Kathy Bates: The gay interview

L14A2832.DNGLong before dishing lesbian wisdom to Melissa McCarthy’s mess of a character in this summer’s road-trip comedy Tammy, which opens tomorrow, Kathy Bates had the gay community in shackles. It didn’t take a sledgehammer to maintain our obsession with her … it just took the Hollywood icon’s every turn on television (Six Feet Under, American Horror Story), Broadway (’Night, Mother) and the big screen (Titanic, Misery, which won her an Oscar).

Notably with Fried Green Tomatoes, her 1991 girl dramedy, and then with Dolores Claiborne and Primary Colors, the SMU alumna has kept us captivated for four decades, bound to her boundless greatness. Now, as one half of a lesbian couple in Tammy (Sandra Oh of Grey’s Anatomy plays her partner), she’s giving you one more reason to be her biggest fan. Our Chris Azzopardi sat down with her to discuss the gay boys she first met in Dallas, kissing girls and her drag impersonators.

Dallas Voice: I’ve never been to an all-lesbian party, but based on the one your character, Lenore, throws in Tammy, clearly I’ve been missing out.  Kathy Bates: You have. It was a lot of fun! It really was. And there was a scene that was cut out of the movie where all the lesbian women on the dock were singing “Fire,” the Bruce Springsteen song, which was pretty fun.

You really can’t go wrong with some lesbians and The Boss.  No, no, no. It’s a sure thing.

Tell me about the best lesbian party you’ve ever been to.  I don’t know if I’ve been to a lesbian party quite like the one we have in Tammy. I’ve known and loved many lesbians in my life … but I don’t know if I’ve ever gotten them all into the same room at the same time! I always imagined that my and Sandra’s characters lived in a very small town, so I think many of these lesbians they’ve known were shipped in and probably work in Lenore’s [pet] shops in other towns, that it’s an annual thing and they come in and hang out for the holiday.

Melissa said your chemistry with Sandra was instantly palpable. Who are some other women you could see yourself going lesbian for onscreen?  Let me think about that. I’m just absolutely in love with Sandra, and let me just say that she really brought our relationship to bloom. She brought a lot of love and warmth, and it was her idea to have wedding rings, which I hadn’t thought about, and also, really, to think that our relationship is the healthiest relationship in the movie.

You know, we’re non-judgmental, and [in] my scene on the dock with Melissa, it was important for me to be able to ad-lib how difficult it is — or was, especially 20, 25 years ago — for lesbian women to come out. I think almost more difficult than for men to come out as gay. She brought just so much love, and she really helped create the little bubble of our relationship, and now I have forgotten your question. Oh, whom else would I like to be with. Ahh, let’s see. Who do I love? Oh, I could totally see this: I shared a plane trip with Uma Thurman once and I thought she was pretty cool. I could see doing a movie with her and having a lesbian relationship — although I’m much too old for her!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Uptown Players among groups bringing “8″ to a theater near you

Last fall, we reported on the star-studded reading of Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black’s new play 8, which features readings from the transcripts of the Prop 8 trial in California, the Mormon-backed initiative that sought to ban gay marriage in that state. It was a one-night-only event full of celebs; George Clooney announced he’d do a West Coast version. But other than that, it seemed like something most of America would have to wait for.

Well maybe most, but not Dallas. Sure, we don’t have Clooney or Morgan Freeman, but we will have Uptown Players doing a reading of it, as part of a nationwide program. So far, 17 states have signed on for about 40 readings, include Dallas’ gaycentric theater company.

The play concentrates on the actual oral arguments made by lawyers and unlikely allies David Boies and Ted Olsen in opposing implementation of the proposition.

Uptown has yet released any details — the date, the cast, etc. — but we will post report new information on the project as it is announced.

Black, pictured above, won an Oscar for his screenplay to Milk and has J. Edgar in theaters now.

UPDATE: According to Uptown Players cofounder Craig Lynch, the company will stage 8 in September, to coincide with Dallas Pride. “We are proud to be selected by Broadway Impact as the North Texas theatre company to present a staged reading” he said.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Starvoice • 09.09.11

By Jack Fertig

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAY

Jennifer Hudson turns 30 on Monday.
The Oscar winner has made headlines in the recent past mostly on her weight loss. She talks to Self magazine this month about losing over 80 pounds. This year, she returns to the big screen in Winnie, portraying Nelson Mandela’s wife, and in 2012’s The Three Stooges.

…………………..

THIS WEEK

Venus coming home to Libra normally helps us to be more gracious, social and polite. Opposing Uranus on the way in whips up some crazy ideas of what that might mean. Compassion and imagining yourself in the other’s position is usually the best way to start out.

…………………..

VIRGO Aug 23-Sep 22
You find amazing deals at estate sales, perhaps even your true love. If you already have one, bring him or her along and you find some treasure that will become an emblematic keepsake.

LIBRA Sep 23-Oct 22
You’re looking especially gorgeous. The attention you get will surprise you. Of course you’re not just a pretty face; a new contact could prove very helpful as a colleague.

SCORPIO Oct 23-Nov 21
Hiding out from the social whirl may give you peace, but doesn’t do much for your anxieties. Hum the first tune that comes to mind. That song will offer insights to face your worries.

SAGITTARIUS Nov 22-Dec 20
Party it up but don’t go overboard. Seek out new, interesting, unusual people at these events. Their perspectives can trigger new insights into your own roots.

CAPRICORN Dec 21-Jan 19
Career opportunities are looking good, but are you prepared? Know your strengths and the difference between reaching and overreaching. Work causes you to neglect issues at home.

AQUARIUS Jan 20-Feb 18
Think a little harder before opening your mouth. Does it really need to be said? Your words carry more weight than you realize. Treat them like currency and don’t waste them.

PISCES Feb 19-Mar 19
Opportunities abound as Venus is flashing her goodies in your house of illicit pleasures. She offers a deeper challenge to re-
examine your priorities and values.

ARIES Mar 20-Apr 19
You’re suddenly looking marriageable no matter what local laws allow. Let someone special see your inner wounds. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable shows confidence in both of you.

TAURUS Apr 20-May 20
A friend in need is a pain in the ass. You have your own problems. Even so, helping out your pal can not only get you out of your own problems for a bit, but help point you to a solution.

GEMINI May 21-Jun 20
Your idea of social outreach is a little outré. One on one is fine for scaring off people you don’t want to deal with, but if you’re working with a group, behave accordingly.

CANCER Jun 21-Jul 22
New recipes go better than you’d hoped for. Even if things screw up, you get points for trying. At work keep your boss up on any experiments, just in case.

LEO Jul 23-Aug 22
Advice is not necessarily appreciated, as you could find out the hard way. An earnest, soul-searching talk about sex can be more satisfying than actually doing it. Not that one rules out the other.

Jack Fertig can be reached at 415-864-8302 or Starjack.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Bergmaniac

Streisand dazzles (as usual) on new CD of songwriters’ lyrics

Bergmans_Barbra
THE WAY THEY WERE | Babs has sung the lyrics of Marilyn and Alan Bergman for decades; now she has an album dedicated to the songs she and others have made famous.

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

For Barbra Streisand, releasing an album is old hat… especially when she returns to the familiar. Her new album (dropping Tuesday) — her 33rd, following 2009’s Love is the AnswerWhat Matters Most: Barbra Streisand Sings the Lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman, has been on her to-do list for some time: On it, she honors her frequent collaborators, who composed the lyrics to the Yentl soundtrack, “The Way We Were” and more.

It’s almost unfair to review Streisand anymore. Her production values are top-notch and there is no denying her voice still gorgeous after 50 years. For what she does, it’s perfection. Add to that her status as a music legend, especially among gay men, and nitpicks might seem blasphemous. But regardless of what the makers of Glee think, she’s still human, and while Matters works in the usual Streisand oeuvre, she also refrains in her tone.

On the opener, the Oscar winner “The Windmills of Your Mind,” Babs lets the construction shine more than her vocal interpretation, delivering drama but still holding back. Still, her voice is solid, like a perfect wine glass: delicate but sturdy. She continues such subtlety in subsequent tracks “Solitary Moon” and “Something New in My life” (where slight hints of grit in her voice are surprisingly refreshing).

She closes the 10-track album with songs that also rely on similar structure. Face it: She’s diva enough to not mind showing off. But her touches to “I’ll Never Say Goodbye” and the title track are exquisite.

Soon into the album, though, the impact is lessened. Covering Sinatra’s “Nice ‘n’ Easy” doesn’t fit her style. Streisand is not overly sexy, but this track needed to be flirty and sultry; instead she sounds like mom singing a silly “come hither” tune in front of all my friends. Awkward!

There is a downturn in the second half as “Alone in the World” and “So Many Stars” play on. They make less of an impression and she’s less engaged with the lyrics. An Academy Award-winning actress could put a little more emotion into it.

“The Same Hello, The Same Goodbye,” though, is a floating dream, and is easily a highlight, as is “That Face” performed jazzy and playfully. Streisand even sounds less on guard than her previous tracks, more relaxed.

For diehard fans, this is Streisand at her finest: Quality production, impeccable voice, timeless tunes. For the rest, this is the same over again. With nothing to prove, I wish she’d be more daring in her music the way she’s willing to be with her films (Little Fockers, anyone?).

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 19, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

‘Milk’ screenwriter Dustin Lance Black hopes LGBT Texans respond to video challenge

Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black is trying to get the word out all over about his latest endeavor — especially to his one-time home state of Texas.

“I think this project is so important,” the Milk screenwriter told Dallas Voice this week. “People need to hear the stories of our LGBT brethren and straight allies from all areas. If you wanna change minds, you have to intro yourself and tell your story.”

Which is what he’s calling for people across America to do for the Courage Campaign’s Testimony initiative. And the former San Antonian hopes some Lone Star State peeps will get on board.

—  Rich Lopez

FREE STUFF: Wanna see Elton John and Leon Russell in Fort Worth? We got tickets

In case you missed the announcement on the DV’s Facebook page, we are giving away a pair of tickets everyday this week to the Elton John and Leon Russell show. The two perform Nov. 13 at the Fort Worth Convention Center Arena.

The two collaborated on the just-released album The Union, which was produced by Oscar-winner T. Bone Burnett. In the album, John delves into roots rock with Americana icon Russell. Now they are on the road together and the show makes its way here next weekend. In the video below, they discuss the making of the album.

To win your tickets, email “Elton John” in the subject line to Tickets for your chance to see the legends live. Good luck!

—  Rich Lopez

Cher and share alike

Local female impersonator Wayne Smith and floral designer Shane Walker have at least one thing in common: A fascination with Cherilyn Sarkasian Bono

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor jones@dallasvoice.com

GYPSIES, TRAMPS AND THIEVES  |  Shane Walker, center, successfully bid on the two Bob Mackie originals worn by Cher — and lusted after by Cher impersonator Wayne Smith. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)
GYPSIES, TRAMPS AND THIEVES | Shane Walker, center, successfully bid on the two Bob Mackie originals worn by Cher — and lusted after by Cher impersonator Wayne Smith. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Shane Walker remembers the first time he ever saw Cher in concert: He was 16, and went with a family member to a show in Houston.

His life hasn’t been the same since.

More than 20 years later, Walker, a floral designer and event stylist, has one of the most extensive collections of Cher memorabilia around. He’s been collecting so long, he can barely remember the first piece he bought.

“Probably one of the Bob Mackie dolls,” he posits, referring to the fashion figurines dressed in recreations of costumes from Cher’s favorite designer.

But if he cannot recall for sure the first item he purchased, he certainly knows the most recent: Two Bob Mackie gowns — and not miniature knock-offs, either. These are originals, worn by Cher herself.

“If you look in the collar of the print dress, you can see a little bit of makeup. That’s makeup Cher wore!” Walker says. He almost swoons just thinking about it.

Despite his eye twinkling and his voice softening when he talks about her, Walker braces at the suggestion he is “obsessed” with Cher. (Billy Fulmer, his partner of nine years, smiles; he loves Cher, too, though he admits Walker’s enthusiasm out-distances his own.) In fact, while Walker says he’s been collecting the Oscar winner for about 18 years, it’s only been in “the last five that it has grown:” He admits to buying a Cher doll about once a week now. “She makes me very happy on the inside, and her music’s wonderful,” he says.

“When he gets down, he just buys something of Cher on eBay,” Fulmer says. “And her music is always playing at his studio.”

His newest acquisitions, though, are already among his most cherished. Not only were they donated to an auction house directly from Cher herself, but being actually Bob Mackie creations sweetens the enjoyment.

“Bob Mackie is my favorite designer,” Walker explains. “It’s just a legend — when you think of Cher, you think of Bob Mackie. They have been together for years, and she helped build his empire.”

That’s one of the things that got Walker to Las Vegas last month for an auction. He had already purchased third-row seats to see Cher perform at Caesar’s Palace (not his first time — and he plans to see it again before she ends the run in October). Then he heard about an auction that included several Mackie designs. He had bid on many in the past, but never successfully. But one of the gowns, a Pucci-style print, is the original of a dress worn by a Cher doll Walker bought ages ago.

“I had no idea it was all happening the same day. But when I saw the dress in the auction, I said ‘My God, I have to get that.’” This time,he was resolved: He would get something. Anything.

He walked away with two gowns and other swag.

Then less than an hour later, he was in his premium seats watching Cher perform.

And a few hours after that, he was back stage, visiting with her privately for the first time.

It is a day he’ll never forget.

BLING BANG BOOM  |  Walker, left, and his partner Billy Fulmer the day they met Cher. The performer spotted their bling from the stage and invited them back for a meet and greet after the show.
BLING BANG BOOM | Walker, left, and his partner Billy Fulmer the day they met Cher. The performer spotted their bling from the stage and invited them back for a meet and greet after the show.

“I always buy premium seats. We were sparkling in our bling and she said, ‘Come here, shiny boys.’ The looked incredible: Perfect face, smooth. She for sure does not look her age. And she loves her gays.”

It may sound silly, but for Walker — and countless others, many gay men — it is anything but. Cher represents something special, unique. Tell someone you own a dress once worn by Meryl Streep and an eyebrow might raise in interest; say you have one of Cher’s, and people’s minds race toward the outrageous. Because she means something as an icon, not just as a celebrity.

“Everyone associates with Cher,” offers Wayne Smith, a local legend himself for his decades-long impersonations of Cher. “The gay community goes through a lot of bullshit, just like her. She is the most honest person you’ll ever meet, and sometimes honesty hurts. She has been through everything you can imagine and she does not give a shit. She really doesn’t care if they make fun of her.”

Smith speaks from experience. Although Walker only recently met her, Smith has known Cher for years. In the ‘80s, Smith worked in the beading department for Bob Mackie’s prêt-a-porter line, where he met Cher (along with others, like Diana Ross, about whom he has far less flattering things to report).

“When she’s on tour, she’ll ride [in the bus] with the dancers. She loves board games and bowling and old movies,” he says. And he thinks people respond to that realness.

Smith didn’t begin performing as Cher until many years after he worked for Mackie, although Mackie did get him involved in drag in the first place.

“He gave me the idea to dress up. He asked me what I was going to do for Halloween and said ‘I think you should do Marilyn — if you do, I’ll help you with you costume.’” The next day, Smith was offered a spot in the La Cage aux Folles drag show as a Marilyn/Dolly impersonator. It was six years before he tackled Cher. Now, he does no one else in his act.

“You give the people what they want,” he says.

Shane Walker can surely relate to that.

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

—  Kevin Thomas

Jon Voight makes an appearance at Fresh 2010

Last Sunday, the Fresh 2010 event took place at the Starlight Room in the West End. A night of cocktails, food, live music and fab fashion sounds like a heck of a way to spend Sunday night. Benefiting Legacy Counseling Center and Founders Cottage, the event featured performances by Gary Floyd, Denise Lee and others but also celebrated Paul Jentz as the honorary Fresh Taste Maker based on his contributions to the LGBT community through DGLA, the Human Rights Campaign, DIVA and other organizations.

But I was surprised  by Legacy’s executive director Melissa Grove sending me an e-mail mentioning that Oscar winner Jon Voight came out to the party. As you can see below he mixed and mingled with the gents and the models. When I asked Grove how she managed to get him there, she was quick to respond.

“He heard it was going to be a great party.”

Ummmm … cool.

—  Rich Lopez