse dishes like roasted foie gras on a buttered brioche that’s richly flavorful, both fruity and salty; the scallops, while not fully caramelized, were so well-dressed with a miso salsa as to make you forgive that. For entrees, the Chatham cod’s fleshy, moist but well-charred preparation is not to miss, nor are the medallions of rare venison on a chewy blue cheese mash evocative of gnocchi. Add a great wine list, and Public is the perfect out-of-the-way find that makes a New York trip fun.

Red Rooster from celebrichef Marcus Samuelsson is out of the way in a different direction. Born in Africa but adopted by Swedes, Samuelsson gained fame at Aquavit, which made Scandinavian food hip. Now, he’s embraced the food of the African-American community.

He dropped Red Rooster, which opened about a year ago, in the middle of Harlem at the famed intersection of Lenox Avenue and 125th Street (the Apollo Theater is around the corner), giving neighbors, savvy downtowners and adventurous out-of-towners a polished (if slightly pricey) take on down-home cooking.

Samuelsson offers up droll reinventions of soul food classic like must-have “yard bird” (that’s just chicken — $24) fried in a crisp batter that has hints of cinnamon, perched on a bed of cheesy mashed potatoes and with a spicy-spicy house sauce that could bring out the secret flavors in a rice cake.

His Helga’s meatballs ($24) are equally delish, a kind of strange take on Thanksgiving with a lingonberry relish and paper-thin but crunchy housemade pickles, served alongside dill potatoes. It’s remarkable, how this comfort food warms you even though you’d never had it before. Hint: Start your meal with a side of mini tacos and tostadas ($9), four bite-sized bits of ceviche that are the perfect way to whet your appetite.

The bar is exceptional both in appearance (a bulbous horseshoe, topped in shiny copper) and substance — a drink menu worth repeated visits. Try the flight of craft beers ($9), or the Brownstoner ($12), a dazzling modification of the Manhattan. There’s even live music some evenings, giving you the true Harlem experience without having to brave a pub-and-club crawl in the frigid cold.

You don’t have to worry about the cold in Los Angeles … which will be the upcoming part 2.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 20, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

SPIRITUALITY: From loving ‘the sinner’ to loving your sister

Evangelist Jay Lowder of Wichita Falls makes waves by preaching acceptance of gays

Lowder.Jay

ACCEPTING NOT JUDGING | Jay Lowder has gotten a lot of heat for his position that people should worry about their own sins rather than the sins of others. (Photo courtesy Jay Lowder Harvest Ministries)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

WICHITA FALLS — Jay Lowder believes that no matter what, you should love and accept people. He calls the idea of loving the sinner and hating the sin hypocritical.

Lowder is an unlikely person to have those views. He is president and founder of Jay Lowder Harvest Ministries

Evangelistic Association based in Wichita Falls and is married with three children.

Lowder knows his views — recently featured on ABC News — are out of the mainstream of evangelicals.

“I take some heat for it, and I really don’t care,” he said.

When he was 18, he said he got a call from a friend.

“Hey, Jay, there’s something you need to know,” Lowder said the caller told him. “You’re sister’s gay.”

He said that news was devastating for someone raised as he was.

Soon after receiving the news, he was driving. He said he saw his sister headed in the other direction. He made a U-turn and caught up with her.

“Harsh words were spoken,” he said. “I told her she was selfish and I hated her.”

She told him it was her life, and their relationship was severed.

“I became a Christian at 21,” Lowder said. “The moment I became a Christian, I no longer hated her.”
But his acceptance of his sister wasn’t qualified by the “love the sinner” philosophy common among fellow evangelicals.

He told her he was a Christian, that he had never accepted Christ before and was sorry about the way he acted toward her. He admitted he had been judgmental and rude.

“I wanted to be close,” he said. “I loved her.”

Lowder said Jesus didn’t denigrate people. He said Jesus didn’t say to Mary Magdalene, “You’re a whore.”

“He made her heart the issue,” Lowder said.

In describing himself as an evangelist, he called it “the height of insanity” to be driving people away from Christ.

“The purpose of what I do is not to alienate people,” he said. “It’s to know and have a relationship with Christ.”

He still holds his convictions, he said, but there’s a way to approach people. People who cling to the “love the sinner, hate the sin” line use colloquialisms that sound spiritual, he said — but they use them to hate people.

But he said that Jesus taught, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” So rather than focus on other people’s sins, he said, religious people should focus on their own sins.

“Pull the speck out of your own eye before you pull it out of anyone else’s,” he said. “If I tell a lie to my wife, that’s a sin. Breaking a commandment is breaking a

Jay Lowder

commandment.”

He believes the commandments regarding homosexuality are no more or less important than any others. And he believes there’s a line between trying to rectify a situation and pointing fingers.

“I could go to a heroine addiction clinic and tell them not to do it,” he said. “But I’ve never struggled with it.”

He used the blunt analogy but then makes it clear he doesn’t think his sister has some sort of addiction. He just wants to make it clear that he’s not going to be judgmental.

He said that a Christian’s primary responsibility is to love other people.

“Don’t go around bragging about loving God if you don’t love other people,” he said.

Which brings him back to talking about his sister who lives in Dallas.

Last Thanksgiving, he said that she came to Wichita Falls for Thanksgiving, for the first time in at least 15 years. He said the family reunion was such a happy event that they begged her to come back to spend Christmas with them.

“My sister was back,” he said. “My dad was at the kitchen table, and that was the first time I saw him cry.”

Today, he only describes his sister in glowing terms.

“You won’t find a better person in the city of Dallas than my sister,” he said.

And he said their relationship remains close.

“If something happened to her, I’d be the first one she’d call,” he said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 20, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

ALBUM REVIEW: New releases from Nightwish, Anthony Green and Expensive Looks

Three vastly different releases run the gamut from symphonic metal to chillwave bliss

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Imaginaerum
Nightwish
Roadrunner Records

Initially, I thought major yawn factor when I heard that Finnish band’s seventh album is a conceptual release based on an old composer at death’s door. To add to that, it’s an accompaniment (not a soundtrack) to a film of the same name comprised of similar themes. Heavy.

Gladly, I misjudged, because they churn out a sort of heavy metal opera that’s only Meat Loaf could dream of. The operatic quality is exploded with a heavy guitar assaults and rapid drum smashes. But in all that thrust, the songs are constructed tightly keeping its themes right on course. Singer Anette Olzon sometimes gets outta control with her Abba-esque vocalizing, but the album has a linear quality that kept me interested the entire way through.

Minus the reasoning behind the album, it’s simply a grand listen. Even without lyrics, Nightwish pulls off a coherent and conclusive song cycle that’s headbanging, quirky and epic.

Three stars

Watch “Storytime”

Beautiful Things
Anthony Green
WEA Creative & Design Group

Indie rocker and Circa Surive singer Anthony Green is back with his second full-length solo of garagey rock and 20something angst. The album opens fine with “If I Don’t Sing,” an OK rocker that isn’t groundbreaking. But second track “Do It Right” is a full-out mess of handclaps and acapella. His voice is too harsh for this kind of singing and really just hurts the ears. And the album’s lead single “Get Yours While You Can,” displays no real soul to it other than maybe for some good drumming. Otherwise, he could use a Sucrets.

At times, Green is just too whiney that you just wanna smack the shit out of him. But in other tracks, he grows up nicely as in “Get Yours While You Can.” Overall, he doesn’t deliver much new that Jack White hasn’t already given us with much more depth. Green has a long way to go.

Two stars.

Listen to “Get Yours While You Can”

Dark Matters
Expensive Looks
Group Tightener

For a kid who taught himself to DJ and the move into producing, Alec Feld’s debut album as Expensive Looks is a big time knock out. The electronic music he creates play as complex symphonies in as little as a 1:49. With much of the same sophistication Washed Out displayed in last year’s Within and Without, Feld does the same, but with some dancey undertones. Yet, it’s never obnoxious with overdone production and bass beats, nor does it come off as self-indulgent.

The album has its specific tone of dreamy disco but tracks tend to run together. I couldn’t tell you the difference between say tracks two and five, but as a whole, it’s a collective breath of relief that works a whole lot of magic just over half an hour.

Surprisingly Feld describes the album as “confusion and constant bipolar shifts all for the pursuit of happiness. I kill for euphoria and use it as a venue to get that polar-shifting depressive state across. This isn’t about me not being happy; it’s more about my frustration with the pursuit of happiness.”

And yet, in all its originality and focus, it’s pure bliss to listen to.

Four stars

Listen to “Moving Visions”
Expensive Looks – Moving Visions by Group Tightener

—  Rich Lopez

Violent crime falls 13% in Oak Lawn hotspot

But jumps in vehicle burglaries, auto thefts fuel overall increase in 2011 for Maple-Wycliff TAAG

Martin.Laura

Sr. Cpl. Laura Martin

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com
Violent crime fell roughly 13 percent last year in the 1-square-mile hotspot that encompasses the Cedar Springs entertainment district and most of the Oak Lawn gayborhood, according to statistics provided by the Dallas Police Department this week.

However, the number of nonviolent offenses jumped 7 percent in the area —including significant spikes in vehicle burglaries and auto thefts — leading to a 4 percent increase in overall crime.

The Maple-Wycliff Target Area Action Grid, previously known as the Cedar Springs Wycliff TAAG, stretches generally from Maple Avenue to Lemmon Avenue, and from Oak Lawn Avenue to Kings Road.

The area, identified by DPD as one of 27 crime hotspots citywide, recorded 108 violent offenses from Jan. 1 through Dec. 26 of 2011, down from 122 violent offenses during the same period in 2010. Statistics for the final five days of the year were not yet available this week.

The 2011 numbers put the Maple-Wycliff TAAG at No. 7 for violent crime on a list of the city’s worst hotspots. Three years ago, shortly after the hotspots were identified, the Maple-Wycliff TAAG climbed as high as No. 2 on the list.

“I think part of it is the general trend in Dallas and nationally, that crime has gone down,” said Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt, whose district includes portions of the Maple-Wycliff TAAG. “I think the other part of it is the additional focus the city has placed on making safety a greater priority in that area.”

Sr. Cpl. Laura Martin, LGBT liaison for DPD, cited increased patrols, including plainclothes officers, as well as greater community involvement.

“The reason we have TAAG areas is they’re identified as high crime areas, so we address them with extra patrols,” Martin said. “Those areas where we have high crime get more attention, so it would stand to reason that crime would be reduced in those areas.”

Both Hunt and Martin also pointed to improved street lighting in the gayborhood, much of which was initiated by Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats’ Light Up Oak Lawn campaign.

Martin said even the Office Depot at 2929 Oak Lawn Ave. — where the parking lot has long been plagued by aggravated robberies — recently installed additional lighting.

“If you go over there on the weekend now it looks like Christmas,” Martin said. “I don’t believe we’ve had a problem since then at that location.”

The 12.5 percent decrease in violent crime in the Maple-Wycliff TAAG was part of an 8.8 percent reduction citywide — which marked the eighth straight annual decline, a record for Dallas.

The Dallas Morning News reported this week that murders dropped to a 44-year low in 2011, while total crime was down 39 percent over the last eight years.

Factors cited as contributing to the trend include the hiring of hundreds more police officers over the last few years, DPD’s strategy of hotspot policing and the large number of convicts who are behind bars.

However, despite increased attention from police, the news was not all good for the Maple-Wycliff TAAG. Statistics obtained by Dallas Voice show vehicle burglaries jumped 21 percent from 2010 to 2011, while auto thefts jumped 17 percent.

The Maple-Wycliff TAAG recorded 338 vehicle burglaries in 2011 — or an average of almost one per day — up from 280 in 2010.

Martin noted that the number of vehicle burglaries dropped sharply over the last month of 2011. She said this was after DPD made several arrests of burglars who had been very active in the area.

Martin advised people to park in well-lit, nonisolated areas, away from shadows and tree cover, and to lock their vehicles and set their alarms if they have them.

She also said people should take anything from their vehicles they can’t afford to lose, and hide everything else under a seat, or in the glove compartment or trunk.

But she warned people against hiding items after they’ve already parked, because she said criminals look for this.

“You don’t want people to observe you hiding things,” she said. “Make your vehicle a hard target. Burglary of a vehicle a lot of times is a crime of opportunity.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 13, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

City unveils planned Cedar Springs improvements

Hunt, Medrano present plan to Merchants Association; will include new crosswalk lights, red lights

CedarSprings

GETTING THE SIGNAL | A pedestrian runs to avoid traffic as he crosses Cedar Springs Road at Knight Street on Thursday, Jan. 12. The intersection will get a traffic signal under a pedestrian safety plan unveiled by the city this week. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE FULL CEDAR SPRINGS PEDESTRIAN SAFETY PLAN

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com

In the wake of two pedestrian fatalities on the Cedar Springs strip in November, Dallas officials have unveiled a host of planned safety improvements ranging from crosswalk lights to a new traffic signal to, eventually, the possibility of narrowing the street to two lanes.

Dallas City Council members Angela Hunt and Pauline Medrano, along with city staff, unveiled the changes during a closed-door meeting at the Round-Up Saloon on Thursday afternoon, Jan. 12, with representatives from the Cedar Springs Merchants Association, the Dallas Tavern Guild and other community groups.

The city’s Cedar Springs pedestrian safety plan calls for new flashing lights at crosswalks on Cedar Springs by the end of this month. A new traffic signal at Knight Street — where one of the pedestrians was killed — is scheduled to be installed by June.

“They did come with concrete solutions and things that they’re starting immediately, which is pretty exciting,” Merchants Association Executive Director Scott Whittall said after the meeting. “This is a big deal, and we’re excited about it. It’s a situation where we’re taking something unfortunate and we’re going to get as much out of it as we can to improve the street.”

Hunt said prior to Thursday’s meeting that the improvements have already begun with the recent addition of three streetlights on Cedar Springs.

“I think it’s pretty aggressive,” Hunt said of the plan, “which it needs to be, given the fatalities and accidents we’ve had there.”

In addition to the two fatalities in November, two pedestrians were seriously injured when they were struck on Cedar Springs in December.

Michael Doughman, executive director of the Dallas Tavern Guild, said the pedestrian safety plan represents “some great work from the city and those in attendance were most impressed with the ideas.”

“We had a great turn-out,” Doughman said. “Some ideas may need some tweaking but generally speaking, it was very well received. We will be doing an education campaign soon that we will ask the Dallas Voice to participate in. This will include pedestrian safety rules as well as driver safety issues.”

whittall.scott

Scott Whittall

According to a copy of the plan provided by Doughman, yellow warning flashers will be installed in both directions at four crosswalks on Cedar Springs, near Knight Street and Reagan Street. The two Reagan street crosswalks will remain in their current locations. The existing crosswalk at Knight Street will be moved to the south in front of Bank of America, while a crosswalk will be added between ilume and the city library.

Whittall said the flashing crosswalk lights will be at motorists’ eye level — and will be similar to the ones in place where Knox Street crosses the Katy Trail a few miles away. For the first 30 days, the crosswalk lights will flash around the clock, but after that pedestrians will have to activate them.

The city will also install a traffic signal at Cedar Springs and Knight Street by June, and begin an engineering study Feb. 1 to determine whether a traffic signal is warranted at Reagan Street. Also by June, the city will remove the right turn lane and island on the southeast corner of Cedar Springs and Douglas Avenue.

Other possible additions to the plan include banning left turns onto Cedar Springs from Reagan Street eastbound.

According to the plan, police have already increased traffic enforcement in the area, and Whittall said the Merchants Association has signed off on issuing jaywalking citations once the crosswalk improvements are in place.

“If we’re going to provide you with multiple safe crosswalk areas, they need to be utilized,” Whittall said. “You put your life at risk in an entertainment district if you try to cross somewhere that is not marked.”

Long term, the pedestrian safety plan calls for a “complete street” assessment of Cedar Springs, which could include revising the width of the street and reconfiguring lanes over the next three to five years.

“We’ve been harping and harping and harping on going to two lanes for a long time,” Whittall said. “Anything that would increase foot traffic on Cedar Springs and decrease traffic speed on Cedar Springs, we’re all for.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 13, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Phoning it in

‘Love addict’ Robert Diago uses his iPhone to explore his art

rmateo_installation

INSIDER ART | Artist Robert Diago lies in a bed which is part of the installation for his new show, which addresses his love addiction — something that has occasionally played out on his iPhone hookup apps, opposite.

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Cell phone attachment is hardly uncommon among gay men.

Whether on the treadmill, during happy hour or in the middle of a date, that lifeline to the ether is always at hand, ready to be texted, dialed or simply held for reassurance.

But when one local artist takes a call, it’s not his date or his workout but his art that likely is being interrupted. For him, a smartphone is as important as a brush.

“It was never a conscious thing to make art from it,” says Robert Diago, “but it’s become something I’m using to create art while feeding some of the art I’m dealing with.”

In his new show Every Then… And Now at Ro2 gallery, Diago (who writes his name professionally as r. mateo diago) exhibits work that peers deeply into his inner conflicts and addictions thanks to his iPhone. Simply by taking pictures with his phone of other photographs, Diago discovered and honed certain degradations that resonated with his messages.

“There were these strange patterns what would occur and even with those old photos, this gave them a very modern, contemporary touch,” he says.

But there was also an underlying theme emerging. While examining his past and his love addictions with old photos, he was using the very tool that made his addiction harder to handle.

Using a hookup app as inspiration, he created a piece called “Findr Night Lights.” Diago freely talks about his codependence, which has manifested into a love addiction. While he may act out on that in some sexual fashion, he’s discovered it’s rooted in a lack of love and nurturing not met in childhood.

At least, that’s what his therapist told him.

“I had a very good therapist,” Diago chuckles. “As a love addict, I’m looking for that missing piece. I’ve learned that I need to treat the codependent in me, not the addict.”

In turn, his artwork has become therapeutic, and he’s been able to address childhood issues such as his father’s abandonment and an abusive grandmother. He even turned the ending of his last relationship into a four-piece narrative. Unlike his last show, Diago’s intention here is to leave more to the imagination and allow viewers not just to see him, but also themselves.

06_FindR_nightlights_12x10_300“I felt like I spoonfed a little too much with [my show] Junk Drawer,” he says. “I thought to give less this time and start on some middle ground. The purpose of this show is to examine the buzzing in my head when it ingrained into my subconscious. I want everyone to take away from this that if you truly examine your thoughts, you can change the direction of your life.”

The Jersey-born Diago followed his then-partner to Dallas 16 years ago from Fort Lauderdale. Back then, art was a part-time gig, but when he was laid off from his job as a graphic designer almost four years, his partner encouraged him to focus on his art.

Fast-forward to today, and the reality of being a full-time artist is arresting. Diago is still on the hunt for employment and his own money goes more into his art and booking shows than coming in as a result of it.

“I think it was a good decision, but it’s very tough,” he admits. I will just continue to do this, but with no income to speak of, I don’t know what’s next. I’ll definitely go where the money is but I do hope this show could be great for me.”

If there’s one thing his art has given back to him, it is a sense of forgiveness. He can accept he won’t have a relationship with his father but he can use him for art. And he’s also forgiven himself.

“I love my journey. I chose all these unfortunate things and learned from them to create my work,” he says. “I came up against a lot of old demons in this work and was able to let go of them. It was one of the hardest things to do.”

There may not be an app for that, but Diago’s the man to ask how self-discovery can be found in an iPhone.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 13, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Anable applying for top spot at HRC

Fairness Fort Worth president knows he is new to the activism game, but says there is no denying his passion for the work

Anable-vertical-1-col

Tom Anable

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH  — As 2010 came to an end a year ago, longtime CPA and newly minted gay rights activist Tom Anable came to a momentous decision: He decided to sell his accounting business and spend the next year focusing on activism full time.

Now that year is over, and Anable has made another decision that could change his life again: He is applying for the top position at the Human Rights Campaign.

When HRC President Joe Solmonese announced that he was resigning, effective March 2012, Anable said, “My first thought was, ‘I pity the fool who has to try and fill those shoes.’ Now, three months later, I have started the process to apply myself.”

Anable said Thursday afternoon, Jan. 5, that he had sent his resume to the executive recruiting firm hired by HRC to help in the hiring process. Within 30 minutes, he said, he had been called for an in-depth phone interview, after which he was told his resume is being forwarded to the HRC search committee for review.

“I passed step one. Next step will be early February,” Anable said.
For most of his adult life, Anable said, he had focused his attention on his work. He knew he was gay, but he avoided the political and activist side of the LGBT community completely. Then came June 29, 2009, the night that agents with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and officers with Fort Worth Police Department raided the Rainbow Lounge on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.

As the accountant for Rainbow Lounge, Anable was in the bar the night of the raid, checking receipts. What he saw that night left him shaken and scared — and angry. Within days, Anable had stepped across the line into activism and was helping create a new organization, Fairness Fort Worth, that has since helped revitalize the LGBT community in Tarrant County. And Anable spent the last year as Fairness Fort Worth president.

“It’s been a wild 2 ½ years,” Anable said this week.

Anable said that he first began considering applying for the position of HRC president in mid-December after discussions with some HRC board members while he was in Washington, D.C. for meetings.

“They told me I should apply. At first, I thought, no way. But when I read the job description, I realized, hey, I actually am qualified for this job. I actually do meet the qualifications in this job description,” he said.

When he came back home to Fort Worth and discussed the possibility with friends here, Anable said, he got nothing but encouragement in return: “Carol West, Jon Nelson, [Fort Worth Police] Chief Halstead — they all said I should apply.”

Still, Anable said, “It took me at least a week to wrap my head around the idea, to decide whether this is something I really want to do,” he said. “I did a lot of soul-searching about this. It was a very sobering moment for me, an unbelievable moment for me personally, to realize that in just 2 ½ years I have gone from being just a CPA to being an activist and president of Fairness Fort Worth, to the point where I actually feel qualified enough to even think about applying to HRC.”

Anable readily acknowledges that he is very new to the world of activism and nonprofit management, and he acknowledges that he “may not be what they are looking for” when it comes to the HRC presidency.

“But I do believe that I can apply and be seriously considered. I may be new to this, but no one can deny my passion, and this is a passion I have never had for anything in my life before,” Anable said. “Accounting is not something you get passionate about. Doing tax returns is not a passionate calling. But this, activism, this is about passion.”

Anable said that he knows the HRC board has recently completed a strategic assessment to
decide “what kind of leader they want” to bring in to replace Solmonese. “I don’t know what they’ve decided, and I know I may not be it. What are my odds of getting the job? Probably not that good because I haven’t been doing this very long. But I am going to try.

“All I know is that I am going to apply. If I make the first cut, I’ll say, ‘Thank God.’ If I make the second cut, I’ll say, ‘Thank God.’ And if I get the job, I’ll say, ‘Oh, God!’” he laughed. “But if I do get it, I know I will love every minute of it.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 6, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas