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CREATED DATE: 4-9-11 ROUND: final
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Celebrity – it’s the currency of our popular culture – the driver of dreams, entertainment, immortality and escape. To that end, we welcome you to our first CELEBRITY issue featuring five interviews with entertainment icons who touch, in very tangible ways, our queer community. From allies and advocates Pam Grier and Idina Menzel to out and proud trailblazers Wanda Sykes, Peter Marc Jacobson and Manila Luzon – we’re pleased offer you a glimpse behind the veil. Celebrity can be shallow – an egocentric, narcissistic mirage – so it was with pride and pleasure that Matt Jamieson and I interviewed this quintet who talk not only about their craft, but their relevance within the LGBT community. We also celebrate a St. Louis LGBT community treasure, Betty Neeley – From Team Saint Louis Athlete to community volunteer this tribal elder continues to inspire. PROMO’s A.J. Bockelman is back with a look at the celebrity of marriage equality and how it oftentimes dwarfs equally important equality efforts. Also returning is “Dishin’ with Dieta” and “Cocktail of the Month” to join our newest feature, “5 Questions” where we chat with a compelling community member. Happy reading and enjoy the ride as Vital VOICE celebrates CELEBRITY. In Pride,
Colin Murphy, Executive Editor
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Volume 13, Issue 7
On the COVER: Out and Proud Funny Lady Wanda
Sykes Graces the Cover of our CELEBRITY Issue. Check out our exclusive interview with the multitalented entertainer as well as revealing chats with Idina Menzel, Peter Marc Jacobson, Pam Grier and Manila Luzon. Photo Provided by: PMK.BNC Entertainment
The Vital VOICE Team
Darin Slyman Publisher/Editor-in-Chief firstname.lastname@example.org
Colin Murphy Executive Editor/Senior Writer email@example.com
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Photography: Alex Galindo, Darin Slyman, Colin Murphy, Betty Neeley, Robin Wong, Andrew Werner, Pam Grier, Showtime, Peter Marc Jacobson, PMK.BNC Entertainment and Nabil Writing: A.J. Bockelman, Alex Galindo, Colin Murphy and Matt Jamieson
William A. Donius, Thom Halter, Colin Murphy, Jay Perez, Pam Schneider, Kellie Trivers, Sharon Tucci.
Vital VOICE Magazine. 4579 Laclede Ave #268. Saint Louis, MO 63108 VitalVOICEmag@gmail.com 314.256.1196
8. Online@theVitalVOICE.com 11. Betty Neeley. 14. The Growing Grove. 22. Political Voice. 25. 5 ?’s with Bubbles. 27. Wanda Sykes. 31. Celebrity. 41. Paparazzi. 44. Dishin’ With Dieta. 45. Cocktail of the Month. 46. Playdates. 48. Scene & Styling.
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JCPenney Unveils Gay Dads Ad
JCPenney continues to endear itself to its LGBT customers with a Father’s Day ad featuring a same-sex couple. The ad features two real-life dads, Todd Koch and Cooper Smith, playing with their children Claire and Mason. “First Pals: What makes Dad so cool?” reads the ad’s copy. “He’s the swim coach, tent maker, best friend, bike fixer and hug giver – all rolled into one. Or two.”
Firefighter Pensions to Domestic Partners
Under the current set up, the city must get permission from the state before making changes to the retirement system. Under the new configuration, the City will not need state permission for any changes made. The city itself is the sponsor for the legislation, which will allow a plan consistent with its values. Because of this, Mayor Francis Slay is proposing the legislation adding “domestic partner” to the definition of widow or widower – meaning a qualified domestic partner of a firefighter will be eligible to get a pension if his or her partner dies in the line of duty.
EI Supports Marriage Equality Lawsuits
Achieving full equality under the law has been won step-by-step through multiple routes—legislative action, executive leadership, Constitutional amendment and judicial action—which is why Equality Illinois supports Lambda Legal and ACLU of Illinois filing lawsuits last month seeking full marriage equality. Under this twotrack approach, the state’s oldest and largest LGBT advocacy organization will continue to push a legislative strategy in Springfield to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry in Illinois, while the judicial remedy is being sought in the courts.
LGBT Shelter and Housing Advocacy Project Formed
St. Louis based transgender, socio-economic justice and disability rights advocate, Robyn Carolyn Montague announced, May 20 the formation of The St. Louis LGBT Shelter and Housing Advocacy Project. The Project, which has been three years in the making, was formed to address the lack of safe and suitable shelter and shelter services for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) adult homeless individuals. From the existing shelter environment, the Project will draft a model in which the ideals of full wraparound services will be encouraged and where the institution of a ‘resident advocacy’ program is paramount.
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10 | July, 2012
1 O ut of 10 Ain’t Bad! A LOOK INTO LGBT LIFE - PAST & PRESENT
Betty Neeley: At the Center of it All
Written by Colin Murphy - Executive Editor Photography by Betty Neeley
hrough dedication, service and all around stick-to-itiveness, Betty Neeley is one of our LGBT community’s celebrated figures. Iconic 1950s snapshots of the 75-year-old adorn the walls of The LGBT Center of St. Louis where Betty works as one of the lead volunteers. They provide visitors with a glimpse into our queer past - and Betty’s always at the ready with a story. “I don’t ever remember being in,” replies Betty when asked when she came out as a lesbian. “I had a girlfriend when I was in the sixth grade whose grandparents lived out by Leesburg, Missouri and I remember walking those roads, holding her hand and my heart going tha-thump, tha-thump, tha-thump – like it was going to jump out of my chest. So I don’t really ever remember feeling any different.” Betty grew up in The Grove before it was The Gayborhood, graduating from Adams School right around the corner from The Center. The irony isn’t lost on her as she tells the story of shopping on Manchester as a girl.
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“Melrose was a clothing store and I bought my first pair of Levis there for $2.35,” she explains. “There were a couple of women who worked in there and they recognized me right away. I was like 11 – but they watched me grow up and when I got older they took me to Betty’s CB – and the cops raided the place that night and my friends shoved me out the back door and threw me in an ash pit.”
“There was no law about booking people,” Betty continues. “They [the police] could just be having a bad evening and say I’ve got nothing to do – let’s go down and drag a few people in and hold you for 24 hours. You had to have three articles of women’s clothes on – socks, panties and a bra on – but if they wanted to lock you up, they just went ahead and did it. They didn’t have to have a reason.”
That was the early 1950s and vice raids were commonplace in gay bars throughout the city.
Betty points to the butch/femme scene which was the rule in St. Louis lesbian culture.
12 | July, 2012
“You didn’t have a choice – let’s just say nobody took a choice,” she says. “When you went into the bar you had to be one or the other. And that lasted until the women’s movement started and you had your lipstick lesbians.” In 1990, Betty competed for the first time at the Gay Games in Vancouver. The experience of being surrounded by thousands of her fellow LGBTers proved a turning point in her life.
“We came together and we were changing the way the world looked at us, but most of all I think we were changing how we felt about ourselves,” she offers. “It’s indescribable. Tom Walsh can’t talk about it without tearing up and I get goose bumps. It’s an awesome feeling to think that however many thousands of people there are in the stands – they’re all there cheering for you.” “I was walking into Montreal [Out Games] carrying the Team Saint Louis flag and there was this kid walking next to me,” she adds. “She said to me, ‘who are all those people?’ And I said, ‘those are your brothers and sisters.’” Betty has since been a regular participant at both the Out and Gay Games and is looking forward to competing in billiards in Cleveland in 2014. “That’s all that’s left for me,” Betty quips. “I can still shoot pool well, but it doesn’t matter. It’s about doing your personal best. My claim to fame about pool is I beat the Canadian champion one game. She knocked in the 8 ball and lost the game and was pretty pissed off.” Betty was omnipresent on the St. Louis LGBT scene throughout the 1950, 1960s and 1970s and once a year throws a party for all of the people who used to hang out at the bars “back in the day.” She even plays the song “United We Stand” – the one customers would always sing at Helen Schrader’s in East St. Louis right before closing time. Betty admits she never thought she would see the changes she’s witness in her lifetime like President Obama supporting marriage equality – and frequently thinks of friends long gone “who just wouldn’t believe it.” It’s one of the reasons supporting The Center is so important to her – the connectedness to the community. “I think it’s really great for all the younger people who can just feel free to hop in here if they are having problems at home or if their home is a problem – that they can come in here for a few hours of breathing,” says Betty. “We have a lot of transgender people who come here because they feel welcome and safe.” “The togetherness, the feeling of being a part of it – for me – it’s being able to keep track of everything that’s going on in the community,” she concludes. “I may not be involved in it, I physically may not be able to keep up – but I know about it. To me – that’s great. And I have a whole group of people who depend on me to tell them what’s going on.” v
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MEET THE NEW NEIGHBORS
Written by Matt Jamieson Photography by Darin Slyman & Alex Galindo
The Grove continues to grow and thrive as a diverse community. This year has seen many new businesses enter the area – and we want to take a moment to welcome them to the neighborhood.
Painted Ladies of Meyer’s Grove
When opportunity came knocking for Michelle McCausland and Tumara Mahorning, they took it. The pair teamed up with Meyer’s Grove (located at 4510 Manchester Ave.) to give The Grove an old-school style drag show, featuring a rotating cast of St. Louis’ finest queens. “We are humbled to be ‘The Painted Ladies’,” Michelle said. “It is home and a place where we create a theatrical event. We believe The Grove is only going to get better and better and grow to its fullest to become a place where all can come and have a great time.” 14 | July, 2012
One part restaurant, one part nightlife experience, Soho combines both into a truly unique venue at 4229 Manchester Ave. SoHo features contemporary Southern cuisine, including fried chicken, waffle fries and kabobs (to name a few). As the night continues, SoHo turns club with a live DJ, signature cocktail and food sampling.
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Rehab’s Remodel - Meet the New Owners
Jim Weckman and Chad Fox are seeking to bring the unity back to the community of The Grove. The new owners of Rehab Bar and Grill are overseeing major renovations to the bar, with a hopeful completion date by the end of summer. After all of the renovations are completed, Jim and Chad are striving to make Rehab the “Cheers of the Grove” and hoping to show more community with the other bars along Manchester.
16 | July, 2012
Not Just A Bookstore
Bookstores don’t have to JUST be about books. That’s what the aptly-named Not Just a Bookstore at 4507 Manchester is – more than just a bookstore. Owned by Connie and Richard Cheek, the location features book signings, business networking, business meetings, spoken word/poetry nights and Friday Night Jazz. It’s exactly what Connie has wanted, saying, “It’s about what NJABS can do to help the communities.”
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A genuine Irish pub in the heart of the Grove – who could ask for more? O’Shay’s (at 4353 Manchester Ave.) not only offers fine beers, but plenty of pub food to whet your appetites. There are the standards, like corned beef and cabbage, but there’s also a variation on some old favorites. Try the corned beef tacos – and just enjoy with this lively, fun pub.
18 | July, 2012
No Coast Skateboard
Totally time to get that skateboard out and shred again! No Coast Skateboards is the only skater owned and operated skate shop in St. Louis. Located at 4260 Manchester, No Coast focuses on locally made skate products but also has a great selection of brands of hard goods plus tons of gear including shoes, apparel and safety equipment. They also have a sick Mini Ramp inside the shop and a great staff ready to answer all your questions!
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Urban Breath Yoga
In todayâ€™s society, finding your center can get lost in the shuffle. If you stop by Urban Breath Yoga at 4237 Manchester, youâ€™ll be well on your way. Their group of teachers features different yoga styles with different knowledge and skills, to help you find which style suits you best. Drop by and get on the path to relaxation!
20 | July, 2012
If youâ€™re in the mood for some amazing food in an amazing location, Layla is your place! The restaurant features authentic Arabic and Lebanese cuisine, something that St. Louisâ€™ strong Lebanese population will find comforting. The restaurant, located at 4317 Manchester, is owned by Alrea and Wasam Hamed who are bringing a unique look to the food they serve. Make sure to stop by on Friday and Saturday nights for live music and belly dancing with your dinner!
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Political VOICE Beyond the Celebrity of Marriage Written by A.J. Bockelman Photography by Colin Murphy
Celebrity – the very word conjures up images of glamor, excitement and grandeur. It is that singular person to whom all eyes are drawn and to whom attention must be paid – whether we like it or not. When I look at our political landscape, only one issue captures our imaginations in this same way – marriage. Let’s face it, it’s THE hot topic, it’s number one with a bullet, it’s the star. As this issue of Vital VOICE goes to press, the US Ninth Circuit Court has refused to hear a further appeal in the California Prop 8 case setting up a potential escalation to the Supreme Court. On May 31st, the Federal Appeals Court out of Massachusetts declared parts of the Defense of Marriage Act, aka, DOMA, unconstitutional. Arguably the most significant front page headlines came as the ultimate celebrity, President Obama himself, came out in support of marriage equality, resulting in a near 20% increase in polls for marriage amongst African American voters. Now I know not everyone is pro-marriage, and marriage equality certainly doesn’t do much of anything for the transgender community. My purpose in examining this, however, is actually not so much about marriage at all. As a community we seem fixated on it, and the media are mesmerized by it. Clearly, if there is a celebrity in our midst, it is marriage. So my question to all of you, to consider and ponder, is what happens to the LGBT community post marriage? Marriage has become our Holy Grail – eternally mythical and almost out of reach. However, with prospects looking up, where does our community go once marriage is won? If we look to other social justice struggles, we know that, while key wins may be game-changers, work for equality and justice must still continue. For example, almost a century after suffrage passed, women still earn only 77 cents for every $1.00 that men make in the same job setting, and few would argue that people of color are treated equally under the law despite multiple updates to the original 1964 Civil Rights Act. 22 | July, 2012
So where do we go from here? I have a few suggestions. Equal Employment Absent over the last few years is the Employment Nondiscrimination Act. Currently any hope of its passage in Congress is met with the same enthusiasm of a D-list celebrity showing up at a charity event. As I like to say, though, “We can’t protect our stuff, as marriage would do, until we can buy stuff, and we need our jobs in order to do that.” Whether you are pro-marriage, antimonogamy or just a confirmed old bachelor, you must care about being able to hold a job and about being productive. Still, while Congress seems unwilling to take up the issue, hope is on the horizon. Recently the Equal Employment Opportunity Council (EEOC) issued an opinion stating that gender identity is assumed in discrimination cases under the definition of sex. As the legal ramifications continue to work through the system, the EEOC is preparing the case that sexual orientation should also be subject to the same heightened scrutiny. Effectively, if successful, both sexual orientation and gender identity will be covered in employment at the same level as other protected classes. This would be a major win for our community and all by way of a major bypass of Congress. Healthcare Our efforts to attain equal treatment under the law just turned 43 years old as of June this year, if you consider Stonewall to be the birth of the movement. That actually makes us a young movement compared to other social justice efforts. So too is the effort for our community to be properly represented within the healthcare environment. Our own media imagery consistently reflects a youthful, healthy image. In reality, though, as shown in study upon study, the LGBT community meets the very definition of an under-served minority population. Take for example a study completed by One Colorado, PROMO’s peer organization in Colorado. Their study reported that LGB individuals suffer from asthma at twice the level of their heterosexual peers; they were more than three times as likely to be binge drinkers as straight individuals; and nearly half of the LGB respondents to a survey reported feeling left out or isolated from the community. These are real, tangible
and disturbing issues for our community as a result of being marginalized from the greater community at large. To be on a level playing field, we need to improve these numbers. Social Services Adoption and Foster Care remain taboo topics. Still, within just the last four years we have seen a meteoric spike in the identity of the gay and lesbian family dynamic of couples raising children. It is a wonderful thing to see, but being a parent is still fraught with challenges that our current systems are not designed to meet. As I referenced earlier in this piece, our community is often youth focused. There has been little attention paid to what happens as we age. Fortunately we have a wonderful group in S.A.G.E. of Metro St. Louis, which works to challenge the conventional wisdom in our elder care community. However, in order for us to achieve full respect for our community, we must continue to challenge the infrastructure developed to care for elders. Even when marriage equality is achieved – as we have every right to assume it will – long-held suspicion of our community will be a difficult barrier to overcome as we seek to age gracefully. Celebrity comes from the Latin celeber, celebr- “frequented or honored.” Marriage has been and will continue to be the celebrity that our movement looks to for a long time to come, and with good reason. For so many, it is the sum of our hopes and longings for oneness and connection. But even celebrities have to do the work. Marriage is a great goal, but we can’t lose sight of the difficult work still ahead of us, both to get to that goal and once that goal is achieved. That creative and ongoing effort will allow us to engage in another activity from that same Latin root: Celebrate! A.J. Bockelman is the Executive Director of PROMO, Missouri’s statewide organization advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality through legislative action, electoral politics, grassroots organizing, and community education.
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24 | July, 2012
5?s’ with... Bubbles
Written by Matt Jamieson Photography by Alex Galindo If you’ve been down to Clementine’s in Soulard, you’ve probably sampled some of their fine cuisine, cooked by the delightfully effervescent Robert Cook, better known to our community as Bubbles. I sat down with Bubbles to talk about his legacy at St. Louis’ oldest gay bar, his training as a chef in New Orleans and how he got to be the toast of Clementine’s! What is it like to have been here for 25 years, to be a fixture within Clementine’s? I really don’t think about it too much. It’s gone by so fast and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. If not, I wouldn’t still be here. What was it like to have your culinary training in New Orleans? It was a literal coming out experience. Until I was training on the Delta Queen, I had never set foot in a gay bar, even though I had known I was gay for some time. I had experienced some real personal openings in my life and in the world of food as well. How did you get the name Bubbles? When I first started working at Clementine’s, we had no kitchen. And I would get to work at six in the morning. One of our friends would bring in a coffee clutch for us. I’m a morning person, it’s very easy for me to get going. So they asked me ‘Why are you in such a good mood?’ I said ‘I guess I’m just bubbly.’ By that night the name had stuck and I was the toast of Clementine’s. What makes Clementine’s so unique? I think its ability to change personalities with the times. There have been three major facelifts – we redid the patio...but even with all these changes, it’s adapted, but it’s still the same. What do you see for Clementine’s in the next 20 years? I think the name will still be active in the community, and carrying on the history and legacy that the name Clementine’s has with it. theVitalVOICE.com | 25
26 | July, 2012
Wanda Sykes: Bringing the Funny Written by Colin Murphy & Matt Jamieson Photography by PMK.BNC Entertainment
There’s nobody like Wanda Sykes. The comedienne has tackled a variety of topics from her race, to her sexual orientation and even the “blackness” of President Obama. We were lucky to catch up with Wanda when she performed at the Peabody Opera House this past March. She told us about her comedic roots, being an LGBT role model, and what she thinks about this year’s GOP field of candidates. What can St. Louis fans expect from your show? Hopefully, a lot of laughs – that’s what I’m bringing, lots of funny, lots of funny. My stand up is pretty much a snapshot of what’s going on with my world at the time. I’m doing a lot more family stuff with being a new mom – it’s more of that. A little politics up top, talking about the economy and stuff – but mainly it’s me and my life right now. How much of your show is scripted and how much happens on the fly? I have a plan – it’s not just off the top of my head. I do have a framework I work from. But If I’m feeling it and the audience is giving me that type of energy there’s always some ad lib and some things I come up with right there that’s organic. But usually I have some type of a map. Who were some of your comedic role models growing up? I watched a lot of those variety shows growing up like Flip Wilson and the Smothers Brothers. I watched a lot of Bill Cosby – but as I got older, I started sneaking around listening to Richard Pryor albums. He was my favorite – Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Moms Mabley. And then I would say Joan Rivers. There’s something about seeing a woman doing it where it becomes tangible, where
you say, yeah, I can do this. So watching her host The Tonight Show was huge and seeing Whoopi Goldberg with the HBO specials – that was also very big for me. Was there a particular moment in your career when you knew you’d made it? It’s funny, because the first time I think was when I won an Emmy for The Chris Rock Show and then the next one was my first HBO special. And then I guess the last was The White House Correspondents’ Dinner – when you’re in the room entertaining the president that’s a pretty big wow moment. You follow politics – I’m going to throw a few names at you and take it and run with it. Newt Gingrich: Newt Gingrich – I think he’s a hypocrite, a blow hard. He’s deceitful – he’s playing on peoples’ fear and going old school hatred and racism and trying to put people against each other. Hey – let’s blame poor black people instead of going after the mean, rich, greedy guy. Basically you can just say Jackass. Mitt Romney: He’s two faced – he doesn’t even buy what he’s saying. Every time you see him make a speech you can see a little piece of him dying. He doesn’t like his constituents, either – he looks at them like they’re dumb. He’s condescending. Another jackass. Rick Santorum: Closet homosexual.
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Does it surprise you that Mitt Romney is tied in some polls with President Obama? I’m not surprised by anything. On the news it’s all gloom and doom and people get nervous and they buy into it. I just hope that the people who turned out in 2008 for the first election will show up and not take it for granted. Did you get to speak to the president and first lady at the WHCD? Yes I did. It’s amazing how they can have a conversation with you and you really feel like they are connected. They are actually talking with you – it doesn’t feel stiff or rehearsed. They’re just cool. They’re not looking up the line to see who’s the next person to talk to – they’re very warm and sincere. Have you gotten used to the idea that you are looked on as a gay role model, particularly for LGBT people of color? When I came out I didn’t have that in mind, but I’m amazed at how many people, especially the kids, that it has helped. I’m honored and I’m trying to do more to help our youth because it’s really a sad thing to be kicked out of your home and your family totally abandoning you just because of who you are. I am aware that they do look up to me and I try to keep that in mind when I’m out shooting my mouth off. Do you hear from our young people at all around bullying – it’s all over from school to social media? I do, I do. And a lot of it is direct contact. If I’m out somewhere young people will come up to me and I’ll talk with them. It really is sad and I try to advise them that social media is huge with us but you need to learn how to just block people and only have friends who are truly your friends and you just can’t let all of that poison come into your world. I married my partner in Iowa but it’s not recognized here in Missouri. I know you are in a similar situation, how do you see the whole marriage equality fight playing out? I think it will wind up in the Supreme Court. We’ve got two great lawyers fighting for us and I really think that’s where it’s going to have to happen. Who knows – I don’t see them getting any law passed in Congress – I think it’s going to happen in the courts.
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30 | July, 2012
y t · i r · b e ce·l es
·leb·ri·ti , plural ce n u o n ] e te [suh-leb-rion. own pers or well-kn s u o m fa 1. a renown. 2. fame;
Welcome to our inaugural Celebrity Issue. What follows are exclusive interviews with four compelling figures from the entertainment industry. Vital VOICE Executive Editor Colin Murphy and Staff Writer Matt Jamieson have toiled countless hours to give our readers a peek behind the veil into the lives of these industry icons and their impact on the LGBT community. theVitalVOICE.com | 31
Idina Menzel: Humble Icon Written by Colin Murphy – Executive Editor Photography by Robin Wong
rom Broadway to film and television – Idina Menzel earned her way into the hearts and minds of gay audiences early on. Possessing powerhouse vocals and theatrical presence, the petite chanteuse caught lighting in a bottle as Maureen in Rent, triumphed at the Tony’s as Elphaba in Wicked and enjoys a semiregular role in the drumbeat of diversity that is television’s Glee. In 2010, Menzel founded the “A BroaderWay Foundation” with husband Taye Diggs as a means of supporting young people in the arts. Her latest album, “Idina Menzel Live: Barefoot at the Symphony” is earning critical acclaim and recently aired as a PBS special – and Menzel recently transfixed audiences last month at St. Louis’ Peabody Opera House. We chatted with the Broadway icon just prior to the kickoff of her new summer tour. So what can audiences expect from your tour this summer? I don’t want to freak people out – I want to do some of the songs that they’d expect. But I’ve been doing some of these for quite some time so I need to change things up. I’m actually in the process of coming up with the program – I love to find songs that are very personal to me as well as songs that people wouldn’t expect me to sing. Other songs, I just love the melody. Like the song “Tomorrow” – I like to revisit my childhood and pick songs that I used to sing all the time and haven’t in years and years and sort of see how they’ve matured and evolved and how I interpret them now. It’s been kind of a fun challenge for me. I notice that you tell a story before each song which reminds me quite a bit of Barbra Streisand – could you talk about who influenced you stylistically and musically. I definitely feel that I gave myself permission to include a lot of that kind of conversation because of people like
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Barbra Streisand and Bette Midler and definitely feeling that even though it’s maybe more of the old school way of doing things – people actually have to listen to a whole album to be able to stick with that kind of stuff. So yeah – I was definitely influenced by them in that respect, but I think it came organically from me. I don’t know if it’s because I started out as a wedding singer so early on in my life and I’ve just played in so many different kinds of venues and for so many different kinds of audiences from the worst to the best. I’ve just gotten really comfortable with being in the moment and talking off the top of my head and knowing that audiences appreciate that.
When did you first become aware of LGBT issues? I guess during Rent and the context of that show and the loss that is inherent in that show – what the community has experienced and been through and how they’ve risen out of so much struggle to survive. But I think that being in the theatre and having your best friends be from every kind of walk of life – it doesn’t matter if it’s gay or straight or marrying a black man – whatever it is, it’s such an accepting community and it almost is strange when you leave that community because you don’t quite understand what the rest of the world is thinking. You’re very impatient.
Why do you think you connect so well with gay audiences? You know – I always get asked that and I always want to turn it on you and ask why do you think that is? I’ve asked many of my gay friends what makes a gay icon – I don’t see myself like that, I don’t quite understand what it is. I know some of the roles that I’ve played have been people who have been struggling with their identity or being accepted in the world. Maybe it has something to do with that. But it probably has to do with the theatricality and emotionality and being perceived as a confident, kick ass woman – but I don’t know that makes me a gay icon. Answer that for me – why does that make you a gay icon – because you can hit a lot of high notes and have really good hair extensions? [Laughs]
Talk about the catalyst for the song “Gorgeous”. For me it came out of having a close friend who was gay and we were losing him to Holland because he was in love with his friend from Rotterdam [and wanted to legally be with him]. That was on my mind at the time. The hypocrisy of all that and the ridiculousness. And then sort of my own experience of being in an interracial marriage and stirring all of that into one big pot. That’s what I was feeling that particular day when I wrote it.
Maybe it’s coming from the theatre and moving into other kinds of music, maybe that’s it. But then Beyonce is a huge gay icon. We could sit here for hours and have a whole bottle of wine and talk about it sometime – you’ll have to answer it for me. I’m just flattered that I get put in that category of people and I love it and it’s something I feel very proud of. I feel a terrific responsibility.
Will you be returning to Glee? Yeah, I hope so. They keep it pretty secretive around there and they move from story line to story line pretty abruptly. I just know I had a wonderful experience being on set around that kind of energy and that kind of tolerance and I am inspired by Ryan Murphy who takes all of these “risks” on network television. He’s really raised the bar and changed what the norm is and that’s what’s so important.
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The Asian Glamazon Written by Matt Jamieson Photography by Andrew Werner
anila Luzon is the complete drag queen package - beautiful, funny, smart and sweet all in one.
Take for instance, her reaction of drag sister Jiggly Caliente’s controversial comments on RuPaul’s Drag Race Untucked about two drag queens dating being “disgusting.” (Manila is in a relationship with fellow drag queen Sahara Davenport.) “She just opens her mouth before she thinks,” Manila jokingly explained. “If she doesn’t want a date another drag queen, that’s her opinion. But honestly in my opinion, anyone having sex with Jiggly Caliente I find disgusting.” Few queens can pull off both glamour and camp, but Manila makes it look easy. She’s a runway model at one moment, and a stereotypical shoe-obsessed Imelda Marcos the next. “I don’t have any one particular inspiration,” she says. “I try to draw from visual pieces of everyone. I actually learned so much from all drag queens, performers and artists that have unique looks or feels to them. I just get inspired.” Since coming in second on season three of RuPaul’s Drag Race last year, Manila has made a huge splash into pop culture – joining the cast of RuPaul’s Drag U, touring across the U.S. and releasing a hit single. But before all this, she was a simple Midwestern girl. Known out of drag as Karl Westerberg, Manila grew up in the suburbs of Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota in what she describes as a very generic upbringing. “My race was really never an issue,” she said. “I was different looking because most of my friends in that school were white, and me and my sister were the only Asian people.” Coming from the same state as Michele Bachmann, Manila shrugs it off – not everyone in Minnesota is like Bachmann regarding LGBT life.
“Growing up in the Midwest, you have that moment of ‘Am I gonna have to hide this for the rest of my life?’ Eventually you come to terms with the whole damn thing. I didn’t have a close-minded existence growing up. I found it quite seamless, my transition from little Midwestern boy to ‘Out in the open I’m here, I’m queer drag queen.’” Drag is something that has always intrigued Manila, since the days of watching the fabulous Dame Edna, and a little help from her mother. “She was kind of an enabler,” she laughs. “She rented Priscilla: Queen of the Desert when I was 12 and told me not to tell anyone. She took me and my sister to see To Wong Foo - it’s always been something that ‘maybe my mom likes it too’ and helped me accept it.” After moving to New York, Manila began to do drag more - meeting her Sahara in the process. “It’s a rare thing to find two drag queens in a successful relationship,” Manila said. “It works for us because drag is something we have in common, it’s a passion we share. We’re a regular homosexual couple, it just happens we’re both drag queens and on RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Sahara was the reason Manila auditioned for Drag Race after she was cast for season two. “We were so focused on Sahara getting on, and having her do well,” Manila recalled. “When Sahara didn’t do as well as I thought she could have, I thought ‘It’d be great for me to go in there and help redeem/keep her name alive.’ And it was interesting for our relationship to have something so grand together.” Manila became one of season three’s fan favorites, most notably for her lip-sync in a Big Bird-inspired dress against fellow ‘Heather’ Delta Work to Donna Summer’s “MacArthur Park.” “As a performer it’s really great to have that chance to perform for a worldwide
audience,” she said. “But one of the reasons the lip-sync was so memorable is because it was an emotional one as well. It was painful for me to be in the bottom on that challenge, and have to fight for my survival against a person I made friends with. ...And my mascara was dripping down my cheeks.” Since her almost-win, Manila’s life has completely changed. She was able to quit her day job as a graphic designer, pursuing drag full-time. “The show gave me a huge opportunity to be exposed to the largest audience drag queens are able to get in pop culture.” she said. One highlight post-Drag Race was the video for “Hot Couture” - juxtaposing Manila with a younger version of herself as a boy dressing up in his mom’s clothes, based on her experiences growing up. “I thought it’d be a great way to show my story,” she said. “When you go on a reality show you have to have some kind of back story people are going to be interested in. I don’t have a sob story - my parents were very supportive and always have my back. I represent a lot of people from families who are supportive and love their children unconditionally. It’s a great example of how acceptance and love is necessary, and can create successful human beings.” And Manila’s future looks very promising! Her second single “X-X-Accessory” (which Blondie passed on!) will soon be available on iTunes. She is also clearing her slate if cast on RuPaul’s Drag Race: All-Stars, despite the mixed feelings she has about it. “I made it really far, and I have a lot to lose now - because I didn’t have a drag career before. It’s really nerve-wracking,” she said. “We work hard at what we do, we all have giant egos. But one thing is for sure - if picked, Manila doesn’t want history to repeat itself. “I would hate to be kicked off by another old bitch.”
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Peter Marc Jacobson: We Ain’t in Flushing Anymore! Written by Matt Jamieson & Colin Murphy Photography by Peter Marc Jacobsen
eter Marc Jacobson’s story might even be more interesting than The Nanny’s Fran Fine. Like the character, Jacobson grew up in Flushing, New York – but unlike her, Jacobson only knew of the “normal things” in life, and nothing about LGBT life. “Nobody talked about stuff like that,” Jacobson said. “There was nothing on television, nobody spoke of it. You just knew of everybody getting married, getting a big ring and going to Long Island and having a family.” Peter became an actor, guest starring in such shows as Murphy Brown, The Facts of Life, and Dynasty and later won the Drama-Logue Award as Best Actor for his portrayal of Danny Zuko in a Los Angeles production of Grease. Peter credits his acting experience with helping a career change behind the camera. “I think in the entertainment world the more you know how to do, the more you can relate to everyone else’s job,” he said. “It’s a lot of work and it does help you the more you know.” Peter went on to create the hit series The Nanny with his then-wife Fran Drescher (they’d been an item since their teens). The two didn’t know how big of a hit they had on their hands until they were at a concert of the one and only Barbra Streisand. “We had bought tickets before The Nanny was even on the air – so they were what we could afford – which were way up in the boondocks,” he explained. “We sat down at Madison Square Garden and people started chanting, Fran! Fran! Fran! and we’re looking around saying, ‘Fran who?’ They put her on the big screen and we looked at each other and were like ‘Wow – something has changed.’
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“Two people came up and took us out of our seats and we thought we were being told to leave—we were so not used to this treatment,” Peter continued. “They brought us down to the second row and they brought two chairs there. So I looked at the guy closest to me and I asked, ‘Well, what if the two people who had these seats come to the show?’ He looked at me and said, “Don’t worry about it.” They said Barbra wants to meet Fran after and please come back stage, and we did. She was so nice and she sent us home in a limo. And that’s when we looked at each other and we said, ‘We ain’t in Flushing anymore!’ The good times, however, didn’t last as Peter and Fran divorced in 1999 after being separated for a number of years. “I was very attracted to Fran,” Jacobson recalled. “I thought she was beautiful. I did have these other thoughts and stuff but I didn’t know what they were, really. You certainly didn’t want to think that you were different from everybody else in the world.” After divorcing, Peter publicly came out as gay, rekindling a close friendship with Fran. One fateful trip to Paris is how their next venture, TV Land’s Happily Divorced, came about. “We started acting exactly like we did when we were married – we started to fight and I’d get annoyed that she was late for dinner and getting dressed – and we looked at each other and said, ‘this would be a funny movie’,” he recalled. “These two divorced people who are married again, but divorced. So we started writing a movie and then Fran met with TV Land to pitch some shows to produce and they asked, ‘If you were to do a show to star in what would it be?’
She said, ‘That’s easy – that would be my ex–husband and me and my boyfriend and this weird triangle. He’s gay, the boyfriends straight and I’m in the middle.’ She said, ‘So do you want to hear my ideas for shows’? They were like – ‘no, because we just bought that one.’” Happily Divorced has become a huge hit for TV Land and for Drescher and Jacobson. The show was recently renewed for a second season and based on its success, 12 more episodes were added to air later this year. The show has also had a huge positive response from its LGBT viewers. “I think the gay community has been amazing,” he said. “I’ve even had young children who are on my Facebook page write me and one little girl – she was so sweet – she said that she had went to her parents because she had felt that she was bisexual and she didn’t know what to do and her parents were not very supportive. She said she wanted to kill herself and I thought for a second and I said call the Trevor Project, and she did. She wrote me back and said thank you so much, I feel so much better. Just to have somebody to talk to and to have that kind of outreach is amazing to me. If it affects one person that way it’s great.” Jacobson’s career continues to thrive as he prepares a new show for LOGO called Queen of Harts, but for now he’s happy to be happily divorced. “The whole thing about our show is love is love and that’s what it’s based on,” he said. “And no matter where you are, if you did love somebody in your life and years later maybe it fell apart – but there is a love that it started with.”
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She’s Here, She’s Grier Written by Colin Murphy – Executive Editor Photography by Pam Grier & Showtime
am Grier’s dynamic 41 year career mirrors a lifetime spent championing social justice. Her 1970’s blaxpoitation films have achieved high camp status and her portrayal of the title character in Jackie Brown and the plucky Kit Porter in Showtime’s The L Word have only added to her international acclaim. In 2010, she penned her much anticipated memoir, “Foxy: My Life in Three Acts” with Andrea Cagan, which became a New York Times bestseller. For the past three years the North Carolina native has been proud to be celebrity spokesperson for Dining Out for Life. Vital VOICE chatted with the icon on a host of subjects – kicking things off by asking about this spring’s “Pam Night” at The Castro Theatre in San Francisco where Grier was feted by drag star Peaches Christ and her legion of LGBT fans. …On “Pam Night” Tribute @ Castro Theatre, March 17 It was brilliant! It was wonderful, I loved it so much. It was extraordinary and to see so many people come to the book tour who really loved films and were familiar with the themography, it was extraordinary. It was sold out – down the aisle, down the hall, out the lobby and around the block at the most incredible Castro Theatre in an area that I LOVE! It was friends, photographs, people I hadn’t seen. It was fabulous. I wish I could do it every year. …On being a Gay Icon If they bestow honor, I accept and I recognize because I know what it takes and I am a champion for human rights. And the fact that they recognize me is great; it says maybe I’ve made a little dent somewhere. But I feel I can be a beacon to gay causes, the gay community, the injustices – just fairness and recognition.
Growing up in my family, if you knew gay people you were fortunate, that’s how I was raised. Because part of my family’s culture is Native American, First Nation and they always said the Two-Spirit people were the gifted ones. I’ll always remember that and I always loved and sought out gay people and met some of the most wonderful individuals who have been friends for life. Being a woman of color and growing up during Jim Crow – just the color of your skin road blocked you in education, in career, transportation, getting gas – there are so many things and I understand injustice. When I see this incredible community being called animals by politicos who are running for office in 2012—it’s mind boggling and I don’t accept it. And I felt I needed to do The L Word to immerse myself in a community where I can understand, where I can try to comprehend what my friends that I’ve had for life have had to endure. Adopting children, marriage, benefits – the things the hetero world takes for granted. …On being Celebrity Spokesperson for Dining Out for Life I said if I have enough heat or celebrity, I’d love to participate and be a part of it – just to get people who love dining to know that they can do something, to be generous while they are dining the one day at participating restaurants. And the great thing is the money raised in that community stays in that community. …On the early days of AIDS I had friends who were gay – brilliant hair stylists and makeup artists – who quietly passed away. They were such talented people and it was numbing information because nobody knew what to do. And the fear – it was a plague and the right wing media was having a field day with it.
There was so much fear – people couldn’t work, they couldn’t move into a community, they were ostracized. The fear factor was the boogie man – it was scaring people. Pretty soon they said – well, it’s just the gay community and then came hatred and hate crimes and all kinds of issues until you took people to an intellectual level and let them know it’s okay, you won’t get it [through casual contact]. Thank God folks started to calm down – but I lost some dear friends. From 1981 to today it’s a totally different world. …On her Autobiography being made into a movie We started last week with the development of the script. It’s so massively overwhelming, you have no idea. To have my journey of lessons learned to teach people – to say this is what happens when you abuse yourself; this is what happens when you walk away from someone you love, but you love yourself more – these are things that resonate with people. I became a revolutionary at the age of six fighting against a patriarchal society that basically thought women were chattel and could be owned and misused at will in many communities. To have the 41 years of my career and the 62 years of being on this planet and have something to share with the global community, which I’m a part of – to have a wonderful reception and dialogue and a political and social discourse with people all over the world and to receive such gifts from various charities – with that I have been gifted and I hope in return we can all share our journeys and to uplift and enlighten our world.
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Enhancing the lives of LGBT Seniors and their Families through culturally inclusive in-home care.
Robert Puricelli Executive Director
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Proud supporter of SAGE Metro St Louis and LGBT older adults.
Paparazzi! Pa parazzi! Written & Photographed by Alex Galindo
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veryone is familiar with the tabloidization of paparazzi photos – we all slightly “disagree” but seemingly can’t get enough of them. There is also that inkling of celebrity in all of us – that point where you know you are “all that”. You go out on the town dressed in your best attire – wanting to be seen – or what was the point of dressing up all snazzy in the first place?
Whether you admit it or not, we each have a touch of Paris Hilton, Kardashian or Beyonce in us – and maybe just a little bit of that incorrigible Lindsay Lohan. So bring out your biker jackets – tough attire is in with Russian inspired pieces taking over the Louis Vuitton runways. Peter Som and Versace are bringing back prints, prints and more prints. Metallics and metals are also pieces you can throw in to make a boring outfit pop with jewelry to metallic clothes. No matter where you take your wardrobe this summer, don’t be afraid of color! One thing’s for certain: dress like everyone is watching – most likely, they are.
Model: Carissa Sweigart Location: Neiman Marcus in Frontenac Plaza, Brennan’s Wine & Cigar Bar in The Central West End Clothing: Neiman Marcus and Morris Fashions Special Thanks: Carrie Benson, Charice Pentella, Michael Pagel, Denise Bergamaschi and Becky Coulter
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Escada Benaz Iris Blazer. Neiman Marcus Robert Rodriguez Gold Cropped Pant. Neiman Marcus White Polo. H&M Tom Ford Islay Sunglasses. Neiman Marcus Theory Rizy Blazer. Neiman Marcus Haute Hippie Kiss Razorback Shirt. Neiman Marcus 7 For All Mankind Turquoise Denim Shorts. Neiman Marcus Stitch Hat. Neiman Marcus Tory Burch Jesse Tory. Neiman Marcus Ray Ban Sunglasses. Models own Boots. Models own
Ferrari Biker Jacket. Models own Grey V-Neck. Models own All-Saints Straight Dark Denim. Models own Brown Boots. Models own Will Black Leather Bracelet. Morris Fashions Armani Collezioni Navy Blue Vest. Neiman Marcus Stella McCartney for Adidas Bunched Runner Pant. Neiman Marcus Chanel Yellow Sunglasses. Neiman Marcus Classic Silver Be The Change Toms. Neiman Marcus
Escada Leda Navy Jacket. Neiman Marcus Rebecca Taylor Necklace Cami. Neiman Marcus Tom Ford Islay Sunglasses. Neiman Marcus All-Saints Straight Dark Denim. Models own Black Boots. Models own theVitalVOICE.com | 43
It’s July and everybo dy his or her favorite BB needs something to take to Q or family reunion. So wh take some Dieta or at least a Dieta re y not cipe. Since July holds my fa I thought why not ce vorite holiday, 4th of July, lebr – flavor! This BBQ re ate by blowing something up cipe is like spicy – ‘cause ho not for those who don’t ne But to cool things down y, it’s spicy like me. it’s ice-cold fruit salad. accompanied by an So Squirrels, enjoy!
Total Time: 35 minutes Serves: 4 Ingredients Firecracker Chicken 2 lbs chicken thighs 2 lbs chicken legs 1 tbsp spicy chicken seasoning ½ tbsp garlic pepper seasoning ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes ¼ tsp cayenne pepper ¼ tsp salt 1 can Pam Olive Oil cooking spray Firecracker BBQ Sauce 1 cup Honey BBQ Sauce ½ cup Siriracha ½ cup Golden Brown Sugar ¼ cup Teriyaki Sauce Red, White & Blue Fruit Salad 1 lb Fresh Blueberries 1 lb Fresh Strawberries 12oz Vanilla Yogurt
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en with k c i h C Q B B r Firecracke & Blue Fruit Salad Red, White
Directions Mix all spice ingredients together. Season chicken thoroughly. Let stand 10 min. (overnight is preferred). Spray large skillet with Pam and place over medium high heat. Place chicken skin side down to sear. Let cook 5 min. Turn chicken over, cook an additional 5 min. While chicken is cooking mix together all ingredients to make Firecracker BBQ Sauce. Heat oven to 425. Dip each piece of chicken in the BBQ mixture and return to skillet skin side up. Place skillet in oven and cook chicken another 15 min. While chicken is finishing cooking, slice strawberries, wash blueberries and place in a large non-reactive bowl. Reserve some fruit for layering. Mix together strawberries, blueberries and yogurt. Place 1 heaping spoonful of yogurt in bottom of parfait glass and begin layering alternating fruit and yogurt. Top parfait with extra strawberries and blueberries. Place parfait in refrigerator to keep cold.
Remove chicken from oven and serve immediately. Take parfait from fridge and enjoy. Remember – If chicken is too hot, eat some parfait – it will cool your mouth off and keep it from exploding – BOOM!!!!
OF THE MONTH A Lush’s Guide to the Best Libations in Town. Written by Matt Jamieson Photography by Alex Galindo
Pink Panther We wanted something a little sassy and tasty for our July issue – and our friends at Rehab Bar & Grill came up with something that sounds simple but packs amazing taste. Meet the Pink Panther! This is a simple drink but a fun one! Mix one part citrus vodka (we used Absolut Citron for this! Mmm!), one part Kinky Liquor and top it off with a shot of Sprite. The end result is a clear pink masterpiece – a sweet and tangy taste that goes down smoothly. Watch out boys and girls, this kitty’s got claws! Me-ow!
4054 Chouteau Saint Louis, MO 63110 314.652.3700 www.rehabstl.com
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Welcome to the Play Dates section of Vital VOICE. Each month the VV team will select a number of signature events to keep on your radar. For a complete list of all vital happening in St. Louis log onto thevitalvoice.com/events. To submit your next event, simply email firstname.lastname@example.org with event name, date, location and a 20-word description.
Fair St. Louis
Celebrate St. Louis - Summer Concert Series
July 13–14, 20–21 Soldier’s Memorial www.celebratestlouis.org. The tradition continues with the Celebrate St. Louis summer concert series this year at Soldier’s Memorial. This year’s lineup looks to be astounding, with Neon Trees, Michael Franti and Spearhead, The Offspring and St. Louis’ own Nelly taking the stage. Come on down and celebrate with one of the best FREE concert series that St. Louis has to offer.
Let Them Eat Art
July 13 Maplewood www.cityofmaplewood.com The annual tribute to Bastille Day is back in Maplewood! The self-named “Mardi Gras meets the Christmas Tree Walk” highlights the amazing restaurants and shops in Maplewood! There’s something for everyone with artists, entertainment and music. This year’s festival will also feature its first annual Dog Costume Contest, so dress your pooches up!
July 14 The Grove facebook.com/events/371462692902028 Part drag show, part street festival, all party! Inspired by New York City’s annual Wigstock, St. Louis is looking to party in The Grove with the first annual Wig Stomp. Our own Dieta Pepsi will be on hand for the show, but you all should just come out and party to help make Wig Stomp a fantastic event! 46 | July, 2012
July 4, 6–7 Gateway Arch grounds www.celebratestlouis.org. With the 4th of July weekend – there’s a lot to do aside from the days off! The big thing to do is Fair St. Louis! There’s plenty to do: from the Veiled Prophet parade, air shows and concerts from Heart, Third Eye Blind and Dierks Bentley – the annual celebration gets bigger and better every year. And best of all? It’s free!
2 8 1 6
July 16–22 The Muny www.muny.com One of the hottest Broadway shows in history makes its way to The Muny with one of its original cast members. The Tony-award winning Dreamgirls makes its Muny debut, and audiences will be treated to the talents of the world-renowned Jennifer Holliday reprising her Tonywinning role of Effie White. You won’t want to miss this at all!
Summer Olympics Opening Ceremonies
July 27 www.london2012.com It’s time to go for the gold and kick off the 30th Olympiad! This year London hosts the Olympics and the opening ceremonies (entitled “The Isles of Wonder”) are expected to be one for the record books with Academy Award winning director Danny Boyle as the artistic director!
July 31 Peabody Opera House www.peabodyoperahouse.com All you kenbarbs better be ready, because Nicki Minaj is bringing the Pink Friday to the STL. Fresh off her second album Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded Minaj will be bringing her pop/hip-hop stylings to the Peabody Opera House for a one-night performance. You won’t wanna miss this! Tickets are either $36.75 or $66.75.
Seal & Macy Gray
July 31 The Fabulous Fox Theatre www.fabulousfox.com The smooth and soulful sounds of Grammy winner Seal grace the Fabulous Fox Theatre for a one-night performance. In addition to the wonderful hits of Seal’s career, special guest Macy Gray brings her own funky style and sound to the Fox! The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets range from $40 to $65.
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The Dwight Davis Tennis Center at Forest Park was the site of PROMOâ€™s 5th annual Urbanaire on May 12. Our own Dieta Pepsi emceed the event, featuring live entertainment from Kim Massie, cocktails, food and dessert served courtside â€“ and late-night DJs carried the party into the wee hours of the night. 48 | July, 2012
Pride Community Kickoff Party
It was all about community at our Pride Kickoff Party at KOTA Wood Fire Grill on June 7. The outdoor event featured the talents of DJ Timmy B as well as a drag show hosted by Dieta Pepsi and starring Khrystal Leight, KaMartina Blu Leight and Trixie LaRue. Also on hand was an array of dignitaries from Representatives Jeanette Mott Oxford, Mike Colona and Stacey Newman to Mayor Francis Slay and Lewis Reed, President of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen. Thanks to all who attended to help kick off PrideFest 2012 with a lot of fun and a whole lotta style! theVitalVOICE.com | 49
Now Open! Free Admission
Missouri History Museum Forest Park | (314) 746-4599 | mohistory.org
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