Respect the board

Hollywood-Issue-logo-(color)

Filmmaker Israel Luna gambles with his supernatural indie thriller ‘The Ouija Experiment,’ a remake of his own earlier film ‘Is Anybody There?’

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Israel Luna learned quickly when he was in junior high this lesson: There are three rules when it comes to playing with a Ouija board. Luna’s phase — or rather, his creepy curiosity— lasted long enough for him to turn his own paranormal activities into the basis for his new movie, The Ouija Experiment.

Rule No. 1: Never ask the spirit how it died.

“Ouija is actually a remake,” Luna, formerly based in Dallas but now making his home in San Francisco, says. “It was originally shot in 2001 as Is Anybody There?, which had low production quality. [Then we realized] we had access to all this cool equipment, so we remade one of our own movies!”

Not that he spent a fortune on the remake. Luna and his crew worked on the movie for nine days and with a budget of just $1,000, but he knew the story could be shot on the cheap and still look good. Without the need of a special effects monster, Luna felt the tone created a scarier environment by suggesting more than showing.

Four friends, gathered to play on a Ouija, encounter three spirits who instill a sense of suspicion in the gamers. The “found footage” of them playing gives it a Blair Witch feel, but Luna says the film is based on his own actual experiences with the board. And those were kinda scary.

“When I had the rules, I knew this would be easy to write basing it on the real things I experienced,” he says. “My own scariest moment is in the movie. We were playing with a friend who didn’t believe in it and asked it to prove itself. The board spelled out BDRM, and later we saw a picture of his wife and girl face down in his bedroom. He got really upset by that.”

Rule No. 2: Never ask a spirit how
you are going to die.

With the success of his film Ticked Off Trannies With Knives, Luna felt some pressure to come up with a big follow-up. He knew this would be the movie that gets compared to TOTWK, though he is working on a companion piece for that. With Ouija, he’s managing expectations.

“This is not at the scale of Ticked, but I hope people see it as a different kind of movie,” he says. “This was just an experience in shooting a quickie project.”

That was the plan, at least. But after seeing the finished product, he became dubious about Ouija. At first.

“I was nervous before the Dallas screening [this month] so I called my producer, Toni Miller,” he says. “We agreed that we didn’t think the movie was very scary. And we weren’t thrilled at all by that.”

But the audience reaction contradicted Luna and Miller’s fears. Then he took the film to screen in his home town.

“I screened it in Wellington when I went home for Thanksgiving and there were so many screams! It wasn’t until then I realized I might have something,” Luna says.

Rule No. 3: Most importantly, do not stop
playing without saying goodbye.

Despite the success of TOTWK on the festival circuit, it didn’t help Luna’s bottom line all that much. More money was going out than coming in, so taking a note from Kevin Smith’s model for Red State, Luna decided to show the film himself. He says his plan poses the $64,000 question.

“You’ve caught me at a big change in my career,” he admits. “I am going to experiment with this and I think I’m going to be four-walling the movie. We’ll book the theater, screen the film and come out ahead.”

The only trick at this point is marketing and getting exposure. Luna wants to take the movie to smaller towns without indie art houses. If all goes according to plan, the movie goes into release in February — just as he wants it.

“We got a small chunk of money the last time around, but this is the fight for indie filmmakers,” he says. “I’m kind of excited but I’m kind of scared. I don’t know what I’m doing!”

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

—  Kevin Thomas

Musical ornaments

Queer music faves decorate the concert landscape this week

Concerts-ArtThis is one of those weeks that really speaks to LGBT music lovers, with live music options across the spectrum — from choral to techno and some local indies in between. Clearly, Dallas is on Santa’s “nice” list.

— Rich Lopez

Moby

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The electronica superstar comes to town to perform a DJ set at the Lizard Lounge as the club celebrates its 20th anniversary. This is almost full circle for Moby as he performed at the nightlife institution two decades ago. The queer artist returns to the club as a Grammy-nominated musician and an electronica icon.

Saturday at Lizard Lounge,
2424 Swiss Ave. Doors at 8 p.m. $50–$75.
TheLizardLounge.com.

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 Tori Amos
ToriAmos-300RGB(3)A queen of eclectic music, Amos has gone orchestral in this year’s Night of Hunters. Like scotch, Amos can be an acquired taste, but her ethereal voice and insane amount of talent wins over audiences who get to catch her live. She has the enchanting aura of Stevie Nicks, but that smooth operator delivery is all her own.

Thursday at the Verizon Theatre,
1001 Performance Place, Grand Prairie. 8 p.m. $39.50–$59.50.
Ticketmaster.com.

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The Women’s Chorus of Dallas

ImthurnThis Peace on Earth concert is a family affair as TWCD brings in a children’s choir and local fave Anton Shaw. The ladies will offer traditional music to some holiday rockin’ with conductor Melinda Imthurn and likely create a new holiday experience.

Sunday at the Wyly Theater,
2401 Flora St. 7 p.m. $30.
TWCD.org.

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Turtle Creek Chorale

TCCholidayStage300dpiLet’s face it: The chorale’s holiday show is a signature — the holidays just aren’t the same without their glorious hymns and wacky antics rolled into one. Interim conductor Trey Jacobs leds a solid show in My Favorite Things that delivers the cheer and the warmth that’s expected from the guys this time of year.

Wednesday at the Meyerson Symphony Center,
2301 Flora St. 8 p.m. $16–$65.
TurtleCreek.org.

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Jim Brickman

Brickman
The elegance of popular pianist Brickman is never lost during the holiday season. He brings back his “Christmas Celebration” concert to North Texas, and while he enchanted us at the Meyerson this past January, he’ll be tickling our ivories in Cowtown at Bass Hall this time. Either way, he makes it look a lot more like Christmas when he’s around.

Monday At Bass Hall,
525 Commerce St., Fort Worth. 7:30 p.m. $33–$82.
BassHall.com.

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CHIX

ChixThis local band has been chipping away at the scene and coming into their own with both covers and originals. With gigs at Mable Peabody’s in Denton and Jet Set in Uptown, they got the gig they’ve been waiting for with a Sunday show in November at Sue Ellen’s. Band member Nikki Stallen called it the best show they’ve had. Now they headline Saturday night  and with a growing fan base, they’re hoping to pack the house.

Saturday at Sue Ellen’s,
3014 Throckmorton St. 9:30 p.m.
SueEllens.com.

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Emmeline

Emmeline
Local indie chick Emmeline is no stranger to queer audiences, making a strong impression at Twist Dallas, which features mostly LGBT musicians. Organizer SuZanne Kimbrell booked Emmeline not just for her talent, but also to “bridge the gap” between straight and gay. She heads north to Denton with killer keyboards and an oh-so-lovely voice.

Saturday at Café Du Luxe,
3101 Unicorn Lake Blvd., Denton. 8 p.m.
ReverbNation.com/Emmeline.

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Infidelix and Immigrant Punk

Queer artists Infidelix, pictured, and world music renegade Immigrant Punk may be rough and tough on the outside, but this show proves they can be softies. The two acts join a hefty lineup of locals for the Wreck the Mics to Christmas Lights show in Denton. The show is a toy drive for low-income families in the area. Bring a new, unwrapped toy and then throw down for Infidelix’s hip-hop stylings and Immigrant Punk’s hardcore fusion of rock, rap and
Spanish influence. (Boombachs, Wild Billand Ewok are also on the bill.)

Monday at Hailey’s,
122 West Mulberry St., Denton.
Doors at 9 p.m. $5–$7.
HaileysClub.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 16, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Nobody does it Eder

Broadway diva Linda Eder talks of her longevity … and her drag queen imitators

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CHRISTMAS ANGEL | Singer Linda Eder will bring Christmas magic to her holiday concert at the Winspear and she’s hoping her gay fans will turn out. Being a Broadway diva with that voice — they likely will.

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

The earliest evidence of what Linda Eder would become is available, of course, on YouTube: A video of Eder, maybe 19 or 20, singing Melissa Manchester’s “Looking Through the Eyes of Love” at the 1980 Miss Minnesota pageant. (She didn’t win the title.)

But Eder doesn’t blanch with embarrassment when confronted with this relic of her past. Now a responsible adult, she offers that Linda Eder career advice.

“There’s a whole list of things I’d tell her not to do,” she insists. “My advice would be to save more money. Don’t spend so much because you don’t really need so much.”

Eder turned 50 this year, and the wisdom earned from the passage of time is clear in her tone. She’s relaxed, professional and unfazed discussing the range of her career, whether working with her ex-husband on her last album Now or the drag queens that perform her work. But she does seem to get jazzed about one thing — longevity.

“What makes me proud of this album is just the fact I am here at 50 and making records,” she says. “I’ve been most fortunate to have this kind of career and I have a real sense of accomplishment with this album.”

Now, her 13th that dropped in February, reunited her with longtime collaborate Frank Wildhorn, the man behind Jekyll and Hyde — the musical that put Eder on the Broadway map. But Wildhorn is also Eder’s ex-husband (they divorced in 2004). Still, she describes the experience as drama-free.

“You know, it worked out fine and it really was easy. We stay in contact,” she says. “For this album, we brought back some of the same people from before.

Things were slightly different now that I’m my own entity if you will. There was a little more freedom but it wasn’t he ever made me do anything I didn’t want.”
After 20 years since her first release, Eder knows she’s not radio fodder, but she also knows her audience.

“I certainly hoped for this kind of career. Making records is fun,” she says.

“Fortunately people enjoy my voice.”

That, of course, includes her large contingent of gay fans. She understands the territory that comes with being a Broadway diva. Eder even relishes it.

“I’ve been pretty lucky to have gay fans. They are my more lively audience and that’s why I love playing for them. I appreciate it so much,” she gushes.
Drag queens aren’t lost on her, either.

“Do you know that there is this drag show called Better than Eder? That’s so great,” she says.

She’ll likely introduce some of her new works when she returns to Dallas Sunday for her holiday concert at the Winspear. Eder helps ring in the season with The Linda Eder Holiday Show. Her Christmas Stays the Same CD from 2000 featured both original and traditional carols with that Eder touch; getting the chance to perform them on stage is what drives her at this time of year.

“You know, I’m an entertainer and doing these shows with talented people and musicians is just a fun hang,” she says. “It’s hard to believe still that I get to do this for a business.”

She’ll argue the celebrity label, but knows she is one in a certain sense. Eder doesn’t propose a false modesty either when asked about her past work. Instead, she actively strives for a sense of normalcy.

“I don’t think of myself [as a star],” she says. “I was driven early on and carved a niche career for myself but I found that I wanted to pull back to a level of success that was normal. I’m simply a musician. I might call myself a minor celebrity.”

Her fans might disagree.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Safe bet

Turtle Creek Chorale plays it safe for the holidays — and it shows

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SANTA’S BACK | The Turtle Creek Chorale continues its tradition of bringing ol’ Saint Nick out for its Christmas concert, but some tweaks might make the show feel more contemporary. (Photo courtesy TCC)

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Tradition is a funny thing, especially during the holidays. Christmas doesn’t feel like Christmas without Charlie Brown and his sad little tree, or driving through neighborhoods to gawk at the twinkling lights. But while changing routines can shake things up, it’s also a good way to start new traditions.

In the Turtle Creek Chorale’s holiday show My Favorite Things, many of the chorus’ traditions remain intact: The poinsettia dedication, Santa Claus ho-ho-hoing it up, a sign-language version of “Silent Night,” But a spike in the egg nog would not be out of place.

To be fair, the chorale underwent some major changes in the last few months, appointing both a new executive director, David Fisher, and interim conductor, Trey Jacobs, who has had to hit the ground running with a season (and dates!) already announced. You can grant them some slack for that, but the chorale’s opening concert, while at times inspiring, could also feel anemic.

Getting off to an energetic start, a crew of members tells the audience about their indulgences before launching into the show’s title track performance. A humorous and high-spirited tone kicked off the show gloriously, followed by the gorgeously majestic “Gloria Fanfare.” Jacobs wields a confident hold over the solid-sounding voices of the chorale. But that energy takes a major nosedive with a troika of serious and somber numbers.

The small Encore group turn up the silly factor with “An Elf’s Life” but miss the mark. The voices are reliable, but the cast lacks the panache needed for the bit to soar. The number is saved by an Occupy North Pole elf that generates major laughs and applause. The first act ends almost as soon as it begins with spirits high in the always punchy “We Need a Little Christmas.”

Although I don’t quite get the monks-versus-nuns concept for “Hallelujah,” the second half opener is hilarious as singers combine flag corps and Bob Dylan, lifting lyrics on cards in choreographed fashion. Whether on purpose or not, the small mistakes with upside-down cards or missed signals add a comic layer that hopefully they’ll keep.

The same can be said for “Jingle Bells,” as members demonstrate some fancy foot-stepping — part ballet, part drill team, but charming as heck. When confusion ensues as they link arms, it ends up being flat-out hysterical, adding volumes to the light-hearted tone.

These gaffes contribute wonderful charm to the show. But they might consider reverting from the live retelling of “The Christmas Story According to Linus” to the actual recording; a man dressed as Linus just doesn’t convey the tender heart of the original. The accompanying live Nativity only reminds me of my one-line role as a shepherd in my elementary school play, and The Sound of Music’s Maria is a running gag through the show that never quite works.

At times, My Favorite Things is weighed down by an abundance of downbeat songs in succession, and a lack of contemporary tunes does allow for younger audiences (not children necessarily, either) to be reeled in. The twenty-somethings in front of me didn’t seem to connect with the show, giggling and whispering during some of the songs.

But My Favorite Things is still a solid show, even with some misguided nuances. Opening night jitters were apparent, but gave an unexpectedly welcome relief to the concert. Fisher’s poinsettia dedication was anecdotal and beautifully poetic and Jacobs handled the chorale and the audience with experienced savvy. The dreary rain and biting cold didn’t dampen the audience as that other annual chorale tradition occurred: The standing ovation.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

The princess and the KING

Rihanna can’t seem to get from under that ‘Umbrella’, while Cirque du Soleil extends Michael Jackson’s legacy with ‘Immortal’

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STRAIGHT TALK | Rihanna returns with her strangeways in her sixth album ‘Talk That Talk.’

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Rihanna is a workaholic, pumping out albums faster than Black Friday shoppers busting out the pepper spray.

She was still finding her voice after 2009’s forgettable Rated R, but 2010’s Loud was a success.

She’s back in fine form with Talk That Talk, her new CD. But there’s more potential than perfection here; perhaps it could have been better if she took more time between releases.

Rihanna sings of naïve love with clichéd perspectives on this, her sixth album.

And while the lyrics work, the delivery doesn’t. Starting with “You Da One,“ she takes a page from Beyonce’s book a la 4.

There’s no onslaught, but instead a chill groove with some reggae touches on this decent opener. Although it instills an (unannoying) earworm, it gets messy in its structure.

Energy courses through Talk with “Where Have you Been.” It begins as a dance tune but veers into weird, house music tones. After discovering “da one,” she’s asking where have you been all my life. But producers Dr. Luke and Cirkut (Ke$ha, Flo-Rida) ruin the beat with a mish-mash of breakdowns pulling the song off its trajectory.

The album’s lead single, “We Found Love,” is addictively produced by writer Calvin Harris. The tone, while strong, feels like it would be more at place in the early ‘90s … but that’s not so bad. The keyboards are refreshing and even though the lyrics don’t stray far from the we-found-love-in-a-hopeless-place center; it’s the album’s strongest early offering.

Jay-Z doesn’t add much other than ego to the title track, but it’s here where Rihanna switches from blind love to an assertive woman eager to please. She submits to her lover with tell me how love to you, tell me how to hold you / I’mma get it right on the first try for you. The dancehall groove works and continues into “Cockiness (I Love It),” which leaves little to the imagination with lyrics like suck my cockiness / lick my persuasion. But she starts trying too hard, like Christina Aguilera on Bionic. It doesn’t help the song is poorly constructed.

The songs balance out Talk starting with “We All Want Love.” As straightforward pop, it adheres to a clean structure, which is a reprieve from the schizophrenia before. The lovey idealism returns more so with “Drunk on Love.” Feeling  hopelessly romantic, she’s also creepy-weird. When she moans about craving love, you think if you got in a relationship with her, a restraining order is not out of the question.

Still, the track stabilizes the album, as does “Roc Me Out,” the CD’s best track. Rihanna brings the intensity of her bigger hits. She may never have another “Umbrella,” but this one comes close.

She channels some Janet Jackson in the sexified flirtation “Watch n’ Learn,” but closes with the gorgeous ballad “Farewell.” She’s in broken-up stalker mode with lyrics like even though it kills me that you have to go / I know I’ll be sadder if you never hit the road. Talk about a no-win sitch. But it ends this chapter of Rihanna on a high note.
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Speaking of Jacksons, Michael makes a sort of return with Immortal, the soundtrack to Cirque du Soleil’s newest Vegas-style show celebrating the King of Pop. The album recalls his work from the Jackson 5 up to 2001’s Invincible, his last solo album. (Thankfully, none of the 2010 embarrassing posthumous release Michael is in this mix.)

While the majority of the songs are still by Jackson, they have been reworked, remixed or reimagined by Rihanna producer Kevin Antunes. The double disc of 29 songs is a gloriously clean listen to some of the biggest hits in music.

Where this could easily have been an exploitation of his work (and maybe it is), it only feels like respectfully updated versions of pop classics. When Fergie and Kanye West did their remakes for Thriller’s 25th anniversary, they were almost blasphemous; here, they are merely amplified with tweaks that never take away from that Jackson hit-making magic.

The subsequent tracks of “Gone Too Soon” and “Childhood” display his tender voice in crystal clarity and are tear inducing because they remind he’s no longer here. The added spoken word could have come across as cheesy, but it works.

Immortal reads like a greatest hits with all the obvious inclusions. “Smooth Criminal” retains its power but in shorter time; the “Beat It/State of Shock” coupling is just short of brilliant; and the “Immortal Megamix: Can You Feel It/Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough/Billie Jean/Black or White” belongs more on the dancefloor than onstage.

Given all the hits on here, there is a surprising omission with “Rock With You.” As big of a song as that was, it doesn’t get its own redux. But Antunes clearly has a love for Jackson and this collection lifts the singer far above any controversy or strangeness that plagued him and instead reminds of both his genius and his legacy.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 2, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

All that dazzle

Local actors get in the Christmas spirit with ‘Holidazzle Act II’ release

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

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2.5 out of 5 stars
HOLIDAZZLE ACT II
DFW Actors Give Back
Independent

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Two years ago, local actors, musicians and other theater folk banded together for Holidazzle, a CD of Christmas music that featured some amazing voices in town while benefiting the charity Jonathan’s Place. It was a win-win for carol-loving Dallasites.

Now another, bigger chorus of actors is back with a healthy collection of holiday tunes. Holidazzle Act II is filled with heart, but not without a few bumps.

The disc opens strong with “That’s What Christmas Means to Me” featuring Denise Lee, Jeff Kinman, Susan Mills and Darius-Anthony Robinson and impressively displays a crisp production value — from the percussion to the vocals, the sound is crystal clear. It’s a promising start as the music is layered well but with a nice simplicity. And Kerry Huckaba’s bass ends up as a star here.

I have to admit I was worried about their take on “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” especially after reading that Jim Johnson, K. Doug Miller, Gregory Lush, B.J. Cleveland and David Coffee were all doing vocals. We’ve all heard it with the signature deep voice, but these guys pull off a great jazzy rendition with different but appropriate personalities for the tune. It’s really hard to get through this one without a smile.

“Snow” from Irving Berlin’s White Christmas movie soundtrack should win over die-hard fans, but at first, this version seems to have too many voices; they eventually come together in a beautiful, cheery mix. The added chorus gives it an old-fashioned, charmingly seasonal touch. This is what you want to hear while gleefully shopping at Macy’s without a care in the world.

RAZZLE ‘EM  |  DFW Actors Give Back’s adult chorus comes together again for a sometimes bumpy but consistently charming ‘Act II.’

RAZZLE ‘EM | DFW Actors Give Back’s adult chorus comes together again for a sometimes bumpy but consistently charming ‘Act II.’

The group knocks it out of the park with the hilarious “Twelve Daze of a Theatrical Christmas.” It may sound inside-jokey, but clever lyrics by Miller make this a viable comedic piece. If you think you’ll be over the repetition of the usual lyrics, don’t worry. They give the song as many twists as possible and they all work.

They also succeed in “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings.” While practically a carbon copy of the Barenaked Ladies/Sarah McLachlan version, it works so well one could easily listen to it over and over.

But the album is not without misses. The cover of Celine Dion’s “The Prayer” has a personal tone but with six voices doing the work, it derails into a mess. While the harmonies are beautiful, the song’s intention is flooded over. Then there’s “Silent Night.” It’s a carol everyone wants to put their stamp on, but it’s also the one listeners tend to want to hear a traditional version of. The chorus here is a bit too chipper; “Night” needs a more Zen-like feel, and the harp challenges the voices rather than working in agreement with them. Even if they wanted to continue in this tone, the song is not audibly smoothed out.

Other tracks lack the lead-in’s excellent production quality. Gary Floyd, Sonny Franks and Todd Hart do sublime a capella work on “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” but the voices get tinny in the mix at times. Julie Johnson gives an ideal performance in the fun “Christmas Eve,” but the turned-up bass distracts. The Patty Breckenridge–Ashley Puckett-Gonzales duet works well for the dramatic “Where are You, Christmas,” but the music begins to overrun their voices despite Scott Eckert’s emotional arrangement and direction.

Despite these issues, the album as a whole works magic. There is enough tradition here to appreciate the songs with added freshness on other tunes to make it interesting.

Holidazzle Act II is on sale in local theaters during the holiday season or available online at  DFWActorsGiveBack.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 25, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Let ’em eat cake

Drag-queen-cum-pastry-chef Chad Fitzgerald rocks TLC — and now Oak Lawn — with his baking prowess

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BATTER UP | Chad Fitzgerald went all-in for his audition for TLC’s ‘Next Great Baker,’ becoming the go-to guy and the crybaby ... as well as being the only gay contestant on this season.

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

In what used to be a butcher shop, Chad Fitzgerald sits in the back room of a storefront now called The Cake Guys.

The dark red walls of the bakery make for a cozy, elegant ambience, but the cakes take center stage: Towering confections with ornate scrollwork, rhinestones, peacocks and chocolate-covered strawberries are jaw dropping.

Despite his calm demeanor as he strolls through his shop, Fitzgerald and his cakes are about to be seen on a much bigger stage.

“The producers told us when the show airs, life will change,” Fitzgerald says.

“The show” is the second season of Next Great Baker, which debuts Tuesday on TLC, with Fitzgerald among the contestants.

The path from kitchen to TV studio has been a long one for Fitzgerald. As a kid, he would head to his grandmother’s house after school in Hereford, Texas, where he picked up her creative skills. At her knee, he learned ceramics and sewing, but it was her baking that really nabbed his attention.

“She completely influenced that,” he says. “She bought me pans and decorating tips and my first mixer while I was in high school. I ended up going to culinary school at Oklahoma State University but I didn’t like it — I already knew how to make cakes; I didn’t want to do any of the other chef stuff.”

Fitzgerald received a degree in education at West Texas A&M. Baking became a hobby as Fitzgerald took up teaching for 21 years. Baking re-emerged seriously in 2003, when he and his partner, Edward Navejas, began The Cake Guys out of their garage.

It quickly boomed. They opened a full-service shop in Duncanville in 2008, and have just expanded to Oak Lawn, which led Fitzgerald to make a major decision.

“There were not enough hours in the day and I was overwhelmed,” he says. “I’d teach, bake till 3 a.m. and get up to go to work. When I resigned this month, everyone told me they were surprised it wasn’t sooner.”

The Duncanville location is now a production facility; they handle all the cake orders — mostly from bridal parties — out of their Oak Lawn location.

A few years ago, Fitzgerald and Navejas started applying to appear on chef-based reality shows. They had the talent, but never made the cut, until a casting director for TLC called to ask them to try out for Next Great Baker.

“I got that call and I told them that we’ll apply,” he says. “But they needed something by that night. This was in May or June. It was a very long app, but I stayed true to myself.”

By staying true, he means he let his natural tone come out, freely peppering LOL and LMAO throughout his answers, and not sounding pretentious. But it was the question “What would set you apart?” that acted as a mini-crossroads. In other applications, he’d held back, revealing some personal details, thinking his baking skills should be all that mattered. This time, he decided to go all-in.

“It was do-or-die, so I sent in pics and videos of me doing drag,” he laughs. “I also bawled talking about my grandma, who died two years ago.

It was about 6:30 p.m. when I sent it in, and the casting agent called me around 7:15. She told me was the best application so far.” With more than 10, 000 applicants in the mix, Fitzgerald “started feeling good about it,” he says.

Fitzgerald then flew to New York for a screen test and on-camera interview. There he met Buddy Valastro, better known as the Cake Boss.

“I had a fabulous time doing that,” he smiles. “And they made me do a drag number on video — as a guy! I had told them I was Miss Texas USA At-Large and Miss USA At-Large in 1996 as Stacy Holiday.” On July 31, Fitzgerald got the phone call.

“They said ‘Congratulations, you’re one of the Season 2 contestants,’” he recalls. “I started crying, of course. I called the staff and just said ‘I made it! I made it!’”

Typical of reality TV, the show only now is airing, though the competition ended weeks ago. Fitzgerald has been baking away, waiting to see how life just might change as a result of the competition. He’s already noticed some changes (a few autograph requests), but he’ll know better once the series begins airing.

“Other contestants thought I was a cheater because I had my trinkets and gadgets,” he says. “But I’m a planner. Other contestants came with three bags [of supplies]; I shipped 38 boxes. I took an aquarium, strobe lights, anything that could go in a cake. This is the biggest thing in my life — why wouldn’t I prepare?”

Fitzgerald says he never became a character. Although he was the only gay contestant and was occasionally encouraged to “gay it up” for the camera, he stayed true to himself.

“I kinda became the go-to guy,” he says. “People would ask me for advice and that’s just pure respect. I was the nice guy of the group, but I was definitely the crybaby on the show.”

Of course, how he fared remains to be seen as the season plays out. For now, Fitzgerald knows he and Navejas have a good thing. Win or not, The Cake Guys know one thing for sure.

“I don’t want people to buy our cakes just because I was on TV,” he says. “But once you try our cake, you’ll be hooked.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 25, 2011.

CORRECTION: We printed that Next Great Baker airs on Tuesdays when it actually airs on Mondays. The first episode airs Nov. 28 at 8 p.m on TLC. We regret the error.

—  Kevin Thomas

Feedback • 11.18.11

Double standard

Since the gay community and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation throw such fits when we feel we have been insulted or slighted (Wanda Sykes starring in a commercial chastising a group of teens using the term “so gay,” Blake Shelton coming under fire for anti-gay comments and most recently Brett Ratner resigning as producer of the Oscars for using the word “fag” in what was deemed a derogatory way), I am surprised and ultimately disappointed in the double standard the Dallas Voice borrows to do business their way.

In the article “Driver’s Seat” (Dallas Voice, Nov. 11), staff writer Rich Lopez actually quotes Drew Ginsburg as saying “Well, if you buy a SAAB, you’re retarded.”

First of all, I cannot believe he would use the quote and secondly, and more significantly, I cannot believe that a proofreader or the editor allowed this to go to print.

One would expect a certain level of professionalism, sensitivity, maturity and social responsibility to have prevented this from happening — not to mention human decency.

I hope others speak up about this, if only to raise awareness that the Voice needs to be more responsible and less hypocritical of what they don’t approve of, and ultimately take more caution in the future about what goes out the public. This is irresponsible journalism and further proof that Ginsberg is a jerk.

Geoffrey Bruce, via email

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TO SEND A LETTER  |  We welcome letters from readers. Shorter letters and those addressing a single issue are more likely to be printed. Letters are subject to editing for length and clarity, but we attempt to maintain the writer’s substance and tone. Include  your home address and a daytime telephone number for verification. Send letters to the senior editor, preferably by e-mail (nash@dallasvoice.com). Letters also may be faxed (214-969-7271) or sent via the U.S. Postal Service (Dallas Voice, 4145 Travis St., Third Floor, Dallas TX 75204). All letters become the property of Dallas Voice.

—  Michael Stephens

Taylor Dayne can’t stop the music

Taylor Dayne can’t stop the music

More than 20 years after she packed the gay bar dance floors with her debut hits, the songstress is still going strong, and says her performance at Black Tie is a ‘win-win’ for her and her fans

Dayne.TaylorRich Lopez  |  Staff Writer

lopez@dallasvoice.com

Helping out LGBT people is nothing new for singer Taylor Dayne.

She can’t quite recall when she knew she was a hit with the gay community: Over the course of her 23-year career in pop music, she’s played venues of all sizes, but she did notice early on how a certain fan base seemed to keep showing up.

“It’s kinda hard to remember, but I would perform very specific shows and then some gay clubs and it dawned on me,” she said.

With an explosive debut, thanks to her platinum selling 1988 debut Tell It To My Heart and the more sophisticated follow-up Can’t Fight Fate a year later, Dayne became a quick force to be reckoned with on the charts.

But her pop hits were just as big on the dance floor, and Dayne was resonating across the queer landscape.

“I’ve had wonderful relationship with gay and lesbian fans for years. I’m so glad to be doing Black Tie because I have a great core of fan base here,” she said. “It’ll be a good show with lots of fun and for a good cause. It’s a win-win.”

Dayne’s performed at gay bars and Pride events in Boston, Chicago and the Delaware Pride Festival. But appreciation of her work in the community was clearly evident in 2010 when she was asked to record “Facing a Miracle” as the anthem for the Gay Games.

“That was quite an honor and then they asked me to perform at the games,” she said. “It was very emotional for me. The roar of the crowd was great.”

Even after two decades, Dayne remains just as committed to music as she was in 1988. She’s embraces her sort of “elder” status in pop music and instead of seeing the likes of Nikki Minaj and Katy Perry as rivals, she enjoys what they are bringing to the landscape of music now.

“I love listening to all the new stuff going on. There is some great talent out there. It’s nice to know I was some inspiration to them, the way ladies like Debbie Harry and Pat Benatar were for me. The cycle goes on,” Dayne said.

But they still push her to keep in the game. She admitted, “I’m pretty competitive that way.”

This year, Dayne released the single, “Floor on Fire,” which made it to the Billboard Dance/Club Charts Top 10.

At 49, Dayne doesn’t show signs of slowing. Along with a rumored second greatest hits album, she recently wrapped up filming the indie movie Telling of the Shoes and she’s a single mother to 9-year-old twins. Juggling it all is a mix of emotions, but her confidence pushes her through.

“I can say I’m a great singer, so when it comes to decisions, I’m fine about recording and performing,” she said. “But I would say I work really hard at acting. It’s nerve-wracking but it’s also amazing. But I’m not a novice at any of this.”

With her children, she doesn’t make any pretenses about the difficulty of being both a musician and a mom — as long as she instills the proper principles in them.

“We don’t try to get wrapped up in small time crap,” she said. “At the end of day it’s about having a good heart and they have great heart.”

It’s likely she’ll show the same at Black Tie.

—  Rich Lopez

DRIVE!: Drivers seat

Reality TV star (and gay gearhead) Drew Ginsburg stays in the family business — and has two rides to show for it

TWO RIDES ARE BETTER THAN ONE  |  Drew Ginsburg divides his road time between two cars sold at his family’s dealerships: A VW Beetle, left, and an Audi A6.  (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

TWO RIDES ARE BETTER THAN ONE | Drew Ginsburg divides his road time between two cars sold at his family’s dealerships: A VW Beetle, left, and an Audi A6. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

As the lone gay member of the cast of the recently ended reality show Most Eligible Dallas, Drew Ginsburg had to be both fabulous and a gearhead — not exactly the stereotype of the gay man. But his love affair with cars has left him admittedly (if justifiably) snobby about autos — his family does, after all, own a number of car dealerships, and working in the family business means knowing a whole lot about them.
Oh, and don’t ever call him A-list.

— Rich Lopez

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Name and age:  Drew Ginsburg, 30.

Occupation:  I handle marketing for the Boardwalk Auto Group, including Boardwalk Audi in Plano and Park Cities Volkswagen on Lemmon Avenue. We’re the longest continuously owned and operated dealer in Texas and we feature Volkswagen, Audi, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati and Porsche.

What do you drive?  I’m open to driving multiple cars but they all belong to the dealership. Right now, I drive either a VW Beetle or an Audi A6.

That’s variety. How do you choose?  It just depends on what’s going on, but usually if it’s business, I drive the Audi; the Beetle is for casual stuff.

Do you have a permanent car?  I’m still waiting for my Porsche to come in. It’s the new Porsche 911 Carrera in white with black interior. It will be here in January. It’s a very sad time right now without a Porsche. I have no sports cars to drive.Your taste in cars is very A-list (zing!):  But I’m not A-list, far from it. I don’t think so, anyway. Are you talking about the show?

Umm … No? So, how are A-list vehicles compared to yours?  They all drive Hondas and BMWs, but I don’t think they know anything about them.

What’s the sexiest thing about a ride?  Usually it’s the acceleration and sometimes, just the design.

Speed driver or grandpa?  I’m a speedy driver. My driving style has been described as sex.

Hmmm… can you pick me up at work today?  [Silence.]

What was your first car?  It was a two-door Chevy Tahoe. I got it when I was 16.

Favorite road trip story?  Once I drove from Dallas to Newfoundland with a college buddy and then back to our home in Vermont. It’s my favorite because I was just this young college guy having a new experience.

Two guys, one vehicle: Nice. What are the rules of your car?  That depends. I was out with a Lamborghini and my roommate got mad that I wouldn’t go to Starbucks for him to get a drink.

Where is your fantasy drive?  I’d like to conquer the Autobahn again. It’s all about driving in Europe. I’d love to drive around Spain and take a trip to the California coast.

What’s in your music player?  It’s loaded up with either Spotify or Pandora, but I’ve been listening to Rihanna’s “We Found Love” a lot and David Guetta’s “Titanium.”

Where do you park when you go to Wal-Mart?  [Laughs] I just park at the end of the lot.

Are you a car snob?  Yes I am, but not about the price tag. I am when it comes to the design and makeup of the car. There are great cars for less than $30,000 and not so great ones for more than $120,000. Some people just buy for the emblem.

Like $30K millionaires?  Exactly! They wanna buy a luxury car but can’t afford it. It’s just for brand.

What should everyone know about cars?  Well, if you buy yourself a Saab, you’re retarded — it’s phasing out. And paying cash doesn’t necessarily mean the best deal. And most dealers don’t rely on the Kelley Blue Book because we’re using real-time market insight. Every car has idiosyncrasies and we have to look at those.

What’s it like being famous now?  It’s been a fun experience and I’m just taking it in as it happens. I don’t think of myself like that, but I’ve gotten to meet more people. It’s been a fun ride.
Pun intended?  Sure.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 11, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens