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Confessions of a Drag Race Virgin: Episode 1

posted on: 02/25/2014

It's not easy to ignore the cultural phenomenon that is RuPaul's Drag Race. Now in its sixth season, the Logo reality show has brought the art of drag back into the limelight, introducing it to a new generation. What was once a dying performance practice, largely relegated to older gay bars and special events has made a strong comeback in mainstream clubs. Here in Houston, hotspots like F Bar and South Beach now do weekly shows, sometimes featuring special guests from Drag Race itself. There's no denying that drag has returned to the forefront of gay culture.

All that said, I am a latecomer to the church of Ru. I've seen the celebrated drag queen perform live a couple of times (an incident with a high-powered fan while opening a club in Austin in 2009 almost caused her to lose a wig). And I've certainly enjoyed my fair share of the resurgence in quality drag shows. But I confess I'd never watched an episode of Drag Race. It always seemed that things were busy around the start of the season and TV took a backseat. Once a few weeks had passed, I figured I didn't have time to catch up so I decided to tune in next year.

It's not easy being the only gay at a party who doesn't get the Drag Race references. Terms like "sashay away", "halleloo" and "throwing shade" rapidly made it into the vernacular of gay men. I found it difficult to comprehend the excitement of friends who simply had to see the queen from this season or that one when they came to town to perform. I didn't get it. What was so special?

This season I had a reason to watch. A performer I've known for many years is competing this round, and the opportunity to see her go head-to-head with other fierce drag queens was too great to pass up. I settled in solo for my first Drag Race viewing at home last night. Popcorn-check.

From the start, I'm very impressed by the production value of the show. I know the comparison has been made many times before, but it really is a super gay, no-holds-barred, every-girl-for-herself version of Project Runway-and it's awesome.

In the season premiere, only seven queens were introduced, with the remaining seven set to take the stage next week. There will be plenty of time to dissect the pluses and minuses of each performer. But for now, I'm just going to offer two-word descriptions of those that strutted down the runway last night.

Adore Delano. Hot mess.
Laganja Estranja. Amazingly flexible.
BenDeLaCreme. Campy fake.
April Carrion. Exotic shade.
Vivacious. Overly serious.
Gia Gunn. Vicious queen.
Kelly Mantle. Just tired.

 JRs is hosting Drag Race viewing parties every Monday night throughout the season.

 

Dating Tips Before V-day Hits

posted on: 02/11/2014

Texas' premier matchmaker for gay men weighs in on the search for the right guy 


With a New Year, new resolutions, and the promise of spring around the corner, I'm urging open discussions and friendly suggestions for those looking for love. Start doing things differently now, to get real about finding the one.

Take it offline. Close the lid on the laptop. Consider being so crazy as to remove the app.

I coach clients that when online - if you must - find more sophisticated, mature, and respectable face-to-face opportunities for meeting the person also seeking a long-term relationship. As Rumi said, "What you seek is seeking you." Whether you're new to Houston, or have simply grown tired of seeing the same ol' faces with your routine attempts at partner seeking, let a straight ally give you a nudge to try something different this year:

  •  Network - Be brave. Visit your city's LGBT networking groups, or LGBT Toastmasters Club. In Corporate America, check out into Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, or for smaller gatherings, connect with local LGBT entrepreneurs through StartOut. The National Conference on LGBT Equality just happened in Houston! Hopefully you got a chance to participate. 
  • Advocate - Don't just read about the latest efforts of, in our case, Equality Texas or the HRC (Human Rights Campaign), attend their mixers, volunteer for their galas, and go to their watch parties. Hint: Volunteering to work the registration table brings you face-to-face with every attendee. Good guys doing good works. At least that filters out those that only live online, saying they do good, but don't get out.
  • Connect - Subscribe to online enewsletters from LGBT friendly professionals, realtors, entrepreneurs, and especially nonprofits. They direct you to gay friendly socials, mixers, themed parties, and opportunities for networking. Again, if you don't have a "plus one" as your date, then sign up to volunteer.
  • Meet Ups - In our fast growing cities in Texas and beyond, Meet Ups are becoming more popular. Meetup.com allows you to select groups or subsets within the LGBT community - from newcomers in your city, to cyclists, to fellow professionals, and book clubs to name a few. You could be on a bike ride around the city with 20 other gay singles by tomorrow after work, with a social dinner to follow, or a social brunch on Sunday.
  • Get Out - Hang out at the farmer's market, book signings, lectures, museum special events, and even locally owned neighborhood coffee shops. Attend a grand opening of retaurants, retail, and locally owned and operated neighborhood shops. (True story: My website developer was hit on while working on my gay matchmaking biz site, simply because of another coffee drinker looking over his shoulder to see the LGBT-friendly site. So if reading online at coffee shops, I highly recommend reading respected enewsletters or sites like Advocate, Huffington Post, Outsource, or HRC.)

And while this all sounds obvious to some, it's a little intimidating to others, so please know we are professional matchmakers and here to help. There's no one way to find the perfect person for you. But sitting at home with a laptop probably isn't going to find your Valentine. Soooooo...close the lid and GO in search. I promise, he's looking for you as eagerly as you are searching for him. #loveislove


Tammy Shaklee is the president and head matchmaker at He's for Me. Learn more about the company and its services at www.H4M.com or (855) 443-7463. Get more advice on going offline here.

 

Maroon 5, Blake Shelton, Robin Thicke and Reba Headline 2014 RodeoHouston

posted on: 01/13/2014

It's going to be a rodeo for the books. Star performers including Blake Shelton, Reba McEntire, Usher, Maroon 5 and many more will take the stage at Reliant Stadium for RodeoHouston 2014 this March.

The three-week extravaganza that is the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo includes one of the largest livestock shows in the country, a mega midway, nightly championship rodeo competitions and, of course, the 21 concerts.

"The range of talented artists illustrates the Show's diversity," says Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo President Joel Cowley. "We are welcoming new, upcoming artists as well as celebrating timeless legends."

Last year the HLSR broke its all-time attendance record, bringing in more than 2.5 million attendees over the three-week run. Perhaps even more amazing is that the Rodeo was included among the top 10 places that people check-in on Facebook around the world. No small feat considering those other places are year-round spots like Times Square and Disneyland.

RodeoHouston runs March 4-23 and tickets starting at just $18 go on sale Jan. 20.

Weekday performances start at 6:45 p.m. Weekend performances kick off at 3:45 p.m.

2014 RodeoHouston lineup

March 4: Brad Paisley
March 5: Eli Young Band
March 6: Reba McEntire
March 7: Usher
March 8: Chris Young
March 9: Selena Gomez
March 10: REO Speedwagon
March 11: Jason Aldean
March 12: Jake Owen
March 13: Maroon 5
March 14: Keith Urban
March 15: Hunter Hayes
March 16: Pesado and Banda Sinaloense MS de Sergio Lizarraga
March 17: Luke Bryan
March 18: Robin Thicke
March 19: Florida Georgia Line
March 20: Blake Shelton
March 21: Easton Corbin
March 22: The Band Perry
March 23: Zac Brown

 

Creating Change Conference Headed to Houston

posted on: 01/07/2014

Houston is hosting one of the biggest LGBT events in the country this month, the 26th National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change. The conference comes to the Hilton Americas-Houston, January 29-February 2, 2014.

Creating Change draws more than 3,500 LGBT organizers and activists from across the U.S. to build new skills and learn from their peers. The conference is run by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and this year will feature keynote actress and transgender activist Laverne Cox as its keynote speaker.

The multi-day program includes more than 350 workshops and training sessions, four plenary sessions, and many different networking opportunities. There will also be fun events inside and outside the conference for attendees.

Participants this year are likely to reflect on issues such as the recent string of state marriage equality victories, the federal agenda for equality, local initiatives to create safer schools, and legal equality for transgender members of the community. Seminars will also focus on building alliances with pro-LGBT allies and religious organizations.

Click here to learn more about the conference. Click here to register now!

Also read more about the conference here from OutSmart and a seperate interview with Laverne Cox.

 

Lumiere Nouveau Returns this New Years!

posted on: 12/20/2013

Looking for something festive to do this New Year's Eve? The guys at Pride Houston will once again stage Lumiere Nouveau -- a masked soiree complete with an open bar, light bites and, of course, a big balloon drop at midnight.

This is the second year for Lumiere Nouveau after a successful inaugural rang in 2013. The concept was born out of a desire to give Houston's LGBT community a more upscale option to celebrate New Year's Eve. Dress is holiday chic-with a nod to the Roaring 20s-but a mask is required.

DJ Athenz and DJ Chris Zane will provide the evening's entertainment at 5226 Elm, an event space just south of the Galleria area. Lumiere Nouveau will also feature prize giveaways from Pride, including tickets to upcoming events such as Wonderland 2014.

A portion of the proceeds from the evening will benefit Bering Omega Community Services and The LIVE Consortium.

Lumiere Nouveau is presented by Elite Care.

Like My Gay Houston's December 20 post on Lumiere Nouveau and you'll be entered to win two tickets to the event.


Time: 9:00 PM - 1:00 AM

Tickets

December 1 - 30: $ 75
December 31: $ 100 (Door Only)

Purchase now!

 

OutSmart: A Conversation with Alec Mapa

posted on: 10/07/2013

Below is an excerpt from an article in this month's OutSmart magazine: 

Alec Mapa is everyone's favorite gay bestie. His no-nonsense, boundary-pushing comedy has kept American audiences rolling for nearly two decades. An award-winning one-man show I Remember Mapa chronicled the Filipino comic-actor's rough start in Los Angeles, and garnered rave reviews. That led to memorable television roles, from Suzuki St. Pierre on Ugly Betty to Vern on Desperate Housewives.

Now America's Gaysian Sweetheart is all grown up -- an acclaimed columnist and LGBT activist with a husband and a son. But Mapa's comedy remains raw and riotous. His new stand-up special will explore what it's like to be a gay dad-in a way that only he could do.

This month, Mapa is headed to Houston to perform one night only at OutReach United's 2013 Coming Out Party. The annual event raises money for Houston-area LGBT nonprofits such as Montrose Center and HATCH. We caught up with Mapa packing his bags.

You've been conspicuously absent from TV lately. What gives?
Alec Mapa: You're just not paying attention. I hosted an all-new reality show for AMC called Showville, which ran for eight episodes, and I was on the Tonight Show with Leno twice. If that's me being conspicuously absent, I'd need to pick better hiding places than AMC and NBC.

I know you're a father now. How is that experience? Do you enjoy being the out gay dad?
Being a dad is the best thing that's ever happened to me. The minute my son came into my life, it was like a ton of rainbow-colored oxygen was pumped into my world. It's hard work, and I occasionally get it wrong, but having a kid has made everything better. Also, it's impossible to be a closeted gay dad-your kids out you all the time.

How much fodder does family life give your comedy?
My new comedy special Alec Mapa: Baby Daddy was filmed this July and should be ready by November. It's all about how my husband and I became dads. It has a bit of everything: sex, poop-and-fart jokes, and heartwarming stories. You'll love it even if you hate kids.

If someone came to you tomorrow with the perfect gig-doing standup at this place or being on that show-what's that perfect gig for you right now?
Network sitcom. Third-banana role like Rosario on Will and Grace. Wisecracking maid/assistant/best friend /bellhop. I'd just love a gig with hours that allow me to make my kid breakfast and pick him up from school. I co-hosted The View twice, too-a steady gig like that'd be gravy.

Read the rest of the interview at OutSmartmagazine.com and get your tickets now to see Mapa perform live at the Coming Out Party this Saturday.

 

Inside Priscilla with Bryan West

posted on: 08/07/2013

Stage actor Bryan West takes his first leading role in a major musical as Adam/Felicia in Priscilla Queen of the Desert the Musical. The Tony Award-winning musical tracks the cross-outback adventure of a trio of Aussies seeking love and acceptance -- in drag. West's flamboyant, over-the-top performance is garnering him critical acclaim. We chatted with him as the show prepares to make its way to Houston September 29 to kick off the 2013/14 season of Theatre Under the Stars.

Did you always want to act?

I actually started more from the musical side. I went to a performing arts high school in Baltimore. But they were all classical there, opera and stuff like that. And, while I was excelling at that, it wasn't for me. I was going home at the end of the day and singing what was on the radio. I got a chance to perform at the Grand Ole Opry at 16 and I tried to get a record deal through my music, but that didn't happen. Later on in my early 20s, I decided to go out for an audition for Hairspray and I landed the part immediately. That's how I got into musical theater and I found that I really liked the storytelling element and being to combine that with my love of music.

You've performed on and off Broadway in shows from Legally Blonde to Wicked, what's been your favorite role so far?
When I was in LA, I got to be a part of the Wicked production there. I actually got to play Fieryo opposite Megan Hilty as Glinda for about a week and it was a really great time. But this role in Priscilla really is my favorite.

What do you love and hate most about being part of a traveling show?
My least favorite thing is the constant packing and unpacking. It sucks to live out of a suitcase and certainly some hotels are not so much fun. And then other times they're really nice. The truth is I love to travel, I always have. I find now I'm like the cruise director, I love to find the best restaurants and the best bars and things to do in whatever city we're in.

Talk to me about the dynamic between yourself and your two primary co-stars Wade McCollum and Scott Willis.
It's really good. This is my first lead role and it's been great to start this production from the beginning. We don't actually get to see a lot of the rest of the cast. So I've gotten to be a lot closer with Scott and Wade than with anyone else. We're all very different but we make each other laugh a lot. Scott and I are constantly going at it during the show, so we sort of jokingly carry that on offstage.

Priscilla obviously resonates with gay audiences more than a lot of shows. What's the core message of it for you?
I think it's really cool to be part of a show that's about acceptance of all different types of people. You have this one guy in drag who has a kid, a classy transsexual lady and me acting all crazy. We're putting out these flamboyant characters and the audience goes with it, they accept who we are. Folks can relate to it when they realize there's no shame. I believe it's a show about family and acceptance.

What will audiences love about this particular staging?
This is a really in-your-face show, filled with crazy huge costumes, a huge bus that moves around the stage. When we were in New York in the Palace Theater, it was really small and kind of overwhelming. Now many of the touring houses are actually bigger, and the show fits better. And I think the music in particular resonates with people. They will recognize songs like It's Raining Men and I Will Survive and they'll be interested to see how those famous songs are incorporated into the story line.

I know from your Twitter page that the It Gets Better Project is something that is important to you. Do you see yourself as a role model for young LGBT people?

After one of our shows in Minneapolis, this mom and her son who was only 11 or 12 came up to me at the stage door. She was telling me how badly he gets teased at school. And then she thanked me for playing such an awesome character. She couldn't imagine anything better for her son to see than someone being exactly who they are and being proud. As a community, I think it's important for us not to be scared to be who we are, to stand up.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert opens at the Hobby Center Sept. 29 and runs through Oct. 12. Get a discount on tickets now.

 

JR's and South Beach Show Strong Sales, Not Closing

posted on: 08/06/2013

Rumors are swirling around Houston's LGBT community of the pending demise of the city's largest collection of gay bars. But the company says the rumors are nothing more than that and reiterates the bars aren't going anywhere.

Charles Armstrong Investments -- owner of JR's, South Beach, Montrose Mining Co. and Meteor -- has not sold the bars, nor is there any plan to, says CAI's operations manager Jose Apodaca.

"These rumors surface no less than every two years since [Charles Armstrong] came to Houston in the early 1980s," Apodaca says. "Again, Meteor, South Beach, JR's Bar & Grill and Montrose Mining Co. have never been, currently are not and will not be for sale."

That's a pretty definitive statement and one that appears justified. Despite increased competition in recent years, and more on the way, CAI maintains a fairly strong grip on sales in Houston's niche LGBT bar market.

We all have our favorite hangouts -- our go-to bars for a night on the town. Some prefer the chill lounge atmosphere of Guava Lamp. Others prefer the drag shows or late night thump of F Bar. And more than a few have been found on the dance floor at South Beach well after the last drink has been poured.

But an analysis of citywide mixed beverage sales for the month of June from the Texas Comptroller's Office shows just how popular these places are by perhaps the most reliable metric.

JR's, the decades-old anchor establishment of Montrose still reigns supreme, pulling in more money from bar sales than any other LGBT bar in town. It's followed now by F Bar, which opened in early 2011. Blur Bar, a two-story dance club that stands next door to JR's comes in at number three. And two other Charles Armstrong's bars, Meteor and South Beach, round out the top five LGBT establishments by liquor sales.

The June totals are the most recent figures available and also happen to include the city's 10-day long Pride celebration. They did not include complete figures for the new Venus Nightclub that opened in Midtown in June. It will also be interesting to see how Neon Boots, a huge new gay country bar set to open later this month west of the Heights, will affect the mix.

Below is a breakdown of the city's main gay bars and where they fell on the list of total Houston area beverage sales in June. And if you're curious, Minute Maid Park was No. 1 on the list in June followed by the new Dogwood bar in Midtown and another Houston newcomer, Top Golf on Katy Freeway.


• JRs Bar and Grill 59
• F Bar 97
• Blur Bar 159
• Meteor 250
• South Beach 285
Guava Lamp 342
Crocker 369
Tony's Corner Pocket 389
• Montrose Mining Company 394
The Usual 430
• George 438
• TC's Bar 467
The Ripcord 609

 

 

TUTS Gets Risque

posted on: 07/30/2013

Theatre Under the Stars is about to get a little naughty.

Following last month's success of Dixie's Tupperware Party (we couldn't help but notice just how many gay guys turned out to see a drag queen sell actual Tupperware) Houston's resident musical theater company is making that intimate experience a staple in its show schedule.

TUTS has long been known for staging classics like Annie, Guys & Dolls and Hairspray as well as more modern productions such as Bring it On the Musical, 9 to 5 and Jekyll & Hyde. But now TUTS is reaching into new, more risqué territory, with a concept called TUTS Underground.

Think of TUTS Underground as the bawdy, cigarette and booze sneaking cousin of the more straight-laced main stage theater. You're going to be exposed to some things you wouldn't expect--and you're going to love it.

Set in the Hobby Center's intimate, 500-seat Zilkha Hall, TUTS Underground will debut next season with four shows mixed among TUTS' regular productions.

Kicking off the inaugural season will be Lizzie, based on the notoriously acquitted Lizzie Borden (who took up an ax and gave her mother 40 whacks). Whacks of a different nature will continue in the comedic spoof 50 Shades! Audiences will appreciate the true test of endurance with Hands on a Hardbody, which chronicles the hard-fought contest to win a brand-new truck. The fourth title has not yet been determined.

"I want to bring important theatre to Houston - shows that make people think and view the world around them differently and from a new and exciting angle, says TUTS Artistic Director Bruce Lumpkin. "TUTS Underground will showcase just how dynamic musical theatre can be. Houston is ready for this. TUTS is ready for this."

The TUTS Underground experience won't end when the curtain closes. Audiences can relax and relive the experience at a wine and beer garden found right outside the Zilkha doors. Tickets to Underground productions range from $24 to $49. Get more details at TUTSUnderground.com

 

 

New Gay Bars Joining the Houston Scene

posted on: 07/09/2013

Several new bars and lounges opening around Houston are looking to attract LGBT customers with unique experiences.

Venus, a mostly lesbian-oriented concept, opened last month in Midtown. The roughly 5,000-square-foot, dual-level lounge is situated near the corner of Tuam and Fannin, just one block off the MetroRail. With multiple bar tops and a posh interior with semi-secluded VIP seating areas, Venus hopes to attract a diverse crowd with its "open to all" attitude (guys will feel at home here too).

Nightly drink specials and weekly programming ranging from drag shows to live music are helping draw a steady stream of partiers to Venus.

Future plans also call for a rooftop bar, which will offer spectacular views of the Downtown skyline.

"I think our grand opening really showed what we're going to be," says Pogge, the booking and promotions manager at Venus. "You saw a lot of lesbians and a lot of gay guys but also surprisingly a lot of people from the straight community who are excited about this place. They like the music and the drink specials and we want to keep them coming back."

Pogge says the vibe will be different each night with a house DJ on Fridays and Saturdays and guest DJs on other nights plus different types of specials and promotions. "We are keeping things moderately priced because we want everyone to be able to come and not feel like it's a pretentious place at all."

Another concept set to open in August has a lot of people buzzing--especially those longing for the return of a gay country bar to Houston. The owners of the new Neon Boots Dancehall & Saloon hope to fill the void left by the closure of the Brazos River Bottom Saloon in Midtown earlier this year.

"When the BRB closed down, everyone was without a place to go and all of our friends and BRB family were without a place to meet and have fun together," says Jim Moore, a partner in Neon Boots. "There was definitely a void in our lives. Soon there was a Facebook page that was called Orphans of the BRB."

While it became clear that the former patrons of the BRB needed a new hangout, it was up to a group of key individuals to find an opportunity. The former Esquire Ballroom, a country and western dancehall just outside the Loop where legends such as Willie Nelson and Patsy Cline once performed, was secured and work began to transform the space into a new generation hot spot. Debbie Diane, one of the partners in the venture, says the goal isn't to recreate the BRB, but rather "get our country and western dance-friends reunited back in a fitting new home."

That new home will be pretty big one--perhaps the largest gay bar in Texas. Neon Boots will be over 10,000 square feet with a huge dance floor and a distinctly Texas-themed décor-blue and red color scheme dominated by a large Texas flag over the stage. The stage will remain, providing a great spot for live music acts and other shows.

While the Hempstead Highway location may prove something of an obstacle (it's about 10 miles or 19 minutes from the intersection of Montrose and Westheimer, according to Google Maps), the partners insist Neon Boots will be a destination all its own. They say patrons who want a country experience are more likely to come and stay put for an evening of dancing than want to hop around from bar to bar.

"We want to offer each person an experience that they will talk about to others as well as have other cities' gay population wanting to make Houston and Neon Boots a destination for fun," says Moore.

Finally, another lesbian-oriented club opened earlier this summer just west of the Galleria. Club Fresh Café initially opened as a happy hour-into-late night concept, with a food menu and nightly drink specials. The bar with a bright color scheme and high-energy music recently changed its hours, opening at 8 pm instead of 4 pm and open Thursday through Sunday only.

 

 

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