Cut to the Chase

ON AIR  |  Chase Brooks’ ‘Reckless After Dark’ is the only show on Fish Bowl Network that brings a gay voice to the Internet air waves.

Local 19-year-old radio jock Chase Brooks is making his play to become the gay Howard Stern

RICH LOPEZ  |  Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Never underestimate the power of youth — especially when backed by a microphone.

Chase Brooks proves that in spades. At 19, the Weatherford native is already a published author … and that’s not even his primary interest. Brooks isn’t going to wait for his moment to come, he’s creating it with his second (yes, second) radio talk show, Reckless After Dark.

“I’m the type of personality that likes controversy. I’ll play with the line but, you know, I may not cross it,” he says.

Brooks mixes the charm of youth with eagerness and expectation in his voice, but he also has an unexpected savvy. He knows the right answers to give without sounding fake, but his wide-eyed outlook quickly reminds listeners that he’s no veteran with pre-packaged ideas and sound bites. Radio has become Brooks’ passion, born out of a sort of happy accident.

“This just kinda fell into my lap,” he says. “After my last book came out, I was interviewed on the radio and I fell in love with the surroundings. That was on QNation, this all-gay online radio network and then I heard they were looking for new shows.”

Let’s back up a second.

Brooks self-published his first novel, Hello, My Love, while still a senior at Weatherford High School. Soon after his final semester, he published the sequel, Hello, My Love 2: First Love Deserves a Second Chance — that hit the streets the day of his graduation ceremony. He calls the two books “young adult romantic comedies geared toward straight readers,” but his third book, the nonfiction compendium Reckless, takes on a darker tone dealing with gay issues.

“The book is compilation of essays,” he says. “I came through a lot of drama with relationships and family and what I learned from each one. I think the book really says ‘It does get better.’”

He debuted Reckless After Dark on QNation, but last January, he jumped his show over to the Fish Bowl Network, started by local radio veteran Sammi G. There, Brooks could take advantage of the learning process because the network operated more as a radio station. Before long, he was doing it all out of his laptop and prerecording shows.

The diversity of the lineup is also intriguing. According to its web site, the network airs 67 shows; of those, Reckless is its only LGBT program.

“We say the show is straight-friendly but gay-friendlier,” Brooks laughs. “We are the wackiest show out there on the network and we’ll talk about anything from sex to stuff going on in community and we get a lot of great guests. A lot of people seem to enjoy listening to us.”

For radio shows, you almost expect to hear the term “wacky” bandied about endlessly, and Reckless After Dark is no exception. Brooks proudly recounts tales of radio bits involving monster dildos, phone sex and guys calling in only to get punk’d on the air — college humor-type stuff. But where Brooks shines the most is his ability to snag high-profile guests. For an online gay radio show hosted by a teenager, Brooks’ guests have included the likes of A List-er Reichen Lehmkuhl, Tupperware drag queen Dixie Longate, activist icon Judy Shepard and queermedian fave Margaret Cho — not too shabby for a team of youngsters who include publicist Malcolm Lewis and co-hosts Auntie J and Cat Michaels.

Brooks attributes the appeal of his show to such guests to his basic professionalism and transparency — guests know full on what they are getting into.

“I think a lot of them say yes because I give them rundown of what the show is and they love that,” he says. “They seem to like the ‘out there’ shows because in online radio you can do a lot more than on regular AM-FM stations. That’s liberating for them and me. Plus, I think it benefits their careers.”

Where Reckless is inherently silly with fun, gay banter frequent with the guests, Brooks is serious about what he’s created and has the wherewithal to envision a bigger picture — hence his move to Fish Bowl.

“Moving there was going to be a greater opportunity for the show because the network isn’t all gay,” he says. “In that environment, you don’t stand out. Fish Bowl has all types of shows but we’re the only gay one. I think that’s an honor and challenge to draw people in. They may not all agree with the lifestyle, but maybe I can educate or warm them up to the idea of being an ally.”

For Sammi G., Brooks brought the perfect opportunity to expand Fish Bowl’s already diverse roster. “He brings gay issues to the forefront here,” she says, “and he’s got all the characteristics to be great. Age wasn’t an issue, because I was 17 when I started in radio 30 years ago.”

Brooks’ dream is to rise to the Kidd Kraddick/Howard Stern level of influence, but specifically for the gay community. There isn’t that one predominantly gay radio variety show with that gay host with that major presence, especially in FM or AM (although, gays may not really listen to AM for anything). Whether that eventually happens, he’s intent on making his impression — whether to his usual local 20something gay audience or to fans across the sea.

“The listeners definitely motivate me and knowing that I made a difference or even laugh is a good feeling,” he says. “If opportunities came up in regular radio, I’d consider it, but I love how anyone from anywhere can listen to me now. I’ve heard from fans in Canada and Greece. This isn’t my job, this is my lifestyle, my passion. I would do this for free if I had to.”

Reckless After Dark streams Thursdays, 5–7 p.m. on FishBowlRadioNetwork.com.

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

—  John Wright

HRC accused of ‘spitting in face’ of Milk’s memory

Cleve Jones, others criticize organization’s plans for ‘Action Center’ at site of slain gay rights leader’s Castro Street store

Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — On the surface, the new tenant at the storefront where Harvey Milk waged his historic political campaign would seem like the last organization to anger people in the gay community.

The Human Rights Campaign, the United States’ largest gay rights lobbying group, wants to open up an information center and a gift shop in the building that would pay tribute to the slain gay rights leader.

But Milk’s friends and admirers are so incensed at the group taking over the slain San Francisco supervisor’s stomping grounds that they would rather see a Starbucks there, underscoring the tensions that exist within the various factions of the gay rights movement.

The organization is a frequent target of criticism from gay rights activists who consider its mainstream, “inside the Beltway” style ineffective. They believe the organization’s philosophy of incremental progress in the gay rights movement runs completely counter to the uncompromising message of gay pride championed by Milk.

“It’s spitting in the face of Harvey’s memory,” said AIDS Memorial Quilt founder Cleve Jones, who received his political education at Milk’s side in the 1970s.

“What’s next? Removing the Mona Lisa’s face and replacing it with the Wal-Mart smiley face?” asked Bil Browning, the founder of a popular gay issues blog.

The Washington-based nonprofit organization announced last week that it was moving its San Francisco “Action Center” and gift store into the site of Milk’s old Castro Camera.

It’s a historic site in the gay rights community. A sidewalk plaque outside that marks the spot’s historical significance and encases some of Milk’s ashes is a popular stop for visitors making pilgrimages to San Francisco gay landmarks.

In the 32 years since Milk was assassinated at City Hall along with Mayor George Moscone, the building has housed a clothing store, a beauty supply shop, and most recently, a housewares emporium.

HRC President Joe Solmonese said the new location will stock items bearing Milk’s words and image, with a portion of the proceeds going to a local elementary school named in Milk’s honor and the GLBT Historical Society. The organization also plans to preserve a Milk mural the previous tenants installed, Solmonese said.

“People are rightly protective of the legacy of Harvey Milk, and we intend to do our part to honor that legacy,” Human Rights Campaign spokesman Michael Cole-Schwartz said. “Bringing an LGBT civil rights presence to the space that has previously been several for-profit retail outlets is a worthwhile goal.”

Not according to activists like Jones and Dustin Lance Black, the screenwriter who won an Oscar for Milk — the 2008 Sean Penn movie about the first openly gay man elected to a major elected office in the U.S.

During his life, Milk railed against well-heeled gay leaders he regarded as assimilationists and elitists — Black devoted two scenes in Milk to the subject. Some of the leading activists he crossed swords with went on to launch the Human Rights Campaign, which sometimes is criticized for focusing on lavish fundraisers and political access at the expense of results, Jones said.

“He was not an ‘A-Gay’ and had no desire to be an A-Gay. He despised those people and they despised him,” he said. “That, to me, is the crowd HRC represents. Don’t try to wrap yourself up in Harvey Milk’s mantle and pretend you are one of us.”

The Human Rights Campaign has been struggling to regain its credibility with gay activists who favor a more grassroots approach since at least early 2008, when the group agreed to endorse a federal bill that included job protections for gays and lesbians, but not transgender people.

The disillusionment grew later that year with the passage of a same-sex marriage ban in California. Although HRC donated $3.4 million to fight Proposition 8, the devastating loss provoked young gay activists to take to the streets and to question the organizing and messaging abilities of established gay rights groups.

Since then, HRC has been accused of taking too soft an approach with President Barack Obama and the Congress that until last month’s election was controlled by Democrats. To some, the group’s failings were epitomized by the U.S. Senate failure last week, for the second time this year, to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the U.S. military.

Black said HRC’s failure to talk to anyone close to Milk before it leased the Castro Street storefront demonstrates that it is out of touch. He and Jones think the space would be put to better use as a drop-in center for gay and lesbian youth, or if HRC partnered with another local nonprofit to ensure its sales benefit San Francisco.

“If any LGBTQ political organization is to move into Harvey’s old shop, there is a higher standard to be met, because such a move begs comparisons,” Black said. “Because it has become a tourist destination, whoever moves in that’s a political organization is in some way adopting Harvey as their own.”

HRC creative director Don Kiser understands the concerns and says he is open to suggestions, but thinks the criticism is overstated. The group obtains about one-third of the new names on its mailing lists from visitors to its retail stores in San Francisco, Provincetown, Massachusetts, and Washington. Each tourist who goes in to buy a Harvey Milk T-shirt or an HRC tote bag is a potential activist, Kiser says.

“They live in small towns in Texas and flyover states. Those are the people we need to help find the spirit that Harvey Milk had,” he said. “If they can go back and take a little of the spirit the Castro has, we will see sea changes.”

—  John Wright

Dear Gaby

Local Telemundo host Gabriela Natale opens eyes by shining a spotlight to the gay Latino community

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer  lopez@dallasvoice.com

Gabriela Natale
MADE FOR TV | Natale sees the Latino community in a state of transformation, opening up to LGBT issues. She hopes ‘SuperLatina’ is contributing to that change.

Gabriela Natale (Gaby for short) has a voice beyond her 32 years. She talks spiritedly and quickly with youthful enthusiasm, but there’s wisdom in her tone. Natale talks like she knows something others don’t.

“I hope to create understanding bridges because we as human beings have so much more in common with each other,” she says.

Natale hosts SuperLatina, a Spanish-language talk show on Telemundo that airs Wednesday mornings. SuperLatina heralds a new type of voice in the Latino community; Natale cites Ellen as an influence, but Tyra Banks has been a specific inspiration for her.

“I’m inspired by Oprah and Ellen but I love how Tyra will touch on delicate topics in African-American culture that aren’t talked about out loud,” she says.” “We have those same problems in the Hispanic community.”

With her show, Natale has also burst open the door of LGBT topics within the Latino community — a decision that has led to discomfort among some. With a culture mostly steeped in Catholic tradition, Latinos can be uneasy talking about gay issues, and Natale says Spanish language television reflects that —there is relatively little coverage of LGBT topics. But when SuperLatina had a show on Latino gay youth, Natale met with a surprising response.

“When I heard about the suicide rate for gay teens, I wanted to talk about how they felt,” she says. “It’s hard to be a minority within a minority. I got messages on Facebook, people had seen the show on YouTube and I got so many thank yous. The audience was very positive about it. This was probably some people’s first exposure to the LGBT community.”

Natale doesn’t approach such topics with ulterior motives. SuperLatina isn’t about controversy — she’s committed to making the show a positive tool. Every episode, however, doesn’t have a heavy inspirational message: Some are heartwarming stories of giving youth an educational scholarship or granting someone’s wish to meet a star … and of course, what would a talk show be without makeovers?

But she does put in the effort to make her LGBT-related episodes mean something to both the audience and the community.

“I don’t want circus topics,” she says. “When I reached out to people for my same-sex parents episode, I took more time on that and wanted to establish trust with them. I don’t want anyone to be on my show in fear or as if they are in the hot seat. I don’t want them to be awkward.”

In that episode, she discussed parenting with both male and female couples as well as a specialist on how to approach the subject with children. She says that these families were happy to share this episode with their families, but she also knows that the mindset in the Latino community will be accepted slowly. However, she’s found that Latino families are more accepting than most might think.

“It comes from the heart but I think that people choose to know reality,” she says.

Originally from Argentina, where she graduated with a degree in journalism, Natale moved to Washington, D.C., in 2003 after working for free at a political marketing conference. Following a stint as a news anchor at Univision, she moved on to Telemundo to develop SuperLatina.
But North Texans audiences didn’t get to know Natale until last August, when production on her show moved to the Fort Worth office and it began to air locally.

The Emmy nominee didn’t have a particular go-to person for her interest in the gay community — no gay friend who suffered discrimination that sparked her activism. Instead, she felt obliged to reach out after seeing how Latinos are demographically classified.

“I think it’s a contradiction as a minority to turn your back on another minority,” she says. ”I consider myself a voice for my community and I want to be a stronger voice for positive change.”

Natale sees the shift of thinking in the new generations of Latinos — especially when it comes to the gay community. She references two events over the last year that were crucial to opening minds and embracing the community and both involved music superstars.

“First, there was Ricky Martin coming out, “ she says. “Then there was the Mexican singer Paquita la del Barrio statement in March “that she would prefer a child die on the streets rather than be adopted by a gay couple. “

GLAAD immediately called for an apology and la del Barrio has worked to repair her image by giving a concert at a gay club outside Mexico City. (Interestingly, she recanted not just because of GLAAD’s demand but because of outrage in the Mexican community at large.) Add to it Martin’s eloquent coming out letter on his website and the Latino community could be growing into a more accepting culture respecting gay issues.

“I think there is this shift of shame in the culture,” she says. “People are more proud to speak Spanish and embrace their heritage. But also, I humbly feel part of the transformation in the community is awareness, participation and even education. Right now is a special moment.”

SuperLatina airs on Telemundo on Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m.

TelemundoDallas.com/SuperLatina.

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

—  Michael Stephens

Sly Foxy

From famous bedmates as a ’70s icon to her gay awakening on ‘The L Word,’ Pam Grier is still one foxy mama

MARK LOWRY  | Special Contributor marklowry@theaterjones.com

Pam Grier
STRAIGHT NOT NARROW It took ‘The L Word’ to open Pam Grier’s eyes to gay issues — now she’s a tireless advocate for LGBT rights.

Leaders for Literary Luncheon
at Fort Worth Events Center
2100 Evans Ave., Fort Worth. July 30, Noon.

The Dock Bookstop
6637 Meadowbrook Drive,
Fort Worth. July 30, 7–9 p.m.

South Dallas Cultural Center
3400 Fitzhugh Ave.
July 31, Noon–2 p.m.

She might have kicked some drug-dealer booty as the title character in each of three iconic blaxploitation films of the 1970s — Coffy, Foxy Brown and Sheba, Baby — but Pam Grier wonders what might have happened had she picked a different career path.

“If I hadn’t done some nude scenes, I’d be running for president,” she said in a phone interview from her Colorado home. “And my black ass would win.”

She’s not kidding. Well, not that much. By the end of our hour-long conversation, which of course covered the films that made her a ‘70s icon, and her experience with the Showtime series The L Word, Grier is talking about sustainable farming, Wall Street corruption, Nietzsche, political analyst Fareed Zakaria, recently ousted Agriculture Department staffer Shirley Sherrod and her love of Thomas L. Friedman’s Hot, Flat and Crowded.

In talking about America’s political climate, her passion is evident. “People ask me, ‘How do you know this stuff?’“ she says. “Because I read. I want to improve myself so I can vote better.”

She’s also hoping that in encouraging others to read, that their material includes her new memoir, Foxy: My Life in Three Acts. She’ll make three appearances in North Texas this weekend to sign and read excerpts from it, beginning with a speech at the Leaders for Literacy Luncheon in Fort Worth.

Grier has also become a fierce advocate for LGBT equality, thanks to her full run in the six seasons of The L Word, which she considers one of two major life-changing events in her life; the other was surviving cervical cancer.

“I loved doing that show,” she says. “It could have gone another two years, because we were just getting into the juicy meat of humanity.”

In her memoir, the chapter on The L Word discusses how the drama opened her eyes and heart to a community that she never knew much about, mainly because she didn’t have any gay people in her circle of friends or family. Although she, like Kit, her character on the show, is straight (she talks about her relationships with men, famous and not, in the book), she now sees the world through rainbow-colored glasses.

“I don’t gamble but I bet you the gay population in this world is one-third. OK? And in America, if there’s 300 million people, then it’s at least 100 million,” she says, no waver in her voice. “I’m not kidding. They might be in the closet or people who are out. When you see gay Pride week in San Francisco, and half a million people show up, that’s incredible.”

That she was never exposed to the gay community in this way is a bit of a surprise, considering that Foxy Brown is, by now, a gay heroine. In that role, as well as Coffy and Sheba, she karate-kicked her high-heeled gams through clusters of bad guys — and to a memorable backdrop of funk and soul music. She was, indeed, “a chick with drive who don’t take no jive!”

She also performed all of her own stunts (“I have the wounds and broken bones to prove it”), having always been a thrill-seeker. “They were surprised I could handle a gun. All the women in my family can shoot and bring home supper. We’re from Wyoming and Colorado — we have to. And you have to be able to change tires and get the tractor going, or you die.”

Grier is now acutely aware and appreciative of her gay following, who love her for that sexy, black and powerful vibe she sends out to the universe. “I love the emergence of the wonderful drag queens who look better than I did, who come to my book signings. When I see them I’m always like, ‘Wow, who does your hair, who does your makeup?’ It’s fabulous.”

But her book isn’t all about her time as a seminal ‘70s film star or her “comeback” as the title character in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown (although she never stopped acting, in film and TV). In the memoir, she’s confessional, revisiting secrets in her life that took her years to face.

When she was 6, Grier was gang-raped by a cousin and his friends, and was rescued by a telephone repairman who just happened to show up at the right time. It caused her to be a shy kid with a stutter. She didn’t talk about that incident until the memoir.

“It took to me four years to come to the determination to write about it,” she says, “but I knew it would be very healing for my family and friends to know that there were certain things about me that weren’t just a phase. I see people passing on their abuse and dysfunction in their families from generation to generation, when it can be addressed. Now, because I talk about it around the country, men and women come forth and talk about their encounters and issues. They don’t feel alone, when there’s this strong, vibrant icon before them who’s not swimming so deeply in despair.”

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the book is that in the ‘70s and ‘80s, as she had this bitchin’ Hollywood career and dated men with drug habits, including Richard Pryor, she never became involved in all those things that drag so many celebrities down.

“I was a good girl because I couldn’t afford to be a bad girl,” she says, laughing. “It costs to be a bad girl, to have expensive cars and wreck them, to go to jail. I had family to support, my mom was ill, I had relatives who needed water heaters and tires. I worked.”

Indeed, Pam Grier knows how to work and work it. If she ever appears on a political ballot, she has our vote.

………………………………………………

The Tell-All Word

Foxy: My Life in Three Acts, by Pam Grier with Andrea Cagan (Springboard Press, 2010), $24.99

Pam Grier’s memoir is a breezy read, unfolding in short chapters that follow the chronology of Grier’s amazing career, beginning with surviving a car crash when she was only three weeks old. She doesn’t remember that, naturally, but considers it the reason she was able to do her own stunts.

Grier also discusses her romances with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (his conversion to Islam, with its treatment of women, was the reason that ended) and comic greats Freddy Prinze Sr. and Richard Pryor, and to a few not-famous men whom she wishes she could have held on to. The book is a fascinating look at black Hollywood in the ’70s and the blaxploitation movement, but more importantly, her search for love and her journey of self-discovery as a strong, black, woman.

Mark Lowry

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 30, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

New gay Dallas artifacts: A letter from Log Cabin to Karl Rove, QL’s kissing booth and these pics

Resource Center’s Rafael McDonnell informs us that RCD has made some notable acquisitions of late for its Phil Johnson Historic Archives and Library. For example, McDonnell said activists Blake Wilkinson and Rick Vanderslice recently dropped off some Queer LiberAction memorabilia, including a megaphone and the group’s patented kissing booth. Also, some recovering ex-Log Cabin Republicans provided a copy of a letter they wrote in the 1990s to Karl Rove, then an advisor to Gov. George W. Bush (we’re dying to read this). And finally, McDonnell sent over the below photos he took of photos that came in from William Waybourn, a pioneering Dallas gay-rights activist who now lives outside of Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, many of these items will have to be placed in storage for the time being due to space concerns. But McDonnell says Waybourn’s pics are slated for display at the Center. After the jump, we’ve posted a few a more of them along with Waybourn’s descriptions.

This is a photograph I took of John Thomas in the mid-1990s. He loved it, saying it captured the essence of who he was. Later, when AIDS began to take its toll on him, John wanted it used as his “official” photo because he was concerned that people wouldn’t remember how he looked before AIDS, and not as someone ravaged by the disease. On a side note, I asked John, Bill Nelson, Mike Richards or others appearing in the media on behalf of lesbian and gay issues to look presentable, e.g. wear coats and ties, etc. John and Charlotte Taft, then Dallas’ most “out” lesbian, were always media outstanding role models, skewing people’s impression of what they thought “activists” looked and sounded like.

—  John Wright