As Todd Camp steps away from Q Cinema, the gay film fest he founded, he looks toward new adventures in entertainment
There’s a reason why Todd Camp’s nickname is the Mayor of Gay Fort Worth.
For 20 years, he’s been a fixture of Cowtown’s gay scene. Writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Queertoonist. Founder of Q Cinema. Thrower of a popular post-Halloween, pre-Christmas party. And then there’s all that activism surrounding the Rainbow Lounge raid.
But all things come to an end. Camp hasn’t been at the Startlegram for five years. The raid was more than four years ago. And now, he has stepped down from the gay film festival he created 15 years ago.
Worst of all, this will be the last time he throws his party.
“This will be year 20,” Camp says. “It’ll be nice not to have 200 people in my house.”
Camp has earned the right to walk away from all this. Being mayor is a demanding job. But as Q Cinema begins its 15th festival (for the first time, in the fall), Camp is sanguine about everything he has accomplished … and how much more he still wants to do.
Camp’s fascination with queer film began when he saw the documentary The Celluloid Closet, “which opened my eyes to how Hollywood had whitewashed gay cinema. The Q Cinema film fest had its germ at Texas Christian University, from which Camp matriculated in 1988. “We started Queer Cinema at TCU around ’96 or ’97,” Camp recalls. “Programming was about running [gay] films that weren’t widely available then.” Then in 1999, he launched the Q Cinema we know today.
So why retire now?
“It was a milestone year — the 15th,” he says. “It was time to go out. [My partner] Doug and I had a long conversation about it. I never wanted to be in the position where going to the movies was hard work. I wanted to do something else.”
Outsiders might not realize how all-encompassing running this kind of nonprofit can be. “It took up every minute of my life,” Camp sighs. Even his partner took on the job of operational director, meaning they were both devoting all their free time to it.
But in another way, Camp has merely replaced one obsession with another — maybe more than one. While his involvement in Q Cinema will diminish (he will remain on the board for now), he has many other irons in the fire. Chief among those is Q Live!, the live-performance offshoot of Q Cinema he co-founded with Kyle Trentham.
“I’ve always had a passion for standup and comedy,” he says. “I took improv classes, and Kyle and I discovered we had natural comic timing together.” They started out with sponsoring a weekly open mike night, and Camp discovered he enjoyed “putting on a producer hat.”
The standup (which continues with a rotating slate of comics every Tuesday at 10 p.m. at Club Embargo in Fort Worth) comprises only part of the performance aspect of Q Live! The team has also produced stage plays, including shows at WaterTower Theatre’s Out of the Loop Fringe Festival for the past two years. The original cast of their last full-scale production — Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays — will reunite this Saturday during Q Cinema for an encore performance of the show. (Camp plays the survivor of a recently-departed lover, delivering his eulogy.)
And then there’s his comic strip — strips, to be more accurate. For years, Camp has doodled his way through life’s ups and downs, writing The Campus Underground for TCU’s Daily Skiff newspaper for four years (later expanded to Life Underground for the gay press), then moved on to Rimshot, a series in the Star-Telegram from 1990 until 1997. That strip attracted national attention … and not the kind he wanted.
When the American Family Association targeted him for writing about gay stuff and drawing a strip for the “young people” section of a major newspaper, management for the Star-Telegram responded by moving the strip off the pages of the family-friendly Class Acts magazine supplement. The Dallas Observer caught wind of the story, and did a piece on it; eventually, so did the New York Times.
“It was a very big embarrassment for the Star-Telegram,” he says.
Now, Camp and writer Mike Price have reissued their graphic novelization of the strange cult film Carnival of Souls into a new edition (two editions, really — one with color), as well as some other collected strips … none, though, for the gay press.
But not to worry. That may come eventually. Camp will have a lot of time on his hands … or at least he likes to think so.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 11,, 2013.