Chasing Amy: Wherein we reflect on Christian musician Amy Grant’s first interview with the gay press

Amy Grant

This weekend, the Dallas/Fort Worth Ultimate Women’s Expo takes place at the Cowtown Convention Center, and the headliners on Sunday will be Christian music icon Amy Grant.

Now, everyone knows Dallas has one of the biggest gay Christian contingents in the world (the Cathedral of Hope is a huge congregation, and that’s just one church), but Grant — the most famous singer about faith for more than 20 years — doesn’t seem like the kind to make a surprise appearance at an CoH choral rehearsal.

But our Chris Azzopardi — himself a lapsed Catholic — couldn’t resist the chance to interview Grant last month … her first-ever interview with the gay press. And with Grant coming to town — and her first new album in 10 years, How Mercy Looks from Here, dropping today — we thought we’d run this piece by Azzo about pursuing his childhood hero … and how the interview almost didn’t happen.

By Chris Azzopardi

Back in the mid-’90s, I watched from my seat at The Palace of Auburn Hills, just outside Detroit, as kids circled Amy Grant onstage with overzealous glee while she sang “Say You’ll Be Mine.” I wanted to get in on that dance carousal to be as close to this woman — my childhood idol — as possible. I wanted that so badly. Shy little me just couldn’t find the gumption for that. I was intimidated by the throngs. And her.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Expressing herself: The Madonna interview

Madonna didn’t snag an Oscar nomination this year — not for her directorial effort or the song she wrote for it in the film W./E., about the romance between the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Warfield Simpson. But she still made an impact, in this Chris Azzopardi interview with the Material Girl.

Here it is:

Madonna expresses herself

With all of Madonna’s metamorphoses throughout her balls-out career, slipping in and out of cultural zeitgeists (and accents), the queen chameleon is still the master of reinvention. Just don’t tell her that.

“Please don’t throw those tired, old clichés at me,” Madonna playfully insists, nodding her head in half-kidding agitation. (Hey, at least I didn’t mention hydrangeas.)

Her annoyance is marked with a cheekiness — and a smile — that only the Material Girl could pull off, which has for three decades. The indelible diva drops her hyped 12th album, MDNA, in March via a three-disc deal with Interscope; she plans to launch an extensive world tour; and this weekend, readies for perhaps the gayest Super Bowl halftime ever. That’s just music; feature-length directorial debut W.E., was just nominated for an Oscar for costume design.

In fact, all she cares to talk about now is the film, a semi-biopic on Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII dovetailed with a modern-day love story centered on fictionalized damsel-in-distress Wally Winthrop.

Seated at a Waldorf-Astoria suite with others in the gay press, Madonna is in her groove. She knows we get her even when she’s wielding snarky cracks. Looking flawless at 53, she delivers exactly what we want: Madonna. No pretense. No filter. No warm-and-fuzzy.

Read it all after the jump.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

REVIEW: ‘Mad Fashion’ excruciating

Bravo sends me every screener they can. I mean every one. Not only series and season premieres, but sometimes individual midseason episodes of their gayish shows. (I got a screener of the second season of Work of Art in my DVD player right now.)

So why, I wondered, did I have to learn about the new series Mad Fashion from on-air promos? Why no press releases, no screeners? Why did I have to watch it on debut night like everyone else?

Now I understand: Mad Fashion is mad bad.

In the unending trend of all reality TV shows including at least one former reality star among its cast or guest judges, Mad Fashion stars former Project Runway designer Chris March. March, pictured, was a fan favorite, a zaftig, lisping teddy bear with a drag queen’s sensibility whose droll, heavy-lidded pronouncements of fashion and outrageous designed seemed destined to grab attention if not praise from the judges. March is the star of this new half-hour show, wherein he and his crew (he spends most of the first episode, which premiered Tuesday night, introducing them it seemed) come up with tacky takes on haute couture to their horrified but equally delighted clients.

March was a hoot on Project Runway, but here, he seems catatonic and distracted, walking through the reality TV cliches (direct addresses to the camera, coyly sowing (sewing?) controversy among his staff and clients, etc., all while sounding like the bastard child of South Park‘s Mr. Slave and Roseanne Barr.

Everyone knows all reality TV is scripted, but the ability to make it feel improvised is what sets the good apart from the bad. March doesn’t possess that skill, so nearly every scene feels excruciatingly posed. Mercifully, the series forces us to endure its fake grotesqueries in only 30-minute increments. I suspect we won’t have many of those either. If Bravo doesn’t wanna preview this uber-gay fashion series to the gay press … well, that tells you something.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Beyoncé: ‘4’ the gays

Below is Q Syndicate writer and Dallas Voice contributor Chris Azzopardi’s piece on his exclusive talk with the Queen Bey: About gay fans, loving Lady Gaga and remaking A Star Is Born.

If there’s any girl who runs the world, it’s Beyoncé. The reigning diva — she’s called Queen Bey for a reason, people — is one of the biggest and best voices behind a long run of hits dating back to the late ‘90s, when she was part of supreme girl-group Destiny’s Child.

Now, years later, Beyoncé still demonstrates just how irreplaceable she is as a solo artist, having released four albums (the latest called, appropriately, 4 — reviewed here) with some of the most memorable and gay-celebrated singles in pop music history. Not every artist can say they’ve had a gay boy lead a football team to glory by performing “Single Ladies,” as seen on Glee. And not every artist can say they have 16 Grammy Awards, making her one of the most honored artists in Grammy history.

But that’s Queen Bey, who has also assembled a gaggle of gay fans who are crazy in love with her.

Here’s our exclusive chat with the singer/actress/glamour-girl, her first gay press interview since 2006.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Concert Notice: Joan as Police Woman to play Club Dada in April

The last time I wrote about Joan as Police Woman, she opened for Rufus Wainwright back in November 2009. I can’t say she impressed me much, but whatevs. I will say that I’ve gone to listen to some of her recordings and am quickly getting on board. Just in time too because the indie music lady comes to Dallas on her own playing at the thankfully reborn Club Dada in Deep Ellum. And come to find out, she plays for our team — we think.

Trish Bendix over at AfterEllen wrote up this piece last month where Joan Wasser (yes, the same Joan) apparently told Bendix she’s bi:

It might not surprise you, then, that Joan is queer. “Surprise” only because you might know she famously dated Jeff Buckley before he tragically drowned in 1997, a fact that likely haunts her in every discussion of her musical career. But there is no trace of her discussing her sexuality, which she once told me a few years ago was not-so-straight.

After she’d written me (via MySpace, remember that?) to let me know she was bisexual (after I’d inquired, mind you — gaydar in action), she gave me her publicist’s contact information so that I could set up an interview. I was denied, unfortunately, which is (also unfortunately) part of the job when it comes to being from the gay press. But upon hearing some music from Joan’s new album, I knew I had to try again. And this time, she had a new publicist, who, like Joan, wasn’t going to position her as something she’s not.

We’re used to that game of nebulous orientation. It’s just something we like to point out. Really, I’m just hoping she brings along her entourage from “The Magic” video to the show. Right??

Spune presents Joan as Police Woman at Club Dada, 2720 Elm St. April 29 at 10 p.m. $10. Click here for tickets.

—  Rich Lopez

Gay vote for GOP shows change in trend

Exit polls shows 1-in-3 voters who self-identified as gay voted Republican. Do we no longer see GOP as automatically anti-gay?

Matthew Tsien | Special Contributor

We learned a lot about gay voters in this last election — at least, you did if you have an open mind and a discerning intellect.

According to Fox News, which some gays do watch, 31 percent or more of self-identified gay voters in exit polls said they voted for the Republican Party. That is one in three gay voters, and more than the normal GOP base in the gay community of one in four.

That means a considerable number of gay Democrats and independents defected to the party opposing Obama/Pelosi.

Most gays will be shocked that gay people voted for what is supposed to be a party of rampant, uncontrollable, domineering, hyper-extreme homophobia. Well, at least that’s what most gays who live in a gay bubble all their intellectual and social lives would think.

Actually the number of gay people who voted for the GOP might even be 5-to-10 percent higher, since not every gay is inclined to self-identify as gay in an exit poll.

These numbers do tell us something very profound and unshakable about the gay political psyche, and it is not about self-loathing and being in the closet.
Instead, gay voters going to the GOP is strong indication that many gays no longer believe that the world — or even the GOP — is nearly as homophobic as the gay press and political class make it out to be.

Simply put, many gays have walked away from the once-popular notion of homophobia dominating the world according to the gay journalism universe. And they’re tired of being called “nut jobs” and in need of psychiatric help if they don’t vote Democratic or for more government.

Furthermore, many — approximately 30-to-40 percent embrace the Republican position of less taxes, less government, less bailouts, less deficits, less massive foreign borrowing, less Obamamania — and more freedom to run your own life, even the freedom to fail.

Gays know that HIV funding does not disappear with a GOP Congress. They also know that job protection does not evaporate if Republicans take over the government. And many gays just are not interested in marriage since it is set up for heterosexuals with all the potential traumatic divorce laws and financial devastation that accompanies traditional marriage. The trap of marriage equality is simply not a first and foremost concern to many thoughtful gay people.
Gay people were very involved with the Tea Party, phone bank operations and a multitude of effective get-out-the-vote efforts to help the Republicans win a historical election and deliver a massive repudiation of the extreme elements that have defined the first two years of Obama.

And that’s a fact worth noting.

Matthew Tsien is the former public affairs director for the Washington, D.C. chapter of Log Cabin Republicans and a graduate of the National Journalism Center.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 12, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Concert Notice: Jay Brannan returns to Dallas this December

It is my duty to report to you that gay musician Jay Brannan will be coming to Dallas this December. He returns to The Loft where he played last summer. I profiled him before that show which I thought went well. After my review of his show, it all went downhill. Brannan himself commented the following on our little ole Instant Tea blog.

jay brannan
Posted on July 21, 2009 at 1:17 pm (Edit)

based on how nasty you and your boss have been to me, i regret giving you an interview at all, especially when i really didn’t have the time, went out of my way to speak with you, and i only do a limited amount of gay press (b/c they are always so entitled and bitchy and critical as you both have been in your writing)

i assure you i will never do anything with the dallas voice again!

and i can’t believe i even gave you free tickets to the show!

jay

Of course, that second to last line kinda burst our bubble, but still, we only want his fans to know he’s coming back. Last year’s show was a packed house. He’s set to play The Loft on Dec. 14. Doors at 7:30. Tickets are on sale right now.

—  Rich Lopez

Sen. Cornyn: How could I be pandering to the gays when I’m not even up for re-election?

Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, says there’s no way he could be pandering for votes and money by attending a dinner for a gay group six weeks before the mid-term elections — because he’s not even on the ballot this year.

Cornyn, who’s never before spoken to the gay press, made the statement in a direct message to Dallas Voice on Twitter on Aug. 1, two days after he was accused of pandering in a post on this blog. We didn’t notice the Twitter message in our Inbox until this week.

Cornyn has consistently voted against gay rights in the Senate, receiving a zero from the Human Rights Campaign on its Congressional Scorecard, and he’s advocated for a federal ban on gay marriage as recently as this year. Now, with the election looming, he’s agreed to speak at the National Dinner of the Log Cabin Republicans, the gay GOP group.

As chair of the Senatorial Committee, Cornyn is over Republican re-election efforts this year. We suggested that he’s trying to scrounge up money and votes for Republicans from gays around the country by appearing at Log Cabin. But Cornyn seemed to have forgotten about his role as committee chair when he sent the Twitter message. He suggested that he couldn’t be pandering because he’s not up for re-election until 2014. Again, the Instant Tea post to which Cornyn was responding is here, and here’s a screen grab of his Twitter message, in which he appears to specifically address our criticism related to the timing of the dinner, which will be held Sept. 22:

We tried to send Cornyn a direct-message response, but we were unable to do so because he isn’t a follower of Dallas Voice on Twitter. So we sent him a public response requesting an interview. He has not responded.

John, if you’re reading this, we’d love to talk to you. Instant Tea is officially nonpartisan. You may get a chance to prove you’re not pandering by voting for a repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which could come to the Senate floor around the same time as the Log Cabin dinner.

Until then, we’re inclined to agree with the Texas Observer, which has a post up today mentioning Cornyn’s appearance at the Log Cabin dinner. Congressman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, who’s over the House campaign committee, is also slated to appear. From the Observer:

So why would these two leading gay-rights opponents — Republicans from a state where gay people can’t even get divorced, and the governor can’t stop bashing them — attend such a function? Because their job is to raise campaign cash. While marriage might be reserved for certain people, and while gays might make a handy punching-bag when you want to throw some red meat at the hardcore right-wing folk out there, money is money. Priorities are priorities.

—  John Wright

Queens of the deserted

‘Project Runway’ alums Austin Scarlett and Santino Rice go ‘On the Road’ in the American heartland —and the Midwest may never be the same

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor jones@dallasvoice.com

Ont the road
TWO WRONG FOOLS | Thanks for everything, guys: Your traveling fashion reality series is a hoot.

4.5 out of 5 stars
ON THE ROAD WITH AUSTIN AND SANTINO
airs Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. on Lifetime.  Watch episodes online at MyLifetime.com.

There are three big surprises about the new Lifetime Network series On the Road with Austin and Santino. First is how damned entertaining it is; second is how Lifetime made no effort to market it to the gay press; and third is how that it is on Lifetime at all — it seems ideal for Logo or Bravo.

Come to think of it, the third may explain the second. But let’s stick with the first.

For those who haven’t been addicted to Project Runway for a few years, Austin is Austin Scarlett and Santino is Santino Rice, also-rans in the first two seasons of the series but fan favorites for their personalities: Austin, the fey, face-powdered Quentin Crisp dandy; and Santino, the butch, cutthroat bisexual. Sharing the screen, they present as a queer Felix and Oscar, i.e., ones who know how to throw a half-lip stitch and cut on the bias.

The premise of the series is a kind of traveling Queer Eye for the Straight Gal, where the fashionistas visit small-town tomboys and make for them one faboo gown to wow their friends and family.

That’s the premise, but it’s not what the show is about. No, it is about the fish-out-of-water picaresque that puts a flamboyant odd couple in the heartland: RuPaul’s Drag U Meets Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
And it’s effin’ brilliant.

After only three episodes (the fourth will air after press time) — one of which was to nearby Weatherford — On the Road already deserves cult status. The highlight of the series so far: Austin flouncing into a general store in rural Antlers, Okla., beret jauntily askew, and sashaying through the aisles of Wranglers and gingham while the stunned proprietor and his son stare — polite stares, but stares nonetheless.

Not only is the show touching in the predictable but effective Queen for a Day tradition (with the added sweetness of Austin and Santino’s sometimes prickly but loving pas-de-deux), it’s a remarkably empowering bit of social acclimatization, as two queer men withhold judgment on Red State America while Red State America withholds judgment on them. Could it be gay acceptance has come so far that even in the “deer capital of the U.S.” two fashion designers can be welcomed with open arms and open hearts?

It is if this show has anything to say about it.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 20, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens