Lea Michele: The gay interview

Lea Michele

“No personal questions” is the caveat given to our Chris Azzopardi before he got on the phone with Lea Michele, TV’s Rachel Berry. It’s an acceptable caution, given the Glee star’s painfully tragic last year: Her on- and off-screen boyfriend, Cory Monteith, died suddenly on July 13 from a drug overdose.

Still, Azzo was about to get some frank comments from Lea about her emotional roller coaster and how those feelings of loss show up on Louder, her debut solo album, recorded around the time of Monteith’s passing. The singer dedicated “You’re Mine” to Monteith, and the crushingly beautiful “If You Say So” was inspired by his last words to her. “I can’t believe it’s true,” she laments on the latter. “I keep looking for you.”

Dallas Voice: How much of Louder is a reflection of your life and your own heartbreaks?  Lea Michele: I did not sing one word on the record that I could not incorporate into some experience in my life, whether it be current or past — every single song that I recorded is about me. It’s a peek into my life, past and present. Maybe it’s coming from my theater and performance background, but nothing felt right unless I could relate to it. I think it comes from being an actor, too. It had to be real for me. And not every song is about a current relationship or a current moment — I have songs on the album that I wrote about past relationships and past memories — but they all mean something to me.

The album is a throwback to an era when it was just about the voice, when Celine, Mariah and Whitney ruled the world. Were you inspired by any of these women while recording it?  I don’t think I’ve gone a day in my life without being inspired by Celine Dion. If you would’ve seen me at her concert in Las Vegas — like, I’m surprised I didn’t get kicked out. I was literally sitting at the edge of my seat like the happiest girl in the entire universe. But no, I’ve always been inspired by female performers and artists who really surround who they are around their voice. For me, it’s always been about the voice. I wanna hear someone just sit by a piano, on a stool and just sing — and that’s it! It’s never been about anything other than that for me. I always really wanted to make an album, and it was so important to me that I could be current and relevant and still fun, but at the same time show that I’m a singer — that’s what I pride myself on first and foremost.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: Debut trailer for upcoming HBO series about gay guys, ‘Looking’

looking01

January is fast becoming the season of gay TV premieres. Yesterday, I shared a video for Chozen, a gay animated comedy for FX; today, HBO one-ups FX with a live-action show that’s just as gay.

Looking is the highly anticipated new series from out actor-producer Jonathan Groff (guest actor on Glee and co-executive producer on Happy Endings). Groff stars as a gay man looking for love in San Francisco. Not surprisingly, it’s set to debut immediately after the third season premiere of Girls on Jan. 19 — so, we have the girls and the boys right after.

Based on the trailer — which you can see after the jump — it’s apparently along the lines of Queer as Folk with honest portrayals of love and sex … and some nudity (don’t worry, the trailer, at least, is safe for work).

Looks like the winter is heating up!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Dot-Marie Jones proposes to girlfriend

dot-marie-jonesGay Day at Walt Disney World in Florida takes place in June during Gay Pride Month, but at Disneyland in California, it’s a fall thing — in fact, it took place just this past weekend. And what better time for a gay wedding proposal.

Dot-Marie Jones, the Emmy-nominated actress who plays “The Beast,” Coach Shannon Beiste on Glee, proposed to her longtime girlfriend, Bridgett Casteen, at the amusement park this weekend. She called the day the “happiest of my life,” according to The Advocate.

It’s an eventful week for the Glee family. Cory Monteith, who played the popular Finn on the show and died this summer of a heroin-alcohol overdose, will receive his on-air farewell in an episode airing Thursday. (Check out a tear-inducing teaser for the ep after the jump.)

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

‘DWTS’ announces new cast

Premiere Of Relativity Media's "Act Of Valor" - ArrivalsMaybe it’s just my circle of friends, but I know more gay people who watch Dancing with the Stars than all other reality competition shows combined — with the exception of Project Runway and RuPaul’s Drag Race (hello!!??!). I’ve caught the show on occasion myself, though I’m not nearly as devoted to it as my friends. Still, even since Lance Bass was on, I do wait with anticipation for the big reveal of the cast to see what gays might be participating.

I’m usually disappointed.

But there always is some excitement anyway, just to see what hotties, horrors and “hmmmm”s the producers recruit.

The main hotties this year, of course, is former Disney Channel star Corbin Bleu (pictured — sigh); and Brant Daughtery, best known for appearing on the ABC Family series Pretty Little Liars (directed, interestingly enough, by former North Texan Norman Buckley, the gay brother of B’way star Betty Buckley). Former Dallas Cowboy player Keyshawn Johnson is also on deck, but the other men — Jack Osbourne, Bill Nye (the Science Guy) and Bill Engval — won’t be swoons from me.

Glee star Amber Riley is a gay fave among the women, but there are other gayish icons as well: Actress Valerie Harper (who, earlier this year, was expected to die soon from cancer, only to go into remission), Showgirls star Elizabeth Berkley and “Snooki” Polizzi (who, let’s face it, is basically a drag queen). Former Scientologist Leah Remini and singer Christina Milian round out the cast.

The season premiere is on Sept. 16.

 

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

REVIEW: Neil Patrick Harris brings the gay (but not all of it) to ‘Smurfs 2′

SMURFS2-PK-02_(bb0701033_lm_v2)

I was the wrong age to appreciate The Smurfs in their heyday — too old to be entertained, too young to appreciate them ironically — but the one thing I did know was this: A lot of little blue men living together with a single female whom none of them ever touch? Seemed kinda gay.

Well, it seems even more gay since they started making movies about them — with Neil Patrick Harris nonetheless! And his wife is played by Glee‘s Jayma Mays!

The Smurfs 2, a followup to the surprise hit of two years ago, does aim for a weird gay appeal, Broadway song-and-dance-man Harris notwithstanding. The antics can border on camp, with a sense of humor (the parts aimed at the adults, at least) skewed toward the flirtatious and sardonic (especially when John Oliver, as the Smurf known as Vanity, primps in from of him mirror). And the puzzling way in which the word “smurf” can be used as almost all parts of speech — noun, verb (“Smurfing fantastic!”), exclamation (“Smurf that!”), adjective (“She’s very smurfy”) — often recalls Jimmy Kimmel’s “unnecessary censorship” bit, making the imagined replacement word far worse than whatever the creatures could actually say in a PG film.

In fact, I’m not quite sure who the target audience is for Smurfs 2. The young kids in the preview screening I attended seemed delighted as long as goofy blue dwarves were flitting across the screen; when the smurfs slowed down to have sentimental conversations with live-action adults, they became as restless as boy wearing a hoodie in George Zimmerman’s neighborhood. But the wittier jokes — like Passive Aggressive Smurf, or the birthday party scene with snooty helicopter parents — are sandwiched between tons of nonsense. The 3D effect also adds nothing to the film, which is already loud, frantic and garish.

And yet, The Smurfs 2 isn’t bad, even when it isn’t good. It boasts Jonathan Winters’ avuncular voice as Papa Smurf (his final acting before he died), and Brendan Gleeson heartily hamming it up as Harris’ stepdad. It breezes along, wit Katy Perry singing the closing number (she’s Smurfette). And same-sex couples with kids could do a lot worse than having a gay role model who appears in family entertainment. The plot makes no sense, but did you expect it to? It’s the Smurfs, for crissakes. Count yourself lucky if the kiddos don’t beg for the DVD set of ’80s cartoons. Sitting through those? Now that would be a steaming pile of smurf.

Now playing in wide release.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

EXCLUSIVE: Uptown Players’ Pride Performing Arts Festival line-up

A&F copy

Freddy and Amy

For the third consecutive year, Uptown Players will put on a bonus series of plays to coincide with Dallas Gay Pride Week, including some returning favorites and several acclaimed off-Broadway shows.

Returning to the mainstage of the Kalita Humphreys Theater for the third annual Pride Performing Arts Festival will be Amy Armstrong and Freddy Allen, pictured above, two popular cabaret performers who were a draw at the first Pride Fest in 2011. They’ll open the series on Sept 5. The remaining shows will be performed at the upstairs Frank’s Place space. They are:

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Matthew Morrison: The gay interview

LMatthew1ast week, we reviewed Matthew Morrison’s solo CD, and frankly, we weren’t kind. But that has little to do with Morrison’s talent onstage and on the TV show Glee, as well as his bona fides as an ally of the LGBT community.

Morrison, who originated the studly Link Larkin during the Broadway run of Hairspray prior to a Tony nomination for his stint in The Light in the Piazza, sat down with our Chris Azzopardi to talk about his inspirations. The full interview is below.

Dallas Voice: Where did it all begin for you? When did you first start singing? Matthew Morrison: I first started singing in fifth grade. I grew up in Southern California and my parents took me to Arizona for the summer and my grandma put my cousin and I in a children’s theater production of this show called The Herdmans Go to Camp. I’m sure you’ve heard of it.

Yeah, it was big on Broadway, right? Exactly. It had a great run. [Laughs] So, it was this little made-up show and I was so lucky to have found my passion at such a young age in doing that show. I came back to Southern California after the summer and told my parents that I wanted to be in children’s theater and that started the whole thing.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

EXCLUSIVE: Shangela 2.0: For North Texan D.J. Pierce, life is a drag

Drag Race alum Shangela has had a crazy few years — but is still a Dallas girl at heart.

Pierce dishes about Glee, reflects on the Carnival Cruise controversy and his dear friend Sahara Davenport, and weighs in on the crowning of the new Drag Race All-Star.

CLICK HERE TO SEE PHOTOS FROM SHANGELA’S VISIT TO BJ’s NXS ON TUESDAY

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  |  Life+Style Editor

It’s been a crazy busy week for Drag Racer Shangela — and she’s not even on the show right now.

A native of Paris — that’s Texas, grrl, the second biggest city named Paris in the world — the drag diva known professionally as Shangela Laquifa Wadley (but, like Cher and Charo, goes mostly by just “Shangela”) still spends a fair amount of time in Dallas. That’s where D.J. Pierce (his real name) attended SMU with fellow Drag Racing Mustang Antoine Ashley, aka the late Sahara Davenport. But it wasn’t until Pierce moved to Los Angeles that the dresses called out.

“In college at SMU, I was a back-up dancer for [many drag queens], especially my girl Alyssa Edwards,” who will be on the upcoming fifth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race … “just never in drag,” Pierce explains. When he moved to L.A., he was set to do a show at Here Lounge when one of the queens didn’t make it in. That’s when a producer suggested he go on for her.

It was just a last-minute thing — Pierce knew all the moves and some friends had, as all good queens do, some extra dresses and wigs — so with very little planning, they made up the name Shangela and Pierce went on.

“The M.C. announced me as Shang-Ella,” he laughs. “But hey — it was just a one-night thing. What did it matter?”

Oh, it mattered. Someone at the club recommended Pierce return later for amateur night, which he did. Eventually, a talent scout saw him perform and suggested Pierce audition for the second season of Drag Race. Five months later, he was on the show — still the newest queen ever to compete.

Shangela didn’t go far that season — she was voted off in Episode 1, after lip-synching for her life against long-time friend Sahara — but that was only the start of a remarkable transformation.

I wanted Sahara to go on,” he says over sushi in Uptown this week. “We knew it was coming, because we really were friends. You could tell. But she came up to me and said, ‘You bring it!’ I’m a performer, so I did, and she did.”

Shangela then made history (again), becoming the first contestant to return to compete in Season 3, when she went much further. But winning the crown has not seemed to make a lot of difference in Pierce’s career.

On Thursday, Pierce will appear in drag as Shangela on Glee, an experience that he enjoyed on many levels.

“When I was on the set this summer, Chris Colfer [who plays Kurt] and I sat next to each other. He’s also a small-town boy, though he never did drag. I told him a new way to come up with a name was your favorite color and favorite flower, so that makes Colfer The Lady Chartreuse Bougainvillea. He also got to meet Sarah Jessica Parker, whom he loves.

The small role also gave Pierce a chance to demonstrate his many talents. (“I was hired [in part] because the role required a drag queen who could dance — we do a number to ‘Let’s Have a Kiki,’” he says.) Glee, though, is hardly Pierce’s first TV appearance. He did two pilots — one for NBC and Michael Patrick King, one for HBO, neither of which was picked up — as well as shots on Two Broke Girls (also produced by King — “he’s been great to me”), The Mentalist (“Simon Baker is fine! … Halleloo!”) and Community — sometimes in drag, sometimes out. He did have a featured role in a short-lived FX series called Terriers playing “a transgender with a heart of gold.” And of course, you can see Shangela hosting “Drag Network News” spots on Logo during Drag Race.

But this week is especially crazy for even more reasons. Pierce found himself in town for the holidays visiting family (and to celebrate his birthday, Nov. 22), so he made appearances at BJ’s NXS Tuesday night, where he sneak-peeked his new video, “Werqin’ Girl,” which drops on Saturday. He also has two live performances — one in Massachusetts, one in Fort Lauderdale — before the weekend, when Shangela goes on a week-long Drag Race cruise on a Carnival ship. That alone has caused a stir.

Earlier this week, the Carnival Cruise line released a letter to attendees warning against “inappropriate conduct in public areas” … which they defined as anyone (other than the performers while onstage) appearing in public in drag. The message was clear: Drag is shameful and not proper conduct. It has sent shock waves.

“I cringed when I saw it,” Pierce says. “My background is in communications and P.R. — for two years, I did crisis communications for TGIFridays — and they’ve dug themselves a hole. First was the Carnival letter. The AlandChuck.Travel [sent out a followup] which I thought would [settle things]. Instead, it said, ‘We’ll show them that we can follow the rules.’ I’ve been on Atlantis cruises, and those are let-loose parties where anything goes. But [everyone understands this is] a family cruise. Yet life is a drag — people have paid their money, they want to have a good time and you gotta let them be. What are they gonna do? Make you walk the plank?”

Pierce did feel some pressure to withdraw from appearing, but has opted to go on. After all, his fans expect to see him there. And there is an upside. “Maybe this experience will cause [Carnival] to reevaluate their policies. The reaction seemed extreme.”

Also this week was the reveal that Chad Michaels was crowned the first Drag Race all-star. While Pierce knows Chad some, she was not his pick to win. “Jujubee is my grrl,” Pierce says. “In my mind, I had not picked [Chad] as the winner. His illusion is good, I just never get that excitement from [watching Chad live].”

And then there’s Sahara, who died suddenly this fall. Pierce is still a wreck about it.

“It was rough — it’s still rough — though [her death] was not as big of a shock [to me] as for people who hadn’t seen her for a while,” he says somberly. “For [18 months], she’d been losing weight, looking tired — she didn’t look well. It was a downward spiral. My sister worked herself to death. She was a Dallas girl through and through. So am I — I may have done my first drag in California, but I’ll be a Texas queen forever.”

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Tex’n the City: Item No. 7 — Respect

With Veterans Day just over, and his 30th birthday just a month away, Brandon James Singleton has been thinking a lot about respect lately — No. 7 on his checklist of accomplishments before the big 3-0. Here’s the latest Tex’n the City.

All my life I’ve been taught to show respect. Towards my elders. My fellow man. Really, to everyone I interact with.

As you get older, it seems to get harder. You throw in people with anger management issues, and some people’s personal beliefs and prejudices cause that respect to fly out the window.

But I gotta take my checklist serious, and No. 6 is “respect.” How do I get that in my life?

Ever seen a personality color chart? For the last few years I’ve structured my life around ‘em. The one I learned from has four basic groups: Red, Green, Yellow, and Blue. They all represent something different: “Reds” react without thinking. “Greens” have a logical explanation for everything — in their heads, at least. “Yellows” are always prepared.

And finally, “Blues.” Whereas Greens are all facts and figures, Blues are completely thoughts and feelings. They utilize empathy well. They adapt how they’re feeling to suit the energy of those around them. Plus side: It’s like having a mama or papa bear around. If you’re sick or hurt or feeling down, leave it to Blue to do whatever to make it better. Down side: They allow themselves to easily get taken advantage of. And sometimes, if there’s a lot of Red and Green personalities around in a conflict, Blue won’t be the one backing you up when you need it. Only because they don’t want to make the other party feel worse.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

The gay interview: ‘PitchPerfect’s’ Rebel Wilson and Jason Moore

Everyone’s talking about Rebel Wilson lately. A scene-stealer in last year’s Bridesmaids — she played Kristen Wiig’s trashy roommate and mistook her live-in’s diary for a “very sad, handwritten book” — the Australian actress became a breakout star in two other roles earlier this year: What to Expect When You’re Expecting and Bachelorette; her pilot for the ABC series Super Fun Night also just got the green light.

It’s now, though, that’s she’s becoming a household name as Fat Amy, the I-am-who-I-am collegiate mermaid dancer who gets all the boys and belts her butt off as part of an all-girl a cappella group in the his new film in Pitch Perfect.

Our Chris Azzopardi sat down with this Rebel (prawled on a couch all cozy-looking in a track jacket and hand bling that spells out her name, Wilson)  and out director Jason Moore, directing his first film. They chatted in her dry-wit way about stealing the role from Adele, why the gay community will find Fat Amy empowering and her tips for killing an a cappella audition (hint: Lady Gaga).

Moore Rebel

Pitch Perfect star and director on what’s so gay about the movie, outsiders and spotting lesbians

 Dallas Voice: This is a gay press interview, so all of these questions will be very gay.  Rebel Wilson: Oh, cool. It’s a pretty gay movie. You’ve got a lesbian character, and I think most of the Treblemakers, the boy band, are gay. What about that scene where there’s, like, nine dudes in a hot tub … naked? That’s totally gay.

The gay community can be fickle about gay characters. Did you worry about portraying the lesbian character a certain way so it wouldn’t come off as stereotypical?  Jason Moore: I don’t know what you’re talking about. [Laughs] In a way, we were looking at all stereotypes. So yes, she’s a lesbian and they mistake her for a man at the beginning — but also, she’s got this beautiful shock of hair, she is quite fun and feminine in the way she moves; she’s got an amazing voice and she’s not afraid to be herself in the world. Are lesbians going to take offense to that character? I don’t think so, but we’ll ask them.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones