BIG Lang theory

K.D. Lang, on her new CD, Lady Gaga and her burgeoning butchness

KD-Lang

BUTCHING IT UP | Lang, nearing 50, is embracing her inner ... daddy?

K.D. Lang is manning up, thanks to the likes of Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and other sexpots of pop who shoot whipped cream from their chests and ride disco sticks. The longtime gay activist, who turns 50 in November, made a rebellious decision to boost her butchness, evident in the video for “I Confess,” the lead single from her disc Sing it Loud.

She comes to the Meyerson on Tuesday with her band the Siss Boom Bang, but before the show, she dished about the album’s evolution, why being the first out country star doesn’t matter and her work with Glee.

— Chris Azzopardi

Dallas Voice: Why did you approach Sing it Loud with a fuller sound and, for the first time in 20 years, a band?  Lang: It just seemed to be the right thing to do. It was just what I was feeling. I was working with Joe [Pisapia], writing songs, and it came time to record them and I just felt like the band was the right way to approach it — very live and spontaneous. We put the band together and it was beyond my wildest dreams what transpired.

On “I Confess,” you sing the lyric I’ll be your daddy. How do you think that line would’ve been received had you recorded this song 20 years ago when you first came out? Probably the same as now. I think there’s going to always be people who feel uncomfortable with it and there’s always going to be people who are titillated by it. You just have to know that’s going to be the case for a long time.

Would you say you’re embracing your butchness more than you used to? Yeah, this music really asks for it. I also think that the aesthetic nature of today’s music, with people like Lady Gaga and Katy Perry — not that it’s new, it certainly isn’t; I know better than that — is being very exaggerated I thought, I can exaggerate, too!

What do you make of the way the music business has shifted in the way it sells music? I think it’s boring because everything is so overexposed. But it’s fine; it is what it is. In terms of music, there is always going to be a place for someone who can sing and someone who can communicate with an audience.

Did you ever feel pressure to conform in your career? That would depend on what I wanted to reap from my music. I’ve always been quite sure that I wanted to have a more artistic career and a career of longevity, so in that respect, no. I’ve made decisions that have nurtured my art rather than my public awareness or my celebrity. That’s been self-determined. So no, I never felt the pressure.

If you hadn’t come out, how do you imagine your life and career now? I can’t imagine, because I was always out and coming out wasn’t really a big deal for me. But it certainly made things easier. I can’t imagine what it would be like, but at the same time it’s definitely made my life easier just because it kind of stripped away the question marks in the audience’s minds. It took away any pretense or question.

There was a big hoopla when Chely Wright came out as the first gay country star, because some argued that you beat her to it. What did you think about all that? I don’t know who Chely Wright is, but I don’t care. I mean, to a whole generation of people who know Chely Wright, they probably don’t know who I am. So to them it is the first country star to come out. I don’t really care who’s the first, who’s the last, because before me there were a lot of people that helped get me to a place to feel confident and comfortable with coming out.

Last year you lent your voice to a song on a Glee soundtrack. Would you ever do the show? I don’t really watch Glee, but I know it’s very popular and gay-friendly, which is great. And Jane Lynch is hilarious! If they asked me I would consider it, but I’m really happy that I could be a part of something that’s supportive and promotes alternative and varying lifestyles.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

‘Sunrise, Sunset’ gets gay lyric

For decades, Fiddler on the Roof was the longest-running show in Broadway history, due in large part to a compelling score with music by the late Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick. One of the songs, “Sunrise, Sunset,” has even become a staple at weddings …. mostly, marriages between heterosexual couples.

But now gay couples can enjoy it, too — without having to fiddle with the lyrics themselves.

Harnick, the lone surviving member of the Fiddler creative team, was approached last month by the Rev. Joshua Ellis, who performs many same-sex ceremonies in New York, where gay couples can now legally marry. Ellis wondered if Harnick would be amenable to crafting a new lyric so gay men and lesbians could use the song as well. After consulting with a rep from Bock’s estate, Harnick decided it was a good idea.

The new lyric was performed last weekend for the first time. You can watch the performance below, and read the two sets of lyrics for men and women here. Mazel tov!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Overcoming fear and finding passion

Landon Starnes had to step outside his comfort zone to compete as Lotta Pink in the Miss LifeWalk Pageant

lotta1
Landon Starnes as Lotta Pink

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Talk to Landon Starnes about his involvement with LifeWalk, the annual walkathon benefiting AIDS Arms and its partner agencies, and you’ll hear

Starnes repeat the words “passion” and “fear” a lot.

Starnes said he let fear rule him for too long. But in the end, there’s no doubt that “passion” wins out.

Starnes, who works as a hairdresser, said that he was diagnosed with HIV in October 1998. But he wasn’t prepared to deal with reality, and so for years, he said, “I ignored my diagnosis emotionally.”

But then some friends began to encourage him to confront his HIV status by getting involved in LifeWalk, specifically by joining the Guys and Dolls LifeWalk team.

Starnes said it took him awhile to get up to speed, and he was involved with LifeWalk just “off and on” for several years. But three years ago, he decided to really take the plunge and has been an active member of the Guys and Dolls team ever since.

This year, even that got ratcheted up a notch when Starnes finally gave in to his teammates’ cajoling and entered the Miss LifeWalk Pageant.

“My team had been asking me for two years to enter the pageant, but I declined every time. I was just scared to death to do drag,” Starnes explained. “But this year, I decided to accept the challenge, even though it scared me.”

The first challenge was to come up with a character, so “I started brainstorming about a character, about who I would be,” Starnes said. “I started thinking about things I, as a person, am passionate about. And I am passionate about the singer Pink.

“Her music gets to me in a way that no one else’s does,” Starned continued. “Her lyrics inspire me. I think, if I had to pick just one, my favorite Pink song is ‘Glitter in the Air.’ It says, ‘Have you ever wished for an endless night?’ ‘Have you ever thrown a fistful of glitter in the air?’ It made me look into myself, literally. Last summer, while we were on a road trip, my friends and I stopped and actually threw a fistful of glitter in the air. It was silly and fun, and now it is a memory that will last forever.”

But there is one line in the song, Starnes said, that really touched him, one lyric that made him think and gave him the determination to set aside the fear that had held him back: “Have you ever looked fear in the face, and said, I just don’t care?”

It was, Starnes said, a spark that made his passion for LifeWalk and for doing something to help others blaze even brighter.

“I knew I wasn’t going to try to be Pink, but I love what she does. So I decided I would kind of pay tribute to her with my character,” Starnes said.

And so, Lotta Pink was born.

And lo and behold, Lotta Pink won the Miss LifeWalk title on her first try, helping Starnes bring in about $7,000 for LifeWalk this year, bringing his total over all his Guys and Dolls years to about $11,000.

Starnes said he and Lotta Pink obviously have a lot in common. “We share our passion for the cause, first of all, and second, we both want to step outside the box,” Starnes said. “I was afraid of doing drag. But my favorite quote is ‘Do it scared,’ so that’s what I did. I stepped outside the box and challenged myself, and in doing that, I learned that fears are just fears, nothing else.”

Starnes said that while his fears still remain to some degree, Lotta Pink “has no fear,” and she is helping him overcome his own.

“It’s easier when you can put on a wig and some makeup and kind of step outside yourself,” Starnes said. “Now, learning to step out without that disguise is what comes next!”

Knowing that what he does is all to help AIDS Arms and the clients the agency serves makes it even easier to put the fear aside, Starnes said.

“The Guys and Dolls team works all year, not just on the day of LifeWalk. And the people at AIDS Arms work all year trying to help other people. I love AIDS Arms, and I love what it stands for,” Starnes said. “The walk itself is symbolic, to me. It’s a short walk, yes, but just going through the movement of walking allows you to release your passion.

“Everybody who participates is there for their own reasons, but whatever the reason, they are passionate about it,” he continued. “That alone speaks volumes. The biggest thing that came out of all this for me was seeing how good people really are.”

Again, it all comes down to overcoming fear and fully realizing the passion.

“It’s so important for everyone to find their passion, whether it’s LifeWalk or something else,” Starnes said. “Finding my passion has lifted me to a whole new level of awareness, understanding and joy. It’s just such a positive energy when you are around all these people at LifeWalk who work so hard to make a difference in other people’s lives. It’s helped me find a happiness I have never known before.”

AIDS Arms LifeWalk will be held Sunday, Oct. 2, at Lee Park. Registration begins at 11:30 a.m., and the walk begins at 1 p.m. For more information, go online to LifeWalk.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Hear ‘Holly is a Homophobe’ live at Trees tonight

Straight local band Bible Fire hits with ‘Holly is a Homophobe’

Clearly, you should watch what you say around Rob Halstead or it could turn into a song.

When a day-job co-worker of the Bible Fire songwriter went on a hostile rant against the gays, Halston ripped her a new one by putting it to music.  The result was “Holly is a Homophobe,” a single from the local band’s new album The Pursuit of Imperfection. Unexpectedly, when the group performs, it’s one of their most requested and popular songs.

“Holly is this girl me and Grant [Scruggs, the band’s guitarist] both worked with,” Halstead says. “She’s an enigma to me because she’s so nice and caring and then prejudiced all the way around.” An example of the lyric: Holly is a homophobe / Disdainfully, she told me so / Her biggest fear is turning queer / And I just thought that everyone should know.

Read the rest of the article here.

DEETS: Trees, 2709 Elm St. Sept. 16. Doors open at 7 p.m. TreesDallas.com

—  Rich Lopez

‘There is no day but today’

By Trinity Wheeler, director, “The Laramie Project”

If one, definitive lesson has lingered with me since working with “Rent,” it is that of the lyric, “No day but today.”

This message in mind, I knew it was time — though, well overdue — for “The Laramie Project” in East Texas. When invited to direct a show in my chiefly conservative hometown of Tyler — which experienced a hate crime nearly identical to Matthew Shepard’s, five years before his murder in Laramie, Wyo. — I could have very easily chosen “Steel Magnolias,” “Harvey,” or any other tried-and-true, community-theater staple.

But I didn’t want a crowd pleaser. I wanted to present a production that would allow the audience to consider the views of others, and reconsider their own. To invite debate, discussion, and to open a dialogue — the seeds of progress.

The response I received in coming out was nowhere near positive or pleasant. If this was the reaction of my own family, how would the community respond to a work in which the topic of homosexuality is unabashedly broached?

I went out on a limb in choosing this show, and was very aware of the chance the bough could break, and down would come baby. But the number of East Texans who voiced their support for this production after protests from members of the theater board proved to be unexpectedly staggering.

The show is no stranger to controversy, though I don’t believe any of us imagined we would face opposition long before we even began rehearsals, especially from those who once fully supported the project. But the cast, crew, and community banded together to brave the storm, and I believe we are all the more resolute because of it, having formed a brand of bond unique to such an experience, which may not have happened otherwise.

And that is exactly what this show is about. A community coming together in the wake of adverse events. I have hope for this production, and for Tyler and East Texas. I hold to hope for tomorrow, but, for now, there is no day but today.

—  Dallasvoice