Queer locals of 2010

Twelve months isn’t all that long a time, but the impact someone can make on an entire year during any part of it can reverberate well beyond the calendar year. When we thought back on the culture in 2010, these are the 10 men and women who stood out most — for good or bad.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Israel Luna, filmmaker, left

Kelli Ann Busey, ticked-off activist, center
The most vocal debate in the gay community about the arts that occurred on a national scale started in Dallas, as Busey, a trans woman, objected to the title of Luna’s “transploitation” revenge melodrama Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives. GLAAD got involved, protests were lodged when the film played at a festival in New York City, accusations and insults flew … it wasn’t always (ever?) pretty, but it did get people talking.

Mel Arizpe, Voice of Pride winner, right
After numerous attempts, Arizpe delighted her fans by winning VOP in August as a soloist and for a duet with her girlfriend … who herself came in second overall. Talk about keeping it all in the family.

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Jorge-Trinity

Jorge Rivas, photographer, left
Following Adam Bouska’s NOH8 photo campaign, Rivas started Faces of Life, a series of portraits of locals aimed at raising money for AIDS Arms. Like Bouska, Rivas hopes to take it nationwide.

Trinity Wheeler, theater queen, right
Wheeler hasn’t lived in Texas for a while, but when he returned to his hometown of Tyler to direct The Laramie Project, he faced vocal resistance. The play was still put on, and became a success.

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Jeffrey-Jack

Jeffrey Payne, leathermen, left

Jack Duke, leathermen, right
Payne, the outgoing International Mr. Leather of 2010, was nearly replaced by Duke, who ended up in third place overall. Payne set a high standard as IML champ, having an award named after him and starting a foundation to help the hearing impaired within the gay community. Duke has led an active role in the leather scene locally, statewide, nationally and internationally, showing the world Dallas knows leather culture — and gentlemen.

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Danielle-Harold

Danielle Girdano, cyclist, left
Girdano wanted to raise money to bring awareness to teen
suicide even before the issue made national news, so she biked from Minnesota to Dallas, pulling in just in time for the Pride parade.

Harold Steward, arts visionary, right
Steward gave the black LGBT community a shot in the arm, co-founding the Fahari Arts Institute which hosts the popular Queerly Speaking series at the South Dallas Cultural Center.

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TKO-Softball

Team TKO, softballers
Member teams of the Pegasus Slow-pitch Softball Association did gangbusters at the annual World Series in August, but none did better than the players on Uptown Vision’s TKO, who collectively won the B-
Division trophy by defeating the Long Beach Rounders in the NAGAAA tourney in Columbus, Ohio. When it comes to sports, it’s hard to beat a Texan — Tony Romo notwithstanding.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 24, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

My take on ‘Burlesque’

There’s a review in the print edition this week (and online) of Burlesque, but I didn’t write it because I didn’t screen the film in time. But as the film opens today I wanted to weigh in. Not because I disagree with our reviewer, but because I agree with her … and wonder how many other gay men out there do, too.

I’ve often grouped gay men not into traditional categories like top/bottom, twink/bear, daddy/boy, but rather by their favorite diva. Judy queens. Liza queens. Bette queens. Barbra queens. Celine queens. Mariah queens. Patti queens. Of late, Gaga queens.

And, of course, Cher.

Often, this is a generational thing (I may be Gaga’s oldest living fan); some youngsters don’t even know who Judy is. But Cher seems to cross ages. Maybe it’s her long career (her 2000 single “Believe” made her the oldest soloist ever to have a No. 1 pop hit). Maybe it’s her massively bad career choices (her Oscar follow-up is Mermaids?) or her trans child, Chaz. But for some reason, gay men have always given Cher a pass when it comes to reviews of her work. You can never trust how good she really is, because her fans seem to want to prevent the truth from coming out. They protect her. And sometimes she needs it.

Cher hasn’t made a feature (other than a cameo in Stuck on You) since 1999′s Tea with Mussolini, and she chooses to return to film with a Showgirls-vibed musical from a first-time director? Just how badly does she need money?

But here’s the thing: The movie succeeds. This is not to say it is a good film; it is most definitely not. But it is exactly what it sets out to be. It’s the McDonald’s french fry of cinema: Addictively enjoyable if objectively trashy. Hooray for Cher — she gave us just what we wanted.

So did the writer-director, Steve Antin. He doesn’t miss one cliche. Not the farm-girl (Christina Aguilera) from, of course, Iowa; not the creditors beating at the door, wanting to shut down the Burlesque Lounge, which seems to emerge like a ghostly haunted house from the Sunset Strip. (Here’s my notion for why the club doesn’t turn a profit: 20 dancing girls who get free drinks and big enough salaries to drive BMWs, a six-man live band and staff of bartenders big enough to man a cruise ship.)

But there’s an energy to the movie — it succeeds despite itself. Antin has fun with the musical numbers, and he lingers on the body of hot young boytoy Cam Gigandet, dressing him in a Fosse-inspired bowler with sleeveless shirt and guyliner. It’s gayrific, but straight-friendly. (Eric Dane is in it too, but not the playing the beefcake this time.) Even gayer is Stanley Tucci, perfection as the bitchy old queen with the smart-ass wisecrack, who plays off of Cher expertly. He gives her sometimes wooden acting credibility.

Acting’s one thing, but Cher’s big number — which makes no logical sense in the movie; few scenes do — is a marvel of passion and pride and survival. It makes up for all the nonsense.

Aguilera acquits herself well both as a singer (no surprise there) and as an actress. Is she this year’s Mo’Nique? Not even close. But she could become Cher. And that’s not such a bad thing.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones