Suzanne Westenhoefer and Suede...
|get ready for Rehoboth Beach!
Letters Feature Editor Fay Jacobs spoke with Suzanne Westenhoefer and Suede about their upcoming Rehoboth gigs.
Westenhoefer, an HBO favorite who performs more than 100 shows a year, delights audiences "with talk of relationships, traveling, family, dogs, cats and laundry," she says. A favorite comic within the gay community, U.S.A. Today says "Straight audiences love her outrageousness, too." Westenhoefer's success is mainstream, with a following in both the gay and straight communities.
Fay spoke to Suzanne by phone from sultry Provincetown on Cape Codit was only 84 degrees there on the day Rehoboth was sweltering at 101 in the shade.
FJ: Hi. Is it hot as hell in P-Town? We're melting here in Rehoboth.
SW: No, not really. Maybe mid-80s.
FJ: Well, we'll have to do something about this heat for your return to Rehoboth!
SW: Oh, I love it there. I came all the time as a kid, every August. We stayed in those beach, well, shacks on Broadkill Beach.
FJ: Boy, that's changed.
SW: I know, last year for my mom's 70th birthday we came back to spend some time in Rehoboth, check out Thrashers Fries and Dolle's taffy, and just reminisce. We drove up to Broadkill and we just freaked out!
FJ: Those shacks are quickly turning into mansions.
SW: Tell me about it!
FJ: So what have you been up to?
SW: I've been in P-town for the whole month of July, and it's been great. It's fun. I've done 20 shows in a row and they are similar but not the same, ever. I don't write a show like other comics, or have an act. I kind of play what's in my head for 75 minutes. It could be things that are happening right then, things on people's minds....
FJ: So folks who have seen you here before should come back and hear what's on your mind this time, right?
SW: Absolutely. My shows change hourly. There may be a handful of things the audience has heard before, but there might not be anything. It's just whatever I'm doing that day, or week, or at the moment. I never know. No juggling, though.
FJ: So what do you think about ELBoW Productions getting together to bring lots of entertainment to Rehoboth?
SW: It's great. You want to bring acts, men's and women's acts here all year. When I look at P-Town, at any given time there are eight or nine cabaret acts or shows going on. There's no reason why there can't be something at least every weekend in Rehoboth.
FJ: I'd love that.
SW: We gay people really enjoy night life, not just bars, but entertainment, little theater, drag, comics, we like to have fun and we will support it.
FJ: And Rehoboth is small enough where you can walk from one thing to another.
SW: Right. We queers, when we haul our cookies to Rehoboth, we want to stay there and relax, walk around and see stuff.
FJ: Well on the weekend of August 19 they'll see stuff great stuff!
SW: Thanks. I'll see you at the Convention Center.
Suede, too was on tour, keeping cooland being very cool! Critics call Suede a cross between Ella Fitzgerald and Bette Midler, add a dash of Louis Armstrong. One part rat pack and one part Rosie Clooney, Suede is the "Diva la Difference." This consummate entertainer sings original material and pop, blues and jazz standards like nobody you've ever heard. Easily Suede Music, her own record label founded in 1988, allows Suede to maintain artistic control and make independent creative choices in her work.
An e-mail exchange with Suede.
FJ: We're excited about your upcoming concert at the Rehoboth Convention Center.
S: I love playing in Rehoboth and just generally love the town. I'm thrilled to be coming back with David and Max on piano and bass, respectively. We've been keeping very busy touring anywhere they'll have us and working on a LOT of fabulous new tunes which we'll be doing in this concert.
FJ: Many people love your music but don't really know a lot about your career. I know you started out in the Baltimore areacan you give us a little background?
S: This shouldn't take long considering I've been making my living full time for the last 23 years.... I moved back east from Iowa with the intention of pursuing my lifelong dream of performing...I got a job working at Sam Goody's in the Laurel, Maryland mall to pay the bills, turned out to be very good at it and kept getting promoted until I was offered my own store. The next day I gave my two weeks notice, knowing it was time to leap before I got too comfortable with a regular income.
That afternoon I auditioned to play at a great gathering spot called the Shot Tower Bar in Baltimore. They hired me on first listen, I started that weekend and there was no turning back. I knew I didn't want to spend my career playing bar gigs and pursued women's music festivals feeling that was a place where I could be out, express my politics and just be exactly who I am.
I met David Pearl in NYC in 1985, we started our long relationship immediately and it's still going strong. I started playing NY clubs, meeting some truly amazing artists and people in the business, and getting some great reviews and one thing led to another.
Since about 1988 we now tour full-time, about 150 shows a year, headlining nationally and internationally and selling out clubs like the Birchmere, Rams Head Tavern, etc., across the US, Canada and Europe.
FJ: I know you are a multi-talented musicianhow many instruments do you play...and how many will you play for us in Rehoboth?
S: I am a self taught musician and play piano, trumpet and guitar. However, I consider my voice to be my first instrument and I absolutely approach my singing as playing an instrument. I can play most instruments and seem to have been born with the ability to pick up anything and make some music on it. Now, whether I'd think about charging people to hear that publicly is another question...at the Rehoboth concert I'll play guitar, trumpet and piano, most likely. But, you never know....
FJ: What's the most rewarding thing about being on the Olivia Cruise circuit?
S: Well, let's face it, it's not exactly a tough gig. Yes, I meet a lot of very interesting people and get to see the world. I think one of my favorite things about the Olivia trips is the fact that everyone is together for an entire week instead of running into and out of town in one day, so there's time to actually connect with people, share stories. I see women who feel free to be exactly who they are, to be completely open with their relationship if they're in one (there are a lot of single women on the trips, too), to have all the privileges that straight people can take for granted because we live in a predominantly straight society. An added bonus is the fact that we are changing the world as we cruise these beautiful destinations. I kid you not when I say that as each trip comes to a close (and I've done about 27 of them now) some of the ship's crew is in tears as we disembark. They totally "get" us and their view of gay people is forever changed.
FJ: What kind of night can folks expect?
S: There will be belting it out blues with sizzling scat solos and steamy trumpet. There will be sweet love songs that will have you swooning. There will be just the right amount of tear jerkers to balance things out. There will be lots of laughter, humor, playfulness, interaction with my audience which I consider another section of the orchestra and with which I create the performance.... Perhaps Bea Arthur said it best when she stood up in my audience last August and proclaimed, "Thank you for the best night of my life in an audience. You are to DIE for."
Whoa. Diva was struck speechless, a rare occurrence, I assure you.
Suzanne Westenhoefer will perform Aug. 19 and Suede on Aug. 20 at the Rehoboth Convention Center. Tickets, $25 per performance, are available at CAMP Rehoboth, 302-227-5620.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 15, No. 11 August 12, 2005