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

Tony Award wrap-up: Totally gay (again)

It was an untenable situation for the gay Dallasite: Watch the Tony Awards or game 6 of the Mavs? Thank god I had two DVRs. Best of both worlds.

Of course, the Tony Awards are always the gayest of award shows, and they did nothing to disguise that Sunday night starting with the opening number by the telecast’s gay host, Neil Patrick Harris, “‘[Theater] is not Just for Gays Anymore.” He then did a medley duet with Hugh Jackman that was damn funny. (It got even gayer when Martha Wash performed “It’s Raining Men” with cast of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.)

Then the first award of the evening went to Ellen Barkin for her Broadway debut in Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart, giving a shout out to the 30th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic. She was immediately followed by gay actor and Plano native John Benjamin Hickey for his role in The Normal Heart. (He even chastised his family: “You’d better not be watching the Mavericks game.” Sorry, John, I for one kept flipping between them.) The play also won the award for best revival — a controversial choice, since The Normal Heart never opened on Broadway until this year, usually a requirement for a revival nominations (some thought it should be eligible for best play). Kramer accepted the award. “To gay people everywhere whom I love so, The Normal Heart is our history. I could not have written it had not so many of us so needlessly died. Learn from it and carry on the fight.”

The very gay-friendly Book of Mormon from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone won several off-camera awards, including score of a musical (the composers thanking gay producer Scott Rudin), orchestrations, scenic design, lighting design and sound design, before taking their first onscreen trophy for best direction of a musical to Parker and gay director Casey Nicholaw (The Drowsy Chaperone), on its way to winning nine total awards, including best musical, best featured actress (newcomer Nikki M. James, defeating prior winners Laura Benanti, Patti LuPone and Victoria Clark and prior nominee Tammy Blanchard) and book of a musical.

“This is such a waste of time — it’s like taking a hooker to dinner,” said best musical presenter Chris Rock before announcing The Book of Mormon for the night’s last prize, best musical.

Other winners in the musical category include John Larroquette for best featured actor (How to Succeed…, apparently the only straight nominee in his category), choreographer Kathleen Marshall for Anything Goes, which also beat How to Succeed for best revival of a musical and won best actress for Sutton Foster. Norbert Leo Butz was the surprise winner for best actor in a musical for Catch Me If You Can. One more really gay winner: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert took best costumes, natch.

The big winner in the play category (other than The Normal Heart) was the brilliant War Horse, which won 5: best play, direction, lighting design, sound design, scenic design, as well as a special Tony for the puppet designs of the horses.

Other play winners include The Importance of Being Earnest (costumes), Good People (best actress Frances McDormand) and Jerusalem, a surprise winner for best actor Mark Rylance.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Tourney journey

Over 20 years, DIVA has turned its Fall Classic into a sports destination

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

COURTING DIVA | For 20 years, DIVA has hosted the Fall Classic tournament which attracts teams from all over the country. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

DALLAS FALL CLASSIC XX
Texas Advantage Sports, 4302 Buckingham Rd., Fort Worth.
Oct. 8–10. DivaDallas.org.
……………………..

Dallas is a sports town: Cowboys, Mavericks, Stars, Rangers — they’re all part of the city’s life. That translates even into a strong gay sports community as well, with softball, tennis and rugby leagues holding strong interest for LGBT jocks.

But volleyball might be the most obsessive. The Dallas Independent Volleyball Association (DIVA) has not only grown internally over the years, but has expanded its Fall Classic tournament into a major event.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the popular tournament, which hosts teams from all over the country. But DIVA president and tournament director Hayden Mitchell says it’s just business as usual. “We’re not really doing anything different for this one,” he says.

But really, this is a good thing.

Over the years, DIVA has swelled into a sports organization of more than 300 members — that is about double its average membership from the last few years. With that many members in all divisions, Mitchell and the DIVA board take the obvious approach when setting up the tourney.

“From some of the feedback we’ve gotten from teams and NAGVA [North American Gay Volleyball Association], this is a well-run tournament,” he says. “With our kind of membership, we have to be and stay very organized. So we just translate that into the tournament.”

That has garnered DIVA’s fall tournament some major props by traveling teams. In the gay volleyball circuit, traveling teams spread the word that the Fall Classic is a key event, and it shows. This year, 41 teams will play; up to 50 teams have competed in other years. These are good numbers, says Mitchell.

“With the Columbus Day weekend, we usually do compete with the Portland or Indianapolis tourneys,” he says. “But people talk and teams ask where the competition is gonna be and then teams end up coming here.”

But “business as usual” doesn’t mean DIVA runs a bland ship. Over his six years as president, Mitchell has tried to put a personal stamp on the Fall Classic, not only to entice teams to come, but to build on its own identity.

“We have a buffet so traveling teams will get at least one meal and that means something,” he says. “Plus, we have a giveaway or T-shirt at each tournament. What I like to do is have the captains of the teams get me the sizes of the players, I think instead of just an oversize tee, that really adds a personal touch. I think the Dallas tournament has something special to offer.”

Getting the planning stages down to an art may be secondhand now, but that doesn’t mean it has become any less gratifying for the board. Mitchell says that pride in the event comes from two sources. And that makes this all worthwhile.

“We’ve increased the number of teams coming to Dallas,” he says. “What really stood out for me were two teams from Hawaii that came out to play. They were blown away by the fact that we all played in same facility. And they even want to do a tourney of their own.”

On the other end, Mitchell and the rest of DIVA do their part to give to the LGBT community. According to NAGVA rules on tournaments, a large portion of monies earned from the event has to go to a charity. That has given DIVA the opportunity to contribute thousands to local nonprofits such as Youth First Texas, Resource Center of Dallas and this year, the AIDS Interfaith Network.

“That is the one big thing with the Fall Classic,” he says. “ We do a lot of research on the different LGBT associations we select. We’ve been giving back to the community for 20 years and that is the most rewarding thing.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 8, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Did Mavs forward Tim Thomas' entourage commit an anti-gay hate crime at Denny's?

Yesterday we learned that Dallas Mavericks forward Tim Thomas is accused of hurling anti-gay epithets at a Garland man right here in the Voice’s backyard, at the Denny’s restaurant in the 4400 block of Central Expressway. At first we didn’t think too much of it. After all, Thursday was production day here at the Voice, and what are these people doing at Denny’s at 3 a.m. on a Wednesday anyway? Plus, wasn’t another Mavs player recently accused of using the new F-word? Perhaps, we thought, the Mavs players are just being taught to use this word when trash-talking their opponents in training camp. But today, we can’t ignore it anymore, because the gay plot seems to have thickened significantly. The Morning News has an update on the police investigation into the incident, and the story includes this little nugget: Victim Damien Pettie, while not gay, is a stripper at a gay club. Now in case you’re not familiar with our ‘hood, this Denny’s is almost directly across the highway from Zippers and B.J.’s NXS, two dick-dancing dens. But wait, there’s even more. Although Pettie is not gay, he says he was with two gay men (probably co-workers) and that may have been what caused Thomas to think he was gay and call him a “faggot.” As the story goes, Pettie responded by cursing back at Thomas, and one of the men who was with Thomas responded by busting Pettie’s lip. Then all hell broke loose, with chairs and tables flying. But here’s what I’m wondering: If it turns out that Thomas and his friends targeted Pettie because of his  “actual or perceived sexual orientation,” would this not be an anti-gay hate crime? Also, if you see a guy with a fat lip dancing at the bar tonight, give him an extra dollar. If his story is true, he stood up to a 6’10″ NBA brute and took one in the chops to protect the hand that feeds him.

—  John Wright