Jason Howard Green

Jason Howard Green

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sylverster is the "Queen of Disco"

Who is the “Queen of Disco?” Donna Summer? Gloria Gaynor? Many would argue (and I would have to agree) that the true QUEEN of disco is none other than the fierce and fabulous drag star extraordinaire, Sylvester. With dance hits like You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) and Dance (Disco Heat), he has left a legacy of music that we will never forget.

Sylvester was a diva in his own right and an artist that believed in himself and his talent. He refused to bow down to the intimidations of this record label. Openly gay and over the top flamboyant, his label, Fantasy Records, wanted the singer to tone down his onstage persona. They tried to pressure Sylvester to stop wearing women’s clothing, wigs and excessive make-up with hopes that this could give the artist a more universal appeal.

Sylvester not only refused to take the advice of his label; he decided to move forward with the creation of his You Make Me Feel video adorned in full drag, much to the dismay of many industry executives. You can see the video here. However they would have to revel in the fact that maybe Sylvester knew what he was doing because sales of the album only increased.

On September 20, 2004, Sylvester's anthem record, "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)", was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame. A year later, on September 19, 2005, Sylvester himself was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame for his achievement as an artist.

I love Sylvester because he stayed true to himself not only in his career but throughout his life.  He never compromised who he was for his family, for the church or for his record label.  Sylvester was a big ole black drag queen and he embraced all aspects of himself.  He opened the doors for RuPaul, Boy George and all other artists that decided to embrace androgyny and gender fluidity.

The story of Sylvester’s rise to stardom and details about his final days struggling with HIV are well documented in the short documentary below. Its only 34 minutes and well worth the time to learn more about this phenomenal man that I personally consider a hero.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Celebrating Nell Carter

Nell Carter was a phenomenal singer, actor, and comedienne. She is remembered by most for her starring role in the TV sitcom Gimme A Break. She had a personality that you just had to love and a smile that just made you melt. I grew up in rural Alabama and I think I saw her as a kindred spirit because she too was from this Southern state. Though she will live in infamy for Gimme A Break, I will always remember her for her amazing voice.

Before her breakthrough on television Nell was a very accomplished Broadway performer. She would always bring down the house in her stage performances in Hair and Ain’t Misbehavin’. Little known fact, Nell was the person originally offered the role of Effie White in Dreamgirls. Before the Dreamgirls cast would start production Nell was also offered the starring role in Gimme A Break and she decided to make the break from stage and move into television. Imagine how different things would be for Nell and for Jennifer Holiday if that had happened.

I remember rushing home every evening from school to watch “Gimme A Break.” Her success in TV still amazes me. Nell was not your typical Hollywood starlet. Nell was black. Nell was female. Nell was short. And Nell was a person that struggled controlling her weight. Others may have seen these as obstacles but not Nell. With her dynamic personality and her tremendous talent she was a force to be reckoned with. Today there are still not that many roles for African-Americans, but Nell’s success will stand in time as a symbol of the phenomenal person she was.

Nell was not out during the height of her celebrity. This was one of those unfortunate circumstances where the fact that she was a member of the LGBT community did not become common knowledge until after she died. Upon her death family and friends discovered that she had been living a closeted lesbian life when custody of her children was left with her partner.

I cannot fault Nell for being closeted. She was successful in spite of being black and gay and weight challenged. I imagine she did not want to add the stigma of being same gender loving. Or maybe she did not embrace this part of herself until later in her life. Whatever the case, I am proud to be able to list Nell Carter to the list of LGBT African-Americans I adore.

This performance with Andy Gibbs is one of my favorites by her . . .

Friday, June 8, 2012

Happy Birthday Prince Rogers Nelson

It's after midnight so technically Prince's birthday was yesterday but I wanted to take a moment to say Happy Birthday to His Royal Badness.  Last night at Zia Records thanks to our manager Manny (who is the biggest Prince fan in the world) we had an all night Prince-athon.  For me it was terrific.  For some of the younger kids working in the store I think we annoyed the hell out of them (but hey with age we earn the right to do that).

Prince had such an important role in my development.  First of all there was his music.  God - no man could turn out albums (yes, I said albums) like the man from Minneapolis.  I swear it seemed like Prince dropped a new album every month.  This fact is only significant because all of the music he released was great.  If he were turning out horrible music we wouldn't care but the music that Prince created was creative, it was innovative and oftentimes it was controvesial.  I can remember sitting in my room singing along to Paisley Park nonstop for like two hours.  And we didn't have MP3 players or CDs, I was listening to it on casette so to relisten to a song I had to hit stop, press rewind and continuously check to find the start of the song.  My how the world has changed.

I also loved Prince for his androgyny.  For a young black man growing up in rural Alabama, Prince was an  interesting person to idolize from afar.  He was beautiful and talented and mysterious and he seemed to have this sexuality that was too fluid for many understand.  I loved that he enjoyed pushing peoples buttons when it came to race, sexuality and I'd even go so far as to say gender identity.  When I saw Prince I saw a young black man that seemed very comfortable playing with and enjoying all aspects of his sexuality (inspite of the fact that it seemed to make some uncomfortable). I've been hooked on this man since I heard the first line of Controversy . . .

"I just can't believe all the things people say.
Am I black or white, am I straight or gay."