Connect with us

a&e features

Flamboyantly funny

Leslie Jordan on Whoopi, Gwyneth, ‘Will & Grace’ and the one topic he won’t discuss

Published

on

Leslie Jordan, gay news, Washington Blade
Leslie Jordan, gay news, Washington Blade

Leslie Jordan says his career got a second wind when he started doing one-person shows. (Photo courtesy Jordan)

Washington Blade presents

 

Leslie Jordan Live!

 

7 (sold out) and 9 p.m.

 

Friday, June 10

 

Studio Theatre

 

1501 14th St., N.W.

 

washingtonblade.com/leslie

 

Leslie Jordan is one of those actors pretty much everybody knows, but you have no idea how many things he’s been in until you look up his IMDB page.

Films “Sordid Lives” and “The Help,” one-man shows “My Trip Down the Pink Carpet” and “Straight Outta Chattanooga,” and a TV filmography that looks about as vast as that of Cloris Leachman — most notably “American Horror Story: Coven” and, of course, “Will & Grace,” the landmark sitcom that won him an Emmy for his recurring role as Karen’s nemesis Beverley Leslie.

Interviewing him, you kind of expect the frequent giggles and pronounced Southern drawl. What you don’t quite expect is the (almost) no-holds-barred honesty, rare in nicey-nice, PR-drenched Hollywood. He’s here Pride weekend for a packed spate of activities including two Washington Blade-sponsored shows at Studio Theatre on Friday, June 10. He will serve as a Pride parade grand marshal on June 11 and participate in Night Out at the Nationals on June 14. We spoke with him by phone from his home just outside of West Hollywood. His comments have been slightly edited for length.

WASHINGTON BLADE: So it looks like you’ll be quite busy next weekend in our fair city.

LESLIE JORDAN: Yes, it’s all worked out so beautifully. I’m doing the parade, I’m doing this show at Studio Theatre with the Blade and I’m going to throw the first ball out with the Washington Nationals. I’ve been practicing. Who knew I was such a good pitcher, but I am. … I’m a little concerned after this incident with the Padres — I hope I don’t get heckled. I don’t really think I will, but you never know in this day and age. I’m excited to see my friend, Ty Herndon, who will be in town for his own show at GALA Theatre, so it’s just fabulous that all this has come together. I asked the Pride folks if I could have a pony to ride in the parade, but they said no. I said, “Well, can I at least have some pretty boys dressed up as horses to dance with me?” I have this riding outfit I want to wear. So there’s a lot cooking right now.

BLADE: You were a jockey, right? So you certainly know your way around a horse.

JORDAN: Oh yes, for many, many years. Did you hear about the incident at the Starbucks?

BLADE: You threw a drink at somebody, right?

JORDAN: Yes, these three boys came in all cracked out at 9 o’clock in the morning. And listen, these weren’t straight boys. People said, “Oh, they were here to bash the gays.” No honey, listen — these were gay street kids. … They started acting out and I was like, “We can’t have this at the gayest Starbucks in the world.” I told them to get the fuck out. One of them came at me, so I threw my iced tea right in his face. … Anyway, it was a huge ruckus. I got a lot of mileage out of it for my one-person show.

BLADE: You’ve had several standup shows — “My Trip Down the Pink Carpet,” “Straight Outta Chattanooga” and so on. Do you do one for a while or different ones in different cities? How does it work?

JORDAN: It kind of started when I worked with Lily Tomlin years ago on a show called “12 Miles of Bad Road.” She asked me if I made any money doing my stand-up show. I said, “Well, it’s $1,600 just to ship my set.” She said, “Your set? You don’t need a set. Just you and a mic.” So you land somewhere, then you add the bells and whistles. So that’s kinda been the way I’ve done things. When I won that Emmy 10 years ago, I thought my career would spiral but nothing. It was the oddest thing. I called my management after a year and said, “I can’t eat this Emmy. I can’t get any TV work, what am I gonna do?” And I did the smartest thing I’ve ever done. I called this marketing firm out of Palm Springs and said, “Market me. I’m so popular with the gay community. I’ll do one-person shows, I’ll lead parades, you know, just whatever.” So now I’m up to 44 venues a year and I just adjust whatever I’m doing for the place, you know, sort of like a musician with a set list.

BLADE: Does your concept change?

JORDAN: Once a year, the marketing firm calls and goes, “What’s your new show called?” and I just go, “Um,” and I make up a new title. I’ll say, like, “This one’s called ‘Full of Gin and Regret,’” and they’ll go, “OK, that’s good.” But it’s all kind of the same show. Sometimes they’ll call and go, “OK, girl, you gotta quit trotting out all this old stuff, all this ‘Will & Grace’ stuff and so on,” but I kinda disagree with that. I think it’s kind of like when you go hear a band. Nobody cares about their new album. You want to hear their old stuff. … I’m booked all summer, then on July 7, I go back to “American Horror Story” with Lady Gaga, isn’t that fun? I did one season on “Coven.” They offered me another season but I got offered a reality show in London and I needed the money. Let me tell you, those reality shows pay a lot of money. So I turned down “Freak Show,” biggest mistake of my life. I didn’t think Mr. (Ryan) Murphy would want me again because I turned him down, but he did.

BLADE: Have you met him?

JORDAN: No. When I was doing “Coven,” he was doing “Normal Heart” for HBO, so I never got to meet him. But he was very involved. In one scene, I said, “I don’t think I’m going to wear my glasses in this scene,” and they said, “Well, that’s really a Ryan question.” They had him on the phone in like two minutes and they came back and told me to start the scene with them on, then take them off to gesticulate. That’s how involved he is. … Same thing with David E. Kelley. I’ve done like every show he’s ever done but I’ve never laid eyes on him either. They’re both very, very specific.

BLADE: Was the “Will & Grace” set fairly friendly? Were you and Megan Mullally pals?

JORDAN: They all got very famous together and very, very rich together. People thought I was there hanging out all the time and so on, but I only did maybe three a year or something like that. Everybody was friendly to me, but it wasn’t a big part of my life. I didn’t come on until the third season. But there was some real magical stuff happening. It was a very popular character. I remember once I walked out and the audience went so crazy, the director said, “We had Elton John on last week, he didn’t get that kind of reaction.” He said, “You all need to calm down, he ain’t that famous.” I said, “Yet!”

BLADE: Sean Hayes (Jack) didn’t come out until years after the show, which always seemed so odd to me. Was he out to the cast and crew?

JORDAN: You know, Sean, I would never put him down in any way, but Sean and I never really had a real conversation. He was like that person you work with and you’re always friendly, “Good morning,” and so on, but never once do I remember having a real conversation with him. Somebody asked me about him once in an interview and I said, “Yeah, like anybody’s gonna blow her cover.” It got printed and, I don’t know. I remember we were sitting right next to him at the Emmys and my mother even noticed it. She said, “He hasn’t said much.” I said, “Well, he’s gonna be on stage, he’s nervous.” But to answer your question, I never really knew him that well. He’s a lovely boy.  … People think we just bond so much on those sets, but it’s not like that. You go to work and do your thing. We had a lot of fun. … The only one I really keep up with now is Megan. I’m not going to do it anymore, but people have sometimes asked me to ask her for something, you know, like a charity thing or something. And she’s done it, but I feel bad — people ask them for so much all the time.

BLADE: I bet.

JORDAN: I love ‘em all. I ran into Eric (McCormack) on the street in London. He said, “I’m here with my show (“Perception”).” I don’t watch TV at all. I’m kind of in my own little world, I read. … I said, “Oh, is it a pilot?” He said, “Uhhhh — no, we’re in our fourth season.” …. Debra (Messing) I haven’t spoken to at all but when I won the Emmy, she sent me this huge orchid that must have been like $800 or something.

BLADE: So you’re shooting a sequel to “Sordid Lives”?

JORDAN: Yes, I return as Brother Boy. I’m in the mental hospital but I’ve escaped and I go on the lam with a serial killer. We shot it in Winnipeg, then we’ve got about a week in Dallas left to finish it. You know, you watch these comedies with Melissa McCarthy and so on. And they’re funny, but nothing is as funny as this. You have no idea. It’s so outrageous.

BLADE: And Whoopi Goldberg is in it too?

JORDAN: Yes. She rode a bus up to Winnipeg from New York, shot for like five hours, got back on the bus and went home. I said, “Do you remember me from ‘The View’? I got up and danced and almost kicked you in the face.” She said, “Uh-uh.” I think there’s some pot smoking there, but what a lovely human being. So down to earth. … She’ll blow a line and just say, “Shit, let’s do it again.”

BLADE: Where do you get your clothes? Do you have them custom made?

JORDAN: I shot a pilot for Lily for HBO that never made it on the air. They built me a whole wardrobe. I have about five suits. I was supposed to play the richest man in Texas, so I have these velvet smoking jackets, pants. … The other day I looked in my closet and said, “You know, my wardrobe is complete.” I really don’t need to buy another thing ever. … I’ve lost a lot of weight. I’m down to about a 30 waist. I can wear jeans I wore in high school.

BLADE: How did you do it?

JORDAN: I swim in the morning and do the treadmill and I never miss a day. … I also just really, really got into my diet. Sugar is the enemy, period. If people would just cut that out, but oh my God, it is difficult.

BLADE: You know a lot of people in the industry and live near West Hollywood, yet you travel so much. What’s dating like? Are you in a relationship?

JORDAN: Well, that’s the only thing I don’t talk about. It’s complicated and I learned that a long time ago. But I’m happy. Real happy. It’s caused so many problems over the years, that I just learned to zip it. Relationships are hard enough without that kind of burden. You know how Gwyneth Paltrow was never photographed with her husband? People say, “Oh please, what’s that about?” I’m nowhere near that level of fame, so I can’t even imagine, but that’s just the way it is. But let’s just say I’m very happy.

2016-LESLIE-JORDAN-728x90

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

a&e features

Camp classic ‘Mommie Dearest’ turns 40

Digital re-issue offers fans new insights, John Waters commentary

Published

on

Rutanya Alda, left, with Faye DunawayMara Hobel and Jeremy Scott Reinholt in ‘Mommie Dearest.’ (Photo courtesy Alda)

In a 2016 People magazine interview, Oscar-winning actress Faye Dunaway admitted to regretting her over-the-top portrayal of Joan Crawford in the 1981 movie “Mommie Dearest” (Paramount), newly reissued on Blu-ray and digital as part of the Paramount Presents series. Of the movie, based on the equally OTT memoir by Crawford’s adopted daughter Christina, Dunaway said, “I should have known better, but sometimes you’re vulnerable and you don’t realize what you’re getting into. It’s unfortunate they felt they had to make that kind of movie. But you can’t be ashamed of the work you’ve done.”

“That kind of movie” pretty much tanked Dunaway’s career after that. However, it also titillated and delighted countless fans upon its release and in the 40 years since. A multitude of lines have become iconic in the LGBTQ vernacular and classic scenes have become sources of endless entertainment. So, how good or bad is it?

From the minute the gloved hand of actress Joan Crawford (Dunaway) turns off her alarm at 4 a.m. and saunters into the bathroom to begin her morning routine, we know we’re in for something out of the ordinary. Dressed to kill, she heads to the studio, reading scripts and autographing photos in the back of a limo, Crawford was nothing if not devoted to her craft and fans.

She was also devoted to cleanliness, an obsession that would become one of the contributing factors in her descent. In one iconic scene, she berates a housekeeper, “I’m not mad at you, I’m mad at the dirt.”

A first-rate performer in all aspects, Crawford’s annual Christmas gift-giving extravaganza at an orphanage stirs up her desire for motherhood. Unable to conceive, the twice-divorced actress discovers she is not a candidate for adoption, despite believing she can be a mother and a father, providing both a “wonderful and advantaged life.” Her lawyer boyfriend Greg (Steve Forrest) pulls some strings and Crawford becomes mother to baby Christina.

It doesn’t take long (OK, a few years) before the cracks start to show, beginning with a birthday party for Christina (Mara Hobel, in a thankless role), complete with a carousel, an organ grinder and monkey, and a new baby brother named Christopher. Signs of tension are present in Joan’s interactions with Christina, including her bristling at her daughter’s tone of voice. When Joan catches Christina mimicking her while seated at her mother’s vanity, she flips out, butchering her hair.

Christina isn’t the only object of Joan’s aggression. Greg walks out on Joan after a disagreement, and she deals with it by cutting him out of every photo they took together. Studio head Mayer (Howard Da Silva) sends her packing, utilizing the creative differences excuse. This leads to the famous rose garden freak out (of “Tina, bring me the ax” fame). Shortly after winning the Oscar for “Mildred Pierce,” Joan discovers a wire hanger in Christina’s closet leading to the notorious “No wire hangers, ever!” beating scene.

Not even teenage Christina (Diana Scarwid), away at boarding school is safe from Joan’s wrath. After Christina is caught getting intimate with a boy, Joan removes her from the school. Back at home, where a journalist is busy writing a story about Joan, Christina and her mother have a heated argument, resulting in the classic slap sequence and the delivery of the “I’m not one of your fans” lines.

Having almost killed Christina, Joan sends her off to convent school. After graduating, Christina returns home to discover that not only has her mother remarried – to soft drink king Al Steele (Harry Goz) – but she has put her home up for sale with plans to relocate to New York. Needless to say, the mother/daughter relationship never improves, which explains Christina’s barbed-wire memoir.

Perhaps Dunaway, who worked with uneven director Frank Perry (“The Swimmer,” “Diary of Mad Housewife,” and “Play It As It Lays,” and the bombs “Hello Again” and “Monsignor”) in the past, should have known better. Regardless, “Mommie Dearest” went from shocking biopic to camp classic at light speed, and for that, we are forever grateful. Plus, with Halloween just around the corner, “Mommie Dearest” is a fab reminder of what a great (and terrifying) costume Joan Crawford can be.

In a 2015 interview with the Blade, actress Rutanya Alda, who played long-suffering maid Carol Ann in the film, talked about her surprise at first seeing the film.

“When the audience laughed, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh,’ I was kind of taken aback because I knew (producer) Frank Yablans and (director) Frank Perry’s intention was to make this really serious drama and of course it turned into this kind of camp happening right from the get go,” Alda said. “Even Paramount was caught off guard and they didn’t know how to promote it because it became such an audience experience right away. … I was actually quite pleased because the audience really got into it. It was just amazing to me.”

Alda added that Dunaway should have embraced the campy results of the final film.

“The audience of ‘Mommie Dearest’ is a great audience and I think they are disappointed that Faye has never embraced the film,” Alda said. “If I were Faye Dunaway, I would have said, ‘Look, I was great in the part, I did great things. OK, maybe I had an over-the-top performance, but it worked, didn’t it?’ … She’s really deprived herself of a great audience of people who love the movie and it’s a detriment to her. Look at all the joy she missed.”

Blu-ray special features include commentary by drag legend Hedda Lettuce and filmmaker John Waters, “Filmmaker Focus” with Frank Perry biographer Justin Bozung, short features including “The Revival of Joan,” “Life With Joan,” and “Joan Lives On,” as well as a photo gallery and the original theatrical trailer. Rating: B-

Faye Dunaway, left, as Joan Crawford, and Rutanya Alda as Carol Ann on the set of ‘Mommie Dearest.’ (Photo courtesy Alda)
Continue Reading

a&e features

Stupid things not to do when you get old

Steven Petrow’s new book on aging is funny yet poignant

Published

on

Author Steven Petrow’s new book addresses aging issues. (Photo by Bethany Cubino)

Diane Sawyer, the former ABC News anchor, gave award-winning journalist Steven Petrow some advice on what he could do to look younger. “Anchors don’t get older, they just get blonder,” she told him.

For many years, Petrow, who is gay, took Sawyer’s wisdom to heart. He had his salt and pepper hair colored. This went well, until a new colorist offered to use a new “natural” coloring process that would remove a third of his gray hair. Petrow came away “a honey brash blonde” whose hair “screamed dye job.”

This is one of the many funny, yet poignant, stories that Petrow with Roseann Foley Henry tells in “Stupid Things I Won’t Do When I Get Old: A Highly Judgmental, Unapologetically Honest Accounting of All the Things Our Elders Are Doing Wrong.”

Written by Petrow with Henry, “Stupid Things I Won’t Do When I Get Old” is part memoir and part manifesto.

Few things are more fraught with fear, anxiety and ageism than knowing that, if we live long enough, we’ll get old. Whether hetero or LGBTQ, no matter how much we love our parents, we don’t want to become like our folks when we’re elders.

Shortly after he turned 50, Petrow, who writes about aging, health, manners and civility, began to confront his ageist beliefs and vowed not to let aging limit or diminish his life.

As he reached the half-century mark and his parents “entered their sunset years,” Petrow began to make a list of what he called “the stupid things I won’t do when I get old.”

The list, which kept growing longer and longer, “proved to be a highly judgmental, not-quite-mean-spirited-but-close accounting of everything I thought my parents were doing wrong,” Petrow, now 64, writes in the book’s introduction.

Petrow first wrote about his list in a popular New York Times essay “Things I’ll Do Differently When I Get Old.” “Stupid Things I Won’t Do When I Get Old” grew out of the essay.

Petrow’s list is, by turns, laugh-out-loud funny and incredibly moving.

He vows not to, as his Mom did, “forgo a walker because it wrecked my outfit.”

In one chapter, he promises that, “I Won’t Become a Miserable Malcontent, a Cranky Curmudgeon, or a Surly Sourpuss.”

Yet, in other more serious chapters, Petrow says that “I Won’t Lie to My Doctor Anymore (Because These Lies Can Kill),” “I Won’t Burden My Family with Taking Care of Me” and “I Won’t Forget to Plan My Own Funeral.”

Petrow, a columnist for the Washington Post and USA Today as well as a regular New York Times contributor, talked with the Blade by phone and email.

Petrow, whose previous books include “Steven Petrow’s Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners,” “The Lost Hamptons” and “When Someone You Know has AIDS” (3rd edition), grew up in New York City.

In 1978, Petrow graduated from Duke University with a bachelor’s degree in history. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a master’s in history in 1982.

A former president of NLGJA (the Association of LGBTQ Journalists), Petrow lives in Hillsborough, N.C. His 2019 Ted Talk, “3 Ways to Practice Civility” has been viewed nearly two million times.

Petrow was born with journalism in his DNA. His father, journalist Richard Petrow, taught journalism for decades at New York University.

“My Dad was a great teacher,” Petrow said, “He traveled – got to meet people. I wanted to do what he did.”

In 1984, Petrow was diagnosed with testicular cancer. This experience is one reason why Petrow became a health care journalist. “I wanted to focus on health and medicine to teach people how to negotiate the health care system,” he said.

Negative buzz about aging is everywhere in the culture from magazine ads to birthday cards. “We start to become invisible when we’re in our 50s,” Petrow said, “this may be even more true – ageism may come earlier for gay men, and separately, more true, for women.”

“Old age ain’t no place for sissies,” Petrow added, quoting Bette Davis.

Research shows that the damage inflicted by ageism is real, Petrow said.

When we associate getting older with negative stereotypes about aging, our lives are shortened. “This ageism is as bad as smoking,” he said, “it takes seven years off our lives.”

It can be hard for people to find support and friends when they get old. But finding support is often more difficult for many in the queer community. There is more isolation among queer people as they age, Petrow said. “Many in their 60s lost their circle of friends during the height of the AIDS epidemic.”

Petrow seeks out multigenerational friendships. “I’m open to different perspectives,” he said, “I’ve learned so much from younger people.”

Petrow thinks outside the box of generational labels (boomers, millennials, etc.). He identifies as a “perennial.”

“Perennials are curious, engaged, passionate, and compassionate,” he said, “Millennials can be perennials. Boomers can be perennials. Anyone can choose to be a perennial.”

Petrow, who is often referred to as “Mr. Manners,” became interested in manners on a blind date in the 1990s. He and his date ended up as good friends. Through this connection, a book editor asked Petrow to do a book on gay manners.

“I’ve always been a bit like the weird person who’s fascinated with collecting and reading about arcane rules,” Petrow said. Wisdom can be found in etiquette books from decades ago, Petrow said. One of his favorite finds was in the first edition of a 1922 etiquette book by Emily Post. Just as we should think before we tweet, “It cautions people,” Petrow said, “not to write love letters that could end up on the front page of the newspaper.”

Generally, manners are the same for LGBTQ and hetero people. But there are some etiquette issues that apply specifically to queer people.

For example, what is the etiquette around revealing that someone you know – a family member, friend or co-worker is LGBTQ? “This is for an individual to do for themselves,” Petrow said, “not for any of us to do for another.”

Civility and manners are important to all of us in the COVID era, he reminds us.

“Throughout the pandemic I’ve been talking about, ‘we, not me,’ which is about thinking about others before self,” Petrow said, “And that’s really the only way we will get out of this.”

Continue Reading

a&e features

Schock treatment: an interview with Gina Schock of the Go-Go’s

Drummer on her new book and upcoming Hall of Fame induction

Published

on

Gina Schock’s new book is out this month titled, ‘Made In Hollywood: All Access with the Go-Go’s.’

Too much of the Go-Go’s is never enough. In the 40 years since the all-female punk band burst on the scene with its unforgettable debut album “Beauty and the Beat” to some of the band members’ solo careers that followed its break-up to its ongoing reunion and the eye-opening 2020 documentary about the band, we just can’t get our fill. 

But wait, there’s more! Gina Schock, the Go-Go’s legendary drummer (she’s got the beat!), has just published a sensational coffee-table book, “Made In Hollywood: All Access with the Go-Go’s” (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 2021) that features photos from Schock’s own stock, as well as her own personal recollections of her life in music. She made time for an interview before the publication of the book as well as the Go-Go’s long-awaited induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame later this month.

GREGG SHAPIRO/WASHINGTON BLADE: I’d like to begin by congratulating you, as well as the rest of the Go-Go’s, on your upcoming induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. How do you feel about it?

GINA SCHOCK: It took so long for this to happen, and at first we were sort of like, “Hell’s bells! We don’t even care anymore.” Every year, we’d think “Maybe it’s gonna happen next year,” and it just wasn’t happening. Then it happens! We were all dumbfounded. We couldn’t really believe that we were nominated and then we got inducted! Everybody was pleasantly surprised. This is kind of great, kind of neat. I’m really happy about this now [laugh].

BLADE: At the same time, your memoir “Made in Hollywood: All Access with the Go-Go’s,” is being released. What did the experience of writing such a book mean to you?

SCHOCK: Actually, Gregg, it’s not a memoir. Kathy (Valentine) wrote a memoir. Mine is actually a book of photography.

BLADE: Right, but you also tell your story in the book.

SCHOCK: There’s a lot of writing in it, too. But I basically put this together because I had tons and tons of photographs. I’ve been moving them all over. Putting them in the closet here, under the bed there. I was like, “I have to do something with this. All these years of taking photos of the band.” Of course, everybody in the band was like. “Gina, you really need to put a photo book together!” I finally found the right guy to do it with and he helped me get it together, organize it, and help me work on the book. I couldn’t believe that along with the list of my credits will be photographer and author. It’s kind of mind-blowing. Things that you don’t think you’re capable of, and then when you have an opportunity to do something and maybe make a difference…certainly for The Go-Go’s. This needed to be out there. This is way long overdue; a book of photos with all of us. Photos that I’ve had that people have never seen. Also, you’re getting these photos from a band member’s perspective. With writing from one of the band members about what was going on during that period of time.

BLADE: I’m sure that looking at the pictures brought back lots of memories, but were you also a journal or diary keeper?

SCHOCK: Check this out! I don’t have a journal, but since 1978, Gregg, I have been keeping daily planners every single year. I’ve written down things that were going on during that time period. Not big, long stories, but this happened today, that happened yesterday, next week we’re going to be doing this. I used that as my reference. It was invaluable in the process. I now need to make room for them in the closet. I’ve got them all in drawers in cabinets in my office. It’s like, “OK, there’s no more room here [laughs]!” They were invaluable, like I said, in putting this together. What exact date did this happen? What was going on in November of ’83? It was important to have.

BLADE: Do you see the book as an extension of Alison Ellwood’s 2020 Go-Go’s documentary?

SCHOCK: No, but I’ll tell you that 99% of the photos in Alison’s documentary are mine.

It’s not an extension of that. This book has been in the works for decades. I just needed to find the right person to help me get it together. But when Alison was interviewing, I’d show her a photo and she would say, “Gina, can we come back and get some of these photos for the documentary?” I was like, “Of course, you can!” The majority of what you saw are my photos.

BLADE: The book is full of marvelous personal history details, such as performing with the late Edith Massey, known to many from her performances in some of John Waters’ movies. What do you think Edie would think of the book?

SCHOCK: She would be, [imitating Massey] “Oh, Gina, I’m so happy about your book! Finally, it’s about time!” Bless her heart and soul. I was doing an interview yesterday and I said, “If it wasn’t for Edie, I don’t know if The Go-Go’s would exist. Certainly not in the way that they have for the last more than 40 years. Things happen in a magical way, how it all comes together. No one really knows why somebody meets someone on that particular day at that particular time, and then something comes out of that that you can’t believe. Edie gave me the opportunity to come out to LA and San Francisco and New York and actually play in clubs. We got to play at Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s; what a thrill that was. Then to come to LA and do three nights of the Nuart Theater and then play The Warfield up in San Francisco. That was the first time I’d ever been on a plane! After doing that with Edie, the minute I got back to Baltimore I realized it was time to make a move. It gave me the courage to believe that I could go back to any one of these places and I’m going to do something! By the way, Edie was such a lovely person. A sweetheart.

BLADE: Another scoop for the readers that I loved was the part about the Go-Go’s performing with ska in the early 1980s, leading to the collaboration with Terry Hall on the song “Our Lips are Sealed,” which was a much bigger hit for the Go-Go’s than for Terry’s band Fun Boy Three. Do you know how he felt about that?

SCHOCK: I have no idea how he felt, but I’m sure he was happy because all Terry Hall  was hearing was “ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching [laughs].” I think Terry was quite happy about that. I would be. When Jane brought in the song, she was scared to death to play it for us because it was basically like a love letter that she readjusted a little bit lyrically and put some chords and a melody to. She played it for us, and we were like, “Jane, this song’s great!”

BLADE: We are all saddened by the recent passing of Charlie Watts, drummer for the Rolling Stones. In your book, you wrote about the Go-Go’s opening for The Rolling Stones. Can you please say a few words about what Charlie meant to you as a fellow drummer?

SCHOCK: There were two drummers that were my heroes growing up. That was Charlie Watts and John Bonham (of Led Zeppelin). Those two guys are part of the reason I started and kept playing drums. To think that many years later I actually got to meet my hero and talk to him. I got to sit on his drum kit! I talked to his drum tech!

That was one of the biggest thrills of my life. Then to be able to just open for the Stones, I mean, God! Wow, what a thrill! He was, of course, a gentleman. Very quiet kind of guy; soft-spoken. A lovely guy; very personable, very sweet. I didn’t have a lot of time to talk to him, but when I did my heart was pounding. I couldn’t believe it. Meeting David Bowie was the same sort of thing. You have such adoration for these people. The impact they have on your life in many ways, not just musically.

BLADE: You put some personal thoughts and experiences in the book, including your open-heart surgery to correct an atrial septal defect, yours and the band’s encounters with drugs and recovery, the break-up of the band and issues with songwriting revenue. Was it painful or freeing to revisit these subjects?

SCHOCK: It was a little bit of both. It brought up some really heavy things that went down. But all those things have been ironed out and taken care of. Everything is good now and it has been for many years. The songwriting splits were a big part of why the band broke up. It seemed very unfair to me. I have to tell the truth [laughs]. I have to be honest with the people that I’m working with. They are my family, and nobody can hurt you worse than somebody in your family. I think I explained it all in the book the best that I can.

BLADE: Following the original break-up of the Go-Go’s, you formed the band House of Schock with Vance DeGeneres, brother of Ellen DeGeneres. What are the chances that, aside from the Smothers Brothers, two funny people would come from the same womb?

SCHOCK: Yeah, right [laughs]? It’s crazy, right? Vance was fresh out of New Orleans and I don’t know how I met him; (through) a friend of a friend or something. We hit it off right away. I don’t like to do anything by myself, Gregg. I always want a partner in crime. I like a team! That’s why I always want to be in a band. I never want to be a solo anything. I like being in a band. I like having other people to bounce ideas off of. I’m not the greatest at anything, but I’m pretty good when you put me with somebody else who’s talented as well. Vance and I worked great together. Ellen had just come to town and she was just starting out in the comedy clubs. We’d meet and have dinner. She’d ask me lots of questions about who I thought was a good agent to see. It was very sweet to watch everything happen for her. One of the funniest things, I told this to somebody the other day, I’ll never forget this. Ellen said to me, “Gina, do you think if I make a lot of money one day, would you sell me your house [laughs]?” I don’t remember what I said, but I’ll never forget her asking me that. Because Ellen could buy a city block!

BLADE: In 2018, the Go-Go’s went to Broadway with the musical Head Over Heels, featuring the band’s music. What was that experience like for you?

SCHOCK: That was another unbelievable moment being in the Go-Go’s. To think that this punk band, so many years later, has a musical on Broadway is absurd. But it happened! It’s another crazy thing that just happened! There’s a lot of work involved, don’t get me wrong, and years and years of being in this band and working our butts off to achieve the status that we have in the industry. But it was still an incredible thrill. To meet all the Broadway actors and all, my God, those people can really sing and act! I was never a big fan of Broadway, but I am now. I was knocked out! They’re so fucking talented. It’s such a thrill to watch them interpreting our songs woven into this 17th-century short story.

BLADE: Recently, Belinda’s son (James) Duke (Mason), posted a happy birthday message to you on social media in which he referred to you as his “Auntie.”

SCHOCK: Yes! I love Dukie! I watched that little boy grow up. I just adore him. I will always be in his life. He’s very precious to me.

BLADE: When Duke came out, Belinda became a very outspoken advocate for the community. Would you mind saying a few words about your connection to the LGBTQ+ community?

SCHOCK: I don’t know what my relationship really is. All I know is that I’m who I am. I’m a musician and I will fight for anything or anybody that has had a difficult time in society. Just live your life. Society creates its own do’s and don’ts and rights and wrongs for people, which is just a load of crap to me. Everyone should be allowed to be who they are, and love who they want to love, and marry who they want to marry. Love is love; it has no gender. It’s the most important thing we can give to one another. It’s what this world needs now more than ever. Never think for a second you haven’t got the right to love whomever you fall for because love is always right. It is a human right! 

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular