The good, the bad & the ‘A-List’

These arts, cultural & sports stories defined gay Dallas in 2011

FASHIONS AND FORWARD  |  The Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit at the DMA, above, was a highlight of the arts scene in 2011, while Dirk Nowitzki’s performance in the NBA playoffs gave the Mavs their first-ever — and much deserved — world title. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

FASHIONS AND FORWARD | The Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit at the DMA, above, was a highlight of the arts scene in 2011, while Dirk Nowitzki’s performance in the NBA playoffs gave the Mavs their first-ever — and much deserved — world title. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

A lot of eyes were focused on Dallas nationally in 2011 — for good and bad — but much of what made the city a fun place last year has specific queer appeal. CULTURE The rise of the reality TV star. 2011 was the year Dallas made a big splash across everyone’s television sets — and it had nothing to do with who shot J.R. (although that’s pending). From the culinary to the conniving, queer Dallasites were big on the small screen. On the positive side were generally good portrayals of gay Texans. Leslie Ezelle almost made it all the way in The Next Design Star, while The Cake Guys’ Chad Fitzgerald is still in contention on TLC’s The Next Great Baker. Lewisville’s Ben Starr was a standout on MasterChef. On the web, Andy Stark, Debbie Forth and Brent Paxton made strides with Internet shows Bear It All, LezBeProud and The Dallas Life,respectively.

‘A’ to Z  |  ‘The A-LIst: Dallas,’ above, had its detractors, but some reality TV stars from Big D, like Chad Fitzgerald, Leslie Ezelle and Ben Starr, represented us well.

‘A’ to Z | ‘The A-LIst: Dallas,’ above, had its detractors, but some reality TV stars from Big D, like Chad Fitzgerald, Leslie Ezelle and Ben Starr, represented us well.

There were downsides, though. Drew Ginsburg served as the token gay on Bravo’s teeth-clenching Most Eligible: Dallas, and the women on Big Rich Texas seemed a bit clichéd. But none were more polarizing than the cast of Logo’s The A-List: Dallas. Whether people loved or hated it, the six 20somethings (five gays, one girl) reflected stereotypes that made people cringe. Gaultier makes Dallas his runway. The Dallas Museum of Art scored a coup, thanks to couture. The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk not only featured the work of the famed designer, but was presented the designs in an innovative manner. Nothing about it was stuffy. Seeing his iconic designs in person is almost a religious experience — especially when its Madonna’s cone bra. Gaultier reminded us that art is more than paintings on a wall. (A close runner-up: The Caravaggio exhibit in Fort Worth.) The Return of Razzle Dazzle. ­­There was speculation whether Razzle Dazzle could actually renew itself after a near-decade lull, but the five-day spectacular was a hallmark during National Pride Month in June, organized by the Cedar Springs Merchant Association. The event started slowly with the wine walk but ramped up to the main event street party headlined by rapper Cazwell. Folding in the MetroBall with Deborah Cox, the dazzle had returned with high-profile entertainment and more than 10,000 in attendance on the final night. A Gathering pulled it together. TITAS executive director Charles Santos took on the daunting task of producing A Gathering, a collective of area performance arts companies, commemorating 30 years of AIDS. Groups such as the Dallas Opera, Turtle Creek Chorale and Dallas Theater Center donated their time for this one-of-a-kind show with all proceeds benefiting Dallas’ leading AIDS services organizations. And it was worth it. A stirring night of song, dance and art culminated in an approximate 1,000 in attendance and $60,000 raised for local charities. Bravo, indeed. The Bronx closed after 35 years. Cedar Springs isn’t short on its institutions, but when it lost The Bronx, the gayborhood felt a real loss. For more than three decades, the restaurant was home to many Sunday brunches and date nights in the community. We were introduced to Stephan Pyles there, and ultimately, we just always figured on it being there as part of the fabric of the Strip. A sister company to the neighboring Warwick Melrose bought the property with rumors of expansion. But as yet, the restaurant stands steadfast in its place as a reminder of all those memories that happened within its walls and on its plates.  The Omni changed the Dallas skyline. In November, The Omni Dallas hotel opened the doors to its 23-story structure and waited to fill it’s 1,000 rooms to Dallas visitors and staycationers. Connected to the Dallas Convention Center, the ultra-modern hotel is expected to increase the city’s convention business which has the Dallas Visitors and Conventions Bureau salivating — as they should. The hotel brought modern flair to a booming Downtown and inside was no different. With quality eateries and a healthy collection of art, including some by gay artists Cathey Miller and Ted Kincaid, the Omni quickly became a go-to spot for those even from Dallas. SPORTS The Super Bowl came to town. Although seeing the Cowboys make Super Bowl XLV would have been nice for locals, the event itself caused a major stir, both good and bad. Ticketing issues caused a commotion with some disgruntled buyers and Jerry Jones got a bad rap for some disorganization surrounding the game. But the world’s eyes were on North Texas as not only the game was of a galactic measure, but the celebs were too. From Kardashians to Ke$ha to Kevin Costner, parties and concerts flooded the city and the streets. The gays even got in on the action. Despite crummy weather, the Super Street Party was billed as the “world’s first ever gay Super Bowl party.” The ice and snow had cleared out and the gays came out, (and went back in to the warmer clubs) to get their football on. The XLV Party at the Cotton Bowl included a misguided gay night with acts such as Village People, Lady Bunny and Cazwell that was ultimately canceled. The Mavericks won big. The Mavs are like the boyfriend you can’t let go of because you see how much potential there is despite his shortcomings. After making the playoffs with some just-misses, the team pulled through to win against championship rivals, Miami Heat, who beat them in 2006. In June, the team cooled the Heat in six games, taking home its first NBA Championship, with Dirk Nowitzki appropriately being named MVP. The Rangers gave us faith. Pro sports ruled big in these parts. The Mavericks got us in the mood for championships and the Texas Rangers almost pulled off a victory in the World Series. With a strong and consistent showing for the season, the Rangers went on to defend their AL West Division pennant. Hopes were high as they handily defeated the Detroit Tigers in game six, but lost the in the seventh game. Although it was a crushing loss, the Texas Rangers proved why we need to stand by our men.

— Rich Lopez

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 6, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

Gayest Super Bowl moment: ‘Cram it in the Boot’

I don’t expect many overtly gay moments from the Super Bowl, but one kept coming back to me. No, it wasn’t Christina Aguilera’s anthem fail, which drag queens most likely will bypass in future performances; and it wasn’t the emergence of probable new bearish icons Brett Goode and Mike Tomlin. Actually, it was nothing that happened on the field.

The commercials were up and down in cleverness, but I have to admit, my jaw dropped in pure silence after watching this commercial. Gay? OK, maybe not overly, but I kinda doubt the straights will be running with the catchphrase, “Cram it in the boot.”

—  Rich Lopez

A Super Bowl-sized closet

Esera Tuaolo, far left, Roy Simmons, second from left, and Dave Kopay, far right, are the only three retired NFL players ever to come out as gay. Brian Sims, second from right, is the only active NCAA player ever to come out. (Kevin Thomas/Dallas Voice)

Gay ex-players on how and when someone in NFL will finally come out

JOHN WRIGHT | Online Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

With a combined 106 players on the rosters of the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s all but certain that a few participants in Super Bowl XLV will be gay or bisexual.

Needless to say, though, when the two teams take the field at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington on Sunday, Feb. 6, we won’t know who those players are.

In the 91-year history of the National Football League, not a single active player has come out.

And only three former players have come out after retiring from the NFL — Dave Kopay in 1975, Roy Simmons in 1992, and Esera Tuaolo in 2002.

“What I find kind of disappointing is that sports seems to be the last bastion,” said Howard Bragman, the famous gay publicist who specializes in helping athletes and celebrities come out. “We even have seemingly won the military.

“I think the fans’ attitudes are changing,” said Bragman, whose clients have included Tuaolo and John Amaechi, the former professional basketball player who came out in 2007. “I think it’s all going to change, but we’re not there. We’ve scratched the surface of progress. We have an awful long way to go.”

Bragman said he believes one reason why no NFL player has come out is that it would put the person in physical danger on the field.

“I pity the guy who’s the first NFL player to come out,” Bragman said. “I think there are some vindictive people in the league.”

Although an out player’s teammates might rally around him, especially if he’s popular and has been around a while, he would run the risk of cheap shots from opposing teams, Bragman said.

“In the NFL you could shoot somebody and you’re probably not going to be hated as much as if you came out,” he said. “I think it’s really one of the last places that we have to fight homophobia and we have to fight a lot of myths and a lot of stereotypes, when these Neanderthals say things like, ‘Oh, I wouldn’t want to shower with one.’ It’s like, have we ever heard a story of a gay man attacking a straight man in the shower? I don’t think so. It’ just crazy.”

Still, Bragman and others say they see signs of progress.

Anti-gay comments from NFL players, once seemingly condoned, now draw discipline from NFL teams, and sometimes condemnation from others in the league.

A few straight NFL players, such as linebacker Scott Fujita of the Cleveland Browns (formerly of the New Orleans Saints), have spoken out publicly in support of LGBT equality.

But even so, Bragman said he believes the first NFL player to come out will do so involuntarily.

“I don’t think the first person who comes out in the NFL is going to come out pretty,” Bragman said. “I think the first person who comes out in the NFL is going to be outed, because we live in such a transparent world, and there’s going to be a picture that comes out or something like that that happens, as opposed to someone goes, ‘Hey, I’m gay.’”

Bragman noted there are no out players in pro baskeball, hockey or baseball, either, but he said he expects that to change soon.

“Within five years we’ll have two or three out men’s players in one of the major sports,” he predicted.

Others, meanwhile, believe the first openly gay NFL player will be someone who came out in high school or college.

Brian Sims, who came out while he was a team captain for the Division II football team at Bloomberg (Pa.) University in 2000, remains the only known active NCAA player to have done so.

“The first [NFL] player who comes out is going to be a Jackie Robinson,” Sims said, referring to the first black major league baseball player. “I think they’re going to be famous. I think they’re going to be a millionaire. But it will probably be somebody in college that was out and is just too good to ignore, which means probably one of the
skill positions.

“He’ll be too good not to draft, and a team like Miami, a team like New York … Somebody like that will pick him up proudly and say: ‘Yeah, you know what? We’ve got a built-in fan base just for this player alone.’” Sims said. “And it will be overwhelming how supportive people in the league will be.”

Sims, a defensive tackle who was universally accepted by his teammates when he came out, is now a Philadelphia-based attorney who specializes in LGBT civil rights.

Sims frequently speaks on the issue of homophobia in sports to athletes and students on college campuses.

He said he’s encouraged by the fact that there are out athletes in some sports on every campus he’s visited. And while none of them are football players, he says he knows gay football players at both the collegiate and pro levels.

“Some of them are living very closeted lives, very afraid of the repercussions,” Sims said. “Some of them are able to live relatively out lives in big cities …
“There are [NFL] players I know who are out, who have partners, and they’re able to be out with friends and with family. … They don’t sneak off once a month with their partner.”

But Sims, who believes a gay NFL player would represent a huge milestone for LGBT equality, said he doesn’t expect the players he knows to come out publicly anytime soon.

“I wish they would,” he said. “I’m one of the people that if you’re a closeted gay football player in this county, I’m one of the people that you shoot a message to. You would be amazed if you saw the amount of, ‘Hey, do you mind if I share something with you?’ kind of e-mails that I get.”

Tuaolo, 42, who played with five different NFL teams in nine years, said he knows firsthand why gay players in the NFL don’t come out.

It’s “the fear of working your ass off all your life to get where you’re at, and then just to know you could lose it all,” said Tuaolo, a defensive lineman who played in the Super Bowl for the Atlanta Falcons in 1999.

“I was afraid to type in the word ‘gay’ in college in a computer, because I thought it would come back to me,” Tuaolo said. “It’s the fear that you live in, it’s the anxiety that you live in, it’s the hurt that you live in when you’re in the closet. I didn’t know of all these organizations that are so supportive in the gay community. You kind of live on this island.

“When I was in the closet, all I saw was the people who didn’t support us,” Tuaolo added. “All I heard was the people who didn’t support us.”

Tuaolo, who now lives in Minneapolis, said he’s been amazed by the support he’s received since coming out.

He also said he believes coming out in the NFL would be much easier now than just 10 short years ago.

“The reason being, everybody knows a gay person,” said Tuaolo, a frequent speaker at both colleges and Fortune 500 companies. “Ninety-nine percent of people raise their hands when I ask, ‘Do you know a gay person?’

“If a gay athlete comes out while he’s still playing now, I think a lot of his teammates will have to answer to their families, because all of them know a gay person,” he said.
Tuaolo, who hid his partner from teammates while in the NFL, is the father of adopted twins — a boy and a girl — who are now 10.

“It’s great to take my son to the [Minnesota Vikings] game and everybody knows,” he said. “It’s an amazing feeling to get that support from people.”

But in a sign that homophobia is still pervasive in sports, Tuaolo acknowledged that he’s dating a semi-pro baseball player who isn’t out to his team.

“We’re out to our friends and our family, but not out to his teammates,” he said. “I know how it is and stuff. When he’s comfortable and he’s ready to tell his teammates, perfect.”

Kopay, 68, now retired from a post-NFL career in sales, said he’s convinced there are gay players on every NFL team.

But Kopay, who played in the NFL from 1964-72, came out in 1975 and wrote a best-selling biography in 1977, isn’t overly disappointed that no active NFL player has come out in the 36 years since he did so.

“How many hundreds of years did it take the black folks to get the civil rights law passed?” Kopay said. “Look at the progress we’ve made.”

A one-time Army Reservist, Kopay said he “cried like a baby” when “don’t ask don’t tell” was repealed late last year.

Also last year, Kopay attended the Super Bowl as a guest of Indianopolis Colts assistant coach Howard Mudd, his former teammate.

Kopay said he got a warm welcome from players and coaches during the trip, but it was also bittersweet knowing that anti-gay bias likely prevented him from following the same path as Mudd.

“Certainly I would have loved to have been a coach,” Kopay said. “It was painful for me, because it reminded me of my lack of doing what I always really wanted to do, but never got a chance to do.”

Kopay now lives in Seattle near his alma mater, the University of Washington, where he’s been named one of the 100 most influential graduates in the school’s first 100 years — largely because of his impact on gay rights (although he was also an All-American running back).

Kopay doesn’t travel or speak publicly as often as he used to, and he recalled one occasion last fall when he was invited to Arizona State University. Kopay said the ongoing gay youth suicide crisis weighed so heavily on his mind that he had to cancel the trip.

“It was so painful to think about, how there’s still been so little progress,” Kopay said. “I just got feeling so blue and angry that I couldn’t get my words out when I started reading and practicing delivering my speech. It brought me back to a place — it brought the anger in me.”

For Kopay, it’s difficult to ignore the fact that if LGBT youth had a professional athlete to look up to, they’d be less likely to give up hope. But he also said he’s comforted by the thousands of e-mails he’s received from people he’s inspired in other professions.

“It’s almost like I gave them permission to be who they were,” Kopay said. “It’s daunting to think about that, but it happened, and I’m really pleased that it happened. It’s incredible. That’s what gives me a sense of purpose in life, and a sense of happiness.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

The gays behind the Super Bowl (sort of)

Wendy Lopez

The North Texas Super Bowl XLV Host Committee, made up of 282 leaders from Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant counties, includes at least four openly gay members.

Wendy Lopez, vice president of URS Corp., is a member of the Host Committee’s Board of Directors, which is chaired by Roger Staubach and includes the likes of Tom Hicks, Ross Perot Jr. and T. Boone Pickens. Lopez declined our request for an interview about her role on the Board of Directors.

The other openly gay members of the Host Committee — who have honorary roles and haven’t been actively involved in preparations for the Super Bowl — are Tony Vedda, president and CEO of the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce; Jonathan Palant, artistic director for the Turtle Creek Chorale; and Kevin Moriarty, artistic director for the Dallas Theater Center.

Vedda said he, Palant and Moriarty were named to the Host Committee a few years ago by the city of Dallas.

“To the best of our knowledge, there’s not been a GLBT Chamber ever invited to be on a Super Bowl Host Committee,” Vedda said. “For the state of Texas, which people always assume is so conservative, to have this great event here and to have our chamber connected with it, is really a terrific honor. Of course we all know that North Texas is not the same as the rest of Texas.

“We are a gay and lesbian organization, and I am certainly openly gay, and so to be included and attend the events and interact with folks has just been a terrific experience,” Vedda added. “I think they made a real effort to connect within communities, by inviting people like me to be part of the Host Committee. I viewed this not as a one-time deal. I really viewed this as, I want to understand what it is to be on this committee so that, when it happens again, and I expect it will, we’re knowledgeable enough to position our community better.”

—  John Wright

A week before the Super Bowl, gay candidate kicks off City Council bid in host city Arlington

Hightower in his fourth-grade Hill Highlander uniform.

A week before Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, openly gay Realtor Chris Hightower is set to kick off his campaign for the District 5 seat on the City Council.

According to the Washington, D.C.-based Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which has endorsed Hightower, he would be the first openly gay city councilmember in Arlington’s history.

Chris Hightower

Hightower is an Arlington native who is the son of former Democratic State Rep. Paula Pierson. He lives with his partner in the historic “azalea house” at Park Row and Davis, according to his campaign website:

I am running for City Council because I love Arlington,” Hightower writes. “From the classrooms of my childhood to the elected offices of today, I have witnessed firsthand what good can come from the hard work of those who care about our hometown. They have made this city into the place that I love. Now, it is time for my generation to step forward and provide leadership for our city’s future just as the generations before us have. It is my hope that children living in Arlington today choose to stay here and raise their families — not because they see the great things I saw in our city while I was growing up, but because they saw something even better.”

Hightower is trying to unseat District 5 incumbent Lana Wolff, who is seeking a fifth term on the council. Other candidates expected to run in District 5 include attorney Terry Meza and UTA student Christopher McCain.

According to his Facebook page, Hightower will host a kickoff party at 7 p.m. this Saturday, Jan. 29 at 2316 Woodsong Trail in Arlington.

He becomes the second candidate from Texas endorsed by the Victory Fund this year, joining Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns, who’s seeking re-election to his District 9 seat.

The other known openly gay candidate in North Texas is James Nowlin, who plans to run for the District 14 seat on the Dallas City Council if incumbent Angela Hunt steps down to run for mayor.

—  John Wright

Super anti-bullying rally set

Long before the spate of bullying-related suicides that made headlines last fall, an organization called The Bully Suicide Project was working to shed light on the issue.

Now, the program hopes to capitalize on the excitement surrounding Super Bowl XLV to make that light even brighter.

Bully Suicide Project co-founder Dr. Audrey Newsome is working with the city of Dallas and the Dallas All Sports Association to stage what Newsome described as “the first major anti-bullying rally in Dallas.”

The “Super Day of Service, Super Day of Hope” rally will be held Friday, Feb. 4, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at City Hall Plaza.

That is the Friday before Super Bowl XLV will be played at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, and Newsome said organizers are hoping to use the excitement surrounding the NFL championship game to draw attention — and participants — to the rally.

“We already have 28 schools and four professional athletes that have confirmed they are participating in the rally,” in addition to state Rep. Eric Johnson, Newsome said, and more are confirming their participation daily.

Newsome said the two professional athletes whose names she can release at this time are Kansas City Chiefs safety Reshard Langford and Baltimore Ravens wide receiver David Tyree.

“We really wanted to get some of the professional athletes to participate in this because most of them have really been silent on the issue of bullying so far,” Newsome said. “We want to get people out there to think about this issue, and what better way to do that than to use the excitement of the Super Bowl.”

Founded in 2009 by Newsome and Beaux Wellborn as a joint project of Campus Harmony and Youth First Texas, the Bully Suicide Project aims to combat bullying of all kinds and to offer support to those who were being bullied.

Bully Suicide Project started with the release in December 2009 of a series of public service announcements with photos by Tracy Nanthavongsa that featured people of all ages making their own statement about bullying and how it affected them. (See photos from the PSAs only at DallasVoice.com)

A month or so later, in January 2010, Bully Suicide Project released a video PSA on YouTube and organizers began working with local schools to provide education and awareness on bullying and on creating safe spaces for those targeted by bullies.

Last August, Bully Suicide Project launched its fall awareness campaign, again featuring photos by Nanthavongsa and special make-up by Melissa Whitaker.

The theme for the fall campaign was “Real Students With Real Stats,” and each model was a high school or middle school student in North Texas that has survived bullying. The photos were graphic, intended to drive home the real life effects of bullying by showing the physical signs.

—Tammye Nash

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

—  John Wright

Obama coming to Super Bowl if Bears make it

Jets QB Mark Sanchez has what it takes to get the gays in Dallas excited about the Super Bowl.

I’ll be rooting for the Bears and the Jets this weekend, because, seriously, would you rather have a bunch of people from New York and Chicago in Dallas for the weekend, or a bunch of people from Green Bay and Pittsburgh?

Also, Jets QB Mark Sanchez and Bears QB Jay Cutler are way hotter than Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger.

Besides, the Packers beat my Eagles, so they deserve to go down in flames. And, on top of all that, if Chicago defeats Green Bay for the NFC Championship, the Huffington Post reports that the president will be here:

Many Chicago fans are confident that the Bears can win the NFC title and head to the Super Bowl in Dallas this year, and President Obama says if that happens–he’ll be there.

“If the Bears win, I’m going no doubt,” Obama told CNN in the Oval Office Wednesday morning.

The Bears face their ultimate rivals, the Green Bay Packers, this Sunday for the NFC championship. If they win, they’ll head to Super Bowl XLV in Dallas on Feb. 6.

—  John Wright

World’s first-ever gay Super Bowl block party planned for Cedar Springs in February

Scott Whittall

It’s being billed as the first-ever gay Super Bowl block party, and it’s planned for Saturday, Feb. 5 on the Cedar Springs strip in Dallas.

Scott Whittall, president of the Cedar Springs Merchants Association, announced today that the “Super Street Party” — organizers are barred from using the term “Super Bowl” — will be from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. on the eve of Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium.

Whittall said recent special events on the strip — including the Arts Fest, the Halloween block party and last weekend’s Sidewalk Sale – have been very successful. So the group didn’t want to miss out on a major opportunity to spotlight the city’s gay entertainment district.

“No matter which two cities’ teams are in the Super Bowl, there are going to be a lot of gay people coming to town,” Whittall said. “We love sports — we’re just like everybody else — and I think sports-minded gay people will come out in force. I don’t think you have to be sports-minded, either, to enjoy a big party.”

In another first, Cedar Springs Road will be fenced from Reagan Street to Throckmorton Street for the Super Street Party, Whittall said.

The fencing requirement, which will apply to all future block parties, is designed to facilitate crowd control and stop people from bringing in alcohol beverages and glass containers. There will be no charge for admission.

The Super Street Party will include beer booths manned by volunteers from local gay sports organization, which will keep a portion of the profits, Whittall said. Any leftover funds will go toward the Merchants Association’s beautification efforts.

“Our main concern is throwing a great party,” he said. “I think the only thing that makes us nervous is the weather. You never know what to expect weather-wise in Dallas in February. But at the same time, cold weather if football weather.”

—  John Wright