Now that The Bronx has been razed, site to remain vacant for 6 months

The Warwick Melrose Hotel cleared land along Cedar Springs for an upcoming addition to the hotel. The old building was demolished last week and the land cleared by this Wednesday.

In 2011, the hotel purchased the property that was the home of the restaurant The Bronx since 1975 for a planned expansion.

Hotel General Manager Larry McAfee said construction probably won’t begin until June or July. Before then, the hotel has some zoning issues to take care of and will be submitting plans to the Oak Lawn Committee.

He expects approval to come before the City Council in March.

Current plans are to build a pool, spa and ballroom. McAfee said the new building will probably be only two stories. The hotel will also probably add about 100 parking spaces.

The building that was demolished housed some of the earliest gay-owned businesses on Cedar Springs Road including Lobo Bookstore and Under Arrest. When those businesses moved, The Bronx doubled its size and occupied the full building.

Also torn down was the old Spanish Village, a restaurant that was located in a building between The Bronx and Cafe Brazil (which was Steak and Egg Kitchen at the time). The Spanish Village building, which had been vacant for more than 20 years, was distinguished by the house that sat on top of the restaurant.

—  David Taffet

Dallas CVB launches Razzle Dazzle sweepstakes

The Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau gets in on the action with their Razzle Dazzle Sweepstakes celebrating National Gay Pride Month here in Big D. As Razzle Dazzle Dallas makes its return after eight years, one person can win a package to make it, like, super special. VIP access and three nights at the Melrose is the best anyone could ask for.

Here’s the official word:

The Razzle Dazzle Sweepstakes provides one lucky winner and their guest with accommodations for three nights (June 2-4) at the historic Warwick Melrose Hotel, VIP access to all Razzle Dazzle Dallas events, exclusive gift bags and more.

“June is an exciting month to visit Dallas,” said Phillip Jones, president and CEO of the Dallas CVB. “We welcome the return of Razzle Dazzle Dallas, as both visitors and residents have an opportunity to participate in five days of events and entertainment created by the city’s vibrant LGBT population—the nation’s sixth largest. While they’re here, our VIP guests will also see Dallas’ world class arts, shopping, dining and entertainment.”

Entries for the Razzle Dazzle Sweepstakes will be accepted online through noon on May 13, 2011, and a winner will be announced shortly thereafter. The sweepstakes is open to legal residents of the U.S. at least 21 years of age or older at the time of entry. For official rules and to enter, head here.


—  Rich Lopez

The Bronx says farewell

After 35 years, The Bronx Cafe closed its doors for the last time Sunday, following a busy weekend that saw finding a table harder than Final Four seats. Around 7 p.m. Sunday, everything was cycling down and the remaining staffers — including co-owner Jess Gilbert and his nonagenarian mother, seated center, posed for a final photo. It was a tearful last few days, following the announcement earlier this week that the restaurant that basically invented the gayborhood sold to the Warwick Melrose Hotel. No word yet on what will become of the space.

“We need to start a petition to keep it The Bronx!” one patron insisted to me. Of course, the Melrose probably bought it with a plan in mind we don’t know about, so I don’t know how successful such a petition would be. But it didn’t matter Sunday — everyone was choked up, but there was also joy in the air.

To read last week’s story on the Bronx closure, go here, and to see additional photos, go here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Bronx. Cheers!

THE USUAL SUSPECTS  |  It’s a melancholy week for Bronx staffers and friends, above, but a long time coming for co-owner Jess Gilbert, left. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

After 35 years, The Bronx — the institution that basically invented the Dallas gayborhood — shuts its doors

CLICK HERE TO SEE MORE PHOTOS FROM THE BRONX

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

After 35 years, The Bronx — the institution that basically invented the Dallas gayborhood — shuts its doors

Probably the first time Jess Gilbert fully realized just what The Bronx means to his customers came this Wednesday. A regular lunch customer was sitting at his usual place and Gilbert walked over to say hello.

“I’m not speaking to you!” the customer snapped. “I’m mad.”

Gilbert didn’t take it personally; he knew why the man was upset. The night before, Gilbert and his partner, Howard Jacks, quietly announced that The Bronx — which has been an institution in Dallas for 35 years, owned and operated by the two — would be closing almost immediately. After months (even years) of rumors, Gilbert and Jacks had finally sold it to the neighboring Warwick Melrose Hotel.

The end came swiftly — the Melrose wanted everything cleared out within seven days. So this Sunday, April 3, will be the final day of service for the restaurant.

The news shocked almost everyone, especially long-time employees like David Eckert, who for 16 years has been a server and helped manage the restaurant. Eckert teared up just discussing the last day.

“It’s like having a wake,” says Gilbert.

“It’s a real emotional time for us cause we’ve been there a long time,” says the director of special events, Jamie Carmen, choking back sobs.

The reach that The Bronx had on gay Dallas cannot be overstated. When Jacks and Gilbert decided to open a New York-San Francisco-style bistro on Cedar Springs in 1976, “Afternoon Delight” was the big radio hit, the Bicentennial Minute played nightly on TV and men thought bell-bottoms were pretty cool. The gayborhood also didn’t exist — at least, not like it does today.

“There were no gay bars here back then,” recalls Jacks. “Hookers hung out on the street. But we knew gays would always come into neighborhoods, tart them up and make them chic.” That’s exactly what they did.

“Really, it was a social thing,” Gilbert explains about their motivation for opening The Bronx. “We didn’t do it to make money, though it did. We planned to keep it open about 10 years.”

But The Bronx basically spawned the Crossroads; by the mid-1980s, it was the granddaddy of the neighborhood, revered as much for its friendly atmosphere (“we had really interesting music,” Gilbert brags about its early success) as for its then-cutting edge cuisine.

“Wow! I’m shocked,” says Stephan Pyles, the celebrity superchef who began working there as a line cook in the 1970s, working his way up to executive chef before starting the Southwestern movement at a string of restaurants. “I feel like I was born there — and to some degree I guess I was. To say it’s the end of an era seems like a gross understatement, but it is just that on so many levels — both personally and to the city.”

During their run, Jacks and Gilbert have played hosts to numerous celebrities, including Carol Channing, Tab Hunter, the Manhattan Transfer and Monica Lewinsky. The building itself was built in 1910 — “We weren’t here at the time, despite appearances,” jokes Gilbert — and while the Melrose has asked that all fixtures (including silverware and linens) be left in place, no one is sure what will happen to it.

“It’s soon to be rubble,” speculates Jacks, though rumors range from the restaurant staying open under new management to the lot being cleared for parking or condos.

It’s that change in the Strip that’s partially behind the decision to sell — there’s less foot-traffic than there used to be, and Jacks laments what he calls a “hardening” of the neighborhood.

“We’re getting up in years,” says Gilbert (he and Jacks were both born in 1933; they met at a party in San Francisco in 1960). “I have a mother to look after, too.” Gilbert’s mom is 93; Jacks’ died a year ago at 104.

So while the regulars may see this as an end, for Jacks and Gilbert it’s merely the third act in their story.

“Life goes on,” Jacks shrugs.

The final day at The Bronx will be Sunday, with a farewell party starting about 6 p.m. To see photos of the restaurant, go here.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 1, 2011.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Bronx Cafe to close Sunday after 35 years; gay staffer for Rep. Johnson dies

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. The Bronx Cafe, a staple on the Cedar Springs strip since 1976, will close its doors for good after brunch on Sunday, The Dallas Morning News reports (paid subscription required). The Bronx property — four parcels totaling 30,000 square feet — reportedly has been purchased by a sister company of the adjacent Warwick Melrose Hotel. In a statement, representatives from the hotel declined to comment on the company’s development plans because the sale of the property is not yet final. For more, see Friday’s Dallas Voice (no subscription required).

Chris Crowe, shown at a rally in Washington in March, died Wednesday at 29.

2. Chris Crowe, a gay staffer for Democratic Dallas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, died Wednesday at age 29 as a result of complications from a staph infection that damaged his heart, according to The Washington Blade. Crowe was president of the LGBT Congressional Staff Association. Kat Skiles, spokesperson for the LGBT Congressional Staff Association, said: “It’s devastating to fathom an individual as kind, strong and spirited as Chris leaving us due to troubles with of all things — his heart. We send our deepest condolences to his loved ones and family.”

3. A civil unions bill cleared a Senate committee in Delaware on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Lesislature in Washington state approved a bill to recognize same-sex marriages, civil unions and domestic partnerships from out of state.

—  John Wright

Razzle Dazzle Dallas now has a website

Razzle Dazzle Dallas, the LGBT event held annually for 26 years through 2003, is returning after an eight-year absence the first week of June.

This week organizers launched a website, RazzleDazzleDallas.org, and announced sponsors and beneficiaries.

The presenting sponsor for the event is Bud Light. Other sponsors include ilume, the Warwick Melrose Hotel and Dallas Voice.

Razzle Dazzle was always a fundraising event, and organizers have named eight beneficiaries this year — Youth First Texas, Resource Center Dallas, AIDS Interfaith Network, the Cedar Springs Merchants Association Beautification Fund, Legacy Counseling/Founders Cottage, Lone Star Ride and Legal Hospice of Texas.

Rather than just a one-night party, Razzle Dazzle will be a five-day event beginning June 1 with a wine and dog walk sponsored by the Cedar Springs Merchants Association.

On Thursday, June 2, a “Pub Crawl” will travel by shuttle buses to participating Dallas-area nightclubs.

MetroBall at Station 4 on Friday, June 3 will be an evening of dancing, raffles and fundraising, as well as entertainment.

During the day of Saturday, June 4 the Cedar Springs Merchants Association will host a street fair and sale.  The main event, the Razzle Dazzle Dallas street party, will fill Cedar Springs that night.

Razzle Dazzle wraps up on Sunday, June 5 with closing parties at participating Oak Lawn nightclubs.

For updates, follow Razzle Dazzle Dallas on Facebook and Twitter.

—  David Taffet

Tasting notes • 11.12.10

If your last name is “Wines,” you’re probably destined to become a sommelier, and that’s just what Emily Wines is. In fact, she’s one of fewer than 100 people in the U.S. to earn the title master sommelier (even fewer are women — Barbara Werley at Pappas Bros. is another). Wines works for the Hotel Palomar in San Francisco, but she’s coming to its Dallas cousin Thursday for a fundraiser for Resource Center Dallas. For a $20 donation, you can enjoy Emily’s “Wines for the Season” intro to white, red and sparkling vinos, as well as Central 214 executive chef Blythe Beck’s tasty bites. The event starts at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 18.

Landmark Restaurant inside the Warwick Melrose Hotel is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its parent company with “Three for $30 Dinner” during the month of November. Come in an order an appetizer, entrée and dessert, and even taste some house wine, for 30 bucks. To book a res, visit LandmarkRestoDallas.com.

Kent Rathbun’s three local restaurants — Abacus, Jasper’s and Rathbun’s Blue Plate Kitchen — will do something they haven’t before: Sell the same item on all the menus while raising money for the North Texas Food Bank.

At a tasting this week, local foodies chose from among three yummy entrees to pick one that would make it on the menu. Anyone ordering that dish for $15 through Nov. 17 will get a complimentary pumpkin pie empanada dessert and earn a contribution to the NTFB, courtesy of Capital One Bank. The winner: A phenomenal chile-seared sea scallop on chipotle corn mash, pictured.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 12, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

GALA leaders meeting in Dallas this weekend

Palant hopes annual leadership conference will lead to chance for  Dallas to host 2016 choral festival

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Turtle Creek Chorale
REHEARSING | Members of the Turtle Creek Chorale warm up before rehearsal this week to prepare for a performance at Cathedral of Hope as part of the GALA leadership conference. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

The annual GALA Choruses leadership conference began Thursday, Sept. 2 at the Warwick Melrose Hotel in Dallas and continues through Sunday, Sept. 5.

The annual convention focuses on both the artistic and administrative sides of managing choral groups. Every four years, the full choruses gather for a choral festival.

In 2012, the festival will be held in Denver. Dallas was in the running but lost the summer event to Colorado’s milder climate.

But Jonathan Palant, artistic director of Dallas’ Turtle Creek Chorale, said this weekend’s conference is “a wonderful precursor to a much larger festival that will one day come to this city.”
He said he hopes to bring the quadrennial festival to Dallas in 2016.

“We have the venues,” he said. “We have the hotels. We have the Arts District. We have a strong, wonderful GLBT presence in this city.”

Palant described this weekend’s conference as a series of events focusing on three aspects of running a musical non-profit — artistic, executive and membership.

“As an artistic director, this conference is invaluable,” Palant said.

A member of the chorale will present a session for other choruses called, “Getting the most out of your website,” as part of the membership and volunteer portion of the meeting.

Palant said the Chorale is known nationally for its website that promotes the upcoming season, sells tickets, CDs and other merchandise and features musical previews of the group’s performances.

Among the headliners addressing the conference will be Craig Hella Johnson, founder of the Austin-based Conspirare, a professional chamber choir with members from around the country. Johnson is considered one of the most influential voices in choral conducting in the North America.

On Friday, he will lead a six-hour workshop “focusing on repertoire, musicianship, artistry, the roll of musical leadership,” Johnson said.

Johnson talked about the “professionalization of the choral field” and said that audiences have grown to have the same expectations of vocal groups as they do of orchestras.

While Conspirare is not an LGBT group, Johnson said, “As a gay man, I support them as community-builders.”

While the choruses represented in Dallas this weekend range from small ensembles in smaller cities to large choirs like Dallas’ Chorale, Johnson said that the common role of all choral leaders is to inspire.
“We use music to find our way into the greater realm,” he said. “Music is a language that speaks so deeply.”

Craig Hella Johnson
Craig Hella Johnson

On Sunday morning, Palant said they will host a “gospel brunch” at the Rose Room for conference attendees. Denise Lee, Liz Mikel, Gary Floyd, Cedric Neal and Buddy Shanahan will perform.

A number of singers from GALA choruses from around the country will also be at the Melrose this weekend and will perform Sunday afternoon. They will spend the weekend rehearsing a requiem for the 4 p.m. concert at Cathedral of Hope.

The Chorale, the Women’s Chorus of Dallas and the New Texas Symphony Orchestra will perform the first half of the program. The requiem will conclude the concert. Tickets are $15 and available at the door.

GALA was created in 1981 after the formation of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus in 1978 and subsequent groups in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago and other cities over the next few years. Among that first group of choruses, the Turtle Creek Chorale was established in 1979.

The first national festival took place in 1983 when 12 choruses with a total of 1,200 singers performed at Alice Tully Hall in New York’s Lincoln Center. The annual leadership conference began the following year in Denver.

At the Miami festival in 2008, a new part-time rotating artistic director-in-residence program was launched. Tim Seelig, currently the artistic director of Dallas’ mixed voices choir Resounding Harmony, was elected to serve in that national position for a year.

Veronica Torres of the Dallas Convention and Visitor’s Bureau said that GALA knows Dallas is interested in hosting the 2016 festival. She is waiting for the organization to put out a call for bids before sending them any new information about the city.

She said that if the city were awarded the festival, it would use all of the venues in the Arts District including the new City Performance Hall that has begun construction.

With several years advance notice, Torres said, reserving all of the venues for GALA’s numerous performances would not present a scheduling problem.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Best bets • 09.03.10

Saturday 09.04

Where’s the party? Um, we know
When there is a tour called MadonnaRama and the pop icon doesn’t even have to show up, well, that’s some kind of fame. DJ and remixer Ed Bailey brings the premiere theme tour to Dallas with Madge music going all night long. But will he take requests? Because we’d also love a slow dance to “Rain.”

DEETS: The Brick, 2525 Wycliff  Ave., Suite 124. 9 p.m. $20. BrickDallas.com.


Sunday 09.05

These ‘Steps’ are a killer
In Patrick Barlow’s stage version of The 39 Steps, not only did he adapt a Hitchcock movie (and John Buchan novel) into a hilarious whodunit, but he also reduced the cast to four playing a magnitude of parts. We’re already out of breath.

DEETS: Stage West, 821 W. Vickery Blvd., Fort Worth. Through Sept. 26. $24–$28. StageWest.org.


Thursday 09.09

Getting down to business
If mixers are awkward and networking is intimidating, just think of it as socializing with finesse. Proprietors and professionals mix at the North Texas GLBT Chamber Business Connections Mixer this week. That means, this is your chance.

DEETS: Warwick Melrose Hotel, 3105 Oak Lawn Ave. 5:30 p.m. $5. GLBTChamber.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens