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Her name is Martha Mother Fucking Wash.

FIRST, I don't want you to think that this is becoming just another queer entertainment blog. I posted Friday morning about Michael Jackson, and now I'm going to post about a bunch of 70s/80s/90s gay icons--I must be just losing my edge. I do plan on making these non-roundup posts much more current-events based. However, this weekend I traveled to Chicago for PRIDE, and enjoyed all of the entertainment that came with it, so there is no reason that I can't share something whimsical every once in a while between the topical!

This was my first Pride with no responsibilities other than show up. For the past 5 years I've been Michigan's Membership and Community events chair for the Human Rights Campaign, which placed me squarely in charge of everything Pride-related that HRC did in Michigan for a half-decade. This was not a boring or grueling responsibility--I absolutely loved it--but it IS a lot of work, and requires me to sacrifice enjoying a majority of the rest of the Pride schedule in order to attend to my managerial duties. A few years ago, I was BRIEFLY able to catch Crystal Waters at Motor City Pride, and I've been able to grab a beer and walk away from the booth for a half hour or so every other year. I didn't just do ONE Pride in Michigan--as if I would EVER do anything in a small way--I INSISTED we have a booth at EVERY Pride Festival IN the state of Michigan EVERY year (unless that Pride festival ran concurrently with another larger festival). Yes I discriminated agaist the small festivals--I was the one spending MY money to buy gas and rent rooms around across the state. I wanted to reach as many people as possible when I had to do that, no offense Washtenaw, Blue Water, Northern Michigan, Holland or Kalamazoo Prides.

However I digress.

I've attended a LOT of Prides since 2004, when I attended my first Pride--even then as a volunteer. I have never, however, just been an attendee. I've always had duties. Thousands of acts have taken and left the stage over the past 6 years without my knowledge--and I really don't mind. However, this year as I am no longer Michigan's Membership and Community Events chair, I wanted to experience my first un-obligated Pride in a big way--Chicago Pride, the midwest's biggest Pride Festival! As I had no responsibilities to schedules for the first time in over half-a-decade, however, I didn't bother to study one. I'd looked at the overall schedule for the weekend, mused running in Saturday morning's 5k--but since I'd never really NEEDED to study an "acts" schedule, it hadn't DAWNED on me to do so for the first time this year! I had no idea who they had pulled in for Pride. I'd known in Michigan whom I was missing as a matter of chance--since I would inevitably get so tied in with the leadership and set-up for the Pride, I would eventually always hear about "So-and-so has been such a HASSLE with the contract," or "Did you hear that whats-his-face might have to cancel?"

The four of us--Mike, Roy, Nathan and myself--had packed Roy up Friday afternoon and headed in Mike's beat-up-bumper-falling-off Honda Civic up I-57 to the Windy City with a cooler full of Gatorade and unpitted cherries and hearts full of excitement. Moving Roy into his new apartment! When I say we packed Roy up, I mean we packed up about 9000 cubic feet of Mike's stuff, and one box of Roy's. Roy has movers coming on Wednesday, however, so its all good. That morning I had burned "The Essential Michael Jackson" and shoved it into Mike's single disc player as we ran around town last minute doing what everyone had forgotten to do before we left, and then switched up to my personal "Pride Anthems Vol I" once we hit the highway (I've done a mix for Pride every year since that first one, but the first is still the best). Since there was only one box, the "moving Roy into his new apartment" part was particularly short, so we were quickly on our way exploring Roy's neighborhood. After a dinner at an amazing Thai restaurant about a half of a block north of Roy, we walked up about 1 more door and stumbled upon a record store ENTIRELY DEVOTED TO MADONNA!!!!!!!!!!!

Yes, Roy moved to the right neighborhood.

So we see a sign up in Borderline Music advertising an Ultra Naté record signing. Being that Roy and I both love pretty much ALL of the same music (though I still don't get all that The Jets stuff) we were both very eager to learn more. The adorable Cubano boi behind the register who couldn't have been older than four (okay, he was probably 24, but he had SUCH A CUTE babyface) explained that Ultra Naté was here for Pride and would be THERE IN BORDERLINE MUSIC THE VERY NEXT DAY to sign autographs! I don't even have to describe how excited Roy and I were that we were going to be meeting Ultra Naté the very next day. This made us realize, however, that we had no idea what else was happening this weekend. We quickly grabbed up a "Pride Guide" there in the store (after our free complimentary glass of wine!) and headed up the street to explore the rest of the neighborhood while Nathan read aloud the Pride Entertainment schedule to us.

"Tonight... there's some acoustic artists named [Bob Blahblahblah] at 6:30... oh, we missed that one... then something else. Now there's a drag show, and then some Martha Wash lady--"

"MARTHA WASH?!?" Roy and I cry out in unison.

Martha Wash, the queen of clubland, is the ORIGINAL screaming big black woman in the dance music world. She began singing background for Sylvester--the original drag queen superstar--and became most famous for writing and recording "Its Raining Men" as one half of the Weather Girls. She's the voice behind Black Box's "Everybody Everybody," and "Strike it up." And, well, all of Black Box's hits. You know her best, probably, as that BIG VOICE in C+C Music Factory's "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)."
.
C & C Music Factory- Gonna Make You Sweat (THE MASTER MIX)

Yes, that Martha Wash.

"WHEN?" I asked.

"Right after the drag show, at 8:00." It was 7:30 just then. "Who is she now?"

As we ran up Broadway to Pride's North Entrance, Roy and I did our best to try to sing every Martha Wash hook ever. Nathan pretty much only knew "Its Raining Men," which was good enough for him--he was excited enough for just that.

But for Roy and myself, this was like meeting the Pope.

The dreg queens that were keeping Martha off the stage only barely entertained us. Most seemed to be well under the influence of heavy horse tranquilizers, which makes me understand now why the C-Street queens seem to think that there's nothing wrong with their sleep-inducing performances. I was raised on Michigan's GREATEST female illusionists, each of which hold more trophies than the Yankees, the Cowboys and the Lakers combined. I wanted them to go away and let Martha on. Then there was this over-glorified karaoke singer--tone deaf, mind you--who did entertain me by being quite adorable and opening by singing Erasure's "Chains of Love," which I do believe I was the ONLY audience member to know every word to.

This was followed by a Drag Queen that was actually QUITE fierce, gave great face, had a HUGE headdress, turned it out AND sang her own song, which she had written and recorded. A fitting last act before the QUEEN came out.

Then she emerged--and noone has had a grander entrance at a Pride. The crowd went absolutely crazy when a voice from backstage commanded "EVERYBODY DANCE NOW!"

That night, as we drank Bud Light Lime and highlighted Nathan's hair, Roy and I went over the next day's schedule--2:30pm, Deborah Gibson... DEBBIE GIBSON?!? WHAT?!? 4:00pm, Thelma Houston... THEEE THELMA HOUSTON?!? 6:30pm, Crystal Waters--REALLY? 7:00pm Inaya Day. WHAT??? 8:00pm, Ultra Naté--YES!!!! This was like a big entertainment GAYSPLOSION! Thelma Houston, the voice of "Don't Leave me This Way," is responsible for more of my bodily injuries on the dance floor than anyone else--how can I not hurt myself when she screams out "MY HEART IS FULL OF LOVE AND DESIRE FOR YOU!!!" Inaya Day recorded some of my favorite dance covers ever--including the BEST version of "Nasty Girl," (sorry Vanity Six). Crystal Waters needs NO introduction, but if you don't know, in the 90s you heard her "100% Pure Love" EVERYWHERE and two years ago you heard "Destination Unknown," or "Destination: Calabria" at every club. However, Roy's head nearly popped when it came to Debbie Gibson--"Shake Your Love," the ballad "Lost in Your Eyes," and the ever-present (in 1987) "Only in My Dreams." Anyone shopping for school clothes at J.C. Penny, Kohls, Sears, Marshalls or Montgomery Ward in the late 80s or early 90s should know her entire catalog by heart. Michael understood who she was when we explained she is the ORIGINAL American Robin Sparkles.

The problem, Saturday morning, was schedules. When taking a trip to a city like Chicago, there is a GREAT diversity of things to do when you're not from town. The trouble is, you have so many diverse agendas on a trip like that, that its bound to lead to conflict, and you're going to miss stuff. Thelma Houston was high on my list, and I couldn't wait to see her. However, we were there that weekend for Roy, and Roy needed to look into getting a Chicago Card so that he could ride the buses and trains once he's officially moved in. We headed downtown early on Saturday to shop on Michigan Ave, except that I had no interest in spending money. I just wanted to get back to the stage and spend the day listening to some of my childhood/teenagehood/adulthood idols! After figuring out this shopping trip was not my cup of tea that day, Mike agreed to just split off, shop alone, and let Roy and I do our own thing. Roy and I head quickly to Union Station, only to find that the Chicago cards are not available there. Now we've lost Nathan. Its 2:30. Looks like we missed Debbie.

Well, luckily for Roy, but sadly for me, Thelma and Debbie had switched. Scratch one of my goals off of the list. We found Nathan, pushed him onto the train and got back just in time to catch Debbie at 4:00. Next to the stage. We were literally front row for Debbie Gibson. 21 years earlier, our seats would have been hundreds of dollars and we would have been the envies of all of our friends. I was really amused that 21 years after not caring much, I was screaming and clapping front row for Debbie Gibson--who gave us "Shake Your Love" right off the bat. She looked amazing--Roy thought too skinny--but I thought she looked awesome. I actually REALLY enjoyed her Broadway stuff. It was a lot MORE fun than a lot of the songs I hadn't really cared for in the first place. However, we still had another priority--Ultra Nate--and so when she sat at the piano for "Lost In Your Eyes," we slipped away to Ultra Naté.

Ultra was amazing, and so friendly. When we started talking to her, it was like we had been friends for years! Before we left, I thought her and Roy were going to move in together. But by that point, we had missed Crystal Waters, and still needed to find Michael (and now Nathan again).

By the end of the night, we effectively missed everyone else I was excited to see. However, I was so excited to have met Ultra Naté and Martha Wash, and seen Debbie Gibson and Martha live! What was best, however, was NOT living tied to the Pride schedule. Missing my favorite artists was freeing in a way. Had it been another year, I would have HAD to be at a certain place at a certain time. However, I was liberated by flying by my pants. Maybe next time, however, just two of us would be good. Fewer agendas means even MORE time to just run around doing what I want!

Comments

Joe Moderate said…
Wow! Sounds like you guys had a fantastic time! :-) Aw, fun fun fun :-)
Newscrazy said…
'twas fun, and this doesn't even include the parade, or any of the hilarity in trying to get home when Roy LITERALLY lives in the middle of the parade route, and we got boxed in by barriers!
veracanofalsa said…
I'm happy to see my musical illiteracy holds a prominent place in this post.

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