Queer Voices

June 19th 2024 Queer Voices

June 19, 2024 Queer Voices
June 19th 2024 Queer Voices
Queer Voices
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Queer Voices
June 19th 2024 Queer Voices
Jun 19, 2024
Queer Voices

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What if you were suddenly faced with a life-altering diagnosis? This week on Queer Voices, we have an intimate and heartfelt conversation with David Taffet, senior staff writer for the Dallas Voice and co-host of Lambda Weekly. David opens up about his recent diagnosis with Parkinson's disease, sharing the challenges he encountered with everyday tasks like handwriting and walking. Through his story, we also hear from host Bryan Hlavinka, who reveals his own experience with Parkinsonian symptoms, shedding light on the personal and communal support systems that play a crucial role in navigating such a condition.

Shifting gears, we move from personal battles to communal triumphs with an insightful interview with Robert Wallace. Robert talks about the upcoming Pride Brunch fundraiser in Houston, which aims to support the Montrose Center. He shares the backstory of this significant event, his personal motivations rooted in honoring his uncle who succumbed to the AIDS epidemic, and the incredible growth and impact the brunch has had over the years. Expect exciting details about the event's entertainment, featuring performances by drag queens Cinnamon LaRue and Lucy Paradisco, and a panel discussion with the Montrose Center's new CEO, Avery Belyeu.

We round out this week's episode by celebrating queer creativity and inclusivity. Deborah Moncrief-Bell engages with John Marullo about his political fantasy novel, "All the Dwellers Upon the Earth," discovering the queer magic that inspired its diverse characters. We also explore the concept of "Family of Choice," a notion familiar to many in the LGBTQ+ community. Elizabeth McCall from Station Theater joins us to discuss the transformative power of improv, highlighting special Pride Month shows with an all-queer cast. This episode promises to be an enriching mix of stories, support, and celebration of the vibrant and diverse LGBTQ+ community.

Queer Voices airs in Houston Texas on 90.1FM KPFT and is heard as a podcast here. Queer Voices hopes to entertain as well as illuminate LGBTQ issues in Houston and beyond. Check out our socials at:

https://www.facebook.com/QueerVoicesKPFT/ and
https://www.instagram.com/queervoices90.1kpft/

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

What if you were suddenly faced with a life-altering diagnosis? This week on Queer Voices, we have an intimate and heartfelt conversation with David Taffet, senior staff writer for the Dallas Voice and co-host of Lambda Weekly. David opens up about his recent diagnosis with Parkinson's disease, sharing the challenges he encountered with everyday tasks like handwriting and walking. Through his story, we also hear from host Bryan Hlavinka, who reveals his own experience with Parkinsonian symptoms, shedding light on the personal and communal support systems that play a crucial role in navigating such a condition.

Shifting gears, we move from personal battles to communal triumphs with an insightful interview with Robert Wallace. Robert talks about the upcoming Pride Brunch fundraiser in Houston, which aims to support the Montrose Center. He shares the backstory of this significant event, his personal motivations rooted in honoring his uncle who succumbed to the AIDS epidemic, and the incredible growth and impact the brunch has had over the years. Expect exciting details about the event's entertainment, featuring performances by drag queens Cinnamon LaRue and Lucy Paradisco, and a panel discussion with the Montrose Center's new CEO, Avery Belyeu.

We round out this week's episode by celebrating queer creativity and inclusivity. Deborah Moncrief-Bell engages with John Marullo about his political fantasy novel, "All the Dwellers Upon the Earth," discovering the queer magic that inspired its diverse characters. We also explore the concept of "Family of Choice," a notion familiar to many in the LGBTQ+ community. Elizabeth McCall from Station Theater joins us to discuss the transformative power of improv, highlighting special Pride Month shows with an all-queer cast. This episode promises to be an enriching mix of stories, support, and celebration of the vibrant and diverse LGBTQ+ community.

Queer Voices airs in Houston Texas on 90.1FM KPFT and is heard as a podcast here. Queer Voices hopes to entertain as well as illuminate LGBTQ issues in Houston and beyond. Check out our socials at:

https://www.facebook.com/QueerVoicesKPFT/ and
https://www.instagram.com/queervoices90.1kpft/

Speaker 1:

Hello everybody, this is Queer Voices, a podcast version of a broadcast radio show that's been on the air in Houston Texas for several decades. This week, brian Levinka talks with David Taffet, senior staff writer for the Dallas Voice and co-host of the Lambda Weekly radio show in Dallas. He was recently diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

Speaker 2:

My handwriting had gotten illegible. And, as a reporter, when you're covering something, you take notes and it's important that you be able to read those notes afterwards so you can write your story. And I'm looking at my pad and it's like what is that mess, you know, and it was just one thing after another that I was noticing.

Speaker 1:

And Brian talks with Robert Wallace about the upcoming annual Pride Brunch, june 29th from 11 am to 3 pm. Deborah Moncrief-Bell has a conversation with John Marullo, the author of a book about a political fantasy centering on the Brimmer family. The family includes twins who are gay.

Speaker 3:

They're two sons, the two sons David and James William. When they come out as gay, when they're I think about 11 in the book, it's just accepted. There's not even a blink. Originally, nathan says well, it is kind of normal for kids your age to question that. They just look at him and say, yeah, we're gay.

Speaker 1:

And Debra has a conversation with Elizabeth McCall, who is a storyteller, improviser, writer, producer and director based at Station Theatre in Houston. Queer Voices starts now starts now.

Speaker 4:

This is Brian Levink, and today we have a guest from the north, david Taffet, from Dallas, to come on and talk about an issue that we have. Welcome to Queer Voices, david. Thank you, david. Who are you and what do you do in Dallas?

Speaker 2:

Well, I'm the senior staff writer for Dallas Voice and I am one of the three co-hosts of Lambda Weekly, which is a show very similar to yours. How long have you been doing that? Since 1990, so 34 years. And how long has the show been? Around 40 years, coming up on 41 next month.

Speaker 4:

We're friends on Facebook and I've followed you for a while, and you recently diagnosed with something that you could you tell us about.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I was recently diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. I was having a series of things that just didn't feel right and my doctor sent me to get in an MRI to rule out stroke, because the symptoms were similar to someone who's had a stroke. We ruled out stroke and so he sent me to a Parkinson's specialist and the Parkinson's diagnosis has pretty much been confirmed. And how have you felt about that Mixed feelings? I feel good. Since I've been on Parkinson's medication, I've felt a lot better. I'm dealing with it. I've gotten so much support since I wrote my article in Dallas Voice last week that it's surprising I never knew how much that kind of support really could help.

Speaker 4:

In full disclosure. I have Parkinsonian symptoms as well. I have a brain tumor that causes that, so I know what you're talking about. The tremors, I don't know if you wake up in the middle of the night like I do.

Speaker 2:

I've been waking up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom more than I've ever done. I thought blood pressure medication made you go pee Parkinson's medication. It's like once an hour, let's talk about Parkinson's and what is it? My understanding is that what Parkinson's is is the brain or the brain cells that produce dopamine stop working and so you stop releasing dopamine, and dopamine is what gives you flexibility. It helps with your movement, keeps movement less jerky, and Parkinson's medication replaces that.

Speaker 4:

What was the first thing that you noticed.

Speaker 2:

Our publisher at Dallas Voice noticed last summer that I was walking without swinging my arms and walking very stiff. That was the first thing that anybody noticed. And I noticed when I was walking that I wasn't swinging my arms. So I tried walking and swinging my arms and as soon as I stopped thinking about it, my arms. So I tried walking and swinging my arms and as soon as I stopped thinking about it, my arms went stiff again.

Speaker 2:

But other things started popping up, like one day I noticed I was shaving with my right hand and I'm very, very left-handed. I was shaving with my right hand. I switched hands with the razor. My hand is shaking and I couldn't shave because my left hand was just shaking so much. So I went oh, that's not good. Other little things like drying off from the shower. I was having trouble flipping the towel to rub my back to dry myself off. I was having trouble aiming the toothpaste onto the toothbrush. It was ending up on the floor. So it was lots of little things like that. My handwriting had gotten illegible and as a reporter, when you're covering something you take notes and it's important that you be able to read those notes afterwards so you can write your story. And I'm looking at my pad and it's like what is that mess, you know? And it was just one thing after another that I was noticing.

Speaker 4:

Let's talk about the treatment of Parkinson's. What do we do?

Speaker 2:

Well, the treatment that I got is a drug and I never remember the name of it Semimed, Okay and you take it three times a day. What my doctor said was start with two half pills for a week, One when you first get up, one about noon, one about five. Take it on an empty stomach, and each week we added another half pill till I'm up to three full pills a day. The hardest part of it is it needs to be taken on an empty stomach and you have to keep your stomach empty while the pill is dissolving. So I get up at about six in the morning, take a pill, go back to bed for an hour, then have breakfast at seven. In my office I stop eating at about 10 in the morning so that I can take a pill at 11, so I can have lunch at 12. Same thing at three o'clock stop nibbling, take a pill at four and when I'm home at five or later I can have dinner. Is that the dosage that you're on?

Speaker 4:

I'm on that dosage as well, but I've done other things, like Ritari, and I've done the patches, and I've done because I've had issues with my tremors and I just don't like the noticeable symptoms of that. Like I don't want people to ask me what's wrong with my arm, why is it tremoring. So I'm very self-conscious about that.

Speaker 2:

And I've had people ask me if I'm okay from stiff movements and just even not aware of where I am. For a few seconds my speech, I can be in the middle of a sentence and not be able to get the words out, which is great for a talk show host. What's been working on my show is my two co-hosts have been with me for 25 years and we're at a point where we finish each other's sentences, so they've been just jumping right in like they always do. I pointed out to them that they were finishing my sentences and it was like oh, I'm sorry, and it's like no, no, no, do that, do that. It's what we always do. And on the air, if I'm having a brain fart, do that so that we can finish, because it's about our guest, it's not about us. Just finish my question, because you know what I was going to ask.

Speaker 2:

But with speech I've felt and this is getting better with speech I've felt like the words from my brain getting it onto a piece of paper. No problem at all. I can write a story as fast as ever, maybe a few more typos, but spellcheck gets that. But brain to mouth first sentence usually comes out fine and second sentence a little bit stiffer. The third sentence if I'm telling a short story In the middle of the sentence, I almost have to stop, take a breath and push those words into my mouth.

Speaker 4:

Why should the gay community care about Parkinson's? We've been so worried about HIV AIDS for so long. Why should we care about this now?

Speaker 2:

Because we're getting old and for those of us who survived the AIDS epidemic, there are all kinds of other things that we need to be concerned with, and this was something that just hit. It's not something that's hereditary, it's not something that is more prevalent in one community than another. As I've been telling my story, I've been hearing from a number of people who've told me they also have Parkinson's, or a friend of theirs has Parkinson's, or a relative of theirs, gay or straight, but we've been so focused on AIDS and we need to continue to be. We've been so focused on AIDS, we're not worrying about some of those other things that come along things that come along. And when my Parkinson's diagnosis was confirmed, I decided let me tell the story and it might just help somebody else who's hearing some of these symptoms and encourage them go to a good neurologist, talk to them about what's wrong and it could be Parkinson's, it could be another neurological problem, but it's important to have those things checked out.

