The Jackie Hall Experience for Christmas Eve at Sue Ellen’s

Are you experienced?

After witnessing Jackie Hall’s performance at Twist Dallas earlier this year, we couldn’t wait till she got her voice down to the gayborhood. And that happens tonight. The Jackie Hall Experience welcomes in Christmas tonight with a slew of rock, R&B and of course, Christmas carols for the night. Do all that Christmas Eve stuff early and hit up the club for a voice to remember. Seriously, how she’s not a bigger star is beyond us.

DEETS: Sue Ellen’s, 3014 Throckmorton St. 9 p.m. SueEllens.com.

—  Rich Lopez

Do you Peru?

Even as fans rallied to help Coco Peru get her next film off the ground, the drag goddess still likes her comedy live

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RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Expect a lovefest when Coco Peru comes back to Dallas for Pride weekend. With memories of a responsive audience, shopping and beef jerky during her last go-round here nearly two years ago, the drag goddess is hoping for a repeat performance. Sort of. She’s back on the road with a new show, but that’s not all the legendary queen has going on.

“Well, we’ve filmed Girls Will Be Girls 2 already,” Peru (aka Clinton Leupp) says. “Right now the writer/director is busily editing. It’s just one of those things: You film it and hope for the best.”

Peru has garnered a significant amount of film work over the years, usually with notable cameos in films like as Trick, but occasionally as the star, as with Girls Will Be Girls. But she admits live performance is where she’s at her best.

“I like to think my show is like watching a theater piece,” she says. “I love film acting, but it’s exciting on a whole other level. There’s not that energy of a live audience and no feedback. So often, comic timing is how the audience is reacting to you. With acting, you mentally feel it out, try it and mostly trust the director. I find sometimes I rehearsed a line so much in my head, it takes me a few times to take direction on it.”

For Girls 2, Peru discovered just how much her fans appreciated her work. As a micro-mini indie, the film went on the website Kickstarter to raise funds. As word got out that the film was in production and that Peru was in it, the money rolled in.

“The movie was completely funded by fans,” she exclaims. “It was just incredible that they would want to pay money! And I must say, most of it came from my fans. I’m just putting that out there.”

Along with funds from Kickstarter, the crew itself was almost all-volunteer. People would just show up, willing to help out. It turned into an actual labor of love.

Along with donated help, the production even received a donated green screen. All the generosity reminded Peru that people are that genuinely kind and that it’s all right to ask for things, which usually embarrasses her. She saw this particular filmmaking experience as a good lesson on many levels.

“Let’s just hope the movie’s funny,” she laughs.

Dating back to the “early ‘90s” — that’s as specific as her website will get — Peru gives much credit to her fans along the way for the success of her career. Even if they come up to once again mention her role in the film Trick, Peru takes none of it for granted. Perhaps it’s cliché for any type of celebrity to appreciate their fans, but she  talks at length about how her fans have kept her driven.

“It’s so overwhelming, whether it’s a movie or my own shows, that they will take time to contact me to tell me whatever it is they are feeling,” she says. “I feel lucky and blessed when they reach out to me and I strive to answer every email. I remember those days that felt so lonely and sad. Growing up gay and feeling rejected doesn’t make a happy life. But when you get over 800 birthday messages on Facebook, it’s amazing!”

She’ll meet a new slew of fans on her current End of Summer Tour, as she’ll visit Tampa and Las Vegas for the first time as a performer. Even with her experience onstage, Peru is still daunted by a new audience, the same way she was before playing Dallas the first time early last year.

“The first time, I was nervous and I didn’t know what to expect,” she recalls. “I felt that audiences came wanting to have a great time. You go to certain cities and they have a bit of an edge, but in Texas, it was an immediate love fest on both ends.”

In her new show, There Comes a Time, Peru talks about getting older and reminiscing about her life. Fortunately, Dallas isn’t a punch line in her monologue. The city left a good impression on her and she only hopes to make another one of her own.

“Well, I’m happy to be coming back and they took such good care of me last time,” she says, “but I don’t wanna jinx myself. You never know.”

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

—  Kevin Thomas

WATCH: Holcombe Waller relives memories with his boyfriend in new video

With the snow days over the last week, we have lots of e-mails to catch up on. I’m so glad I was paying attention today before deleting a slew of people needing legal assistance.This video almost slipped through the cracks and it’s become my find of the day.

Despite an accomplished background, I had not heard of Holcombe Waller until today. Turns out, he’s had this pretty colorful life and career with three solo albums to his name and scored the documentary We Were Here: Voices from the AIDS Years in San Francisco which is a 2011 Sundance official selection.

His newest album, Into the Dark Unknown drops on Tuesday. But it’s his video for ‘”Bored of Memory” which I find rather enchanting — mostly from the P.R.’s write up:

For this video, Holcombe decided to recreate the first date he had with his boyfriend Blake in the summer of 2009. Waller and co-director Rose headed out to Rooster Rock State Park in the Columbia River Gorge. Lewis and Clark originally named the area “Cock Rock” because of the phallic nature of the basalt stone obelisk that stands on the Oregon side of the river.

To recreate the date, Holcombe and Alicia filmed two actors as they went to the exact locations that Holcombe and Blake visited on their first date. Alicia and Holcombe brought along with them some of the items from the day: a vacation camping blanket, a few apples, knitting supplies and a vintage copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám,” given to Holcombe by his grandmother.  The rhinestone necklace the actors find in the sand was also a family heirloom passed down from his grandmother from her days as a traveling dancer in the 1940s and 50s.

Holcombe said that it represents “the discovery of something both new and ancient, real and illusory, and as beautiful as you make it, much like new love.”

Romantic, right? I’m seriously kinda swept off my feet right now. The song is epic and languid, but the video accompanies it perfectly and perfect timing for V-Day. And, if you go here, you can download the song for free. Score!


—  Rich Lopez

Sing like no one’s listening

Forget drag, leather contests and two-stepping — karaoke is the one night in gay clubs where everybody comes out

CLICK HERE TO VIEW A KARAOKE SLIDESHOW

RICH LOPEZ  |  Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

One cold Tuesday night in December, the Round-Up Saloon’s parlor bar has a handful of people inside. Some are partaking in well drink specials; others are furiously texting, and one guy can’t seem to leave the bartender alone.

But in a few minutes, they will all be focused on the same thing: Whether to get on stage or just sing along as they settle in for a night of karaoke.

Despite public speaking being a fear on par with death for most Americans, the post-American Idol world finds a slew of gay clubs featuring karaoke nights — and they are among the most popular events out of the week.

Just what gets people to step up to a microphone on a regular basis — or have others turn out to watch them?

As it turns it out, it’s so much more than just singing a song you like.

“Although it doesn’t happen with every singer, it’s fun to watch someone be so uninhibited, whether they are good or bad,” says Andrew Phifer.

Phifer has done it once to, of all things, the theme from TVs Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Mostly, though, he prefers to watch others, usually at the Round-Up.

Last year’s Voice of Pride winner Mel Arizpe hosts karaoke at the club, lining up singers and songs for “Tittie Tuesday Karaoke;” in between songs, she points out the several regulars who have a certain uninhibited quality.

A prime example was the man singing Styx’s “Mr. Roboto” and trying to engage the audience by asking, “Who remembers the ’80s?”

“Karaoke caters to everyone,” Arizpe says. “Who doesn’t wanna belt ‘Pussy Control,’ with 30 other people singing right along? Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you really haven’t until you’ve come out to watch.”

Little Chalupa at Joe’s

Where the Round-Up gets progressively more crowded on a school night, Joe’s Place at Wednesday night karaoke, with host Little Chalupa, is a lighter bunch.

No more than a handful of people at a time are in the bar, but the enthusiasm is just as high.

Duets by Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson are covered, and one man with a Michael Jackson fetish ad-libs the songs while Chalupa offers something else to the mix: Spanish-language songs.

Even one dancer in his undies from the Brick side of the club will sing.

Likely not by design, the stage at Joe’s on this hump day evening definitely has more than enough of its share of “serious singers.” The smaller crowd didn’t dissuade these vocalists from taking to the stage as if auditioning for American Idol. They want to assure that all 17 of us hear their talents.

Putting their vibratos to the test, the mostly male crowd signs on for fleeting stardom, if just for a moment — until their next song makes it to the top of the list.

“I think there are three types of karaoke singers,” says Josh Warr, a visitor to the Joe’s who is also straight. “The people who take it seriously probably had some theater and have this in them to do. You have people like me who’ve sung in a band and just do what we do for fun. Then there are those who can’t sing worth a damn and can’t help but be silly about it.”

Warr does a good rendition of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” with some added humorous touches that go over like a, well, brick. Those gathered are clearly waiting their turns to be the next top diva.

Is it that one moment that drives them to almost over-perform? Ben Mitchell thinks so.

The local author has sung with the Turtle Creek Chorale, and although it’s been years since his last karaoke performance, he admits there is a surrealistic quality that makes being onstage a special moment.

“You get to be on stage performing in front of an audience, and it is the closest thing to being a ‘star’ that we ever get,” he says.

Arizpe agrees.

“Gay or straight, everyone wants to be a star,” she says. “Along with that, I think what attracts gay audiences is the environment — the lights, the stage, the showtunes … not to mention music from Lady Gaga and Glee.”

Save for Warr, the stars at Joe’s this night weren’t tongue-in-cheeking their performances. While the vocal talents aren’t the stuff Grammys are made of, they wouldn’t cause ears to bleed, either.

The guy covering Celine Dion couldn’t meet her key with his low register but impressively nailed a long note. “Michael Jackson guy’s” “Thriller” might be blasphemous, but his heart and ego are into it. His friend, though, chose Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” but sang it in the key of Beyonce.

At one corner of the bar, Little Chalupa sits at his laptop lining up singers and songs and even getting onstage himself for some Kid Rock. Hosting karaoke gigs four nights a week at Sue Ellen’s, Alexandre’s and Joe’s, he’s a pro at the game in the Dallas gay club scene.

Starting as a bartender at Woody’s, Chalupa began his stint as a host there and eight years later, he’s become the go-to guy for karaoke. Along the way, he’s learned a few things about the scene.

“Although every bar is having karaoke, it has to do with the host, and a supportive staff,” he says. “Spectators will really enjoy themselves a lot more and come back. The host has to make it fun and keep a flow. Sometimes I have 30 people waiting on my list.”

Chalupa reiterates the one popular reason people do this — simple fun. Whether he’s gigging at Joe’s or Sue Ellen’s, his crowds may be different, but the payoff is the same.

For him, it’s a bigger payoff when they really can’t sing.

“The ones who can’t sing and do it are having the most fun. I have a lot of bad singers, but that’s what motivates other people to get up there. I’ve devirginized a lot of non-singers,” he laughs.

He admits though, he’s not overly fond of the self-appointed divas, many of whom were taking his stage at Joe’s.

“The seriousness I don’t like. Some people do that because this is the time for them to show off — if they have talent, “ he says. “Or sometimes people walk in, put their song in and leave only to come back when it’s their turn. That’s not fair to people who are there. I’m there to make money for my place.”

Save for the few “talented” singers, Chalupa knows people are having a fine time. Whether it’s the ladies at Sue Ellen’s, an older crowd at Alexandre’s or his younger participants at Joe’s, Chalupa really just celebrates that spirit in someone to risk making a spectacle of themselves — and it mostly turns out well.

Barbara’s Pavillion

Barbara’s Pavilion in Oak Cliff is a popular spot for many reasons: Its gay friendliness, its neighborhood feel and its karaoke.

A diverse crowd lines the bar on this Sunday night. The place isn’t overly busy, but by 7 p.m. when the singing starts, the regulars are already at it. That’s proven by the married couple who gaze into each others’ eyes while dueting on Moulin Rouge’s “I’ll Fly Away.”

There are some familiar faces here from my recent night at the Round-Up. “Pussy Control” lady takes her turn with Blondie and later with Four Non Blondes. The employees even get in on the action.

Of all the clubs I visited, Barbara’s is the least intimidating. This is where everybody knows your name. They don’t know mine, but friendly attempts at conversation don’t go unnoticed.

And after every song, the crowd claps and hoots — even if a singer sounds like a pained animal waiting to be put out of its misery.

“I don’t really sing, I just like to scream my songs out,” says Angela Johnson. “Really, this is my therapy.”

Motivations run the gamut when it comes to karaoke. Arizpe says it brings confidence out in people, but I’m not so sure. Singing in front of strangers overall is one of the more vulnerable situations to put yourself in.

Natural singers who are good don’t have to worry, but the majority of us are up there to be potentially laughed at and — worse — judged.

It can be like a rollercoaster ride: Maybe it’s the thrill of danger while knowing you’ll finish safely.

Or you’re just haven’t had enough cocktails, like Justin Bradford who has had his fair share of mike experiences at the Round-Up.

“I like drinking the liquid courage that allows me to belt out whiskey-drenched vocals in the likes of Tanya Tucker,” he says.

“That allows me to momentarily bask in the spotlight of talent, because in reality, I have a terrible singing voice.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 14, 2011.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW A KARAOKE SLIDESHOW

—  John Wright

Twist GLBT announces 2nd show in East Dallas, but where are all the gay male artists?

SuZanne Kimbrell put on such a great night of gay musicians, that I had to include it in our year in review list. And that was just the first night. She’s made some tweaks for this second edition of Twist GLBT where she brings mostly local LGBT bands with original music and gives them a stage at the Lakewood Bar & Grill. This lineup already looks vastly different than the one in November.

Kimbrell and I met to talk about the local LGBT live music scene and wondered where the boys are. Lesbian women dominate the scene but she and I agreed that there have to be a slew of gay men doling out the music as well. We listed a few names, but they were far outweighed by the number of female artists. And Kimbrell wants to keep the Twist lineups diverse. So here’s a call to all the gay male musicians and singers as well as trans and bi folk to land a slot on upcoming Twist nights. It’ll be so worth it — not just to you, but to local LGBT music supporters as well.

—  Rich Lopez

Have yourself a merry Trailer Park Christmas at JR.’s

Good things can come from a trailer

The Sam Houston School Holiday Project will be offering thanks to a slew of drag queens this season. Edna Jean Robinson brings back her annual Trailer Park Christmas which benefits the project. Onyx and Chanel are among the drag fabulous who will lend a manicured hand to the night. Those kids will be so happy. It just warms the heart.

DEETS: JR.’s Bar & Grill, 3923 Cedar Springs Road. 11 p.m. Caven.com.

—  Rich Lopez

One Cedar Springs complex grows up • Defining Homes

One Cedar Springs complex grows up

By Rich Lopez

In 1984, Cedar Springs saw the rise of the Parkside apartment complex amid a slew of others. The years went by and complexes faded into lesser versions of their original selves. But Parkside wasn’t going down like that, and so they did something to stop it.

“There are some rental units still in the unrenovated part,” Jeff Updike says, “but for the past two years, the complex has been turning those original units into lofts, townhomes and flats. “

The reimagined Parkside at Cedar Springs lives up to the oasis it touts itself to be. The property is four-and-a-half acres of lush green alongside the complex. Trees stand guard and can also transport, if just for a second, anyone away from the bustling traffic of Cedar Springs. The trees overlook a two-acre park complete with a creek that’s home to ducks and turtles and allows for small hikes as well as does double duty as a dog park.

The complex has added a clubhouse for residential parties. The wraparound deck is both zen and resort in its design. With a full kitchen and redesigned pool, the neighborhood at Parkside is sure to have a home-away-from-home — even if it’s only yards away.

Each renovated living space now has fireplaces, maple cabinetry, granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. The gated complex provides covered parking and private balconies.
The only thing that might make it more homey would be your own yard — oh wait, some units even have those.

For more information, visit ParksideCedarSprings.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition of Defining Homes Magazine October 8, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Best Bets • 07.16.10

Saturday 07.17

Happy birthday to you, GayBingo
Our favorite game turns nine years old this year and to help celebrate, Kidd Kraddick in the Morning cohost Kellie Raspberry comes in to host Not Another GayBingo. The GB peeps also want you to dress up for the birthday party or maybe it’s a bribe. They will offer discounts to anyone dressed in drag.

DEETS: Rose Room inside Station 4, 3911 Cedar Springs Road. 5 p.m. $25. RCDallas.org.

Sunday 07.18

Alice is looking a little FIT lately
The Festival of Independent Theatres is back, featuring eight local theaters and a slew of new plays. We’re curious to see how company White Rock Pollution will convey its retelling of Alice in Wonderland that looks to be a whole lot darker than the original, and in real-life 3-D, unlike that Johnny Depp movie.

DEETS: Bath House Cultural Center, 521 E. Lawther Drive. Through Aug. 7. $12–$16. ATTPAC.org

Thursday 07.22

You won’t forget this lady’s Haus party
The last time we saw Gaga perform in Dallas was at the Round-Up when she was another club singer finding her audience. And boy did she. She comes back arena style, selling out many of large venues, and the gays have followed her through to superstar status. For two nights, AAC becomes the Haus of Gaga.

DEETS: American Airlines Center, 2500 Victory Ave. July 22–23. 8 p.m. $49–$175. Ticketmaster.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 16, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas