2009 8th Street, NW
Doors — 10 p.m.
Performance — midnight
Cover — $8 before 11; $12 after
It’s 11 a.m. on a recent weekday in Burbank, Calif., and Kristine W. is in a happy mood — she just got measured for alterations for a dress she’s going to wear this weekend for one of her D.C. performances.
“It’s a relief,” she says en route to a rehearsal. “You have to have something great to wear in a parade. We just left the costume shop where they fitted it. Sometimes that’s the biggest challenge — finding something to wear.”
The dance diva who’s famous for having scored a whopping 16 No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot Dance Club chart over a 20-year recording career, has two gigs slated for D.C. this weekend — she’ll perform in a cherry blossom parade then Saturday night around midnight she’ll do a 20-minute mini-set at Town. Though she’s only briefly cracked the Hot 100, she trails only Madonna and Beyonce as the top dance charter for the ‘00s and has had more consecutive dance No. 1s than any other artist.
She’s looking forward to returning to Town, she says.
“It’s an amazing club and Ed (Bailey) is a great guy. And you know, it’s a real club, it’s the real deal. Some clubs are very put on but this is Town, a real club with real chill DJs.”
The dancing queen is a bit of an enigma — she’s vague on personal details though she’s talked publicly about being a Washington state native and a cancer survivor. She admits to being “in a relationship at the moment,” but declines to elaborate. She has “a couple of very cool kids,” a girl and a boy, 11 and 12.
“They’re in school and having a great time. My girl plays the violin and my boy is a guitar player and a great golfer.” Kristine has lived in Las Vegas for about 18 years. She says it’s a great home base though she’s on the road “at least” 60 percent of the year on average.
She’s been successful at continuing her chart success despite the rampant music industry changes over the last several years. Kristine says her performances fuel her recording efforts. Her last album, a jazz project that had several remixed singles, did well and led to some cabaret gigs for her. Next up is a mostly new album — eight new songs and four hits in newly remixed versions for a project slated to drop in early June.
Despite all the high-concept photography and sonic production, Kristine says she lives a mostly low-key life when she’s not working.
“I don’t live a flashy life and I mostly put everything back into my music. My shows have subsidized my music. I put everything into promotion, pay my graphic artist, my project manager, then my livelihood comes from my live shows.”
Kristine gives mostly succinct answers during a 20-minute phone chat, but a question about her earliest gay influences inspires a story.
“The choir director at our church was gay but nobody ever talked about it,” she says. “There’s no way he would have come out but he was one of my best friends. My mom would pretend to be his girlfriend and all four of us — my dad had died when we were little, we were like 2, 3, 4 or 5 when he died — but he stepped in and because I was so crazy about music, he really had an influence on me. So he taught sixth grade and had this award-winning children’s choir, and my mom was like we totally get it that you could not say anything, it would ruin his career, but then later they were naming a school after him. He died of cancer when I was like 13. He would love it now that I have such a gay following with my music. I’m pretty sure he probably died of AIDS but back then everybody just said it was cancer.”
Later Kristine had a vocal coach who was gay. She credits him and solid operatic voice lessons in high school with her musical chops. Though she doesn’t sing classical music anymore, she says the training informed her precision.
“There was no room for anything flat or sharp,” she says. “That was not on the program. You hit the note dead on.”
Unfortunately she says there’s no trophy or plaque that comes when you get a Billboard chart topper. The magazine does, however, do an article on the single which she saves and frames.
And why is dance music so popular with gays? After all, she should know after staking out her career in the genre, no?
“Because it’s uplifting and happy,” she says. “It’s just like medicine for the soul.”