Concert Notice: Parade of Flesh brings Screaming Females to Queen City Hall on May 5

Whoa. This almost snuck by me. Punk trio Screaming Females has had a hefty touring schedule since appearing at SXSW last month. They’ve been all across the country but head back this way in time for Cinco De Mayo. Fronted by lesbian guitarist Marissa Paternoster, the band’s buzz has only grown with their 2012 album Ugly. Which is well overdue being that this is their fifth release.

Local promoters Parade of Flesh bring them in to play the East Dallas venue Queen City Hall with Leg Sweeper and Final Club. And tickets are only $5. That means I can get in and buy a beer. Maybe two. You can purchase them here prior to the show.

Watch the video for “It All Means Nothing,” the first single from the album after the jump. FYI, if you’re squeamish about blood, then cover your eyes.

—  Rich Lopez

The show goes on

Partners in life and in business, Darryl Allara and Ken Freehill travel the world staging theatrical productions for the Army. And they have seen a difference since the end of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

Inside-3

OUT ON BASE | Partners Ken Freehill and Darryl Allara have never hidden their sexual orientation or the fact that they are a couple from the military officials with whom they work. But the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ has made things less tense in many military communities, they say. (Photo Courtesy Darryl Allara and Ken Freehill)

David Webb  |  Contributing Writer
davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com

The end of “don’t ask, don’t tell” was a long time in coming — not only for the estimated 65,000 gays and lesbians serving in the U.S. Armed Services, but also for others engaged in little-known, supportive roles for active-duty personnel.

Dallas show business couple Darryl Allara and Ken Freehill, who tour the globe as civilian contractors for U.S. Army Entertainment, were as relieved as anyone else last fall when President Barack Obama officially recognized the end of the 18-year-old discriminatory policy. The life partners quietly cheered the Department of Defense memo released Sept. 20 lifting the ban on homosexuality, knowing it would provide a new sense of freedom for both them and the gay and lesbian soldiers they encounter on military installations.

“I think that in the communities we’ve been in, things are less tense,” said Freehill during an interview at their East Dallas home recently while the couple took a holiday break from 202 days on the road in 2011.

“I think maybe those people in the past who may have felt reluctant to talk to us now feel more comfortable in approaching us,” he added.

At the military installations Allara and Freehill visit, there are ample opportunities for one-on-one conversations with soldiers. Both men are judges for the U.S. Army’s Festival of Arts, and in a separate contractual project they stage Murder 101, an interactive comedy tailored to each base using soldiers and their family members and base civilian employees as actors.

“When we walk into a room, there is so much enthusiasm from everyone,” said Freehill, who has 30 years of experience as a director, producer, writer and actor and currently performs in one-man plays locally.

In staging the murder mystery dinner theater productions, the couple meets with volunteers who are interested in performing, assigns them roles, conducts rehearsals, markets the production, directs the shows and appears in the performances — all in one week’s time. It’s a  challenging task with a taxing schedule that they’ve mastered and carried out for 10 years now.

“We’ve been very mission-oriented, bringing theater to where it doesn’t exist,” said Allara, who received a U.S. Army scholarship that led to a degree in theatrical producing and directing after he ended a tour as a medic in Vietnam in 1969.

“By the time the week is over it looks like we’ve been working with them for a month,” Allara said.

Before the ban was lifted, it was a complex situation for Allara and Freehill, who in their roles entertaining, training and evaluating soldiers and their families weren’t subject to the provisions of the military prohibition on being openly gay. They wanted to be honest about themselves, yet not detract from the mission of their work.

“I did feel the policy had to be respected, because we never wanted to put a soldier in an awkward position, and we never wanted to cause anyone to be uncomfortable,” Allara said. “Our whole mission is to bring joy to everyone.”

Even so, the couple knew people would figure out they weren’t the rank-and-file type of civilian workers that soldiers expect to see on military bases, Allara noted.

“We have never encountered overt discrimination,” Allara said. “By the same token, we have never hidden who we are. It’s not a subject we initiate, but we’ve had soldiers talk to us about it.”

Freehill said that during 2011 while the Pentagon implemented the repeal of DADT and conducted related training for military personnel the couple traveled to 37 military installations for 50 events on three continents. They completed their work without experiencing any of the types of discriminatory incidents many naysayers warned would happen in the military if Congress lifted the ban, he said.

“People figure out in short order we’re a couple, and not just a theatrical partnership,” said Freehill, who points out they have been a couple for 32 years. “They see us together. We don’t make a big deal out of it. But they aren’t dumb.”

Freehill said they have always been careful not to give anyone the wrong impression.

“We are not on the make, and we don’t give that vibe off,” Freehill said. “Everyone feels secure. We are never alone with anyone.”

Allara said his experiences with the military have, for the most part, always been positive and no more discriminatory than in any other walk of life.

As a helicopter medic in Vietnam, he got his first taste of show business when he produced theatrical shows for fellow soldiers using what he had learned at a base playhouse during basic training at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.

“For lack of a better word it was a M*A*S*H unit, and I was my unit’s Radar O’Reilly,” said Allara, who noted he “screamed all the way” when he was forced to abandon his company clerk duties and fly in the helicopters to combat zones.

Allara said that deplorable conditions in Vietnam inspired him to take on the staging of a show and probably encouraged fellow soldiers to welcome it.

For one show he requisitioned six jeeps and drivers for the use of their headlights in a theatrical production. A stage was fashioned out of an old flatbed truck.

“We had a terrible morale problem,” Allara said. “We were looking for diversion. We needed to find a way to bond everyone together.”

Rather than getting court-martialed for the jeep stunt as he feared might happen, Allara’s amateur shows, including Sorry Wrong Number, brought him praise and requests for productions at other locations, including a production of Stop the World; I Want to Get Off.

Those efforts eventually led to his Army-sponsored scholarship to theatrical school in San Diego.

Allara said it is ironic that his theatrical work in the Army led to his lifelong career because he had no interest in theater in high school. The U.S. military has sponsored entertainment programs for personnel since World War II, and most bases had theatrical playhouses before television viewing became the most popular form of entertainment.

“When I was drafted I had no thoughts about theater at all,” Allara said. “I was picked on as a kid, and standing in front of people performing was the last thing I wanted to do.”

Later, Allara attended graduate school at the University of Arizona where Freehill was an undergraduate, but they never met. Oddly, they discovered later they had participated on a theatrical production at the same time, and they have a playbill with both of their names listed to verify it.

The couple later met in Los Angeles on a theatrical production and became lovers. For a while they operated a show business school together before relocating to Dallas, where Freehill took a job as executive director for the Screen Actors Guild.

It was about that time 17 years ago when Allara resumed his association with the military, accepting a job as a traveling second judge for the Army Festival of the Arts, a 40-year-old organization. The senior judge for the organization with whom Allara worked on a Bicentennial show in 1976 sought him out for the position.

“You meet people in life,” Allara said. “They go out of your life and then they come back.”

When about five years later the senior judge retired, Allara knew he didn’t have to look far for a new second judge. The Screen Actors Guild had relocated from Dallas to another city, leaving Freehill without a job.

So he joined the Army, too, so to speak.

About 10 years ago Allara and Freehill began staging their murder mystery productions for the Army. They first had designed and produced the mystery shows in Los Angeles, and they tried them out on military audiences with success.

An early production took place in Fort Campbell, Ky., where they still command great respect from base officials, volunteers and audiences, according to Linda Howle, director of the base recreation center.

“They are amazing, and they are fantastic,” said Howle in a telephone interview. “They are very creative. Every time I have them here they do a wonderful job, and when they come back it is always an even better performance.”

Allara said one of the reasons that he and Freehill enjoy so much respect from military officials is that they have a reputation for making sure the show will go on, no matter what. Their sexual orientation seems to have mattered little, if any at all, to Army officials in charge of military entertainment.

“They know they have two theater specialists they can send anywhere in the world,” Allara said.

About 15 years ago, Allara said, he met with a commanding officer who wanted to hire him, and he told the official about his relationship with Freehill.

“I knew they were rounding up soldiers and prosecuting them,” Allara said. “I told him I didn’t want it to bite him in the ass later. He thanked me for telling him.”

Allara said one of the reasons he and Freehill work together well as a romantic and a professional couple is that it is also economically advantageous to them. The Army pays them a flat fee for their work, from which all expenses must be deducted, and the arrangement of staying together on trips allows them to save money.

“We are able to keep rates really low for the Army because we share accommodations,” Allara said.

Fees for Allara’s and Freehill’s contracts come from discretionary funds raised by the Army from ticket sales and other enterprise activity, not from tax dollars, according to the show business couple.

The couple said the only hint of discrimination they ever felt during their travels for the military was when hotel staff asked if they wouldn’t prefer separate beds or rooms. Although they’ve never lost a military contract because of their sexual orientation, they did lose a couple in Los Angeles years ago because of it, they said.

“Discrimination is everywhere,” Allara said.  “It doesn’t have to be in the military.”

Allara said that as a combat veteran he sees the greatest benefit of the new policy to gay and lesbian soldiers to be the security of being part or a team, not the advantage of freedom of expression and social acceptance.

“They now will be able to serve their country without worrying about their backs in addition to the enemy in front of them,” Allara said.

For Allara and Freehill, life will continue much as it has for the past decade, together night and day except for when they are out of town on separate judging assignments. It seems natural to wonder whether they might enjoy the occasional break from each other’s company, but that is apparently not the case.

“It’s lonely,” Freehill said. “I admit it. We usually can’t wait to get home to be in each other’s company.”

Allara said that they often debate many subjects related to their work, but they always agree on how they feel about returning home to the company of the best audience anyone could have — the three dogs they rescued.

“It’s like dying and going to heaven for us,” Allara said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 13, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Defining Homes • Peak pocket

An eclectic community finds solace in a tiny East Dallas ‘hood

Charlie Jenks, above left, and Eric White enjoy their front porch in the East Dallas neighborhood of Mill Creek. Sprawling back yards and Victorian homes such as Mack Anderson’s, previous page, dot the Peak Suburban district within Mill Creek. (Photos by Rich Lopez)

By Rich Lopez

On the whole, East Dallas has a solid reputation as the quirky part of town. Artists and musicians find cheap properties to rent and homeowners find a sort of refuge that’s not like any other. But look a little closer and the area is divided into several neighborhoods such as Munger Place and Junius Heights. As historic districts, they keep up the heritage of the area, but a street over and the denizens of Peak Suburban and Mill Creek do their own thing.

“We’re all a little off-kilter here,” Charlie Jenks laughs.

Jenks lives in a patch of neighborhood called Mill Creek with his partner of 25 years, Eric White. Sectioned off between Fitzhugh and Haskell avenues, the tiny area has been both a haven for Jenks and White as well as quite a find. The couple moved here from Baton Rouge and was intent on finding an older neighborhood. A friend told them to go east.

“It took a while to find this part of town,” Jenks says. “We knew we wanted to an old part of town. We had gone to Oak Cliff, looked in Oak Lawn because of the community, but we finally came to look here. This house being larger, we knew this is the one.”

That was 21 years ago. Beginning with what White describes as a teardown that was boarded up with no plumbing or even doorknobs, they have now renovated into exactly the home they wanted.

“When we moved in, there was lots of sketchy people around,” White says. “We couldn’t afford to buy this house now.”

The old neighborhood that was once spotted with substance abusers, homeless drifters and prostitutes evolved into an attractive area. With yuppies jogging in the streets and same-sex couples walking their dogs, Mack Anderson now sees a small utopia, but without the invasion of big stores and McMansions.

“It hasn’t really gentrified through the years here,” he says.

Anderson lives in the micro historic district of Peak Suburban within Mill Creek. A street away from friends and neighbors Jenks and White, Anderson revels in the overall feel of the magnificent trees, the different people and the big porches.

“Sometimes I just take my dinner out there and see what’s going on,” he says. “It’s better than TV.”

His Victorian home, which was also renovated, is thought to have been build in the 1880s.

Now retired, Anderson liked that his commute downtown was only five minutes. That factored big into his day-to-day living, but the texture of the area was a big selling point when he bought in the early ’80s.

“You don’t find that kind of diversity anywhere else, we all get along,” he says. “Here you have Irish, German, Hispanic and everyone gets along fine. It’s like the way the world should be.”

Add to that a bustling number of gay residents. The diversity and eclecticism of the area resonates with LGBT homebuyers and owners for similar reasons Oak Cliff does.

“I think we’ve always been here,” Anderson laughs. “I think us gay people want projects, want big houses and we’re the only ones willing to get things started. That makes a statement to others who follow the risk to bring up the neighborhood.”

Jenks and White feel good about being able to fit in and be proud.

“The flag goes up twice a year,” Jenks says. “There are several gay people around and the neighborhood associations and straight friends are all gay friendly, we’ve never not felt comfortable here.”

But while buying a home is not impossible in this is East Dallas pocket, Anderson makes a point about how great his spot is.

“If it has a good feel, it doesn’t matter where it is,” he says, ”so I found that the people who move here, stay here.”

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

—  Kevin Thomas

UPDATE: City still reviewing complaint of anti-gay discrimination against Baylor-owned gym

The city of Dallas is in “the final stages” of reviewing an allegation of anti-gay discrimination against the Baylor Tom Landry Fitness Center, a city official told Instant Tea this week.

Gay Dallas resident Alan Rodriguez filed a complaint in January against the Fitness Center, after the popular East Dallas gym refused to offer a family membership to Rodriguez and his longtime partner.

Rodriguez’s complaint was filed under a Dallas ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in public accommodations. Rodriguez said he has declined an offer from the city’s Fair Housing Office, which handles discrimination complaints, to enter arbitration.

“I don’t know that there’s any room to compromise,” Rodriguez said. “There’s not middle ground to reach to.”

In a letter he penned to a Baylor executive before filing the complaint, Rodriguez accused the Fitness Center of “draconian and bigoted practices” that are “unthinkable in 2011.”

In response to Rodriguez’s email, the Baylor executive confirmed that the Fitness Center offers family memberships only “to a husband and wife pursuant to the Texas law definition of marriage.” Baylor’s attorneys reportedly are arguing that the Fitness Center is a private health club and not a public accommodation.

Jennifer Coleman, senior vice president of consumer affairs for the Baylor Health Care System, declined further comment this week.

Beverly Davis, director of the Fair Housing Office, said she is unsure when officials will decide whether to prosecute Rodriguez’s complaint.

“All I can tell you is that it’s in the final stages of review,” Davis said. “I wish I could give you a definite date, but right now I don’t have a definite date.”

Rodriguez’s complaint is one of more than 50 that have been filed under the nondiscrimination ordinance since it took effect in 2002. However, none of the complaints has ever been prosecuted by the city. Each violation of the ordinance punishable by a fine of up to $500.

—  John Wright

COVER STORY: Let the music play

Local musician SuZanne Kimbrell carves her own path while proving to Dallas that gay people can rock just as hard as anyone else

RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

One Wednesday night in November, an idea came to fruition — one based on the hope that Dallas’ gay music scene can change.

SuZanne Kimbrell believes that the LGBT community in Dallas hasn’t embraced its own out musical artists enough.

The thing is — she may be right.

Kimbrell’s bi-monthly music event, Twist Dallas, has been getting praises by some in the gay community for offering an alternative to the Cedar Springs Strip for a night out. But for Kimbrell, it’s also a different way to approach gay Pride.

“I think that’s what Pride is a lot about — not only just being gay, but the diversity of what that means,” she said.

By day, Kimbrell works at a coffee shop part-time and teaches music. By night, she’s on the hustle as most struggling musicians are.

But she hustles for two things: her own musical career, which is making some strides, and Twist Dallas, which features a roster of LGBT and gay friendly local musicians.

The inaugural Twist happened that crisp November night in East Dallas when Kimbrell filled the Lakewood Bar and Grill with an ambitious lineup of seven musicians and bands, along with a visual artist for good measure.

And the place was packed.

“We have a great pool of gay and lesbian musicians in Dallas [who are] not being heard,” Kimbrell said. “It’s not the gayborhood’s fault, but I think it’s the lack of communication.”

KEEPING UP | SuZanne Kimbrell keeps track of what’s hot, musically, at the listening station inside Good Records on Lower Greenville. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

Getting started

That first night, in the middle of the week, the show began at an early 7:30 p.m. but lasted well past 1 a.m. At the midpoint, the bar was packed, mostly with women, but Kimbrell’s vision had been realized.

She built it, and the gays came out.

Seven months later, Kimbrell is staging her fourth show and all is going according to plan.

“Getting anybody to any show can be hard, but the word is getting out,” she said. “We’ve had more people come each show, and I think that each show has been subsequently more successful than the last.”

But there has been frustration along the way.

With Twist Dallas, Kimbrell’s intention was to create a platform for local LGBT musicians to perform and be showcased. She didn’t see that much anywhere else.
Kimbrell had a regular stint at Jack’s Backyard and performed at an open mic at Sue Ellen’s, but found it difficult to break into her own gay district where established locals consistently performed. So she did something about it.

“It’s been hard to play on Cedar Springs. Dallas has shown a platform for queer musicians, but it’s only one window to look through on this big ship of music,” Kimbrell said with building intensity. “On this ship, we have a 100 different windows to look through. All we want is for people to come look here and see the amazing talent.”

In the three shows under her belt, Kimbrell has featured local gay musicians that play folk, rock, R&B and hip-hop. She added local poet Audacious to her second bill, adding the element of spoken word.

Kimbrell isn’t hung up on the type of performance. She just wants to put it out there.

Infidelix, aka Bryan Rodecker, a hip-hop artist from Denton, finished off the first Twist event with some major upswing, even as the crowd dwindled into the late weeknight.

“Playing that night was amazing,” he said. “The coolest part was that it wasn’t at a gay bar. Usually we get segregated just to playing our clubs, but this brings us out to [non-gay] venues and that’s wonderful.

“The different styles brought many of us together,” Rodecker continued. “In that one night, I made lifelong artist friends. I can’t wait to play another one.”

Finding her voice

In the fall of 2007, Kimbrell returned from a stay in South America while part of the Peace Corps. She was there for two years, mostly in Paraguay — and while there, she discovered her voice as a musician.

Kimbrell had always tinkered around with music, but nights in Paraguay over a two-year period passed slowly. Fortunately, she had packed her guitar.

Kimbrell essentially taught herself to play guitar and after an accidental duet with a guy and his guitar from the Corps, she discovered she didn’t have such a bad voice.

“He was singing ‘Fast Car’ by Tracy Chapman and he sang for shit,” she laughed. “So I jumped in and after, he told me I should start looking into doing that more. Later on, as I got better, I got to play in Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, of course.”

Kimbrell had somehow made the unique career move of becoming an international musician before becoming a local one.

With a newfound confidence, she jumped into the music scene when she returned to Dallas. She booked solid shows, bringing her brand of rock and blues to the scene, and she went at her shows unabashedly.

“I had the guts to get onstage and I just didn’t care,” she said. “I had developed a lot since coming back and my voice, literally and as lesbian, is stronger. I don’t have anything to hide.”

Keeping up momentum

With her fourth show looming, Kimbrell also has to keep up on her own career and it’s not an enviable position to be in. She was just approved by Kickstarter.com to get help with funding her goals for a full-length album (the site is a fundraising tool where people and companies can sponsor and donate funds to artistic projects).

Her goal is to raise enough funds to pay for studio costs, marketing and publishing in time to start recording in August this year. Although she’s excited about this part of her “business” plan, she knows she’s got a hard job ahead of her.

“The music industry is a bitch,” Kimbrell said. “You have to be tenacious and always on the bit, the phone, networking everyday; you need to be hustling. If you miss it, you’re done.”

This doesn’t sway her. While she may not have time to be overly excited about this latest development, it’s not lost on her.

“It’s so nice Kickstarter has given me a chance and I can see the $6,500 goal and the deadline and the people supporting me,” she said.

But there are other things are on her mind, too, like getting this edition of Twist Dallas finalized.

Since the first show, tweaks had to be made in order for it to push forward. For instance, the event has moved to a Thursday, which may bring more people in to the show.

Another tweak was actually the result of her getting flak by both gay and straight fans.

“I used to want it to be totally gay, but a big change is adding straight people to the lineup,” Kimbrell said. “People told me to bring in all of the community and they were right.

“I wanted a platform solely for gays, but I realized that first, there are not as many out musicians and that we need to be inclusive. We’ll never evolve if we are exclusive.”

The struggle showed on her face as she went through the behind-the-scenes details, but her spirit still had the spark. For her, Twist Dallas is worth it.

Besides, it’s her baby.

“People say that it’s fun and are glad it’s here and that it’s needed,” Kimbrell said. “They say they love Oak Lawn but that it’s nice getting out of there to see other musicians, artists, or hear poetry by people they might not have heard of.”

Looking to the future

Kimbrell expressed an inner conflict though. When asked if she would ever bring Twist to Oak Lawn, she wasn’t sure.

She said she has wrestled with the idea. While a stage at Pride is her ideal situation for Twist, the conflict comes from a sort of apathy or complacency Dallas’ gay community seems to have regarding live, original music.

Why is that?

“I think there’s a comfort there and that makes it hard to get into some of the venues,” she said. “The community and the powers that be get comfortable. I don’t think they’re trusting but the community is educated. Why not educate them some more with different options?

“We need to keep looking to the future while remembering the past, but unless that changes, we’re gonna be stuck,” she said.

Ultimately, Kimbrell said she would like a Twist show in Oak Lawn, being that it is the heart of the gay population. She’d also like to see it bounce around venues, much like the way Chick Happy Hour and Guerrilla Gay Bar do, taking the gays out of the box.

“The reason its called Twist is to shake things up,” Kimbrell said. “We wanna be seen, but also mix more with other parts and people of Dallas. And yes, I’d love Twist in Oak Lawn if people want it. I think Sue’s or the Rose Room would be great spots for it.”

Kimbrell is all about versatility. She learned quickly that Twist doesn’t need to be rigid — it couldn’t survive that way.

She just wants to get music out there and get exposure for what Dallas — and even beyond — has to offer in work by queer musicians, wherever that happens.

“I think it’s important to not always go to the same part of town. Wouldn’t you like to go to Lakewood or Deep Ellum or anywhere else and know you can go into the club because we made a presence there and they’re used to gay people there?

“We’re here, we’re queer get used to us. Isn’t that the slogan? Now hear our music and look at our art.”

———————————————-

Do the Twist

Chasing the Muse

As mentioned in the main article, SuZanne Kimbrell made major tweaks to this latest edition of Twist Dallas. First and foremost, the event moves to Thursday nights, and while this show continues at Lakewood Bar & Grill, she expects that the July show will be in a different venue.

Also, the lineup here is tighter with four performers on the bill (Kimbrell included), but she’s pulled together another eclectic group of performers.

Natalie Velasquez hails from Denton. She plays guitar with a three-piece band backing her that plays improvisational jazz with some rock thrown in.

She’s also a TWU student studying music.

According to Kimbrell, Denton is a hotbed for LGBT musicians. Past performers Infidelix and Immigrant Punk are from there as well.

Finding inspiration in Tori Amos, Bjork and Radiohead, David Siuba from Santa Fe brings his piano skills to town, offering up a queer perspective to his alternative pop.
Robinson Hall will likely finish the show on a high note. Led by queer vocalist Jackie Hall, the band is a blend of sultry soul and slick guitar rock.

In their videos on Facebook, they bring in the funk — expect the same on Thursday.

Visual artist Sylwester Zabielski will have his photography and film work on display.

Kimbrell does most of Twist out of her pocket, but is always on the lookout for help. For anyone wanting to be a part of the Twist team as a volunteer, she’s welcoming people with a variety of skills to help with upcoming shows.

Kimbrell admits the hardest part is the Web and marketing. She wants to develop a street team of people to hit the nightspots and spread the word.

Her girlfriend Sarah Cox has handled most of the Web work, but with a heavy school schedule, Kimbrell is searching for people who are dedicated and reliable that could help take on Twist’s website and social networking.

For more information or to express an interest, contact Kimbrell via Twist Dallas on Facebook.

The May show for Twist Dallas will be at Lakewood Bar and Grill, 6340 Gaston Ave., on May 19 at 8 p.m. Admission is $10. For more information go online to TwistDallas.com.

———————————————-

Advice for the loud at heart

CROWD CONTROL | The audience at Twist gives proper attention to the music.

As Twist Dallas evolves, one common aspect SuZanne Kimbrell has noticed is courtesy — or sometimes the lack of it.

It’s often that the lineup will include some softer music or a simple setup.

Kimbrell herself plays just with a guitar. But when someone’s phone rings or the conversations get too loud, she goes nuts.

“I just hate seeing my friends putting their heart and soul into their performance and someone is yelling into their cell phone or at the person next to them.”

Kimbrell has simple advice for those people. Or anyone. It’s not about shushing people so much as it is about common courtesy.

“I know they are in a bar, but it’s just rude. If you are within 15 feet of a singer but want to have a loud conversation, go away!” she advised.

She wants it clear that she doesn’t mind people talking, but distracting others by “taking away from the experience for people who give a shit about music” bugs her to no end.

In the March show, the crowd was so bad, she said, that one of the artists vowed never to return.

“There are ways to have conversations and watch people play,” Kimbrell said. “People just need to know that the musicians and the audiences feel that frustration.”

So, in short, shut up?

“Well, not to be mean, but yeah,” she laughed.

—  John Wright

The Village comes to Big D

ECLECTIC BOUTIQUE | Designer Tom John shows off some of the ‘retro, vintage chic, eclectic’ items for sale in his new shop Bryan Street Traders. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Store features an eclectic array of items from art to clothing created by owner Tom John

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

When clothing designer Tom John moved to Dallas, he found himself missing his Greenwich Village hangouts. So he decided to recreate that Village atmosphere here in Big D, and thus was born John’s new Bryan Street Traders in East Dallas.

John’s career as a designer started back in the 1970s in Mexico where he designed jewelry and swans made of papier-mache and wood that he sold to upscale galleries in Manhattan.

Then he started designing clothing made from hand-woven cotton found only in Mexico, turning peasant designs into high fashion and creating a clothing line that was an instant success. In the 1980s, his clothing was featured in magazines such as Exercise for Men Only.

John ended up in Dallas because the area’s airport allowed him to commute easily between Guadalajara and New York. And since 1990, he has manufactured his garments here. Although the wholesale cost, he said, was a few dollars more than producing in Mexico, he saved in shipping and travel costs.

In describing his creative process, John explained, “I see it in my head and an artist draws the pattern.” Then the pattern is cut and sewn into a test garment and John uses that to decide if that was what he had in mind.

Changes are made if necessary, and then the pattern is sized. John’s new store features his shirt designs that run in sizes up to 5X.

From his women’s rack, John pulled one dress that he said comes from his very first design — a cream-colored dress that he said he based on a design from a 1951 Sophia Loren film.

But Bryan Street Traders is more than clothing. John described the array of items as “retro, vintage chic, eclectic.”

The offerings range from art to jewelry, from furniture to an array of household items.

“I have ‘pickers’ who find things,” John said, describing how he assembled his assortment of merchandise, “But we don’t buy off the street.”

One customer in the store brought a straight-edge razor up to the counter.

“The razor is from Sheffield, the oldest metalworking factory in the world,” John explained and with a magnifying glass found identifying marks on the piece.

“Everything in the store is authentic,” he said.

The store is located just off Peak Street in an area just being redeveloped with new restaurants. on the corner and apartments on the block.

Bryan Street Traders, 4217 Bryan Street. Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday 1 p.m.-5 p.m. BryanStreetTraders.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 25, 2011.

—  John Wright

Hunt, Medrano say they’re investigating city’s handling of anti-LGBT discrimination complaints

Dallas City Councilwomen Pauline Medrano, left, and Angela Hunt

Council members respond to letter from Resource Center Dallas questioning why no cases have been prosecuted in 9 years

JOHN WRIGHT | Online Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

Two Dallas council members said this week they’re investigating the city’s handling of complaints under a 2002 ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Councilwomen Angela Hunt and Pauline Medrano announced their investigation in response to a Jan. 31 letter from Resource Center Dallas, questioning why the city hasn’t prosecuted any complaints in the nine years since the ordinance took effect.

Resource Center Dallas’ letter came in the wake of Dallas Voice reports about a discrimination complaint filed against the Baylor Tom Landry Fitness Center, an East Dallas gym that refuses to sell family memberships to same-sex couples.

Hunt said she’s “deeply troubled” by the Tom Landry Fitness Center’s policy and has asked city officials to keep her posted on their investigation of the complaint.

“We’ve also requested that the city attorneys look into each of the 40 complaints that have been filed since 2002 and investigate why none has been prosecuted,” Hunt said. “They anticipate that their analysis should be finished within a couple of weeks and I will be taking a very close look at this.”

Medrano said she’s working with both the City Attorney’s Office and the Fair Housing Office, which is charged with investigating discrimination complaints before turning them over to the City Attorney’s Office for review — and possible prosecution.

“Each of their offices will make a list of the files, including the names of the complainants, the date of the complaint and what the discrimination involved — i.e. housing or employment, etc. — and how the complaint was resolved,” Medrano said. “The lists will be then be reconciled to make sure we have located and reviewed all the complaints. So I’m hoping to get that list, and when I do I definitely will share it.”

Councilwoman Delia Jasso, who also received a copy of the letter from Resource Center Dallas, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Dallas Voice filed a request under the Texas Public Information Act this week seeking statistics on the number of complaints that have been filed under the ordinance and their dispositions.

A 2008 investigation by the newspaper determined that at the time, there had been 33 complaints filed under the ordinance. In 22 of those cases, the City Attorney’s Office determined that there was no cause to prosecute. Of the other 11 cases, three were successfully resolved through mediation; three people withdrew their complaints after signing statements indicating that defendants had taken actions necessary to address their concerns; five complaints were found to be nonjurisdictional, meaning the incidents occurred outside city limits or defendants were exempt from the ordinance; and in one case the party filing the complaint couldn’t be located.

The ordinance prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodations. The definition of sexual orientation includes gender identity and expression. Each violation of the ordinance is punishable by a fine of up to $500.

Beverly Davis, director of the Fair Housing Office, said this week that while her office was still working to compile statistics, she believes there have been roughly 50 complaints filed under the ordinance since 2002.

“We do everything we can when we get a complaint to make sure that the ordinance is enforced and that individual rights are protected as outlined in the ordinance,” Davis said. “It’s something that we take very, very seriously.”

Rafael McDonell, who drafted Resource Center Dallas’ letter to Hunt, Medrano and Jasso, said this week he was pleased to hear they are looking into the matter.

“It’s encouraging that they’re going back and putting these cases under a microscope,” he said. “Our concern is just based on statistics, there would be at least a couple of cases they would have moved on. The fact that they’re going to review all of them and make sure they didn’t miss something is a good thing.”

Other Texas cities with bans on discrimination against LGBT people, including Austin and Fort Worth, also have human rights commissions.

“I think the commission over in Fort Worth has been really strong in terms of how they have led on not just LGBT issues, but all human rights issues, and it would be great to have something like that here in Dallas,” McDonnell said. “Ultimately what I hope comes out of this process is a strong commitment to using the nondiscrimination policy to its best end. Policies are only as good as how they’re carried out.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

Drawing Dallas: Mikael Andrews

Mikael Andrews considers a Pekingese his best friend, but is himself a great friend to the gay community

MARK STOKES | Illustrator
mark@markdrawsfunny.com

Name and age: Mikael Andrews, 49

Occupation: HIV/STD behavioral change counselor

Spotted: Walking his dog in East Dallas

Zodiac sign: Aries

Blue, but not blue: Mikael is a stand-out in any crowd with his trademark bright blue hair. This native North Texan (he grew up in Waxahachie) is a retired singer, dancer and baton twirler. He holds a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance and has taught dance on the university level. Performance opportunities allowed him to travel to 21 states, Canada, Mexico and Guatemala in his younger years.

Active and activism: Mikael has been involved in LGBT activism for more than 20 years on the local, state and national levels, and headed up his own fundraising foundation, Don’t Just Sit There Productions, from 1999 to 2001. He has held three titles in the gay male contest circuit, most notably as the first person to represent Oak Lawn at the 2000 Mr. Gay Texas All-American contest. The resulting involvement in various LGBT charities and benefits allowed him more travel opportunities and helped pave the way for his present occupation, work that he has been humbled and proud to be a part of for the past 10 years.

On the move: During his various travels, Mikael loved Toronto, Ontario, Quiche and Antigua, Guatemala, and San Francisco, where he dreams of settling someday. But when he isn’t working or traveling, Mikael enjoys cruising thrift shops. He also loves to eat, and enjoys dining at the many mom-and-pop restaurants in East Dallas. Mikael feels blessed to have wonderful friends and a very full and active life, but his greatest joy is hanging with his best buddy, Toby Dog, a 4-year-old Pekingese.

A dog’s life: Toby Dog belonged to one of Mikael’s dear friends, so when life circumstances changed for Toby Dog’s daddy, he asked Mikael to let the pooch come live with him. He truly is this man’s best friend.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

OUTRAGE: Baylor Health Care System confirms that it doesn’t consider your family a family

Jennifer Coleman

Jennifer Coleman, senior vice president of consumer affairs for the Baylor Health Care System, has yet to respond to our request for comment from Wednesday about the Tom Landry Fitness Center’s policy of blatantly discriminating against same-sex couples.

However, Coleman did respond to a letter from Alan Rodriguez, the gay East Dallas resident who’s planning to file a discrimination complaint against the Baylor-owned Fitness Center for refusing to sell a family membership to him and his partner of 10 years.

“Thank you for your e-mail and phone call,” Coleman wrote in an e-mail to Rodriguez, which he provided to Instant Tea. “The Baylor Tom Landry Fitness Center offers, and will continue to offer, a family discount to a husband and wife pursuant to the Texas law definition of marriage. The fitness center is a private membership health club that is open to all applicants who meet membership criteria that are non-discriminatory. The fitness center has and welcomes a diverse membership.”

We’ve heard several people in the LGBT community comment that if the Fitness Center wants to discriminate against same-sex couples, people should simply take their money and memberships elsewhere.

And while this is certainly true, there are a few other problems: One, the Baylor Health Care System operates a dozen medical facilities in North Texas alone, which is downright scary in light of this policy; and two, the city of Dallas has an ordinance that prohibits this type of discrimination — in the same way that state and federal law prohibit businesses from discriminating on the basis of things like race.

Unfortunately, the city doesn’t seem to want to enforce the ordinance. As we’ve said repeatedly, more than 40 c0mplaints have been filed since the ordinance passed in 2002, but not one has every been prosecuted by the city.

Steven Johnson, a gay man who filed a discrimination complaint against the Tom Landry Fitness Center last year, says he withdrew it after city officials advised him that the gym is exempt from the ordinance because it’s a private club.

But that’s a bunch of bullshit. The ordinance provides no exception for private clubs.

We’ve been playing phone tag with Beverly Davis of the city’s Fair Housing Office, which is charged with investigating complaints under the ordinance, to find out whether it’s true that officials advised Johnson to withdraw his complaint.

We’ll let you know when we get in touch with Davis and/or Coleman.

In case you’re wondering, Coleman can be reached by e-mail at jennifco@BaylorHealth.edu.

—  John Wright

Gay couple accuses Baylor-owned gym of ‘draconian and bigoted practices’

For the second time in less than a year, a popular East Dallas gym owned by Baylor Health Care System is under fire for blatantly discriminating against gay couples.

Last May, a gay couple filed a discrimination complaint against the Tom Landry Fitness Center, which has a stated policy of refusing to offer family memberships to same-sex couples. The couple’s complaint was filed under a city of Dallas ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in public accommodations.

However, the couple later withdrew the complaint after they said city officials told them the Tom Landry Fitness Center may be exempt from the ordinance because it’s a private club.

Now, another gay couple plans to file its own discrimination complaint against the Fitness Center if the policy isn’t reversed. Alan Rodriguez, who recently moved to Dallas with his partner of 10 years, says he was told by the director of the Fitness Center that Baylor defines family as “one man and one woman.”

Rodriguez, who’s renovating a home on Gaston Avenue with his partner, said he chooses to live and work in Dallas largely because of the ordinance prohibiting anti-gay discrimination. He also said he goes to the Fitness Center for allergy shots and considers the gym a “neighborhood friend,” but was shocked to learn about the family membership policy.

“It is clear Baylor has taken the position to discriminate against gay people with respect to family gym membership. It is also clear Baylor has a regimented policy excluding domestic partners from the definition of ‘family,’” Rodriguez wrote Tuesday in a letter to a Baylor executive that was also sent to Instant Tea. “Therefore, I must conclude your organization also believes it lawful to discriminate against gay people regarding other medical services. Clearly, your organization considers this policy a legal form of discrimination. It remains unclear the extent to which this policy permeates all Baylor operations. Such draconian and bigoted practices are unthinkable in 2011.”

—  John Wright