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Hillary’s historic moment

Long-time feminists say gender is a factor in this year’s race

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Hillary Clinton, gay news, Washington Blade

Hillary Clinton enjoys strong support among lesbian feminists. (Photo by Gino Santa Maria; courtesy Bigstock)

Benghazi! Hillary’s e-mails! Trump! At danger of getting lost in the overheated discourse of this year’s U.S. presidential election is the historic fact that Hillary Clinton is now the first woman to capture a major-party nomination for president.

There was Shirley Chisholm (who ran for the Democratic nomination in 1972), Geraldine Ferraro (Walter Mondale’s running mate in 1984), even Sarah Palin (John McCain’s running mate in 2008), but no woman has ever come as close to the presidency as Hillary Clinton.

In the wake of this achievement, what does it mean for the lesbian community, a group that has always been one of her strongest supporters? And why has the historic nature of her candidacy felt like little more than a footnote this year?

Hillary fatigue?

Out political comedian Kate Clinton thinks it’s because Hillary has been around so long — since 1978. Still, she says, it’s exciting to see Hillary win the nomination.

“I think it’s absolutely very, very exciting,” Kate Clinton says. “And add to the fact that she is the first woman nominee for a major party, is astounding.”

As the first out lesbian and African-American mayor in the United States, Denise Simmons of Cambridge, Mass., is used to her gender, race and sexual orientation making headlines.

Simmons expected Hillary’s nomination to get much more attention than it’s received. She agrees with Kate Clinton’s assessment.

“I do wonder if perhaps part of this is simply because she has been a national figure for such a long time,” Simmons says. “And therefore the sense of novelty just isn’t there.”

Elizabeth Birch, who served as executive director of the Human Rights Campaign from 1995-2004 and is also a friend of Clinton’s, says Clinton does not want the fact that she’s a woman to be the sole reason for anyone to vote for her.

“I think that’s why she’s been painstaking about amassing her credentials over the last two decades,” Birch says. “She absolutely wants [her election] to be on her merit, but nevertheless, none of us should forget what an extraordinary breakthrough this will be.”

Clinton’s gender, Birch says, is treated like a distraction from the “political theater” going on.

Blues singer and LGBT and black rights activist Gaye Adegbalola agrees with Birch. She thinks Clinton’s nomination isn’t headline news because Trump has “hijacked” the headlines.

“He’s the story,” Adegbalola says.

Kate Clinton says that any time some excitement is generated for Clinton, Trump will say something controversial, Benghazi and the email scandal are brought up and Americans become fixated on her purported failures.

“The Koch brothers, who, I like to call the cock brotherhood, have targeted money to just make her unfavorable, untrustworthy,” Kate Clinton says.

Kate Clinton, gay news, Washington Blade

Kate Clinton says accusations that Hillary Clinton is untrustworthy are ‘absurd.’ (Blade file photo)

Trust issues 

Kate Clinton says the fact that Hillary Clinton is painted as untrustworthy in the news media is absurd.

But, in many recent polls, conducted by the Huffington Post, pollingreport.com and CNN, many Americans say they do not trust Hillary Clinton.

Is the lack of trust in Hillary because of her politics, or could it be attributed to sexism?

Birch doesn’t think so.

“My diagnosis is that Hillary Clinton is extremely private for someone in the public sphere,” she says. “And she has, throughout her life, had unrealistic expectations for privacy.”

Birch says that in trying to protect her privacy and keep her life and decisions under wraps, Clinton has been misread.

“The level of transparency that’s required when you are in a position like the various positions she’s been in … all those steps she took to preserve privacy only lead to more problems,” she says. “You know, it’s never the actual crime, it’s always the cover-up.”

This, according to Birch, has always been Clinton’s downfall.

“The Clintons, as political figures, have certainly been guarded at many points throughout the past three decades, often with good reason,” Birch says. “And unfortunately this has opened Hillary Clinton to charges of having something to hide.”

Simmons disagrees with Birch. She says the lack of trust among voters has a lot to do with gender.

“Any time a female candidate is painted as untrustworthy, or shrill or calculating, one does wonder whether there is some sexism at play,” Simmons says.

Rev. Elder Darlene Garner, minister and LGBT activist and co-founder of the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays, makes a different assessment. She blames populism for Clinton’s perceived untrustworthiness.

“I think it is blatant populism that masks sexism, that masks homophobia and transphobia, that masks racism and nationalism,” Garner says.

Adegbalola says that anyone who’s been in Washington as long as the Clintons will undoubtedly amass some “dirt,” but she says this is just how politics works.

“There has to be some bargaining and there has to be some, ‘I’ll kiss your ass, you kiss mine,’ kind of stuff that goes on,” she says.

When Hillary Clinton ran against Barack Obama in 2008, Adegbalola donated $25 to her campaign.

“I was all, you know, ‘Yay, a woman can do this,’ and then Barack started running and I was so in favor of him,” Adegbalola says. “Not necessarily because he was a black man, but because he hadn’t been in D.C. [for long].”

She also liked that he had worked for social justice in Chicago and that he had not been in the U.S. Senate for long.

“My excitement with him was that he was an outsider,” she says. “So now, here you got Trump, who comes along and he’s really an outsider and an asshole, but I think a lot of people take to him for that very reason, that he’s an outsider.”

Adegbalola thinks it’s hypocritical, however, for people to distrust Clinton but not Trump.

“Anybody who makes all that money,” Adegbalola says, “they’ve got to be doing some shady stuff, too.”

She’s astonished by how successful Trump has been.

Garner is surprised too and thinks that Trump’s success reveals the continued work for justice and equality that needs to be done.

“As a movement we have focused on legislative gains and have not given much attention to the quality of our relationships with one another,” Garner says.

Kate Clinton, on the other hand, does not think it’s surprising that Trump has been so successful. She is tired of people, especially Republicans, acting as if he is not representative of certain American beliefs.

She views Trump as a joke who desperately wants to be taken seriously.

“That’s where the danger is,” she says.

Kate Clinton believes that Trump’s desire to be taken seriously boiled over at the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2011. Obama referred to Trump’s threat to run for president at that dinner as a “joke.” Kate Clinton theorizes that Obama’s barrage of jokes at Trump’s expense is what propelled him to run.

“I really think that was the moment he decided, ‘I am not going to have a black man making fun of me,’” Clinton says.

Birch describes Trump as “dangerous.”

“I think the way that human society stays in equilibrium is to have extremely predictable institutions and leaders,” Birch says. “[If leaders] innovate somewhat in the structure of the institutions, I think humans don’t want jarring abrupt moves and they don’t want emotions stirred, played on and exploited.”

Trouble ahead? 

Birch says unpredictable leaders bring problems.

“I think that waves move through every community and I think that his rhetoric has given license to some of this more acute tension in our country right now,” she says.

Simmons agrees.

“I find it incredibly disappointing that one of our major parties would see fit to nominate him to potentially lead the country,” she says. “He could do tremendous damage to our nation on a number of fronts.”

Adegbalola says a Trump presidency could be cataclysmic.

“I think it’s going to be even more divisive for America,” she says. “I think it’s going to widen the gaps between people of color and whites and marginalized people and the white establishment. I’m sure he has a lot of confederate flags in that audience, I’m sure.”

Kate Clinton cites Trump’s nomination of Mike Pence for vice president as representative of his disregard for the rights of marginalized people.

“Pence is hideous toward women,” she says.

Pence came to national attention in 2006 when he said that LGBT couples represented a “societal collapse” in the United States. He has often referred to being gay as a choice and same-sex partnerships as a violation of “God’s idea.”

He made national news again in 2011 when, as a member of Congress, he pushed for a bill to defund Planned Parenthood. In May, Pence rejected the Obama administration’s directive for school districts to allow students to use the bathroom for the gender they identify with saying the Obama administration had no business getting involved in “issues of this nature.”

Adegbalola also points out what could happen to the Supreme Court if Trump is elected.

Despite all this, there are still many people who look at Hillary Clinton’s past and are disturbed by her voting patterns.

Hillary Clinton, New Hampshire primary, gay news, Washington Blade

In 1996, she supported the Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage for federal purposes as the union between one man and one woman, and allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed under the laws of other states. Her support for the bill haunted her for two decades.

Kate Clinton says that the LGBT community needs to remember that she was not president when the act was passed.

“That was her husband,” Clinton says. “I think she was pretty representative of very political people weighing everything, trying to figure out and trying to say the right thing at the right time and that killed her career.”

In a campaign that many say is structured around humiliation and elitism, Garner says that voting for Hillary Clinton is important.

“I believe that she is a champion for human dignity and justice and I would expect that as president she would continue to do the same,” she says.

She cites Clinton’s attitudes toward children as proof that her presidency would benefit LGBT families.

“Her support of health care and even continued health care reform, will benefit all of us, including women,” Garner says. “And her economic policies will also benefit women, who are still underpaid in the American work force, and her presidency will be a direct benefit to lesbians as well as to all women.”

Adegbalola cites her own experiences as a self-employed musician and cancer survivor as one of the main reasons she plans to vote for Clinton. She says that in 2008 she was paying more than $700 a month for cancer treatment.

The Affordable Care Act, she says, is of paramount importance to her and she knows that under Clinton, Obama’s work will continue.

Birch says that growing up in Canada and seeing Queen Elizabeth’s picture hanging on the wall in all of her elementary school classrooms and having a female principal, made her think that women were in charge.

“I just thought, ‘Oh yeah my name is Elizabeth, the queen is Elizabeth, I guess I can go far,’” she says. “The psychological impact it will have on inspiring and lighting fires in young women … we can never underestimate it.”

Adegbalola, however, says at this point she is over Clinton’s gender.

“I’m simply looking at who would I vote for between the two,” she says. “[It’s] Hillary, there’s no question. And she’s smart and she’s been there, she’s paid her dues.”

Adegbalola doesn’t feel that anyone in the Republican Party, including Trump, would do anything to look out for marginalized people.

“I’m black, I’m poor, I’m a woman, I’m a lesbian, I’m a single parent, I’m old,” she says. “[That’s] like six kinds of oppression, so they might lock me up in a concentration camp.”

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Laura

    July 27, 2016 at 10:09 pm

    great article! the person who wrote it is a gem!

    • Laura

      July 27, 2016 at 11:35 pm

      i agree!

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Camp classic ‘Mommie Dearest’ turns 40

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

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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)
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Stupid things not to do when you get old

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

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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.”

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

Drummer on her new book and upcoming Hall of Fame induction

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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! 

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