Owner of Cherries acquires 3 Fort Worth clubs

Former Rainbow Lounge manager and owner of Randy’s Club Cherries, Randy Norman has made his big move in Fort Worth. He is reportedly the new owner of the Rainbow Lounge, Best Friends Club and Percussions Lounge all in Cowtown. This comes from the Dallas Gay Bars website. We spoke with Norman this afternoon and his sights are set on getting Fort Worth clubs to a high standard. Sensing some decline in the clubs’ upkeep, Norman took action.

—  Rich Lopez

Tarrant County Pride starts Thursday

Suzanne Westenhoefer performs Friday night at the Sheraton Fort Worth as part of a full weekend of Tarrant County Pride events

You can catch our Friday issue for a complete story on Tarrant County Pride events coming up this weekend, but the fun actually starts on Thursday, before the Friday issue hits the newsstands. So here’s a list of events on tap to let you start getting your Pride on early.

The Sheraton Hotel in downtown Fort Worth is the host hotel for Tarrant County Gay Pride Week Association’s Weekend Pride Stay package, and there are lots of events planned there on Thursday, beginning at noon. There’s the Fort Worth Trading Post in the Piney Woods Room on the second floor, from noon to 10 p.m., plus an art exhibit and the “Big As Texas Auction,” both in the second floor foyer from noon to 10 p.m.

A number of different community nonprofits are participating in the Community School House educational sessions on Thursday at the Sheraton: From noon to 1 p.m., AIDS Outreach Center presents “Stress Reduction;” from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., Healing Wings presents “Safer Sex is Sexy: Take Responsibility for your Sexual Health;” Outreach Addiction Services presents “Sex: Safety the Gay Way” from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Stonewall Democrats present “Make Your Voice Heard” from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Fairness Fort Worth presents “Grassroots Organizing: The Creation of Fairness Fort Worth” from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.; and Trinity Metropolitan Community Church presents “Overcoming Spiritual Abuse and the Ex-Gay Ministries” from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m.

—  admin

From screen to stage

Q Cinema veterans tackle live theater with the guerrilla-like QLive!

CURTAIN UP! | Producing partners Todd Camp and Kyle Trentham have theater backgrounds, but QLive! is a departure from the movie-focused work their organization, Q Cinema, has done for a dozen years.

MARK LOWRY  | Special Contributor
marklowry@theaterjones.com

………………..

QLIVE: NONE OF THE ABOVE
Trinity Bicycles patio,
207 S. Main St., Fort Worth.
Sept. 23–24 at 8 p.m.
$15, QCinema.org

…………………

Anyone who’s ever wanted to start a theater company will tell you that the biggest hurdle is finding the right space. It’s no different in DF-Dub, where the opportunities seem endless, but affordable spaces that can work for the demands of theater are limited.

QLive!, a new theater company based in Fort Worth, is finding ways to work around that. Its first full production, for instance, is None of the Above , a two-person drama by Jenny Lyn Bader. It opens Friday on the back patio of a bicycle shop just west of downtown Cowtown.

“One of the things we’ve talked about is the immersive experience, where it’s not just that you sit down and watch a show, but you experience a show,” says QLive’s Todd Camp, who founded Fort Worth’s LGBT film festival, Q Cinema. “The three shows that we have lend themselves quite well to that.”

Those three shows, which run this fall, begin with Above, which deals with a parochial school student and her teacher. In November, there’ll be Yasmina Reza’s oft-produced Art, which will hopefully happen in a gallery space (they’re still negotiating). It will close out the year with Terrence McNally’s controversial Corpus Christi, taking place in a machine shop near downtown Fort Worth.

QLive! has been a project three years in the making, and will be led by Camp’s Q Cinema cohort Kyle Trentham, as artistic director. The group has already launched a successful Tuesday night open mike comedy event at Percussions Lounge, and in February presented a staged reading of Frank Wedekind’s 1891 play Spring Awakening, the day before the musical based on that play opened at Bass Performance Hall. They also brought Hollywood comedy writer Bruce Vilanch in for a one-night performance.

Like other arts groups with a large LGBT following that present works of interest to that community — including Uptown Players and the Turtle Creek Chorale — Trentham says QLive doesn’t want the label of “gay theater” … despite the big “Q” in its name.

“Young [audiences] don’t think in those terms anymore,” he says. “They just want to see theater they like.”

With Corpus Christi, Trentham says that creating an immersive experience will be crucial to the production. “It’s a working machine shop,” he says. “You walk in and the actors are working, getting their hands dirty. Then in the cleansing scene, they actually are cleaned.”

Camp, who has led Q Cinema for 13 years, is no stranger to controversy. He was a critical player in the late ‘90s “Labor of Love” project at the now-defunct Fort Worth Theatre. That group presented shows like Paul Rudnick’s Jeffrey and The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, and Mart Crowley’s The Boys in the Band. A few times, there were protesters in front of the performance space, Orchestra Hall.

Considering the dust-up Corpus Christi caused in Texas last year when a Tarelton State University junior had his student production of it canceled, Camp is prepared for blowback.

“You are not going to tell me what I can and cannot do in my town, even if you’re the lieutenant governor,” he says. “This is an important work by a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright who’s from Texas. … It’s an incredibly pro-spiritual show. It’s not anti-religion or blasphemous. It takes organized religion, which has been used to club the gay and lesbian community for many years, and retells the story that makes it a little more compatible and open to them.”

For now, they’ll have to see how their audience deals with a show outside a bike shop.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 23, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Comic wannabes line up for QLive’s weekly open mic — and some shouldn’t

RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

I like to think I’m pretty hilarious. I don’t boast about being funny, but I’ve teased some guffaws out of unlikely listeners, so I have some humor cred. Clearly, I could translate that into a stand-up comic career, right?

Um, now that wasn’t supposed to make you laugh.

Actually, the idea of going in front of a live crowd and trying to make them chuckle sounds like the most traumatizing thing I could ever attempt. Being caught by my mom in a half-awake morning whack-off would be more pleasant than cracking people up who paid their two-drink minimum. The emotional scarring would be equivalent.

But QLive gives gays the chance to do just that.

A new spin-off of the LGBT film festival QCinema, QLive offers up live theater and performances — and a open mic comedy, which recently went from monthly to weekly at the new Fort Worth club Percussions. And for veteran yukmeisters, apparently that works.

“I have to say, this is the best room I’ve ever performed at,” says Alison Egert, a regular at the event who proves that lesbians can be funny. I enlisted Egert to give me advice before I contemplate either making an ass out of myself onstage — or staging the most brilliant comic debut ever (less likely).

Egert is fairly new to the scene herself. Her first standup set was at an open mic at the now-defunct Hyena’s last October. By the end of January, she had scored a paying gig. Cha-ching! Visions of my student loans dwindling floated in my head. Maybe I should give this funny business some serious thought. The challenge would be getting my nerve in the first place.

“You just have to remember that you’ll never be as terrible as that first night,” she advises. “It doesn’t get worse than that, so you just keep going. If you get a laugh that first time, that’s a good [start].”

Gay audiences are definitely the way to go. Perhaps because it’s not a comedy club per se, Percussions lend itself to a less intimidating environment. An audience is expecting to laugh at The Improv, and hecklers there are a given; gays in a club just want cocktails and if open mic comedy is on the menu, then bring it on. Can’t be worse than karaoke.

But then, they haven’t seen me yet.

“For whatever reason, the customers there can laugh at themselves,” Egert says. “We can get away with more and push the envelope. That’s good because it even some hetero comics like that they can do that there.”

Straights? Ewwww.

The rules at QLive’s open mic are simple: I get five minutes, max, to be hella-funny. But the QLive folks don’t make it easy to wanna get up to the mic. “These rules are in place to protect you, but more importantly, the audience, who bore easily and probably hate you.” Yikes! I’m not exactly giddy with excitement to put myself out there. Even their restrictions to make this a comedy-only night are deflating: This is comedy, people — no lip-syncing ladyboys, no poetry slamming hipsters, no guitar-strumming douchbags, unless you’re funny.

Or maybe I’m just finding excuses to psych myself out.

I hear that I should always just be myself and experiment with that to see what works. The thing is, I’m not sure being myself translates into becoming the next Adam Sandler. Comedians always seem to have the funniest personal stories. Even Egert has them — about being raped by a parrot, or funny things her mom says.

The closest I have is explaining email attachments to my dad. Hardee-har-blah.

What Egert unknowingly has taught me is you can be just as funny on Twitter. I see this as an ideal situation, of course. Why do standup when you can do sit-down?

She gives lovely gems on her feed at AlisonIsFunny such as: “Eharmony matched me w/uglies. Reason?” “Based on your personality these are only ppl w/self esteem low enough to put up with your crap.”

But she tells me otherwise. Dammit.

“Just get on stage as much as possible and maybe take a comedy class,” she suggests. “Pay attention around and notice the silly things. If you’re making other people laugh, use it. You don’t necessarily have to write a joke about something specific.”

I wholeheartedly want to believe this and so I’ll try my hand at it right here, right now.

“Knock-knock.…”

Hello? … Hello? Anybody?

—  John Wright

Top 10: FW changes continued in wake of Rainbow Lounge

Rainbow.Lounge
FROM PROTEST TO PARTY | The Rev. Carole West, left, and David Mack Henderson, right, both of Fairness Fort Worth, are shown with Chief Jeffrey Halstead during a barbecue at the Rainbow Lounge on June 28 to mark the one-year anniversary of the raid. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

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When the Fort Worth Police Department  and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage raided the Rainbow Lounge on June 28, 2009 — the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion — it sparked outrage around the world and enough headlines to fill newspapers for the rest of the year.

But the story didn’t end with 2009, as repercussions from the raid continued this year.

Publicity from the raid undoubtedly helped punch up business for the Rainbow Lounge, enough so that by January, the bar’s owner, J.R. Schrock, announced that he had a second bar — Percussions — in the works, as well as a third club and possibly a fourth.

In February — despite acknowledgments from both TABC and FWPD that the raid should never have happened — officials with the Fort Worth city attorney’s office said they were going ahead with efforts to prosecute those arrested in the raid, including Chad Gibson, the young man who suffered a lasting brain injury while in TABC custody.

One of Fort Worth police Chief Jeff Halstead’s first acts after the raid was to appoint openly gay officer Sara Straten as his department’s first full-time liaison to the LGBT community.

On June 28, as a way of highlighting the progress the city had made in the year since the raid and improved relations between the police department and the LGBT community, Rainbow Lounge held a party attended by Halstead, Straten and many of the officers who patrol the area in which the bar is located.

Despite the progress though, in July anti-gay forces packed the City Council chambers to once again protest the council’s vote the previous November to amend Fort Worth’s nondiscrimination ordinance to offer protections to transgenders and other initiatives proposed by the City Manager’s Diversity Task Force.

At the end of the public comments section of the meeting, Mayor Mike Moncrief told the crowd that while “there is room for all of us” in Fort Worth, “What’s in the Bible or what isn’t in the Bible, that’s not our job. Our job is to maintain the quality of life in our city, and that’s what this [diversity] training is all about.”

As the year continued, more examples of the changes in the city emerged: The police department reached out to the LGBT community in looking for new recruits. Halstead announced plans to start a hate crimes unit. The annual Tarrant County gay Pride celebration expanded, adding a block party and holding a parade and picnic far larger than in years past.

In September, the council quietly approved adding domestic partner benefits for lesbian and gay city employees, and in mid-November, the city attorney’s office announced that all charges against those arrested in the raid were being dropped.

Perhaps one of the most welcome results of the Rainbow Lounge raid, however, was the emergence and continued growth of Fairness Fort Worth.

Formed quickly in the wake of the raid to offer assistance to witnesses who wanted to testify during investigations into the raid, the group has morphed into an active LGBT advocacy organization complete with officers and a strategy for the future — filling a void that has long existed in Tarrant County’s LGBT community.

— Tammye Nash

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 31, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas