A Tale of Two Gingers: How Jesse Tyler Ferguson stole my spotlight (but later melted my heart)

Just in time for Thanksgiving, here’s a remembrance by one of our contributors about his connection to recent Black Tie Dinner honoree Jesse Tyler Ferguson. Enjoy!

By Jef Tingley

Two looks for BTD: JTF, above, and JT, right.

Long before he was charming his way into living rooms nationwide as gay dad Mitchell Pritchett on Modern Family or originating the role of Leaf Coneybear in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Jesse Tyler Ferguson was cast as something else: My unwitting nemesis. See, Ferguson and I both grew up in Albuquerque, N.M. We were just your typical, fair skinned, sassy, red-headed boys pining away our post-pubescent years singing along to show tunes and dreaming of life on the Broadway stage.

Although we were the same age, we went to different schools so our paths didn’t officially cross until a fateful early 1990s production of the musical Peter Pan at the Albuquerque Civic Light Opera. (Fun fact: the ‘88 production of the show included our fellow gay New Mexican, Neil Patrick Harris, as John.) While Ferguson was cast as a pirate and other miscellaneous roles, I had a much more important, yet far less stripy-sock-wearing, job: Assistant stage manager. Truth be told, my heart ached that it was my Doppelganger who got to bask in the warmth of the spotlight on the very obscure, Day-Glo Neverland set complete with a neon-green pirate ship and fluorescent-orange Jolly Roger flag (it was the ‘90s, after all).

The show itself was haunted and filled with mishaps. The woman playing Peter Pan was stricken with laryngitis. After emergency rehearsals (arranged by a certain trusty assistant stage manager), Tiger Lily stepped into the lead role only to have the power go out in the middle of her very first performance, leaving the audience full of children in pitch black, screaming in horror. But the true tragedy of the show came during a cast and crew “lottery” where a few lucky Thespians were selected via name-draw to experience the thrill of being hoisted into the air and flying on stage just like Peter Pan. My name was chosen, but when it came time to suit up I was too big for the lithe flight harness. To my horror, Jesse’s name was called next and within minutes his slender frame was soaring in the air — a real-life Tinker Bell.

Peter Pan eventually ended, and so did my one-sided rivalry with JTF. Sure, I would see him perform musical medleys with jazz hands and sparkly vests as one of the entertainers at the local (albeit creepily named) amusement park, Uncle Cliff’s, but I figured that was his crowning glory on the road to fame. Meanwhile, I dabbled in acting and even worked seasonally renting Halloween costumes for the Civic Light Opera. But little by little, theater eventually became just a hobby and not a career.

A few years later, I was attending college in New York. While thumbing through Time Out magazine one day, I saw a site that’s still etched on my retinas. It was none other than carrot topped Jesse clad in a sailor suit and “shuffling off to Buffalo” next to lesbian chanteuse Lea DeLaria in a revival of On The Town. It was official: He was on Broadway, and I was twenty-something undetermined major. I had lost the battle and the war.

As time went on, I continued to Google-stalked Jesse. While one part of me cheered on his continued successes on stage and screen, another less admirable part of me wanted to pull a Jennifer Jason Leigh a la Single White Female and just steal his life. Jerrett, my partner of 13 years and also an Albuquerque native, can almost repeat verbatim my diatribe whenever someone would mention “that red-headed guy from Modern Family” and “Albuquerque” in the same sentence.

You can imagine my reaction when I found out the Ferguson would be coming to Dallas for Black Tie Dinner to receive an award. Clearly it was just his way of reminding me who really wore the Tinker Bell harness. To add insult to conspiracy, I had also opted to wear a freshly tailored vintage brocade-silk jacket to the event that had sat in my closet for years after being procured from either my high school drama department or my stint renting Halloween costumes. What are the odds? Even my clothing was teen angst!

When Ferguson took the stage, I was prepared for him to be pompous and arrogant. I expected a narcissist who would bore us for hours with stories of self-grandeur and unnecessary name-dropping as he described being Albuquerque’s first-and-only, ginger celeb. Instead, he was charming, funny, cute and humble telling stories about being embarrassed when the staff of Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour in N.M. would sing to you on your birthday (another childhood memory we both shared).

In a moment of catharsis, I realized something very important: I was no longer green with envy about JTF, I was orange with pride. Sure, maybe it wasn’t me standing on that stage but I was sitting in the room surrounded by people I love as a crowd of 3,000 cheered on a ginger from the Land of Enchantment for breaking down barriers and making same-sex couples part of the social norm. I’m not even sure if Jesse remembers me, or my one-sided jealousy, but as it turns out it doesn’t matter. In our own special way, we’ve each been given our own chance to fly.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Shabby Shriek of the Week: Nicole Scherzinger

This week, we look at singer Nicole Scherzinger. We’ve received remixes for her songs “Right There” and “Don’t Hold Your Breath.” These two singles come from her debut album Killer Love slated for a December release. How does she fare? Read on.

WTF is Nicole Scherzinger?

The bio on her site is way too long. Seriously, chick? Below are some of the more precious bits from her bio.

“when Hawaiian-born Nicole Scherzinger was growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, she received a Christmas gift of a tiny purple boombox and a cassette of Whitney Houston’s chart-topping 1985 self-titled debut album. ‘That was it for me. Her voice was so powerful; every note she sang just felt like the truth.'”

“…a multifaceted career that has enabled her to lead the multi-platinum pop group The Pussycat Dolls , take home the mirror ball trophy as the tenth season winner of ABC’s Dancing With The Stars and act on How I Met Your Mother and the musical Rent. [Simon Cowell] tapped Scherzinger to serve as a judge on the American version of The X Factor…

“All I’ve ever really wanted to do was sing,” she says. “I didn’t care about being famous. Whitney Houston really touched me and changed my life. She drew me into her world and that’s what I hope to do with Killer Love. I want to create a world inside of the music like my favorite performers did. I want to play in that realm artistically and creatively and see where it takes me, then put it onstage and share it with people. That’s what it’s about for me.”

More after the jump.

—  Rich Lopez

Reality TV roundup: Dallas playas and the gaying of ‘So You Think You Can Dance’

Two gay North Texans on original summer programming reality shows are continuing to thrive.

Lewisville’s Ben Starr and  Dallas’ Leslie Ezelle have been standouts on their respective series — Starr on Fox’s MasterChef and Ezelle on HGTV’s Design Star.  Starr was a top-three finisher in this week’s episode on Tuesday, while Ezelle made a strong impression Week 1 of Design Star and has never been in the bottom of the pack since. (Another Dallasite, local chef Carrie, has been most known as the object of hatred among her team on Fox’s Hell’s Kitchen.)

The rest of the summer’s reality life will continue to gay it up: Local pastry chef  Lina Biancamano, who works in the kitchen at Stephan Pyles, is a contestant on Top Chef: Just Desserts starting next month, and the series Most Eligible: Dallas debuts in three weeks on Bravo. And tonight on Lifetime, the new season of Project Runway premieres.

But what has really interested me this summer on reality TV has been the rotating guest judges on So You Think You Can Dance. A few seasons back, senior judge and exec producer Nigel Lythgoe took it on the chin for making comments perceived as homophobic — an odd claim, considering that SYTYCD has among the gayest (though least out) cast of contestants on reality TV (as well as many gays behind the scenes.)

Maybe that controversy led to Lythgoe intentionally gaying up the lineup this season. Starting with the mass auditions, guest judges this season have been gay choreographers Adam Shankman and Jason Gilkison. Then during the live elimination weeks, the first round of judges included gay faves Megan Mullally, Kristin Chenoweth and Debbie Reynolds, then in the past three weeks the 1-2-3-4 punch of Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Neil Patrick Harris (pictured), Rob Marshall and Lady Gaga. All have made pretty out-there comments for the family-friendly show. “Do you have a boyfriend?” Ferguson asked one of the female dancers. “So do I,” he said. Harris joked that one girl was so good even he was attracted to her, and last night Gaga joked that she “loves a queen” … and she wasn’t talking about Elizabeth II.  Can’t wait to see who’s up next to judge.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

What’s Brewing: Hearing today on Prop 8 judge’s sexuality; Gov. Perry defends Day of Prayer

Judge Vaughn Walker

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Prop 8 suppporters today will ask Judge Vaughn Walker’s successor to vacate his ruling declaring California’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, on the grounds that Walker is in a long-term relationship with another man. Chief U.S. Judge James Ware will hear arguments on their motion this morning in San Francisco, and he could rule right away or at a later date. The motion to vacate a ruling based on the judge’s sexual orientation is highly unusual if not unprecedented, and experts say it’s unlikely to succeed. Meanwhile, it’s also unlikely that same-sex marriage will be back on the ballot in California in 2012.

2. In an e-mail to The New York Times, Gov. Rick Perry defended his plans for a Christian-only Day of Prayer event funded by the American Family Association, a designated anti-gay hate group. “The A.F.A. is a group that promotes faith and strong families, and this event is about bringing Americans together in prayer,” he said in his e-mail, adding that “I have made it clear that I believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman.”Ju

3. Sunday night’s Tony Awards ceremony was as gay as ever, with host Neil Patrick Harris performing “Theater is not just for gays any more” as the opening number, and the Broadway production of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart taking three honors. Watch video below of the opening and read Arnold Wayne Jones’ full recap. For a full list of winners, go here.

—  John Wright

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

Neil Patrick Harris to return as Tony Awards host

Neil Patrick Harris is known to most of his fans as the womanizing Barney on the unwatchable How I Met Your Mother sitcom, but to many others, he’s the openly gay song-and-dance man who turned coming out into a career renaissance. Last year, he did an excellent, camped up job as the host of the Tony Awards, and he’ll be back again this year.

In addition to Harris, scheduled presenters and performers, announced today, include Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe (currently on Broadway in the revival of How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying), Oscar winner and Broadway producer Whoopi Goldberg, gay Tony winner David Hyde Pierce and his TV brother, Kelsey Grammer, who recently left the musical La Cage aux Folles, gay Emmy winner (The Big Bang Theory) Jim Parsons, currently in his Broadway debut of the AIDS play The Normal Heart, co-directed by  Oscar winner and fellow presenter Joel Grey.

The Tonys air on CBS June 12.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

What’s Brewing: R.I. gay marriage bill, sports columnist comes out, Neil Patrick Harris

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. On Wednesday we told you how Rhode Island’s new governor, Lincoln Chafee, called for marriage equality during his inaugural address. Well, it turns out that Rhode Island legislators plan to introduce a same-sex marriage bill today, and Chafee’s support is crucial to their strategy. The Human Rights Campaign says Rhode Island is one of three states — along with Maryland and New York — where marriage equality is possible this year. At the same time, there’s been a marriage equality bill introduced in Rhode Island’s Assembly every year since 1997, but none has ever made it to a floor vote.

2. Longtime Boston Herald sports columnist Steve Buckley came out as gay in a column published today. Buckley says he regrets that he told his mother he would come out seven years ago, but then she died and he kept putting it off — until now. “It’s my hope that from now on I’ll be more involved” in the LGBT community, Buckley writes. “I’m not really sure what I mean by being ‘involved,’ but this is a start: I’m gay.”

3. Neil Patrick Harris wins People’s Choice Award, recognizes husband and kids on stage (video above).

—  John Wright

Could the Emmys have been any gayer?

Jane Lynch

The first half hour of the Emmy Awards on Sunday night were gay. Gay. Gay. Gay. And lesbian.

Ryan Murphy, winner of best director of a comedy, kissed his boyfriend before running up on stage to accept his award.

Jane Lynch, who won best supporting actress in a comedy, kissed her wife and then thanked her on stage.

The controversy about ABC’s gay-friendly comedy “Modern Family” has been when will Cam and Mitchell kiss? They answered that question last night. Erik Stonestreet won best supporting actor in a comedy. He kissed his wife and then kissed his TV husband, Jesse Tyler Ferguson.

Neil Patrick Harris won best guest appearance in a comedy by an actor. Golden Girl Betty White won best guest appearance by an actress. Harris thanked the Academy for allowing a gay man to host the show two years in a row. (Harris, who hosted last year, is gay. No one would be surprised if Jimmy Fallon, who hosted this year, came out.)

The show straightened up after the first awards, with a few more gay Emmys through the night. Aaron Paul, who won best supporting actor in a drama for his role in “Breaking Bad,” kissed his partner. The writers for the Tony Awards won best writing for a special and “Modern Family” won best comedy.

—  David Taffet

Time's 100 most influential

Mayor Annise Parker

Mayor Annise Parker

Time magazine wants to know who its readers think are the 100 most influential people in the world. The gays (and the lesbians and the allies) are doing quite well.

In spot number 83 (as of this writing) is Houston Mayor Annise Parker. This is her first appearance on the list. Parker won election in January making Houston the largest city in the United States with an openly gay or lesbian mayor and the largest city in the world with a lesbian mayor. (Only Berlin, which is slightly larger than Houston, is a larger city with a gay mayor).

Before becoming mayor, Parker served three terms on the city council and three terms as city controller. Before entering elective office, she headed Houston’s Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus.

To vote, go to her page, click on the rating, move it up or down and enter the capture words that prevent spam.

Other interesting choices:

Adam Lambert is in fifth place.

Neil Patrick Harris is #12, two spots ahead of Barack Obama.

Ellen Degeneres is 39th.

Also in the running are David Boies and Ted Olsen. They are the attorneys in the Prop 8 case in California representing the dump-the-ban side. They are currently at #114.

Bristol Palin is at 162. Her mom, Sarah, is at #29. Levi Johnston doesn’t show up.

And in the top spot? Most influential person in the world? Really??

At the time of this writing, Lady Gaga is in the top spot. As a native of Yonkers, I have to campaign against her. Love her music, but she’s been going around denying she’s from Yonkers, without revealing where she’s from. New York City? Well, just say it, then. Us Yonkersites are a proud bunch. I’ve called Dallas home for more than 30 years, Gaga, but I don’t deny my Roosevelt High School-Nathan’s Famous-P.S. 28-Colonial Heights roots.сайтseo аудит сайта стоимость

—  David Taffet

Gay 'Idol' judge in Dallas for Wednesday b'cast

Ellen DeGeneres may be the new permanent judge during the live competitions starting next month, but Neil Patrick Harris was the on-the-road sub when the show came to Dallas last summer … and the episode with him aired last night. Savvy geographers will note that the auditions with Harris do not take place at the Dallas Cowboys Stadium (check out the skyline through the windows) but at some Downtown skyscraper.
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—  Arnold Wayne Jones