Lesbian Country Star Keeps Her Top On!

Out of Nashville, out in New York

Country singer Chely Wright (known for "Single White Female" and other lady songs) made big waves by coming out as a lesbian last year, and I'm happy to report that she's still out! Unfortunately, no one else is!

While doing a two-step in my plaid petticoat, I talked to Chely about her sapphic stability in an otherwise closety jamboree, during a lively LGBT phone call the other day.

Me: Hi, Chely. Your revelatory book came out way back in May. Are you still the only out country-western star?

Chely: I am. What do you think about that?

Me: Maybe you're just the only lesbian in country—or in the country.

Chely: There aren't any more lesbians below the Mason-Dixon line! That's why I moved here! [Laughs.]

Me: Has your book changed things, at least subliminally?

Chely: I've got to believe it has. It's prompted discussion on country radio and in the publications. The change may not be visible, but change happens slowly. I'd like to believe we move the chain forward.

Me: Why does that particular musical world seem more homophobic than a lot of other ones?

Chely: We know who our record buyer is—or think we do—and that's conservative Christians. But I believe in the movable middle. I believe that within the fan base, there's a certain number who shrug their shoulders and don't care that I'm gay and others who say, "I won't buy her records anymore." But the movable middle have seen me in concert and maybe asked for an autograph and thought, "She's nice." I think they now might scratch their heads and say, "I didn't know that's what gay can be!"

Me: With all these movable parts, has your fan base expanded or the reverse?

Chely: I lost a considerable fan base, but that's OK. I knew I would. Meanwhile, a lot of LGBT people find me on Facebook and press "like." But there's a big difference between that and buying my records. Creatively, I have more freedom and head space since coming out.

Me: Well, we like having you in New York. Are you adapting well?

Chely: I've been here since 2008, but I was locked up for two years writing my book. Now I'm more social. Some journalists say, "Are you too good for Nashville?" No! I lived there for 22 years and still have a home there. But New York is the greatest city in the world! There, I said it!

Me: It's a lesbian emporium! And speaking of which, you're playing the Dinah, a famous-in-some-circles getaway in Palm Springs, on April 1. So what's the Dinah? I'm a gay man. I have no idea.

Chely: I didn't know till I came out. It's the greatest thing in the world for lesbians. There's golf, music, and a lot of drinking. I hear people might take their tops off. I hope they don't! My band are straight males and all hell might break loose! [Laughs.]

You Gotta Have Faith

At Comix, Sweetie's Ultimate Drag-off gave country music a whole new twist when a tucked gal named Margaux Powell won for lip-synching Faith Hill's "Breathe" while smoking like a haystack and carting an oxygen tank. She did Madonna, too, and with natural breath processes!

I choked with laughter as a judge for Sandy Beach's splashy Miss'd America drag pageant in Atlantic City, which managed to nab a big gay turnout the same night as the Golden Globes. One of the A-List guys also judged and was actually glad he was introduced without the show being mentioned. ("They would have booed," he told me, laughing.)

A colorfully clever gender explosion, Taylor Mac's The Walk Across America for Mother Earth, came to a limp when a performer hurt her knee onstage while madly whirling for her art. Mac inspiringly filled the time by entertaining us with anecdotes, an Ellen Stewart memorial, bravos for costumer Machine Dazzle, an a cappella version of "If I Had a Hammer," and pleas for medical help. Turns out there was only a Doctor of Philosophy in the house—it was the East Village—so Mac asked, "Is there an existential solution?" There wasn't, so an actual medic was brought in!

Unstoppable, Amanda Lepore and Kenny Kenny's fabled Big Top party might be revived at a Times Square haunt next month, if all goes well. And in the Village, Pieces has bumped up their karaoke Tuesdays with a hot gimmick. A live band now plays behind you as you belt "Breathe"—or whatever—feeling more and more like a real star with an entourage and a criminal record.

Live in the flesh, The Fighter director David O. Russell was feted last week at 21, where other auteurs sang his praises, but not with a live band. Russell took the humble approach, saying, "With this movie, everything happened very organically and from the heart. It's like God and the muses. If you just show up and try to honor the material, it comes through onscreen." Lindsay Lohan always does that—minus the showing up.

At my table, I found out that the hilarious Matt Lucas of Little Britain fame is going to star in a dark film comedy called Small Apartments. That would be amazing on a double bill with Tiny Furniture.

Then came a large dinner at the comfy-cozy Park Avenue Tavern, where I heard that Clive Davis was a bit suggestively flirty with One Model Management mogul Scott Lipps at a party recently. Lipps was sort of bemused, but he kept his top on.

musto@villagevoice.com

 
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7 comments
Ack1
Ack1

Thanks for overlooking Mary Gauthier. :( She is openly gay and has been cutting GREAT country albums since the nineties. Or how about the Indigo Girls? There is REAL country music out there, and there are the Nashville types which I consider Cheyl to be who most REAL country music lovers think of as being as plastic as the old "boy" bands. IMO Cheyl seems to be milking her personal life to increase her fan base.

SickOfIT
SickOfIT

I'm just curious, why is it that every person in entertainment who's gay, HAS to make a big production of that fact? It doesn't necessarily make them any better (or worse) as an actor/actress. Personally, I could really care less. Ellen Degeneris is still a lousy comedienne gay or straight (it has more to do with my dislike of "Neurotic" comedy, ala her, Seinfeld, etc).

Roy
Roy

Thanks for writing about Chely. I will press "like" on her Facebook page.

Apachenyc
Apachenyc

The overstimulated and endlessly inventive publicist Alan Rish will stitch up any rumor necessary to get Park Avenue Tavern mentioned in print. Comfy-cozy, indeed.

rolph
rolph

Chely sounds like she has her lesbian head on straight.

frodo
frodo

I'm pretty sure KD Lang came out as a lesbian first.

Aquaboy
Aquaboy

Great interview with Chely! Fun stuff.

 
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