GIVEAWAY: “Fangs and Stilettos” by gay author and publisher Anthony DiFiore

First of all, congrats to the winner of my first book giveaway from Friday. I hope you enjoy!

Keeping with our Literary Issue out this week, for today, I have a copy of Fangs and Stilettos to add to your library. Author Anthony DiFiore mixes Twilight and The Devil Wears Prada by injecting a little of the supernatural into the world of fashion. And like Twilight and Hunger Games, the book reads well for both young adults and, um, not-as-young adults.

DiFiore is also the man behind inGroup Press, an energetic publisher focused on LGBT titles and books of intriguing interest.

The book is officially in stores and online tomorrow which is when I’ll pick the random winner. Just email me here with “Bite Me” in your subject line to win your copy of the new Fangs and Stilettos.

—  Rich Lopez

Midnight in the garden of gay and EVOO

Expect not just olive oil, but butter and lard on a low-country culinary tour of historic, gay-friendly Savannah. But it’s so worth the extra time on the treadmill

Chicken-and-waffles-at-River-on-the-Rocks

FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD | The chicken and waffles at Rocks on the River are just one Southern take on the buttery low-country food that marks a culinary tour of Savannah. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

View more photos HERE

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

Like Charleston, S.C., its neighbor to the north, Savannah, Ga., is a coastal community steeped in history and tradition — a characteristic that extends naturally to its culinary scene. “Low-country cuisine” is a discrete genre of Southern cooking, marked by its Afro-Caribbean influences (okra gumbo, hoppin’ john, and red beans and rice are staples) and predominance of seafood, especially shrimp and crab.

But it’s not just low-country food that distinguishes Savannah’s food scene — or the city as a whole, for that matter. It’s a place that oozes gentility with a welcoming attitude that supersedes its Old-South atmosphere. Whether going there for historic walks down its charming streets or to focus on a fattening but oh-so-worth-it foodie tour, Savannah is a great gay destination.

Without waving its rainbow flags too boldly, Savannah still celebrates its gay-friendly faves (hag chef Paula Deen is a local; composer and native Johnny Mercer has his name slapped on countless roads and landmarks) and even its queer scandals — Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, gay author John Berendt’s phenomenally popular 1994 yarn about how an antique dealer Jim Williams shot his lover, remains the unofficial history of the city, and is proudly on display throughout the city even still.

Such longevity is not altogether a surprise. People speak of the city’s most famous residents, past and current, as if they are personal friends who might pop around the corner at any moment.

An-ivy-draped-house

WALKING HISTORY | Savannah’s rich past includes an architectural tradition unequaled in most of the U.S., from lovely gardens and beautiful ironwork to ivy-draped mansions and Spanish-moss looming over the monument dotting the two-dozen squares that made up the city’s grid. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

They very well may. Even the dead ones. Savannah has a mystical quality to it. Elders proudly tout its reputation among paranormalists as the most haunted city in the U.S. Even non-believers may sense an aura of the supernatural. About two dozen squares dots the downtown district, imbuing the city with the shadowy, Victorian mood of a Bronte novel. Scattered among the squares are houses with long-standing ghost stories attached, and cemeteries that glow under a full moon with spooky drama.

Want to know just how much? Take a walking tour of the city’s graveyards and haunted squares, courtesy SavannahTours.us. This dusk-to-darkness stroll depends, of course, on your guide; we had a good one, who took us by the convincingly creepy 432 Abercorn on Calhoun Square.

The gay scene is undeniable here; even the tour guides mention it. But it’s not just the historic touches, but the current. Yes, The Lady Chablis became America’s most famous drag queen (sorry, Ru!) after the publication of Midnight, and she still performs regularly at Club One, the premiere dance club in the city. The gay club Chuck’s Bar abuts the river.

Savannah’s Riverfront is another draw of the city. A cobblestone thoroughfare fully 30 feet below street-level, it’s a touristy but fun way to spend an afternoon. Docked sailing ships are available for walk-throughs, and you can take a slow riverboat ride up and down the waterway.

On land, shops sell everything from knickknacks and T-shirts to pulled taffy and other confections, including the best damn pralines you’ll ever have. Indeed, the Savannah Candy Kitchen is about as close as you can come to feeling like Charlie Bucket let loose in Willy Wonka’s factory.

Which raises a point: For all the charming history and attractions, Savannah’s food beckons. Along River Street, Rocks on the River provides a distinctly Southern take on soul-food classics like chicken and waffles drizzled in a fruit demi-glace, or a sea scallop on spoetzl courtesy chef Jonathan Massey, amid a rustic atmosphere and exceptional service.

Rocks on the River is inside the Bohemian Hotel, a funky-assed property with moody lighting, intriguing décor and plush rooms. The resto is at ground-level; go to the top floor for Rocks on the Roof, a buzzy, gay-friendly bar that serves a kicky brunch.

Low-country cooking is plentiful, but not the exclusive option in this savvy city of savory sophisticates. We happily ventured over to Gallery Espresso, Savannah’s oldest coffeehouse and another bit of bohemian in this staid Southern ’burg.

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DIY DELIGHTS | Chef Darin Sehnert, who runs the cooking school at the Mansion on Forsyth Park, escorts you through the techniques needed to turn out your own Southern cooking. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Moon River Brewing Co. is the local micro-brewery not to miss, with a selection of in-house suds available along with its bar menu. Their Hefeweizen (a citrusy, Belgian-style wheat beer) and chocolatey porter are must-tastes for avid beer drinkers. (Like much of Savannah, the building itself is almost as much a destination as what’s inside it. Ask nicely, and you might get a tour of the attic here, with lovely bones, like exposed latticework and beautiful masonry.)

You can sample an authentic afternoon tea at Davenport House, including a participatory recreation of any antebellum interaction with actors in period costume.

Head outside the city to tour the Savannah Bee Company and sample some locally produced honeys (the whipped winter white is heavenly on scones). Keep driving for an even better excursion: a kayak trip out on Tybee Island.

You’ll be hungry when you get back, so that’s a perfect opportunity to sample more low-country cooking. Of course, this is Paula Deen territory, but don’t be fooled: All the locals will tell you, the better food is at Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room. No reservations are accepted so arrive early — the lunch line snakes around the block quickly. Seating (and service) is family style, so expect to dine with strangers. But you won’t have to fight over the food — there’s simply too much of it to consume, including the best banana pudding and mac & cheese you’ll likely taste anywhere. (The motto here: “If the colonel made chicken this good, he’d be a General.” No truer words spoken.)

Don’t be put off that the Mansion on Forsyth Park used to be a funeral home; it’s just another otherworldly aspect of Savannah that you have to accept. Anyway, you’d be lucky to lie in repose here. Part of the Kessler Collection of boutique properties (it also includes the vastly different Bohemian), the Mansion offers an enchanting spa experience in its basement (please don’t call it the embalming room) and spectacular rooms with cushy beds, beautiful décor and spacious claw-foot tubs.

The art here is not to be missed. Mr. Kessler, whom you’re likely to meet walking through one of his hotels, or even around the city, is a furious art collector who proudly displays his eclectic tastes in every room. There’s even a gallery attached that’s worth a gander.

Some of the art here isn’t on the walls; it’s on the plate. 700 Drayton, the hotel’s elegant new restaurant in an old-school setting, offers, once again, Southern specialties presented with culinary flair. Chef Michael Semancik tweaks the standbys, like blackened shrimp and grits abed microgreens, stunning fried green tomatoes and a blueberry crème brulee than will lead you back to eating crème brulee again.

But the restaurant isn’t the only way to eat here — though the other way requires some work. Chef Darin Sehnert leads the 700 Cooking School, a three-hour experience in learning to make your own low-country food, from red-eye gravy to blackeyed pea salad and rosemary biscuits. You do a lot of the work, but Sehnert guides you with exceptionally useful advice from knife techniques to seasoning. Plus you get to eat what you cook at the end. It’s a fabulous way to spend an evening, and a great conclusion to a culinary adventure in Georgia.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 10, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Hurry! Gay author Wade Rouse starts his two-day writing workshop in Fairview tonight

Tonight and tomorrow, author Wade Rouse comes to (way) North Texas to help budding writers with their craft. This is a guy who knocked out two books in 2011:  It’s All Relative: A Memoir of Two Families, Three Dogs, 34 Holidays and 50 Boxes of Wine and as creator and editor of the dog anthology, I’m Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship: Hilarious, Heartwarming Tales about Man’s Best Friends by America’s Favorite Humorists. So I’d recommend taking good notes with what he has to say. From Rouse’s website.

We are doing it up Texas Style!!! We are coming to Dallas and stopping by to say “Howdy!” A two-day evening workshop is just what we ordered up for you. Let’s see if those writing stars shine big and bright deep in the heart of Texas!! Treat yourself to an intensive literary renewal that will cover everything from how to get your book published, to life-changing writing exercises. It’s sure to be a memorable experience…invite a friend and we’ll see you there! They say everything is bigger in Texas so come on out to the retreat and prove it!!

Rouse’s workshop happens at A Real Bookstore in Fairview, Tex., which is roughly 30 miles north of here. Both sessions will begin at 6 p.m. For more information or to register (you better hurry), click here.

—  Rich Lopez

Starvoice • 09.30.11

By Jack Fertig

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAY

Clive Barker turns 59 on Wednesday. The gay author has either frightened or mystified readers with The Damnation Game, Imajica, Sacrament and more. He’s also ventured into filmmaking with Lord of Illusions and perhaps his most famous, Hellraiser. The film is getting a reboot as Barker produces the remake which is slated for release in 2013.

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THIS WEEK

Mercury conjoins Saturn in Libra raising knowledge and articulation of what our relationships are about and where they’re going. Feeling limited can create arguments or healthy productive discussions. Stay focused on what you want and who you love.

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LIBRA  Sep 23-Oct 22
A sense of domestic security can open deeper intimacy. Little competitions with your partner can be fun. Single? Dating isn’t a competitive sport. Being serious is good, but not too serious.

SCORPIO  Oct 23-Nov 21
Remember the reason you work so hard is to keep a nice home. It may not be the castle of your dreams, but it’s the best you have. Keep that in mind.

SAGITTARIUS  Nov 22-Dec 20
Where people are taking their own ideas too seriously and not listening to each other your practicality and humor can help break those barriers. Just don’t fall into the same stubbornness.

CAPRICORN  Dec 21-Jan 19
If you can’t have meetings with important people, at least keep communications open. It can take hard work to clear up confusion, but your work will be a lot harder if you don’t.

AQUARIUS  Jan 20-Feb 18
You might be more brilliant than the world’s geniuses, but let their ideas challenge your thinking. If you can really do better, write it down and find a publisher pronto.

PISCES  Feb 19-Mar 19
Guard against cranky outbursts. It’s too easy to get into needless, stupid arguments. Cleaning house can be a meditation. Exercise and conversations with trusted friends helps.

ARIES  Mar 20-Apr 19
A drop in energy leaves you feeling high and dry. You’ve been cranked up, and it couldn’t last. A serious talk about romance can make or break a relationship. Be clear on what you want.

TAURUS  Apr 20-May 20
Dreams of great accomplishment are inspiring or distracting. Make sure your goals are realistic. Discussions with co-workers get unpleasant, but face the facts and you’ll be better for it.

GEMINI  May 21-Jun 20
Take time out from idle pleasantries to apply your wit to more creative endeavors. A little competitive spirit is a great boost to your efforts. Don’t go overboard and get nasty about it.

CANCER  Jun 21-Jul 22
Power struggles at home are sugarcoated with good intentions. Sensing underlying motives stress you out. Confronting them creates some trouble now, saving lots of trouble in the long run.

LEO  Jul 23-Aug 22
It can be hard to keep secrets. Getting high, even a little buzz, can impair your judgment. Trying to one-up your partner in conversation can get nasty. Be nice to the one you love.

VIRGO  Aug 23-Sep 22
A serious conversation about money leaves you feeling deflated. Striving to improve your finances does not mean keeping up with the Joneses, nor does economizing require you to suffer.

Jack Fertig can be reached at 415-864-8302 or Starjack.com

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

—  Michael Stephens

Fat girls aren’t easy: ‘Charm’ works its magic

The MAC, 3120 McKinney Ave. Through Dec. 11. KitchenDogTheater.com.

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Margaret Fuller (Tina Parker) was a real person who seemed unreal to the society of her day. She was educated, opinionated, frank and kinda ugly — she hated corsets and the sexual repression of women. By the time she died, at age 40, she had had a child (probably out of wedlock), dated (probably gay) author Henry David Thoreau (Michael Federic0), and dabbled (probably) with lesbianism, all while breaking into the Good Ol’ Boys’ Club of the mid-19th century Transcendentalist Movement.

At least that what Kathleen Cahill suggests in her new play Charm, getting its Texas premiere from Kitchen Dog Theater. The title is ironic, as Margaret, despite her many talents, was totally lacking in charm. She dared challenge Ralph Waldo Emerson (Jeffrey Schmidt, a dead-ringer) and Nathaniel Hawthorne (Brian Witkowicz, hilarious), and irked a traditionalist like Orestes Brownson (John M. Flores). She was a woman outside her time.

KDT’s production — a fun, witty 90 minutes — captures the fairy-tale-like silliness of some very serious matters, especially feminism and sexual liberation of other kinds. Like Circle Theatre’s recent Bach at Leipzig, it tells historical facts with the freedom to turn  into a comedy. Hawthorne is a rabbity weirdo; Thoreau a bug-loving sickly nerd — a repressed closet case who moved to Walden Pond as a way of sublimating his sexual anxiety; Margaret lusts after a boyhood crush by the lake — a vast, blue parachute of rippling water. And the idioms are mostly modern, at once taking us out of its time and reinforcing how contemporary the ideas are (Margaret high-fives one of her friends).

The set, by Chase Floyd Devries, could have been designed for children’s theater: A serious of steps that resemble the books written by the literati that populate the play, in bright, colorful pastels. Just as interesting, though, is Parker as Margaret. Like her performance in Mr. Marmalade, Parker takes a childlike petulance and turns it into high tragedy. Things appear so simple to her — why can’t they really be that way? As with Dawn Weiner in Welcome to the Dollhouse, you sympathize with her even as you want to shake her. She may not have had any charm, byt the play has loads.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Memoirs of an addict

Gay author Bill Clegg recalls his darkest days in his book ‘Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man’


Gregg Shapiro | Contributing Writer
lifestyle@dallasvoice.com

Gay author Bill Clegg
Bill Clegg

Bill Clegg, a young, gay and attractive New York literary agent with a boyfriend in the movie industry, details his struggle with the crack cocaine addiction that nearly killed him in the memoir Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man. Telling his story in unflinching detail, Clegg moves back and forth in the book from his childhood and the complicated relationship with his family to his exciting life in New York with partner “Noah,” with the momentum of a runaway train. Clegg discussed his work shortly before the publication of the book.

Dallas Voice: Living as we do in a post-James Frey memoir world, was that something you were concerned about when writing Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man?

Bill Clegg: Not at all. I didn’t think about James Frey’s book once (laughs) when I was writing this book. Part of that is that when I first started writing it, I wasn’t necessarily thinking of it as a book. It was initially a transcription of memories and it began while I was in rehab. When I arrived in rehab after that two-month period which resulted in a suicide attempt, I surfaced from that period sort of like somebody surfaces from a dream. So my memories—what I said, what I saw, what I felt—I had this feeling that those would evaporate in time, that I wouldn’t have access to them later, so I started writing them down in as much detail as I could. Part of the urgency around that was that so much of the period was confused for me. I thought that if I wrote everything down, as much as I could, I’d be able to make sense of it later and be able to distinguish the truth from the delusion once I had more distance from that period. The writing of it, initially, was as far away from imagining it as a book as it could possibly be. That experience of transcribing memories went on for a couple of years. At the point of which it occurred to me, several years later, that there might be something book-shape, book-length there, the issue of James Frey or other addiction memoirs didn’t come up mainly because I hadn’t read those memoirs. It started as an incredibly personal and private thing. I never thought outside of the demands of the project itself.

Why did you decide to keep it in the memoir format as opposed to the liberties you might have been afforded in a fictional format?

Because when other addicts and alcoholics have been candid about their experiences with me it gives me courage to be more candid and more honest. Being honest about where my addiction took me, I feel less shame around it and I feel relief. If my being candid about my experience inspires anyone else to be honest and open about what’s going on with them and in that way lifts the shame and torment of that in any way, then it’s worth it. Also, when I went back through what I had written, the hardest thing to reoccupy was how desperately lonely the experience was. Even in the period that preceded those two months, when I was, on the surface, successful and living a crowded life, I was desperately lonely because I had this secret. Through the years preceding my crack up, I tried to manage my use. I tried to have only two drinks at night, to come home at 2 in the morning as opposed to 10 in the morning, and I failed every time. That struggle was a very lonely, isolated one. It was loaded with shame. And nobody else knew, aside from my boyfriend, that I was a crack addict. I was convinced that if anybody found out that I would be banished from the life that I occupied. The whole experience was incredibly lonely. I thought I was the only person who struggled in the way that I did. I thought I was the only person who had a job like I did and was a crack addict. It all felt terribly singular.  So, if anybody recognizes themselves in my struggle and feels less lonely then they might be encouraged to step up and get help and be honest and not let it go where it went with me.

There is a sense that the book is more than just a memoir, that it is intended to be a tool to aid others.

That’s the reason it exists as a published document, to be useful. And I hope that it is.

The book has cinematic quality. If there was a movie, who would be right to play you in film?

Oh, God, I would never answer that question. Because to engage in a conversation about who would play me is also to engage in a conversation that glamorizes it. I would hope that the film would be respectful and with the same intent as the book. Shy of that I really don’t have an opinion about what it would be as a movie or not.

Being in the literary world, do you think it was inevitable that you would write a book, whether it was about this experience or something else?

No. I mean, there’s certainly a novel that I’ve been struggling with for over a decade, but I don’t think I’m going to torture the world by having it rear its head (laughs). What I would say about writing, and it’s what I do say to the writers that I work with, unless you have to do it, don’t do it. I think that should be the measure for all artistic endeavors. If you have to do it, do it. Otherwise, it’s not worth it. And I had to do this. It began in the earliest hours of my struggle to get sober and it never went away and it kept on returning as this urgent thing. At a certain point I stepped out of the way of it and let it happen. It was less of a choice to write it and absolutely a choice to make it public.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 3, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas