Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 28, No. 17, Ed. 1 Friday, September 9, 2011 Page: 13 of 48
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a job, again as a computer programmer, with an
insurance company in Dallas.
Almost immediately after moving to Dallas,
Gray started looking for ways to get involved in
the LGBT community.
Thrilled to have found a church that "accepted
me as I was," Gray said he started attending
Cathedral of Hope, located at the time in the
building that is now Resource Center Dallas. One
day, members of the Dallas Gay Alliance — now
the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance — spoke dur-
ing a church service, talking about the ways that
people could get involved by volunteering in the
various programs at the new AIDS Resource Cen-
Gray said he quickly decided he wanted to
work with the visitation committee, headed up by
Dr. Douglas Crowder, where volunteers would
visit people with HTV, helping them with chores,
bringing them food and sometimes even taking
them to doctor's appointments.
Gray said he soon realized that the visitation
committee wasn't the job for him.
"One day I had just finished changing one
man'g diaper — a diaper that obviously had
needed changing for quite a while. When I fin-
ished, I went outside and sat down and just
started crying. I knew I couldn't do it anymore,"
But what could have been a quick end to Gray's
time as a volunteer was instead the beginning of
a quarter-century—so far — of service.
The birth of Patti
Crowder encouraged Gray to turn his efforts to
writing for the AIDS Resource Center 's monthly
newsletter, suggesting that Gray write about safe
MM practices, and how gay men could have fun
without exposing themselves to the risk of HTV in-
But first, Gray remembered, he got tricked into
doing drag for a benefit.
It was 1986, and DGA was organizing the War
on AIDS benefit show to be held at Arlington Hall
in Lee Park, and some of his DGA colleagues
asked Gray to help "choreograph" the show.
"The first number was 'Boogie Woogie Bugle
Boy,' with Phil Johnson and Richard Sink. They
asked me to help choreograph it, and I said I
wasn't a dancer, but sure, I'd help," Gray recalled.
"But what they were really doing was tricking me
into being in the number."
Gray said that Bill Nelson, Terry Tebedo, Mike
Rogers and others not only talked him into being
in the number, but they loaned him the clothes,
shoes and makeup he needed, "and I was pretty!"
At first, Gray said, he was reluctant. But then,
Tom Davis tipped him with $20, "and I thought,
'Wowee! They really like me!"'
And that's when Patti Le Plae Safe was born, al-
though the name didn't come along until later,
when Gray and others in DGA were trying to
come up with a name for his column in the Re-
source Center newsletter.
They considered Connie Condom and Patti
Prophylactic — but those just didn't have the right
ring to them. As they considered a name, they
would write it down, then when they decided
against it, they would tear it up and throw it on
At one point, Gray said, he looked down at the
floor and saw two pieces of paper that had fallen
together: Safe Play.
"That was a new term, a new idea back then,
'safe play'" he said. "So we thought about it, and
came up with Patti Le Plae Safe."
And so Patti Le Plae Safe began wri ting the reg-
ular "Ask Patti" column, giving advice on things
like "how to put a condom on a man without him
even realizing it" and other ways to "play safe"
and keep the AIDS virus at bay,
And for a year, "Patti" remained, in essence,
anonymous; no one knew that Patti was actually
Rodd Gray. And he liked that just fine.
"I didn't want to do drag; it was painful! It
makes your feet hurt!" he declared.
But then the United Court of the Lone Star Em-
pire asked for Patti to appear at a fundraising
show so the court could give her an award.
"I told them I didn't do drag, that I didn't have
any of the clothes or anything. And they told me
not to worry about it, they would help me," Gray
said. "And once again, Mike Rogers dragged
clothes out of his closet for me to wear."
Within a year, Patti Le Plae Safe was the United
Court empress, and was traveling to court events
all around Texas — and the country — as a mis-
sionary spreading the play safe message and rais-
ing money for AIDS causes.
Patti stayed busy at home in Dallas, too. Patti
and Dallas Voice gossip columnist Heda Quote —
Rex Ackerman, who specialized in camp drag to
raise money for charity — used their columns to
needle one another, taking jibes back and forth, as
a way to raise interest in the various charity events
they each participated in.
"Back then, we were doing shows almost every
night," Gray said. "Sometimes, we'd do seven
shows in one night, keeping on the same clothes
and taking our CDs from one bar to the next."
He laughed as he told how he drove a Mazda
pickup at the time, and more than once, "We'd fin-
ish a show at one bar, then all the drag queens
would pile in to the back of my truck and we'd
head off to the next show at the next bar."
Although Patti had plenty of experience on
stage in charity events as the 1980s came to a close,
Gray still had not tried his alter egofs: talents on
the pageant circuit, where it wasn't enough to be
entertaining and raise money
On the pageant circuit, drag queens had to be
much more polished to succeed.
"The pageant girls always looked down on the
charity girls," Gray said. "They Would tell us, 'Oh
no, you just need to go back to your benefit shows
and leave the pageants to us.'"
But in 1990, Patti entered the Miss Gay Texas
pageant "on a dare;* She didn't place well that
year, so she went back the next year — and then
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Nash, Tammye. Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 28, No. 17, Ed. 1 Friday, September 9, 2011, newspaper, September 9, 2011; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth239184/m1/13/: accessed July 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Special Collections.