Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 7, No. 20, Ed. 1 Friday, September 21, 1990 Page: 18 of 40
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The man behind Dallas'
parade — Alan Ross
FOR YEARS, HE’S BEEN AN INTEGRAL PART OF COMMUNITY
By DENNIS VEROH ER
the last seven years, Dallas'
I I Alan Ross has been the man be-
’ hind the annual Texas Freedom
JL Parade — in just about every
sense, as he almost single-handedly
took care of all the behind-the-scenes
"grunt work" that makes the parade a
successful event. But this year, there's a
new component to the parade. His own
name was added to the title as a tribute
by the parade sponsors, the Dallas Tav-
ern Guild, in honor of Ross' years of ser-
vice, both as executive director of the
Guild and generally in the community.
In an interview this week, we asked
Ross how it feels to be so honored.
"If I can use the typical words, I was
proud and honored that they [Tavern
Guild! members did that .... One of
the bar owners pulled me aside one day
and asked if I would mind if they
named the parade after someone. I said
no, I think it's very approapriate. Then
he said, 'Well, you're the one it's been
At first I didn't want to do it. I didn't
want it to happen," he insists. "I'm not
dead yet." Ross does have HIV disease,
though, and one of his greatest hopes is
that the recognition he's receiving also
will serve to demonstrate that HIV-in-
fected people still have energetic, posi-
tive roles to fill in our community —
and in society at large.
"It's important, and that's why I
don't try to hide the fact that I'm infect-
ed," he declares. "Life does go on and
you can't stay at home and feel sorry for
yourself. There's work to be done out
there. But I also feel lucky that I haven't
had a major illness that hits many peo-
ple so they can't do any more work.
"I think it's important that people
who are active and known in the com-
munity should let people know they're
HIV-infected. There are a number of
them out there. To me it's important to
continue on," he adds.
How did Ross get involved in work-
ing within the community — work that
involves not just the Freedom Festival
but also a history of service to several
"What got me involved? The answer
is, I attended a Dallas Gay Alliance
meeting," he explains. "It was really at
the time that Don Baker became presi-
dent, but I'd been a volunteer even be-
fore that [in the late '70s]." The late Terry
Tebedo and Bill Nelson, he said, "got
me more active in volunteering, and I
was elected to the board in June of
1982. And from there on it just got to
me. I really enjoyed it, even though
there were problems, and I fully real-
ized that, being out there in public that
way, you're going to be criticized by
And problems there were, eventual-
ly causing Ross to step down from his
board position and distance himself
from the Alliance. But looking back, he
attributes much of the infighting that
took place in the '80s to the growing
pains the community went through as it
"I couldn't see [any need for] all this
infighting that was going on," he states.
"But the organizations were all trying to
establish their own spaces in the com-
munity. There was no real reason the
political types couldn't work along with
the sports types, for example. But it
never seemed to work that way in those
Ross adds that he's glad those days
are past. Problems remain, and will per-
sist, as in any community. But he hails
the spirit of cooperation which is much
more common among organizations
these days, perhaps heralded by the re-
cent cooperation on the Miller Beer
boycott between DGA and the Dallas
Tavern Guild — two groups who once
were very much at odds.
As Ross mulls back over the past
ten years or so, he has every right to be
proud. Besides his service with the Dal-
las Gay Alliance, he was a founding
board member of the Foundation for
Human Understanding, the charitable
foundation which funds the AIDS Re-
source Center; he's served on the boards
of Oak Lawn Community Services, the
Greater Dallas Music Foundation and
the Caven Enterprises Benefit Associa-
tion; he originated the PWA Holiday Gift
Project to spread Christmas cheer to
PWAs in hospitals and other institutions;
and, most recently, he has suffered inor-
dinate frustration over an attempt to es-
tablish a permanent AIDS Tribute in Lee
Although city officials balked at the
project — over the use of the words
"gay" and "lesbian" and, initially, "AIDS"
on the dedication plaque. Now, he says,
City Council member Lori Palmer and
former member Craig Holcomb have
gotten involved in seeking to promote
the project, and he's optimistic that the
Park and Recreation Board can be con-
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vinced to re-think the matter.
Ross first became active in the com-
munity, though, in the early sixties,
when there really wasn't an organized
community as we know it today.
"There were only about four or five
bars," he remembers. "There was the
Villa Fontana, which was where the Les-
bian Resource Centre is now. There was
Gene's Music Box downtown. The Zoo
Bar was across from Neiman-Marcus. It
was supposedly straight during the day
but turned gay after five in the after-
"That was back in the days of the
vice squad," he explains. "Two people
would come in and you could generally
tell who they were because they'd have
on brown suits, white socks and black
shoes. One would go into the restroom
and the other in a phone booth. Then if
somebody else went into the restroom,
the one in the phone booth would go in
and make an arrest" on generally
trumped-up charges, he says. "There
were raids and bomb threats in the bars.
And this was back in the days when
people would be in the bar and see a
friend coming through the door and
they'd climb over the back fence be-
cause they didn't want to be seen. There
was really no gay community then.
We ask Ross what it is that's helped
him stay active in the community, when
so many others bum out and fade away.
But he's quick to take issue with that as-
"There are a number of us who are
still out there. There are a number who
have continued on, albeit some more
quietly," he insists. "It sort of gets in
your bones, and I've never had that
burnout." He mentions several other
names, too, and we quickly relent.
There's one other quality Ross ex-
hibits that we don't ask him about —
but we've seen it demonstrated time and
time again, most recently in his dealings
with the city of Dallas over the AIDS
Tribute project — and that's his dogged
determination and tenacity. He makes a
formidable ally and an awesome enemy
because he just won't give up.
But that's what it takes to be a com-
munity-builder, and for years Ross has
been just that. Gay and lesbian Dallas
wouldn't be the same if he hadn't been
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'EZf Purses — "Tocartaround vour Mavbelineand
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Jewelry — "rhinestones, shimmerina fake
rubies, emeralds or pearls iust like Barbara"
dal las, texas 75219
THE DALLAS VOICE ▼ SEPTEMBER 21, 1990
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Vercher, Dennis. Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 7, No. 20, Ed. 1 Friday, September 21, 1990, newspaper, September 21, 1990; (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth615737/m1/18/: accessed December 3, 2020), University of North Texas Libraries, UNT Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Special Collections.