2011 Readers Voice Awards: Entertainment

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ULTIMATE DRAG DIVA
Jenna Skyy

Hosts monthly GayBingo event at
the Rose Room inside Station 4,
3911 Cedar Springs Road
214-526-7171
Caven.com

Since this was the Ultimate Diva! edition of the Readers Voice, it behooves us to explore that aspect of gay culture for whom divadom seems inherent: The drag queen (of the 10 finalists, in fact, eight were drag characters). A diva certainly has attitude — and smarts, and talent, and personality — all of which describes Jenna Skyy, who in a few short years has becomes an essential part of the Dallas scene. But Skyy (aka Joe Hoselton) has something more still: A philosophy. Drag feels almost like a political statement the way Hoselton does it, an act of defiance. An act of Pride. She represents something great about being gay and out and open, whether she’s powering down the runway like Jan Strimple or revealing a costume of Gagaesque flamboyance — or, for that matter, calling numbers at GayBingo, the monthly AIDS fundraiser she co-hosts in the Rose Room — Jenna Skyy makes us happy to be … well, just to be.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

 

BEST LOCAL ARTS ORGANIZATION
Fahari Arts Institute

214-521-3362
FahariArtsInstitute.com

 

BEST LOCAL SINGER
Anton Shaw

AntonShawMusic.com

 

BEST LOCAL BAND
Anton Shaw and the Reason

AntonShawMusic.com


HORSING AROUND | Uptown Players had a banner season according to Voice readers, having the favorite play, ‘Equus,’ above, and tying itself for best musical.

BEST LOCAL PRODUCTION (PLAY)
Equus (Uptown Players)

Performed Feb. 26–March 21 at the
Kalita Humphreys Theater
214-219-2718
UptownPlayers.org

 

BEST LOCAL PRODUCTION
(MUSICAL) • TIE
Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits (Uptown Players)

Performed Aug. 5–29 at the Kalita Humphreys Theater

Closer to Heaven (Uptown Players)

Performed Oct. 1–24 at the Kalita Humphreys Theater
214-219-2718
UptownPlayers.org

 

BEST LOCAL THEATER DIRECTOR
Harold Steward


BEST MAINSTREAM VENUE PRESENTING MUSIC FOR THE GAY MASSES
Gilley’s Music Complex: The Palladium, The Loft, South Side Music Hall, Jack Daniel’s Saloon

GilleysMusic.com

Thanks to the trio of Kris Youmans, Brad Ehney and Nate Binford, the venues of the Gilley’s Music Complex on the Cedars have been very welcoming to the gays. Once Ehney, who is gay, got on board after his stint at the Granada Theater (another queer-friendly venue), he was intent on bringing a contingent of acts geared toward attracting an LGBT audience. Binford and Yeomans, the straight guys, just wanted a full house. It’s worked out beautifully. Lesbian duo Tegan & Sara filled the huge-ass space of the Palladium Ballroom while Lady Gaga openers Semi Precious Weapons rocked the shit out of the smaller Loft. The gays then came out en masse for Robyn, packing the mid-sized South Side Music Hall. Upcoming acts of queer interest include MEN, Of Montreal and Vivian Girls. (Upcoming non-gay acts aren’t bad, either: The Avett Brothers, George Clinton and Coheed and Cambria.) These guys prove that gays do like their live music and will step out of the gayborhood to get it.

— Rich Lopez

 

OPEN  AIR | Groups like Middle Ground rock the night air at Jack’s Backyard in Oak Cliff, a favorite venue for enjoying live music. (Gregory Hayes/Dallas Voice)

BEST LIVE MUSIC VENUE • TIE

Jack’s Backyard

2303 Pittman St.
Open daily until 2 a.m.
214-741-3131
JacksBackyardDallas.com

Sue Ellen’s

3014 Throckmorton St.
Open daily 4 p.m–2 a.m.
with after-hours dancing
214-559-0707
Caven.com

It’s notable that these two venues would tie for readers’ favorites, because they represent polarities of live music locales. In one corner is Sue’s, the urban Cedar Springs club where the upstairs Vixin Lounge boasts a quality sound system and decent space for an indoor concert. Jack’s, by contrast, takes the music to the outdoors of Oak Cliff, making a nice nighttime event even better, especially in the warms of Texas spring, summer and autumn. Both venues often book gigs for local regulars like Ciao Bella and Anton Shaw, but each has also featured smaller touring artists like Anne McCue and Hunter Valentine.  If the boys want to get it on the live music game, they have lots of catching up to do. The mostly lady-based venues have a lock on bringing the live sounds to the gayborhoods.

— Rich Lopez

 

BEST SMARTPHONE DATING APP
Grindr

Yes, we named this category a “dating app.” Yes, we know for a lot — most? all? — guys who download it, Grindr is more about hookups than long-term relationships. But consider: At one time, admitting you met on Match.com was considered as cringe-worthy as saying you met at a bar while one of you was dancing naked on the pool table. (Oh, right, that’s more a straight-couple thing.) Maybe one day, app-love may become so common it loses any stigma. Anyway, how were we supposed to guess Grindr would win? And truth be told, some of us have found, if not true romance, at least an on-going love connection. And we enjoy chatting with other guys even if we don’t end up as a couple. That’s what dating is, right? Seeing what’s out there and deciding what you want from a partner? Grindr does that. And we’d all be a little lonelier without it.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

 

AIN’T NO BULL | Ragsdale’s standout performance in a one-woman show was enough to win her a lot of fans — enough to name her Dallas’ favorite local actress.

BEST LOCAL DRAMATIC ACTOR (FEMALE)
Q-Roc Ragsdale

Perhaps only Q-Roc Ragsdale could have pulled off her performance in The Bull-Jean Stories last year. Best theater director Harold Steward of Fahari Arts helmed this one-woman show, written by dramatist Sharon Bridgforth. The Bull-Jean Stories takes a look at the struggles of a fictional woman-loving character in the rural South of the 1920s, and her endurance during tough times. Like her character, Ragsdale is a powerful woman using her work as a film director, photographer and actor to stretch the artistic visions of both the black and same-gender-loving communities of Dallas as well as harkening to the strong will and spirit of black LGBTs who have come before her.

— Rich Lopez

BEST LOCAL DRAMATIC ACTOR
(MALE)
Rick Espaillat


BEST LOCAL MUSICAL ACTOR
(FEMALE)
Liz Mikel


BEST LOCAL MUSICAL ACTOR
(MALE)
Cedric Neal


BEST DVD RENTAL

TapeLenders

3926 Cedar Springs Road
214-528-6344
TapeLenders.com

 

BEST ADULT DVD RENTAL

TapeLenders

3926 Cedar Springs Road
214-528-6344
TapeLenders.com

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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

COVER STORY: Bear Hugs

 

Bear-Hugs-art
As The annual TBRU approaches, some locals talk about what it means to be a bear

ARNOLD WAYNE JONESLife+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

With the arrival of TBRU, we ask a fundamental question: What is it that makes a gay man a bear?

With the warming weather and approach of spring, bears across the continent are emerging from their winter hibernation and striking out to enjoy what life has to bring. And many of them will be headed toward North Texas.

Ahrens.John
PAPA BEAR | John Ahrens says bear culture is for gay men who don’t fit the buff, young mold.

Not, of course, the ursine variety: These bears shop in the big and tall department of the clothing store and have been known to pound back beer like men in the desert.
Texas Bear Round-Up XVI is almost here.

By the close of official pre-registration earlier this week, the annual fellowship of the hirsute gay male — which chose for its theme this time Bears of Justice: Heroes and Villains — had exceeded 1,100 confirmed attendees, and organizers say many walk-ups are expected throughout the weekend at various events. That makes it among the largest of gay-specific social events in Dallas.

But why do bears feel they need their own “runs” — the common name for the dozens of bear gatherings around the country?

“That’s a very interesting concept,” observes John Ahrens, when pressed to explain why bearevents have proliferated (See sidebar, Bear events and resources).

Ahrens has attended several TBRU events in the past and, at 6-feet, 2-inches and 270 pounds of furriness (everywhere but the top of his head, he notes), has long identified as a bear.

“Why do they have to have a bear round-up [and not a twink round-up]? I really don’t know. The whole concept of bears was originally that we never fit the cut, buff, skinny young look [that dominated gay culture]. This is a culture for the rest of us. It was to counteract the exclusivity of the rest of it — a place where big hairy guys could go to be themselves.”

The Bear Movement emerged from a reaction to a kind of cultural elitism within the gay community that tended to value youth, gym memberships and low-digit waistlines above all else. Bears dared to stake a claim on the alternative to the stand-and-model twink ideal  or the flamboyant drag queen that often defined gay culture, both in mainstream society and within the LGBT community itself.

Which raises a fundamental issue about bearhood: What, exactly, is a bear?

It’s a question that, when posed to self-identified bears, does not elicit quick or consistent responses. The term, by design or accident, has become a portmanteau word that tends to encompass all those gay men who like to identify as “other.”

But other than what is not wholly clear. (See sidebar, What is a bear?) For that matter, beardom is something that often must be embraced, almost like its own version of the coming out process: When does a bear admit he is one?

“I never thought you’d ask that,” says Rafael McDonnell, programs manager at Resource Center Dallas and a member since 2007 of the Dallas Bears, the organization which mounts TBRU.

Rafael_McDonnell
BEAR IN MIND | Dallas Bears member Rafael McDonnell says bearhood is an identity you have to claim.

“It’s a question of identity which, to a certain extent, is claimed by people. There are different parts to what our identity is; it’s where you end up fitting in the world as it is.”

“It’s very flexible and fluid and very personal,” says Ahrens. “I have a really close friend who never identified as bear for years, but there he is now, right on Bear411.com. The definition is so vague.

Generally, I want to say the bears tend to be older, but that’s not really true, either.”

Not at all. Carlos Deleon lives in Chicago and will be returning to TBRU for a fourth time later this month. And he just turned 30.

“It depends on where you come from. Some guys don’t look particularly bearish but identify deeply with it. Then there’s the big guy who goes to a bar and is told he’s a bear.

“For most of the guys around my age, it ends up being driven by an online thing: Looking at the various websites and finding one where you find guys who you think are attractive. You start dating those people. Then you spend more time in that part of the world,” Deleon says.

For a long time bears couldn’t go into regular gay bars and couldn’t find people to interact with, says Deleon, “so they kept finding safe spaces to congregate.”

That led to events such as TBRU.

But that was nearly 30 years ago, Deleon points out; “It’s a lot different than it was. Now it’s big business.”

And business sometimes leads more toward exploitation than inclusion.

“What finally put me off the whole [bear] thing is that it has become anything but inclusive — if you aren’t big or hairy, or are morbidly obese, you would be asked, ‘Why are you here?’” says Ahrens. “And that crap about bear codes? Oh, geez. The whole concept is trying to find an alternative community that accepts you. But [some in the bear community] have gone to the opposite extreme.”

Not everyone agrees with that assessment, although McDonnell says he has seen it.

“I think one reason TBRU has been successful is we are inclusive and organized,” he says. “I attended my first bear run outside of TBRU last fall in a city I won’t name. This event was disorganized and exclusive.”

Scott-Moore

LEATHER BEAR | Mr. TBRU 2007 Scott Moore says being a bear is something you grow into.

The myth of masculinity
Bear culture hasn’t always been its own beast, although the cliché has usually been that bears represent a less metrosexual, so-called “masculine” version of gay culture. (See sidebar, Celebearties.)
“Some gay men didn’t enjoy the prevailing ideas of looking and acting and being a certain way — that urban aesthete gay man,” says  Deleon. “They grew up being truck drivers and wanted to stay truck drivers even though they were gay.”

Initially many such men joined the leather community, but bears slowly carved their own, separate identity.

“There is the crossover with the leather stuff, too. There’s a basic assumption of masculinity in bear culture, which we both know is perfectly false. You can wear lots and lots of dead cow and be the nelliest person in the world,” says Ahrens.

“I think about guys who are rugby players but do leather, too — are they in both communities?” asks Deleon. “Bears were more a part of the leather community [once] and now are more separate from it. Younger guys who are attracted more to traditional daddy types may feel they are still separate communities.”
Scott Moore, who was Mr. TBRU 2007 and is the current Mr. Dallas Eagle (a leather title), is a prime example.

“I think the easy part for the crossover is that leather is a fetish, so it’s open to anyone of any type and background — it’s something you choose to be,” Moore says. “Being a bear, you grow into — it’s more of a character trait than a choice.”

“I think in my case it was both nature and choice,” says Ahrens. “I don’t like skinny hairless guys; I like big hairy guys and I am one. I just turned 60 and there’s this whole daddy thing that kind of goes along with it.”

“Here’s what I find interesting: Among the Dallas Bears, there is lots of cross-pollination with the court system, the Leather Knights, etc.,” says McDonnell. “I don’t know if that’s unique among bear clubs.”

One thing that newcomers often notice that is typical among bear clubs is that bears often engage in their own rituals and forms of, well, etiquette.

“If you can call it that at all,” laughs Ahrens. “Compare the balcony at JR.’s to the patio at the Hidden Door: There are fewer boundaries. That ultimately for me was kind of off-putting,” although he agrees it probably contributes to the conventional wisdom that bears are among the friendliest of gays.

“The boundary lines are somewhat different,” agrees McDonnell. “There’s much more of a tactile physicalness [to bear culture], but I’m not sure where it originated. The thing I have found is, it is an extraordinarily welcoming and affirming community, to borrow some religious language. You can go into a bear bar in Vancouver and receive the same level of acceptance as you would in Denver or Dallas.”

Whatever the definition, or the appeal of the culture, one thing is certain: Sometimes you can’t put your finger on something — you just have to know it when you experience it, and be open to its mystery.

“It’s pinning Jell-O to a wall. Some of it has to do with body size, but [being part of bear culture] is a combination not only of physical characteristics but that elusive thing that is chemistry,” says McDonnell. “Life isn’t the Sears catalogue.”

The Texas Bear Round-Up runs March 17–20 with events across the city. Visit TBRU.org for a complete schedule of events.

………………………………..

What is a bear?
The terminology associated with bear culture actually reaches deep into a variety of other animal identities: Bears “woof” at each other (a distinctly canine trait) and have subclassifications with the community that relate to other wild animals.
Although definitive descriptors are elusive and subject to change, here is a primer on some of the most common and the generally accepted definitions.
Bear — A member of the Bear Movement, usually identified as tallish, hairy (on the face and/or
body) and with a certain amount of meat on his bones. Can be anywhere from morbidly obese to a few extra pounds around the middle.
Musclebear — The same as a bear, but the meat is usually more muscle — often, though, while maintaining a stocky build. To be considered a musclebear, one normally has to have and keep a certain amount of body hair and not merely have a gym body.
Cub — A younger and/or smaller (McDonnell theorizes 5-feet-8 and under) bear; also, a bear who identifies more as a submissive in a sexual relationship.
Otter — A hairy guy who is usually thin; can be old or young, but often considered younger.
Grizzly — An older, heavy, often aggressive or dominant bear.
Polar bear — An older, often larger bear with white or grey hair.
Wolf — An older, sometimes thinner bear-identified male; also, one who tends to be aggressive.
Grey wolf — The same as a wolf, but with salt-and-pepper hair.
Daddy — Not strictly part of the bear culture, many bears are considered daddy-types, being older and somewhat nurturing of younger, more docile gay men.
Admirers/chasers — Gay men, usually younger, who do not personally exhibit the characteristics of a bear but are physically attracted to men of that type.
Cougay — A creation of my own, used to describe a gay man over 40 who is attracted to, or sought by, younger men, who can be bears or not. The cougay can, but does not need to be, a bear himself.
— A.W.J.

………………………………..

Celebearties
Here are some celebrities who, if they were gay, would probably qualify as bears:
Tom Colicchio, chef and TV personality on Top Chef.
Zach Galifianakis, comic and actor (The Hangover).
Steve Holcomb, Olympic bobsledder.
Jamie Hyneman, special effects whiz and host of Mythbusters.
Brian Urlacher, Chicago Bears linebacker.

………………………………..

Bear events and resources
In addition to the Texas Bear Round Up, well-known national bear events include Lazy Bear Weekend in Guerneville, Calif., International Bear Rendezvous in San Francisco, and Bear Pride in Chicago.

Several magazines and websites are devoted to bear culture, including Bear Magazine and A Bear’s Life.
Scruff is a smart phone application, similar to Grindr, dedicated to bearish guys. Bear411.com is a dating/sex website for bears.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 11, 2011.

 

 

—  Kevin Thomas

Exploring spirituality, in Radical Faerie style

Pan-pagan group started as a gay-men-only movement, but has grown more inclusive with time

M.M. Adjarian  |  Contributing Writer mmadjarian@gmail.com

Dallas area Radical Faeries
IN THEIR OSTARA BONNETS | Members of the Dallas area Radical Faeries get in on the Easter Bonnet Parade fun with their own version of festive headgear celebrating Ostara, or the vernal equinox. (Photo courtesy Radical Faeries).

“Mainstream gays have always regard[ed] the euphemism, ‘faerie’ [as stigmatic]” says Paul Singleton. “Many men find it countermand[s] their ideas of masculinity, which is far from actual reality.”

Singleton is a member of the Radical Faeries, an alternative gay men’s movement started in 1979 by pioneer gay activist Harry Hay and dedicated to the spiritual exploration of gay culture and identity. He is one of about 15 locally based faeries, a few of whom gather together every Saturday for “coffee, tea and communion.”

“We are the Nature People, the lavender tribe of the Rainbow Family, in harmony with the principles of peace, justice, freedom, sustainable culture and the sacredness of the Earth. We love ceremonies, focusing on group spirit, and oneness… And we like to be pretty!” says Steven Hanes, another member of the DFW Radical Faerie community.

Hay, who died in 2002, originally patterned the Radical Faeries after the women’s separatist groups of the 1970s and limited membership to men. But in more than 30 years of existence, the Radical Faeries have evolved — albeit gradually and with difficulty — towards embracing a more sexually diverse membership.

Some Radical Faerie groups accept people of all genders and orientations with the idea that anyone who identifies as a faerie is one. However, many older members still require gatherings to be male-only and the issue of inclusion continues to be controversial.

“As an oppressed people, gay men [have] had to overcome their own prejudices against women, bi, trans [and] intersex people,” notes Singleton, who at 28, is part of the younger generation of faeries.

The movement, which began in the U.S. but now has followers worldwide, has been described as pagan in spiritual orientation. While it does borrow elements of its basic philosophy from paganism, it also borrows from other faiths as well.

As such, it reflects the eclectic religious backgrounds of its members, who are anything from Catholic to Buddhist, agnostic to atheist.

Two other elements unify the Radical Faeries. One is that member relationships are based on the giving and receiving of mutual respect and empathy.

“We are on equal footing — there is no dominance of subject over object,” says Singleton.

This notion derives from Hay’s idea that homosexual relationships, unlike heterosexual ones, were based on longings for a companion that was identical — and therefore equal — to the self in all ways.

The second element is internal operation based on consensus rather than majority rule — a feature that Townley attributes to “Hay’s communistic roots.”

Dallas area Radical Faeries
FAERIE FASHION | Members of the Radical Faeries celebrate spring. (Photo courtesy Radical Faeries)

“[This] can present certain challenges in efficiency,” Townley admits. “If anyone chooses to block consensus, we will ‘talk the issue to death.’ … When we are through, there are fewer bad feelings — except perhaps exhaustion — but we all understand many differing points of view.”

The group’s emphasis on equality can also be seen in one practice — borrowed from Native American spiritual traditions — in which almost all faeries participate: the Heart Circle. As a ritual, the Heart Circle is an exercise in both speaking and listening, designed to foster greater emotional self-awareness and interpersonal empathy.

“We form a circle, pass a token/speaking stick/talisman and only the person holding the token may speak,” Townley explains. “We agree as a group that we will speak from the heart when holding the talisman and the rest of the circle will speak from the heart. … The token goes around until all have had their say.”

While not the most visible of groups in the Dallas spiritual landscape, the highly individualistic Radical Faeries do participate in festivals and celebrations — such as Witch’s Night Out and Winter SolstiCelebraton — sponsored by pan-pagan organizations.

And though not a service organization, the DFW Radical Faeries does have membership ties to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a group dedicated to AIDS education and activism.

As a movement, the Radical Faeries exist to raise consciousness, especially — but not exclusively — within the LGBT community. By identifying themselves as “faeries,” members reclaim a word that has been used pejoratively against gays. And while not radicals in the sense of being extremists, they get the root of things, in this case, who they are as gay people.

“Spirituality is having a renaissance,” Singleton observes.  “People are sick of ‘fanclubs’ and are looking within to find themselves.”

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

—  Michael Stephens

Denim ’n drag

How do the hyper-masculine world of leather and the camp of female impersonation find common ground at the rodeo? With surprising ease

Robert Cantrell, co-founder of the leather group Firedancers, and Don Jenkins
NOT THEIR FIRST TIME AT THE RODEO | Robert Cantrell, co-founder of the leather group Firedancers, and Don Jenkins, better known as drag maven Donna Dumae, are the seemingly unlikely grand marshals at the TGRA’s Big D Rodeo this weekend. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

In Texas, cowboys are known for their 10-gallon hats. And drag queens are known for the  10-gallon wigs.

The Texas Gay Rodeo Association’s (TGRA) Big D Rodeo 2010 kicks off this weekend in Alvarado, Texas (midway between Midlothian and Cleburne along Highway 67), and as always, there’s a fun mix of boot-stompin’, calf-ropin’ and dress-wearin’ — all in the name of charity.

But the event also highlights a unique confluence of gay culture. This year, the two grand marshals are Don Jenkins (aka drag diva Donna Dumae from the United Court of the Lone Star Empire) and Robert Cantrell (aka Cleo), one of the founders of the Firedancers.
For anyone unfamiliar with the gay rodeo, the mix of drag and cowboys may seem a little counterintuitive, but to co-director Dan Nagel, the Big D Rodeo is the perfect marriage of camp and cattle needed to raise money for local organizations.

“Drag is a huge part of making those charity dollars,” he says. “TGRA is honored to have the support of so many of the other organizations and clubs in Texas, such as the UCLSE. We could not do all the good that we do with the support from our brothers and sisters throughout our communities working together as a team for a common goal: Charity.”

According to Nagel, some of the biggest crowd pleasers at gay rodeo are the “camp events,” which include competition in goat dressing, steer decorating and the ever-popular wild drag race (one rope, one steer and a man in drag — what could possibly go wrong?).

But the Big D Rodeo also features plenty of serious competitive sports you’d find at many traditional rodeos, including bull and steer riding, team roping, barrel racing and calf-roping on foot. And the skills it takes to succeed don’t depend on sexual orientation or dexterity with a curling iron.

In his 13 years with the International Gay Rodeo Association, six of which he’s worked with TGRA as well, Nagel has participated in six to eight gay rodeos per year on both sides of the proverbial fence, with a hand in everything from rough stock and speed events … and his share of camp demos, just for good measure.

“The rush you get is incredible,” he says. “Like any sport, the thrill is to compete and compete well.”

“We have a great lineup of live music, from Nashville and Texas both, a vendor market, great food, beer, and cocktails,” Nagel continues, “and cowboys and cowgirls from all over the country.”

So pretty much, something for everyone.

“It’s a party-like atmosphere with western lifestyle and heritage that come with all the rodeo hype,” he says.
And the fact the leather and drag communities come out for it proves that the stereotype of the dour, hetero Texas cowboy is just that.

Yup.

— Steven Lindsey

……………………………………….

Big D Rodeo calendar of events

Friday
9 a.m, — Horse stall check-in begins
Noon–3 p.m. — Barrel exhibition runs
6–9 p.m. —Registration
6–10 p.m.: Diamond Dash Jackpot Barrel Race
8–11 p.m.: Diamond W Expo; Homo rodeo.com meet and greet; live music and entertainment.

Saturday
9 a.m. — New contestant registration
10 a.m. — Rodeo performance
1 p.m. (approximately) — Grand Entry
Afternoon — Rodeo performances
2–4 p.m. — Expo; entertainment
7 p.m.–? — Expo, with live music by Weldon Henson and James Allen Clark

Sunday
10 a.m. — Rodeo performances
1 p.m. (approximately) — Grand Entry
Afternoon: Rodeo performances
2–4 p.m. — Expo; entertainment
8 p.m. — Expo; dinner and awards.
Diamond W Arena, 8901 E Highway 67, Alvarado. 214-346-2107. TGRA.org

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 10, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas