Though you may not immediately recognize her name, you most certainly know diva Thea Austin’s powerful pipes. A favorite at circuit parties and pride events, Austin, a Los Angeles resident, initially found success as lead vocalist for ’90s European groups Snap! and Soulsearcher. More recently, Austin has been the featured vocalist in several Billboard chart topping dance tracks.
Perhaps Austin’s biggest claim to fame is as the arresting voice behind Snap!’s 1992 international hit “Rhythm Is a Dancer,” a single to which she lent not only her vocals but also her writing talent.
“That song opened the vortex for me,” Austin says. “It has helped me in so many ways, and it’s been a blessing. People come to me and request it all the time. I still hear it in elevators, at aerobics class, in salons, or even in Old Navy. People still seem to be interested in hearing and celebrating the song.”
Austin is unfettered by the notion that the song and her name weren’t always connected by audiences. “Being somewhat invisible allows me to stand back and watch how the song naturally impacts people,” Austin says. “That is almost more fun than having someone point me out of a crowd. The biggest reward is not always having someone recognize my name or my face.”
Neither is she troubled by the sometimes burdensome title of diva. “To me, a diva is someone with courage, someone who isn’t afraid to tackle challenges, someone with high style. Just by my nature of living life and loving life, I suppose that I have acquired certain diva-like characteristics. I’ve certainly grown bolder, and I like colorful surroundings.”
Austin will return to Dallas for Saturday night’s Razzle Dazzle performance where she will no doubt be eager to connect with the crowd. (You can also read interviews with fellow performers Josh Zuckerman, Patrick Boyd and Ray Isaac here.)
“I have always liked live performance better than the [recording] studio,” she says. “I love the rawness of live performance. The energy that is created is just the coolest.”
One of Austin’s career highlights was certainly a 1992 performance in Bucharest when Snap! opened a Michael Jackson concert before a crowd of about 80,000. Sadly, the diva of dance did not have an opportunity to speak with the King of Pop.
“Backstage we were politely asked to make our way quietly out of the area,” Austin recalls. “He didn’t want us looking at him while he was in the corner preparing to perform, so there was really no connection between me and Mike. But it was a big career highlight for me.”
She did, though, once have a chance to connect with the legendary jazz artist Dizzy Gillespie who imparted some invaluable career advice.
“He taught me that my voice is my instrument and that nothing should come before caring for it,” she recalls. “He shared simple wisdom with me that stuck.”
If she had not found her calling in music, Austin — who holds degrees in both psychology and education — would most likely have become a schoolteacher.
“When I was 4 years old, I had the most beautifulist — and I don’t mean most beautiful, either — preschool teacher,” she says. “I enjoyed learning with her. I remember learning about numbers and the ABCs by singing about them. I remember learning how to count by playing hopscotch. She made learning fun.”
If you still haven’t bought a ticket to Razzle Dazzle because you don’t know what the wear, we have a solution. Today, until the end of the Wine Walk along The Strip this evening, when you buy a $100 VIP “passport,” just enter the word “SHIRT: and get a free commemorative T, like the one pictured.
After using the current Razzle Dazzle logo since the event’s 2011 relaunch, the steering committee decided it’s time for a new look.
“Now that we have established the rebirth of Razzle Dazzle after three years of successful events, we are looking to add a fresh new look to our marketing campaign,” said Razzle Dazzle Chair John Lara-Cooper.
The new logo will be used in all marketing outreach and marketing. The contest is open to any individual or marketing firm.
Submissions will be accepted through Jan. 20, and the winner will be announced Jan. 31. The winner will receive two VIP packages to Razzle Dazzle 2014 and be recognized as a silver sponsor. Complete requirements and submission information can be found on the Razzle Dazzle website
Razzle Dazzle also is looking for a media/design partner to create all media, including posters, handouts, print ads, marketing and merchandising art. That partner will be recognized as a platinum partner. Anyone interested contact Jimmy Barlett at 214-855-5561.
Razzle Dazzle Dallas presents a check for $43,000 to the Greg Dollgener Memorial AIDS Fund.
Razzle Dazzle Dallas distributed $59,000 from its events to its beneficiaries last night at Sue Ellen’s. The total was several thousand dollars more than last year.
Thelma Houston headlined the Metro Ball at S4 on June 7 benefiting the Greg Dollgener Memorial AIDS Fund. That organization provides financial assistance for critical needs such as rent and utility payments when all other resources are exhausted.
GDMAF received $43,000. That’s a $10,000 increase over last year. Razzle Dazzle chair John Cooper-Lara attributed that to a very successful silent auction and Houston’s enthusiastic participation in the live auction.
The Main Event, held on June 8 at Main Street Garden, benefited AIDS Arms, AIDS Interfaith Network, Cedar Springs Beautification Project, Legacy Counseling Center, Legal Hospice of Texas, Resource Center Dallas, The Women’s Chorus of Dallas and Turtle Creek Chorale. Those groups will share $16,000.
This was the first year the Main Event was held off Cedar Springs Road. The amount distributed to the community organizations was down from last year’s $25,000. Organizers plan to return Downtown next year and hope the event will build into a larger Pride party.
Board members from Razzle Dazzle Dallas with a check for eight LGBT organizations.
To some, the Razzle Dazzle Dallas Main Event in downtown Dallas last Saturday was just to party. But for one local gay couple, it also turned out to be an engagement celebration.
Matthew Kowalewski wrote to thank the Razzle Dazzle Dallas committee for throwing him and his partner a wonderful party, according to an email forwarded to Dallas Voice.
“He proposed to me at the event, and as we finally left, beaming, he said, ‘So how did you enjoy our engagement party?’” Kowalewski wrote. “As I walked around with my new life partner, he commented about the fact he never thought this could or would happen in Dallas, especially in his life time. He’s a native of Dallas and turning 70, Aug. 3.”
DVtv segment producer Israel Luna recently returned to Dallas after an 18-month stint in San Francisco. Give him a warm welcome home by checking out his piece below from Razzle Dazzle Dallas at Main Street Garden on Saturday. Also, if you haven’t seen Chuck Marcelo’s photo slideshow, you’re totally missing out.
In last Friday’s paper, I wrote about the history of Razzle Dazzle Dallas and how this year’s party returns to its roots. While I was researching some of the history, longtime Dallas activist Jack Evans brought some old RDD ads and programs to the office. Below is a 1992 ad for Razzle. Nothing extraordinary about it until I noticed buried in the middle of the text who the entertainment was that year.
The Dixie Chicks were a local band that performed at Sue Ellen’s every once in awhile. I wonder what ever happened to them. Nice group of women from what I remember. They appeared on my radio show, Lambda Weekly, once, too. Hope they’re doing OK.
Dallas’ June LGBT Pride Month celebration, Razzle Dazzle Dallas, will include an event downtown for the first time in more than 20 years.
The 2013 edition of Razzle Dazzle Dallas—The Main Event will take place in Main Street Garden on June 8, organizers announced Monday.
After a decade hiatus, Razzle Dallas Dallas returned as a multi-day June Pride event in 2011. The reborn Razzle Dazzle Dallas was held on Cedar Springs Road as it had been at the end of the 20-year run of the original event.
This year’s Main Event at Main Street Garden will include entertainment, food and alcohol vendors, as well as retail, nonprofit and art exhibitors and sellers. A $5 admission will be charged. Beneficiaries have not been named.
When it began in the late 1970s, Razzle Dazzle Dallas was held outside the heart of the LGBT community in abandoned downtown warehouses and at the old auto pound on Inwood Road. The event later moved to the Automobile Building at Fair Park and Market Center Hall.
Other Razzle Dazzle Dallas events this year include MetroBall at S4 on June 7 and a pub crawl. A $100 VIP pass will include admission as well as parking, beverages and swag.
Greg Dollgener Memorial AIDS Fund board, from left, D’wayne Teague, Tony Rox, David Hearn, Greg Wallace and John Cooper Lara
John Cooper Lara, chair of the Razzle Dazzle Dallas board, presented checks to beneficiaries of the June events at Sue Ellen’s on Monday evening.
The Metro Ball, which took place at S4 on June 8 and featured Taylor Dayne, raised $31,500 for the Greg Dollgener Memorial AIDS Fund. GDMAF provides financial assistance for critical needs through local organizations when other sources are exhausted.
Funds from the Saturday night street party were split among nine beneficiaries. Those organizations were Resource Center Dallas, AIDS Arms, AIDS Interfaith Network, Turtle Creek Chorale, Cedar Springs Beautification Fund, Legacy Counseling Center and Founders Cottage, GLBT Leap, Uptown Players and Legal Hospice of Texas. That party raised $25,000.
Razzle Dazzle Dallas board, from left, Jimmy Bartlett, Johnny Humphrey, Chris Bengston, Thom Dance, John Cooper Lara, Kris Martin, Ron Adams and Howard Okon