Fur the boys

Andy Stark brings reality TV to bear — with sights set on the networks

 

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BEARS ON FILM | Andy Stark, left, created the reality show ‘Bear It All’ with a mostly Dallas-based cast including Matthew Moriarity, right, who has already made quite an impression. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

On shows like The A-List or Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys, TV audiences get a peek into the inner workings of gay men (at least the ones Logo thinks represent us). But Dallasite Andy Stark isn’t so sure the current crop of reality shows profiles our community in the best light — or in all its glory.

He’s not the only one. Where those series may rely on caricatures or fabricated storylines, Stark is delivering his own show that he sees less as a drama fest and more as just a good time.

“The show is going to be a positive natured show,” he says. “I want it to be appealing across the board.”

Stark is talking about his reality/travel series Bear It All, which follows a cast of hirsute gentlemen in different cities around various bear events. Clips of the show have made their way online, with some containing footage taken at this year’s Texas Bear Round Up, but it makes its full-episode debut at a screening party Sunday at the Round-Up Saloon.

“The idea originally came up at Southern Decadence last year, so it’s almost a year old,” Stark says of the germ of the series. “I didn’t think it would take that long, but it’s nice. You know, we had the idea and the tools to make it and just said, ‘Let’s do it — we don’t need money, just the will to do it.’”

Pulling together a cast of mostly locals — including Butch Compton, Charlie Himmler and Michael Herrington — Stark pulled in Philadelphia-based bear Barney Philly and Indiana native Matthew Moriarity, who just might be the breakout star of the show.

“The one bit of feedback I always get is how adorable he is,” Stark says.

“I got involved with it when I was in North Carolina,” Moriarity says. “I didn’t really go to a lot of bear events or gay events, but I got in contact via Facebook.”

Initially, Moriarity hadn’t heard anything back other than “stay tuned.” But as TBRU approached, he received a call: He was now in the cast as he was making his way to Dallas for the bear event.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” he laughs.

As the Dallas-based episode came together, Stark entered Moriarity in the Mr. TBRU contest. Figuring on his random entrance into the contest, Stark had developed the arc of the episode and began planning the rest based on Moriarity not winning.

Only he did win.

“I had to rethink the entire thing,” Stark cries. “But we ran with it.”

The show has cemented a certain foundation for Moriarity. He moved to Dallas at the end of June, found a job as a bartender three days later and now finds himself a recognizable face among the local community. Of course, he’s modest about it and steers the conversation away from himself.

“The show is a great portrayal and good-natured of just us regular guys,” he says. “I think its great to bring that certain community to the frontlines. You don’t see that too much in mainstream portrayals.”

Andy Stark has the cred needed to produce his own show. He does production work for HDNet and MavTV so this isn’t some guy with a camera and an idea. Stark has a plan.

“I’ve had the idea of what I wanted in my head, but also it’s been an experience that we’ve manifested ourselves,” he says. “I wanted the travel documentary built into the concept of the show and so perhaps we’ll highlight cities and bear events as well as meet interesting people from all around. Hopefully we do something awesome with it.”

While Stark and Moriarity have only experienced positive feedback so far, they got a big push from the bear-oriented phone app Scruff. In one episode, Philly is wearing a shirt with the app’s logo on it; founder Johnny Scruff noticed and posted a notification so when people clicked onto the app, they were served with a pop-up announcing the show and its Facebook page.

Stark and Moriarity are affable guys — the kind that good luck seems to follow, which seems to be the case here. With the help of producer J. Louie Partida, Stark feels that the only way is up after Sunday’s screening. He’s even planned to have the show adjustable for different networks should they be interested.

“I’m aiming for the 25-minute mark. We call the show ‘bear-satile’ because it can be formatted to any network,” he laughs.

Hmmm. Maybe it’s better Stark stays behind the camera.

……………………………

Eligible for a reason: Obnoxious

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Here’s my big problem with reality TV: Most of our lives aren’t scripted, but they are made to seem so if you watch too many of these shows. It’s not a problem on competition-based series like The Amazing Race or Survivor (how many of us get to travel that much anyway?), or even episodic series with a sense of humor, like Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D List (Kathy’s inherent wittiness feels authentic). But the Bravo-style throw-six-people-together-and-pretend-they-are- the-shit egothons like The Real Housewives and The A-List? They are merely soap operas where the actors are underpaid. And not very good actors.

Add to that list the latest little disaster of preening incorrigibility: Most Eligible Dallas.

It’s one thing to cajole your way onto America’s Got Talent by wearing goofy clothes or exaggerating your personality for a performance; it’s another when what sells you as a TV star is being the biggest asshole you can be. I don’t wanna sound like a curmudgeon blaming TV for the ills of society, but when I see drivers who take left-turns from right lanes with arrogant disregard for the rest of humanity … well, it’s difficult not to think that because they see everyone on the tube behaving the same way.

Most Eligible takes a half-dozen single 20somethings from Dallas and follows their appallingly wonderful singleness. There’s Drew, pictured, a car-loving gay guy who self-medicates with female hormones to keep from getting fat again; Glenn, the muscle-bound football wannabe who’s been passed around more locker rooms than a Kardashian; Matt, the obnoxious “playa” who goes on dates with multiple women; and Courtney, the big-haired bimbo who has such a blatant unacknowledged crush on Matt that her venom forms the basis of the Sam-and-Diane (or Reichen-and-Rodiney) thread on the premiere.

The calculated way the series tries to create personalities — Drew is, to my knowledge, the only person who has ever been shown smoking a cig in the address-the-camera interviews, just to show what a rebel-outside-the-box-gay he is — feels incredibly fake, exacerbated by the over-reactions to banal activities (Glenn in particular seems like a real drama queen). Easily the best thing about the series is seeing local landmarks. The rest just perpetuates negative stereotypes about Dallas.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Premieres on Bravo Aug, 15 at 9 p.m.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 12, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

H4PJ calls on Dallas City Council to support LGBT-inclusive bullying policy for DISD

The Rev. Michael Piazza

The Rev. Michael Piazza, executive director of Hope for Peace and Justice, is slated to address the Dallas City Council this morning and ask the council to pass a resolution encouraging the Dallas Independent School District “to do everything in their power to prevent bullying,” according to David Plunkett, a spokesman for H4PJ.

In the wake of last month’s gay teen suicide crisis, H4PJ has been circulating a petition, which has more than 1,000 signatures, calling for DISD to adopt fully inclusive anti-bullying guidelines that provide specific protections for LGBT students. DISD’s board of trustees is  considering a new anti-bullying policy, but as currently written, the proposed policy doesn’t include sexual orientation or gender identity. DISD trustee Lew Blackburn told Dallas Voice this week he plans to introduce a substitute policy that does include sexual orientation and gender identity. Blackburn, along with LGBT advocates, have urged people in the community to contact the other trustees and urge them to support Blackburn’s proposal. DISD’s new anti-bullying policy could be up for a final vote as early as next week.

Courtesy of Plunkett, here’s the text of Piazza’s remarks:

I am here to present a petition signed by 1,000 people requesting that the Dallas City Council pass a resolution encouraging the Dallas Independent School District to do everything in their power to prevent the bullying that has led to far too many suicides of young people. Just down I-45, 13-year-old Asher Brown took his life in September. Then, earlier this month, just north on I-35 in Norman, Oklahoma, 19-year-old Zach Herrington took his life following a toxic debate at a city council meeting.  We are asking you to encourage DISD to ensure the protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children.

I could speak to you today as someone who was a pastor in this city for 22 years at the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender church. I could speak to you as the President of Hope for Peace & Justice whose petitions I present. However, I’d like to use my two minutes to appeal to you as a parent. I have two teenage girls. One is a junior at the School for the Talented and Gifted, and the other is a senior at the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.

My partner and I might have sent our daughters to private schools, but it was very important to us that they attend public schools where most of the children in this city receive their education. It hasn’t always been easy for them.

My oldest daughter was in Harry Stone Middle School when the state of Texas passed a constitutional amendment that denied marriage equality to her parents. Next month my partner and I will celebrate our 30th anniversary. So, you can imagine my daughter’s surprise when her language arts teacher told her students, during class, to be sure their parents voted in favor of the constitutional amendment because, and I quote, “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” Fortunately, my daughter was secure enough to raise her hand and ask, “Excuse me Mrs. Smith, but then who did create Adam and Steve?”

Her teacher said, “I guess you must know some of those people,” to which Jerica replied, “Only just about everyone in my life who loves me.”

Jerica knew how to handle herself, but imagine for just a moment if you had been a small boy struggling with your sexuality and heard that teacher’s words. Imagine if you had been a child who had been abused at home and so filled with rage that you were looking for someone to bully. That DISD teacher, at one of our best magnet schools, just gave you all the justification you needed.

As a father, I beg you. Make a statement that this is not who we are in Dallas and that we know our children are not our own, but they are ALL — gay, lesbian, transgender or heterosexual — children of God. Thank you .

—  John Wright

A single man

Jason Dottley is still married to queer Texas scribe Del Shores, but he plans to dominate the dance charts one spin at a time

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer stevencraiglindsey@me.com

JASON DOTTLEY
The Rose Room,
3911 Cedar Springs Road.
Sept. 18. Gay Bingo at 6 p.m.;
concert after 10 p.m.
“Hit Play” and “Party Round the World” on iTunes.

…………………………

Getting a song on the Billboard Top 20 is probably the dream of every singer, but to have it happen on the first song you’ve ever released? That’s reason to party.

Such is the recent success of Jason Dottley. He’s familiar as the actor who played Ty on TV’s Sordid Lives, written and directed by his (legal!) husband Del Shores. But he expanded into recording artist faster that you can say Bruce Willis and The Return of Bruno. His first single, “Party Round the World” with Debby Holiday, spent 11 weeks on the Billboard Dance/Club Play Songs chart, peaking at No. 19. Dottley’s newest single, “Hit Play,” just dropped this summer.

Dottley will be in Dallas for Gay Pride weekend performing (not in drag, he promises) in the Rose Room Saturday, which coincides perfectly with the single’s official release for Billboard charting purposes.

But despite his successes in the studio, Dottley says has no plans of releasing a full album. “I think it’s a single’s world like it was back when Elvis ruled the radio,” he explains. “Hit record after hit record: That’s my plan.”

The new track, he says, is an ode to DJs.

“To the Dallas DJs Roger Huffman, Erik Thoresen, Ronnie Bruno, Ric Herrington and Renee Brown who supported my

‘Party Round the World’ so much,” Dottley says. “When I lost my dad at 18, I would go to clubs three nights a week. They were my church, my sanctuary. And as they say, God was the DJ, so I’m asking him to ‘Hit Play’ — to open the doors of the dancetuary, so to speak.”

Though breaking the Top 20 on a debut is impressive, Dottley has set the bar higher for “Hit Play.”

“I have a stellar line-up of remixes by the U.K.’s No. 1 hit-maker, Cutmore, the insanely rowdy Perry Twins, circuit-king Manny Lehman, late-night’s Twisted Dee, my gem of a discovery Chris Thomas and the straight world’s Frank Pellegrino. It’s a helluva remix package.”

Because Shores is from Texas, Dottley has been a frequent visitor to the city, so he’s glad that during his trip here, he’ll partake in a grand, gay tradition.

“I’ll also be doing Gay Bingo beforehand,” he says. “That’s a dream come true. I’ve been practicing, ‘O–69!’”

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

—  Kevin Thomas