David Hearn, left with a friend at the 2019 Miller Lite Music Festival
(Photo courtesy of Dallas Pride)

MetroBall returns after 2 years, with Tiffany as headliner, to kick off Pride Weekend

TAMMYE NASH | Managing Editor

Organizers of MetroBall, the dance party that is the Greg Dollgener Memorial AIDS Fund signature fundraising event each year, were all set to celebrate the party’s 15th anniversary the first weekend of June in 2020. Eighties superstar Tiffany was on board to headline a line-up of first-rate entertainers, and tickets were selling like hotcakes.

Then came COVID-19, and by the end of March 2020, everything was shut down and everyone was huddling in quarantine.

MetroBall — along with just about every other event folks had been looking forward to for Pride Month — was cancelled.

Organizers were disappointed but not deterred. They set their sights on June 2021 and confirmed that Tiffany and other entertainers could be there for the party then. But disappointment hit again when, as June 2021 rolled around and the COVID delta variant rolled out. Out of an abundance of caution, organizers again cancelled the party.

But now it’s 2022. The pandemic, while not over, has been muted thanks to vaccinations and boosters. And MetroBall is coming back with a vengeance, with Tiffany still on board as headliner, joined now by dance queens Martha Wash and Thea Austin as well as local favorite Chris Chism.

And organizers area excited and ready to hit the dance floor on Friday night.

“We are excited about MetroBall coming back, and we know people are ready to get out and get back to a new normal,” said GDMAF and MetroBall organizer David Hearn. “We are expecting a large crowd this year. Ticket sales and sponsorships, even in this environment of coming out of COVID, have increased. And we picked up a new liquor sponsor, Pride Vodka, to help with the event.

“We are also excited to work with Dallas Pride in being the major kickoff event for Dallas Pride Weekend,” he added.

MetroBall grew out of a house party that Hearn and his partner and the foundation’s namesake, Greg Dollgener, started in 1990. They would hold a pre-party for Razzle Dazzle, Dallas’ longtime Pride Month party, at their home, “charging” attendees a non-perishable item to donate to an AIDS service organization.

“The parties soon outgrew my house, so [GDMAF board member] Rony Rox suggested we have a dance party and build an event,” Hearn explained. “So in 2006, we had our first MetroBall event at TMC. That year, we only had a little more than 100 people attend. Our entertainment was DJ Tator Tot and some dancers.”

But that was just the beginning. After the first two MetroBalls, “we learned that you have to have something special if you want to compete with all the other events going on in Dallas,” Hearn said. “So MetroBall became our marketing handle for GDMAF. We started bringing in different headliners to help grow the event and attract larger crowds.

“We decided to dream even bigger and seek out some well-known talent. With leadership from our president, Barry Robertson, and the steering committee team, we worked on some great line-ups for the last five or six years before the pandemic. And we added silent auctions, raffles and some other perks.”

Of course, COVID hit all the nonprofits hard, Hearn said. And smaller organizations like GDMAF saw their primary revenue-generating events shut down. But they refused to let the pandemic defeat them.

“Our board looked at other ways to raise money and remain active in the community,” Hearn said of GDMAF during the pandemic years. “We had online silent auctions for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Christmas to help bring in extra money. And we tested out a new auction system on Mother’s Day this year, so that your guests will have a smoother silent auction experience in person at MetroBall.

“In 2020, we partnered with the WNBA’s Dallas Wings to host an event online with Del Shores,” he continued. “Then we had our first in-person event, Night of Stars, last September, and we saw how hungry the crowd was for live entertainment. So that inspired us in planning this year’s MetroBall.”

Hearn said organizers were thrilled that Tiffany was available to perform again this year, despite the event being cancelled the last two years. She and Debbie Gibson were co-headliners at MetroBall in 2016, but then GDMAF board members Michael Screws and Barry Robertson saw the singer perform in concert with her band and “knew it was a whole new vibe,” Hearn said, explaining why organizers chose to ask her to return.

“Everyone has been great to work with, despite the delays,” he continued. “We’re excited to have Tiffany back, and having a band will be a first for MetroBall.”

Since the first MetroBall in 1996 through 2021, Hearn said, GDMAF has raised a total of $1.3 million, and about 35 percent of those proceeds have come from MetroBall. With that money, he said, GDMAF has helped 4,457 clients — individuals and families — impacted by HIV/AIDS “by providing last-resort assistance when other AIDS service organizations are unable to help.”

Hearn said that tickets to MetroBall will be available for $50 at the door of S4 on Friday night, and in addition to the entertainment, there will be a silent auction with more than 125 items to bid on through clickbid online. The link and a preview of auction items is available at GDMAFAuction.org, and bidding is already open, through 10:30 p.m. tonight.

Among the raffle items available at the event are two VIP tickets to the Lady Gaga concert at Globe Life Field later this summer (a $2,000 value) and tickets near the stage on the field at the stadium for that concert plus a $200 VISA gift card. The concert experience includes hot and cold hors d’ouevres, a dessert bar, beer, wine and signature Lady Gaga-inspired cocktails, a hot point music video experience and green screen photo booth to share on social media, interactive cell phone charging stations and more.

The 15th anniversary MetroBall is Friday, June 3, at S4, 3911 Cedar Springs Road. The event features Chris Chism, Thea Austin, Martha Wash and Tiffany and her band, along with raffles and a silent auction. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $50 at the door.