Master of HIS domain

Ben Starr, the recently out Dallas cheftestant on Fox’s ‘MasterChef,’ camps it up on Gordon Ramsay’s cooking competition series

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

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MASTERCHEF
Airs Tuesdays on Fox (Ch. 4) at 8 p.m.

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When Lewisville-based travel writer Ben Starr auditioned for Fox’s MasterChef, he doubted they’d be interested in his style of home cooking. But not only did he make the cut, he’s been one of the more memorable cheftestants — just this week, he had the judge’s favorite dish.

The series is only halfway through, but for Starr, it’s already made a huge difference in his life: It forced him to come out to his parents just last month. We talked to him about the experience and his favorite meals.

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You’ve been struggling since you wowed the judges at your audition. The audition kinda set me up to expect that I would do well in the competition, but we spun pretty quickly into an emphasis on gourmet cuisine, which is not my thing at all. My street tacos were a little bit spiffy, and I am extremely well traveled, but I tend to eat peasant food even when I travel. I was seeing all these people around me making restaurant quality cuisine and trying to compete on their level. Nice to make a good ol’ catfish in a skillet.

What was the hardest challenge for you? The biggest challenge has definitely been psychological. I’m competitive by nature and I want to feel like I’m competition, but I was surrounded by chefs that were a little more connected to the Food Network that I am. They’d use words like umami [a Japanese word for a savory flavor] and I had to go look it up. There was a common lexicon among the contestants about what these famous chefs I’ve never heard of are doing in their restaurants. I felt like an idiot stumbling around in the dark. That started to leak into my cooking and I began to question, “Is this sophisticated enough? Is this even sophisticated?” The episode this week was a turning point. I felt like for the first time I’m back in my own element.

You certainly have made an impression with your outfits. I don’t wear those hats at home, though I do wear an apron, just for practicality. But [the show] has started this storytelling legacy — people expect me to wear them when they come over. My mom made me the pumpkin hat and apron. Actually, she made me five or six pairs to wear. That’s why you always see a different one on me each episode. I was going through them.

Was wearing them part of a conscious effort to stand during the auditions? I am fairly myself, though I had to set myself apart that wasn’t just about food. I needed to be someone [the judges] remember when they go home at night. That’s why I talked about my rural upbringing, because I thought it would generate a memory.

Had you watched the show before? Did you know what to expect? I don’t watch much TV, but this is not my first time being on TV, which is ironic because I abhor reality television —it brings out the worst in our culture. But I did Rachael Ray’s So You Think You Can Cook in 2007. The audience there was much more caring and nurturing than the machine on MasterChef, but I was a little bit prepared for the frank judgment.

I did not watch the first season of MasterChef, but my friend Karen Rutherford said, “I’ll never speak to you again if you don’t audition [for season 2].” So I watched them all on Hulu. I just sweated my way through them. I knew how intense and stressful it is to cook on TV, and saw how brutal Joe Bastianich and Gordon Ramsay were with the contestants. I thought: Screw this. Then a few weeks passed and the terror faded [and I went through the lengthy audition process]. It was a lot of work — the most difficult full-time job I’ve ever had that doesn’t pay.

What’s your favorite kind of cuisine? While my DNA wants to say Mexican food — I had it in the womb six times a week — I am most intrigued by Thai food. It is so complex, yet so much of it is cooked on the street in a tiny little cart. From the richest to the poorest, everybody eats on the street.

How about a favorite meal? One of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had was in Egypt on New Year’s Eve in 2001. I spent it on Mount Sinai and hiked eight miles back down to the car for the drive back to our resort. [The driver] fell asleep at the wheel and we plummeted into a canyon. Eventually a camel train of Bedouins came by the bottom of this canyon. They took us onto the camels and rode four or five miles to their camp. All the women came out, killed a goat and started cooking while the men tried to pull our car out of the canyon.

It was a humble meal — just a goat stew and some flat bread — but the flavors were really intense and felt they came right out of the desert. I could not even communicate with these people who live in abject poverty, but still they were willing to kill one of their last goats and throw a big feast for us because it’s in their nature to be hospitable. I realized it was important to me to use food to nurture people in my life — I could never be a chef and be in the back. I need to be with the people. My partner is one of the main reasons I cook — we’ve been together eight years and I want to marry him one day.

Did you plan to be “the gay guy” on the show? When I was on [Rachael Ray] it was not addressed and I didn’t talk about it openly. At that point my family didn’t know I was gay — in fact, I didn’t come out to my parents until about five weeks ago. They were totally shell-shocked — they didn’t have a clue.

Maybe mom should have guessed since she made you all those hats. Ha! Maybe.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 8, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Starvoice • 05.27.11

By Jack Fertig

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAY

Heidi Klum turns 38 on Wednesday. The model turned TV host and producer changed the way we look at the fashion world with her very popular Project Runway. Because of the show, some gay designers have gone to be stars of their own like Austin Scarlett, Santino Rice and season four winner Christian Siriano. A Runway all-stars is apparently in the works.

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THIS WEEK

Mercury squaring Neptune in Pisces while entering Gemini inflates wonderfully imaginative notions. Jupiter entering Taurus could ground them and find profitable applications. Jupiter in Taurus for the next year should_ be good for the economy. It will be good for bankers at least.

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GEMINI May 21-Jun 20
Get creative. You have big challenges in the next year. Your intuition is now unusually sharp to see how you can turn those into opportunities. Spiritual guidance can be especially helpful now.

CANCER Jun 21-Jul 22
Dreams lure you too easily into never-never-lands of fantasy and escape. Sharing some of those phantasmagorical reveries with friends can help you find some practical outlet for them.

LEO Jul 23-Aug 22
Remember the difference between dreams and goals. Friends encouraging you to chase after your dreams offer helpful inspiration, but don’t let them distract you from practical aims.

VIRGO Aug 23-Sep 22
Your brain is buzzing with schemes for success. Your partner encourages all your wildest ideas. Not. You need a leveler head with a bit of critical distance to give you pragmatic advice.

LIBRA Sep 23-Oct 22
Expansive, fortunate Jupiter is starting a year in your house of sex. The deeper you go the greater the rewards. Don’t be shy. Neither is without risks, but Jupiter is good to have on your side.

SCORPIO Oct 23-Nov 21
You and your sweetie are due for some frolic. That could open up some questions and confusion. Keeping communications clear is a small challenge. The rewards are well worth it.

SAGITTARIUS Nov 22-Dec 20
Job opportunities open up for you. Have faith in yourself. If familial encouragement is unrealistic, don’t worry about letting them down for what’s in the real world. If you’re happy, they are too.

CAPRICORN Dec 21-Jan 19
You’re way too open to distractions and thus, accidents. Mediation, poetry, music or art will get you back in balance. Take classes in any of those . You need new ways of seeing the world.

AQUARIUS Jan 20-Feb 18
Struggle between your deepest desires and economic necessity feels brutal. A light, playful conversation with your partner  can help you find a way to afford your dreams, or find reconciliation.

PISCES Feb 19-Mar 19
Whatever you have to offer, make it heard and known. Your family will back you up in your endeavors, but you really need to be very clear on who you are and what it is you’ve got.
ARIES  Mar 20-Apr 19
Your recent lucky spree will focus more on financial fortune. Mad dreams and inspirations offer some clues. Talk out your crazy notions with friends and find a way to bring them to the bank.

TAURUS Apr 20-May 20
Recent hard times turn around. Cash in on your good fortune. Turn your friends’ suggestions into practical ideas. Inspirations now point the way to future fulfillment of your dreams.

Jack Fertig can be reached at 415-864-8302 or Starjack.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 27, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Drawing Dallas

Makeup artist Tony Price is hoppy to be our Easter cover boy

MARK STOKES  | Illustrator
mark@markdrawsfunny.com

Name and age: Tony Price, 20

Spotted at: Intersection of Lemmon and McKinney

Occupation: Student in cosmetology and makeup; model

Born in Tulsa, this tall, fit Virgo moved here from Tangipahoa Parrish, La., five months ago to continue his education in cosmetology and make-up. Tony grew up the middle son between two sisters, and in school excelled in track and field, and he continues to stay in shape by running and lifting weights. He enjoys meditation, dance, the arts and, of course, makeup.

Tony remembers the fifth grade very well. That was the year a cousin, who was then in cosmetology school, sparked an interest in him becoming interested in doing hair. His grandmother, a fabulous cook, tempted him to consider a career in the culinary arts, but makeup won out and Tony continues his education to become an artist extraordinaire. His goal is to own his own spa and become celebrated for his cosmetic skills.

Tony will spend his Easter with family, sharing good times and a great meal that he will cook himself.

—  John Wright

Snap shots: ‘Bill Cunningham New York’ turns the camera on fashion’s most influential paparazzo

LENS ME A SHOE | The Times photographer documents foot fashion in ‘Bill Cunningham New York.’

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

Maybe Project Runway’s to blame, maybe The Devil Wears Prada, but for the past few years there has been a surplus of documentaries about the fashion industry, with profiles of designers like Valentino (Valentino: The Last Emperor), Yves Saint-Laurent (several in fact), even young designers (Seamless) and Vogue magazine’s editor (The September Issue). (By contrast, I can only recall one fashion doc from the 1990s: Unzipped, about a young designer named Isaac Mizrahi.) Is there really that much to say about dressmaking?

Maybe not, but while Bill Cunningham New York fits broadly within the category of fashion documentaries, its subject is unusual because he eschews the trappings of haute couture even as he’s inextricably a part of it — a huge part, really.

If you don’t read the New York Times, you might not recognize Cunningham’s name, and even if you do read it, it may not have registered with you. For about, well, maybe 1,000 years, Cunningham has chronicled New York society with his candid photos of the glitterati on the Evening Hours page. At the same time, however, he has documented real fashion — how New Yorkers dress in their daily lives — with his page On the Street, where he teases out trends (from hats to men in skirts to hip-hoppers allowing their jeans to dangle around their knees). Anna Wintour may tell us what we should wear; Cunningham shows us what we do.

“We all get dressed for Bill,” Wintour observes.

What makes Cunningham such an interesting character is how impervious he seems to the responsibility he effortlessly wields. He loves fashion, yes, but he’s not a slave to it himself. He scurries around Manhattan (even in his 80s) on his bicycle (he’s had dozens; they are frequently stolen), sometimes in a nondescript tux but mostly in jeans, a ratty blue smock and duck shoes, looking more like a homeless shoeshiner than the arbiter of great fashion. He flits through the city like a pixie with his 35mm camera (film-loaded, not digital), a vacant, toothy smile peaking out behind the lens, snapping the denizens of Babylon whether they want it or not.

One of the funniest moments is when strangers shoo him away as some lunatic paparazzo, unaware how all the well-heeled doyens on the Upper East would trade a nut to have Cunningham photograph them for inclusion in the Times. Patrick McDonald, the weirdly superficial modern dandy (he competed as a wannabe designer on the flop reality series Launch My Line a few seasons back), seems to exist with the hope that Cunningham will shoot him. And shoot him he does.

Many artists are idiosyncratic, even eccentric, but Cunningham is supremely odd by any standards. He lives in a tiny studio near Carnegie Hall filled with filing cabinets cluttered with decades of film negatives on the same floor as a crazy old woman, a kind of urban variation on Grey Gardens. He knows tons of people but most of them seem to know very little about him. By the time near the end when the filmmaker, director Richard Press, finally comes out and ask him outright whether he’s gay, Cunningham arches in that prickly New England way, never really answering outright, though he says he’s never — never — had a romantic relationship. Things like that were simply not discussed by men of his generation.

In some ways, we never really know any more about Cunningham at the end than any of his friends do, and perhaps even him. Cunningham comes across as defiantly non-self-reflective. He lets his work do all the talking for him. And that work has a lot to say on its own.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 8, 2011.

—  John Wright

Moral Majority Founder Tells Huckabee: Obama Is Hastening The End Times


(Via – Right Wing Watch)

Joe. My. God.

—  David Taffet

Scott Armstrong Attempted Suicide 4 Times And Picked Up HIV Along The Way. Then Everything Changed

The first time I remember hearing about AIDS was in 1985, I was 10 years old and in the 5th grade. I remember my teacher talking about how it affected the immune system. I think the next significant discussion, for me, was in 1987 when the issue of AIDS was dressed on the television sitcom Designing Women. There were the updates of the spread of the epidemic, the discoveries of how it was transmitted, and who was truly affected by it. Then in 1992 a good friend of my parents was diagnosed. I remember hearing how his wife treated him, the concerns about how long he would be around, and what would happen to him.

My parents never treated him differently, my mom still hugged him, my dad still joked around with him and I still enjoyed being around him. He was still the same friend that we had always known. He got remarried to a young woman who also had AIDS, and they had what they called their miracle baby. She was born without the virus, this would have been around the time that research was showing that babies born to positive mothers could be negative as long as they did not breast feed. What an amazing occurrence that was.

CONTINUED »

CONTINUED »


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Queerty

—  David Taffet

LA Times editorial on Obama and marriage

Good editorial, but rather egregious of them to miss the most important point – that Obama was for marriage equality in 1996. It’s rather relevant in determining whether his opposition to marriage is political or principled.

We can’t peer into President Obama’s soul, but his statement last week that he is “struggling” with whether to endorse same-sex marriage is open to an unedifying interpretation. Given the president’s support of gay rights in other contexts, his opposition to marriage equality raises the question of whether the struggle Obama referred to is between politics and principle. If so, we hope principle will prevail.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

Chicago Sun Times Endorses Civil Union Measure

Contributed by John K. Barry, HRC Director in Chicago

Yesterday, I was thrilled to see the Chicago Sun Times discuss the very real possibility of civil unions moving forward in Illinois this year. The paper’s editorial board strongly voiced their support for the legislation, while noting that civil unions are not the equivalent of marriage.

A civil union bill for same-sex couples will likely face a vote during the state Legislature’s brief veto session that begins on Tuesday. It’s time, finally, to pass a bill that opens the door to equal treatment for our gay neighbors and friends. This page has long supported gay marriage as the best and most just option for same-sex couples in Illinois, but state legislators are not ready.

In the meantime, the civil union bill will do, offering much needed relief to same-sex couples. The civil union bill would give same-sex couples many of the same benefits available to married couples, including the right to visit a partner in the hospital, to inherit a partner’s estate and to make medical decisions for a sick partner…. A civil union law, though, would be an important start, potentially putting Illinois on the path to gay marriage.

The editorial board hit the nail on the head. Civil unions provide real benefits now and brings Illinois a step closer to marriage equality. HRC is proud to be a part of a broad coalition that is working for the passage of this bill.  The coalition is being led by State Representative Greg Harris, primary sponsor of the bill.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin

NY Times: “Advocates Hope Transgender Identity Is Not a Defining One”

The New York Times  has a piece up on transgender identified candidates running for office this year, or ran in primaries earlier this year, entitled Advocates Hope Transgender Identity Is Not a Defining One.

These candidates mentioned in the article include Theresa Sparks, Victoria Kolakowski, Brittany Novotny, Dana Beyer, Donna Milo, Stu Rasmussen, and Kim Coco Iwamoto.

From the article:

“People aren’t sitting around saying, ‘Gee, I wish we had a transgender judge,’ ” said Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality in Washington. “They’re saying, ‘We want a really good judge.’ ” Gay rights activists hope that the visibility of the candidates will help normalize people’s relations with people who are transgender – a broad category that includes heterosexual cross-dressers, homosexual drag queens and kings, and those who believe that they were born in the wrong body.

And while the issues that face gays and transgender people often differ, a recent spate of suicides among young gay men has intensified the need for positive political role models, said Chuck Wolfe, the president and chief executive of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which backs gay and lesbian political candidates.

“Knowing there’s openly gay people sitting in those positions will definitely have an impact,” he said.

Mr. Wolfe said that recently he had seen more and more “inspired, comfortable and confident” transgender people in his group’s training classes. There are also more gay and lesbian candidates in general now, a surge that Mr. Wolfe ascribes, in part, to newly elected – and openly gay – leaders like Mayor Annise Parker in Houston and Simone Bell, a lesbian who won a seat in the Georgia House of Representatives in December.

The gay subcommunity of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community has done a good job of promoting and getting behind gay identified candidates. The trans subcommunity getting behind trans candidates? Well, not so much as yet.

I linked to all of the candidates mentioned above because trans folk should be able to see who is running out and proud, and consider supporting one or more of the candidates. Even .00 for one candidate will send a message of support by people in the community for trans identified candidates.

As for me, I’ll be donating to Brittany Novotny today. She’s the Democratic candidate running against Republican Sally Kern.

You remember Oklahoma State Representative Sally Kern, don’t you? She’s the one who said this about gay people:

[Sally Kern's recorded and transcripted comments below the fold.]

Some tidbits:    

Studies show, no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted for more than, you know, a few decades. . .

I honestly think it’s the biggest threat our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam.

They want to get them into the government schools so they can indoctrinate them.

…They are going after our young children, as young as two years of age, to try to teach them that the homosexual lifestyle is an acceptable lifestyle.

You know, gays are infiltrating city councils…did you know that the city council of Eureka Springs is now controlled by gays — they are winning elections.

One of my colleagues said We don’t have a gay problem in our community…well you know what, that is so dumb. If you have cancer in your little toe, do you just say that I’m going to forget about it since the rest of you is fine? It spreads! This stuff is deadly and it is spreading. It will destroy our young people and it will destroy this nation.

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Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin

♫ In New York, concrete jungle where dreams [were turned into nightmares 50 times this year]♫

Well this is certainly trending in the wrong direction:

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City police say suspected anti-gay bias attacks are up slightly this year amid several high-profile incidents in recent weeks.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said so far there have been 50 reports of anti-gay bias attacks in the city, up from 43 the same time last year.


NYPD: Slight Increase In Anti-Gay Bias Attacks [CBS New York]

No, seven more is not a huge increase. But bias attacks in supposedly progressive areas are not the time to act like size queens: Even the tiniest of growths should hold our interest.




Good As You

—  admin