A Del in concert!

(And he won’t cancel!) Shores returns to his native Texas bruised but busy

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NATIVE SHORES | Winters provided the backdrop for Del Shores’ comedy, but his Hollywood connections include directing Oscar hopeful Octavia Spencer in her next film role. (Photo courtesy Alan Mercer)

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Already, 2012 looks to be a busy year for Del Shores. That wasn’t among his New Year’s resolutions, but it has ended up being a blessing for him right now. Having something to do distracts him from those empty moments. After separating less than two months ago from his partner of almost 10 years, singer/actor Jason Dottley, spending quiet times alone was the last thing Shores wanted.

“With something this tragic, I have to stay busy,” he says. “This is a huge tragedy in my life. The depression comes in so I’m taking care of myself by writing or preparing other works. Just keeping occupied is so important. I couldn’t survive otherwise.”

As irony would have it, 2012 could end up being Shores’ biggest year yet. The Winters, Texas, native kicks it off in the Rose Room with a standup performance Jan. 27. For this show, he specifically returned to Dallas to film his performance for an upcoming DVD release. And for good reason: He feels the love here.

“I’d rather just go to Dallas,” he says. “I have the hugest fan base there and I should go back to the city that loves me the most to film the show. I love it so much.”

Just a year ago, Shores started a new phase of his career by adding “standup comedian” to his resume with a performance of his new act, Sordid Confessions, at the Rose Room. In fact, he’s less a comic than whip-smart storyteller, but he acknowledges that audiences who saw him last year should expect new stuff this time.

Does that mean he’s adding some of his recent personal drama to the bit? Not just yet.

“I haven’t yet put anything about it in my show,” he admits. “I can’t pretend that the elephant isn’t in the room, but I don’t plan to disrespect what we had … not yet at least!”

The closest he plans to get right now is reciting some letters of support he received after he announced his divorce publicly last November.

They were genuinely heartfelt, but hilarious enough to add to the show.

Shores is also writing the screen adaptation of his play Yellow, and is completing a new play about four women called This Side of Crazy. He’s also collaborating with his Sordid Lives star (and long-standing best friend) Leslie Jordan on the mockumentary The Happy Hullisters, about a gospel family hanging onto their last shred of fame. The plan is to begin shooting it in Dallas starting in June; Tony Award-winner Levi Kreiss and comedian Caroline Rhea (who MC’d this year’s Dallas Black Tie Dinner) attached to the project.

“I’m getting my acting company back together for this. And I’ll be in the Hullisters!” Shores beams. “I am embracing the actor in me. I’m still in negotiations to do one more Sordid Lives film that would be a sequel to the movie, but a prequel to the series. And I’m hoping to open [the play] Yellow in Dallas as well. Maybe I’ll be busy for the next two years!”

Shores is also in post-production of his play-turned-movie The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife starring newly-minted Golden Globe winner and likely Oscar nominee Octavia Spencer. Spencer is reprising her role she originated onstage for the play as LaSonia (pronounced “lasagna”) Robinson. Shores admits that if she wins an Oscar it could help his movie, but he was already suitably moved by her Globes win.

“This couldn’t have happened to a better person,” he says. “When she won, my daughter and I were sobbing like Mexican women at a funeral.”
When Shores posted a note on his Facebook page last November (it began, “It saddens me to inform you that Jason Dottley and I are divorcing”), the obvious question among his friends was, “What happened?” But even Shores doesn’t quite seem sure. Soon after his announcement, Shores received notes of support, but also some not so friendly. That added to the shock of his marriage ending. (Dottley was contacted for this piece but declined to comment.)

“We were this couple held up to the light as an example of gay marriage in a working relationship,” he says. “I had no idea this was coming.

My marriage ended, just like straight people. I had to start a process of healing.”

But were there no signs, no inkling of what was to happen? Shores searches for the words, but stammers as he decides whether to answer and what to say. And then finally:

“Let me put it this way,” he begins, “I’ve been working in the entertainment business for a really long time, I get a lot of actor-auditions. For some, I come up with reasons I don’t cast certain ones, but the bottom line is, ‘I don’t want you to play this role.’ And so no matter what was said or the reasons behind it, the bottom line was Jason said, ‘I don’t want to be married to you anymore.’ And there was no negotiation on any level.”

For a moment, he pauses. That inevitable lump jumps into his throat and one of Texas’ funniest funnymen all of a sudden isn’t laughing.

“There is never a great day,” he admits, choking up. “There are partial good days but good days … not yet. It happens.”

Creative types have the luxury of turning pain into their art and it’s easy to imagine Del Shores turning this pain into a comic masterpiece. He insists he’ll heal and move on. Eventually. Born gay into a Southern Baptist family in Texas, life hasn’t always been the easiest. And at the very least, he may take the advice of one fan, a straight woman, who wrote him.

“She told me there was one thing good about a breakup,” he says, “New dick!”
Badum-bum.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 20, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

The Pimentoist

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OLIVE THE ABOVE | Rocker-like painter Michael Godard (who, ironically, is a teetotaler) specializes in cocktail art, often with witty images — including the occasional cross-dressing garnish.

Michael Godard, rock star of the art world, brings his martini-soaked (and sometimes subversively gay) painting to Dallas

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer
stevencraiglindsey@me.com

Long hair, black nail polish, colorful tattoos, a soul patch, a bandana: It’s a look common to hard-living rockers … and maybe should be one you’d expect from an artist. Yet Michael Godard, sometimes criticized for creating work that is too commercial, still considers himself a rebellious outsider. He sees truth in the world around him and puts that truth on canvas. So what if the citizens of his universe are anthropomorphized olives, dancing strawberries and drunken grapes? Through his martini goggles, we are able to see life as a constant party — complete with its share of mornings after.

“I always say that I’m more of a storyteller than I am a painter. I like to tell stories with the paintings,” Godard says. “I like to mix a lot of humor into them. For me, rather than try to create something funny, it’s a lot easier to take life as it happens and turn it into a painting. To me, they’re like a giant diary and they have all kinds of things going on. No two are the same, that’s for sure.”

For somebody whose first book was titled Don’t Drink and Draw, and whose paintings almost exclusively deal with some form of alcoholic libation, it would be an easy assumption to peg this guy as a heavy drinker. But nothing could be further from the sober truth.

“It’s funny, I really don’t drink at all,” he laughs. “People ask if I’m a recovering alcoholic, but it’s not that. I was in junior high and my mom always had Kool-Aid in the fridge. I grabbed what I thought was Kool-Aid and drank a bunch of wine by mistake and got so, so sick. Ever since, the smell of alcohol sort of just turns me off. It’s really kind of ironic.”lead-3

His teetotaling even has the occasional professional drawback.

“Because I am so illiterate about alcohol, I’ll do a painting of a margarita and a gallery will call me up and say, ‘Mr. Godard, the painting is wonderful but actually it’s a salt shaker not a sugar shaker that goes with a margarita,’” he says.

But he continues to use the metaphor of martinis because of what it represents.

“The wonderful thing about alcohol is, it’s such a social magnet with people. We have a drink at a wedding and it’s a toast of good wishes; it calms the nerves on a first date; buddies share a beer together while playing poker. It’s a great thing that pulls people together when they’re stopping life momentarily to relax and enjoy themselves. And that’s why I think I chose to paint alcohol because there are so many situations that come from that. Humor is quite often there.”

His signature subject matter came about almost by accident, as a fulfilled promise to a friend who begged for a painting every year for five years for his birthday. Godard eventually asked the friend what he’d like to see.

“My friend said, ‘I love your sense of humor, I like to drink, martinis are my favorite, just have fun with it.” And so, the world of mobster olives, stripper olives and yes, even gay olives came to life.

“If you look at the painting I did from Fantasy Fest in Key West, which is a gay celebration, I have a cross-dressing olive standing on the street corner,” Godard, who is straight, lead-4proudly notes. “There’s one particular bouncer across from the place where I do my shows, the guy must be 6-foot-5. He loves to cross-dress and he’s one of the funniest people I know. There are gay people walking down the street holding hands. And, of course, in my world you know that a male olive has a pimento on top and a female has it strategically placed at the bottom.”

So naturally, if you ever see an olive with a pimento on top and a feather boa and high heels, you now know that’s an olive in drag.

lead-2Godard acknowledges that his work is popular with gay audiences, a relationship he cultivates; it’s easy to see why. His work if filled with subtle humor and witty observations (not to mention that some of the legs on those dancing strawberries can be pretty damned sexy).

“I have a lot of gay friends,” he says. “One of the neat things is that my gay friends seem to have a better and a more sophisticated sense of humor I must say, than a lot of my straight friends. Any time we can get together and do something for the greater good, that’s what it’s about. When you think about people that have lost their lives and wonderful people that we’ve lost to AIDS, it’s overwhelming. You realize it can happen to anybody, gay or straight.”
Godard, who recently lost his 16-year-old daughter to brain cancer, has always been dedicated to giving back through a variety of charitable organizations.

“There’s a lot of artists out there that are a lot more talented than I am, but I think the guy upstairs knew what I was going to do with my success,” he says. “I’m so about giving back and doing things for someone else. I’m in a very unique position where I have an opportunity to help a lot of people.”

Now that’s a true rock star.

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Conover in sync
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We’re used to seeing the bold and colorful Pop art of Robb Conover depicting comic book icons of late. Whether he’s giving his take on Wonder Woman or exploring a queer element to Batman and Robin as they kiss, Conover adds a definite punch to the local arts scene. His work has been seen in the gayborhood at Buli, Drama Room and Lucky’s.

He goes in a different direction, above, in Ro2 Art’s exhibit Synclines. Conover joins local artists Cabe Booth and Kevin Obregon, to present, what the gallery calls, new and unexpected works.

— Rich Lopez
Ro2 Art Downtown, 110 N. Akard St. Through Aug. 13.
Ro2Art.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 5, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

XL laughs

Plus-sized comedian Ryan O’Connor doesn’t shy away from fat jokes

STEVEN LINDSEY | Contributing Writer stevencraiglindsey@me.com


EAT THAT | The chubby gay boy, center, gets his revenge by turning his life into a humorous cabaret in ‘Ryan O’Connor Eats His Feelings.’

RYAN O’CONNOR EATS
Greenville Center for the Arts, 5601 Sears St.
June 23 at 8 p.m. $15.
ContemporaryTheatreofDallas.com







Don’t call Ryan O’Connor a standup comic. Sure, he’s funny, he stands onstage in front of a microphone and people laugh, but his show is more than that.
The former actor and talk-show character player recently embarked on his first tour (complete with a rented Minivan) and took time out hours before the debut performance in San Francisco to talk about his career, his show and the foods that make him happy. His current boyfriend is Mormon, three of his exes have gone off to marry women and he’s not above smuggling dogs into hotel rooms. How could he not be a comic?

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Dallas Voice: So when did you first start doing comedy — or rather, getting paid for doing comedy? Ryan O’Connor: My first paid comedy gig was with Second City in New York. We formed an improv group out of that called the Birdwatchers. There were eight of us and we got a split of the door, so we got about 20 bucks.

How is being a comedian different from being an actor? It’s been an evolution. In a lot of ways I fought being a comedian because there’s a lot of fear involved in it. Even describing myself as a comedian right now feels ambitious. I consider myself more a storyteller, and I tend to tell funny stories. But I’ve come to terms with the fact that people would like me to call myself a comedian, so I’ll oblige.

People like labels. Exactly. But even when you’re doing cabaret, you’re still one man standing in front of a microphone. I’m a cabaret artist, which I sometimes describe as singing standup. You will never catch me at a standup open mike; you will never catch me going on after a standup performer. It’s just way too terrifying for me. Even though it’s not that much different than what I do, in my brain, it’s terrifying.

You sing a lot in your show. Is the singing your security blanket? Yeah, kind of. It’s not even that I have the world’s most terrific voice. It’s just that I’m comfortable.

Musical theater is what I grew up in. It’s what I’ve known my entire life. It gives me security knowing that if a story bombs, I have a song I can go into and songs are easier to sell than comedy. Even funny songs, it’s at least written into the music. This sounds like the most defensive interview of all time!

I’m sorry. No it’s me, not you!

Your publicity describes you as the “big gay singing Kathy Griffin.” Do you think she’s worried about you stealing her gays? Kathy’s a friend of mine. I got her blessing to refer to myself as the big gay singing Kathy Griffin. I don’t think Kathy sees anyone as a threat any more. In the last couple of years she’s finally getting the acclaim she’s deserved forever.

I’m sure she loves the label — it gets her name out there more. It’s only fair, too, because I’ve been in her act before. She used to refer to me in her act as her Pink Hollywood Gay or something.

That’s the double gay dream: Being friends with Kathy Griffin and being mentioned in her act. I was a huge fan before we became friends, so to have a story mentioned in her act was very surreal.

Do you have any juicy celebrity stories? Not in this show, but I do. I am not as willing as Kathy is to “go there.” Most Hollywood types are so difficult to deal with anyway, that once you do something publicly, it’s even worse. I see how tough it can be for her. It’s isolated her. There’s groups of people that shy away from her. I think they laugh at her in the privacy of their homes, but if she walks into a party, they all avoid her like the plague. That’s a very lonely kind of fame.

I tell stories in my show and I don’t say it and people don’t know that I’m talking about a very famous person. I could cash in and make this more exciting, but I choose not to.

What can people expect from your show? It’s a comedic, self-effacing journey through story and song about my life and experiences as a compulsive overeater. It goes into my food addiction and how that is a manifestation of my experiences as a child, as well as an adult. My experiences in show business, my experiences as a gay man, all sorts of things. The show is Ryan O’Connor Eats His Feelings, but it could just as easily be Joe Schmo Eats His Feelings or Tiger Woods Fucks His Feelings.

You don’t have to be gay to enjoy it then. My show’s definitely not a gay show. It’s a gay story so gay people relate to it immediately.

Are you empowered by the self-effacing part of it, beating others to the punch? That’s absolutely what it is. The whole show is what I learned as a 10-year-old fat kid. My mom always told me if I made the joke first, they can’t make it. That was my survival tool as a fat boy and a gay boy. That’s how you get through it.

This article appeared in the National Pride edition in the Dallas Voice print edition June 18, 2010.

—  Dallasvoice