Black Tie 2011 set to ‘Shine’

Nan Arnold and Chris Kouvelis

Co-chairs announce theme for this year’s event, say more changes will be unveiled soon

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Black Tie co-chairs Nan Arnold and Chris Kouvelis this week announced the theme for the 30th annual Black Tie Dinner, set for Nov. 12 at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel. This year’s theme is short and sweet: “Shine.”

“Even though it is our 30th year, instead of focusing on this as an anniversary and looking back at where we’ve been, we want to focus on this being a celebration of where we are headed for the future,” said Arnold.

“We are really excited about this theme, about the idea of ‘shining’ a light on our future. And we think our creative team can do a lot with this theme,” she said.

Kouvelis added, “This theme will also be shining a light on our beneficiaries, too, and all the great work that they do in our community.”

Arnold and Kouvelis said that members of the Black Tie Dinner board are currently reviewing the more than 20 beneficiary applications the organization received this year.

Board members will then meet on Saturday, March 20, to choose the organizations that will share in the proceeds from this year’s fundraising dinner, and the names of those selected will be announced Thursday, March 31, during Black Tie’s annual Tarrant County reception, being held this year at American Airlines’ C.R. Smith Museum, 4601 Hwy. 360.

The co-chairs said planning for the 30th annual dinner is moving along smoothly, and that the board is reaching certain planning goals even earlier than usual. By early February, the board had already finalized deals for GameStop to once again be presenting sponsor for the dinner, and for Park Place Motorcars Dallas to sponsor the vehicle — a new Mercedes C 300 S coupe — for the dinner’s annual car raffle.

This week, Arnold and Kouvelis said that Diamond Jacks Casino in Shreveport/Bossier City has also already agreed to return as a sponsor.

“We just found out that they will come back this year at least at that same level, and they are going to sponsor our table captain dinner again this year,” Arnold said. “Diamond Jacks may also be helping us out with a couple of other things. They have been just wonderful to work with.”

Sales for the raffle tickets for the Mercedes C 300 S coupe are moving along at a brisk pace, and the co-chairs said having the dinner’s online system up and running has made raffle ticket sales — and other processes so much easier.

“You can buy those raffle tickets online art BlackTie.org. In fact, our online system is up and running for everything this year,” Arnold said. “This is really the first year that you can do everything you need to do for Black Tie online. ”

Black Tie has gone high-tech in other areas, too, the co-chairs said, including the silent auction, which will be “a little different this year. People can really expect the auction to be more interactive this year,” Arnold said.

Kouvelis said he is working on partnering with “a couple of our sponsors” to increase Black Tie’s marketing, especially in the area of incorporating social media into the process.

“We are really excited about the opportunities with see in this area,” he said. “This will give us the chance to increase participation and even change the demographic of who attends Black Tie. That’s what we have to do to keep the event growing.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

Friendship makes things easier for BTD co-chairs

Ron Guillard, Nan Arnold scramble to make sure everything is ready for the 29th annual fundraising dinner

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

Ron Guillard and Nan Arnold
Ron Guillard and Nan Arnold

Being one of two co-chairs of the annual Black Tie Dinner is no easy job. But it is at least a little easier when your co-chair also happens to be a good friend, according to Ron Guillard and Nan Arnold, Black Tie co-chairs for 2010.

This year’s version of the annual fundraising dinner is a week away — Saturday, Nov. 6 at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel — and Guillard and Arnold were busy this past week making sure they had every little detail attended to before the big night.

“It’s a collaborative effort,” said Guillard. “We have to be able to work together and lead the board with one voice. I think we have been able to do that, and I know I have had a great time working with Nan.”

Arnold added, “We’ve been friends for a long time, which definitely helps. Ron and I first met back in the ’90s when we were both working on fundraising for Lambda Legal, back before they even opened a Lambda Legal office here in Dallas. We knew each other before then, but we got to really be friends working with Lambda Legal.”

Arnold grew up near Hope, Ark., and first came to Dallas after high school to attend college here. She ended up going back to Arkansas to finish her degree, but then moved back to Dallas.

At first, Arnold said, he involvement in the community consisted just of attending events and donating to worthy causes. Then she got involved with Lambda Legal and “I realized that fundraising was something I could do. And it just snowballed from there.

“It just sounds so trite, I guess, but I got involved because I just wanted to give back to the community,” she continued.  “Dallas has been so good to me, and I really love it. So I wanted to do something for the community. And with Black Tie, you are truly giving back to this community, because of the way we work with our beneficiary organizations.”

Arnold spent four years as chair of the Black Tie Dinner sponsorship committee, and she said working on the annual fundraiser takes up a lot of what spare time she has when she’s not busy at her job doing consulting work and construction management for land developers.

“It [Black Tie Dinner] takes up a lot of time. I am lucky my partner [attorney Linda Wiland] understands. She supports me completely.”

Arnold is completing her 7th year with Black Tie Dinner, and the first year of her two-year term as co-chair. Guillard has been on the board for four years, and is finishing his second year as co-chair.

Arnold noted that she was the one who actually recruited Guillard to the board.

Guillard grew up in Northern Michigan and transferred to Dallas in 1990 for his job.

“Where I lived before, I really hadn’t experienced being part of a real community and what all went with that,” Guillard said. “I was impressed immediately by the people I met and how involved they were in building a sense of community. That’s what led me to say yes when I was asked to get involved.”

Guillard said he wasn’t out at his job — working for a small product design firm — when he first came to Dallas. But he saw a way to bring the LGBT community and his job together when he found out about DIFFA’s annual Dallas Collection event, where jean jackets were redesigned into wearable works of art by designers and celebrities, both local and national.

“Working through our professional organization, I kind of invented a way for us to get involved,” Guillard said. “It was right after [basketball player] Magic Johnson had announced that he had AIDS, and I decided to contact his representatives and see if he would let us put his name on a jacket we designed for him.”

Johnson said yes, and the jacket was one of the top money earners that year.

Guillard said he spent about five years helping design jackets for the DIFFA auctions, and then, “in the second part of the ’90s,” he connected with Gail Richards.

“I ran the White Rock Lake Marathon with her. She was on the national board for Lambda Legal, and she got me involved with Lambda Legal here.”

Guillard noted that Radio Shack acquired the design firm he worked for in 2004, but in 2008, when the economic downtown hit, Radio Shack liquidated the business.

“So that’s when I elected to just enjoy the luxury of focusing on Black Tie Dinner for awhile,” Guillard said. “I still do minimal consulting work, but I spend most of my time on Black Tie.”

And luckily, he said, he too has an understanding partner in hospital CEO Bill Brosius.

And, both Guillard and Arnold stressed, the are lucky to have the strength of the full Black Tie Dinner board behind them.

“This is a wonderful, hardworking board,” Arnold said. “It’s not all about us. We do our best as co-chairs, but we couldn’t accomplish anything with the rest of the board.”

Guillard added, “This board is a great pipeline of future board co-chairs.”

Guillard said his strength — both in his professional life and in his volunteer work — has always been “thinking about what’s next and what’s after what’s next. I am only wired to think expansively.”

It is a trait, Arnold said, that has come in most handy for the Black Tie board.

“That has been absolutely great for Black Tie,” Arnold said. “That’s always a big question for us: ‘Where do we go from here?’”

Especially since next year will mark the event’s 30th anniversary.

“Right now, I am concentrating on this year’s dinner. But I can’t say I don’t think about next year. I mean, how do we get there from here? How will I do any of it without Ron? But I know someone will come along to be my next co-chair and they’ll be great, and we’ll get it done. Plus, Ron’s number will still be on my speed-dial!”

But at least for the next week, Guillard and Arnold are focusing on the 29th annual Black Tie Dinner, which will feature openly lesbian U.S. Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin as keynote speaker and recently out country-western star Chely Wright as the Media Award winner. The Rev. Carol West will be on hand to accept the Kuchling Humanitarian Award, and dinner officials will present the Elizabeth Birth Equality Award to American Airlines. Turtle Creek Chorale and Broadway star Gavin Creel will provide entertainment.

“Plus,” Guillard said, “we have a couple of little surprises up our sleeves!”

Arnold said, “It’s just so exciting as we get closer, seeing all these pieces coming together this way. It makes my heart beat faster just thinking about it. It’s why we work all year long, because we know it all comes together for three hours on one night. That’s why we do it.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 29, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Baldwin named as BTD keynote speaker

First open lesbian member of Congress will appear at the Nov. 6 fundraising event for HRC

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor  nash@dallasvoice.com

Rep. Tammy Baldwin
Rep. Tammy Baldwin

Choosing speakers and award recipients for Black Tie Dinner each year requires a delicate balancing act between big names with the drawing power of celebrity and deserving individuals who can “speak to the issues of the LGBT community,” Black Tie co-chairs Ron Guillard and Nan Arnold explained.

In 2009, the dinner committee brought in a slate of LGBT allies who hit that mark well: San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom as keynote speaker, Judy Shepard, mother of anti-gay-hate-murder victim Matthew Shepard as the Elizabeth Birch Award winner and singer/songwriter/activist Cyndi Lauper as the Media Award winner.

Each of them, the co-chairs said, not only had the star power to draw attention, they also could — and did — speak eloquently on the community’s issues.

But while 2009 was “all about the allies,” this year it’s “all about the community,” Guillard said this week when he and Arnold announced the last two names in Black Tie’s list of award winners and speakers.

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, the Wisconsin Democrat who is the only out lesbian in Congress, will be the keynote speaker at this year’s annual fundraising gala, set for Nov. 6 at the Sheraton Dallas hotel.

And this year’s Media Award goes to country/western star and newly-out lesbian Chely Wright.

“It’s been mine and Nan’s mantra this year to ‘fill the room’ for Black Tie Dinner,” Guillard said. “We think that Rep. Baldwin and Chely Wright will certainly help us do that.”

Activist and businessman Mitchell Gold will also attend to present the Media Award to Wright.

Baldwin and Wright join a line-up of award winners and entertainers that already included the Rev. Carol West, pastor of Celebration Community Church, as the Kuchling Memorial Award winner, American Airlines as the Elizabeth Birch Award winner and Broadway star Gavin Creel and Dallas’ own Turtle Creek Chorale to provide entertainment.

Guillard said organizers chose Baldwin as keynote speaker in recognition of her years of service in Congress and her status and the first openly LGBT person elected to office at the national level. (Although there were openly gay men in Congress before Baldwin was elected, they were not out when they were first elected, while Baldwin was.)

“Plus, we felt that, especially with the dinner happening the first weekend after the midterm elections on Nov.  2 and the fact that we could very possibly be facing a drastically changed political landscape, Tammy will be able to provide us with some very clear leadership and vision going forward,” Guillard said.

Arnold added, “She can do that for us regardless of the outcome of the elections. Last year, Gavin Newsome very clearly spoke to our community. But he is not gay. Tammy Baldwin can not only speak to the LGBT community, she is the LGBT community.”

Baldwin, who is out of the country, sent a statement via her office. She said:

“I’m simply delighted to have been invited to deliver the keynote at this year’s Black Tie Dinner. After a tough election season, it will be a pleasure to relax among DFW friends and celebrate how far we’ve come in our quest for LGBT equality. It’s also a night to show our support for the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and the many local organizations that serve the north Texas LGBT community. On top of all that, the musical entertainment sounds great, so I’m really looking forward to the evening.”

Voters in Wisconsin’s Second District first elected Baldwin to Congress in 1999, after she had spent several years in the state’s legislature. Since then, Baldwin has co-founded and co-chaired the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, and in 2009 she helped lead the successful effort to enact the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Act.

Baldwin has also worked for passage of a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that includes protections for transgender people and full repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

She is the author of the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act and the first comprehensive approach to improving all areas of the health-care system where LGBT Americans face inequality and discrimination.

Although Wright is “clearly in a very commercial business,” Guillard said, he and Arnold said they were impressed by the singer’s consistent efforts, since she came out, to help LGBT youth “who are being taught they are damaged goods.”

“She makes the point, time and again, that country music is right in the heart of Middle America, a more blue collar audience, and those [LGBT] children, those families, really need someone to identify with,” Guillard said.

“She goes out of her way to say that it’s important to her to not only be her whole self but to also reach out and be a role model to young people who are struggling to come out,” he said. “She hasn’t been out very long, true, but it was the consistency of that message and her obvious passion for it that made us choose her.”

Arnold said that Wright’s decision to come out is “creating an opportunity for the voices of acceptance and equality to be heard.”
(For more about Wright, read Rich Lopez’s interview with her on Page 1.)

Gold is the founder of the nonprofit organization Faith in America, which is dedicated to educating people about how religious-based bigotry is used to justify anti-LGBT discrimination, will present the Media Award to Wright, who recently joined the board of Faith in America.

Gold, chairman and founder of the furniture manufacturer Mitchell Gold Company, has also authored “Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America” and books on home furnishings.

Arnold said Black Tie organizers are “ahead of where we were at this time last year” in terms of ticket sales for the fundraiser.

“We are focused on filling the room, and it definitely looks like we are headed in that direction,” she said.

Guillard said, “We are doing a lot of innovative things this year to fill the room — happy hours, using Facebook a lot more to attract new people.

“There was a time when our whole community was galvanized by AIDS and by the oppression we faced. But with Black Tie ending its third decade now, we realize that reaching a new, younger audience requires using new tools. And we are doing that,” he said.

Arnold said organizers have also focused this year on making sure that the dinner’s beneficiaries remember that “this dinner is for them. They are why we do this.”

Guillard noted, “We want to fill the room, because when you get down to the basics, filling the room means maximizing the dollars for our beneficiaries.”

The announcement of Baldwin as keynote speaker and Wright as Media Award winner came Thursday night, Aug. 5 during an announcement party held at Park Place Motorcars on Lemmon in Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 6, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens