Gary Does Dallas
Today on Alphabet City: JP’s alter ego Gary Tyler Moore does Dallas in a Big Way. Guest star: Tyra Banks (sort of)
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Homecoming trips to Big D are always complicated affairs for me—add on book tour and I was one jumpy bundle of nerves. I’d been practicing politic responses to probing questions about my father and our issues, while packing, unpacking and repacking my wardrobe—Mary taught me to always have on a cute outfit. But a familiar face staring at me in American Airlines First Class calmed me down—although she did look paper thin and flat. Tyra Banks eyed me from the cover of the American Way magazine, and I took that as an omen that things always work out in the end.
First came the reunions. One of the positive side effects of Alphabet City’s publication has been the surfacing of some new information as it relates to many of my life episodes involving Dad. Dinner with my stepmother/friend was on tap for a much needed re-bonding, so I chose a spot that would let us take Dallas in style—the swanky Nana on the top of the Hilton Anatole towers. The hotel is the site of some of the action in Alphabet City’s Episode 2—where I triumphed/floundered as the villain in a sticky sweet show Calling All Kids, that led to me meeting Tommy Tune and dreaming of being whisked right then to the Great White Way.
The Anatole and I have both grown up since those days—and Nana sits like the crown jewel offering stunning views of the Dallas skyline. Over a perfectly grilled Texas quail and tender duck breast, we dished on tales of behind-the-scenes life on the set of Courtside Manner (the name that I gave to my father’s courtroom drama of a life). Turns out, he was “a much more emotionally complicated person” than even I knew—a sound bite I would starting using in my press interviews. And while the new information doesn’t change the betrayal I often felt at his hands—in fact it makes it worse actually—it was tremendously validating and fulfilling to reconnect with a person who was one (the only?) pillar of stability in my confusing teen years.
That night, I slept soundly with another old friend—The Stoneleigh. My history with the hotel is long and fun. My father lived in an apartment for a week or so when my parents split up. On assignment a few years ago for Condé Nast Traveler, I returned to the scene after the hotel was renovated, reviewing the property for the magazine’s Hot List (original review). As a travel writer, it’s gratifying to revisit and find out if first impressions are ever lasting—and I’m happy to report that the hotel is still in fine style, with large rooms and a bright color scheme that I’m still trying to recreate at home in NYC.
Truthfully, my first media appearance on KNON 89.3 Lambda Weekly—one of the oldest gay and lesbian radio shows in the country—made me nervous. How would the gay media react to revelations about my father, a public gay hero, but who privately wasn’t always supportive of his gay son? I needn’t have worried under the skillful direction of host and friend David Taffet, a New Yorker who has taken to calling himself Rhoda to my Mary. My experience so far is that folks tend to understand that often public figures are often much different at home—and that my father separated intellectual issues from emotional ones. As David advised, one hour on air flew by and boosted my confidence for future appearances.
Perhaps my favorite part of the book tour is the personal events and parties that friends are throwing for me all over the country. With a hectic sitcom life, I’ll admit that sometimes I’ve lost touch with those who early on made sure I would survive and ultimately thrive. I love that the tour is allowing me to reconnect, like at the party that my high school advisor (the woman who raised and furiously waved the red flag about my teen troubles) hosted with fellow alums from The Greenhill School.
My dear friend Valerie (who should get a credit for one of the photos on the book’s cover—17 year-old me coyly using a scarf to cover terrible acne) drove up from Austin, and took up her spot by my side like we were back in high school—corralling the group to listen to a reading, and then peppering me with questions like a good audience plant. Bless her. Even better, we had a chance to catch up more at dinner at Ocean Prime, a trendy new establishment in Dallas’ Uptown area.
Over a dramatic theatrical presentation of oysters featuring dry ice, we laughed about the good ‘ole days—driving to fancy Greenhill in her Dallas Cowboys van, later at UT-Austin making stealth round-trips in the middle of night to pick-up/steal coffee pots and fans from our unsuspecting parents.
But reunions always seem to end too soon. Reluctantly, we parted ways early as the next morning’s appearance on Good Morning Texas started to weigh heavily on me. Gary Tyler Moore definitely needs his beauty sleep.