Homecoming Queens Filmmaker Israel Luna stirred up controversy with his Ticked Off Trannies with Knives, but just wait for the next two films in his transploitation trilogy. By Elaine Liner PHOTO BY MARK GRAHAM

With his transploitation indie film Ticked Off Trannies with Knives, Dallas writer-director Israel Luna earned the crown as this years king of underground cinema controversy. That was fine with him. The more sparkly dust he stirred up with his little $50,000 revenge fantasy about characters named Emma Grashun and Rachel Slurr, the more film festivals he and his extravagantly coiffed leading ladies were invited to. An awful piece of cinema, wrote one blog critic at the movies festival debut. But Varietys critic dug it, comparing Luna to slash-and-trash filmmakers Roger Corman, Russ Meyer and Quentin Tarantino, and writing that The films physical deformities are hardly out of line with the sense of transgressive edginess perpetrated by Luna, whose subjects are meant to representand who can argue?one of the final frontiers of societal intolerance. Note that the same review ends with this: Production values are deliberately and appropriately horrible.

And how does Luna describe the plot of his film? A group of transgender women get their revenge on the lowlife rednecks that bashed them, he explains. Then he cant help himself. Its the sequel to Howards End. Hes kidding, of course. But it was no joke when, at the esteemed Tribeca Film Festival in Manhattan, the film drew the ire of GLAAD, which disapproved of Lunas use of the word trannies, among other things. To pacify the protests, Luna made some tweaks to the final cut, taking out the real names of gay-bashing victims. The backlash had one major positive result, however; it brought attention and support from one of Lunas idols, Pink Flamingos and Hairspray filmmaker John Waters, who praised the movie and talked it up on cable TVs Joy Behar Show.

TOTWK was featured at this summers Q Cinema in Fort Worth, at the Philadelphia QFest and at the horror-only Another Hole in the Head Festival in San Francisco. The film has been picked up by a distributor and will open on Halloween as a midnight feature at the Inwood in Dallas and on other screens around the country. A DVD due out later this year will be a 20-minutes-longer directors cut with extras that include a blooper reel and interviews with the cast.

Luna, 38, is a self-taught moviemaker who never went to film school. Born in Las Vegas, Nevada, he was raised in tiny Wellington, Texas, up in the Panhandle. He started making small, scrappy, gay-centric movies 10 years ago. TOTWK was inspired, he says, by exploitation films of the 1970s and 80s, campy gore-horror like I Spit on Your Grave, as well as by recent real-life hate crimes against people in the LGBT community.

Shooting for a few weeks with a group of actor friends he plans to use in more films, Luna was writer, director, cameraman and editor on Ticked Off Trannies not because Im a control freak, but because I couldnt pay anybody else to do these jobs. I didnt even pay myself. He says he plans to use his Dallas-based stars, Krystal Summers, Kelexis Davenport, Willam Belli, Erica Andrews and Jenna Skyy, in the next two films in a planned transploitation trilogy. Financed primarily by individual donations, including generous checks from a Dallas lesbian in her 80s, Lunas films are made with little support from more mainstream-oriented Dallas-based film professionals. The Dallas film industry has not been supportive of my work at all. Its been me doing it on my own, bringing in friends, hiring cast and crew. Im more appreciated outside of Dallas, says Luna.

Future work on Lunas schedule includes shooting a short high-definition (via iPhone video) documentary called 5ive, featuring five LGBT hate crime victims talking about their experiences. Then its on to the next film in the trannie trilogy. Luna envisions it as the ultimate grindhouse zombie thriller, pitting angry armies of the undead against the only two groups of survivors left on a zombie-dominated earth: members of the LGBT community and Bible-thumpers. Kurt Cameron has had the Christian film market to himself for too many years, Luna says. So what would happen if in a movie Kurt was left behind and had to count on gay people to survive? Now thats a complexity we havent seen before. And I already have a name for one of the main trannie charactersBeth Ann Phettamin.

Working title: Kicking Zombie Ass for Jesus. Something tells us dealing with ticked off trannies was a slice of heaven compared with what will happen when that movie opens.

Dude, Sweet Chocolate

There is much to recommend about this Bishop Arts District chocolatier—from the truffles to the "Crack In A Box" bridge mix—but the "Chubby Nuts" are a good place to start: a mix of macadamias, soy nuts, almonds and hazelnuts, all candied, salted and covered in chocolate and powdered sugar. They're so much a staple of mad scientist-confectioner Katherine Clapner's repertoire they've even found their way into inventions like her frozen chocolate-apricot-mole Push-up Pop. Clapner runs to local and seasonal foods, gleefully tossing around tastes like paprika, habanero and curry in homemade marshmallows, kettle corn and truffles. The uncluttered interior leaves much of the confectioner's work out in the open, while folks behind the counter are almost suspiciously patient answering even the most basic questions.

Fraternal Order of Eagles

You know the pool scenes in The Sandlot? The ones with the oh-so-hot Wendy Peffercorn teasingly applying suntan lotion to her sun-kissed skin from her perch above the 1960s community pool that the baseball-obsessed neighborhood kids go to only when it's too hot outside to play a game? Well, the pool at Fraternal Order of Eagles Lodge No. 3108, not too far from the Dallas Arboretum and White Rock Lake, is pretty much exactly like that—only, there's no Wendy Peffercorn (or any lifeguards, for that matter), and instead of dozens of kids, it's mostly attractive twenty- and thirty-somethings showing off their bathing suit bodies and freshly applied skin ink. Also: There are two bars (one inside and one outside), and, after paying a $7 cover charge to enter the place (assuming you're not a member), the beers won't even cost you four bucks. Plus, the whole place feels like it's ripped out of the '60s, which, OK, it probably was. FOE's pool is a slice of the past, updated to placate the contemporary.

The Consignment Store

The Consignment Store may have a generic name, but its selection is second to none. Items found throughout the 15,000-square-foot showroom in North Dallas are from manufacturers from around the world and include various dining tables, sofas, desks, armoires and beds. While most of the inventory is used and antique furniture, knickknacks and clothing are also for sale. In addition to the unique assortment of items, The Consignment Store commits to daily price reductions to make room for new inventory. Lower prices and a steady stream of new goodies—we knew there was a reason they've been in business for 24 years.

White Rock Lake
White Rock Lake
Scardello Artisan Cheese

You just can't rush cheese, and you're a fool if you try. Everything about cheesemonger Rich Rogers' Oak Lawn Avenue shop suggests a slower pace, from the rustic wooden tables and cheese boards to the cool light streaming in from outside. It'd take awhile to work your way through Scardello's cheese case, packed with edible science projects from around the world, cheeses that gush when sliced, cheeses rubbed down with espresso and veined with obscure tastes, cheeses made from the milk of strange animals. With regular cheese classes to peel the mystery off the dairy world's most pungent members, and late-night jazz to challenge even the strongest of constitutions, Scardello has brought a little more culture to one food that, by definition, already had plenty.

Bath House Cultural Center

While studying to become a Master Gardener, Janet Smith conceived of this lovely little public garden in 2005. It was completed two years later by the Dallas County Master Gardeners and garden designer Carmel Womack, and now blooms with all manner of flowers as a sustainable, year-round garden designed to attract butterflies. The plants are watered with a drip irrigation system and the garden is accessible by a ramp, with benches for a comfy sitdown. In the middle is a specially commissioned sculpture, Whirl, by Austin artist John Christensen. A lovely addition to the Bath House environs.

Sprouts Farmers Market

If you haven't been to Sprouts, picture Whole Foods with better produce and prices. The wide aisles also allow for easy navigation of the fresh fruits and veggies, and the staff is always helpful and friendly. The Arizona-based company's business model was developed more than 30 years ago in San Diego as Henry's Marketplace, and its first store opened locally in Plano five years ago. The only downside is that Sprouts is located in a dry area, meaning beer and wine sales are prohibited. But being a one-stop shop has never been Sprouts' forte. It has always counted on customers making a second stop. After all, it's not like they carry laundry detergent either.

Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens
Courtesy Dallas Arboretum
Dallas Arboretum
Albertson's

Located right in the heart of Uptown, which, in case you didn't know, is where every pretty college coed in Texas is required to live upon graduating, the McKinney Avenue location of the Albertson's grocery chain is, without a doubt, the greatest grocery store in the entire metroplex—and not because it has a solid selection of produce and the same exact things you'll find stocking the shelves of every other modern-day supermarket. No, this Albertson's location deserves a nod for another reason entirely: Its patrons. We've shopped all around town looking for the stores with the best deals, and you know what we've found? The prices are all pretty much the same everywhere. But this location—and we've been there enough to say it's not even up for debate—has far and away the best-looking crop of shoppers you'll find at any grocery store in the city, and maybe even America. Mom always told us to try meeting a nice girl, and to maybe look for her in a place that isn't a bar. Well, thanks to the McKinney Albertson's, we're finally looking. Probably too much.

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