Cowboy up!

Full schedule of events planned around IGRA Finals Rodeo in Fort Worth this weekend

Cowboy-1

HANGING ON | One of the most popular events in the IGRA Finals Rodeo is bullriding. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

The “best of the best” in the world of LGBT rodeo are coming to North Texas this weekend to dress goats, decorate steers, wrestle steers and ride wild horses and bulls, according to Randy Edlin, president of the Texas Gay Rodeo Association.

A total of 90 competitors will be competing in the 25th World Gay Rodeo Finals, being held Saturday and Sunday at the Watt Arena in the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth. They will be representing the 27 local International Gay and Lesbian Rodeo Association affiliates around North America, including two from Texas — Texas Gay Rodeo Association, which has five chapters around the state, and Red River Rodeo Association, based in Aubrey, northeast of Denton.

Edlin said that participation in the IGRA Finals Rodeo is by invitation only. Contestants earn points through the year at regional rodeos, and the top 20 in each event are invited to the World Gay Rodeo Finals.

Edlin will compete in the chute-dogging event, sometimes known as steer wrestling, and in two camp events, the wild drag race and steer decorating.

Dan Nagel, president of the Dallas chapter of TGRA, said the camp events are one of the things that distinguish gay rodeo from traditional rodeo, adding to the entertainment and fun. But the inclusion of the camp events, he said, shouldn’t fool anyone into thinking gay rodeo contestants aren’t as tough as the mainstream rodeo cowboys and cowgirls.

In fact, Nagel said, the caliber of participants in IGRA’s 10 more traditional events are equal to those in any rodeo, and a number of members of TGRA also enter other rodeos.

Another difference between the gay rodeos and mainstream rodeos is that in gay rodeos, men and women may compete in all events.

In mainstream rodeos, you usually only see women competing in barrel racing. In gay rodeos, men race the barrels, too. Chute-dogging is usually a men’s event in the mainstream, but the women are out there wrestling steers, too, at the gay rodeos.

Nagel called those two events two of the most competitive on the circuit.

Gary Miller, owner of Dallas’ Round-Up Saloon who is also a former TGRA president, explained that while men and women compete together in chute-dogging, the top male competitor and the top female competitor both get first place trophy buckles.

Miller encouraged people who might be interested in participating in rodeo come to Fort Worth  to see the sport’s finest athletes and recommended the camp events for those just starting.

“Try goat decorating,” Miller said. “You won’t get hurt and you don’t have to have the skills of riding a horse or roping.”

Nagel agreed that some camp events are great for newcomers. But he called the wild drag race — in which teams of three, with one of the three in drag, work to get their member in drag on a steer and across the finish line in the fastest time — one of the most dangerous events on the circuit.

Miller and his partner, Alan Pierce, have been named honorary grand marshals of the rodeo. Miller joked that it was a role he was getting very used to filling. Two weeks ago, the pair were grand marshals of the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade.

“It’s an honor for us since we’ve been involved since the 1980s,” Miller said.

Miller was among founding members of Texas Gay Rodeo Association in 1985 and served as its first president. Pierce helped form the Houston chapter while working at Bayou Landing, a country-western bar in that city.

The couple met through their work with the rodeo and became owners of the Round-Up in 1998. They celebrated their 26th anniversary this year.

Miller said the Round-Up Saloon sponsors five participants by paying their entry fees. He said rodeo can become an expensive sport, especially
for those traveling with their horses.

“It’s a big deal to trailer one in, especially from the coasts,” Miller said.

He said the trip takes several days because they have to stop every few hours to exercise the horses.

Events connected with the rodeo begin at the Crowne Plaza Fort Worth South, the host hotel, on Friday, Oct. 7. The honorary grand marshals will be presented at a dance at the hotel that evening.

The finals rodeo events begin at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 8, then again at 9 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 9.

“Peak spectator time is noon to 5 p.m.,” Nagel said. “They’ll run slack in the morning.”

“Running slack” means that rather than have all 20 competitors take part in one event twice in one day and declare winners, some of the entries from a variety of events will run in the morning. That way people attending during the peak afternoon hours will get to see the full variety of events.

Winners won’t be named until Sunday evening after each competitor in each event has been scored in that event twice.

In addition to the competitions taking place in the Watt Arena, a vendor area and an entertainment area will be set up in an adjoining building.

Edlin said each regional association has “royalty” — association members who have competed throughout the year and raised money for their associations to claim the Mr., Miss and Ms. Titles — and they will be entertaining throughout the day.

Nagel said that IGRA’s archives of the 35 years of gay rodeo and 25 years of international competition will be on display at the arena as well.

Dance has always been a big part of gay rodeo. Saturday night, a dance competition takes place at the host hotel.

Despite the fact that a Nevada sheriff shut down the finals in 1988 because area residents didn’t want “those type of people” in town, Edlin said the rodeo is a great place to bring kids.

“Gay rodeo is very family-oriented,” Edlin said. “It’s not cut-throat competition.”

Edlin has been involved since 1999.

“Friends took me to a gay rodeo in Calgary and I was hooked,” he said. “I’ve been involved ever since.”

Edlin said gay rodeo is so welcoming and family-oriented that a number of straight people participate in gay rodeo — including his straight son, a two-time Iraq War veteran who competes in chute-dogging and junior bull riding.

Nagel said TGRA has a number of straight members who enjoy the close friendships and fun.

“But the other side of all this is that we give money to the community,” he said.

Last year, the Dallas chapter of TGRA gave $30,000 to eight local groups including Resource Center Dallas and Youth First Texas. This year, he said, they’re already ahead in the amount they’ve collected. They’ll distribute  those funds in March.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

WATCH: ‘Drag Race’ winner Raja premieres her 1st video, ‘Diamond Crowned Queen’

As Drag U gets under way, how perfect that last season’s winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race would have her debut video premiere. Raja (Sutan Amrull) debuted the video for her new single “Diamond Crowned Queen” on Friday. Even though the video is rather simple, it’s not shy on racy and sexy. In a myriad of outfits, Raja runs with the edgy drag shtick and even shows up without it. Although that I didn’t like. It kinda took me out of the illusion and Raja creates striking looks that are easy to stare at.

The song itself reminds me of a cross between early Nine Inch Nails and Jeffree Star. I think the song lacks some hook, but she’s definitely not delivering the obvious, which I can appreciate.

—  Rich Lopez

Class in session

Ru & crew, back for ‘Drag U,’ Season 2

RuPaulThere’s a difference between a TV show that is intentionally cheesy and one that induces cringes by mistake. Thankfully, RuPaul’s Drag U knows exactly what it’s doing, laying the puns on thicker than Jujubee’s makeup. They can still induce groans, but at least we’re all in on the joke.

After all, Drag U is all about the fun side of our favorite competitive drag queens. Leaving (most of) the drama over at the Drag Race, each week queen “professors” (including Season 1 winner Bebe Zahara Benet, pictured) are tasked with making over three ordinary women and unleashing their inner divas, complete with drag personas and styling. On the line are sorta-fabulous prizes like jewelry, a vacation and a cash prize of $3,166.17 (seriously).

But it’s what the women gain in self-esteem that’s the most valuable parting gift, and don’t think the producers don’t know it. In the first episode alone, one of the women is trying to overcome the pain of having her ex-husband end their marriage via email; she, of course, learns “to love herself again” with the inducement of wigs and outrageous makeup. That’s some powerful Oprah-level stuff, but Ru, “Dean of Drag” Lady Bunny, guest judges like Beverly Johnson and the rest of the girls give advice that’s equal parts sassy and sincere.

The result? Incredible transformations at the end of an hour of deliciously fluffy television — and every one of these straight gals owes it to the gays. For anyone in withdrawals since Drag Race ended, or in love with makeovers, or just interested in learning more about one contestant’s husband’s “diesel mangina,” the second season of Drag U is more than deserving of a season pass on your DVR.

— Steven Lindsey

Premieres Monday at 8 p.m. on Logo

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

—  Michael Stephens

‘Drag Race’ tour hits S4 this month

As anyone who watches the show knows, one of the perks of winning RuPaul’s Drag Race is that the victor gets a victory lap … around the country. Raja will come to Dallas as part of the Drag Race/Absolut Vodka Tour later this month — on my birthday, no less. (Hold the applause.)

The tour kicks off in Denver on the 14th and goes to eight cities; the only Texas stop will be at Station 4 on Wednesday, May 26.

In addition to Raja, other queens from the show (names are not yet available) will be on hand, as will Absolut mixologist Justin Winters. We’re holding out hope someone from the “Pit Crew,” pictured, will make it, too. Sigh.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Casting under way for Season 4 of ‘Drag Race’

The bodies that Raja walked over while clawing her way to the top of RuPaul’s Drag Race aren’t even cold, and already the team is looking for more contestants for Season 4, which will begin airing in early 2012.

World of Wonder and Logo have begun their nationwide search for America’s next drag superstar — a title that, this year, came with a $75,000 cash prize and a lifetime supply of cosmetics. And since only the returning Shangela was on deck to represent Texas in Season 3, it’s about time we added some Lone Star glam to the mix.

If you want to lip-sync for your life, send an email to DragRace4Casting@gmail.com. And don’t fuck it up.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Lady Raja

Raja
SHANTAY, SHE STAYED | Raja Gemini was announced this week as winner of Season 3 of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race.’

‘Drag Race’ winner Raja had to keep a poker face for 8 months, but now she welcomes the papa, paparazzi

RuPaul’s Drag Race crossed the finish line this week, and the best woman won. Sutan Amrull, better known as Raja Gemini, kept her eye on the prize since the first episode and ended up being crowned the next drag superstar.

This 6-foot-3 Los Angelo, who is part Dutch and part Indonesian, is no stranger to reality television, having appeared on America’s Next Top Model as the show’s principal make-up artist and serving as Adam Lambert’s face painter for his tour. In short, Raja knows glam and glitter on the road.

After winning a close race, Raj was crowned the winner and rose early the day after to chat about his experience on the show.
— Jerry Nunn

Dallas Voice: How do you feel now that the experience is over? Raja Gemini: I don’t think it has really hit me. I have been keeping the secret since August, even from my parents. I didn’t even talk to my mom about it. She seems to have known, though. She said, “A mother always knows…”

Do you think the judges were fair? I think for the most part the judges were fair. I think Delta Work should have stayed longer. I don’t think they really understood her humor.

Did you have a favorite celebrity judge? There were a few of them. I couldn’t believe that my season had two of my greatest idols: Vanessa Williams and Jody Watley. Jody Watley was a style icon for me since I was a boy in junior high. I wanted to wear giant earrings when I saw her. For her to be there as one of the judges, and Vanessa Williams as well, was a really huge deal for me.

How old were you when you first did drag? Experimenting with it, probably about 15. I have been doing drag all of my life. I was that kid that played dress up all the time, wearing different sheets and dishtowels. I made costumes. I was really getting into it by 16 years old.

People are saying you were friends with RuPaul before the show. People have made a lot more [out of it] than it really is. I have been a makeup artist for a very long time and have crossed paths with a lot of people. Ru at one point lived in L.A. and was a big fan of the L.A. drag scene. She went to all of the shows and I would see her quite often. We weren’t friends where we would call each other up and talk about boy, financial or family problems — we were just aware of each other’s presence. That’s inevitable when you work within an industry. I wouldn’t even say that Ru and I were acquaintances.

Where did you learn makeup? I was actually an art student and went to University of Orange County in California. I tried to be a student and hated it. I decided to be a makeup artist and then a female impersonator!
What are your plans for the prize money?  Actually, I am going to spend it wisely. I am going to pay off all of my bills No. 1, and clean my plate. I will be able to focus on working now. I will be elaborating and creating a brand, if you will.

Some of the money must go back into your act and the latest outfit. You know, it really does. It is very true when they say, “You have to spend money to make money.” Drag is expensive. But it doesn’t have to be. I am a pretty frugal drag queen and I love a bargain. I am definitely a thrift shopper. I love going to flea markets. It doesn’t always have to be that expensive.

Do you regret fighting with Shangela on the show? No, I love it. I love watching Drag Race and love, love, love watching Untucked as well. That’s my favorite thing! I watch it with all of my friends. We totally laugh and cackled at everything Shangela says. She is brilliant and super smart. She is a really great person. She has a bright future ahead of her.

So you don’t have beef with anyone on the show then? Not at all, not that I can think of…

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 29, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Season 3 finale tonight on Logo

The last lip-synch

Three queens stand before us before one goes on to become the next drag superstar. And wins $75,000 to pay of them bills because you know they’ve been piling up for these ladies. The winner will also headline the Absolut tour which has come this way before. This season’s crop may have been the most interesting and any of the three tonight could actually go on to become superstars…not fade away like the, um, last two, whatever their names were. Will it be Raja, Alexis or Manila sashaying away with the title — or going home untucked.

DEETS: RuPaul’s Drag Race airs at 9 p.m. on Logo. LogoTV.com.

—  Rich Lopez

More reality TV shows look to Texas for casting

Shangela

I received a call from Joe Pinzone, a casting producer for Leftfield Pictures with word of a TV show looking to add some gay flair. In-Laws sounds more than just your typical high-drama lowbrow affair (but keep reading) and it is on A&E. He tells me the premise touches on the relationships between family members and, yeah, the in-laws. He reached out to the Voice because they are definitely interested in finding a same-sex couple and how they deal with meddling mothers-in-law or disapproving family members — healthy relationships can apply as well, but it is TV:

Do you and your in-laws have different ways of doing things that can sometimes be frustrating? Do your in-laws old-fashioned values differ from your modern lifestyle?  Does the statement, “When mom says no, ask grandma” ring true in your family?  Do your in-laws do strange things that get on your nerves? Do you wish your mother-in-law wouldn’t baby your husband so much when she is around because when she leaves he won’t do anything around the house?

If you love your in-laws but want to learn to adapt to each other’s way of life, this is the show for you!

What’s more, you’ll get paid for participating. We know the Dallas market is prime for gay reality show participants (RuPaul’s Drag Race, The A-List), so I have a feeling that the perfect couple is out there. Pinzone says to either apply, to nominate a couple or just learn more, contact him by email or by calling 212-564-2607 ext. 2395.

• Not much for family drama, but all about the partying and drinking? Lost in Austin invites all kinds of peeps who are at least 21 years old to make a full out Tex-ass of themselves. This shouldn’t be a surprise, as one of the producers is behind Jersey Shore. You could be the next Snooki — provided you move to Austin:

Lost in Austin will feature a house full of outrageous Texans who will live it up in the ultimate pad in the heart of Downtown Austin as they rule the bar scene, rope in the hottest of the hot and drink anyone under the table.

This has glorious train wreck written all over it. Non-Austinites must supply a video of themselves via the website for casting which will be held in May.

—  Rich Lopez

A fuel-injected ‘Drag Race’

START YOUR ENGINES | Ru says being an ‘introverted extrovert’ is part of the secret weapon to a fabulous career.

RuPaul says sleep deprivation may be key to bitchy success as a Racer

RELATED STORY: Dallas’ Shangela is 1st returning contestant

LAWRENCE FERBER  | Contributing Writer
lawrencewferber@hotmail.com

On Monday, the third season of Logo’s hit RuPaul’s Drag Race exits the gate at full speed with a 90-minute premiere, and it’s running on some seriously premium fuel this year: Fiercer contestants, more elaborate challenges, higher profile guest judges (including Lily Tomlin, Margaret Cho and Chloe Sevigny) and the return of a Texas fave from last season.

Yet again ruling the proceedings, both in and out of drag, is superstar drag persona RuPaul. Ru, who has a new album due later this spring, sat down to dish about contestants old and new, the effects of sleep deprivation on drag queens (hint: emotional breakdowns) and what else is in the works for him.

Dallas Voice: What do you make of season three’s group of contestants and how do they differ from their predecessors? RuPaul: The honest to God truth, they’re so much more skilled, and also on an even-keeled level. These kids came with their A-game like I’ve never seen before. I don’t know if it’s our casting or what’s happening with the girls out there since the show debuted, but these kids are skilled. And the bonds they forged early on with each other is probably the most amazing element.

Yet again the first challenge is a photo shoot with Mike Ruiz. Do you forgive Mike Ruiz for his ridiculous hair on The A-List New York? It looked like a bowl of lubed squid ink pasta.  Ha! I’ve heard people talk about it. But I don’t know because I’ve never seen it. That’s funny!

Tell us some dishy behind-the-scenes factoid about season 3. Well, we’re working on so little sleep, the schedule is so fast because we’re basically shooting every day. It’s tough, grueling. So these kids come on the show and think, “I’m fierce and bad,” but can you do it day-in, day-out, for 15-hours per day? It may look like everyone’s relaxed, but nobody’s getting any sleep at all.

One typically isn’t very detail-oriented when sleep deprived. No, they’re not, and they’re drawing on a lifetime of experience because this show’s challenges are based on things I had to do on a daily basis in my own career. Anyone in the business has to be multi-tasking and wear a lot of hats. You can’t just be good at one thing. We do something, Queens in Space, where the kids shoot competing trailers for a sci-fi movie and it is hilarious. Most people think, “I can do this,” but you have to come with some acting skills, the ability to take direction. Our challenges put them through it, they really do.

Did the selection process change this season, or was there a shift in emphasis as far as the kinds of queens you looked for? Aside from the surprise 13th contestant, no one from Texas this year — last year there were three! It doesn’t change. The truth is we’re looking for showgirls. We want girls who work at doing drag for money, for a career. The things we ask them to do, a novice wouldn’t be able to. We’re looking for them to be marketing execs, managers, designers, strategists, performers, models, you name it. And the novice wouldn’t be able to do that. They’d buckle. And throw in the sleep deprivation and schedule, and you have to be in it to win it. This can’t be something you do on the side.

One contestant buckles under the pressure and breaks down in the first episode. Did that happen a lot, and how do you typically respond to it? They definitely break down because of sleep deprivation. Emotions are very fragile because they’re in a new environment, we’re putting them through the paces, and I have to give them pep talks from time to time: This is your opportunity, the world is watching. You can’t say, oh, I feel like I didn’t get my chance. Well kiddo, you are on now. You are on. There are no second chances — you have to bring it. Maybe you’ll get another chance somewhere else, but it’s time now.

How much do you miss saying Pan-dor-a Boxx? I miss [all the former contestants], actually, because even before they’re on the show, we’re living with audition tapes. We’re moving around who will work with whom. It’s a lot like casting a play: We have to have the sassy one, the ingénue, the sweet one, and sometimes the person in the role of the sweet one gets swapped out for someone else who works better in the ensemble, so we are actually living and loving and feeling these girls way before they even get to Hollywood, and then when they’re dismissed it’s heartbreaking to me. But I also know that they will come back. In some other form or show that we do, on the club circuit. I will see them again.

How has this show changed your life since its premiere? Well, I pretty much have to stay in L.A. For almost 30 years I’ve had a nightclub act I performed around the world constantly. Now the last gig I did was October 2009. With both shows it’s really kept me here in L.A. working, though I love L.A. I’m also an introvert masquerading as an extrovert, so I’ve had to spend a lot more time with people than I normally do!

What other projects are in the works? I’m writing a sequel to [my 2007 film] Starrbooty. The challenge is I want to do it G-rated but nastier, more subversive. In the immortal words of Elvira, there’s nothing wrong with G-rated movies as long as there’s lots of gratuitous sex and violence.

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

—  John Wright

RuPaul promotes new season with some (unauthorized) help from Cher

The new season of RuPaul’s Drag Race starts next month, and the drag diva isn’t above stealing (pardon, “homaging”) from her target audience’s favorite icon to promote herself. Any similarities to Cher’s Burlesque poster is purely intentional.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones