A letter from a fan

penI was wading through my emails this morning the way I usually do after a review comes out — in a HazMat suit surrounded by bomb-sniffing dogs — when I happened upon this message:

Re: Your usual spite

Mr. Jones, please don’t ever attend another show in which I appear or with which I have any association. Every time you have reviewed my work, you stoop low to find unkind things to say about me. It makes no difference in the long run, but your unrestrained disgust for my acting is a dead giveaway that you have some personal vendetta toward me. The reactions of audiences and many, many fellow theatre specialists are always diametrically opposed to your opinions when it comes to me. The fact that Art and Science received a standing ovation after every performance, including the one you attended is all I really care about. I remember writing to you once before about your apparent loss of touch with reality regarding me. Luckily, I turn down more roles than I accept. Your opinion has no effect whatsoever on my work in theatre. You are so obviously biased against me, that I am convinced that either I offended you, or I rejected you. Either way, I was right. As Glinda said to the WWW, “You have no powers here. Be gone, before someone drops a house on you, too.”

You can imagine my shock and surprise at receiving this letter … only because I honestly had no freaking clue who this guy is. Honestly.

Of course, it doesn’t make much sense because I don’t know what he’s talking about anyway. I have never reviewed anyone or anything with spite — why would I? I just give my honest, sincere opinion about something offered up for critique. Trust me, I’ve written glowing reviews of people I personally can’t stand, and happily so. My opinion of people as individuals has nothing to do with the quality of their work.

I’ve also never understood people who write hate letters to critics, when obviously they were wounded by the words of others themselves. If I’m so terrible for reviewing you, why do you get to say mean things in “reviewing” me? The difference, of course, is I don’t take it personally, even though you intend it personally.

The author did mention the play by name — a forgettable thing that closed yesterday at Frank’s Place, just hours before he wrote to me — and though the review ran a few weeks ago, I have some vague recollection of the actor. I certainly didn’t see a standing ovation on opening night, though; certainly I stood at the end only to make my way to the door. But as for having seen this gentleman, or having reviewed him, or having received previous emails from him … well, I’m drawing a blank.

Anyway, I tried hitting “reply” to let the actor know I’d received his email and to give my standard response — “Thank you for your feedback,” possibly with the little add-on, “who are you, again?” — however it was not to be: His email address did not accept my reply. So, if anyone knows this gentleman, please thank him on my behalf for reading my reviews. Also, you might want to let him know that I will continue to review plays without predetermining whether he will be in them. Who knows? Maybe I’ll love him in the next thing I see him in. Or maybe I’ll just remember him.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

‘A’ gay

Former Air Force captain Reichen Lehmkuhl has choice words about the Obama Administration and DADT, and the editing on his Logo series ‘The A List: New York’

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

Reichen Lehmkuhl
THAT’S CAPTAIN QUEER TO YOU! Former Air Force captain Reichen Lehmkuhl is an avid skier, and spokesman for the inaugural Matthew Shepard Gay Ski Week in Crested Butte, Colo., next March.

SHOOT THE BUTTE
Dish at the ilume,
4123 Cedar Springs Road.
Nov. 5, 6–8 p.m. Free.
MatthewShepardGaySkiWeek.com.
Reichen will also host a
meet-and-greet at Woody’s,
4001 Cedar Springs Road,
Nov. 5 at 10 p.m.

…………………………..

If all you know about Reichen Lehmkuhl is what you see in reality shows — he won Season 4 of The Amazing Race, and is currently one of the “gay housewives” on Logo’s The A List: New York — then you’re missing a lot of what drives him.

Formerly an airman in the U.S. Air Force, Reichen (nobody uses his last name) is an outspoken advocate for gay rights, especially the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” And on this election week, he has some choice words for the Obama Administration.

“What Obama has done is disappoint all of his voters and really squandered away all of our affection,” Reichen says without hesitation, reflecting his displeasure that the president — after claiming a desire to repeal DADT, nevertheless appealed a California court’s ruling that the law was unconstitutional. “He made a choice he didn’t have to make — one of process over basic values. And he flat-out lied about what his values are. He said he thought all gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve, and when the opportunity was presented to him without any effort at all, he did not support it.”

Reichen knows that, especially within the gay community, his harsh words about the country’s top Democrat might not be popular. But he has too much invested in this issue to remain silent.

“I’m getting a lot of hate mail,” he admits. “I think [some] people are being apologists and are blinded because they are afraid of looking like they don’t support [Obama]. But for those of us on the front lines — and I am — it has just been awful. And I just won’t be an apologist for the president.  I won’t do it. You can’t apologize for people who swore to do what they say they will and don’t.”

He was especially confused when, immediately after the Pentagon announced it would accept openly gay military applicants, the Justice Department filed its appeal in the lawsuit, even though the deadline to appeal (if at all!) was more than a month away. Reichen says the decision was basely political before the midterm elections.

“The day the president appealed the decision, I was asked to go on MSNBC the next day, but I was so baffled I didn’t know what to say and I didn’t want to say something wrong, so I turned down the request.”

All this is a far cry from why Reichen will be in town this week: Promoting Shoot the Butte, a gay ski week starting next year in Crested Butte, Colo., for which Reichen is a spokesperson and attendee (he’s a huge snowbunny, and in fact a certified ski instructor). But the ski event is actually in conjunction with the Matthew Shepard Foundation, for which he is a strong supporter.

And even talk of Judy Shepard steers him back to politics. As a former servicemember, Reichen firmly believes that people have lost sight of the easiest way to advance gay rights: Just let the discharges stop.

“If you stop the discharges and let people come out and say, ‘I am a professional and you can’t assume I am not because I am gay’ … once that happened for 30, 60 days, it would be impossible to reverse the decision,” he says. “Just [this week], the administration ordered that DADT is back in effect so the discharges are continuing.”

He sighs. You can tell it’s something he internalizes and takes very personally.

“I’m really worried about what the president did to the support of so many gay people. He really just slapped us all in the face. He is political and doesn’t believe in equality for LGBT people. If this had been a race issue, would he have put politics before values? No, he wouldn’t. It shows how low he thinks of us as a community.”

You might not expect such political passion from someone best known for playing himself on TV, especially in light of the persona he projects on The A List. But even there, Reichen has his criticisms. When I say he comes off as a jerk on the show, he immediately says, “I hope you put that in your article.”

“I’ve tried to explain that even to the producers,” he says. “What you’re seeing is what they wanna show. They say I’m not gonna come off as a jerk as the later episodes air [but we’ll see]. You see me hit on a guy in a club, but what you don’t see is this guy is a friend of mine for 13 years. And the editing with Austin makes it look like we had some big, long relationship — we spent one day together [in Palm Springs]! I kept in touch with him by text, but that’s it. He says I have a small cock and am a bad cocksucker. The guy’s never seen my cock and I’ve never been near between his legs!”

The show also makes it look like his relationship with boyfriend Rodiney is doomed. He’s contractually forbidden from saying where they stand, although he does reveal, “I saw him this morning. And we love each other very much — I can say that much.” (Not so for Austin, whom he says he ignores now.)

What he does say is not wrong about the editing on the show is what we learned this past week: Reichen looks hot in a dress.

“This is a big secret, but I love to do drag!” he says. “I totally get why drag queens do what they do. I have so much fun, though I look better when I do my own makeup. I have complete anonymity [when I go out in drag] and people are scared of me.”

Scared of him? Sounds like that could be an advantage against an enemy in battle. And maybe one more reason Reichen can list to bring down “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 5, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

From my hate mail inbox

I received the following e-mail from a devoted reader:

Just read your review of “Dreamgirls” in last friday’s (9.7.2010) edition of The Dallas Voice.  You must be another one of those smug University of North Texass alums.  The reason Lupe Murchison endowed that school was, and I quote her verbatim : “Those poor kids will need ALL the help that they can get; truly a sad, sad situation there.”  She was a close personal friend of my godmother, Edith O’Donnell so I DO KNOW, first ‘ear,’ from whence I speak.

If you had even bothered to do your home work, Mr. Arnold-Wayne Jones,  you would’ve known that they had a slate of RAVE REVIEWS from their performances at The Apollo Theatre in NYC. Inclusive of  The NY Times.  They are also the same cast/troupe that took the stage in a tour-de-force in South Korea; quite impressing their audiences and critics with their voices and diction in NATIVE KOREAN.

I strongly suggest that you ‘hitch’ your faded and tarnished star BACK to that connestoga and try to find a better acadaemic venue from which you can truly garner the concepts of good theatre …

Cheerios,

Cal

Allow me to respond, Cal.

First, I did not in fact graduate from UNT, but rather with distinction from the University of Virginia. Then from its law school. Cal, on the other hand, misspells “Texas” as “Texass,” misuses the term “whence” (it does not take the word “from;” it implies it), and parts with “Cheerios,” which is a cereal; he perhaps means cheerio, which is a salutation. He also misspells my name, adding a hyphen where it doesn’t belong.

Second, I get letters like this all the time. The ones that are least persuasive are the ones that point out that this play, or this star, or this company, got a rave review in another town. How could that possibly matter to me? I’ve seen plenty of shitty productions of good plays; plenty of good actors who give bad performances, and seen more terrible art that others cream over than I can possibly imagine. The Passion of the Christ made $300 million; that doesn’t mean it was good.

You have a complaint with me, fine. Engage me. But name-calling? And, at that, against a school I have no connection to? That doesn’t insult me, just the school. The University of Virginia also produced smug bastards, though it wasn’t founded by Lupe Murchison — it was founded by Thomas Jefferson.

I’m confident of my theater-going credentials and my judgment. Anyway, I pretty much liked the production of Dreamgirls, save for Syesha Mercado’s limp vocal performance and flaws in the script. My full review is here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones