Queer locals of 2011

As we crown our local LGBT Person of the Year on the front page, over here in Life+Style we’ve been thinking about the locals who we will forever relate to helping define 2011 from the standpoint of entertainment and culture. Here are the ones who made the year memorable.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

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Anthony Chisom
activist, left

Derrick Spillman,
activist, right
In a short time, these two have made waves across the local LGBT African-American community. Chisom erased lines of gay and straight to focus on Dallasites with his foundation’s inaugural South Dallas AIDS Walk, which raised more than $10,000 in March. Spillman’s work with the DFW Pride Movement  stepped up Dallas Black Pride. With marquee speakers and a schedule of both educational and got entertaining sessions, The Movement the rep it’s been working for.

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Joel Ferrell
theater queen
Whether producing Arsenic and Old Lace or directing two of the best shows of the year, Ferrell has been a force in Dallas theater since joining the DTC as an associate artist, and the community is richer for his vision and tireless work as a director, choreographer and all-around talent.

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Linda Moore &
Laurie Foley
dog lovers
Moore and her partner Foley are devoted dog breeders, and in 2011 their cocker Beckham stormed Westminster, and ended the year as the top dog of any breed, anywhere, in America. Wow.

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Charles Santos
task master
As executive director of TITAS, Santos is used to bringing talent to Texas, but it was his inspired idea of celebrating AIDS at 30 with A Gathering that reminded locals of his devotion to AIDS fundraising.

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Mark Trimble
bear-ish fundraiser
Trimble and the guys of BearDance came into their own this year with their dance party nights. The highlight was the TBRU party, and with three events during 2011, BearDance raised an impressive $22,000-plus for area charities.

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Leslie Ezelle
cancer survivor/TV star
Just weeks after completing chemotherapy, Ezelle landed on TV’s Next Design Star. She didn’t win, but her celebrity, paired with the experience of beating breast cancer, has made her a devoted fundraiser for the
Susan G. Komen Foundation.

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David Berryman
gayborhood cheerleader
For years, Berryman has been the largely quiet behind-the- scenes guy for events like the Pride parade, but in 2011, after talks of the possible cancelation of Easter in the Park, Berryman stepped in, offering to coordinate it and obtaining the funding, literally saving Easter in the gayborhood.

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Craig Lynch & Jeff Rane
theatrical impresarios
Ten years after founding Uptown Players as an upstart theater troupe doing gay-themed work, Lynch and Rane launched the first-ever gay theater festival to coincide with Pride Week at the historic Kalita Humphreys Theater, their impressive new home. Way to go in a decade!

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Chris Heinbaugh
re-committed arts lover
After years as Mayor Leppert’s right-hand man, the former actor and TV reporter left politics to return to his first love — the arts — by working with the AT&T Performing Arts Center.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Hope on the range

Animal Angels Rescue provides unwanted beasts a chance at a better life

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ANGELS IN AMERICA | A Jacksboro animal sanctuary benefits from, from left, Matt and Beth Kelley, Carole Sanders and Nita Burgoon, who serve 300-plus dogs and horses. (Photo courtesy Rodrigo Orta)

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer
stevencraiglindsey@me.com

There are dog lovers, and then there’s Carole Sanders. With 300 dogs and counting under her roof, Sanders’ Animal Angels Rescue, Rehabilitation, Adoption and Sanctuary represents a last chance for many unwanted canines. But unlike the fate of many other homeless animals on this 38-acre ranch in Jacksboro, Texas, these dogs (and 18 horses) have a place to live out the rest of their lives with food, shelter and most of all, love.

Sanders, now 72, loved dogs from a very early age and knew that somehow her life would end up in the service of animals.

“I just didn’t know I was going to do anything at this level, but I’ve always seen the need out there and I have the will and determination to do what I had to accomplish. You have

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OVERRUN WITH DOGS | The author, above, learns first-hand how friendly a rescue dog can be — and how adorable they are just being themselves, below. (Photos courtesy Rodrigo Orta)

to take time,” she says. “If you try to do too much too fast, you can’t do it well. That’s why some rescue groups burn out and fail.”

It was vitally important to Sanders that the sanctuary, which she started in 1992, grow slowly and that everything was in place to sustain it. In 1993, Animal Angels received its non-profit 501(c)3 tax status. Then in 2001, Sanders retired after 40 years of serving a completely different yet equally unruly animal — the airline passenger.

“After being a flight attendant for so long, I figured out that I’m a giver,” she says.

Thankfully, she’s not alone in the giving department. Along with her life partner, Nita Burgoon, Sanders continues to buy up surrounding land — not just to provide more space for the dogs, but to keep neighbors far, far away (300 barking dogs could lead to complaints that might jeopardize the entire mission).

In the cozy lodge that Burgoon had custom-built for the couple, more than a dozen smaller dogs have graciously allowed the two women to share their space, though it’s difficult to find a chair, sofa or any other soft surface without a furry face staring up from it.

More recently, former Operation Kindness intake coordinator Beth Kelley, her husband Matt, and three children have moved into a house on the property and are in charge of many of the daily chores and upkeep that an organization like this entails. Serving the needs of the animals has created a unique situation for Kelley and her family.

“When making the decision to all work at the sanctuary as a family and not having to commute to an outside source of income we feel that we not only have enhanced the upbringing of our children, but the lives of animals that are in great need while educating the community that we live in,” she says.

Part of that education is in-your-face messages that appear on every Animal Angels vehicle. “Only and idiot would let a dog ride in the bed of a truck” adorns their pick-ups; a gestured middle finger from bubbas who drive past isn’t uncommon.

Other messages are less provocative, though no less thought-provoking — like the fact that one female dog and one male dog can be responsible for 67,000 more dogs in just seven years. (For cats, that’s 420,000 in the same time frame.) These statistics are just one of the many reasons that every dog at Animal Angels is spayed or neutered by a vet who comes to the on-site medical facility at least once per month.

With all the dogs spayed or neutered, there is no threat of breeding, thus presenting opportunities for less restrictive doggie interaction. When Kelley first came on the scene in February of last year, most of the dogs were in chain-link “neighborhoods,” large fenced-in areas where dogs could socialize with each other in like-minded packs.

“We couldn’t let them roam the whole property at the time because we didn’t have a full perimeter fence,” Sanders says. “So the best solution was large neighborhoods with dogs that got along. We’ve now taken it a step further. Other sanctuaries still have a lot of pens, but here we have a lot out and I think that’s the best place for them. Thanks to Beth, she started turning dogs loose left and right.”

PAWS-3Now there are more than 170 dogs that are lovingly called “free range.” Dozens of shelters dot the landscape under large trees and among rocks and low-lying bushes. Huge containers of dog food are available on-demand for any dog with an appetite. And baby pools serve as the drinking bowls necessary to quench the thirst of so many active animals.

What’s immediately noticeable after spending any amount of time at Animal Angels is how sublimely happy the dogs appear. With little hope of adoption, they’re still able to get the human interaction that many (though not all) crave. Even more importantly, they benefit from the instinctual bonding with fellow dogs. Throughout the grounds, packs have formed naturally and few dogs within any of them venture into the territory of others. Occasionally they fight, but little more than a growl or a quick nip is needed to keep the peace.

The remaining 130 or so dogs are segregated into neighborhoods for good reasons. For one group, they’re too small to roam freely and safely among a majority of large-breed dogs. Others have been in the neighborhoods too long to adapt to a life outside their fences. The rest simply can’t be trusted to be loose because they don’t get along with people.
With other dogs, however, they’re right at home.

Not all dogs that come to Animal Angels are immediately lifers, either. Puppies, small breeds and other more “adoptable” dogs are given to rescue groups that will give them a much greater chance of finding a forever home. If that doesn’t work out, they always have a place at the sanctuary.

Yet keeping the sanctuary operational takes more than the 24/7 dedication of Sanders and her crew — it requires consistent monetary donations. Animal Angels is able to purchase food, medication and other supplies at such deep discounts that they can stretch a dollar — an important skill given that they need approximately 10,000 pounds of dog food per month just to feed their current residents. That doesn’t include any other operational or medical expenses.

But one look at the loving eyes, happy faces, and spastically wagging tails and it’s clear that these dogs have found heaven on earth. And Sanders, Burgoon and the entire Kelley family truly are angels to each and every one of them.

“You can’t save them all, but you try. That’s what counts,” Sanders says.  “You do the best you can.”

To learn more, or to donate, visit AnimalAngelsTexas.org.  

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 16, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

What gay looks like

Photographer Scott Pasfield toured the U.S., finding unique stories of gay men in every state

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A NATION OF GAYS | All 50 states are represented in Scott Pasfield’s photo essay book, including Ken from Maryland (far left), a triad relationship from New York (top), Daniel from California (above) and, of course, a Texan (far right). (All photos copyrighted by Scott Pasfield in his book ‘Gay in America’ (Welcome Books), GayInAmerica.us.

Taking its place alongside such coffee-table books as Tom Atwood’s Kings In Their Castles, David Fields and the late Anderson Jones’ Men Together and Michael Goff and Out Magazine’s Out In America, is now Gay In America (2011: Welcome Books; $45) by Scott Pasfield. Consisting of 140 gay male subjects, all of whom responded to a call to be photographed and tell their unique stories, Gay In America is a colorful portrait of 21st century gay life in all 50 states.

We spoke with the photo essayist, who will be in Dallas this week as part of a nationwide book tour, about his project and what he learned about gay men … and himself.

— Gregg Shapiro

Dallas Voice: Gays are traditionally dog lovers, including myself, so one of the first things that I noticed in the pictures was that there are more than a dozen pictures of men and dogs.  Pasfield: And so many dogs got cut from the book! I think there was something like 30 or 35 dogs that I photographed over the course of the project. I was always excited to try and include pets when I could. I think they are such an important part of gay men’s lives. More often than not, if the dogs or pets were around and seemed intrigued by the whole process, I asked if we could try to get them in the shot and most pet owners are happy about that.The dogs by far were the most popular. I think there were five cats, some goats and lots of birds, too.

GayinAmerica_hirescoverHow involved were the subjects in the final decision about which pictures appeared in the book? Not at all. After I did the photoshoots I would always send people my favorites from the shoots shortly after it was done. A lot of times years went by before we actually started making the book from when they had seen my selects. We laid the book out alphabetically and the rhythm and flow of the book was determined a lot of times by that ordering. In some instances, we weren’t able to use a photo that we thought would be the image because of the layout and what shoots preceded and followed that particular one. In other instances, it wasn’t OK picking the best photograph and running with that; it had to work in its setting and in the book’s layout and the rhythm of who was on each side of that spread.

Reading Ken from Maryland’s story, it’s understandable why he got a few more pages to tell his story. What came first in the process, the photos or the subjects’ stories?  I decided who to photograph based on their story. They had to write the story to me as a complete stranger in a way and have that leap of faith and honesty to share that. That had a lot to do with why I picked them, it really wasn’t trying to come up with the story after the photo shoot. Their story had to ring true to me and it became very clear right away who was right for the book and who wasn’t. It hit me like over the head like a ton of bricks. This person was being so honest and their story is so wonderful and I haven’t heard anything like it before, therefore I’m going to go photograph them. I had that knowledge walking in to the photo shoot, I had the story in mind, I knew what the photo should look like in my head a little bit or what I thought it should look like. In reality it didn’t often end up looking like that, but having that knowledge beforehand of who they were and what they were willing to share and how that might help others dictated how I approached them photographically.

ScottPasfield-ByPlaton-300

Scott Pasfield by Platon.

Of the 140 men in the book, five are from Alaska and seven from Georgia (three from Atlanta), but only one from Illinois, for example. How did you settle on the geography? The stories really dictated who I picked so as long as every state was represented at least once, I felt that I could move on to another state. But when I was really torn in terms of stories and who to include, I would often include them both because I couldn’t decide at that point who was right and wrong. And when I felt so strongly about two different people in the same city, I would photograph them both thinking that in the end the editor might narrow that choice down. As was often the case, both subjects same city ended up making it in the book and the editors really enjoyed the comparative stories in the same city. You would think that some places, like Chicago, would be a very easy place but for some reason it wasn’t. People didn’t reach out to me in the same way. I had a feeling that if something was meant to be it was meant to be and I wasn’t going to kill myself trying to find people or persuade people to be in my book because I needed somebody else from Chicago. Many times I thought, “Why is it so difficult to find someone in New Orleans?” I went to New Orleans three times looking for that perfect person and couldn’t find them ever. It was a very interesting process. I just didn’t want to question it so much and said I’m just going to move forward and just try to pick the most interesting story and not really think about where people should be or what geography should be more represented. I looked at it from an interesting standpoint to say, “Wow, so many Alaska and Maine guys.” I had no idea I would be blown away by the amazing gay men in Maine. So many wrote me the most wonderful stories and I picked five and I could have picked 20.

More than a few times in the book, there are men who say that they “happen to be gay.” What do you think that says about being gay in America?  I think so many people in society want gay men to clarify themselves or distinguish themselves from the rest of society nearly by that one sexual trait: “I’m gay therefore that defines me.” I think so many gay men when asked what truly defines you as a person and what wisdom would you like to share with young kids who are struggling with being gay or closeted adults, a lot of them have that response. “I am so-and-so of a person. I have these interests and I went through this and I overcame it and I just happen to be gay. That’s not the whole reason why I went through all of these things,” even though at face value it might seem that for a lot of people. People struggle because they’re gay. So I think when asked and pressed on that issue a lot of people say, “You know I struggled with everything, but it’s not all based on me being gay.”

How different do you think this book would have been if you’d done it 10 or 20 years ago? The Internet played a big part in how I found people. It would have been much more difficult to find them. The thing that surprised me the most is the regularness of all these guys. I think most outspoken gay men and all facets of the LGBT community are those people who defined themselves very much by being gay and they have that issue that they really want to share with the world. They’re very outspoken. I think the type of men I was looking for aren’t as outspoken as a lot of those advocates are. That difficulty in finding them was made so much easier by the Internet. Ten, maybe 20 years ago, I’m not quite sure how I would have found the same men because they’re not going to gay community centers, most of them. They’re not out at a lot of gay bars or clubs in urban areas. I think that that’s one of the major differences doing it now. That I was really able to connect with a lot of gay men that are for the most part under the radar and what most see of the gay community.

Do you feel like you learned things about gay men that you didn’t know before?  I talk a lot in the introduction about why I did the book and the healing and the personal issues that I had to work out with my upbringing and my father with his being born again and condemning my lifestyle. Really a lot of the reason for the book was to search out that wisdom from gay men in determining how to live a happy fulfilled life and not to let other people’s views of homosexuality affect your being. I think that having a disapproving parent or friends or family who are so against what it means to be gay really affects gay men and gay people in general. I was able to learn from them just how not to let all of that get to you, how to be happy, how to come to some realization that you are gay not for a lot of the reasons that society tells you you are. To understand from these men that it’s just a part of who you are and how you can live your life and go about being a happy, fulfilled person and provide in your community and all of those things. To give back in a way and still love yourself and still love the way God made you. I think so much of the pain that so many gay people experience is through those opinions of the people we love and when they’re telling you that it is so wrong. It is a very hard thing to overcome. I think the more we share our stories and we learn how other people overcome those same things, it can help us all understand what it does means to be gay in America a little better.

Would you say you also learned something about yourself in the process of creating this project?  Oh, very much, yeah, in terms of not questioning it so much anymore. There was always a little part of me that felt it is wrong just because my father disapproved so much of it until he died. That was something very difficult for me to get over. The intelligent person inside of me told me that it wasn’t a choice I had made and I was sinning and I wasn’t going to go to hell. And the wisdom that these other men brought to me in their lives and their loves and how they related to other people and how they overcame tragedy and adversity in their lives made me realize I’m doing okay and I’m a good person and I’m like everybody else. You can’t that away from me just because I like the same sex; that is so ridiculous.

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CharlieFtLauderdaleFL2006Blake Little, bear hunter

You could say that photographer Blake Little is more used to men out of their clothes than in them. With a focus on the nude figure, Little has made a strong and reputable name behind the lens. Not just nudes, either: Top tier celebrities Josh Duhamel and Adrien Brody have posed for him to grace the covers of magazines like USA Weekend and Cigar Aficionado.

But what Little himself is really drawn to are everyday, blue-collar guys. With that in mind, he published The Company of Men.

“I wanted to take photographs that captured the strength and integrity of each individual, distilling exactly what I find compelling about men into a photograph without showing everything,” he told Wessel and O’Connor Fine Art, who displayed his work as an exhibit in 2008.

Starting with friends, Little explored this facet of masculinity that he felt wasn’t shown elsewhere — in particular, a gay masculinity he hadn’t seen portrayed in any media, which you can see for yourself at his Dallas appearance later this week.

“I wanted to document a particular type of masculine gay male that I appreciated and related to,” he says, “an alternative to stereotypes or what is usually seen as the physical ideal of a man in the mainstream.”

And he achieves it in heaps. The Company of Men is an outstanding collection of photographs that idealize the everyman and yet still exudes a high sensual characteristic. Simply, each man photographed is hot, but it’s their lack of touch up or waxing that makes them so. Little strived to capture each in their own element, at their own house and in natural light.

Not surprisingly for the photographer, he created well-constructed shots that are both artistic and, let’s face it, sexy with the best looking bears this side of the National Geographic.

— Rich Lopez

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 21, 2011.


Blake Little book signing of The Company of Men
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NUVO, 3900 Cedar Springs Road.
Oct. 27 at 5 p.m.
NUVODallas.com.

—  Kevin Thomas