About Magazine took off to Dallas this past weekend to attend LeakyCon, the largest Harry Potter convention in the world, where editor-in-chief Anthony Ramirez caught up with Chris Rankin, who played Percy Weasley in the films to chat about the movies, their impact on LGBTQ people, and what he’s been up to since.
(DALLAS) – LeakyCon is the largest Harry Potter convention in the entire world, which began nine years ago in Boston. Now, getting ready to head into its tenth anniversary year in 2019 with two celebrations (one in Dallas and one in Boston) after celebrating its ninth in Dallas, it’s clear to About Magazine staffers why the convention is so popular for fans of the Harry Potter series — it’s friggin awesome. From booths selling hand-carved wands, to pints of butterbeer, to actors and creators of the Harry Potter universe meeting with fans and speaking about their experiences. From Sorcerer’s Stone all the way up to Fantastic Beasts and Cursed Child, the convention celebrates it all — and proved to be especially accommodating to the LGBTQ community (see photo of bathroom signs below). There’s not shortage of things to do, balls to attend, panels discussing everything from rape culture in the series to JK Rowling’s Twitter presence. Attendees parade about in cosplay — one man in particular even striking an eerie resemblance to the late Alan Rickman — and rest in common rooms appropriately decorated for each of the four houses of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (Ramirez claims to be a studious Ravenclaw, while his friend/pretend employee if anyone at LeakyCon asked, Kirby Mitchell, asserts he is a courageous Gryffindor, but is more likely an undercover Hufflepuff).
And while there, About Magazine editor-in-chief, both Ramirez and Mitchell were given the opportunity to meet one of the film’s stars, Mr. Chris Rankin. Rankin appeared as Ron Weasley’s elder brother Percy — the perfect prefect that had a knack for being a bit of kiss-ass but that turned out to be a hot, ass-kicking wizard nonetheless — in all but two of the franchise’s original eight films (adaptations of Goblet of Fire & Half-Blood Prince didn’t include Percy’s character). But eighteen years after his first audition, Rankin is a lot more than just the goodie-two-shoes of the ginger-headed Weasley family. He’s hard at work back on the stage in a forthcoming production of The Wizard of Oz at the Bradford Playhouse in metropolitan West Yorkshire, England; and just recently, Rankin wrapped editing on his directorial debut — a short-film entitled Dad, which will air on the BBC sometime this winter. Between his film and stage work, Rankin takes kindly to meeting up with fans of Harry Potter across the world at conventions, conferences, and other public appearances. At LeakyCon, Ramirez and Mitchell were given the chance to talk to Rankin about how he got into the Potter-verse, his feelings on Wizarding World’s representation and diversity, and what it’s like to know that the LGBTQ community relates so much to a world he helped bring to life on the screen.
Anthony Ramirez: I really feel like … in doing these interviews — and I want to preface with this —
Chris Rankin: [Laughs] I love when an interview starts with, “I’m just gonna say this first …”
AR: [Laughs] I know. Right? It’s just — I mean, I talk more in interviews than I listen. But it’s fine.
AR: No, but I feel like y’all probably get the same questions over-and-over about Harry Potter.
CR: [Thinking] Yeah.
AR: So we’re going to try and be a little bit outside of the box. But I bet you that everyone thinks that they are.
AR: [Laughs] So first off, um, I guess to sort of get the general questions out of the way, did you ever think that when you got into this franchise that it was going to be continuing onto this level today?
CR: Umm … no. I think it’s fair to say that none of us really knew what we signed up for at all. I mean … we were kids. But having said that, I don’t even think the grown ups would have particularly realized that it was going to be like this. And I don’t think — yeah. Even when we kind of realized like, This is a big deal — which I think for most of us was around the time of the premiere of Sorcerer’s Stone — we kind of went, “Oh, God. There’s real people out there and they want to see this film.” I think even then, and probably even most of the way through — probably way through to like 2011 when the last film came out — I don’t think that any of us anticipated that we’d still be here … now. And I know there’s Fantastic Beasts, and that’s sort of keeping the thing alive.
CR: But I don’t know. It’s been eighteen years since we started filming. But it was kind of unprecedented.
AR: Well, we [Anthony and his friend, Kirby] were talking about that last night, too. Trying to figure out how long it had been. And we were both kind of like, “Omigod.”
CR: It’s eighteen years next — no … eighteen years in about ten days time since I had my first audition. And then I started shooting about September 2000.
AR: Wow. That’s crazy.
CR: It’s terrifying.
AR: [Laughs] .
CR: I’m 35 this year. It’s … weird.
AR: I bet. And you said not even the adults were expecting it. And you were working with people like Alan Rickman and Maggie Smith who had been in film their entire lives.
AR: And it just blew out of the water so quickly.
AR: When it comes to the Harry Potter universe — and it keeps going with Fantastic Beasts and Cursed Child — do you see that at any point there might be some sort of end to that? Or do you think this is going to be something that carries with generations and generations to come like it has so far?
CR: I think — I don’t know. At some point there kind of has to become a point where Jo [Rowling] stops giving us new original creative material to work from.
AR: Well, and she won’t live forever either. So …
CR: No. Well, and that’s true. Unless … you know … well, you just never know with Jo. You don’t know.
AR: [Laughs] She’s got the Philosopher’s Stone.
CR: It’s entirely possible that Jo knows how to do that.
Kirby Mitchell: [Laughs].
CR: But we’ve been promised five total Fantastic Beasts [films]. There has to come a point where enough is enough in terms of milking it. You know there’s only so much you can get ‘blood out of a stone’ wise. But, having said that, even without Fantastic Beasts, because again I’m 35 this year, I started reading Potter when the second book came out, so in ’98. So when I was 14. So I’m kind of first gen, original Harry Potter group of people. I’ve got friends who I went to school with who’ve got fourteen or fifteen-year-old kids who have obviously started reading Harry Potter five or six years ago who are second gen. And it’s not that they’re only reading it because Fantastic Beasts exists or because Cursed Child exists. They’re reading it because their parents are going, “These books are amazing.” And they’re going, “Oh, yeah. These books are amazing.” And that will carry on and carry on. So, yeah, feasibly, we could still be doing this in forty years’ time on like fourth generation Potter fans. It’s entirely possible. How well the films stack up against age, we can only say.
AR: Well, it’s certainly one of those things like with with The Chronicles of Narnia or The Lord of the Rings — those books span generationally.
CR: Yeah. Even Star Wars, which is like thirty or forty years old. You can still watch the original Star Wars and go, “Yeah. The graphics are a bit pokey. […] The storylines are terrible and it’s cheesy as hell. But … it’s great.” Maybe people will be saying that about Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets in about thirty years’ time. But, yeah they could be better. But you know what? They’re classics.
AR: At that point all movies will just be in 3D.
KM: We’ll just have VR [virtual reality] movies in forty years.
CR: AR [augmented reality] movies probably by then.
AR: Exactly how did you get to — because obviously you were very young at the time — but how did the audition come about?
CR: It was — basically there was a TV show on the BBC, it was called Newsround, it was a kids news bulletin and young adults, I guess. And they put the last article on the program [which] was, “And finally, Warner Bros. is making a film of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and they want normal kids — just every day kids — to audition to play the parts in the film. So, if you want to be in film or you like Harry Potter and you want to do that, write to this address, send them a photo and a letter and say I wanna play whoever because of whatever. And if you don’t hear from them in two weeks, forget it ever happened.
CR: And a mate of mine I was at youth theatre with — I was sixteen at the time and he would’ve been 14 or so — he was ginger, as well, which is key. He rang me up on the landline, because this was before mobile phones — that’s how long ago this is.
CR: And he said, “Did you see that thing on Newsround? I think I’m gonna write in and say I wanna play Ron Weasley.” And I was like, “Yeah. I saw it. But I didn’t think anything of it.” And he was like, “Well, you should do it, as well.” So I did. I was like, “Yeah. Okay. Why not?” And my brain process was like, “Okay, well who should I play for?” Because I was sixteen and was sort of like, “Okay, well I’m sixteen. I’m too old for Ron. Harry’s not likely — besides everyone wants to do that. Hermione? Probably … unlikely.” And then I sort of thought, “Well, I’m ginger.” And Will, my mate, is ginger, as well. So I was kind of like, “Well, we’re both gingers. So Weasley is an obvious option. I’m not a twin. But I am sixteen. Percy’s sixteen. And I am a prefect. Percy’s a prefect. I’ve got ginger hair. Percy’s got ginger hair.”
AR: Wow. That aligned really well.
CR: It was like, “If I’m gonna get a part, it’s most likely to be Percy.” And that’s kind of just what I wrote. And then I didn’t hear anything for like five months. And then they just rung up out of the blue one day like, “Yeah. Can you come in tomorrow for an audition?” And I was sort of like, “Yeah. Sure.” And I did. And then like four days later I met Chris Columbus and David Heyman and reauditioned. And I started about a week and a half after that.
CR: When it happened it was just like poof! There you go! And then we were like on the Hogwarts Express chugging into Hogsmeade to do our first days’ filming.
AR: That’s insane. You were a very realistic sixteen-year-old knowing all of that, too.
CR: [Laughs]. I hedged my bets. I was like, “What part am I most likely to get? Let’s go with that.” Nobody likes Percy. He’s probably like the least popular choice.
AR: Oh, gosh. I don’t know. I always related to Percy because … I was a snitch.
AR: So we are an LGBTQ publication.
AR: And that obviously has a huge fandom just within the Harry Potter fans, too. And a lot of comes just from within the fact that LGBTQ people identify with Harry Potter’s story. As somebody who was a part of creating that story and bringing it to life, what does it make you feel like when people who are not just queer people, but people of color, and people with disabilities find that correlation — when they’re able to see themselves in those characters?
CR: Yeah. I think it says an awful lot about the world that Jo’s created. Interestingly, in my panel yesterday, somebody asked me about the lack of diversity in Harry Potter, which really kind of threw me, for a start. Literally the entire room went deathly silent.
AR: That’ll happen.
CR: Yeah. And I was like, Shiiiit. How am I gonna answer this without digging myself into an enormous hole?
CR: But what I was trying to say, although what i couldn’t quite work out how to say, is that there is a lack of diversity in Harry Potter. We can’t get away from that fact. However, the diverse masses have sort of focused on it and said, “This is the book for me! This is the book that makes sense and that I identify with.”
CR: And that’s regardless of the fact that it’s mostly white, straight, middle-class people. It fascinates me. However, it is a story about a selection of people who, for various reasons, don’t fit in with the “normal” population. Like … it might be because Harry’s an orphan who lived in a cupboard half his life and therefore doesn’t understand friends, doesn’t really know what love is, and doesn’t really know who he is because he’s lived this life of being a muggle when he’s really not — he’s actually a wizard. And suddenly he’s a wizard and he goes, “Oh. Hello. That makes sense.” One could liken that to sort of living your life as a straight person and then going, “Oh. I see! This makes sense. I’m not that person. Now this all clears up.”
CR: And you look at the Weasleys. There sort of just a whole family of people who don’t really fit the norm — who don’t really fit into this pureblood society that they’re supposed to be a part of. And I think that it’s really special. I think somehow Jo has created this perfect little mathematical equation that can answer so many questions and that provides so many different answers that — even if you don’t know you’re looking for them — you can find them. And even — and I’ve been talking about Harry Potter for the last eighteen years of my life pretty much on a weekly, if not daily, basis.
CR: And I do ramble — and I know I ramble when I’m answering questions.
AR: No, it’s okay.
CR: Especially when I’m not entirely sure what point I’m trying to make. But sometimes in the middle of all of that, I realize that another penny has dropped. And I’m just like, “Oh, shit!” [Snaps] “That makes so much sense!” All of the sudden this like rambling nonsense is suddenly, “AH! Got it!”
AR: [Laughs] I do the same thing. I get it. It’s revelation after revelation.
CR: Yeah. And Harry Potter — you could liken Hogwarts to Professor Xavier’s Academy for Gifted Youngters — you know? It’s a place where you don’t fit into the normal world. And that fits with a million different ethnicities, religions, races, genders, sexualities — everyone can go, “I don’t fit into this category.” Everybody. Even straight, cis, male, white, middle-class people can say, “I don’t fit into this community,” and therefore I can find something that I identify with in Harry Potter. It may be that, “Oh. God. I’m really like Draco Malfoy.” … which … is not necessarily a good thing. But if you can identify with him, then it’s a great thing.
AR: No, yeah. Absolutely. So I did want to ask you one last thing, because I know you’ve started working more in TV production, and you’ve started to move from in front of the camera. So what else do you have going on? Anything exciting happening?
CR: God. So much. I literally last week finished editing a short film I’ve just directed for the BBC–
AR: Oh, wow.
CR: … which will air in the UK in like November or December time. It’s a short film. It’s only ten minutes. It’s the first thing I’ve ever directed.
AR: Congratulations. That’s awesome.
CR: Thank you. I’m really excited about it.
AR: And what’s the title?
CR: It’s called Dad. And it’s written by a guy called Joshua McCord. It’s based on — it’s not loosely based, but sort of semi-based on something that happened in his childhood. And it’s interesting because it’s a piece sort of about accepting differences in people, interestingly. Yeah. And it’s really, really sweet. And I’m really happy with where it’s going.
AR: That’s amazing.
CR: Yeah. And I’m back on the professional stage this Christmas. I’m giving my Scarecrow in a sort of pantomime version of The Wizard of Oz. I have done proper stage work in ten years now, so that’s going to be fun. So, yeah. Life’s exciting. I’m having a go at everything.
AR: Yeah. You’re doing a little bit of everything. That’s amazing.
CR: I’m loving it.
AR: Well, congratulations, and thank you so much for sitting down with us.
CR: It was my pleasure. We should do it again sometime.
AR: This has been Chris Rankin — [gayer voice] Percy Weasley from Harry Potter.
AR: Can we get a selfie?
Can’t Take the Trailer Park Out of Vicki Barbolak
Comedienne Vicki Barbolak — who appeared in the thirteenth season of America’s Got Talent and made it to the top 10 performers — is in Texas for the next 3 days, visiting Houston, Addison, and San Antonio with her Trailer Nasty comedy routine.
“America’s Got Talent could really change my life. This could take me from a trailer park in Oceanside to … a trailer park in Malibu.”
These were some of the first words America heard from stand-up comic Vicki Barbolak just before she took to the America’s Got Talent stage in season thirteen, and they were likely some of the truest to Barbolak’s “Trailer Nasty” persona. After making it all the way to the finale episode of AGT (the show where she also met friend of About Magazine and Houston’s very own Christina Wells), Barbolak finished in the top ten, but unfortunately did not make it to the finale show. That small fact, however, has done nothing to deter her from a successful career in the short months since her appearance on the TV show. The trailer park queen is currently booked solid at comedy clubs and theaters across the nation from now until the end of May 2019 with few pauses in between shows. Tonight, at 7:30 PM at the Improv Houston, Barbolak will be hosting the first of her three Texas shows, followed by gigs in Addison outside Dallas (Wednesday, 19 December) and San Antonio (Thursday, 20 December). And just hours ahead of her show, About Magazine got the chance to talk to Vicki about her successes, her long road to get to them, and her thoughts on comedy and what the world needs now.
Barbolak on the phone is just as funny as she is on the stage; and just like with that of her stage persona, her jokes are as effortless as her next breath to follow. As we talked about our families — myself the eldest of ten children, she a mother of two daughters and herself the daughter of a former Pittsburgh Steelers player, Pete Barbolak — she remarked that children should, “[…] come out as medical students. Or like … plastic surgeons!” But the woman from the Oceanside trailer park wasn’t always out on the comedy stage cracking jokes. In fact, Barbolak’s career didn’t begin until later in life, after having married more than once and raising two daughters. She notes that it all came about when she found a flyer for stand-up classes at age 38 and decided to take a chance — albeit one that many would have dismissed as a pipe dream. However, for Barbolak, this wasn’t just a pipe dream; and she invested everything she had into making a career for herself and her family out of comedy. She said, “You know, I did move into a trailer about five years after I started doing stand-up. And just because of that — my character is just who I am. My real life sort of turned into that character. […] My character on stage is really close to my real life, and [vice versa].” Now she’s been doing it for roughly twenty years, stating to me on the phone, “I literally started in the gay bars in San Diego — that was my first paid job at Flicks […] and then Mitsy [the owner] saw me from the Comedy Store […] but I was almost 40 when I started; meaning the industry in LA would have nothing to do with me. So the show [AGT] brought America and the industry to me and now my life is like I always dreamed it would be, in a way.”
