Harvey Fierstein: The gay interview

As Kinky Boots opens in Dallas, the flamboyant theater diva opines on Johnny Weir, Robin Williams and why we hate ourselves

Harvey Fierstein by Bruce Glikas

“I’m sorry,” Harvey Fierstein growls in his unmistakable Brooklyn gravel, “I gotta go on with my life.” And so, after our insightful 40-minute chat peppered with Fierstein’s true-to-form frankness, he does.

But for Fierstein, a revered Broadway legend known for an iconic writing répertoire that includes Torch Song Trilogy, La Cage aux Folles and, most recently, Kinky Boots, which opens tonight at Fair Park Music Hall courtesy of Dallas Summer Musicals, this isn’t just the Tony Award winner’s blunt way of concluding our extensive conversation. It’s a way of life.

Fierstein reflects on the past—  up for the “sissies,” what he calls his “legendary disaster,” and how his own “12 steps of happiness” inspired his latest Broadway smash — but the 62-year-old’s very much living in the present, and for the future.

And look for our one-on-one interview with Fierstein’s Kinky collaborator, Cyndi Lauper, in Friday’s edition, in print and online!

— Chris Azzopardi

Dallas Voice: I’m certainly not the first person to tell you that Kinky Boots is a massive hit. When you first began writing the musical, did you imagine it would become as successful as it’s been?  Fierstein: You know, you don’t. I’m really old. I’ve been around a really long time, and I’ve had — knock wood — an unbelievable run of hits, and I’ve had some horrible misses and a couple of in-betweens, but you go into all of them with the same heart.

I’ve done a couple for the wrong reasons. I did one to try and make money, which is really a very bad reason, and you make no money doing it that way. I’ve learned that lesson, and I would never do that again. But you basically go in for the right reason because you’re gonna spend years of your life involved with these characters, with these collaborators. And it’s not something you take on lightly if you’ve ever done it because, well, Kinky Boots took almost five years to write.

It’s clearly been a labor of love for you.  They have to be. That’s exactly why they have to be a labor of love, because from sitting down and starting work, which was a year or more before I even called Cyndi [Lauper, who wrote the music and lyrics], to the opening in Korea [last December], we’re now up to seven or eight years. It’s part of your life for the rest of your life.

Jerry Herman and I wrote La Cage 30-something years ago and we are still the parents of that show. We still have to talk about it all the time. So, to say, “Did you know it was gonna be a big hit?” No, you don’t know. You go in with the best hopes and the best intentions of doing something that will entertain, which is our number one job.

What’s a project you did for the wrong reasons?  Legs Diamond. I had a friend who was directing it. Peter Allen had AIDS and his best friend who was writing it for him, who was not a writer but a clothing designer, had AIDS dementia. My friend Robert [Allan Ackerman] called me up and said, “Look, will you come in on this? I know it’s a terrible idea — Peter Allen as Legs Diamond — but all we have to do is get Peter out there, let him shake his ass, sing a couple of numbers, and we can just cash the checks.” And I drank the Kool-Aid.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Chinese Lantern Festival lights up Fair Park


For the second year, the Chinese Lantern Festival lights up acres of space at Fair Park with new features, including an acrobat show.

One of the highlights among this year’s displays is a replica of the White Pagoda built in 1204 in Yunnan Province. The nine spires stand up to 52 feet tall, about the same height as the original, and is made of 68,000 porcelain plates, cups, bowls and spoons hand-tied together.

Other features include a floating dragon boat that reflects in the lagoon, a multi-story castle and gardens of mushrooms, tulips and bamboo-eating pandas.

Chinese Lantern Festival at Fair Park. Dec. 5–Jan 5. 5:30 p.m.–10:30 p.m. Adults $22, children 4-12 $14. Parking $15 or take the Green Line to Fair Park Station.


—  David Taffet

Dallas to celebrate Earth Day with Fair Park, Oak Cliff events this weekend

Screen shot 2013-04-18 at 4.24.56 PM

Oak Cliff Earth Day 2012

Two Earth Day celebrations take place this weekend — a two-day event in Fair Park and a Sunday afternoon bash in Oak Cliff.

Earth Day Dallas is an annual, outdoor festival in Fair Park promoting environmental awareness to influence the way North Texans think, live and work. A number of the exhibitors include companies promoting alternate energy sources for the home and ways to conserve.

The cast of Wicked will be at Earth Day Dallas for photo ops. Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico performs. A&M has a full schedule of master gardeners and naturalists slated to speak.

Earth Day at Fair Park takes place April 20–21 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is free but parking is $10. Earth Day organizers encourage people to be green and take the Green Line to Fair Park.

The seventh annual Oak Cliff Earth Day is April 21 from noon to 5 p.m. in Lake Cliff Park in the Demonstration Rose Garden near Zang and Colorado Boulevards and is free. Free parking is available at Methodist Hospital Lot 10 with a shuttle bus running to the park. (It is Earth Day, though, so you could actually walk the two blocks.)

Live entertainment and lectures begin at 12:30 p.m. Mutt Strutt begins at 2 p.m. with prizes for best dogs in costume.

Learn about protecting against West Nile Virus, composting, protecting the environment, proper tree care and hosting a beehive in your backyard at demonstrations and lectures through the afternoon.

The event is pet friendly. Lots of animals will be on hand with a petting zoo, native reptiles and live raptors. The kissing booth is staffed by dogs.

Fair Park may be hosting the bigger event, but you’ll only find Get Gay Stuff, AIDS Arms LifeWalk, DFW Human Rights Campaign and Hunky’s at Oak Cliff’s celebration.


—  David Taffet

STAGE REVIEWS: ‘Re-Designing Women,’ ‘Penix,’ ‘Wicked,’ ‘Rx’


Re-Designing Women. When Jamie Morris writes a spoof, he doesn’t hold back. Even before the actors come onstage for the first scene of Re-Designing Women, Morris’ send-up of the ’80s-era sitcom Designing Women, we’re treated to an “opening credits” video to remind us of the tone and characters. Of course, once the show begins (which is does at the Rose Room most Fridays and Saturdays for the next month-and-a-half), we simply revert, like muscle memory, to knowing who we’re seeing.

It’s the present day, and Sugarbakers Designs is going strong … well, not so strong. They’ve fallen on hard times. Finances are so bad, Suzanne (Ashton Shawver) has tricked the others into appearing on a Bravo reality show, Sugar Walls. They’re all mortified, until the show becomes a hit and Mary Jo (Chad Peterson) and Charlene (Michael B. Moore, whose vocal impersonation borders on the uncanny) become rivals while Bernice (Mikey Abrams) becomes the break-out star.

Morris, who also plays the stentorian Julia, has a knack for capturing the essence of a show while simultaneously updating it. Thus, there are tacky (but hilarious) jokes about “Sarah Palin’s half-wit baby” and the contemporary exacerbations that rankle Julia, including the cross-eyed Bravo producer Andy Cohen (Kevin Moore). (If you follow the ModernSeinfeld Twitter feed, you get the idea.) And while Morris never hesitates to push the line a bit too far (fart jokes!), this play — following Mommie Queerest, The Facts of Life: The Lost Episode and The Silence of the Clams — is probably his best writing: The characters are sharply drawn and even better performed. And when Morris recites one of Julia’s famous speeches from the TV days (her “Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” riff), fully half the folks in the Rose Room seemed to recite along. That’s called knowing your audience.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Idina Menzel to perform at Fair Park in June

OK, we’ve been here before but I’ll take it this it’s true: Idina Menzel will be appearing in Dallas.

This isn’t the first time she was scheduled. Menzel, who won a Tony Award for Wicked, was supposed to perform her show at Fair Park Music Hall last fall, but the shooting schedule for Glee forced her to postpone. She’s now set to bring it to the Park on June 13 — just in time, we don’t mind noting, for National Pride.

Like all gay men, we love Idina, because she (a) starred in Rent; (b) starred in Wicked, (c) appears on Glee and most of all (d) married Taye Diggs. That’s basically the life and career I’d like to have. Tickets for the show go on say Friday at 10 a.m. at Ticketmaster. Please don’t disappoint us, Idina! And if Taye wants to sit with me, well, I won’t complain. And if you don’t already know why you should love her, check this out:

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Performance artist John Michael performs solo show tonight at Magnolia Lounge

Last May, John Michael completed his junior year at Oklahoma State University, where he was the recipient of a grant from the LGBT student group to produce a show about coming out while working at McDonald’s. Now, Texas has him: Michael transferred to U.T. Dallas in August, to study with Fred Curchack. And in just three months’ time, he already has a show being produced.

I hate guys like this.

Well, not really; I’m just hugely jealous. Which is a good thing. The show, 069, is being produced by Nouveau 47 Theatre in a one-night-only show. The performance will include an excerpt from his McDonald’s piece, Would You Like Guys with That? A McTolerant One-Man Show.

The show is at the Magnolia Lounge inside Fair Park starting at 7:30 p.m., and runs 70 minutes. Tickets are only $5 and it’s BYOB. Gotta love a play that encourages drinkin’.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

‘West Side Story’ cast at Mama’s Party tonight

The cast of the Broadway national tour of West Side Story, onstage through this weekend at Fair Park, will take their night off to perform at Amy Stevenson’s cabaret fundraiser  Mama’s Party on tonight.  The event raises money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, which provides funds to our local agencies.  The evening, featuring local musicians as well as cast members singing some of their favorite songs, will be ar Tucker’s Blues, 2617 Commerce St. Doors open at 7 p.m. with an cover charge of $5 (cash only).  There will be prizes for raffle tickets and some auction items as well.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Best bets • 09.30.11

Friday 09.30

You had us at ‘howdy,’ Big Tex
When the Food Choice Awards rolled out fried bubblegum as the Most Creative winner, we weren’t immediately on board. Yes, we know it’s a marshmallow that tastes like gum, but do we get to stick it under our ferris wheel seat when we’re done? Sure, we’ll try it, but the Best Taste winner Buffalo chicken in a flapjack rings like heaven in our ears. Welcome back, State Fair.

DEETS: Fair Park, 1121 First Ave. Through Oct. 23. $13.95. BigTex.com.


Saturday 10.01

Don’t strain your brain
Although the band hit it big in the early ’80s, Blondie’s hits never sound dated. Instead they sound cool and classic, much like singer Debbie Harry herself. But the band’s not too shabby either. See the band in the flesh as they bring back the new wave to Dallas.

DEETS: With Nico Vega. Granada Theater, 3524 Greenville Ave. 8 p.m. $60. GranadaTheater.com


Tuesday 10.04

Yes, you feel pretty, witty and gay
Face it, it’s the one go-to line for queens of all ages, but West Side Story is much more than that cliche. It’s heart and angst rolled into a love story and a rumble. Which means, don’t miss it.

DEETS:  Music Hall, 909 First Ave. Through Oct. 23. $20–$90. DallasSummerMusicals.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Bike vs. Bike


Jed Billings in Fort Worth, left, David Smith on Cedar Springs, right

Which is the best city for cyclists: Big D or Cowtown? Both cities have plans in place now to create safer, more convenient options for riders

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

This weekend, Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS riders can decide for themselves which city is more bike-friendly — Dallas or Fort Worth — as the fundraising cyclists ride through Cowtown on Saturday, and Big D on Sunday (see separate story, New Routes, LSRFA).

Both cities have bike plans in place to increase bicycling for fun and fitness and to encourage two-wheel transportation as a viable means of commuting. But which city’s plan is the best?

The Dallas advantage in bike commuting is DART. Both cities have buses equipped with bike racks, and the Trinity River Express, the train running between the two, also welcomes bikes on board.

But the new center section on each DART train car eliminates the stairs and has hooks for hanging bikes.

Plus, the bike trails in Dallas are accessible from DART stations.

The Katy Trail begins across the parking lot from Victory Station. Fair Park Station is blocks from the new Sante Fe Trail. White Rock Station is adjacent to the White Rock Trail, and Forest Lane Station is right next to the Cottonwood Trail.

But on the other side of the Metroplex, Fort Worth has the extensive and interconnected Trinity Trails in its favor. The trails are named, of course, for the river and its forks, along which much of the 40-mile trail system runs.

Lone Star Ride will use 22 miles of the trail system on Saturday, the first day of the event.

Both cities have developed bike plans to make cycling a transportation alternative. The plans include a variety of ways to make the streets more bike-friendly.


In Dallas, the plan includes creating bike lanes, cycletracks, shared lane markings, climbing lanes and paved shoulders that crisscross the city.

Some bike lanes will share a lane with a bus. Cycletracks are dedicated lanes separated from traffic with curbs or other barriers.

Dallas plans 840 miles of on-street bike lanes, with another 255 miles of off-street trails.

“That doesn’t include the trail network,” said Max Kalhammer, project manager of the Dallas plan.

Plans are to connect the Katy Trail and Sante Fe Trail through downtown Dallas with a lane over the Jefferson Street Viaduct to link the Bishop Arts District. That plan should be implemented by 2014.

The next phase involves a network of lanes within a three-mile radius of light rail stations. The full plan should take 10 years to implement, according to Kalhammer.

Fort Worth

The Fort Worth bike plan is simpler, with just two types of bike lanes — shared and dedicated — but no less aggressive.

City of Fort Worth Senior Planner Julia McCleeary said the Fort Worth plan extends more than 1,000 miles, but that includes expected future development and will take 30 to 40 years to fully implement. Currently, the city has 14.1 dedicated bike lanes and 30 miles of shared bike routes.

Over the next six months, another eight miles will be added.

Residents seem to be responding to the new lanes.

“I left work Friday and within five minutes saw three cyclists,” McCleeary said. “Wow. You wouldn’t have seen that before.”

She said that Fort Worth is the first city in Texas to pass a safe passing ordinance: Cars need to leave three feet between themselves and anyone vulnerable, including bike riders, horseback riders or the handicapped. Commercial vehicles must clear by six feet.

“We also passed a bike parking zoning ordinance,” she said. “Developers must install racks according to specs.”

Striping downtown streets was done with a Department of Energy grant. McCleeary said that when a street is repaved and must be restriped anyway, the cost of adding the bike lane is minimal.

Coming soon

“[In Dallas] none of the on-street lanes have been implemented yet,” Kalhammer said, but he added that the first lane should be opened soon. He said that will be on Mary Cliff Road in Oak Cliff, in conjunction with some road reconstruction.

The next project will be Bishop Street, which will have dedicated bike lanes.

The Dallas bike project includes destination signs that point in a direction with a distance to the destination. Those replace the current bike route signs that point down a street but usually go nowhere.

McCleeary said she would like to see standardized bike lane marking between cities to minimize driver confusion and promote safety. Kalhammer said he thought the markings will be similar enough to not confuse riders.

Dallas would like to see many more people using bikes as part of their intermodal commute to work.

Fort Worth’s goal is to triple the number of bike commuters, decrease bicycle-related crashes by 10 percent and earn the Bicycle Friendly Community designation given by the League of American Bicyclists.

Where do we rank?

Currently, the “bike friendly” designation hasonly been awarded to smaller cities — Steamboat Springs, Col., Burlington, Vt., and Santa Fe, N.M. are typical examples.

In Boulder, Colo, more than 95 percent of city streets have bike lanes. One Texas city was recognized by the group this year for the first time — The Woodlands — and another — College Station — received an honorable mention.

According to the census, of the top 50 cities, Portland is the No. 1 biking city in the United States with as much as 9 percent of commuters using bikes in some neighborhoods and 3.5 percent citywide.

San Francisco, which ranks fifth, has one of the densest populations in the United States and counts about 40,000 people commuting regularly by bike.

Even more — possibly 75,000 people — get around in New York City by bike.

With .02 percent of commuters using bikes, Dallas ranked 41st and Fort Worth 42nd. But those census figures were released in 2007, before either city instituted their current bike plans. DART added its bike-friendly trains and buses with bike racks just last year and the census undercounts intermodal bike riders by listing them as public-transit users.

Of course, even the bike-friendliest cities in the United States rank far behind many European cities.

In Amsterdam, the world’s top biking city, 40 percent of traffic moves by bicycle. Centraal Station, the Dutch city’s main train station, has parking for 7,000 bikes.

Trondheim, Norway became one of Europe’s top bike riding cities by tackling its hilly topography with bike lifts along some of the city’s steepest streets. That sounds like a great idea for the hills that climb into Oak Cliff.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

ilume Gallerie gets its Pride on

The ilume Gallerie is settling into the start of its third year in its space (its sign went up last week) just in time for Pride, and as always, there’s plenty of diverse art to appeal to every taste.

The current exhibit, More than Words by artists Kat and J Taylor, features dynamic oils and complex color compositions that speak to gay-positive messages with titles such as Rights and Liberty, below. It runs through Sept. 30 and sales benefit the charity Wednesday’s Child.

Resident photographer Jorge Rivas also launches his new series, capturing the frescoes, sculpture and architecture of Fair Park with The Esplanade Series, right.

This is also the final weekend to participate in Rivas’ Faces of Life project. For a donation of $50 per person ($75 for couples and families), Rivas photographs people with a signature red ribbon raising money and awareness in combatting AIDS. “Pets and creative expression are encouraged,” says Ronald Radwanski, ilume Gallerie’s director and artist-in-residence. No appointment is necessary on Saturday from noon to 7 p.m. — just show up and contribute. The final exhibit will be on display in November.

The Gallerie has enhanced hours over Pride weekend (Friday and Saturday from noon to 10 p.m.), but will be closed Sunday due to the parade and ilume celebration.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens