Skate the night away

It’s been a while since LGBTs would trek out every week to Grand Prairie to Forum Roller World for gay skate night, a hit with the community that eventually fizzled away. Never fully deterred, though, Don Blaylock — who used to DJ the event — decided it’s time to bring it back.

“People loved it before,” he says. “I thought it would be great to bring back and have something for people to do.”

Blaylock says that interest had already been brewing when he started handing out flyers on the street.

“The response has been so positive,” he says. “There is an unbelievable interest in it.”

Just don’t expect to find info about it online. Blaylock is old-school and doesn’t do things on “the computer” too much. (Advice to Mr. Blaylock: Facebook is so much easier.)

“I’m just doing it by good ol’ word of mouth,” he laughs. “I’m stuck in the ’70s.”

Skate night won’t be the same as before in two ways. First, Blaylock is not returning to the DJ booth. Instead, he’s in talks with the rink DJ to play tunes that will work for the fabulous crowd as well as for the regular weekend skaters.

Second, it’s going from a weekly event to monthly. Figuring that overexposure may have contributed to waning interest the first time, skate night will be every third Saturday of the month, but this first one will be Friday.

“I just wanted to get it going and began planning it before I thought about it too long,” he says.

Skate nights will begin at a meeting place for a quick energy-boosting nosh, then skaters will roll off to InterSkate Roller Rink in Lewisville. For now the cost will be the admission fee at InterSkate and people can bring their own wheels.

—Rich Lopez

Gay Skate Night, June 17. Meet at Hunky’s, 3940 Cedar Springs Road, at 6:30 p.m., then InterSkate Roller Rink, 1408 S. Highway 121, Lewisville at 8:30 p.m. $3. InterSkate.net. 214-207-7430

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

—  Michael Stephens

Day of the living DIABLOS

Dallas gay rugby team wants you to go to Hell(fest)

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

GHOUL!  | Diablos Nick Hughes, Stephen Mitchell, Dustin  Abercrombie, Ryan Cavender, Will Padilla and A.J. Tello expect HellFest to be a scary fun time. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)
GHOUL! | Diablos Nick Hughes, Stephen Mitchell, Dustin Abercrombie, Ryan Cavender, Will Padilla and A.J. Tello expect HellFest to be a scary fun time. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Every tournament has its hook, but for the Dallas Diablos Rugby Football Team, that hook comes at the end of a bloody stump.
Or maybe a fairy princess or Sarah Palin impersonator. Point is, it’s Halloween.

The Diablos didn’t really expect HellFest, their one-day rugby tourney to be held Oct. 30, to be such a hit, even though they knew they had a good idea.

“Originally, what we wanted was to have two or three teams come down, play some games, hang out for the [Cedar Springs] block party,” says Will Padilla, team captain and one of the organizers of HellFest. “We said, ‘Let’s try it out and see if we can get people interested in coming.’”

The interest was there and it grew exponentially. The previous year, an attempt to attract gay rugby teams from around the country resulted in only one attendee: the Minneapolis Mayhem. But word of mouth spread, “and more people asked to come, then more and more,” says Padilla. “I eventually had to cap it because it’s only a one-day tournament and we wanted everyone to get to play.”

Right now, 160 players representing eight teams from as many cities as far away as Atlanta are set to descend on Dallas for what looks to be one of the bigger gay rugby matches going.

“Austin, Houston and Dallas used to compete for a trophy called the Texas Pride Cup,” says Diablos co-founder and president A.J. Tello. But the Houston and Austin teams folded in recent years. “We haven’t had anything like that for a while, other than in Seattle, which has several teams in the area, and Bingham Cup every other year. We’re trying to get that back with an invitational with a national reach.”

“What I’ve found is that the majority of people on these teams have never been to Dallas,” adds Padilla. “Lots of them want to see what nightlife is like in Dallas.”

It’s an astonishing sense of camaraderie for a sport known for its aggressive play. But Padilla says rugby is one of the few sports where teams have no problem socializing with each other after the match is over.

“You play hard to party hard. Everybody who comes out is hyper-competitive and wants to win, but afterwards, we’re here to promote the game. You leave the anger on the pitch. After, you talk war stories and live it up with the guys. A lot of sports you don’t get a lot of commingling of teams; that’s not the case with rugby — not all.”

The openness is also true of the membership. “All of the teams are part of the IGRAB, the gay rugby union, and each is classified as openly diverse, but none of them are strictly gay,” Padilla says.

“We’re all inclusive. It’s not about who’s gay or straight — unless you want to date,” says Tello, who notes the Diablos have several straight players.

Still, that doesn’t mean there’s no difference between a gay rugby team and a straight one.

“We play other [non-gay] rugby clubs. After games, we go to the straight bars and the straight guys come to the Eagle,” Tello says. “We bring a little kick to it: We ask one of the members from the other team to get on the St Andrews cross, we get some paddles out and a whip and ask one of their girlfriends or wives to whip them. They have a ball and laugh.”

The tournament is intended to allow the players to enjoy a competitive round-robin of rugby, but there’s more motivation behind it. The Diablos  — both the men’s and women’s teams — want to spread their passion for the game throughout the community. (Although the women’s team is not playing, they have been instrumental in planning the tourney and will be active running it on game day.)

“I’ll judge its success by how well the teams receive the tournament, but we also wanna pull people in the community here, to come out to watch a tournament,” says Padilla. “There’s been nothing like this for rugby in Dallas.”

Those who don’t play are still welcome to come watch or even buy a “participant package” including tote bag and T-shirt, and come by the mixers or meet up with them during the block party.

Whether HellFest continues next year may also depend on the satisfaction of their sponsors, though Padilla says many were enthusiastic about helping out.

“It hasn’t been very hard — we’re promoting deeply within the community,” he says. “The host hotel is Hawthorne Suites and they gave us a good rate and helped us acquire shuttles to go to the venues. The Dallas Eagle is hosting our happy hour after the tournament and MGD64 is donating beer.”

That sounds like a sporting event all ghouls and boils can enjoy.

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

—  Kevin Thomas