Marlee Matlin to keynote Black Tie Dinner

Eric Alva and Marlee Matlin

Decorated veteran Eric Alva tapped as Birch Award winner; special entertainment still to be announced

TAMMYE NASH | Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Black Tie Dinner co-chairs Nan Arnold and Chris Kouvelis this week rounded out their 2011 “dream team” with the announcement that award-winning actress Marlee Matlin will be keynote speaker at the November fundraising event, and that decorated Iraq War veteran Eric Alva will receive the Elizabeth Birch Equality Award.

“We are so thrilled to have both of them with us this year,” said Arnold. “This gives us a real ‘dream team’” of honorees and speakers this year.

Black Tie officials announced earlier this year that local activist Chet Flake and his partner, the late Bud Knight, will receive the 2011 Raymond Kuchling Humanitarian Award, and that Modern Family star Jesse Tyler Ferguson will receive the Media Award.

Comedian and Sordid Lives: The Series star Caroline Rhea will be emcee for the event.

Arnold and Kouvelis also hinted that more big announcements are yet to come, thanks to the involvement of dinner sponsor Diamond Jacks Casino and Resort of Shreveport.

“Diamond Jacks has stepped up from their previous Silver Sponsor level to become a Diamond Level sponsor, and that has been a huge deal for us,” Arnold said. “It lets us do even more than before.

“They have been super to work with,” she continued. “Diamond Jack’s played a huge role in helping us secure Marlee Matlin as our speaker, and they are playing a huge role in helping us bring in some other very special entertainment. We hope to be making that announcement soon.”

Matlin in 1986 became the youngest woman — and the only deaf person — ever to receive the Academy Award for best actress when she won the award at age 21 for her role in Children of a Lesser God. She also won a Golden Globe award for that role.

She went on to a successful career in both movies and television, including a role as Bette Porter’s partner, Jodi Lerner, in 29 episodes of Showtime’s lesbian drama The L Word, from 2007 to 2009.

Matlin has also been active in a number of charitable organizations, including Easter Seals, where she was named an honorary board member; the Children Affected by AIDS Foundation, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, VSA arts and the Red Cross Celebrity Cabinet.

She was appointed by President Clinton in 1994 to the Corporation for National Service and served as chair of National Volunteer Week.
Arnold described Matlin as a vocal supporter of LGBT rights.

Retired Marine Staff Sgt. Alva, a San Antonio native, was the first American serviceman injured in the Iraq War, losing his right leg when he stepped on a land mine while leading a supply unit in March 2003.

In 2007, Alva came out publicly as a gay man and has been working with the Human Rights Campaign since then to end the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy which has kept lesbians and gay men from serving openly.

Although Congress voted last December to repeal DADT, the policy has remained in effect while military leaders conducted training to prepare the military for open service by lesbians and gays. The president and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff certified repeal last month, and repeal takes effect, finally, on Sept. 20 — less than a month before Alva will accept the Elizabeth Birch Equality Award in Dallas.

“This is such an exciting time for him,” Kouvelis said of Alva. “He has been working tirelessly since he left the service and came out to get DADT repealed. Now it’s finally happening.

“We are just so thrilled with what he has done for our community, and so thrilled that he will be accepting this award. He is a real hero,” Kouvelis added.

Arnold added that when DADT repeal legislation last December, Alva was “standing there, right behind him, looking over the president’s shoulder as he signed it.” She also said that Alva, who is featured in the current issue of GQ Magazine, was a special guest a previous Black Tie Dinner.

“It is so wonderful to have him back with us, especially at such an exciting time,” Arnold said.

The Black Tie co-chairs this week also offered a preview of some of the items that will be included in the luxury auction at the dinner this year. Auction items include an eight-day trip to Rome and Malta, a complete bathroom remodel, a Scotland wedding package and a Puerto Vallarta vacation.

In addition, raffle tickets are still available, for $100 each, for a chance to win a 2012 Mercedes Benz C300 Sport Coupe, donated by Park Place Motorcars of Dallas. Raffle tickets are available online and from Black Tie board members and beneficiaries.

Sponsorships are still available, but only for a short time more, and table captain table sales are ongoing.

For information on becoming a table captain, email mlemons@blacktie.org. For information on becoming a Black Tie Dinner sponsor, email mmcquown@blacktie.org.

—  John Wright

A guy walks into a bar…

Del Shores, Texas’ funniest chronicler of angry gay survivors of Christianity, begins a new chapter in his career: Standup

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | jones@dallasvoice.com

lead
SORDID LAUGHS | Del Shores has transformed his one-man act about the fiasco following ‘Sordid Lives: The Series’ into the hilarious grist for his new standup routine. (Photo courtesy Brian Putnam)

SORDID CONFESSIONS
The Rose Room in Station 4,
3911 Cedar Springs Road. Jan. 14 at 8 p.m. $15.
Caven.com

…………………………

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: A guy walks into a gay bar. …

Actually, that’s not the beginning of a joke — it’s the beginning of a new comedy career for Del Shores.

“I know, 52 years old and starting a standup career,” Shores sighs. But like his entire professional life, what’s happened now was never what he expected anyway.

The Baylor grad and (in)famous native of Winters, Texas, headed for L.A. in 1980 intent on becoming an actor (which he did, mostly through voice-overs and commercials but some daytime TV). It was only after his 1987 play Daddy’s Dyin’, Who’s Got the Will?, with its title of pointed Southern Gothic style, that he quickly established a reputation as a writer.

“I quickly started getting writing jobs, so I just put [acting] away and never went back to it, though everything I do is from an actor’s point of view,” Shores says. Plays (Sordid Lives, Southern Baptist Sissies, Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife) led to episodic TV shows (Ned & Stacey, Queer as Folk) and eventually directing.

But as with most the major life-changing stages in his career, there was a tortured backstory that got him there.

Shores’ works may be the foremost examples of laughter through tears. His outrageous, broadly drawn characters — one-legged cheaters, cross-dressing uncles, libidinous psychiatrists, sexually promiscuous grandmas … and that’s just 10 minutes from the pilot of Sordid Lives, the Logo TV series based on his hit play  — mask (or perhaps reveal) genuine pain underneath but close to the surface of Shores’ life.

Sordid Lives deals with the shameful way people (who have no business judging anyone) can behave toward gays (Shores was married to a woman and had children before he came out in his 30s); Sissies tracks how destructive religion can be under the guise of serving God; and his current standup routine, Del Shores: Sordid Confessions (which plays at the Rose Room on Jan. 14), arises from his exasperating struggle to gain control over Sordid Lives: The Series after being cheated by his producer.

“I don’t regret any of it,” he says of his decision to put his life on hold while pursuing legal action to recover the $1.6 million in residual payments owed him and his cast from the series; the litigation put his career on hold for two years and cost him and his husband, Jason Dottley, their home. But it also opened the door on his current gig.

“I love my life — I’m not on the streets and my husband is wonderful,” he says. “I would not be coming to the Rose Room if [all that] hadn’t happened. It’s so healing [to know] that I continued to fight the good fight and not feel pitiful.”

Originally, Shores wrote My Sordid Life (which premiered in Dallas) as a one-man show about his experiences.

“Jason said, ‘You tell all these stories when you’re sitting at the table drinking wine — do a show of that,’” he explains. “I said, ‘How do I weave them together?’ I did the first show and talked about the stories. I did a lot of my mother because she was a huge influence. And I was very influenced by [longtime friend Leslie Jordan].”

After several good reviews, his friend, comedian Caroline Rhea, suggested he convert it into a standup act, which keeps it both topical and fresh. But the best part is how freeing the experience has been.

“I just don’t give a shit anymore,” Shores says. “I say whatever I want.” In his previous show, that meant stories about his racist upbringing, his real full name, how much he hates Judge Reinhold (and others) and his fondness for Rue McClanahan. The new routine follows down those rabbit holes.

“After I went after [Queer as Folk star Randy Harrison], I started getting hate mail from his fans — both of them,” he says with a wink.

“I’m the kind of celebrity who will write anybody back, so I read their letters onstage.”

Despite all the hardship that has fueled his comedy, things are looking up now for Shores. He won the rights to do all-new webisodes of Sordid Lives, which he will fund through his fans (“It will be more like sketches, like the ‘Mama’s Family’ segment on the old Carol Burnett Show, so ‘Ty’s World’ will probably be just boys fucking,” he says); My Sordid Life was filmed just this week as a direct-to-DVD comedy special; and he’s days away from securing funding for the film adaptation of Trailer Trash Housewife.

But if things are going so well, will Shores run out of material? Not likely. He is a queer Texan, after all — there’s always something to bitch about.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas