Perfect match

Bob Nunn and Tom Harrover have been a couple for 4 decades. But it wasn’t until a near tragedy that they realized they were truly meant for each other

LIFE GOES ON | Nunn, right, and Harrover stand before a project commissioned for the convention center hotel. Four years ago, Nunn was near death because of kidney disease. (Rich Lopez/Dallas Voice)

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Bob Nunn agrees with the adage that the longer a couple lives together, the more they begin to look alike. Nunn and his partner Tom Harrover might not look that similar on the outside, but they match in a way that few couples do.

Let’s start with some history.

The two have that classic meet-cute that began on the wrong note. As Nunn tells it, Harrover was the dullest person he’d ever met —the two just didn’t like each other. Then, following a spontaneous invitation to a midnight movie, they ended up hitting it off. That movie led to conversation and then dating.

Forty-two years later, they still watch movies — as Nunn puts it, “I couldn’t get rid of him.”

A job in Houston took Nunn away from Harrover for three months, but old-fashioned letter writing kept the newbie relationship afloat.

“Tom had been writing me letters. He’s a very good writer,” Bob boasts. “He basically proposed to me by letter.”

They committed to each other, moving in and pursuing their careers: Harrover in architecture and Nunn teaching art. For 37 years, they lived in “a fabulous house” in Hollywood Heights. Life was good.

Then their life took a sharp turn.

“When we got together, Tom knew I had a kidney disease,” Nunn says. “Nothing was really a problem until about 30 years after we met — my kidneys began to fail and I had to start dialysis.”

Nunn registered with Baylor for the national organ donor list, but the experience was frustrating:  They received little response or encouragement from the hospital.

“Bob was on a downhill slide and the frustration with Baylor seemed like they were stonewalling us,” Harrover says. “We talked about going to Asia even. It felt like they didn’t want to deal with a senior-age gay couple.”

A LITTLE DAB’LL DO YOU | Bob Nunn is officially retired from teaching art, but continues to paint.

Then Harrover suggested something novel: He could donate his kidney to the organ list, with the idea that Nunn could get a healthy one.  Sort of a kidney exchange.

In desperation, they went back to their physician, who enrolled them in St. Paul Hospital’s then-new program for kidney transplant. The experience was a complete turnaround. Nunn was tested and processed immediately while Harrover prepped for his organ donation to an anonymous recipient.

Kidney transplants require a seven-point match system; a minimum of three matches is necessary for the recipient to be able to accept the organ into the body.

The tests revealed that Harrover’s kidney matched Nunn’s on all seven points.

“We assumed I would donate mine for use elsewhere,” Harrover says. “It never occurred to me that we’d be a match. The odds for that are off the charts.”

“See what happens when you live together for so long?” he chuckles.

Just six months after entering St. Paul’s program in 2007, they were on the operating table. They were the first direct living donor pair in the program. “It was all fairly miraculous,” Nunn understates.

Four years later, both men are doing well. Although officially retired, they both continue to work: Harrover does the occasional contract job while Nunn is currently on commission for an art project at the new convention center hotel. Outside of any official work, each interjects their quips about home, life be it cooking together or working on the lawn.

The obvious question for them might be “What’s the secret?” But they don’t see it just that way. Their relationship boils down to the obvious virtues of trust, respect and compromise.

“Selfishness doesn’t rear its ugly head in this relationship,” Harrover says. “You just have to be willing to accommodate, support and encourage what the other is interested in.”

Nunn agrees. “I would not be doing what I’m doing without his support.”

Nunn says if there is a secret, it’s akin to the dynamic on a playground: Like each other and share. If you don’t share your whole life, there isn’t a relationship, he says. At this point, Harrover says it would be impossible to separate. On paper, they are so intertwined with their house and financials, he jokes they are “Siamese twins.”

They’ve witnessed a lot in their decades together, including something they never expected to come to pass in their lifetimes: Same-sex marriage. Coming from a time when just being gay conflicted with moral codes set by their jobs, they wonder over the progress made in recent years. (They were officially married in Boston in October 2009.)

“I’m confident that it will happen for everyone,” Harrover says. “I’m sorry that it’s moving at a glacial pace, but it has that same inevitability as a glacier. We’ll get there.”

But nothing compares to the bond Harrover and Nunn already have, a shared intimacy few couples could imagine. Same-sex marriage was merely unlikely; what they have experienced is miraculous.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 29, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Out soprano who’ll headline Dallas Opera’s 2011-12 season releases ‘It Gets Better’ video

Patricia Racette

Operatic soprano Patricia Racette released an “It Gets Better” video that she made with her partner, Beth Clayton. They filmed their piece at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

As Arnold Wayne Jones reported last week, Racette will star in the second production of the Dallas Opera’s 2011-12 season, a revival of the company’s 1997 production of Leoš Janáček’s Katya Kabanova, written in 1921. The show runs Oct. 28 and 30, and Nov. 2, 5 and 13.

She will also at the Winspear Opera House in a recital for patrons, the opera announced on Jan. 13:

An exclusive patron recital on November 9, 2011, “A Cabaret Evening with Patricia Racette,” featuring the luminous Ms. Racette performing selections from the Great American Songbook in the intimacy of the Winspear Opera House.

Racette has appeared in Dallas before when she starred as the heroine in the 2004 production of Jenůfa.

—  David Taffet

Straight men kissing? That’s so hot!!!

Straight men in Britain generally have no problem kissing each other on the lips — and in fact locking lips has become something of a fad for college students, according to a gay lecturer at Bath University who did his PhD on the subject.

The lecturer, Eric Anderson, conducted a survey which found that 88 percent of men are happy to kiss another man on the lips, while almost 40 percent have engaged in “sustained kissing, initially for shock value, but now just for ‘a laugh.’”

Anderson said he believes his research indicates that homophobia is all but gone among young people. The Guardian reports:

Anderson says men are now kissing each other to show their “intimacy towards one another,” but not in a homosexual way. “The kisses seem to be stripped of sexual connotation, and given the percentage of men doing them, they certainly do not indicate a hidden homosexual desire.”

The trend, he adds, is not just in a few UK universities or even limited to Britain. “I’ve interviewed graduate students who did their bachelor degrees at other universities, and been to undergraduate clubs and pubs from Bristol to Birmingham to Edinburgh – I can definitively say that although the percentages might vary depending on the city, the class and the racial background, these kissing behaviours are happening all over the country. I have also found it occurring in a fifth of the 60 university soccer players I interviewed in the US, and have a friend who is beginning formal research into male kissing in Australia after recording it there.”

Call us shallow, but we admit our first reaction to this report was, that’s so hot! Our second was, when is this going to catch on in the U.S.? And our third was, this guy has the best job in the world, which was backed up by this tidbit at the end of the story about his next project:

Anderson is now moving his research on to cuddling. “Last week, I was talking to my second-year students about two straight men cuddling; they laughed, ‘what’s the big deal about that’,” he says. “I polled them, and found that 14/15 said they had spooned another man, in bed, sleeping all night long. Gone are the days in which men would rather sleep on the floor or head to toe; not only do they share beds and cuddle, but they are not homosexualised for this.”

—  John Wright

Tickling ivories

Eric Himan trades his guitar for a piano to revisit his musical catalog

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

3 out of 5 stars
OUT WITH THE OLD
Eric Himan
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Proof that Eric Himan has an astounding amount of determination is found in his new CD, Out with the Old. Himan challenged himself to learn the piano and then reinterpreted some of his own tunes into an altogether different sound on this collection of 12 songs — 11 covers of his own stuff and one new track. The results are a valiant effort that, even with some lulls, comes out on top.

He recorded the album live, though not in front of an audience. Instead, these takes were captured at his piano instructor’s home. This approach works nicely and conveys a strange intimacy, though sometimes he would have benefited from adjusted levels of his voice and piano.

Opening with “Until the Road Unwinds,” Himan gives no hint that he’s a piano novice. He must have magic hands because his work here is sublime. The ballad starts off the CD slowly, but opens up the mind and ear quickly to his new sound. The song itself holds up well in this interpretation, but immediately we hear that while Himan can play nicely, he doesn’t show off. The CD is a bold move, but Himan knows he isn’t Billy Joel — yet. Although if that’s the direction he’s headed it, it’s not a bad one.

Eric Himan
TOTALLY VERSATILE | Tulsa-based Eric Himan makes a bold move by stepping away from the guitar to show off his new piano skills in ‘Out with the Old.’

Then “White Horse” happens. Despite showing shades of Jerry Lee Lewis, Himan misses here, and badly. The lyrics feel rushed as if he’s squeezing in words to fit the rhythm. On its own, the song is the equivalent of ill-fitting shoes, losing the rockabilly fun from its original form. Himan needs to master the pace between the piano and his faster songs.

But on his slower tunes and ballads, the music shines. “Clyde” plays with tenderness and he works the keys in both complex and moody fashions. Then we start hearing him stretching out his vocal runs as if the new translation is setting him free. He’s not only putting his piano playing to the test, but his voice as well.

This continues on “Kinda Hard.” He can handle the instrument for these steadier tunes but his earnestness is etched into the song. When he sings the line, I mean nothing to you, nothing sounded more painful. “One Less Person” and “One Night Stand” fare the same beautiful fate with share the right delicacy and proper musical approach. You could say this album is a bit narcissistic if he just wants to show off what he’s learned, but if it’s gonna sound like this all the time, then by all means, show off.

The original track “Gonna Make it Work,” somehow misses all the marks. Himan starts intently but he begins to ramble. The song builds to an uneven chorus. Himan has a uniquely high-pitched voice but he needed to downshift registers here — either that or slow the song down.

It’s unfortunate to end on a sloppy note, because up to this point, the albums play with nice cohesion regardless of its couple of stumbles. But props to Himan for trying something new — at the very least, it keeps him interesting, and listeners interested.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 12, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens