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.

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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

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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

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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
taffet@dallasvoice.com

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.

Dallas

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

Gay cantor finds welcoming home in straight synagogue

Don Croll left Broadway to find more consistent work as a Jewish cantor, coming out as gay along the way

Croll.Cantor-Don
Don Croll

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Don Croll has learned that his path to becoming a cantor — with an Actor’s Equity card and a Broadway run — was not that unusual. Today Croll is the cantor at Temple Shalom in North Dallas.

After graduating from Ithaca College with a major in theater, Croll was hired as a dancer for the Summer Music Theater in Charlotte, N.C. There, he earned his Equity card and next was hired by Fran and Barry Weissler for their National Theater Company.

At the time, it was one of the best children’s theater companies in the country, Croll said, adding that the Weisslers have since become what Croll calls “the revival king and queen.” Their production of Chicago has been running on Broadway since 1996.

“They liked me very much and would have used me one day,” Croll said. He said he ran into the couple at Fair Park Music Hall, at the opening of one of their shows, and Barry Weissler told him, “You could have understudied Joel Grey in our revival of Cabaret.”

Croll did make it to Broadway in a 1971 revival of On The Town with Bernadette Peters, Phyllis Newman and a pre-Chorus Line Donna McKechnie. He played the bill poster and the Congacabana master of ceremonies and was part of the singing ensemble.

“The New York Times hated us,” Croll said. Although the show got otherwise decent reviews, it closed after just 71 performances.

Croll also toured with Howard Keel and John Raitt in Man of LaMancha and danced in a production of Fiddler on the Roof. He had begun to establish a solid career — solid but not consistent.

“Then I didn’t work for eight months,” Croll said. “At the time I didn’t realize that wasn’t so terrible.”

But Croll said he hated working temp jobs. He was married at the time and contemplating a family, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to be running around the country in national tours. That’s when he decided to become a cantor, the clergy member who sings or chants the service in a synagogue.

In cantorial school Croll met others who had begun their careers on stage, and while he was studying for his career in sacred music, he came out.

“Once I came out, I never looked back,” he said.

After 10 years in New York, Croll accepted a part-time position at Beth Chayim Chadashim in Los Angeles, the first LGBT synagogue.

“When I told the head of the American Conference of Cantors, he looked at me and said, ‘Why are you ruining your career? You’ll never work in a mainstream synagogue again.’”

But a mainstream synagogue in Santa Monica hired him after members attended a service at BCC to hear him sing.

While in L.A., Croll resumed his acting career. Ironically, he was cast as a cantor in Reasonable Doubts, an early 1990s TV series that starred Mark Harmon and this year’s Black Tie Dinner speaker Marlee Matlin.

Then in Melissa Gilbert’s thriller Donor, he played a rabbi.

Croll’s partner, Jan Gartenberg, whom he met in Los Angeles, encouraged him to take a full-time job and Croll was hired by a synagogue in Albuquerque. And in 1996, Temple Shalom brought him to Dallas.

After he was hired, Rabbi Kenneth Roseman asked Croll if he’d be moving to Dallas alone. Croll said his partner would be coming and is attending nursing school. Roseman said, “Then we’ll find her an appropriate nursing school.”

Croll said, “she is a he.” Without missing a beat, Roseman replied, “Then we’ll find him an appropriate nursing school.”

Croll said the big question he was asked by Temple Shalom members about Gartenberg was, “Is he Jewish?”

He is — and his brother is the rabbi of a synagogue in Juneau, Alaska.

“I told them, ‘Jan’s more Jewish than I am,’” he said.

At Temple Shalom, Croll said he and Gartenberg are always invited to events as a couple, although, “In the beginning, some people were uncomfortable.”

In fact, a few families left the synagogue, which now has about 800 member households.

But Roseman stood behind Croll and said, “These are the values by which we stand and they shouldn’t be here if those are not their values.”

Early in his Dallas career, Croll was invited to sing at the installation of a new rabbi at Shearith Israel, the largest Conservative synagogue in Dallas. He received one hate letter.

“Every time you get up to sing, I’ll walk out,” he said the congregant wrote.

Croll showed it to the Shearith rabbi who, he said, was mortified and assured Croll he would always be welcome at their synagogue.

Croll said that his tenure at Temple Shalom has been rather noncontroversial.

“In 2003, we [he and Gartenberg] were married at Temple by five rabbis,” he said. Family, friends and lots of Temple members were there to celebrate with them.
Then in 2008, the couple were legally married in Vancouver by a gay rabbi who was new to that Canadian congregation. They were the first gay couple married at that synagogue.

And this year, Croll said, he and Gartenberg will stand together when the temple honors couples celebrating long-term anniversaries: Croll and Gartenberg will observe their 25th anniversary in November.

Croll said he’s spoken to groups a few times about his relationship, and he said parents sometimes have to explain to their children who Gartenberg is.

But after 16 years in Dallas, Croll said he is simply accepted as one of the faces of Judaism in the Metroplex.

He has also been there as a role model for the temple’s youth. One boy that he bar mitzvahed a number of years ago recently stopped by to casually tell Croll that his boyfriend was moving in with him. And Croll thinks that’s healthy and the way it should be.

Through his years in Dallas, Croll has participated in a number of events in the LGBT community. He’s performed a number of times with the Turtle Creek Chorale and has participated with Congregation Beth El Binah.

When the LGBT synagogue hosted a conference, Croll emceed the evening’s entertainment that included Estelle Getty, Roslyn Kind and local favorite Paul Williams. Last year, he represented the Jewish community at the dedication of the Interfaith Peace Chapel at Cathedral of Hope.

Croll said he isn’t at Temple Shalom to make sure things get better. He’s there making sure that everything’s OK from the beginning.

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Beth El Binah plans High Holiday services

Congregation Beth El Binah celebrates the High Holy Days beginning Wednesday, Sept. 28 with an evening service conducted by the congregation’s new rabbi, Steve Fisch, who was hired in June.

Fisch.Rabbi-Steve
Rabbi Steve Fisch

Alan Josephson will perform as the cantorial soloist.

 

“We’re expecting record crowds with our new rabbi,” congregation President Diane Litke said.

“The High Holidays encourage us to reflect on where we have been, where we are and where we can be,” Fisch said. “Services are going to be fun. I’m going to try to bring a spirit of enjoyment to these beautiful days.”

The High Holy Days begin with Rosh Hashanah, which celebrates the new year. The holiday is two days long and all Jewish holidays begin at sunset. So Rosh Hashanah runs from sunset on Wednesday, Sept. 28 until sunset on Friday, Sept. 30.

Evening services begin at 8 p.m. at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center and continue with morning services at 10:30 a.m.

On Friday, the congregation will gather at Litke’s house in Richardson for Tashlich service.

The holiday season is a period of asking for forgiveness. Tashlich is performed sometime during the week between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur as an act of tossing away sins. Usually bread is torn into small pieces and tossed into a running body of water as prayers are recited.

Beth El Binah traditionally gathers on the second day of Rosh Hashanah for the ritual.

Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, takes place 10 days after Rosh Hashanah. The day begins on Friday, Oct. 7 at 8 p.m. with Kol Nidre service, a somber chant that will be played on viola by congregation member Dan Sigale, who performs with the Fort Worth Symphony.

Services on Oct. 8 begin at 10:30 a.m. and continue until sunset.

A week later is the eight-day festival of Sukkot, which marks the harvest with a celebration of thanksgiving. That holiday is observed with a meal eaten in a sukkah or booth.

The sukkah represents the small temporary shelters that were built in the fields for eating and sleeping during the harvest and are decorated with fruit and vegetables.

Beth El Binah’s sukkah is built in member Wayne Wilson’s yard in Lake Highlands and seats 50 for a large potluck dinner that will be held Friday, Oct. 14.

Fisch said that after the holidays he is planning to begin a class in basic Judaism.

“The class is for people who want to convert or just learn more about Judaism,” he said.

For more information about attending any service or class, email rabbi@bethelbinah.org.

— David Taffet

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

—  Kevin Thomas

Friends of Dorothy

stage-1
EASE ON DOWN | The Tin Man (Sydney James Harcourt, above left) steals the show in ‘The Wiz’ at DTC, while over at Fair Park, Megan Sikora, right, gives ‘Guys & Dolls’ its jolt.

If only DTC’s ‘Wiz’ had a heart. And I got yer horse right here, ‘Guys & Dolls’

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

If there’s one thing a gay guy can be counted on to know something about, it’s The Wizard of Oz. After all, the death of Judy Garland sparked the Stonewall Riots, and even before that, being a “friend of Dorothy” was code for practicing The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name. You wanna change it? Be prepared for theater queens to take note.

And so it is with The Wiz, the 1975 funked-up, all-black musical that serves as the Dallas Theater Center’s season ender.

The appeal of Dorothy’s adventure has always been the exploration of self-understanding with heavy doses of psychology. (The folks she meets in her reveries about Oz mirror real-life people she knows in Kansas.) This rushed 90-minute kiddie show so trims the classic structure of the film (it’s closer in plot to the book, but that’s not a good thing), it feels more like a series of unrelated vignettes than a mythological journey of personal discovery. Dorothy gets to Oz, meets a good witch (not Glinda), hooks up with three buddies (sans Toto, who is only heard barking offstage in the opening), dispatches an evil witch in about six minutes then presumably makes it back home (we never see Kansas again).

DTC is marketing it as a “family musical,” and I suppose it is in the sense that we might start referring to Michele Bachmann’s husband as “family.” The show — even in this abridged version — is gayer than Liberace on Halloween. The Lion, always the nelliest of the bunch, basically admits he’s gay due to an absent father and strong-willed mother; so many men are obsessed with Dorothy’s shiny shoes (here silver as in the book, not ruby like the movie), I expected one of the Munchkins to be Stanford Blatch; and director Kevin Moriarty employs lithe, half-naked dancers from Dallas Black Dance Theater to gyrate their moneymakers — is this Oz from the book or the gay club on Bourbon Street?

Still, this version of The Wiz is just children’s theater without much heart, brain or courage (it’s difficult to tell if that’s the fault of the book by William F. Brown or the direction, which feels stage-2rushed). The style is presentational and flat, with the actors projecting broadly to the balcony with exaggerated emotions.

Although the set famously includes moving “pods” of seats that move the audience around the space, the main actors rarely perform as in true theater-in-the-round, except when the dancers jump into them. I counted a dozen repositionings, but the sense of movement only genuinely grabs you once; during the cyclone, which should make you feel dizzy and excited, the pods move lumberingly around dancers portraying winds. It’s all oddly unsatisfying: It’s there, it ends.

What’s surprising is that there’s not more magic considering how balls-to-the-wall strong most of the singers are. The Tin Man has never been my favorite character — face it: He’s never been anyone’s favorite … until now. Sydney James Harcourt delivers the only truly wrenching musical performance on his solo “To Be Able to Feel,” just moments after the juiced-up eroticism of “Slide Some Oil to Me.” It’s a sexy, charismatic turn in sharp relief to David Ryan Smith’s hilariously flamboyant Lion and James Tyrone Lane’s limber goofing as Scarecrow.

Liz Mikel hams it up, both as good witch Addaperle and her wicked sister Evillene, which gives her the chance to seethe and gnash her teeth at the youngsters in between belt-‘em-out anthems. But Trisha Jeffrey as Dorothy makes little impression. In this construct, without Toto to talk to, the character is a cipher with little to do but watch the rest of Oz upstage her, wondering “Why, oh why can’t I?”

 

Over at Fair Park, the national tour of Guys & Dolls does a good job of reminding us how gosh-durn terrific a songwriter Frank Loesser was. The score plays like a master class in Broadway hits, with standards (the most famous, “Luck Be a Lady,” isn’t even the best) that convey character through complex harmonies with toe-tapping brio. It’s ironic that “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat” makes the audience want to jump to its feet.

If only the production were quite at the level it needs to be to showcase those numbers at their best. Four of the five leads — Ben Crawford (Sky Masterson), Steve Rosen (Nathan Detroit), Megan Sikora (Adelaide) and Glenn Rainey (Nicely Nicely) — have great voices, with Sikora stealing the show as the squeaky-voiced stripper. (Erin Davie never rises above the confines of the show’s least interesting role, missionary Sarah Brown.) The book, based on Damon Runyon’s caricatures of New York low-lifes, still has some zingers (and Crawford is especially good at making the dialogue feel contemporary), but it hasn’t aged well.

It doesn’t help that director Gordon Greenberg cleaves closely to outmoded conventions, like a long
introductory ballet (danced only serviceably by a disappointing chorus) and extended, stylized sequences throughout that do little to advance the plot. And with the show clocking in just shy of three hours, there is plenty of room to trim.

Sikora, though, makes it worth a look-see alone, and the songs have more energy and have endured better than those of The Wiz. Given a choice, it’s a crapshoot between the Loesser of two Evillenes.

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travel Travel Diary

Anyone who has ever been trapped in an airport during flight delays knows the madness can become infectious, but being balanced and serene is worth the effort. Here are some tips to get your Zen on.

Exercise. You might be on vacation, but your body is not. Exercise in your room, in your hotel’s gym, outside (run on the beach!) or find a nearby gym. Investing an hour in working out can reduce stress, improve sleep and increase energy.

Choose the right attitude. If you approach traveling with the attitude of, “Ugh! I hate to fly/drive/sit,” you’ve already decided it’s going to be a terrible experience. Instead, make the decision to enjoy the journey. Find a good book or download some interesting movies on your iPad. A long flight can be hell… or six hours of scheduled “me” time. The choice is yours.

Eat right. There’s no such thing as “vacation” calories. A calorie is a calorie and unhealthy options are as unhealthy at the beach as they are at home. Make food choices that nourish your body and you’ll feel strong and you’ll enjoy your vacation even more.

Do less, accomplish more. Many treat vacations as narrow windows into which they cram in as much “fun” as possible. While tempting, it can result in seeing a lot but experiencing nothing. Instead, do a few things you’ll actually enjoy rather than constantly looking at your watch.

Stay hydrated. Planes have notoriously dry air; make it a point to get some water whenever the stewards or stewardesses offer it. After going through security, buy a large bottle of water. It makes your body infinitely more comfortable, especially on longer flights.

Meditate. Even if you don’t normally meditate, taking 10 minutes a day to sit quietly is refreshing. Ideally, meditation is best in a quiet room, but even on a packed plane you can make it work. If there is chaos around you, make it part of your practice! Tune it out and find your center. Among other things, it will help reduce tension, relieve stress and improve your mood.

Wash your hands. Restaurants and public transportation facilities are rife with germs. Vacations are more enjoyable when you’re healthy, so minimize your risk of getting sick by washing your hands often.

— Davey Wavey

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 22, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Master skater

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FOUR WHEELIN’ | Skate with caution to avoid this guy on the roller rink. Gay Skate Night returns every third Saturday at InterSkate in Lewisville. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

With Gay Skate Night back, roller derby’s Trigger Mortis offers some tips on making the floor your own

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

There was a time when the gays would routinely venture to Grand Prairie’s Forum Roller World for the ritual of roller skating. Don Blaylock used to DJ the event and decided he wanted to bring it back.

“It got to be too much for people every week,” he says. “I think that’s why it fizzled out.”

Scaling it back to once a month (every third Saturday) and moving it to the InterSkate Roller Rink in Lewisville, Blaylock wants to make it a more social event. Before heading to the rink, he chooses a place to eat where people can opt to meet up for a pre-skate nosh. He encourages carpooling up to Lewisville as well, all in efforts to get people “doing something” and “coming together.”

Sounds like a plan.

The last time I donned a pair of quad roller skates, my age was still in single digit territory. At 9, I took lessons on Saturday mornings at the Broadway Skateland in Mesquite and became fairly comfortable with all the basics. That lasted a couple of years. Three decades later, I think I may be a little rusty.

“It’s a whole lot easier if you’re going fast so you can’t feel any of the bumps on the rink,” Trigger Mortis says. “If you go slow, you’ll feel every plank of wood.”

Thanks, lady, but I’m going slow.

Mortis is a member of the Assassination City Roller Derby league, and she agreed to give me some pleasant tips to aid my return to skating … just like she’ll be doing on the flat rink at Fair Park next Saturday when ACRD ends its season with the championship contest. My lesson, however, nixed the elbows and knockouts and all.

She started with the basics.

“First, you need to squat really low. The lower you are, the less distance your ass is from the ground,” she says. “Bend your knees like you’re sitting in a chair. That’s really important.”

Squatting really low is not a look that I’m comfortable with. I’d like to impress the crowd but not look like an idiot.

“You’ll look more like an idiot if you fall standing straight up,” she says.

That shut me up. Usually, when I find myself in an unstable standing situation, I just grab onto whatever’s close by and hang on to reposition my posture — even if it is other people. Apparently, this isn’t cool.

“Oh, no, don’t do that. That’s like the biblical rule No.  1: You can’t grab anybody,” she says. “Just let yourself fall. Drop to your knees or on all fours.”

This is not unfamiliar territory.

Coincidentally, Mortis works at InterSkate in the skate shop. I feel this could prove fortuitous because she gave me some fashion and not-so-fashionable tips on preparing for my rollout.

“Get some wristguards,” she advises. “And dress comfortably. Tight jeans, no. I’ve seen people split their pants; not cute. I think those little athletic shorts are fine; with knee-high derby socks and a headband you’d get total street cred with an Assassination City shirt. I’d hang out with you.”

Mortis tried to convince me to go with the Roller Girl shorts that are made with “anti-cameltoe and muffin top technology.”

But I’d lose all cool points if I went in my inline skates. She informs that quads (four wheels, yo) are where it’s at and plus there’s more of a base to distribute my body weight on. That is if I don’t flatten the tires. Inliners are passé and she warns that she and her girls will make fun of me in blades. All of the sudden, it feels like middle school again.

Face it. Being that it’s Gay Skate Night, there is always the option for a potential hook up. You were thinking it! This wasn’t lost on Trigger Mortis. Although she doesn’t recommend throwing elbows or chairs, she says trying to skate backwards is as good as a pick-up line.

“Well, first, if you want to skate backwards, move your hips like salsa dancing,” she says. It’s like doing the Tootsie Roll. But you could have someone pushing you while you try it. If you happen to fall, the one thing that’s gonna happen is they land on top of you.”

Clearly, my kinda girl.

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TASTING NOTES

2011 has witnessed a boom in restaurant openings, but this week, there were some closings of particular note, as well.
The Cultured Cup, the wonderful store run by tea sommelier Kyle Stewart and his coffee-savant partner Phil Krampetz, will be shutting the doors of its Preston Center location Saturday. But that doesn’t mean it’s going anywhere.

While the last chance to purchase from the storefront will be July 16 at 6 p.m., you can still order their selection of brewing beverages online at TheCulturedCup.com. If you wanna stop by Saturday and Sunday, they’ll gladly feed you pizza and iced tea if you want to help them move.

Last Saturday ended up being the final day of service for Hector’s on Henderson as well. The Uptown eatery — which is where Central 214 exec chef Blythe Beck first made her culinary mark — was the child of Hector Garcia, frontman for the Riviera for years. Garcia, pictured, not only owned the place and worked the room, he also provided the entertainment on occasion, singing alongside the omnipresent piano.

Garcia — whose partner is former city councilmember Craig Holcomb — opened in the fall of 2004 (I vividly recall dining there on Election Night) to widespread acclaim. The closing was low-key, with Garcia thanking his longtime customers. “I never wanted a run-of-the-mill place, but rather something you would not experience anywhere else,” he said.

Lolita’s, the new Mexican restaurant that opened in the old Catalina Room space (later the short-lived Honey Shack), is adding entertainment to the menu. Husband and wife owners Karlos and Teresa Urban are launching a new Saturday night drag show, beginning at 10 p.m. on July 16. Even though the resto is in the gayborhood, the client base is largely straight, the Urbans said in a release, but they think the addition will appeal to both the gay and straight community. Cover is $10.

Axiom Sushi Lounge at the ilume started its Martini Monday this week, with .99 cent house cosmos and $2 off all regular price signature martinis.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 15, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

For gay actor Steve McCoy, it’s good to be king

Spamalot has been a boom — and not just to its producers, whose touring production has lasted longer than the actual Crusades (it returns to North Texas next season as part of the Bass Hall Broadway series) — but to its cast. Steve McCoy, the gay actor who plays King Arthur in the production now onstage at Fair Park from Dallas Summer Musicals, is certainly grateful for why prancing around the European countryside in chain mail can do for one’s career.

Mark Lowry, the Dallas Voice contributor and co-founder of TheaterJones.com, interviewed McCoy this week. You can read the full interview here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

DSM’s Jenkins wins best presenter award

In my recent interview with Jeff Calhoun, the director of the national tour of 9 to 5: The Musical (which opens tonight at Fair Park), Calhoun praises Dallas Summer Musicals managing director Michael Jenkins as a great friend and mentor.

Well, Calhoun isn’t the only one singing Jenkins’ praises. Last week, Jenkins was awarded the Samuel J. L’Hommedieu Award as “outstanding presenter” by the Broadway League, an 80-year-old trade association of the Broadway industry. The award ceremony was hosted by George Hamilton, who will appear in the DSM’s tour of La Cage aux Folles next year.

Under Jenkins, the DSM has won two Tony Awards (best revival of a play for Boeing, Boeing and best theatrical event for Jay Johnson: My Two and Only) and produced many more hits.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Not just a ‘9 to 5’ job

Director Jeff Calhoun’s fabulous, unlikely journey from Dolly queen to professional Dolly collaborator

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

JeffCalhounSmileGenJeff Calhoun has been a Broadway baby for nearly 30 years, directing revivals of Grease and Big River, plus choreographing those shows and revivals of Annie Get Your Gun and Bells Are Ringing. He’s got a Tony Award nom and is best friends with Tommy Tune. But he’s still hoping for the Holy Grail every theater director craves: That one original show to call his own, the lasting legacy.

“I thought Brooklyn was going to be that for me — the next Rent — which tells you how little I know,” he says of his 2004 show that ran a respectable 284 performances. Then when he heard producers were adapting the Dolly Parton film comedy 9 to 5 for Broadway, he thought he finally had his shot. Only it was not to be.

“I was really disappointed when they hired Joe Mantello to direct,” he says plainly. Then some serendipity occurred: First, 9 to 5 turned out to be a bust on Broadway, running only four months. Then the producers did something that has probably never been done before: They hired a new director to retool the show for the national tour. And that was Jeff Calhoun.

“It was a miracle,” he says.

Directing 9 to 5, which opens Wednesday at Fair Park Music Hall, is an appropriate bookend for Calhoun, who got his start as a 21-year-old working with Dolly Parton on the film version of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

“She was in her prime — and so was I, as a matter of fact,” he jokes. “I wanted to do [9 to 5] because, first, I love Dolly; and second, I wanted to do an homage to 1970s variety shows — Sonny and Cher and Carol Burnett and such. I knew this was perfect: It takes place in 1979. But [the in Broadway version] there was no context, other than the costumes and bad hair. You should feel like you’re back in the ’70s, from Charlie’s Angels to Burt Reynolds posing nude in Playgirl.”

Calhoun tackled the show anew, treating it “as if it has its own DNA.” There was a lot of adapting: Some songs were cut, others rearranged; the style was streamlined, jokes were punched up. And working with Dolly was its own reward.

DollyJeffCalhoun600
A GAY MAN’S DREAM | Jeff Calhoun, director of ‘9 to 5: The Musical,’ came full-circle with the show, reuniting with Dolly Parton, whom he first met on the set of ‘The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.’

“It’s been one of my favorite collaborations. I have a picture of her and me together [on the set of Whorehouse] that any fan, especially a gay person, will look at that and oh my god! All I am missing is Cher on my other side.”

 

The touring production also snagged some major talent in Tony nominee Dee Hoty (who worked with Calhoun on The Will Rogers Follies and, coincidentally, plays Miss Mona — the Dolly role — in The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public) and American Idol runner-up Diana DiGarmo, who starred in the tour of Calhoun’s Brooklyn.

Calhoun is a quick wit with a naughty, uncensored side who gets dishy and expresses his opinions without much coaxing.

Broadway is run by “businessmen without imagination,” he says. “That’s what’s great about [the new musical] The Book of Mormon — it’s brilliant and it shows original thought — rare today.” He’s happy bin Laden was killed on Obama’s watch as it “may shut up the naysayers. My parents — I love them and they are great people — but they have this blind spot for Obama. They would vote for Nixon tomorrow if he was running.” And don’t get him started on Sarah Palin.

“I wrote a song about Sarah Palin — it stars with C and ends with unt,” he says. “She’s written a book but she’s never read one? I hate that she has pride in her ignorance — it’s as if everyone in the audience of Let’s Make a Deal became Republicans.”

Politicking aside, next up for Calhoun are two Broadway shows: A musical adaptation of Newsies (with a script by Harvey Fierstein) immediately followed by a show with yet another Texas connection: Bonnie & Clyde: The Musical. For a Yankee, Calhoun has surprisingly strong ties to Dallas.

“I was in Dallas with Busker Alley when you had that big flood and my upside-down rental car was the image that led the news,” he says. “And I love [Dallas Summer Musicals chief] Michael Jenkins — he’s one of my best friends. Yes, I’ve had so many good experiences there, both theatrically and in the bars! I love me some Dallas!”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 13, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Who’s Tommy?

Tommy
TAP, DOG | Tommy Tune’s new act traces his legendary Broadway career — and it all began in Dallas.

Maybe you think you know gay  stage icon Tommy Tune, but even he’s still learning things about himself

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STEPS IN TIME

Fair Park Music Hall, 901 First Ave. March 15–20. $20–$75. DallasSummerMusicals.org.

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When I get Tommy Tune  on the phone for the first time, I finally get to tell him about my three Tommy encounters: One was on Broadway when he appeared in My One and Only; one was in his one-man show Tommy Tune Tonight! at Fair Park Music Hall; but the first time was in the locker room of the Watergate Hotel where we were both staying. He was changing clothes after a swim. And I confess to him my 30-year secret: That I saw his naked ass.

“How’d it look?” he hoots with an excited cackle. “Great!” I tell him. “Well, you know dancers,” he says with a flirtatious laugh.
This dancer just turned 72 — a number that rather delights Tune: “If you add together 7 and 2, it equals nine. And nine has always been a lucky number for me.”

It has indeed. Tune directed and choreographed the original stage musical Nine, and has won an astonishing nine Tony Awards in four categories over his 50-year stage career — a career that launched, in several ways, here in North Texas.

“I began at the Dallas Summer Musicals,” says the Texas native, whose sister still lives in Fort Worth.“I got my Equity card there. John Rosenfield, who was the king of culture [in Dallas for decades], reviewed my first professional job in Redhead with Taina Elg. In the last paragraph of the review, he wrote: ‘We cannot let this report pass without mentioning Tommy Tune, who handles his incredible long form with grace control and power.’ That was the energy that sent me to New York. I had the courage after that. And I just linked that up.”

Where he links that up is in his new one-man showcase, Steps in Time, which opens Tuesday on the same stage where Tune got his start.

“Everything I do in Steps in Time is the truth,” says Tune. “I’ve done four acts and this one is the most personal and the purest and it works better than the others. It doesn’t have the glitz, but there’s depth.”

It’s also a work in progress. Tune has performed it about 100 times so far, but often in one- or two-night stands; he’ll be in Dallas a week, and the version includes new material he’s only recent added. It also has the added bonus of getting him back to his Texas roots.

“I still like to get my feet in the Texas mud, which is different than all other muds,” he says.

Tune kicks off his show with his arrival in New York on St. Patrick’s Day 1962. His beginnings were auspicious: He auditioned for a show and got the job on the spot. That led to dozens  more shows as an actor (Seesaw, which won him his first Tony), director and choreographer (Grand Hotel, Nine, The Will Rogers Follies). But he’s loathe to choose a favorite experience.

“I’m gonna have to answer the next one will be my favorite,” he says. “Every show I’ve done, I’m not satisfied with. But there is a sense of dissatisfaction that keeps you marching.”

Still, he coos about many of the talents he’s worked with over the years. Raul Julia “was a dream.” With Julia and Keith Carradine he recalls “not one bad moment. It’s so easy for an actor to give a director problems. Actors can be quite contrary. But these two guys worked for the good of the show.” And there was the great Vaudeville hoofer Charles ‘Honi’ Coles, whom Tune co-starred with in My One and Only and who “was the best dancer that I ever worked with. He taught me more than anybody. And when I worked with him he was 76, so he’s still got a few years on me.”

Tune recounts one joyful memory about appearing with Coles: They performed a number together — a charming soft-shoe — that on opening night led to a tumult of uncontrollable applause. It literally stopped the show.

“I was just gobsmacked,” he says. “I leaned over to Charles and said, ‘What should we do?’ He smiled up and said, ‘Let’s do it again.’ So I just broke the fourth wall like you don’t do and said, ‘Let’s take it again from the top of the dance.’ We did it! I just thought, ‘That’s opening night — everything’s up for grabs.’But we did over 1,000 performances together and we never failed to stop the show — it happened every night! It’s when that magic thing happens, when the audience takes control of the show, that you love like theater.”

Which is exactly what Tune didn’t enjoy about one aspect of his career: Making movies. Tune kicked off his film career with a prime role opposite Barbra Streisand in the Oscar-nominated adaptation of Hello, Dolly! but he quickly soured on Hollywood.

“I hated making movies,” he says. “My whole thing is about the audience connection. In movies, you are not performing for the crew but for a machine — the camera — or yourself. It was just so unfulfilling. You never get the joy of performing a number. After Hello, Dolly! they put me in a couple episodes of Nanny and the Professor but I was burning to be back on Broadway. I asked them, will you let me out of that deal? Off I went, and fast!”

And he’s still returning to it — as a performer, director and a patron. His favorite recent shows? Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and American Idiot.

“Those are my two favorites. And it worries me that neither has found their audience but both speak to now, but work through then. [The lead in Andrew Jackson] is so good, I saw it four times. It made me laugh so hard. Maybe it was a mistake that they moved it to Broadway, but it was better than the off-Broadway version. They really sharpened it. American Idiot is highlight. I was new to Green Day — I don’t usually do anything more contemporary than the ’50s — and they just knocked me out. I’m so grateful I’ve got to do this with my life. But we need to still be respectful of our fabulous invalid called the theater.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 11, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas