Dynamic duo

Dallas’ fittest gay couples share their secrets for staying healthy and happy

ATHLETIC PAIR | World-class swimmer Dave Swenson, right, and his biking-running mate of 21 years James Maddox, left, will be headed to Hawaii next month for Swenson to compete in a major gay swimming meet. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

It’s been said that couples who bench-press together, stay together. OK, maybe that’s never been said, but it should have been — especially about gay couples. There’s something special about a relationship built on shared values, especially if those values include the inspiration and motivation to stay in shape. And, in an era when childhood obesity is alarmingly on the rise, recognizing those who stay fit as they age together seems like an especially responsible activity.

Which is why we kick off a new series in Dallas Voice dedicated to fit couples — those who bond over a decadent lunch of Bibb lettuce and Tic-Tacs instead of burgers and beer. You’re unlikely to see a muffin in their hands — or a muffin top around their Spandex.

We begin the series with a couple who have made exercise a part of their lives and their relationship for more than 20 years.

— Jef Tingley

………………………….

Names and ages: Dave Swenson, 48, and James Maddox, 43.

Occupations: Swenson: Manager for a Frisco software company;

Maddox: Customs broker

Years together: 21 in October.

Sports: Swenson: Swimming; Maddox: Running and biking.

Exercise regime: Swenson: I swim with the Dallas Aquatic Masters (DAM) three to four times a week. I also lift weights at the gym, but not nearly as often as I’d like. I used to run and do triathlons, but running injuries have pushed me more towards swimming.

Maddox: I lift weights five times per week, as well as run and row three times a week.

Do you play any sports or are you on any leagues: Swenson: I’m a registered U.S. Masters swimmer, and swim with the Dallas Aquatic Masters. I used to swim fairly regularly in masters swim meets, but I’m starting to enjoy open water swimming more than pool swimming. Last summer I swam in the Waikiki Roughwater swim in Hawaii, finishing second in my age group and 24th overall out of about 1,000 swimmers. In July, I’m swimming in the International Gay and Lesbian Aquatic Championships in Oahu, which includes another open water swim.

Most memorable athletic goal accomplished: Swenson: There have been a few, for different reasons. Qualifying for the 1984 Olympic Trials; being named to a U.S. National Swim Team; setting the SWC swimming record in the mile; breaking a world record in masters swimming; completing my first marathon; and watching James finish his first half-marathon.

Maddox: I have completed two half-marathons. It is a great feeling to cross that finish line after months of continual exercise and pushing yourself.

Upcoming fitness goals: Swenson: Just to remain active and healthy. If my legs hold out, I’d like to finish an Ironman distance triathlon one day.

Maddox: Lose 10 pounds for our July beach vacation.

Least favorite piece of gym equipment: Swenson: A treadmill — running in place is a slow form of torture.

Least favorite exercise: Maddox: Sit-ups!

Workouts preference: mornings or evenings? Maddox: I prefer to run in the evenings. However, as the temperature increases, I will run in the morning before work, when it is cooler. I primarily lift weights on my lunch hour and row in the evenings at the gym.

Favorite spot in North Texas to exercise outdoors: Maddox: White Rock Lake is beautiful. The Katy Trail has beautiful people. However, the Addison Trail, near my home, is nice and convenient, so I utilize it most often.

If you could become an Olympian in any sport, what would it be and why: Maddox: Gymnastics. The talent and skill of good gymnasts is so evident in their performance. The best ones make it look so easy. And, they have incredible physiques.

How do you reward yourself for a great workout: Maddox: Cheesecake and peanut butter!

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 17, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Rethinking tradition • Pride Weddings & Celebrations 2011

From ‘broomsmaids’ to choice of wedding planner, newlyweds Hal Wallace and Johnathon DeJarnett made their nuptials their own

boys to men | DeJarnett and Wallace partake in the tradition of feeding each other cake, but they mixed up the ceremony in other ways to reflect their own gay sensibilities.

By Jef tingley

A straight friend of mine once said, “I am totally against gay weddings. I’ve seen the extravagant lengths the gays go to for theme parties and Halloween, and, quite frankly, I think you’re going to raise the bar too high.”

Clearly she was speaking tongue-in-cheek, but there was also a kernel of truth in her statement: We gays do love to do it up for memorable occasions … or even simple Sunday brunches. Need proof? Look no further than the bearded bears wearing leather and lavish feather bonnets with LED lights at Easter in Lee Park. Or how about that couple who makes a custom Carmen Miranda outfit for their Jack Russell terrier? You know the type.

Yes, with great gayness comes great responsibility. And when Dallas couple Johnathon DeJarnett and Hal Wallace decided to get married, they made sure to keep up some time-honored traditions common to most straight unions … but added a touch of excess (and glitter) to mark it with a trace of fabulosity.

First was the proposal — an unlikely but successful stealth mission.

“Hal proposed to me on Dec. 19, 2009, at our friend’s holiday party,” says DeJarnett. “I was so surprised. He can’t do anything without me hearing about it, so for the entire party to know and me not to was absolutely phenomenal.”

The couple has been together five years, but has known each other much longer. They grew up in the same small town; Wallace was in the same grade as DeJarnett’s older sister.

They cleaved to tradition with a legal, official wedding ceremony in Boston on Aug. 13, but the real fête came on Nov. 20, when they hosted a Dallas wedding dinner and reception for 135 of their closest family and friends.

In keeping with the uniqueness of the event, DeJarnett’s first step was to establish a new member of the wedding party: the “broom.”

“The ‘broom’ started out as a joke,” he explains. “Since I am the obviously more, umm, colorful of the pair, people were playfully calling me the bride. That would be fine if I were a woman. Instead, I started calling myself a hybrid of the bride and groom. I was the ‘broom.’”

Finding a venue was easy — DeJarnett’s has worked for the InterContinental Hotel in Addison for four years. But finding time to plan the affair was another issue — even the best of “brooms” can get overloaded. DeJarnett’s boss, Tamara, served as interim wedding coordinator and assistant to the “broom,” tackling details ranging from cake toppers to toasting flutes.

“Hal works full-time and is a part-time student. I am the exact opposite, working only part-time and I’m a full-time student. Our wedding was right in the middle of my semester. I would receive phone calls with [wedding] questions, and I would just say, ‘ask Tamara,’” laughs DeJarnett.

When not employing the services of Tamara, the couple worked together on the details of their wedding, even designing their own invitations. As DeJarnett tells it, “Hal actually recovered from our duel bachelor party by arranging our flowers with our friends Don and Judy.”

In keeping with their theme of unique combinations, the duo also had a mixture of men and women in their bridal party. “Hal and I had our best friends Kit and Jeff, respectively, as our best men, and they accompanied each other down the aisle. Luckily, they are a couple so no one was uncomfortable,” says DeJarnett. “Then I had my best friends Holly, Vanessa, and Mytzi as my ‘broomsmaids.’ They where escorted through the ceremony by Hal’s groomsmen, Chris, Tim and Josh. And to round off the queen’s court, as it were, were our friends David and Don, who so graciously allowed their holiday party to be high-jacked for our engagement.”

With the wedding ceremony itself nearly five months passed, DeJarnett and Wallace still treasure the photos and memories of their friends and families at their side. But be it brides, grooms, or “brooms,” DeJarnett is quick to point out one common theme lifelong commitment:

“Marriage is not easy. We didn’t start out as Ward and June Cleaver. And we kinda, foolishly, thought that we would just ride off into the sunset,” he says. “Even though the horse left without us, we are still very much committed to our relationship and still very much in love.”

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When kids ParTAKE in SAME-SEX weddings

I love children’s books, especially those with an affirming message for alternative families, and Leslea Newman’s Heather Has Two Mommies is one of my favorites. Whenever friends have babies, I make sure it’s in their library. Heather and And Tango Makes Three — that’s the one about the gay penguins that made this year’s list of most complained-about book at libraries — are must-have literature for gay or lesbian parents.

Newman’s latest book, Donovan’s Big Day, is one more to add to the list. Not only does Donovan have two mommies, but they’re getting married.

Donovan is taking his role as ring bearer very seriously. He can’t oversleep. He has to remember to wash and dress in his new clothes. And he can’t forget that white satin box. At the church, he must walk down the aisle very seriously. And he can’t fidget while that poem is being read or the piano is played.

His grandfather wakes him. His aunt meets him at the church. His cousin will be there. Of course the entire family is attending. It’s a wedding — why wouldn’t the whole family be proudly involved?

These are subtle touches, to be sure, but Newman is a master of telling children a simple story and making them feel included. We don’t know that it’s two moms who are getting married until the last few pages when Donovan kisses the brides. The story could have ended with a husband and wife. After all, illustrator Mike Dutton is married — to a woman.

That’s Newman’s point. It’s all about families and it’s all the same.

— David Taffet

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 6, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Seasons of LOVE • Pride Weddings & Celebrations 2011

Couples who have been together a while celebrate anniversaries in many ways

ON HIGH SEAS | George Harris, left of the man in the New York City shirt, and his partner Jack Evans, flanking on the right, marked their golden anniversary with a week-long cruise to Mexico with more than a dozen close friends.

By Jef tingley

At the risk of sounding like a song from Rent: How does a couple measure a year? It’s the question many same-sex partners are faced with when they make it past 365 days together and seek to fix that elusive date they call their “anniversary.” Was it the first glance? First date? First, uhh, encounter? Or how about the day they loaded the cats in the U-Haul and moved in together?

The answer, it seems, is yes to all of the above. But whether grand or subtle, these couples had their own reasons and ways for making their anniversaries an affair to remember.

Jack Evans and George Harris met each other on Jan. 19, 1961 at the Taboo Room, a long-defunct gay bar located on Lomo Alto Drive off Lemmon Avenue. Earlier this year, they decided to mark their golden anniversary.

“Fifty years and still goin’ strong!” Harris crows.

To celebrate, they invited a group of 16 friends to fly to Los Angeles in early April. The couple spend a day touring the city, including a trip to the Getty Museum, before they all boarded the Princess Sapphire for a one-week Mexican Riviera cruise. The adventure included stopovers in Puerto Vallarta and San Jose del Cabo.

“It was wonderful,” says Evans. “A great, harmonious, no-drama group.”

Lakewood residents David Wood and Don Hendershot met 25 years ago at a tea dance at the infamous Parliament House in Orlando, Fla.; however, it was just this year that they took their relationship to the next level, getting legally married in Boston on March 25.

It was certainly a day they’ll never forget. Taking the marriage advice of “something blue” too literally, Hendershot fell from a ladder the day before the wedding, leaving him with a broken hand and bruised ribs going into the ceremony. Major body trauma aside, the intimate wedding came off without a hitch — “except for my unexpected explosion of tears when we exchanged vows,” says Wood.

The duo credit the wedding of a younger couple they are friends with for prompting them to make the move from longtime live-ins to actual husband status. “We had been discussing how we were going to celebrate 25 years and seeing such a young couple tie the knot actually inspired us to do the same,” Wood says.

Oak Cliff residents Kathy Jack and Susie Buck also celebrated one of their anniversaries (year seven) with a wedding. As a result, the couple, now together 15 years, claims two anniversary dates for their very own. “Our anniversary is Feb. 14, which was not planned,” says Jack of the Valentine’s Day milestone. “But our wedding anniversary is Feb. 15, which was planned.” The date change was apparently made to best accommodate the schedule of the couple and their friends as they traveled to Hawaii for a destination wedding.

It was a trip they will both remember for years to come. “Maui on your wedding night. Waves crashing. Champagne. How much better can it get?” says Buck. “[We are] hoping to get away for our 20th to Greece.”

For Oak Cliff couple Todd Johnson and Tom Caraway, who will celebrate their 12-year anniversary on Nov. 3, the special day wasn’t about rushing to the altar — it was about traveling the world together.

“For our 10-year anniversary, we wanted to go someplace special,” says Johnson. “Paris kept popping up, but it seemed like such a cliché. Surely, we could be more original than that. But neither of us had ever been and it was the best decision. Paris is a very special place, my favorite city on the planet. Just strolling the streets of St. Germain, the Marais. The beauty of the city is so inspiring. I now understand why you see people making out on practically every street corner.”

PARIS WHEN IT SIZZLES | Tom Caraway, pictured, and his partner Todd Johnson decided to mark their 10th anniversary with a trip to Paris, where neither had ever been. The trip included touristy things like visiting the Louvre, pictured, but also fine dining and a stop at Pere Lachaise cemetery to visit the grave of Oscar Wilde.

He’s quick to add that Parisian dining was equally as appealing a part of the trip for the self-proclaimed foodies. “[We] decided to eat our way across the city. All the bistros and patisseries offered one delicious bite after another. For our official anniversary dinner, we went to Alain Ducasse at the Hotel Plaza Athenee, considered one of the finest restaurants in the world. It was like something out of a movie: crystal chandeliers, haute couture decor, formal service but happily not stuffy. We couldn’t get over the food: guinea fowl with truffle pie, steamed langoustines, asparagus with black truffles.”

However, it’s how the couple ended the anniversary excursion that really stands out. “We visited Pere Lachaise, the largest cemetery in Paris. It’s the one where Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison are buried. I know. A cemetery? Romantic?” says Johnson. “But there we were in this perfectly still, quiet place amid the bustle of Paris. The sun was close to setting. The gravestones cast long shadows across the lawn. There was something about the moment that was magical. You focus on the beauty and fragility of life, and it makes you thankful for everything that you have  — especially the love that you have. We took each other’s hands and strolled along the cemetery. It’s my favorite moment of the trip.”

So perhaps the folks in Rent have it right. Maybe you do measure a year in cups of coffee and sunsets? Or, maybe it’s wedding rings and graveyard strolls? Regardless of what it takes, it seems each couple has their own way of making the phrase “happy anniversary” truly mean something.

— Additional reporting by David Taffet

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 6, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Defining Homes: Frisco a go-go

Natalie Amberson and her wife April find comfort in both the bustling growth of Frisco and the still quiet part of the small town.

LGBT homeowners find affordability key in this northern ‘burb

By Jef Tingley

Inside the Dallas “bubble,” Frisco is often only thought of as the quickest place to get an IKEA fix. (After all, who doesn’t need a Väte Kvartal to call their very own?) But scores of gay North Texans call Frisco home too, and not just for the proximity to Swedish furnishings and meatballs.

The town is at the end of the Dallas North Tollway and spans 69-square miles. Frisco’s population reached 119,738 in January with a median age of 34 and a median household income of $101,574. If the Kinsey 10 percent theory holds true, that means there could be as many as 12,000 LGBT people living there.

We caught up with a handful of them to see what day-to-day life in this city to the north is really like and what drew them in.

“We primarily moved to Frisco because the homes are so affordable,” says Natalie Amberson, who lives in a 1,700 square foot home in North Frisco with her wife, April, and their two dogs and cats. “Our mortgage is only $100 more than our rent was [in Oak Lawn]. We also very much wanted dogs and decided that we would not take on the responsibility of canine ownership until we had a yard for them to play in.”

Fifteen-year resident Clarence Stiles agree.

“We knew the area was growing and would have good resale value.”

Stiles and his husband, Jon Wienk, share their one-story, ranch-style home with their six dogs. But affordable living aside, all of those interviewed concurred that their budding suburb’s strong sense of community makes Frisco so desirable.

“Frisco has grown as a city and a community tremendously over the last 10 years, but [it] does its best to keep that small town feel,” says James Nunn, a 12-year resident who lives with his partner, Chris Moss, and their two dogs in a 2,200 square foot home abutting one of Frisco’s many popular green belt areas.

To help keep Frisco’s LGBT community connected, Nunn became involved with the group Frisco Pride, which meets weekly in a variety of different social settings. The group, which has been in existence since 1999, recently re-launched a new website (FriscoPride.com) and Facebook page to help ease communication among its members.

Jeanne Sharon Rubin and her wife Lisa Rose Mashigian are Frisco Pride members and active with another local group that fosters the LGBT community, the Collin County Gay & Lesbian Alliance. The couple also volunteers for Youth First Texas Collin County, which is based in Plano but works with youth in Frisco. As part of their volunteer efforts, they arrange a monthly fundraiser in Frisco benefiting Youth First Texas.

Rubin and Mashigian have lived in their 2,900-square-foot home in Frisco’s Panther Creek Estates for six-and-a-half years. “We were the first to build on the street, and I had Lisa get out the hammer and drill so we could put up the rainbow flag,” says Rubin. “We wanted everyone to know that we were here first.”

But Rubin is quick to add that they have found a diverse and welcoming community with a homeowner’s association that puts on events throughout the year, book clubs, neighbors who will dog sit and lend tools. And if the weather is just right, spontaneous block parties happen.

And while their life may seem rooted in Frisco, getting there was more of a compromise.

“I was never moving to the suburbs, and Lisa was never leaving her home in Plano,” says Rubin. “I came to the suburbs kicking and screaming, but I really do love Frisco.”

Natalie Amberson echoes that statement. “I feel by living in Frisco, I get the best of both worlds. There are plenty of restaurants and shopping. Being a sports fan, I enjoy attending the minor league games, [but] most of all I actually enjoy driving by the cattle and farmland. Frisco has grown significantly, but every day I look at the green land and animals; it brings me a sense of peace.”

Clearly the suburb is more than just an Ikea destination for that affordable bookcase. Gay folk might find themselves drawn to the modern community and shopping for a home to put that bookcase in. Or at the very least, adding just a little more “pride” to the affordable and friendly city of Frisco.

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

—  John Wright

Body & Fitness: Dirty britches

Clean for now, muddy buddies Rod Orta, Jeni Maldonado and Brad Bykkonen stretch it out as they train for the grueling DFW Mud Run. Through the same goal, the three with the author found a fellowship that helps get them past the intense training. (Photo by Jef Tingley)

While preparing for the daunting DFW Mud Run, four people found fun, fitness and fellowship with one goal in mind — to finish

JEF TINGLEY  | Contributing Writer

A year ago, I thought mud was only reserved for pigs and purifying facials. Never would I have guessed that I would be counting the days to run through 6.2 miles of it while also taking on a series of military-boot-camp-inspired obstacles. But then again, a year ago I never dreamed I would be surrounded by a group of friends with the same motivation — to conquer the mud if only to say we did it.

And on April 9, that’s exactly what we plan to do at a yet-to-be-disclosed location in Tarrant County. The DFW Mud Run is an annual event and one of seven throughout the country. It celebrated its 10th anniversary in North Texas in November 2010 with almost 4,000 attendees. A quick glance at the rules and regulations on the website reveals that this run can be as serious or as silly as you like, but one thing is for sure — you will get dirty. (And not in a Christina-Aguilera-wearing-chaps kind of way.)

Our group of seven runners (growing in number as we peer pressure others) met while working out at Booty Camp. Some were already in shape; others, like myself, were first timers. Somewhere during the months of waking up early, sweating during push-ups and running loops around Lee Park, a new level of friendship formed.

Jeni Maldonado, 29, and the official straight girl of our gay boy mud run group, shares the same sentiments about the camaraderie side effects of working out en mass.

“Through [group training], I have found a true love and passion for physical fitness and made some great new friends. Since starting in May of 2010, I even changed careers and am now a personal trainer focusing on children and childhood obesity.”

Mud runners can compete on the course in a variety of timed events and specified groups made up of all-men, all-women or co-ed teams. Or, there’s a category called DGAP, which stands for Division for Generally Athletic People or “Don’t Give A Poop.” This is our group. DGAP allows runners to wear costumes, run as a group or individually, and to generally enjoy the course as they see fit.

Rod Orta, a 39-year-old East Dallas resident, started working out in groups for almost four years. Since that time, he has formed lasting friendships with his fellow fitness enthusiasts, even going on vacations with them and hosting parties for the group at his home.

A first-time mud runner, Orta says, “I wanted to experience the activity and spend time with friends.” His training plan includes “strength workouts, cardio and a cute outfit.” He’s also quick to pass on helpful hints to his fellow runners. “Wear sensible shoes. No high heels,” he jokes.

The run will also make a first-time experience for 35-year-old Bryan Place resident Mark Doty. Inspired by other friends who have done it, he says it’s just something he has wanted to do. When asked if he had any words of wisdom for would be runners, Doty simply offered ups “Since this is my first time, I would just say ‘pray.’”

Topping off the dirt, the DFW Mud Run boasts more than 30 obstacles. Judging from videos from previous runs these include balance beams, rope swings and plenty of commando crawls. But it’s still not enough to keep Brad Bykkonen, a 39-year-old Highland Park resident, away.
“It sounds like fun,” he says. “I’ve met people who I know I’ll surely be laughing with during our mud run adventure.”

Booty Camp founder Dr. Eric Peay agrees that fitness can lead to friendship. A boot camp he attended in 1998 introduced him to someone who is now his best friend. A more experienced runner, Peay has run 5K and 10K races with a specific goal or time in mind. But this mud run is, “just for the sheer fun of it,” he says.

As for me, I’ll continue to count down the days, train and hope that I can find the perfect pair of combat boots and army fatigues to wear on my inaugural muddy voyage with the hope that the friendships I’ve formed will keep the physical fatigue at bay.

Registration for the April run is still open. For more information, visit DFWMudRun.com.

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

—  John Wright

Beautiful day in the neighborhood • Defining Homes

Neighbors in Oak Cliff’s Kessler Park talk about why their ‘hood is the best ever

By Steven Lindsey

Stewart Street residents
Stewart Street residents from left to right Jerrett Morris, Alan Stolleis, Clyde Greenhouse, Michal Taylor, Darrell Ward and Linda Ronk come together often for neighborhood block parties, planned or impromptu, within their classic homes and lush greenery of Kessler Park. Photos courtesy of Jef Tingley.

There’s a little group of homes on Stewart Street in the Kessler Highlands neighborhood of Oak Cliff in Kessler Park that may be just about the gayest block in town — and not just the homosexual kind of gay; the happy kind, too. The neighbors who live here are closer than the pals on Friends, more into each other’s business than a season finale of Knots Landing and their parties have a higher production value than anything Bree’s ever done on Desperate Housewives.

The quiet, tree-lined street is filled with quaint bungalow-style homes from the ’20s and ’30s and over recent years, several gays and lesbians have chosen to put down roots on this one particular block, one which throws out the welcome mat any time somebody new moves in.

“We first met all the gays and lesbians on our block the same way we met all of our neighbors — through a welcome party,” says Jef Tingley, an eight-year resident. “Who knew that years later so many of these people would not just be neighbors, but individuals that I consider dear friends.”

The neighbors gather for two major events a year: Blocktoberfest, a yearly bratwurst cookout held in a neighbor’s yard where everyone brings a dish to share; and a progressive holiday event, where everyone moves from house to house for food and drinks. Halloween is also quite a production with an estimated 1,500 trick-or-treaters each year snatching up 60 to 70 pounds of candy per house in the process.

“It turns out to be one of the most fun events of the year for me and my friends,” says Alan Stolleis, who’s lived on the street for nearly 13 years. “We do tend to go a little crazy with fog machines, huge spiders and scary music.”

But the neighbors on Stewart don’t need a bold-font holiday on the calendar to have reason to celebrate.

“One of the first things we learned when we moved on to the block is that if someone is on the porch, there’s a good chance that you can stop on by for a glass of wine. Many a dog walk has ended with an impromptu porch party,” Tingley says. In fact, everyone interviewed said the same thing about the frequent porch parties and how often they pop up.

Clyde Greenhouse and Michal Taylor, co-owners of the Oak-Cliff-based Kessler Cookie Company, have been on the block for 12 years and have the newest home in the neighborhood. It was built in 1942.

The character of the neighborhood is what initially interested Taylor and Greenhouse, as well as most other people who found Stewart by chance. But for at least one neighbor, buying a home here took a village.

“We had the opportunity to have our best friend buy the house next to us, and when the house went up for sale, while our friend was negotiating his contract for purchase, some of the neighbors would take the ‘for sale’ sign down every day,” says Jerrett Morris, Tingley’s partner. “And whenever a prospective buyer might even give the hint of interest, they would wander out in their boxer shorts and generally try to look like nightmare neighbors any way they could to drive the prospect away.”

It must’ve worked, because Keith Murray closed the deal, quite possibly not realizing the extent to which the neighborhood had helped make it happen.

“At the time I wasn’t looking to buy a home. It was by chance that the house next door to my best friends went up for sale.  It was in complete disrepair, but with the encouragement and help of friends and neighbors, I bought it and we collectively rehabbed it. It was a lot of work, but looking back on it now, it was completely worth it,” Murray says.

It’s just one of many examples of the ways neighbors here look out for one another.

“This neighborhood will definitely take it upon itself to investigate anything that seems suspicious,” Morris says. “It’s like a block full of good Gladys Kravitzes [the nosy neighbor from Bewitched].”

“We know almost everyone by name. It’s not uncommon to see a gay couple standing out in the front yard talking with a straight couple and their children. I even loaned a pair of cuff links to a neighbor’s daughter’s boyfriend for prom one year when he needed them in a pinch,” Tingley says.

Linda Ronk, who has lived on Stewart for 16 years, believe the neighborhood transcends any sort of labeling.

“To be honest there is no gay or non-gay. We are just Stewart Street folks,” she says. “We have keys to each other’s homes and we watch out for each other.”

“Not everyone believes me, but our street is like something out of Leave It To Beaver,” Tingley says. “All the neighbors are really vested in making it a great block, but it’s also not a creepy police state where you have no privacy. I tell everyone to move to Oak Cliff. It’s like a small city in a big town. And if you can find a place on Stewart, you’re even luckier.”

“We didn’t know it going in, but it would be impossible to recreate the mix of neighbors we have on our block,” Morris says. “They’re absolutely priceless and will keep us in our house for a very long time,” says Morris.

Or at least until the city starts requiring liquor licenses for these very busy porches.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition of Defining Homes Magazine October 8, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Bunny tales

Dallas get a dose (3 doses, actually) of drag royalty with the Lady Bunny

JEF TINGLEY  | Contributing Writer jeftingley@sbcglobal.net

BUNNY, HOPPING | The drag diva makes three appearances during Pride weekend in Dallas, both as a DJ and performer.
BUNNY, HOPPING | The drag diva makes three appearances during Pride weekend in Dallas, both as a DJ and performer.

BUNNY DOES DALLAS
DJing at the ilume,
4123 Cedar Springs Road.
Dish on Sept. 18, 11 p.m.–1 a.m.,
lot along the parade route on
Sept. 19, noon–4 p.m.
Drag show at the Rose Room at Station 4, 3911 Cedar Springs Road. Sept. 19 at midnight.

…………………………………….

A founding foremother of the modern drag scene, Lady Bunny hides some big brains and even bigger ideas in her oversized wigs. Best known for creating Wigstock (a gender-bending drag fest in NYC) and DJing some at see-and-be-seen parties around the country, she has recently taken to the boob tube as the “dean of drag” on RuPaul’s Drag U, exposing a new audience to her machine-gun-style sass.

We caught up with Bun Bun to chat about her upcoming Dallas appearances, as well as some good behind-the-scenes gossip on the set of the Logo hit.

Dallas Voice: Welcome back to Dallas. You’re giving us the whole Bunny: DJ and drag diva. Which is more fun, performing or spinning? Lady Bunny: I like both. Who knows, I might be flipping burgers in the kitchen and checking coats, too. You never get bored if you are constantly changing it up.

You have a rep as a DJ who gives the people what they want, but what song makes you just want to just slit your wrist with a press-on nail? I hate Britney — I think that her music is like nursery rhymes. I’m really glad Gaga has come along. I’m not even Lady Gaga’s biggest fan musically, but at least she’s not some prepackaged dummy. She writes her music and sings it.

Tell us about “West Virginia Gurls,” your send up of the earworm hit by Katy Perry, Once I realized that West Virginia could be substituted for California, the possibilities were endless. It’s all about moonshine, inbreeding and blacked-out teeth. And the video is bound to go viral — every cast member has a couple of viruses.

You serve as dean of drag on RuPaul’s Drag U. If it wasn’t Ru hosting that show, who do you think should have had their name on the marquee? I think Lady Bunny’s Drag U has a nicer ring to it. I’m kidding. Ru is my old roommate — we are thick as thieves.

Why have shows like Drag Race and Drag U developed such cult appeal? This whole nation is makeover crazy. There’s this notion that has been kicking around since Queer Eye that gays have the secret, but now drag queens have it. That’s how Drag U became a show — women loved the transformations on Drag Race. And I have a message for these women: Honey, we will make you over and make you look fabulous, but return the favor. Go home and teach your husbands and your sons that we are worthwhile people — don’t beat us and kill us.

Any good footage of you on the cutting room floor? I got a lot of stuff in there that they didn’t use. There was one episode with a girl who was self conscious about her big nose. I said, “You look great, and I don’t know why you think you have a big nose. By the way, I love those sunglasses. Oh wait, those are your nostrils.” I guess they thought that was too mean.

You’re also profiled in a new series called Queens of Drag. Tell us about that. It’s all about the many wacky queens of New York City. My webisode just came out on Gay.com. You just can’t get away from Bun Bun, she’s everywhere!

If you had the opportunity to create your personae all over again, is there anything you’d changed? The name was like a bad joke that stuck, but by the time I realized it, I was like, “Girl, this is your career.” I was too far in to really change it. In a weird way it does fit: It’s a retarded name, but I guess I’m retarded. Somehow it works. If I changed anything, it would probably the name.

Speaking of names, what’s the best drag name you’ve heard? Suppositori Spelling from San Francisco. That’s a good one.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 17, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Applause • Thoroughly modern Jeffrey

Jeffrey Grove, the DMA’s new gay curator of Contemporary Art, takes a forward-thinking approach to keeping art — and museums — vibrant

JEF TINGLEY  | Contributing Writer

Jeffrey Grove
Jeffrey Grove, who came to the Dallas Museum of Art last fall as its first titled curator of Contemporary Art, poses in the museum’s sculpture garden. Photography by Arnold Wayne Jones

Dallas Museum of Art
1717 Harwood St. The Jeffrey Grove-curated Luc Tuymans exhibit
continues through Sept. 5. Tuesdays–Sundays, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. (open until 9 p.m. Thursdays). $10. 214-922-1200. DallasMuseumofArt.org.

For Jeffrey Grove, modern art is more than just a paint-splattered canvas or the iconic portrait of a soup can; it’s a way of life. The Dallas Museum of Art’s newly minted Hoffman Family Senior Curator of Contemporary Art boasts stints at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art and the Cleveland Museum of Art. In addition to being the first person at the museum to hold the modern art curator title, there’s one particular item on Grove’s extensive resume that always piques the most curiosity: “Founding curator of the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C.”

“It’s everyone’s favorite part of my history,” Grove says with a grin. “And a very fun place.”

Originally a student of industrial design, Grove began his career wanting to make objects, but along the way he became more interested in the history of the things themselves — and consequently developed a passion for art history. After receiving a master’s degree in archeology and art history from the University of Missouri, Grove received a doctorate in art history from Case Western Reserve University.

While studying art, Grove simultaneously began immersing himself in artists’ culture and the act of staging small shows.
“I really wanted to help artists translate their ideas — you know, be a facilitator,” he says. And his career as curator was born.
Grove arrived at the Dallas Museum of Art last September to help its department of Contemporary Art with exhibitions, programming, publications and acquisitions. One of his immediate large-scale projects was coordinating the presentation of the first U.S. retrospective of the work of the Belgian painter Luc Tuymans. Jointly organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Wexner Center for the Arts, the installation showcases Tuymans’ interest in interiors, landscapes and figural representations. Among the highlights of this particular showing are six additional works by the artist on loan from Dallas residents, on view through Sept. 5.

In conjunction to the installation, Grove has coordinated a sculptural installation to supplement the artist’s iconic works entitled Mass and Material: Sculpture Since the 1960s, featuring work by artists Barry Le Va, Charles Ray and Bruce Nauman, among others. It runs through Oct. 24.

“It’s the first solo show I have done [at the DMA]. It’s drawn from Tuymans to be a compliment to the painting exhibition.”
Given the often unfamiliar and non-traditional nature of contemporary art, Grove faces a larger challenge than many other curators: How to get people to connect with the often abstract or misunderstood.

Over the years, Grove has developed numerous exhibitions, including the 1997 retrospective Fame & Misfortune dedicated to the life of LGBT icon Andy Warhol, a giant of contemporary art.

“You see his self portrait in magazines. He’s the [contemporary] artist that every school child knows and thinks is the greatest thing since sliced bread,” says Grove, who is also gay.

Nonetheless, he’s quick to squelch the notion that modern art must be explained away to be enjoyed.

“I don’t feel like people have to know it to appreciate the work, but certainly a more contextual knowledge creates an understanding of the artist’s situation, which leads to different identification the viewers’ part,” he says. “Didactic wall hangings, smart phones or someone like me giving you the information [are some of] the preferred ways.”

And because of the nature of contemporary art, the collection he oversees is always growing and changing. A quick look at his bookshelf brimming with muses, including gay artists like Jasper Johns and the late Texas Robert Rauschenberg, gives a hint to what’s on Grove’s wish list for the museum. However, he’s careful to add that the collection requires specific parameters when adding new acquisitions.

“[You must know] what compliments what is already here and really analyze the collection. Where it is going? Where can strengths be built? What is being collected in the community?” he notes, adding that he’s still working on all these questions having only been on the job less than a year.

Earlier this year, Grove led an after hours “walk & talk” for the Gay & Lesbian Fund for Dallas as part of its partnership with the DMA. It was a chance to introduce Grove to Dallas’ LGBT community while allowing participants to hear firsthand his unique perspective about the museum’s collection — witty quips and all.

With a bright view of the future, Grove sees a new dynamic in the way museums and individuals will continue to collect art, specifically modern art. “I think that the change will be in the distinction between private collecting and institutional collecting,” he says. “Speaking particularly about contemporary collecting, on a high level Dallas is already a pioneer in partnering with individuals and organizations to share acquisitions. ­­No great museum can afford to buy all the great art and keep pace with cultural production.”

As for staging his dream collection, Grove says, “stay tuned,” but should it not work out, he can always return to his bio highlight, a world of espionage and double agents. As he says, in a tone laced with sarcasm, “All the conspiracies are true: It’s all a way to support things like Salt.”

The Angelia Jolie spy movie? No, thanks. We prefer Grove in this day job working with some real art.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 27, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas