‘We must make noise’

Speaking at Black Tie Dinner, deaf activist and actress Marlee Matlin urges LGBT community to never give up the fight

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TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Recalling the barriers she has faced as a hearing-impaired person in a hearing world, and especially as a hearing-impaired actress in the entertainment industry, Academy Award winner Marlee Matlin told the capacity audience at the 30th annual Black Tie Dinner last weekend that “we must make noise as often as we can” to win the fight for equality.

Matlin recalled how she overcame the barrier of her hearing impairment as a child, and later while working in the entertainment industry, with the support of her family and friends.

When critic Rex Reed said that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science members voted Matlin best actress winner in 1986 for her role in Children of a Lesser God, they only did so out of pity, Matlin said it was her old friend Henry Winkler who “reminded me that I could be anything I wanted to be.”

And when she was attacked by a “small but vocal” group of deaf activists for speaking rather than signing the names of the nominees when she presented the 1988 best actor Oscar, Matlin said it was Whoopi Goldberg who told her, “Girl, it’s time to do what’s right for you.”

It was the guidance and friendship she got from them and from other friends and family that helped her defy the critics and overcome the obstacles in her path.

“No one should ever take no for an answer,” Matlin told the Black Tie audience, speaking in sign translated. “We can break down the barriers of prejudice if we work together. Every day, I vow never to give up the fight.”

While tying the fight for LGBT equality to her own battle to overcome prejudice against the deaf and others with physical challenges, Matlin also explained her own personal tie to the LGBT community, other than her role as a lesbian on The L Word: One of her brothers is gay.

When her brother told their parents he is gay, Matlin said, “They said that was OK, as long as he settled down and married a doctor.” Today, she added, her brother and his partner, a doctor, have been together for 26 years.

“We have to make noise,” Matlin continued. “We must all make noise on Twitter, on Facebook. We must make noise to our elected officials, as often as we can. We must fight every day until hate and discrimination are eliminated.”

And, she said, those fighting for equality can’t allow their opponents to set up barriers to deflect them from their goals.

“The only barriers out there for all of us are all up here, in our minds,” she said. “There are those who try to handicap our minds with hate, with fear and prejudice. We cannot let them do that.”

Matlin capped off an evening that included a speech by Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese and entertainment by emcee Caroline Rhea and singer Taylor Dayne.

This was the first year the Black Tie committee has brought in someone to emcee the dinner, and Rhea kept the audience laughing throughout the night. The comedian also helped pump up proceeds for the event by donating two tickets to attend Hugh Jackman’s one-man show now on Broadway with Rhea, and then meet Jackman after the show. Two individuals paid $12,500 each for the tickets.

Dayne and a single back-up singer, performing a mixture of her new songs and her iconic hits, had the audience dancing in the aisles and crowding the edge of the stage, raising their smart phones to take photos and shoot video as Dayne danced and sang.

Also during the evening, gay veteran Eric Alva, a former Marine who was the first U.S. serviceman injured in the invasion of Iraq, was presented with the Elizabeth Birch Equality Award for his work in pushing for repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, gay actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson of ABC’s Modern Family was presented with the Media Award, and local advocates Chet Flake and his partner, the late Bud Knight, were presented with the Raymond Kuchling  Humanitarian Award.

In accepting the award, Alva said that although in the days immediately following his injury — he lost a leg when he stepped on a land mine — he wished he would have died, he has since found renewed purpose in advocating for LGBT equality, in the military and elsewhere.

“I just could not resolve the sacrifice I made with the way my country treated me like a second-class citizen,” Alva said. “I’ll stay in the fight with you, and we will stay in the fight together until it’s finished.”

In accepting the Kuchling Award, Flake explained that he and Knight had never consciously decided to volunteer in the LGBT community — “It just happened. And one thing just led to another. When we saw something that needed to be done, we just tried to do it.”

Flake also applauded the progress the LGBT community has made. “Dallas has evolved tremendously,” he said. “Our community has become more respected, because people have become more educated.”

Black Tie Co-chairs Nan Arnold and Chris Kouvelis noted during the dinner on Saturday that tickets to the events had been sold out since August, the earliest sell-out in the event’s history.

Arnold said this week that final totals have not yet been determined. She said checks will be distributed to Black Tie’s 17 local beneficiaries and to the Human Rights Campaign during a reception Dec. 15 at the Dallas Museum of Art.

—  Kevin Thomas

Rex Reed introduces you to Ira Gershwin tonight at the Eisemann Center

Famous for his bitchy film criticism, Fort Worth-born Rex Reed  turns his eye (and his ear) to music with Ira Gershwin revue

Watching too many movies can be a bad thing. After years of deconstructing films and either ripping them apart or praising their genius, Rex Reed has finally had enough. For now at least.

“You have no idea of the crap I sit through. Movies today are ghastly,” Reed says. “I gotta get out of this rut. Everybody has to do something in life that’s a little bit of fun and I love this a million times more than reviewing.“

“This” refers to The Man that Got Away: Ira without George — The Lyrics of Ira Gershwin, a show Reed created to celebrate the work of the lesser-known songwriting brother. The production makes its first stop outside of New York in North Texas Nov. 12 at the Eisemann Center.

“This show is a celebration of his genius,” he says. “I feel this kind of music is our culture; it’s America’s greatest gift to this world and it’s in danger of disappearing.”

Along for the ride with Reed are performers Tom Wopat, Marilyn Maye and Susan Mays, who sing songs from Gershwin’s catalog. They help Reed do his part in preserving a part of American culture, in which he gave preferential treatment to his favorite lyricist. He created this show to bring Ira from under his brother’s shadow, despite Ira having the longer career. But with George’s huge signature pieces, Reed still has to remind people that they aren’t going to get what they think they came for. Either that, or they don’t know the difference between the two siblings.

“George has always had his share of fame and praise even though he rarely made a move without his brother,” he says. “It was time he got his fair share. This is not about George. We’re not gonna have Rhapsody in Blue or Porgy and Bess. This is all Ira on his own.”

DEETS: The Man that Got Away: Ira without George — The Lyrics of Ira Gershwin. Eisemann Center, 2351 Performance Drive, Richardson. 8 p.m. $39–$72. EisemannCenter.com.

—  Rich Lopez

Show time

Get ready — many LGBT music acts descend on Dallas this week

Buika
PINK FLAMENCO | Bisexual singer Buika performs Saturday at the Winspear.

Every so often, we encounter one of those weeks where lots of LGBT singers and musicians head to town. It’s pure coincidence, of course — and together, they probably aren’t as gay as one audience at a Lady Gaga show — but it’s nice just the same.

Along with Michael Feinstein performing his American Songbook and Rex Reed opining about Ira Gershwin while Elton John rocks Fort Worth, a wide range of out artists representing as much music are here for us to enjoy — and support.

World music can sometimes be a red flag for people expecting foreign language wails over tribal beats. Forget all that and consider catching Concha Buika (or just Buika) Nov. 13 at the Winspear with Spanish singer Lila Downs. The openly bisexual artist recalls some of the jazzy soul of Nina Simone with the energy of Tina Turner.  Buika sings flamenco but she adds a contemporary funk to the mix.

Visit ATTPAC.com for details.

Internet-bred Jeffree Star is on the up and up. Pushing himself into self-created Web fame caught enough attention to garner a fanbase. Now that mega-producer Akon has signed him on, the out goth drag artist is downright legit.

Star stopped in Dallas back in May during his 2 Drunk 2 Fuck Tour, but announced a whole new tour for the latter half of 2010 — only this time, he says he’s releasing new music along the way. He plays Nov. 17 at The Loft.

Visit TheLoftDallas.com for details.

After 15 years and nine albums, singer-songwriter Rachael Sage still isn’t a household name. But her music is made for the small stage, which is perfect for her stop at Poor David’s Pub on Nov. 13.

Her latest album, Delancey Street, adds to her consistently strong work. She stays away from the glum-girl-with-a-guitar image and offers upbeat pop with folk sensibilities, as her bisexuality comes through subtly.

Visit PoorDavidsPub.com for details.

— Rich Lopez

……………………………….

Time to get Chill

We figure the Guerrilla Gay Bar peeps are on hiatus since we haven’t seen any Facebook invites for awhile. That was leaving a void in our special-event drink time … until SxS Productions filled it nicely with Chill Sunday.

Co-founded by the same gents who head Straight Out Marketing, which caters to an LGBT clientele, the monthly music-and-mimosa mixer upgrades the typical afterwork happy hour into a loungey afternoon.

Bringing in local and national DJ talent (including, this week, Joe Castillo, pictured) Chill Sunday mixes the weekend brunch with bottomless mimosas and downtempo tunes.  Could there be a holier trinity for any self-respecting gay person?

— Steven Lindsey

The Foundation Room at House of Blues, 2200 N. Lamar St. 1 p.m. No cover.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 12, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Rex in effect

Famous for his bitchy film criticism, Fort Worth-born Rex Reed  turns his eye (and his ear) to music with Ira Gershwin revue

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

Film critic Rex Reed
GAGA FOR GERSHWIN | Film critic Rex Reed prefers his love of Ira Gershwin’s music to reviewing the ghastly movies coming out today.

THE MAN THAT GOT AWAY
Eisemann Center,
2351 Performance Drive, Richardson.
Nov. 12 at 8 p.m. $39–$72.
EisemannCenter.com.

…………………………………….

Watching too many movies can be a bad thing. After years of deconstructing films and either ripping them apart or praising their genius, Rex Reed has finally had enough. For now at least.

“You have no idea of the crap I sit through. Movies today are ghastly,” Reed says. “I gotta get out of this rut. Everybody has to do something in life that’s a little bit of fun and I love this a million times more than reviewing.“

“This” refers to The Man that Got Away: Ira without George — The Lyrics of Ira Gershwin, a show Reed created to celebrate the work of the lesser-known songwriting brother. The production makes its first stop outside of New York in North Texas Nov. 12 at the Eisemann Center.

“This show is a celebration of his genius,” he says. “I feel this kind of music is our culture; it’s America’s greatest gift to this world and it’s in danger of disappearing.”

Along for the ride with Reed are performers Tom Wopat, Marilyn Maye and Susan Mays, who sing songs from Gershwin’s catalog. They help Reed do his part in preserving a part of American culture, in which he gave preferential treatment to his favorite lyricist. He created this show to bring Ira from under his brother’s shadow, despite Ira having the longer career. But with George’s huge signature pieces, Reed still has to remind people that they aren’t going to get what they think they came for. Either that, or they don’t know the difference between the two siblings.

“George has always had his share of fame and praise even though he rarely made a move without his brother,” he says. “It was time he got his fair share. This is not about George. We’re not gonna have Rhapsody in Blue or Porgy and Bess. This is all Ira on his own.”

When Reed met younger sister Francis Gershwin, he discussed his plans for the show. As it turned out, she felt it was time.

“She gave me her full blessing,” he says. “When I met her she said, ‘This is what I’ve been praying for. I’m so glad you’re doing this.’ That was that; it was amen and here we go, after that. I’m really hoping people in Dallas will like it.”

This concerns Reed. He begins asking questions about the venue, knowing that it isn’t in Dallas proper — and he wonders if there is an appreciation for American standards. He senses a hunger for this music and figures it deserves to be exposed. He even challenges LGBT audiences, hoping they will break away from the usual listening pleasures.

“As a rule, gay people have always had better taste, they just need to be exposed to this,” he says. “It could expose LGBTs to something higher in quality than the stuff they are hearing in discos. That can just go so far. I don’t go to these places where I hear eardrum bursting second-rate music.”

The challenge though is to move people out of their musical comfort zone by heading to the past. Like Michael Feinstein, who comes to Dallas later this month, Reed finds it important to preserve this musical heritage of America. That’s his mission — besides reviewing films.

“I applaud Michael for what he’s doing. When people hear this, I hope a light bulb goes off,” he says. “If it’s not in top 40, they’re afraid to listen. I just need to get them to move beyond the fear of discovering the unknown.”

But he does give fair warning: Reed hosts the show but also sings one Gershwin tune.

“There is an awful lot of me in it! So if you don’t like me, don’t come.”
He’s kidding.

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

—  Michael Stephens