AKA Miss Chili Pepper
June 18, 1961 -
First attended a gay rodeo in 1988
Anthony Valdez was born on June 18, 1961, in Tucson, Arizona. He has three siblings, Billy, who passed away when he was a sophomore in high school, Magda, and Victor. Tony also has wonderful parents, who have attended some of the rodeos in Arizona, and were present in Phoenix when Miss Chili Pepper was crowned Miss IGRA 1993. Additionally, many IGRA folks knew Tony's mother, Norma, from her work with AGAPE in Tucson. As a child, Tony grew up wanting to be a Vegas dancer and gymnast. Instead, he became a hairdresser in Phoenix, and still enjoys giving good hair. He became a color educator, and attended the Vidal Sassoon Academy in San Francisco. He worked at the Connection and Shamoo's in Phoenix until he moved north to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon along with his second boyfriend, Ernie. Tony worked at the Bright Angel Lodge cutting hair. He says it was the most beautiful place he has ever worked, and he thoroughly enjoyed life in the Park. Tony attended some of the early Road Runner Regional Rodeos during this period.
When he decided to leave the Grand Canyon, his mother suggested Dallas as a good fit, where his sister was already living. This was where he discovered TGRA, and the birth of his community fundraising began. He would be introduced to the many different TGRA chapters, and met people from all over the country. He quickly became "besties" with Tim Smith, and the late Mitch Gill. They were the young blood at the time, who wanted to see the youth of the rodeo grow, and keep the rodeos going on forever. They became involved in many community activities, the AIDS Memorial Quilt, Bryan's House (a pediatric home for children with HIV and AIDS), AIDS Services of Dallas, the Food Pantry, the AIDS Resource Center, ACT UP and the Imperial Court System. They felt honored to be really involved in the Dallas community, not surprisingly, everyone knew who they were.
After the cancellation of the Reno Rodeo, Tony knew that he had to do his part to make our rodeo history a legacy for the future of all of us. His dear friend, the late Gerald Ford, a former IGRA President, taught him how our involvement in our community would shape our history and help to grow our organization, and to be involved with a cause that was so much bigger than all of us.
The Round Up Saloon, Dallas Eagle, Crews Inn, Pegasus Lounge, The Hidden Door, Hideaway and Buddies would become his homes. Tony credits the wonderful support of the bar owners and patrons with being instrumental to his fundraising efforts over the years. These people, along with the rodeo athletes that Tony admired, made him want to be a rodeo contestant himself. And so, in 1988, Tony competed for the first time in goat dressing at the TGRA rodeo, and was instantly addicted. The following January, he decided to try his hand at chute dogging at the RRRR (Phoenix). There, he won his first ribbon, in Wild Drag, and was surprised to land in the top 15 dogging finishers both days.
One thing that Tony loved about TGRA, was that each chapter would be responsible for a different aspect of the production of their annual rodeo. This approach enabled folks to learn about and gain experience in many of the different aspects of rodeo production. Tony's learning continues to this day, over 30 years later.
Miss Tessy (Tim Smith) would be the first of their group to run for Miss TGRA in 1988, becoming Miss TGRA 1RU. They entertained with many of their friends, including De Shannon (Mitch Gill). Next, in 1990, De Shannon and Tony's Miss Chili Pepper ran for Mr and Miss TGRA, with Tony ending up Mr TGRA 1RU by a mere one point. Tony's fundraising prowess was a force to be reckoned with. During a particularly conservative period in Texas, Tony came up with the idea to have a Gay Days fundraiser at Six Flags Over Texas. This event was so successful, that Tony organized three Gay Days at Six Flags, before the event was taken over by the Dallsa Chapter. The royalty bug had bitten Tony, and there would be no stopping him. He ran for Mr TGRA again in 1991, but was suffering from Asthma, and the fundraising wasn't as good as the previous year. Upon finishing the year, Randal Vickers and they travel agency he worked for said they would like to support Tony, but wanted him, as Chili Pepper, to run for Miss TGRA. So, Chili Pepper was official, and ended up becoming Miss TGRA 1992. Chili attended 15 rodeos that year, and was thrilled to be selected Miss IGRA 1993. His sister, Miss Tessy, also competed at that Finals, representing SEGRA.
1993 was a year of highlights. Chili attended all the IGRA rodeos, including the new rodeo near Seattle. Appearing on The Jerry Springer Show was another highlight. Also in 1993, Kim Dawson, who worked at Southwest Airlines, asked Tony to marry her, as her "beard" for work. The big benefit was the free flights. Tony and Kim attended all the rodeos that year and developed a fantastic relationship. They remain lifelong friends, and are now married to their respective partners, after getting divorced six years ago.
Tony, along with Tim Smith and their royalty team would start a new era of creating a royalty team environment, that would encourage more participation from the title holder's runners-up. Major weekends during this period often saw two rodeos being held simultaneously in different parts of the country. Working as a team made it possible for royalty to be represented at all of the IGRA events.
Tony worked at the Round Up Saloon for some time, and their policy of "no weekends off" curtailed his ability to travel to events. During this period, he continued to be heavily involved with TGRA and various Dallas area charities. Additonally, he was a regular bowler in a Dallas league, and with Tim Smith, became involved with the Gay Softball League, helping them to send teams to the World Series many years.
In 2001, Tony left the Round UP for a new career in the skies with American Airlines, for whom he still flies today. He was transferred to the Bay Area, and ended up living with Doug Graff. Doug got Tony involved with the GSGRA, and he worked the Bay Area Rodeo that year. Then came 9/11, and Tony was laid off. He wsa subsequently reassigned to Chicago, where he connected with Michael Vrooman and ILGRA. Tony continues to be involved with ILGRA to this day.
He met David Werner, the love of his life, in Chicago, and they have been together since June 2002, marrying in 2015. Tony says that David is an inspiration to him, and has supported getting him backinvolved more fully with gay rodeo. They have travelled extensively together, both domestically and internationally, allowing them to experience many new countries and places within the US. Tony has been welcomed into David's family, and is a very special man who has made Tony's life more than he could have ever imagined.
They were on vacation in Puerto Vallarta, when Tony got a call from Candy Pratt and Tim Smith asking if he would accept the nomination for IGRA Vice President, and take over for someone vacating the position. Several hours later, he became IGRA VP. The job was very interesting, to say the least, and he is very proud of the team that he guided. He felt like a parent to the Royalty team, and remains immensely proud of their achievements. He says he was proud to serve, even though it was just for one year. He thanks David Hill, Ron Trusley, Tommy Channel, and all the Board members and Trustees for their help that year. It became a bit overwhelming, but the Finals in New Mexico were truly enchanting.
Upon learning of his selection for induction into the IGRA Hall of Fame, here's what he said: "In all my years of being involved with IGRA, I never dreamed this day would come. I am totally humbled by this. I want to thank the committee, who thought my hard work and years with IGRA warranted such an honor. My journey started in 1988, when I became involved with TGRA, and I've never looked back."
Tony says that the friends and family he has met during his involvement have been incredible, with many becoming lifelong friends that he would do anything for. They are a group he has the honor of calling his Rodeo Family. Every rodeo he sees an old face who has been absent for a while, and meets new ones to add to the collection. IGRA holds a very special place in his heart, where he keeps all that is warm and good...the heros, the athletes, the volunteers, the spectators and the animals. Tony thanks IGRA for thinking of him, and he is grateful to have been part of it's history. He says, "When they write the book, we will laugh, cry, and look back at our accomplishments, and be very proud of all of our hard work that has created our history. I love you all and want us to continue to grow and make more wonderful music together."
At the time of his induction into this Hall of Fame, Tony resides in Chicago, with his partner David.