This week’s takeaways: Life+Style

Tomlin-BPatterson03Now that January is behind us, and it seems we don’t have to expect icy weather any time soon (though in Texas, ya never know), a lot of events are springing up for your entertainment calendar.

This is a busy weekend for limited-run events, many with gay appeal. Tonight and twice on Saturday, the Turtle Creek Chorale and Uptown Players co-present a concert version of the Terrence McNally-penned musical Ragtime at the City Performance Hall. I saw it last night, and, while long, it has some terrific singing — and acting — especially from Markus Lloyd and Tyce Green.

On Saturday morning at 11:30 a.m. and again a 2 p.m., Susan Nicely performs a free mini-opera, portraying Julia Child in Bon Appetit! at the Demonstration Kitchen inside the Farmers Market. To RSVP, go to DallasOpera.org. That evening, the Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet performs … and that’s a company that’s truly inventive. (We have a preview of it here.)

You can go to the ballet and still get out in time to see dance diva Kristine W headline the Carnivale celebration at Station 4 — she goes on at midnight.

On Sunday, Lily Tomlin, pictured, brings her one-woman show to the Winspear, performing her classic characters. She’s one of the legends of American comedy — you don’t want to miss it.

In addition, Mardi Gras is on Tuesday, Valentine’s Day is on Thursday, and next week welcomes to major touring productions — Catch Me If You Can at Fair Park (remember: DSM’s shows now begin a half-hour earlier than before — that’s 7:30 p.m. at nighttime performances!) and Anything Goes at the Winspear.

Don’t say you’re bored — there’s too frickin’ much to do!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

This week’s takeaways: Life+Style

Yes, we know this is Black Tie Dinner weekend, but if you don’t have tickets by now, you’ve got other stuff to keep you busy — some of it quite great.

First, you can get a taste of Black Tie for the B4 Preview Party Friday night at the Sheraton, a little sneak peak of the auction items. Then on Saturday you have two chances to see Jaston Williams (of Greater Tuna fame) performing his one-man show about growing up in the Panhandle, Cooking with Gasoline, pictured, at Casa Manana. You also only have a few more changes to see Lyric Stage‘s production of 1776. It’s not a perfect musical by any means, but the cast is strong and nothing will get you excited about voting more than a patriotic musical. You have a little longer to see The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity from Dallas Theater Center. Hot guys in Speedos and a smart dissection of consumer culture? I was sold.

Also on Saturday, you can go to the 500 Inc.’s 10th annual WineFest in Addison. (We’re even giving away free tickets!)

If you prefer staying in on a Friday night, Lily Tomlin returns to sitcomdom with Malibu Country tonight on ABC.

On Election Eve, Mama’s Party returns for a fundraiser in Grand Prairie with Amy Stevenson hosting as always and local vocal luminaries performing. Expect a lot of tributes to the late Buddy Shanahan — the local pianist died Sunday; a memorial service will be held for his friends at the Cathedral of Hope on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. For a different kind of music on Monday, you can instead see Liz Mikel play Blue (Room) at South Side on Lamar with her show about sex and women. Oh, lord!

Many of us will be glued to the TV watching election returns on Tuesday, but if you need some other distraction, consider seeing Oral Fixation, the storytelling series, at The MAC.

And finally, although Stephan Pyles’ newest restaurant Stampede 66 hasn’t officially opened yet, it’s due and day now, and until then, you can check out pictures of the interior here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Working on Ann Richards documentary became a passion for director

Keith Patterson wasn’t from Texas and hadn’t even spent much time here. Then while living in Los Angeles, a friend said he wanted to do a documentary about Ann Richards. Patterson was familiar with — even a fan of — the late Texas governor, “so I came on board” in late 2010, he says.

The following 20 months, however, have been a journey for the gay filmmaker, who ended up co-directing Ann Richards’ Texas, the documentary that kicks off Dallas VideoFest 25 at the Dallas Museum of Art Thursday night.

“We came to Texas for a year: Austin first, but we ended up everywhere,” he says on the phone from New York, a few hours before his planned arrival in Dallas to attend the festival. “I even have a place in Houston [still].”

Working on the documentary quickly became a passion for Patterson.

“I loved her,” he says. “You can’t get any larger than a Texas politician. That’s why The Best Little Whorehouse is so good — it captures the politics. That song where the governor talks about sidestepping [every issue]? That was [the governorship]. When Ann got in there and started passing a lot of reforms, she shook everything up.”

Richards had help from some powerful friends, including lesbian power couple Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner, who met and befriended Richards early in her political career. “They were friends from the 1980s when she ran for treasurer and helped write the comedy for Ann’s [historic 1988 Democratic National Conventional] keynote address,” Patterson says. “That’s when she met Dolly [Parton], too. I think Ann was a county commissioner when Dolly was [in Texas] shooting Whorehouse.”

Tomlin, Parton and a host of other celebs offer their voices to the documentary. It wasn’t difficult finding people anxious to talk on the record about the flamboyant Texas pol.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Gay “Laugh-In” star Alan Sues dies

Alan Sues

Openly gay actor Alan Sues, 85, best known for his work on Laugh-In, died on Dec. 1.

Laugh-In was a pre-Stonewall, quick-paced comedy-sketch TV show that also featured another gay performer — Lily Tomlin. But Sues’ characters were all outrageously, unapologetically, screamingly gay. Among them was Big Al, a gay sportscaster (see clip below).

His campy characters even carried over into commercials. In the early 70s, Sues was featured in Peter Pan Peanut Butter ads as a very flamboyant Peter Pan.

According to the LA Times, Sues was openly gay but not publicly, because he was afraid it would ruin his career. At that time it was OK to be gay as long as you didn’t say you were gay out loud.

However, during a radio interview I did with Sues in the early 90s, he was open and talked freely about being gay.

Sues was in Dallas at the time to perform in Breck Wall’s Bottoms Up revue — a live sketch show that began at Jack Ruby’s Dallas night club and moved to Las Vegas in 1964 where it ran for years. Wall, who died last year, and Sues appeared on Lambda Weekly to promote the tour of Bottoms Up.

In person, Sues was as joyously flaming as his Laugh In characters. On the LGBT radio show, he talked freely about being gay and walking the fine line between his characters being gay and actually saying his characters were gay on a ’60s TV show.

Since a character couldn’t say he was gay on TV then, the only way to know the character was gay was through his flamboyant persona. Stereotype? Sure. Funny? Very. And without a few people like Alan Sues on TV then, we might not have Mitchell and Cam on Modern Family today.

For gay kids growing up in the 60s, Sues was the TV star who let us know there were others like us out there.

 

—  David Taffet

’Mo town

Rich with culture and a strong queer identity, Detroit rocks as a gay destination

travel

DETROIT ROCK CITY | The 73-story GM Renaissance Center is an icon of the Detroit skyline and home to the upscale Marriott Detroit. (Photo courtesy Andrew Collins)

As the cooler weather of early autumn settles in, southern Michigan becomes a particularly enchanting spot for a vacation. The scrappy and culturally rich Detroit makes an appealing weekend destination, with its slew of friendly gay bars and stylish restaurants and some of the Midwest’s most acclaimed cultural attractions. The country’s 18th largest city is difficult to get a full grasp of on a short visit, but a couple of days is enough time to see one incredible city.

For art lovers, a must-see is the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), whose central foyer contains spectacular Depression-era frescoes by Diego Rivera. The museum holds 65,000 works and anchors the Cultural Center district near Wayne State University. Such notable attractions as the Detroit Historical Museum and the Motown Museum, which celebrates the careers of such R&B legends as Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross and the Jackson 5, are conveniently nearby.

Walk along Woodward Avenue, downtown’s main drag, to a stellar theater district, including the fantastical 1927 Fox Theatre; the Bonstelle Theatre, where Lily Tomlin got her start; Orchestra Hall at the Max M. Fisher Music Center, home of the Detroit Symphony and the impressive Detroit Opera House.

Northwest along Woodward Avenue is Ferndale, a formerly working-class community that’s become something of a gay stronghold over the years. West 9 Mile Road, has a few hip boutiques and vintage stores, as does Royal Oak, a bastion of more cool dining and retail spots. See the recently renovated and expanded Cranbrook Art Museum in Bloomfield Hills designed by architectural legend Eliel Saarinen, whose nearby house is open seasonally for tours.

Head west to Dearborn, the heart of the America’s auto-manufacturing heritage, to tour the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, a fascinating 81-acre complex of historic homes and structures moved here from across the country as well as an incomparable museum that traces the development of American technological innovation over the generations.

When it comes to dining, metro Detroit has a number of highly regarded options. One of the most famous is Opus One set inside a former taxi garage built by Kimbell Museum designer Louis Kahn in 1916, and serves superb contemporary food. A funky eatery on the edge of the Cultural Center, the Majestic Cafe scores high marks for art exhibits and eclectic comfort food, while lesbian-owned Avalon International Breads is renowned among foodies for its fine coffees, artisan breads and delicious sandwiches and salads. Royal Oak restaurant notables include the dapper Town Tavern and the charming Cafe Muse, which serves a delectable grilled cheese good enough to be featured in Esquire Magazine.

Fans of clubbing will find plenty of options in Detroit. Popular spots include Royal Oak’s gay video bar Pronto; Ferndale’s sophisticated yet friendly SOHO lounge; and Detroit mainstays such as Menjo’s Complex, where Madonna used to party in her early days, and Gigi’s, with its stable of hot male dancers.

For lodging options, consider the upscale Marriott Detroit, which is set inside the soaring 73-story main tower of the GM Renaissance Center, and the more moderately priced Courtyard Marriott. Also excellent is the sleek Atheneum Suite Hotel. All of these are close to Detroit’s festive Greektown neighborhood and the popular Greektown Casino.

— Andrew Collins

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 14, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Give A Damn, get some goodies and help out a good cause all at the same time

Cyndi Lauper

Everybody knows that Cyndi Lauper is not just an LGBT rights supporter, she is a committed activist who is willing to put her time, talent and money where her mouth is when it comes to equality for all.

And now, she’s putting her sparkly high-heeled shoes where her mouth is, too.

The shoes — “Glittery Heels Worn and Signed by Cyndi Lauper” — are just one of the 43 items up for auction in the third annual winter Give A Damn online auction. The list also includes opportunities to meet a wide range of celebrities (Lauper, Jason Mraz, Ricky Martin, The Scissor Sisters, Lily Tomlin and more) in person, a chance to have lunch with Carson Kressley, 2 VIP gold hot seat ticket packages to Lady Gaga’s sold-out show at MSG, tickets to see U2 at the Meadowlands, signed items from folks like Dolly Parton, a Skype chat with Chely Wright, the chance to have Lauper, Rosie O’Donnell or Sara Silverman record your voice mail message — and much, much more.

All the proceeds from the auction go to help fund the Give A Damn Campaign, a web-based initiative launched by Lauper’s True Colors Fund “with the goal of educating and engaging everyone, especially straight people, in the advancement of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality.”

So head on over to the auction page, check out the items up for auction and bid on one or two if you can. I mean, after all, who wouldn’t like the chance to walk in Cyndi Lauper’s shoes — literally?!

—  admin

BTD beneficiary applications begin Feb. 1

30TH ANNIVERSARY | Nan Arnold and Ron Guillard chaired the 2010 Black Tie Dinner that distributed more than $1 million to 20 beneficiaries.

Organizers promise more announcements are coming soon about 30th annual dinner

From Staff Reports
editor@dallasvoice.com

Officials with Black Tie Dinner this week announced that the organization will begin accepting applications Feb. 1 from potential beneficiaries of the 30th annual event, set for Nov. 12 at Sheraton Dallas hotel.

Each year, money raised by the dinner is divided between the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and local beneficiary organizations. As many as 20 local beneficiaries are chosen each year.

Beneficiary applications will be available on the BTD website on Feb. 1, and the deadline for submitting applications is. Feb. 25.

The names of those organizations chosen as beneficiaries will be announced March 30.

Eligible groups must have tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status with the IRS and must demonstrate service to the LGBT community, using a majority of their funds for direct programs and services.

Officials also said this week that other announcements about plans for the 30th annual Black Tie Dinner can be expected in the next week.

The dinner began in 1982 when organizers donated about $6,000 to HRCF and has grown into the largest LGBT fundraising dinner of its kind in the country. More than $15 million has been distributed to beneficiaries since then.

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin was the headliner of the 2010 Black Tie Dinner. Others that have appeared include Gov. Ann Richards, Maya Angelou, Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen and Gavin Newsom.

The dinner committee honors individuals and corporations that have made contributions to the fight for LGBT rights both locally and nationally. Rev. Carol West and singer Chely Wright were 2010 recipients. Others have included Elizabeth Taylor, Judy Shepard and Bishop Gene Robinson.

Chris Kouvelis and Nan Arnold are this year’s Black Tie Dinner chairs.

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

—  John Wright

A fuel-injected ‘Drag Race’

START YOUR ENGINES | Ru says being an ‘introverted extrovert’ is part of the secret weapon to a fabulous career.

RuPaul says sleep deprivation may be key to bitchy success as a Racer

RELATED STORY: Dallas’ Shangela is 1st returning contestant

LAWRENCE FERBER  | Contributing Writer
lawrencewferber@hotmail.com

On Monday, the third season of Logo’s hit RuPaul’s Drag Race exits the gate at full speed with a 90-minute premiere, and it’s running on some seriously premium fuel this year: Fiercer contestants, more elaborate challenges, higher profile guest judges (including Lily Tomlin, Margaret Cho and Chloe Sevigny) and the return of a Texas fave from last season.

Yet again ruling the proceedings, both in and out of drag, is superstar drag persona RuPaul. Ru, who has a new album due later this spring, sat down to dish about contestants old and new, the effects of sleep deprivation on drag queens (hint: emotional breakdowns) and what else is in the works for him.

Dallas Voice: What do you make of season three’s group of contestants and how do they differ from their predecessors? RuPaul: The honest to God truth, they’re so much more skilled, and also on an even-keeled level. These kids came with their A-game like I’ve never seen before. I don’t know if it’s our casting or what’s happening with the girls out there since the show debuted, but these kids are skilled. And the bonds they forged early on with each other is probably the most amazing element.

Yet again the first challenge is a photo shoot with Mike Ruiz. Do you forgive Mike Ruiz for his ridiculous hair on The A-List New York? It looked like a bowl of lubed squid ink pasta.  Ha! I’ve heard people talk about it. But I don’t know because I’ve never seen it. That’s funny!

Tell us some dishy behind-the-scenes factoid about season 3. Well, we’re working on so little sleep, the schedule is so fast because we’re basically shooting every day. It’s tough, grueling. So these kids come on the show and think, “I’m fierce and bad,” but can you do it day-in, day-out, for 15-hours per day? It may look like everyone’s relaxed, but nobody’s getting any sleep at all.

One typically isn’t very detail-oriented when sleep deprived. No, they’re not, and they’re drawing on a lifetime of experience because this show’s challenges are based on things I had to do on a daily basis in my own career. Anyone in the business has to be multi-tasking and wear a lot of hats. You can’t just be good at one thing. We do something, Queens in Space, where the kids shoot competing trailers for a sci-fi movie and it is hilarious. Most people think, “I can do this,” but you have to come with some acting skills, the ability to take direction. Our challenges put them through it, they really do.

Did the selection process change this season, or was there a shift in emphasis as far as the kinds of queens you looked for? Aside from the surprise 13th contestant, no one from Texas this year — last year there were three! It doesn’t change. The truth is we’re looking for showgirls. We want girls who work at doing drag for money, for a career. The things we ask them to do, a novice wouldn’t be able to. We’re looking for them to be marketing execs, managers, designers, strategists, performers, models, you name it. And the novice wouldn’t be able to do that. They’d buckle. And throw in the sleep deprivation and schedule, and you have to be in it to win it. This can’t be something you do on the side.

One contestant buckles under the pressure and breaks down in the first episode. Did that happen a lot, and how do you typically respond to it? They definitely break down because of sleep deprivation. Emotions are very fragile because they’re in a new environment, we’re putting them through the paces, and I have to give them pep talks from time to time: This is your opportunity, the world is watching. You can’t say, oh, I feel like I didn’t get my chance. Well kiddo, you are on now. You are on. There are no second chances — you have to bring it. Maybe you’ll get another chance somewhere else, but it’s time now.

How much do you miss saying Pan-dor-a Boxx? I miss [all the former contestants], actually, because even before they’re on the show, we’re living with audition tapes. We’re moving around who will work with whom. It’s a lot like casting a play: We have to have the sassy one, the ingénue, the sweet one, and sometimes the person in the role of the sweet one gets swapped out for someone else who works better in the ensemble, so we are actually living and loving and feeling these girls way before they even get to Hollywood, and then when they’re dismissed it’s heartbreaking to me. But I also know that they will come back. In some other form or show that we do, on the club circuit. I will see them again.

How has this show changed your life since its premiere? Well, I pretty much have to stay in L.A. For almost 30 years I’ve had a nightclub act I performed around the world constantly. Now the last gig I did was October 2009. With both shows it’s really kept me here in L.A. working, though I love L.A. I’m also an introvert masquerading as an extrovert, so I’ve had to spend a lot more time with people than I normally do!

What other projects are in the works? I’m writing a sequel to [my 2007 film] Starrbooty. The challenge is I want to do it G-rated but nastier, more subversive. In the immortal words of Elvira, there’s nothing wrong with G-rated movies as long as there’s lots of gratuitous sex and violence.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 21, 2011.

—  John Wright

New Give a DAMN campaign targets gay youth suicide

Editor’s Note: Considering the awful news out of Indiana this morning, the following post seems particularly relevant.

Although the music and comedy tour has all but disappeared, Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors Fund has been especially active lately, with the Give a DAMN campaign — which got off to a prominent start when True Blood actress Anna Paquin came out as bisexual in one of its videos — spreading the word about gay rights. And this week, the campaign turns its attention to teen suicide.

It’s a topic with a strong Dallas connection, as Danielle Girdano, the Dallas woman cycling into town as part of her Ride the Arc project, chose teen suicide as her cause. Girdano will be riding into town Saturday at 5 p.m., ending her great bicycling trek along Cedar Springs Road.

The new video features Modern Family‘s Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Lily Tomlin and Judith Light among those point out the higher risk of suicide among LGBT youth.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones