New Fort Worth Councilwoman Ann Zadeh sworn in

zadeh swearing in

Courtesy of Kathryn Omarkhail

Ann Zadeh was sworn in as Fort Worth’s new councilwoman for District 9 at Tuesday night’s council meeting. After winning a special election in June to replace former councilman Joel Burns, Zadeh told the Star-Telegram she’s ready to “go back through this thick notebook I have been compiling from neighborhoods to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.”

In her first speech, she didn’t go without acknowledging her supporters, thanking the “dynamic citizens who were never lacking in enthusiasm.”

Nor did she hesitate to be ambitious.

“I want to lay out my vision for the district,” but that would take two hours, she said with a laugh.

She also didn’t forget a shout out to her influential predecessor, either.

“I have big shoes to fill,” she said with a pause.

“Literally, Joel’s feet are big,” she told the crowd to a laugh.

Burns, who announced his resignation in February, must’ve heard her. After the former chairwoman of the Fort Worth Zoning Commission thanked her supporters and took her seat, Burns joined the meeting via Skype to say hello … from Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Some things never change.

—  James Russell

WORKING FOR EQUALITY

RAISING FUNDS  | Out & Equal DFW Council held “Deep in the Heart of Texas” at Times Ten Cellars on Aug. 18. The event was the organization’s fifth fundraiser to support its educational programming in the DFW area and to support scholarships to attend the 2011 Out & Equal Workplace Summit, set for Oct. 25-28 at the Hilton Anatole. Pictured are Gib Murray of Raytheon, left, Jeffrey Gorczynski of Citi, center, and Paul von Wupperfeld of Texas Instruments.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 2, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Driver’s seat

Chaz Marie brings country rock to Razzle Dazzle, but it’s a Jeep that brings her there

Razzle Dazzle Days will pump up the jams big time over the weekend with lots of music: “Ice Cream Truck” rapper Cazwell headlines Saturday’s street festival, but he’s got a strong line of supporting acts. Among them, local singer Chaz Marie, who brings some Texas flavor to the bill with her country rock.

The Irving-based singer may not have to travel far to this gig, but she still needs the roominess of her car. With enough space for her gear and guitars, Marie talks up the easy ride of her set of wheels.

— Rich Lopez

……………………….

Name: Chaz Marie

Occupation: Singer/entertainer

How might we know you? I sing all over the DFW area!

What kind of car do you have? 2002 Jeep Cherokee Laredo Sport.

Have you named her? Yes — her name is Meerie.

Why this car? Simple: I love Jeeps!

Good gas mileage? Meh… depends. It’s 20 city, 22 highway.

What are the rules of your car? You mess it, you clean it. And no complaining about the loud music.

Speed Racer or grandma? Speed. Racer. Definitely.

Best car memory: It’s a pretty simple one, but I just loved that feeling when I first got it and drove it off the lot, all shiny and new.

Funniest road trip story? One time, I drove off with my gig book on top! Fortunately, it enjoyed the ride. It stayed on because it got caught in the luggage rack.

What’s in your player right now? Lately I’ve been playing a lot of Deftones, Jack Johnson, Beth Hart, Janis Joplin and Maroon 5.

How do you rate this to previous cars you’ve owned? Seriously, this is the best car I have ever had. It’s classy and it’s fun, but it’s still sporty.

Sexiest thing about your car? Well, me driving it, of course.

Where is one place you would like to drive your car? I would love to take it through the mountains in Colorado to Manitou Springs.

How many gallons does it take to fill? 15.

Gas is a burden on the wallet now. How many gigs do you need to afford one fill-up? Thankfully, just one gig. At least for now.

Ever write a song in your car? Not yet.

So if we see the Jeep at Razzle Dazzle, can we shoe polish it like in high school? Absolutely!

Is this your touring bus? Oh, yes.

How big is your band and how many cars are needed for a gig? We are a five- to six-piece band, but we all usually drive our own cars.

Razzle Dazzle is super gay. How are your LGBT audiences different than your straight or mixed ones? Oh my gosh, gay crowds are so uninhibited. They know how to have a party and enjoy one!  Non-gay crowds do too, but, you know, they just need a little push to get the party started sometimes.

Where can we check your music out? Thanks for asking! You can find me on iTunes, YouTube and at ChazMarie.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 3, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Drawing Dallas • 05.27.11

FidelFNL_3b
Fidel Cabrera-Pineda has gotta dance

MARK STOKES  | Illustrator
mark@markdrawsfunny.com

Name and age: Fidel Cabrera-Pineda, 23

Spotted: Taco Bell at North Central Expressway and Lemmon

Occupation: Hip-hop instructor/choreographer

This native of Laredo, Mexico, has resided in Dallas since age 2. Born under the sign of Cancer, tall, handsome Fidel is a self-taught dancer who began moving his feet to music almost from the time he first learned to walk. His mother showed him how to Cumbia at an impressionable age, and that inspired his lifelong interest in dance.

With a natural grace, an instinctive rhythm and a lot of hard work, Fidel has turned his love into a career, burning up dance floors all over Texas, both solo and as part of the FLS Dance Crew. His talent has garnered him three consecutive salsa championships. He is also sought after as a choreographer and creative director in the DFW area. His musical interests include jazz, soul and R&B.
You can watch him bust a move on his YouTube page, FID3LC, and follow him on Twitter @Sopadefide0.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 27, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

COVER STORY: A Sister Act

FRESH FACES | Novice Sisters Amanda DeFlower, left, and Bertha Sinn say the DFW sisters have a calling to educate the public. (Courtesy DFW Sisters)

DFW Sisters bring the outrageous fun and dedicated activism of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to North Texas

RELATED ARTICLE: A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE SISTERHOOD

M. M. ADJARIAN   |  Contributing Writer
editor@dallasvoice.com

In their whiteface makeup, gaudy jewels, spangles and nun habits gone gloriously wild, the DFW Sisters are hard to miss — and equally hard to ignore. “[Our appearance] brings people to us,” says Novice Sister Tasha myFUPA. “The public wants to know: What’s this all about?”

A branch of the San Francisco-based Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the DFW Sisters have been doing fundraising, charity and service work in the DFW area for more than a year.
Originally founded as the Sisters of the Yellow Rose in February 2010, the DFW Sisters formed when the STYR regrouped the following September. In January, the main — or “mother” — SPI house in San Francisco recognized the Sisters as an SPI mission.

“We [now] have to do six fundraisers [to] prove ourselves to San Francisco and the United Nuns Privy Council,” Novice Sister Bertha Sinn explains. “Then we become a fully professed house.”

The United Nuns Privy Council is comprised of delegates from all missions and houses around the country. If all goes as planned, the Dallas Sisters will become the Dallas Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in early 2012.

The beginning

The impetus to start a Sisterhood in the DFW area came from members who had contact with other SPI houses. Says Sister Eve Angelica, “We felt that Dallas was lacking an organization … that provides an outlet for us to be out there … sharing [our stories and] teaching people about safer sex and community safety.”

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence itself — now an international organization with 1,200 past and present members — came into existence in 1980. However, the three original founders had begun appearing (or manifesting, as the Sisters would say) in public the previous year.

Their first manifestation occurred on Easter Weekend 1979. The trio donned nun habits from an Iowa convent and went for a stroll through the Castro, home to San Francisco’s gay community.

The men were members of the Radical Faeries, an alternative gay male spirituality group. Part of their intent was to protest the too-slick “Castro Clones” image that they believed inhibited freer expressions of male homosexual identity. But, as Sister Bertha remarks, “[They also just wanted to] go out and have fun.”

Irreverent gender play was not new to either the SPI founders or the Castro District gay community. In fact, the Sisterhood was a direct heir to the legacy of two theater performance groups that emerged in San Francisco in the late 1960s: the Cockettes and the Angels of Light.

These groups became known for the way they would use high camp and drag to satirize all aspects of popular culture: no topic — including religion — was ever deemed too sacred to be mocked.

From the start, however, SPI playfulness was also imbued with a sense of activist purpose. Soon after the Sisters formed in 1980, they began campaigns to stop fundamentalist Christians from preaching anti-gay rhetoric in the Castro. And when the AIDS crisis began to take shape in the early 1980s, the Sisters responded by holding the first-ever AIDS fundraiser and writing a safer sex pamphlet that they distributed to the gay community.

Today’s mission

That sense of community responsibility abides 30 years later. Says Sister Bertha, “One of our main ministries, our bar ministry, is safe sex outreach. [We always have] our bliss kits [on hand], which [include] a condom, a little packet of lube and instructions on how to use it.”

Disseminating this kind of information has become an especially important part of the DFW Sisters’ work in the aftermath of cuts the Dallas City Council made in September 2009 to HIV/AIDS education programs.

The religion-inflected language the Sisters use in referring to themselves and their work belies the non-denominational nature of the Sisterhood.

“We’ve got people of all faiths. And no faiths. It runs the gamut,” Sister Bertha notes.

Diversity also defines the personal backgrounds of individual DFW sister members. The SPI began as a male-only organization; but now “[i]t doesn’t matter if you’re gay, straight, [male, female], blue, white, black [or] green,” says Sister Tasha. “[What does matter is that] you feel the calling.”

As would be the case in a regular religious order, commitment to the organization and its mission is paramount, as is a strong social and moral conscience. Novice Sister Edina T. Krisis’ decision to join the group arose after the devastating loss of her partner to AIDS. “Dallas was amazing to me,” she said. “I had to give back because [others] gave me back the rest of my life.”

At the same time, the commitment required to be a sister can, as Novice Sister Angelica remarks, “almost make [the whole enterprise] feel like a part-time job.” Moreover, sister-status is not for the faint-hearted. Only after one year of rising through three levels of membership — aspirant, postulant and novice — can an individual have the chance to become a fully professed Sister. After that, the person is a member for life.

Since the Dallas Sisters are an SPI mission rather than an SPI house, those designated as Sisters are still at novice level. Only after they are approved as an autonomous house will those who have been novices for at least six months be considered for elevation to full Sisterhood.

While the Dallas Sisters now work primarily in the Metroplex’s LGBT communities, with such groups as Resource Center Dallas and the Texas Gay Rodeo Association, long-term the Sisters see themselves as also working in the mainstream, too.

“So long as the mission [of a group] is in keeping with our mission and goals,” says Sister Bertha, “then [we’ll help anyone].”

For all their good works in the community, the Dallas Sisters have not been without their critics, not all of whom have been affiliated with conservative religious organizations.

Novice Sister Polly von Acocker recalls an incident when a gay man from Dallas posted pictures of the Sisters on his Facebook account along with derogatory comments about the Sisterhood itself.

“We ruffled his feathers,” Sister Polly recalls. “He didn’t like the way the Sisters portrayed the gay community.”

Undaunted, Sister Polly used this incident to educate this detractor about the SPI: “[After] opening up a dialogue with him, [the man] became one of my biggest supporters. I know now that if I need a donation, I can go straight to him.”

The ability to attract attention, stir up controversy and change minds is part of what Sister Tasha calls “the power of whiteface.” But behind the makeup are just ordinary — and in many cases, surprisingly shy — people just trying to make a difference in the community. Their Sister alter-egos, with the outsized personalities, are what make the group successful.

Having an organizational strategy that works also helps. The DFW Sisters run primarily on consensus, Sister Polly explains. Any voting that takes place is done to lend an official stamp to any agreements reached among group members.

Where the real challenge lies, says Sister Polly, “is in making sure everyone has a role in running the [group].”

The Sisters run their organization a bit like a family, but with Roberts Rules of Order in hand. Their “kinship” ties run much deeper, however: their shared vision has become a kind of “blood bond” that unites them beyond structure.

“We bicker like family,” says Sister Bertha. “But there’s a lot of love there, too.”

HELPING HANDS | The DFW Sisters help welcome participants in the Texas Bear Round Up to Dallas. (Courtesy DFW Sisters)

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 1, 2011.

—  John Wright

Oak Cliff HIV doc takes over Bellos’ practice

Experienced HIV doc says denial of insurance claims forcing him to leave his Oak Lawn practice

DAVID TAFFET  |  taffet@dallasvoice.com

Bellos.Nick
Bellos.Nick

As of Dec. 15, patients of Dr. Nick Bellos will have a new primary care physician. Dr. Stockton Roberts will head the practice.

Over the last several years, Bellos, said, Blue Cross has denied or failed to pay more than half a million dollars to his practice. He said the insurance company said claims were incorrectly coded, or that they hadn’t received the claims. But the doctor said even after the coding was corrected and claims were resubmitted, Blue Cross still didn’t pay.

Unless they come to an agreement over the next few weeks, Texas Health Resources, which operates Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth and 14 other DFW area hospitals, will stop taking Blue Cross on Jan. 1, presumably for similar reasons.

In July, Bellos sold his practice to Medical Edge, a physician group in Dallas with more than 450 doctors. They take care of the business operations and pay doctors based on the profitability of the practice.

But, “It became obvious it wasn’t going to work out financially,” Bellos said.

He resigned effective Dec. 15.

Roberts has practiced in Oak Cliff for five years when he took over the practice of Dr. David Brand upon his retirement. Medical Edge also employs him.

Roberts will combine Bellos’ practice of more than 3,000 patients with his own of about 2,000 patients. Four members of Bellos’ staff will remain at the Lemmon Avenue office.

Roberts said he plans to spend most of his time in the Oak Lawn office but will continue in Oak Cliff on Fridays. He said his lease in Oak Cliff will be up at the end of January and he will decide then whether to renew it.

Roberts said Medical Edge asked him to take over Bellos’ practice because he is the only other physician in that company with an HIV practice.

“I want to make sure those with HIV are taken care of,” he said. “Nick [Bellos] will be a resource for me.”

Roberts said he hopes to add another doctor to the practice soon and is looking into ways to increase profit. He’s hoping his Oak Cliff patients will follow him to the new office.

He called his Oak Cliff practice quite diverse.

“If you don’t fit anywhere else, you fit here,” he said.

Roberts said that description fits him well, too. He was married and has three children but came out about five years ago and now has a partner. They live in Arlington. He maintains an apartment in Fort Worth near his children and practices in Dallas.

Bellos is not quite sure what his plans are. He’s considering legal action against Blue Cross.

“I want to thank all the patients who have allowed me to be part of their journey for the past 30 years,” he said. “But it’s time to open a new chapter and continue to be of help to the HIV community in another capacity.”

Because of a non-compete clause in his contract with Medical Edge, he cannot practice with patients for a year. However, he’s hoping to expand the clinical trials and research he conducts at a new location. Those on his research staff will remain with him.

As one of the most experienced HIV infectious disease physicians — having treated patients with the disease since the beginning of the epidemic — Bellos is frequently invited to speak around the world. In January, he will be speaking in Australia.

Bellos’ timing of his announcement was related to some changes in law.

On Jan. 1, several new provisions of health care reform kick in. The lifetime cap for benefits will be eliminated. Denial of insurance because of pre-existing conditions will be removed for anyone under 19 years old. That will extend to everyone in two years.

Beginning in 2011, minors can continue to be covered on their parents’ policies until age 26. Wellness screenings must be included free of charge. Deductibles are increasing and co-pays no longer count toward those deductibles.

While the goal is covering more people, insurance companies are rapidly raising rates to cover these added expenses.

Along with increased coverage, however, will come decreased payments to physicians.

Medicare payments to doctors will decrease by 25 percent, unless addressed by the end of the year. Insurance companies follow Medicare reimbursements closely.

“The ability to run an office and pay a staff is going to be difficult,” Bellos said.

Roberts believes he can turn the larger, combined practice into something profitable. He plans to add at least one more physician and keep electronic medical records. He said he’s meeting with infectious disease doctors to forge new relationships to benefit his patients.

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

—  Kevin Thomas

Researcher coming to Dallas to interview gay couples about effects of marriage amendment

America's Struggle for Same-Sex Marriage by Daniel PinelloProfessor Dan Pinello of John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York is studying the effects of anti-gay laws on same-sex couples in Super-DOMA states. Those are states such as Texas that have ratified amendments to state constitutions banning recognition of all forms of relationship rights.

Pinello is the author of America’s Struggle for Same-Sex Marriage (2006) and Gay Rights and American Law (2003).

He has already conducted more than 100 interviews in Georgia, Michigan and Ohio to determine the grassroots impact of these laws.

He will be in Dallas interviewing lesbian and gay couples in the DFW area for his new book. He’s investigating the grassroots effects of the 2005 Texas Marriage Amendment and wants to meet with a wide variety of same-sex pairs in committed relationships.

Pinello will be in North Texas Jan. 8-16. Interviews will take no more than 60 minutes. For further information, please contact him at dpinello@jjay.cuny.edu.

—  David Taffet