World’s first-ever gay Super Bowl block party planned for Cedar Springs in February

Scott Whittall

It’s being billed as the first-ever gay Super Bowl block party, and it’s planned for Saturday, Feb. 5 on the Cedar Springs strip in Dallas.

Scott Whittall, president of the Cedar Springs Merchants Association, announced today that the “Super Street Party” — organizers are barred from using the term “Super Bowl” — will be from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. on the eve of Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium.

Whittall said recent special events on the strip — including the Arts Fest, the Halloween block party and last weekend’s Sidewalk Sale – have been very successful. So the group didn’t want to miss out on a major opportunity to spotlight the city’s gay entertainment district.

“No matter which two cities’ teams are in the Super Bowl, there are going to be a lot of gay people coming to town,” Whittall said. “We love sports — we’re just like everybody else — and I think sports-minded gay people will come out in force. I don’t think you have to be sports-minded, either, to enjoy a big party.”

In another first, Cedar Springs Road will be fenced from Reagan Street to Throckmorton Street for the Super Street Party, Whittall said.

The fencing requirement, which will apply to all future block parties, is designed to facilitate crowd control and stop people from bringing in alcohol beverages and glass containers. There will be no charge for admission.

The Super Street Party will include beer booths manned by volunteers from local gay sports organization, which will keep a portion of the profits, Whittall said. Any leftover funds will go toward the Merchants Association’s beautification efforts.

“Our main concern is throwing a great party,” he said. “I think the only thing that makes us nervous is the weather. You never know what to expect weather-wise in Dallas in February. But at the same time, cold weather if football weather.”

—  John Wright

Can Razzle Dazzle be revived?

Group of business owners, nonprofit reps call for meeting to set up board, discuss options for reinstating Dallas’ June Pride event

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

Scott Whittall
Scott Whittall

More than 25 years ago, organizers for Dallas’ gay Pride parade moved the event from its original Gay Pride Month date in June to September in recognition of an early court ruling striking down the state’s sodomy law.

Even after that ruling was overturned, parade organizers decided to keep the parade in September, in part to escape the oppressive heat of the North Texas summers.

But that was OK, because Dallas still had Razzle Dazzle Dallas to celebrate Gay Pride Month every June.

Razzle Dazzle Dallas had been held at the Dallas city impound lot, at Fair Park, at Market Center — and it finally ended up as a street party on Cedar Springs. It featured DJs, live music performances, vendor booths, informational booths and, of course, beer, food and lots of dancing.

It was the party of the summer.

But by the turn of the 21st century, Razzle had begun to lose some of its dazzle. Attendance dropped; profits dropped, and costs soared. The last Razzle Dazzle party was held in June 2004.

But while the party may be gone, it has not been forgotten. Now, a group of business owners and nonprofit representatives are working to bring it back.

“There are a lot of different nonprofits and business owners, both on and off the Cedar Springs strip, who have been talking about it,” Scott Whittall, owner of Buli Café and president of the Cedar Springs Merchants Association, said this week.

Whittall said the idea of reviving Razzle Dazzle first surfaced a few months ago when he, Brick owner Howard Okon, Jimmy Bartlett and Resource Center Dallas’ Henry Ramirez “started kicking the idea around.”

He said, “A lot of people talk about the fact that we love having our Pride parade in September, but at the same time, we feel like we are missing out on June Pride. I, for one, think we have the greatest LGBT community in the world here in Dallas, and there should be a good reason for people to come to Dallas in June to celebrate Pride. Razzle Dazzle used to be that reason. And it will be again.”

Whittall said that the core group has had several exploratory meetings, “asking questions like ‘Can we do it again? Should we do it again? Is there enough interest to revive Razzle Dazzle?’”

The answer, he said, seems to be a definite yes.

“I don’t think I have talked to even one person who didn’t get excited when they just heard the words ‘Razzle Dazzle.’ Everyone has their own memories of Razzle Dazzles from the past, and everyone so far loves the idea of bringing it back,” Whittall said.

Now they want to bring the idea to the community and get as much input as possible. To that end, there will be a meeting Thursday, Oct. 28, and every local organization, nonprofit, church, business, sports team and Pride organization is invited to send representatives.

“We have held off on putting an actual board together. Hopefully we can do that at this next meeting,” Whittall said.

“But we want it to be a good mix of nonprofits and business owners and organizations who are willing to commit to making this happen. If enough people get excited about it, if enough people come to this meeting and make the commitment, we can make it happen.”

Whittall said “nothing is set in stone yet,” but those who have been discussing the idea have already come up with a general plan for a new, revitalized and expanded Razzle Dazzle Dallas. “We all remember what worked and what didn’t work, and having that in mind, we have some ideas.

First and foremost, it has to be what it was always meant to be — a charity event. Everything that is raised has to go back to the charities that work to make it happen.

“We understand that this first year will be all about pulling it together and getting it going again. But we also believe that we can put together a great event that will just keep getting better,” he said.

In the past, Razzle Dazzle Dallas was a one-night fundraising party. But Whittall and his cohorts have envisioned something much bigger for Razzle Dazzle’s rebirth, taking it from a one-night dance party to a five-day celebration.

“Cedar Springs is still the hub, the heart of the LGBT community in Dallas. But we have LGBT communities spread out everywhere now,” Whittal said.

“We want the party to include everyone.”

Tentative plans have the new Razzle Dazzle taking place in the first week of June 2011, starting with First Wednesday Night on Cedar Springs. Then the party would move south the next day for First Thursday in the Bishop Arts district.

On Friday night, there would be an organized “bar-hopping” party featuring LGBT clubs both on the Cedar Springs strip and elsewhere. During the day on Saturday would feature a street festival on Cedar Springs, building up for the big bang on Saturday night.

Plans are to have the Saturday night party held at an indoor event venue with dancing, booths from community organizations and possibly a separate live cabaret show, with shuttle transportation provided to and from the city’s various centers of LGBT nightlife.

“Saturday night would be the big event, of course, but we want to take it even a step further and have some sort family event, a picnic or something, in the park on Sunday to wind everything up,” Whittall said. “We think it is a great idea, and we really hope everyone else will think so, too.

“For those who really remember Razzle Dazzle, we think it’s time to bring it back,” he continued.

“We’re living in good times right now, in terms of the community really working together. The economy has been tough, and that has made all of us have to learn to work together even better to keep things going.

“So we think this is the perfect time to revive Razzle Dazzle, to bring it back and celebrate our community.”

For information on the Oct. 28 organizational meeting, e-mail info@razzledazzledallas.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 22, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Wine and Plinko on the strip tonight

It’s time for our favorite First Wednesday of the year — the Wine Walk. Purchase a Cedar Springs Merchants Association glass in front of Buli or Hunky’s for $5, then drink all the wine they’ll serve you from 6 to 10 p.m. As usual, retailers are offering discounts, and best of all there’s gonna be a game of Plinko in front of JR.’s — presumably with mostly-naked boys as Barker’s Beauties.

—  John Wright

Young Stonewall wants to ‘Light Up Oak Lawn’

Political group seeks money from grants and other sources to fund lighting safety program for entertainment district

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Brian Stout
Brian Stout

Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats this week unveiled their new effort to make Oak Lawn safer by improving lighting in the area.

DSYD announced the “Light Up the Night” campaign during a meet on Tuesday, Aug. 10 at JR.’s Bar & Grill, explaining that the group plans to raise money to add lighting to the neighborhood bounded by Oak Lawn, Maple, Wycliff and Lemmon avenues, according to DSYD Communications Director Michael Maldonado.

The Cedar Springs area is included in one of the Dallas Police Department’s 26 Target Action Area Grids. Last year that TAAG recorded the third-most violent crimes in the city.

Reported violent crimes in the area have decreased considerably this year.

Latisha McDaniel, who lives on Hall Street in Oak Lawn, was one of those attending the meeting. She said poor lighting is a real problem for residents.

“It’s scary to walk alone because it’s so poorly lit,” McDaniel said.

Several holdups in the neighborhood were mentioned, including an incident in which two people were robbed near the Seville apartments on Reagan Street, and another in which three people were held up in front of an apartment behind the CVS Pharmacy on Lemmon Avenue.

David Richardson, who owns Skivvies and has had other stores along Cedar Springs over the past for 30 years and was among the founders of the Cedar Springs Merchants Association, said he has seen “huge improvements” in Oak Lawn over the years.

He said safety has always been a concern and recalled when prostitutes were a common sight along Cedar Springs Road and drug dealers and hustlers hung out on the streets behind the bars. He attended the meeting and said he is delighted with DSYD’s efforts.

“I’m glad to see another group step up to help us,” he said.

DSYD President Pennington Ingley said the group looked at studies from around the United States and Great Britain that showed that crime decreased in neighborhoods when lighting improved.

One concern was that crime would simply move from the newly-well-lit streets to other nearby streets. But Ingley said that the studies showed that improved lighting in one area has a positive effect on neighboring areas as well.

Ingley said that despite police statistics that show a decrease in crime in the area this year, he hasn’t seen any improvement in the four years he has lived on Reagan Street.

“People walk in complete darkness on Reagan Street from the Seville to Cedar Springs,” he said.

He joked that there is a solution, which is why they named the project “Light Up Oak Lawn” rather than “Stop the Muggings.”

Vice President Brian Stout said that the board walked every street in the area to map every working streetlight.

“There’s no rhyme or reason to how they’re laid out,” Stout said.

DSYD Political Director Jennifer Allen said the group also studied what lights to purchase and how to fund the project.

“We need 200 to 350 more lights to have adequate lighting in the area,” she said.

She said they recommended low-sodium LED lighting that would cost $1,000 to $1,500 per unit. Fully funding the project could cost $.5 million.

Allen said there were cheaper alternatives to getting the streets lit sooner that used bulbs. But those bulbs would burn out sooner and use more electricity.

She added that DSYD are exploring several sources of funding including economic development grants, money from foundations, neighborhood developers and government grants. Members have spoken to Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt about working with city grant writers to help obtain the money.

At the meeting, DSYD members acknowledged the city’s tight budget situation. While they expected the city to back the plan, they said did not expect the council to vote money to help pay for it.

Michael Milliken is active with the Oak Lawn Committee, which deals with zoning issues in the area. He extended an offer to work with DSYD, especially with helping them make contacts in City Hall.

DSYD Secretary Jared Pearce said that getting grants would take some time but that the group hopes the project can be completed within two years.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 13, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas