Balladeer Michael Buble talks about his music and his gay fans
You know what I’ll be Googling tonight: Bublé, gay, queer, all that stuff,” says Michael Bublé one recent afternoon, after being informed that said search terms render colorful results. All you lovers, though, needn’t search beyond the dreamy crooner’s recently released album, Nobody But Me, and its 10 feel-good tunes, including several new originals and reimagined classics gleaned from the Great American Songbook.
Love, naturally, is featured prominently on Bublé’s ninth studio album, as well as in our recent chat, during which the affable ally spoke about the “joy” the LGBT community has brought him and the importance of standing up for queer issues. And no, not solely because he’s a staunch LGBT-rights advocate — when his kids grow up and read this interview, he says it’s important to him that they feel “proud.”
— Chris Azzopardi
Dallas Voice: In 2010, you performed on a stage you deemed “phallic” because it resembled a penis. Then, a gay man threw you his keys, and you were not shy about bending over and picking them up. Buble: I remember! That was a guy named Paul O’Grady, and he’s very famous in the U.K. He does an act where he dresses up as a woman, who is also very famous, almost like Dame Edna. He’s a sweetie pie. I was so happy that he did that that night because it just gave me so much.
How would you describe the affection for you from the gay community? The truth is, I don’t think I could’ve given them as much joy as they’ve given me. I’m in a business where, as you can imagine, I’m surrounded by the gay community. I mean, that’s just my life. I’m an artist, and so I’m surrounded by other artists. And everyone from my hair stylist who lives with me on the road to [my stylist] Jeff Kim, who puts me in my suits every day — I mean, god, the question isn’t who’s gay? The question is, who isn’t? And by the way, the ones that seem the most macho, they’re probably gay.
Now would be a good time to talk about how your wife, Luisana Lopilato, thought you were gay when she first met you. Yes, she walked in this room with a man, and the man was so good lookin’ that he made Brad Pitt look dumpy, so I assumed they were together. I naturally assumed that this was her boyfriend or her husband, so I refused to hit on her. And listen, it didn’t help that she didn’t speak English either at the time. Not a word. But the more I drank that night, the more brazen I got about trying to find out what the situation was between them. Finally, after two hours — and I don’t know how many shots and glasses of whiskey — I finally said, [in a drunken slur], “You guys are such a beautiful couple,” and he said, “We’re not together.” He said, “She came because she likes you.” And at the same time, she was on the phone texting her mom saying, “Oh my god, Michael Bublé is all over my friend. He’s so gay.”
She knows you’re straight now, right? [Laughs] I assume so. I mean, after the kids. Also, I assume she thinks I’m not gay when every night I say, “Mmmmm?!” and she says, “No, I have a headache.”
You recently donated items that were auctioned off to benefit the Stonewall National Monument. To be honest, I’m doing more because of [my publicist] Liz Rosenberg. There’s something I have in the works. There’s the Harvey Milk High School that she was talking about here in New York, and I want to help there, too. Listen, I love being able to spout words, but sometimes you gotta put your money where your mouth is. [Liz] said, “Should I call your manager to find out if he thinks it’s OK?” So she called my manager and my manager said, “Why are you asking me? Of course!”
How long before there was a pic of you suggestively eating corn on the cob did you become aware of your gay following? I think it was hours. Hours! You know, that day I took my godson, my best friend and his wife to Disneyland, and I was looking after him because he’s a little guy. He’s 4 years old and he had this corn, and butter was everywhere. So, I was trying to help him with napkins, and then I grab mine and it was dripping… and my first thought was… oh god, you know what I mean. It was just the worst timing ever. The truth is, I had fun with it. There are so many terrible things you could do to land in the press or go viral with, and if that’s the worst thing, then you know what, I just gotta laugh at myself.
But seriously: When did you know you had a gay following? Listen, I’m not Madonna. I don’t look out and see thousands of gay couples out at the shows, but even at the start, man, when I played the Blue Note [a jazz club in Greenwich Village]. I’ll tell you the honest truth: I played the Blue Note 16 years ago, and the other night I had a show there, and I’m still close with one of the first fans I ever had in America. Forget about the world. In America. And his name is Johnny Blue Note, and he’s about 6-foot-5, a New Yorker with a huge personality, and he’s beautiful. I got sentimental the other night. I did a big radio show to open up the record, and I looked into this little, intimate club, and there was Johnny Blue Note. And I got sentimental. I talked about [him] during the show.
So, I think from the very start there was Johnny. That was my first ever gig, and one of my greatest fans and harshest critics was Johnny. He was my foray into my relationship with the gay community and me as an entertainer. Even before my music director was Alan Chang, there was Bryant Olender and Bryant is this really smart, funny, talented, slutty, very gay musical director.
You say you’re no Madonna, but still, you’ve performed with several gay icons: Barbra Streisand, Mariah Carey, Kylie Minogue… Kylie Minogue, yes. I sang with her, and actually, I was supposed to see her in Vancouver. She was going to come over and have tea with me, but I had to fly to Europe. She had been there and was going to come over, because I happened to sing with her on a Rod Stewart special and we really got on and liked each other, so I was just gonna hang out with her literally weeks ago.
And Elton John is somebody I’ve gotten to know. I love him very much. Obviously, we don’t have to talk about how talented he is — we know how talented he is. He’s also really warm and effusive with me, and I just saw him in Vegas. I went backstage and gave him a big hug. He was so happy, and he really enjoyed being there. It’s funny, man, because I gotta guess that there are people out there who are gay in this business but won’t tell anyone.
Have you met these closeted stars? Yeah, I meet them and I get the impression. And listen, I’m not gonna be the guy who outs the person, but it always made me wonder: “Why?” I understand if they are afraid, or they don’t want to tell their parents, but the fact that it could be a question within this business of hurting your business is just mind-blowing to me. … But I have the worst gaydar ever. I really do have the worst gaydar. I could be hanging with somebody and my friends will be like, “Michael, he was hitting on you hard,” and I’m like, “What are you talking about — he’s just a really nice guy!” Sometimes I don’t pick up the shit people are puttin’ down.
If a gay couple asked you to sing any of the songs off this new album at their wedding, which would you sing and why? Aww. I think maybe “The Very Thought of You.” Love is love. And I think that would be a really beautiful, romantic first dance.
In the past, you’ve man-crushed on Blake Shelton and One Direction’s Niall Horan. Who are you currently man-crushing on? There’s a couple of them. My No. 1 man crush is probably John Oliver; the other is Trevor Noah. Goddamn — what a stunning South-African man. You know what I love, man? I love that they’re self-deprecating and funny, and I know they’re empathetic because their point of view tells me that. Obviously, they’re liberal, progressive, self-confident; they have a great sense of humor. I just love that. Neil deGrasse Tyson, too. And the late [author] Christopher Hitchens. If you can man crush on a dead guy, I am man-crushin’ on a dead guy. [Linguist and philosopher] Noam Chomsky, I love. I’m trying to think of people I spend most of my evenings with, because this is who I spend most of my evenings with. Oh, Lawrence Krauss, the greatest astrophysicist. Honestly, their intelligence and skill at orating just… I mean, I’m wet.
Is it true that your Uncle Frank and Uncle Mike, who have been together for over 40 years, taught you acceptance and open-mindedness? With or without them, the truth is, my father and my mother were so progressive, and I’m so lucky that my father just made it very simple. He just said, “It’s nature. A man can love a man and a woman can love a woman, and this doesn’t just happen with human beings — it’s science. It happens in nature. It happens with almost every animal.” Having two boys of my own who I love more than I’ll ever love myself, I can’t tell you how crushing it would be if they couldn’t feel that they could tell their father that they were gay — or different in any way. To me, [because of them], it just became a much bigger issue.
If one of your sons were to come out to you, how might you respond? With nothing but love. And I’m not saying that to you because it’s you or the magazine. It’s because I love them, man. I love them so much that I just want them to be happy. My goal in life is to make them beautiful, happy human beings, and if that’s who they are — because I’m killed, just devastated, when I hear people saying they “choose.” “Choose?” What are you fucking talking about? You don’t choose. It isn’t a choice. It is genetic.
And I understand some people have an issue with the whole marriage thing and the sanctity of this word “marriage.” I mean, I don’t get it, but I can choose to listen to their point and hear it. I don’t agree with it. I always joke, everyone jokes: Why can’t gay people be just as miserable as straight people who are married? But listen to me, we are in a world — a dangerous world — right now, and if you’re not standing up against intolerance, then you’re for it. God, I sounded like George W. fucking Bush right there, holy shit. “If you’re not with us, you’re against us!”
As an ally with a massive platform, it’s important for you to say that for this movement to move forward. I agree. And you know what, I think people are so afraid of losing fans.
Are you afraid of that? No, no. I’m not. Because you know what, years from now, when my kids grow up and they read this, they’re going to be proud of their father because their father was on the right side of the line.
There are a lot of people, and time does this, who are going to be severely embarrassed for their bias and intolerance. And they’re going to have to live with that; that’s going to be their legacy. I refuse to have that as part of my legacy.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 11, 2016.