The Oak Lawn Library has last-minute gifts for the film lovers in your life

Oak Lawn Library volunteer Phyllis Guest says the branch has set up a gifts table just beyond checkout. The table is loaded with VHS tapes of classic movies — Fred & Ginger, Audrey Hepburn, Judy Garland and many more — all just $2.

“So if you know anyone who’s really into film, let them know,” Guest says.

An elderly friend of the library just gave up his home and sent the library these treasures.

Guest says other friends have given the library many cassette tapes — music and readings — and quite a few CDs as well.

The library’s open until 6 today and 10–6 Saturday to buy gifts and stocking stuffers in time for Christmas. Next week, the library’s open Wed.–Thu. Noon–8 and Fri.–Sat. 10–6. The gifts table will remain up until Jan. 2 and then they’ll put out all our remaining magazines plus tons of paperbacks, anything and everything for just 25 cents.

Money raised benefits the library with extra funds for new acquisitions and programming.

—  David Taffet

Kindred Spirits presents: The Judy Garland Christmas Show

Judy Garland Christmas ShowThere’s kitsch. There’s camp. Then there’s the Judy Garland Christmas Show, perhaps the single most absurdly divine thing to ever be produced by the 1960′s television industry. Kindred Spirits presents its 4th Annual Judy Garland Christmas Show & Sing-Along December 4th at Meteor (2306 Genesee St) at 5 pm.

In 1963 Garland found herself in trouble with the IRS for forgetting to pay taxes for a couple of years. Desperate for cash, she agreed to star in a weekly variety show for CBS, then proceeded to record 26 of the most gin-soaked hours in television history. Garland was remarkably cogent for the Christmas episode however, perhaps because her children were all on set as guest stars. Lorna Luft, Joey Luft and (almost unrecognizable with long hair) Liza Minnelli join fellow guests Jack Jones, Tracy Everitt, Mel Tormé and the true stars of the show, the chorus line of dancing Santas, for an hour of surreal delight.

With Nancy Ford emceeing, the Judy Garland Christmas Show & Sing-Along has become a Houston holiday tradition. In addition to the show and complimentary eats there’s also a raffle for a flat screen television. Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door and can be purchased at kindredspiritshouston.org. Proceeds benefit AssistHers, the Lesbian Health Initiative Houston, and Expert Nutrition.

After the break watch the opening number from the Judy Garland Christmas Show.

—  admin

Friends of Dorothy

stage-1
EASE ON DOWN | The Tin Man (Sydney James Harcourt, above left) steals the show in ‘The Wiz’ at DTC, while over at Fair Park, Megan Sikora, right, gives ‘Guys & Dolls’ its jolt.

If only DTC’s ‘Wiz’ had a heart. And I got yer horse right here, ‘Guys & Dolls’

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

If there’s one thing a gay guy can be counted on to know something about, it’s The Wizard of Oz. After all, the death of Judy Garland sparked the Stonewall Riots, and even before that, being a “friend of Dorothy” was code for practicing The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name. You wanna change it? Be prepared for theater queens to take note.

And so it is with The Wiz, the 1975 funked-up, all-black musical that serves as the Dallas Theater Center’s season ender.

The appeal of Dorothy’s adventure has always been the exploration of self-understanding with heavy doses of psychology. (The folks she meets in her reveries about Oz mirror real-life people she knows in Kansas.) This rushed 90-minute kiddie show so trims the classic structure of the film (it’s closer in plot to the book, but that’s not a good thing), it feels more like a series of unrelated vignettes than a mythological journey of personal discovery. Dorothy gets to Oz, meets a good witch (not Glinda), hooks up with three buddies (sans Toto, who is only heard barking offstage in the opening), dispatches an evil witch in about six minutes then presumably makes it back home (we never see Kansas again).

DTC is marketing it as a “family musical,” and I suppose it is in the sense that we might start referring to Michele Bachmann’s husband as “family.” The show — even in this abridged version — is gayer than Liberace on Halloween. The Lion, always the nelliest of the bunch, basically admits he’s gay due to an absent father and strong-willed mother; so many men are obsessed with Dorothy’s shiny shoes (here silver as in the book, not ruby like the movie), I expected one of the Munchkins to be Stanford Blatch; and director Kevin Moriarty employs lithe, half-naked dancers from Dallas Black Dance Theater to gyrate their moneymakers — is this Oz from the book or the gay club on Bourbon Street?

Still, this version of The Wiz is just children’s theater without much heart, brain or courage (it’s difficult to tell if that’s the fault of the book by William F. Brown or the direction, which feels stage-2rushed). The style is presentational and flat, with the actors projecting broadly to the balcony with exaggerated emotions.

Although the set famously includes moving “pods” of seats that move the audience around the space, the main actors rarely perform as in true theater-in-the-round, except when the dancers jump into them. I counted a dozen repositionings, but the sense of movement only genuinely grabs you once; during the cyclone, which should make you feel dizzy and excited, the pods move lumberingly around dancers portraying winds. It’s all oddly unsatisfying: It’s there, it ends.

What’s surprising is that there’s not more magic considering how balls-to-the-wall strong most of the singers are. The Tin Man has never been my favorite character — face it: He’s never been anyone’s favorite … until now. Sydney James Harcourt delivers the only truly wrenching musical performance on his solo “To Be Able to Feel,” just moments after the juiced-up eroticism of “Slide Some Oil to Me.” It’s a sexy, charismatic turn in sharp relief to David Ryan Smith’s hilariously flamboyant Lion and James Tyrone Lane’s limber goofing as Scarecrow.

Liz Mikel hams it up, both as good witch Addaperle and her wicked sister Evillene, which gives her the chance to seethe and gnash her teeth at the youngsters in between belt-‘em-out anthems. But Trisha Jeffrey as Dorothy makes little impression. In this construct, without Toto to talk to, the character is a cipher with little to do but watch the rest of Oz upstage her, wondering “Why, oh why can’t I?”

 

Over at Fair Park, the national tour of Guys & Dolls does a good job of reminding us how gosh-durn terrific a songwriter Frank Loesser was. The score plays like a master class in Broadway hits, with standards (the most famous, “Luck Be a Lady,” isn’t even the best) that convey character through complex harmonies with toe-tapping brio. It’s ironic that “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat” makes the audience want to jump to its feet.

If only the production were quite at the level it needs to be to showcase those numbers at their best. Four of the five leads — Ben Crawford (Sky Masterson), Steve Rosen (Nathan Detroit), Megan Sikora (Adelaide) and Glenn Rainey (Nicely Nicely) — have great voices, with Sikora stealing the show as the squeaky-voiced stripper. (Erin Davie never rises above the confines of the show’s least interesting role, missionary Sarah Brown.) The book, based on Damon Runyon’s caricatures of New York low-lifes, still has some zingers (and Crawford is especially good at making the dialogue feel contemporary), but it hasn’t aged well.

It doesn’t help that director Gordon Greenberg cleaves closely to outmoded conventions, like a long
introductory ballet (danced only serviceably by a disappointing chorus) and extended, stylized sequences throughout that do little to advance the plot. And with the show clocking in just shy of three hours, there is plenty of room to trim.

Sikora, though, makes it worth a look-see alone, and the songs have more energy and have endured better than those of The Wiz. Given a choice, it’s a crapshoot between the Loesser of two Evillenes.

………………………..

travel Travel Diary

Anyone who has ever been trapped in an airport during flight delays knows the madness can become infectious, but being balanced and serene is worth the effort. Here are some tips to get your Zen on.

Exercise. You might be on vacation, but your body is not. Exercise in your room, in your hotel’s gym, outside (run on the beach!) or find a nearby gym. Investing an hour in working out can reduce stress, improve sleep and increase energy.

Choose the right attitude. If you approach traveling with the attitude of, “Ugh! I hate to fly/drive/sit,” you’ve already decided it’s going to be a terrible experience. Instead, make the decision to enjoy the journey. Find a good book or download some interesting movies on your iPad. A long flight can be hell… or six hours of scheduled “me” time. The choice is yours.

Eat right. There’s no such thing as “vacation” calories. A calorie is a calorie and unhealthy options are as unhealthy at the beach as they are at home. Make food choices that nourish your body and you’ll feel strong and you’ll enjoy your vacation even more.

Do less, accomplish more. Many treat vacations as narrow windows into which they cram in as much “fun” as possible. While tempting, it can result in seeing a lot but experiencing nothing. Instead, do a few things you’ll actually enjoy rather than constantly looking at your watch.

Stay hydrated. Planes have notoriously dry air; make it a point to get some water whenever the stewards or stewardesses offer it. After going through security, buy a large bottle of water. It makes your body infinitely more comfortable, especially on longer flights.

Meditate. Even if you don’t normally meditate, taking 10 minutes a day to sit quietly is refreshing. Ideally, meditation is best in a quiet room, but even on a packed plane you can make it work. If there is chaos around you, make it part of your practice! Tune it out and find your center. Among other things, it will help reduce tension, relieve stress and improve your mood.

Wash your hands. Restaurants and public transportation facilities are rife with germs. Vacations are more enjoyable when you’re healthy, so minimize your risk of getting sick by washing your hands often.

— Davey Wavey

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 22, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

BOOKS: What would Judy do?

Palm-Trees-on-the-Hudson

Palm Trees on the Hudson by Elliot Tiber.

Square One Publishers (2011), $25, 184 pp.

When Charles Dickens said, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” he wasn’t just talking about the French Revolution. Everyone has that day in their lives they’ll fondly recall as the Best Day Ever, filled with happiness, wishes fulfilled and memories with a smile … as well as a Worst Day Ever, the one best forgotten quickly and for good. But what if they were the same day? They are in this memoir.

Elliot was 8 when he first saw Judy Garland and he wished he could join her in Oz. Movies were important to Elliot growing up in Brooklyn, but equally important to his mother, who took the free dishes the moviehouse handed out and re-sold them at her store. She focused on money, and while that bought her the American Dream, it didn’t endear her to her only son, whom she repeatedly called “worthless.”

Elliot left home via subway to Manhattan and rented a filthy artist studio in the Village. There, he hoped to find love and acceptance as a gay man.

Elliot quickly found work as a window dresser and maneuvered his way into better jobs with richer clients, opening an interior decorating business and branching into party planning. It was at one of those parties — lavish, opulent, over-the-top, and planned for a club-owning, gay-hating mobster — where Elliot had his best / worst situation. See, the mobster was friends with Judy Garland…

This prequel to a prior memoir starts with Tiber’s childhood and meanders forth to a highlight that’s funnier now than it must have been 40-odd years ago. Tiber, who once dabbled in standup comedy, tells a good story and his recollections of Manhattan society and being gay in the 1960s are priceless.

Palm Trees on the Hudson  is a hidden gem, and once you start it, you’ll have a dickens of a time putting it down.

— Terri Schlichenmeyer

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 13, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Spend ‘An Evening With Judy Garland’ tonight in Irving — or Liza in Dallas

Scheduling conflict for days

All right Friends of Dorothy, Liza performs her last show tonight at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra at the Meyerson, but before you head out, did you know about this show? While Liza’s “New York”-ing it in Dallas, the Irving Symphony Orchestra presents “An Evening with Judy Garland” with guest conductor and former Liza musical director Michael Berkowitz. Maybe this will help you decide. Either way, you’ll catch a true diva in action. Tony Award winner Debbie Gravitte takes on Judy in her show, so any decision you make is a win-win.

DEETS: Liza Minnelli with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora St. 8 p.m. $45–$122. DallasSymphony.com. An Evening With Judy Garland at the Irving Arts Center, 3333 N. MacArthur Blvd., Irving. Oct 9 at 8 pm. $19–$54. IrvingArtsCenter.com.

—  Rich Lopez

SHOW VS. SHOW • Mother & child reunion

On the same weekend, Dallas gets Liza Minnelli at the DSO and Debbie Gravitte in a Judy Garland  tribute

Call it serendipity, but when Liza Minnelli stops by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra the same weekend as Irving Arts Center’s tribute to Judy Garland, we have to shed a tear. In a very special installment of Show vs. Show, we couldn’t resist pitting “mother” against daughter.

Minnelli is an icon in so many ways. Whether she’s a movie legend based on her Oscar-winning star turn as Sally Bowles in 1972’s Cabaret or as a drag queen go-to with that signature short hair and adorable warbly voice, Minnelli is literally the stuff of legends — hardly the case with many of today’s stars.

But she’s also Liza. As in the woman who keeps marrying the non-marrying kind (translation: gay) or the lady who always seems a bit on the nutty end of the ice cream bar, We wonder, “What is up with her?” And we love her just for that.

An Evening With Judy Garland showcases Debbie Gravitte singing signature Garland tunes on the anniversary of Judy’s famous Carnegie Hall show. Don’t expect a Rufus Wainwright type recreation: Gravitte and music director Michael Berkowitz inject their own personalties into the show (see sidebar).

Will Liza’s legendary status trump the weekend, or will Gravitte knock this show out of the park? Choices, choices…

………………….

LizaLiza

…. is a true diva with an Oscar, Tony and an Emmy to her name.

…. married some friends of Dorothy.

…. embarrassingly performed Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” on the Sex and the City 2 soundtrack — which we hope she doesn’t do at this show.

…. was on Larry King recently, expressing sympathy and empathy for Lindsay Lohan’s drug use and alcoholism.

…. had her solo Broadway show, Liza’s At the Palace…!, replacing the musical Legally Blonde.

…. had a small comeback in 1989 by going in a  different musical direction with her album Results, produced by the Pet Shop Boys.

…. hocked her velvet jumpsuits on Home Shopping Network.

…. has embraced her gay icon status, even performing at Pride in Paris last  year.

…. performs with Dallas Symphony Orchestra at the Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora St. Oct 8 and 9 at 8 p.m. $45–$122. DallasSymphony.com.

……………………………..

Judy (aka Debbie)Judy (aka Debbie)

…. got a miniature Oscar for her role as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz — ouch. (Gravitte has her own Tony, though, for Jerome Robbins’ Broadway).

…. Was Dorothy. And she married some friends of Dorothy. Apparently a genetic trait.

…. embarrassingly messed up some of the words in her famous Carnegie Hall appearance. Still, “Single Ladies” trumps that.

…. was the Lindsay Lohan of her day. Minus the paparazzi.

…. had her Carnegie show recreated detail for detail by gay singer Rufus Wainwright.

…. had several comebacks including Oscar-nominated performances in A Star is Born and Judgment at Nuremberg

…. had a better idea with that red velvet gown from Meet Me in St. Louis.

…. embraced gay men as husbands but responded to a reporter about her iconic status, “I couldn’t care less. I sing to people.”  Umm, we guess that’s cool.

…. isn’t portrayed by Debbie Gravitte as much as she is celebrated, which Gravitte discusses further below.

— Rich Lopez

……………………………..

Recreating a legend

Michael BerkowitzDebbie Gravitte just found out that her show where she performs Judy Garland songs is the same weekend Liza Minnelli comes to Dallas. The scheduling conflict for friends of Dorothy could have massive repercussions, but it is an easy (and obvious fix).

“There is a perfect way to work it out,” Gravitte says. “See her on Friday and see me on Saturday.”

Gravitte teams up with former Minnelli music director Michael Berkowitz, pictured, for An Evening With Judy Garland at the Irving Arts Center Saturday. The solo show commemorates Garland’s iconic Carnegie Hall concert exactly 50 years ago. But Gravitte assures that she is not doing a Judy impersonation.

“This is a tribute, a celebration of this one incredible night of her life,” she says. “I don’t look anything like her and maybe I sound like her a tiny bit, but it’s not like we are recreating Judy. We want to channel that joyful part of her instead of recalling the tragic.”

With a full orchestra behind her, Gravitte would even venture to say this is more of a concert than a show; Berkowitz agrees. His closeness to Garland’s material is far beyond just his work with Minnelli.

“I was always a fan. I was a friend of Bill LaVorgna, Liza’s drummer before me. Bill and I knew each other for 40 years. I first heard his playing on the Garland Carnegie Hall recording. That alone was worth it to me.”

As for the dueling shows, Berkowitz thinks anyone who gets out to either comes out ahead.

“I didn’t know Liza May was in town this weekend as well,” he says. “It’s going to be a double header of great music and entertainment.”

Gravitte knows the gays are gonna hold her to task, but she’s not daunted. In fact, she even challenges her audience a bit.

“I welcome everyone to come dressed in their best Judy,” she says. “We are gonna do a sing along and I want people to sing every fucking line!”

— Rich Lopez

Irving Arts Center, 3333 N. MacArthur
Blvd., Irving. Oct 9 at 8 p.m. $19–$54.
IrvingArtsCenter.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 8, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Ann Coulter, the right-wing Judy Garland? Oh puleeze!

Pundit turned stand-up for GOProud’s Homocon, and the jokes were all on the gays

Hardy Haberman | Flagging Left

Ann Coulter
Ann Coulter

Last weekend, the queen of the Neocons met the queens of the Homocon in a surreal event in New York City.

The group GOProud invited Ann Coulter to speak to them. This is the same Ann Coulter who called John Edwards a “faggot.” The same Ann Coulter who claims she has “never failed to talk a gay out of gay marriage.”

The same Ann Coulter who the event organizers called “the right-wing Judy Garland.”

From reports by those in attendance, Coulter delivered less of a speech and more of a stand-up routine. I have no problem with comedians, but her show consisted of gays being the punch line of every joke, if you rule out the jokes directed at black people.

Imagine standing in a group of LGBT people listening to and laughing at a straight woman tossing off one liners like, “Marriage is not a civil right. You’re not black!”

I am waiting for the laugh, and I expect I will continue waiting for a while.

Coulter continued her routine with remarks about why gays and abortion foes should band together, “as soon as they find the gay gene, you know who’s getting aborted!”

I am again left astounded at the strangeness of these self-proclaimed conservative gays who apparently feel chumming around with Ann was worth weathering the insults she spewed.

These folk, and there were only about 150 of them, claim they focus on “federal issues” rather than “state issues like marriage.”

I keep hearing echoes of 1950s white Southerner’s talking about “states rights” when they really meant retaining Jim Crow laws.

What these alleged gay conservatives miss is that to the GOP we are just a punch line.

LGBT Americans are not a group of citizens struggling against discrimination, they are just funny fags who can be so amusing and do a fabulous job decorating and styling hair.

To tell a group of LGBT people that civil rights are the sole property of racial minorities is outrageous, but for that same group to actually stand and pay some blonde bimbo to say it while clinking champagne glasses and making chitchat is appalling.

I fully realize that there will be lots of apologists for this strange event. They will say that I misunderstood the intention of the event; it was “to start a dialogue”… etc.

But a dialogue has to have some kind of give and take. It is not just someone talking and another person waiting to talk.

Perhaps there is some common ground for Coulter and her adoring Homocons in the fiscal responsibility I hear touted by the Republicans. But isn’t it funny that she decided to go for gay jokes instead of substance?

There will also be those who defend the Homocons by pointing to the Democratic Party and saying, “Hey, what have you done for LGBT people?”

To them I would say this, “Not enough!”

Still, at least with the Democratic Party, we are part of a real conversation, and we are not thought of as punch lines. We are not limited to the sidelines and asked to passively stand by while we are insulted and demeaned.

And as to the reference to Judy Garland? Well, for those old enough to remember Miss Garland, whose performances I adored, she was a tortured and sad woman who struggled with drug dependency and emotional ups and downs wilder than any rollercoaster. I suspect a lot of gay men admired her ability to persevere in spite of her problems and let her talent soar.

She was both brilliant and sad but she was bursting with enough talent to transcend the struggle and whisk audiences away over her own personal rainbow.

Ann Coulter, on the other hand, may have charmed the self-loathing Homocons with her snappy quips and tasteless attempts at humor, but for me she would be much better cast as the Wicked Witch of the East.

Now, would someone please drop a house on her?

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 01, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens