‘Smarmy’ is the new black

whoopi2I’ve decided being “smarmy” is in. Well, maybe it’s always been in, but I’m slow to catch on to fads. When platform shoes were in during the 70s, I was wearing boots. When boots were in, I was wearing loafers. When it was cool to hate the new kid, I was eating lunch with him.  You get the picture. I’m just plain dumb.

But now that I’m past the half century mark and could care less about fashion, who’s cool and who’s not and the myriad other banalities that get the majority of people out of bed, I’ve made a discovery. The masses love smarmy. You know, like when Whoopi Goldberg purses her lips, looks over the top of her tinted glasses and gives someone that look that says, “I’m Whoopi, and you’re not. Sad to be you.” Smarmy.

Smarmy people can be intimidating. After all, they always have that look that suggests they know something you don’t, and we’re all mentally scrambling, wondering what it is and oh please, please, please, are they going to share it with us? You know — the little people. They never do. And do you know why? Because they don’t know diddly. It’s all smoke and mirrors.

I’ve already mentioned Whoopi, but I could spend hours adding to the list: Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachman, Ann Coulter, Laura Bush (But not her husband. You have to have at least a modicum of intelligence to be smarmy.), Princess Anne, Clair Huxtable (she was a master of smarmy), the lady who works at my bank and who gives me the look every time she looks at my balance, fashion designers, Cher, everyone in the Junior League … oh god, I could go on for days.

When I think of smarmy people, I recall a high school “friend.” Charise was in choir, drama club and was the biggest whore since Madame de Pompadour. We all knew Charise was easy, but she made it appear sophisticated and cosmopolitan. After all, she spent two weeks in Europe during summer vacation.

Charise walked the halls like she was Cleopatra, her eyes not falling on anyone because no one was worthy of a glance. She knew “things.” Cool things. Things city people know but hicks like us don’t. So we thought. Now I realize Charise just loved penis, couldn’t get enough of it and had figured out a long time ago, probably when she was two, that if you act smarmy you can get away with anything. You can even become president. Smarmy is powerful.

I’ve tried to be smarmy, but it didn’t work. Everyone already knows I don’t know squat about anything, and when I tried to half close my eyes and give the look of patient disdain, it looked like I was just high. Which I was wasn’t. I’m not smarmy enough to do even that.

Yes, smarmy will open doors, legs and wallets. All you have to do is act like you know something that everyone else doesn’t, and they’re following you around, hanging on your every word. And smarmy people don’t debate or argue. They’re above that because, after all, everyone else is stupid, misinformed and not worthy of their time. Their groupies, bless their hearts, take that as a sign of the smarmy person’s intellectual superiority and fall more deeply in love with them.

They’ll even vote for you. Scary.

—  Steve Ramos

‘We must make noise’

Speaking at Black Tie Dinner, deaf activist and actress Marlee Matlin urges LGBT community to never give up the fight

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TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Recalling the barriers she has faced as a hearing-impaired person in a hearing world, and especially as a hearing-impaired actress in the entertainment industry, Academy Award winner Marlee Matlin told the capacity audience at the 30th annual Black Tie Dinner last weekend that “we must make noise as often as we can” to win the fight for equality.

Matlin recalled how she overcame the barrier of her hearing impairment as a child, and later while working in the entertainment industry, with the support of her family and friends.

When critic Rex Reed said that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science members voted Matlin best actress winner in 1986 for her role in Children of a Lesser God, they only did so out of pity, Matlin said it was her old friend Henry Winkler who “reminded me that I could be anything I wanted to be.”

And when she was attacked by a “small but vocal” group of deaf activists for speaking rather than signing the names of the nominees when she presented the 1988 best actor Oscar, Matlin said it was Whoopi Goldberg who told her, “Girl, it’s time to do what’s right for you.”

It was the guidance and friendship she got from them and from other friends and family that helped her defy the critics and overcome the obstacles in her path.

“No one should ever take no for an answer,” Matlin told the Black Tie audience, speaking in sign translated. “We can break down the barriers of prejudice if we work together. Every day, I vow never to give up the fight.”

While tying the fight for LGBT equality to her own battle to overcome prejudice against the deaf and others with physical challenges, Matlin also explained her own personal tie to the LGBT community, other than her role as a lesbian on The L Word: One of her brothers is gay.

When her brother told their parents he is gay, Matlin said, “They said that was OK, as long as he settled down and married a doctor.” Today, she added, her brother and his partner, a doctor, have been together for 26 years.

“We have to make noise,” Matlin continued. “We must all make noise on Twitter, on Facebook. We must make noise to our elected officials, as often as we can. We must fight every day until hate and discrimination are eliminated.”

And, she said, those fighting for equality can’t allow their opponents to set up barriers to deflect them from their goals.

“The only barriers out there for all of us are all up here, in our minds,” she said. “There are those who try to handicap our minds with hate, with fear and prejudice. We cannot let them do that.”

Matlin capped off an evening that included a speech by Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese and entertainment by emcee Caroline Rhea and singer Taylor Dayne.

This was the first year the Black Tie committee has brought in someone to emcee the dinner, and Rhea kept the audience laughing throughout the night. The comedian also helped pump up proceeds for the event by donating two tickets to attend Hugh Jackman’s one-man show now on Broadway with Rhea, and then meet Jackman after the show. Two individuals paid $12,500 each for the tickets.

Dayne and a single back-up singer, performing a mixture of her new songs and her iconic hits, had the audience dancing in the aisles and crowding the edge of the stage, raising their smart phones to take photos and shoot video as Dayne danced and sang.

Also during the evening, gay veteran Eric Alva, a former Marine who was the first U.S. serviceman injured in the invasion of Iraq, was presented with the Elizabeth Birch Equality Award for his work in pushing for repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, gay actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson of ABC’s Modern Family was presented with the Media Award, and local advocates Chet Flake and his partner, the late Bud Knight, were presented with the Raymond Kuchling  Humanitarian Award.

In accepting the award, Alva said that although in the days immediately following his injury — he lost a leg when he stepped on a land mine — he wished he would have died, he has since found renewed purpose in advocating for LGBT equality, in the military and elsewhere.

“I just could not resolve the sacrifice I made with the way my country treated me like a second-class citizen,” Alva said. “I’ll stay in the fight with you, and we will stay in the fight together until it’s finished.”

In accepting the Kuchling Award, Flake explained that he and Knight had never consciously decided to volunteer in the LGBT community — “It just happened. And one thing just led to another. When we saw something that needed to be done, we just tried to do it.”

Flake also applauded the progress the LGBT community has made. “Dallas has evolved tremendously,” he said. “Our community has become more respected, because people have become more educated.”

Black Tie Co-chairs Nan Arnold and Chris Kouvelis noted during the dinner on Saturday that tickets to the events had been sold out since August, the earliest sell-out in the event’s history.

Arnold said this week that final totals have not yet been determined. She said checks will be distributed to Black Tie’s 17 local beneficiaries and to the Human Rights Campaign during a reception Dec. 15 at the Dallas Museum of Art.

—  Kevin Thomas

Neil Patrick Harris to return as Tony Awards host

Neil Patrick Harris is known to most of his fans as the womanizing Barney on the unwatchable How I Met Your Mother sitcom, but to many others, he’s the openly gay song-and-dance man who turned coming out into a career renaissance. Last year, he did an excellent, camped up job as the host of the Tony Awards, and he’ll be back again this year.

In addition to Harris, scheduled presenters and performers, announced today, include Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe (currently on Broadway in the revival of How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying), Oscar winner and Broadway producer Whoopi Goldberg, gay Tony winner David Hyde Pierce and his TV brother, Kelsey Grammer, who recently left the musical La Cage aux Folles, gay Emmy winner (The Big Bang Theory) Jim Parsons, currently in his Broadway debut of the AIDS play The Normal Heart, co-directed by  Oscar winner and fellow presenter Joel Grey.

The Tonys air on CBS June 12.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

In case you missed it: Joel Osteen discussed his thoughts on gay people on The View

Perhaps it’s not the most fun on a Friday morning to start with a religious guy talking down the gays but Houston’s Joel Osteen did just that this week on The View. Whoopi respectfully asks his thoughts on gay people and while Osteen responds in a calm fashion, it’s clear he’s not a fan. No surprise, really.

I just love how Joy Behar is ready to duke it out.

—  Rich Lopez