Chip Chandler and Wes Condray-Wright

Recorded November 14, 2020 Archived November 14, 2020 36:03 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: mby020208


Friends Wes Condray-Wright (34) and Chip Chandler (47) discuss how they met, the arts and the arts scene in Amarillo.

Subject Log / Time Code

WW and CC recall how they met in Amarillo.
CC discuss the arts scene and community in Amarillo.
CC recalls how he got his start in journalism.
WW and CC discuss bringing independent films to Amarillo.
WW and CC discuss "coming out" and queer culture.


  • Chip Chandler
  • Wes Condray-Wright


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00:01 You're in town.

00:03 I'm chip Chandler. I am 47 years old. Today's date is Saturday November 14th 2020. I'm in Amarillo, Texas and I'm recording with Wes condray-wright sees my best friend.

00:18 My name is Wes condray-wright IM 34 today's date is Saturday November 14th 2020. I'm actually in Lubbock, Texas and I'm recording with chip Chandler. Who's also my best friend.

00:35 So I guess

00:39 Gosh, I can't believe we've been friends as long as we have chip. Probably my longest friend. I've met you when I was 18 years old at a drag show in Amarillo Texas you were in college. I were a professional volunteer as a performer in that drag shows at for a fundraiser for Panhandle 8 support organization there an annual turnabout drag show and you were just a fresh brace place little kid. I had no idea what I was getting myself into I was such still like in the closet had no idea what I was helping with. I knew I wanted to help because the cause for what passes stood for but I had so much fun. And then I have that kind of Friendship with you. Yeah, so I really appreciate that fateful day when I was on the ladder.

01:39 I think that's probably the second or third year that I did the show as a performer, but I've been going to them for for a couple of years before that.

01:50 I so appreciate you too, because I don't know if you remember. I was also working on a story for my intro to journalism class and you ended up reading my story for me and giving me some really great. I remember that now because you ultimately showed me the ropes of everything in Amarillo from Arts Elsa being gay in West Texas. I say Arts like you show me movies that were coming out and introduced me to International Film and so many great restaurants and just everything I don't know. How much did you know how much I appreciate you for that because

02:42 I'm happy to hear that. Thank you. I guess I did that because I was the arch rider for Amarillo Inn Amarillo for nearly 20 years for most of 20 years. I started working at the Amarillo Globe-News in 1997 and actually very end of 96 but mostly nice 7 and then started covering the Arts here in 1998. And so for 22 years, is that what that math is intimately involved in covering the Arts and it became a very big passion of mine and very lucky to have done it for so long and seen.

03:29 What does ever what Amarillo has to offer in that in that sense? And I think you did such a great job in that role because me coming from Lubbock, Texas, which is more traditionally a college town. I'm moving to Canyon to go to school and then not knowing anything about Amarillo. Like I was a little snobby at first, I guess like this town has nothing. It has nothing. There's a mall in a highway and Canyon was sleepy and I was so used to love it. I'm having things to do all the documents. So once I met you that kind of Turn Around for Me Canyon and Amarillo both became a little bit more palatable for an 18 year old closeted gay man, you have to dig a little bit to find stuff going on here, but there is lots of stuff going on here. Right now, obviously, I guess there are still some some bands playing at restaurants and stuff.

04:29 And then a couple of the arts groups have done a few things since the since the spring since we're in this awful time, but it's not like it normally is things are really at full speed with the always got lots of stuff going on. There's a good live music scene locally theirs were on I-40. So we get a lot of touring musicians coming through town not the not the big big concerts anymore because our Civic Center can't handle that in our voters very foolishly. I think turn down a chance to expand the Civic Center and bring in these big artist again like Amarillo used to get but we do get lots of a regional acts coming through and in small Indie groups. So there's always some sort of eclectic music going on if you're looking in the right places, I found out how to how to dig into that and and and look for that and try to share that we did a weekly entertainment section when I was at the paper called get out.

05:29 And it covered the whole breadth of amaryllis entertainment from from Little Garage bands through the touring concerts that came through through our wonderful art scene dark Scrappy art scene that does it all on their own and it was always a pleasure to be able to share what was going on here in town and

05:55 Kind of falling out the fallacy of there's nothing to do in Amarillo, which I think you did such a great job of the you have such a passion for it though. It was more than just there's this band at Golden Light. It was this is this band and they're badass and this is why you should go see I'm in this is another thing that's really cool and unique about Amarillo. It wasn't just a time and a place to chew ation. Like you really dug in and found it out and made everybody else in the town. Like I don't know if you know the impact you had on that town. I don't think the art scene in Amarillo would be

06:28 At school and is interesting and appreciate it. If it weren't for what you did. They were doing what they were doing the hard work. I was just pointing out what they're doing. And so that was fun interviewing bands and not just doing why you write this song cuz you're right this time but actually why they got into music and what what that brought to their lives and what they hope they can give to others and talking about their mentors in their Heroes and stuff. And then for the Arts, I mean for the most part all of our artists in town on our volunteers and I think you have to celebrate that because they're giving of themselves to entertain the rest of us the musicians that the Amarillo Symphony pays its musicians and and

07:16 The classical music musicians are pretty smart about getting paid for for their other gigs, too, but actors and and aqua performers and most of the ballet dancers that we have. There's a ballet has a small professional company, but they don't give a smile living so they're all giving of themselves and their time in there and their energy and their talents to us. So I just it was my what I could do was to help celebrate what they're doing.

07:52 You bring up such a good point to because now being back in Lubbock can sing and we have a great driving art scene in a great Community, but I think being a bigger city and having the spaces to bring in some outside things. There's more passion with a people in Amarillo. Those artists volunteers are doing stuff at Little Theater that are doing stuff at the symphony. If they can't have it they're going to build it and they're going to make it the most incredible thing which always just blew my mind to see what talent we had in Amarillo. Yeah. I think it amazes people when they hear that we've had Community Theater that's nearly a hundred years old continuously running for nearly a hundred years of the symphony. It's almost a hundred years. Also within this decade do both celebrate their Centennial knock wood.

08:43 In the middle of all this mess, but I said, I think that anytime I've travelled and told people where I'm from.

08:51 When I travel is usually been in an Arts context anyway, so that I tell them what we have a symphony Community Theater. They're both 8590 nearly a hundred years now and offer company, that's about I don't know 40 years old now a ballet company. That's about the same maybe yeah about the same age for the ballet company as well.

09:17 I know they're struggling right now and I hope they make it through it, but they have such a wealth of history and tradition behind them all and it's because we're here in the middle of nowhere amaryllis in the middle of the Panhandle. We're on I-40 thankfully so we do get

09:34 Passing through we are a great routing place as you're if you're doing a show in Oklahoma City and you're doing a show in Albuquerque a good place to stop for the night. Maybe do another show. But otherwise, we don't do it on her own and build it on our own and they they realized that back in the 20s with the little theater and with the 7th and they had the fortune and the good good business sense and and good leadership to keep that going for years only hundred years now.

10:10 Get over here. Now. We're going to move back up there 5 years ago. I think knowing you from Garrett's perspective kind of help that moving his mind because prior to meeting you and was George Strait Amarillo by Morning and all the rodeos is all kind of had a frame of reference for the meeting you and seeing that there was other things to do to really help that move be a lot easier for us when we move back up there good. This was going to be a pit stop for me in my grand professional plan after college. I would work in Amarillo for a couple of years. Then I would move up to like Santa Fe or Albuquerque that size and then maybe move up to Austin or something like that.

11:10 Aetna plans to stay here for long. This was just like so many people in the media here. This isn't going to be a starting point. Yeah.

11:20 Clearly it didn't turn out that way. I could have been here now for a lot longer than a couple of years, but

11:29 If I had. I don't know that I would have stayed if I hadn't have started covering the Arts and entertainment and seeing what we what we had here and

11:39 Feeling a feeling drawn to telling their story and helping.

11:46 Celebrate what they've accomplished year and what they continue to accomplish and encouraging others that to do it themselves to to start their own band start their own alternative Theater Company start their own do comedy shows. We've we've had all kinds of entertainment here and not everything lasts, but

12:10 There's a lot of brave people giving it willing to give it a shot. And that's cool to celebrate it. Is that West Texas Crude that tenacity there and feel that when you're in the city of performances do when you were going to journalism school. Did you want to cover arts and entertainment or if they have any inkling journalism school early college in Oklahoma and 45 to orientation and told him what I wanted to make sure that I wanted to major in journalism. They said we don't actually offered that as a major you can minor in it. So I did so I didn't do any kind of traditional journalism school that I'm glad I went there because as a sophomore I got to be the editor of the paper and was editor of the paper for 3 years and got the working experience of leading the team of the signing stories of riding my own stories and

13:08 I got a full round rounded education in print journalism at least back then.

13:17 And those stories were always something our stories were always something that I enjoyed riding. I grew up in a small town in the Texas Panhandle Canadian and we didn't have that like we didn't have much of an art scene there. I think there were when they were school plays and things like that. I don't remember.

13:38 They're being any kind of community plays or anything like that. We didn't go to him if there were but I fell in love with band when I was in sixth grade and stayed with that all the way through college and developed.

13:51 A sense of artistry your sense of her love of the Arts through that I do remember the way we came over to Amarillo a couple of times with a school in school with our gifted and talented program and saw a couple of the production's they were here. I think which word a dinner theater that we should be in one of the strip malls here. I don't think we saw a show that was the shortest what they did, you know, we went Backstage on that kind of stuff and we did see the ballet's production of Jesus Christ Superstar, which sounds odd. I know but Valley company did it and it was it still talked about that was when I was a little kid that was but still people still talk about Lone Star ballet production of Jesus Christ Superstar. My sister had to post a run.

14:41 That I had it at a new I have a little bit of an expert at the art and I liked it in college for a really developed that I had a great theater teacher in college. I just had to take an interpreter classes in elective, but he he had a passion for theater and he was able to express that to all of us and I remember watching the PBS Great Performances production of Sweeney Todd with Angela Lansbury and George Hearn on VHS in his class. And I totally fell in love with it. I'd seen musicals my dad loves musical film. I've seen a couple of musicals like one musical probably actually looking back when I was in junior high. They did a performance of The Wizard of Oz the high school did he was a really cool production?

15:30 I don't remember any other musical there. But so Sweeney Todd was like totally exploded my mind and made me totally thoroughly fall in love with Musical Theater Arts stories for the paper. I signed myself at the theater beat and covered the music department and all that kind of stuff just cuz I love writing about I love being around us those kinds of people those creative people those fun people. It's those stories always came easier to me than writing something about the rodeo team or or pharmacy school or any of these other things that I had no connection with that other than band.

16:17 I've never considered myself a performer or really wanted to be in. Anyway, I just love being an audience member in a lot of preciate meaning.

16:26 That art form those Arts. Once this many are forms. Do you consider your you're riding in our form?

16:33 No, I think it's a craft. Okay. Yes, sir. What I do is more crap. Don't you can have fun with it and put your own touches in it and have fun with the language and stuff like that, but it's still more of a craft and I don't think that that's a bad thing. Now, I agree. I agree. I do think that you taught me inadvertently through your writing.

17:06 That it is a craft and how to hone my craft when I was in journalism school and being an editor of paper and riding took a lot of my sentence structures from your writing and learning how to pair things and play with it all and yeah riding the ceiling or something. There's some sort of quote like that. I don't know but yeah, yeah, you see what other people do and if it speaks to you you figure out how they're doing it while they're doing it and you find your own way to do it. And that's fine with it. It's even if it is crap, even if it is something that anybody can learn how to do you can still make it your own.

17:59 And I do believe anybody can learn how to write how to write a news story. It's just following a pattern and but it's how you make it your own this. That's the fun part 2 special part.

18:15 So one of the other things I really appreciated from you is

18:21 I feel like you spearheaded a lot of the independent movies in foreign films that came through Amarillo to get there. I don't know what you did. I don't know why tribute all those coming through to you to talk to me about that, I guess and how Amarillo started getting foreign films an independent film windows at the time right now. I don't I didn't spearheaded. I just saw who was who was spearheading it and sell it been celebrated it and pointed it out and paid paid attention to it years and years ago the theater at the mall after hitting become a 2nd run theater in it opens at the Molly was the first run theater and they do bring in is at 6 7 screen something like that. So they bring in there the same new movies. That's that anybody else would bring you in and then became a 2nd run theater.

19:21 Dollar theater and a group of people in Amarillo called the film's interested in literary movies the film club started talking to the management at the mall and got them to agree to bring you in and then to move an indie movie every other week and they would hold it for at least a week sometimes too. But they they committed to doing that they would they charge I think five bucks instead of a dollar or $2, but this group said if you do that, we promise we will bring you a big crowd every week for at least one showing and and I did so they that you know, the movies would open like everything else on a Friday and then the film club would come and go there on Tuesday. Will I I guess I started noticing that the mall was bringing in those movies and not knowing why yet and ask around about it and found out why it's so I

20:20 Riding at those movies and pointing out to folks that they were coming to town and I think spreading the word about that helps build the audience and helps convince them to keep doing they had one manager at the mall when they first started doing it who got a little carried away with it, I think and brought in some some indie movies that were much more provocative than others and

20:52 Which I'm all I'm in favor of that if that's your only one that you can bring you in for for a week or to bring in something that's not going to turn away. Most of most of that already pushed them challenge them some but bringing things they want to see there. Are there a ton of movies out there that they were excited about bringing to town bring those in first so he didn't stay with that company Long at but but Alan Jarrett and the film club folks kept it going even without him and they are still still get keeping it going. Well, they will hopefully will again when when movie theaters are back up to full speed.

21:40 And I guess I don't know I guess the other than the main movie theater houses saw that they were having some success there and I don't know that they aren't booked here locally, either. They're booked out of Dallas usually the corporate offices, but they started trying to plug in some of these smaller me these two and they had some success with it, I guess cuz I keep doing it in Mark Chang here has done an Oscar there Oscar week here for the last ten or more years. So they will bring all of the best picture nominees in and they'll do the short film Sue that that's pretty rare. I don't I don't know that I guess love it probably gets that doesn't know how but that's the only thing that was doing it great that you have to watch for him. That was

22:32 Anyway, we can find me about the movies that came here. I would tell I would list off. Will this movie was here. This movie was here. This movie was here. I said you have to watch what they're not going to stay long. There's only so many screens are in town and there are so many business reasons that that they have to book so certain movies on so many screens and things like that. There's a lot of things do they bring in a small movie. They have an extra strength screen that they can bring in one go to it as soon as you can cuz you don't know how long it's going to last and most of them lasted a week and that's not very long, but it's time to go get it cut it to go see it. Hopefully. Yeah, you're really interested in you got to make your time to go do it make it Priority. Yes.

23:21 Absolutely. I hope we get back to that are not the same. It is not the same in the end. I don't know maybe this will be a good thing. If there's a silk radio Silver Lining that people will want to go out to a theater and see it in the theater again instead of saying I was going to come home and I can see it is it'll be available to watch at home and I can see if they are maybe we're all going to be tired of that when this is over and I'm also hopeful that were more creative that we're not going to have sequel after sequel or superhero movie after superhero. Maybe that will get some more really original content because they've been so deprived of it for so long now, I hope so. Content.

24:14 Isn't in the theaters but it is still being made. Thanks, at least not to the extent that it was. I don't know maybe in that in the boom of the late 90s or things like that, but we're still getting smaller film was made or they're going to showtime and they're doing a Tim Tim part mini-series out of something or Netflix will do it. I mean, there's no room in place for those kinds of films I think but not as often as they're there their needs to be and you're right those the franchise has the superhero movies do take a lot of screens and then I'll leave much room for anything else. We don't get those as many of those just adult dramas.

24:58 Anymore unless it's strictly low budget.

25:07 Indy type film or

25:09 ESL on the city has used to have like Sony Classics and that's still around. But but they're they're little Bill making arm that they would do the big movies, but they also had space for these a lot of the studios don't don't pay as much of a priority on that. Hopefully when this is over, I mean it's going to be a it may be a while before you can make those big big movies was huge casts traveling the world doesn't hurt to do truly.

25:47 So should we transition in the against the other topic? We're going to talk about being gay and Texas Panhandle and what that looks like and how he helped pave the way for others just following in footsteps of some cool people. Yeah.

26:07 I came out when I was after I graduated college. I guess I sort of knew then but I didn't really commit myself until probably as a senior in college and your family after that and and friends and then co-workers and I had a really easy essentially easy coming out story. I don't have the big drama thankfully and I never feel like I experienced any kind of discrimination because of it at work school bullies and things like that aside.

26:43 Work was always fine and there was like one boss. I think that

26:51 I don't know.

26:53 It it colored his perception of me for a while. I think but I think you got over that but I have been really lucky but Amarillo's is kind of a good safe zone for the queer queer community and has been for some time. Lee is I think the Panhandle in general because the heritage of us living apart, but then having to rely on our neighbors to get us through these hard times it's kind of

27:26 Do what you want and I'll stay out of your business. You stay out of my business and very much. I think there's a stigma sometimes that West Texas a scary place for gay men and women and I feel it's pretty accepting. I think I think so for the most part. I think it helps that we're both sis white men. Yes. There's that there is that because I do I have heard of some horror stories here and I'm sure that the trans population has a different perspective on it as well 1000% certainly that the POC population has a definite definitely different perception of it, but they're still always seems

28:16 Seems like there's always been safe zones here for years before I moved here that do different gay bars in Amarillo since the 80s, maybe the 70s.

28:30 I've heard stories from friends who would go and sneak into them as an underage little gay kid, and that's all that dance to at least the early eighties and there's never been a time since then that we didn't have one gay bar. I think at some point we Pat we had up to like four or five at a time or down to one again other than coven.

29:00 And they're there used to be a gay book store just off I-40 on Washington. That was kind of a little gay safe Zone as well have acute triangle painted on the side of the building so hard to miss and they'd close. The books are just for a ride around the same time that I moved. I never actually got to go to it. But I heard write stories about it and then there been a couple of

29:29 Community groups that have tried to help out gay teens over the years Paso that we talked about earlier delayed support organizations always been kind of a leader in that as well. Although their clientele didn't is not at all strictly gay men or or anything like that. They have a very broad they come right there. They're there to help anybody with or affected by HIV AIDS but

29:58 Just come as a natural outgrowth of that. They've been leaders in the in the game in the gay community here equality, Texas, which is Amarillo, Texas is

30:13 Sound at least be called Texas gay rights Lobby any weather lobbying group that fights fights for gay rights in the state. Amarillo has always been one of them there.

30:35 They get more money out of Amarillo than almost ran the state or money was also nice to have that save space in Amarillo when I was coming out to have mentors like you and Barry and Neil and Greg Raymond just the whole crew. See you guys living your truth. So that don't man when myself as his little scared closeted. What's Texas boy? I never saw that support in Lubbock. We had an MCC church, but there was not a Pride Celebration there wasn't really anything and it really wasn't talked about maybe even though, you know some of our coaches here national champions in basketball and we're lesbians at the time are still on I guess.

31:35 Regard not talked about for the CU and living your truth living who you were and not having to necessarily be a stereotype. I just be comfortable made me feel so much comfortable to come out in this area, which was really special to me. I had that too when I first moved to town and was just coming out friends like John hence who I would see even when I worked. I was working my first job in Pampa at the newspaper there and I would see on the news or read the paper that he was leading protests against Cracker Barrel when they have very stringent practices and I thought oh my gosh, that's who I need to to know. I want to know somebody like that because I was still just coming to terms with it. I certainly felt like I was the only gay person to Pampa I wasn't

32:34 But I certainly felt that way and to see him living out out loud. Like that was a huge influence on me and inspiration to me and then moving here and becoming he's one of my closest friends now and and getting to work with him to to do things like that to celebrate the gay community here work with the project that the people who do the pride picnic and do a film festival with them and show show films. That's that's another way that I learned about how to be a gay man. Because the when I first started coming out and I'm going out to the pride stuff here they were they would do it pride Film Festival back. Then this is in this is in the late 90s early 2000 and they showed smells like before Stonewall after Stonewall word is out some other great films the times of Harvey Milk.

33:34 And got to learn our cultural history as well as being around people here in town who were living there trees and and and just

33:46 Shawn Mendes, no big deal. Yeah. Yeah and I think for me I didn't have that access to the cultural history. I just had what pop culture was showing us and at the time it was willing Grace and it was a great show. But also Jack was such a stereotype and I didn't want to be a Jack and that's what I felt like everybody. Game in ya life. Before that as a very little kid washing soap with Billy Crystal as a gay man, at least a part of the Run of that and thinking oh, that's what it has to be. And and yeah, I was so happy to meet everyday regular people and I appreciate the the roles of those folks had those characters had in making gay life more palatable to people not palpable bit.

34:46 A white young and I certainly celebrate the people who do live like that and can live out loud and flamboyant is as they want. That's awesome to but there's so many now we have such a broader range of of

35:04 Role models in in in popular culture to Aspire to or

35:12 Emulate yes. Yeah. Yeah.

35:17 Well, I'd rather emulate somebody like you then somebody in pop culture. So thank you for your amazing chip. And I'm so thankful to have been in the Panhandle with you. Thank you. You have taught me a lot to believe me. It's great to hear that though. There's a reason I call you my damn mama. That's right.

35:49 I guess GIF. Do you have anything? I don't know. We've talked a lot you're done.

36:00 Perfect chords