Master of HIS domain

Ben Starr, the recently out Dallas cheftestant on Fox’s ‘MasterChef,’ camps it up on Gordon Ramsay’s cooking competition series

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

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MASTERCHEF
Airs Tuesdays on Fox (Ch. 4) at 8 p.m.

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When Lewisville-based travel writer Ben Starr auditioned for Fox’s MasterChef, he doubted they’d be interested in his style of home cooking. But not only did he make the cut, he’s been one of the more memorable cheftestants — just this week, he had the judge’s favorite dish.

The series is only halfway through, but for Starr, it’s already made a huge difference in his life: It forced him to come out to his parents just last month. We talked to him about the experience and his favorite meals.

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You’ve been struggling since you wowed the judges at your audition. The audition kinda set me up to expect that I would do well in the competition, but we spun pretty quickly into an emphasis on gourmet cuisine, which is not my thing at all. My street tacos were a little bit spiffy, and I am extremely well traveled, but I tend to eat peasant food even when I travel. I was seeing all these people around me making restaurant quality cuisine and trying to compete on their level. Nice to make a good ol’ catfish in a skillet.

What was the hardest challenge for you? The biggest challenge has definitely been psychological. I’m competitive by nature and I want to feel like I’m competition, but I was surrounded by chefs that were a little more connected to the Food Network that I am. They’d use words like umami [a Japanese word for a savory flavor] and I had to go look it up. There was a common lexicon among the contestants about what these famous chefs I’ve never heard of are doing in their restaurants. I felt like an idiot stumbling around in the dark. That started to leak into my cooking and I began to question, “Is this sophisticated enough? Is this even sophisticated?” The episode this week was a turning point. I felt like for the first time I’m back in my own element.

You certainly have made an impression with your outfits. I don’t wear those hats at home, though I do wear an apron, just for practicality. But [the show] has started this storytelling legacy — people expect me to wear them when they come over. My mom made me the pumpkin hat and apron. Actually, she made me five or six pairs to wear. That’s why you always see a different one on me each episode. I was going through them.

Was wearing them part of a conscious effort to stand during the auditions? I am fairly myself, though I had to set myself apart that wasn’t just about food. I needed to be someone [the judges] remember when they go home at night. That’s why I talked about my rural upbringing, because I thought it would generate a memory.

Had you watched the show before? Did you know what to expect? I don’t watch much TV, but this is not my first time being on TV, which is ironic because I abhor reality television —it brings out the worst in our culture. But I did Rachael Ray’s So You Think You Can Cook in 2007. The audience there was much more caring and nurturing than the machine on MasterChef, but I was a little bit prepared for the frank judgment.

I did not watch the first season of MasterChef, but my friend Karen Rutherford said, “I’ll never speak to you again if you don’t audition [for season 2].” So I watched them all on Hulu. I just sweated my way through them. I knew how intense and stressful it is to cook on TV, and saw how brutal Joe Bastianich and Gordon Ramsay were with the contestants. I thought: Screw this. Then a few weeks passed and the terror faded [and I went through the lengthy audition process]. It was a lot of work — the most difficult full-time job I’ve ever had that doesn’t pay.

What’s your favorite kind of cuisine? While my DNA wants to say Mexican food — I had it in the womb six times a week — I am most intrigued by Thai food. It is so complex, yet so much of it is cooked on the street in a tiny little cart. From the richest to the poorest, everybody eats on the street.

How about a favorite meal? One of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had was in Egypt on New Year’s Eve in 2001. I spent it on Mount Sinai and hiked eight miles back down to the car for the drive back to our resort. [The driver] fell asleep at the wheel and we plummeted into a canyon. Eventually a camel train of Bedouins came by the bottom of this canyon. They took us onto the camels and rode four or five miles to their camp. All the women came out, killed a goat and started cooking while the men tried to pull our car out of the canyon.

It was a humble meal — just a goat stew and some flat bread — but the flavors were really intense and felt they came right out of the desert. I could not even communicate with these people who live in abject poverty, but still they were willing to kill one of their last goats and throw a big feast for us because it’s in their nature to be hospitable. I realized it was important to me to use food to nurture people in my life — I could never be a chef and be in the back. I need to be with the people. My partner is one of the main reasons I cook — we’ve been together eight years and I want to marry him one day.

