Overcoming fear and finding passion

Landon Starnes had to step outside his comfort zone to compete as Lotta Pink in the Miss LifeWalk Pageant

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Landon Starnes as Lotta Pink

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Talk to Landon Starnes about his involvement with LifeWalk, the annual walkathon benefiting AIDS Arms and its partner agencies, and you’ll hear

Starnes repeat the words “passion” and “fear” a lot.

Starnes said he let fear rule him for too long. But in the end, there’s no doubt that “passion” wins out.

Starnes, who works as a hairdresser, said that he was diagnosed with HIV in October 1998. But he wasn’t prepared to deal with reality, and so for years, he said, “I ignored my diagnosis emotionally.”

But then some friends began to encourage him to confront his HIV status by getting involved in LifeWalk, specifically by joining the Guys and Dolls LifeWalk team.

Starnes said it took him awhile to get up to speed, and he was involved with LifeWalk just “off and on” for several years. But three years ago, he decided to really take the plunge and has been an active member of the Guys and Dolls team ever since.

This year, even that got ratcheted up a notch when Starnes finally gave in to his teammates’ cajoling and entered the Miss LifeWalk Pageant.

“My team had been asking me for two years to enter the pageant, but I declined every time. I was just scared to death to do drag,” Starnes explained. “But this year, I decided to accept the challenge, even though it scared me.”

The first challenge was to come up with a character, so “I started brainstorming about a character, about who I would be,” Starnes said. “I started thinking about things I, as a person, am passionate about. And I am passionate about the singer Pink.

“Her music gets to me in a way that no one else’s does,” Starned continued. “Her lyrics inspire me. I think, if I had to pick just one, my favorite Pink song is ‘Glitter in the Air.’ It says, ‘Have you ever wished for an endless night?’ ‘Have you ever thrown a fistful of glitter in the air?’ It made me look into myself, literally. Last summer, while we were on a road trip, my friends and I stopped and actually threw a fistful of glitter in the air. It was silly and fun, and now it is a memory that will last forever.”

But there is one line in the song, Starnes said, that really touched him, one lyric that made him think and gave him the determination to set aside the fear that had held him back: “Have you ever looked fear in the face, and said, I just don’t care?”

It was, Starnes said, a spark that made his passion for LifeWalk and for doing something to help others blaze even brighter.

“I knew I wasn’t going to try to be Pink, but I love what she does. So I decided I would kind of pay tribute to her with my character,” Starnes said.

And so, Lotta Pink was born.

And lo and behold, Lotta Pink won the Miss LifeWalk title on her first try, helping Starnes bring in about $7,000 for LifeWalk this year, bringing his total over all his Guys and Dolls years to about $11,000.

Starnes said he and Lotta Pink obviously have a lot in common. “We share our passion for the cause, first of all, and second, we both want to step outside the box,” Starnes said. “I was afraid of doing drag. But my favorite quote is ‘Do it scared,’ so that’s what I did. I stepped outside the box and challenged myself, and in doing that, I learned that fears are just fears, nothing else.”

Starnes said that while his fears still remain to some degree, Lotta Pink “has no fear,” and she is helping him overcome his own.

“It’s easier when you can put on a wig and some makeup and kind of step outside yourself,” Starnes said. “Now, learning to step out without that disguise is what comes next!”

Knowing that what he does is all to help AIDS Arms and the clients the agency serves makes it even easier to put the fear aside, Starnes said.

“The Guys and Dolls team works all year, not just on the day of LifeWalk. And the people at AIDS Arms work all year trying to help other people. I love AIDS Arms, and I love what it stands for,” Starnes said. “The walk itself is symbolic, to me. It’s a short walk, yes, but just going through the movement of walking allows you to release your passion.

“Everybody who participates is there for their own reasons, but whatever the reason, they are passionate about it,” he continued. “That alone speaks volumes. The biggest thing that came out of all this for me was seeing how good people really are.”

Again, it all comes down to overcoming fear and fully realizing the passion.

“It’s so important for everyone to find their passion, whether it’s LifeWalk or something else,” Starnes said. “Finding my passion has lifted me to a whole new level of awareness, understanding and joy. It’s just such a positive energy when you are around all these people at LifeWalk who work so hard to make a difference in other people’s lives. It’s helped me find a happiness I have never known before.”

AIDS Arms LifeWalk will be held Sunday, Oct. 2, at Lee Park. Registration begins at 11:30 a.m., and the walk begins at 1 p.m. For more information, go online to LifeWalk.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Victoria, victor

Tony-winning Dallasite Victoria Clark comes home for concert with TWCD

MARK LOWRY  | marklowry@theaterjones.com

V-Clark-3
Victoria Clark

Wyly Theatre
2400 Flora St.
Dec. 19. 7 p.m. $20–$48. 214-520-7828.
TheWomensChorusofDallas.com

…………………………………………..

Broadway was not what Victoria Clark had expected.

The Hockaday School graduate always knew she wanted to perform, studying opera in Austria and at Michigan’s prestigious Interlochen Arts Academy and matriculating Yale University before headed for New York’s Great White Way. She had a vision of what it would be like.

“I thought everyone was going to come to work with big moustaches and capes and be drinking and crazy,” she says, laughing. “But they would say things like ‘I couldn’t find a parking space’ or ‘my son is having trouble in English,’ talking about what normal people talk about. I think I wanted them to be more eccentric.”

Some 25 years after her first show (she was cast as an understudy in Stephen Sondheim’s Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Sunday in the Park with George), Clark has proven that the normalcy of working in New York theater is just fine — and that you can make a living at it (with insurance and benefits, even).

She had supporting roles in revivals of Guys and Dolls, How to Succeed… and  Cabaret, then won a best actress Tony Award in 2006 for the Adam Guettel-Craig Lucas musical The Light in the Piazza. She takes center stage again this weekend, as she returns home to perform with

The Women’s Chorus of Dallas in its annual holiday concert at the Wyly Theatre.

Clark grew up in the Greenway Park area near Inwood Road and Mockingbird Lane. Although her parents weren’t especially artistic, their children found outlets for creativity. Clark’s brothers dabbled in bands, and her sister, Dawn Prestwich, became a screenwriter with an impressive list of television writing credits.

For Clark, though, it was all about singing — something her grandmother encouraged. She also developed a love for it at Hockaday, where she attended all 12 years, and became involved in drama as well.

“I remember that we learned to do everything,” she says. “We made the blintzes for You Can’t Take It With You and then ate them [in the show].”

One of her instructors, Ed Long, who’s still at Hockaday, encouraged her to attend Interlochen. Her choral director at First Community

Church, Don Herman, and Ed DeLatte of the now-closed Dallas Repertory Theatre, were both influential in pushing her to keep training her voice.

So she did, always finding the not-so-strange world of New York theater a welcoming place. She admits there have been many missed opportunities along the way, such as when she didn’t take the offer to workshop one of the Stepsisters in Sondheim’s Into the Woods (“When you get in early in a job like that, unless you kick someone in the shin or something like that, and you do a reasonable job, they ask the same group back”).

But one big opp she wasn’t about to pass over was Margaret Johnson, the American mother on vacation in Italy whose daughter falls for a hunky Italian man (played by Glee’s Matthew Morrison), in The Light in the Piazza.

“We did it three times, in Seattle and Chicago and then New York, and the show kept getting better and better,” she says. “The part was not written for me, but by the end I felt that it was. Pretty quickly they liked what I was doing with it.”

But even after 20 years of working in New York at that point, she was still not always confident. “Like every project, every day I was afraid I would get the call and they would tell me I was going to be replaced. Luckily Adam is very picky about voices and he liked my singing. That’s the one thing I could bring: I have a distinctive sound.”

That sound might bring her to Broadway again this spring, in a project that she can’t talk about yet. And it’s one that will charm audiences on

Sunday night with the Women’s Chorus. She’ll sing “Fable,” her big number from Piazza, as well as songs from her 2008 debut record, Fifteen Seconds of Grace, along with carols with the chorus.

And it’s a good bet that there won’t be any eccentrics with moustaches and capes hanging backstage — unless you count Santa.

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

—  Kevin Thomas

Dallas Summer Musicals announces 2011 season

The Dallas Summer Musicals’ big State Fair production will be the recent revival of West Side Story, complete with Spanish-language rewrites, as well as a few other revivals, returns … and one new show.

The season kicks off with gay Texan Tommy Tune, the biggest Tony winner of all time. in Tommy Tune Steps in Time with the Manhattan Rhythm Kings. for a one-week run beginning March 15. That will be followed by the return of another dance show, Burn the Floor, for two weeks in April.

The official summer season begins May 18 with the recent Dolly Parton musical of 9 to 5, followed by the returns of Stomp and Monty Python’s Spamalot in June and Guys and Dolls in July.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones