Memorial service set for Bettye Pepper

Bettye “Pep” Pepper, 1945-2011

Longtime Dallas resident and my good friend Bettye “Pep” Pepper died this morning at Hearthstone Hospice in Irving following a courageous battle against cancer.

A memorial service and celebration of her life will be held tomorrow — Saturday, April 30 — at Joe’s/The Brick. Everyone who knew and loved her is invited to attend. Pep’s body will be returned to her hometown in Benton, Mississippi, where funeral services are pending.

Pepper worked many years as a flight attendant for Delta Airlines. She then worked several years as a bartender for Joe Elliott at Jugs, then later for Howard Okon at Joe’s Place. The last several years, she worked for Home Depot on Lemmon Avenue in Oak Lawn.

There are so many things to say about Pep that there’s no way to say it all here. She was a true Virgo: Ask her what time it was, and she would tell you how to make a clock. She held a treasure trove of trivia in her mind and loved to tell stories and recite poetry. She also loved to tinker with things, to take things apart when they were broken and try to fix them and put them back together. And a lot of the times, when she put them back together, they did work, even if she had parts left over. She had a great laugh, and an excellent sense of humor. Her favorite TV channel was PBS.

She was a true and loyal friend, fierce about standing up for the people she loved and the causes she believed in.

Pep loved her family more than anything, and there were so many friends she thought of as family. Rest in peace, Bettye Pepper. We will miss you very much.

—  admin

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