Blonde ambition


Dolly Parton keeps on truckin’ with a new album, a tour — and late-night trips to the Kroger in full Dolly drag

Dolly Parton, the “Queen of Country Music,” reigns on our (gay) parade with her new album Better Day and her concert tour, at the Verizon Theatre Tuesday. Better Day marks her 41st solo album of original material, and she ties Reba McEntire with four No. 1 country singles in four consecutive decades. Parton is far more than a country music star. Even calling her “iconic” seems too small for the larger-than-life persona.
From her humble roots in Tennessee, our “Backwoods Barbie” continues to be a doll to her gay fans. With some rare moments to spare, she talks behind the scenes of her tour and what’s beneath the makeup and glitter.

— Jerry Nunn

Dallas Voice: The first track on Better Day, “In the Mean Time,” is so feisty. What was your motivation for it? Parton: That is one my favorite songs because it sums up what is going on in the world, my attitude about it. Everybody is so down in the dumps and waiting for the end of time instead of doing something about it, enjoying the time they got. This whole album I wanted to write stuff to uplift people and give a positive spin on this negativity.

You’ve performed the first single, “Together You and I” on television, but is there a video in the works? Yes. Trey Fanjoy, who was director of the year at CMT this year, did a wonderful video that shows people from all over the world, love in all forms and fashions — more of a universal love. It is a beautiful video.

What can fans expect from your concerts now? We got all sorts of good things going with the Better Day World Tour. We have a lot of positive stuff in that by doing different things for the fans.

You have a huge gay following and they will always love you. Hey, a big shout out to them! We have fun with my gay crowds. We are going to be in L.A. for two days at the Hollywood Bowl, then in San Francisco. All ready so many of my gay fans have said they are going to be there in the front row. I love it. I have always loved my gay fans. They accept me and I accept them. We get along just fine. I am very proud and honored when they dress up like me or whatever they want to do!

What is your favorite thing about touring? People, the audience, I love that. I love to travel because I am a gypsy, but I enjoy performing for the fans that love to see it. I have been around so many years, worked so many audiences and had so many types of shows. Since the beginning, it is kind of fun to watch how things have changed. I have fans from little bitty kids now watching Hannah Montana with Aunt Dolly to my older fans and the new ones that have discovered my music. It is a really fun trip for me as you can imagine.

How fabulous is your tour bus? The set up is great. I have traveled on a tour bus since 1967. This current one is an updated, modern version, where there is room. Especially when it has stopped you can let the sides out and have a real home. I don’t stay in hotels so I just live on my bus. I’ve got everything from my kitchen to my televisions, DVDs and books. It’s a way to carry my wigs and my costumes. I am set up good for that.

Are you able to take off the wig and shop at Kroger without people recognizing you? Well, if I went to Kroger I wouldn’t take off my wig. I don’t go grocery shopping too much but when I do it’s usually in the wee hours after midnight. If I really want to cook certain things for a special occasion that I really need and I don’t trust anyone to find it I will go to the store. But I usually dress like myself and go in. I can’t be disguised because if I open my mouth you know it’s me! I sound as different as I look. There is no point in going and embarrassing myself by looking like hell.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 15, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Mama rising

A Southern mom becomes a PFLAG pimp in gay sitcom ‘You Should Meet My Son!’

ANTI MOM | A bigoted mom has a change of heart when she realizes her son is gay, and starts recruiting men for him (including a stripper, Steve Snyder, right) in the DVD release ‘You Should Meet My Son!’

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor


2.5 out of 5 stars
Joanne McGee, Stewart Carrico, Steve Snyder. 85 mins.
Now available on DVD.


A Southern mom, Mae (Joanne McGee) — more over-the-top than anything Tennessee Williams would have conceived (her Pigeon Forge accent makes Dolly Parton sound like Kate Middleton) — clucks over her single son Brian (Stewart Carrico). Every week for Sunday dinner, she invites him over, trying to set him up with the “right girl.”

But Mom doesn’t seem to notice Brian has a “roommate” who’s as well dressed as he with gelled hair and lots of naked statuary around their restored Victorian house filled with antiques. At least until the roomie “moves out” and Brian becomes inexplicably despondent.

It’s a familiar premise in the traditional gay comedy: The anti-gay parent slowly realizing their son is a poofter, then going through the process of coming to terms with it. There’s the visit to the gay reparative therapist (a Texas redneck who sounds suspiciously like George W.), and the struggles with the Old Testament.

Only in You Should Meet My Son! (which screened earlier this year at OutTakes Dallas), those scenes are over 20 minutes in (a good thing, too — they are weak and clichéd, and played for dumb laughs that never come). Mom, despite her limp-wristed Tinkerbell slurs against “those kind” when talking about her hairdresser, suddenly becomes Sharon Gless from Queer as Folk once she finally figures it out: If her son’s gonna be a sodomite, dammit, she’s gonna find him a man who satisfies him sexually.

Mom becomes her gay son’s pimp.

Writer-director Keith Hartman’s script has a frustrating tendency to veer uncontrollably between farcical camp (think But I’m a Cheerleader or Another Gay Movie) and witty banter (a scene with Brian and one of his mom’s female set-ups has a sassy repartee). When it’s good, it’s a lot of fun.

And it’s good often, especially once Mae and her sister Rose (Carol Goans) go cruising a gay bar on the hunt for Mr. Right, and end up recruiting an ensemble of drag queens, leather daddies and twinks (including a potential love interest played by Steve Snyder). In a twist on The Bird Cage, Mae hosts dinner parties designed to out her family and frighten away the closet cases and homophobes. Think Auntie Mame with male strippers.

Those moments trump the intrusively annoying perky bossa nova-like score — all Austin Powers retro horns and go-go boot silliness — and the inconsistencies in the script, not the least of which is Mae’s magically fluid gaydar. (She couldn’t pick up on obvious clues about her son for 30 years, but eventually, the second she sees a muscle twink in a tank top she instantly pegs him as a bossy bottom and sets about Yenta-izing with the unrelenting determination of Megatron. Mae might seem like a Southern Baptist, but she’s really a Jewish mom.)

The supporting cast does a lot of the heavy lifting, combining beefcake with saucy flamboyance and ease on camera. But even though McGee overplays at first, Mae ultimately endears herself to us, allowing her love for her son to guide her, not her prejudices. It’s a surprisingly heartfelt way to end a silly comedy.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 17, 2011.


—  Michael Stephens

Final bets at the finale of Team DV’s P-P-P-Poker Tourney

Ante up to the table

Team Dallas Voice and Pocket Rockets Dallas are raising money for the Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS by holding a P-P-P-Poker Tournament at clubs across town. After three weeks, the event has come to the grand prize final.

Because this is Dallas, not Vegas, the game play is free, so if you want to contribute to the LSR cause, bring cash to enter the raffle. Among the prizes available or that have been won are tickets to see Dolly Parton (we’ll resist the urge to call this one a “booby prize”), Ke$ha and Chelsea Handler,  tickets to the Texas Rangers and Lone Star Park horse races, Starbucks coffee, a set of poker chips, books, grooming supplies and much more … and the final grand prize: Two tickets on American Airlines anywhere in the contiguous U.S.

DEETS: Check out the Facebook event page here for details.

—  Rich Lopez

That ’70s musical

WE WILL SURVIVE | Doralee (Diana DeGarmo), Violet (Dee Hoty) and Judy (Mamie Parris) take on the boss in ‘9 to 5: The Musical.’

Office politics and country music combine for ‘9 to 5,’ a Dolly’d-up women’s lib throwback

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Life+Style Editor

The plot of 9 to 5: The Musical hews closely to the film: Three working girls (we called them “girls” back then) — experienced professional secretary Violet (Dee Hoty), typing pool bombshell Doralee (Diana DeGarmo) and a workforce newcomer, recent divorcee Judy (Mamie Parris) — endure the butt slaps, passed-by promotions and office gossip endemic to the “man’s world” of big business. They were stooped over from touching the glass ceiling before we had that term.

When lowlife CEO Mr. Hart (Joseph Mahowald) threatens to have them all fired, they kidnap him and stage a coup-d’etat, running the company via memo the way they want it run. Of course it is a smashing success, with employees and shareholders. Of course they keep their jobs and Mr. Hart gets his. Of course, of course, of course.

That’s actually kind of a good thing. Many stage adaptations of movies swing wildly away from the source material, so this is a comforting, surprisingly tight rendering of a well-worn plot, interspersed with a variety of Dolly Parton-penned songs, several with distinct country flair (but not all). Dolly even makes a video appearance as the narrator. 9 to 5 is a perfectly palatable, even enjoyable musical comedy, a lightweight feminist screed against big business that wouldn’t offend anyone who doesn’t have a talk show or Fox News or who is not named Trump.

What the show isn’t is a standout in any measurable way. It could be an office version of The Producers, but it lacks memorable hooks and enough punch to hit a home run.

DeGarmo flexed some acting muscle, affecting a Betty Boopish voice that sounds more like Butters from South Park than Dolly clone, and as American Idol loyalists know, she can sing. It’s Parris, though, who gets the 11-o’clock number, “Get Out and Stay Out,” an anthemic power ballad that rivals “I Will Survive” for sheer defiance.

But Hoty, a Broadway star, underwhelms in what is the de facto leading role. She’s all glum sarcasm and self-pitying, long-suffering smugness. She and the other leads have a ball on the Act 1 closer, “Shine Like the Sun,” but along with Mahowald as the overdrawn villain, she’s a disappointment.

So is the set. “It takes a lot of money to look this cheap,” Dolly Parton is fond of saying about her signature trailer-trash-won-the-Lotto look of boobs, bleach and bangles. On that basis, I can only imagine that the scenery — mostly comprised of rotating-paneled columns that look like port-a-potties on rollers — must have cost a fortune.

For Dolly fans, hearing an album’s worth of new songs (even sung by someone other than her) and the recorded cameo may be worth it alone, but, like the company dental plan, it leaved you wanting more for what you’re paying.














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

—  Kevin Thomas

Put on your p-p-p-poker face for Lone Star Ride

OK, we know Lady Gaga’s new CD comes out today (we’ll have a review in Friday’s paper), but the poker face we’re thinking about this week is yours. Starting tomorrow, and continuing for four consecutive Wednesdays, Team Dallas Voice is raising money for the Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS by holding a P-P-P-Poker Tournament at clubs across town. It kicks off May 25 at 8 p.m. at Sue Ellen’s with the first qualifying round, then moves to the Round-Up Saloon on June 1 at 8:30 p..m, the Brick on June 8 at 7:30 p.m., before the grand prize final at the Brick on June 15 at 7:30 p.m.

Because this is Dallas, not Vegas, the game play is free, so if you want to contribute to the LSR cause, bring cash to bid on auction items or enter the 50/50 raffle. Among the prizes available (pictured, with Team DV organizer Greg Hoover) are tickets to see Dolly Parton (we’ll resist the urge to call this one a “booby prize”), Ke$ha and Chelsea Handler,  tickets to the Texas Rangers and Lone Star Park horse races, Starbucks coffee, passes to the MetroBall with Deborah Cox, a set of poker chips, books, grooming supplies and much more … and the final grand prize: Two tickets on American Airlines anywhere in the contiguous U.S.

Poker, gay bars, prizes — sounds like an ideal way to spend a Wednesday. Or any day of the week, at that.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Not just a ‘9 to 5’ job

Director Jeff Calhoun’s fabulous, unlikely journey from Dolly queen to professional Dolly collaborator

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor

JeffCalhounSmileGenJeff Calhoun has been a Broadway baby for nearly 30 years, directing revivals of Grease and Big River, plus choreographing those shows and revivals of Annie Get Your Gun and Bells Are Ringing. He’s got a Tony Award nom and is best friends with Tommy Tune. But he’s still hoping for the Holy Grail every theater director craves: That one original show to call his own, the lasting legacy.

“I thought Brooklyn was going to be that for me — the next Rent — which tells you how little I know,” he says of his 2004 show that ran a respectable 284 performances. Then when he heard producers were adapting the Dolly Parton film comedy 9 to 5 for Broadway, he thought he finally had his shot. Only it was not to be.

“I was really disappointed when they hired Joe Mantello to direct,” he says plainly. Then some serendipity occurred: First, 9 to 5 turned out to be a bust on Broadway, running only four months. Then the producers did something that has probably never been done before: They hired a new director to retool the show for the national tour. And that was Jeff Calhoun.

“It was a miracle,” he says.

Directing 9 to 5, which opens Wednesday at Fair Park Music Hall, is an appropriate bookend for Calhoun, who got his start as a 21-year-old working with Dolly Parton on the film version of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

“She was in her prime — and so was I, as a matter of fact,” he jokes. “I wanted to do [9 to 5] because, first, I love Dolly; and second, I wanted to do an homage to 1970s variety shows — Sonny and Cher and Carol Burnett and such. I knew this was perfect: It takes place in 1979. But [the in Broadway version] there was no context, other than the costumes and bad hair. You should feel like you’re back in the ’70s, from Charlie’s Angels to Burt Reynolds posing nude in Playgirl.”

Calhoun tackled the show anew, treating it “as if it has its own DNA.” There was a lot of adapting: Some songs were cut, others rearranged; the style was streamlined, jokes were punched up. And working with Dolly was its own reward.

A GAY MAN’S DREAM | Jeff Calhoun, director of ‘9 to 5: The Musical,’ came full-circle with the show, reuniting with Dolly Parton, whom he first met on the set of ‘The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.’

“It’s been one of my favorite collaborations. I have a picture of her and me together [on the set of Whorehouse] that any fan, especially a gay person, will look at that and oh my god! All I am missing is Cher on my other side.”


The touring production also snagged some major talent in Tony nominee Dee Hoty (who worked with Calhoun on The Will Rogers Follies and, coincidentally, plays Miss Mona — the Dolly role — in The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public) and American Idol runner-up Diana DiGarmo, who starred in the tour of Calhoun’s Brooklyn.

Calhoun is a quick wit with a naughty, uncensored side who gets dishy and expresses his opinions without much coaxing.

Broadway is run by “businessmen without imagination,” he says. “That’s what’s great about [the new musical] The Book of Mormon — it’s brilliant and it shows original thought — rare today.” He’s happy bin Laden was killed on Obama’s watch as it “may shut up the naysayers. My parents — I love them and they are great people — but they have this blind spot for Obama. They would vote for Nixon tomorrow if he was running.” And don’t get him started on Sarah Palin.

“I wrote a song about Sarah Palin — it stars with C and ends with unt,” he says. “She’s written a book but she’s never read one? I hate that she has pride in her ignorance — it’s as if everyone in the audience of Let’s Make a Deal became Republicans.”

Politicking aside, next up for Calhoun are two Broadway shows: A musical adaptation of Newsies (with a script by Harvey Fierstein) immediately followed by a show with yet another Texas connection: Bonnie & Clyde: The Musical. For a Yankee, Calhoun has surprisingly strong ties to Dallas.

“I was in Dallas with Busker Alley when you had that big flood and my upside-down rental car was the image that led the news,” he says. “And I love [Dallas Summer Musicals chief] Michael Jenkins — he’s one of my best friends. Yes, I’ve had so many good experiences there, both theatrically and in the bars! I love me some Dallas!”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 13, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Give A Damn, get some goodies and help out a good cause all at the same time

Cyndi Lauper

Everybody knows that Cyndi Lauper is not just an LGBT rights supporter, she is a committed activist who is willing to put her time, talent and money where her mouth is when it comes to equality for all.

And now, she’s putting her sparkly high-heeled shoes where her mouth is, too.

The shoes — “Glittery Heels Worn and Signed by Cyndi Lauper” — are just one of the 43 items up for auction in the third annual winter Give A Damn online auction. The list also includes opportunities to meet a wide range of celebrities (Lauper, Jason Mraz, Ricky Martin, The Scissor Sisters, Lily Tomlin and more) in person, a chance to have lunch with Carson Kressley, 2 VIP gold hot seat ticket packages to Lady Gaga’s sold-out show at MSG, tickets to see U2 at the Meadowlands, signed items from folks like Dolly Parton, a Skype chat with Chely Wright, the chance to have Lauper, Rosie O’Donnell or Sara Silverman record your voice mail message — and much, much more.

All the proceeds from the auction go to help fund the Give A Damn Campaign, a web-based initiative launched by Lauper’s True Colors Fund “with the goal of educating and engaging everyone, especially straight people, in the advancement of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality.”

So head on over to the auction page, check out the items up for auction and bid on one or two if you can. I mean, after all, who wouldn’t like the chance to walk in Cyndi Lauper’s shoes — literally?!

—  admin

Dallas Summer Musicals announces 2011 season

The Dallas Summer Musicals’ big State Fair production will be the recent revival of West Side Story, complete with Spanish-language rewrites, as well as a few other revivals, returns … and one new show.

The season kicks off with gay Texan Tommy Tune, the biggest Tony winner of all time. in Tommy Tune Steps in Time with the Manhattan Rhythm Kings. for a one-week run beginning March 15. That will be followed by the return of another dance show, Burn the Floor, for two weeks in April.

The official summer season begins May 18 with the recent Dolly Parton musical of 9 to 5, followed by the returns of Stomp and Monty Python’s Spamalot in June and Guys and Dolls in July.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones