Black Tie Dinner hands out $1.142M

Lemons stepping up as 2012-13 co-chair; Duncan joins staff as development director

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COMMEMORATIVE GIFT | BTD Co-chair Chris Kouvelis shows off the plate presented to each beneficiary along with a check. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Officials with the 2011 Black Tie Dinner on Thursday night, Dec. 15, distributed a total of $1.142 million to 17 local beneficiary organizations and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

Although the overall total was down a bit from 2010’s total of $1.15 million, some local beneficiaries received higher individual amounts this year since the number of local beneficiaries dropped from 18 to 17 after AIDS Services of Rural Texas closed its doors in late spring.

As is traditional, half the total proceeds this year — or $571,000 — went to the Human Rights Campaign Fund. Resource Center Dallas was the local organization receiving the largest sum — $63,868.

RCD also received the largest donation to a local beneficiary last year, but that total, at $48,504, was significantly lower than this year.

The percentage of the total proceeds that each local beneficiary receives from Black Tie Dinner each year is determined by a formula based on how many tables and how many raffle tickets each organization sells for the dinner, how many volunteer hours each organization contributes to the dinner and other factors.

Chris Kouvelis, 2011-12 BTD co-chair, said in a statement released Thursday that he and other board members were pleased with the amount given to beneficiaries.

“It’s a thrill and an honor for Black Tie Dinner to be able to distribute these funds,” Kouvelis said. “It is with distribution that the reason for all the hard work done by this wonderful board is realized.”

Kouvelis served his first year as co-chair with Nan Arnold, who stepped down from the post during the check distribution event after two years as co-chair.

Arnold told Dallas Voice this week she was proud to know that during the last two years,“ we were able to increase distribution [to beneficiaries] substantially from the previous three to four years. Being able to give more to our beneficiaries is always a wonderful thing, and of course, that is our No. 1 mission.”

She said she is also very proud of how successful the 2011 dinner was.

“We really changed a lot of things this year. We had a great lineup and we sold out by August,” Arnold said. “We’ve heard a lot of good remarks about the dinner this year, and of course, we always love hearing good things.”

Black Tie officials on Thursday introduced Mitzi Lemons as co-chair for the 2012 and 2013 dinners, and they introduced Margaret Byrne Duncan as the new development director for the dinner.

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PASSING THE TORCH | Outgoing Co-chair Nan Arnold, left, and incoming Co-chair Mitzi Lemons at the Black Tie Dinner check presentation party at the Dallas Museum of Art on Thursday, Dec. 15. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

“I am leaving the board in excellent hands,” Arnold said of Lemons’ selection as the new co-chair. “Chris has been a great co-chair partner and is more than ready to take the reins [as senior co-chair]. And Mitzi has shown remarkable leadership as chair of our business operations committee.”

Arnold continued, “She [Lemons] is the first person to have the opportunity to have served [during the last year] as co-chair elect, so Chris and I have been able to work with her and mentor her all year. There is no doubt they are a terrific team and will lead the board to great things.”

Arnold steps down as co-chair after eight years on the BTD board, saying it has been “an honor and a privilege” to serve.

“I am just humbled to be a small part of a really great community in Dallas and I appreciate the opportunity to do my part to help in any way I can,” she said.

Looking back on her eight years on the board, Arnold said there have been many special moments and memories, but one in particular that stands out in her mind was being able to hand over a “substantial” donation to first-time beneficiary Home for the Holidays following the 2010 dinner.

“They were so excited; there were tears and yells of joy and appreciation,” Arnold recalled. “There were hugs all around. It was wonderful.”

Home for the Holidays, a nonprofit that helps people with HIV/AIDS travel home to be with family, received $24,375 in 2010, an amount that Home for the Holidays President Rodd Gray said earlier this year was a fortune for an organization in which board members often used their own credit cards and bank accounts to cover expenses until they could raise enough money to get reimbursed.

Home for the Holidays did not apply to be a Black Tie beneficiary this year, Gray said, explaining that the 2010 donation was enough to tide them over for some time. “We don’t need the money right now, and we didn’t want to possibly take away money from some other organization that needs it more,” Gray explained.

For Lemons, stepping into the role of Black Tie Dinner co-chair is an exciting opportunity.

“It is an honor I never dreamed I would have the privilege of experiencing, and I know it will be a time in my life that I will always cherish,” Lemons said. “To lead such a remarkable organization that impacts the LGBT community in the way that we do is almost daunting, to say the least. But I know I have the support of my co-chair [Kouvelis] and a truly amazing board and advisory board.”

Lemons has been a Black Tie board member for four years, and worked as a volunteer with the organization for two years before joining the board. She said that she was on the board at Celebration Community Church in Fort Worth when the church first applied and was selected as a Black Tie beneficiary.

When the church was selected as a beneficiary, Lemons said, “I began volunteering with Black Tie and became more and more interested in how the organization works and how it helps so many people.”

Lemons said that during her first year as Black Tie co-chair, she intends to “continue our efforts to educate not only the LGBT community about the mission of Black Tie Dinnner to help our beneficiaries, but also to educate the general public and our sponsors. There are still many opportunities in the North Texas area, and we will work hard to expand our reach.

“Although the 2011 dinner will be a hard act to follow, we are already in full swing working on an amazing 2012 dinner,” she added.

Lemons has been in law firm management for more than 25 years and currently works as a law firm administrator. She and her partner, Dr. Sarah Hardy, have been together for 15 years, and Lemons said Hardy is also “very much a part of Black Tie with her never-ending support of my role on the board and her belief in the Black Tie mission.

“The many hours of work we do as board members to produce the dinner each year would never happen without the devotion of our spouses to what we believe in,” Lemons said.
Duncan said this week that the transition to her new position as development director for Black Tie Dinner has already begun, even though she does not officially take over the position until Jan. 1.

“I am honored to be part of the nation’s largest, most successful single-event LGBT fundraiser,” Duncan said. “That success would not be possible without our extremely dedicated volunteer board of directors.”

Duncan said she became familiar with Black Tie while working for five years with AIDS Arms, one of the dinner’s beneficiary organizations. Because of that, Duncan said, “I have firsthand knowledge of how important Black Tie’s funding is to the LGBT-supportive organizations serving North Texas.”

Duncan said her goal for 2012 is to continue building on the organization’s current success and to find ways to increase the donations Black Tie gives back to its beneficiaries.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 16, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Spirit of Giving: Linze Serrell’s Toys for Tots Show

EDITOR’S NOTE: As the holiday season kicks into high gear, the LGBT community of North Texas once again is responding in a variety of ways to help out those who are less fortunate.

This week Dallas Voice profiles five events intended to raise funds or other donations for a number of different causes. But the community’s good will doesn’t end with these events.

If you know of an individual, business or organization that is holding or participating in a charitable holiday event or effort, email the information to editor@dallasvoice.com.

…………………

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Linze Serrell

Saturday night, Dec. 10, Garlow’s in Gun Barrel City will play host to Linze Serrell’s annual Toys for Tots fundraising show, to gather donations of cash and toys for the U.S. Marines’ Toys for Tots program.

Brian Paris, show director at Garlow’s, said that this is the second holiday season since the bar opened, and the second year that the club has hosted the event.

Paris explained that the annual Toys for Tots benefit show was started more than 25 years ago by Bill Lindsey, known across the Metroplex as Linze Serrell, a female impersonator who sings live and focuses his efforts on charitable events.

“This is Linze’s baby, her pet project, on top of everything else that [Lindsey and his partner Michael Champion, aka Sable Alexander] do,” Paris said.

For Lindsey, the annual show is a way to give back and say thanks for the blessings in his own life.

“My mom was a single mom who worked three jobs. There were times growing up that we wouldn’t have had Christmas without the support of the church and organizations like Toys for Tots,” he said. “I know what it feels like to be without, and I want to do something to make sure other kids don’t have to go without.”

Despite a recent stroke, Lindsey said he would definitely attend the event at Garlow’s. “I’d have to be six feet under not to be at this show! And even then, they’d dig me up and put me in the corner! I even plan on singing a song in the show.”

Paris said the show will be “really just a regular drag show,” except that all the performers are donating their time and all the tips go to help buy toys for Toys for Tots.

“Last year, we had a stage full of people participating, and we raised about $2,000. And we had a lot of fun doing it. And all the people participating do it on their own dime. No one receives a penny of compensation.

“These entertainers, we all travel thousands of miles each year, whether it’s to participate in a pageant system for the Home for the Holidays [a program that raises funds to send people with HIV/AIDS home]. But there is nothing in this show that has any personal benefit for the performers, in terms of winning a title or anything. They just do it for the fun of it and for the chance to make Christmas a little bit better for some children who might not have had Christmas otherwise.”

He said that this show is also the only time that Garlow’s ever charges a cover charge, and that the suggested donation of $5 or a new, unwrapped toy at the door will also go into the Toys for Tots total.

But Paris said he knows that a trip to Gun Barrel to attend the show may be out of the question for some. “If someone wants to help but can’t make it down here to Gun Barrel City, then they should find someone where they are who needs help,” he said. “It doesn’t even have to be doing something for kids.

There are lots of people in nursing homes who need a hug. Just go and sit and spend some time with someone who needs your company.”

Linze Serrell’s annual Toys for Tots benefit show begins at 10 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, at Garlow’s, 308 E. Main St. in Gun Barrel City.

— Tammye Nash

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

—  Kevin Thomas

Stone stepping into a quieter life

Founder of PFLAG-Dallas, Late Bloomers leaving group to focus on painting, involvement with church

Tammye Nash  |  nash@dallasvoice.com

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Pat Stone

The Tuesday night, Dec. 14, meeting of Late Bloomers was a bittersweet event for Pat Stone. It marked her last meeting as leader and an active member of the organization she founded 13 years ago. But it also marked her first full steps into the next stage of her life.

Stone, who started Late Bloomers for women life herself who came out as lesbian later in life, was also one of the founding members of the Dallas chapter of Parents, Family and Friends of

Lesbians and Gays in 1992. Stone and her former husband helped start the PFLAG chapter in support of their lesbian daughter and were the driving force behind the Dallas organization in its early years.

She was president of the Dallas chapter for five years and was also on the national PFLAG board.

Then in 1997, after coming out as a lesbian herself, Stone started Late Bloomers to give other women coming out later in life a place other than nightclubs to go where they could meet other women like themselves and to learn about the LGBT community.

Stone said this week that her decision to leave Late Bloomers was, in truth, a decision to retire from her nearly 20-plus years as an activist on LGBT issues. Now, she said, she will concentrate on her life with her partner as part of a vibrant LGBT community in the Cedar Creek Lake area, her involvement with Celebration on the Lake Church, and on her painting.

“It’s been 13 years since I started Late Bloomers, and I just think the time is right to move on,” said Stone, adding that the monthly trip into Dallas for the group’s meetings from her home on Cedar Creek Lake was becoming increasingly arduous.

“I think it’s time [for Late Bloomers] to find someone local to lead the group,” she said. “I am stepping away from it for so many different reasons.”

One of those reasons, she said, is that she didn’t want to get “burned out, and I could feel that starting to happen.”

That is in due, in part, she said, to the fact that “the last couple of years were pretty rough” as she dealt with the break-up of a long-term relationship, the death of her mother and, later, the beginning of a new relationship.

“Linda [Sands] and I are living at the lake, and I think it is just time for us to concentrate on a quieter life out here with my friends. And I want to get back to my oil painting, too,” Stone said.

“I have begun doing more paintings that are geared to the elderly, researching on the types of things that older eyes can more readily pick up on, like plainer backgrounds and things like that,” she explained. “I have been in contact with the Mabank Nursing Home, where my mother lived at the end of her life, and I want to do paintings to donate there, paintings that the residents there can see better and that might make them think of all their good memories.”

Stone continued, “I will be 68 this month. That’s not ancient, but I just think it’s time to concentrate on my community here at the lake and my involvement with the church and the things I want to do now.”

Stone said the enormity of the change she is making by leaving Late Bloomers hasn’t really hit her full force yet, although she began to really see it during last Tuesday’s meeting. “There was a full house there. It was sad for me. I shed a few tears. But I was able to get through it,” she said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 17, 2010.

She said many of those who attended Tuesday talked about how much Late Bloomers has meant to them through the years. Some recalled how scared they were to attend their first meeting, but how the members of the group have, over the years, become like family to them, and how the group has helped give a specific voice within the community to women who come out later in life.

Stone said she had been worried that the group might not continue after she left, but that her fears were allayed at this week’s meeting.

“I know things are different now than they were 13 years ago. But I sure wouldn’t say that this group isn’t needed any more,” she said. “There are still women out there who are going through this [coming out process as older women], and they need specific kinds of help. Women who come out later in life still face some very specific issues that other people don’t face.”

Stone said she was glad to hear on Tuesday that Late Bloomers members want to keep their group going, and that new leaders are already stepping up.

“They said this group meant to much to them to let it die,” she said. “So a new committee was formed to transition the group. They even met that night. They are dividing up the duties and are determined to continue. I was so proud of them and the fact that so many stepped up to the plate to save the organization.”

Among the new leaders for Late Bloomers is Linda Harwell. Anyone with questions or who wants to be involved with the group can contact her at 410-868-8244.
While there is certainly a degree of sadness that comes with the decision to turn her life in a new direction, there is also a sense of satisfaction and excitement at the adventures to come, Stone said.

“It’s been almost 20 years that I have been involved in activism, and it is hard to step away from that,” she said. “But I am happy and content that I have helped many parents of gay and lesbian kids, as well as women who have come out later in life.

“Dallas has a great gay and lesbian community, and I am just so proud to have been a part of it for all these years.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 17, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

GLAAD marks 25 years

DERRIK J. LANG | AP Entertainment Writer

LOS ANGELES — The gay advocacy group GLAAD is happy to be turning 25 years old.

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation celebrated its anniversary Friday night, Dec. 3, with a swanky cocktail party at the Harmony Gold Theatre in Los Angeles. Chaz Bono, Jean Smart, Amber Heard and Ed Begley Jr. were among the celebrity attendees who toasted the group, which focuses on how lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender folks are presented in the media.

“We’ve made great progress in these media capitals,” said Jarrett Barrios, president of GLAAD. “Beyond Hollywood, beyond New York, between these blue states, right at this nation’s red center, we have miles to go. How far do we still have to go to ensure that an environment of respect exists for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people?”

GLAAD was first formed in 1985 in New York to protest the New York Post’s coverage of AIDS. The organization went on to push for several changes throughout the media, such as the inclusion of a same-sex couple on the viewer-voted wedding contest on NBC’s Today show and modifications to how gays are referred to in The Associated Press Stylebook.

The group now annually holds the GLAAD Media Awards, which actor Steven Weber called the “gayer Oscars,” and releases the “Where We Are on TV” report, which tracks LGBT characters on network shows. This year’s report found that there were 23 gay and bisexual characters on scripted network TV out of a total of 600, up 3 percent from last season.

“The steady stream of negative portrayals and censorship of gay and lesbian lives on film and in television has given way to much more realistic and life-affirming depictions, such as this year’s The Kids Are All Right and TV’s Glee,” said Richard Jennings, a former president of GLAAD who received the first-ever Founders’ Award at the event.

Throughout the ceremony, attendees heard from former GLAAD board members, watched video montages of hallmark moments from the organization’s past 25 years — such as when Ellen DeGeneres’ character revealed she was a lesbian on her ABC TV comedy series in 1997 — and hissed at mentions of opponents of gay rights initiatives — such as Anita Bryant, Laura Schlessinger and Mel Gibson.

Jonathan Murray, co-creator of MTV’s The Real World, the long-running cable TV reality series that regularly includes gay and lesbian cast members, was bestowed with the Pioneer Award, given to a person or organization who significantly contributes to raising LGBT visibility in the media. Murray admitted the series never received much criticism.

“I think it’s because it was real,” he said. “How can you argue with something that’s real?”

—  John Wright