Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Moving On

It is with a combination of sadness and optimism that I announce my departure from Just Out after 8 1/2 years with the Pacific Northwest’s largest queer newsmagazine. It has truly been a pleasure to work with all of you through the years, and I hope our paths cross again as I move on to the next phase of my writing career. Please take note of my updated contact information below.

Upon my arrival at Just Out as news editor in 2000, I was a frustrated journalist who was considering a career change after working at publications that were filled with content didn’t seem to connect with their readers. Fresh out of the closet, I was timid at the thought of suddenly becoming a “professional homosexual” but soon was reaping the rewards of this unique position:

• I had a front-row seat for the downfall of the state’s anti-gay leader when Lon Mabon was arrested in 2002 for refusing to participate in a court case brought by former Just Out photographer Catherine Stauffer. My favorite memory: asking his wife, Bonnie, amid a throng of straight journalists, “How does it feel to be brought down by a lesbian?”

• Five years ago this month, I had the pleasure of witnessing the brave actions of the “Wonder Women” of Multnomah County who risked their careers by issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Love was in the air for weeks, and Portland was on the map as a welcoming place for queers.

• The second half of my tenure at Just Out was in the arts and culture realm, which allowed me to interview local luminaries (Gus Van Sant, Thomas Lauderdale) as well as visiting celebs (Lily Tomlin, Melissa Etheridge) while sharing stories about chasing my personal dreams (buying a house, losing weight).

As someone who has been devoted to journalism for more than 21 years — ever since I joined the student newspaper staff in my sophomore year at North Salem High School — I hope to find another challenging position in this ever-changing field or in the local arts and culture scene. I would welcome any job leads and would be delighted just to hear your thoughts about where I should channel my energy.

For now, let’s get together to celebrate. Please join me for happy hour 5 p.m. Friday, March 20 at Boxxes, 1035 S.W. Stark St. (For the budget-minded imbiber, well drinks are 75 cents until 7.)

Peace and love,

Jimmy Radosta

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Watershed Moment: k.d. lang believes in music

“In perfect dreams life is so quite serene,” k.d. lang sings on the soundtrack to Portland director Gus Van Sant’s Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. Even though the 1993 film flopped, her accompanying album has been a warm blanket on even the coldest days of my life. So you can only imagine what a pleasure it was to tell her directly how much her music has meant to me. Our recent conversation also touched on her first self-produced CD, her live DVD recorded at an 18th century landmark church, the evolution of gender-bending and, of course, the economy.

Jimmy Radosta: What led you to decide to produce your last album, Watershed, on your own? How did this alter the recording process?

k.d. lang:
Well, it was sort of a natural unfolding. I had been writing the songs for about six years and realized that I had almost an album’s worth of songs. When I looked back, I really felt like there was something essential about the demos that I didn’t want to lose. So out of the desire to keep those and to maintain the integrity, I just decided to finish the record by myself.

The recording process was different because I didn’t actually hire musicians and rent a big studio and do it in one fell swoop. I built it really slowly and spent a lot of time editing and making sure that the songs that I had were the ones that I wanted and that I felt were really speaking to me. It took a lot more time but a lot less resources.

There is a certain gratification in knowing that I accomplished something, but the onslaught was scary. It would be all my fault if it went terribly wrong. [Laughs]

JR: What was it like recording your new DVD, Live in London with the BBC Concert Orchestra?

It was nice. The scary thing about it was it was the third time the band and I had played live together. I had been working with the same musicians for like 20 years, and this year it was all brand new people. The BBC Orchestra is so amazing; they’re really one of the best assemblies that I’ve ever worked with.

JR: You composed one of my all-time favorite film scores, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues.

You rock, thank you! You are the only person that’s ever said that to me.

You know, I actually think that movie is so fucking hilarious and awesome. I think it was way before its time, and Gus Van Sant is just a genius. I love that record, too, and I think that whole combination was really just so amazingly wonderful for me. And I, of course, had to watch the film over and over and over again; I never got tired of looking at Rain [Phoenix] and Uma [Thurman], that’s for sure.

JR: You and Annie Lennox and Boy George were gender-bending pioneers, especially when you did that Vanity Fair cover with Cindy Crawford. Even though we live in more enlightened times, it seems like the most daring stuff was happening in the ’80s and ’90s. What kind of reaction did you get in those days?

It was good for me. I think Cindy got more negative reaction than I did about the Vanity cover. Gender-bending goes in cycles; there was a type of sexual energy or enthusiasm going on in the ’80s with Madonna and the aforementioned artists. Right now we’ve moved out of the physical nature and there are different things going on. It will probably roll around again to some sort of sexually oriented pop culture, but I think the AIDS crisis and just the abundance of sexual innuendoes in pop culture—it got tiring, you know? The AIDS thing kind of put a stop to the frivolity of it. It just seemed to become a little distasteful and unnecessary—at least it did for me.

JR: Can you tell me about your acceptance speech when you won a 1985 Juno Award for Most Promising Female Vocalist?

Well, I just thought, “Who is one of the most promising figures in our society?” So I wore a wedding dress and promised to “marry” the integrity of art and to make all of my products as “pure” and as “honest” as I could.

JR: Looking back on that today, did you ever imagine you’d achieve such a level of respect and popularity that you’d be recording with legends like Tony Bennett?

Um, I think I was so cocky and so sure of myself back then that, yes, I absolutely did know. I was focused on it and I had the energy, and I think I was destined to make it happen no matter what because I was so determined.

JR: Have you seen the music industry affected by the recession yet?

Oh yeah, definitely. Ticket sales have been down at least 30 percent across the board for everybody. When we were on tour last year and the gas prices were up to those amazingly high figures, it really affected us. The overhead was really, really very difficult to deal with.

But I think that music is something that does survive during these depression and recession times. People find solace in music and entertainment, so as long as we can keep the overhead down and the ticket prices down, things will be OK.

Wood Brothers open for k.d. lang 8 p.m. March 24 at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 S.W. Broadway. Tickets are $36-$60.50 from Ticketmaster.