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


After success at running Fashion Optical, Morgan Gianni sets his sights on a new path: Designing an eyewear line

FROM DRAWING BOARD TO YOUR FACE | Gianni started out sketching frames inspired by specific clients; two years later, the finished products are for sale at his shop, Fashion Optical.

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer

If you’ve ever asked somebody local where they got their really cool eyeglasses, chances are good their response will be Fashion Optical. Already a mainstay in the gay business community, the Oak Lawn optical shop has become a favorite of some of Dallas’ best-known celebs, from TV stars to football players to fashion icons and debutantes.

Every frame in the store’s vast selection of hip and trendy eyewear is handpicked for each client from one man, who can almost instantly match a client by the perfect pair when they walk through the door.

Having a flair for fashion has always been a part of who Morgan Gianni is. As the only boy in clothing construction class in high school, he knew he was different. But he also knew he was good, and any adversity he experienced only made him stronger and more determined.

“I marched to my own drummer,” he says with a laugh.

In 2006, he and his partner, optometrist Randy Atwood, added the optical shop next door to their just-leased optometrist office and combined the two into one venture: Fashion Optical. Within five years, they amassed more than $7 million in sales, thanks to the ability of customers to see the eye doctor, pick out frames and have their complete glasses manufactured all in the same place.

Fashion Optical has become one of the top places in the city to pick up unique frames from unique and edgy designers like Alexander McQueen, Versace, Emilio Pucci, Tom Ford and Alain Mikli. But this year, a new designer line debuted that will forever change the store’s future — and the destiny of Gianni himself, who designed each and every one.

The m.GIANNI Collection is already selling fast, though the design and manufacturing process has been going on for well over a year.

The first two collections, Gianni says, will all be sunglasses, but expansion into traditional eyewear is the next logical progression. To create the line, Gianni often imagined specific friends and clients while working on the designs, even naming them after his inspirations. Utilizing the highest quality Mazzucchelli acetate, each frame is handmade in Japan. Unique color combinations and high-fashion accents like Swarovski crystals make each pair a showstopper.

“When I design, just like when I’m buying, I’m picturing in my mind who this is going to look good on,” Gianni says. “I was inspired by all these fashion shows I’ve done. I noticed that other designers’ frames were way too heavy, too wide or the bridges didn’t fit. I wanted to change that.”

Gianni started with 161 sketches that eventually became the 17 models featured in the current collection, each coming in three colors or finishes.

“It’s a really long process,” he admits. “I sketched out charcoal drawings, then I converted everything to millimeters and then I turned them into graphic illustrations for a look book to help shop for manufacturers.”

Once he had a manufacturer he trusted with his design vision, he fine-tuned his designs, keeping a few key principles in mind.

“I wanted everything to be original and I wanted everything to fit. There’s a universal fit: If you study anatomy, you realize there are averages between the brow bone and the cheekbone. Some people don’t take that into consideration,” he says.

The line features styles for women, men and a few unisex options; each can be fitted with prescription lenses.

“I know what customers like and I have the credibility to make that statement. Different facial shapes call for different frame shapes,” he says. In fact, it’s his experience working on the optical side of the business that helps him stand apart from other eyewear designers. By working day in and day out with clients to find the perfect fit, he’s able to translate that knowledge into creating designs that would flatter.

Bringing the first m.GIANNI Collection line to life is just one accomplishment of many to come. Not just a hit with customers, it’s been getting attention from some of the biggest names in fashion.

“I have been approached to design eye wear by Jean-Paul Gaultier Eyewear to be sold at the exhibit of his collection as it travels from museum to museum,” Gianni says. “As you can quite imagine, I’m very excited by this possibility.”

Spoken like somebody with a future so bright, he’s gotta wear shades. But like few others on the planet, they’ll be his own creations.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens