Ellen’s other Joe


Joe Dombrowski never expected to end up on Ellen after his fourth-grade students at Oakland Elementary in Royal Oak, Mich., hilariously attempted to spell made-up words — and a queen’s name from RuPaul’s Drag Race — as an April Fools’ joke. But then again, Dombrowski never expected the legendary prank, which he orchestrated, filmed and posted to his social media, to seize the attention of admirers from around the world… including Ellen DeGeneres.

Just days after the video went viral, the 28-year-old teacher was a guest on the comedian’s talk show. But it wasn’t attention he was after. In addition to receiving a generous $10,000 check from Shutterfly made out to Oakland Elementary (and $10,000 for him personally) — the school largely educates children from low-income families — the teacher and now-famous trickster says he was elated that “Ellen really gave me a platform to put such a positive light on education, which is where my heart is.”

That crazy, surreal day, his heart was in the right place, but his head? Not so much. Instant internet fame will do that to you.

“Once Ellen called, it truly hit me how big this whole thing had gone,” Dombrowski tells me, still reeling from the experience. “When I watched the interview, it all started coming back, and I just realized that I blacked out completely during it.”

This is how he remembers it: Ellen kissed him, he made her — major daytime talk-show host, Glamour Woman of the Year honoree, Emmy winner, Dory — laugh, and then the two shared a special behind-the-scenes moment. During a commercial break, Dombrowski expressed to her how her confidence as an out lesbian — and the fact that “she’s such a strong role model for all people, especially the LGBT community” — helped transform him into a confident, out gay man, both privately and professionally.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Caitlyn Jenner still has a long way to go before being a true Friend of Dorothy

Jones, Arnold WayneWhen Bruce Jenner came out officially as transgender, and eventually as “Caitlyn,” I was extremely happy for her, and for what it meant to the wider culture. For people like me, Bruce Jenner was an iconic sportsman — think Michael Jordan or LeBron James, only bigger. He was a decathlete. Think about that: The best all-around athlete in the world. Better at doing 10 sports than most people are at one or two. For younger people, he was the spacey patriarch of the Kardashian clan — not, to my way thinking, a very reputable role, but one that put him into countless homes for years.

Coming out as trans meant that Jenner brought a lot of focus to issues of sexual orientation and identity. “Welcome to the party,” was my thought. Even when she claimed to be a conservative Republican, I said, “Now, now — let’s not ostracize her … yet. There are plenty of conservative (and racist, and ignorant) gays. Indeed, let her try to live as a trans woman in a GOP world. When she sees how slow John Boehner is to return her calls, maybe she’ll realize she was backing the wrong horse all the time.”

Some people objected when she won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award from ESPN, but I didn’t. This did require courage, to be known as a specimen of male physical prowess and say, “Yes, but I was a woman all along.” That’s not courage on the field, perhaps, but it showed a degree of character. Remember: Arthur Ashe, for whom the award was named, was given that honor because of his dignity in the face of adversity after acquiring AIDS. (Previous recipients include the family of a coach who was murdered who lobbied for protective legislation, Billie Jean King and Michael Sam.) It’s not like there’s this magical list of “courageous people” that gets ranked by the AP. It was an internal decision.

Then a few weeks ago, a friend of mine was lamenting what he considered an anemic lineup of celebriguests at Dallas’ upcoming Black Tie Dinner. “You know who they should get? Caitlyn Jenner,” he suggested.

I said, “Absolutely not.”

Because it is totally different than every other honor we have bestowed upon her.

Caitlyn Jenner, showing her true colors with Ellen.

Yes, it took courage to come out. Yes, she is a hero for many in the trans community. Yes, she is a popular figure. But this is the difference: The Black Tie Dinner is a fundraiser for a political organization, the Human Rights Campaign, which fights for political rights for the LGBT community. Not some esoteric concept of “courage.” Not a trade group (sports, TV) recognizing a member for something significant. The people who attend Black Tie Dinner are doling out money (a lot of it) to support a political action committee that fought (and fights) diligently for marriage equality, employment nondiscrimination and the like. And as Caitlyn’s appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show this week manifested, she’s not worthy of being included in that group.

Think about it: Among the speakers at this year’s Black Tie Dinner will be Jim Obergefell, the name plaintiff in the SCOTUS decision that made marriage equality the law of the land. Here is a man who stood up for the dignity he required to honor his husband. What, exactly, would the conversation in the green room backstage at Black Tie be like? Cait: “Pleasure to meet you Mr. Obergefell … I’ve only been part of the LGBT community for a few months, but I hear you spent years struggling to have your marriage recognized … I guess since it’s the law, I’m OK with that, but I’m a traditionalist who thinks ‘marriage’ should be between one man and one woman … By the way, do you know my friend Nino Scalia? I hear you’ve met.”

I found Cait’s Ellen interview interesting, but I think she still has a long way to go — not as a trans woman, not as a member of the LGBT community, but as a person. She has courage, I’ll give her that. But that’s what only the Lion was looking for. She needs to embrace the rest of the desires of the friends of Dorothy. When she has a brain and a heart, then we can talk again.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

‘Empire’ star Jussie Smollett comes out

IMG_0283He plays a gay character on the hit nighttime soap Empire, and now he’s officially out of the closet! Actor Jussie Smollett, who says “there is no closet I have ever been in,” chose to tell Ellen DeGeneres on her talk show that he is, officially, a gay American. He explained he did not choose to discuss his personal life, but “in no way is it to deny who god made me.” “I’m proud of you,” Ellen said.
You can watch the video of his after-taping discussion below.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Basketball stars are third high-profile lesbian couple to have spring wedding

Michelle and Beth Wedding

Michelle and Beth Brooke Marciniak (Outsports)

Forget the June weddings. Spring is obviously the season of choice for power lesbians to marry. Roseanne star Sara Gilbert married rocker Linda Perry in March, and then last weekend, two-time-Oscar-winner Jodi Foster married Alexandra Hedison.

E! Online reported Foster and Hedison had been dating for almost a year, and the entertainment site took note of the relationship last September after photos of Foster spending time with Hedison, a photographer/actress and an ex-girlfriend of Ellen DeGeneres.

But let’s not stop there. Michelle Marciniak, who led Tennessee to the women’s college basketball championship in 1996, and Beth Brooke, the first woman to receive a basketball scholarship at Purdue, were married this month in New York, Outsports reported.

In their post-basketball careers, both women have gone on to great business success. Marciniak was known as “Spinderella” for her creative style of play under volunteer coach Pat Summitt, and went on to play in the WNBA before becoming an assistant as South Carolina. She is co-founder of the bedding fabric company SHEEX.

Brooke, a top executive with Ernst & Young named by Forbes one of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women, made news in 2012 when she came out publicly as gay in an “It Gets Better” video. “I’m gay and I’ve struggled with that for many years,” she said.

Here is the couple’s official wedding announcement:

Beth A. Brooke and Michelle M. Marciniak of Bethlehem, Pa., were lovingly married on April 17, 2014, at The Office of the City Clerk in New York City, N.Y. Michelle’s mother, Elizabeth “Betsy” Marciniak of Macungie, Pa., served as the witness, while Angel L. Lopez, officiated the wedding.

Mrs. Beth Brooke-Marciniak is the Global Vice Chair – Public Policy for EY (formerly Ernst & Young).  In addition, she is EY’s global sponsor for Diversity and Inclusiveness and a prominent advocate for the benefits of inclusive leadership and growth. She is spearheading the EY Women Athletes Business Network by harnessing the often untapped leadership potential of elite female athletes after their retirement from sport by connecting the two in ways that better enable athletes to pivot after sport.  Beth, involved in numerous civic boards and causes, has been named six times to the Forbes list of the “World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.”  She served in the first Clinton Administration and played intercollegiate women’s basketball for Purdue University, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in industrial management/computer science, and also received an honorary doctorate degree.

She is the daughter of the late Howard J. Millard and E. Mary Millard formerly of Kokomo, Ind., where Beth was an academic and athletic standout at Taylor High School.  Her mother currently resides at Sacred Heart in Center Valley, Pa.

Mrs. Michelle Brooke-Marciniak is the Co-Founder and Co-CEO of SHEEX, Inc., the world’s first globally patented performance fabric bedding with company offices in Irmo, S.C. and New York City.  The Aspen Institute took note of her ambitious approach to entrepreneurship and included her in the 2014 Class of Henry Crown Fellows which mobilizes a new breed of leaders, all under the age of 45, to tackle the world’s most intractable problems.  Michelle, along with fellow SHEEX Co-Founder and Co-CEO Susan Walvius, were recognized by receiving an EY Winning Women Award, a prestigious honor celebrating the top female entrepreneurs in America In October 2012.  A highly sought-after speaker and panelist, Michelle serves on the Board of the Pat Summitt Foundation for Alzheimer’s and speaks on behalf of Summitt.

She was known as “Spinderella” when she played basketball at the University of Tennessee for the legendary Coach Summitt, where the Lady Vols made three appearances in the NCAA Tournament and into two Final Four National Championship games (1995, 1996) during her time on Rocky Top. Michelle led Tennessee to the 1996 NCAA crown and secured the title of NCAA MVP.  She was later inducted into the 2012 Class of the Lady Vol Hall of Fame. Mrs. Michelle Brooke-Marciniak graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in psychology.  She was the National High School Player of the year while prepping at Allentown (Pa.) Central Catholic High School where she scored over 3,000 career points.

Michelle is the daughter of the late Walter F. “Whitey” Marciniak and Elizabeth “Betsy” Marciniak of Macungie, Pa.

Mrs. and Mrs. Brooke-Marciniak celebrated their nuptials with a reception hosted by acclaimed Executive Chef Maria Loi at her fabulous Loi Restaurant, New York City, attended by family and friends from around the world.

The festive evening included the cutting of the wedding cake created by Chef Loi with a ceremonial sword carried by Michelle’s grandfather, Rear Admiral Charles Abraham Park. The sword was used to cut the wedding cakes of Michelle’s mother and aunts spanning over the last 48 years. As the fathers of the couple were both deceased, the father-daughter dance honors, “Dance with My Father” by Luther Vandross, went to Michelle’s brother Steve Marciniak of Allentown, Pa., and Beth’s mentor and former EY Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jim Turley.  The brides’ first dance was to Adele’s “One and Only” where they were joined on the dance floor midway through the song by the other same-sex couples in attendance.

The newlyweds make their home in Bethlehem, Pa.


—  Steve Ramos

See me Friday on ‘Good Day’ giving my Oscar predictions

ELLEN DEGENERESAs any good gay knows, Sunday night the Oscars are on ABC, and this year is about as gay as it gets: Ellen DeGeneres hosting, and Dallas Buyers Club a shoo-in for a category or two. So who will win?

Well, you don’t have to wait until Sunday to find you — just tune into Good Day on Ch. 4, KDFW Friday morning between 8:15 and 8:45 a.m. That’s when I’ll be making my triumphant return to the studio (I was the film critic for Good Day for a few years in the 1990s) to make my Oscar predictions.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: Dale Hansen’s parting remarks

Dale Hansen’s 15 minutes is just about up, and he’s OK with that.

Last Monday, his pro-Michael Sam commentary went viral. By Friday, he was on the Ellen show (and in Dallas Voice!). And last night, he talked about what a ride it has been. And once again, he proves himself a great ally.

Watch the piece here.


—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: Dale Hansen on ‘Ellen’

It’ll air today, but here’s the interview.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Dale Hansen’s defense of Michael Sam lands him on ‘Ellen,’ in Dallas Voice

dalehansenDale Hansen is about as old-school a sports journo as you’re likely to encounter, so when he delivered an opinion piece on Monday night about Michael Sam’s decision to come out, he shocked a lot of people — in the best possible way. The video went viral … and it will land him, today, on Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show (airing at 3 p.m. locally).

Before you tune into Ellen, though, you can read his commentary, which appears in this week’s issue of Dallas Voice, or watch the video.

Thanks again, Dale. You’re what being an ally is all about.

And check out our cover story about Sam. It’s historic, guys.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: Ellen DeGeneres, former Girl Scout, voices opinion on BSA

Ellen DeGeneres and her younger self as a Girl Scout.

Ellen DeGeneres and her younger self as a Girl Scout.

Lesbian comedian and talk show host Elle DeGeneres has chimed in on the Boy Scouts’ opting to delay a decision to allow gays until May.

A Girl Scout once herself who had a brother in Boy Scouts, DeGeneres said on her talk show that she believes in the organization and encourages people to worry about more important things on campouts than sexual orientation, such as bears and staying alive.

“I think what the Girl Scouts and the Boy Scouts are trying to teach is important,” she said. “They’re trying to teach kids to be leaders, and the more that we teach people how to accept people for who they are, the more self confident they’ll be and the better leaders they’ll become.”

Watch it below.

—  Dallasvoice

Same-sex marriage breaks color barrier

Gay folks measure victories incrementally: The first time the New York Times acknowledged “longtime companions” in their obits of gay men; the time Ellen came out on TV and the cover of Time; the first time — recently — that broadcasters casually referred to the partner of a gay celeb as his or her spouse, husband or wife.

Well, add to those media milestones Jet magazine.

The 51-year-old lifestyle magazine targeting the African-American community has long featured a weddings section called Jet Love, and in the Dec. 10 print edition, it features for the first time a gay couple, as reported by The Advocate. Among the photos of tuxedo-and-gown-clad duos shoving cake in each others’ faces and tossing bouquets is the happy (and handsome) couple of Ravi Perry and and Paris Prince, who were wed in Worcester, Mass.

Congratulations to the couple … to the gay community … and to Jet for taking an important step.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones