‘Project Runway’ returns next month, Dallas designer among contestants

PR_13comp_RLifetime has announced July 24 as the start date for the new season of Project Runway. And Michael Kors is officially just a dim memory.

Zac Posen, Nina Garcia, Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn are back, but as I predicted more than a year ago — and again about a year ago — the loss of the show’s bitchiest critic has cooled my enthusiasm. Indeed, the series usually has two editions per calendar year, but the spring collection was replaced by Under the Gunn, a kind of Project Runway Lite thrown together when Klum wasn’t available to host.

The good news is, one of the new season’s contestants is gay Dallas designer Emmanuel Tobias, 29 (far right), and two others are Texas natives. We like our Texans on the show. No one does big hair better.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

‘Project Runway’ ad presses the flesh

pr12_key_artProject Runway launches its new season — its 12th — a week from tomorrow on Lifetime, and honestly, I haven’t been all that excited about it. No more Michael Kors. More gimmicks. No Texans in the cast.

But I have to say, the new ad campaign for the season has me, ummm, intrigued.

Now, I know the models in this photo are not the contestants. It’s just one more gimmick for the aging franchise. But if you have to have a gimmick, using racy nudity of hard-bodied men (and, admittedly, women) isn’t such a bad idea. And Heidi dressed as Marie Antoinette (and Tim Gunn standing beside her in a pose that’s slightly evocative of something S&M) probably has the desired effect: I’ll be watching.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Celeb news I don’t know how to respond to

Lifetime announces that Lindsay Lohan is set to portray Elizabeth Taylor in a TV movie, Liz & Dick. It will begin filming in June. They were both troubled starlets….

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

“Project Runway” crowns a gay winner — we just don’t know which one yet

Ever since Project Runway moved from Bravo to Lifetime two years ago, its entertainment quotient has taken a nose-dive. Season 8 was the most boring until the current season, an All-Stars edition which brings back players from Seasons 1 through 8. (Season 9 also crowned a controversial winner, someone who had been a designer for only a few months.) This version has been marred by dumb competitions and a substitute slate of less interesting judges. (No Tim Gunn! No Heidi! No Michael Kors! No Nina Garcia!… OK, that last one’s not so bad.)

But the one thing you can say about this season is: Whoever wins will be a gay guy.

That may seem like a ho-hum moment, but considering just how gay the show is — from the judges to the mentor to the contestants to the audience — it’s rather remarkable how poorly the gays have fared over the years. Last season, every male contest was gay (though one claimed not to be but… I mean, c’mon!); two were in the final three, but lost to a straight woman. Since the beginning, at least seven gay men have made the top three, but none has won since Season 4′s Christian Siriano. He may even be the last truly deserving winner.

That changes tonight. In the second of the two-part season finale, the three finalists are all gay: Austin Scarlett (Season 1′s fourth placer), Michael Costello (8′s fourth placer) and Mondo Guerra (8′s runner-up). Kenley Collins was kicked off fourth.

The fact Kenley and Costello stayed in the running so long — or that either is considered an “all-star” — is another one of the problems with the series: You become acutely aware what flashes-in-the-pan some of these designers were, and that they got further on the show than their talents would bear out. (Costello continues to steal others’ ideas, then drape a goddess dress to eke through.)

Mondo was the deserving loser a few seasons back, and Austin has become such a fun personality over the years (especially after his travel-fashion series with Santino Rice), so our loyalties are divided. But we’ll be watching for sure.

So … who do you hope wins?

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

‘Happily Divorced’ debuts Wednesday; ‘Love Handles’ gets lesbian couple tonight

Actress Fran Drescher’s real life inadvertently turned into a story like one of the sitcoms she has performed in. A few years ago, her producing partner and husband of nearly 20 years, Marc Jacobson, announced they were divorcing because, it turned out, he’d been gay all this time. Drescher took the news like a champ (publicly at least), supporting Jacobson and her legions of gay fans with a shrug of “What can ya do?”

In true Hollywood fashion, though, she turned her personal tragedy into the stuff of comedy for her new sitcom, Happily Divorced, which premieres Wednesday on TV Land.

In it, Drescher plays Fran (big stretch), a Los Angeles housewife whose husband (John Michael Higgins) reveals after 18 years that he’s gay. How could she not have known? He did all the floral arrangements for their wedding. But the economic downturn has made the breakup far worse: He’s still living in the house they cannot afford to sell, while she ventures out into the dating world.

Happily Divorced is, like Drescher’s signature sitcom The Nanny, a bright and airy confection with some unfortunately familiar jokes sandwiching some of the truly clever ones. But Higgins (familiar for his Chris Guest mockumentaries) is a gifted comedian, as are her parents, played by George Segal and Rita Moreno. And Drescher herself a bizarrely likable woman despite that annoying accent.

There are few great sitcoms around anymore — Modern Family and 30 Rock spring to mind — and even fewer great three-camera shows, such as Big Bang Theory. Happily Divorced doesn’t approach any of them in quality or laughs, but it does have a breezy sense of humor about gay issues that’s neither insulting nor bitter. It’s a start.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Fighting the normalcy bias

David Webb

Gas pump sticker shock brings home some hard lessons we all need to learn

DAVID WEBB  |  The Rare Reporter

After months of ignoring it, sticker shock at the gas pump has finally registered in my consciousness. And that moment of enlightenment has led me to do a little research about economics.

I now know that I’ve been acting exactly how the experts predict the average consumer will when faced with an unprecedented personal experience.

It all started when I filled up my gas tank at a service station in Oak Lawn the other day, and the tab came to more than $60 for just a few drops more than 15 gallons.

It occurred to me as I drove off that using a credit card at self-service pumps could lead someone to be blindsided in a big way when the monthly bills arrive.

I drive a modest four-cylinder sedan, so I don’t even want to consider what people who drive big gas guzzlers are paying to fill up — not to mention the shock that could be in store for them at the end of the month.

To put things in perspective, I started driving when I was 14 and at that time — I’m talking about nearly a half-century ago — gas cost about 33 cents per gallon. If I’m figuring correctly, I think that’s about a 1,200 percent increase in my lifetime of driving.

Admittedly, talking about price increases that have occurred over a 50-year period, the increase might not seem so radical. But just a little over a decade ago, gas cost less than $2 per gallon. It cost me less than $30 to fill up a similar car’s gas tank back then.

If it were only gas that had increased in price, it might not seem like such a big deal. But everything that we require to go about our daily lives, such as groceries and clothes, has increased just as dramatically.

Even the price of beer, which one needs in order to cope with the stress of all the other high prices, has skyrocketed.

We’ve all been warned for a long time by people who lived through the Great Depression of the 1930s that hard times could be coming. But most of us never took those predictions seriously.

After my gas pump experience the other day my research revealed that my delayed awareness of the seriousness of the situation is not abnormal. In fact, it is a condition that is known as “normalcy bias.”

Basically, what that means is that if a person or group of people have never experienced a type of disaster or other traumatic experience, they tend to discount the possibility of it ever occurring.

I assume that’s why — despite the repeated warnings that prices for gas and everything else that depends on energy for its production and distribution would be going through the ceiling — that so many of us have ignored the threat.

It’s clearer to me today than it was a week ago that all of us could be on the brink of making some pretty severe changes in our lifestyle to cope with the economic hardships that appear to be on the horizon. Considering the numbers of people who are unemployed, surviving on food stamps or even homeless, there’s a real crisis out there that most of us just don’t fully comprehend.

What’s really scary is that all of the states and local governments are bankrupt and are quickly becoming unable to help support people who are in trouble. The federal government is in the same shape, and the dollar is losing its value quickly.

An even scarier scenario is that many people live beyond their means and amass big debts that will crush them should they become unemployed or lose a paycheck for any other reason.

Again, someone who has never lost a job or been unable to find one may not realize that it could indeed happen to them as well, according to the “normalcy bias” theory.

One of the examples of “normalcy bias” afflicting a whole group of people reportedly occurred in Germany in the 1930s when Jewish people who had lived in the country for generations failed to realize the dangers they faced from Adolph Hitler and his Nazi Party. These intelligent, affluent, accomplished and sophisticated people simply were unable to comprehend what was about to happen to them.

Some things are out of our direct, individual control as regards what could happen to the economy. But there is something that everyone probably needs to do in troubling times: I now remember financial experts on talk shows recently advising people to get out of debt, stay out of debt, start foregoing some luxuries, build a strong cash reserve to take care of basic needs and fill pantries with nonperishable foods.

Until my moment of awareness at the gas pump the other day, I might have considered such a plan to be a little alarmist, because like most people I know, I’ve never gone without anything. But that could change.

Now, it just seems like good common sense.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative press for three decades. Email him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

—  John Wright

OWN and ‘Becoming Chaz’

When I first heard that Oprah Winfrey was starting her own network — aptly called the Oprah Winfrey Network or OWN — I was expecting something like Lifetime or even The Hallmark Channel. Who knew we’d end up with a cross between Logo and Bravo and CNN?!

OWN is the home, of course, of Lisa Ling’s “Our America” series which has had installments so far featuring transgender people (“Transgender Lives”) and ex-gays (“Pray the Gay Away”). And today, I saw for the first time a short trailer about “Becoming Chaz,” a documentary on Chastity Bono’s transition to Chaz Bono which will include interviews with Chaz’s gay icon mom, Cher. It premiers in May on OWN

Here’s the trailer. I know I’ll be watching.

—  admin

WATCH: Texas natives wed after 40 years

Jean Eleanor McFaddin and Susan Elaine Falk first met in 1962 at the University of Texas in Austin. McFaddin was from Dallas, and Falk was from Lufkin. They’ve been together for more than 40 years, but were finally legally married in Connecticut last week, according to The New York Times.

“You come to weddings, and they’re about people making promises that they hope to keep in their marriage, and in truth, our marriage is an affirmation of a lifetime of promises that we’ve made and lived,” McFaddin says. “We have fulfilled our commitments.”

“She was the one, is the one and always will be the one,” Falk says.

—  John Wright

Video: A Lifetime of stigma

In 2006, the Lifetime network began airing A Girl Like Me: The Gwen Araujo Story, a very well done, GLAAD award-winning telepic that covered the life and tragic murder of transgender teen Gwen Araujo. You probably remember that Gwen was murdered by a group a men at a 2002 house party, after it was discovered that she had biologically male genitalia. A victim of horrible circumstances, not her own “bad decisions.”

Well fast forward to 2010. Last night, a G-A-Y friend tipped us to the fact that the film is currently re-airing on the Lifetime Movie Network, which is a cool thing. However, look at how the network’s marketing the programming week of which Gwen’s story is a part:

Yep, that’s right — the film’s being marketed as part of an out-of-control teen block. Binge drinking. Promiscuity. Drugs. A transgender teen’s tragic murder?! One of these “good kids, bad decisions” scenario is most certainly not like the others!

Now we want to be careful in saying that we do not at all think this was a malicious decision by Lifetime, a network with a very positive record on LGBT matters. It was more likely just a boneheaded decision. An insensitive decision. But nevertheless, it’s still a potentially dangerous decision that we can now use as a teachable moment, reminding programming execs that transgender does not equate sensationalism.




Good As You

—  John Wright