Press Club of Dallas honors David Webb

Webb.David

North Texas Legends award winner and Dallas Voice contributor David Webb

The Press Club of Dallas has announced that longtime Dallas Voice staff writer and contributor David Webb, The Rare Reporter, has been selected to receive the organization’s Excellence in Journalism: North Texas Legends Award and will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. The award celebration will be held June 9 at the Sixth Floor Museum.

Webb, notified of the award on Thursday, May 5, said he was shocked and honored at the recognition. He is among about a dozen honorees this year.

Now mostly retired and living on Cedar Creek Lake — with his four dogs and the guard donkey Zorro — Webb has had a long career in journalism. He has worked for the Belo Corporation, for a chain of suburban DFW newspapers known as News Texan, the Valley Morning Star in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, and for the Dallas Times Herald.

After a stint with the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., he returned to Texas and began working for Dallas Voice in 2001. He worked full time for Dallas Voice until 2008 when he retired and moved to Cedar Creek Lake. He has continued to be a contributing writer for the Voice since his retirement, and also freelances for various publications nationwide. He is a correspondent for the Cedar Creek Lake newspaper The Monitor, editor of CedarCreekLake.com and author of TheRareReporter.blogspot.com.

Webb said this week that when you combine his years as a staff member and his years a contributing writer, he has worked for Dallas Voice longer than any other publication.

Press Club President Frank Librio said this is the club’s sixth annual Excellence in Journalism: North Texas Legends Award. Winners are chosen by a panel of their peers, comprising past Legend Award winners and longstanding Press Club members. winners must have worked in the Dallas/Fort Worth area news media market for at least 10 years and currently reside in Texas. Nominees can be retired or still working in the field of journalism.

Librio said Webb was chosen to receive the award because his “body of work is respected, makes a difference in our diverse community and roses to the level of excellence.”

On a personal note, let me say that I am thrilled to see my friend and colleague David Webb receive this honor. He is a dedicated writer who is committed to excellence in journalism and to his community.

This marks the second year in a row that someone from the Dallas Voice family has won the Legends Award; founder and former owner/publisher Robert Moore was honored last year.

—  Tammye Nash

A lonely man

Shawna Woods tried to help her stepbrother, but a ‘brutal’ upbringing and mental illness took their toll in the end

Yack-&-Jimmy

James Torres, who used the name Anthony Bertroni when he moved to Texas, underwent experimental treatments for AIDS in the early 1980’s (below). His sister, Shauna Woods pictured with him when they were teens, said his mother abandoned Torres when he came out as gay.

 

DAVID WEBB  |  The Rare Reporter
CEDAR CREEK LAKE — For two weeks after a law enforcement officer shot him to death in a day-long standoff, James Frederick Torres, also known as Anthony Bertoni, lay in a funeral home, waiting for his next of kin to sign documents allowing his body to be cremated at county expense.

In death, Torres remained alone and adrift, much the same as he had for at least the last decade of his life, maybe much longer.

Law enforcement officers knew the identity of Torres’ stepsister who had attempted to help him in recent years. But they knew little else about the reclusive, 56-year-old man who lived on Highway 274, on the Henderson and Kaufman county line, in a small, dilapidated house surrounded by an eight-foot chain link fence. Outside the fence sat an old, broken down car plastered with disturbing signs, on which were written “Murder” and “Suicide,” and incoherent letters taped on the inside of the windows.

After his death, Anderson and Clayton Brothers funeral home staff and public officials struggled to unravel the mystery of Torres’ life, so they could put him to rest and discover the evidence needed to close the Texas Rangers investigation into the day Torres suffered his last psychotic episode.

Jimmy02He started that day by firing a shotgun at a neighbor, then barricaded himself in his home for eight hours. He ultimately walked outside shooting a gun, and a bullet from a Texas Department of Public Safety marksman perched on the roof of the Calvary Baptist Church across the highway struck him down in what seems now like an act of “suicide by cop” — what it’s called when a suspect deliberately acts in a way that an officer is forced to shoot him or her.

The standoff closed down Highway 274 and County Road 4044, disrupting the small Cap City community of the Cedar Creek Lake area for 36 hours. Afterwards, everyone struggled to make sense of what had happened. Few people in the community, except for Torres’ immediate neighbors, knew that anyone even lived in the house. But clues begin to emerge in conversations with his stepsister, Shawna Wood, who never quit caring for the distraught, troubled man whom it is now known suffered from what is believed to be paranoid schizophrenia.

Wood, who lives in Oregon, said she visited with her stepbrother in 2010 at the house in the Cap City community where he died, and she realized then he suffered from delusions that frightened her. She said at the time of his death he lived in the house with no running water and 16 cats to keep him company. He suffered from a failing liver and kidneys decimated by a 35-year-long HIV infection and early experimental treatments. He only left the house to shop at Walmart at 3 a.m., wearing mirrored sunglasses. At times Torres called himself Jesus Christ, and at other times he referred to himself as being controlled by demons, she said.

Torres spent time in a Dallas psychiatric hospital in 2014, after law enforcement officers with whom Wood cooperated convinced him to admit himself voluntarily, and he showed improvement. Unfortunately, he quit taking the medication administered at the hospital upon release, and he relapsed, his stepsister said.

Wood said law enforcement officers attempted to talk Torres into returning to the psychiatric hospital, but he refused. They said his guns could not be legally confiscated, even though concerns about him being a threat to himself or others arose, she said.

His stepsister stayed in contact with Torres until his death, sending him food by way of public carriers because he feared leaving the house. He thought people wanted to hurt him because of his sexual orientation and HIV-status, and he imagined various conspiracies being orchestrated by the people who lived around him, Wood said, adding that efforts by a local pastor and others to help him failed.

After his death, Wood, one year younger than her stepbrother, knew what few other people did. She was not next of kin to the man who had moved to Texas eight years ago from Palm Springs, Calif., after changing his name from Torres to Bertoni. Torres’ mother, whom he last saw at age 17, likely was still alive and ultimately responsible for all decisions, and the mother was the heir to anything belonging to her son, such as the house he bought on EBay sight unseen.

Wood said after Torres died she had no idea of her stepmother’s whereabouts. “I haven’t seen her or talked to her for 20 years,” Wood said. “And I don’t want to talk to her now. I never cared for her.”

Torres’ adoptive mother divorced her first husband, and in 1970, when Torres was 11, she married Wood’s father, a prominent doctor in Freemont, Calif., Woods said. Wood’s father, having been recently widowed when his first wife died of cancer, allowed Torres’ mother to rule the household in a miserly, vindictive way, Wood said.

Wood described her stepmother’s treatment of both her and Torres as “brutal,” saying the woman changed her home in ways that upended her whole life. She said her stepmother taped a picture of a pig on the refrigerator and told her she resembled the farm animal because of her weight, Wood added.

“’Bitch’ would be too kind,” Wood said in describing her stepmother. “When my dad married her in 1970, the first thing she did was forbid me from visiting with my nanny, this wonderful Italian lady who promised my mother on her death bed that she would take care of us. After that, we raised ourselves. Next, I came home from school and my poodle Taffy was gone. She said she ran away. Years later one of the neighbors told me she put Taffy in the car drove her somewhere.”

At age 15, Wood said, she went away to boarding school in Florida and finally began to enjoy life again. But her departure ended the close relationship with her stepbrother, Torres. She said that their relationship had become so close at one point that her stepmother insisted on Wood getting a physical examination to ensure no sexual activity had occurred between the children, Wood said.

“I couldn’t take the bullshit anymore,” Wood said of her reason for leaving. “I found out as an adult I paid for it myself with Social Security because my mother was a pediatrician. But I can’t believe my Dad was an obstetrician and gynecologist and couldn’t pay for it. After marrying her, it was like living in poverty in a wealthy household.

It was just so bizarre.”

Wood said her father wound up divorcing Torres’ mother in 1995 after 25 years of marriage because he came to distrust her. After he died, Wood discovered there was almost nothing left of his estate, and she inherited only enough to buy a house.

“She ended up with nearly everything because at the time he had Parkinson’s, and he didn’t fight anything as he didn’t have the energy,” Wood said. “For years they had separate property, but in 1978 after he became Mormon, he put her name on everything. Essentially, anything that was my mother’s became hers.”

For several years Torres quit speaking to Wood, angry that she had inherited money from her father while he likely would never get anything from his mother. “It didn’t really make sense to me,” Wood said.

Wood said Torres’ mother, a devout Mormon, wanted nothing to do with her adopted son when he got older. He came out as gay as a teenager and contracted HIV in about 1981, when many people referred to the illness as “gay cancer” and scientists had not yet discovered the human immunodeficiency virus and coining the name “AIDS.”

Wood said when her stepbrother was first hospitalized with an HIV-related sickness at a Freemont hospital, neither her father — who delivered babies at that hospital daily — nor his mother ever visited him, and the nurses there treated him like a leper.

“They practically slid his food trays under the door,” Wood said. “He was put in quarantine.”

Wood gave the funeral home, a title company lawyer representing a potential buyer of Torres’ property and law enforcement officers her stepbrother’s real name and the name of his mother, who along with her first husband, a man of Argentine descent, adopted Torres as a baby in Stockton, Calif.

None of the people searching for Torres’ mother seemed to be able to determine if she was alive or to locate her. But an Internet search by the Dallas Voice found her living, at age 84, in Logan, Utah, and about to move into an assisted-living facility. The woman, who before retirement ran a school that taught medical office procedures, also authored two technical books and one murder mystery that are available on Amazon.com.

After sending emails to eight addresses listed for Torres’ mother, at least one went through and a friend of hers responded by phone to find out what the inquiries concerned. The friend put his mother on the phone, and the mother participated in two on-the-record interviews over a two-day period.

During those interviews, Torres’ mother said she was unaware of his death, and that she had not talked to him since he ran away from home at age 17.

“He just didn’t like living with us,” his mother said. “We were a religious family, and he didn’t like going to church. We looked for him for years. He never came home.” She acknowledged her church taught against homosexuality. “It probably did,” she said. “I think most churches do.”

On the second day, the mother called back, demanding under threat of legal action that her name not be used in any story about her son because of the potential embarrassment being associatd with Torres and his troubled life and death could cause her.

“I have relatives living in Texas and friends all over the country,” she said. “I don’t want them to know about it.”

When advised that the funeral home needed permission to cremate his body, she asked, “Who is going to pay for it?” After learning that Torres had owned a home that sat on commercial property that someone wanted to buy, she asked, “Who will get the money?”

The potential buyer told Torres’ stepsister that the dead man’s mother called him the same night she learned about his death and the existence of his property, demanding a substantially higher price than he was willing to pay, according to Wood. When he explained the house would have to be torn down because of its deteriorated state, the buyer told Wood, Torres mother said she planned to immediately list it with a real estate agency if he failed to meet her price.

Torres’ mother said as a toddler her son seemed hyperactive, almost angry, bouncing and banging his hands on the bedding. As a young child he and a friend started a fire in the garage, she said, and he and some friends stole a vehicle as teenagers and drove it to another state. Wood offered a different story, though, saying the vehicle belonged to Torres’ adoptive father, and that it was more of a prank and a lark than a theft.

Still, his mother said, “My first husband and I wondered if there was something wrong with him.”

When asked if she disowned Torres because he was gay and HIV-positive, she said, “Who told you that?” Advised that Torres told several friends of their estrangement and the reason for it, she said, “I don’t remember that. I don’t remember things well anymore. I have a disability.”

Torres’ mother said she remembers her adopted son was taunted at school by kids who accused him of being black because of his dark coloring. In fact, he was of native Hawaiian descent, she said. “He came home from school upset about that,” she said. “I told him he wasn’t black, but it bothered him.”

His mother said she heard her son was living in San Francisco in his 20s with a psychiatrist, and she heard that he was gay and later that he was sick. “I didn’t know what was wrong with him,” she said.

Wood claimed that her stepmother and father never looked for Torres, and that they knew well the nature of his ailments.  His mother abandoned him, she said. “My God, even in death she will deny the connection,” Wood declared, after hearing her stepmother’s version of Torres’ life.

Wood said one of her biggest regrets now is that Torres will only be remembered for the tragic way he died and his suffering from mental illness and HIV-related issues.

“He was fun,” she said of her stepbrother. “He was the best. I will always wonder if Jimmy’s life would not have been so tragic if she had not abandoned him. ”

Lisa Kaii, a lifelong friend of Wood’s and her stepbrother, confirmed the account of Torres as a teenager and his mother. “He was so much fun,” Kaii said. “He was always laughing and making us laugh. He made up jokes and songs all of the time. His mother was crazy. We didn’t like to be around her.”

Wood said her biggest goal now is to see her stepbrother’s body treated with the dignity he deserved in the absence of a funeral or memorial service. She received good news to that end March 1.

“We’re almost there,” Wood said. “I just received an email his mother signed permission to cremate. Maybe soon he’ll be at peace. Jimmy’s life did matter.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 4, 2016.

—  Dallasvoice

Gun Barrel City mayor stops police harassment at gay bar

GarlowsEmployees of Garlows, a gay bar located on Cedar Creek Lake about 60 miles southeast of Dallas, said police surveillance of the bar had been going on for several weeks before a number of patrons were stopped by police on April 5. Several were arrested for DUI. The bar’s owner was arrested for public intoxication while he was walking home.

Retired Dallas Voice reporter David Webb reported:

On April 5, following a drag show at the gay bar, patrons leaving the bar met as many as five squad cars sitting outside of the bar. Drivers who failed to signal whether they were turning left or right were stopped, according to sources at the scene. Several DUI arrests were made. One squad car followed the operator of the bar as he attempted to walk home and and handcuffed and jailed him on a charge of public intoxication, allegedly without testing him for intoxication.

Gun Barrel City mayor Paul Eaton told Webb surveillance would end immediately, saying he acted as soon as he heard about it.

Cedar Creek Lake has been home to LGBT retirees and weekend home owners for several decades. Garlows, in GBC, is the second gay bar in the area. Also, Celebration Church on the Lake, founded with help from Celebration Church in Fort Worth, has a large LGBT membership and is located in nearby Mabank.

David’s full report is here.

 

—  David Taffet

Dallas Voice contributor subpoenaed to testify at hearing on gag order against Joey Dauben

David Webb

A Navarro County district judge has issued a subpoena for Dallas Voice contributor David Webb to testify at a hearing this week on whether to impose a gag order against Ellis County Observer Publisher Joey Dauben, who faces charges of child sex abuse.

Webb has reported extensively on Dauben’s case for Dallas Voice, including a column on our Viewpoints page last week and a follow-up article on Instant Tea on Friday. Webb said he received the subpoena Monday for the hearing at 2 p.m. Wednesday in Corsicana, before Judge James Lagomarsino of the 13th District Court.

According to Webb,  Lagomarsino and District Attorney R. Lowell Thompson conferred Sunday and advised Dauben’s attorney that a hearing on the gag order had been scheduled. In a text message forwarded to Instant Tea by Webb, Dauben lamented that the gag order would prevent him from using “the forum that has aided not just me, but others in their legal and political fights.”

“The gag order won’t apply to readers, fans or supporters,” Dauben added. “I couldn’t say anything about my two criminal cases anyway, so the gag order will be on top of what my lawyers restrict anyway, but one cannot see this as anything other than another way to silence me.”

—  John Wright

OUT on the street

Homeless LGBT youth in Dallas often turn to drugs, prostitution if social workers don’t find them first — and advocates say they need the community’s help


DAVID WEBB  |  Contributing Writer

Every weekend a hunt takes place on the streets of Dallas for some of society’s most vulnerable members, and their fate often depends upon who finds them first, according to social workers who note that LGBT youth are homeless at twice the rate of the general youth population.

The homeless young people under pursuit by both social workers and others whose motives are suspect — often sinister — tend to blend into the scene.

That makes the youths, who typically dress like average teenagers, difficult to identify and to engage in conversation, which is the first step in gaining their confidence and initiating sustained contact.

The young homeless population differs substantially from their older counterparts because they are unlikely to be found sleeping in homeless shelters, under bridges, in parks and the like. Their youth often affords them the opportunity to spend the night with relatives, friends and acquaintances, which is why “sofa surfing” has become popular to describe their nomadic lifestyle.

HUNTING THE HOMELESS | Promise House case managers Benjamin Williams, center, and Jessica Amspoker talk to Terry Fisher, a homeless man, on Cedar Springs last month. Promise House provides temporary emergency shelter for young homeless people, and Amspoker and Williams say older homeless people are often the best source of information about where to find youths on the streets. (David Webb/Dallas Voice)

HUNTING THE HOMELESS | Promise House case managers Benjamin Williams, center, and Jessica Amspoker talk to Terry Fisher, a homeless man, on Cedar Springs last month. Promise House provides temporary emergency shelter for young homeless people, and Amspoker and Williams say older homeless people are often the best source of information about where to find youths on the streets. (David Webb/Dallas Voice)

The youths often are distrustful of older people who approach them on the street because they quickly learn there are criminal-minded individuals circulating, whose motives sometimes mirror the real life horrors of primetime television crime dramas. Dallas is a city of beautiful skyscrapers with bright colorful lights beckoning visitors, but it also has a vast, ugly underbelly harboring drug trafficking, prostitution, pornography productions and every other type of vice imaginable to which young people can become prey.

Amie McNamara, interim director at Youth First Texas in Dallas, said her organization provides a safe place for all LGBT youths to meet and receive counseling and reliable support from peers. It also works to counteract the harmful influences homeless young people encounter when they leave their homes, she said.

“Gay, lesbian and transgender youths have a much harder time,” McNamara said. “They tend to get kicked out more.”

Sometimes, they leave home on their own because the conditions there are deplorable or abusive, according to social workers.

Once away from the protection of responsible adults, homeless youths face big challenges to survive, and if they are LGBT the challenges often are greater because of anti-gay discrimination and feelings of inferiority, McNamara said. They often make bad choices because of the absence of authority figures to guide them, she added.

“They feel they sometimes have no choice but to get involved in the sex trade,” McNamara said. “Their need is so great it is easy for them to get involved with an adult who has ulterior motives.”

Often the adult simply offers to allow the homeless youth a meal and a sofa to sleep on, but the youth soon learns there are “strings attached,” said McNamara, adding she could think of a dozen who are depending on the generosity of friends or others for shelter. If the youth is at least 17, no laws apparently are being broken in the sex-for-shelter scenario because that is the age of legal consent, and presumably some people are sincere in their offers to help, without expectations of something in return.

Youth First Texas arranged a telephone interview with one youth who is homeless and 18. His name is being withheld because of his age and vulnerability, and the name Ricky is being used to protect his identity. He offered to allow the use of his name, which may be reflective of immature thinking that fails to take into account that he might feel differently about such public exposure when he’s older.

Ricky has been homeless since he was 15, when his mother kicked him out of the house because he declared he was gay. His mother threatened to kick him out in a text message while he was at school, and when he arrived home he found the locks had been changed.

“She was like, ‘If you are not going to abide by rules, get out,’” Ricky said. “I thought she was joking. I didn’t know where to go or who to call. All I could do was sit there and cry.”

Ricky said his mother wanted him to hide his sexual orientation rather than coming out. Had he dropped the subject and remained closeted, he could have stayed, he said.

“She wanted to pretend like it never happened,” said Ricky, who noted he couldn’t accept those terms. “It’s my life.”

Since then Ricky, whose father is a truck driver who has no permanent residence because he is on the road all the time, has alternated living with friends and other relatives. He now lives with a sister, and his father pays Ricky’s share of the rent so he can go to high school, where he’s a junior.

Ricky said homelessness disrupted his life, causing him to get involved with alcohol, drugs and prostitution while he was staying with a female friend who had older friends. Those older friends introduced him to behavior he now regrets, said Ricky, who also got a tattoo and a face-piercing during that period of apparent rebellion.

Ricky failed a grade in high school because of the situation, and he is now a year behind in graduating.

“I bounced around from home to home after I was kicked out,” said Ricky, who hopes to get a part-time job, graduate from high school, go to college and become a high school teacher specializing in theater. “It has ripped a hole in my family.”

Ironically, Ricky’s mother has come out as a lesbian and lives with another woman. He now suspects her fears about her own sexual orientation caused her to be unreasonably harsh with him.

“I wouldn’t want to live with her now, but she hasn’t offered to let me,” said Ricky, who notes he considers the leaders and other youth at Youth First Texas to be his family now.

Ricky’s plight has become all too common in today’s society, which seems to be mostly unaware of the problems. Every year a new generation of ages out of foster care and the juvenile justice system, and an estimated 50 percent wind up homeless within six months because they aren’t prepared for independent living.

GETTING THEM BACK ON TRAC | Jerry Sullivan, assistant director for the Transition Resource Action Center, which provides transitional housing, said at one point in the last year two-thirds of the youth TRAC was serving were LGBT. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

GETTING THEM BACK ON TRAC | Jerry Sullivan, assistant director for the Transition Resource Action Center, which provides transitional housing, said at one point in the last year two-thirds of the youth TRAC was serving were LGBT. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

The nation’s estimated 1.7 million homeless and runaway youths come from all socio-economic backgrounds and cultures, and it is estimated that 20 percent of them are LGBT, according to statistics compiled by the National Coalition for the Homeless. In comparison, the number of LGBT youths in the general youth population is estimated at only 10 percent, according to the Washington, D.C.-based group.

“If you are an LGBT youth, you are twice as likely to be homeless as teens in the general population,” said Mike Faenza, president and CEO of the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance.  “Anything that causes additional challenges to individuals — stress, stigma, discrimination and other psychological factors — also impact and present barriers to stability within the family.”

Faenza noted that all homeless people tend tobecome victims of crime at higher rates, but young people who don’t have the guidance of concerned adults are especially vulnerable.

“They are exposed to people preying on them and exploiting them,” Faenza said. “They come into contact with people offering to help them, but they actually are just using them sexually. There are serious risks to kids who are homeless, and it is escalated for kids that have challenges or are traumatized because they are struggling to come out.”

Ricky represents the type of youth that social workers such as Benjamin Williams and Jessica Amspoker want to meet and help before they get involved in self-destructive lifestyles. They are case managers involved in street outreach for Dallas-based Promise House.

Williams and Amspoker hit the streets on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights looking for youth who need help. The pair regularly visits the Cedar Springs entertainment district in Oak Lawn, as well as places like the Greyhound and DART stations in downtown Dallas.

On the streets Williams and Amspoker offer youths protection at Promise House, which provides temporary emergency shelter for young homeless people to help them get back in school, get jobs or even join the military.  The social workers travel as a team because the work can be dangerous in that the youths they approach might be under observation by pimps or drug traffickers.

Amspoker said young people who are homeless and need help are difficult to track and approach. Most don’t realize there are resources such as Youth First Texas and other homeless assistance programs available to help them, she said.

“Every day is different,” Amspoker said. “We’re talking about a transient community. It’s a lifestyle where they have to stay on the move. Where they are staying last week may not be where they are this week.”

Williams said homeless youths are often deceptively average looking because they “don’t look homeless.”

“These young people are still going to want to be presentable and impress people,” Williams said. “They understand appearances are everything.”

Many still have cell phones because their parents will continue to pay the bills so they can remain in contact with them, Williams said. Curiously, the parents say they are comforted to know their children are “still alive,” apparently unmindful of the other hazards of life on the street, he said.

Williams said they make many of their connections with young people by handing out cards with information about Promise House to everyone they see. Older homeless people will sometimes tip them to where they can locate homeless young people, he said.

“We try to build a reputation by being at places at regular times,” Williams said. “They eventually learn they can trust us.”

Once contact is made with homeless youths, emergency shelter is provided at Promise House if they want it. Sometimes, a homeless youth will call them later to say they have decided to take advantage of the help being offered them.

COUNTING THE KIDS | Mike Faenza, president and CEO of the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, said there’s never been a good count of the homeless young people in Dallas, but he hopes results from a survey in January will remedy that. (David Webb/Dallas Voice)

COUNTING THE KIDS | Mike Faenza, president and CEO of the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, said there’s never been a good count of the homeless young people in Dallas, but he hopes results from a survey in January will remedy that. (David Webb/Dallas Voice)

If the homeless youths are LGBT, Williams and Amspoker will refer them to Youth First Texas for counseling and support.

When a youth enters Promise House, which can temporarily house 20 people ages 10 to 17 and eight people ages 18 to 21 at a time, every individual is first offered a meal and a shower, said Sonja Parkhill, an outreach manager. The staff has worked with a transgender individual more than once who has wanted help finding a place to live, she noted.

“Some of them wind up on the streets again,” Parkhill said. “They go to another place, and they don’t make it there and go back on the streets. Sometimes, they call us and ask if they can come back. Unless they’ve done something that prevents it, they can come back.”

One of the resources for homeless young people is the City Square Transition Resource Action Center, or TRAC, which provides transitional housing for homeless people struggling to become stable. In one program, individuals of the same sex who are moving toward employment or full-time schooling are temporarily provided a private bedroom in a three-bedroom apartment and food. In another program the individual is provided with their own one-bedroom apartment for which a Section 8 voucher temporarily pays for a portion of the rent based on their income. The organization also manages a permanent housing program for disabled people.

Jerry Sullivan, assistant director for TRAC, said the organization is a safe place for minorities, including LGBT people. He also noted that the majority of young people becoming homeless appear to be those who are aging out of foster care.

“In the youth we see on a daily basis that identify as LGBT I do think the national statistics play out locally,” Sullivan said. “At one point in the last year we noticed that two-thirds of the youth we were serving were LGBT, but that’s not always the case.”

Sullivan noted he met with Resource Center Dallas officials recently to share information about what resources his organization has available for homeless LGBT youth. Referrals are welcome, he said.
“There’s a fair amount of resources,” said Sullivan.

Cece Cox, executive director and CEO of Resource Center Dallas, said it’s clear that the number of homeless LGBT youth is disproportionate to the general population of youth, and the organization is dedicated to working with TRAC, Promise House, Youth First Texas and Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance to address the issue. More attention needs to be raised about the problem of homelessness among LGBT youth, she said.

Over the years Resource Center Dallas leaders have provided cultural competency training to law enforcement personnel, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission agents and others who might come into contact with homeless LGBT youth, Cox said. But there needs to be more education about LGBT youth and their increased risks of becoming homeless, she said.

“There hasn’t been a voice in the past, and we’re bringing that issue to the table,” Cox said. “If Dallas is addressing homelessness, they certainly need to include the issue of LGBT youth.”

Faenza, of Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, said there has never before been a good count of the homeless young people in Dallas, but he hopes the one that occurred in late January will remedy that. The documentation is needed to get more resources dedicated to young people, he said.

“We’re trying to develop political will,” said Faenza, who has been involved in social work for more than three decades. “We need to do more for kids.”

Faenza said there are many ways that the LGBT community can get involved in helping homeless LGBT youth. Anyone who is aware of a homeless LGBT youth should refer them to any of the agencies working with homeless youths.

People can also get involved by becoming educated about the issue and volunteering to help with advocacy, Faenza said. Speakers are available to attend gatherings such as small receptions to discuss the issue, he said.
For people who have the room and time to give, temporary housing is also needed for youths, Faenza said.

“We need help,” Faenza said. “We need people to get involved. That would be wonderful, and there is a world of things that can be done. We would love to talk with anyone who is interested in helping.”

………………………………………………………

Homeless youth resources

• Youth First Texas
214-879-0400
www.youthfirsttexas.org

• Promise House
214-941-8578
www.promisehouse.org

• City Square TRAC
214-370-9300
www.citysquare.org/TRAC

• Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance
972-638-5600
www.mdhadallas.org

• North Texas Youth Connection
800-568-7776
www.ntxyouthconnection.org

• City House, Plano
972-424-4626
www.cityhouse.org

………………………………………………………….

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

—  Michael Stephens

St. Luke belongs on list of gay-affirming Methodist churches

Article on lawsuit raises questions about whether predominantly African-American congregations are subject to different standards

Editor’s Note: The number of gay-affirming Methodist churches in our Feb. 10 article was based on an online database maintained by GayChurch.org.

Steward-HaroldIn a Feb. 10 article in Dallas Voice describing a lawsuit filed against the St. Luke “Community” United Methodist Church and our recently resigned senior pastor, Tyrone Gordon, contributing writer David Webb distinguished St. Luke from the “six gay-affirming Methodist churches in the Dallas area” and stated that the “congregation includes some LGBT members.”

Although Webb’s statements were an attempt to illustrate St. Luke as gay accessible, his comments unintentionally reduced the congregation’s track record of fighting for human rights, social justice and inclusion.

As a member of St. Luke for nearly six years and as an active member of the LGBT community, this causes me to question the required actions needed in order to deem a church “gay affirming” — especially in light of St. Luke’s efforts not only for the liberation of its gay members, but for all sexual minorities within the state of Texas.

A core value of the St. Luke “Community” United Methodist Church is to be an advocate and a prophetic voice in the community for all oppressed peoples. Although the membership is largely African American and heterosexual, homosexuals are included the churches understanding of “Community.”

In my opinion, St. Luke has not only served as a place for spiritual development, but also as a safe haven for members of the African-American LGBT community.

It was not uncommon for Pastor Gordon to clarify God’s inclusion of gays in his lineage within his sermons. Gordon has preached sermons where he stated, “Gay or straight, you’re a child of God,” and, “The church needs gay fish and straight fish.” Gordon even facilitated the removal of a member of the St. Luke ministerial team a few years ago when she preached a very homophobic sermon. But these statements of gay Christian identity and affirmation and creating a safe space for sexual minorities didn’t start with Pastor Gordon.

His predecessor, Pastor Zan Wesley Holmes, described by Webb as a “a respected civil rights leader,”  was also known to preach of and create an environment of inclusion. Additionally, Pastor Holmes was an avid supporter of the passage of hate crimes legislation in Texas,  a position that he has stated he took not only because of the crimes committed against racial minorities but also because of those committed because of one’s sexual identity. Holmes’ support and work with State Rep. Helen Giddings, a St. Luke member, led to the church being vandalized in 2001.

The St. Luke church, under the leadership of Pastor Holmes, was also a forerunner against the fight of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Dallas. As an early responder, the church created care teams to provide aid and services to people living with HIV and AIDS and made it a point not to discriminate against the gay men who were disproportionately affected by the epidemic.

And this list does not include the very personal actions that Pastors Holmes and Gordon have taken to provide pastoral care to St. Luke’s LGBT membership, myself included.

Since the only requirement detailed for something to be considered “gay affirming” is to affirm gays, I wonder how only six local United Methodist Churches acquired that designation — or are there other requirements needed in order to gain membership into the sisterhood? And are the inclusionary practices of St. Luke not a valid source of gay affirmation?

But more importantly, who gets to decide what levels of affirmation are needed even for consideration and are African American’s  and other people of color left out of that conversation? Surely that has been the case on other issues related to the wants and needs of the overall gay community, such as things like marriage equality.

For me, my spirituality is based on my individual relationship with my higher power and in that same vein, I believe individuals determined how their spiritual institutes affirm them based on individual desire and need and multiple local United Methodist institutes (more than six) can potentially offer that. But if the very well documented gay affirming actions of the St. Luke “Community” United Church does not position it to be a source of affirmation for sexual minorities, then we are working off of a broken metric system — and it is our work to create an evaluation and reworking of that structure.

The St. Luke Community United Methodist Church has and continues to be a prophetic voice for all oppressed people. That is partially the reason many gay notables such as Dennis Coleman, executive director of Equality Texas, continue to call it their church home. And every

Sunday when we proclaim through song that “we are the church that reaches up to God and out to everyone,” take it from me, gays are included.

Harold Steward is artistic director of Fahari Arts Insitute and editor in chief of BlaqOut Dallas. He can be contacted at info@blaqoutdallas.com.

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

—  Kevin Thomas

Lawsuit accuses St. Luke pastor of homosexual harassment

Minister at iconic black Methodist church in Dallas steps down amid allegations he coerced young men

gordon.tyrone

The Rev. Tyrone D. Gordon

DAVID WEBB  |  Contributing Writer
davidwaynewebb@hotmail.com

A lawsuit filed against St. Luke Community United Methodist Church in Dallas and its former senior pastor, the Rev. Tyrone D. Gordon, portrays the pastoral office of the predominantly African-American church in Southeast Dallas as a hotbed of homosexual harassment.

St. Luke, with 5,000 members, is one of the largest African-American churches in the North Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, which is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit. St. Luke isn’t one of the six gay-affirming Methodist churches in the Dallas area, but its congregation includes some LGBT members.

The Rev. Zan Holmes, who preceded Gordon’s appointment in 2002 as senior pastor at St. Luke, is a respected civil rights leader. The church is known as a center for community activism, and it has attracted prominent members such as Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, a U.S. trade representative appointed by President Barack Obama.

Thus far, church leaders at St. Luke and the North Texas Conference have remained silent about the lawsuit, as has Gordon, who announced his resignation as senior pastor from St. Luke in January to take effect on Wednesday, Feb. 15. On that date Holmes, who has also kept silent, will return as interim minister.

W. Earl Bledsoe, the bishop of the North Texas Conference, released a statement at the time of the resignation noting Gordon gave up his credentials during the investigation of complaints lodged against him by St. Luke church members.

The Rev. Eric Folkerth, pastor of the gay-affirmative Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, said in a telephone interview this week that his reaction to the news of the lawsuit was one of “deep sadness and sorrow.” Folkerth said he hopes the controversy will be viewed as a “sexual abuse of authority,” rather than in terms of the sexual orientation involved.

“I am hoping, praying and trusting that hopefully all of this will be dealt with appropriately in the church and in the legal system,” Folkerth said.

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The Rev. Cameron Greer

The Rev. Cameron Jerrod Greer, 26, who is a graduate student at SMU’s Perkins School of Theology and a pastor ministering at Cockrell Hill United Methodist Church, alleges in the lawsuit, filed on Feb. 3 in 101st District Court in Dallas, that Gordon, 53, sexually harassed him and several other young male members of the church for at least seven years.

In the petition filed by Dallas attorney and St. Luke church member Marilynn Mayse, Greer alleges that in 2003 and 2004, beginning when Greer was 18, Gordon rubbed his penis up against Greer’s buttocks on more than one occasion in front of four other young men who appeared to regard the activity as “normal behavior.”

In another instance, Greer alleges he observed a young man wiping sweat off of Gordon’s body as the pastor stood in his underwear with his pants lowered. Greer, who worked as an audiovisual technician at St. Luke, alleges in the lawsuit that he observed numerous instances of inappropriate behavior by Gordon involving young men.

The incidents often occurred in Gordon’s church office and sometimes between two Sunday services, according to the lawsuit.

Greer also alleges that Gordon invited him to his home in August 2004 when the pastor’s wife was out of town to discuss the young man’s plans to become a Methodist minister. Gordon allegedly prepared one of Greer’s favorite meals, spaghetti, and invited the young man to watch a movie with him. While sitting on the sofa Gordon allegedly moved closer to Greer but was interrupted by the arrival of one of Gordon’s two daughters.

In two other alleged incidents in 2009 and 2010, Greer claims in the lawsuit that, while he was serving as a pastor at First United Methodist Church in Seagoville, he visited Gordon at St. Luke, where Gordon insisted on hugging him and rubbed his penis against him. Greer adds in the petition that he asked Gordon to be a guest preacher at the Seagoville church, and Gordon implied that Greer would have to do “something” for him in return.

The lawsuit alleges that St. Luke church leaders had been informed about complaints of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment made by church employees and members against Gordon as early as 2006, but they took no action. It also claims that church leaders failed to protect Greer and other young men from Gordon’s alleged harassment.

In the lawsuit, Greer explains his delay in lodging complaints against Gordon as part of a process that was required to address the “issues” and to begin a “quest toward healing.”

The lawsuit, which accuses church officials of breach of duties, claims Greer has suffered “severe emotional distress, mental pain and suffering, and adverse physical consequences, physical pain and suffering.” It seeks unspecified punitive damages.

The lawsuit describes Gordon as a “predator” who used his spiritual authority to “coerce certain young male members and employees” into “sexual acts and relationships for his own personal sexual gratification.”

Gordon, who was born in Los Angeles, received a bachelor’s degree from Bishop College in Dallas, and he did his graduate work at Fuller

Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. He came to St. Luke as senior pastor after serving as senior pastor of St. Mark United Methodist Church in Wichita, Kan.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 10, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

So what if being gay IS a choice?

Despite some activists’ outrage over actress Cynthia Nixon’s recent comments, it doesn’t really matter how we became LGBT

David Webb
The Rare Reporter

After four decades of watching people struggle to keep up with the politically correct standard of the day in discussing LGBT life, I’m beginning to think it’s time for everyone to relax a little.

I reached that decision this week when I read about activists getting in an uproar over Cynthia Nixon, an actress who starred in Sex and the City, telling the New York Times Magazine she preferred being gay to straight because she had lived both types of lives. Her remarks created a furor among those who demand we frame all of our speech in a way they think best advances the LGBT rights movement. A few days later Nixon softened her stance in a Daily Beast interview by saying she was a bisexual by no choice of her own, presumably in an effort to quell the controversy.

Frankly, Nixon’s first remarks in the New York Times Magazine article made sense to me, and so did her later remarks about believing she never made a conscious decision to be a bisexual. It’s just that I regretted she felt compelled to revise what she had said earlier to appease her critics. I got what she meant the first time without her follow-up explanation, and I imagine most other enlightened people did as well.

Cynthia Nixon
Cynthia Nixon

Nixon, who gave birth to two children with a male partner, probably did make a choice to live a gay life when she became sexually involved with a woman. If someone is attracted to both the opposite and the same sex, there probably does come a point when the individual might need to make a choice in terms of permanent or semi-permanent partnership.
Certainly Nixon ought to be the best judge of what happened in her own life, so what’s wrong with her telling the truth as she sees it?

Nixon noted correctly that many LGBT activists shudder every time they hear the word “choice,” “preference” or “lifestyle” because they fear it supports conservative religious arguments that homosexuality is a perversion practiced by degenerates who get their kicks out of being wicked. As the theory goes, that gives credence to the evangelists’ claims that bisexuality, homosexuality and gender variance can be cured by the administration of a good dose of Bible verse in quantities sufficient enough to scare the holy bejesus out of the sinner.

As we all know, that doesn’t work. Actually, even most straight people realize that won’t work because most of them have also suffered the wrath of the evangelical community in condemnation of some aspect of their lives, such as the urge to masturbate or engage in sexual activity before marriage. In reality, the only ones who truly believe a pack of Bible thumpers can transform a person’s sexual orientation are people who are lying about it, have been brainwashed into believing it or are just too ignorant to understand scientific research.

Decades of scientific evidence make it clear that every aspect of a person’s physical and mental makeup — which certainly includes sexual orientation — comes about as a result of heritable genes and the impact of sex hormones on the brain and other body parts of the developing fetus.

In his 2011 book Gay, Straight and the Reason Why, neuroscientist Simon LeVay outlines decades of scientific studies that all point to the same conclusion: In essence, people are what nature made them.

LeVay, who served on the faculties of Harvard Medical School and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, has pointed this out in various articles and books he has authored over the years. The results of a scientific study LeVay published in Science in 1991 showing marked differences in the brain structures of gay and straight men is credited with helping spur the two-decade wave of scientific research aimed at determining a biological basis for sexual orientation.

What the body of scientific evidence does for most reasonable people is confirm what common sense had already told them. There’s just no way certain people with obvious mental and physical characteristics could have been anything other than what they became — namely gay, lesbian or transgender.

With others in the LGBT community it’s a little trickier because they display either few or none of the obvious characteristics identifying them as anything other than straight. Environment might have played some role in their development, but again the scientific evidence points to biological factors. What’s more the individuals usually report experiencing feelings since their earliest recollections that set them apart from heterosexual people.

Still, the unpredictability of humans makes it impossible to categorize all people. Some members of the community undoubtedly did feel an attraction to the LGBT lifestyle and chose to embrace it for that reason. The very size and the diversity of the world’s LGBT community is so staggering that if we come across some people who are merely practicing free will, it shouldn’t be so surprising.

That’s why I liked Nixon’s earlier remarks that it didn’t matter how people came to be a part of the LGBT community. As she said, it doesn’t matter how each and every person got here, and words will never sway the opinions of bigots and opportunists. It will require life experiences — such as coming to realize they have a child or grandchild who is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender — to hopefully educate them about the realities of life.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has reported on LGBT issues for three decades for the mainstream and alternative media. He can be reached at davidwaynewebb@hotmail.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 3, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

Mayor’s misstep on marriage pledge shows how far we’ve come

Laura Miller, who became LGBT icon, opposed gay unions during 1st campaign 10 years ago

David-Webb

DAVID WEBB  |  The Rare Reporter

The signing of a pledge in support of same-sex marriage by some 80 mayors attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ recent meeting in Washington, D.C, represents a powerful, almost astounding stride in the LGBT community’s march to equality.

Only one big-city mayor created a controversy by refusing to sign the pledge, and that unfortunately was Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, who probably regrets the decision now.

His decision not to sign the pledge — even though he later claimed he personally supports marriage equality — set off a bone-jolting controversy in Dallas as LGBT activists reacted to the news.

Rawlings cancelled a planned appearance at a neighborhood meeting because of activists’ plans to demonstrate against him, and all of the city’s newspapers and television stations began covering the story. The Dallas Morning News, which is infamous for its conservative takes on many progressive measures, praised Rawlings for resisting pressure to sign the pledge.

As a result of Rawlings thwarting activists’ plans to confront him at the neighborhood meeting, GetEQUAL scheduled a “Sign the Pledge” rally at City Hall.

There was a time when LGBT activists would have given the mayor a pass on the marriage equality issue, but that has long since passed. In declining to sign the pledge, Rawlings used the excuse that he was practicing a policy of avoiding social issues unrelated to city government.

That excuse had previously worked for former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller when she chose not to address the issue of marriage equality. At the same time, she managed to achieve something close to sainthood in the eyes of Dallas’ LGBT community because of her support of a nondiscrimination ordinance addressing sexual orientation and gender identity passed in 2002.

When Miller first campaigned for mayor she and all of her opponents declared in a candidate’s forum that they opposed same-sex marriage, but they all declared support for the nondiscrimination ordinance. That apparently was enough at the time to gain the trust and support of LGBT activists, especially after it was learned she had a gay uncle and a lesbian stepsister she loved and supported.

Miller, who served as mayor from 2002 to 2007, later gave more support to the LGBT community’s pursuit of marriage equality by speaking out against Texas’ constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage that voters approved in 2005. She also began supporting marriage equality during her speeches at Dallas’ glittering Black Tie Dinner.

Today, Miller says that she “supports gay marriage 100 percent,” and she adds that “it will be legal nationwide sooner than later. Young people today don’t give it a second thought and support it fully.”

As the mother of two daughters and one son, Miller knows her stuff. She declined to comment on Rawlings’ decision not to sign the pledge, but it’s a pretty good bet that if Miller were in his shoes today she would have signed that pledge — policy or no policy.

Rawlings made a terrible error in judgment when he refused to sign the pledge along with the mayors of other big cities such as New York City, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Seattle, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Boston, San Diego, Portland, Denver and the list goes on and on. What’s worse, Texas mayors from Austin, Houston and San Antonio signed the pledge.

If Rawlings had simply signed the pledge, it likely would have been reported by the Dallas media, there would have been a few stones thrown at him by conservative conscientious objectors and then it would have been forgotten. But now, it will continue to rage as a full-scale controversy for an undetermined amount of time.

At this point it seems like the best course of action for Rawlings to take would be to just sign the pledge, seeing as how he is already on record as supporting marriage equality. That action might stir up resentment among conservative constituents, but at least it would put Rawlings on the winning side of the debate.

The fact of the matter is that marriage equality will indeed one day be the law of the land, no matter how much that irks those who would prevent it if they could.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@hotmail.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 27, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Saying goodbye to Friends

Nationally known Cedar Creek Lake bar closes after 15 years

Friends-001

BUSINESS DRIES UP | Owner Leo Bartlett said low lake levels caused by the ongoing drought resulted in fewer visitors to the area, forcing him to shut down his club for good. (David Webb/Dallas Voice)

DAVID WEBB  |  Contributing Writer
davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com

GUN BARREL CITY — For 15 years Friends was the little gay bar that did it all in the most unlikely of settings, but it came to a sad end just before Christmas.
Friends owner Leo Bartlett sent out a message on Facebook Dec. 20 saying he was closing the iconic gay bar, and he never unlocked the doors for business again. Situated in the middle of one of the most conservative areas of the state, the humble little private club had featured charity drag shows and raised many tens of thousands of dollars — benefiting homeless animals, the elderly, the poor and HIV patients — for years.

Known not only throughout Texas but literally around the world, Friends often saw visitors from far away who had read or heard about the bar. Reporters for major mainstream U.S. newspapers like the Washington Post contacted the bar’s management for comments on LGBT issues. In 2007, Out magazine named Friends one of the top 50 gay bars in the world, saying the atmosphere was the friendliest in the state, the fish tank was filled with well water and the drag queens’ hairdos tended to be big, much like they were.

In a clever complement to the drag shows, a local theater group known as Friends Players put on variety shows that were well attended by the lake’s gay and straight residents alike. The entire cast, including performers in full drag, traveled down the road to the American Legion Club a couple of times each year to put on performances.

But now, the music, acting, dancing and laughing are just memories for Bartlett, who opened the bar door late one afternoon this month to allow a few customers to retrieve several pieces of personal property. The walls that once were covered with pictures of bewigged drag queens wearing tiaras are now bare.

“It’s all over,” Bartlett said as he stood in the sunlight flowing through the open door into the dark bar. “I said my goodbyes on Facebook. It’s all there to read. I’ve thanked everyone. There’s really nothing else to say.”

Bartlett said sending out the Facebook message was painful for him, and he didn’t want to have one last party in the bar to mark its closing, although many former customers had hoped he would.

Bartlett.Leo

Leo Bartlett

“It would just be a funeral for me,” said Bartlett, who noted the bar’s net revenue had been on the decline for about three years, just as with many other lake businesses. “I didn’t see any point in that. I’ve already said my goodbyes.”
Bartlett said economic conditions on the lake led to Friend’s closing, and he didn’t blame it on the competition from a new gay bar, Garlow’s, that opened nearby two years ago.

He disputed the popular opinion among some members of the lake’s LGBT community that there weren’t enough customers on the lake for two gay bars, and that the newer, more attractive Garlow’s had stolen his customers.

“There were enough customers,” Bartlett said. “There just wasn’t enough participation. If you talk to the owners of the straight bars, you will hear the same thing from them. Everybody is having trouble.”

The lake has a sizable LGBT community made up of retirees, Dallas commuters and natives, but many just don’t enjoy the bar scene. The gay and lesbian population increases greatly on weekends, holidays and during the summers when LGBT second-home owners are in residence, but many of them also prefer not to go out to the nightclubs.

Last summer’s drought — which caused the lake to drop almost 8 feet, leaving boat docks sitting in sand and beaches where water once stood — finished Friends off, Bartlett said. People avoided the lake, and that made all of the lake’s businesses suffer, resulting in several businesses shutting down in 2011, he said.

“It was time for me to close,” said Bartlett, who also separated this year from his longtime life partner who had helped him run the bar. “It was 15 good years. That’s what is important.”

For many customers though, the closing has left a void, and some seem almost resentful about it. Many of Bartlett’s customers would not go to Garlow’s out of loyalty to Friends, but others who went to both bars are also disappointed. And some who didn’t go to Friends at all also expressed dismay.

Friends’ closing is a loss to the lake’s LGBT community, said Troy Luethe, who with his life partner owns a bed and breakfast in nearby Ben Wheeler. The couple once participated in the Friends Players productions and visited the bar socially as well.

“I think it is sad,” Luethe said. “I never like to see a business fail, and it was part of the history of the area and held a lot of memories for me and others.”

For Jennie Morris, another former member of Friends Players, it is more personal. She also went there socially to meet with her friends.

“I feel like I lost a good friend, really, and one of my major connections to the community,” Morris said. “As a member of Friends Players it has left a pretty big hole there, too.

Friends was my Cheers, I guess — a place where everybody knows your name. Friends was safe, comfortable and like an old flannel shirt — just home.”

Several former customers of Friends declined to comment for the story, saying they had mixed emotions. Some people complained that Bartlett ran the bar too much like a nonprofit organization rather than a business, and blamed its closing on that.

Michael Slingerland, owner of Garlow’s, said he was shocked when he first heard about Bartlett announcing the closing of Friends. Slingerland formerly worked part time at Friends as a bartender before opening his own business, which appears to be doing well.

“We’ve talked about it a lot here,” Slingerland said. “It’s really sad.”

Slingerland said he had hoped for a cooperative effort between the two bars that would have helped both prosper, but that never happened.

“We could have helped each other out a lot,” said Slingerland, who envisioned back-and-forth traffic between the two clubs.
Regardless of what factors led to the closing of Friends, it is now a reality that the bar is gone for good. Although Bartlett has said he has no plans to return to his nativeArkansas, he is exploring other options for his future life in the Cedar Creek area.

“I’m thinking about a number of things,” said Bartlett, who acknowledged being a “hermit” since he announced the closing.

In the meantime Bartlett has listed the building for sale or lease with a gay Cedar Creek Lake real estate agent. The ad might run something like this: “Little private club with an unusually intriguing past available for new operator and members.”

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

—  Kevin Thomas