In defense of Fort Worth’s response to the Rainbow Lounge raid

Jon Nelson

By Jon Nelson  |  Fairness Fort Worth

I read with interest the Rev. Stephen Sprinkle’s commentary contrasting the Atlanta outcome with Fort Worth’s after raids at gay bars in each city. He concludes that “Factors contributing to the non-resolution of the Fort Worth police raid may include a less-than-robust defense of bar patrons by the Rainbow Lounge ownership at the time of the bust, and the less aggressive approach Fort Worth gay leaders employed to bring the city and the police department to account.”

The headline contrasts the $1 million settlement with none in Fort Worth. Although the Rev. Sprinkle doesn’t mention this as a contrast, I’ll deal with it anyway. The Atlanta suit was filed by a private attorney on behalf of 19 patrons of the club and no such lawsuit has yet been filed in Fort Worth .The LGBT community formed Fairness Fort Worth at the outset and stepped forward to represent the community. The injustice experienced was against the patrons and not the bar owner nor any employees of the bar. This contrasts sharply with the facts in Atlanta where the police targeted both the bar and its patrons.

The Rev. Sprinkle’s one striking contrast is his belief that the Fort Worth Police Department has never issued an apology and Atlanta has. I have attended at least three meeting where Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead has publicly apologized; the last one was in front of the Rainbow Lounge at a news conference held on Nov. 5, 2009.

The Rev. Sprinkle writes that there has been a “non-resolution” of the raid on the Rainbow lounge. Let me share with you what has happened since the raid and, in the words of the Rev. Sprinkle, “You be the judge”:

—  admin

Gay OKC pioneer Arnold Smith remembered

Arnold “Arna Lee” Smith, who owned a series of gay bars in Oklahoma City dating back to the 1960s, died Oct. 31 at 83, according to the Metro Star:

During the early 1960s America and Oklahoma were quite different, where being gay was officially still a mental illness, sodomy laws were still in the books, and gay rights (let alone marriage) weren’t even discussed. Police raids on gay bars were common, albeit on dubious pretexts and very selective law enforcement, much facilitated when most people victimized by these tactics were either afraid and/or ashamed to fight back. But even in this dark scenario Arnold’s first club, Lee’s Lounge which opened in the mid 1960s in the Paseo District, was a bright spot for the GLBT community that refused to back down. Although the club endured relentless police harassment, the club proudly kept going. On many occasions when he was arrested along with his customers, he would bail himself and his customers out and re-open the bar the same night. His drag persona, Arna Lee, became famous during this time, accompanied by his outrageously fun costumes and tap dancing with a campy wit to match. During this time he became a Drag Mother to many budding female impersonators, a passion that spanned over 40 years.

—  John Wright

Gay Alaska? You betcha

It ain’t the Castro, but our 49th state has gay appeal amid the natural beauty

ANDREW COLLINS  | Contributing Writer outoftown@qsyndicate.com

Harvard Glacier
NICE ICE BABY | Harvard Glacier is one a highlight of a cruise through College Fjord. (Andrew Collins)

Things may be bigger in Texas, but nothing’s quite as big as Alaska, America’s largest and least populated (by density) state. More than twice Texas’ land mass, sometimes it’s difficult to grasp the state’s sheer dimensions — for example, Alaska is about 15 times bigger than Pennsylvania, but Pennsylvania has 17 times the number of residents. Aside from geeky stats like these, it’s difficult to describe Alaska’s terrain and scenery without resorting to trite superlatives. You must visit this land to comprehend it.

Among the highlights for most visitors are up-close views of massive glaciers, a fascinating array of wildlife and North America’s highest peak (20,320 foot Mt. McKinley in Denali National Park). Alaska also offers rafting, hiking and camping. The abundance of delicious fresh seafood makes this a terrific dining destination.

Alaska is ideally suited to outdoorsy travelers, but thanks to cruise ships and scenic railroads it’s relatively easy to enjoy the natural beauty from a comfy and controlled environment.

But is there a gay scene in the 49th state? Let’s put it this way: I wouldn’t recommend a trip just for a tour of gay nightlife, or meeting other “family.” But Anchorage is a large, modern city with a couple of gay bars, including the extremely fun and friendly dance club Mad Myrna’s. And you’ll find excellent museums and many stellar restaurants here. The state’s second largest city, Fairbanks, has a small but active gay scene, some of it tied to Alaska’s oldest college, the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.

Juneau, with a population of about 30,000, is the capital and is generally considered the most progressive city in the state — a fair number of gay folks live here, and bars and restaurants are generally gay-friendly. Also noteworthy is tiny but funky Talkeetna, midway between Anchorage and Denali National Park. This cool little village is a great base for exploring Denali and a haven of free spirits (it was the inspiration for Northern Exposure). Throughout Alaska, and especially around Anchorage, you’ll find many gay-owned and gay-friendly inns and B&Bs (there’s a good list at PurpleRoofs.com; an excellent general LGBT resource for the state is BentAlaska.com).

Even if you’re not especially enamored of cruises, traveling by boat is without question the best way to see southeastern Alaska’s scenery, including areas like Glacier Bay National Park and College Fjord. Many major cruise lines offer Alaska cruises, with Holland America Line and Princess Cruises offering the greatest variety of itineraries, along with the exceptional line of smaller, upscale ships, Cruise West.

These are all extremely gay-friendly and gay-popular cruise lines. Several LGBT-oriented tour operators, notably RSVP Vacations, Olivia and Atlantis, book all-gay charter trips on some of the major lines that ply Alaska waters, including Holland America, Princess, Carnival, Celebrity, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean. Ultra-luxurious lines such as Silversea and Regent Seven Seas regularly visit Alaska.

Even on cruises booked to the general public, you’ll nearly always find gay and lesbian passengers (and certainly some crew), and there’s usually at least one and sometimes several LGBT mixers or meet-ups onboard during a week trip. (If you’d like to find other gay travelers booked on the same cruise, or read other LGBT feedback related to cruise travel, check out the gay cruising forum at Cruisemates.com.)

My recent rip aboard Holland America’s exceptionally well-outfitted Statendam set the bar. I chose a glacier-intensive itinerary, through the Inside Passage, with calls at Ketchikan, Juneau (my favorite) and Skagway, plus a day each sailing through Glacier Bay and College Fjord. This Holland America cruise was a wonderful adventure from start (out of Vancouver) to finish (Seward). And if you are planning a trip with a few friends or relatives, a cruise can be ideal in terms of logistics, value and the pure fun of sharing countless memorable experiences together.

Alaska cruises range greatly in price, starting for as little as $600 (double-occupancy) for with an inside cabin on less-fancy ships (the Carnival Spirit or Norwegian Star) during the shoulder months (May and September). For a stateroom with balcony on an upscale line like Holland America, expect to pay $1,500 or more, depending on the size of the cabin, the ship and the time of sailing (June through August are high season). If there were ever a great time to splurge for a balcony cabin, it’s an Alaska cruise, as a huge part of the experience is observing the magnificent scenery from aboard the ship.

For those who prefer less structured tours, you can get around via an extensive network of state-operated ferries, just as many Alaskans get from town to town, either without a car or (at considerably greater expense) with one. This is an adventurous way to sail through the Inside Passage, starting either down in Bellingham, Wash., or much closer to Alaska in the Canadian port city of Prince Rupert. The ferry stops at all the major towns in southeast Alaska.

You can also sail via the ferry system through Prince William Sound to Kodiak Island (with stops in Valdez, Cordova, Whittier, Homer and others), or through southwestern Alaska’s remote Aleutian Chain, from Chignik all the way to Unalaska/Dutch Harbor. Again, traveling with a car and sleeping onboard in cabins can make this a fairly costly trip — figure on about $800 to $900 for two passengers, a car, and a cabin for a one-way trip from Port Rupert to Skagway. But you can choose an itinerary that allows you to get on and off at a number of ports, and it’s still cheaper and allows for greater flexibility than a cruise.

Whether you reach Alaska by cruise ship, plane or car (the 2,300-mile drive from Great Falls, Montana to Fairbanks on the Alaska-Canada Highway is memorable), it’s worth taking some time to explore some parts of the state’s rugged and largely unspoiled interior.

Many cruise lines offer one-way itineraries that begin or end in Alaska, typically in a port that’s relatively close to Anchorage, such as Whittier or Seward. You can, as we did, rent a car and explored the area, continuing on to Anchorage and stopping in Talkeetna. Other notable areas within relatively easy driving distance of Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula include the charming little vacation town of Girdwood, which is home to upscale Alyeska Resort; Homer, a popular fishing town; and Whittier, which has kayaking and boating on Prince William Sound plus access to several stunning glaciers. Farther afield and also well worth investigating are Denali National Park (four to five hours north of Anchorage), Fairbanks (two hours farther north of Denali), and Valdez (six to seven hours east of Anchorage).

One way to explore the interior without a car, as far north as spectacular Denali National Park and on up to Fairbanks, is via the scenic Alaska Railroad. Many Alaska cruises offer post- or pre-trip options that include several days on the railroad, or you can book your own railroad package, which includes riding the railroad’s gleaming railcars past incredible scenery, tours at different stops, and overnight hotel accommodations. Packages start at five nights for around $1,800. Shorter day trips are also available on the Alaska Railroad — among the most rewarding itineraries are the ride from Anchorage to Denali (starting around $150), and the Glacier Discovery Trains to Grandview (starting around $85).

Another great option is to book a trip with a local outfitter. Based in Fairbanks, Out in Alaska is a highly reputable, gay-owned tour operator that offers exciting trips, both camping (starting around $1,800 for six days) and hotel-based (from $2,500 for seven days), to some of the state’s most scenic areas. Out in Alaska trips typically last a week to 10 days, have five to 10 participants, and include meals, transportation within the regions visited, activities and — in the case of camping — gear.

Some Out in Alaska trips are oriented primarily toward sightseeing and might cover major national parks (Denali, Kanai Fjords, Wrangell-St. Elias) and the regions around Fairbanks and Anchorage. The more activity-driven trips — which can be themed around glacier trekking, hiking, rafting, or kayaking — venture into the state’s remote wilderness, from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to the Yukon or Copper rivers. The company also organizes small LGBT group adventures on some of the mainstream cruises offered through the Inside Passage.

However you explore this majestic land, it’s absolutely worth the time and effort to get yourself up here — and to plan on spending a minimum of seven days. When even seasoned travelers talk about “trips of a lifetime” and “most memorable travel experiences,” they’re often referring to adventures had in Alaska.

…………………………………

Little Black Book

Cruise lines and charters
Atlantis, AtlantisEvents.com.  Carnival, Carnival.com.  Celebrity, CelebrityCruises.com. Cruise West, CruiseWest.com.  Holland America, HollandAmerica.com.  Norwegian Cruise Lines, NCL.com.com.  Olivia, Olivia.com. Princess, Princess.com.  Royal Caribbean, RoyalCaribbean.com, RSVP Vacations, RSVPVacations.com.

Resources
Alaska.net. CruisesMates.com.
PurpleRoofs.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 17, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Another gay bar patron robbed at gunpoint

The robbery occurred in this area of Travis Street near Fitzhugh Avenue, according to one of the victim’s friends who witnessed it. Dallas Voice offices are in the background.

A group of three gay men who attended the Adam Lambert concert on Tuesday night were thrilled that they also got a chance to hang out with the young pop icon when he showed up at BJ’s NXS on Fitzhugh Avenue after the concert.

But they weren’t so thrilled when one of them was robbed at gunpoint on Travis Street about a block from BJ’s — and less than a block from Dallas Voice offices — as they were returning to their car.

According to Dallas police reports, the 23-year-old victim was running down the street at about 2 a.m. because it was raining heavily. As the victim neared some  bushes, the suspect jumped out, grabbed him by the hair and slung him to the ground, putting a gun to his head. The suspect, a Latin male, was accompanied by four other Latin males who were standing near a cream-colored, four-door, older-model Cadillac.

The suspect told the victim to empty his pockets and put his hands up, police reports say. The victim gave the suspect his cell phone and chapstick, and the suspect pulled off his ring and bracelets.

When one of the victim’s two friends came running up from behind yelling at the suspects, they jumped in the car and took off.

The victim’s other friend, who’d run ahead of him at the time of the robbery, contacted Dallas Voice on Thursday. In the wake of a shooting the week before in Oak Lawn, he said he wanted to remind people to be aware and travel in numbers when visiting the gay bars. The witness said he felt like his friend may have been targeted because they were leaving a gay bar. In addition to BJ’s, Zippers and Pub Pegasus are in the immediate area. The victim’s friend noted that parking is sometimes difficult along Fitzhugh on busy nights, which is why their car was a few blocks away.

The victim’s friend said the suspects yelled at him and tried to chase him as he ran past. When he realized they were robbing his friend, he came running back. The third friend, who was running behind the victim, ran up at about the same time. As the victim’s two friends converged, the suspects took off.

The victim and his two friends quickly got in their vehicle and drove away from the area. The victim was unhurt, but his friend said it took him about 15 minutes to calm down and stop crying. They reported the crime the following morning. A Dallas police spokesman couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

“We were lucky — we are very, very lucky to be alive,” the victim’s friend said. “I think it’s important to know that it’s still going on out there.”

UPDATE: Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse informs us that no further suspect information is available. Janse said the suspect was wearing a mask. Anyone with information about the case can call DPD at 214-670-4414.

—  John Wright

War before DADT

Late author’s memoir tells of gay love for the Greatest Generation

TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER  | Contributing Writer bookwormsez@yahoo.com

My Queer War
LORD IN THE FOXHOLE | James Lord’s account of his life in the Army is both shocking and sad.

3.5 out of 5 stars
MY QUEER WAR, by James Lord.
Farrar, Straus & Giroux (2010).
$27. 344 pp.

In his memoir My Queer War, James Lord explains how a tiny fib to Uncle Sam changed the course of his life.

Lord hated college, just like he had hated prep school. A loner, he always felt awkward, and the higher the educational setting, the higher the level of discomfort. Finally, he did the one incongruent thing he could think to do: 19 and naïve, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps 11 months after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor — and decades before “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

By this time in his life, Lord suspected his attraction to boys, and he was horrified. He saw himself as abnormal, an “abominable thing.”

Still, when asked at his induction, “Do you like girls?” he paused. “And I, to tell the truth, had known a couple of likable girls, so I said, ‘Yes. Yes, sir.’”

Much like his introduction to the Army, Lord’s months of service were unique. Basic training was spent in a moldering hotel in New York. Assignments in California, Nevada and Utah were mostly of the hurry-up-and-wait kind, where boredom was rampant.

But Lord fell in love: First with a man who was a mentor but almost turned him in; second, with a confused longing. When the government sent him back to school, Lord, who was as green as grass, learned to cruise gay bars.

But the Army sent him overseas to France and Germany, assigned to the Military Intelligence Service, a job where he learned brutal truths about others and himself.

Several times in this book, the late author indicates his love of the arts, particularly the works of James Joyce and Thomas Mann. He also expresses a love of poetry. All this shines through, for the good and the bad.

My Queer War is a sometimes-painful, sometimes-shocking, surprisingly chaste account of a man hiding from himself and his government, lest he be ridiculed and shunned. Lord is a fine storyteller with his smart-aleck humor and his goosebump-inducing, just-the-facts, somberly gentle writing.

What’s not enjoyable, though, is that this book is dripping with the influence of the aforementioned authors, as well as other creators of High Literature. While it gives this book a period flavor, it also tends to bog it down more than I think the average reader will want to endure.

Still, in post-Prop 8 America, My Queer War may provoke thinking not only among gays but straights who think they already know all they need to about gays in the military.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 27, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

The Gaga Countdown: Parties and afterparties galore — oooh, and more tickets just released

Lady Gaga

You’d have to know that after Lady Gaga’s final song for the night, that the Monster Ball wouldn’t end there. Whether it’s official or not, clubland is buzzing with after parties following the concert. The Brick jumps the gun by getting their Gaga party in Wednesday night. If you’re still feeling “Starstruck,” then continue your adventure at these spots. They each give you the lowdown on their fab-tastic post concert experience.

Station 4 – “Calling all Little Monsters: GAGA Giant Afterparty at Station 4 on Thursday July 22 and Friday July 23. Bring your concert ticket stub and get in free (21+). Two nights of Lady Gaga’s greatest hits. After the concerts, head over to S4 and JUST DANCE!”

GhostbarNou Wav Thursdays and the House of Gaga host the “official afterparty” on Thursday. What makes it so official? Um, that would be because opening act Semi Precious Weapons will be there to perform a DJ set. So, we’d say that makes it pretty legit. Now, will Ms. Gaga? Well, we wonder.

Plush – So it’s not a gay club. Don’t worry. Ultra lounges are really just a Cosmopolitan away from being gay bars. Plush will host a look-alike-contest and ticket stubs get you in as VIP.

Dish goes Gaga Thursday with its Monster Ball Afterparty. G-tunes, inspired cocktails and a costume contest for Friday night tickets will be part of the bash. Dish also hosts a performance by “Dallas’ top Lady Gaga impersonator,” whoever that may be.

If you’re lacking for fun, then there’s nothing more I can do for you.

THIS JUST IN via Twitter — LiveNationDAL JUST ANNOUNCED — Additional tickets just released for Lady Gaga 7/22 & 7/23 at AAC! Get them before they sell out!

—  Rich Lopez

Hate rears its head on the lake

Anti-gay vandalism is a reminder that hate can hide in even the most accepting communities

David Webb The Rare Reporter

It’s taken a while for the ugly specter of anti-gay hate crime to rise over Cedar Creek Lake, but it was probably inevitable.

With two gay bars and large numbers of gay and lesbian couples living together in full-time residences and weekend homes, the community has become highly visible over the past couple of decades. For the most part the straight community has always seemed tolerant, but it is a conservative religious area.

To the best of everyone’s recollection, no one on the lake had ever reported being harassed, threatened or beat up or having their property vandalized because they were gay —until June 20.

That’s when a gay male couple living in Payne Springs woke up to find extensive damage to their truck.

They found the windshield busted, all four tires slashed, parts ripped off the truck and anti-gay graffiti — including the words “Die Fag” — scrawled all over the truck. The damage was so bad that the vehicle will be unusable for several weeks, and the couple cannot really afford to rent a car in the meantime.

Initially, the couple posted a message on their Facebook page with pictures of the damage. But they later took it down and asked for privacy. They said they just wanted to move on and did not want to become a cause for the community to rally around.

It is likely the men are suffering from psychological trauma. Hate crime researchers point out that victims are often left terrified, fearing retribution and feeling vulnerable to more attacks if there is widespread attention drawn to them.

The possibility exists that there may have been other anti-gay hate crimes committed on the lake, and they were never reported because of those same fears.

According to the FBI’s most recent “Hate Crime Statistics” report, almost 18 percent of all hate crimes occurring in the U.S. are attributed to sexual orientation bias. The crimes occur all across the country in cities and towns of all sizes and demographics.

In addition to the impact on the victims, hate crimes reportedly also have an intimidating effect on the entire community to which the victims belong.

That’s why it is important for the community to rally behind such victims and to band together in speaking out against hate crimes. Usually, there are supportive straight people who want to join the cause, and that is already happening on the lake.

Immediately after hearing about the crime, a straight couple sent an e-mail volunteering to be a part of any activities that might be undertaken to promote tolerance and discourage hate crimes.

That’s what is happening now, too, in Savannah, Ga., where two Marines from a South Carolina military base were arrested recently on charges they allegedly assaulted a gay man because they thought he winked at them. The LGBT community held a rally this week in the square where the gay man was found unconscious.

It’s also a good idea to take steps to combat hate crimes with community events because they rarely are isolated incidents. The perpetrators of hate crimes often begin with lower-level types of crime such as harassment and vandalism and go on to more violent activity when they don’t suffer any repercussions from the earlier crimes.

Just about everyone realizes now that June is celebrated across the country as Gay Pride Month, and that draws more attention to the LGBT community. The national debate about gay rights, such as the proposal to abolish “don’t ask, don’t tell” has the same effect.

If nothing else, everyone needs to be aware of the danger of hate crime activity in an area and to be careful. It can happen to anyone at anytime, almost anywhere.

David Webb is a former staff writer for the Dallas Voice who lives on Cedar Creek Lake now. He is the author of the blog TheRareReporter.blogspot.com. He can be reached at davidwaynewebb@embarqmail.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 25, 2010.

—  Dallasvoice

Services for Marty Hershner are Saturday

For those who’ve been patiently waiting and checking back here for updates on Marty Hershner’s death, my story is up over on the main page. Read it by going here. Here’s the info about services:

Lonzie Hershner said a viewing will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, April 30 at Ben F.Brown’s Memorial Funeral Home, 707 N. MacArthur Blvd. in Irving.

A funeral will be at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the same location.

Both the viewing and the funeral are open to the public.

Lonzie Hershner said family and friends also plan a memorial show at the Drama Room in the next few weeks. He said he would provide details next week.

—  John Wright

Tin Room owner Marty Hershner found dead

tin_room_dallas_pic

Dallas Voice has confirmed that Marty Hershner, owner of the Tin Room on Hudnall Street in Oak Lawn, has died. We have few details at this point, but Hershner reportedly was found in his bed at about 8 p.m. Tuesday. Hershner had recently opened a second gay bar, the Drama Room on Cedar Springs Road. He also planned to try to open a bar at the site of Bill’s Hideaway on Buena Vista Street, which closed last year. We’ll have more details on Hershner’s death as soon as they become available. Look for a full obituary in Friday’s Dallas Voice.

—  John Wright