But that life hasn’t always been a dream for Vicki. While America’s Got Talent showed off her story as an overnight success, Barbolak agrees that the process by which any artist becomes a sensation is anything but — especially for women past a certain age in LA. “Even now, with getting a little bit of notoriety, I was booking a gig in Las Vegas and mentioned that I wanted a woman to feature with me. And the guy goes — in a text! — ‘I don’t book two women in the same show’. And I just thought, Really, dude? You’re gonna put that in writing?!” This standard isn’t uncommon in show business, and certainly not in comedy where the appeal of women is diminished due to the lack of glitz and glamor that often accompany movie and pop stars. “But I think that these are better times [for women],” she shared. “We still have [chuckles] so, so far to go, though.” But the ever-present ageism and misogyny of Hollywood didn’t stop Barbolak. She was bound and determined. She had moved into a trailer park in California with her two daughters and was taking gigs wherever she could to make a livable wage for her family. Barbolak even became an ordained minister and began taking what would soon become her Trailer Nasty version of Vicki to perform wedding ceremonies. Whether jokingly or not, the comedienne added a bed to the back of a van she’d bought for her newfound business venture and offered couples a short, honeymoon quickie in the back for an additional $30. Regardless of whether she was performing at the altar, at a bar, or on stage, Barbolak says, “I got here through twenty years of never giving up and just loving what I do.”
In a certain bit of irony, Barbolak takes her comedy quite seriously. As we talked about her new material vs. her short sets on AGT, Vicki cited the late comic Bill Hicks — who began his career working at Houston’s former Comedy Workshop — as saying, “[…] material is what you fall back on when you have nothing else to say.” Now that Barbolak is back to performing longer sets than her TV stints, she added, “So, after twenty years, I’ve gotten to this point where I can just riff. But to pull back from that and to write-write-write […] it was a big shift. But I think it was really good for me.” And this funny woman is no stranger to learning to do something new or to approach comedy differently. When asked who some of her inspirations were, Barbolak stated, “Sam Kinison. […] For me, he’s my favorite and the most close to my heart. And when I was really little, I used to watch Totie Fields — but I didn’t remember that until I grew up. I went to the Museum of Television and saw her, I thought, Oh. When I was a tiny little girl, I used to look up to that fat, ugly thing that everyone loved. I remember sitting on the floor when I was five-years-old […] watching her. […] And, of course, Joan Rivers.” Barbolak also went on to tell me about her admiration for other comedians she’s had the opportunity to work with, including a personal favorite of mine, Kathleen Madigan. While talking about Madigan, Barbolak recounted a conference of women comedians she attended where Madigan was asked to perform a set. She stated how much she regrets the event to this day, because when Madigan took the stage to perform her set, not a single woman in the audience laughed at her jokes. She shared how this moment made her all the more supportive of women comics and how she wishes she could change what happened in that room now, even apologize for it.
“When you’re onstage, you have to be kind of … all you. And I don’t want to be that off stage. I want to be a part of everybody else.”
Rivers, Kinison, Fields, and Madigan are all are very in-line with Barbolak’s comedy; and their inspiration can be found by the careful, comedically-trained ear in her sets. Kinison, a former Pentecostal preacher gone rogue, used to mimic the shouts and screams of evangelical pastors in his comedy routines, often about religion and politics, can be heard in Barbolak’s voice as she rails off idiosyncrasies in her act. The late Rivers’ shock humor can be heard largely at play (on AGT the comic lamented about how she’d driven all the way to a men’s prison for a conjugal visit while in LA, only to learn that for a conjugal visit at this specific prison, “[…] you have to know somebody. Can you believe that?”). And even the slight, observational humor of Madigan, whom Barbolak told me she adores, as well as the former’s near-perfect comedic timing and delivery, is similar to that of Vicki on the stage. But nevertheless and no matter how much of her inspirations you can see within her own act, what makes Barbolak successful is her uniqueness. It’s not the uniqueness of being “trailer nasty” — although that does really add a great deal to it. The uniqueness Barbolak has is that of something she asked me about comic-to-comic:
“As a comic, do you think — because I’ve become convinced of this — that empathy might be one of the most important traits to being a comedian?”
This quote spiraled us into a much deeper discussion about the state of the nation, the vast separation of the right from the left, and the subjectiveness of comedy. After sharing a story about my first stand-up performance and listening to a story of hers about a fan encounter she’d had a while back, what we seemed to land on was why audiences connect so with comedians in ways they may not with actors or musicians: comedians get up on stage and tell you everything about themselves without metaphor and often without playing a different role. They become your new best friends. “They think it’s just you and that one person,” she added, “They don’t understand.” It seemed, as we discussed it, as though people need that more now. We referred back to a quote from our mutual hero, Joan Rivers, that goes, “Comedy is about making people laugh at everything [in order] to deal with things.” And that’s what Barbolak said she’s here to do. As we went on, she said that a large part of what she loved about AGT was its 50/50 demographic to both the red and blue parts of America, and how it had brought both peoples to her audience. But Barbolak’s appeal is just that — nonspecific. Maybe it’s because she reminds everyone of someone, or maybe it’s because she’s just that fucking funny. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s both of those things, but also because she cares about bringing people together. Again on the topic of women (and now the LGBTQ+ community), she had this to say:
“Let’s face it, the gay community has always been way more supportive when it comes to women. In the same way that we got to go to the prom because we had gay friends to take us, a lot of us [comediennes] make it because we have gay friends that get people to come watch us [and] because there are gay rooms willing to have us.” The LGBTQ+ could arguably be one of Barbolak’s largest demographics. As mentioned earlier, it was in gay bars that Vicki got her start, and she hasn’t forsaken us on her road to success. She even notes that she had a homecoming following AGT with the LGBTQ+ community in San Diego that was attended by many, including “people who had been with me all twenty years just hoping that something good would happen. The gay community has been pro-women forever.”
As for what’s to come for Vicki, it seems as though she has no plans of slowing down now. If America’s Got Talent was the big, show-stopping, act one finale of the show that is her life, act two, in which she hits the road with her personal brand of funny, is sure to leave fans on their feet applauding. Vicki is one of the performers on America’s Got Talent: The Champions, which will premiere on January 7th on NBC. The Champions features the most memorable acts and extraordinary performers from previous seasons returning to the stage to compete in hopes of taking home the first-ever winter title of AGT Champion. When asked what was to come, Vicki shared that she wants to stay in the TV realm, that she’s been working on sets for late night shows, and that eventually she’d like to be a part of a sitcom — whether that be someone else’s or her very own. And by the looks of things, Trailer Nasty Vicki Barbolak has a lot of character to share on the screen.
Get Tickets to Vicki’s Texas Show by Visiting Her Website
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First Texas LGBTQ Historical Marker in Dallas
The first-ever LGBTQ historical marker in Dallas was erected last month at the corner of Cedar Springs and Throckmorton in the Oak Lawn “gayborhood” of Dallas, Texas to the surprise and joy of many.
(DALLAS) — On October 10th, 2018, a historical plaque was placed on the corner of Cedar Springs and Throckmorton in the Oak Lawn neighborhood of Dallas, Texas. Most people would see the plaque as just another historical marker showing the history behind another longstanding building, but it is far from just that. This brand-new historical plaque placed in front of JR’s Bar and Grill represents the major gathering place for the LGBTQ community in Dallas.
The Oak Lawn neighborhood, or the “Gayborhood” as it is lovingly referred to, has been a thriving LGBTQ community since the 1950’s and constantly entertaining Texas’s largest—and even one of America’s largest—Queer communities. Because Oak Lawn is an area that is known for its high activism, causing and acting on change, and the gathering of a major minority group the Texas Historical Commission turned its sights on preserving and teaching the rest of Texas about this significant neighborhood. The neighborhood is not as well known to people outside of the LGBTQ community, but the historical context of Oak Lawn was too rich to pass up by the Texas Historical Commission and, sub sequentially, Preservation Texas. These Commissions were looking to highlight more disenfranchised and lesser known communities because these are untold stories in Texas’s history and deserve to be emphasized for all of Texans to learn and know about.
The Commission and Preservation’s plan for the historical marker has been more than two years in the making, and with this plaque being erected it starts the movement towards commemorations of historically disenfranchised populations and communities all over Texas. And while Texas and Texans have been stubborn about their beliefs in the past, there is a substantial change within the population. Texas has always been a state of hard-working individuals who are notorious for their tenacity and spirit, and this is absolutely paralleled in the LGBTQ community of Texas.
The recognition of Oak Lawn as a historical and inspirational neighborhood in Dallas shows that the area has been standing strong and bravely in the face of heavy stigma for decades. The knowledge of this community is now there in a physical way, even if the community moves to a different area of Dallas, and young queer people will see the plaque and be proud to see their community represented so transparently, so permanently, in the historical texts of Texas.
The complete text of the Historical Marker reads:
DESPITE DALLAS’S REPUTATION AS ONE OF THE STATE’S MORE CONSERVATIVE CITIES, ITS LGBTQ (LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, TRANSGENDER, QUEER) COMMUNITY WAS AMONG THE FIRST IN TEXAS TO ORGANIZE POLITICALLY AND SOCIALLY. IN 1947, THE CITY BECAME HOME TO ONE OF THE FIRST GAY BARS IN TEXAS, CLUB RENO, AND IN 1972 WAS THE SITE OF THE FIRST GAY PRIDE PARADE IN TEXAS. IN 1980, THE PRIDE PARADE MOVED FROM DOWNTOWN TO CEDAR SPRINGS ROAD.
THE AREA SURROUNDING THE INTERSECTION OF THROCKMORTON STREET AND CEDAR SPRINGS ROAD HAS BEEN CONSIDERED THE CENTER OF THE DALLAS LGBTQ COMMUNITY SINCE THE EARLY 1970s AND IS KNOWN AS “THE GAY CROSSROADS” OR “THE CROSSROADS.” IN THE LATE 1960s AND EARLY 1970s, THE CROSSROADS WAS A MAGNET FOR THE CITY’S COUNTERCULTURE MOVEMENTS. GAYS AND LESBIANS BEGAN MOVING TO THE AREA, DRAWN TO ITS BOHEMIAN IMAGE AND PICTURESQUE ARCHITECTURE. MORE GAY-OWNED BUSINESSES AND BARS FOLLOWED, AND BY THE END OF THE 1970s, THE MAJORITY OF BUSINESSES IN THE AREA CATERED TO THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY. WITH THE ONSLAUGHT OF THE AIDS CRISIS IN THE 1980s, THE CROSSROADS BECAME NOT ONLY AN ENTERTAINMENT DISTRICT, BUT ALSO A CENTER FOR POLITICAL ACTIVISM, SOCIAL SERVICES AND MEDICAL TESTING.
AS THE HISTORIC HEART OF THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY OF DALLAS, THE CROSSROADS REMAINS THE LOCATION OF THE OLDEST GAY BUSINESSES IN THE CITY AND AS THE PRIMARY GATHERING POINT FOR LGBTQ POLITICAL AND SOCIAL EVENTS, INCLUDING THE ALAN ROSS FREEDOM PARADE. THE CROSSROADS CONTINUES TO SERVE THE NEIGHBORHOOD AND THE CITY OF DALLAS AS A SYMBOL OF SOCIAL, ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL ACTION AMONG THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY.
Dallas HIV Nonprofit AIN’s Giving Tuesday
Join AIN in Dallas today for Giving Tuesday, their winter clothing drive to provide their clients with warm clothes to get through the winter months.
(DALLAS) — Today, November 27th, 2018, the Access and Information Network (AIN) in Dallas, TX invites friends from around the DFW Area to visit their offices between 9 AM and 6:30 PM to drop off any new or gently worn winterwear to provide to their clients as the cold comes to Texas. AIN is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that works with the Dallas-Ft. Worth Area’s people living with HIV to provide them access to proper medical care, mentoring, safe social settings, meals, and so much more. AIN has been around for over thirty years, and recently just moved into their brand new, sparkling facility at 2600 North Stemmons Fwy in Dallas, Texas.
Coming up next for AIN — aside from their clothing drive — the nonprofit will be re-opening its new and improved Daire Center will provide meals from the built-in kitchen, a sleeping area for those who have traveled from outside the immediate counties around Dallas-Fort Worth, and other non-medical support and therapy that all clients will have access to. The new Daire Center will be located conveniently just across the parking lot of their strip center from the AIN offices.
For more information about AIN, please visit www.AINDallas.org, or visit the offices during business hours from Monday to Friday 9:00 am to 5:00 pm at 2600 North Stemmons Freeway, Suite 151, Dallas, Texas 75207, and call (214) 943-4444 for inquiries and appointments.
REVIEW: St. Lucia at Canton Hall in Dallas
A review of the St. Lucia concert at Canton Hall in Dallas, featuring new music from their latest album Hyperion.
(DALLAS) — On Friday, October 26th, 2018, About Magazine was given the opportunity to see the musician/musical project St. Lucia live in Dallas, TX at Canton Music Hall in the artsy Deep Ellum neighborhood. Let me begin by saying that, even as a person who works in country music, St. Lucia is one of my favorite bands. Led by frontman Jean-Philip Grobler, the modern take on 80s synthpop music first came into my life a few years ago while dining in Houston when I overheard one of their songs being played. After just that first song, I knew I had to learn more about who was making this music and immediately Shazam-ed the tune, which spiraled me into the magical, musical world of St. Lucia.
Seeing St. Lucia onstage for the second time in my life was nothing short of an indulgence I’d been craving like a glass of wine after a long work week. I first saw St. Lucia live in 2016 at White Oak Music Hall in Houston — where I found myself nothing short of starstruck and impressed beyond measure — but seeing them for the second time at Canton Hall was just as unbelievable, if not more so. Comparably, St. Lucia’s onstage presence was not only a total makeover improvement from the first time I’d seen them — and that’s a makeover from a show I already thought to be great — but simply immaculate not only in sound, but also in aesthetic. Every song was synchronized in lighting and sound to pulsate to the rhythm and the visual manifest of each song, while aberrant, was perfectly fitting. This alone really highlighted just what perfectionists St. Lucia is comprised of.
Jean-Philip’s stage presence only added another delicious layer to the aesthetic and music, as it was evident that he — as well as bandmates Ross Clark, Nick Paul, Dustin Kaufman, and Patti Beranek — are completely impassioned by the music that they’re making. It’s that passion that bewitches the audience, keeping them on their feet, jumping up and down, and shouting song lyrics at the tops of their lungs. And the music, believe it or not, only gets better and better from St. Lucia. Over the course of three albums — the most recent of which entitled Hyperion — St. Lucia isn’t just singing songs into microphones or pressing down the ivories of a keyboard. In fact, what St. Lucia is doing with their music is something far more incredible, as each new album and down to every single song tells a story that keen listeners can visualize as a map or storyboard of who they are. By taking this storyboard and rearranging its chronology in such a perfect way, the band weaves together music old and new to tell that story in a fresh, new way that both old fans and newcomers can enjoy without forsaking the crisp, clean sound they’ve worked so hard to create.
What was truly impressive to me were the faces I saw around Canton Hall. St. Lucia’s fanbase is nothing if not diverse, with fans of all ages, sexual orientations, gender identifications, skin colors, and more bound together by their music and enjoying themselves the entire time. Moreover, the hall was packed out. While St. Lucia may still be fairly new on the music scene and not quite as well known as some more mainstream, pop musicians, they certainly had no trouble getting people in the doors and keeping them there from the beginning until after the very end. Their interaction with those fans — as well as with one another — really shows how much the band loves doing what they do, but more so shows their own camaraderie within their own little family. It is evident just by watching them laugh, smile, and hug one another on the stage that the entire band has a deep affection for one another that cannot be feigned or forced. That camaraderie bleeds into the passion that they have for their music, which can be hard for synthpop bands. Nevertheless, it shows what a great time they’re having making music that is appealing to people from every walk of life.
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Buy the New Album, Hyperion
A Flashback to the 80’s Party with AIN
Dallas’s leading HIV support nonprofit, AIN, hosted their annual fall fundraiser to bring in money to serve people in the DFW area living with HIV. The theme? Flashback to the 80’s!
(DALLAS) — This past weekend, About Magazine did a little time traveling to the 80’s, courtesy of our community partner, AIN. The nonprofit based in Dallas is the Access and Information Network, a 501(c)(3) dedicated to serving the DFW area’s HIV-positive people. Such services include transportation to medical treatment, hot meals served daily, HIV support, as well as an array of other programs. Annually, AIN hosts a fall fundraiser to make up for the funding that normally hits a lag toward the end of the year, and this year’s event was whimsically themed “Flashback to the 80’s”.
With other community partners such as the Round-Up Dancehall and Saloon also in attendance, AIN gave community members, employees, and special guests the opportunity to dress up in their most outrageous 80’s gear, dance the night away to the talented Live 80’s Band, nibble on snacks and treats, and raise cocktail glasses to a successful year of serving a widely underrepresented demographic of people — many of whom identify as LGBTQ. This year alone, AIN has not only continued and expanded its services to the community, but has done so while also undergoing the move to a brand new location (located at 2600 N Stemmons Fwy, Suite 151 in Dallas). While they currently are just weeks away from opening their new and improved Daire Center just across the plaza from their offices, the team still operates and puts together functions such as Flashback to the 80’s. At the new Daire Center — as well as at its previous location — clients are able to receive hot meals, partake in group activities, socialize with their peers, and more. Through this transition, however, AIN has never stopped offering services to its clients; and now the nonprofit is capable of serving a larger clientele with more space to do so.
Having been in operation for over 30 years now, AIN is the leading HIV support system in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. And if the enormous list of their sponsors and supporters attending their generous fundraisers are any indication of the work they do, it is safe to say that AIN will be around for another 30 years, as well as long after. Check out photos from the event below:
AIN Hosts Flashback to the 80’s Fall Fundraiser
After just opening their new and improved facility, Dallas-based nonprofit AIN — which serves Dallas’s HIV-positive community — will be hosting their annual fall fundraiser this Saturday with a Flashback to the 80’s.
AIN is gearing up to host its second biggest fundraiser of the year with a fun-filled themed night that focuses on raising money for the nonprofit. All money raised will benefit AIN and its clients all through the Dallas-Fort Worth and surrounding metroplex who are diagnosed or at risk of HIV. AIN serves over 2,000 people and hopes to help eradicate the disease once and for all. Through this Fall Fundraiser AIN will help raise money that supports all these people, and any sponsors willing to give money will know that their proceeds go towards raising brand awareness of AIN and helping to foster relationships with all clients from many different backgrounds.
In 2016, AIN decided on the concept “Flashback” after collaborating with Vintage Martini for a 1960’s themed dance fundraiser entitled “The Sands”. It was a remarkable success by putting the ‘fun’ in ‘fundraising’, and the event was covered in multiple Press coverages. This year promises to blow the roof off last year’s event.
AIN is presenting “Flashback to the 80’s”, a themed dance fundraiser that will raise money for the clients and communities of AIN and help support over nine programs and thousands of individuals. The event has been designed to capture the essence and fun of the 1980’s by the Event Chairs Ken Weber and Greg Kelly. “Flashback to the 80’s” promises to keep everyone entertained with LIVE 80: The Ultimate 80’s Experience, a ten-piece band that won’t stop bringing live 1980’s hits for the crowd to dance the night away to. There will also be four vintage arcade games that were staples of the 80’s, sure to pull everyone back into the nostalgic days of playing for hours at their local arcades wanting that next high score; and what’s the 80’s without an old-school photobooth that will be there to capture all the memories of the night. Don’t forget the essentials of cocktail bites and an open bar to enjoy all night.
When asked about the party by About Magazine, volunteer coordinator Miranda Grant said this:
“We are so excited for AIN’s Flashback to the 80’s Fundraiser event this Saturday. We experience a slowdown in funding across the fall and throw this fundraiser to help bridge the gap. Funds from this event benefit AIN’s clients, especially helping to provide medical transportation and hot meals through the cold months. This cocktail-style fundraiser allows our supporters to party with a purpose!”
VIP and General Admission tickets are still available to purchase via the AIN website www.aindallas.org. So, buy your tickets now and come join AIN and the community at Lofty Spaces on Saturday, October 20th to enjoy a fun-filled night full of entertainment, dancing, and, above all, the ability to give back to the community and be a part of helping nine different programs and thousands of clients through AIN.
For any additional information please contact AIN Event Coordinator Miranda Grant at her email MirandaKGrant@gmail.com or call at (214) 405-2537.
Charli XCX and Dorian Electra in Femmebot Fantasy Dallas
Charli XCX and Dorian Electra bring Femmebot Fantasy to Deep Ellum in Dallas tonight.
UPDATED 13:36 PM
(DALLAS) — Join About Magazine on Saturday, October 6th in Dallas, Texas for Charli XCX and Dorian Electra’s Femmebot Fantasy. The concert and party will be at Deep Ellum Co. at 10:00pm, with doors opening at 9:00pm. Tickets are 35 dollars for general admission. The show is 18 and up only.
Performers include, Charli XCX, an electro-pop artist and feminist icon famous for such hits as “Boom Clap” and “Boys”, as well as Dorian Electra, a gender norm-defying up-and=coming pop artist. Charli XCX and Dorian Electra have been on a mini tour since August, visiting cities such as Atlanta, Miami, and, more recently, Houston. Other performers include, FEE LION, p1nkstar, Belladonna, Mood Killer, Banoffee, Ceci G, DJ VIP, and more. Charli has been opening for Taylor Swift on her reputation tour, which closes its North American leg in Arlington tonight before the event.
Femmebot Fantasy is an electro-pop party with a great lineup of high energy performances. Bring your femmebot attire and fierceness along to this ferocious femmebot party. About Magazine is sponsoring the party and will be in the house all night long.
Deep Ellum Art Co. is a mixed-use creative facility. It combines an art gallery, indoor/outdoor event spaces, food trucks, and lots of taps and cocktails. It was once a printing press repair shop and many other things before that. Now, there is art on every wall. Deep Ellum Art Co. gives young artists an opportunity to work alongside other established artists and was created to showcase the art of local artists.
Aiming Higher with AIN
AIN — a nonprofit that has been providing access to treatment, care, events, meals, and counseling to Dallas’s community of HIV-positive people for over 30 years — opened its new facility on Sept. 20th. Take a look around and learn more about them here.
The facility where a business is housed does not always matter to the employees working to make a difference; but in the case of AIN, it sure does help the experience. AIN — or Access & Information Network — is a growing not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization that provides support to vulnerable, at-risk, and diagnosed individuals living with HIV in North Texas which has been growing in staff and volunteers for 32 years. Yet within that vast expanse of time, space has been limited as the number of individuals they wish to help has continually grown.
After sixteeen months of CEO Steven Pace working tirelessly to find a new space for AIN to grow in, the company moved into the new offices at 2600 North Stemmons Freeway, Suite 151 in Dallas, Texas. The move may have been a small one in terms of location movement, as the previous space for AIN was located across Stemmons Freeway from where they are now, but the new offices have placed AIN in the center of the Medical District in Dallas where it is much easier to access any doctors or medical offices that will be needed by clients of AIN. The Grand Opening Event of AIN’s new offices took place on September 20th, 2018 and was extremely well-attended by patrons, clients, and medical staff within the area.
The new office space is also having a huge effect on the staff and volunteers of AIN, as many members expressed how delighted they were with the spaciousness, layout, and organization of the new offices. Miranda Grant, Events and Volunteer Coordinator, was ecstatic when asked what she thought about the spaces:
“It’s such a large and inviting space, and in a wonderful location. Plus, I get my own office now, so that’s enough to make any employee happy!”
Many AIN employees expressed the same. Reginald Peoples, AIN’s Van Transportation Coordinator for clients, expressed that he was “impressed with the larger office” and that he will have “plenty of space to direct his drivers now.
The Grand Opening Event allowed outside patrons into AIN’s new headquarters to meet its staff, and everybody there was in high spirits. One might expect to see the staff of a company behave appropriately and to be friendly, but AIN’s staff, interns, and volunteers seemed absolutely genuine about how welcoming, inviting, and approachable they were. Each staff member took the time to explain their roll within AIN and allowed patrons to ask any questions we had about their positions, answering with full confidence and a bright smile.
As shown at the Grand Opening Event, the offices are larger than ever. Each staff member has plenty of room to conduct their job, and clients are welcomed into a professional and healthy-looking environment that takes their best interests to heart. Clients are offered new amenities with this new office space. There is a beautiful interfaith space for meditation, peace, and prayer, and clients have ample room for meeting with case managers privately. Across the parking lot — honestly only about a 40-yard walk — the new Daire Center will be complete in 4 to 6 weeks and will provide meals from the built-in kitchen, a sleeping area for those who have traveled from outside the immediate counties around Dallas-Fort Worth, and other non-medical support and therapy that all clients will have access to.
With this new office space in the center of the Medical District, AIN aims to make its staff and volunteers happier and more organized and aims to make an even bigger difference with their clients in the Dallas-Fort Worth area by offering amenities and counseling that they did not have the space for before. AIN is dedicated to serving the North Texas area by offering hope and helping create a world without HIV by putting its best foot forward within its new location and offices.
For more information about AIN, please visit www.AINDallas.org, or visit the offices during business hours from Monday to Friday 9:00 am to 5:00 pm at 2600 North Stemmons Freeway, Suite 151, Dallas, Texas 75207, and call (214) 943-4444 for inquiries and appointments.
Stacy Bailey to Receive Award at About 10th Anniversary Party
Stacy Bailey, the LGBTQ Dallas Area teacher who was placed on leave from her Mansfield ISD school last school year for showing a picture of her wife to students, will receive an award at About Magazine’s 10th Anniversary Party this November.
(HOUSTON/DALLAS) — On November 22nd, Houston’s LGBTQ publication About Magazine will be turning ten-years-old. And as an LGBTQ magazine, we find that it is only fitting to celebrate with an over-the-top, stereotypical, spectacle of a party. While plans are still underway for the celebration — including a headliner, local entertainers, sponsors, and more — what is confirmed is that the party will be taking place on November 17th at Rich’s Houston, where guests will be invited to the club before its normal operating hours and into those to see local talent such as Morena Roas, Wade in the Sonic Joy, the Space Kiddettes, Wendy Taylor, a host of drag performers, and more perform, as well as to see two surprise celebrity performances. VIP seating and bottle service will be available to those patrons who so wish to join in for a little extra fun.
The magazine will also be honoring its writers, its founder (Cade Michals), its CCO (Wendy Taylor), and its editor-in-chief (Anthony Ramirez), as well as the community that has kept it alive for the last ten years. A brand new special will go to and be named after Stacy Bailey, the Mansfield ISD teacher from Dallas who was put on leave last year after showing her young art students a photo of her wife when showing pictures of her family. After a parent complained, Bailey was removed from the classroom and took the school district to court. Bailey has since been reinstated in a Mansfield ISD classroom, only this time teaching high school art at a neighboring institution. It is because of Bailey’s resilience and activism for her rights — and in turn, those of all LGBTQ people — during her time out of the class room that About Magazine will give away its first ever Stacy Bailey Queer Advocacy Award. The award will be given annually to LGBTQIA Texans who stand up against the injustices of systemic homophobia and transphobia.
Bailey was alerted of the news ahead of this announcement and was excited by the honor. While she will be out of the country at the time, Bailey will appear in an acceptance speech via prerecorded video.
More information about the party is to be released as plans unfold.