Weekly Best Bets

Friday 05.20

Just don’t poop on the runway
The Four Legged Fashion Collection returns where canines strut couture and then it’s auctioned off. These aren’t your PetSmart sweaters. Designers like Nicolas Villalba and Micheal Simon contributed to the 30-plus collection. Don’t need to dress the doggie? The auction block is filled with other items to bid on, all of which benefits animal rescue groups.

DEETS: Dallas Trade Mart, 2100 N. Stemmons Freeway. 6:30 p.m.
$75. FourLeggedFashion.org


Friday 05.20

Prick up your ears
The latest show at 1111 Studio Gallery gives face time to artist Eric Trich. He grabbed a lot of attention as one of the younger artists on the local scene. Seems like he’s come into his own with his new solo show Can You Hear Me Now? The show also features a performance by Sour Soul.

DEETS: 1111 Studio Gallery, 1111 Dragon St. 7 p.m.
$5. 1111StudioGallery.com.


Thursday 05.26

Closet cases
MBS Productions’ new comic farce Outrageous Sexy (nekkid) Romp turns the tables on being in the closet. When one half of a gay couple comes to the realization he may be straight, can his drag queen friend Lovely Uranus help him figure it all out? Or does he keep the peace in the closet?

DEETS: Stone Cottage Theater, 15650 Addison Road. 8 p.m.
$18–$22. MBSProductions.net

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 20, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Taste maker

Using his skills at detail and aesthetics as pastry chef, Rick Griggs moves his art from the plate to the canvas

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

PIECE OF CAKE | Former pastry chef Rick Griggs now produces work that won’t be gobbled up — he comes out as an artist with his first solo show Saturday. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)
PIECE OF CAKE | Former pastry chef Rick Griggs now produces work that won’t be gobbled up — he comes out as an artist with his first solo show Saturday. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Cameron Gallery,
1414 Dragon St. Oct. 16–Nov. 18. Opening night reception at
6 p.m. RickGriggs.com.


Call it an identity crisis or a leap of faith, but Rick Griggs has his mind made up. With more than two decades of experience as a pastry chef, Griggs is in the midst of a career change. Earlier this year, he switched away from regimented hours of working in a restaurant to the nebulous schedule of a full-time artist. And with that move came a bundle of nerves and uncertainty.

“I’m nervous in the monetary sense, not getting a regular paycheck,” Griggs says. “But it’s also exciting. It’s like an adventure —  you don’t know how it’s going to unfold. That’s part of the fun of it. Not knowing is a little bit nerve-wracking. But I tend to be a free spirit.”

This week Griggs will have his first solo show, Out of the Blue, at the Cameron Gallery in the Design District, marking a fairly significant moment for him. His artwork has been featured in local magazines and hangs in prominent public spaces and Dallas homes, but this is sort of his coming out moment as an artist. After years of building up a reputation as a quality pastry chef, he now has to reinvent and reintroduce himself to the local scene. But he’s got a head start.

“I show at Abacus and Jasper’s,” he says. “They have my work on rotation.”

“Rick has always been one of the greatest pastry chefs I’ve ever worked with and turns out, he’s an incredible artist as well,” says Kent Rathbun, the chef who was Griggs’ boss for eight years at Abacus. Rathbun himself is an art lover; his Plano restaurant, Jasper’s, was named after its inspiration, the gay artist Jasper Johns.

But it was not until Rathbun’s annual Dallas Art Party this year that Griggs seriously planned a change. Although he had been working on his art and selling it, pursuing his passion as a career was the next step for him to move forward. But really, he’d been living his dream for 20 years.

“This really was a natural progression,” he says. “My eye  became more refined in doing pastry work. Your vision changes as far as what you’re doing and I think if I’d started painting in 1984, I’d be doing different things now. With that time and learning technique, I think I’d be more layered, a better artist.”

There is a relation, though, between his pastry work and his painting — which means he could be a better artist than he gives himself credit for.

“I see a lot of similarities,” says Griggs. ”I use a palette knife because I realize there is a technique similar to  putting icing on a cake. A lot of my work also has that splattered paint like I’ve used with sauces. It’s a lot of the same fluidity and control.”

Griggs’ creative streak stretches back to his youth. His father worked in a very specific design world: archery. Being around that, Griggs got used to working with wood and paints. He says that was part of the foundation for his interest in art and also home restoration.

Griggs calls these subliminal influences which are coming out now in his work.

Griggs says it’s hard for him to explain his art. Visually, it’s abstract with geometric sensibilities. But interestingly, he says they are spontaneous and even reactionary. They are preconceived ideas or visuals but manifested into something altogether different when he begins each piece.

“I’d say it’s very intuitional and responsive. The paintings are a very subliminal rendering or an abstraction that could be relative to organic landscapes or architectural renderings,” he says.

Griggs’ culinary career began in 1984 and took him to Miami, New Orleans and Athens, then brought him back to Dallas and The Mansion on Turtle Creek before going to Abacus. Still, Griggs doesn’t think he’s leaving food behind.

“I still will dabble in food,” he says. “I have thought about opening my own business. Just as long as I can paint.”

“The intersection between art and food is basically the same — it’s a stimulus for people,” Rathbun says. “Rick has the ability to trigger two senses, which I think it truly unique and fascinating.”

Part of his personal plan is to begin his own coffee shop/gallery where his two passions can merge together. Which is an interesting notion considering what he says has pushed him to concentrating on the visual arts.

“I’ve always loved interiors and cool spaces and museums and I think the permanence of a painting versus the impermanence of food really drove me,” Griggs says. “I can spend hours and hours creating a food product that will disappear in moments, but a painting is everlasting. To me, there is a lot of reward in that.”

Griggs is working on getting the last pieces hung and then, once the show starts, he’s at the mercy of the art-loving universe.

“The exciting part is seeing how people react to it,” he says. “But I also wanna sell the art and that’s the most nerve-wracking. You have to sell to continue to produce.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 15, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

SHOW VS. SHOW • Mother & child reunion

On the same weekend, Dallas gets Liza Minnelli at the DSO and Debbie Gravitte in a Judy Garland  tribute

Call it serendipity, but when Liza Minnelli stops by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra the same weekend as Irving Arts Center’s tribute to Judy Garland, we have to shed a tear. In a very special installment of Show vs. Show, we couldn’t resist pitting “mother” against daughter.

Minnelli is an icon in so many ways. Whether she’s a movie legend based on her Oscar-winning star turn as Sally Bowles in 1972’s Cabaret or as a drag queen go-to with that signature short hair and adorable warbly voice, Minnelli is literally the stuff of legends — hardly the case with many of today’s stars.

But she’s also Liza. As in the woman who keeps marrying the non-marrying kind (translation: gay) or the lady who always seems a bit on the nutty end of the ice cream bar, We wonder, “What is up with her?” And we love her just for that.

An Evening With Judy Garland showcases Debbie Gravitte singing signature Garland tunes on the anniversary of Judy’s famous Carnegie Hall show. Don’t expect a Rufus Wainwright type recreation: Gravitte and music director Michael Berkowitz inject their own personalties into the show (see sidebar).

Will Liza’s legendary status trump the weekend, or will Gravitte knock this show out of the park? Choices, choices…



…. is a true diva with an Oscar, Tony and an Emmy to her name.

…. married some friends of Dorothy.

…. embarrassingly performed Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” on the Sex and the City 2 soundtrack — which we hope she doesn’t do at this show.

…. was on Larry King recently, expressing sympathy and empathy for Lindsay Lohan’s drug use and alcoholism.

…. had her solo Broadway show, Liza’s At the Palace…!, replacing the musical Legally Blonde.

…. had a small comeback in 1989 by going in a  different musical direction with her album Results, produced by the Pet Shop Boys.

…. hocked her velvet jumpsuits on Home Shopping Network.

…. has embraced her gay icon status, even performing at Pride in Paris last  year.

…. performs with Dallas Symphony Orchestra at the Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora St. Oct 8 and 9 at 8 p.m. $45–$122. DallasSymphony.com.


Judy (aka Debbie)Judy (aka Debbie)

…. got a miniature Oscar for her role as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz — ouch. (Gravitte has her own Tony, though, for Jerome Robbins’ Broadway).

…. Was Dorothy. And she married some friends of Dorothy. Apparently a genetic trait.

…. embarrassingly messed up some of the words in her famous Carnegie Hall appearance. Still, “Single Ladies” trumps that.

…. was the Lindsay Lohan of her day. Minus the paparazzi.

…. had her Carnegie show recreated detail for detail by gay singer Rufus Wainwright.

…. had several comebacks including Oscar-nominated performances in A Star is Born and Judgment at Nuremberg

…. had a better idea with that red velvet gown from Meet Me in St. Louis.

…. embraced gay men as husbands but responded to a reporter about her iconic status, “I couldn’t care less. I sing to people.”  Umm, we guess that’s cool.

…. isn’t portrayed by Debbie Gravitte as much as she is celebrated, which Gravitte discusses further below.

— Rich Lopez


Recreating a legend

Michael BerkowitzDebbie Gravitte just found out that her show where she performs Judy Garland songs is the same weekend Liza Minnelli comes to Dallas. The scheduling conflict for friends of Dorothy could have massive repercussions, but it is an easy (and obvious fix).

“There is a perfect way to work it out,” Gravitte says. “See her on Friday and see me on Saturday.”

Gravitte teams up with former Minnelli music director Michael Berkowitz, pictured, for An Evening With Judy Garland at the Irving Arts Center Saturday. The solo show commemorates Garland’s iconic Carnegie Hall concert exactly 50 years ago. But Gravitte assures that she is not doing a Judy impersonation.

“This is a tribute, a celebration of this one incredible night of her life,” she says. “I don’t look anything like her and maybe I sound like her a tiny bit, but it’s not like we are recreating Judy. We want to channel that joyful part of her instead of recalling the tragic.”

With a full orchestra behind her, Gravitte would even venture to say this is more of a concert than a show; Berkowitz agrees. His closeness to Garland’s material is far beyond just his work with Minnelli.

“I was always a fan. I was a friend of Bill LaVorgna, Liza’s drummer before me. Bill and I knew each other for 40 years. I first heard his playing on the Garland Carnegie Hall recording. That alone was worth it to me.”

As for the dueling shows, Berkowitz thinks anyone who gets out to either comes out ahead.

“I didn’t know Liza May was in town this weekend as well,” he says. “It’s going to be a double header of great music and entertainment.”

Gravitte knows the gays are gonna hold her to task, but she’s not daunted. In fact, she even challenges her audience a bit.

“I welcome everyone to come dressed in their best Judy,” she says. “We are gonna do a sing along and I want people to sing every fucking line!”

— Rich Lopez

Irving Arts Center, 3333 N. MacArthur
Blvd., Irving. Oct 9 at 8 p.m. $19–$54.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 8, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens