Drawing Dallas • Rick Phillips

With the holiday upon us, floral designing is a labor of love for Dallas’ Rick Phillips

MARK STOKES  | Illustrator
mark@markdrawsfunny.com

Name: Rick Phillips

Occupation: Floral designer

Spotted at: Dog park on Swiss Avenue

Tanned, fit Aquarian Rick Phillips was born in Dallas but raised in neighboring Grand Prairie. He sprouts from a small but creative family: His mother sings opera, his brother is a drummer in a rock band, and his grandmother was also a gifted artist.

Labor of Love: Rick has been creating beautiful floral arrangements for more than 17 years. His first job interview in the business was to create a funeral arrangement. “I almost cut my thumb off,” says Rick, “I think they felt sorry for me. I got the job!”

Studying photography in college led to a natural progression into painting and finally into floral design. The instant gratification he gets from the process satisfies his art muse. Rick says he makes up his arrangements as he goes along. “I have a concept about color and shape when I start, but after that I free-wheel it.” He has been the exclusive florist for a high-profile jewelry store for eight years.

When he’s not handcrafting floral masterpieces, Rick enjoys cooking and shopping vintage and junk shops for awesome shirts and cool coats (and he can’t wait to for the weather to get cooler so he can wear them!) He loves all kinds of music from classical to techno/dance.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 2, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

She’s a wonder!

For drag diva Celeste Martinez, Wonder Woman isn’t an act — she’s a way of life

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

……………………

CELESTE MARTINEZ
The Rose Room inside Station 4,
3911 Cedar Springs Road. July 1­3. Shows begin at approximately 11 p.m. and midnight. Caven. com.

……………………

When Michael was a boy, his parents divorced and he went to live with dad, who worked all the time and was seldom home. So little Michael found a role model on TV.

“That’s when Wonder Woman came on television,” he recalls, referring to the CBS series starring Lynda Carter. “Wonder Woman was a second mother to me, one who taught me right from wrong in a way. She stood for something. Plus she was so statuesque and feminine and graceful, but still stern and strong. I watched that show religiously and as soon as the episode was over, I was back outside, reenacting what had just happened.”

The series ended in 1979, but by the time Michael had grown into drag diva Celeste Martinez, the Amazonian princess was still a powerful force. Since 1993, appearing as Wonder Woman has been the hallmark of Martinez’s drag act.

It’s not just a passing fancy, either. Martinez has every single Wonder Woman comic book since 1983. “When I got my first job, the first thing I did with my paycheck was get a subscription to Wonder Woman,” she says.

Martinez’s devotion has also made her a regular at Zeus Comics, the gay-run superhero store on Lemmon. Such a fixture is she there, Martinez even appears in the next episode of The Variants, the web-based comedy series set at Zeus. (See sidebar.)

“I’ve known [store owner] Richard Neal for years,” she gushes. “They are a fun group.”

But before her debut as a Web star, Martinez will show her patriotism this Independence Day weekend with a series of shows at the Rose Room — all in the guise of her hero, whom she sincerely tries to evoke onstage in spirit as much as appearance.

Martinez’s costume — golden lasso, bullet-deflecting bracelets, tiara, cape, boots and star-spangled panties, all in the colors of the America flag — is familiar to fans of the classic character as well as the TV series, but maybe not so much the new generation of comic readers. That’s intentional.

“With issue no. 600 [of Wonder Woman], they were trying to get a bigger audience so they updated her look, but the real Wonder Woman fans were not happy,” Martinez explains. “They are about to do another reboot with all of DC Comics characters, so as to make the original Wonder Woman fans happy.”

The timing of the show is fortuitous: Wonder Woman is a perfect image for the Fourth of July, Martinez affirms.

“She represents the best of humanity in the sense she’s non-judgmental and sees the best in everyone. She’s gracious and empowers strength and the best in all of us,” she says. “And she does it in red, white and blue.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 1, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Rep. Johnson expects tough time for LGBT rights

Democrat wins 10th term, but says with Republicans in control, many LGBT-positive bills won’t get heard

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, right, and Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert
HONORING VETERANS | Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, right, and Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert were among those participating in Dallas’ Veterans Day parade on Thursday. Johnson said repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is possible during the lame duck session, but questionable. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson has been considered a friend to the LGBT community since she served in the Texas House of Representatives.

“I grew up black in Waco, Texas. It’s just hard for me to fight against anybody’s rights,” said the woman who just won re-election to Congress.
But Johnson dates her firm commitment to LGBT equality to a much more recent event.

She said that throughout her life she fought for civil rights, but “When they [the LGBT community] really got my attention was when they [anti-gay conservatives] were talking about putting something in the Constitution,” she said. “You know, I have never seen them amend the Constitution to take rights away from people. So that’s just the beginning and the end of my philosophy.”

Johnson told a story about the subtle discrimination that she encountered in her first job as the first black nurse at the Dallas VA Hospital.
She worked a shift until midnight. When she got off on time, she’d catch the last bus to her home downtown.

But her supervisors purposely liked to delay her so that she’d miss the bus and have to walk up Lancaster Road and across the Corinth StreetBridge to get downtown.

“It brings tears to my eyes even now,” she said.

But Johnson said she had on her comfortable white nursing shoes, all those nights, and she made it home. And she made it to Congress, where she hopes she’s helped make other people’s lives easier.

On Monday, Nov. 15, the lame duck session of Congress opens. But Johnson said she doesn’t “anticipate a lot” of movement on the several bills of interest to the LGBT community that have been languishing this session.

She said that the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” has already passed the House, where she serves, and that the Senate has the votes. But still, she isn’t hopeful it will go through.

She said she believes that if DADT had to come back to the House because of amendments, it would pass there again. But, “It depends on what the Senate does,” she said.

Since Johnson expects that a number of House members who were defeated will not return for the lame duck session, she isn’t hopeful that other legislation of interest to the LGBT community will even be brought to the floor.

She said the House had the votes to pass Employment Nondiscrimination. But if the legislation does come up during the lame duck session, whether it passes will depend on who has shown up for work.

Two immigration bills that might be considered could help the LGBT community: the Dream Act and the Uniting American Families Act. The Dream Act would give people who were brought to this country as children a way to become citizens. UAFA would give an American citizen the right to sponsor a partner for a visa and eventual citizenship, the same way a married spouse currently can.

Johnson noted that Republican Sen. John McCain had been a sponsor of the Dream Act but has since dropped his sponsorship. The bill would have an easier path to passage with his name on it, she said.

Johnson would like to see the omnibus immigration reform bill — which includes the Dream Act and UAFA and has been debated this session — pass while the Democrats are still in control.

“I wish we could because it would be much more acceptable,” she said. “People have to have a path to becoming citizens.”

Whether the two bills that would benefit the LGBT community would be considered in the next session, she couldn’t say.

“They determine what comes to the floor,” she said, referring to the majority party, which will be the Republicans.

Under Republican control, Johnson expects a piecemeal approach to immigration reform.

“If they mean to be productive, that’s one thing,” she said.

But she doesn’t expect that in the new session.

And what would she like in the new Congress?

“To get along,” Johnson said, with a sidelong glance that indicated that she didn’t expect it to happen.

“There’s going to be two parties up there, but it’s going to be the Tea Party and the Republican Party,” she said.

As we spoke in the conference room of her Dallas congressional office earlier this week, she revealed one of her darkest secrets: Some of her best friends in Congress are Republicans.

She also divulged one of her little tricks: Pralines from Neiman Marcus.

“This will make you a little sweeter,” she’ll tell a committee colleague when debating proposed legislation or funding for a project.

When Congress reconvenes in January, Johnson will once again be in the minority. She noted that she has spent fewer terms in office in the majority, so this won’t be anything new for her.

She said Republicans have indicated that 60 percent of each committee will be named from their own party.

“And the rumor is they’re going to cut them in half,” she said regarding committee size.

That will leave Democrats scrambling for committee assignments. She believes her own positions on the Science and Technology Committee and the Transportation Committee are safe because of her seniority, but worries that Democrats will lose the opportunity to develop younger talent.

She recalled the last time Republicans took control of the House in the 1994 sweep. They were in control for the first time in decades and she called their initial leadership “mean-spirited.”

First they fired all House staff, assuming them to be Democrats. Then they closed down a number of offices to outsource the work, including the printing and furniture building offices.

“Most of the furniture we use is made in house,” she said. “They got rid of all that staff and then they found out that to make a desk was $150 — maybe — and to buy one was a thousand.”

Johnson said printing is also done cheaper in-house.

She said doesn’t expect the in-coming Republican leadership to make the same mistakes, and that she hopes her committees continue to act in a bipartisan fashion.

“There’s no Democratic highway and there’s no Republican sewer system,” she said. “We tend to get along.”

While delighted by her own huge landslide in the recent election and thankful to people who voted for her, Johnson said she is saddened by how many of her friends won’t be returning to Congress with her in January.

Although the election coverage was all about the Tea Party candidates, only about a third were actually elected. Though many of the others lost by a small margin, Johnson defeated Stephen Broden, her Tea Party opponent, by more than 50 points. Her landslide was possibly the largest against a Tea Party candidate in the country.

Johnson laughs at coverage of her election that minimized the enormity of her win. She said that by looking at her opponent’s campaign filings, she knew rank-and-file and local Republicans weren’t supporting him. That indicated last-minute money might flow into his coffers from around the country.

But Johnson said she was prepared and ran her usual campaign, taking nothing for granted.

“People in my district know me,” she said.

And in large numbers voted for her for a 10th term in office.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 12, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens