If you blew off Sandra Bernhard’s Paramount Theatre gig a couple weeks ago, I have some bad news: You didn’t miss much. Yet the audience didn’t seem to mind. Sandy flapped around some magazine ads, curled her lips, and mauled “Little Red Corvette” yet again, and we applauded. Why? Because Bernhard projects a certain fabulousness, and she bats for our team. And sadly, that still seems to be all it takes to ensure iconic status in the GLBT (hold the mayo) community.
There is no shortage of homos in the entertainment business, so why are we consistently confronted with the same faces in every issue of The Advocate and Out? While the music coverage in the mainstream gay media is beginning to embrace artists besides Melissa Etheridge and the latest dance diva, the usual suspects still hold sway. I love the Pet Shop Boys as much as the next cocksucker, but would it have killed the organizers of Wotapalava, this summer’s hullabalooed gay music festival, to throw us a curveball?
So in honor of Gay Pride 2001, I’d like to introduce a few lesser-known out musicians I’ve slavishly followed for years. You’ll probably never overhear anyone arguing whether to classify one of these guys or gals as a Diva or an Icon (a very real discussion I once caught two muscle boys having about Crystal Waters), but they certainly merit praise—and maybe a cute little statuette for the mantelpiece. Sorry—you know how we love to decorate.
1. The “Where Are They Now?” file is overflowing with early ’90s British alternative acts—nobody lies awake at night pondering the fate of Ned’s Atomic Dustbin. But long after Kitchens of Distinction’s “Drive That Fast” faded from college radio, that trio’s singer-bassist, Patrick Fitzgerald, has refused to quit. Since the dissolution of Kitchens, our ginger-haired hero has soldiered on with a spate of projects, including the Lost Girls (a one-off collaboration with 4AD songbird Heidi Berry) and Fruit. Under the moniker Stephen Hero, Fitzgerald recently released two import-only EPs that are quieter in character, yet still brimming with the same lyrical skill that spawned KOD’s “When in Heaven,” the only decent pop song about Marilyn Monroe. (www.stephenhero.co.uk)
2. Nobody will ever get into an argument about whether David McAlmont is a Diva or an Icon, because Girlfriend is both. This skinny black drama queen became the surprise darling of the Britpop set when he hooked up with Bernard Butler following the guitarist’s split from Suede, and their singles “Yes” and “You Do” (both on 1995’s The Sound of . . . McAlmont & Butler) became chart hits. See what working with a real fag instead of a pretender can do? The two soon fell out, but McAlmont continues to make great import-only solo albums like 1998’s smart, soulful A Little Communication. For a sample of his genius at a domestic price, check out David Arnold’s James Bond tribute, Shaken and Stirred. McAlmont’s reading of “Diamonds Are Forever” outshines Shirley Bassey’s 1971 original; the way he caps the phrase “they luster long” with a fey “ooh” is swoon-inducing.
3. Why is it that Triumph found fame in America, yet north-of-the-border new wave act Rough Trade never did? As half of that band, Carole Pope was one of the most original voices to emerge in the ’80s from Canada—or anywhere else, for that matter. You can read all about her lesbionic misadventures (Pope was Dusty Springfield’s lover for a spell) in last year’s autobiography, Anti-Diva. Sadly, Rough Trade’s 1982 classic For Those Who Think Young, featuring the angular and sapphic “All Touch,” is currently out of print on CD, but Pope’s updated version of the salacious “High School Confidential” can be found on the new Queer as Folk soundtrack.
4. Speaking of Queer as Folk and Canadian duos, if you love the bouncy synth-pop theme song “Spunk” by Greek Buck, hunt down a copy of the CD-EP Bucquiem by the Toronto twosome, featuring hot-and-heavy Don Pyle (ex-Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, i.e., The Kids in the Hall house band). This five-song disc includes two cuts from the vinyl-only 1998 debut LP Messin’ With Greek Buck, plus a remix by equally underrated electronic producer and gender illusionist Terre Thaemlitz. (www.greekbuck.com)
5. Tired of Joey Arias picking over the corpse of Billie Holiday, yet hankering for torch music made by a big fag? Look no further than last year’s eponymous debut CD by Antony and the Johnsons (on Durtro), a nine-piece New York chamber ensemble fronted by an androgynous specter in whiteface with an otherworldly voice; poor dead Klaus Nomi looks like Pat Boone in comparison. On the group’s latest single, “I Fell in Love With a Dead Boy,” Antony raises his quavering, quasi-classical pipes in celebration of his newfound albeit, um, dead paramour, then throws in Julee Cruse and Current 93 covers for good measure.