Scenes from First Wednesday

The DFW Sisters light the Christmas Tree on the patio of TMC.

There was plenty going on last night, from a World AIDS Day event at the Cathedral of Hope to the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce’s Holiday Mixer at Maggiano’s. But @GetRichInDallas and I stayed true to our roots — and his wine addiction — as we hit up the strip for First Wednesday and the Christmas Tree Lighting. It was, quite frankly, a sparsely attended event, and the “Sexy Santa” wasn’t quite what we expected. But the wine — well, the chardonnay at least – flowed freely from upstairs at Union Jack, as the likes of the Oak Lawn Band and Mel Arizpe performed on the TMC patio. In short, a good time was had by all, especially those who like wine and cookies. A few more pics below.

—  John Wright

Can Razzle Dazzle be revived?

Group of business owners, nonprofit reps call for meeting to set up board, discuss options for reinstating Dallas’ June Pride event

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

Scott Whittall
Scott Whittall

More than 25 years ago, organizers for Dallas’ gay Pride parade moved the event from its original Gay Pride Month date in June to September in recognition of an early court ruling striking down the state’s sodomy law.

Even after that ruling was overturned, parade organizers decided to keep the parade in September, in part to escape the oppressive heat of the North Texas summers.

But that was OK, because Dallas still had Razzle Dazzle Dallas to celebrate Gay Pride Month every June.

Razzle Dazzle Dallas had been held at the Dallas city impound lot, at Fair Park, at Market Center — and it finally ended up as a street party on Cedar Springs. It featured DJs, live music performances, vendor booths, informational booths and, of course, beer, food and lots of dancing.

It was the party of the summer.

But by the turn of the 21st century, Razzle had begun to lose some of its dazzle. Attendance dropped; profits dropped, and costs soared. The last Razzle Dazzle party was held in June 2004.

But while the party may be gone, it has not been forgotten. Now, a group of business owners and nonprofit representatives are working to bring it back.

“There are a lot of different nonprofits and business owners, both on and off the Cedar Springs strip, who have been talking about it,” Scott Whittall, owner of Buli Café and president of the Cedar Springs Merchants Association, said this week.

Whittall said the idea of reviving Razzle Dazzle first surfaced a few months ago when he, Brick owner Howard Okon, Jimmy Bartlett and Resource Center Dallas’ Henry Ramirez “started kicking the idea around.”

He said, “A lot of people talk about the fact that we love having our Pride parade in September, but at the same time, we feel like we are missing out on June Pride. I, for one, think we have the greatest LGBT community in the world here in Dallas, and there should be a good reason for people to come to Dallas in June to celebrate Pride. Razzle Dazzle used to be that reason. And it will be again.”

Whittall said that the core group has had several exploratory meetings, “asking questions like ‘Can we do it again? Should we do it again? Is there enough interest to revive Razzle Dazzle?’”

The answer, he said, seems to be a definite yes.

“I don’t think I have talked to even one person who didn’t get excited when they just heard the words ‘Razzle Dazzle.’ Everyone has their own memories of Razzle Dazzles from the past, and everyone so far loves the idea of bringing it back,” Whittall said.

Now they want to bring the idea to the community and get as much input as possible. To that end, there will be a meeting Thursday, Oct. 28, and every local organization, nonprofit, church, business, sports team and Pride organization is invited to send representatives.

“We have held off on putting an actual board together. Hopefully we can do that at this next meeting,” Whittall said.

“But we want it to be a good mix of nonprofits and business owners and organizations who are willing to commit to making this happen. If enough people get excited about it, if enough people come to this meeting and make the commitment, we can make it happen.”

Whittall said “nothing is set in stone yet,” but those who have been discussing the idea have already come up with a general plan for a new, revitalized and expanded Razzle Dazzle Dallas. “We all remember what worked and what didn’t work, and having that in mind, we have some ideas.

First and foremost, it has to be what it was always meant to be — a charity event. Everything that is raised has to go back to the charities that work to make it happen.

“We understand that this first year will be all about pulling it together and getting it going again. But we also believe that we can put together a great event that will just keep getting better,” he said.

In the past, Razzle Dazzle Dallas was a one-night fundraising party. But Whittall and his cohorts have envisioned something much bigger for Razzle Dazzle’s rebirth, taking it from a one-night dance party to a five-day celebration.

“Cedar Springs is still the hub, the heart of the LGBT community in Dallas. But we have LGBT communities spread out everywhere now,” Whittal said.

“We want the party to include everyone.”

Tentative plans have the new Razzle Dazzle taking place in the first week of June 2011, starting with First Wednesday Night on Cedar Springs. Then the party would move south the next day for First Thursday in the Bishop Arts district.

On Friday night, there would be an organized “bar-hopping” party featuring LGBT clubs both on the Cedar Springs strip and elsewhere. During the day on Saturday would feature a street festival on Cedar Springs, building up for the big bang on Saturday night.

Plans are to have the Saturday night party held at an indoor event venue with dancing, booths from community organizations and possibly a separate live cabaret show, with shuttle transportation provided to and from the city’s various centers of LGBT nightlife.

“Saturday night would be the big event, of course, but we want to take it even a step further and have some sort family event, a picnic or something, in the park on Sunday to wind everything up,” Whittall said. “We think it is a great idea, and we really hope everyone else will think so, too.

“For those who really remember Razzle Dazzle, we think it’s time to bring it back,” he continued.

“We’re living in good times right now, in terms of the community really working together. The economy has been tough, and that has made all of us have to learn to work together even better to keep things going.

“So we think this is the perfect time to revive Razzle Dazzle, to bring it back and celebrate our community.”

For information on the Oct. 28 organizational meeting, e-mail info@razzledazzledallas.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 22, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Violent crime drops 11% in Cedar Springs Wycliff TAAG

Police report 11 percent decrease in violent crime in Cedar Springs Wycliff TAAG in first 6 months of 2010

John Wright  |  Online Editor wright@dallasvoice.com

Scott Whittall

Despite a recent high-profile hate crime in Oak Lawn, the area surrounding the Cedar Springs strip has gotten safer over the last six months, according to statistics from the Dallas Police Department.

In 2009, a roughly 1-square-mile area that includes the gay entertainment district recorded the fourth-most violent offenses of any of the city’s 26 worst crime hotspots.

But during the first six months of 2010, the area known as the Cedar Springs Wycliff Target Area Action Grid (TAAG) saw an 11 percent drop in violent crime, the statistics show.

From January through June of this year, the Cedar Springs Wycliff  TAAG recorded 95 violent offenses, down from 107 in the same period last year.

While DPD officials have cautioned against ranking the areas, 2010 numbers put the Cedar Springs Wycliff TAAG at No. 7 on the citywide list for violent crime.

DPD Deputy Chief Malik Aziz, who’s over the department’s Northwest Division, said according to more recent statistics, through July 11, violent crime is down 15 percent in the Cedar Springs Wycliff TAAG.

“We’ve been pouring a lot of resources into different areas,” Aziz said Thursday, July 15. “We’ve still got issues we’ve got to deal with, but crime is on the decrease. The payoff is as great as the community engagement with police.”

Overall, the 26 TAAGs have seen a 6 percent reduction in violent crime in the first half of this year.

In the Cedar Springs Wycliff TAAG, individual robberies have seen the biggest drop, going from 69 in the first six months of 2009 to 55 this year. The other categories of violent crime — aggravated assault, murder, rape and business robberies — have stayed roughly the same.

Aziz said there’s also been a substantial decrease in nonviolent offenses — including property crimes such as burglary and theft — in the Cedar Springs Wycliff TAAG.

Scott Whittall, president of the Cedar Springs Merchants Association, said he’s noticed a difference.

“It’s definitely an improvement,” Whittall said. “I think as business owners on the street, we feel it. It’s definitely reduced, so those numbers don’t shock me.”

Whittall and others have criticized the TAAG statistics in the past, saying they’re not an accurate reflection of the gay entertainment district.

While it includes the strip, the Cedar Springs Wycliff TAAG stretches to Parkland Hospital and beyond Stemmons Freeway in some places.

“I have a feeling that in our little area, that it’s a higher drop,” Whittall said.

He added that he’s noticed an increased police presence, including an unmanned cruiser parked in the Kroger parking lot.

“That type of little extra effort is very welcome,” he said.

Whittall, co-owner of Buli Café, said the business received a visit recently from DPD officers conducting a survey about crime issues in the area.

During a June meeting with LGBT stakeholders, new Police Chief David Brown promised a return to community-oriented policing.

“We’re just trying to drill down to be more pointed and more focused on specific things we need to target,” Aziz said of the survey.

………………………………..

Top 10 Crime Hotspots in Dallas in 2010

Area:    No. offenses
Five Points:    153
Northwest Hwy/Harry Hines:    114
Ross/Bennett:    108
Hatcher/2nd:    102
Forest/Audelia:    97
Jim Miller Loop 12:    96
Cedar Springs/Wycliff:    95
Buckner/Peavy:    92
Jefferson Corridor:    91
Buckner/Bruton:    87
Source: Dallas Police Department

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 16, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas