Latest Gay News
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.
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.
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
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
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.
Community Marketing Inc. is looking for LGBT people to take their 2013 survey, which looks at trends in brands, purchasing and more.
The annual survey by the San Francisco-based market research firm helps gauge worldwide LGBT sentiment on a host of issues ranging from popular financial institutions to terminology used by the community.
Last year's survey yielded 45,000 respondents from 148 countries. The final results were cited by publications such as the New York Times, USA Today and the Wall Street Journal.
The survey takes about 10 minutes to complete and everyone who completes it by June 30 may enter into a drawing to win one of five $100 cash prizes.
Take the survey now.
The spring flair was certainly on display this past Easter Sunday for the 32nd annual Bunnies on the Bayou. More than 3,400 people turned out for the annual event--and that meant a record amount of money raised, with $110,000 going to local charities.
The popular 501(c)3 organization that hosts a series of parties througout the year is best known for the main event on the plaza outside of the Wortham Theater Center on Easter. Despite a late afternoon thunderstorm, thousands enjoyed one of the best Bunnies on the Bayou in recent memory. The group's mission is to raise and distribute funds for charitable, educational and cultural programs that improve the quality of life for LGBT people and promote education and awareness of human rights in the region.
On Sunday April 28, BOTB distributed checks totaling $110,000 to 16 different charities including:
- Mentoring Educating & Nurturing (MEN)
- AIDS Foundation Camp Hope
- Seniors Preparing for Rainbow Years
- Bayou City Performing Arts
- Houston Area Community Services
- Lesbian Health Initative
- Bering Omega Community Services
- Montrose Center
- LOUD Inc.
- AIDS Housing Coalition
- Spay Neuter Assistance Program
- Pride Houston
- Montrose Grace Place
- Lazarus House
Click here for pictures from the check presentation.
Jaymes Vaughan and James Davis, the duo known as Team Chippendales on the most recent season of "The Amazing Race," will serve as the celebrity grand marshals in this year's Pride Parade and festivities.
Vaughan and Davis will perform during the Pride Festival on June 29 and lead the parade through Montrose later in the evening. The two currently perform in a nightly Chippendales show in their own theater in Las Vegas.
"The amount of love and support we have received from the LGBT community has been beyond overwhelming," Vaughan told the Houston Chronicle. "And now Houston opening their arms to us as well is really just amazing. It's such a fun, exciting, big city - and we could not be more excited to actually get to perform there."
Click here for the entire article from the Chron.
The Alley Theatre is about to get a major makeover that will elevate Houston's resident dramatic company to a new level.
This week officials with the Alley announced a $73 million capital campaign that will fund the renovation, enabling the theater to offer more shows, a greater variety of shows and provide patrons with an enhanced experience (can anyone say larger restrooms?).
Designed in the "brutalist" architecture form epitomized by unadorned poured concrete, the Alley building hasn't undergone a major overhaul since it opened in 1968. The plan calls for a major cleaning of the building's exterior, a new "fly space" that will allow for rapid scenery transformations and several tweaks to the stage set-up.
"This is not just about the building," Alley Artistic Director Gregory Boyd told the Houston Chronicle. "We're excited about the prospect of what will feel like a new facility, bringing it into the 21st century in terms of what we can create on stage, as well as the comfort of the audience. Yet also keeping the 'Alleyness' - the building's iconic architecture and the intimacy between actor and audience that our patrons love. The whole campaign is about the artistic product and the experience it affords to the artists and the audience."
Beyond the major renovations, money raised through the capital campaign will go toward two other initiatives: artistic enhancement and an expansion of the theater's endowment.
The company has so far raised $30 million of the planned total of $74 million, but it must raise another $16 million before it can finalize a timeframe and other details for the project.
Founded in 1947 by Nina Vance, the Alley is one of the oldest resident theater companies in the country. The company operated in two smaller locations, before opening its downtown complex housing the 824-seat Hubbard Stage and the 310-seat Neuhaus Stage.
Click here for more from the Chronicle. And click here for more renderings of the planned renovation.
Have you seen the racks popping up around Houston?
The city's B-Cycle program kicked into high gear in April, expanding from a pilot phase of just three bike racks around Downtown to a total of 21 racks stretching from Montrose to the Museum District.
The bike-share program allows member users to check-out cruiser-style bikes free of charge for up to an hour and just $2 for each additional ½ hour. The obvious goal is to give Houstonians a vehicular alternative for relatively short jaunts. There is a membership fee on the front end, ranging from just $5 for a 24-hour pass or $65 for an annual membership.
Users can sign up for a membership online or at any of the stations. Click here for a map of stations across the area.
B-Cycle is ideally suited for those looking for an inexpensive way to tour around the city's core, along Buffalo Bayou or through the tree-lined streets of Montrose.
For more information, visit the B-Cycle homepage.