Tuesday, June 25, 2013

R&B/Disco Goddess Thelma Houston at Omaha gay day festival: 'The change comes about... when you support people who support your cause...'

Unlike bigger star but lesser talent Donna Summer, for whom she did a performance tribute, Houston has been an unwavering ally of LGBTs all her professional life.

  • 1:50 — Popular out Omaha radio personality Dave Wingert has a good-natured perv onstage with with Eckophonic vocalist Annette Eckleberry's husband, Brian;
  • 3:21, 7:39, 8:45 — an, um, ecstatic fan enjoys the concert at her own special pace;
  • 3:55 — Houston urges, without "being preachy" that her audience listen to the message in her music;
  • 5:23 —The perspective of a 70-something about the growth of gay pride over the years and a reminder to her audience that "the change comes about when you become active in your community and when you support people who support your cause"
  • 11:52 — Introduces her tribute to Sylvester and explains to kids in a shitkicker state who were born after Sylvester died, who he was. Turns the stage into a dance floor and does a turn with Rodney Houston, her son;
  • 18:55 — "Anytime I'm asked to appear at a Pride Festival it means to me that you must know that I support you and so I'm glad that you know that."

The publicly articulated worries of Heartland Pride Honcho Beth Rigatuso and KETV's Ryan Luby about tangible displays of "disrespect" during Jean Stothert's appearance to read a Mayoral Proclamation about Gay Pride Day were much ado over nothing. (Even if the fears had materialized it's hard to imagine that Stothert could have encountered more overt disrespect from Omaha LGBTs than she got on TV from dark money groups in her own party during her recent campaign.)
      Pressing affairs of state regrettably prevented AKSARBENT from attending the appearance, whose time both the Mayor's office and Heartland Pride steadfastly refused to disclose. Evidently they expected those gays anticipating a meaningful change in Stothert's opinion about gay rights (good luck with that!) to wait around all day in hot humid weather, although any such gluttons for disappointment probably would have deserved it.
     Her mayorness arrived at 12:45. (Some rumors are dead on!)
     A witness to Stothert's performance told us she was "warmly" received, but that Ben Gray was "more warmly" received.
     Less enthusiastic was this pointed commentary (link added) in Progressive Oasis:
I think  anyone who objects to Jean Stothert’s presence at Pride truly understands what this Pride is all about. Pride started out to remember the Stonewall Riots. It's also about celebrating the gains we made. Its also about holding politicians who opposed us accountable.  If a politician can just ride into Pride after spending the past year working against us, what is the point to having pride?
     Politics notwithstanding, Heartland Pride's idea to bring a R&B/Disco legend to Omaha was a brilliant idea. Houston has never performed in Nebraska, so HP gave younger audiences and older fans a chance to see a Motown Grand Dame — and steadfast supporter of LGBTs — up close and personal for the very first time.
     We saw Beth Rigatuso at the side of the stage during Houston's act with her head hunched over her work, taking care of business and not able to completely enjoy the fantastic performance she helped make possible. Too bad. She richly deserved a break to revel in the unalloyed joy she and Heartland Pride gave to Omaha during the show it put on last night at a price that was the best bargain in town.
     Rigatuso worked hard to keep down admission and other prices. She will be the first to tell you this, but no matter — the difference between price-gouging at the CWS and her organization's efforts to keep its event affordable were like night and day, and for that she and HP deserve a pat on the back from themselves and every else in the gay community and beyond.
     Below are scenes shot Saturday after Stothert left. (Too bad she didn't return to take in the show, but it was her loss and, AKSARBENT hopes, not her last.)


  1. "Rigatuso worked hard to keep down admission and other prices."

    Sorry, but the above statement is totally inaccurate. Omaha is one of the very few Pride events to charge admission. Heartland Pride failed to do any fundraising during the year to keep costs low.

  2. You're no better than Jean Stothert when you choose to censor comments and not post them.

    1. AKSARBENT has received two comments to this post. Both are above this response. Sorry we don't monitor the blog 24/7 to read and post submitted comments as soon as they arrive, but you'll just to have deal with it as a consequence of commenting. Or not. If you're the person who wrote critizing Heartland Pride admission fees, and can provide examples of Pride Festivals, especially in the Midwest, which do not charge admission, please do. We're just poor scribes and don't get out much.

  3. Kansas City – FREE
    Denver – FREE
    Minneapolis – FREE
    Washington DC – FREE
    San Francisco -- FREE

    Rigatuso and members of Heartland Pride failed to fund raise throughout the year prior to the corporate pride event hosted here in Omaha. Everything at Stinson came at a cost. There's nothing radical or activist about paying for a Pride t-shirt that makes you a walking billboard. The above listed Prides all accept donations at the gates but do not require a person to pay to enter the festival, thus keeping it inclusive and open to all.

  4. Sorry for juxtaposing you with Stothert. Just thought it was weird that you updated the blog with another article before comments were posted.

    1. A) Posts are not necessarily written in real time; they can be prewritten and scheduled to appear later, although that was not the case in this particular example.

      B) The appearance of pending comments often lags their receipt. (Not everything in every Google product is lickety split.)

      C) The flag signaling new pending comments can lag still further or not appear at all.

      D) AKSARBENT is capricious, cranky, arbitrary, erratic, eccentric and sometimes flat out wrong (which is why it welcomes comments from alert readers) but not weird.

      We do not, however, make any such assurance regarding the cat.