Margaret Cho on coming out as bi, serving as ‘prime minister of the gays’

Drop Dead Diva, EP 504

Every season, the Lifetime series Drop Dead Diva goes out of its way to include a specific gay storyline for its lawyer character. This season’s episode, which aired last night, featured a pro baseball player who is hiding his homosexuality — even though it may get him convicted of murder.

Co-star Margaret Cho and executive producer Josh Berman sat down with the media to discuss the episode, gays in sports … and whether Cho is really the prime minister of the gays.

If you missed the first several episodes, you can catch up either on-demand or on iTunes. You can watch a clip of last night’s episode here. Below is a transcript of the chat with Berman and Cho.

Question: Josh, you tackled gay proms, gay sperm … was gay sports just the next arena that you needed to dive into for this episode?  Josh Berman: Well I think gays in sports is certainly a hot topic right now. We started working on this episode before it became such a prominent issue and getting such coverage in the news. So I’m thrilled that we are hitting this zeitgeist shed again with gay and lesbian issues. I do think that, you know, sports is one of the last frontiers where men and women feel they unfortunately need to be closeted. So it was important for me to address that issue.

Margaret, you’re all over this episode whether you’re helping Stacy with sperm donors or helping Jane with her case .…  Margaret Cho: Terri is always doing anything and everything. She’s kind of like a cross between like Alfred and Batman — she’s kind of like the enabler for everything. But what I really love about this episode is that it really talks about an issue that’s very timely, which is, athletes being able to come out of the closet. And I must note that there is a lot of sexism when it comes to this kind of stuff because Martina Navratilova came out as a lesbian over 25 years ago. Martina Navratilova came out when Reagan was in office. I really want to make sure that her contribution to sports, to the LGBT presence in sports, is really noted. And I’m really, really proud of this episode because it goes into the story about how we look at men in sports and we have to sort of have an idea of who they are and what they’re supposed to be. And I think sports in general is quite a homoerotic art form unto itself. So it’s surprising that there’s not more [athletes who are] out actually, but I love this episode because it really talks about some of these very current issues.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

OUT & EQUAL: Gala dinner is a highlight of the conference

Margaret Cho

Margaret Cho entertained at the gala dinner at the Anatole Hotel on the final evening of the Out & Equal conference.

Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns received an ovation talking about his experiences over the past year and encouraging people to get involved to help LGBT youth. Comedian Kate Clinton, who emceed the dinner, said that she attended Our Lady of Psychological Warfare.

Burns speech was appropriately followed by Northrup Grumman CEO Wes Bush in what was a highlight of the evening for everyone from Dallas attending the Workplace Summit. During his talk about protecting diversity, he presented Youth First Texas with a check for $20,000. The company’s commitment to diversity was demonstrated by their top level sponsorship of the conference and the large contingency they brought to Dallas including all elected officers of the company.

Clinton acted as auctioneer and brought in about $40,000 for Out & Equal student scholarships selling items such as a trip to Paris and Berlin and a $5,000 KitchenAid shopping spree. The printed program suggested this item for anyone who needs a new whisk.

The Turtle Creek Chorale began and ended the program, singing with Wilson Cruz, best known as Angel in Rent.

Cho brought the house down when she suggested her response to evangelical-types who tell her they object to same-sex marriage on religious grounds. She said she looks at them, smiles sweetly and tells them, “My argument to this is FUCK YOU.”

The conference ends Friday afternoon.

Click here for more photos.

—  David Taffet

Celeb sightings

This year’s Out & Equal Workplace Summit boasts a healthy amount of celebrities coming to town. From actors to comedians and more, Dallas prepares not only to host a slew of workshops on equality, but also rolls out the red carpet for these guests.

Meredith Baxter:  You’ll likely remember the actress as supermom Elyse Keaton on Family Ties. But she made a new impression by coming out last year. She speaks at Wednesday’s breakfast plenary session and follows up with a book signing at Nuvo, 3900 Cedar Springs Road, on Oct. 26 at 6 p.m.

Andy Cohen:  The senior vice president at Bravo has almost singlehandedly changed the face of gays on television. That extends to these parts with the new show Most Eligible Dallas.
The Watch What Happens Live host will appear at Tuesday’s brunch plenary session.

Rick Welts:  The name may not be as familiar but Welts made front page news this year in the New York Times. The former Phoenix Suns president is the first higher-up of a men’s professional sports organization to come out.
He appears with Baxter at the Wednesday plenary.

Margaret Cho:  The comedian has long been an ally to the LGBT community and continues in appearances at such events as this. She is part of the lineup for Thursday’s gala dinner hosted by fellow comedian Kate Clinton.

Wilson Cruz:  The actor redefined the queer image on television with his work on My So Called Life. Through his acting on stage and screen, Cruz has also become an advocate for LGBT youth. He appears with Cho and Clinton at the gala dinner.

For more information on these and other guests appearing at the summit, visit OutAndEqual.org/2011-Speakers.

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

—  Michael Stephens

Out & Equal conference coming to Dallas in October

In working to create inclusive and non-discriminating workplaces, Out & Equal provides resources to companies and individuals to achieve its goal. The nonprofit makes a big splash in Dallas by bringing its 2011 Workplace Summit to the area Oct. 25–28.

Through workshops and panels, professionals in diversity initiatives, human resources and more will share their practices and strategies in having, literally, an out and equal work environment.

Here is a sampling of what will be offered throughout the event:

Leadership seminars set for the summit include “Developing a Strong LGBT Ally Program,” hosted by Dr. David M. Hall, author of Allies at Work: Creating a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Inclusive Work Environment. Another scheduled session will be “Implementing Transgender Inclusion: Comprehensive Programming to Ensure Workplace Equality,” with Ann Dunkin and Jamison Green.

A-list plenary speakers include Bravo’s senior vice president of original programming and development, Andy Cohen, and transgender actress Candis Cayne on Tuesday and the recently out actress Meredith Baxter speaking on Wednesday.

The Gala Dinner is just as star-studded, with appearances by comedians Margaret Cho and Kate Clinton and actor Wilson Cruz along with remarks by Hewlett-Packard President Leo Apotheker and Fort Worth councilman Joel Burns.

With more than 140 workshops planned, Out & Equal expects more 2,500 to attend. To register for the summit, visit OutAndEqual.org.

— Rich Lopez

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 2, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Margaret Cho, Andy Cohen to headline Out & Equal’s Workplace Summit in Dallas

If you didn’t know already, this year’s Out & Equal Workplace Summit happens right here in town. It’s gonna be huge. But then we just found out who the keynote speakers are and were kinda blown away.

Instant Tea has learned that the celebrity roster for the Workplace Summit will include actress Meredith Baxter, trans actress Candis Cayne, comedian Margaret Cho and Bravo’s Andy Cohen. OK, Cohen sometimes drives me nuts on Watch What Happens Live, but he’s kind of a big deal. The dude isn’t just a talk show host, he’s also Bravo’s senior veep of original programming and development.

So, go to the summit because of the work O&E does, but definitely stay for the primo gay celebs willing to come here for the event. Now that’s some A-list.

The summit will be Oct. 25–28 at the Hilton Anatole. To register, go here.

—  Rich Lopez

Paula Poundstone tonight at the Majestic

Poundstoning the pavement

We love our Kathy Griffin and Margaret Cho, but Paula Poundstone was right there with them on the up and up. She’s carved her own queer comedy path which comes this way. We give her props for her stand-up, but she’s crazy hilarious each week on NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me trivia comedy show.

DEETS: Majestic Theater, 1925 Elm St. 8 p.m. $31–$106. PaulaInDallas.com

—  Rich Lopez

Weekly Best Bets

Friday 02.25

Poundstoning the pavement
We love our Kathy Griffin and Margaret Cho, but Paula Poundstone was right there with them on the up and up. She’s carved her own queer comedy path which comes this way. We give her props for her stand-up, but she’s crazy hilarious each week on NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me trivia comedy show. DEETS: Majestic Theater, 1925 Elm St. 8 p.m. $31–$106. PaulaInDallas.com

Sunday 02.27

Is that an Oscar in your pants?
One of these men (don’t forget Javier Bardem, too) will walk away with a best actor Oscar. You can watch that at one of many gayborhood watching parties, but first, listen to Dallas Voice’s Arnold Wayne Jones and David Taffet talk Oscar on Sunday’s Lambda Weekly on 89.3 KNON at noon. We predict Colin Firth wins. Yeah, we said it.
DEETS: Airs on WFAA Channel 8 at 7 p.m. Red carpet coverage at 6 p.m. Oscar.com

Thursday 03.03

Be Out of the Loop by being in it
WaterTower Theatre knows how to give a theater festival. The Out of the Loop festival returns with 11 days of shows. Faye Lane’s Beauty Shop Stories, pictured, is one of the opener shows and ends with a three-day run of Robert Wuhl’s Assume the Position.
DEETS: WTT, 15650 Addison Road. $10–$20. Through March 13. WaterTowerTheatre.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 25, 2011.

—  John Wright

Lone Star Ride hires new event manager

Jerry Calumn

Calumn returns to Dallas to raise money for three ASOs including one he once worked for

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Officials with Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS announced this week that Jerry Calumn has been hired as the new LSR event manager. He replaces Dave Minehart, event manager since 2007, who resigned to move closer to family in Iowa.

Calumn worked for the Resource Center Dallas from 1990 to 1998. He was hired as one of the first employees at the center’s current location on Reagan Street where he headed the education department and served as clinic manager.

Since then, he has lived in Los Angeles and New York where he had a varied career.

He helped create the American Academy of HIV Medicine in Los Angeles, which turned that area of medicine into a recognized specialty. The organization has since moved to Washington, D.C.

Calumn has also worked in marketing and communications and done consultation work for both private and non-profit industry.

In addition, he began a comedy career in L.A.

“I built a show around a word-of-mouth campaign,” he said, adding that he performed in a coffee shop. His show combined improv and stand-up. He said one day Margaret Cho showed up and they developed the first gay and lesbian comedy festival, which was filmed for Logo.

He left comedy for several reasons.

“The entertainment industry is the hardest, meanest industry,” he said. “Touring is hard. It’s a difficult lifestyle.”

Before leaving the Resource Center, Calumn rode in the first Tanqueray Texas AIDS Ride in 1998 that lasted seven days. That ride began in Austin and traveled through Houston before ending in Dallas.

“It made me an avid rider,” he said.

Calumn was living in New York doing consulting work and saw an ad for the event manager position with Lone Star Ride. He said he knew then it was time to come home.

“I was looking for an interesting opportunity,” Calumn said, adding that he knew he wanted to return to non-profit work.

“I love the energy and the focus of people who work in non-profit,” he said. “It’s about the connection and altruism.”

When he was in Dallas to interview for the position, Calumn had an opportunity to connect with a number of people he had worked with in the past. He said that under the leadership of Cece Cox, he saw vitality at the Resource Center that he hadn’t seen since John Thomas led the organization.

For his first year as event manager, Calumn said he plans to concentrate on the riders. He would like to give riders the tools they need to raise money and to enlist more people to participate in the ride.

“There’s lots of room for growth,” he said.

To accomplish that goal, he has already spoken to more than a dozen riders.

Last year, much of the fundraising was done using tools associated with new media.

“Having worked in so many different kinds of media,” Calumn said, “I bring that skill set to the table.”

Not only has Calumn been a vocal advocate for people with HIV for more than 20 years, he has lived with the disease himself for the past 17 years. It is that background and personal experience that LSR board members believe make him especially well-suited for the job.

“We’re sure Jerry will bring a renewed passion and focus to fighting the stigma HIV positive men and women face in all communities,” Ride Co-Chair John Tripp said.

Tripp said that Positive Peddlers, HIV positive Ride participants, had grown over the past two years and that he expected the group to have an even stronger presence under Calumn’s leadership.

Tripp complimented Minehart and everyone who worked on the 2010 ride. He said that non-profit agencies considered it a successful year if their fundraising broke even with the year before. Lone Star Ride has a 50 percent increase in the amount distributed last year.

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