Drawing Dallas • Rick Phillips

With the holiday upon us, floral designing is a labor of love for Dallas’ Rick Phillips

MARK STOKES  | Illustrator
mark@markdrawsfunny.com

Name: Rick Phillips

Occupation: Floral designer

Spotted at: Dog park on Swiss Avenue

Tanned, fit Aquarian Rick Phillips was born in Dallas but raised in neighboring Grand Prairie. He sprouts from a small but creative family: His mother sings opera, his brother is a drummer in a rock band, and his grandmother was also a gifted artist.

Labor of Love: Rick has been creating beautiful floral arrangements for more than 17 years. His first job interview in the business was to create a funeral arrangement. “I almost cut my thumb off,” says Rick, “I think they felt sorry for me. I got the job!”

Studying photography in college led to a natural progression into painting and finally into floral design. The instant gratification he gets from the process satisfies his art muse. Rick says he makes up his arrangements as he goes along. “I have a concept about color and shape when I start, but after that I free-wheel it.” He has been the exclusive florist for a high-profile jewelry store for eight years.

When he’s not handcrafting floral masterpieces, Rick enjoys cooking and shopping vintage and junk shops for awesome shirts and cool coats (and he can’t wait to for the weather to get cooler so he can wear them!) He loves all kinds of music from classical to techno/dance.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 2, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Monster’s ball

Porn star Michael Brandon endured prison and drug  addiction, but his road to recovery — and to Texas — began with an unusual partner named Monster

MAN OF A CERTAIN AGE | At 46, the once-twinky Michael Brandon has embraced his new-found role as a daddy to younger men who were barely alive when he started his porn career.

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES
Life+Style Editor

jones@dallasvoice.com

…………………….

BADASS TEXAS TOUR
Midtowne Spa,
2509 Pacific St.  July 29 at 8 p.m.

…………………….

Porn star Michael Brandon loves the cool weather in his hometown of San Francisco, but he is happily, and voluntarily, giving it up to come to Dallas.

“I actually have family there,” he says. “Legend has it my uncle was the CEO of Texas Instruments back in the day.” Not counting family reunions, the trip will mark the Dallas debut of his live show. So what exactly got him to Texas finally?

“I think I would have to credit Monster,” he says.

Monster, it turns out, is his pet name for his penis. Only if you listen to Brandon talk about it enough, it seems like a business partner rather than a part of his business.
Here’s how it happened.

“One of my fans, Topher, has been on me to come to Texas for years — ‘Bring Monster to Texas!’ he kept saying. For some reason, Texas wasn’t an easy nut to crack for me,” Brandon says. So superfan Topher took it upon himself to meet Monster in person, setting out on a campaign to get someone — anyone — to bring Monster and his owner to the Lone Star State.

“I’ll be damned if he didn’t get Midtowne Spa [on board],” Brandon says still a bit incredulously. “Midtowne doesn’t normally fly people in, but they agreed to this time — and it went from ‘just Dallas’ to a three-city tour.”

Brandon’s Badass Texas Tour — designed to promote the adult performer’s first hardcore sex film in several years, the fetish picture Badass — started in Austin Wednesday, and will bring him (well, them) to Dallas tonight at 8, followed by an appearance in Houston on Sunday.

To hear Brandon talk about it, it really is a collaboration, and one borne unexpectedly from tragedy.

In the 1980s, Brandon was, in his words, “fresh off the bus” when he came out of the closet with a vengeance. He was 24 and quickly got involved in the seedier aspects of gay culture. He was working at a bar when he answered an ad for XXX models. The photographer was impressed by the young man’s member.

“In the gay world, your cock can be your calling card on many levels — especially in the sex industry, and mine is really large,” Brandon quickly admits. But soon after he started doing porn, he developed an addiction to meth. It ruined his life.

TEXAS AT LAST | Brandon’s Texas tour resulted from an email campaign from a superfan.

“I was already 140 lbs. soaking wet without using anything, but I dropped even more — I was skinny as a rail. When I did the speed I stopped doing porn because I didn’t have any confidence in front of the camera. Then I started selling it, then did jail time, then prison time, then living on the streets. From 24 to 34, I saw eight-and-a-half years inside state penitentiaries. But those revolving doors kept me alive. Left to my own devices, I would have been dead. I should be dead. Dead! I’m talking skull-and-crossbones chemicals being shot into my veins. I’ve known people who did less than I did and can barely put two sentences together. Staying as strung out as I did, I would have been so out of it I would have walked in front of a bus.”

He spent 18 months in rehab, and it was really after that when “Michael Brandon” was born.

“’Michael Brandon’ was just my stage name but I started cultivating it as an entity and business,” he says.

Brandon won back-to-back performer of the year Gay VN Awards in 2001 and 2002 — the only porn actor to do so — and Monster was a big part of it.

“Part of the process [of recovery] is to learn who you really are, so I was reading reviews of me on an [escort evaluation site]. One review, the client was saying how nice my eyes were and called my cock a ‘monster.’ I thought, ‘Why don’t I give it an identity and take mine back? And it’s been a hit. Working together has been huge for my career. Monster gets his own birthday wishes, own emails, his — ‘can Monster come out and play?’ It’s been such a big marketing tool. No pun intended.”

Brandon took a break from porn and escorting when he met his true love, Marcos, “and in order to cultivate a healthy personal relationship, I stepped out from in front of the camera and basically had a monogamous relationship with him.”

That relationship ended after five years “in a blaze of glory” last October; in December, Brandon went back in front of the camera to make Badass. He was already 45 years old. But apparently as in-demand as ever.

“People ask me, ‘How long have you been in your industry?’ I sometimes answer, ‘How old are you?’ I get a lot of emails saying, ‘I have watched you since I was 12 years old.’ I wanna ask, ‘How old are you now, 15?’ Our community is youth-obsessed but I find the youth is obsessed with the papis and the daddies. I get these random emails that say, ‘I really like having sex with older men.’ When did that happen?”

But Brandon isn’t complaining. Despite a drug relapse — he has been clean for a second time almost three years now, following a nine-month binge that nearly destroyed him again — he’s as happy and focused and well-adjusted as he’s ever been. And like Lady Gaga, he credits his little — well, not so little — Monster.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 29, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

A Brit abroad in Dallas

Doug Mayo may like Dallas more than a native Texan.

The Australian-born travel writer, now living in Great Britain, has visited as part of the Tavern Guild’s international journalists’ tour on several occasions; the last time, in April, he ended up staying a week longer than anyone else.

And the entire time he was here, Mayo had a look on his face like a kid in a candy shop. And he knows it.

“I love Dallas,” he gushes on a rare break from sightseeing. “Dallas is all about the people — I’ve met the nicest people in the world here. I could actually live here quite easily.”

Even during the Texas summer? Well, for Mayo, it’s less about the weather than what it has to offer.

“It’s probably not as much of a culture shock as moving somewhere else,” he says. “[People] don’t equate Dallas with culture, but you appreciate wine, cabaret, the arts. The performing arts district is out of this world —the Wyly and the Winspear are amazing. And for me, it does seem to be a Democratic state, considering that there are some Republican presidents from here.”
So what does an Aussie by way of England find so appealing about Dallas? Just give him a second to count the ways.

“The Round-Up is just surreal because it’s such a Dallas thing — there’s something about it that is distinctively ‘Texas,’” Mayo says. “You don’t realize it, but you won’t find something like that in London.”

The Book Depository is a draw as well, as is some of our architecture: “My last tour, we toured the construction of Cowboys Stadium. It’s a phenomenal building.” He even enjoyed going a bit west to Cowtown to see the cattle drive and inspect Bass Hall before trips to Billy Bob’s and the Rainbow Lounge, all of which he loved.

And what about the food? Well, that might be the easiest sell of all.

“Central 214’s my favorite,” he says. “[Chef] Blythe Beck can work out a way of chicken-frying anything.”

That’s Texas all right.

— A.W.J.

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

—  Michael Stephens

BREAKING: Man found dead in pile of storm debris in Oak Lawn

Oak Lawn, at least the northern part of it, appears to have been one of the hardest hit areas in Tuesday night’s storms. As I mentioned earlier, many of us took cover in the basement of the Interfaith Peace Chapel at the Cathedral of Hope following a mayoral forum. This decision was made by the folks in charge at the Cathedral when sirens went off and TV reports said a tornado was moving into Dallas from Irving. When I emerged from the basement, I found my windshield shattered by a chunk of hail that was at least as large as a baseball. This morning, the Dallas Morning News reports that there was probably good reason for us to take cover. A man was found dead beside a pile of storm debris early this morning near an apartment complex in the 5000 block of Lahoma Drive, near Lemmon Avenue and the Tollway. He was found by an apartment manager assessing damage from the storms, and his cause of death hasn’t been determined. Elsewhere, part of the roof was ripped off an apartment complex on Cedar Plaza Lane, which is in the same general area. Hail damage to vehicles has also been reported at Love Field.  Stay tuned to Instant Tea for updates.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Fort Worth’s ‘Close Encounters’ night

A scene straight out of a sci-fi movie as transformers blow up in east Fort Worth

Maybe it’s just me, but dang! Seems like the weather here in North Texas is getting weirder and weirder! I mean, first we have the Great Snowstorm of 2010, followed by the ice this past winter. And now this year it seems like we’re having some extravagantly severe thunderstorms, with tornadoes happening every day last week and this week’s outrageous lighting storms.

I live in Fort Worth, on the east side, and on Tuesday night we had a pretty strong storm front move through. It didn’t last long, really, but for a couple of hours, the city seemed to be really getting hit hard by lightning. In fact, according to this report in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, about 210 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes were reported between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. that night, with another 120 reported the following hour, between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.

And apparently, a lot of those lightning strikes were hitting transformers — the kinds on the electrical poles, not the kind that are vehicles that turn into giant alien robots. But watch this video — which appears to have been recorded from a high-rise location in downtown Fort Worth, looking east toward the area just north of I-30 and was posted to YouTube by BrianLuenser — and it looks like it could have been a scene straight out of the next big sci-fi movie. We can call it “Close Encounters — The Fort Worth Way.”

It’s pretty frightening sometimes to realize the power of nature, but at the same time, frighteningly beautiful.

Just so you known, WFAA.com is forecasting more thunderstorms today — but hey, the weekend looks great!

—  admin

Gay Super Bowl block party called a success

Scott Whittall warms up the crowd at the Super Street Party.

Maybe the gays in Dallas are capable of pulling off a Super Bowl party after all.

Although a gay-themed concert planned for the Cotton Bowl on Thursday night was canceled due to poor ticket sales, organizers of Saturday night’s block party on Cedar Springs are deeming it a success. (To view a slideshow from the party, go here.)

Scott Whittall, president of the Cedar Springs Merchants Association, said while the closed-down street itself wasn’t overly crowded during the event, the clubs were extremely busy and some were at capacity.

“The turnout was huge, but it’s hard for us to get a head count because everybody kept running in and out of the clubs to get warm,” Whittall said, adding that attendance was definitely in the thousands. “I think if they all would have been able to stay outside, I think we would have seen a street full of people. There was no question they were down here, they were just in an out all night long. They were flooding through those gates.”

Whittall said organizers of the Super Street Party — billed as the world’s first-ever gay Super Bowl block party — were “freaking out” on Thursday and Friday because they weren’t sure if the weather would clear.

“They had altered the forecast I don’t know how many times for Saturday,” he said. “We didn’t know what to expect, especially with all that snow and ice on the ground Friday. But it all worked out. I don’t even think there was a patch of ice left on Cedar Springs. Everything was set up in time. It went off great.

“We’re definitely deeming it a success, especially compared to a lot of the party debacles that were out there last week in the straight community. I heard that a lot of the parties around town were not well attended,” Whittall said. “We had the luxury of the fact that we have a ton of huge clubs around us where people can go and get warm. There was always a pretty good crowd around the stage. In a warmer weather situation, we will definitely set the street up like that again.”

—  John Wright

How many tix were really sold to canceled gay Super Bowl concert? Under 100, publicist says

Good thing this didn’t happen with the gays under there. (From WFAA)

Fewer than 100 tickets — but more than 13 — had been sold to the gay Super Bowl concert originally planned for tonight at the Cotton Bowl, according to a publicist for the event.

“There were less than 100 but glad we canceled because most of the artists’ flights were canceled due to weather,” publicist Ariana Hajibashi said in an e-mail late Wednesday, in response to a question about how many tickets had been sold for the first night of the XLV Party, which was to feature the Village People, Lady Bunny and Cazwell.

Instant Tea had reported, based on a statement by Hajibashi, that only 13 tickets were sold. However, she later said that was inaccurate.

In other XLV Party news, it looks like the now-two-night event has been moved indoors, to the Fair Park Coliseum, after a tent at the Cotton Bowl collapsed was taken down more quickly than expected due to the weather.

—  John Wright

PHOTO OF THE DAY: If you thought our weather was bad, check out this scene from Chicago

Our old friend Rex Wockner just sent over a link to the above photo from The Chicago Tribune, which reports that the area has received more than 20 inches of snow and is expected to get more today.

—  John Wright

WHAT’S BREWING: Brittany Novotny; Mexican gay beer; Ice-Ma-Poca-Geddypse intensifies

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. “My name is Brittany Novotny, and I was born in the wrong body.” Transgender Oklahoma City attorney Brittany Novotny, who challenged bigoted State Rep. Sally Kern last November, has recorded an “It Gets Better” video (above) aimed at trans youth.

2. Finally, a gay beer! But it’s not called Schmitts Gay. A Mexican brewery has released two “Artisan Honey-Ales” targeted specifically to the LGBT community, called “Salamandra” and “Purple Hand,” and the first 500 cases have already sold out. Christ, what are we, a bunch of alcoholics?

3. The latest weather-related disaster to strike North Texas is ROLLING BLACKOUTS that are only supposed to last 15 minutes but may in fact last just long enough for you to FREEZE TO DEATH!!! But don’t even think about trying to leave the house because it’s DANGEROUSLY COLD and there’s ICE EVERYWHERE, so you’re likely to GET KILLED IN AN AWFUL WRECK!!! So just stay inside and watch the news, which will come up with something new to scare the shit out of you and boost their ratings, at least until the power goes out.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Ill. governor signs civil unions bill; the DMN straight-washes a bullying story

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn used 97 pens to sign a civil unions bill on Monday, in front of hundreds of people who packed a ballroom in downtown Chicago for the ceremony. The law, which takes effect June 1, will make Illinois the sixth state with civil unions that provide state-level protections equivalent to marriage. If you’ve got nothing better to do on this snow/ice day, you can count the pens in the video above.

2. The Dallas Morning News has a piece today about anti-bullying bills in the Texas Legislature. And it’s great that the DMN has finally decided to devote some space — even if it is on Page 5B — to efforts to curb an epidemic that’s claiming young people’s lives. But there’s one small problem, and it actually happens to be a huge problem. Incredibly, the DMN story manages to avoid any mention of the word “gay” or “homosexual” or “sexual orientation.” In fact, the newspaper clearly goes out of its way to avoid these words. Case in point: Equality Texas, the statewide gay-rights group, is referred in the story as “a group that works to prevent school violence.” WTF? It’s arguably the biggest straight-washing since this one.

3. This item is canceled due to the weather.

—  John Wright