Black Tie names ‘Modern Family’ star as 2011 Media Award winner

Jesse Tyler Ferguson

Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who plays gay father Mitchell Pritchett, got 2nd Emmy nomination this year

FROM STAFF REPORTS
editor@dallasvoice.com

Officials with the Black Tie Dinner this week announced that Emmy Award-nominated actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson will be the recipient of the 2011 Media Award at this year’s 30th annual dinner, set for Nov. 12 at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel.

The Media Award is given to those who have promoted positive, increased awareness of LGBT issues in the media.

The 2010 Media Award was presented to newly out country music star Chely Wright.

Ferguson — who starred on Broadway in the Tony Award-winning production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee in 2005, where he originated the role Leaf Coneybear — stars as in the ABC comedy Modern Family as Mitchell Pritchett, who with his same-sex partner Cameron Tucker traveled to Vietnam to adopt their daughter.

Modern Family weaves together the interconnected stories of Mitch and Cameron’s family, Mitch’s sister, Claire Dunphy and her family, and their father, Jay Pritchett and his new wife and stepson, Gloria Delgado-Pritchett and Manny.

This is the second year in a row that Ferguson has been nominated for an Emmy as best supporting actor in a comedy for his role in Modern Family. He has also been nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award for outstanding performance by an ensemble in a comedy series.

Earlier this year, Ferguson, acting on behalf of the Modern Familyd cast, accepted the GLAAD Media Award for outstanding comedy series when his show tied for the award with Glee.

Ferguson’s small-screen credits also include roles in The Class, Do Not Disturb and Ugly Betty. Among his film credits are roles in Untraceable, Griffin and Phoenix and Wonderful World.

Black Tie Co-Chair Nan Arnold, in a prepared statement announcing Ferguson as the Media Award winner, said the dinner is “thrilled” to present him with the award.

“As one of the few openly gay, working actors, he has established a wonderful and positive image on network television. The story of Mitchell and Cameron’s relationship is told with so much heart and love. Their storylines do not revolve around these characters being gay, but are instead about two new parents who are in a loving relationship and are trying to work their way through fatherhood together.”

Black Tie officials announced earlier this year that comedienne and Sordid Lives: The Series star Caroline Rhea will be master of ceremonies for the 2011 dinner, and that Chet Flake and his partner of 45 years, the late Bud Knight, will receive this year’s Kuchling Humanitarian Award.

Table Captain table sales are currently under way online at BlackTie.org/TableCaptains.

—  John Wright

A-Kon and the LGBT community

One of the largest, most popular anime conventions in the U.S.: A-kon, is celebrating its 22nd year today through Sunday at the Sheraton Dallas. Every year the convention is packed with thousands of con-goers who eagerly await the opportunity to meet their favorite voice actors, spend their life savings in the dealer’s room, and take tons of pictures (or have them taken of you, if you’re in costume).

There is so much packed into one weekend at an anime convention that it’s hard to schedule yourself. Every day they hold panels and discussions in the ballrooms, along with autograph sessions, workshops and opportunities to meet famous Asian bands. Every night is a party, whether it’s a rave, the masquerade, a ball, or a concert. They also have the more adult-oriented anime screenings held at night, which are always 18-plus. Don’t try flashing your Sailor Moon Fan Club Membership card, though; these guys require real ID.

Anime conventions attract a diverse group of people, including many who are LGBT. That’s because an anime convention is one of the few places that you can truly be open and express yourself without fear of judgment, no matter what your self-expression may be. There, no one really cares what you do. They’ve got people running around with cat-ear headbands and fur bikinis — who are they to judge?

One popular craze in cosplay — the act of dressing up as a character from a particular anime, video game, movie, whatever — is something called “fan service,” where two willing cosplayers engage in a pretend romance for the amusement of their fans. They pose for pictures holding hands, cuddling, and whatever else the cosplayers may be comfortable with. In fact, it’s become popular within the cosplay community for characters to be paired up with other characters of the same sex, which is called “slash.” So if you were totally thinking that Edward should have hooked up with Jacob, just find two willing cosplayers to pose for you and your dream can come true.

Within the cosplay community, it’s not only accepted but also encouraged for people to take part in public homosexual activity. Two guys kissing sends fangirls into a frenzy but causes the general public to sneer. Honestly, general public, at least we’re not running around in fur bikinis on a regular basis.

Is it the open atmosphere? Is it the fans demanding a good show? Whatever it is, anime conventions are sure to attract the LGBT crowd for a weekend of costumed, Japanese merriment. I will be among them at A-kon, getting my nerd on and wasting all my money. Until then, good ‘morrow.

—  admin

Black Tie 2011 set to ‘Shine’

Nan Arnold and Chris Kouvelis

Co-chairs announce theme for this year’s event, say more changes will be unveiled soon

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Black Tie co-chairs Nan Arnold and Chris Kouvelis this week announced the theme for the 30th annual Black Tie Dinner, set for Nov. 12 at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel. This year’s theme is short and sweet: “Shine.”

“Even though it is our 30th year, instead of focusing on this as an anniversary and looking back at where we’ve been, we want to focus on this being a celebration of where we are headed for the future,” said Arnold.

“We are really excited about this theme, about the idea of ‘shining’ a light on our future. And we think our creative team can do a lot with this theme,” she said.

Kouvelis added, “This theme will also be shining a light on our beneficiaries, too, and all the great work that they do in our community.”

Arnold and Kouvelis said that members of the Black Tie Dinner board are currently reviewing the more than 20 beneficiary applications the organization received this year.

Board members will then meet on Saturday, March 20, to choose the organizations that will share in the proceeds from this year’s fundraising dinner, and the names of those selected will be announced Thursday, March 31, during Black Tie’s annual Tarrant County reception, being held this year at American Airlines’ C.R. Smith Museum, 4601 Hwy. 360.

The co-chairs said planning for the 30th annual dinner is moving along smoothly, and that the board is reaching certain planning goals even earlier than usual. By early February, the board had already finalized deals for GameStop to once again be presenting sponsor for the dinner, and for Park Place Motorcars Dallas to sponsor the vehicle — a new Mercedes C 300 S coupe — for the dinner’s annual car raffle.

This week, Arnold and Kouvelis said that Diamond Jacks Casino in Shreveport/Bossier City has also already agreed to return as a sponsor.

“We just found out that they will come back this year at least at that same level, and they are going to sponsor our table captain dinner again this year,” Arnold said. “Diamond Jacks may also be helping us out with a couple of other things. They have been just wonderful to work with.”

Sales for the raffle tickets for the Mercedes C 300 S coupe are moving along at a brisk pace, and the co-chairs said having the dinner’s online system up and running has made raffle ticket sales — and other processes so much easier.

“You can buy those raffle tickets online art BlackTie.org. In fact, our online system is up and running for everything this year,” Arnold said. “This is really the first year that you can do everything you need to do for Black Tie online. ”

Black Tie has gone high-tech in other areas, too, the co-chairs said, including the silent auction, which will be “a little different this year. People can really expect the auction to be more interactive this year,” Arnold said.

Kouvelis said he is working on partnering with “a couple of our sponsors” to increase Black Tie’s marketing, especially in the area of incorporating social media into the process.

“We are really excited about the opportunities with see in this area,” he said. “This will give us the chance to increase participation and even change the demographic of who attends Black Tie. That’s what we have to do to keep the event growing.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

BTD beneficiary applications begin Feb. 1

30TH ANNIVERSARY | Nan Arnold and Ron Guillard chaired the 2010 Black Tie Dinner that distributed more than $1 million to 20 beneficiaries.

Organizers promise more announcements are coming soon about 30th annual dinner

From Staff Reports
editor@dallasvoice.com

Officials with Black Tie Dinner this week announced that the organization will begin accepting applications Feb. 1 from potential beneficiaries of the 30th annual event, set for Nov. 12 at Sheraton Dallas hotel.

Each year, money raised by the dinner is divided between the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and local beneficiary organizations. As many as 20 local beneficiaries are chosen each year.

Beneficiary applications will be available on the BTD website on Feb. 1, and the deadline for submitting applications is. Feb. 25.

The names of those organizations chosen as beneficiaries will be announced March 30.

Eligible groups must have tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status with the IRS and must demonstrate service to the LGBT community, using a majority of their funds for direct programs and services.

Officials also said this week that other announcements about plans for the 30th annual Black Tie Dinner can be expected in the next week.

The dinner began in 1982 when organizers donated about $6,000 to HRCF and has grown into the largest LGBT fundraising dinner of its kind in the country. More than $15 million has been distributed to beneficiaries since then.

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin was the headliner of the 2010 Black Tie Dinner. Others that have appeared include Gov. Ann Richards, Maya Angelou, Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen and Gavin Newsom.

The dinner committee honors individuals and corporations that have made contributions to the fight for LGBT rights both locally and nationally. Rev. Carol West and singer Chely Wright were 2010 recipients. Others have included Elizabeth Taylor, Judy Shepard and Bishop Gene Robinson.

Chris Kouvelis and Nan Arnold are this year’s Black Tie Dinner chairs.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 28, 2011.

—  John Wright

Black Tie hands out $1.15 million

Kouvelis named as 2011 co-chair as board begins preparations for 30th annual fundraiser in November

Tammye Nash and David Taffet | nash@dallasvoice.com

HANDING OUT THE CHECKS | 2010 Black Tie Dinner Co-chairs, above left, Nan Arnold and Ron Guillard talk about their year heading up the Black Tie board. Incoming 2011 Black Tie Co-Chair Chris Kouvelis, right center, presents a check to representatives of Home for the Holidays. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Officials with Black Tie Dinner on Thursday, Dec. 9, distributed grants to 20 beneficiaries totaling $1.15 million — up from the 2009 total of $1.04 million.
The funds, representing proceeds from the 29th annual Black Tie Dinner held in November, were distributed at a reception at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel, host hotel for the annual fundraising dinner.

Ron Guillard, completing the second year of his two-year term as Black Tie Dinner co-chair, offered special recognition to the sponsors, table captains, dinner guests and volunteers who helped make this year’s sold-out dinner so successful.

CATCHING UP | AIDS Services of Dallas President and CEO Don Maison, left, talks with former Resource Center Dallas board chair Bill Brosius during the Black Tie Dinner check distribution party Thursday. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

“My last official act couldn’t be more exciting than to distribute checks,” Guillard said. “It’s fantastic to be in the room with all the people who do so much work with Black Tie Dinner assuring its success.”

Nan Faith Arnold, who began the second half of her two-year term as co-chair at the distribution party, said, “I’m having a blast. It’s a great night. Each of our beneficiaries stands strong for the people they serve.”

“Stand strong” was the theme of this year’s event.

Chris Kouvelis, who will be Arnold’s dinner co-chair in 2011, was introduced.

“The check distribution event is the culmination of what we work for all year,” Kouvelis said. “It’s the most exciting thing to do. I’m honored to be in this position and am looking forward to a fantastic year.”

As in previous years, about half of the proceeds from the 2010 dinner — $577,500 — went to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. The Dallas-Fort Worth dinner is the largest fundraiser of its kind each year for the foundation.

HRC Development Director Chris Speron attended the check distribution event. Executive Director Joe Solmonese was scheduled to attend but remained in Washington because of the “don’t ask, don’t tell vote.”

“The Dallas LGBT community is one of the most generous communities anywhere,” Speron said. “And the Black Tie Dinner is unmatched anywhere in the country. We are so privileged to work with the people involved in Black Tie Dinner and benefit from their amazing work.”

The remaining funds were divided between 19 local organizations providing services to the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities. Resource Center

EXPRESSING THANKS | Board members for Equality Texas, along with Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman, right, accept the organization’s check from Black Tie Dinner. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Dallas received the largest local grant, getting a check for $48,504 from Black Tie.

RCD Executive Director Cece Cox said, “We are again delighted and thankful to be a beneficiary of Black Tie Dinner. This is unrestricted money that allows us to provide more services and reach more people.”

Groups were acknowledged for their participation. Turtle Creek Chorale sold the most raffle tickets. White Rock Friends contributed the most volunteer hours and the chorale was recognized for 682 hours of rehearsal time for the Black Tie Dinner performance. Resource Center Dallas sold the most tables with 22.

Black Tie Dinner is the largest formal seated dinner of its kind in the country in terms of both attendance and charitable contributions. This year, 3,000 guests attended the event, which featured keynote speaker Tammy Baldwin, U.S. congresswoman from Wisconsin, Media Award recipient Chely Wright, Elizabeth Birch Equality Award recipient American Airlines and Kuchling Humanitarian Award recipient the Rev. Carol West.

Arnold and Kouvelis said the Black Tie Dinner board is already working on the 30th Anniversary dinner, scheduled for  Nov, 12, 2011, at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel. The 2011 beneficiary application will be available online in February at BlackTie.org.

……………………….

•2010 Black Tie Dinner Beneficiaries

Human Rights Campaign Foundation $577,500
AIDS Arms $38,029
AIDS Interfaith Network $24,464
AIDS Outreach Center $28,245
AIDS Resources of Rural Texas $25,622
AIDS Services of Dallas $34,896
Celebration Community Church $40,043
Congregation Beth El Binah $26,157
Equality Texas Foundation $25,219
Health Services of North Texas $23,600
Home for the Holidays
$24,375
Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund
$38,764
Legacy Counseling Center $24,449
Legal Hospice of Texas $25,844
Northaven United Methodist Church $38,559
Resource Center of Dallas $48,504
Turtle Creek Chorale $32,494
White Rock Friends $21,055
The Women’s Chorus of Dallas $22,532
Youth First Texas $34,640

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 10, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Baldwin: ‘We will see brighter days ahead’

Congresswoman tells Black Tie audience not to give up hope; Wright applauds heroes who chose ‘never to hide a day in your lives’

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin
Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin. To see a slideshow from Black Tie, go here.

During her keynote address at the 29th annual Black Tie Dinner on Saturday, Nov. 6, openly lesbian Wisconsin Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin wasted no time in acknowledging the apparent blow the Republican victories in this month’s midterm elections dealt to the LGBT community’s push for equality.

“I needed to get away. It’s been a tough week, a very painful week for many Americans,” Baldwin said.

But then she went on to reassure the more than 3,000 people packed into the Sheraton Dallas’ Lone Star Ballroom that “we will see brighter days ahead.”

Baldwin acknowledged that the community’s high hopes when Barack Obama was elected president in 2008 have not, for the most part, been met. “There is frustration that we haven’t come far enough, fast enough, and I share that frustration.”

Recalling the last time that Republicans controlled Congress, Baldwin said efforts to secure LGBT equality were “rebuffed at every turn,” and she added that she is “not holding my breath” that things will be different this time, with Republicans controlling the U.S. House and the Senate nearly equally divided between the parties.

Although there is a possibility that the “don’t ask, don’t tell” military policy could be repealed during the upcoming lame duck session, chances are “slim to none for now and for the foreseeable future” that passage of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act and Baldwin’s own Domestic Partnership Benefits and Responsibilities Act and other LGBT-positive measures will happen.

“But that doesn’t mean that we will throw up our hands and give up,” Baldwin said, “because LGBT equality is a movement, not a moment in time.”

Baldwin’s theme of keeping up the fight and looking forward to better days reverberated throughout the evening, as Media Award winner Chely Wright related her life story to the crowd. She spoke of knowing from a young age that she was gay, and how she had struggled to keep her orientation a secret to try and earn — and later, preserve — her career in country music.

“Living two lives is quite a chore,” Wright said, as she talked about reaching a point where “I knew something had to give,” and the cold morning in 2006 when she went so far as putting the muzzle of a 9-mm pistol in her mouth.

But instead of pulling the trigger, Wright said, she prayed to God, as she had all her life. But this time, instead of praying for God to change her, she prayed that God would “give me a moment’s peace.”

Immediately, Wright continued, “oceans and oceans of peace washed over me,” and she knew that not only would she not take her own life, but that she would come out “as a gay woman, as a proud Christian and as an advocate for youth.”

Wright, who came put publicly only six months ago, acknowledged that others in the room had spent much longer fighting for LGBT equality.

“It is a bit of a strange thing to be honored by Black Tie Diner and this esteemed group of people. I look out and see so many of you who have not been able to or who have chosen not to hide a day in your lives, and to have you applaud for me is, well, it’s surreal,” she said.

“I look to you as heroes. … You are simply amazing to me. Thank you for leading the way,” she continued. “It is certainly not lost on me that you folks in this room tonight are the reason that the movement of equality, fairness and understanding continues to evolve.”

The evening began with an appearance by Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns, whose personal and passionate speech before the council last month about teen suicide went viral as a YouTube video and turned him into a national sensation.

Burns reminded the audience that teen suicide and bullying continues to affect LGBT youth at an alarmingly high rate, and led the crowd in a moment of silence in memory of LGBT youth who have died.

After Broadway star Gavin Creel, backed by the Turtle Creek Chorale, performed, the Rev. Carol West, pastor of Celebration Community Church in Fort Worth, came on stage to accept the Kuchling Humanitarian Award.

With a beaming smile, West recalled the early heroes of Dallas-Fort Worth’s LGBT community, reminding the crowd that “we stand on their shoulders” as the movement progresses. But, she added, the community leaders of today must also remember that the leaders of tomorrow “will someday stand on our shoulders.”

Employees of American Airlines were on hand to accept the Elizabeth Birch Equality Award on behalf of their company. Betty Young, director of Diverse Segment Marketing for the airline, said it was “a tremendous honor” for the company and its employees to receive the award.

“American Airlines has always been very involved in Black Tie Dinner and we certainly appreciate all they do. But for the company to be recognized this way, it caused tremendous excitement throughout the company and in each of us who touches this community,” Young said. “We are just honored beyond words.”

Ron Guillard, who co-chaired Black Tie Dinner this year with Nan Arnold, said organizers were “incredibly happy” with how the event turned out.

“And given the fact that we had a full ballroom, and considering how well the luxury auction went, we are feeling very optimistic about having a very generous amount to distribute to our beneficiaries this year,” he said. “We still have money to collect and some bills to pay, but I think this will be a very good year for our beneficiaries.”

Guillard noted that funds from the dinner will distributed to beneficiaries during a reception Dec. 9 at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel.

“We want to encourage the whole community to come out and be part of what is definitely the most important part of Black Tie each year,” Guillard said.

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

—  Michael Stephens

2010 Black Tie Dinner

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin

The 2010 Black Tie Dinner will be held Saturday, Nov. 6, at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel.

The theme for the annual fundraising event this year is “Stand Strong.”

Keynote speaker for the evening will be openly-lesbianof Wisconsin. The Rev. Carol West will received the KuchlingHumanitarian Award, and American Airlines will receive the Elizabeth Birch Equality Award. Activist and businessman Mitch Gold will be on hand to present the Media Award to out lesbian and country/western star Chely Wright.

Special entertainment will be provided by Broadway star Gavin Creel and the Turtle Creek Chorale.

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

—  Michael Stephens

Friendship makes things easier for BTD co-chairs

Ron Guillard, Nan Arnold scramble to make sure everything is ready for the 29th annual fundraising dinner

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

Ron Guillard and Nan Arnold
Ron Guillard and Nan Arnold

Being one of two co-chairs of the annual Black Tie Dinner is no easy job. But it is at least a little easier when your co-chair also happens to be a good friend, according to Ron Guillard and Nan Arnold, Black Tie co-chairs for 2010.

This year’s version of the annual fundraising dinner is a week away — Saturday, Nov. 6 at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel — and Guillard and Arnold were busy this past week making sure they had every little detail attended to before the big night.

“It’s a collaborative effort,” said Guillard. “We have to be able to work together and lead the board with one voice. I think we have been able to do that, and I know I have had a great time working with Nan.”

Arnold added, “We’ve been friends for a long time, which definitely helps. Ron and I first met back in the ’90s when we were both working on fundraising for Lambda Legal, back before they even opened a Lambda Legal office here in Dallas. We knew each other before then, but we got to really be friends working with Lambda Legal.”

Arnold grew up near Hope, Ark., and first came to Dallas after high school to attend college here. She ended up going back to Arkansas to finish her degree, but then moved back to Dallas.

At first, Arnold said, he involvement in the community consisted just of attending events and donating to worthy causes. Then she got involved with Lambda Legal and “I realized that fundraising was something I could do. And it just snowballed from there.

“It just sounds so trite, I guess, but I got involved because I just wanted to give back to the community,” she continued.  “Dallas has been so good to me, and I really love it. So I wanted to do something for the community. And with Black Tie, you are truly giving back to this community, because of the way we work with our beneficiary organizations.”

Arnold spent four years as chair of the Black Tie Dinner sponsorship committee, and she said working on the annual fundraiser takes up a lot of what spare time she has when she’s not busy at her job doing consulting work and construction management for land developers.

“It [Black Tie Dinner] takes up a lot of time. I am lucky my partner [attorney Linda Wiland] understands. She supports me completely.”

Arnold is completing her 7th year with Black Tie Dinner, and the first year of her two-year term as co-chair. Guillard has been on the board for four years, and is finishing his second year as co-chair.

Arnold noted that she was the one who actually recruited Guillard to the board.

Guillard grew up in Northern Michigan and transferred to Dallas in 1990 for his job.

“Where I lived before, I really hadn’t experienced being part of a real community and what all went with that,” Guillard said. “I was impressed immediately by the people I met and how involved they were in building a sense of community. That’s what led me to say yes when I was asked to get involved.”

Guillard said he wasn’t out at his job — working for a small product design firm — when he first came to Dallas. But he saw a way to bring the LGBT community and his job together when he found out about DIFFA’s annual Dallas Collection event, where jean jackets were redesigned into wearable works of art by designers and celebrities, both local and national.

“Working through our professional organization, I kind of invented a way for us to get involved,” Guillard said. “It was right after [basketball player] Magic Johnson had announced that he had AIDS, and I decided to contact his representatives and see if he would let us put his name on a jacket we designed for him.”

Johnson said yes, and the jacket was one of the top money earners that year.

Guillard said he spent about five years helping design jackets for the DIFFA auctions, and then, “in the second part of the ’90s,” he connected with Gail Richards.

“I ran the White Rock Lake Marathon with her. She was on the national board for Lambda Legal, and she got me involved with Lambda Legal here.”

Guillard noted that Radio Shack acquired the design firm he worked for in 2004, but in 2008, when the economic downtown hit, Radio Shack liquidated the business.

“So that’s when I elected to just enjoy the luxury of focusing on Black Tie Dinner for awhile,” Guillard said. “I still do minimal consulting work, but I spend most of my time on Black Tie.”

And luckily, he said, he too has an understanding partner in hospital CEO Bill Brosius.

And, both Guillard and Arnold stressed, the are lucky to have the strength of the full Black Tie Dinner board behind them.

“This is a wonderful, hardworking board,” Arnold said. “It’s not all about us. We do our best as co-chairs, but we couldn’t accomplish anything with the rest of the board.”

Guillard added, “This board is a great pipeline of future board co-chairs.”

Guillard said his strength — both in his professional life and in his volunteer work — has always been “thinking about what’s next and what’s after what’s next. I am only wired to think expansively.”

It is a trait, Arnold said, that has come in most handy for the Black Tie board.

“That has been absolutely great for Black Tie,” Arnold said. “That’s always a big question for us: ‘Where do we go from here?’”

Especially since next year will mark the event’s 30th anniversary.

“Right now, I am concentrating on this year’s dinner. But I can’t say I don’t think about next year. I mean, how do we get there from here? How will I do any of it without Ron? But I know someone will come along to be my next co-chair and they’ll be great, and we’ll get it done. Plus, Ron’s number will still be on my speed-dial!”

But at least for the next week, Guillard and Arnold are focusing on the 29th annual Black Tie Dinner, which will feature openly lesbian U.S. Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin as keynote speaker and recently out country-western star Chely Wright as the Media Award winner. The Rev. Carol West will be on hand to accept the Kuchling Humanitarian Award, and dinner officials will present the Elizabeth Birth Equality Award to American Airlines. Turtle Creek Chorale and Broadway star Gavin Creel will provide entertainment.

“Plus,” Guillard said, “we have a couple of little surprises up our sleeves!”

Arnold said, “It’s just so exciting as we get closer, seeing all these pieces coming together this way. It makes my heart beat faster just thinking about it. It’s why we work all year long, because we know it all comes together for three hours on one night. That’s why we do it.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 29, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Baldwin named as BTD keynote speaker

First open lesbian member of Congress will appear at the Nov. 6 fundraising event for HRC

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor  nash@dallasvoice.com

Rep. Tammy Baldwin
Rep. Tammy Baldwin

Choosing speakers and award recipients for Black Tie Dinner each year requires a delicate balancing act between big names with the drawing power of celebrity and deserving individuals who can “speak to the issues of the LGBT community,” Black Tie co-chairs Ron Guillard and Nan Arnold explained.

In 2009, the dinner committee brought in a slate of LGBT allies who hit that mark well: San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom as keynote speaker, Judy Shepard, mother of anti-gay-hate-murder victim Matthew Shepard as the Elizabeth Birch Award winner and singer/songwriter/activist Cyndi Lauper as the Media Award winner.

Each of them, the co-chairs said, not only had the star power to draw attention, they also could — and did — speak eloquently on the community’s issues.

But while 2009 was “all about the allies,” this year it’s “all about the community,” Guillard said this week when he and Arnold announced the last two names in Black Tie’s list of award winners and speakers.

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, the Wisconsin Democrat who is the only out lesbian in Congress, will be the keynote speaker at this year’s annual fundraising gala, set for Nov. 6 at the Sheraton Dallas hotel.

And this year’s Media Award goes to country/western star and newly-out lesbian Chely Wright.

“It’s been mine and Nan’s mantra this year to ‘fill the room’ for Black Tie Dinner,” Guillard said. “We think that Rep. Baldwin and Chely Wright will certainly help us do that.”

Activist and businessman Mitchell Gold will also attend to present the Media Award to Wright.

Baldwin and Wright join a line-up of award winners and entertainers that already included the Rev. Carol West, pastor of Celebration Community Church, as the Kuchling Memorial Award winner, American Airlines as the Elizabeth Birch Award winner and Broadway star Gavin Creel and Dallas’ own Turtle Creek Chorale to provide entertainment.

Guillard said organizers chose Baldwin as keynote speaker in recognition of her years of service in Congress and her status and the first openly LGBT person elected to office at the national level. (Although there were openly gay men in Congress before Baldwin was elected, they were not out when they were first elected, while Baldwin was.)

“Plus, we felt that, especially with the dinner happening the first weekend after the midterm elections on Nov.  2 and the fact that we could very possibly be facing a drastically changed political landscape, Tammy will be able to provide us with some very clear leadership and vision going forward,” Guillard said.

Arnold added, “She can do that for us regardless of the outcome of the elections. Last year, Gavin Newsome very clearly spoke to our community. But he is not gay. Tammy Baldwin can not only speak to the LGBT community, she is the LGBT community.”

Baldwin, who is out of the country, sent a statement via her office. She said:

“I’m simply delighted to have been invited to deliver the keynote at this year’s Black Tie Dinner. After a tough election season, it will be a pleasure to relax among DFW friends and celebrate how far we’ve come in our quest for LGBT equality. It’s also a night to show our support for the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and the many local organizations that serve the north Texas LGBT community. On top of all that, the musical entertainment sounds great, so I’m really looking forward to the evening.”

Voters in Wisconsin’s Second District first elected Baldwin to Congress in 1999, after she had spent several years in the state’s legislature. Since then, Baldwin has co-founded and co-chaired the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, and in 2009 she helped lead the successful effort to enact the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Act.

Baldwin has also worked for passage of a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that includes protections for transgender people and full repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

She is the author of the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act and the first comprehensive approach to improving all areas of the health-care system where LGBT Americans face inequality and discrimination.

Although Wright is “clearly in a very commercial business,” Guillard said, he and Arnold said they were impressed by the singer’s consistent efforts, since she came out, to help LGBT youth “who are being taught they are damaged goods.”

“She makes the point, time and again, that country music is right in the heart of Middle America, a more blue collar audience, and those [LGBT] children, those families, really need someone to identify with,” Guillard said.

“She goes out of her way to say that it’s important to her to not only be her whole self but to also reach out and be a role model to young people who are struggling to come out,” he said. “She hasn’t been out very long, true, but it was the consistency of that message and her obvious passion for it that made us choose her.”

Arnold said that Wright’s decision to come out is “creating an opportunity for the voices of acceptance and equality to be heard.”
(For more about Wright, read Rich Lopez’s interview with her on Page 1.)

Gold is the founder of the nonprofit organization Faith in America, which is dedicated to educating people about how religious-based bigotry is used to justify anti-LGBT discrimination, will present the Media Award to Wright, who recently joined the board of Faith in America.

Gold, chairman and founder of the furniture manufacturer Mitchell Gold Company, has also authored “Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America” and books on home furnishings.

Arnold said Black Tie organizers are “ahead of where we were at this time last year” in terms of ticket sales for the fundraiser.

“We are focused on filling the room, and it definitely looks like we are headed in that direction,” she said.

Guillard said, “We are doing a lot of innovative things this year to fill the room — happy hours, using Facebook a lot more to attract new people.

“There was a time when our whole community was galvanized by AIDS and by the oppression we faced. But with Black Tie ending its third decade now, we realize that reaching a new, younger audience requires using new tools. And we are doing that,” he said.

Arnold said organizers have also focused this year on making sure that the dinner’s beneficiaries remember that “this dinner is for them. They are why we do this.”

Guillard noted, “We want to fill the room, because when you get down to the basics, filling the room means maximizing the dollars for our beneficiaries.”

The announcement of Baldwin as keynote speaker and Wright as Media Award winner came Thursday night, Aug. 5 during an announcement party held at Park Place Motorcars on Lemmon in Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 6, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens