Teen love in Texas

Don't-Let-Me-GoDon’t Let Me Go
by J.H. Trumble (2012, Kensington). $15; 352 pp.

Nate Schaper was in love with Adam Jefferies from the moment Adam had rushed over to Nate’s locker to help another student who’d been bullied. Adam was like that: compassionate and smart, gentle and caring — not to mention so beautiful, Nate could barely stand it. They were an “us” not long after that morning by the lockers, and within weeks, they’d decided to come out together.

Adam was a senior then — a budding actor, a lover of the stage, and about to graduate. Nate was a junior and he never wanted to let Adam go.

But the following summer, he had to do it: Houston and New York City are 1,600 miles apart, and Adam had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to appear off-off-Broadway. Nate wasn’t about to hold him back.

Once in New York, though, Adam seemed not to miss Nate as much as the other way around. Adam had a new life complete with hottie roommate. He never seemed to have time for Nate anymore. Things had changed.

But Nate had changed, too. Angry with the way his life was going, he’d become a silent activist at school. He made a new friend, a straight guy who wouldn’t take any trouble from bullies. And when it seemed like Adam was so yesterday, Nate found another boyfriend.

But can you truly forget the love you lost?  Stuffing aside memories of Adam and the things they shared, Nate wondered when he ever would…

Looking to spend some time with a wonderfully satisfying love story?  You can stop your search right here, because Don’t Let Me Go will do just right.

With some not-quite-chaste bedroom scenes and a host of characters to embrace, author J.H. Trumble adds sass and spice to a tale of romance found and lost.

But love isn’t the only focus of this story: teenage Nate encounters homophobia in various forms and though it lends a certain squirmy realism, those parts of this book aren’t easy to read. Fortunately, Trumble’s supporting (and supportive) cast offsets the hate, which gives this novel meaning.

This is a great book for teens and adults alike, and it has an ending that … well, I don’t want to ruin it for you, so let’s just say it works. If you’re up for a nice boy-meets-boy story, Don’t Let Me Go is a book to get lost in.

— Terri Schlichenmeyer

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 3, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Trying to understand the inconceivable

A friend’s suicide leaves a reporter with questions that can’t be answered and a pain that won’t diminish

If there is any criminal act that leaves the victim’s survivors more bewildered, frustrated and tormented than suicide, I can’t imagine what it could possibly be.

David-Webb
David Webb The Rare Reporter

Four months ago, I discovered one of my former college classmates and best friends of more than 40 years dead in his home, apparently by his own hand. The official ruling was suicide by a shot to the head with a handgun that I didn’t even know he owned.

I now understand that he bought the gun for protection several decades ago. The idea that my friend would even own a gun for protection seemed ludicrous to me because I couldn’t imagine anyone who was so loving, peaceful and gentle being capable of shooting anyone, let alone himself.

I’ve been told that some people buy guns for protection because they believe that the exhibition of one will scare an intruder away. That must have been what he was thinking.

I’ve finally decided to write about this because The Dallas Morning News columnist Steve Blow recently wrote a column noting that older white men are more likely to commit suicide than other groups of people. My friend fit in that category.

It is inconceivable to me that my friend — who as a young man had been beautiful, talented, athletic, affluent and charismatic — could ever succumb to such a fate. But if it could happen to him, I guess it could happen to anyone when they grow older.

My friend was a 61-year-old straight guy who had never been married, and his best friend was his elderly Jack Russell Terrier who was dying of old age. He became so depressed one time that he went to bed and was found later, nearly dead of starvation and dehydration.

As a young man, my friend was adored by both women and men. But when he grew older, the attention from everyone died away. He had trouble making dates and trying to form a relationship in his older years.

He also was experiencing devastating financial problems of which few people were aware.

My friend had suffered a similar depressive experience five years ago when his mother died of natural causes. But he seemingly had recovered enough to function for a few years before his death. But he apparently quit taking the medication that had brought him back to sanity in years past. He suffered a terrible relapse as a result.

My friend was admitted to a hospital’s intensive care unit and later transferred to a mental hospital. Although his family and many friends rallied around him with loving care, he just never made it back to where he had been. His beloved dog was put to sleep while he was hospitalized.

He was released from the hospital, but it was clear he was not well. He was registered for outpatient care but apparently could not face it.

Within two days, he was dead.

Many things come to my mind about this on a near-daily basis now. It is so unbelievable to me that he could shoot himself or anyone else that I sometimes have trouble believing it was really a suicide.

I think that’s what they call denial.

Logically, I know it was suicide, and I’m glad that he is free of the severe mental illness that he had apparently endured for a number of years.

Emotionally, I search for answers and often think, “What if?” I would never have left him alone for those two days had I known he was in such danger from himself.

The two lessons I believe that can be learned from this are that if someone has suffered a mental illness, they should never be left alone until it is ascertained they are again stable.

The other message is for the mentally ill who are considering suicide if they are able at that point of making logical decisions: The pain and suffering that will be wrought upon the surviving friends and family will result in a lifetime of utter agony for them.

A friend of mine whose mother went into her garage many years ago, started her car and died, said to me, “Your mind is going to be raw for a very long time.” And it is.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative press for more than two decades. He is a former Dallas Voice staff writer and editor. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

—  Kevin Thomas

Your son’ll come out, tomorrow

SLEAZY STREET | Redneck Tenor Matthew Lord takes more potshots at the Bush Administration than gay people in his parody of ‘Annie.’

What’s a straight guy doing mocking a classic with the word ‘Trannie’? Making people laugh, that’s what

MARK LOWRY |  Contributing Writer
marklowry@theaterjones.com

It’s a beloved tale of musical theater: girl escapes orphanage, goes on quest for her parents, sings about tomorrow and ends up with a life of luxury and love — not to mention a spiffy red ’fro — with her new Daddy.

Make that two daddies. Trannie, a full-out parody of the aw-shucks family musical Annie, makes its world premiere this weekend in a tiny shed in the shadow of Grapevine’s squeaky-clean Main Street district.

The show follows the adventures of a transvestite (not transsexual) who leaves behind her prostitute pals and searches for the men who gave her up when gay couples were denied adoption rights. She sings in a nightclub called the Manhole, eventually discovering her dads, thanks to a cherished pearl necklace they once gave her.

Songs in the show include “I’m Gonna Come Out Tomorrow,” “It’s a Knocked-Up Life,” “S.T.D.” and “Sleazy Street,” which any musical queen will recognize as trash parodies of Annie hits. But despite being created by a heterosexual man, this is not a case of straight folks making fun of the T in LGBT. Nor of the G, L or B.

“I’ve been on the phone with my gay friends about this for a year, asking them ‘Can I write this?’” says Matthew Lord, the straight guy who created it. “I didn’t write this lightly. But I decided that if everybody wrote to whom they are, then nothing would ever get written.”

Lord grew up in San Francisco in the ’70s and ’80s, using his vocal talents to make a career of musical theater and opera. He has performed at the Met, originated a role in Andre Previn’s opera A Streetcar Named Desire and, as Nero, made out with three countertenors nightly in a production of Monteverdi’s The Coronation of Poppea. But he’s best known as a founding member of the locally based 3 Redneck Tenors. That group, which made it to the semi-finals of America’s Got Talent in 2007, performs opera, Broadway and popular as trailer-dwelling mullet-heads, so satire is in Lord’s veins.

As for credibility with the gay community, he knows he has nothing to worry about.

“I was one of two straight men in the San Francisco Opera chorus in the ’80s, I would go to their birthday parties at The Stud,” he says. “I grew to have this incredible understanding of not understanding why the rest of the world [didn’t accept] homosexuality. Except for the sex part, I’m as gay as they come.”

Trannie was born from a casual conversation after Ohlook, Lord’s theater company, had performed Annie. The theater is a school that performs more traditional musicals, but also does a late-night series with shows like Evil Dead the Musical, Reefer Madness and The Rocky Horror Show (Ohlook’s two-time Rocky was Jeff Walters, now Clay Aiken’s boyfriend).

For anyone upset about the use of the un-P.C. title, it’s all in good fun.

“Trannie is the most sane character in the show,” Lord says, adding that it addresses issues like prostitution, homelessness and closed-minded politicians. “It makes fun of everything and it makes fun of nothing, you know what I mean? There’s nothing hurtful in it.”

Well, there are slams at the Bush administration, with a parody of the Annie song “We’d Like to Thank You Herbert Hoover,” substituting the lyrics for the policies of George W. Bush.

Will it be irreverent, filthy and touching? Yes, yes and that’s the plan. Will it be funny? Bet your bottom dollar.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 25, 2011.

—  John Wright

A lot of balls in the air

ATTENTION, SPORTS FANS | Despite his reputation for flamboyance, Steve Kemble is a huge sports fan and expects a lot of other gay people are, too.

How a straight guy decided the gay community deserves a Super Bowl party to rival the biggest mainstream events

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

Jason Hutchins has attended the last eight Super Bowls with his limo business, so he’s had the opportunity to see a lot of successes — and failures — in how events centered around the big game are staged. So when he decided to put on a weekend of parties, he had some very specific ideas about how to do it right.

But one thing he hadn’t seen enough of was huge parties targeting the gay community.

“There wasn’t one, and I thought there needed to be,” he says. “I felt it would be a good way to get the [gay] community involved in the Super Bowl without it being centered on the clubs. Or all about sports.”

Maybe most straight guys wouldn’t expect to see a gay sports-centered event, but Hutchins isn’t most straight guys. He was sure that there are plenty of gay sports fans … and plenty more who would simply get caught up in the excitement of having the Super Bowl in their hometown and wanna party during Super Week.

Certainly Steve Kemble numbers himself among them. You might not expect Dallas’ most flamboyant style maven to be a beer guzzling gridiron junkie. But you’d be wrong (well, OK, he probably sips more cosmotinis, but you get the idea).

“I come from a family of seven football coaches … then me!” he says with characteristic enthusiasm. “I told my dad, ‘OK, I’m older now, you can tell me the truth: I’m adopted.’ He said, ‘No, you’re one of us.’ But I do love sports, so I guess that proves it.”

It’s also what made Kemble, the self-described “Hostess with the Mostest,” a natural choice to emcee the event, manning the red carpet and introducing all the acts. And Kemble agrees that gay sports fans are an underserved market. After all, you can love touchdowns and upswept hair in equal parts.

“There are a lot of gay people who love sports, don’t you think?” Kemble asks. “I probably go on ESPN once or twice a month now, and after the first time, this producer came up to me and said, ‘That was a fabulous segment, but quit trying to butch it up. We want you gay — you play to that demographic. We have a lot of gay men and women who watch.”

(Try to get the image of Kemble “butching it up” out of your head.)

Coordinating the concerts has been a staggering undertaking — one Hutchins has built up to over his years in the entertainment field.

“I started with small parties — 75 to 200 people, growing to 500 to 1,000,” he says. But the weekend of the Super Bowl, he’s throwing three parties, all on the field of the Cotton Bowl, and he expects 5,000 to 7,000 attendees for each of them. And only one is targeted to a niche community (which probably has the best line-up of any of the parties).

Jason Hutchins

Hutchins has been thinking of the event ever since the Metroplex was announced as home of Super Bowl XLV, and has been devoted to it 24/7 since last March. He mirrored the event after the after-party at the Phoenix Super Bowl, which he deemed to best he’d attended. The field of the Cotton Bowl is being covered by a floor and covered in a climate controlled tent.

“The best parties are all tent parties,” he says. And while he always wants live music, he says DJs are essential to keeping the attendees dancing.

Hutchins researched a lineup that would appeal to a wide spectrum of gay fans, as well as straight people who like to party with us. That necessarily included Hector Fonseca, the No. 1 gay DJ internationally last year, and Cazwell, whose infectious “Ice Cream” song became a sensation last summer. T.a.T.u. singer Lena Katina has also proven to be a popular choice. Then there are the more established groups.

“I’m so excited about seeing the Village People!” exclaims Kemble. “Didn’t you have a fantasy about one of them? I love them all. And I love love love Lady Bunny! She is just amazing. I use her for parties all over the country.”

You can even vote to put Kemble in a Village People costume.

Hutchins and Kemble both think, though, that the Thursday concert will attract people outside the gay community.

“I think we’re gonna attract a huge demographic that draws everyone together,” says Kemble. “That’s one of the things that’s so cool about Dallas — I think this event is gonna be great. Fair Park is gonna be abuzz — P. Diddy is having his party there, too, which makes it a hotbed of activity.”

The all-inclusive Feb. 3 party runs from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m.; a portion of ticket sales and proceeds from the silent auction above the minimum bid benefit DIFFA. For tickets, visit XLVParty.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 21, 2011.

—  John Wright

Kane’s ‘Why Am I Not Gay?’ has its ups and downs — but not tops and bottoms

Jason Kane
This ensemble is too straight to be gay — just like Jason Kane.

Last week, I talked with local actor Jason Kane and his new (to Dallas) one-man show Why Am I Not Gay? Growing up a fan of musical theater and the Pet Shop Boys, he apparently set off a lot of gaydar. In his show, he pokes fun at this throughout the years with a peppering of showtunes and pop songs (gay).

I hit up the show last night at Tucker’s Blues in Deep Ellum, which by the way, is an amazing venue. Kane, in appropriately drab clothing (straight) took the stage about 7:30 opening with a tune (gay) and launched into his monologue about the trials and tribulations of being mistaken for an M4M kinda guy.

Accompanying him, along with his music director Daniel Ezell, is a scoreboard with “G” and “S” and along the way, he added tic marks for his varying degrees of orientation (Get it? “G”ay, “S”traight.). With hilarious nods to  music preferences and The Golden Girls (way gay), he gains a whole lot of “G” marks, but counteracts with some of his more breeder-like tendencies that put “S” on the board. However, he didn’t employ this schtick enough. When he returned to the board, he was attempting to recall what he should have been marking which made for an awkward moment. Kane had great recovery time and easily whipped out (gay) snappy one-liners to compensate.

His audience threw him off his game a few times. Having friends come to your show is fine but some began mistaking his monologue for dialogue. Kane kept composure but high school tales that audience members begged for more information on upset song cues and rhythm.

Kane has great singing chops (gay). Sometimes the songs took a serious turn after a punchline, but a surprisingly beautiful voice emanated from this imposing gruff straight guy (closet gay). Add to that some key moments like his bear bar tale and explaining why every girl has become his BFF because “he doesn’t like vaginas.” Funny stuff.

The show could easily be misconstrued in a lot of ways. He uses “homo” enough to make any gay person wonder if he’s being derogatory (way straight). But then he relates how he’s always supported his LGBT friends and takes on issues like Prop 8 (gay-friendly). Admittedly, it took some time to process the show, but ultimately, I found it a fun piece that doesn’t just dole out the laughs, but leaves people, straight and gay, something to think about.

And yes, he’s straight — straighter than he thinks he is.

The show closes Thursday night: Why Am I Not Gay? at Tucker’s Blues, 2617 Commerce St. Aug. 19. 7 p.m. $10.

—  Rich Lopez