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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Anita Bryant Sucks Oranges

 Houston LGBT History: Ray Hill Talks about Anita Bryant
 36 Years Ago on June 16, 2013

What role did Houston play in the protests against Anita Bryant, and what were the local and national impacts? You’re about to find out.

In January of 1977 Dade County Florida…that’s the county that includes Miami…passed an ordinance that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. That set off a firestorm and led to the founding of the organization Save Our Children, with Anita Bryant as leader. They very quickly got enough signatures to call for a referendum to overturn the ordinance, with the vote scheduled for June 7th. 

By the time the election was set it only left about two months for the gay community to mount its own campaign. The short time period was just one of the huge obstacles, as they were no match for the highly motivated Christian fundamentalists, who trotted out all the now very tired tirades that homosexuality is immoral and homosexuals want to recruit children. The ordinance was overturned by a two to one margin.

The next day a rally was planned in Norfolk, Virginia, to protest Bryant appearing there, and it was the first successful show of strength. The gay community there had organized well, and planted people inside the auditorium where she was performing. At a particular point they stood up and chanted and stamped their feet and Bryant broke into tears. The national media was ready and picked up and ran with this story. The seeds of gay activism were sown and Houston was next, as Bryant was scheduled to speak before the Texas Bar Association a week later. And Houston was also ready, and the planning and strategy was fascinating.

In an interview with JD Doyle, for the radio show Queer Music Heritage, Houston activist Ray Hill tells about the city’s role in protesting the Bryant bigotry, and at the same time lighting the spark of the LGBT movement in Houston, which quickly spread to other cities.

In the final quote of the piece Hill sums it up: “I don’t think Annise Parker would be mayor of Houston now, if Anita Bryant had not visited this city in ’77. I know that’s an enormous leap, but I think that with Anita coming to town and giving us a clear target to organize an opposition to had an enormous effect on our ability to put together a robust movement that accomplished its goals.”

Houston Protest Photos. Rev. Troy Perry can be 
seen in the photo below, on the right hand side.

On Queer Music Heritage the October 2012 show was a special edition on Songs About Anita Bryant, including the complete Ray Hill interview, and several interviews with some of the activists who helped make the protests happen, in Miami, Norfolk and Houston, along with historian James Sears and several of the artists talking about the songs Bryant inspired. Transcriptions of all interviews can be read on the script page.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Most Important LGBT Song of Recent Years...Is By A Straight Guy

Macklemore, born Benjamin Haggerty, being from the Northwest and white, is an unlikely rap star, but in the last year or so he has reached unprecedented exposure, thanks to the success of his latest CD, "Thrift Shop," done with his producer, Ryan Lewis. The title track, which makes fun of his liking to wear thrift shop clothing, has garnered about 400 million views on YouTube; yes, million. He releases his music independently, so it's also amazing that this is the first time since 1994 that a CD not supported by a major label has reached #1 on the Billboard charts. 

So, kudos for all of that, but that is not what has gotten Macklemore additional exposure, and new fans, in areas he never would have reached. In July of 2012 the duo, with the vocal help of Mary Lambert, released the single "Same Love" in conjunction with the Music for Marriage Equality Campaign in Washington State, in support of Referendum 74. He issued a statement at the time, " “My hope is that my personal testimony can help in some way to not only advance the dialogue and approve Referendum 74, but also to help shape a culture of belonging in which all people are equal.” And while you cannot measure these things, it probably did help, and same-sex marriage was approved in that state in November.

The video, also released in July 2012, quickly went viral, and has received about 60 million views. I included the song on my October OutRadio show, and that same month they were guests on The Ellen Show, performing the song live, which you can see here.

And the official video, is below, with (by the way, openly lesbian) Mary Lambert providing the stunning chorus. She wrote the chorus' hook:

And I can't change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
I can't change
Even if I try
Even if I wanted to
My love

When it was originally released a special edition 45 rpm vinyl version was offered.

Macklemore has close gay relatives, but the writing spark for the song was lit when his mother sent him an article about the suicide of a gay 13-year old boy, and the writing was started from that perspective. As he has recounted, “I played it for my producer, Ryan Lewis, who told me, ‘You know what? This is good, but this isn’t your story and you have a story.’”

As I write this, the song has reached number 33 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, (#5 on the rap charts) and that's probably the highest peak ever reached by what is really a "message song" about homosexuality. The only other recent song that comes to mind in that regard was Lady Gaga's "Born This Way," but to me that's more of an anthem song than a message one, and its message was probably oblivious to many caught up in its catchy rhythms and hook. That could not happen to "Same Love" have to listen to the song to "get it," and millions did. And being in the genre of rap music it was certainly a breakthrough.

And over the last several months it seems like it reaches more and more corners of the internet, sort of a ripple effect. Just this week a touching story showed up on the Huffington Post, about a Canadian 8th grader who played the song for his gay teacher, which seemed like the kid's way of saying the teacher being gay was okay with him. One person added his comments to the blog entry, "As a gay man, I have renewed faith in our youth." Well, there's hope.

Below, back of 45 pic sleeve

Update: in the July 27th Billboard issue, "Same Love" is #11 
on the Hot 100 chart, and for the week of July 20th it peaked at #2 
on the Rap chart, only bested by his own song, "Can't Hold Us."

And here's a terrific mini-concert by Mary Lambert

Friday, June 21, 2013

Frank (Foo Foo) Lammar

I have a "holy grail" list, a short one, of those vinyl recordings that have eluded me, and (Yay!) I get to cross one off the list this week. It's the mid-80's LP by Frank (Foo Foo) Lammar, one of the UK's most famed female impersonators. It took me many years to track this puppy down, and cheap it was not, but hey, fanatical collectors will understand, now it's off the list.

Frank Lammar (also spelled Lamarr) began performing in the late 1960's and opened his own club in 1971, taking over the Manchester night spot, The Picador. In 1975 he found another location and this time called it Foo Foo's Palace. He was very successful as a performer and raised large sums for charity, and performed for over thirty years. He died in 2003.

His recording career included two LPs and three 45 rpm records. "My Life at the Palace" was first released in 1975 and again later, with different cover artwork. The third LP, from the  mid-1980's was my holy grail item, shown above, and no, he wasn't particularly a good singer, but must have been grand live. Hear the title track...

Also (I think) in the 1980's was perhaps his most known recording, and I've read it became a popular drinking song in gay pubs, in Manchester. That was "Around the Old Campfire," which you can hear at the link.

Below, his 2002 autobiography

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Querelle - Music & Art

It had been a while since I thought of the 1982 film "Querelle," directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, or that I owned the soundtrack for it. But a Facebook friend posted on my wall about a Christie's auction of some of the drawings and photos that Andy Warhol used to create the enchanting cover image for the LP. So that started me googling different elements of the art and the music.

Searching on the title "Each Man Kills the Thing He Loves" (on Amazon) I was surprised to find it has inspired a number of recordings over the years, I'm sure more than appeared on the nine albums I show in the graphic below.

But, let's get back to Warhol's art for the film, whose homoerotic plot likely inspired the direction. For example, a poster for the film was blatantly phallic, with the fetching Brad Davis.

More Brad Davis, above center...couldn't resist not sharing this one.
And the resulting art and poster became iconic, often reproduced for posters, etc.

As the Christie's auction runs only for a few more days, the images they had up for sale, with starting bids ranging from $2,400 to $16,000. I'm just glad the images were on their site so we mere mortals could see them. Warhol often took scores of photos, which later inspired the drawings, and here are some of both.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

"We Have the Right," a Marriage Equality Anthem by Samia

This week I was sent a link to a new video by bisexual singer Samia, and I just have to share it. Now, a lot of artists are quick to call one of their own songs an anthem, and I usually think to myself: harumph! an anthem is decided by a wide audience and only after a long period of time. Well, this song will have a good shot at achieving that. It's called "We Have the Right."

Monday, June 17, 2013

Same-Sex Broadway: The Stage Collection

Between 1996 and 2000 Dink Records released several gay-themed CDs of mostly Broadway songs, sung male to male, and (in Volume 3) adding female to female. As you can tell from the graphic, there were three distinct volumes, along with a fourth collecting songs from the first three, sort of a greatest hits, though as very few knew of these CDs, well, there were no actual hits.

The artwork was designed to catch your attention (and it succeeds) with gorgeous photos of couples, though the models have nothing to do with the recordings...hey, eye candy sells. I'll start with "Stage1" and there are some beautiful songs here. I was tempted to share with you "I Know Him So Well" (from "Chess"), which was probably the first male-to-male version of this song. (John Barrowman sang with Daniel Boys a terrific take on it, on John's 2008 CD "Music Music Music.") But instead I went with the song from the CD that grabbed my attention immediately, "Someone To Watch Over Me," from "Oh, Kay!"

 In all the CDs of this series the producers (Art Collins and Joey Mendoza) used a variety of singers. Michael Fawcett was the vocalist on the song above, and others singing sometimes alone or in duets were Ralph Peña, Richard True, William Riley, Francis Cruz, Leon Ko, and Robert Lee. I would have given these folks more credit than the small print in the liner notes, but that's me.

The second volume, "Stage2" had more alluring photos (of unidentified models) and 13 more gorgeous songs, this time with vocals by Ralph Peña, Charlie Owens, Sean Ray, Francis Cruz, Leon Ko, and (co-producer) Joey Mendoza. As I like my songs very queer, this time I picked the classic from "Show Boat," "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man," coupled with "Something Wonderful," from "The King and I" (sung by Charlie Owens).

 For "Stage3" the producers expanded their scope, by also adding female singers, and in my opinion it didn't work nearly as well. I would have preferred they devote an entire CD to women singing this kind of material to women, and by focusing on that, really do it well. But as a result, the CD seemed to try too hard in too many directions, not quite succeeding in any of them. Again, I said "in my opinion"...:)

And the songs are more gender neutral. I mean, what is the point of including a man singing "Alfie" if he oddly leaves that name out of the lyrics? I don't want my music neutral, I can get that from a zillion hetero recordings. This is no fault of the very competent singers (Charlie Owens, Francis Cruz, Joan Almedilla, Nicole Roberts, Marnie Nicolella and Curtis Moore). The last two songs are male and female group numbers, nicely done. In fairness the liner notes say the intent was "an earnest belief in a united community among men and women in our community." 

This volume also added some more contemporary songs to the mix, like "True Colors," and I was surprised that "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)" worked very well, and the performance on "Michele" was beautiful. This time I'm giving you a song with  a man singing to a man AND a women singing to a woman. You decide how well it worked.

Volume 4, "The Stage Collection" takes 14 songs from the first three CDs, which leaves not much point if you have the first three....and actually, you can now buy used copies of the first three for less than $2 for them all. That's no reflection on the quality, I'm just reporting a real bargain. And of course I do not blame the producers for trying with Volume 4 to let their production gather some more sales.

I do wish the label had lasted longer. In 2001 it released a soundtrack I still love, "Bed Boys & Beyond." I got to see that show done at The Duplex in NYC so I was already chomping at the bit for the CD release. I also did a short interview with that show's writers, Jeff Dobbins and Alfredo Alvarez, on my March 2001 QMH show.

In 2001 the label also released the original cast recording of "Heading East," written by Leon Ko and Robert Lee, who were featured on Volumes 1 & 2 of the Stage series. It was, as I understand, the story of an Asian man conquering the American Dream, across many generations, and I do not believe there was any gay content. There have been a number of productions of the show over the years, since its 1998 debut.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

"I Am What I Am," in Spanish, by Sandra Mihanovich

Sandra Mihanovich has been a very popular Argentine singer since the early 1980's, and when "I Am What I Am" was still a new song (1984) she recorded her part dance version, to some acclaim in that country, and she's still singing it. I found videos of her doing the song, in Spanish, "Soy Lo Que Soy," one being a studio track, and many other live performances.

While it's always iffy research when googling foreign language websites, I gather that Mihanovich has not been all that publicly out of the closet. Her one-time partner, Celeste Carballo on the other hand, has been very open about being lesbian. In a 2004 interview in the UK magazine Diva, it was indicated that "Everybody knows that Sandra is a dyke. But, people say, she doesn't make a song and dance about it the way Cece does"

I found a video of Sandra and Celeste performing together, in 1988, and the album cover below, from 1990,  is a bit more explicit.


After I posted this blog entry an email correspondent of mine in Argentina wrote me that Sandra's mother was a TV celebrity there and it was she who would not allow Sandra to come out publicly. But Sandra did appear for the first time in the Gay Pride Parade last year. The way my friend described the coming out was that despite her mother "you cannot hide the sun with a finger. And 'soy lo que soy' was a sun for many of us...the first gay hit (sung by a lesbian) ever in Argentina after the dictatorship."