Mind Over Manders

It's safe to assume that Dallas country singer-songwriter Mark David Manders doesn't claim Cedar Springs as his local borough. Oh, don't be fooled by the title of his latest single, "Brokeback Mountain," posted for play on his label's Web site, Big Karma Records (bigkarmarecords.com/catalog)--it's not a movie-loving tribute that'll be remixed for the Station 4 dance floor anytime soon.

On Manders' purportedly humorous "Brokeback," the cowboys "have limp wrists and call you 'honey'" and "wear leather chaps and pantyhose." And after sunset, "it's not just the wind that blows." But rather than a Western idyll like the film, Manders makes the big sky country sound more like the big house, warning listeners to "beware" and "don't drop the soap in the shower, they play hide the sausage there." But we need not worry that he--or maybe the character singing the song--will make any moves, as he's "not a pillow-biter" and "don't wanna take no backside pounding." Thanks for the reassurance. After hearing that excess homophobia, we kinda assumed otherwise.

As it all unfolds in song, background hoots, laughs and cackles remind us it's all supposed to be funny. But the laugh track isn't fooling anybody--the song sounds downright odious, sprinkling an unfortunate amount of hate on a decidedly puerile stab at humor. Yet the response from representatives of some Dallas gay organizations is quite measured. "Considering that it's just a string of gay stereotypes, it's surprising that it took Mr. Manders so long to write such an unoriginal tune," says Daniel Kusner, Life & Style editor of the Dallas Voice gay newspaper. After all, the "gay cowboy" movie's media buzz was months ago, when the tune "might have warranted an eye-roll" (and no, timing the song near the film's DVD release doesn't count).


Mark David Manders performs at Rockin' Rodeo on Thursday, May 18, with Radney Foster.

Similarly, Shannon Bailey, president of the Stonewall Democratic Caucus of Texas, merely "thought it was a little derogatory. I understand that it's supposed to be satirical and funny, but I did not laugh. I didn't have much of a reaction at all."

So what the hell was Manders thinking when he penned the song and then cut it for giggles during extra time at a studio session? Turns out he admits he wasn't really thinking. "Oh, it was just tongue-in-cheek, man," he insists. "It wasn't meant to harm anybody" (and won't be released commercially). "It was not meant as intentionally mean or to be a gay-bashing song. I hope I didn't offend anybody."

Manders says he's a satirist, most often of himself, and he wrote the noxious ditty after hearing Willie Nelson's recent recording of the slyly humorous and insightful "Cowboys Are Frequently, Secretly (Fond of Each Other)," penned a quarter-century ago by Texas-born, New York-based musical artist, ethnomusicologist and author Ned Sublette (full disclosure: a longtime friend of this writer). But Manders did have an inkling that his song might be in bad taste. "It just got out," he admits. "The label put it on the Web site, and I was like, 'Oh, shit.'"

"Brokeback Mountain" marks Manders as a prime candidate for sensitivity training and earns him a nomination for the Observer's coveted Douchebag of the Year award. But he is genuinely contrite for the lapse. "I did not do it intentionally to harm anyone," Manders says, "and I apologize if I did."


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