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Husband’s tragic death leaves D.C. man to raise 4 young children alone

Pair became first gay couple in U.S. to father two sets of twins via surrogacy

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John O'Mahony, gay news, Washington Blade
John O’Mahony is raising two sets of young twins alone after the passing of his husband Yaroslav Koporulin. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. resident John O’Mahony says he and his husband and life partner of 25 years Yaroslav Koporulin remained hopeful in January of 2019 when Koporulin was diagnosed with lung cancer on the same day their twin sons were born, making them the first known gay couple in the U.S. to have two sets of twins through surrogacy.

The couple’s two daughters, Violet and Claire, were born in May 2016, a little less than three years before the birth of their twin sons, Evan and Damian.

John says he’s thankful that Yaroslav, a native of Russia and an acclaimed artist and graphic designer who became a U.S. citizen in 2016, had a chance to help raise the four kids and place his loving personality on them up until just four weeks ago, when Yaroslav died on Oct. 24 of complications associated with lung cancer at the age of 48.

Yaroslav’s sudden passing has created both an emotional and financial struggle for John, according to a close friend of the couple who posted a GoFundMe page inviting friends and supporters in the community to provide some help.

“Your kindness and generosity will help John to deal with the funeral and a lot of other expenses coming his way during this unbearable time of loss and grieving for his beloved husband of almost 25 years,” said Olga Deviatkova, the friend who posted the GoFundMe page. “Please donate to John, Violet, Claire, Evan and Damian.”

On Friday, Oct. 23, John, who’s 52, says his mother took Yaroslav to Georgetown University Hospital’s emergency room with a fever and difficulty breathing. John says he arrived at the hospital about an hour later, and doctors soon informed him and his mother that Yaroslav appeared to have pneumonia.

He had been undergoing chemotherapy treatment for small cell lung cancer, which is a form of lung cancer known to spread to other parts of the body, for over a year, according to John. The harsh chemo treatment had weakened his immune system, making him susceptible to infection.

Later that night, after John returned home thinking the pneumonia would be successfully treated and Yaroslav would come home in a few days, John says he received a call from one of the doctors at the hospital saying Yaroslav had developed a sepsis blood infection in addition to the pneumonia.

“So they called me saying they think he might pass,” John recalls being told. “I’m like, what?”

To make matters worse, John says he was informed that he could not come back that night to visit Yaroslav at the hospital’s intensive care unit where his husband was being treated due to strict COVID-19 restrictions even though Yaroslav had tested negative for COVID through two separate tests. He said he was told he would have to wait until later the next day to be able to come in for a visit.

“I had to wait until 3 p.m. the next day to see him,” John says. “He went in on Friday, Oct. 23 at about 7 p.m. They called me at 7 a.m. on Saturday to say he had passed,” John says. “So that was the hardest part. There was kind of no closure with somebody that I’ve been with for 25 years or more.”

Yaroslav Koporulin and John O’Mahony had two sets of twins — daughters Violet and Claire, and sons Evan and Damian. (Photo courtesy of O’Mahony)

John told the Blade in an interview on Nov. 9 that talking about his life with Yaroslav and the many things they did together as well as being with his kids helps to ease his struggle in coping with the loss of his husband.

“Just say that I loved him very much and I’m going to miss him more than anything,” he says. “I wish he would have been around longer. But the only way my life is bearable is because I have the kids with me and part of them are him,” John says. “So I feel as though he is kind of here too.”

John explains that he and Yaroslav retained the services of two fertility agencies to arrange for them to become the biological fathers of two sets of twins through in vitro fertilization. The process involved obtaining separate eggs from a female donor and fertilizing one of them from John’s sperm and the other from Yaroslav’s sperm through a laboratory in vitro fertilization process.

The fertilized eggs, which became separate embryos, were then implanted into a female surrogate who was compensated for becoming pregnant and delivering the babies. According to John, although the implantation of an embryo into a surrogate often does not “take,” it did take in both cases for them resulting in the birth of their two sets of twins.

Columbia Fertility Associates was especially helpful and supportive of their effort to bear their kids through surrogacy, John told the Blade. “They’ve been so good to us and so good to the gay community,” he said.

A couple that ‘clicked’ together

John O’Mahony and Yaroslav Koporulin

John says he and Yaroslav met in 1995 in D.C. at the Dupont Circle gay bar The Fireplace, where John was working as a bartender. Yaroslav, a resident of Moscow, was visiting the U.S. in an artists’ exchange program for just a few weeks and was in D.C. and set to visit Philadelphia and New York before returning to Moscow.

John, who has a bachelor’s degree in international relations, says he was wearing a Russian sailor’s hat while serving drinks at The Fireplace when Yaroslav approached him and asked why he was wearing that hat.

“And I said it’s kind of a cool hat. It’s a Russian navy hat. And he said well I’m from Russia,” John recalls. “And we just started talking. I was just getting off work and we just clicked and kept in contact for the next year,” John says.

During that year John says he traveled to Moscow to visit Yaroslav a few times and Yaroslav came back to D.C. to see John a couple of times. About a year after the two met and had become a couple separated by an ocean and a continent John says he decided to “drop everything” in D.C. and move to Russia to live with Yaroslav in Yaroslav’s Moscow apartment in late 1996.

A short time after his move to Moscow John says he applied for and quickly got a job at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. John says that under the tenure of then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin, the atmosphere for gay people at least in Moscow was generally open and supportive. He says he and Yaroslav walked holding hands through the streets of Moscow without a problem.

On one of his visits to Moscow he thinks was in 1995 prior to moving there he and Yaroslav exchanged vows that the two considered to be equivalent to a marriage in Pushkinskaya Square, a park-like plaza in downtown Moscow, John told the Blade.

“We used strands of grass to make two rings and put them on each other’s fingers,” he said. “We kept them in a drawer for a long time. It was cool. They looked like rings.”

After living together in Moscow for four years the couple decided to come back to D.C., where they moved into the Logan Circle area house owned by John, which he leased to tenants during his time in Moscow. A short time later, the two bought a five-bedroom house near 17th and U streets, N.W. that they turned into the U Street Bed and Breakfast.

“We lived in the basement apartment and used the upper floors for the bed and breakfast,” John says, which the couple operated for the next 14 years. They sold the business at the time they decided they wanted to start their family and have kids, noting that the long hours it took to operate the B&B would not be conducive to raising children.

John says it was not until 2013 that he and Yaroslav got legally married in D.C. Although D.C. legalized gay marriage in 2010, five years before the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, John says lawyers representing Yaroslav’s ongoing effort to obtain a green card and permanent U.S. residency advised him not to enter into a same-sex marriage.

The anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act passed by Congress in the 1990s and signed by President Bill Clinton prohibited the federal government from extending any benefits or policies in support of same-sex marriages. That prohibition prevented Yaroslav from obtaining U.S. residency through a same-sex marriage in the same way a heterosexual marriage automatically resulted in residency status for foreigners that marry a U.S. citizen.

The lawyers said getting married might also jeopardize his efforts to obtain a green card and prevent him from staying in the U.S. without a renewed visa, John said.

All that changed in 2013 when the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its landmark decision in U.S. v. Windsor, which upheld a lower court ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional.

Yaroslav Koporulin and John O’Mahony. (Photo courtesy of O’Mahony)

John says that opened the way for him and Yaroslav to get married in D.C. under the same-sex marriage law that had been approved by the D.C. Council and signed by then-Mayor Adrian Fenty in 2009 and which took effect in March 2010.

The 2013 Windsor Supreme Court ruling also cleared the way for Yaroslav to obtain his long-awaited green card and a short time later his full U.S. citizenship.

John says that after the two gave up their bed and breakfast business, Yaroslav stepped up his longstanding line of work as an artist, with showings of his artwork in galleries across the city. He also began work as an adjunct professor teaching art at American University, which he continued until illness related to his lung cancer forced him to step back.

His citizenship status came too late for Yaroslav to vote in the 2016 presidential election but he was able to do so this year, John says.

two sets twins, gay news, Washington Blade
Yaroslav Koporulin, on left, and John O’Mahony with their twin daughters Claire and Violet in 2018. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

“He was so happy he got to vote in his first presidential election and he voted for Biden,” according to John. “He didn’t like Trump too much.”

Added John, “He voted on Wednesday, three days before he died. And we mailed in his ballot.”

With Yaroslav’s passing, a child care center called CentroNia in Columbia Heights where John and Yaroslav had enrolled their four kids has become immensely helpful in the kids’ support and educational development, John says. The center’s policy of providing a financial subsidy for parents who cannot afford the full tuition for enrolling their children has also been helpful.

When asked how the kids are dealing with the loss of one of their fathers, who they called Papa — they call John Dad — John says the loss has been mostly something they don’t fully understand or grasp due to their young age.

“Thank God they’re not 7 or 8 or 9 when maybe it sticks in you more,” he says. “But they’re only 4 and a half and almost 2. So the twin boys, the young ones, they don’t even know,” John says. “They just started to say papa. But the girls, they said papa probably 200,000 times. They just say papa died. So they get it but not really,” he says.

“But I just tell it like it is,” John says. “And I say papa has died and you know that he had lung cancer and he had a booboo in his lungs. And papa is not with us anymore but he’s thinking about you and he’ll always love you.”

The GoFundMe site in support of John O’Mahony and his family can be accessed here.

A site displaying Yaroslav Koporulin’s artwork, some of which may be for sale with the proceeds used to support his family, can be accessed here.

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
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Daisy Edgar-Jones knows why ‘the Crawdads sing’

Actress on process, perfecting a southern accent, and her queer following

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Daisy Edgar-Jones as Kya Clark. (Photo courtesy Sony/Columbia)

Daisy Edgar-Jones is an actor whose career is blossoming like her namesake. In recent years, she seems to be everywhere. LGBTQ viewers may recognize Edgar-Jones from her role as Delia Rawson in the recently canceled queer HBO series “Gentleman Jack.” She also played memorable parts in a pair of popular Hulu series, “Normal People” and “Under the Banner of Heaven.” Earlier this year, Edgar-Jones was seen as Noa in the black comedy/horror flick “Fresh” alongside Sebastian Stan. 

With her new movie, “Where the Crawdads Sing” (Sony/Columbia), she officially becomes a lead actress. Based on Delia Owens’ popular book club title of the same name, the movie spans a considerable period of time, part murder mystery, part courtroom drama. She was kind enough to answer a few questions for the Blade.

BLADE: Daisy, had you read Delia Owens’s novel “Where the Crawdads Sing” before signing on to play Kya?

DAISY EDGAR-JONES: I read it during my audition process, as I was auditioning for the part. So, the two went hand in hand.

BLADE: What was it about the character of Kya that appealed to you as an actress?

EDGAR-JONES: There was so much about her that appealed to me. I think the fact that she is a very complicated woman. She’s a mixture of things. She’s gentle and she’s curious. She’s strong and she’s resilient. She felt like a real person. I love real character studies and it felt like a character I haven’t had a chance to delve into. It felt different from anyone I’ve played before. Her resilience was one that I really admired. So, I really wanted to spend some time with her.

BLADE: While Kya is in jail, accused of killing the character Chase, she is visited by a cat in her cell. Are you a cat person or do you prefer dogs?

EDGAR-JONES: I like both! I think I like the fact that dogs unconditionally love you. While a cat’s love can feel a bit conditional. I do think both are very cute. Probably, if I had to choose, it would be dogs.

BLADE: I’m a dog person, so I’m glad you said that.

EDGAR-JONES: [Laughs]

BLADE: Kya lives on the marsh and spends a lot of time on and in the water. Are you a swimmer or do you prefer to be on dry land?

EDGAR-JONES: I like swimming, I do. I grew up swimming a lot. If I’m ever on holidays, I like it to be by the sea or by a nice pool.

BLADE: Kya is also a gifted artist, and it is the thing that brings her great joy. Do you draw or paint?

EDGAR-JONES: I always doodle. I’m an avid doodler. I do love to draw and paint. I loved it at school. I wouldn’t say I was anywhere near as skilled as Kya. But I do love drawing if I get the chance to do it.

BLADE: Kya was born and raised in North Carolina. What can you tell me about your process when it comes to doing a southern accent or an American accent in general?

EDGAR-JONES: It’s obviously quite different from mine. I’ve been lucky that I’ve spent a lot of time working on various accents for different parts for a few years now, so I feel like I’m developed an ear for, I guess, the difference in tone and vowel sounds [laughs]. When it came to this, it was really important to get it right, of course. Kya has a very lyrical, gentle voice, which I think that North Carolina kind of sound really helped me to access. I worked with a brilliant accent coach who helped me out and I just listened and listened.

BLADE: While I was watching “Where the Crawdads Sing” I thought about how Kya could easily be a character from the LGBTQ community because she is considered an outsider, is shunned and ridiculed, and experiences physical and emotional harm. Do you also see the parallels?

EDGAR-JONES: I certainly do. I think that aspect of being an outsider is there, and this film does a really good job of showing how important it is to be kind to everyone. I think this film celebrates the goodness you can give to each other if you choose to be kind. Yes, I definitely see the parallels.

BLADE: Do you have an awareness of an LGBTQ following for your acting career?

EDGAR-JONES: I tend to stay off social media and am honestly not really aware of who follows me, but I do really hope the projects I’ve worked on resonate with everyone.

BLADE: Are there any upcoming acting projects that you’d like to mention?

EDGAR-JONES: None that I can talk of quite yet. But there are a few things that are coming up next year, so I’m really excited.

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CAMP Rehoboth’s president talks pandemic, planning, and the future

Wesley Combs marks six months in new role

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Wesley Combs took over as president of CAMP Rehoboth six months ago and is now focused on searching for a new permanent executive director. (Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

June marks half a year since Wesley Combs stepped into his role as president of CAMP Rehoboth. In a conversation with the Blade, Combs recounted his first six months in the position — a time he said was characterized by transition and learning.

Since 1991, CAMP Rehoboth has worked to develop programming “inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities” in the Rehoboth Beach, Del. area, according to the nonprofit’s website. As president, Combs oversees the organization’s board of directors and executive director, helping determine areas of focus and ensure programming meets community needs.

For Combs, his more than three decades of involvement with CAMP Rehoboth have shaped the course of his life. In the summer of 1989 — just before the organization’s creation — he met his now-husband, who was then living in a beach house with Steve Elkins and Murray Archibald, CAMP Rehoboth’s founders.

Since then, he has served as a financial supporter of the organization, noting that it has been crucial to fostering understanding that works against an “undercurrent of anti-LGBTQ sentiment” in Rehoboth Beach’s history that has, at times, propagated violence against LGBTQ community members.

In 2019, after Elkins passed away, Combs was called upon by CAMP Rehoboth’s Board of Directors to serve on a search committee for the organization’s next executive director. Later that year, he was invited to become a board member and, this past November, was elected president.

Combs noted that CAMP Rehoboth is also still recovering from the pandemic, and is working to restart programming paused in the switch to remote operations. In his first six months, he has sought to ensure that people feel “comfortable” visiting and engaging with CAMP Rehoboth again, and wants to ensure all community members can access its programming, including those from rural parts of Delaware and those without a means of getting downtown.

Still, Combs’s first six months were not without unexpected turns: On May 31, David Mariner stepped down from his role as CAMP Rehoboth executive director, necessitating a search for his replacement. Combs noted that he would help facilitate the search for an interim director to serve for the remainder of the year and ensure that there is “a stable transition of power.” CAMP Rehoboth last week announced it has named Lisa Evans to the interim director role.

Chris Beagle, whose term as president of CAMP Rehoboth preceded Combs’s own, noted that the experience of participating in a search committee with the organization will “better enable him to lead the process this time.”

Before completing his term, Beagle helped prepare Combs for the new role, noting that the “combination of his professional background, his executive leadership (and) his passion for the organization” make Combs a strong president. Regarding the results of the election, “I was extremely confident, and I remain extremely confident,” Beagle said.

Bob Witeck, a pioneer in LGBTQ marketing and communications, has known Combs for nearly four decades. The two founded a public relations firm together in 1993 and went on to work together for 20 years, with clients ranging from major businesses like Ford Motor Company to celebrities including Chaz Bono and Christopher Reeve. According to Witeck, Combs’s work in the firm is a testament to his commitment to LGBTQ advocacy.

“Our firm was the first founded primarily to work on issues specific to LGBTQ identities, because we wanted to counsel corporations about their marketing and media strategies and working in the LGBTQ market,” he explained. By helping develop communications strategies inclusive of those with LGBTQ identities, Combs established a background of LGBTQ advocacy that truly “made a mark,” Witeck said.

Witeck emphasized that, in his new position, Combs brings both business experience and a renewed focus on historically underrepresented in LGBTQ advocacy — including people with disabilities, trans people and people of color.

Looking to the rest of the year, CAMP Rehoboth hopes to host a larger-scale event during Labor Day weekend. In addition, the organization will revisit its strategic plan — first developed in 2019 but delayed due to the pandemic — and ensure it still meets the needs of the local community, Combs said. He added that he intends to reexamine the plan and other programming to ensure inclusivity for trans community members.

“CAMP Rehoboth continues to be a vital resource in the community,” he said. “The focus for the next two years is to make sure we’re doing and delivering services that meet the needs of everyone in our community.”

Wesley Combs, gay news, Washington Blade
Wesley Combs (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)
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Melissa Etheridge shares Q&A in advance of April 26 Tysons tour stop

Rock pioneer finds inspiration in the past — from revisiting old demos to reconnecting with celeb pals like Ellen

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Melissa Etheridge brings her ‘One Way Out Tour’ to the D.C. region next week with a show at the new Capital One Hall in Tysons. (Photo by Elizabeth Miranda; courtesy Primary Wave)

Melissa Etheridge
‘One Way Out Tour’
Tuesday, April 26
Capital One Hall
7750 Capital One Tower Rd.
Tysons, VA
7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $55
ticketmaster.com
capitalonehall.com
melissaetheridge.com

We caught up with rock legend Melissa Etheridge on April 8 by phone from Snoqualmie, Wash. — it’s about 26 miles east of Seattle —where she was playing the Snoqualmie Casino on her “One Way Out Tour,” which plays our region on Tuesday, April 26. 

It’s named after her latest album, released last fall, which found Etheridge, who’s been out since ’93, revisiting demos from early in her career.

Her comments have been slightly edited for length.

WASHINGTON BLADE: “One Way Out” sounds like such a cool project. Was it all re-recorded stuff of old songs or were some of those vintage takes on the record as well?

MELISSA ETHERIDGE: The last two songs, the live songs, were from where? From 2002? OK, but the other songs were newly recorded. 

BLADE: And how many of them did you remember?

ETHERIDGE: You know, when I found them again, they all came back very clearly. And I was like, “Oh, this is — why did I throw that away? That’s weird.” And I really enjoyed, you know, hearing them, they were just old demos. I’d never done full-blown recordings. So I thought, “This is great, I want to do these songs.”

BLADE: We have a relatively new venue you’re going to be playing, Capital One Hall. I’ve only been there once. You excited?

ETHERIDGE: Yeah, it’s always fun. I love the D.C.-area crowd. It’s just really, really nice.

BLADE: And how do you decide where you’ll be? Or do you have any say in it? 

ETHERIDGE: Well, it’s not necessarily me. I do have a say in it, in what I want the whole tour to look like. But it is really up to William Morris, my agent, to find the right venue that understands what we need and the kind of atmosphere we’re looking for that and the amount of people and, you know, that sort of thing.

BLADE: Tell me about Etheridge TV. I just wonder, when we were in that acute phase of the pandemic, wasn’t it even remotely tempting to you to just take a break?

ETHERIDGE: No, because since I was 12 years old, I sang all the time for people, like five days a week and it’s just been what I do. And so when it was like, I was looking at a massive, cavernous amount of time that I was going to be home, I still needed a way to pay the bills, so we put our heads together — I’ve got one of the greatest television minds with me, you know, my wife (TV producer Linda Wallem), so I had the space and I had the equipment, and I was like, “Let’s do it.” And it was really fun to learn new things. It was fun to learn about computers and sound and streaming and lights and cameras and all these things that I didn’t know. … I feel a little smarter.

BLADE: When did you start back on the road?

ETHERIDGE: We went out last fall. We went out September, October, right around there. And you know, it was a little different, Now things are things are loosening up … but some places still require masks. But people are starting to get back out and it feels good. It’s not the overwhelming thing that it was a few months ago.

BLADE: And what was it like being on ‘Ellen’ again for her final season?

ETHERIDGE: Oh, I love her. She’s such an old friend. You know, I say that about myself, too. (chuckles) But, you know, she’s just a relationship in my life that I have treasured. We’ve watched each other grow and the changes we’ve made and the successes and what we’ve gone through and I love that she had me on and just it was just a really — she’s a dear friend. And she showed an old photo there, and we both said, “Oh, that was before we were so busy.”

BLADE: Do you talk to her often?

ETHERIDGE: I would say we see each other socially once or twice a year. It just seemed like once we started having children, all my friends from my 20s and 30s when we were not as busy — it just gets harder to stay in touch and life got crazy. 

BLADE: So when you were hanging out back in the day with Ellen and Rosie and everybody, how was it that Brad Pitt was in that group too? 

ETHERIDGE: Well, my girlfriend (Julie Cypher) had been married to Lou Diamond Phillips and we were all very good friends with Dermot Mulroney and Catherine Keener and Catherine Keener did a movie with Brad, like a movie nobody saw, like Johnny Dangerously or something (1991’s “Johnny Suede”), some really weird movie. So I met Brad before he was terribly famous. He was a part of that group. There was a whole group of all of us that just hung out, and we were all totally different. We were just like young, hungry Hollywood and we’d talk about, “Oh, I had this audition,” or “I went and did this,” and we were just all trying to make it in that town. So we’d get together and have fun. 

BLADE: I was so terribly sorry to hear about Beckett (Etheridge’s son, who died in 2020 at age 21 after struggling with opioid addiction). How are you and the rest of the family, especially (Beckett’s twin) Bailey, dealing with it now?

ETHERIDGE: There are many, many families like us that deal with a loss like that. It just blows a family sideways. But we have a deep love and connection, all of us. We all knew he had a problem and it’s a problem that starts way before he actually passes, so it was not a surprise. So now we’re just living with the missing aspect. You try not to think about what could have been and you try to think about him in a happier place and that he’s out of pain, so that helps us.

BLADE: Had he and Bailey been as close in recent years?

ETHERIDGE: They were very close, but in the last couple of years as he made worse and worse choices, we couldn’t support that, so they were less close, but of course in her heart, it was her brother, he was very dear to her. 

BLADE: Did you watch the Grammys?  Was there anybody you were particularly rooting for?

ETHERIDGE: I watched bits and pieces of it. I had a show that night, so I didn’t get to see the main thing, but I have seen pieces and I just love the crazy diversity and you know, the TikTok people winning stuff, it’s like, “Wow, this is so not the Grammys I remember from the ’80s,” but that was what, 30 years ago? So it’s all good.

BLADE: You were such a perennial favorite back in the day in the best rock female category. Were you pissed when they eliminated it? 

ETHERIDGE: It’s sad because I felt like the criteria they were using to judge what is female rock, they just really dropped the ball. I still think there are some amazing musicians that could be considered, you know, rock, but it feels like we’re having a hard time even defining what rock and roll is now anyway. There’s a whole bunch of strong women out there playing, rocking, you know, playing guitar, being excellent musicians and songwriters. If you can’t call it best rock female, OK, call it something else. 

BLADE: I remember so vividly when you were on the Grammys in 2005, in the midst of chemo, when you sang “Piece of My Heart.” I remember you saying you were wondering how people would react to seeing you bald. Having been through that, any thoughts on the Will/Jada Oscars situation since her baldness, too, was due to a medical condition? 

ETHERIDGE: You know, it’s funny, I did feel a little remembrance of (thinking), “I just hope people don’t make fun of me.” That was kind of the first thing because to go out there bald, that was so different for me as an artist whose hair had kind of defined her. I was thinking, “How am I gonna rock without my hair?” I thought people might make fun of me, but I got over that. I just thought, “Well, if somebody makes fun of me, that just makes them look bad.” So I just walked through it. And you know, it’s hard to draw the line between what’s funny and what’s painful and how to look at something. I feel for all parties involved. 

BLADE: When you go on these cruises, do fans give you some space or do they swarm around the minute you walk out? Is it even enjoyable for you? 

ETHERIDGE: Yeah, it is. You know, we did our last one, now we’re doing Etheridge Island, we now have a destination in Mexico, outside of Cancun, it’s just this island that we’re going to that is really fantastic. But I do I make myself available, I don’t run away. When I have to be somewhere, I have a great company we work with called Sixthman that knows how to get me from point A to point B without being bogged down. But I do my make myself available. Everyone gets a picture with me. It’s my work, but I love it. I try to make myself available but also have some time just for myself too.

Melissa Etheridge says slowing down wasn’t an option for her when the pandemic hit. She’s glad to be back on the road now, she says. (Photo by Elizabeth Miranda; courtesy Primary Wave)

BLADE: You Tweeted a few nights ago about having a tight curfew of just 90 minutes at a casino but then it worked out and you got to do a full set. Why are the curfews so tight at casinos?  

ETHERIDGE: Why do you think? They want people at the tables. Like for tonight, we we settled on 100 minutes. They’re giving me 10 extra minutes. I don’t like it, but in some areas, the only really good venue is a casino, so if you want to reach your folks there, you kind of have to meet them half way. 

BLADE: Yeah, but it seems like in concert halls, the curfews can sometimes be really tight too. Even Madonna got her lights shut off a couple years ago. Of course, she’s notoriously late, but why are they so strict with these things nowadays? 

ETHERIDGE: There are all different situations — concert halls often have union crews that will absolutely shut you down if you go one second over. There are also sound curfews, noise curfews, mostly with outdoor venues, but sometimes indoor as well. They have an agreement with the neighborhood. So you have people in the neighborhood standing by with their phones ready to pounce the minute it goes over one minute, they’re gonna call the police. As a performer, you just realize, “OK, it’s not just about me.” When I don’t have a curfew, I usually land at about two hours and some change. That seems comfortable to everyone. Any longer and I think I’m wearing my audience out. When I’m at a place with a shorter show, I just do my best. 

BLADE: I know you’re a big Chiefs fan. Did you watch that game back in January all the way to the end? 

ETHERIDGE: Well, at the end of it, I was on the floor. My wife was like, “Honey, honey, there’s still 13 seconds,” and I was moaning and sort of getting my feet on the floor and, you know, laying down and throwing a fit. And she’s like, “No, there’s still 13 seconds.” I dragged myself back to the television. And I couldn’t believe it. I was like, “Wait a minute. Did we just win?” You know, just really crazy, really crazy stuff. … When you’re a fan like that, it’s a ride you can’t fully explain.

BLADE: Are you in a cordial or good place with your exes? Does it get easier when the kids are starting to grow up?

ETHERIDGE: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. And you realize that it’s best for the kids if you can really get along and that any sort of conflict that can’t get resolved, that gets emotional, does no good for anyone. And absolutely, I have, I’ve gotten better at that as the years have gone by.

BLADE: Do you have the slightest inkling yet what the next studio album might be like?

ETHERIDGE: Well, I’ve got some interesting projects that I’m not ready to talk about just yet. But they have to do with my life story. There’s a lot of digging up of my past and really telling the story. So I imagine the next series of music you’ll get from me is going to be very focused on my journey. 

Melissa Etheridge, gay news, Washington Blade
Melissa Etheridge (Photo by Elizabeth Miranda; courtesy Primary Wave)
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