Couple gets engaged at Razzle Dazzle

Matthew Kowalewski

To some, the Razzle Dazzle Dallas Main Event in downtown Dallas last Saturday was just to party. But for one local gay couple, it also turned out to be an engagement celebration.

Matthew Kowalewski wrote to thank the Razzle Dazzle Dallas committee for throwing him and his partner a wonderful party, according to an email forwarded to Dallas Voice.

“He proposed to me at the event, and as we finally left, beaming, he said, ‘So how did you enjoy our engagement party?’” Kowalewski wrote. “As I walked around with my new life partner, he commented about the fact he never thought this could or would happen in Dallas, especially in his life time. He’s a native of Dallas and turning 70, Aug. 3.”

No word on when the wedding is.

—  David Taffet

UPDATE: Main Event concludes investigation, calls gay couple’s claims ‘blatantly false’

Alberto Lesmes, right, and his partner Chad Hemp.

ANNA WAUGH  |  Staff Writer

Main Event has finished its investigation into a gay Plano couple’s claims that they were told they were not a family and asked to leave the entertainment complex, concluding that their accounts are “blatantly false.”

A press release emailed to Dallas Voice on Friday explains that the investigation found the “couple’s claims of discrimination and the subsequent one-sided media accounts of the guests’ claims to be blatantly false.”

“We are disheartened by the inaccurate media accounts of what occurred while we were conducting our investigation,” Amy Johnson, Main Event marketing director, said in the release. “We are most disappointed in the false, unsubstantiated attacks that were allowed to be made against our employees who were professional, courteous, and did everything they could to ensure that every one of our guests at Main Event is completely satisfied.”

In a note above the press release, the vice president of the PR firm representing Main Event, Open Channels Group, requested that Dallas Voice remove previous stories about the incident.

“Main Event Entertainment management would appreciate your review of their investigation and respectfully requests that stories be updated and that inaccurate previous versions be removed in lieu of these facts,” Open Channel’s Anthony Spangler wrote. “After reviewing this release, we believe you will agree that the previous one-sided coverage does not reflect your publication’s standard of fairness, balance, and journalistic integrity.”

After interviewing the couple about their allegations, Dallas Voice immediately contacted Main Event in Plano and the company’s corporate office for our initial story Tuesday. Johnson said she didn’t want to comment until she had spoken to the couple.

Alberto Lesmes said he and his partner, Chad Hemp, were told they were not family and asked to leave after a manager at the Plano Main Event told them they were a problem when they wanted to switch bowling lanes. They switched once because of technical difficulties with the lane and wanted to switch again after a child from a group next to them kept using their lane.

Video footage, register transactions and employee interviews were reviewed during the investigation and “facts refute the derogatory claims made by the guests,” according to the company’s latest press release. The release states that the couple were told the venue was a family place to indicate that children would be present and were not told to leave. It also alleges the couple used profanity and racial slurs when speaking to management.

Johnson did not return calls or emails Friday inquiring whether Dallas Voice could review the video footage.

Hemp admitted to using profanity when he asked management to switch lanes the second time. He said he told the manager, “This is fucking ridiculous” after their conversation became heated.

Lesmes then came over to speak to the manager and Hemp stepped away. Lesmes said he apologized for Hemp’s language and was calm with the manager. He explained they wanted to be in a lane that was not next to an overcrowded one because the one next to them had about 15 people bowling in it and a child kept using their lane.

That was when the manager explained that Main Event is a family environment. Lesmes said he understands the manager meant kids would be there, but he took offense when the manager told him  he and Hemp were not a family after Lesmes told the manager that he was also there with his family and pointed to his partner. He asked the manager several times to clarify why he and his partner were not considered family, but the manager did not respond, he said.

Lesmes said they were asked to leave, but a server who walked up during the conversation jumped in and said he and Hemp could come over to the bar to finish their drinks since they hadn’t been there very long.

Like the company, Lesmes alleges the incident has been misconstrued by some media outlets that have picked up the story.

“We were asked to leave because the manager said to my face that we are not family,” he said.

When asked if racial slurs were used, Lesmes said “absolutely not.”

“It had nothing to do with any kind of racial issue,” he said. “We’re an interracial couple.”

Main Event staff called Lesmes to talk about the incident earlier this week, but he was dealing with a death in the family, so he couldn’t speak at the time. He said the company releasing a statement about the investigation being closed without speaking to him and his partner shows “that they don’t care.”

Hemp said he initially wanted something more than just an apology, but he said Friday that’s the only thing the couple wants, adding that they don’t expect to receive one.

Read Main Event’s full statement below.

Main Event Investigation

—  Dallasvoice

WATCH: The CW33’s ‘Gay Agenda’

This week’s edition of CW33 reporter Doug Magditch’s “Gay Agenda” touches on the Main Event incident involving a gay Plano couple. But instead of senior editor John Wright’s commentary on the issue, Magditch interviewed the lesbian on staff (me) to add a bit of diversity. I also covered the story, so I knew what I was talking about. But John will certainly be back to offer his insight in upcoming segments. Watch it below.

—  Dallasvoice

Main Event says there was ‘no effort to discriminate’ against gay Plano couple

Alberto Lesmes, right, and his partner Chad Hemp.

After a preliminary investigation into a gay couple’s claims they were told they weren’t family and asked to leave Main Event’s Plano location Sunday, the company says there was “no effort to discriminate.”

Main Event spokeswoman Amy Johnson emailed a statement to Dallas Voice Wednesday afternoon, explaining that the company was investigating the incident by talking to staff and reviewing video footage from Sunday.

“We employ and cater to guests from all walks of life, including the LGBT community,” the statement reads in part. “We are very protective of any family’s experience at Main Event and take every complaint and the resolution of such — very seriously. Our preliminary investigation reveals that there was no effort to discriminate. We want to ensure all of our guests get to enjoy the full experience of ‘Eat, Bowl, Play.’”

Alberto Lesmes and partner Chad Hemp went bowling Sunday night and asked to switch lanes twice after technical difficulties and a child from a large group next them to kept bowling in their lane. The manager on duty allegedly told them they were just being difficult and that it was a family environment. Lesmes said they understood it was a family venue and that he was there with his family, pointing to his partner.

Lesmes said the manager told them they “were not family,” before refunding them and asking them to leave. He then called to speak to the manager Tuesday but was treated rudely and was referred to their corporate office. He said he was unable to get through to anyone at corporate.

Lesmes said Wednesday that someone from corporate did call him to speak about the incident, but he told them he would call back because he was dealing with a family matter at the time. He said he hoped to speak to them soon.

While Lesmes said he wanted the company to apologize, Hemp said he wanted something more concrete from the company.

“I don’t want him to apologize. I want something more done,” he said. “Maybe I’m reaching for something, but I am not second class. I am the same as everyone else and as for him to apologize that is not OK with me.”

Read Main Event’s full statement below.

—  Dallasvoice

Gay Plano couple asked to leave family fun center, told they are ‘not family’

Alberto Lesmes, right, and his partner Chad Hemp.

A gay Plano couple is upset after a fun date night Sunday at Main Event was ruined when they were told they were not a family and asked to leave the venue.

Alberto Lesmes said he and his partner Chad Hemp went to the location at 3941 Central Expressway around 8:30 p.m. Sunday for a night of bowling. When their bowling lane continued to have technical difficulties, they requested a new lane.

Main Event Entertainment is a Dallas-based company with family entertainment centers featuring recreational bowling, billiards, laser tag and a unique selection of interactive games throughout Texas, according to its website.

Once the couple began to bowl in the new lane, a child from a large group next to them kept bowling in their lane. Lesmes said his partner went up to ask if they could be moved again. When Lesmes saw his partner get upset, he went over to speak to the manager on duty.

The manager was already irritated, Lesmes said, and said they were causing a problem by asking to be moved again. The manager asked if they were professional bowlers. When the couple replied they were not, the manager said the venue was a family environment. Lesmes said he told the manager he was with his family. When the manager asked where they were, Lesmes pointed to his partner and said they were family and wanted to enjoy their evening.

But the manager refused to move them to another lane and told them that they “were not family.”

—  Dallasvoice

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

Razzle Dazzle Dallas now has a website

Razzle Dazzle Dallas, the LGBT event held annually for 26 years through 2003, is returning after an eight-year absence the first week of June.

This week organizers launched a website, RazzleDazzleDallas.org, and announced sponsors and beneficiaries.

The presenting sponsor for the event is Bud Light. Other sponsors include ilume, the Warwick Melrose Hotel and Dallas Voice.

Razzle Dazzle was always a fundraising event, and organizers have named eight beneficiaries this year — Youth First Texas, Resource Center Dallas, AIDS Interfaith Network, the Cedar Springs Merchants Association Beautification Fund, Legacy Counseling/Founders Cottage, Lone Star Ride and Legal Hospice of Texas.

Rather than just a one-night party, Razzle Dazzle will be a five-day event beginning June 1 with a wine and dog walk sponsored by the Cedar Springs Merchants Association.

On Thursday, June 2, a “Pub Crawl” will travel by shuttle buses to participating Dallas-area nightclubs.

MetroBall at Station 4 on Friday, June 3 will be an evening of dancing, raffles and fundraising, as well as entertainment.

During the day of Saturday, June 4 the Cedar Springs Merchants Association will host a street fair and sale.  The main event, the Razzle Dazzle Dallas street party, will fill Cedar Springs that night.

Razzle Dazzle wraps up on Sunday, June 5 with closing parties at participating Oak Lawn nightclubs.

For updates, follow Razzle Dazzle Dallas on Facebook and Twitter.

—  David Taffet

Gay North Texas cowboy Wade Earp wins yet another all-around title; TGRA Dallas plans 2 big events this weekend


Wade Earp wins another all-around title
TGRA member Wade Earp competes in bull riding in a past IGRA rodeo.

North Texas cowboy Wade Earp won the title of All-Around Cowboy during the Greater Mowtown International Rodeo held last weekend, June 25-27. It is, I think, the third time this season that Earp has won all-around honors.

In other gay rodeo news, the Dallas Chapter of the Texas Gay Rodeo Association has two big events planned over the holiday weekend.  The “Cowboys, Jocks and Leather” underwear auction is on Saturday, July 3, at Dallas Eagle, 5740 Maple Ave., with a cocktail mixer at 7 p.m., hosted by GayCowboyCentral.com and with hot dogs and chips provided by the Eagle Bears. The main event starts at 8 p.m.

Then on Sunday, July 4, the Dallas TGRA chapter presents the 22nd annual Miss Firecracker Pageant, starting at 9 p.m. at Illusions Bar, 4100 Maple Ave.

Check the Dallas chapter’s schedule here.

And don’t forget that the Big D Rodeo is coming up Sept. 10-12 at the Diamond W. Arena Complex in Aledo. Go here for more info.

—  admin