Duets. Twenty of ’em.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
In creating this LGBTQ series, I’ve purposefully stayed away from songs our community has adopted as anthems, such as “We Are Family” and “I Will Survive.” However, this time I’m including one such song, performed by Diana Ross and written by the same pair who wrote “We Are Family.” While the lyrics aren’t expressly gay, they knew what the chorus would mean to a core audience of Ms. Ross, thereby intentionally creating an anthem.
Elsewhere, we have a couple of bands from Georgia, a handful of artists from England, some mainstream acts and some obscure ones, all of whom fall somewhere under the LGBTQ umbrella or sing queer lyrical content.
I had a great time in New York City last weekend. I was in town for a few days for my nephew’s bar mitzvah. I stayed in Manhattan, where I lived for fifteen years before resettling in Los Angeles in 2003.
My first few years in LA I pined for NYC daily. I missed my friends. I missed Manhattan’s energy. I missed having everything I want just outside my door, around the clock.
I’ve visited Manhattan at least once per year since I moved. I have a great time each trip, though I find myself missing it less and less. Part of the reason is I’ve adjusted to LA. I like the weather and found people who share my interests with whom to hang. Also, many of my favorite NYC hot spots are no longer. Tower Records on East 4th Street, where I was every weekend, is no more. The alternative bookshops I frequented are now a hardware store and a Starbucks.
Happily, The Strand bookstore is still there. I stop by every time I’m in the city. Also still there is my favorite bar in Chelsea, Barracuda. I haven’t stopped in there my last few trips, but I’m glad it’s around, as I have memories of good times spent there, despite my not being a bar person.
One night Joan Jett popped in to do a short performance promoting a new album, either Fit to be Tied or Fetish. It’s cool to see an artist you love perform in such a small space in your own neighborhood. She was great as always. Afterwards, she signed my copy of her Bad Reputation album.
New York is not the same as it was when I lived there, but it’s still awesome. I’m not the same as I was when I live there; I’m more awesome.
Joan Jett turns 56 today. She’s awesome. A lot of her classics are not on Spotify, so today Tunes du Jour presents a Joan Jett YouTube playlist. Rock on!
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The Tony Awards, celebrating excellence on the Broadway stages, are being presented this evening. The Tony Awards are like the gay version of the Tony Awards. That’s how gay they are.
Last year I took second place in a speech contest where I spoke about the effect Broadway had on my life. Here is that speech, followed by a playlist consisting of cover versions of Broadway classics.
Among the things I discussed is improv’s most fundamental concept, that of “Yes, and” – accepting your scene partner’s idea and building upon it – and how this idea can be applied to one’s work life.
There is an improv game called Conducted Story. We get a title from the audience; then the conductor points to someone who starts the story, then someone who continues, etc. You want to progress the story and have it make sense. Yes, and.
As the head of the licensing department at Rhino Entertainment, I often did conducted stories in staff meetings. Not literally, but as music sales slipped, we looked for new ways to increase revenue. “We could license to other media besides CDs” “such as greetings cards” “which Hallmark would sell and pay us a royalty” “and we can suggest licensable songs for each holiday” “and expand that into other things sold at Hallmark shops, such as gift boxes and Christmas tree ornaments.” Despite CD sales plummeting during the second half of the last decade, my licensing department’s revenue rose each year.
For those of us who have struggled with shyness, performing improv, even in a classroom setting, increases self-confidence. It worked for me. I used to be shy. Incredibly shy. Painfully shy. Music was my best friend. While other kids were doing Little League, I’d be home listening to my Four Seasons records. I went to therapist after therapist, but they didn’t help me get over my shyness.
Once people got to know me they would tell me “You know you’re very funny.” That gave me an idea. I’ll overcome my shyness by becoming a stand-up comedian. I’ll stand in front of strangers and express my thoughts and feelings, and they’ll have to listen, as I have a mic and a spotlight.
For me, the stand-up helped. I wrote out my sets and memorized them, word for word. I got laughs and more gigs, but was still shyer than I wished. A fellow comedian suggested I take an improv class.
Studying improv gave me the courage to get on stage with topic bullet points memorized, but not each word. It freed me and took my stand-up to another level. An agent liked my set and represented me. I got more bookings and made a little money.
Mind you, my goal was not to become a famous stand-up comic. It was to gain self-confidence. Within five years of starting improv, I went from this shy music geek making a meager salary to a Vice President at a major record company, Warner Music Group, where I made a six-figure salary and negotiated complex deals with artists and attorneys.
Over the course of my music biz career I’ve met many of my favorite all-time artists, including Prince, Tina Weymouth and Chris Franz of Tom Tom Club and Talking Heads, Art Garfunkel, Jack White, Kate Bush, Smokey Robinson, Tina Turner, Donna Summer, Rufus Wainwright, Boy George, Joan Jett, Frankie Valli and Chaka Khan.