Reba McEntire: The gay interview

Reba2Even by phone, Reba McEntire makes you feel right at home. “Thanks for the visit; I’ve enjoyed visitin’ with you!” the singer drawls, wrapping up our conversation as if I’d just stopped by for buttered grits and a cup of hot coffee.

A music, television, film and theater superstar with a trove of prestigious awards, Reba is enormously famous, but talking to her, you wouldn’t know it. She comes across more like a friend. Fancy? Not so much. And she certainly won’t let her rabid gay following down – she has delighted in a friendship with the LGBT community since the beginning of her 40-year career.

Now, as she releases her 27th studio album, Love Somebody, the country icon’s ready to take some serious stands.

In a chat with Chris Azzopardi, Reba stresses the importance of gay marriage, how sad it is to know that some country artists feel they can’t come out, and her message to parents who can’t accept a child who’s not straight.

Dallas Voice: You grew up in a town with, like, 16 people and lots of cows. I imagine there weren’t a lot of gay people in Chockie, Okla.  Reba: Nope, nope. Not at all that I know of, or in high school. I guess in college was the first time I was around any gay people, and they became my friends first and then I found out they were gay, so there ya go! Didn’t change my opinion of ’em; I still liked ’em a lot.

One was a very dear friend of mine who helped me a lot with my singing and my music, and he was just a super sweet, gentle man who loved music with all his heart. I’m pretty sure that was my first introduction, the first time I met anyone who was gay.

As a longtime ally, how important are LGBT equality and same-sex marriage rights to you?  Very important. I just went to my first gay wedding a couple of months ago in California for Michael and Steven, my two great friends. They’ve been together for 20 years! I thought that it was not fair, and I didn’t understand why they couldn’t get married. It wasn’t because they just wanted to get married. If one of them had gotten injured and gone to the hospital, the other one couldn’t make decisions for them. It’s very upsetting. It’s not only for convenience or for romantic reasons —it’s for practicality. For practical reasons! I get a kick out of what Dolly said: “Why shouldn’t they get married and be as miserable as the rest of us?” 

You don’t seem so miserable in your marriage, though.  No, not at all. But I don’t understand why people have a problem with it. I’m a very spiritual person, but I don’t judge. I try not to; I’m only human. To each his own, and everybody is different. God did not make us all the same. So, I just pray for an open mind and a loving heart, and I think that’s all I can do.

In your four decades as a country musician, how much progress do you think the genre has made when it comes to embracing LGBT fans with open arms?  Well, I’ve always embraced gay and lesbian fans with both arms. I have a huge gay following!

Absolutely. But country music as a whole — do you see progress when it comes to LGBT equality?  Yeah, I do. There are more [artists] speaking out about it, but I can’t really speak for anyone else other than myself.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Chatting up the Secret Sisters before tonight’s benefit for The Women’s Chorus of Dallas

Tonight, the Secret Sisters headline The Southern Harmony Party at the Lakewood Theater, which also features local band The King Bucks and Audrey Dean Kelley. The night benefits The Women’s Chorus of Dallas, a very gay-friendly organization. In a recent interview with Dallas Voice, real-life sisters Lydia and Laura of the Secret Sisters talked up their connection with the gay community and how growing up Church of Christ never stopped them from accepting people as they are:

So first, how did you get hooked up with The Women’s Chorus of Dallas? We were playing a show in Birmingham, AL several months ago, and met a really nice promoter named De Foster, who loved our sound and was determined to have us play a show in Dallas.  We agreed that we would love to come there and play, and so not long afterwards, he contacted us about playing a show that would benefit the Women’s Chorus.  We love playing shows that are in conjunction with positive organizations, and especially those that are connected to our favorite hobby:  music.  So when we got the invitation to play, we were thrilled!  We are so excited to meet everyone involved with the chorus, and very excited that the focus of the evening will be on women and music.  We both feel that there just aren’t enough strong women in the music industry, and we know that the evening will be positive one, that’s also a lot of fun.

What do such groups mean to you? Any time that we can use our music to highlight organizations that do good things, we are eager to do so. Both of us were in our high school choruses when we were younger, and we know just how much fun it is to be surrounded by your friends, enjoying music that you are making together.  Music means so much to us, and to be able to spend the evening with others who are passionate about it as well is going to be an honor.  We’ve been looking forward to this show for a while now.

More after the jump.

—  Rich Lopez

Blonde ambition


Dolly Parton keeps on truckin’ with a new album, a tour — and late-night trips to the Kroger in full Dolly drag

Dolly Parton, the “Queen of Country Music,” reigns on our (gay) parade with her new album Better Day and her concert tour, at the Verizon Theatre Tuesday. Better Day marks her 41st solo album of original material, and she ties Reba McEntire with four No. 1 country singles in four consecutive decades. Parton is far more than a country music star. Even calling her “iconic” seems too small for the larger-than-life persona.
From her humble roots in Tennessee, our “Backwoods Barbie” continues to be a doll to her gay fans. With some rare moments to spare, she talks behind the scenes of her tour and what’s beneath the makeup and glitter.

— Jerry Nunn

Dallas Voice: The first track on Better Day, “In the Mean Time,” is so feisty. What was your motivation for it? Parton: That is one my favorite songs because it sums up what is going on in the world, my attitude about it. Everybody is so down in the dumps and waiting for the end of time instead of doing something about it, enjoying the time they got. This whole album I wanted to write stuff to uplift people and give a positive spin on this negativity.

You’ve performed the first single, “Together You and I” on television, but is there a video in the works? Yes. Trey Fanjoy, who was director of the year at CMT this year, did a wonderful video that shows people from all over the world, love in all forms and fashions — more of a universal love. It is a beautiful video.

What can fans expect from your concerts now? We got all sorts of good things going with the Better Day World Tour. We have a lot of positive stuff in that by doing different things for the fans.

You have a huge gay following and they will always love you. Hey, a big shout out to them! We have fun with my gay crowds. We are going to be in L.A. for two days at the Hollywood Bowl, then in San Francisco. All ready so many of my gay fans have said they are going to be there in the front row. I love it. I have always loved my gay fans. They accept me and I accept them. We get along just fine. I am very proud and honored when they dress up like me or whatever they want to do!

What is your favorite thing about touring? People, the audience, I love that. I love to travel because I am a gypsy, but I enjoy performing for the fans that love to see it. I have been around so many years, worked so many audiences and had so many types of shows. Since the beginning, it is kind of fun to watch how things have changed. I have fans from little bitty kids now watching Hannah Montana with Aunt Dolly to my older fans and the new ones that have discovered my music. It is a really fun trip for me as you can imagine.

How fabulous is your tour bus? The set up is great. I have traveled on a tour bus since 1967. This current one is an updated, modern version, where there is room. Especially when it has stopped you can let the sides out and have a real home. I don’t stay in hotels so I just live on my bus. I’ve got everything from my kitchen to my televisions, DVDs and books. It’s a way to carry my wigs and my costumes. I am set up good for that.

Are you able to take off the wig and shop at Kroger without people recognizing you? Well, if I went to Kroger I wouldn’t take off my wig. I don’t go grocery shopping too much but when I do it’s usually in the wee hours after midnight. If I really want to cook certain things for a special occasion that I really need and I don’t trust anyone to find it I will go to the store. But I usually dress like myself and go in. I can’t be disguised because if I open my mouth you know it’s me! I sound as different as I look. There is no point in going and embarrassing myself by looking like hell.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 15, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas