Son of a beach

A family vacation proves unexpectedly gay as Myrtle Beach, S.C., gets Pride

RAINBOW TOUR | Nearly 200 beachcombers — including the author (dark green, just right of center) — stepped away from the surf and gathered in a field to form a human rainbow flag.

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

The trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C., had more to do with a family reunion than finding a good destination for gay travelers. After all, Myrtle Beach is a pretty lazy, conservative town in the perennial Red State, one where teenaged spring breakers and families gather to enjoy the warm surf and the resort-town appeal of seafood and beachcombing and overpriced cocktails. Queer travelers can hit one of the three gay bars, all within blocks of each other — Club Traxx, Time Out! and the Rainbow House (a lesbian club).

But the weekend I arrived , just by coincidence, it turned out to be Gay Pride.

Keep in mind, the gay community in Myrtle Beach is small, so “Gay Days,” plural, felt more like Gay Day, singular: One major event and then life as usual in Coastal Carolina.

The major event, though, was an ambitious one: Gathering members of the LGBT community and their allies to form a “human rainbow flag:” People signed up to wear a pastel-colored T-shirt and arrange themselves in the traditional configuration. A few others wore black, forming the flagpole.

The entire event was threatened by showers late Friday and early Saturday, but despite a slightly muddy field, nearly 200 people turned out, huddled closely on a muggy afternoon, while a photographer flew above in a helicopter.

Numbers weren’t uniform; there were too many reds and too few purples; but the effect was one of a flag waving in the breeze.

In order to do the shoot, members faced each other before bending forward to allow the broad field of their shirts to form the colors. Directly across from me stood Elke Kennedy, a resident of Greenville in the Upstate. Elke and her husband established SeansLastWish.org, raising awareness of anti-gay violence, after their gay son was beaten to death and his killer spent less than a year in jail.

Elke spoke at a rally following the photoshoot, and dozens in attendance listened to her recount her  son’s harrowing attack and death before two drag queens performed and a DJ spun dance hits. People started to file out after a while, off to the beach, or the clubs, or even the boardwalk, where the Texas Star-like Skywheel gives great views of the beach … and sits next door to the campily named souvenir shop the Gay Dolphin.

The latter was always may favorite place when I was growing up; you’d think my parents would have caught on sooner.

Click here for additional photos.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 26, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Joel Burns is kicking off his campaign tonight in Fort Worth. Is there any chance it’ll be for mayor?

Gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns will celebrate his 42nd birthday tonight with a re-election campaign kickoff party at the Historic Fort Worth Masonic Temple.

“When I think about my childhood birthday memories, I remember Mom baked and decorated a unique cake every year tied to a themed party she dreamed up,” Burns writes on his website, where people can also share their own birthday memories. “One year was train cars, another was cowboys, and I remember being particularly excited about the year I had a Speed Racer party. After the party we would climb into Daddy’s pick-up and drive to the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. My family always made me feel special, as though all of Fort Worth was putting on this grand event just for me and my birthday. Fort Worth remains my favorite place to celebrate a birthday, and I’m proud that it remains a place that makes everyone feel welcomed and special.”

We put in a call to Burns earlier today but haven’t heard back yet. While we have no reason to believe he plans to run for anything other than re-election to his District 9 council seat, we’re sure we’re not alone in wondering if he’s entertained any thoughts whatsoever of running for mayor. Four-term incumbent Mayor Mike Moncrief announced his retirement on Thursday. The filing period begins Monday, and the race to replace Moncrief is already under way. At the very least, it’s fun to dream about the prospect of having second gay big-city mayor in Texas.

Burns did issue a statement on Thursday afternooon in response to Moncrief’s retirement:

“In his service as State Representative, County Judge, State Senator and Mayor, Mike Moncrief has been a example of public service to the citizens of Fort Worth, Tarrant County, and Texas my entire life,” Burns said. “I have enjoyed serving with a mayor who has such a strong and evident love for Fort Worth and commitment to Fort Worth’s future generations.  I hope that after he and his co-captain, Rosie, have the ability to spend some much-deserved time together, that they will continue to be example of service and leadership in our City for decades to come.”

RSVP for Burns’ party — where, who knows, he might make an unexpected announcement — by going here.

—  John Wright