Jack Antonoff of fun. — the gay interview

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Jack Antonoff, far right, has no problem endorsing gay rights even though he’s straight.

The breakout single that sent the New York-based band’s sophomore album, Some Nights, soaring — “We Are Young” — entered the pop-culture zeitgeist almost overnight with commercial spots and a Glee rendition — and on Sunday won the group Grammys for song of the year and best new artist. Their ubiquitous earworms gave them a platform for repeatedly coming out in  support of equal rights for gays.

In this interview with Chris Azzopardi prior to the Grammys, Jack Antonoff, fun.’s 28-year-old guitarist, talks about being drawn to the gay community’s “inspiring” ways of uniting in the face of oppression, the stigma of being a straight man who doesn’t care about the fight and how he loves Lena Dunham like a lesbian.

Dallas Voice: You’re one of the gay community’s biggest supporters, and you’ve been very outspoken about it. When and why did gay issues become so important to you?  Antonoff: I wish there was a great story or a poetic answer, but I just don’t know how anyone could not be outspoken and enraged with any violation of human rights. If the government decided tomorrow to strip Jews or African-Americans of certain rights, no one would say, “How did you get involved with Jews’ human rights, blah blah blah?” It would just be this universal violation that we would all be up in arms about. But the issue of gay, bisexual and trans rights, the discrimination is so ingrained in us that it’s this slow-moving process of people realizing how shameful it is, the way we treat our citizens. Anyone who is even remotely cognizant is speaking up and fighting for equal rights.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Starvoice • 02.17.12

By Jack Fertig

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAY

David Geffen turns 69 on Tuesday. The out record executive and film producer has been among the richest Americans according to Forbes magazine having an estimated net worth of $4 billion and some change. He was recently awarded the President’s Merit award for his contributions to the music industry at this month’s 53rd Grammy Awards.

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THIS WEEK

Mercury in Pisces now semi-sextile to Venus in Aries suggests one of those old screwball comedies where mad impulses and misunderstandings lead to love and happiness. Charm and humor will conquer all.

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AQUARIUS  Jan 20-Feb 18
Don’t be afraid of arguments. New angles of discussion open your mind to intriguing new ideas. A little shock adds extra value. The trick is to accept challenges more than you offer them.

PISCES  Feb 19-Mar 19
Being garrulous, will open doors. Some you may want to shut again in a hurry. Still the good outweighs the bad. Listen more than you talk, but speak up and you’ll hear something important.

ARIES  Mar 20-Apr 19
Use any disagreement as a test of your diplomatic skills. The voices in your head are offering advice, not orders. Think before acting but don’t worry, you’re not crazy.

TAURUS  Apr 20-May 20
Make social commitments as tentative as you can. Your friends want your company and social occasions areadvantageous, but you might be even better off quietly with a few well-chosen pals.

GEMINI  May 21-Jun 20
Don’t let social temptations distract you from your career. Use them to network. Be attentive to moves behind the scenes and disappointments that could prove to be blessings in disguise.

CANCER  Jun 21-Jul 22
Engage confusing new ideas. Clarity will come. Intellectual and aesthetic challenges bring opportunities to advance professionally and socially. Don’t be afraid to ask friends or experts to help.

LEO  Jul 23-Aug 22
Your sexual allure opens erotic treasures or Pandora’s box. Sublimation can help your career. Dangers lurk at indulgence. Use foresight and look for opportunities outside the bedroom.

VIRGO  Aug 23-Sep 22
A long phase in your life begins where relationships are more complicated. Impulses open hidden depths and new communications with your lover. Mixed signals are part of the process.

LIBRA  Sep 23-Oct 22
Your efforts to help are easily seen as aggressive meddling. Ask first if your suggestions would be welcome. Attending to your own tasks is usually the better way to set an example.

SCORPIO  Oct 23-Nov 21
As strong as your feelings are steel yourself to welcome constructive criticism as an opportunity to improve. Real friends are not flatterers, but tell the truth.

SAGITTARIUS  Nov 22-Dec 20
Uncovering family treasures helps you realize how much you have to offer in your work. Talking with family elders? Pay special attention to the family’s health history.

CAPRICORN  Dec 21-Jan 19
Check and double-check your facts very carefully. Right or wrong, you are also likely to anger people in charge. Take it slow and easy; be diplomatic.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 17, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

BREAKING: Singer Whitney Houston dead at 48

It has just been reported that singer Whitney Houston has died. According to the Associated Press, no further details are known at this time. From ABC News.

Houston’s publicist, Kristen Foster, said Saturday that the singer had died, but the cause and the location of her death were unknown.

News of Houston’s death came on the eve of music’s biggest night — the Grammy Awards. It’s a showcase where she once reigned, and her death was sure to case a heavy pall on Sunday’s ceremony. Houston’s longtime mentor Clive Davis was to hold his annual concert and dinner Saturday; it was unclear if it was going to go forward.

—  Rich Lopez

Quiet Legend

Iconic crooner Johnny Mathis still has insecurities about music

 

2007-Pose-1
MATHIS EASY | For years, Mathis refrained from talking about his being gay, calling it a ‘generational thing.’ Now he laughs that, as a septuagenarian, there isn’t much to talk about anymore.

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

 

In a career tenure exceeding 50 years, Johnny Mathis has touched many with his singing — witness his three Grammy Awards and a listing in the Guinness Book of World Records for having sold 350 million albums worldwide. It’s enough to make a man an icon.

You wouldn’t know it to talk to him. Without much ego, Mathis doesn’t deny or disparage his accomplishments, but neither does he relish them. It’s only when someone brings up his achievements that he thinks about what he’s done in the world.

“Once in a while, I’ll get an inkling of it,” he says. “The only time I get euphoric about my career is when people with extraordinary circumstances in their lives — illness, deaths, stuff like that — say how my music has helped along the way. You try to live up to some of this stuff and so you take care of these God-given talents. It can be a little humbling.”

When Mathis steps on the stage of the Meyerson this week for two concerts with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, it marks a homecoming of sorts. He was born in Gilmer and his memories of Texas include the same heat that Dallas has been beaten with this summer.; some things never change. Surprisingly, what has also remained the same are doubts about his own talents. The voice stuff, he’s got down; the rest — he’s working on those.

“I’ve always been insecure about not being a better musician,” the silk-voiced crooner admits. “I’m always a bit hesitant about my talents mostly because I wasn’t playing piano lessons or how to read music. I didn’t learn about harmony and theory and I was never good at that. That did tend to make me reticent in everyday life.”

That reticence extends to other areas. After famously coming out in the early 1980s in a interview with Us magazine, he soon after retracted it, due, he later explained, to death threats. When he later discussed his views on homosexuality, he said that some of his reluctance was generational.

Now, though, he has good humor about it, and with a quiet air of class, he stands for that community that felt they had to hide to get by.

“It was hard enough for my [gay] fans while growing in the business,” he recalls. “They treaded pretty lightly but they knew about me. I had their blessings and everybody pretty much knew what was going on. I never had any issues really with it but everybody then took it as their own business.”

He doesn’t go into any specifics about the current state of his private life, joking, “I’m 75 — what’s there to talk about?”

Last year, Mathis released Let it Be Me: Mathis in Nashville. Known for his jazz and pop standards like “Chances Are” and “Misty,” this collection of country classics may sound like a departure for Mathis, but he has made those tunes his own working in his sophisticated signature style without stripping away the heart of each track. The collection was a sort of tribute to his father.

“I was jazzed to be able to do those songs,” he points out. “My dad was born and raised in Texas and he was a singer and piano player. He would sing these songs and those were the first songs I remember hearing. Plus, I’ve always been a fan. I play golf with Larry Gatlin and Vince Gill and we’re all sort of on the same page musically.” (The album earned him another Grammy nomination for best traditional pop vocal album earlier this year.)

With all his superstar friends, awards and concerts, Mathis doesn’t forget he’s a Texan. At one time, he might have, but a different sort of pride has surfaced within him.

“ I love that I was born in Gilmer,” he declares. “Because we were poor, we just had each other. I always thought I wouldn’t tell anybody I was from Texas because I thought it sounded ragtag. As I grew, I discovered a certain sophistication about it. Then I became proud of the fact — of who I am, what I am and where I’m from.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 19, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

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

‘Born This Way’ truly is an LGBT anthem

No matter what machinations may be hiding in the background, the message shines through in the new song from Lady Gaga

RAFAEL MCDONNELL | Special Contributor

Last Friday, Feb. 11, as I drove into work, I listened to Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way” on the music player built into my cell phone. I mention that because I’ve never been the most technically-proficient person. In fact, among my friends and family, I’m known as a “late adopter” of technology.

Yet, I daresay that I likely wasn’t the only person to listen to the song that way, that day.

You couldn’t go anywhere last weekend without bumping into “Born This Way.” From restaurants, clubs and shops to radio, TV and the Grammy Awards, the song was everywhere. According to Billboard magazine, “Born This Way” was downloaded nearly 450,000 times between that Friday and Sunday, Feb. 13 — setting a record for a female artist.

The song also debuted at number one on the “Billboard Hot 100” this week. Only 19 songs have done that since 1958, including those by Elton John, Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey and Aerosmith.

But before this column turns into a Casey Kasem imitation, let me say I’m mentioning these statistics for a reason.

It’s not important if “Born This Way” sounds like a song Madonna released in the late 1980s. It doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of Lady Gaga or not. It also doesn’t matter why she recorded the song — whether it is a paean to her LGBT fans or merely a cynical marketing ploy to sell a product.

The rapid pervasiveness of “Born This Way,” much as the “It Gets Better” videos did last fall, has the potential to spread discussions of LGBT issues far from Oak Lawn, Greenwich Village or West Hollywood. It transcends borders of geography, race, class, social status and history. How could it not, with lyrics like “No matter gay, straight, or bi/ Lesbian, transgendered life/ I’m on the right track, baby/ I was born to survive”?

Think of it for a moment. A kid in rural America, miles away from a traditional LGBT community, might be questioning her sexual orientation or gender identity. That kid may not have an understanding family or easy access to supportive resources. But if she has an Internet connection, or a digital music player, or even (gasp!) a CD player or radio, she will hear a message affirming her individuality played either on demand or seemingly every 90 minutes.

Saying the specific words of support and affirmation towards the LGBT community are what matters. Who cares if Lady Gaga emerged from an egg while doing it?

Let’s look at it from another perspective.

The field of semiotics is the study of communication through signs and symbols. Those who study semiotics believe that all cultural phenomena can be studied as a form of communication. Since bursting onto the musical scene, Lady Gaga is undoubtedly a cultural phenomenon. But, what’s the message being sent, and what’s being received?

To me, the message is a simple one.

From her concerts to her activism supporting the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” Lady Gaga has reiterated a clear and consistent message of support for the LGBT community, whether she’s wearing a meat dress or a bra shooting sparks.

With the debut of “Born This Way,” she has cranked that message to maximum volume via multi-channel distribution. Its permeative nature will undoubtedly shape conversations from Dallas to Dime Box and beyond, and it has the potential to open minds and change hearts. If it does that, it’s a success.

Yes, there have been other songs offering support and understanding to the LGBT community. For example, I remember hearing Erasure’s “Hideaway” in the late 1980s. But at the time, that song was never released as a single and it never garnered much radio airplay.

Other pop songs, from “Over the Rainbow” to “I Will Survive” to “It’s Raining Men” have been adopted as anthems for the LGBT community — even though they weren’t directly written for us.

Add to that the technological changes that allow stories, music and art to go viral. The phone on which I listened to “Born This Way” can also play the YouTube video of the Grammy Awards performance, and upload comments and links to Facebook and Twitter. All of this serves to amplify the message behind the music.

That’s what makes “Born This Way” different. Lady Gaga is in your face with a specific message that all people — not just the LGBT community — should, as the song says, “rejoice and love yourself today,” and it’s being communicated on an unfathomable scale.

It also doesn’t hurt that it has a good beat and you can dance to it.

Rafael McDonnell is strategic communications and programs manager at Resource Center Dallas. E-mail him at rmcdonnell@rcdallas.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

At least one gay wins a Grammy

I mentioned last night that there hadn’t been anything particularly gay about the Grammys save for the fashion. But one out artist pulled in a win. In the pre-telecast event, Judas Priest led by gay frontman Rob Halford won best metal performance for “Dissident Aggressor.”

I like me some Priest but I can’t say this is one of my faves. But it’s still one for our team. You know, if anyone’s keeping count.

—  Rich Lopez

Kathy Griffin among Grammy nominees

I didn’t really concentrate on the Grammy nominations, which came out earlier this week, until today, when I saw that Kathy Griffin’s new CD, Suckin’ It for the Holidays, was nominated for comedy album of the year. I hadn’t thought it was eligible, because it only came out last month which seemed outside the qualifying period, but I guess it was.

People who have watched her Life on the D List know her quest for a Grammy nomination last year was a major A Lister goal, so figure it’ll play on next season, too.

Here is the review we ran.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones