REVIEW: Denise Lee’s ‘The Divas of American Music’ at the Winspear

With the Grammy Awards coming in less than three weeks, this coming Friday brings Dallas Voice’s annual Music Issue, so leading up to it, we’re gonna set the mood with reviews and interviews of trendsetting musicmakers all week long. First up: Denise Lee.

Broadway has told us for decades that life is a cabaret (old chum), but you got a sense for that being true inside Hamon Hall at the Winspear last night. That’s where before an enthusiastic crowd Denise Lee, one of Dallas’ reigning doyennes of song, celebrated her personal divas, from songwriters like Dorothy Fields (“No one ever remembers the lyricist,” she clucked, especially when they are women — she noted that the Songwriters Hall of Fame contains only seven women inductees) to stylists from Carole King to Barbra Streisand.

“This is a hard business,” Lee observed from the stage. But she makes it look easy.

Anyone familiar with Lee knows that her personality is casual and unfussed. She joked about her wardrobe malfunctions (“It’s amazing what you can do with Super Glue,” she sighed) and toyed with the mike stand; when she needed to refer to some written notes, she removed a paper from her bra (“these aren’t just to look at”). It was as friendly and warm and engaging as an evening with a friend and a bottle of wine.

But none of it would have mattered without the songs. Lee performed everything from “America, the Beautiful” to Lady Day’s “Strange Fruit,” to songs from Bonnie Raitt, Nina Simone (a roiling version of “Mississippi Goddam”), Joni Mitchell. Of course there was Aretha. But whoever popularized them first, the songs were all Lee’s own. She’s our diva.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Starvoice • 08.19.11

By Jack Fertig

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAYMarlee+Matlin

Marlee Matlin turns 46 on Thursday. Matlin is the youngest woman at 21 to win the Oscar for best actress for Children of a Lesser God in 1981. She gained a new fan base by going lesbian as art professor Jodi Lerner in The L Word. She placed second in this year’s season of The Celebrity Apprentice.

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THIS WEEK

Venus and the sun entering Virgo should point the way to clean, simple aesthetics, but aspecting Uranus and Pluto on the way could trigger some very drastic housecleaning. Thorough is good; ruthless, not so much. “Pirate Jenny” captures the dark side. Nina Simone sings it on YouTube.

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VIRGO Aug 23-Sep 22
Every birthday brings you closer to your remaining accomplishments. Consider how you can change the world. Your most daring ideas need harnessing and work. What’s stopping you?

LIBRA Sep 23-Oct 22
Your situation at home provokes anxieties. Focus on your responses. With focus, you can minimize the angst. With clearer insights you improve the external situations triggering them.

SCORPIO Oct 23-Nov 21
When friends get on your nerves, shrug it off. Turn that irritability into productive criticism. Think before speaking, to improve techniques and productivity without dissing your colleagues.

SAGITTARIUS Nov 22-Dec 20
If you must channel Bette Davis at work, be harder on yourself than everyone else. Being brilliant doesn’t get you ahead; getting the job done does. Stay on track and get the job done brilliantly.

CAPRICORN Dec 21-Jan 19
Turn that critical mind on your own roots, your sense of your childhood and family. Talking with siblings can help if you can listen with open heart and mind. It may not be easy.

AQUARIUS Jan 20-Feb 18
Focus on sexual health. A complete physical check-up is always a good thing. Meditate also on your needs and desires. Are they at odds? Are they realistic? You may have some hard choices.

PISCES Feb 19-Mar 19
Feeling the pinch can strain a relationship. As long as your partnership comes first, pooling resources makes any future more affordable.

ARIES Mar 20-Apr 19
Rushing to succeed, you step on colleague’s toes. Apologize and exercise some foresight and consideration. Your teamwork skills are key to maximizing your own accomplishments.

TAURUS Apr 20-May 20
Your idea of fun has more to do with embroidery or repairing furniture than shaking your bootie. Taking on challenges doesn’t mean following a herd. Your friends love you as you are.

GEMINI May 21-Jun 20
Reconciling family issues and sexual values is more complicated than hiding the “gay” when Mom comes to visit. When tempted to criticize relatives, try asking questions instead.

CANCER Jun 21-Jul 22
Dressing and acting like a martinet could start a hot scene in the bedroom; in real life it’s a turn-off. Keep your eyes and ears open; your words well-measured and discrete.

LEO Jul 23-Aug 22
Sexual healing is real; shopping isn’t. Amorous adventures at least offer possible rewards along with the risk. Think ahead about your financial, spiritual and physical health in any event.

Jack Fertig can be reached at 415-864-8302 or Starjack.com

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

—  Kevin Thomas

Show time

Get ready — many LGBT music acts descend on Dallas this week

Buika
PINK FLAMENCO | Bisexual singer Buika performs Saturday at the Winspear.

Every so often, we encounter one of those weeks where lots of LGBT singers and musicians head to town. It’s pure coincidence, of course — and together, they probably aren’t as gay as one audience at a Lady Gaga show — but it’s nice just the same.

Along with Michael Feinstein performing his American Songbook and Rex Reed opining about Ira Gershwin while Elton John rocks Fort Worth, a wide range of out artists representing as much music are here for us to enjoy — and support.

World music can sometimes be a red flag for people expecting foreign language wails over tribal beats. Forget all that and consider catching Concha Buika (or just Buika) Nov. 13 at the Winspear with Spanish singer Lila Downs. The openly bisexual artist recalls some of the jazzy soul of Nina Simone with the energy of Tina Turner.  Buika sings flamenco but she adds a contemporary funk to the mix.

Visit ATTPAC.com for details.

Internet-bred Jeffree Star is on the up and up. Pushing himself into self-created Web fame caught enough attention to garner a fanbase. Now that mega-producer Akon has signed him on, the out goth drag artist is downright legit.

Star stopped in Dallas back in May during his 2 Drunk 2 Fuck Tour, but announced a whole new tour for the latter half of 2010 — only this time, he says he’s releasing new music along the way. He plays Nov. 17 at The Loft.

Visit TheLoftDallas.com for details.

After 15 years and nine albums, singer-songwriter Rachael Sage still isn’t a household name. But her music is made for the small stage, which is perfect for her stop at Poor David’s Pub on Nov. 13.

Her latest album, Delancey Street, adds to her consistently strong work. She stays away from the glum-girl-with-a-guitar image and offers upbeat pop with folk sensibilities, as her bisexuality comes through subtly.

Visit PoorDavidsPub.com for details.

— Rich Lopez

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Time to get Chill

We figure the Guerrilla Gay Bar peeps are on hiatus since we haven’t seen any Facebook invites for awhile. That was leaving a void in our special-event drink time … until SxS Productions filled it nicely with Chill Sunday.

Co-founded by the same gents who head Straight Out Marketing, which caters to an LGBT clientele, the monthly music-and-mimosa mixer upgrades the typical afterwork happy hour into a loungey afternoon.

Bringing in local and national DJ talent (including, this week, Joe Castillo, pictured) Chill Sunday mixes the weekend brunch with bottomless mimosas and downtempo tunes.  Could there be a holier trinity for any self-respecting gay person?

— Steven Lindsey

The Foundation Room at House of Blues, 2200 N. Lamar St. 1 p.m. No cover.

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

—  Michael Stephens