One of my favorite lines in the movie Sordid Lives comes from one of the main characters, being treated by a therapist to “cure” him of his homosexuality. Brother Boy, while combing out his Tammy Wynette wig and wearing a pink nightgown and pink slippers, asks the therapist how long the process will take, as it had already been 28 years of intense therapy. The therapist states that her goal is to cure Brother Boy of his “homosexual tendencies,” so that she can write a book and “get on Oprah” and become famous! The turning point in the movie happens when Brother Boy tells the therapist that she needs a “life-time” of therapy herself!
The church has a long record of therapists. The King of All Therapy (Jesus) came along a little over 2,000 years ago and delivered some intense therapy which resulted in a major life change for the church. Jesus gave humanity an example and a new way to love and to live. He taught us the most important two rules - love God and love our neighbors. ALL our neighbors! When we do, we are then on the right track.
In many ways, the church has again become a seriously dysfunctional family, needing to make an appointment to book some therapy sessions. We have the brothers and sisters in the family who are conservative. And then those who are liberal. There is often so much animosity among our family that we most often cannot even share a meal together (yes, that is a reference to communion). Our institution as a whole, can’t decide who should be invited and who is welcome at our family functions. The environment often is so hostile we don’t speak to one another at a family dinner. We may even avoid getting together as family, even though we live right down the street from one another. These are just some of the serious issues and will require more than one therapy session.
Why is attendance in many religious faiths failing? We don’t get to choose our biological family, but we do get to choose our family of faith. Why would anyone choose to be a part of a dysfunctional family? Why would anyone seek to be a part of an organization that has over 40,000 splits globally? Why would anyone want to be a part of a lineage who can’t share a meal together? Why would anyone choose to be a part of an ancestry that is filled with people who judge other family members and can’t see their own faults themselves? Who would choose to be part of a family that teaches love, yet their actions don’t reflect their beliefs even among other family members?
But Dr. Jesus tried to make it easy for us. During a very memorable counseling session, he gave us the “Quick Guide to Love” and distinct instruction on how to be a functional family. So that we would not get confused, He shared the two most important rules. “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Maybe we should consider booking more counseling sessions to learn “how” to improve on the second rule. And by improving on the second rule, we accomplish the first rule. I like The Great Counselor - he makes us think! Every new year brings the opportunity for new beginnings. Just maybe, this year will be the year. God believes we can get this right. There is a cure, and that cure is to love one another.
Reverend Patrick Rogers, MDiv., is the Senior Pastor at United Church of Christ in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
We all like a man who is Well-Strung.
Audiences are drawn to Well-Strung, it's clear. The all-male string quartet features classical musicians who also sing - putting their own spin on the music of Mozart, Vivaldi, Rihanna, Adele, Lady Gaga, and more. Starring first violinist, Edmund Bagnell, second violinist, Christopher Marchant, cellist, Daniel Shevlin, and violist, Trevor Wadleigh, the quartet was formed by producer Mark Cortale and Chris Marchant.
OutClique chatted with Edmund Bagnell before the quartet returns to Fort Lauderdale for a special performance at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts on January 15, 2017.
Why are they so hot? Bagnell says one reason is because they are so relatable with audiences. "I think no matter what we are playing, classical or pop, we always want our music to be relatable," he replied. "Also, performing classical and pop music back to back, or even at the same time, audiences can relate to each genre in unexpected ways."
The group has even gotten the attention of The New York Times who wrote, “The four stars of Well-Strung: The Singing String Quartet present themselves as a buff, gay, pop-classical hybrid of juicy boy band and staid chamber group with a vocal component.”
Being a musical group comprised of four out and proud gay men, how is their sexuality part of the Well-Strung brand? "We don't shy away from who we are, so I think that has definitely become a part of the group's identity," he told us. "We don't consider ourselves a ‘gay’ act, just musicians performing music we like - our goal is to make music that appeals to all audiences. However, we don't want to whitewash or hide our identities, so in a couple of our music videos we deal with gay themes."
One of these videos was a cover of Taylor Swift's "Blank Space" where all four members were vying for the affections of the same lover. Another was a video made about gun violence, paying homage and honoring the victims and survivors of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando.
Since they are all gay, are there any romances in the quartet?
"Of course not," Bagnell laughs. "These boys are my brothers."
House On Fire (BFD/Red), the first full-length album by gay country music artist Ty Herndon since he came out publicly in November 2014, is a sizzling set of tunes that is bound to please his fans, old and new. Faithful to his country roots, Herndon brings the heat from start to finish with 12 songs that reflect who he is today while also honoring the contemporary Nashville sound. “Sweet Way To Go,” for example, is as sexy as tight-fitting Wranglers on your favorite cowboy. “Just Friends” warmly celebrates making a commitment, while “Go” simmers with the release that comes from sending someone packing. I spoke with Ty about the new album and more shortly before the release of the new disc.
Gregg Shapiro: Ty, gay writer Jeff Mann recently had a novel published titled Country (Lethe Press, 2016) about a gay country artist’s coming out experience and one of the dedications reads, “For country music stars Ty Herndon, Chely Wright and Billy Gilman, who had the courage to come out.” What does hearing something like that mean to you?
Ty Herndon: Number one, I want to read the book. Number two, when anyone calls you out for something you have done in your life and you’re just on a journey to be authentic, to live in your own skin better, man, it makes you feel extremely special. I think that any time you’re making huge steps in your life – I always say I need lots of hugs to feel special [laughs]. Because when you’re out there on that journey and you feel like you’re alone, I don’t think you get as much done. Any kind of accolade like that, when somebody calls you out, it really touches my heart. It’s greatly appreciated.
GS: It’s been a couple of years since I first interviewed you. What has been the most significant event in your life since that time?
TH: Just feeling free to walk out on stage and be myself is pretty damn significant. And then having people show up from all walks of life. I call them my “Modern Family” shows; all kinds of folks and I meet all kinds of people. Being able to do that and continuing to be in a genre that I love and to be able to be myself. I’m in music, period, but being in country music is what I love. It’s who I am. Being able to be a gay man in country music and continue to break down walls and change hearts and minds has been really important to me. I’ve been able to do so much of that in the last two years. This new album (House On Fire) has been 18 months in the making. My writing has changed. I think that if I had had an album right off the bat (after coming out), it would have had less of my story in it. This album is just full of my journey, so I’m glad I waited.
GS: I’d like to begin talking about House On Fire from the outside in, if you don’t mind. First, what can you tell me about your ink which is prominently displayed on the cover?
TH: [Laughs] I call it my “Life In Full Bloom.” It’s an ongoing story; the two pieces on my arm right now are “Lies I told myself,” which is the beginning of me thinking about what this journey would look like. The flipside is “Journey on,” because I’m still on the journey. There’s a third piece going on and that will have to be a surprise [laughs]. Lastly, the watercolor will go on the piece and it will always represent the part of my journey that’s been so special to me.
GS: The album is titled House On Fire, which is the disc’s centerpiece and was co-written by you. Why was that song chosen to represent the record in that way?
TH: I wanted to make sure that people understood that as much as I love music, and as much fun as I’m having on this record, and as much love as there is on the record, there is also a journey of pain and sacrifice and survival. I had a lot of trouble placing the song. At that point in the album, you are starting to get a window into some of my past with my scars and my spiritual upbringing and my healing. You’re peeking at that point [laughs]. Then it gets a little deeper. By the end of it, we’re into changing hearts and minds and fighting for who you are.
GS: The dozen songs on the album are a mix of songs co-written by you and songs co-written by others. What was involved in the process of selecting the songs that weren’t written by you?
TH: We started out writing this album and I had no idea where I wanted to go with it. I knew I wanted to do two things. I wanted to tell the truth and I wanted to have some fun; because that’s what I was feeling in my life. We started by going to the 30A Song Festival in Panama City, Florida. I drove down seven hours with my producers and co-writers. We talked it out. We got to the beach. I’m scared to death of heights, but I was sitting on the 28th-floor balcony [laughs] and it was beautiful. Drew Davis said, “We should write a beach song!” I was like, “No way, I’m not writing a cheesy beach song. It’s not gonna happen.” Nevertheless, we did end up writing a beach song called “All Night Tonight.” It’s full of fun little melodies that I’ve not used before, really current, cool stuff, and that made it fun for me. We got two months into writing this album, having written everything from “All Night Tonight” to “House On Fire,” which might have been my song, but they also were connecting to it. It might have been the lyrics and depth of it. Halfway through, we realized we were going gender-free (in the lyrics). It was a sweet accident, simply because it’s important to me that people put their own lives and relationships into this music, their own joy and heartbreaks, and relate to the songs. Two months into it, everybody got busy. Drew went on the road. Erik (Halbig) was producing two more albums. I was touring, and we got delayed by about four months. I can’t be this busy and finish writing this record, so I need to dig deep into other people’s catalogs. I didn’t have to look any further than Drew and Erik’s. Then the songs came quickly. We took some songs that had already been written by these guys and tailored them for this record. It ended up being the right songs and, as they say in show-biz, we were able to “wrap it up [laughs]!”
GS: The play on words in the song “If You” makes it one of the edgier tunes you’ve recorded. What can you tell me about it?
TH: I can tell you this, I played it for my very Southern mother, in her house, and she did not quite get the play on words. I said, “Mom, listen again.” Then you saw the lightbulb come on and she said, “Very clever, son [laughs].” I had been so positive and upbeat and full of love for the world, but I never got to write and record anything about the ones that didn’t work out, the ones that got away, the ones that might have broken my heart. That’s a little anthem to anyone out there – kind of like Toby Keith’s “How Do You Like Me Now?”
GS: I think my favorite track is the love song “Stick With What I Know.” What can you tell me about the inspiration for that one?
TH: It was real simple. The inspiration for “Stick With What I Know” is that I know I’ve got a lot fans out there that have all 12 of my albums. Reba McEntire told me this a long time ago – “You’re going to have moments where you have to reinvent yourself. You’re going to do it over and over again. There always has to be an element of you in that reinvention.” “Stick With What I Know” is my throwback to something that I think you would have heard on the radio in the early 2000s; something very familiar.
GS: The album closes with the song “Fighter,” which is one of the most perfect finales I’ve ever heard on an album.
TH: [Laughs] Thank you!
GS: What does that song mean to you?
TH: I will tell you this. It was the first song we cut for the album almost two years ago. We wanted to hurry and put out a single right after I came out. It didn’t work out that way because we had so many problems with it. We wrestled with it and finally I just threw up my hands and said, “This song will find its place, just not right now.” It sat there and got dust on it until we finished this album. I said, “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to place “Fighter” and it goes at the end of this record.” We went back in added that big, crazy piece towards the end. I like to say there was just a little bit of heaven in that song because I had to fight tooth and nail to stay in an industry where I had a lot of problems. I’ve gone through a lot in my life and have somehow managed by my faith and some great people around me to continue on this journey where I’m at today. “Fighter” was written by my dear friend Annie Bosko and she sings on it with me. It’s an anthem for everyone to hang on, hang in there, stay strong, your life will happen.
GS: Finally, after what you’ve been through, what advice would you offer to other LGBT country artists who might be thinking about coming out?
TH: The first thing that happened to me – I walked out on stage about five days after the big announcement was made in People Magazine and on Entertainment Tonight, the story was trending everywhere. Then Billy (Gilman) came out and it was a glorious time. I walked out on stage to 3,000 people and a standing ovation. God kind of gave me the answer that I was right where I needed to be, and to keep singing. On that same night, these parents were there with their 17-year-old son. They said, “Our son just came out to us about a week ago. He wants to be in country music.” I looked at the parents and I was very emotional, all I had to say at that moment was, “You know what? This is the first step. You guys are so accepting of this kid. You’re supporting him. You brought him here tonight, and that’s awesome. I commend you.” I looked at the kid and said, “Dude, okay, so you’re gay. You may consider that to be different, but you’re not different. You have two jobs. You have to go out there and be the best artist that you can be. You’ve got to go out there and be the best songwriter that you can be. You simply have to be great at what you do and then your dreams will fall into place. Who you are is just a part of that dream, a part of your story.” I wish somebody had told me that at 17 years old. It’s really quite simple. It shouldn’t matter what your sexual orientation is, you just need to be great at what you do. If you’re an artist, be a great artist.
Ty Herndon will be performing at Pride Fort Lauderdale on Sunday, February 26, 2017.
Celebrated vocal group The Manhattan Transfer has had our attention for more than 40 years. Combining thrilling harmonies, eclectic song selections, and even dressing up for the part, The Manhattan Transfer has always been a treat for the ears and the eyes. Over the course of the vocal group’s existence, it has left its mark on songs from the Great American Songbook, jazz standards, and pop tunes throughout the mid-to-late 20th century and into the 21st, collecting Grammy Awards and other accolades as it went along. The Manhattan Transfer even had the distinction of having its own summer replacement variety show on CBS in 1975. Janis Siegel, the only original female member still singing with the group, was kind enough to answer a few questions in advance of the group’s 2017 concert tour.
Gregg Shapiro: Janis, you also have a long history, 50 or so years, of being a collaborator, as a member of the girl group The Young Generation to your years as a member of The Manhattan Transfer. What is it about your personality that makes you someone who plays well with others?
Janis Siegel: [Laughs] That’s an excellent question. I think you have to have a personality for it. I think you must be a compromiser and a realist, in a way. Also, I think there has to be an essential fairness in your world view. “I’ll compromise with you. But when you see that there’s an idea that I really love, you’ll go with me.” It’s also an experience of, many times, the finished product is better than the original. It’s a combination of all different kinds of points of view that maybe I or someone else didn’t think of. Many times the whole thing is better than the parts.
GS: Since the beginning of your career, you have established yourself as a first-rate interpreter of other people’s songs – starting with the Richard Perry-penned number you sang in The Young Generation to the countless tunes you’ve sung as a member of The Manhattan Transfer and as a solo artist. Can you please say something about the responsibilities that come with being an interpreter of other writers’ songs?
JS: At the core there has to be an inherent respect for the original song. My first job, where I’m learning something, is to learn melody. Especially with The Great American Songbook interpretation. I feel that a composer deserves that respect. To at least know what he or she was thinking with the melody. Then, as a jazz singer, I often times interpolate it or reharmonize it, add my own personal experience to it.
GS: As a way to make it your own.
JS: Yes! Or else why bother [laughs]?
GS: Leon Russell, who passed in late 2016, is someone that you covered on your 1982 solo debut album Experiment In White. Did you ever have a chance to meet Russell?
JS: No I didn’t. That’s too bad because he wrote some great songs. He not only wrote “Back to the Island,” but also “This Masquerade,” for instance, which got covered a lot in the jazz world.
GS: How did you know that 1982 was the right time to release the first of your solo recordings?
JS: I had been doing solo performances by then. My very first solo performances were both in California. One was at a tiny club in Venice and my band was Dave Frishberg, Putter Smith, and Nick Ceroli. That gave me a taste for solo work. I think I had another one in San Diego. It was just intoxicating. Being able to pick my own material, that fit me personally, and not have to think about other people for a minute. I could explore my own vision which, I think, in retrospect makes you stronger in the group situations. You come in and you have confidence and you know what you want. By this time I have worked with so many different people and gotten involved with so many different methods of working that I have a wide palette when it comes to bringing in ideas and techniques to The (Manhattan) Transfer.
GS: I’m glad you mentioned that palette because as an artist who has performed music from a wide variety of musical periods, what is your favorite era and why?
JS: I really do appreciate every period for the treasure that it brings. But I have to say that I love the music of the `30s and `40s. There was an innocence and humor about it. The music reflects the times.
GS: Hopefully we’ll find some humor for these times.
JS: Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Don’t get me started.
GS: Is there a musical genre you have yet to explore that you look forward to delving into someday – say country music or dance?
JS: Right before I joined the Transfer, the outgrowth of The Young Generation was a group called Laurel Canyon. We spent time in Nashville. We collaborated and sang with a wonderful singer named Dianne Davidson, who is still performing down there. We met a lot of singer/songwriters there and we sang on Dianne’s record. We met Tracy Nelson and that group of wonderful singers. I still would love to do a country record, honestly. I occasionally do performances with my friend Amy Cervini who is with a group called Duchess. Very close to my heart – a three-part woman vocal harmony group. We do a show called Jazz Country which is her concept. We’re doing one here in March at 55 Bar here in New York. We do Dolly Parton and Brandi Carlile and then we throw in Louis Armstrong and whatever we feel like.
GS: Since we’ve talked about some things from the past, please say something about how you became a member of The Manhattan Transfer.
JS: It came through meeting (the late) Tim Hauser. He’s the start of the whole thing. I met him through his cab [laughs]. He was driving a cab in Manhattan and I was singing with Laurel Canyon with Dianne Davidson. We were tearing it up at a club and we were having an end of the tour party at a hotel somewhere in Midtown. Our conga player hailed down a cab and it was him. Phillip put his drums in the backseat and got into the front seat with Tim. They started talking. “I’m a musician.” “So am I! I’m doing a demo next week. I want to get a record deal myself.” Phillip said, “I’m with a whole bunch of singers right now. You should come up to the party.” Tim parked his cab and came up and stayed a while. He took our numbers because we were based in New York. Dori (Miles) and I showed up at Tim’s session and that’s where I met (original Manhattan Transfer member) Laurel Massé. For his solo project, Tim did “Minnie The Moocher’s Wedding Day” and some bluegrass. It was right up my alley. But I loved the ‘40s jazz that he was referencing. Tim and I became very close and we started to hang out. He sat in with my group because he played five-string banjo. He started to play records for me. His whole apartment was furnished with 78s. I was a jazz fan, but as a listener exclusively. I liked John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders, but I never heard what came before. When I heard four-part-harmony I went out of my mind. Tim and Laurel and I started hanging out and said, “Let’s start a four-part-harmony vocal group, two men and two women. That’s when Alan (Paul) came in. The beginning really was Tim and Laurel and me.
GS: More than 40 years after becoming a member of The Manhattan Transfer, what would you say is the secret to the group’s longevity?
JS: I think there are a couple of factors. The basic eclecticism of the concept. Originally, we said, “Let’s not be a jazz vocal group. Let’s not be a pop vocal group. Let’s not label ourselves, because then people can dismiss us when the trend is over [laughs]. Let’s explore different facets of harmony.” Mostly American, with a brief foray into Brazilian pop. But still that was through an American lens. We only sang Portuguese on one tune and we didn’t do any bossa nova. It really was an American pop record. As a matter of fact, it won the Grammy that year for Best Pop Performance (by a Duo or Group with Vocals). We explored these different styles. Our signature sound is close-voice four-part-harmony. It makes sense also. There were a lot of groups that had only one gender. Our group was mixed gender and the voices are close together in proximity and it gives a creamy, almost geometric sound. We also explored doo-wop singing and some of the harmonies of the `30s and pop music. We experimented with bringing the four-part-harmony sound into pop music.
GS: The combination of The Manhattan Transfer’s early fashion esthetic and the group’s musical style assured them a gay following right from the start. Is that something of which you were aware of as both a member of the group and as a solo artist?
JS: Yes, I am aware of it. When we first started, we decided to perform, we decided to dress up, we decided to evoke the era. We had some help in the fashion department from Tim’s sister Fayette Hauser who was an original member of The Cockettes.
GS: From San Francisco!
JS: Yes, yes! Our original costumes were absolutely wild and surreal. But we played in gay discos, gay clubs. And it was also the beginning of glitter rock.
GS: Bette Midler was also doing some of that period material.
JS: And Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks and The Pointer Sisters. We were all mining that same musical lode.
The Manhattan Transfer performs on Feb. 21 at the Broward Center - Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale and Feb. 22 at Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach.
What words do you use to describe your ideal "Gaycation" destination? Or how about a gay place to call home? What things do you look for when searching the map for places, things to do, and new people to meet?
Enter Ft Lauderdale and Wilton Manors of Broward County, Florida. For those that look for a combination of fun and sun, this slice of south Florida offers an array of choices. Every good gay much check out the beaches. With twenty-three miles of sand and ocean, Ft Lauderdale provides both visitors and locals with an oasis for relaxation. A unique experience is Sebastian Beach - Ft Lauderdale's "gay beach". Here, beach goers can spend the day with their toes in the sand and soaking up the sun -- all while enjoying the fashion show of speedo and squarecut swimsuits. It's not a sight to be missed.
Looking for a gay place to stay? There's no shortage in Broward County. With over seventeen guest houses that cater to gay men, visitors have numerous options of places to call home. Not only are the pools heated, but most are clothing-optional. Go "bare as you dare", one says!
Numerous gay restaurants provide a fun atmosphere for socializing with friends, relaxing, or making a date with that special someone. Beefcake's offers outdoor dining, all before you go in to see the boys at Boardwalk. Bill's Filling Station serves up great burgers and is tucked away inside its club. The patio at Georgi's Alibi is always a great place to eat, especially before their $3 Long Island Iced Tea Thursdays (served up in a quart Mason jar!).
The ever-popular and fabulous, Rosie's Bar and Grill, serves up great food with service that can't be beat. Their motto is "See and be seen." Sundays are the most packed, with the guys and gals that hang out at this popular venue.
Lips offers the ultimate in drag dining. Ever been served mimosas by a guy in a dress? You're in for a treat with their hilarious shows, one that includes a Sunday Gospel Brunch. Can you say, "Hallelujah!"?
The Royal Palms is a full-service guest house right off Ft Lauderdale Beach. This all gay resort has two heated swimming pools, along with a full restaurant and bar. They also host monthly themed parties, some that offer airbrush tattoos or cover the boys with glow paint.
The gay men and women of Broward County work very hard to provide numerous services to its residents and visitors. Trying to get your head on straight, so to speak? SunServe provides counseling and numerous other services to the LGBT community. Wilton Manor's Pride Center offers such things as social mixers, education, fitness programs, and support groups. The Impulse Group of Ft Lauderdale throws lavish pool parties and social events to promote safer sex practices and HIV testing. And, Poverello's thrift store provides funding for its food pantry for those living with HIV.
There are also numerous events that are unique to the south Florida gay flavor. Are horses gay? They might be, but Wellington boasts its own weekend of Gay Polo. Want to play ... a sport yourself? Check out the gay atennis club, bowling league, softball teams, run/walk group, and flag football league. So pitchers, catchers, ball handlers, and those that like to punt, you have a place to go.
Gay pride is also big in Broward county. In March, Ft Lauderdale provides two days of events with music, vendors, and a display of the AIDS quilt. June is gay pride for Wilton Manors with the clubs open all day and night up and down the drive, music by local and nationally known performers, and a pride parade that would match any others. It's a hot day of gay pride, drinking, friends, and weekend full of things to do.
Not only does Ft Lauderdale provide numerous musical and theatrical performances (what gay doesn't love a good show?) at places like the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, but it also offers unique gay productions by the Ft Lauderdale Gay Men's Chorus, the Gay Men's Chorus of South Florida, Island City Stage, the Kutumba Theater Project, Rising Action Theater, and the South Florida Pride Wind Ensemble. With both LGBT themed events and a commonly gay crowd, these make a fun night with friends or that special someone.
Another great aspect of Ft Lauderdale is it's proximity to so many other great, gay travel destinations. A short drive to Miami opens the door to numerous clubs, restaurants, musical concerts, and gay activities. South Beach, the art deco district, and Lincoln Road are always favorites. Go a few miles north, and travelers can experience the upscale dining and shopping of Palm Beach. Orlando is only a half day drive with Walt Disney World, Gay Days, and One Magical Weekend. And a few hours south takes travelers to Key West with its gay clubs and guest houses, up close view of cruise ships, and numerous shopping and dining. Enjoy the journey, as the drive across the bridges of the Florida is Keys is something everyone should experience. Just rent a convertible and do it Florida style!
So for those that live in south Florida or come for a vacation, there is never a shortage of things to do or guys and gals to meet. The beach, the sun, the warm weather, and the uniqueness of the gay culture makes Ft Lauderdale a great to be. So, get OUT, be yourself, and enjoy every minute of it.
For a full listing of gay events, venues, and resources, check OUT www.OutClique.org and www.facebook.com/Outclique