Fur the boys

Andy Stark brings reality TV to bear — with sights set on the networks

 

AndyMatt2
BEARS ON FILM | Andy Stark, left, created the reality show ‘Bear It All’ with a mostly Dallas-based cast including Matthew Moriarity, right, who has already made quite an impression. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

On shows like The A-List or Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys, TV audiences get a peek into the inner workings of gay men (at least the ones Logo thinks represent us). But Dallasite Andy Stark isn’t so sure the current crop of reality shows profiles our community in the best light — or in all its glory.

He’s not the only one. Where those series may rely on caricatures or fabricated storylines, Stark is delivering his own show that he sees less as a drama fest and more as just a good time.

“The show is going to be a positive natured show,” he says. “I want it to be appealing across the board.”

Stark is talking about his reality/travel series Bear It All, which follows a cast of hirsute gentlemen in different cities around various bear events. Clips of the show have made their way online, with some containing footage taken at this year’s Texas Bear Round Up, but it makes its full-episode debut at a screening party Sunday at the Round-Up Saloon.

“The idea originally came up at Southern Decadence last year, so it’s almost a year old,” Stark says of the germ of the series. “I didn’t think it would take that long, but it’s nice. You know, we had the idea and the tools to make it and just said, ‘Let’s do it — we don’t need money, just the will to do it.’”

Pulling together a cast of mostly locals — including Butch Compton, Charlie Himmler and Michael Herrington — Stark pulled in Philadelphia-based bear Barney Philly and Indiana native Matthew Moriarity, who just might be the breakout star of the show.

“The one bit of feedback I always get is how adorable he is,” Stark says.

“I got involved with it when I was in North Carolina,” Moriarity says. “I didn’t really go to a lot of bear events or gay events, but I got in contact via Facebook.”

Initially, Moriarity hadn’t heard anything back other than “stay tuned.” But as TBRU approached, he received a call: He was now in the cast as he was making his way to Dallas for the bear event.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” he laughs.

As the Dallas-based episode came together, Stark entered Moriarity in the Mr. TBRU contest. Figuring on his random entrance into the contest, Stark had developed the arc of the episode and began planning the rest based on Moriarity not winning.

Only he did win.

“I had to rethink the entire thing,” Stark cries. “But we ran with it.”

The show has cemented a certain foundation for Moriarity. He moved to Dallas at the end of June, found a job as a bartender three days later and now finds himself a recognizable face among the local community. Of course, he’s modest about it and steers the conversation away from himself.

“The show is a great portrayal and good-natured of just us regular guys,” he says. “I think its great to bring that certain community to the frontlines. You don’t see that too much in mainstream portrayals.”

Andy Stark has the cred needed to produce his own show. He does production work for HDNet and MavTV so this isn’t some guy with a camera and an idea. Stark has a plan.

“I’ve had the idea of what I wanted in my head, but also it’s been an experience that we’ve manifested ourselves,” he says. “I wanted the travel documentary built into the concept of the show and so perhaps we’ll highlight cities and bear events as well as meet interesting people from all around. Hopefully we do something awesome with it.”

While Stark and Moriarity have only experienced positive feedback so far, they got a big push from the bear-oriented phone app Scruff. In one episode, Philly is wearing a shirt with the app’s logo on it; founder Johnny Scruff noticed and posted a notification so when people clicked onto the app, they were served with a pop-up announcing the show and its Facebook page.

Stark and Moriarity are affable guys — the kind that good luck seems to follow, which seems to be the case here. With the help of producer J. Louie Partida, Stark feels that the only way is up after Sunday’s screening. He’s even planned to have the show adjustable for different networks should they be interested.

“I’m aiming for the 25-minute mark. We call the show ‘bear-satile’ because it can be formatted to any network,” he laughs.

Hmmm. Maybe it’s better Stark stays behind the camera.

……………………………

Eligible for a reason: Obnoxious

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Here’s my big problem with reality TV: Most of our lives aren’t scripted, but they are made to seem so if you watch too many of these shows. It’s not a problem on competition-based series like The Amazing Race or Survivor (how many of us get to travel that much anyway?), or even episodic series with a sense of humor, like Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D List (Kathy’s inherent wittiness feels authentic). But the Bravo-style throw-six-people-together-and-pretend-they-are- the-shit egothons like The Real Housewives and The A-List? They are merely soap operas where the actors are underpaid. And not very good actors.

Add to that list the latest little disaster of preening incorrigibility: Most Eligible Dallas.

It’s one thing to cajole your way onto America’s Got Talent by wearing goofy clothes or exaggerating your personality for a performance; it’s another when what sells you as a TV star is being the biggest asshole you can be. I don’t wanna sound like a curmudgeon blaming TV for the ills of society, but when I see drivers who take left-turns from right lanes with arrogant disregard for the rest of humanity … well, it’s difficult not to think that because they see everyone on the tube behaving the same way.

Most Eligible takes a half-dozen single 20somethings from Dallas and follows their appallingly wonderful singleness. There’s Drew, pictured, a car-loving gay guy who self-medicates with female hormones to keep from getting fat again; Glenn, the muscle-bound football wannabe who’s been passed around more locker rooms than a Kardashian; Matt, the obnoxious “playa” who goes on dates with multiple women; and Courtney, the big-haired bimbo who has such a blatant unacknowledged crush on Matt that her venom forms the basis of the Sam-and-Diane (or Reichen-and-Rodiney) thread on the premiere.

The calculated way the series tries to create personalities — Drew is, to my knowledge, the only person who has ever been shown smoking a cig in the address-the-camera interviews, just to show what a rebel-outside-the-box-gay he is — feels incredibly fake, exacerbated by the over-reactions to banal activities (Glenn in particular seems like a real drama queen). Easily the best thing about the series is seeing local landmarks. The rest just perpetuates negative stereotypes about Dallas.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Premieres on Bravo Aug, 15 at 9 p.m.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 12, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Tube review: ‘Rocco’s Dinner Party’

For the most part, there are two kinds of TV cooking shows: Those that teach you techniques — the ones that are all about entertaining and fun with food — and competition shows, where chefs demonstrate their skills in the hopes of winning something (money, a job, bragging rights). Rocco’s Dinner Party, which debuts tonight on Bravo, splits the difference.

The premise — three promising chefs compete to put on a dinner party for Rocco’s guests (including, in the first episode, gay actor Bryan Batt from Mad Men), and the one who presents the best meal, including the decor and style, gets $20,000, with the first of the three eliminated after the first challenge — combines Chopped, Top Chef and Top Design with Martha Stewart Living.

It’s not a wholly successful mashup. The host, Rocco DiSpirito, has been better known for the last decade as a celebrity than as a cook, with reality shows like The Restaurant, as well as for writing cookbooks. He seems more interested in bullying the contestants and demonstrating his own superior knowledge about cooking than actually teaching (or learning) anything. He’s such an annoying smartypants (frankly, he has been every time I’ve seen him on TV), you kinda want his dinner party to fail. And the now-annoying habit of waiting until the challenge is half-way over before the show throws a wrench into the plans (surprise! your guests have dietary restrictions we didn’t tell you about before you went shopping!) has infected the entire genre with its false drama and predictability.

As the Bravo style of shows go, there are far worse out there, and if Rocco tones down his snippiness (who would want to attend a dinner party with him?) it could grow on me. Until then, I’ll stick to take-out.

 

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

‘A’ gay

Former Air Force captain Reichen Lehmkuhl has choice words about the Obama Administration and DADT, and the editing on his Logo series ‘The A List: New York’

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

Reichen Lehmkuhl
THAT’S CAPTAIN QUEER TO YOU! Former Air Force captain Reichen Lehmkuhl is an avid skier, and spokesman for the inaugural Matthew Shepard Gay Ski Week in Crested Butte, Colo., next March.

SHOOT THE BUTTE
Dish at the ilume,
4123 Cedar Springs Road.
Nov. 5, 6–8 p.m. Free.
MatthewShepardGaySkiWeek.com.
Reichen will also host a
meet-and-greet at Woody’s,
4001 Cedar Springs Road,
Nov. 5 at 10 p.m.

…………………………..

If all you know about Reichen Lehmkuhl is what you see in reality shows — he won Season 4 of The Amazing Race, and is currently one of the “gay housewives” on Logo’s The A List: New York — then you’re missing a lot of what drives him.

Formerly an airman in the U.S. Air Force, Reichen (nobody uses his last name) is an outspoken advocate for gay rights, especially the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” And on this election week, he has some choice words for the Obama Administration.

“What Obama has done is disappoint all of his voters and really squandered away all of our affection,” Reichen says without hesitation, reflecting his displeasure that the president — after claiming a desire to repeal DADT, nevertheless appealed a California court’s ruling that the law was unconstitutional. “He made a choice he didn’t have to make — one of process over basic values. And he flat-out lied about what his values are. He said he thought all gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve, and when the opportunity was presented to him without any effort at all, he did not support it.”

Reichen knows that, especially within the gay community, his harsh words about the country’s top Democrat might not be popular. But he has too much invested in this issue to remain silent.

“I’m getting a lot of hate mail,” he admits. “I think [some] people are being apologists and are blinded because they are afraid of looking like they don’t support [Obama]. But for those of us on the front lines — and I am — it has just been awful. And I just won’t be an apologist for the president.  I won’t do it. You can’t apologize for people who swore to do what they say they will and don’t.”

He was especially confused when, immediately after the Pentagon announced it would accept openly gay military applicants, the Justice Department filed its appeal in the lawsuit, even though the deadline to appeal (if at all!) was more than a month away. Reichen says the decision was basely political before the midterm elections.

“The day the president appealed the decision, I was asked to go on MSNBC the next day, but I was so baffled I didn’t know what to say and I didn’t want to say something wrong, so I turned down the request.”

All this is a far cry from why Reichen will be in town this week: Promoting Shoot the Butte, a gay ski week starting next year in Crested Butte, Colo., for which Reichen is a spokesperson and attendee (he’s a huge snowbunny, and in fact a certified ski instructor). But the ski event is actually in conjunction with the Matthew Shepard Foundation, for which he is a strong supporter.

And even talk of Judy Shepard steers him back to politics. As a former servicemember, Reichen firmly believes that people have lost sight of the easiest way to advance gay rights: Just let the discharges stop.

“If you stop the discharges and let people come out and say, ‘I am a professional and you can’t assume I am not because I am gay’ … once that happened for 30, 60 days, it would be impossible to reverse the decision,” he says. “Just [this week], the administration ordered that DADT is back in effect so the discharges are continuing.”

He sighs. You can tell it’s something he internalizes and takes very personally.

“I’m really worried about what the president did to the support of so many gay people. He really just slapped us all in the face. He is political and doesn’t believe in equality for LGBT people. If this had been a race issue, would he have put politics before values? No, he wouldn’t. It shows how low he thinks of us as a community.”

You might not expect such political passion from someone best known for playing himself on TV, especially in light of the persona he projects on The A List. But even there, Reichen has his criticisms. When I say he comes off as a jerk on the show, he immediately says, “I hope you put that in your article.”

“I’ve tried to explain that even to the producers,” he says. “What you’re seeing is what they wanna show. They say I’m not gonna come off as a jerk as the later episodes air [but we’ll see]. You see me hit on a guy in a club, but what you don’t see is this guy is a friend of mine for 13 years. And the editing with Austin makes it look like we had some big, long relationship — we spent one day together [in Palm Springs]! I kept in touch with him by text, but that’s it. He says I have a small cock and am a bad cocksucker. The guy’s never seen my cock and I’ve never been near between his legs!”

The show also makes it look like his relationship with boyfriend Rodiney is doomed. He’s contractually forbidden from saying where they stand, although he does reveal, “I saw him this morning. And we love each other very much — I can say that much.” (Not so for Austin, whom he says he ignores now.)

What he does say is not wrong about the editing on the show is what we learned this past week: Reichen looks hot in a dress.

“This is a big secret, but I love to do drag!” he says. “I totally get why drag queens do what they do. I have so much fun, though I look better when I do my own makeup. I have complete anonymity [when I go out in drag] and people are scared of me.”

Scared of him? Sounds like that could be an advantage against an enemy in battle. And maybe one more reason Reichen can list to bring down “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 5, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Broadcast TV getting gayer, GLAAD says

Every fall season, GLAAD issues a report about LGBT characters on the main networks’ scripted series, and whether that indicates an improvement from years past.  This year’s report notes a “significant increase” in gay characters, according to the study — the most, in fact, ever.

ABC leads the pack with 11 of 152 lead or supporting characters (7.2 percent), helped by shows like Modern Family and Brothers & Sisters. Fox has  5 of 100 (5 percent), including Kurt from Glee, pictured, animated character like Smithers on The Simpsons. NBC marked a decline from last year (only three of 143) and CBS was again in last place with one of 125 (Emmy winner Archie Panjabi from The Good Wife).

The study has its flaws. For instance, the report claims zero gay characters on Fox in 2007, yet one listed now includes Smithers, who has been on the show since 1989 but is considered “recurring” (the study doesn’t including recurring characters in the main figures). And it doesn’t account for, frankly, qualityBrothers & Sisters has never been good, but this season has swan-dived into especially odious melodrama with gay stereotypes.

A separate report counts basic cable series, where gay characters (often with more interesting and frank storylines than on broadcast) are more common and realistically portrayed. I mean, True Blood: Who doesn’t watch that for the hot bodies? The study also doesn’t include reality shows, which really dominate the TV landscape. With Dancing with the Stars judge Bruno Tonioli swishing up the most popular show on TV right now, as bisexual comedian Margaret Cho dances, you’d think that would warrant a mention, as would Jeff Lewis, Jackie Warner and half the contestants on Bravo’s competition series. That would paint a fairer picture. But it’s still nice to see progress.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones