LifeWalk steps off Sunday in Lee Park

Nobles says that park will not be fenced this year but is worried about added cost and barrier affecting next year’s event

KICKING UP THEIR HEELS | The LifeWalk organizing committee gets ready for Sunday.

 

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

New requirements by the city of Dallas could affect proceed totals from this year’s AIDS Arms LifeWalk, and at least one more new requirement is expected to be added to the list next year, according to LifeWalk organizers.

The 21st annual LifeWalk steps off from Lee Park on Oct. 2 at 1 p.m. for the 3.2-mile walk. Registration begins at 11:30 a.m. Last year’s event raised $401,000 and this year’s goal is $500,000.

Although thousands of people are expected for the event, Lee Park will remain unfenced this year, even though the city has said such gatherings will require fencing in the future.

Officials with the Dallas Tavern Guild, which stages the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade and the Festival in Lee Park each year as part of Dallas’ annual LGBT Pride celebration, decided to get ahead of the new requirement by fencing in Lee Park this year for the festival, although the city requirement had not yet gone into effect.

Tavern Guild officials also chose to charge a $5 admission fee to the festival this year to help offset expenses and raise extra funds that will be distributed to parade beneficiaries.

The admission fee raised the ire of some in the community, and attendance at the festival was down compared to last year. But Tavern Guild Executive Director Michael Doughman said the drop was not significant, and noted that the admission fee brought in about $25,000 that will be divided among beneficiaries.

But AIDS Arms Executive Director Raeline Nobles said new city requirements have already had an impact on LifeWalk, and she is worried that the new fencing requirements could affect next year’s walk.

“There were a lot more expenses from the city this year,” she said. “It really hits the bottom line.”

The cost of fencing next year will add an additional, unwelcome expense. But Nobles said she isn’t going to worry about that until after this weekend’s event. Right now, her main concern is getting people out to participate in this year’s fundraiser.

“Anyone can participate in LifeWalk,” Nobles said. “You can walk alone or bring friends or join a team. We even have poop-out vans: In case you can’t walk the entire three-mile route, someone will pick you up and bring you back to the park to have a good time.”

She also invited people to just come to the park and cheer.

“We need cheerleaders at the start and finish and at the water stations,” Nobles said. “We have pompoms for anyone who wants to cheer the walkers on.”

Registration for LifeWalk is $40 for people and $10 for dogs participating in LifeBark. People get a T-shirt and dogs get a bandana to show their support for people with HIV.

AIDS Arms is the primary beneficiary of LifeWalk, but other organizations also receive funds from the event, including AIDS Services of Dallas, Legal Hospice of Texas, Turtle Creek Chorale, The Women’s Chorus, Bryan’s House, Resource Center Dallas and the Greg Dollgener Memorial AIDS Fund.

Money raised goes toward programming rather than capital costs. The chorale uses funds for their HIV fund, including giving tickets to performances through the year to people with AIDS.

Nobles praised that effort, saying that socializing is an important holistic element in treating HIV.

The Women’s Chorus will present a program at AIDS Arms in March on National HIV Women’s Day. Those expenses, Nobles said, should be covered by the group’s LifeWalk proceeds.

Nobles said it would be tempting for AIDS Arms to use the money to finish paying off the agency’s new Trinity Health and Wellness Center in Oak Cliff. She said that the new facility cost more than $2 million, and AIDS Arms needs to raise just $35,000 more to pay off the facility.

Trinity Health and Wellness Center opened in September and will have its formal grand opening in two weeks.

But despite the temptation, AIDS Arms will instead use proceeds from LifeWalk to support programs for clients at Trinity as well as at AIDS Arms’ older clinic, Peabody Health Center in South Dallas.

AIDS Arms also uses the money to administer HIV tests to more than 3,500 people a year and for case management for more than 3,400 people.

LifeWalk began in 1990 as a fundraiser for Oak Lawn Community Services. When that agency closed, management of the event moved to AIDS Arms.

LifeWalk Co-chair Marvin Green noted that his Green Team will mark its 20th year of participation in LifeWalk. He said he put the team together for the first time in the second year of LifeWalk because he had already lost 20 friends to AIDS.

That first year, three team members raised $75. This year, the 32-member Green Team has collected about $22,000.

Co-chair Fred Harris said that there were quite a few new teams this year.

“We’re reaching out to new communities,” Harris said. “There’s new energy. We’re branching outside Oak Lawn.”

He said teams are using creative new ways to raise money and AIDS Arms has actively brought in new sponsors such as Chipotle.

“Stoli is coming with a first-ever LifeWalk drink,” Nobles said. Returning sponsor Caven Enterprises will serve beer and Ben E. Keith donated iced tea.

Harris said planning has gone well, and that “LifeWalk is a well-oiled machine.”

Harris said he has seen more use of social media this year than ever, reaching out to people outside the Metroplex.

“This year Facebook has become a very powerful tool,” he said, not just for fundraising but also for recruiting walkers.

Last year, about 3,500 people walked, and this year, “Registration is ahead of where we were this time last year,” Harris said.

Waterpalooza, another AIDS Arms event, was moved to Pride weekend this year, just two weeks prior to LifeWalk. Harris said they took advantage of that event to sign up teams and walkers and generate excitement for this weekend’s walk.

Among the new teams, Harris said, are the DFW Sisters.

“Their efforts have been tireless,” he said. “They raise the bar.”

Nobles said that WFAA Channel 8 morning anchor Ron Corning will serve as M.C. in Lee Park. Although he’s appeared at several events since arriving in Dallas, this is the first big public event the openly gay television host has emceed.

LifeWalk received the Human Rights Campaign family-friendly designation, and Nobles said there will be bounce houses, clowns and face-painting for children.

Harris said the event is pet-friendly as well, “because pets are our family.”

There will be games and puppy pools for dogs as well as doggie adoptions, Nobles said.

She said the day would be a lot of fun but asked people to participate because the need is greater than ever.

“With the growth in the number of newly-infected people in Dallas County who need help in this economy, we’re seeing people who never would ask but must,” she said.

Next year, Nobles said, she would like to see LifeWalk return to Oak Lawn, but new city regulations for events may change those plans. Among the events changing plans this year because of the city involved Lone Star Ride.

Last year, Lone Star Riders participated in LifeWalk on bike. This year, city regulations banned bikes from walks so LSR riders who participate will have to walk.

Green was thinking about bigger plans for future LifeWalks. Other cities that raise more money stage longer walks. He said he’d love to use the new Downtown Deck Park that should be completed next year and dreamed of seeing LifeWalkers crossing the new suspension bridge that should be open in March 2012.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

‘Tomorrow’ is today

Producer Frankmusik revitalizes Erasure as the group hits its quarter century

Music-1
ON THE EDGE | Pop gods Andy Bell and Vince Clarke made a name with consumable ’80s dance beats, but their latest album introduces their fans to a new phase in the storied career of Erasure.

 

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

It’s hard to believe that a quarter of a century ago, we were introduced to Erasure with Wonderland. “Oh L’Amour” and “Who Needs Love Like That” still stand strong —much more so than anything Erasure has recorded in the past decade.

That changes with the release of their 14th studio album, Tomorrow’s World. Thanks to producer Frankmusik, Erasure regains the excitement of Wonderland and those early releases, but still pushes forward with polish.

Frankmusik and mixer Rob Orton have worked their electronica magic on Lady Gaga and Pet Shop Boys, but their work with Erasure seems, as Frankmusik has dubbed it, a calling.

Without dismissing their classic sound, the album is distinctly Erasure but dusted off and refreshed with a solid modern take, apparent from the start with “Be With You” and “Fill Us with Fire.” Vince Clarke and Andy Bell composed all nine tracks and yes, they run with a dance beat, but Frankmusik and Orton update it with a crispness the band has been waning on.

The two tracks reflect the energy and the beats that flow in and out of the album keeping it consistent and exciting.

Electronica blues may sound like an irony, but they pull it off in “You’ve Got To Save Me Now.” Bell mans up to the challenge with a soulful delivery that’s buoyed by a very modern take on a bluesy beat and lyrics like When everything was better you’d hang on the wrong meanin’ / When love is so demeaning / I got to pick myself up off the floor. This approach pushes

Erasure’s direction without stretching them out of shape into something you can’t recognize.

The first single, “When I Start (To Break it All Down),” mirrors the vibrancy of the first two tracks. Bell delivers a masterful emotional performance here that works with the woeful lovey-dovey lyrics. The song is peppy, but genuinely earnest thanks to Bell.

With so much right here, the album still has a couple of trip-ups. In “A Whole Lotta Love Run Riot,” they take on a meditation on celebrity, but the lyrics get a bit corny. Celebs singing about celebs doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but whatever. Forget the lyrics and take in the beat. The music track is so clean and powerful; it’s like taking a bath in techno. The same goes for “I Lose Myself.” Erasure turns in their angry tune, but the clichés add up to a forgettable track. I got rid of that chip on my shoulder / I never thought I’d be tough enough / Ain’t that what your momma told ya are lost but the music is fine. Although, if they really wanted to be angry, throw in a screeching guitar.

My hope is “Then I Go Twisting” becomes their signature song here as well as in the pantheon of Erasure classics. It’s the loveliest and most fun moment on Tomorrow. In some ways it’s prophetic as Bell sings Sick of this techno monophonic sounds and then later, More of the same stuff / I don’t wanna let you down. They don’t, though the album begins to wind down here. The song deserves two things — great headphones and your attention. Go out, buy some high-end cans and let Bell’s voice, the thumpy bass and crisp keyboards seep into your ears and body. Crappy earbuds won’t cut it for this piece of music euphoria.

Tomorrow’s World puts them back on track to the Erasure we love. Their last few albums we saw Erasure falling into itself losing some of their clever whimsy and energy. The symbiotic relationship between the band and Orton and Frankmusik created a strong album, but recreated the excitement of their early releases.

Welcome back.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

New routes means higher visibility for 2011 LSRFA

Even though Event Manager Jerry Calumn was told routing riders through Dallas and Fort Worth wasn’t possible, he refused to take ‘can’t’ for an answer

Calumn.Jerry
Jerry Calumn

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

When he took over as the new event manager of Lone Star RideFighting AIDS, Jerry Calumn started hearing about a number of things he “couldn’t do.”

For instance, LSRFA cyclists said they wanted people to come out and cheer them on. But the route the last few years has been mostly rural, and getting groups out was something Calumn “couldn’t do,” he was told.

Riders told him they wanted to ride where people would see them.

“Riders felt disconnected from the cities we serve,” Rider Retention

Co-Chair Michael Wilkesen said.

But changing the route was something Calumn was told he “couldn’t do,” because permits and other obstacles would make it too expensive and logistics would make it too hard.

But Calumn wasn’t willing to settle for “couldn’t do.” So through the summer, he worked quietly with Wilkesen, mapping out a new route and making plans to get people out to cheer on the riders.

The ride begins and ends again this year at the American Airlines

Training and Conference Center in North Arlington, as it has for the past few years. The difference this year is that instead of making loops northwest of the center on Saturday and southeast on Sunday through suburban and rural terrain, this year’s routes move through Fort Worth on Saturday and Dallas on Sunday.

“And you know what it cost us?” Calumn said. “Nothing. Not one damn penny.”

Calumn encouraged the community to come and cheer for riders and suggested some of the best times and places to do that.

The routes

Pit stops and lunch stops for the riders are great places for supporters to gather and cheer them on.

On Saturday, Sept. 24, Pit Stop 2 will be at the Rainbow Lounge in Fort Worth. Riders are expected through there between 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.
Pit 3 is the lunch stop. That takes place at the Pour House on 7th Street between downtown Fort Worth and the Cultural District. Riders attempting the 100-mile “century” route to Eagle Mountain Lake must leave lunch by 11:30 a.m. Other riders may linger here until 2:30 p.m.

One of the highlights of the Fort Worth route will be 22 miles along the Trinity Trail. That scenic system of trails follows the Trinity River as it winds through the city. Riders will pick up the trail near Texas Christian University after the Rainbow Lounge pit stop, detour off the trail for about a mile for the lunch stop and then pick it back up for the ride around the Fort Worth Stockyards.

Wilkesen said that unfortunately the ride cannot go through the Stockyards because of the bike-unfriendly cobblestones in the area.

Day 2 takes riders through Irving to Dallas, then back to the American Airlines training center for closing ceremonies.

The first stop is the new Irving Convention Center.

“It’s an architectural gem sitting in the middle of Las Colinas,” Calumn said.

He said that Irving was excited about the ride coming through the city and was very helpful. Riders travel through Irving both in the morning and afternoon.

A highlight of the Sunday route will be riding through Oak Lawn. This will be the first time the ride has traveled down Cedar Springs Road.

Pit Stop 2 will be at Station 4. Most bike riders will pass Cathedral of Hope between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. The church promised a cheering section as riders pass.

From there the route turns north on Turtle Creek Boulevard and crosses Highland Park before heading north to Webb Chapel Park.

The ride through Irving will be on the Campion Trail. “Irving invested well in its park system and it shows,” Calumn said.

He called the highlight of the afternoon the stop in North Lake Ranch Park, located on one of the highest points in north Dallas County and with a panoramic view of the area. Of course, for riders, that’s a mixed blessing: To get to the highest point means riding up hill. And the uphill ride comes in the afternoon after they have already pedalled more than 40 miles.

But once there, the ride back to base camp for closing ceremonies is mostly down hill.

Both Calumn and Wilkeson said they believe that the higher visibility of the routes this year will help with organizers’ ongoing efforts to grow the ride.

“With more visibility, we’ll get more riders,” Wilkesen said.

In a battle of Dallas vs. Fort Worth, Wilkesen suggested Irving wins as the city most aggressively interested in bringing the ride through town. He said the city even mapped a safe and scenic route for him, saving him a lot of time.

Calumn said Fort Worth has the most sophisticated plan to host groups like this. In Dallas he met with police, parks and events separately. He complimented each department for its cooperation.

But, he said, Fort Worth held one meeting with him that also included the health department.

“That way, police can talk to streets,” he said. “It’s very helpful.”

Closing ceremonies take place at the AATCC at 5 p.m. The Riderless Bike leads the procession as riders return and complete a year of fundraising that is expected to bring the total raised in event history to more than $2 million.

Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS closing ceremonies, American Airlines Training and Conference Center, 4501 Highway 360 South, Fort Worth (just south of DFW Airport). 5 p.m. Everyone welcome.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Heart and beat

David Guetta delivers the same ol’ dance shtick while Chad D surprises

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

………………

1 out of 5 stars
NOTHING BUT THE BEAT
David Guetta
Capitol Records

……………….

DJ and producer David Guetta is smart at handling hip-hop and rap artists on top of dance beats. He creates a flow that is easy to dance to and the songs aren’t anything more than a party in the space of three to four minutes. But that formula repeats itself in Nothing But The Beat, which shows no real imagination.

Nicki Minaj and Flo Rida bring their talents to the opener, “Where Them Girls At.” The beat is distinctly Guetta but that formula is already showing. Minaj comes up short here, ripping off a TLC flow and playing more as an accessory.

That changes with “Turn Me On.” Minaj goes into Rihanna territory, singing and rapping. There’s no surprise that she can carry a note, but she proves she can hang with any singer out there. This ends up being one of the better tracks.

With “Sweat,” Guetta re-imagines Snoop’s “Wet” single against a sampled beat to amazing effect. Guetta shines here — not with hip-hop generics over a disco beat, but working magic with Minaj and Snoop to create something exciting. His innovation is off the charts.

It’s too much for the last track to save the album, but it’s a glorious attempt. Guetta teams with Sia on “Titanium.” Collaborative lyrics elevate this song to a higher level than any previous track, as Sia brings her clever writing to the table and ends up with as much a voice in this song as Guetta does.

But so much is wrong with Beat that it ends up being a beat down. What Guetta is good at is producing listenable disco. It’s never too obscure or techno, but it’s always the right sound to get a good jog to or sweat it up on the dance floor.

His collabs with Taio Cruz, Chris Brown and Usher are fine but forgettable. He handles Cruz and Ludacris well in “Little Bad Girl,” and Brown and Lil’ Wayne’s skills make “I Can Only Imagine” work as a song and not just a mix. Although Guetta did help Usher lose a lot of R&B cred on “Without You,” it’s embarrassing to hear Usher reduced to this Coldplay/Keane/OneRepublic styled track. This is where Guetta’s mistakes happen. He keeps masturbating to hip-hop and R&B stars, and he’s missing vital aspects that would make his own songs sound better.

He remembers his gay boy listeners with equally unimpressive diva-esque tracks save for Sia. You would think that wouldn’t happen with Jennifer Hudson on “Night of Your Life,” but the song is amateurish and never lives up to her talent. Guetta gives Jessie J the chance to shine in “Repeat;” she doesn’t.

When Guetta isn’t embarrassing himself, he goes way obnoxious on the Will. I. Am track “Nothing Really Matters,” which is more of a yawner than the Black Eyed Peas’ last album. And “I Just Wanna F” with Timbaland and Dev is an exercise in stupidity.

Even with the stronger tracks, this Beat is a dud.

………………

2.5 out of 5 stars
THE HUMAN LINK
Chad D
Independent

……………….

Chad D is an indie musician based out of New York who’s 2011 release The Human Link garnered him two OutMusic Award nominations. He’s party pop and rap with a message — a whole lot of them. But his ambition makes up for the rough edges.

In the first four tracks, D lays down energetic beats with different stories. “The Story Begins” opens the album in high-energy synth mode with one of the deepest bass beats. The lyrics could graduate a level, but D throws in surprises such as a guitar solo that comes out of nowhere.

“The Human Link” and “Ask and Tell” lean more to his rap stylings, which need some fine-tuning. In “Link,” he’s choppy, but gets more fluid with “Ask.” I don’t even think he’s trying to be Eminem, but he’s clearly the white-guy rapper and a much better singer. “Ask” seems to be the epitome of his intentions with an in-your-face tune about gay issues. But the platitudes are a bit obvious which makes the song miss its mark.

It would be easy to dismiss “T.G.A. (The Gay Anthem)” as drivel. He raps quickly over what sounds like a sampled “Under the Boardwalk” beat. His Michael Jackson “whooos” are misguided and yet he creates a reliable hook and runs with it.

He hits his stride in “Ocean Blue Love.” The song is crazy catchy and his vocals overlap with note maturity. While I don’t mind his rapping so much, “Ocean” is proof that vocalizing is a better forte for him. He could still refine his voice, but he’s more emotive when singing.

D lost me at the title of “Life is a Ride,” which reminded me too much of “Life is a Highway,” a song I loathe. I muddled through rap stanzas like dance with me/ touch my body/ getting’ naughty but OK, my head bopped along. The chorus burst in and Chad D pulled me in. I don’t get into intentionally cheerful songs but the chorus earwormed its way into my head and I was fine with that.

Chad D isn’t afraid to give his strong queer perspective. As he matures, his songwriting should become more refined, but it’s his heart that drives The Human Link and he’s put all of it here.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 23, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Uptown Psychotherapy celebrates 15 years

Therapists say that focus has changed over the years from being primarily on HIV to things like marriage and parenting

SHRINK | Deborah Beckman, left, Will Handy, center, and Tim Myrick say that over 15 years things have changed for their LGBT clients. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

When Deborah Beckman and Tim Myrick registered the name Uptown Psychotherapy Associates in 1996, fewer than 10 other business were using the term “Uptown.”

When they renewed their name 10 years later, more than 600 businesses had it as part of their registered name.

But that’s not all that’s changed during Beckman and Myrick’s 15 years in business together.

The two met in 1994 when they were interning at Legacy Counseling. When they opened their private practice, the main issue they continued to confront was AIDS.

Will Handy, who joined Myrick and Beckman a few years after they started their practice, still works at Legacy while maintaining his private practice at Uptown.

“In the old days, it was about helping people deal with the end of their lives,” Handy said.

Beckman said that now she works with her HIV-positive clients on issues of aging, supporting stability and incorporating taking medication into a routine that’s as normal as brushing your teeth.

Uptown and Legacy still have a good working relationship.

“If someone calls Uptown and cannot afford private therapy, we refer them to Legacy and know they’ll get good care,” Handy said. “Legacy will sometimes refer to us if a private setting will help a client more.”

Uptown has the only private HIV-positive support group in the area, Handy said, adding that although members have changed, the group has been around since the practice opened.

That gives the group and the therapists the collective wisdom of 15 years’ worth of members, Handy said.

Today, Beckman said, only about a third of her clients list HIV as their main concern. She said she hears a lot of relationship issues. And with the current economic crisis, she speaks to many people trying to make decisions about their careers.

Beckman said one of the most common questions she hears is, “What do I want to do next?”

One thing that hasn’t changed much, both Beckman and Hardy said, is how people talk about their relationships.

Over the past 15 years, same-sex marriage has been legalized in a number of states, but both therapists said gays and lesbians have always taken their own relationships seriously. It’s just that now, with marriage equality becoming a more high-profile issue, other people are taking those relationships more seriously, too.

Myrick, Beckman and Handy said they work with many people whose original religious foundation was punitive.

“Some are in a state of reaction to what amounts to religious persecution,” Handy said. “Others haven’t reacted to that enough.”

Beckman said that the difference over the past 15 years is that now so many churches have adopted an attitude of “Who’s gay? Who’s straight? Who cares?” She said that when she started in practice, she could hand out a very short list of churches that would welcome the LGBT community.

“Now people really can find a church that fits,” she said. “We can give directions on how to go church shopping.”

More and more gays and lesbians are deciding to have children. And Beckman and Handy discuss with their clients what parenting means and why they want to be parents.

Are they doing it “to prove they’re super parents, or are they doing it for the kid?” Beckman asked.

Handy added that it is the therapists’ job to make sure that couples and individuals want to be parents for “all the right reasons.”

Handy and Beckman both agreed that the best change over the past 15 years has been among some of their youngest clients:

They have some need to come to therapy but they’ve been OK about being gay since they were young.

They’ve had gay role models, had other friends who were out in school and watched gay characters on television.

Handy said it was a big difference from when he was the first and only out licensed therapist in Madison, Wisc.

“It’s truly heartening. A joy to experience,” he said. And he’s learned a valuable lesson from those younger clients: “Don’t go looking for trauma when it isn’t there,” he said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

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

lead

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

COVER STORY: The social network

LGBTs and straight allies don’t just have a job at the NBC Universal network, they have a haven

Rich Lopez  |  Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Dallasites know NBC here simply as Channel 5. The big five logo is the place Dallas goes to for must-see TV, Jane McGarry or Saturday Night Live. Most people only see NBC as a channel for entertainment and news, and that is perhaps as it should be.

But look a little closer and you’ll see that the network is also a company that celebrates its diversity, and here in Dallas, the year-old group Out@NBCUniversal has thrived in its short tenure.

“From gay, straight, lesbian — everybody is different in this chapter. This is a very welcoming company and our mission is simple,” said member Murad Kirdar. “Across the hubs, we are working to attract and retain LGBT employees and make this a place where they want to work.”

With just a year and a half under its belt, the Dallas chapter is the newest of currently eight hubs across the country.  As a whole, Out@NBCUniversal is a 25-year-old employee affinity network and also one of the oldest groups of its kind in corporate America.

Among those regional hubs, 1,400 members make up Out at large.

The Dallas hub
There wasn’t a real reason that a hub didn’t exist in Dallas earlier. It just took the initiative of NBC 5 employee Patric Alva to get it going.

Once that proverbial ball began rolling, the group flourished immediately.

“I had met Murad and other LGBT employees and even straight people who considered themselves allies,” Alva said. “I thought, ‘Why not take advantage of this opportunity?’ I thought it was interesting to see the other hubs. So one day it came down to getting it going and rolling.”

“[NBC] was excited when Patric wanted to start this. Once people participated and it became an active hub, it was overflowing with people wanting to join,” Kirdar added. “We do have our jobs and I do find this takes a lot of extra work, but it’s worth it.”

Alva said that not only queer and ally employees were encouraging the group, but that the higher-ups were making efforts to be visible in their support. At the group’s kickoff event at Hotel Zaza, upper management and the station’s general manager all showed up.

This only strengthened Alva’s commitment to the chapter.

Alva and Kirdar speak ebulliently about their work environment and how their company embraces diversity. It’s obvious, even over the phone, the pride they take in how NBC strives to provide healthy surroundings for its employees.

Andrea Krause, coming from a straight perspective, feels the same.

“I can’t ever imagine putting on the conservative hat. I was hesitant that you should have to portray any type of charade, but the minute I walked in, I noticed the diversity,” Krause said.

“Additionally, the company promotes bettering yourself and sponsored me in going to get my MBA,” she added. “I did have intentions on leaving the company but as I came back, I am even more aware how grateful I am to work in these types of surroundings.”

Regardless of identity, each member clearly has his or her own story that adds to the texture of the group. And Kirdar had his own to tell.

“My partner of 17 years works here, too,” he said.

Kirdar and Matthew Simpson worked in Los Angeles, but Kirdar was slated to be transferred to Dallas. The difficulty of that is easy to imagine, but Simpson soon found himself here in Dallas as well, and for the reunited couple, Dallas is far more exciting and hopeful.

At the highest levels
There is that need for quality diversity within most, if not all, high profile corporations. NBCU’s newly-appointed executive vice president and chief diversity officer, Craig Robinson, reports to NBCU CEO Steve Burke, assuring that the network’s intentions of maintaining a high level of diversification reaches to the top of the corporation.

And Robinson, named EVP in August, has an impressive resume with the company, not only as the GM of KNBC in Los Angeles, but also in his active status in  such groups as Asian Pacific-Americans, Black Professionals Alliance and the Out@NBCU groups.

“Craig has been actively involved in many of our diversity programs and his understanding of our company, its people and its culture will be invaluable as we continue our work to establish NBCUniversal as a leader in this area,” Burke said in an August 2011 edition of NBCU Employee Spotlights.

Lauren Wheat, left, Matthew Simpson and partner Murad Kirdar, center, and Patric Alva, right.

 

 

What they do
So what does the group actually do?

Out@NBCUniversal does have its fun social events, fostering fellowship among members. But the group also strives to make an impact on both the community and their coworkers. Whether it’s rainbows or diapers, the Dallas chapter keeps building up its efforts.

As one of its first organized efforts, the group collected 3,500 diapers in a drive for Captain Hope’s Kids, a local nonprofit meeting the needs of homeless children in Dallas.

Other community projects included volunteering at holiday dinners provided by the Resource Center of Dallas and assisting in chaperoning the Gay Prom this past spring — among other efforts.

“This year we were involved with the Trevor Project. The effort to eradicate bullying of all types in schools is making waves one step at a time. Sometimes it is unfortunately a part of home life,” member Lauren Wheat said.

“For NBCUniversal to be a part of the movement that gets the message out that ‘It Gets Better,’ is such an emotional and empowering moment,” Wheat said.

“This year we also increased our membership base with outreach events hosted at our two offices.  Getting to meet and see more people interested in the organization is very exciting,” Alva said.

This is what Alva envisioned.

“First of all, the people that work here are fabulous. Second, this is not just going to clubs and dancing ’til 2 a.m. The group can give back and serve the LGBT community,” Alva said. “That’s been a big positive and educational experience and a big driving factor for me.

“It’s not ‘Kumbaya.’ Plus, our company allows us to meet during work hours. Being that we’re all very limited with personal time, it’s a win-win,” he said.

But perhaps its significant high mark was the group’s celebration of National Pride this past June. NBCU recognized the event across the board and on June 2, MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts led a global initiative by teleconference where media outlets everywhere could participate and hear all the different stories of different LGBTs and allies from the different NBC families.

The local group held its own inter-office celebration and with the teleconference, the chapter’s membership doubled.

Queer Utopia?
It’s as if a queer utopia exists, the way these members describe both the company and the group. There isn’t any hint of anyone just saying “the right thing” or maintaining certain demeanor about their workplace.

These men and women — straight and gay — have that one thing all queer Americans want: recognition, only here it’s at work.

“For my partner to work here and be able to give me a hug and it’s not a big deal — I love that,” Kirdar said. “It feels here like we’re all within this one family.”

Alva added, “I just want people to know, first, that we exist and we’re putting our name out there to work with other organizations. And for me, that involvement starts here.”

Without pause, Krause said she knows what Out@NBCUniversal means not just for her, but for the company.

“I don’t think it’s about sexuality,” she said. “There’s no façade. We’re a bunch of people who want to be cohesive and interested. To work for an employer that allows people to be themselves and impact perhaps some of the best years of their lives, it’s wonderful. And my employer promotes that!”

……………………..

NBC employees come together for “It Gets Better”

The Out@NBCUniversal group at NBC all created their own “It Gets Better” video, which was released in April this year. The video is a collective of employees from all over.

Being a television network, the production is stellar and the stories are both uplifting and tear inducing. Without any sense of pandering, the employees strike an optimistic chord that will likely ring true with troubled youth as well as with anyone in search of themselves. The clip also features MSNBC reporter Thomas Roberts.

The video references The Trevor Project for anyone considering suicide or simply in need of help.

One woman sums up her message nicely by saying, “’Cause you can’t have a rainbow without a little bit of rain, so just hold on.”

Watch the video online at DallasVoice.com.

— Rich Lopez

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

—  Michael Stephens

Resource Center schedules DADT repeal reception

Gainer to donate his SLDN archive to the Phil Johnson Library

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Resource Center Dallas will hold a reception on Sept. 20 to mark the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

As part of the event, gay Air Force veteran Dave Guy Gainer will donate his archive of material related to the repeal to the Phil Johnson Library housed at the center.

“I’m reducing the fire load at my house,” Gainer joked.

The donation includes photos, Congressional reports, studies, hand-outs and newspaper articles that fill a number of boxes.

“It’s one of the largest donations we’ve ever gotten from one person,” said Resource Center Dallas Strategic Communications and Programs Manager Rafael McDonnell.

Gainer retired from the Air Force as a chief master sergeant before DADT went into effect. He has served as a board member of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network since 2005.Before that he was chapter president of American Veterans for Equal Rights before becoming regional and then national vice president of that organization.

Gainer called the end of DADT the “beginning of a new era.” He said he hopes his donation will help researchers studying the policy as a piece of history.

He said he has already been contacted several times by students writing papers and theses on the topic of gays serving in the military.

“If we can’t tell our stories as a community, we can’t hope to be truly a part of a bigger society,” Gainer said. “It’s important to give documents like these to research libraries to tell our stories factually.”

The reception at the Resource Center runs from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

McDonnell said the event would honor not just military personnel that were discharged under the DADT policy but all LGBT veterans.

“We specifically want to get word out to get LGBT vets here to say ‘Thank you for your service,’” McDonnell said.

SLDN is compiling a list of events that will take place around the country on Sept. 20, the day that the repeal becomes final. A number of parties are scheduled around Texas.

Most of the celebrations in the state will take place in bars, and after the Resource Center reception, the party in Dallas will move to Pekers on Oak Lawn Avenue.

Houston will mark the day with a celebration at JR.’s Bar and Grill, 808 Pacific Street from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. The San Antonio repeal party begins at 6 p.m. at Sparky’s Pub, located at 1416 N. Main St.

The organizer of the Austin event wrote that they “expect active-duty service members will attend from Fort Hood and other nearby installations, along with scores of our supporters. Please bring your friends. Anyone 18 and older may attend.”

The statement is signed by “Brigadier General Virgil A. Richard, United States Army (Ret) and Chaplain (Colonel) Paul W. Dodd, United States Army (Ret).”

Ironically, Austin will mark the first day that military personnel can openly speak about being gay or lesbian at a bar called Hush.

Hush is located down the street from the Capitol at 408 N. Congress St. The event begins at 6 p.m. Food will be served and each person who attends will get a free drink.

P-FLAG El Paso organized that city’s celebration with several local LGBT groups. The party will take place at San Antonio Mining Company, 800 East San Antonio Ave. Cake and champagne will be served.

DADT was enacted in 1993 as compromise legislation. Previously gay and lesbian servicemembers who were outed were given dishonorable discharges. The new law was supposed to end anti-gay witch hunts in the military.

The repeal legislation was passed in December 2010. Then each branch of the service had to certify that it had prepared for the change.

On July 22, after the head of each branch of the service had signed off that it was prepared for the repeal, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the president and the secretary of defense certified to the armed services committees of both houses of Congress that the military was ready for final enactment.

According to the legislation, the repeal goes into effect 60 days after certification, which falls on Sept. 20.

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

—  Michael Stephens

Perfect match

Bob Nunn and Tom Harrover have been a couple for 4 decades. But it wasn’t until a near tragedy that they realized they were truly meant for each other

LIFE GOES ON | Nunn, right, and Harrover stand before a project commissioned for the convention center hotel. Four years ago, Nunn was near death because of kidney disease. (Rich Lopez/Dallas Voice)

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Bob Nunn agrees with the adage that the longer a couple lives together, the more they begin to look alike. Nunn and his partner Tom Harrover might not look that similar on the outside, but they match in a way that few couples do.

Let’s start with some history.

The two have that classic meet-cute that began on the wrong note. As Nunn tells it, Harrover was the dullest person he’d ever met —the two just didn’t like each other. Then, following a spontaneous invitation to a midnight movie, they ended up hitting it off. That movie led to conversation and then dating.

Forty-two years later, they still watch movies — as Nunn puts it, “I couldn’t get rid of him.”

A job in Houston took Nunn away from Harrover for three months, but old-fashioned letter writing kept the newbie relationship afloat.

“Tom had been writing me letters. He’s a very good writer,” Bob boasts. “He basically proposed to me by letter.”

They committed to each other, moving in and pursuing their careers: Harrover in architecture and Nunn teaching art. For 37 years, they lived in “a fabulous house” in Hollywood Heights. Life was good.

Then their life took a sharp turn.

“When we got together, Tom knew I had a kidney disease,” Nunn says. “Nothing was really a problem until about 30 years after we met — my kidneys began to fail and I had to start dialysis.”

Nunn registered with Baylor for the national organ donor list, but the experience was frustrating:  They received little response or encouragement from the hospital.

“Bob was on a downhill slide and the frustration with Baylor seemed like they were stonewalling us,” Harrover says. “We talked about going to Asia even. It felt like they didn’t want to deal with a senior-age gay couple.”

A LITTLE DAB’LL DO YOU | Bob Nunn is officially retired from teaching art, but continues to paint.

Then Harrover suggested something novel: He could donate his kidney to the organ list, with the idea that Nunn could get a healthy one.  Sort of a kidney exchange.

In desperation, they went back to their physician, who enrolled them in St. Paul Hospital’s then-new program for kidney transplant. The experience was a complete turnaround. Nunn was tested and processed immediately while Harrover prepped for his organ donation to an anonymous recipient.

Kidney transplants require a seven-point match system; a minimum of three matches is necessary for the recipient to be able to accept the organ into the body.

The tests revealed that Harrover’s kidney matched Nunn’s on all seven points.

“We assumed I would donate mine for use elsewhere,” Harrover says. “It never occurred to me that we’d be a match. The odds for that are off the charts.”

“See what happens when you live together for so long?” he chuckles.

Just six months after entering St. Paul’s program in 2007, they were on the operating table. They were the first direct living donor pair in the program. “It was all fairly miraculous,” Nunn understates.

Four years later, both men are doing well. Although officially retired, they both continue to work: Harrover does the occasional contract job while Nunn is currently on commission for an art project at the new convention center hotel. Outside of any official work, each interjects their quips about home, life be it cooking together or working on the lawn.

The obvious question for them might be “What’s the secret?” But they don’t see it just that way. Their relationship boils down to the obvious virtues of trust, respect and compromise.

“Selfishness doesn’t rear its ugly head in this relationship,” Harrover says. “You just have to be willing to accommodate, support and encourage what the other is interested in.”

Nunn agrees. “I would not be doing what I’m doing without his support.”

Nunn says if there is a secret, it’s akin to the dynamic on a playground: Like each other and share. If you don’t share your whole life, there isn’t a relationship, he says. At this point, Harrover says it would be impossible to separate. On paper, they are so intertwined with their house and financials, he jokes they are “Siamese twins.”

They’ve witnessed a lot in their decades together, including something they never expected to come to pass in their lifetimes: Same-sex marriage. Coming from a time when just being gay conflicted with moral codes set by their jobs, they wonder over the progress made in recent years. (They were officially married in Boston in October 2009.)

“I’m confident that it will happen for everyone,” Harrover says. “I’m sorry that it’s moving at a glacial pace, but it has that same inevitability as a glacier. We’ll get there.”

But nothing compares to the bond Harrover and Nunn already have, a shared intimacy few couples could imagine. Same-sex marriage was merely unlikely; what they have experienced is miraculous.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 29, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Master skater

IMG_0911
FOUR WHEELIN’ | Skate with caution to avoid this guy on the roller rink. Gay Skate Night returns every third Saturday at InterSkate in Lewisville. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

With Gay Skate Night back, roller derby’s Trigger Mortis offers some tips on making the floor your own

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

There was a time when the gays would routinely venture to Grand Prairie’s Forum Roller World for the ritual of roller skating. Don Blaylock used to DJ the event and decided he wanted to bring it back.

“It got to be too much for people every week,” he says. “I think that’s why it fizzled out.”

Scaling it back to once a month (every third Saturday) and moving it to the InterSkate Roller Rink in Lewisville, Blaylock wants to make it a more social event. Before heading to the rink, he chooses a place to eat where people can opt to meet up for a pre-skate nosh. He encourages carpooling up to Lewisville as well, all in efforts to get people “doing something” and “coming together.”

Sounds like a plan.

The last time I donned a pair of quad roller skates, my age was still in single digit territory. At 9, I took lessons on Saturday mornings at the Broadway Skateland in Mesquite and became fairly comfortable with all the basics. That lasted a couple of years. Three decades later, I think I may be a little rusty.

“It’s a whole lot easier if you’re going fast so you can’t feel any of the bumps on the rink,” Trigger Mortis says. “If you go slow, you’ll feel every plank of wood.”

Thanks, lady, but I’m going slow.

Mortis is a member of the Assassination City Roller Derby league, and she agreed to give me some pleasant tips to aid my return to skating … just like she’ll be doing on the flat rink at Fair Park next Saturday when ACRD ends its season with the championship contest. My lesson, however, nixed the elbows and knockouts and all.

She started with the basics.

“First, you need to squat really low. The lower you are, the less distance your ass is from the ground,” she says. “Bend your knees like you’re sitting in a chair. That’s really important.”

Squatting really low is not a look that I’m comfortable with. I’d like to impress the crowd but not look like an idiot.

“You’ll look more like an idiot if you fall standing straight up,” she says.

That shut me up. Usually, when I find myself in an unstable standing situation, I just grab onto whatever’s close by and hang on to reposition my posture — even if it is other people. Apparently, this isn’t cool.

“Oh, no, don’t do that. That’s like the biblical rule No.  1: You can’t grab anybody,” she says. “Just let yourself fall. Drop to your knees or on all fours.”

This is not unfamiliar territory.

Coincidentally, Mortis works at InterSkate in the skate shop. I feel this could prove fortuitous because she gave me some fashion and not-so-fashionable tips on preparing for my rollout.

“Get some wristguards,” she advises. “And dress comfortably. Tight jeans, no. I’ve seen people split their pants; not cute. I think those little athletic shorts are fine; with knee-high derby socks and a headband you’d get total street cred with an Assassination City shirt. I’d hang out with you.”

Mortis tried to convince me to go with the Roller Girl shorts that are made with “anti-cameltoe and muffin top technology.”

But I’d lose all cool points if I went in my inline skates. She informs that quads (four wheels, yo) are where it’s at and plus there’s more of a base to distribute my body weight on. That is if I don’t flatten the tires. Inliners are passé and she warns that she and her girls will make fun of me in blades. All of the sudden, it feels like middle school again.

Face it. Being that it’s Gay Skate Night, there is always the option for a potential hook up. You were thinking it! This wasn’t lost on Trigger Mortis. Although she doesn’t recommend throwing elbows or chairs, she says trying to skate backwards is as good as a pick-up line.

“Well, first, if you want to skate backwards, move your hips like salsa dancing,” she says. It’s like doing the Tootsie Roll. But you could have someone pushing you while you try it. If you happen to fall, the one thing that’s gonna happen is they land on top of you.”

Clearly, my kinda girl.

………………………….

TASTING NOTES

2011 has witnessed a boom in restaurant openings, but this week, there were some closings of particular note, as well.
The Cultured Cup, the wonderful store run by tea sommelier Kyle Stewart and his coffee-savant partner Phil Krampetz, will be shutting the doors of its Preston Center location Saturday. But that doesn’t mean it’s going anywhere.

While the last chance to purchase from the storefront will be July 16 at 6 p.m., you can still order their selection of brewing beverages online at TheCulturedCup.com. If you wanna stop by Saturday and Sunday, they’ll gladly feed you pizza and iced tea if you want to help them move.

Last Saturday ended up being the final day of service for Hector’s on Henderson as well. The Uptown eatery — which is where Central 214 exec chef Blythe Beck first made her culinary mark — was the child of Hector Garcia, frontman for the Riviera for years. Garcia, pictured, not only owned the place and worked the room, he also provided the entertainment on occasion, singing alongside the omnipresent piano.

Garcia — whose partner is former city councilmember Craig Holcomb — opened in the fall of 2004 (I vividly recall dining there on Election Night) to widespread acclaim. The closing was low-key, with Garcia thanking his longtime customers. “I never wanted a run-of-the-mill place, but rather something you would not experience anywhere else,” he said.

Lolita’s, the new Mexican restaurant that opened in the old Catalina Room space (later the short-lived Honey Shack), is adding entertainment to the menu. Husband and wife owners Karlos and Teresa Urban are launching a new Saturday night drag show, beginning at 10 p.m. on July 16. Even though the resto is in the gayborhood, the client base is largely straight, the Urbans said in a release, but they think the addition will appeal to both the gay and straight community. Cover is $10.

Axiom Sushi Lounge at the ilume started its Martini Monday this week, with .99 cent house cosmos and $2 off all regular price signature martinis.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 15, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas