Everything’s Big in Texas: Dallas/Fort Worth
Tea in hand, I sit back and watch morning creep over a landscape soft with mist and the dappled greens of scrub oak and mesquite. Here there is inviolate air and unrushed hours. Somewhere, maybe a mile away, a horse brays.
Sure, the food is top-notch, the horse rides through the chaparral charming, and the beds luxuriant as any, but it is that airily vast dawn at the Wildcatter Ranch that is perfection - the foundation upon which all others should be built.
Oh, and the smokin’ hot ranch hand, his dog Macho in tow, helps, too.
About 90 miles west of Fort Worth, TX, the Wildcatter is the rustic halfway point in my swing through northern Texas. I’ll be the first to admit it: to me the Lone Star State is more synonymous with some things - the Tea Party, Chick-Fil-A aficionados, a Bible Belt full of good Christians who hate gays to love Jesus - than it is with others.
And then I experience Dallas. I go to its clubs and bars. I visit its museum dedicated entirely to scientific principles and evolutionary theory. And I am forced to see that I have a few preconceived notions of my own.
While it might be a stretch to say Texas is a beacon of LGBT equality, it would be over-simplifying to say that it is not. Dallas, Ft. Worth, and a few other Lone Star cities are taking it upon themselves to save the Texas brand from the dubious legacies of various Bushes, evangelist David Barton, and Governor Rick "Transvaginal" Perry. Leading the way? A thriving gay community that is far stronger than anyone could have thought.
The Big D
There is Dallas, and there is Dallas. Despite the fact two bars, JR’s Bar and Grill (gay) and Sue Ellen’s (lesbian), owe their namesakes to the show, most gay Dallasites (and straight ones) tend to roll their eyes at the oil drums full of crazy at the Southfork.
In reality, it is a cultural city whose center is dominated by the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, the Crow Collection of Asian Art, AT&T Performing Arts Center, and the Dallas Opera House. It is a city whose skyline is populated by the futuristic designs of modernist architect I.M. Pei.
It is a historical city that is upfront about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and has all but sanctified his memory. In fact, the city is planning a year of commemorations in memory of the 50th anniversary of the tragic event.
The lofty aspirations are evident from the get-go at my hotel. The Hilton Anatole is home to a fantastical art collection, ranging from delicately carved jade cups from China to two slabs of the Berlin Wall. To get acquainted, the Anatole throws a "food tour" of each exhibit: popcorn shrimp at the carved elephants from Thailand, meat pies and Macallan at the salvaged Lusitania propeller (she was made in Scotland) and watercress sandwiches at the oh-so-English Wedgwood china display.
Never let it be said that Texas doesn’t feed you. Dallas is home to a bonanza of right-good cookin’, from the highbrow fair at Ocho to the comfort food of the Market Diner, a gay morning-after mecca. Between the two is a smorgasbord of lip-smacking lusciousness. Texas being made for carnivores, Hunky’s burgers are a particular highlight.
But one thing the TV shows did get right was the hats, boots, line dancing, bull riding, colorful phrases ("He can strut sitting down") and the deep and abiding pride for it all. America is a big place, so big it has space for a hodge-podge of regional cultures, and Dallas is dead-center in the "New West," a city looking towards the future, but from underneath the brim of a cowboy hat. Visitors would be mindful to leave the Gucci at home and splurge on a proper topper at one of the local haberdasheries. It’ll help you "blend." Learning the two-step wouldn’t hurt, either...
How Texas Gets Its Gay On
Gay Dallas revolves around Cedar Springs, a three-block stretch of rainbow real estate between Oak Lawn and Wycliff Avenues along Cedar Springs Road that crams in just about every gay establishment possible, and in the case of premier dance club Station 4 and astoundingly good drag bar Rose Room, they stack one atop the other. It’s also a good introduction as to how Texas gets its gay on.
Start at the Round-Up Saloon, a massive space that is ground zero for all things gay in Dallas: The dancing, the drinks, and the shirt-averse bartenders. It is said that "everything is bigger in Texas," and that certainly applies to the clubs and bars - every last one of them is huge. The Round-Up could easily swallow a few New York bars and have room for dessert. After kicking up your heels at the Saloon, Alexandre’s, Dallas Woody’s, and TMC beckon.
Although I am sure it has stories to tell, Cedar Springs leans towards the nicely naughty PG. If gleeful NC-17 is more your style, the clubs off the strip are ones that satisfy: Pekers, the Dallas Eagle, Brick Joe’s, and the Tin Room and Zipper’s, two flesh-fests that revel in a gay man’s unabashed horniness. Get some singles for tipping, kick back, and take in the pole dancers, cage boys, and trapeze artists (not kidding) in all their thong-y glory. You’re welcome.