Teen gay dream

GLEEK HERO   |  In just four episodes, Criss has become a popular gay on ‘Glee.’ (Photo by Robert Hart)

Darren Criss, the breakout heartthrob from ‘Glee,’ isn’t gay or a teen, but welcomes more romance for Blaine

MARK LOWRY  |  Special Contributor
mark@theaterjones.com

Aside from the hot pink sunglasses, and the assistant who occasionally makes sure that his natural curls fall just so on his forehead, Darren Criss doesn’t come across as the young actor whose star is on a rocket’s upward path.

A new, popular actor on the hit Fox show Glee, Criss possesses an articulate intelligence and level-headedness that belies his age (he turns 24 in under a month). On the show, Criss plays Dalton Academy gay student Blaine, the teenage dream with the glassy brown eyes and plush eyebrows that make Kurt (Chris Colfer) — not to mention the rest of gay America — swoon.

Criss was in North Texas last weekend at the Fort Worth auditions for The Glee Project, a reality show that will debut on Oxygen in June where 12 contestants will vie for a role on Glee. The winner is guaranteed multiple episodes next season. Whether this new character (which hasn’t been written yet, so it’s open to gender and type) becomes a recurring character depends on his or her popularity with audiences.

The winner would be lucky to repeat the feat accomplished by Criss, who in a scant four episodes has already proven so popular that he’s been confirmed as a series regular for the rest of Seasons 2 and 3. The real question that the gay fans of the show — and we hear there are a few — are asking: Will the Kurt/Blaine friendship develop into something more?

“I’m just as curious as everybody else,” Criss says. “Obviously the potential is there. As much as all of us want to see that happen immediately, I think the most important thing to convey between the two of them is that of a support system. It’s really important to show young people especially that there’s a person to confide in, and that friendship is possible. If that does evolve into a romantic relationship, then awesome. But let’s hope that it’s warranted, and real. And there’s no greater way to portray a love story than to prolong it as long as possible.”

Criss knows a thing or two about fictional love stories. The San Francisco native has been doing theater for much of his short life. In high school and as a student at the University of Michigan, he appeared in musicals like the “lost Sondheim” show Do I Hear a Waltz and the Rodgers and Hart classic Babes in Arms.

“I’m a big Rodgers and Hart fan. For my audition for Blaine, I sang ‘Where or When’ [from Babes],” he says. “I was a big musical theater rat. I was just a fanboy who got lucky.”

During college, Criss became a member of the UM alumni theater company Team Starkid, playing Harry Potter in the spoof A Very Potter Musical and writing songs for the original musical Me and My Dick (the recording is available on iTunes). He also released a solo EP called Human, showing off his smooth tenor. (There’s a Facebook group called “I liked Darren Criss before he was on Glee.”)

He landed a few TV roles (Cold Case, the short-lived series Eastwick), but it was with Glee that he became an instant hit singing lead in an all-male a capella version of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream.” The opportunity is something that the actor, who is straight, doesn’t take lightly.

“It’s incredibly important to me,” he says. “As an actor, you’re always worried that you’re going to be stuck doing ancillary things, like the boyfriend or the cop or the football coach or something. You just hope for something that you feel has some kind of significance. This would be one of those things that has a great amount of value to me personally and, I think, to a greater community.”

As for his rising fame, he’s cautious to use the word “celebrity”(although the screaming fans in Fort Worth on Saturday would argue otherwise). But he’s preparing himself for it.

“Everybody wants to know who you are, which is a very unfair position to be in because all of us are trying to figure that out on a consistent basis,” he says. “So it really forces you to evaluate and analyze yourself. It’s really forced me into really trying to solidify myself because if people are paying attention, it’s important to step up to the plate and make sure that [I’m] representing something positive.”

Millions of Gleeks can’t be wrong.

New episodes of Glee resume with a special Super Bowl Sunday episode.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 14, 2011.

—  John Wright

Judy Tenuta called to fill us in on her newest Lady Gaga spoof video ‘Hot Bra Cones’

Comedian and “Love Goddess” Judy Tenuta was kind enough to give me a call to talk about her newest video. Well, that and her resolution for 2011 which you’ll see in this week’s issue. But her video is a whole different story.

Spoofing on Lady Gaga’s “Telephone,” she recently debuted “Hot Bra Cones.” With a low budget and six hours to make, Tenuta and gal pal Judy Brown (not to mention some fine ass backup dancers) punked on Hollywood starlets and having fun with Gaga and Madonna.

“I always wanted to do something about Lady Gaga. I just love her,” she said. “So I just reworked “Telephone”  and came up with the idea that if it wasn’t for Madonna there would be no Gaga.”

It’s kind of an “everything but the kitchen sink” video with satirical nods to Britney Spears, Kim Kardashian and even Sarah Palin. I think I kinda like her Lindsay Lohan the most.

“I have to rip on those young Hollywood brats who just snort their careers away. Britney started the craziness, but I just had to get at Lindsay and Paris and throw in a harpoon jab at Palin,” she said.

Mostly, Tenuta says she’s just excited about the video and wants to give a good laugh to her fans — especially her gay fans.

“This is just what I love to do. It was hard to get it all together and I was paying for everything, but when we finally did it, we thought it was great and well worth our time,” she said. “You know, it got 9,000 hits in a short time. It would be so cool if it went viral.”

Yeah, but what about the studly eye-candy?

“The gays will love them. How many six packs did you count?” she laughed. “But you know, it was truly a sacrifice to work with those men.”

Riiiight.

Video co-producer James Franklin also informed me that gay sites BigMuscle and its sister (um, brother?) site BigMuscleBears have picked it as its video of the week. Which took me FOREVER to find. Talk about a sacrifice going through those websites. But it appears the VOTW shows up on the bottom of a person’s profile page. Or maybe I should go back and look just to be sure.

—  Rich Lopez

LGBT group demands apology from FIFA

President of soccer’s governing body said gays attending World Cup in Qatar in 2022 should refrain from sex

STEVE DOUGLAS  |  AP Sports Writer

LONDON — A leading international gay rights group demanded an official apology from FIFA on Tuesday, Dec. 14 following Sepp Blatter’s comment about homosexual fans traveling to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup.

The president of the world soccer governing body said Monday that gay fans “should refrain from any sexual activities” during the World Cup in Qatar, where homosexual behavior is illegal.

Juris Lavrikovs, communications director for the European branch of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, said the comments were “very unfortunate and have left people deeply offended.”

“I think they should come out with a strong statement and not just wash it away,” Lavrikovs told The Associated Press. “We are talking about a very basic human right that is being violated.”

Blatter spoke in South Africa on Monday at the launch of a post-2010 World Cup legacy project. He was asked if he could foresee any cultural problems with the tournament being held in Qatar.

“I’d say they (gay fans) should refrain from any sexual activities,” he said, smiling.

“This is not a joke, this is a matter of life and death to people,” Lavrikovs said. “Qatar and more than 70 other countries in the world still criminalize individuals for homosexual relationships, and some countries even punish them by death sentence.

“It’s disappointing to see that an organization that is promoting the game, which in its statutes condemns discrimination of any kind, is coming out with comments like this.”

Qatar beat the United States, Australia, Japan and South Korea in the FIFA vote on Dec. 2 to host the 2022 World Cup.

Concerns have been raised that a country hosting a major tournament has stringent laws that are seen by many to violate basic human rights.

“Sepp Blatter jokes about the risk to gay visitors in 2022, but Qatar’s anti-gay policies are no laughing matter,” British human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said.

John Amaechi also condemned Blatter’s remarks. The former NBA player from Britain who revealed he was gay in 2007 said on his website that “FIFA has endorsed the marginalization of LGBT people around the world.”

Amaechi also demanded an apology from FIFA and urged other associations to distance themselves from Blatter’s comments.

“Anything less than a full reversal of his position is unacceptable,” he said.

Herman Ouseley, chairman of Kick It Out, a British campaign group for equality and inclusion in soccer, said he expected better from someone in Blatter’s position.

“It was all frivolity and laughter but it’s a serious business — people’s existence he has ridiculed,” Ouseley told the AP at the launch of his group’s annual review at the British Parliament.

“We can’t have that from the top of the world governing body — you’ve got to show leadership because you’ve got to influence the standards of behavior required and then you’ve got to enforce it when there’s a failure.”

—  John Wright

A note on gay Pride — in and out of the community

I had an annoying conversation this morning.

A publicist for a troupe we (let’s put it this way) “recently profiled” called to ask for a change online to the story: Seems like we referred in the headline to the person we interviewed as “gay.” She wanted it removed.

“I’m sorry — is that not true?” I asked.

“No, it’s true. He’s gay.  He would just prefer you not mention it.”

The conversation continued like this for a long time.

Now, I’m happy to correct errors, especially ones caused by us. But this person was pitched to me as the “gay head of this troupe,” and I assigned the story accordingly. If he had not been gay … well, let’s just say the troupe was not on my radar enough such that I would have been all that interested in the story without a hook, an angle. That was his.

Part of the mission of this newspaper is to draw our readers (many of whom are straight) to what’s going on in and by the gay community. Sometimes it’s homophobes attacking us and our rights. Sometimes it’s our allies who embrace us for who we are and treat up as equals. Sometimes it’s just celebrities who have an interesting perspective on their gay fans. Sometimes it’s openly gay people who are victimized by bigots, or leaders who step up to improve the lot of the community.

But a lot of the time, it’s just ordinary gay folks doing something out in the world we think people might want to know about. A trans woman who continues to be a personal trainer. A musician who wants to save the Great American Songbook. An auto mechanic who runs a garage and offers his gay clientele a friendly environment. An actor who steals the show in a national tour of a terrible musical. A museum curator who brings his unique perspective to a major art museum. Maybe being gay doesn’t directly affect what they do too much. But maybe it does. And it’s good to have a sense of pride knowing the vast landscape of opportunities out there — and that being openly gay, bi or trans is not a hindrance to success.

So when someone who is gay — and claims to be out — asks me to hide that fact … well, it angers me. You don’t need to do an interview with me. You don’t need to discuss your sexuality if you do agree to the interview. You don’t even need to be gay for me to write about you. But don’t come to me with the pitch that our readers might be interested in reading about you and then leap back in the closet. Because there are a lot of people out there proud to be called gay. I’m one of them.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

True blues

Cyndi Lauper still gives a damn about gays and the tint of her newest music venture

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer  lopez@dallasvoice.com

Cyndi Lauper
GOT RHYTHM | Lauper’s tour focuses on her new sound, yet she’ll still deliver her pop classics backed up by her blues band.

CYNDI LAUPER with David Rhodes.
House of Blues, 2200 N. Lamar St. Aug. 11 at 8 p.m.  $30–$55.
HouseOfBlues.com.

………………………………

Dallas’ summer music calendar has been hopping for LGBT audiences, from Lady Gaga and Melissa Etheridge to Adam Lambert on the horizon. Cyndi Lauper brings her tour here Wednesday. But while the others stick close to their musical genres, Lauper changes her game as often as her hair color. And this year, she’s got the blues.

Genre leaping can sometimes be the biggest misstep of a musician’s career (Garth was never the same after the Chris Gaines debacle), but Lauper has been doing it for years: Pop to dance to acoustic to standards, all without missing a beat. So she never considered her move into blues was a risk.

“I wanted to do Memphis Blues when I was still at Sony back in 2004,” she says. “As Muddy Waters quoted, ‘If blues gave birth to a child, that child would be rock and roll.’ The blues is the basis for all genres of popular music.”

Which is what Lauper’s back catalog consists of. This move shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Before her landmark debut album, she was working the scene with cover bands, doing a lot of Janis Joplin, Rolling Stones and Faces — bands heavily influenced by blues. With a little extracurricular research, Lauper discovered legends like Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Big Maybelle and Ma Rainey.

“I was hooked,” she says.

Now she’s come full circle working with noted musicians on Blues such as veteran giants B.B. King, Allen Toussaint and legend-in-the-making Jonny Lang. For Lauper, this is the album she’s always wanted to do. She’s even confident that her gay fans will follow along even though blues may not be the most popular for LGBT listeners.

“It was a dream to work with each of them; like my own blues museum in one studio,” she says. “My fans seem to love all kinds of music and at different times in my career I have wanted to record certain genres of music that have been meaningful to me, or helped shape me as an artist and they have always come along for the ride. For that, I am grateful.”

That isn’t hard to see. Lauper has been a staunch advocate for LGBT equality and visibility. Her True Colors Tour celebrated queer and queer-friendly music and her recently launched Give a Damn has rallied celebrity support by the likes of Wanda Sykes and Oscar-winner Anna Paquin, who used the campaign to come out as bisexual. She also teamed up with Gaga for a MAC Viva Glam campaign that takes on HIV/AIDS prevention awareness for women.

“I want to continue the work of the True Colors Fund and our Give A Damn campaign to get straight people to stand up for the gay community so that all of us have civil rights and America can be the country it’s supposed to be where we are all treated the same,” she says.

She even expects to bring back the True Colors Tour despite big-ticket festivals and tours not doing so well this summer. But first, she’s giving her own music career some attention.

“It’s about the blues baby! This year I wanted to focus on Memphis Blues and bring it on the road,” she says. “To me, it’s uplifting and music is supposed to heal. The BP oil disaster in the Gulf, wars in the Middle East, the rise of HIV infections in women, global warming — the list is endless, so yeah I’m blue. The great thing is that it still uplifts and no matter how blue you get, there is always hope around the corner.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 6, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Steve Holcomb is straight bear bait

A few months back Resource Center Dallas’ Rafael McDonnell penned a piece for our Viewpoints page about Steven “Holcy” Holcomb, the straight Olympic bobsled champion who refreshingly appreciates his many gay fans. At the time McDonnell noted that there’s even a Facebook fan page called, “Bears for Steve Holcomb,” which now has 1,870 members.

McDonnell reports that on Friday, he got a chance to meet Holcomb face to face. Holcomb was in Fort Worth at a national conference for Advocare, a nutrition and sports supplement company that also lists Cowboys tight end Jason Witten among its clients. Holcomb had invited all his Facebook friends to come to the event at the Fort Worth Convention Center. McDonnell, who sent along the above photo, said this of the encounter:

Jason [my roommate] and I both got pictures, and he told Holcomb that we were the two who were texting him while he competed in Canada. He not only remembered that, he also said that he suspected that the texter was a guy because we didn’t disclose a lot of personal information or offer up a picture. But, in his words, “That’s cool.” I told him about the column I wrote for the Voice and he got a big smile out of that.

As McDonnell noted in his original column, it’s sure nice to see a straight athlete who isn’t so homophobic that he squirms at the thought of having gay followers. But I’m also here to tell you that you don’t have to be a bear to want Holcomb to drive your sled. On the other hand, if you like bears or being chased by bears, you may want to pick up some Advocare.

—  John Wright

Miley writes for the gays

If I’m not shooing away a certain co-worker desperate for Miley Cyrus’ latest CD (hi Ramon!), then I find this piece on the teen queen. Her album hasn’t even been out a week and Cyrus bombardment has already ensued. Even as such, this piece of entertainment news was surprisingly impressive.

Miley had a very touching and open-minded moment Monday night that we should all recognize. At her performance at the House of Blues L.A., she performed a song off her new album titled, “My Heart Beats for Love.” “I wrote this for my gay fans,” Miley said. “Everyone has the right to love each other and no one should feel discriminated or judged for that.”

The best part of the piece is the question and poll posed to everyone. At the end of the article, we’re asked “Do you think Miley Cyrus should sing about gay relationships, or do you prefer she leave homosexual issues out of her music?” followed by a voting poll asking the same thing. The lone comment was in support of her taking on the issue, but really, it just feels like writer Liz Gellar wanted to egg on a heated debate. Or perhaps the people at Gather.com. By the looks of the votes though, it looks like most people are pretty cool with it.

— Rich Lopez

—  Dallasvoice