Dallas among best cities for travelers

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When the gay travel writers’ group left Dallas last week, chances are some of them had a pretty satisfying experience. That would be borne out by a recent survey by CardHub.com about the best (and worst) cities for summer travel.

Based on analysis of information from Kayak.com about 30 major U.S. cities, the survey came up with a list of departure cities that were “best” in terms of average time and money spent, and ranked Dallas No. 2, behind winner Denver for domestic travel; for international travel, Washington, D.C., was tops. When you combine domestic and international information, Dallas came in fourth overall, behind Chicago, Washington and New York.

Among the worst wasn’t far away, though. San Antonio was exceeded only by Riverside, Calif., in terms of bad domestic departures.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: Former Miss USA says female TSA agent ‘molested’ her during patdown at DFW Airport

Former Miss USA Susie Castillo is in tears as she describes the incident in this video that was posted on YouTube last Thursday.

“I’m sure this woman was just doing her job, but she actually touched my vagina,” Castillo says. “I think that’s why I’m crying, that’s why I’m so emotional, because I’m already so upset that they’re making me choose to either get molested, because that’s what I feel like, or go through this machine that’s completely unhealthy and dangerous, and I don’t want to go through it, and here I am crying.

“I completely feel violated,” Castillo adds. “This woman, she touched my vagina four times, because she went up my leg, up both legs from behind, and then turned around and did it in the front. So that was my experience this morning at Dallas airport.”

—  John Wright

RCD’s Rafael McDonnell explains gender identity to the Dallas County Commisisoners Court

Due to some scheduled meetings here at the Brewery, it’s not looking like Instant Tea will make it down to Commissioners Court this morning, where Resource Center Dallas’ Rafael McDonnell plans to address the court during public comments about the exclusion of gender identity/expression from Dallas County’s new nondiscrimination policy.

In lieu of being there, we thought we’d go ahead and post McDonnell’s prepared remarks, which he was kind enough to send over last night. We’ll also be following up on this topic later. But for now, McDonnell’s remarks are after the jump:

—  John Wright

Touch down for the very 1st time

The inaugural Virgin America flights from DFW land with Texas style

Recession — what recession? In the world of billionaire businessman Richard Branson, it’s business-class as usual for his chic, sexy airline, Virgin America. Like its international counterpart, Virgin Atlantic, this is an airline built on luxury, style and fantastic customer service (even in economy class!) … and completely out of reach to Dallas travelers.

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VIRGIN NO MORE | DFW finally gets access to kooky Virgin America founder Richard Branson’s luxury line.

Until earlier this month, when it launched daily non-stops to and from Los Angeles and San Francisco out of DFW Airport. Dallas-Fort Worth represents the airlines first mid-continent destination, and during the press conference, Branson announced his intention to keep the spirit of competition alive among the other airlines servicing the North Texas area.

Branson’s wildly varied business history includes everything from humble beginnings selling Christmas trees to more curious acquisitions, like purchasing London’s premiere gay nightclub, Heaven. He’s known for brands Virgin Mobile, Virgin Records and his airlines.

The company is invested in being a part of the gay community, even in Dallas already as a sponsor of the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce, so it comes as no surprise that there were plenty of gays and lesbians on-hand to welcome the airline to DFW.

From the moment the first flight from L.A. landed, passengers, crew and Branson himself were greeted with a warm Texas howdy on the runway. There were longhorns, cowboys, cowgirls, a full barbecue spread, champagne and cute little cocktails served in Mason jars. If it weren’t for such an over-the-top company, the yee-hawness of it all could’ve worn very thin, very quickly.

Instead, it seemed like business as usual for Branson and for a mid-afternoon workday, much better than sitting behind a desk. It’s hard to imagine more fanfare from a new destination. Well, except when the citizens of the Moon finally welcome Branson and his Virgin Galactic spacecraft sometime soon.

The festivities moved to the Winspear Opera House for an evening of more indulgences. A first-class cocktail reception with food by Wolfgang Puck Catering found Branson on a balcony like a scruffy-faced Evita speaking to his admirers below. A quick raise of his champagne glass to toast the occasion and he was off like a flash to the final act of his coming-out party: Willie Nelson on-stage for the invitation-only crowd. Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys, but if they want to be a gay-nightclub owner/music mogul/spaceman, then go for it!

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 10, 2010.

- Steven Lindsey

—  Kevin Thomas

Lone Star Ride distributes $150K to 3 AIDS services organizations during party at Salum

Allan Gould, Don Maison and Cece Cox
Allan Gould, Don Maison and Cece Cox accept a check from the Lone Star Ride. To see more photos from the wrap party on Sunday at Salum, go here.

On Sunday, Oct. 24, Lone Star Ride distributed $150,000 to AIDS Services of Dallas, the AIDS Outreach Center and Resource Center Dallas. AOC Executive Director Allan Gould, ASD President and CEO Don Maison and RCD Executive Director Cece Cox were on hand to accept the check.

At the party at Salum on Travis Street, Michael Veale was given an award for bringing in the most new donors.

Ralph Randall was the single biggest fundraiser. He attributed his success in collecting money to relentless behavior.

“You can’t be timid and raise money,” he said.

He didn’t allow the down economy to dissuade him from asking.

“This disease doesn’t have an economic cycle,” he said. “Always ask. All they can say is no. Don’t give up.”

He raised twice as much this year as he did last year. He said he did the ride in honor of a friend of his with HIV and he gave his plaque to him.

“I do a lot of these rides, ” said rider Allan Chernoff. “This is the best supported ride in Texas.”

“Absolutely!” said Eric Markinson about riding again next year. He is part of Team Blazing Saddles.

“I’m very proud of Team Dallas Voice,” said rider and Dallas Voice Publisher Robert Moore. “They worked very hard. They put the beneficiaries in sight on the road ahead.”

Team Dallas Voice raised more money than any other team in the history of the Lone Star Ride. The total topped $50,000 this year.

Shelly Morrow was a first-year rider from Glen Rose who is planning to participate again next year.

“The closing ceremonies really got to me,” she said.

The closing ceremonies held at base camp at the American Airlines Training and Conference Center near DFW Airport included a performance by the Turtle Creek Chorale and wheeling in the riderless bike. That bike symbolized all the people lost to AIDS. They retired the number of a rider who passed away since the previous ride.

“And next year, I’ll try not to take out anyone, especially a writer,” Morrow said.

Morrow and I collided about 18 miles into the ride. My back brakes failed as we were checking directions on the route. I went over my handlebars onto the street. Although we had been riding together for several miles, she didn’t realize that I wrote for Dallas Voice until she saw my write-up on this blog.

To see more photos from Sunday’s wrap party, go here.

—  David Taffet