Speaker 4:

I think if we can reach one person with symptoms and make a difference in their life, they've done our duty.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, exactly, I've spoken to several people who said, oh, I have such and such. When you were describing that, that sounded familiar like maybe I'm having that too. Go get it checked out. The neurologist I went to was wonderful. On my first appointment he spent almost an hour with me just asking questions, watching me walk, watching me move, giving me motion tests and answering my questions. It was a great diagnosis. One thing he said he put me on the pills and when I got up to the full dosage I had another appointment. He asked me, or he looked at me and he said oh, you look so much better than you did the first time you came in and I said I feel a lot better. He said Well, the medication is working. That's the good news. The bad news is it confirms your Parkinson's diagnosis. Parkinson's medication only works on Parkinson's. So he said so you have it because there is no blood test for it.

Speaker 2:

Deb is asking what my prognosis is. My doctor said he's had patients who've done well on the medication for 10 years After that. It's a neurodegenerative disease. There is no cure for it. The medication won't stop degenerative progression of the disease. So the prognosis is I'll get worse. Hopefully I'll be in my 80s by the time I'm much worse and hopefully my 70s, because I am 70 now. Hopefully my 70s. I'll be able to progress very slowly on the medication and they're always doing new work, looking into new therapies and hopefully there'll be something within 10 years.

Speaker 4:

We need to mention Michael J Fox's organization that's doing amazing work.

Speaker 2:

J Fox's organization that's doing amazing work. Michael J Fox was diagnosed when he was 29. He's 62 now. He started the Michael J Fox Foundation oh about the year 2000, 2002, something like that and they've been doing amazing work in research and you need somebody like that to be out there and testifying before Congress and raising money, showing that it's something that you can live with. But we need more medication and we need therapies that will cure it, make the brain produce dopamine on its own again, or improve the medications that replace the dopamine.

Speaker 4:

Okay, on a lighter note, let's talk about Lambda Weekly, and where can we hear it and what's the station that it's on?

Speaker 2:

It's on KNON 89.3 FM in Dallas. You can hear it streamed live at knonorg. Hit the play now button and the station streams Usually a day or two after the show airs. It's in our podcast section of the website which is harder to navigate, but it's there.

Speaker 4:

We've been speaking with David Taffet of the Dallas Voice and Lambda Weekly from Dallas about his recent diagnosis with Parkinson's. Thank you, David.

Speaker 5:

This radio program we Are Voices has existed since the 1970s. On KPFT we have this little crew of folks working every week to produce what's no longer unique because we're almost mainstream now, but we're still an important voice that might not otherwise get heard because it's not on that many places. So KPFT is very important to give voices to those who might not otherwise have voices. So, as Glenn always says, you participate by listening. You should also participate by supporting the station. So please go to kpftorg and make your donation right away.

Speaker 4:

This is Brian Levinka, and today I'm interviewing my friend, robert Wallace, about an upcoming Pride Brunch event that's happening in June. Welcome to the show, robert. Thanks for having me, brian. Okay, what is this Pride Brunch and how did it all get started?

Speaker 6:

I started this event. This is our sixth annual Pride event. So I started the event seven years ago because of one year. Obviously we didn't have it because of COVID, but I started it because there was literally I felt like there was literally nothing to do on Sunday except, you know, go to the bars, which we can do that anytime. So I started a brunch seven years ago and we the first two years it was a sit-down brunch at the Federal American Grill, which I thought was appropriate, being the FAG. We had the brunch there, it down brunch but I kind of felt like people wanted to get up and talk to everybody in the room. The first year we had 45 people, second year we had 85.

Speaker 6:

Then, of course, the COVID in 2020 and then 2021, we started it and did a new location. We started a little Grange and both years we did two more years at the Grange and it was more of a you could get up out of your seat and talk to people and socialize event, which was really what I wanted for people to be able to socialize. So we did that. But the second year, at LaGrange, it was 107, 108 degrees outside and I was like we have got to find a new venue. So last year we found the Heights Social, which is up in the Heights off 22nd Street. I was curious to see if people would go up to you know for brunch there in the Heights, but sure enough we had 400 people last year. The event raises money for the Montrose Center. 100% of the proceeds go to them. It's a worthy event and we donate all the money in honor of my uncle who died during the AIDS HIV epidemic.

Speaker 4:

How did you increase the attendance from like 40, 50 to 400 in no time at all?

Speaker 6:

I think part of it's just people keep coming back and people keep bringing friends. The first four years is probably a lot of you know. I pretty much knew everybody there. I knew most people there. Especially last year we kind of opened it up more to the public, which was always open to the public before, but we started opening it up to more people advertising through the Montrose Center. This year we're advertising throughout Smart, so we're hoping to increase attendance. But it's largely been people just keep coming back and keep bringing back their friends, which I think is the highest compliment.

Speaker 4:

What is your vision for this?

Speaker 6:

Where do you see this going? I would like to get us to a place, hopefully next year, where we're raising $100,000 a year for the Mantra Center. Last year we raised $58,000, which was a record. This year we're hoping to raise $75,000. And I'm hoping to get it to a point where consistently, without little work, it raises $100,000 each pride for the Mantra Center.

Speaker 4:

You mentioned that you dedicated this to your uncle. Can you talk more about that and why specifically the Mantra Center?

Speaker 6:

First of all, you know, it was kind of when he passed away in 1991, it was kind of a family secret. I was still in high school at the time. It was only until years later I kind of figured out, put the pieces together. It was like, oh, he died mysteriously very young, gay. And I kind of put the pieces together and it confirmed that in fact he died during the HIV AIDS epidemic in 1991.

Speaker 6:

The first year we didn't do a fundraiser, it was just a brunch. And the second year one of my friends challenged me and said, oh, we should do it as a fundraiser. I was like, well, that's a really good idea. So we raised, without even trying. We raised a little bit of money and I was like you know, if we really try and put a little effort behind it, we could probably raise even more money. You know, I just made the donation in his honor to my late uncle.

Speaker 6:

By donating the money in his honor, I always pick the Mantra Center. It's just an easy charity for us to support. It's Houston's LGBTQ center and they really offer so many different services that people that I know have utilized in the past. So there are anti-violence programs, counseling, education, outreach. I know that, for example, they helped train the Houston Police Department, their STD testing and prevention, housing assistance, their senior program. Now they have substance use recovery and their youth services. I mean, it's just a lot of services that the Houston LGBT community need. Perhaps we don't know how good of a center we have here. You know this center has been around since 1978. It's been around for a very long time and it delivers quality programs to our community that many of us probably don't see but so many people in our community need and take advantage of.

Speaker 4:

Have you thought about forming a 501c3, as you're getting bigger and kind of growing the amount that you're raising?

Speaker 6:

There's an attorney who would love to help me with that and donate their time. I would, I think would be great. I do piggyback off the Mantra Center so we use their ticketing system, their donation site. All the money goes directly to them. So when you buy your tickets or you make a donation, or, let's say, you buy a table, all that money is donated directly to the Mantra Center.

Speaker 4:

when you check out on our website, Someone that's near and dear to me is DJing your event. Can you talk about him and other entertainment that you're planning?

Speaker 6:

I've known Chad, actually Brian, his partner, one of my first friends when I moved here to Houston in 2007. So I've known Brian a long time and that's how I got to know Chad. Obviously, and I didn't know Chad, I did not know him when he was a DJ. He kind of took some time off, I think, and I was like you know, someday I'm going to have a brunch, we're going to have a location where I'm going to have a DJ and, by the way, and we're going to have drag queens. I was already thinking about that the first year or two and obviously, when we got LaGrange, they had the capabilities where we could have Chad as a DJ and so he volunteered his time, obviously.

Speaker 6:

So this will be his fourth Pride Brunch. He will have DJed his fifth in attendance. Lagrange was a little tough on him because he was literally the DJ booth, was literally outside in the heat. He really appreciated it when we got a new location at the Heights Social because he could be inside in the heat. He really appreciated it when we got a new location at the Heights Social because he could be inside in the air conditioning all day. Chad does a great job and Chad also DJs another event that I host, which is the Halloween Ball. We work quite closely together on those two events and Chad does a great job. I'm very proud to have him as one of my partners and host in this event Full disclosure.

Speaker 4:

I dated him for five and a half years. What other entertainment do you have at the brunch?

Speaker 6:

We have two drag queens. We started having drag queens at our third year event, so this will be our fourth year. This will be the first year fingers crossed that we have two drag queens at the same time. Last year we were supposed to have two drag queens and then one of them hurt her ankle the night before the brunch, so we only had one last year. But we have two drag queens. One of them is Cinnamon LaRue, and Cinnamon is a bearded drag queen and I think she just won the award for best bearded drag queen in Houston Lone Star. We're really excited to have her. This will be her first brunch. And in Houston Lone Star. We're really excited to have her. This will be her first brunch.

Speaker 6:

And then the second drag queen is Lucy Paradisco. I've known Lucy for a while. She was supposed to be our second drag queen last year. She's the one that twist her ankle. She's promised me that she won't be doing any somersaults or anything to injure herself the night before again. But I'm looking forward to having them both. I think it'll be very entertaining. They believe in the cause. They believe in the both. I think it'll be very entertaining. They believe in the cause, they believe in the Mantra Center and they're excited about supporting the Mantra Center.

Speaker 4:

Can you tell us where people can get more information and and ticket information?

Speaker 6:

Go to tinyurlcom slash and it's simply Pride Brunch 2024. There you can get more information on the event. You can look at our sponsorship packages, you can look at buying a table, you can look at buying tickets we have different drink ticket and drink packages or you can just make a donation. All of the above, so there's more information there about the entire event. Everything you need will be there. We do have an online auction that we start the week before the event and run through the event, and we usually have. I think last year we had about 20 to 25 items for sale on our auction, things that are donated. So if anybody would like to make a donation to our online auction, if your company wants to give a gift card or give some services or you have something you would like to donate to the online auction, feel free to contact me.

Speaker 4:

I think we did not talk about the date for the event, so let's mention the date.

Speaker 6:

Sunday, june 23rd, and our doors open at 11 am. People may be out late that night. We used to call the event the recovery brunch. Some people still call it that and it's just kind of a joke, because people would be out till five, six in the morning the night before and then they would show up to brunch at 12, one, two o'clock. The doors open at 11, but we're there, we'll be there till 4 pm, so it's a five-hour event. People come and go. You can come early or you can come late, or you can come and stay the whole time. It's up to you.

Speaker 4:

Robert, you and I are both part of a pride ERG at work. Do you want to talk about that?

Speaker 6:

Sure, yeah, we both work for an ERG. I mean, we're part of an ERG group at Siemens Energy. This year, our speaker, we're going to be doing a panel discussion and one of our speakers is going to be the CEO of the Mantra Center, avery Bellew. I met Avery actually this week. It's the first time I met her and I have to tell you I'm really excited about the energy that Avery will be bringing to not just the Mantra Center but to Houston itself. So really fortunate to have a new CEO with a lot of new energy and a lot of new vision of where she's going to take the Montreux Center. So she'll be our guest on the panel discussion. She's the first trans CEO of such a large organization, I believe as well. So that's pretty incredible and she's just going to be an incredible leader and many, many years to come with her.

Speaker 4:

But going back to the brunch, when is it? Where is it it's?

Speaker 6:

Sunday, june 23rd, doors open at 11 am. You must be 21 years or older to attend because there will be cocktails and this year mocktails, and it'll be at the Heights Social. And the Heights Social I got it wrong is actually on West 20th Street in the Heights. It's just a really, really beautiful place. We used to decorate for the Pride Brunch the first four years we decorated when we moved to the Heights Social. It's such a beautiful venue, a lot of nice neon lights and stuff and we're like let's not decorate.

Speaker 6:

It's such a beautiful location. It has a 101-foot chandelier in its lobby and that's where a lot of people stand and talk. Beautiful atrium, beautiful lobby, hoping that we got our AC issues. It was a brand new building last year so the AC was struggling to keep up a little bit, but I think that'll they've told me that's going to be resolved this year. So but just a beautiful, beautiful location and building. There is limited parking and obviously, as people will be drinking, we suggest that people Uber or Lyft to the location. But it's a really cheap, quick Uber or Lyft at 11 or 12 o'clock on a Sunday.

Speaker 4:

And before we go, is there anything else you want our listeners to know about you or your event or what you're doing?

Speaker 6:

People always ask me how can they help? We definitely can always use volunteers. We need volunteers to work the front desk, because checking in, you know, 500 plus people takes a little bit of work. We can also use donations donations to the online auction, as I mentioned before. Attend, invite your friends and buy your tickets early. That helps us plan. Early bird ticket prices will end on Friday, june 21st. If you wait till Saturday or at the door, it is slightly more expensive. Just because it's buying tickets earlier enables us to plan for. Are we going to feed 400 people or 500 people on Sunday? So that's the question that we're always trying to answer. That's the way people can help Volunteer, donate, make donations to the online auction, participate, bid on items in our online auction when that opens. Buy tickets, bring your friends so invite everyone you know we were speaking with Robert Wallace been on items in our online auction when that opens.

Speaker 4:

Buy tickets, bring your friends, so invite everyone you know we were speaking with robert wallace, who is putting on the pride brunch on sunday, june 23rd. Thank you for coming on, robert thank you for having me.

Speaker 5:

This is queer voices this is deborah moncrief bell, and today joining me is John Marullo. He's the author of All the Dwellers Upon the Earth, a book that was recently featured at the Houston Public Library as part of their Pride Month celebrations. John, I understand that you're originally from Massachusetts.

Speaker 3:

That's right, I am a native of Massachusetts. I was born just outside Boston, I lived there until I was 12, and then I lived there again as an adult, and then I've been in Houston for 26 years this fall.

Speaker 5:

A lot of your career was as a librarian. Was that here in Houston?

Speaker 3:

Yes, I worked for the Houston Public Library for 23 years. I was able to retire after 23 years there, so I took my pension at 52.

Speaker 5:

How does one begin to write a book? What was your inspiration to do this and how did you come up with this idea? Because I just started reading it and I'm like, okay, you call it the Brimmerverse, because it's a family named Brimmer and they're kind of special.

Speaker 3:

They really are in many ways. To start, I decided I was going to do NaNoWriMo National Novel Writing Month. In fact, I'm wearing my latest NaNoWriMo t-shirt today. National Novel Writing Month is a challenge that happens every November. People are asked to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November.

Speaker 3:

I wanted to see if I could do it, but the real inspiration came on the night of November 1st when I had a dream. I had a dream about a family and the father was a president of the United States and they were for want of a better word witches like unbewitched. I was very much inspired by that, I think, and I woke up and said that would make a great story, that would make a great TV show or movie or novel. And then I remembered it was National Novel Writing Month and that's when it started and I started writing. Then I had no outline, so it was a bit of stream of consciousness writing to start, but I managed to get it finished.

Speaker 3:

I did not, as they say, win NaNoWriMo that month. I did not finish it in November. I actually finished the first draft on January 6th. I gave myself a little extra time, but January 6th of 2019. It's 2018 that I started November and I finished it in two months and it has been a lot of fun just rewriting it and reading it and then finally taking the plunge and publishing last year.

Speaker 5:

This is the first in a series. Do you have titles for upcoming books?

Speaker 3:

Yes, indeed. The first is Behold All the Dwellers Upon Earth. The second, which should be coming out this year, is I have to remember because the titles are in a sequence and I'm blanking the title of the second one is we Most Heartily Beseech Thee, and the third is With Thy Favor to Behold. The titles come from a prayer in the book, actually in an older version of the Book of Common Prayer, there is a strong Anglican, episcopal content. Part of the book and the characters are Episcopalians, as I am, and the titles of the books and the chapters are all taken from some version of the Book of Common Prayer. So that's where the titles came from and that's also where the titles of the upcoming books are.

Speaker 5:

The book is described as a political fantasy. That's not a term you hear very often and it centers upon this family, the Bremers, starting with Nathan Bremmer, who learns later that there's been these powers within his family for some time, and he uses the term witch. But he also, like you, is very centered in the Episcopalian church In fact I think you call it high church.

Speaker 3:

Yes.

Speaker 5:

So, apparently, religion not only plays a crucial part in this book, but in your own life. Why did you think that was important and how do you, I guess, balance this idea of what a witch is with not just Christianity but a church that is so steeped in the traditions as yours is?

Speaker 3:

thereafter. That was what he thought of and he didn't like the word and part of it is out of respect for people who are Wiccan and do use that term for themselves. It was the word that came my dream, so it's like let's start with that and see where it goes. Ultimately there is a different name for the people.

Speaker 3:

It is actually not unusual for writers in the Anglican Episcopal tradition to embrace fantasy. Cs Lewis and Madeleine L'Engle were both in the same tradition. Cs Lewis was Church of England, madeleine L'Engle was an Episcopalian also. So we actually have a tradition in our church of going a little of thinking beyond just what we traditionally say. We're kind of an interesting church where, you know, we're the descendant of the Church of England in the United States, we embrace a lot of different ideologies. High church is closer to Catholic, low church is closer to Protestant. We're kind of the bridge in between, and so it's not really an unusual thing for people in the Episcopal Church to embrace the idea of fantasy and something that's non-traditional, at least in literature and such. In real life perhaps not, but being open to the idea in fiction is not unusual. A lot of the great fantasy writers, as I said, have been in our tradition.

Speaker 5:

And I don't say this to offend, but I call myself a witch, but I'm not Wiccan. I come from a tradition of feminist spirituality and I think there's a hunger, uh, among people, for the, the magical. I think that's why shows like bewitched and I dream of genie and some of the others we, we want to have be able to transform, which is what magic is really about, um, and I think that we do transform in our lives, and particularly within the queer community. I think there's a lot of magic that is created.

Speaker 3:

It's, you know, one of the things I've tried to do, and although my characters are traditionally religious, there's not a feeling of proselytizing, because that's just going to turn people off. I want people to enjoy this and you write about what you know it was. Either I was going to write about Episcopalians or librarians, and librarians aren't that interesting to write about. Honestly, we want transformation in our lives in one way or another, whether it is through a more conventional religious tradition or a less conventional. The goal of both things is going to be to make your life better and to make the world around you better, to transform it. My characters are a bit more obvious in what they can do, but we all hope to make the world a better place.

Speaker 5:

People are seeking to make sense of their lives or make sense of the world, and for many people that's what they turn to or they were raised in that tradition.

Speaker 3:

It is part of my characters. That is very much their tradition. In the other books I kind of explored a bit more, but the family has been in that tradition since the 17th century when they rejected Puritanism because they saw what extremism was doing their two sons, the two sons David and James William. When they come out as gay, when they're I think about 11 in the book it's just accepted. There's not even a blank. Originally, nathan says well, it is kind of normal for kids your age to question that. They just look at him and say, yeah, we're gay. And that's also one of the things in the Episcopal Church that we're actually known for is that we were among the first Christian churches to embrace the LGBTQ community in a way that others don't. It's not across the board, but about 10 Episcopal churches will be marching in the Pride Parade this year here in Houston, for example, including my own, which is Trinity Episcopal in Midtown.

Speaker 5:

David and James William are twins. Yes, did you have experiences with twins that influenced these characters, or it was just part of your imagination?

Speaker 3:

It was part of my imagination. David and James William are based on people I know more than almost any of the other characters are Two friends I met online Daniel Yachetsky and John Wallace Wallace is his surname, but he's called John Wallace a lot and they originally the characters were actually named Daniel and John Wallace, but I decided I at least needed to give them a little more of an identity. Other characters were named after people, but that didn't really mean anything. They were different people, but they were very much influenced by them. I was in a group chat with them one time. That group chat no longer exists, but the way they interplayed with each other was.

Speaker 3:

They're both very witty, brilliant, ridiculously talented, and they were the kernel for what David and James Williams became. They are both very well aware that I've written a book and I gave them both signed copies as a gift and they've both been very gracious about being for want of a better word exploited in that way. But they're both such interesting people. Even though they're not brothers in real life. They are friends and they live in different parts of the country. It just seemed the right thing to do. They're not brothers in real life, they are friends and they live in different parts of the country.

Speaker 5:

It just seemed the right thing to do and they became very quickly my favorite characters. The family, in varying degrees, have these special powers, but the twins have it in aces. Their father enters politics and they know things like before they happen happen. They know what the future holds in a lot of cases and they foresee a disaster and they know that their father can do something about it, that he, maybe he can prevent it.

Speaker 3:

Wouldn't that be nice absolutely part of my writing. It was frustration with the current uh as of 2018, and unfortunately still current political situation where you have certain people who are not good people in politics. I, in fact, don't mention any real politicians by name, even though I do refer to them in descriptions, even though I do refer to them in descriptions. They see a disaster which is someone who was in the White House in our world and they attempt to prevent that from happening.

Speaker 5:

If I understand correctly, their father does in fact become president of the United States. Yes, he does, and was he modeled?

Speaker 3:

on anyone in particular? Not really. There are times when it is mentioned that he reminds people a little of JFK, but he's not JFK in who he is. In most ways, nathan is a complete fabrication of my imagination, sort of my ideal of what a leader would be, what a politician would be, what a president would be. He is kind, he listens and, above all, he keeps promises. And that is one thing he keeps going back to is, if he makes a promise, he keeps it. He will not promise something, and that is what leadership should be about.

Speaker 5:

In the books you explore religious and LGBTQ themes, as well as the importance of both family of origin and family of choice. Can you expand on that?

Speaker 3:

We've touched on religion and LGBTQ themes. Family of origin. The Brimmer family is a very close-knit family. They genuinely like each other in addition to being relatives, and I think I would love it if we all had families where, in addition to just being related to each other, we all liked each other. I have three older sisters and I get along with all of them and I'll just leave it at that. I get along with all of them and I'll just leave it at that. I get along with all of them. Uh, it would be great if everyone could get along. They're a stable family. They do realize that they're very privileged, of course, and both uh, being a wealthy family and also having and having these special abilities, but they genuinely care as well.

Speaker 3:

Family of Choice also comes into play. There are a lot of characters who they sort of adopt into their family. A lot of them are their church people. There's one couple in particular, a couple from Houston named John and George.

Speaker 3:

My husband is indeed named George, so I decided to insert myself in the book because, well, might as well do it, because everyone does and they just sort of adopt them into their family and they make them feel, even though they don't have anyone nearby that they're part of who they are as well. So that I think there's a whole lot of that, particularly among queer people, because very often people don't live where they grew up. They have a lot of friends who grew up in small towns. They came to a large city because they knew they'd be accepted and they find their communities where they do, and I've often found mine in church settings. But there was one point where I was regular in a bar and that was a family of a sort at the time. So there's a lot of idea that people who are closest to you may be the people you're related to, or they may not this is debra moncrief bell.

Speaker 5:

We've been talking to john marolo. He's the author of behold all the dwellers upon the earth and additional books that will soon be out as part of the Brimmerverse. You can find more information at Brimmerversecom. And, john, thank you so much for being with us today.

Speaker 1:

This is Queer Voices.

Speaker 5:

This is Deborah Moncrief-Bell. I'm talking with the Zany folks over at the Station Theater. Station Theater is an improv company and they're doing shows every Saturday night during the month of June with the theme of guess what? Pride. And I'm talking with Elizabeth McCall, who is one of those people that wears a lot of hats. Elizabeth, what are some of the hats you wear?

Speaker 8:

over there. I do everything from tech to writing, directing, producing, acting if I can't avoid it, Pretty much everything.

Speaker 5:

Tell me exactly what Station Theater is, where it is and kind of what the model of the company is.

Speaker 8:

Station Theater is located at 2219 Crockett Street. It's just, it's in the Sawyer Yards area, just south of Sawyer Street. It is an improv and sketch theatre that's been around in Houston for quite some time. When I moved to Houston a couple years ago, it was the theatre that really spoke to me because of its dedication to inclusivity. I've only seen the kind of diversity that we have at Station here and at Second City, and at Second City it was because it was required, but here it's just because it's genuinely the mission of Station to create a space that's as safe as possible to as many people as possible. So if you need a warm and welcoming environment for comedy and theater, I mean station is a place to go.

Speaker 5:

You do the shows, but you also do classes for people that are interested in learning improv, and that may not be because they want to become performers, but because they want to add it to their repertoire of what they use in business.

Speaker 8:

Yeah, absolutely. We do have corporate classes, we do team building and you know we make a lot of jokes about how improv is kind of a cult. You know, I never, I never intended to get into improv. Somebody told me that you know, improv will change your life and I was like, yeah, okay, sure. And then I took an improv class and it really just transformed everything for me. It improves your relationships because it teaches you how to be vulnerable and open and to take accountability for your choices. I mean, it's just, it changes your life in so many ways. So, yeah, I mean I'm clearly a convert.

Speaker 5:

These shows that you have coming up on the 22nd and 29th they're for Pride Month. You have this title the Supernova Storytelling and Improv featuring Deborah Moncrief Bell. Oh wow.

Speaker 8:

What a great guest. That's exciting. Yeah, no Suave is opening for us. They are a wonderful duo and no Suave is taken from their last names. It's an amalgam of the two of them. They are amazing. Supernova this month is an all-queer cast and we have been rehearsing like crazy so that we can put on the best shows possible. We have amazing guests yourself included, obviously who really just represent the full diversity of the queer experience here in Houston, and I'm just so excited to to get the word out about the amazing people we have and just kind of show people how much fun and how much beauty there really is in queerness.

Speaker 5:

The press info says that the Supernova cast invites a special guest to tell true personal stories in a one-on-one interview format. Stories and discussions are then molded and reshaped into original improvised content. So what's likely to happen? What kind of thing might be asked of me that then will be transformed by this talented troop?

Speaker 8:

We usually have a range of questions that kind of really delve into personal histories. I know that your experience is going to be more I mean, everybody's queer experience is different but we really wanted to know what it's like for you to have lived through so much of the queer movement. You know we have a lot of voices in the community that are a lot louder now but speak to a different experience that somebody over 40 would have. So you know, there's definitely like a historical element for you. But also, you know, we know about your connection to the Montrose Center. We definitely want to hear about that, um, and your connection to queer voices. I mean, you are really kind of a paragon in the queer community in in Houston and, um, we really want to delve into, know your story and what created that and prioritized it for you. And I mean that goes for most of our performers or all of our guests, but especially for you because you know your lived experience is so unique. Yeah, we just want to know more about it.

Speaker 5:

I'm way over 40. That's one thing. You're so right that the queer experience is. Everyone thinks of it like to be queer. It means this or that. It can mean a lot of different things. I recently came across a quote that talks about queer not so much in terms of who you may be involved with sexually, but more about a different spirit, and I think that's one thing that happens with improv is that the model, of course, is to throw something out and then say yes to it and then to build on it. Give me an example of something.

Speaker 8:

It was just kind of like when you tell somebody you're a comic and they're like okay, tell me a joke. It would be like walking out on stage and being like wow, I had a really hard day today. I really just want to sit down and stare at my frog and maybe the other person decides they're going to come out and be that frog and you just get to delve into the relationship between this person and their frog or, um, just kind of get that like window into life and I mean, I think that's the. I think that's where the real beauty of improv lies, is in, like, the truth telling and the vulnerability, um, you know, those little reflections of daily life, because they say that you know the the best part of comedy is when it's telling the truth, because that's when it's really relatable. Um, and you know that that can look like a bunch of different things, but, um, yeah, my, my favorite scenes are always the ones where you're like really delving into like an interpersonal relationship.

Speaker 8:

When you're trying to be funny, it never works. But if you, you know, you sit down and you have a kid and a dad and one of them says they're not going to go to school today and the dad's like well, I never want to go to work either. You know like we're at that point. We're delving into a reality that everybody relates to create a difference and create beauty and kind of leave people feeling good about themselves and their realities and open up spaces for them to be who they are. Yeah, humans are just funny. You discover it just naturally, by just existing.

Speaker 5:

How long have you been doing improv?

Speaker 8:

I've been doing improv since 2019. I started in Dallas. I thought that I was going to do stand-up, because I'm just like I'm a punchy person. I've always got to have like the last word. And you know, I had a crush on a girl who told me improv would change my life and I was like, yeah, okay, sure it will. And then I took a class and here I am, Sure it will. And then I took a class and here I am.

Speaker 5:

Can you relate something that happened that just like? Do you lose it? Do you crack up when?

Speaker 8:

when, yes, all the time, in fact, roger Anderson is one of the two owners, along with Jessica Brown, of station theater. We'll have people in his classes ask him like what can I do, you know, to keep from breaking on stage? And he's like I don't know, I mean, I still do it. He's been doing improv for ever and you know like those are the best moments, like when, when something happens on stage and we just can't help but smile or laugh like I can't describe how good it feels as an improviser, but also as an audience member. Because as an audience member, when your performers are laughing, like you get that break in the fourth wall and you know it's like you're invited into this, like even more intimate moment, because all of a sudden you're laughing with the performers.

Speaker 5:

It's, um, like just kind of this beautiful synthesis of joy if someone comes to the station theater, are they likely to end up in the show?

Speaker 8:

oh, generally not. Um, I mean there are. We have a couple shows that do audience work. Nobody is ever forced to participate, but you know we'll'll ask for some word suggestions from the audience. We have a couple of shows that will ask for audience stories or, you know, open participation from the audience. But you know we we never force anybody to participate. We definitely want to keep some barriers between the audience and the stage, so we definitely don't want heckling or things like that. For the most part it's just a I mean entirely it's just a warm, open environment where we focus on, you know, never punching down, never making anybody uncomfortable, if it can at all be avoided.

Speaker 5:

The first show is at 8 pm, and then there's a second show at 9.30. And on the 22nd the 9.30 show is the Mental Health Happy Hour. So tell me a little bit about what the differences between these two shows might be.

Speaker 8:

So your eight o'clock show, or supernova, is going to be improv. The 29th it'll be four nights down, which is my improv troupe, followed by supernova All excellent shows, can't recommend them highly enough. And then, um, on the 22nd, when you are our guest, we will follow that with mental health happy hour, which is a variety show, so you'll get some music, you'll get sketches, uh, some improv. We're going to focus on short form improv, which is just a delightful treat, um, so instead of like building long stories, um, it's going to be more like whose line is it anyway? Which, you know, is what a lot of people are familiar with when I think of improv. So it's just like fun, silly improv games and it's just such a great show to bring joy to the audience.

Speaker 8:

I started Mental Health Happy Hour a couple of years ago in Dallas after losing a friend who struggled with bipolar disorder. There's a group in Dallas called Foundation 45 that points out that creatives are much more likely to we're much more likely to lose them to suicide more likely to struggle with mental health issues. The same can be said of the queer community, as we know, especially when we have dangerous legislation that's taking place and threatening our community. I really wanted to be able to bring those together. We did Mental Health Happy Hour last year for pride, and it was such an amazing and moving show.

Speaker 8:

We actually had one of. We were, you know, telling stories about, like our vulnerability and then the audience would chime in afterwards Well, we still like you. And we had somebody in the audience who volunteered to tell a story and it was, you know, this 13, 14 year old trans girl who took the opportunity to come out to her family for the first time in this show because she knew that it was a safe and warm and welcoming space. And I mean we just all cried because it was such a beautiful thing to be able to be a part of. And that kind of welcoming, warm, safe space is what we always want to be and you know, we want to hold as much space as possible for everyone to explore who they are and express who they are, even if the world isn't always a safe space for us to be ourselves outside of the theater. Inside the theater we want to know who you are, because that's the person that we're going to love.

Speaker 5:

And we all know that laughter is great medicine and the show on the 22nd actually benefits Grace Place. And then, coming up on June 29th, you again have the supernova storyteller, sarah laperna farina, uh laparina, yeah, she's the owner of books the book cycle, which is in the third ward.

Speaker 8:

Um, it is one of my favorite places in town. Um, it is basically a big free bookstore. Um people can come and drop off donations of books. You can also come and take any book you want. That's there.

Speaker 5:

So, sarah, she's a purveyor of words and a lover of creepy crawlies.

Speaker 8:

Yeah, sarah's one of those people who has such a warm and big heart that she doesn't limit it to just things that are, you know, cute and adorable, like she has dogs um, they're fantastic, uh, you know. But she loves frogs and spiders and snails and um just extends that like love and adoration for the world and nature and can find beauty everywhere, and it's truly admirable. And the book cycle is in the Third Ward, because Third Ward is a literacy desert, or it was. We've had a lot of bookstores open in the last few years that are really kind of seeking to turn that around.

Speaker 8:

I've given Sarah a hard time because there have been so many fascinating books at Book Cycle that I now have. It's caused me to reorganize my entire library, which is a little oppressive, but I love it. So we couldn't resist the opportunity to bring her in and let her talk more about this amazing nonprofit. She created it 12 years ago and has been running it on her own since then, with just herself and donations and volunteers. It's also such a safe space that you know we need more third spaces, be more safe spaces in our community, in our world. So we definitely want people to know that that's out there.

Speaker 5:

And then the 930 show is called Lesbi Honest or Lesbi Honest, so I guess that's going to kind of be lesbian themed.

Speaker 8:

It's a woman loving woman sketch show. We do have some representation from some non-binary folks. We have some bi from some non-binary folks. We have some buy-in pan representation. It's an hour of sketches about what it's like to be in love with women.

Speaker 5:

This is Deborah Moncrief-Bell and we've been talking to Elizabeth McCall from the Station Theater Company, which provides improv classes and shows, and they are featuring special shows during Pride Month every Saturday night. Thank you so much for being with us today on Queer Voices.

Speaker 8:

Thank you so much. I'm so happy to talk about these opportunities.

Speaker 1:

This has been Queer Voices, which is now a home-produced podcast and available from several podcasting sources. Check our webpage QueerVoicesorg. For more information. Queer Voices executive producer is Brian Levinka. Andrew Edmondson and Deborah Moncrief-Bell are frequent contributors. The News Wrap segment is part of another podcast called this Way Out, which is produced in Los Angeles.

Speaker 7:

Some of the material in this program has been edited to improve clarity and runtime. This program does not endorse any political views or animal species. Views, opinions and endorsements are those of the participants and the organizations they represent. For Queer Voices, I'm Glenn Holt.

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