The good, the bad & the ‘A-List’

These arts, cultural & sports stories defined gay Dallas in 2011

FASHIONS AND FORWARD  |  The Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit at the DMA, above, was a highlight of the arts scene in 2011, while Dirk Nowitzki’s performance in the NBA playoffs gave the Mavs their first-ever — and much deserved — world title. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

FASHIONS AND FORWARD | The Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit at the DMA, above, was a highlight of the arts scene in 2011, while Dirk Nowitzki’s performance in the NBA playoffs gave the Mavs their first-ever — and much deserved — world title. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

A lot of eyes were focused on Dallas nationally in 2011 — for good and bad — but much of what made the city a fun place last year has specific queer appeal. CULTURE The rise of the reality TV star. 2011 was the year Dallas made a big splash across everyone’s television sets — and it had nothing to do with who shot J.R. (although that’s pending). From the culinary to the conniving, queer Dallasites were big on the small screen. On the positive side were generally good portrayals of gay Texans. Leslie Ezelle almost made it all the way in The Next Design Star, while The Cake Guys’ Chad Fitzgerald is still in contention on TLC’s The Next Great Baker. Lewisville’s Ben Starr was a standout on MasterChef. On the web, Andy Stark, Debbie Forth and Brent Paxton made strides with Internet shows Bear It All, LezBeProud and The Dallas Life,respectively.

‘A’ to Z  |  ‘The A-LIst: Dallas,’ above, had its detractors, but some reality TV stars from Big D, like Chad Fitzgerald, Leslie Ezelle and Ben Starr, represented us well.

‘A’ to Z | ‘The A-LIst: Dallas,’ above, had its detractors, but some reality TV stars from Big D, like Chad Fitzgerald, Leslie Ezelle and Ben Starr, represented us well.

There were downsides, though. Drew Ginsburg served as the token gay on Bravo’s teeth-clenching Most Eligible: Dallas, and the women on Big Rich Texas seemed a bit clichéd. But none were more polarizing than the cast of Logo’s The A-List: Dallas. Whether people loved or hated it, the six 20somethings (five gays, one girl) reflected stereotypes that made people cringe. Gaultier makes Dallas his runway. The Dallas Museum of Art scored a coup, thanks to couture. The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk not only featured the work of the famed designer, but was presented the designs in an innovative manner. Nothing about it was stuffy. Seeing his iconic designs in person is almost a religious experience — especially when its Madonna’s cone bra. Gaultier reminded us that art is more than paintings on a wall. (A close runner-up: The Caravaggio exhibit in Fort Worth.) The Return of Razzle Dazzle. ­­There was speculation whether Razzle Dazzle could actually renew itself after a near-decade lull, but the five-day spectacular was a hallmark during National Pride Month in June, organized by the Cedar Springs Merchant Association. The event started slowly with the wine walk but ramped up to the main event street party headlined by rapper Cazwell. Folding in the MetroBall with Deborah Cox, the dazzle had returned with high-profile entertainment and more than 10,000 in attendance on the final night. A Gathering pulled it together. TITAS executive director Charles Santos took on the daunting task of producing A Gathering, a collective of area performance arts companies, commemorating 30 years of AIDS. Groups such as the Dallas Opera, Turtle Creek Chorale and Dallas Theater Center donated their time for this one-of-a-kind show with all proceeds benefiting Dallas’ leading AIDS services organizations. And it was worth it. A stirring night of song, dance and art culminated in an approximate 1,000 in attendance and $60,000 raised for local charities. Bravo, indeed. The Bronx closed after 35 years. Cedar Springs isn’t short on its institutions, but when it lost The Bronx, the gayborhood felt a real loss. For more than three decades, the restaurant was home to many Sunday brunches and date nights in the community. We were introduced to Stephan Pyles there, and ultimately, we just always figured on it being there as part of the fabric of the Strip. A sister company to the neighboring Warwick Melrose bought the property with rumors of expansion. But as yet, the restaurant stands steadfast in its place as a reminder of all those memories that happened within its walls and on its plates.  The Omni changed the Dallas skyline. In November, The Omni Dallas hotel opened the doors to its 23-story structure and waited to fill it’s 1,000 rooms to Dallas visitors and staycationers. Connected to the Dallas Convention Center, the ultra-modern hotel is expected to increase the city’s convention business which has the Dallas Visitors and Conventions Bureau salivating — as they should. The hotel brought modern flair to a booming Downtown and inside was no different. With quality eateries and a healthy collection of art, including some by gay artists Cathey Miller and Ted Kincaid, the Omni quickly became a go-to spot for those even from Dallas. SPORTS The Super Bowl came to town. Although seeing the Cowboys make Super Bowl XLV would have been nice for locals, the event itself caused a major stir, both good and bad. Ticketing issues caused a commotion with some disgruntled buyers and Jerry Jones got a bad rap for some disorganization surrounding the game. But the world’s eyes were on North Texas as not only the game was of a galactic measure, but the celebs were too. From Kardashians to Ke$ha to Kevin Costner, parties and concerts flooded the city and the streets. The gays even got in on the action. Despite crummy weather, the Super Street Party was billed as the “world’s first ever gay Super Bowl party.” The ice and snow had cleared out and the gays came out, (and went back in to the warmer clubs) to get their football on. The XLV Party at the Cotton Bowl included a misguided gay night with acts such as Village People, Lady Bunny and Cazwell that was ultimately canceled. The Mavericks won big. The Mavs are like the boyfriend you can’t let go of because you see how much potential there is despite his shortcomings. After making the playoffs with some just-misses, the team pulled through to win against championship rivals, Miami Heat, who beat them in 2006. In June, the team cooled the Heat in six games, taking home its first NBA Championship, with Dirk Nowitzki appropriately being named MVP. The Rangers gave us faith. Pro sports ruled big in these parts. The Mavericks got us in the mood for championships and the Texas Rangers almost pulled off a victory in the World Series. With a strong and consistent showing for the season, the Rangers went on to defend their AL West Division pennant. Hopes were high as they handily defeated the Detroit Tigers in game six, but lost the in the seventh game. Although it was a crushing loss, the Texas Rangers proved why we need to stand by our men.

— Rich Lopez

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 6, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

Class in session

Ru & crew, back for ‘Drag U,’ Season 2

RuPaulThere’s a difference between a TV show that is intentionally cheesy and one that induces cringes by mistake. Thankfully, RuPaul’s Drag U knows exactly what it’s doing, laying the puns on thicker than Jujubee’s makeup. They can still induce groans, but at least we’re all in on the joke.

After all, Drag U is all about the fun side of our favorite competitive drag queens. Leaving (most of) the drama over at the Drag Race, each week queen “professors” (including Season 1 winner Bebe Zahara Benet, pictured) are tasked with making over three ordinary women and unleashing their inner divas, complete with drag personas and styling. On the line are sorta-fabulous prizes like jewelry, a vacation and a cash prize of $3,166.17 (seriously).

But it’s what the women gain in self-esteem that’s the most valuable parting gift, and don’t think the producers don’t know it. In the first episode alone, one of the women is trying to overcome the pain of having her ex-husband end their marriage via email; she, of course, learns “to love herself again” with the inducement of wigs and outrageous makeup. That’s some powerful Oprah-level stuff, but Ru, “Dean of Drag” Lady Bunny, guest judges like Beverly Johnson and the rest of the girls give advice that’s equal parts sassy and sincere.

The result? Incredible transformations at the end of an hour of deliciously fluffy television — and every one of these straight gals owes it to the gays. For anyone in withdrawals since Drag Race ended, or in love with makeovers, or just interested in learning more about one contestant’s husband’s “diesel mangina,” the second season of Drag U is more than deserving of a season pass on your DVR.

— Steven Lindsey

Premieres Monday at 8 p.m. on Logo

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 17, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Bunny hop

Lady Bunny comes out! (as more than a drag queen DJ)

LADY BUNNY
Axiom Sushi Lounge,
4123 Cedar Springs Road.
June 3 at 8 p.m. 214-443-3840.

………………………

The Lady Bunny is most recognizable as that funny queen who created Wigstock, or as the DJ spinning at a circuit party in full drag. But the lady has a lot on her mind that’s not all fun and games. Though she’s never far from the sass.

“I really like to talk about issues because there is a lot of fluff on TV,” she says. “How great would it be if a gay channel would take on gay issues? I’d love that. Hear that, Logo?”

Bunny, who has practically made Dallas a second home lately, returns for a double gig this weekend: On Saturday, she shares the bill with Tony-nominee Kelli O’Hara as the DJ for the Dallas Theater Center’s Centerstage benefit. But Friday she returns to her performing roots for a birthday dinner and roast at Axiom Sushi Lounge at the ilume. And she knows the fish jokes should be easy that night.

“I am that tacky,” she laughs. “For me, I love sushi but drag and dinner only mix if there’s a girdle handy.”

Bunny is deeper than she usually gets credit for. Seeing Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart on Broadway forced her to recall activism then vs. now. Minus the makeup and music, Bunny is impassioned about that which affects LGBT people today.

“I think that gay people have to a large extent lost their fight,” she says. “I don’t really know how putting ‘Equality’ as your middle name on Facebook, or a piece of tape over your mouth, helps. I can’t see how these trendy campaigns substitute for hard work.”

She’s also inspired by her work as the Dean of Drag on the upcoming season of RuPaul’s Drag U. With an increased role this time out, Bunny still keeps the camp but adds heart for her makeovers. Real life women get makeovers, but also come with dramatic back-stories.

“These women, they give up everything for their kids and their man,” she says. “I cried a few times. It made me appreciate that nurturing vibe that mothers have. I don’t think gay men know that kind of sacrifice. This season has been a real eye opener.”

For now, she snarkily warns of her own eye opener Friday.

“Well, I have this delightful tribute to Burlesque,” she says. “Did you see the movie? Ugh.”

— Rich Lopez

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 3, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Your dose of The Lady Bunny

The Lady Bunny was supposed to be at the XLV Party before it was canceled, and frankly, we were all set to see the drag diva spin again. Then nothing.

But we got our fix, anyway. Here’s a little parody song from Buynny skewering Sarah Palin that brought a smile to my face this morning. Even digital Bunny is better than none.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

XLV Party gets some gay in after all

We had mixed feelings about the cancellation of Thursday’s queer-skewing XLV Party. With a lineup that included Cazwell, Lady Bunny and The Village People, organizers reached out to the LGBT community. But the headliners weren’t a strong enough draw and the concert was pulled.

Organizers bounced back, though, and added a quick hint of mint to the remaining shows, with DJ Samantha Ronson joining Friday’s lineup. The lesbian DJ isn’t just Lindsay Lohan’s ex, she’s a pretty big deal all on her own. Thanks for keeping us in mind, guys!

— Rich Lopez

Visit XLVParty.com for information.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

How many tix were really sold to canceled gay Super Bowl concert? Under 100, publicist says

Good thing this didn’t happen with the gays under there. (From WFAA)

Fewer than 100 tickets — but more than 13 — had been sold to the gay Super Bowl concert originally planned for tonight at the Cotton Bowl, according to a publicist for the event.

“There were less than 100 but glad we canceled because most of the artists’ flights were canceled due to weather,” publicist Ariana Hajibashi said in an e-mail late Wednesday, in response to a question about how many tickets had been sold for the first night of the XLV Party, which was to feature the Village People, Lady Bunny and Cazwell.

Instant Tea had reported, based on a statement by Hajibashi, that only 13 tickets were sold. However, she later said that was inaccurate.

In other XLV Party news, it looks like the now-two-night event has been moved indoors, to the Fair Park Coliseum, after a tent at the Cotton Bowl collapsed was taken down more quickly than expected due to the weather.

—  John Wright

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Lady Bunny

“I have no idea why this was cancelled. But honestly, who thinks of an overweight drag queen when they think of sports? Water sports, maybe!”

— Lady Bunny, on the cancellation of a gay-themed Super Bowl concert at which she was scheduled to perform, in an e-mail to Instant Tea

—  John Wright

CORRECTION: Publicist says more than 13 tickets were sold to canceled gay Super Bowl concert

We received the below message marked “URGENT” late last night from Ariana Hajibashi, publicist for the this weekend’s XLV Party at the Cotton Bowl. Hajibashi was responding to our post Monday about the cancellation of the first night of the party, which was geared toward the LGBT community. In our post, we reported that Hajibashi said the Thursday night concert — featuring the Village People, Lady Bunny and Cazwell — was canceled because only 13 (yes, 13) tickets had been sold. But she now says that’s inaccurate:

“I appreciate the story on XLV Party but I wanted to let you know that the 13 tickets number you quoted me saying is not correct,” she wrote. “When speaking with you, I was giving you an example, just threw a number out there. We definitely sold tickets but not enough to entice us to continue with the event as scheduled. If you could please make that correction, I’d appreciate it.”

Done, but how many tickets were actually sold then? We’ve responded to Hajibashi with this very question, and we’ll update if we get a response.

—  John Wright

Organizers cancel gay-themed Super Bowl concert at Cotton Bowl after only 13 tickets sold

The big gay Super Bowl concert planned for the Cotton Bowl on Thursday night has been canceled due to poor ticket sales, according to Ariana Hajibashi, publicist for the now-two-night XLV Party

Hajibashi said only 13 tickets had been sold for Thursday night’s concert featuring Lady Bunny, the Village People and Cazwell, which was marketed specifically to the LGBT community.

“Our Friday and Saturday are packed, but Thursday didn’t sell anything,” Hajibashi said. “I understand that everybody in Dallas is a last-minute ticket buyer, but unfortunately with only 13 tickets sold four days out, we couldn’t invest an additional $100,000 dollars. We couldn’t have a 6,000-square-foot space with 100 people in it. It kind of makes us sad because we were really trying to do an event for the GLBT community. Everybody else is focused on the sports angle and things like that, so we’re disappointed that we didn’t get any attention.”

Hajibashi said cold weather had nothing to do with the cancellation, because the tent over the Cotton Bowl will be heated. She said organizers thought they had a great lineup that would appeal to the gay community.

The XLV Party is still on for Friday and Saturday nights, and tickets are now as low as $59 per night for a limited time. As we mentioned earlier, Outtakes Dallas is giving away tickets.

A full press release is after the jump.

—  John Wright

Music. Score!

THE BOI AND THE COWBOY | Generations collide when Cazwell, right, and Cowboy Jeff Olson of the Village People bring their very gay music to the Cotton Bowl on Thursday, Feb. 3.

Musicians including Cazwell and Jeff Olson of the Village People head to Texas for a big gay Super Bowl party — although neither is all that excited about the game

All’s well that Cazwell

Who knew it just takes a popsicle to rise to stardom? Just ask Katy Perry. Or Cazwell, whose colorful music video for “Ice Cream Truck” became the gay anthem of last summer. With hot dancers and sexualized frozen confections, it has an infectious beat and a sense of joy that combined to make it a huge hit for the artist.

Just don’t expect the Ice Cream Truck Boys to join Cazwell when he’s in town next week for XLV Party, a three-day event inside a 60,000-square-foot climate-controlled tent on the field of the Cotton Bowl. The festivities kick off with a super-gay night of entertainment on Thursday. And even with the likes of Lady Bunny, DJ Inferno and the iconic Village People sharing stage time, Cazwell plans to bring it.

Describing himself as what would result if Biggie Smalls ate Donna Summer, Cazwell has combined the energy of dance music with the soul of hip-hop for a fun, modern sound that is all about getting people to have fun and dance.

“I’m going to turn it out. It’s going to be a high-energy show,” he says. “I’m going to do a combination of my dance songs but I also just want to kick back and wrestle with some beats and some rhymes. I think people will get to know me a little better as an artist.”

XLV Party will mark Cazwell’s second appearance in Dallas in less than a year and he’s anxious to come back.

“I was in Dallas last summer. It was really, really good. I was very surprised by the turnout. I wasn’t expecting so many fans,” he says. “We did a meet-and-greet that lasted three hours.”

His fan base has grown exponentially since “Ice Cream Truck,” but he still remembers the days when even Lady Gaga couldn’t get a reaction from a New York crowd.

“We did a song together at a club called Family. She’d always been kind of eccentric, but really down-to-earth. We had this stage that was like the size of a door, but she took it seriously. She crammed two dancers up there and then I got up there and she said, ‘I’m going to throw you to the ground and ride you like I’m fucking you and the audience is going to go crazy,’” he recalls. The gimmick landed with a thud.

“Somewhere there’s footage of it, but I can’t find it. The funny thing about it is that we really didn’t get the reaction we thought we were going to get. Nobody knew who she was so they just kind of looked at us with their arms folded. Like great, here’s another club kid with a song. Six months later, everybody knew who Lady Gaga was.”

Cazwell has garnered a loyal following on the New York club scene and has broken out with hit songs like, “I Seen Beyonce at Burger King” and “All Over Your Face,” but “Ice Cream Truck” is really where things clicked with a larger audience. And it almost didn’t happen.

“I didn’t want to write a new song; I was feeling really lazy. But a friend was pressuring me,” he says. “I wrote it for this movie called Spork, which won a bunch of awards for the Tribeca Film Festival and is going nationwide in May. My friend said he wanted a beat that sounded like an ice cream truck. We did the whole thing in like 45 minutes. It was just really, really easy.”

He wasn’t going to do anything with it until his manager suggested he make a quick video “to the song to get my face out there. It made me think of summertime and the hot Latin guys in my neighborhood. We all know a bunch of guys, dancers from the club scene so we invited them all over. No one was paid. We’re all friends and they just wanted to be a part of it.”

The video become a sensation across Facebook and video sites like YouTube, and with it came legions of new fans. But that’s OK … for now.

“I think that right now I’m in a good time in my life because I think the people that come up to me are genuine fans. I think when you get more famous, people want to meet you just because you’re famous. That could get tedious. I’m sure people go up to Lady Gaga just because she’s Lady Gaga, not because they respect her music,” Cazwell says.

“I feel right now that people are being genuine with me. I hope they’re people I’ve had a positive effect on because when people tell me that, it really makes me feel really good.”

And as for his excitement over the Super Bowl? Well, not so much. Cazwell admits he’s not a football fan — or a fan of any sport for that matter.

“I’m not passionate about sports at all. I don’t get it. I see sports on the news and wonder how that’s a news story. It’s just a game!” he says.

That’s all right. We see him as more a concessions guy anyway … like, the ice cream truck.

— Steven Lindsey

Cowboy up

Despite the cheeky allure of the Village People, the concept band is nothing to laugh at. After 34 years, the quintessential disco band still gets audiences to do the “Y.M.C.A.” dance. A  Rolling Stone cover, a Walk of Fame star and million-selling albums are nothing to sniff at.

Jeff Olson jumped onboard after the peak of the Village People’s popularity in the late 1970s, but he’s still enjoying the ride three decades later.

“Our first and foremost obligation is to just entertain,” he says. “We are obligated to do it and I’d say we do it very well.”

As a VP veteran, Olson sounds less like a music star and more like an elder slacker. He has a relaxed, cool inflection as he talks up his favorite classic rock bands and will say “man” after most everything. He’s the kind of guy you could kill a few hours with, as long as a beer and maybe something to smoke are handy.

The People don’t talk much about the sexuality of its members, but it’s hard to ignore the impact the group had on the gay community in the ’70s.

After the band floundered in the ’80s when Olson joined to replace original VP Cowboy Randy Jones, the gay audience stuck around.

“I don’t think we’ve had any change with the gay fans. They have always been very loyal and we’re still very grateful about that,” he says. “We’ve done lots to increase our other fans but really, nobody gives a shoot. Who cares anymore about gay or straight thing? We’re on this earth for very short time.”

At 60, Olson feels great and is obviously in shape to do the dance moves, but if it were up to him, he’d stay home. Still, the fans drive him to keep entertaining.

“I hate being on the road,” he admits. “When you live out of a suitcase, so much sucks like trying to get through TSA these days. I love being home, but we really love what we do.”

Where each Village Person represented a distinctive male archetype of gay fantasy, Olson is coy about the popularity of his cowboy image — though as any weekend at the Round-Up Saloon would prove, cowboys are a sexy commodity in Dallas. Olson won’t say if his cowboy is more popular with the boys than the others, but he lets out what sounds like a proud chuckle.

“Honestly I do not know and I don’t care,” he says.” The audiences react differently to all of us. We’re introduced individually so the reaction changes all the time. It’s always all good.”

The irony of Olson coming with the Village People for the very gay night of the Super Bowl party is that sports and crowds aren’t his thing.

“Nah, I don’t follow football,” he says. “And you wanna know a secret? I’m paranoid about crowds. I don’t do well with them and I need space. I don’t like signing autographs because folks don’t do the things they should do as a human being. But one on one I’m good with.”

Despite getting a few things off his chest, Olson mostly wants to remind that the Village People don’t necessarily stand for anything … but they will make you dance.

— Rich Lopez

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 28, 2011.

—  John Wright