A win-win arrangement

The generosity of Bert Gallagher and Hudson Ferus Vodka is paying off for the new company and for the LGBT community

gallagher-and-jacobson

Bert Gallagher

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Gay Realtor Brian Bleeker knows how difficult it can be to raise money for a cause. And he knows how difficult it is for someone planning a small-scale fundraiser to find corporate sponsors for those events.

It’s not that companies don’t want to help, Bleeker said. But they plan their budget, including their charitable giving, months in advance, usually too early for those planning smaller or last-minute events to apply. The companies also usually want a lot of information on the event so they can gauge what kind of return they expect on their investment. And that is often information that organizers for smaller events don’t really have.

And then Bleeker met Bert Gallagher, cofounder and co-owner of a relatively new company producing Hudson Ferus Vodka, and that changed. Bleeker said he met Bleeker through a representative for a local liquor distributor, and he invited Gallagher to attend a mixer for the DFW Federal Club.

“It was almost two years ago, and I think he was just really impressed by the amount of time and effort people were willing to put into something we believed in,” Bleeker said.

Gallagher asked to meet with Bleeker and other local organizers, and at that meeting, “He said, ‘What can I do to help?’

Before long Gallagher had joined the DFW Federal Club and the Lambda Legal Liberty Circle, and he was donating vodka to events for those organizations and more.

And although some might be amazed that a straight man is so willing to be involved in LGBT activism, for Gallagher, it’s a no-brainer.

Gallagher and his business partner Doug Jacobson had a publication based in San Antonio before they got into the vodka business, and their first real exposure to HIV/AIDS and LGBT activism came when they were asked to sponsor the Fashion Nation event benefiting AIDS service organizations in that city.

Working with Fashion Nation organizers, Gallagher said, “gave me the chance to see firsthand how events like that can impact people’s lives. We knew then that we wanted to continue to be involved in events like that.” And when he met Bleeker and other activists in Dallas, Gallagher saw a natural extension of that involvement for Hudson Ferus.

“It was so impressive to see how organized the people are, how galvanized they are to make a difference,” Gallagher said. “The work these organizations are doing is really amazing, and that feeling has been reinforced each and every time we have sponsored an event,” he said.

Gallagher and Bleeker said that the sponsorships are definitely a win-win arrangement: Event organizers get the chance to offer free drinks made with a premium vodka, giving those attending events the chance to donate more to the cause; and the folks at Hudson Ferus are seeing their popularity rising steadily in the LGBT community.

“Folks are going in to their favorite bars and asking for Hudson Ferus, and when enough people ask for it, the bars will start stocking it. That’s how we are getting into places,” Gallagher said.

Bleeker noted that he is constantly astounded by the generosity of Gallagher and Hudson Ferus. “He has given away hundreds, thousands even, of bottles of vodka,” Bleeker said.

But for Gallagher, again, it is a no-brainer. “To whom much is given, much is expected. We have been given so much, and this is one way to give back.”

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

—  Kevin Thomas

Movie Monday: ‘Black Swan’ in limited release

Darren Aronofsky’s ballet movie ‘Black Swan’ luxuriates in weirdness.

Based on my vast inside information about the behind-the-scenes world of professional ballet — which I have culled exclusively from watching The Turning Point, The Company, parts of Fame and now this film, Black Swan — not much about dance has changed over 35 years, at least in New York City. Dancers still live in cramped walk-ups and take the 3 train from Lincoln Center to TriBeCa (or worse, the NRW to Queens) and exit only at ill-lit and ominous stations. They still wear leg-warmers and wrap their gnarled feet in worn slippers. The corps is always led by a shriveled Russian crone, her silver hair pulled tight into a ponytail, her wattle buried behind chunky jewelry. There’s also always a priggish, demanding European choreographer-artiste, possibly the only straight man in all of dance who belittles then sexually exploits every new ballerina.But there’s also always one tortured aspirant, whose drive and talent are her salvation and her undoing.

Yes, in the first half hour of Black Swan, director Darren Aronofsky and writers Andres Heinz, Mark Heyman and John J. McLaughlin, don’t miss a single cliché either visually (uppity versions of Flashdance) or plot-wise. And then something remarkable happens: The film becomes Hitchcockian — or rather, early Polanski, who stole from Hitch better than anyone, and delves into areas of insanity and fantasy you don’t expect. It doesn’t erase all that came before it, but it leaves you with an unsettled feeling that’s difficult to shake.

Four stars. For the complete review, click here.

DEETS: Black Swan. Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, Vincent Cassel. Rated R. 105 mins. Now playing at the Magnolia and the Angelika Film Center–Plano

—  Rich Lopez

There will be blood

Darren Aronofsky’s ballet movie ‘Black Swan’ luxuriates in weirdness. Wow

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

MIRROR, MIRROR | Nina (Natalie Portman) sees a lot of strange things looking back at her in mirrors, but none stranger than the movie itself.

4 out of 5 stars
BLACK SWAN

Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis,
Barbara Hershey, Vincent Cassel.
Rated R. 105 mins.
Now playing at the Magnolia and the Angelika Film Center–Plano

…………………………..

Based on my vast inside information about the behind-the-scenes world of professional ballet — which I have culled exclusively from watching The Turning Point, The Company, parts of Fame and now this film, Black Swan — not much about dance has changed over 35 years, at least in New York City. Dancers still live in cramped walk-ups and take the 3 train from Lincoln Center to TriBeCa (or worse, the NRW to Queens) and exit only at ill-lit and ominous stations. They still wear leg-warmers and wrap their gnarled feet in worn slippers. The corps is always led by a shriveled Russian crone, her silver hair pulled tight into a ponytail, her wattle buried behind chunky jewelry. There’s also always a priggish, demanding European choreographer-artiste, possibly the only straight man in all of dance who belittles then sexually exploits every new ballerina.But there’s also always one tortured aspirant, whose drive and talent are her salvation and her undoing.

Yes, in the first half hour of Black Swan, director Darren Aronofsky and writers Andres Heinz, Mark Heyman and John J. McLaughlin, don’t miss a single cliché either visually (uppity versions of Flashdance) or plot-wise. And then something remarkable happens: The film becomes Hitchcockian — or rather, early Polanski, who stole from Hitch better than anyone, and delves into areas of insanity and fantasy you don’t expect. It doesn’t erase all that came before it, but it leaves you with an unsettled feeling that’s difficult to shake.

Natalie Portman has rarely impressed me onscreen. The Star Wars films didn’t challenge her (and she didn’t disappoint, never rising above the ho-hum scripts and stodgy dialogue), and her stripper in Closer struck me as entirely false.

But here, as Nina — the tic-filled prima donna desperate for success but too repressed to explore the part of her that will allow her to triumph — Portman seems to fit like a foot in a ballet shoe.

Nina craves center stage, and she’s got talent, but she’s also troubled. Her mother (Barbara Hershey), once a dance hopeful, smothers her with expectations; Tomas (Vincent Cassel), the company’s leader, intimidates her; competition from the other girls is fierce, and Nina wants for confidence.

IT ISN’T ROMANTIC | Vincent Cassel’s predictable performance doesn’t clip this ‘Swan.’

But there’s something deeper holding her back, too: She’s paranoid (or is it just overly sensitive?), sensing every overheard titter is cruel mockery aimed at her; she’s obsessed with her body and a rash (or is she self-mutilating?); she sees dangers around every corner, including the fading diva (Winona Ryder), whom she’s in line to replace. And what of Lily (Mila Kunis), the newcomer who acts like her friend and possible lover, but could be pulling an Eve Harrington on her?

It’s difficult to tell what to believe in the world Aronofsky creates; maybe that’s why he echoes so many dance-movie clichés, to get us relaxed in the familiar before he turns out the lights. (Surprisingly, there are some standout special effects.) Like Polanski’s Repulsion and The Tenant — and more recently, Jacob’s Ladder — what we know is filtered through Nina’s mind. It’s never clear what we should trust. Does her mother even exist? Minor things become ominous: He turns the acts of hand-washing and fingernail-clipping into moments of intense terror, with too many bloody digits for my taste.

But to what end? Black Swan is difficult to parse. It’s creepy — a true thriller — that stays self-contained in the world of ballet.

Cassel delivers the film’s most predictable performance (he’s completely uninteresting), but Kunis reveals strength as an actress with a layered turn, and it’s nice seeing Hershey given a juicy role. (If Carrie ever tried to dance, her mom might look like Hershey’s, who elevates passive-aggression to high art.)

But, aside from Aronofsky, the film belongs to Portman. She’s brilliantly unbalanced, portraying a descent into insanity that is horrifying and unnerving but also rooted in humanity and frailty.

The disconnect between the predictability of the dance-driven aspects and the horror of what follows may cause Black Swan to struggle to find an audience. It’s not really a chick flick, but its esoteric discussion of ballet won’t exactly pull teen males into the multiplex. All the more reason to check it out during the crowded holidays — the gays can have the auditorium to ourselves.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

LSR Journal: Because by working together, we can make a difference

CAMERON THOMPSON Texas Casino Parties

The core group of LSR volunteers from Texas Casino Parties. Cameron Thompson is fifth from the right on the back row.
The core group of LSR volunteers from Texas Casino Parties. Cameron Thompson is fifth from the right on the back row.

I joined the Lone Star Ride after hearing one of my best dealers at Texas Casino Parties talking about it for a few years.

She had continuously talked about how important it was to her and how much fun it was.

I had been involved with March of Dimes for some years and each time I asked, she and other members of the Texas Casino Parties family always stepped-up, raised money and participated with me in that effort. So it was a no-brainer for me to step-up and participate with her.

Being a straight man, I knew about HIV/AIDS. But I had never really thought about how it affected me, my life, my family or what I considered to be my community. And then Lone Star Ride came along.

In stepping-up to support one of the dealers, we started with something simple and donated a casino party fundraiser for the Ride with Pride team. Many members of our dealer team volunteered their time and ended up donating money to the cause.

It was evident that our Texas Casino Parties family found some connection to the Lone Star Ride organization. My wife and all the rest of us that participated that first year at the party and on the ride had a blast and were ready to sign on for another year — and did.

We are happy to report that this will be our third year participating in Lone Star Ride.

Each year, the participation from the TCP family increases. In addition to donating the annual casino night event, an increasing number of dealers (we call them owners of the company) sign up to participate as riders, sweep, bike transport, pit crew, moto and administration. And this year, we now have representation on the medical team.

To say I’m glad that I have the opportunity to participate in Lone Star Ride would be correct. It’s a lot of fun, you get to meet great people, and best of all, support the community.

To say I’m proud to know that people I work with will step up and support each other in whatever their favorite cause may be would be an understatement. The Lone Star Ride is an amazing example of what can get accomplished when everyone works together.

To donate to Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS, go online to LoneStarRide.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 10, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Letters • 08.13.10

Justice postponed

I’m writing because I heard that Seth Winder’s trial for the murder of Richard Hernandez has been postponed again. I really don’t understand why.

Now consider this: Had it been me, a gay man, who had committed a terrible crime like this against a straight man, I bet you my life that I’d be on trial next week without any disruption or thought of postponement.

This is the justice system in the United States; just postpone their trial and let them walk away free, and forget about how this one person changed so many people’s lives.

It’s a sad and very hurtful chain of events to know that after almost two years of this circus, the people in Richard’s life can’t rest in peace either. At a certain point, you begin to feel that maybe we  should be judge and jury, and then this whole thing would be put to rest — including Seth Winder.

Rudy Araiza
Arlington

Italy becoming unsafe

Dear friends: We would like to raise your attention on the recent increase of homophobia in Italy.

Every day, we are seeing a growing number of hate crimes being committed against people because of their sexual orientation and their gender identity. In the last two months, Arcigay recorded an exponential number of cases all over the country of lesbian and gay people and couples being threatened, assaulted or exposed to public ridicule just because they were walking hand in hand, kissing or standing outside LGBT bars.

Recently, in Ostia, a seaside town near Rome, a gay couple was forced out of a beach resort after other people complained that they were kissing. In Milan, in the last month alone, our local branch recorded five assaults on gay people who were attacked and beaten only because they were standing outside LGBT bars or public spaces where they meet.

In two other circumstances, a homosexual couple in Torre del Lago in Tuscany and another one in Cagliari in Sardinia were just kissing on the beach and were targeted. Passers-by threatened to call the police if they didn’t stop. In another incident, two young gay people were assaulted and beaten outside a gay bar in Pesaro in an attack that required medical treatment.

Together with the increasing homophobia, LGBT bars and pubs throughout the country are also systematically harassed with unreasonable controls and exposed to constant and obsessive audits by different authorities.

Outdoor venues where gay people usually meet are sifted by the local police or fenced or even closed down by local authorities, who use as a pretext that homosexual people meeting there are “immoral.”

For example, this has happened at the Piave Spresiano riverside in Padova, where the town’s mayor has agreed to create “groups of volunteers” to patrol the venue, and has said that homosexuals are sick; and on the Oglio a Soncino riverside in Cremona, where the police have been asked to raid the place; and again at two other beaches, in Gaeta in Latina and Ancona, where local authorities have installed fences and CCTV cameras to prevent gay encounters.

LGBT people in Italy are beginning to live in an intolerable climate of fear, reminiscent of a witch hunt. This is a country where not only the rights of LGBT couples are not recognized — despite a recent Constitutional Court ruling — but, more alarming, a country where the Parliament rejected a bill that contained measures to fight homophobia stating in writing that the very expression “sexual orientation” is in itself “ambiguous,” as it could include things like pedophilia, zoophilia, necrophilia and incest.

We ask for your help to raise these concerns with the Italian government and other institutions. Italy has never been a country where LGBT people have been treated equally, but now it is beginning to be even more unsafe for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people.

Maurizio Cecconi
Arcigay, International Affairs

Arcigay is Italy’s largest LGBT rights organization. Founded in 1985, the organization had more than 160,000 members as of 2007.

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TO SEND A LETTER  | We welcome letters from readers. Shorter letters and those addressing a single issue are more likely to be printed. Letters are subject to editing for length and clarity, but we attempt to maintain the writer’s substance and tone. Include  your home address and a daytime telephone number for verification. Send letters to the senior editor, preferably by e-mail (nash@dallasvoice.com). Letters also may be faxed (214-969-7271) or sent via the U.S. Postal Service (Dallas Voice, 4145 Travis St., Third Floor, Dallas TX 75204). All letters become the property of Dallas Voice.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 13, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Not-so-straight acting

Comedian Jason Kane loves show tunes and cats — so why isn’t he gay?

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

HOMO NEUROTIC | Kane’s has accepted himself as a straight man — not that there’s anything wrong with that. (Rich Lopez/Dallas Voice).

WHY AM I NOT GAY?
Tucker’s Blues, 2617
Commerce St. Aug. 17–19.
7 p.m. $10.
TuckersBlues.com.

Jason Kane isn’t kidding himself: He knows when a man proudly talks about his collection of original Broadway cast recordings, the season finale of Kathy Griffin and his two cats, he should expect to be gay-tially profiled as family. He’s one Bette Midler concert shy of legally irrefutable proof of queerness.

Only Kane is straight — and that throws everything off kilter.

After a 12-year stint in New York (and sometimes Boston), Kane has returned to Dallas. He was doing the budding stage actor bit in the Big Apple, but when he found himself couch-surfing with a healthy dose of uncertainty, he headed home to regroup. Without wasting time, Kane has revamped his show Why Am I Not Gay?, which begs the question this week at Tucker’s Blues in Deep Ellum.

“I’m probably one of the gayest straight men out there,” he says. “I’ve performed this show in New York and Boston but coming back, I have to ask the question again.”

When he talks incessantly about being a “completist” and how that demands his need to have every version of the cast recording of Les Miserables (Broadway and London casts), then yeah, this question might come up. But is it fair to rule a man as gay just because his two pets, Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer are named after felines in Cats, or that some of his interview replies are done in song?
In his show, Kane deconstructs his own life to figure out what the hell happened. While doing so, he keeps score between “gay” and “straight” labels with tic marks and sings along the way — what better way for a hetero to prove he’s not a homo than through a Sondheim medley?

He tries to justify it.

“I would have no reason to be in the closet,” he says. “I’ve had gay friends for a long time. I sing ‘What Can You Lose?’ from Dick Tracy and a couple of Elton John songs, but I throw in some Barenaked Ladies and the Rolling Stones!”

Kane isn’t trying to laugh his way out of his admitted fondness for Erasure and Madonna and his ease of use with terms like “bear,” “twink” and “homo.” Instead, his show may say more about his audiences than just his funny look at his own professional and personal life. Why Am I Not Gay? takes a peek at the contrasts between gay and straight — which, according to him, are few.

“I think part of the show conveys the message that we really aren’t that different,” he says. “What we do in the bedroom is the only real place we diverge. The more I do theater, the more I realize that you can’t pin the tail on the homo donkey so easily.”

He’s reluctant to compare his high school experience to the gay experience, but he finds some parallels in “not being the cool guy” or being the weird theater dude. Even his parents broached the issue when Kane committed to a life in the theater. Weirdly enough, you could say the misidentification of Jason Kane gave him the gay youth ritual without being gay.

But Kane’s moved past his younger travails and he’s just working with what he’s got, which resulted in creating his own show alongside musical director Daniel Ezell. He’s just going for the laughs where he can get them.

“I know audiences will get the jokes and maybe even relate to them,” he says. “And I know, like in the past, some people will come up and say, ‘I’m still not convinced.’”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 13, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas