It’s official: Filmmaker (and Dallas Voice video contributor) Israel Luna has gotten the financing (and even international distribution) in place for his new film, Kicking Zombie Ass for Jesus. The unofficial second installment in a proposed trilogy of satires that send-up traditional exploitation films but add a gay/transgender element, it concerns drag queens standing up against the zombie apocalypse armed only with their pumps and pump-action shotguns and a badass attitude.
The film will begin shooting on Oct. 7 and continue through most of the month in small towns around the state, including Graham, Eliasville, Olney and Mergerel. Luna describes it as “pro-Christian, pro-spirituality and pro-equality.” It will — as did his transpoitational grindhouse film Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives — feature a cast of drag divas, including RuPaul’s Drag Racer Willam Belli.
It is a small perturbation that the two longest-running Broadway musicals about drag queens — La Cage aux Folles and Priscilla Queen of the Desert, now playing at Fair Park Music Hall — involved plots where gay men have ill-advised sex with women and produce sons, only hoping not to embarrass their offspring. My guess is, this is done intentionally, to remind mainstream hetero audiences that gay or straight, we are all basically the same (as if showing our emotions weren’t already enough).
Still, you can practically hear the jaws drop inside the auditorium during many of the numbers of Priscilla, which makes La Cage look like a church social by comparison. Its outrageousness is less offensive and shocking than merely unbridled: It’s out-and-proud about its camp factor, and you’d better adjust or stay away.
Adjust. Do, do adjust, because Priscilla is a hoot, as glamorously trashy and enjoyable as the best drag show you’ve ever seen. Some people didn’t stay through Act 2; that was their loss.
Last week, we held an online contest to win tickets to see Priscilla Queen of the Desert and the winner was Brandon Simmons, who got the chance to attend opening night at Fair Park (courtesy of Dallas Summer Musicals) with three of his friends. And Brandon had a blast.
The show, about three drag queens traveling the Australian Outback in a rickety bus (which they dub Priscilla), is about as gay as a musical can get … and that’s saying something. “We had a great time!” says Brandon about the experience. “The show is really fun and entertaining. And I think it’s great getting to see something that is bold and very ‘in your face’ … and probably a bit shocking for many DSM subscribers!” In continues through May 26, and you can get tickets here. But you can also meet folks with the show at the official cast party. On May 24, Luxx Night Club on Pearl Street will host the cast and guests from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. with a glittering disco-themed party. The 21-and-over event offers free admission and valet to those with a ticket stub and those who RSVP in advance to Michelle@iegnation.com. You can learn more about it here.
From the queens who brought you the Chick-fil-A video to the tune of Wilson Phillips’ “Hold On” — including Ticked Off Trannies with Knives star (and Drag Race contestant) Willam Belli — comes the latest video, inappropriate for most workplaces. At least, if you play it with the volume up. But go ahead, put on your headphones and enjoy.
Despite officially abandoning gay programming, Logo at least knows one thing its audience enjoys: Drag queens in a weekly bitch-off. Logo has given the greenlight to a fifth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race which will begin airing, as has been the custom, in early 2013. (It will presumably follow the all-stars edition previously announced.)
More than that, though, the show is seeking audition videos from hopeful dragtestants. Queens wanting to be considered for the show can upload video from now until April 18. Then from the 18th through May 2, fans can weigh in on which queen they prefer, and the winner will be added to the cast.
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.
“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.
Broadway diva Linda Eder talks of her longevity … and her drag queen imitators
CHRISTMAS ANGEL | Singer Linda Eder will bring Christmas magic to her holiday concert at the Winspear and she’s hoping her gay fans will turn out. Being a Broadway diva with that voice — they likely will.
The earliest evidence of what Linda Eder would become is available, of course, on YouTube: A video of Eder, maybe 19 or 20, singing Melissa Manchester’s “Looking Through the Eyes of Love” at the 1980 Miss Minnesota pageant. (She didn’t win the title.)
But Eder doesn’t blanch with embarrassment when confronted with this relic of her past. Now a responsible adult, she offers that Linda Eder career advice.
“There’s a whole list of things I’d tell her not to do,” she insists. “My advice would be to save more money. Don’t spend so much because you don’t really need so much.”
Eder turned 50 this year, and the wisdom earned from the passage of time is clear in her tone. She’s relaxed, professional and unfazed discussing the range of her career, whether working with her ex-husband on her last album Now or the drag queens that perform her work. But she does seem to get jazzed about one thing — longevity.
“What makes me proud of this album is just the fact I am here at 50 and making records,” she says. “I’ve been most fortunate to have this kind of career and I have a real sense of accomplishment with this album.”
Now, her 13th that dropped in February, reunited her with longtime collaborate Frank Wildhorn, the man behind Jekyll and Hyde — the musical that put Eder on the Broadway map. But Wildhorn is also Eder’s ex-husband (they divorced in 2004). Still, she describes the experience as drama-free.
“You know, it worked out fine and it really was easy. We stay in contact,” she says. “For this album, we brought back some of the same people from before.
Things were slightly different now that I’m my own entity if you will. There was a little more freedom but it wasn’t he ever made me do anything I didn’t want.”
After 20 years since her first release, Eder knows she’s not radio fodder, but she also knows her audience.
“I certainly hoped for this kind of career. Making records is fun,” she says.
“Fortunately people enjoy my voice.”
That, of course, includes her large contingent of gay fans. She understands the territory that comes with being a Broadway diva. Eder even relishes it.
“I’ve been pretty lucky to have gay fans. They are my more lively audience and that’s why I love playing for them. I appreciate it so much,” she gushes.
Drag queens aren’t lost on her, either.
“Do you know that there is this drag show called Better than Eder? That’s so great,” she says.
She’ll likely introduce some of her new works when she returns to Dallas Sunday for her holiday concert at the Winspear. Eder helps ring in the season with The Linda Eder Holiday Show. Her Christmas Stays the Same CD from 2000 featured both original and traditional carols with that Eder touch; getting the chance to perform them on stage is what drives her at this time of year.
“You know, I’m an entertainer and doing these shows with talented people and musicians is just a fun hang,” she says. “It’s hard to believe still that I get to do this for a business.”
She’ll argue the celebrity label, but knows she is one in a certain sense. Eder doesn’t propose a false modesty either when asked about her past work. Instead, she actively strives for a sense of normalcy.
“I don’t think of myself [as a star],” she says. “I was driven early on and carved a niche career for myself but I found that I wanted to pull back to a level of success that was normal. I’m simply a musician. I might call myself a minor celebrity.”
Her fans might disagree.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.
Bette Midler got her start working in New York City’s Continental Baths, the premier gay bathhouse in America at the time. Since then, she’s gotten two Oscar nominations, won four Grammys, three Emmys and a Tony, headlines huge films and audience-grabbing TV specials. But in reality, she’s still just the queen among the queens, camping it up with puns, sexual double entendres and swinging her rack around like a mink stole at a debutante ball. She may be on the Vegas stage with a 13-piece orchestra and throngs of adoring middle-ages couples, but the act is pure late-night drag club.
That’s probably what has attracted the gays to Bette since her earliest days.
We love Liza, care for Cher, bow to Barbra and go gaga for Gaga, but Bette?
She’s still one of us. Fabulous … well, as fabulous as we imagine ourselves to be.
For two years, Bette played the Palace — Caesar’s Palace on the Vegas Strip — with The Showgirl Must Go On, her paean to corny glamour. It’s been nearly two years since the show closed, but you can finally see it with the DVD release. And it’s exactly what you think it will be.
La Bette has always known her base, so she gives shoutouts to “the gays,” who have always appreciated that she proudly pioneered the “trashy singers with big tits” trend — drag queens with real-girl parts. She’s not letting go of the honor easily. Vegas is a good fit for that, trafficking as it does in that sheen of tinsel and cheap glam — headdresses, scanty costumes (frequently changed), garish lighting and plenty of dazzle alongside the razzle.
Slickly filmed and fast-paced (aside from a quirky intro involving a twister that makes no sense), it’s a dazzling document of the Divine Miss M’s great gifts as a comedian and performer.
Her voice is still in fine shape, from “Friends” (the song that launched her to her first Grammy) through the inescapable tearjerker “From a Distance” (her fourth Grammy), with new arrangements of classics like “Do You Want to Dance” and “The Rose” that are true to the originals without being carbon copies. That almost makes up for the one-liners she does as her alter-ego “Sophie” — Bette admits she’s been telling them for 40 years, but we’ve laughed just as long.
True enough. That’s probably why we like her so much. We both get each other.
Available on DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday.
QUEER CLIPS: ‘RESTLESS,’ ‘LOVE CRIME’
Restless is, at heart, a comedy, but it’s from director Gus Van Sant, so don’t expect an easy comedy. Enoch (Henry Hopper) is an orphan who crashes funerals; at one, he meets Annabel (Mia Wasikowska), a quirky naturalist who seems as curious as he seems withdrawn. But while Enoch is haunted by the ghost of a Japanese Kamikaze pilot, Annabel has her own demons.
Any other director would almost certainly have turned Restless into a maudlin tearjerker (even the disrespectfully crass Judd Apatow made the mawkish disaster Funny People). But Van Sant operates on about two settings: Crazy genius (Milk, To Die For, Drugstore Cowboy) and disastrous boondoggle (his misguided Psycho remake) …. though he throws some impenetrable art films in as well (Gerry, Elephant, Last Days). Restless is really none of those, though it is very good — a lighthearted look at death that never seems off-beat for its own sake. Wasikowska and Hopper, below, make a charming couple, cool but authentic, and its disarming undermining of the cliches of a doomed romance elevate it. It’s overstating to call it a feel-good movie, but you walk away refreshed, as much by the moviemaking as by the story.
— Arnold Wayne Jones
Three and a half stars. Now playing at the Angelika Film Center Mockingbird Station.
Love Crime opens with Christine (Kristin Scott Thomas, right) and her assistant, Isabelle (Ludivine Sagnier). But this work session isn’t at the office; it’s at Christine’s home with the boss being flirtatious, giving her wine and gifts.
In an American movie there’d be a sexual harassment suit in the offing, but Love Crime is French so this will lead to more — or less. We learn that neither woman is exclusively lesbian because both sleep with men — the same man Philippe (Patrick Mille) in one instance — though not at the same time. Isabelle even asks Philippe what Christine’s like in bed.
The women work in the Paris office of an American company. What begins as a tale of corporate and romantic intrigue takes a deadly turn. The less you know going in the better. Just let the story unfold deliciously, because you’re in the capable hands of the late writer-director Alain Corneau.
Corneau admitted he didn’t know if the women have a physical relationship, but Christine is obviously using sex to manipulate Isabelle. When she gets the younger woman to say “I love you,” the impact is like a vampire biting its victim’s neck.
Love Crime is a mystery Hitchcock would have been proud of. Sagnier even looks like a Hitchcock blonde as she gives what must be the widest-ranging female performance of the year, and possibly the best.
Lesbian or not, it would be a crime to miss this one.
— Steve Warren
Now playing at Landmark’s Magnolia Theatre.
This is perfect timing as the band is about to embark on tour again, this time with fellow queer musicians MEN. They were here back in April with Sleigh Bells at the Granada. Now, they come back to House of Blues Oct. 28. Select dates from their tour will feature local drag queens. I wonder if we’ll get to see any of our own on the HOB stage that night.
In the meantime, check out the band’s fun new vid below. You might learn a few moves, too.