Potts’ agenda? To show the boring reality of LGBT life

Oral Roberts’ grandson vacuums and makes coffee in a public display designed to debunk the idea that there’s an ominous ‘gay agenda’

PastedGraphic-2

GAY AGENDA | Randy Roberts Potts and his boyfriend, Keaton Johnson, perform ‘The Gay Agenda’ to show what ordinary lives gays and lesbians lead. (Photo by Ange Fitzgerald courtesy of Randy Roberts Potts)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

To bridge the gap between what most evangelicals imagine when they think of a gay couple and what he knows most gay couples do, Randy Roberts Potts has come up with The Gay Agenda, a performance piece designed to be boring.

For a weekend, Potts, the out gay grandson of evangelist Oral Roberts, and his boyfriend Keaton Johnson will set up house, so to speak, in a public space in various locations in the central U.S. They will watch TV, make coffee and even take a nap.

What they won’t do is kiss or even touch much.

And they hope people from the area will come and watch — but only for a short time. Because what they’ll be doing is extremely boring.

They expect that local media will come and talk to them about their mundane lives. And on Sunday morning, Potts hopes a local church will allow him to come and speak.

Like many gay people, Potts had to deal with family issues wrapped up in religion. And like many other gay men, before he came out, he married and had three kids.

But Potts’ family was a special challenge. His grandfather Oral Roberts’ side of the family was the liberal side.

Potts said that he hasn’t spoken to his mother — Oral’s daughter Roberta who sits on the board of Oral Roberts University — in a year. But he doesn’t mourn that loss. He said he never had a close relationship with her.

On his father’s even more conservative side of the family, dancing was out and they never watched movies. Potts said he taught cousins on that side of the family what the pictures and numbers on playing cards meant.

But Potts is healthy and happy. He shares joint custody of his children and adores them. He and his boyfriend just celebrated their one-year anniversary. And his boyfriend’s family has warmly welcomed him into their family.

PastedGraphic-3

AND PUPPY MAKES 3 | Potts and Johnson spent most of their time at the Aurora Arts Festival on the sofa watching TV. (Photo by Ange Fitzgerald courtesy of Randy Roberts Potts)

But Potts understands the pain many people from similar backgrounds feel. And he knows that much of it comes from the misconception people have about the lives gay people lead.

Before taking their show on the road, Potts and Johnson did a test run at the Aurora Arts Festival in the Arts District in Downtown Dallas on Oct. 30. They set up a living room along the street near the Winspear Opera House and proceeded to do those routine things people do at home. They spent much of the evening sitting and watching TV.

A small sign identified the art project. Potts said one woman watched curiously for a few minutes, then noticed the sign, grabbed her young daughter’s hand and moved along quickly. Others responded with amusement or simple bewilderment.

Potts said that there was little show of affection between him and his partner. He said that normally people don’t spend their time at home being affectionate. They just hang out together and do something dull like watch TV.

And the point wasn’t to shock people: When Potts and Johnson sat together on the couch, they were watching television. They weren’t kissing. They weren’t touching.

One of them got up to make some coffee. He brought a cup of coffee to the other, fixed the way he likes it. Again, that’s something couples do at home.
Boring.

That’s the point.

“Most people think of two men having sex,” Potts said. “This project is to push back on that stereotype.”

After the successful tryout in Dallas, Potts plans to take the installation on tour. Over the next year, he’d like to take the installation to some smaller cities, maybe one a month.

Tulsa? Maybe they’ll visit his hometown eventually. He said that may be the finale of the tour. But the first stop will be in his home state in Oklahoma City.

Potts said he’s not looking for confrontation or dangerous situations and he’s not looking to be a martyr. The goal is simply to perform The Gay Agenda in small cities throughout the center of the country.

In Dallas during the art fair, Potts said he felt safe performing out in the street. But in small-town America, he wants some level of protection.

So the plan is to rent an abandoned store window and borrow some living room furniture from some local gays so Potts and Johnson don’t have to haul their apartment all over the country. Then, for two days, they’ll lead their boring lives in the storefront for anyone in town to watch.

On Sunday morning, he said, he hoped a local church would allow the grandson of the famous evangelist to speak to the congregation.

“I don’t consider myself a preacher. “But churches are on the forefront of the battle for gay rights,” he explained.

To help fund the project, Potts is collaborating with the non-partisan Liberty Education Forum, a sister organization of Log Cabin Republicans. Potts said he thought that group would be a perfect partner because of its experience working in conservative areas.

He said the idea is to leave people with a different impression of gay people and what they do in their private lives in a way they’re not getting on television.

Potts said that the characters from Will & Grace and Modern Family have made The Gay Agenda possible. But this time the characters aren’t in New York or California, but right there in small-town America next to the kind of people the LGBT equality message needs to reach.

And while Potts doesn’t expect churches to suddenly embrace their LGBT members and neighbors, he hopes to nudge them toward providing a safer community.

If the piece succeeds in drawing attention and softening views, Potts said he’d like to see other same-sex couples perform The Gay Agenda in their own hometowns. But for now, he just hopes Liberty Education Forum will help him book about one performance a month over the course of the next year.

Why take the risk?

“If I felt accepted by my family, I wouldn’t go out and do this,” Potts said. “It’s my attempt to say, ‘I’m not that weird.’”
Johnson is in his late 20s and has been out since high school. His motivation is different.

“He wants to make things be the way he thought they always were,” Potts said.

Potts noted that there’s not much outreach to the evangelical community. The national organizations mostly work with potential allies. Most people in the LGBT community are afraid of or don’t know how to approach evangelicals.

But Potts knows that community intimately and deals with his strict religious upbringing with some amusement. He speaks of the university his grandfather founded with some pride, mentioning the school’s two best-known alumni — presidential candidate Michele Bachmann and Homer Simpson’s next door neighbor, Ned Flanders.

“Okaly dokaly,” Potts said. “Look at his wall. He has an ORU diploma hanging up.”

And although he tends to avoid contact with his immediate family in Oklahoma, Potts did attend his grandfather’s funeral. But he was not invited to sit with the family. And while his mother was delivering the eulogy, she spotted him in the audience. From the stage, in front of thousands of people, she began yelling at him.

Potts said he figures she was the one who looked foolish, not him.

Sharing the message

A year ago, Potts made an “It Gets Better” video dedicated to his Uncle Ronnie, Oral’s son who was also gay and who committed suicide. The video has gotten more than 130,000 hits.

And when he takes The Gay Agenda to smaller cities in Middle America, he said he hopes people will see that gays and lesbians lead the same sort of lives as straight people, that LGBTs aren’t a threat. If he gets to speak in a church, Potts said he hopes the congregation will get his simple message.

“I will be talking about the difference between tolerance and acceptance,” he said. “The LGBT community has been tolerated, in varying degrees, for the last 40 years since Stonewall. Tolerance is better than what came before, when our freedom of assembly rights were not guaranteed and even gay book clubs could be [and often were] stormed by the police.”

He said he wants people to understand that gays and lesbians would like to be open about themselves on Main Street, not just on a cruise, in a gay bar or on a gay-themed sitcom.

“Our little performance piece is symbolic of a move out of the ghetto and onto Main Street — how we’re received in each community will say a lot about how accepted our community is in that locale,” Potts said. “Our gay agenda, if there is one, is to be loved and accepted.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.

The Gay Agenda facebook page.

—  Kevin Thomas

An awakening of their own

How Baylor classmates Josh Gonzales and Matt Tolbert teamed up onstage — and in real life — for WaterTower’s ‘Spring Awakening’

lead
UP AGAINST THE WALL | Gonzales and Tolbert will share their first scene — and first onstage kiss — as the gay couple in WaterTower’s sexually frank musical ‘Spring Awakening.’ (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

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

Matt Tolbert may be just barely old enough to drink legally (he’ll turn 23 in October), but he’s already an experienced theater hand.

Four months ago, he was finishing up his last semester at Baylor University before a May graduation, but he’d already made his professional debut earlier this year, hanging upside down as a torture victim in WaterTower Theatre’s production of The Lieutenant of Inishmore. Soon after that, he co-established a theater company and produced a show for the Out of the

Loop Fringe Festival; as of last week, his day job is assistant to WTT’s producing artistic director, Terry Martin.

“I guess you could say I’m aggressive about my career,” Tolbert concedes, “though I say I’m just highly motivated.”

And one thing he was motivated about was getting cast in WaterTower’s upcoming production of Spring Awakening. Ever since Tolbert learned of the show, he’d wanted to be in it, so when WTT put it on their 2011-12 schedule, he knew he’d audition. But even more, he wanted to be in it with his partner Josh Gonzales.

The two met several years ago while both were studying at Baylor (Gonzales is still there, with plans to graduate next spring); for the past two years, they have been a couple. But while they have been in shows at the same time, they have never shared a scene. Spring Awakening seemed like a good chance for them to do a musical together.

“I was in love with the show and when I heard WaterTower was doing it, I jumped at the chance,” says Gonzales, 21. “[Matt and I] have been in five shows together before — this will be our sixth — but we very rarely interact onstage. This is our first time to get to act.”

The plan was for Tolbert to play Hanschen, the slightly predatory gay teen, and Gonzalez to play Ernst, the object of his lustful urges in the explicit, sexually charged musical about the yearning of 19th century youth (which oddly echoes the same feelings of youth in the 21st century). Still, getting cast was hardly a sure thing, even with Tolbert’s connections at the theater.

So this summer, Tolbert studied voice with Mark Mullino, who was about to start work as the music director on Spring Awakening. Tolbert planted seeds with Mullino that he and Gonzalez would be interested in doing the show.

Alas, it seemed destined not to happen.

“Matt went to the audition but I couldn’t go because I was in New York,” sighs Gonzales. Not only that, but once the call-back list was released, Tolbert was asked to re-audition… for the role of Ernst.

“I thought, ‘Darn! I missed my chance,’” says Gonzalez.

But, despite the downbeat message of Spring Awakening, true love was determined to find a way.

Martin, who is directing the show, decided to do a second round of call-backs. Gonzales thought maybe he could try out for Hanschen, “even though Matt would be a better Hanschen than me. Or I could just be in the ensemble — I would do anything,” he says.

Tolbert and Gonzales auditioned together; Martin asked them to sing one of the show’s signature songs, “The Bitch of Living,” with each other. They did it once. Audition over.

It wasn’t until the next day they were both cast as they’d hoped: Tolbert as Hanschen, Gonzales as Ernst. It’s a dynamic that has been fed by their own relationship.

“It was a lot easier to do once we started rehearsals,” Tolbert says. “We didn’t need to choreograph the kiss. But we like [recreating] the awkwardness of the seduction — even though Hanschen is the seducer, it’s his first time, too.”

Still, art does not imitate life — at least not in this instance.

“Ernst is a little confused throughout most of the show, because he’s not exactly sure what he wants, but ultimately he just wants someone to be intimate with,” Gonzales says. “The tragedy is that Hanschen just wants someone to have fun with.”

In real life, the couple is truly committed. Gonzales is still in school in Waco, meaning he has to commute several times a week to attend rehearsals. When he’s able, he stays in town with Tolbert. Well, sort of — they both stay at Tolbert’s parents’ house, though in separate rooms.

“It’s interesting because our families don’t know we’re gay — we just came out to our close friends this summer,” Tolbert explains.

That’s likely to change soon. Especially after opening night.

“Obviously there’s a little chemistry — how could there not be?” Gonzales admits. Tolbert agrees the friends and family they are not out to yet will probably figure it out. But until they do, it’s enough to combine work and romance.

“It’s great we can share [the kiss]. I trust him completely… and I don’t want him to kiss another guy. Our goal is never to have our understudies go on,” Gonzales says.
Ah, young love… .

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

—  Kevin Thomas

FAMILY LIFE: Together. Apart.

ZAYN HAS TWO MOMMIES | Despite their divorce, Denise, left, Hope and Zayn remain a family. (Arnold Wayne Jones/ Dallas Voice)

How one couple turned the drama of divorce into a nurturing environment for their son

RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

After nine years together, Hope Rivera and Denise Jayroe came to a tough decision — a decision couples never want to be faced with. The two agreed not to be together anymore.

But this wasn’t just a separation. After getting officially married in Victoria, Canada six years into their relationship, this was a divorce. But they would say that this was not about them at all.

“There’s always drama and it wasn’t easy,” Jayroe said. “We could have stayed together and been unhappy or be split and be happy.”

“Once you get past the relationship ending, there’s a child there. That didn’t change when we separated,” Rivera added.

After Jayroe gave birth to Zayn almost five years ago, the couple planned for a second-parent adoption so Rivera could have legal parental responsibility. It may have bonded the relationship between the two women more solidly, but more importantly, it benefited their son.

The two strongly suggest this plan of action for same-sex couples having a child.

“That was the No. 1 thing I knew we needed to do and Hope wanted it, too,” Jayroe said. “It’s one of first things a gay couple should do. It helps protect relationships, but really, it protects Zayn. That adoption solidifies the responsibility, and so Hope is now also legally and financially responsible for him.”

Although things didn’t work out for the couple, they both are proud about how much they agree on almost everything — especially when it comes to Zayn. There are no snippy tales of what one does with him that annoys the other. In fact, the family is quite happy — just in a different fashion.

“We’ve split everything 50/50, but he knows that we are both his parents and that’s not going to change,” Rivera said. “Denise and I have a good sense of each other.

That made it easy to agree on how we were raising Zayn regarding his education, his sleep time, going to church, all that stuff.

“We may have different styles in parenting, but we’re consistent and he has a foundation to work from.”

They did have some help on the terms of their custody agreement from co-parenting counselor Carrie Beaird, president of Co-Parenting Solutions. Rivera and Jayroe credit her with stabilizing the plan they needed to raise Zayn as divorced parents.

“That helped us come to agreements on some things and it let us get anything and everything out in the open,” Rivera said.

What Rivera and Jayroe have done is changing the definition of family, as gay couples have been doing for a while. Instead of letting divorce rule as a detriment, they’ve created a successful, happy family — just in two different households.

“Being a child of divorce, I’m aware of how it affects a child,” Rivera said. “We didn’t plan to split up, obviously. But we did. It’s not that parents divorce, but how they handle it. He has two families now, and we do as much as we can to convey that sense of security.”

Even when there might be contentious issues between the two adults, they make a distinct effort to step back and refocus on Zayn. They never discuss the other parent in front of him or argue when he’s around. This is their reality.

“Hope is also the mother of my child and I’m careful in the communication I have with her and our relationship now,” Jayroe said. “The way I treat Hope and my life models to him that this is how you are a human being in this world.”

Knowing the situation could be far worse, Rivera and Jayroe have created and maintained a smooth and even happy system. Holidays and birthdays are split and vacations are still taken. They make it a point to live within five miles of each other just to be close, and both make all the functions they can at his Montessori school.

Their lives reflect something more than just making it work. Although redefining family, they both bring up what parenting means for same-sex couples and the rights that do and don’t come with that. Rivera and Jayroe have seemingly taken all the steps as lesbian parents to protect their child. They hope others do the same.

“I sit here and think we want equal rights, but some people don’t want to do this stuff for each other,” Rivera said. “It disturbs me when I hear how biological mothers can be with their children and use them as pawns. And I seem to see that happen more in our community. If we’re going to ask for equal rights, what are people doing to help or hinder that?”

Jayroe added, “Gay and lesbian couples are under a magnifying glass right now with the marriage issue on the forefront. My hope is that couples doing this and having to make this transition will focus on their children and strive to be a model family. Even in different houses.”

—  John Wright

Something WICKED this way comes

BiteMarks1rs
BLOOD-SUCKING HUNKS | It could be hard to run from these beefy vampires in ‘Bite Marks,’ a horror comedy starring Dallas native Benjamin Lutz.

Alt-gay gorefest Fears for Queers is back for seconds as vampire director Mark Bessenger presses the flesh

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Mark Bessenger may be the first person to coin the term “horror drag.” The film director, who comes to town Saturday for Dallas’ second annual Fears for Queers Film Festival, ponders over what queer audiences find in horror films. As he sees it, the gays love screams.

“Whether [it’s because] we identify with the monster as an outcast, or because people dress up in all that horror drag, I’m kinda surprised [LGBT-themed horror festivals] are not happening more often,” he says.

Bessenger’s first produced feature, Bite Marks, closes out the one-day fest, following a successful premiere at the San Francisco International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival last week. And even though Fears for Queers isn’t as big, Bessenger is glad organizers Shawn Ewert and Andrew Rose approached him for it.

“It’s like we were made for each other,” he says. “How often do you run into a gay film festival of horror movies? I can’t wait to see how Texans react. And to have it shown at the theater where Lee Harvey Oswald was apprehended?  That’s such a bonus.”

In Bite Marks, Brewster, a truck driver (played by Dallas native Benjamin Lutz), is dealing with his sexuality. While on the road, he picks up a hitchhiking gay couple working out some issues of their own. If you think the premise sounds suspiciously like the plot of a gay porn film, you are not alone.

“Even during casting, we were asked if this was a porno,” he laughs. “Without giving too much away, Brewster is hauling a shipment of coffins to a funeral home, but when the GPS misleads them, they find themselves in an abandoned junkyard — and the coffins may not be empty.”

Written to be dark and brutal, Bessenger made changes during talks with his executive producer. Initially, the hitchhikers were straight, but changed to same-sex to broaden the demographic. (How often has that decision been made?) He also changed the tone to more of a horror comedy.

The decisions have paid off. Bessenger’s reaction from the San Fran crowd was enthusiastic.

“The feedback I’ve gotten has mostly been about the comedy,” he says. “I think they responded because of its gay edge and snappy lines. One funny thing was the more conventional horror scares I use, the audience wasn’t familiar with.”

Bessenger was thrilled hearing gasps in the audience and seeing people jump in their seats. Although he says his next film will be straightforward horror, the gay element isn’t lost on him. His approach has been to create the film and then figure in an LGBT aspect. He has no problem being the “gay filmmaker,” as that sensibility will creep into his movies regardless.

“Of course it depends on who I’m making the movie for, but because I am gay, there will likely be that aesthetic,” Bessenger says. “If I had done Avatar or Super 8, there would be something gay in there. Artistically, something of yourself has to seep in even if it’s just a line of dialogue or a reference.”

But making Bite Marks so gay was easier because all the lead actors were out, including Lutz, an SMU grad making his feature film debut. Lutz performed in Dallas with the likes of Kitchen Dog Theater and the Dallas Theater Center, but left for L.A. six years ago. But he’s downplaying his homecoming.

“I am really excited to see it on my home turf,” he says. “I can’t be nervous about reactions. I’ve done my work, it’s up there and there’s nothing I can do.”

But he had some nerves going into the part. Unlike the blue-collar Midwesterner Brewster, Lutz is a Texas boy; he worried if that would hinder his performance.

“I’ve never driven a truck or done certain things Brewster has,“ he says. “I was nervous I wouldn’t have a believable accent, but everything really fell in place. I felt like I was in really good hands with Mark.”

Both Bessenger and Lutz are at work on their next films, and Bessenger for one is excited about the continued growth of LGBT voices in film into something broader. He just wants them to scream as well.

……………………………

Fears for Queers’ lineup

DOA Blood Bath Entertainment teamed with out filmmaker Shawn Ewert and his company Right Left Turn Productions to bring back the second annual Fears For Queers LGBT Film Festival, consisting of feature films and short scarefests — all by queer filmmakers. The films — which all screen Saturday at the Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff — run the gamut from camp to terrifying.

In J.T. Seaton’s feature George’s Intervention, friends of George meet to help him with his addiction to  eating people. Considering George is a zombie, they may have trouble sticking around through the night.

Ann-rose-hang-up-bras

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cupcake, above, is likely the first zombie lesbian musical. The short fits in a chorus line of zombies amid a love story in the suburbs. A lesbian couple moves into Hobart, but the crabby pair of old ladies next door aren’t having it, but beware of that pale-looking mailman.

The Finnish film Metsästysmaata, below, takes two strangers led by a mysterious girl into the deep woods where no one can hear them scream.

Metsa1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lola Rocknrolla is back with cinematic screwballery in the short, I Was a Tranny Werewolf.

Bite Marks, below, closes the fest along with a Q&A with director Mark Bessenger, actor Benjamin Lutz in attendance.

Bite-Marks-movie-[IMG_6063]

Proceeds from the festival benefit Youth First Texas.

Texas Theatre,
231 W. Jefferson Blvd. June 25, 2–7 p.m. $10. DOABloodbath.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 24, 2011.


—  Kevin Thomas

Weekly Best Bets

Friday 05.20

Just don’t poop on the runway
The Four Legged Fashion Collection returns where canines strut couture and then it’s auctioned off. These aren’t your PetSmart sweaters. Designers like Nicolas Villalba and Micheal Simon contributed to the 30-plus collection. Don’t need to dress the doggie? The auction block is filled with other items to bid on, all of which benefits animal rescue groups.

DEETS: Dallas Trade Mart, 2100 N. Stemmons Freeway. 6:30 p.m.
$75. FourLeggedFashion.org

 

Friday 05.20

Prick up your ears
The latest show at 1111 Studio Gallery gives face time to artist Eric Trich. He grabbed a lot of attention as one of the younger artists on the local scene. Seems like he’s come into his own with his new solo show Can You Hear Me Now? The show also features a performance by Sour Soul.

DEETS: 1111 Studio Gallery, 1111 Dragon St. 7 p.m.
$5. 1111StudioGallery.com.

 

Thursday 05.26

Closet cases
MBS Productions’ new comic farce Outrageous Sexy (nekkid) Romp turns the tables on being in the closet. When one half of a gay couple comes to the realization he may be straight, can his drag queen friend Lovely Uranus help him figure it all out? Or does he keep the peace in the closet?

DEETS: Stone Cottage Theater, 15650 Addison Road. 8 p.m.
$18–$22. MBSProductions.net

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 20, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Letting it REGISTER • Pride Weddings & Celebrations 2011

Gift registries can be intimidating. Dean Driver makes them easy

FASHION. PLATE. | Dean Driver knows how to make a tabletop pop — and how to make it easy on you to choose your gifts. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

BY RICH LOPEZ

Perhaps the one wedding tradition same-sex couples might waffle on is signing up for that beg-a-thon, the gift registry. Forget whether to do so (you should); the real question is, where can you find that particular china pattern you once saw in a magazine?

The answer to that question is probably Dean Driver. With his new company, Consilium Lifestyle Collections, Driver makes what could be a daunting (even intimidating) task for same-sex couples possibly the easiest  job out of all the wedding planning.

“I don’t know if the average gay couple feels comfortable going into stores,” Driver says. “They may, but many retailers just aren’t reaching out to gay couples.”

Teaming up with Consilium Creative Marketing, Driver created what may be the first by-appointment source of its kind in Dallas to provide a wedding gift registry for same-sex couples. While the services are for everyone, Driver believes that this personal touch can bring comfort to any gay newlyweds hesitant about how to sign up for gifts. It also gives them a home field advantage when looking for fine tabletop products and more.

“The way we do business is changing, and this has afforded me the ability to do in-home consultations and also wedding registries,” Driver says. “I come to the client with samples to get an idea of their lifestyle and suggest products and can see what will work with what’s already in the home.”

The affable Driver knows his stuff. After working with tabletop industries for years in large markets like New York, he has access to many luxury brands and even unique home products. The usual china and crystal items are no problem, but items like linens and household accessories are more easily available through him.

Driver’s first piece of advice on getting started with a registry: Don’t be intimidated.

“I demystify all that for you,” he says. “That’s what I’m here for. I’ll make it easier for you. And people shouldn’t think that everything offered in a registry costs so much. We do have some unique options that are moderately priced.”

Consilium has only been around for a few months, but it has burst out of the gate with a selection of up to 50 brands, some exclusive to them. And with Driver’s knowledge and background, he can pretty much get anybody anything they want.

“I’m a sort of an expert in tabletops, and I have my finger on the pulse of the industry,” he says. “I go to Paris, to Milan and see all the new patterns. And if you saw a plate in a magazine and brought it to me,  I could pinpoint what it is. When I say anything, I mean anything — and you may be only person in the country to have it.”

Something his company can guarantee is the death of that most dreaded wedding tradition: The return. Once items are selected for the registry, gift givers don’t have to worry about buying an item that’s already been purchased. Instead, the company does gift cards only, which are beautifully packaged for the giver to present.

“This prevents exchanges or duplicates,” he says. “Plus, clients may change their minds and gift cards give them an opportunity to get something else. And it’s a little more green without all that wrapping paper and shipping to worry about.”

Driver and company seems to have gotten rid of all the excuses couples can make to partake in registering for gifts. Being that a wedding is a life-changing event, Driver mostly wonders why not go all out?

“Couples shouldn’t shy away from getting nice things,” he says. “This is the one time to get the nice stuff, so why not? Anything you want, I can get.”

The only caveat — Driver encourages people to use the nice stuff everyday.

“Yeah, don’t pack it away in a cabinet like our parents did,” he says.

Of course, if there’s one thing gays know how to do it’s merchandise.

For more information, visit ConsiliumLifestyleCollections.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 6, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Dallas police say 2 men found dead in burned apartment were gay couple, likely were murdered

Two men found dead inside a burned Northeast Dallas apartment early this morning were a gay couple, Dallas police confirmed this afternoon.

The two victims, whose names are being withheld pending notification of their families, were found inside their first-floor unit at the Villa Joya Apartments, 11210 Woodmeadow Parkway, near Ferguson Road and LBJ Freeway.

After responding to a fire call at about 4:10 a.m., Dallas Fire-Rescue crews extinguished the flames before finding the victims — a 59-year-old black male and a 61-year-old white male — inside the apartment. Authorities say the men appeared to have died in a violent attack before the fire was set in an attempt to destroy evidence from the murders.

Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse, a spokesman for DPD, told Instant Tea that detectives have no reason to believe the murders were a hate crime, but he added that the motive is unknown.

“Yes, it does appear that they were in a relationship together, but that does not appear to have anything to do with this case,” Janse said. “It is not being investigated as a hate crime or anything like that.”

According to the Dallas Morning News, neighbors said the older victim was disabled and the other was his caretaker. Neighbors also told the DMN that the victims’ apartment had an alarm and surveillance system and that the younger man would never open the door for someone he didn’t know.

Other news reports also indicate that the suspects likely knew at least one of the victims. Authorities believe one of the victim’s vehicle is missing. Patrol officers are searching for it and hope to find the suspects in it.

Stay tuned to Instant Tea for updates. Below is a report from CBS 11.

—  John Wright

Dallas’ USA Film Festival announces schedule for 41st season (and we’ve got the gay in it)

Dallas’ USA Film Festival kicks off its 41st season with a tribute to bisexual actor Cary Grant and with several gay guests in attendance.

• The centerpiece of the festival is Remembering Cary Grant: An Evening with Jennifer Grant, the actor’s daughter with Dyan Cannon. Jennifer will sign her memoir about her father and host a 55th anniversary screening of To Catch a Thief. Cary, of course, was among the most suave of golden era leading men, but in addition to women has a long romance with cowboy actor Randolph Scott. (April 27)

The Perfect Host — Gay TV icon David Hyde Pierce (Niles from Frasier) will be in attendance for the screening of this psychological thriller, which stars the Tony and Emmy winning actor. (April 27)

Take Me Home — This comedy-drama features Victor Garber (Alias, Milk) who we hope will be among the cast members who may be in attendance. (April 28)

• The Green — A gay couple (Jason Butler Harner, Cheyenne Jackson) are challenged when one is accused of inappropriate behavior toward a student. The filmmakers will be in attendance. (Presented with the support of Equality Texas.) (April 30)

Warriors of the Discotheque — This documentary about the legendary Starck Club, which opened 27 years ago and was radical in its acceptance and tolerance of all lifestyles. (April 30)

 

 

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: Fox 4 on Dallas’ failure to enforce ordinance prohibiting anti-gay discrimination

 

I’m on vacation this week but I couldn’t resist putting this up. Before I left on Friday for an undisclosed location, I got a call from Peter Daut at Fox 4. He wanted me to put him in touch with Mark Reed-Walkup and Dante Walkup, the local gay couple that filed a discrimination complaint against The Dallas Morning News for refusing to publish their wedding announcement. Peter had seen our post on Friday saying that despite 53 complaints file in nine years, the city has never prosecuted a single case under its ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. So I connected Peter with Mark, and above is the result. It’s a good story that brings needed attention to the issue, but I should note that there is a fact error: The report says the case isn’t going anywhere because sexual orientation isn’t a protected class. Not true. Sexual orientation is a protected class in the city of Dallas, and that’s the whole point. There’s an ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, and people have been filing complaints under it, but the City Attorney’s Office isn’t doing anything with them. Peter is right when he says the complaint isn’t going anywhere. But he’s wrong about the reason why. Also, he should have given us credit.

—  John Wright

Gay couple complains about city’s handling of discrimination complaint against Morning News

Thomas-Mark-Reed-and-Dante-Karl-Walkup
Mark Reed-Walkup, left, and Dante Walkup

A few weeks ago we reported that two Dallas council members are reviewing the city’s handling of complaints filed under an ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

We’re still awaiting the results of that review, as well as the city’s response to an open records request filed by Dallas Voice for statistics related to complaints filed under the ordinance.

In the meantime, a gay couple who recently filed a complaint under the ordinance is complaining about the city’s handling of the matter. Mark Reed-Walkup and Dante Walkup filed a complaint against The Dallas Morning News, which refuses to publish same-sex marriage announcements in its Weddings section. The couple claims the DMN policy is a violation of the ordinance, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodations.

In a letter to Beverly Davis, director of the city’s Fair Housing Office, the Walkups said it’s been more than 60 days since they filed their complaint, and they haven’t heard anything from the city. The Fair Housing Office is charged with investigating complaints under the ordinance. Below is a copy of the couple’s e-mail, which they forwarded to Dallas Voice as well as City Councilwomen Angela Hunt and Pauline Medrano:

Hi Beverly,

It has been over 60 days since we formally filed a complaint against the DMN for discrimination based on our sexual orientation. As you recall, my husband and I had a legal wedding on 12/10/2010 and tried to submit our paid wedding announcement to the Dallas Morning News and we were denied equal access to this public accommodation. Our ad was refused and money refunded based on the Texas ban on SSM.

We reached out to you 30 days ago to seek a status on our case and you told us to “be patient” and we have been. After 60 days, we must say that the lack of any follow-up to our case has been an extreme disappointment. We are a customer of the City of Dallas and your department has not done anything to reach out to us to advise us of any updates about our case.

We expect better service from the people we pay to enforce our laws and there should be no excuse to the lack of follow-up on our discrimination complaint. Please advise when we can expect an update from your department.

Mark & Dante Walkup

—  John Wright