Did you plan to be “the gay guy” on the show? When I was on [Rachael Ray] it was not addressed and I didn’t talk about it openly. At that point my family didn’t know I was gay — in fact, I didn’t come out to my parents until about five weeks ago. They were totally shell-shocked — they didn’t have a clue.

Maybe mom should have guessed since she made you all those hats. Ha! Maybe.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 8, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Latin flair

comedy
MUY FUNNY | Dan Guerrero works for laughs while being gay and Latino in his one-man show.

Before he could write ‘¡Gaytino!,’ Dan Guerrero first had to find his roots

rich lopez  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Growing up gay and Latino can be a tough hand to play. In a culture that revels in religion and machismo — hell, the word “machismo” is Latino — coming out poses pitfalls.

But Dan Guerrero lucked out. With some artsy upbringing by a musician dad and a not-so-practicing Catholic background, Guerrero’s closet was easy to open. In fact, it was harder for him just to be Hispanic.

“Los Angeles never made me feel like I was good enough,” he says. “I fell in love with musicals in junior high. I wanted to hear Julie Andrews in Camelot! Who gives a rat’s ass about mariachi?”

His dad might have given one. He was famed musician Lala Guerrero, the father of Chicano music who popularized the Pachuco sound in the 1940s (the beats most associated with Zoot suits and swing dancing). While Guerrero appreciated his father’s legacy, he established his own identity by moving to New York to become an actor. That didn’t work out so much, but becoming an agent did.

“It was kind of by accident, but I ended up being an agent for 15 years,” he says. “I got into producing and I loved it.”

Although he stepped away from performing, Guerrero finds himself back onstage Friday and Saturday at the Latino Cultural Center with ¡Gaytino! The autobiographical one-man show is part comedy, part cabaret, with Guerrero recounting in lyrics and punch lines his experiences growing up gay and Latino, life with father … and having to rediscover his roots after moving back to L.A.

“The main reason I did the show is, I wanted to know more about my dad and my best friend. I was already fabulous,” he laughs. “So I don’t think of this as my story. I wanted to embrace his legacy and celebrate him and our lives, but also tell of being a born-again Hispanic.”

In L.A., Guerrero rediscovered his heritage. While still working in entertainment, he noticed a lack of Latinos behind the scenes. He started a column in Dramalogue to change that, interviewing actors like Jimmy Smits and Salma Hayek and producing shows that spoke to Latin audiences.

And then came ¡Gaytino!

“Well, the word itself hit me first so I trademarked it. Then it was madness as I set about writing it,” he says.

When the show debuted in 2005, Guerrero hadn’t performed in 35 years. He was a different man, no longer a young buck with nothing to lose and untarnished optimism. He was a behind-the-scenes producer and casting agent. He was — gasp! — older.

“I remember thinking, ‘What am I gonna do? What if I forget my lines?’ I’m an old codger,” he says. “But I got onstage and it was like I had did it the day before. Performing is just part of who I am.”

With his successful day job (he once repped a young Sarah Jessica Parker), a healthy relationship (32 years this November) and irons in many other fires, why bother with the daunting task of writing a show and carrying it alone?

“It still feels like I’m breaking into show business. At least when you’ve been around as long as I have, you can get the main cheese by phone,” he answers. “But really, I had something I wanted to say and I love doing it. I’ve been lucky to stay in the game this long but it’s not by accident; it’s all been by design.”

What he loves isn’t just doing his show, but how it pushes positive gay Latino images. He’s dedicated this chapter in his life to that. Guerrero now feels parental toward the younger generation — maybe because he has no children of his own.

“I do feel a responsibility and not just to younger people, but to all,” he says. “For ¡Gaytino!, I first want them entertained, but I hope audiences will leave more educated about some Chicano culture and history and Gaytino history.”

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QUEER CLIP: ‘BEGINNERS’

screen

 

Beginners is such a dreadfully forgettable and generic title for what is the year’s most engaging and heartfelt comedy, you feel like boycotting a review until the distributor gives it a title it deserves.

Certainly the movie itself — a quirky, humane and fantastical reverie about the nature of love and family, with Ewan McGregor as a doleful graphic artist who, six months after his mother dies, learns his 75-year-old dad (Christopher Plummer) is gay and wants to date — charts its own course (defiantly, respectfully, beautifully), navigating the minefield of relationships from lovers to parent/child with simple emotions. It’s not a movie that would presume to answer the Big Questions (when do you know you’ve met the right one? And if they aren’t, how much does that matter anyway?); it’s comfortable observing that we’re all in the same boat, and doing our best is good enough.

McGregor’s placid befuddlement over how he should react to things around him — both his father’s coming out and a flighty but delightful French actress (Melanie Laurent) who tries to pull him out of his shell — is one of the most understated and soulful performances of his career. (His relationship with Arthur, his father’s quasi-psychic Jack Russell, is winsome and winning without veering into Turner & Hooch idiocy.) But Plummer owns the film.

Plummer, best known for his blustery, villainous characters (even the heroic ones, like Capt. Von Trapp and Mike Wallace), exudes an aura of wonder and discovery as the septuagenarian with the hot younger boyfriend (Goran Visnjic, both exasperating as cuddly). As he learns about house music at a time when his contemporaries crave Lawrence Welk, you’re wowed by how the performance seethes with the lifeforce of someone coming out and into his own. His energy is almost shaming.

Writer/director Mike Mills’ semi-autobiographical film suffers only being underlit and over too quickly. It wouldn’t be a bad thing to spend more time with these folks.

—Arnold Wayne Jones

Rating: Four and half stars
Now playing at Landmark’s Magnolia Theatre.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 10, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Hundreds Gather in NY to Remember Slain Ugandan Activist David Kato

 

The following comes from HRC Greater New York Steering Committee Diversity Co-Chair Pete Webb:

I represented the Human Rights Campaign yesterday at the New York City Memorial Service to honor the Ugandan LGBT Activist, David Kato.  Kato was the advocacy officer of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG).  Only a few short months after his picture was published in a national magazine outing LGBT Ugandans under the headline “hang them,” someone broke into Kato’s house on January 26, 2011 and beat him to death with a hammer.  Right-wing U.S. extremists have fueld a climate of hatred in Uganda.  Click here to learn more and send a message to the most outspoken extremists whose words may have led to Kato’s death.  

A moving memorial service, alive with soul and spirit, was held for Kato in the historic setting of Abyssinian Baptist Church.  Over 225 people attended to mourn David’s murder and show their solidarity with LGBT Ugandans.  Various dignitaries participated in the service including a UN Senior Adviser to the High Commissioner, New York City Councilmember, and clergy from various faith communities. Frank Mugisha, Executive Director of SMUG, also shared his testimony and friendship with David Kato.

The Rev. Joseph Tolton, who was the lead organizer of the vigil, talked about racism, homophobia, hatred and bigotry within society and the church. He passionately extolled everyone to “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your god.” He challenged the church to welcome all of god’s children including the LGBT community. The Rev. Calvin Butts of Abyssinian Baptist Church continued this theme declaring that we must open our hearts and minds to erase hate and affirm human dignity.

It is my hope and prayer that David Kato’s legacy will birth a movement of understanding; empowerment and liberation.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  David Taffet

As We Remember Our Fallen Transgender Friends, Let’s Also Remember How Far We’ve Come

Today is the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, where we take a moment to remember the lives of our fallen trans brothers and sisters, including folks like Angie Zapata and Nanny Boo and Victoria Carmen White (pictured). Bullying and phobia and intolerance are something The Gays know well, but The Ts often live in this hell everyday. But that's not true for everybody: Transgender Americans are making strides worldwide, whether on the basketball court or the sorority house or the workplace, and that's because of increased visibility and the queer community supporting members of our own. I both hate and cherish days like this, because while they are reminders that insufferable bigotry is still very much alive and well — so much so that it claims lives — it's also a chance to lift our heads up to note how far we've actually come.

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Queerty

—  admin

Watch: ‘I Remember, So I’m Voting, and Not Republican’

Iremember

Do you remember?

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP



Towleroad News #gay

—  admin

Remember: This is Who Wants to Get Rid of the Three Iowa Supreme Court Justices

Uh oh…

(Up)Chuck Hurley went off message – and made it clear that it really isn't just about marriage:

On a blustery basketball court at Southside Park, leaders in the push to oust three justices for their role in a decision that legalized gay marriage in Iowa — led by the Washington, D.C., based Family Research Council and the New Jersey-based National Organization for Marriage – departed a touring “Judge Bus” emblazoned with “vote no” slogans and spoke to a crowd of about 15 people.

Gay marriage is tearing society asunder, and the decision to allow it runs afoul of the Constitution, said Chuck Hurley, president of the highly influential Christian organization Iowa Family Policy Center, which is a local affiliate of the Family Research Council.

“It’s a degradation of God’s best design for the family,” said Hurley, who was on the tour representing the center’s political action arm.

Hurley said gay activity degrades and alters the family structure, concluding that the debate is about stable homes.

“An intact father-and- mother marriage is by far more important than a good education, by far more important than their physical health in the well-being of a child,” Hurley said.

Hurley goes further than opposition to gay marriage, though.

“For millennia every sane culture has had restraints on behavior,” Hurley said.

Stable societies have always had restraints on incest and pedophilia, he said, and that should extend to homosexual acts as well.

“Every culture should have safe and sane laws regarding sexuality,” Hurley said.

And what would such insanity be without christianists who are actually trying to slither into the Legislature to do Hurley's upchucking for him:

At the anti-judge rally, Republican Statehouse candidate Dan Dirkx said the justices’ decision is jeopardizing Iowa’s way of life.

“I see this ruling as a frontal attack on our culture,” Dirkx said. “America is suffering a heart attack. The rest of the nation looks to us to have good sense.”

Dirkx of rural Auburn, who is running for the House District 51 seat now held by State Rep. Rod Roberts, R-Carroll, compared the marriage case to the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, and noted that legalized abortion is the result of court action, not the vote of the public or their representatives.

“We need to rise up and let them know that we understand why our form of government works,” Dirkx said.

Simply put, society should not give a stamp of approval to gay marriage, Dirkx said.

“When you offend God individually God will deal with you individually,” Dirkx said. “But when you offend God as a nation, that’s a different category.”

In other news, Dirkx said that he supports 'Inquisition-style' remedies against George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz for causing the nation to offend God by killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people in a false-pretense war.

Okay…

I'm just kidding on that – but wouldn't it be nice if the esteemed MSM would ask someone like Dirkx if war – particularly war-for-financial-gain – also offends a god that is soooooooooooooooooooo offended by gay marriage?

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin

Remember When Charlie Crist Was Attacking Other Candidates For Pro-Gay Positions?

With Florida Gov. Charlie Crist ready to embrace the gays as he tries suckering his way into a U.S. Senate seat against Republican candidate Marco Rubio, his past was surely going to come back to haunt him. And no, I don't mean his sexual relationships with other men. I mean that time he used his opponents' support for LGBT equality to attack them.

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Queerty

—  John Wright

It Took An Ellen DeGeneres Runway Cameo to Remember Richie Rich Still Makes Clothes

OH SNAP — Richie Rich, one-half of the now defunct Heatherette, yesterday shows off his New York Fashion Week runway model, who's clearly enjoying her time in New York.

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Queerty

—  John Wright

Remember Those Gay Teabaggers?

Their fellow gays (SOB) don’t LIKE THEM!

Joe. My. God.

—  John Wright

Remember When HRC + ACLU Bashed the Perry Prop 8 Lawsuit?

In May 2009, when we learned Chad Griffin had lined up Ted Olson and David Boies to argue the shit out of Prop 8's unconstitutionality, America and California's Gay Inc. groups were furious. Now they're so happy!

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Queerty

—  John Wright