Script for QMH, April 2004
Byng & Lance Lister - Cabaret Boys (1928)
While it's nice to acquaint you with Douglas Byng, this show is not about him. I'm using his delightful song "Cabaret Boys" to focus instead on a more modern set of cabaret boys, who made some important contributions to our own gay culture. First take a listen to a bit of one of their songs. The song is "Moonshine Lullaby" and was first sung in "Annie Get Your Gun" by Ethel Merman, but these guys are doing it, as Tina Turner would say, nice and easy.
Gotham - Moonshine Lullaby
Those gorgeous harmonies were done by my special feature artists for this month's show. And they were known as Gotham. Gotham was a comedy cabaret trio, and was probably the most successful cabaret act in the history of our culture. They had an extraordinarily long career, packing clubs for almost twenty years, and besides their wonderful singing and comedy, what they did different was that they did it as an openly gay act. They didn't compromise or try to pass as straight. They were upfront and way out. Along the way they got glowing reviews in practically every major newspaper in the country. And I'm talking about the straight press, in addition to every gay publication. And they were the first openly gay group to play the Kennedy Center in Washington DC and Carnegie Hall in New York City. And you don't get much bigger than Carnegie Hall.
One thing that will be different about this show's tribute to these artists is that on almost every show I've done in the past, the artist's contribution to our gay musical culture is from their recordings. That makes sense. This is a music show and it's hard to share something that is not captured, be it on vinyl or CD. While Gotham did release two albums, this was not from where they got their acclaim. That came from making the crowds laugh at their antics and just plain revel in their ability to sing those harmonies. I have a special interview with the group to talk about their career, but before we start I want to share a bit of a song from their first album that is fairly typical of their music.
Gotham - Jersey Bounce
That was called "Jersey Bounce." The group Gotham was originally formed in 1973 by Gary Herb, Michael Pace and Jonathan Morrow. After a couple years Morrow left the group and was replaced by David McDaniel, and that lineup was intact until their last show, in 1992. A quick comment about the interview. I thought a conference call with an act very well known for their stage antics would pretty much be chaos. I'm not quite that brave. So I interviewed Gary, Michael and David by phone, separately, and asked each of them pretty much the same questions. You'll hear each one with their distinctive style and point of view. I learned that in the early 70s each of them had been knocking around New York City, trying to break into show business, with very little luck. I'm starting with Gary Herb who tells how the group formed.
And when did the group Gotham start; how did it start?
[Gary] In '73 we kind of got started, with audition and audition and audition, and I kept getting call-backs and I kept getting rejections, you know. And finally I came to the realization, I think we have to, I have to put together my own little show. I mean, I discovered in my neighborhood, I lived in Hell's Kitchen, on 47th Street, there was a little club called Brothers & Sisters, and they had opened up a little showroom, that held about 50 people, and I saw a man called Michael Greer. Do you remember Michael Greer? [Yes]. He blew me away. I was absolutely mesmerized by his I said, this is something I can do. And that's kind of where it all started, and I met Michael Pace, my partner, who actually lived on 46th Street, and I was on 47th, and we kept noticing each other in the neighborhood. Finally we talked to each other at the Brother & Sisters Club, and said "what do you do," and he said well, I'm a singer," and he had told me that he was going to a club on 9th Street called Reno Sweeney. He said, "I'm doing an open mic Monday night thing; I'm going to sing like three songs, why don't you come down?" So I went down and he stood there and sang and I was shocked at the voice that came out of his mouth. It was glorious.
And I said, "you know what, I don't see why we couldn't put together an act. We need to find a piano player," and I had just met a guy, named Jon Morrow, a Southern boy who had just moved to New York City, and I said, "we have to find a piano player who will work for free," cause we didn't have any money. And I introduced Jon to Michael, and said "Let's put together some three-part harmony songs a la" cause Midler had just started to become very big, and her "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" song was everywhere, and I said, "You know, we could do a little Andrew Sisters stuff, Mills Brothers, you know, that sort of genre". We put together about six, seven, maybe ten songs, and, there was an article in a magazine called After Dark. Do you remember that magazine? [Of course] And it highlighted a guy, a young man named Bill Hennessey, who was a hairdresser originally, who helped create The Diving Miss M. And they met, Bette and Bill met, at "Fiddler on the Roof." He did the hair on "Fiddler on the Roof." And Midler was putting together a nightclub act for the band, and some other little clubs in town, and Hennessey and she got on like gangbusters, and he started giving her dialogue, one-liners and stuff. And he had this write-up in the magazine we kind of said, "You know what, we need to get to him somehow."
So Bill wound up arriving at the Brothers & Sisters one night with one of his night club act, and we kind of Michael bombarded him out of nowhere, and brazenly invited him to come and listen to a rehearsal of ours. He came the following day to the apartment. He brought his friend Bob Esty, and they signed us immediately and we started to do one-night things at Brothers & Sisters. It happened one-two-three, very fast.
So you did the clubs. How quickly did you start touring?
[Gary] We started at Brothers & Sisters, and we did a few months. I don't know, we were very lucky in the very beginning. We were successful; people showed up to see us, and so we did that and then what he would do is like he would book us right across until we got to Los Angeles, and then book us back, till we got to New York. And we started getting nice write-ups and we started to attract a crowd, and it was a wonderful we kept looking at each other, and going, "This really happened a lot quicker than we expected."
Michael Pace picks up the story when I asked him, was there a leader of the group on stage?
[Michael] No, no, it was chaos. It was anarchy all the time, like the Marx Brothers.
And, did you have certain roles to play in the act?
[Michael] No, not really, it would shift all the time, and that was part of the fun of it, because suddenly it would be flipped over, and somebody else would be the butt of the joke instead of however it was working. It always kept sort of flipping over on itself and you'd never know where to look next, except we through practice and practice were able to refine exactly how to focus the audience. Where's the joke coming from and where's the punch line coming from, and who's doing the set up, and who's doing the punch, and then who's changing the subject, and who's taking a different direction and who's going to be introducing the song, and what are we going to say about the room that's here. It became a formula for us of how to get through every new engagement, so that we became masters and of being able to step into any environment and take it over.
Wasn't Jon Morrow more of the so-called straight man?
[Michael] He was silent. [That's pretty straight] He was silent. He was Howdy Doody at the piano.
[Gary] Jon did a Buster Keaton where he would be absolutely totally deadpan while Michael and I were doing the battle of the comedians. And we would look at Jon and ask him a question and he would just go "Yeah, No." And the crowd would scream for him, because it was so different than the two of us. So he just won over the crowd by just staring blankly out as if into space.
Why did Jon leave the group?
[Gary] Jon met a boyfriend who knocked him off his feet, and he was tired, um, he kind of got tired of the traveling, cause when I tell we really just started one-two-three bang, we did. And we were like, oh my God, he's going to leave, we have to hold and I said, "What are we going to do?" And we basically decided, well, we're going to keep going, so we're going to hold auditions, but he fell in love and he wanted to settle down.
Michael tells how they found a replacement
[Michael] We put an ad in Backstage, and we auditioned a ton of people. I mean, it was like the auditions for Hitler in the movie, The Producers. You know we had everything you can imagine walk through that door. It was just bizzaare. And then David was like the last person through the door and we knew him. And he sang "Ring Around the Bathtub," (sings) Well, he was great. He sang great. He has a wonderful voice, terrific. And he was a great look; he looked like Tyrone Power.
Did he gel right away with the group?
[Michael] Well, he had growing pains; he has to jump on a train that was already hurtling down the track. So yeah, there were some growing pains there, but more his pain than ours, I'll have to say that. [He had to find his own style] No, he had to fit in, and then find out how he was going to fit in. That was the main problem for David, he had to fit in somebody else's shoes, literally, because we had the costume, we had to find somebody to fit it, cause we couldn't afford to make new costumes. And so he wore Jon's size, so that was a real selling point. Then he found out who he was, and what he was on stage, and that for all of us was a constantly ongoing shifting changing process.
And now we get to hear from David McDaniel for the first time, when I asked for his version of that part of the story. So, how did you get into the group?
[David] Well, there was an ad in Backstage, which is one of the trade papers, and there was an ad. It said in fact I have it right here in front of me, still in my scrapbook, "Gotham. Needed: white male, bass baritone, mid-20s, thin, over 5'11", must move well, intelligent, vulnerable, and plain looking, please prepare two songs" and then it goes on so on and so forth [I was wondering about the plain-looking requirement] Well, we all have our own opinions on ourselves, so I guess I thought I was plain-looking. [The took you anyhow] Right, well, anyway. I honestly didn't expect to get cast, because I did know Gary so well socially and I thought that would not work in my favor, but I got cast and the rest is history as they say.
I asked David if each of them had a role to play in the act.
[David] Absolutely, and Gary and Michael generally tried to top each other, which at times was not always easy to do and kind of at times not so pleasant. Sometimes they'd say you know when get a good laugh, leave it alone, don't try and top it, leave it alone. But my role was primarily as the straight man, in the same way that George Burns was Gracie Allen's straight man. I would do their set ups. Gary would say something to the effect, oh I can't even think right now of a joke, ah, he would say a line. I would repeat the line to make sure that the audience would ah..[would hear it] would hear it, and get it, and then one of the two of them would get the punch line. "What do you say to a man with five penises?" "What DO you say to a man with five penises?" "Oh, your pants fit like a glove." But that was my job. My other job was to pull them back when the were going too far out into the stratosphere, cause they could just float away. They could just get lost completely in the moment.
Earlier Gary mentioned that their manager, Bill Hennessey, was also working with Bette Midler. This probably got them chosen to sing backups on a Bette Midler album. David, how was that arranged?
[David] Well, that was through Hennessey as well. I'd only been with the group a couple of months I think at that time, and she was recording her third album, which was her first album without Barry, and, Barry Manilow, and so this was kind of new territory for her. It was an album called "Songs for the New Depression," I believe, and she was recording a tune called "Marijuana," which is very typical of the type of songs that she had on her first two albums. I think Hennessey, I don't really know, but I think he kind of talked her into "why don't you use these guys to back you up," because there were a lot of very famous people backing her up on that album.
And Gary picks up the story.
[Gary] It was really kind of very funny because for some strange reason I think that Bette was thinking that I was a very loud singer, so it was almost like a comedy bit the three of us would be around the mic, and Bette would say, "Okay, Gary, back up a little bit." And we'd sing a little bit more and she'd say "Back up a little bit more." And we'd sing again and she'd say "Back up some more " and it was like I'm in Hoboken. [Like what'd you have in mind? Cleveland?] I'll go, I mean where do you want me? So, we howled over all of that, and were totally thrilled and delighted to be in that position, because we adored her.
Okay, Gotham had been crisscrossing the country now for about three years. And I want to mention another distinction about this act. Let me remind you a little of what the gay and lesbian entertainment scene was like in the mid to late 70s. In terms of visibility, it mostly consisted of Olivia Records and the Women's Music Movement, featuring mainly Cris Williamson, Meg Christian and Holly Near. These wonderful artists performed mostly in folk venues and music festivals and colleges, primarily only on weekends, and even the historic Meg & Cris at Carnegie Hall album was not until 1982. Gotham was doing their openly gay act on the cabaret circuit, which meant performing five or six nights a week, often two shows a night. In their busiest years, 1976 through 1979, they did almost a hundred gigs, of mostly a week or more. That's a lot of exposure. So it shouldn't be surprising that they were invited to play at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. This was in October of 1976 and they were no doubt the first openly gay group for that venue.
Gary talks about those shows. So you did the Kennedy Center shows in Washington. Tell me about that.
were great, great, great fun. Great shows, great fun, we had a great
audience in Washington DC. [Was that your most prestigious venue up
to that point?] Yeah, I think up to that point. We had done Carnegie
Hall after that. We did the Kennedy Center first, so that was kind
we kind of thought that was a biggie. [Well, it is] We did
two nights there. We had good crowds. It was kind of packed. It's
a large room. Like I said, we were still very new and very young and
before the shows it would be the three of us in our room together.
We would like look at each other and go "can you believe this?"
[Michael] The first album was recorded in Canada, and it was on its was to becoming a really superior album, and then, it went bad, in this regard. They didn't want us in the room when they would be mixing the record, and this was a disaster, because the people mixing the record were not musicians. They were tech people, in a record company. So they could not figure out who the hell was singing what melody, when. Because we were doing things like the Boswells (Boswell Sisters) would do, where I'd be singing melody for like three or four notes in a bar and Gary would take over the melody, and then it would pop back down to David, and then we'd be all three singing melody, harmony together again, so there was no way to follow the melody. So you'd get on the mix on the record strange things coming up. You know, wrong melody lines and it sounded weird. And it was all because they just wouldn't allow us there. [They tried to mix it like there was a lead singer] Yeah, yeah. [So, the album didn't go over that well?] No, actually, the album because we had a terrific fan base in the United States.
Now, Gary and David also were disappointed with the album, though I think there's a little bit of an artist always being his own worst critic. And I want to mention that obviously in the time we have on this show I can't play each of their answers to every question, but you can hear them. I've set up a special page of my website this month that has all of their answers, including those for areas I couldn't cover at all on this show, so you can click on them and compare and contrast. Of course that can be found at www.queermusicheritage.com, where you can also see an extensive selection of photos and articles about Gotham. And, this is a good time to remind you to be sure to listen to After Hours with Jimmy Carper, every Saturday night from midnight to 4 am, on KPFT, it's Queer Radio, with attitude.
Well, before we continue with much more of the interview, I want to share a little more of their music, so I asked Gary if they had a signature song. Did your act have like a signature song, or did that apply to an act like yours?
[Gary] For a very long time, we did an Andrews Sisters song called "Hold Tight," which more people use to scream for us to do. So that was one song we did for many, many, many, many years. I don't know if that would be a signature song or not, but it was something that the crowd always yelled for.
Gotham - Hold Tight
That was "Hold Tight," from their first album, just called Gotham. Michael talks a little more about their singing style
[Michael] When we would learn a song, we would learn, often times, when we were doing a tribute to someone like the Mills Brothers, we would learn the song exactly how the Mills Brothers had done it. We would pick the harmonies apart and learn it and try to mimic their sound just perfectly, and then do something visually that had a rather gay twist to it, and had a different and funny way at looking at the same material but with that brilliant sound underneath it. So that's what we would do with the Andrews or Boswell Sisters, or the Mills Brothers or Lamberts, Hendricks & Ross.
Well, Michael talked about how they would try to do music in the style of the Mills Brothers or Andrews Sisters. They were compared to a number of similar acts, like being a cross between Manhattan Transfer and the Andrews Sisters, a combination of the Mills Brothers, DeCastro Sisters and Boswell Sisters, but one I especially like is their being called a cross between the Andrews Brothers and the Marx Sisters. They also used their style for parodies, and here's one from their live act, obviously from the 80s, because it's called "Mrs. Reagan"
Gotham - Mrs. Reagan
In 1978 they achieved what would be a highlight in anyone's career, playing Carnegie Hall. Michael tells us about it
[Michael] It was just heaven. It was scary. We had done songs that night that had never been done. We were working with a band, a full band, a big band actually, and we had not done that before so that was a new experience. The sound again was not good, because the sound company thought they were going to have to mic everything so heavily, and it's Carnegie Hall. You can stand at the end of the stage and sing and not have any microphone at all and be heard clear up in the top. Brilliant acoustics. And so the sound was a little too amplified, but it didn't seem to matter to the crowd, because they would stand on the feet and scream for us all night. It was just great. And the audience was just wonderful. Grace Jones was in the audience and Melba Moore was in the audience, and our folks were in the audience and our friends and everybody who had seen us in New York, and the list goes on. People flew in from out of town, from across the country. It was just great. [Well, there's not a much bigger deal than Carnegie Hall] No, no, there really isn't, not if you're living in New York especially. That's the place.
I discussed some of the group's firsts with David. We discussed in email that y'all were probably the first openly gay act to do Carnegie Hall.
[David] So we were told, and I think and we also discussed through email that I went through all of our press clippings and all of our interviews, and all of these things that we have through the years said to each other, we were the first act to first openly gay act to play London, we were the first openly gay act to play the Guthrie (Minneapolis), first openly gay act to play Carnegie Hall, to be reviewed in the major press, to do Merv Griffin, to do, in other words, national television, all of those things I think are true. But I couldn't find any of those honestly listed in any of these interviews. And I don't think they're things that we made up. I think they're things that we were told as we were going down the line, they have stuck with us. I do think that that is the truth.
But when you stop and think, 1978, Carnegie Hall, who else would have preceded you, I can't think of anyone.
[David] Well, there could have been people, someone like, oh, Lynne Carter for example, who was a very, very famous female impersonator; maybe Charles Pierce, who also [yeah, but those are solo acts]. Those are solo acts, yes, we're talking about groups, and they were also female impersonators [comedians] yeah, comedians, yeah. Anyway, yeah I think we were. I can't think of any other act actually I don't think there were any other acts around who did what we did, I honestly do believe that even though I, I didn't really see that documented in any of our interviews. However, if you look in those reviews, the major reviews from the New York Times, the L.A. Times, the London Times, the tone of those reviews are "we've never seen an act like this where they go out on stage and they don't hide the fact that they're gay," that is said in a lot of those reviews. So yes, I think we probably were the first act, first openly gay act to play Carnegie Hall.
About how much of your act was impromptu when you were up there?
[Gary] I think about maybe 50-50. A lot of it was impromptu. We had a basic outline that we knew you know, that we would tape it up on the mirror. It would always start out with, here's the openings and the hellos and the how-are-yous, and this is our names and we know what we're saying with all of that, and this segueways into this song, we do this, this, this, it was a little rough outline. And there was always a clump in the show where we would do audience jokes, when I would go down with a mic and run through the room if it was feasible, and people would come to the mic and stand up and do filthy jokes. That was a very funny piece of the show. People would line up to tell the sickest jokes and it made us closer to the crowd and the crowd closer to us. [and the jokes were dirtier than what you told] Oh! Oh, awful, and it would always come from a little prim and proper lady in a little sweater with pearls, you know, she's saying, "and then he took his black dick " And we'd go, oh, wait a minute! So, there was an outline, nothing was ever in stone.
Michael, was it different performing for British audiences?
[Michael] Well in England we just it took us several days, like everyplace. It takes like the first three days to learn the audience and to learn the room, which is in the kind of humor that we do because it's so dependent upon the audience. You know, there's no laughing in a vacuum, and it depends on where you're cleaning, I guess but ah, the audience took us a little bit to get through to, because they're so sort of tightlipped about everything, that the don't really laugh out loud. So it was hard to get them to laugh at themselves, but eventually we did. We found a key to it and it started to work, and then before you know it, they caught on to who we were and how we were making fun of ourselves, not just making fun of them, and they started to break down and laugh and laugh and laugh. And we ended up going back to London three times, and getting reviews that said things in the London Sunday Times like "This is the best ticket in London."
Their next album was also a milestone for them, but again they weren't quite satisfied with it, because it was just not their style. Michael talks about that.
[Michael] Well, they wanted us to do a disco album finally. They thought, well, maybe that's a way in for them, they can make a disco album since they have such a huge gay following. And so they brought in two straight guys who didn't know one thing about what gay people were, it seemed .it was just like the weirdest thing. It was like having two aliens land down in the middle of you and say "We know exactly what we should have you sing." And we looked at them like, "you really aren't interested in us, are you? You're just interested in writing some songs so they go on an album so you can collect royalties from them if it's a hit." Okay.
What's the story behind "AC-DC Man"?
[Michael] They wanted to write something that was gay. [well, it's not all the way gay] No, that's the whole point. They didn't know what they were doing.
When I first heard "AC-DC Man" back then, jumping to my conclusion was that here's this group that's not quite ready to sing something openly gay, so they're going to go with something openly bi.
[Michael] Not our idea.
The album was called "Void Where Inhibited." David tells about performing at the March on Washington. Okay, we're still in '79, you performed at the March on Washington. How did that go?
[David] Oh, it was fun, it was, well, standing on the stage in front of 500 thousand people, I think they estimated at the time, with the Washington Monument in the background.
Well, I wanted to mention, I was at that March and saw y'all, and your act was one of the very few that stand out in my memory after all these years.
Oh, that's nice to know. I think we sang "AC-DC" [yeah,
you did, I remember that] I don't know if we sang anything else but
I do remember that.
Gotham - AC DC Man (1979)
How much do you feel the success of the group was hurt because you were openly gay?
[Michael] Oh, tremendously, I mean, we were on TV as openly gay performers before Ellen Degeneris, and that was on the Merv Griffin Show, and the audience loved us. God bless him. He was the only person brave enough to take a chance on us. We auditioned for Freddy DeCordava of "The Tonight Show," who sat and watched us in a tiled room with florescent lights, and he sat on a folding chair, very glamorous, but he was a brilliant man. I mean, this was the man who worked with Burns & Allen, brilliant, brilliant guy. He watched us, he laughed, being the only person there, he laughed, and afterwards he said "You're ahead of your time, sorry, we won't have a spot for you."
Sort of the other edge of that sword, I've also read there was criticism from the gay community that you didn't use being openly gay enough politically.
[David] Well, not so much here in the United States, but the only bad review we got in London was from the gay press, and that was because we weren't standing on stage with placards and signs and beating people over the head. We never went out to convert anybody. We went out on stage just to be ourselves. It was because we were relaxed with ourselves and therefore the audience saw that there was nothing to be threatened. You could see in the audience, maybe the wives brought the husbands to see the show and for the first couple songs they'd be sitting there with their arms folded, "Marge, why did you bring me to this? I don't understand it." By the third number we had them in the palm of our hands, and they saw that we were absolutely non-threatening. We were not a threat to them in any way, shape or form. But the London press, they wanted us to fight for them, and we didn't. And the odd thing about that is that they later used, that same publication use a picture of Michael Pace, my partner, reading a copy of their newspaper in their ad, saying, "See, Gotham reads us." Michael was not pleased.
When did you all end the act and what brought that on?
[David] I'd have to say, I don't think anybody, anybody I think Michael and Gary would agree with this I don't think anybody ever said, "Let's end the act, let's stop performing, we don't want to do this anymore." I don't remember every hearing that. I just remember having weeks and months and then a couple of years going by where we didn't perform. We were still communicating with each other. And finally I got it, I got it, we were no longer performing. But I don't remember anybody ever saying "let's break up." You know, everything has a shelf-life. We had been performing together for 17 years. Gary and Michael had been performing together for almost 20 years. That's including those years with Jon. [That's an incredible run] It is, and I think, there was that and I think that we got tired of beating our heads up against that brick wall that I mentioned earlier, of internalized homophobia within the industry. You can only come so close to doing a movie, or two movies, or a TV show or a sitcom, or an off-Broadway show, or a Broadway show, or whatever. You can only beat your head against that wall so many times without ending up being bloody and bruised. [You get tired of the "almosts."] Yeah.
So, when was the last show?
[Gary] When it was or where it was? [both] It was, wasn't it like '92? I think it was '92, in Washington DC at the Lisner. It was a benefit that was another thing too. That's when everybody was doing benefits. That was our last show. We just all we all kind of knew, we looked at each other, we never really said, "This is it, good-bye, take care, we're done." We just kind of stopped. And David and I talked about it the other night, we said "do you ever remember if any of us like sat in the dressing room and decided out loud that this was our last show?" And we both said, no, that never really happened. We just kind of stopped.
When you look back on all of it, what do you think the act contributed to gay culture?
[David] I think we contributed a great deal, because we were not on stage holding placards saying "gay rights and you have to accept us." We were just three funny guys who went on stage and sang and relaxed people, and we used to get letters and, you know, I'm getting teary thinking about some of these letters, because, we would get letters from people saying, oh, to Gary for example I remember a letter "my brother was very much like you and our parents kicked him out of the family and just last year he died," and this was in the 70s, before AIDS, "and to see you on stage meant a great deal to me." We would get letters saying "I have to admit, I was very prejudiced against gay people before coming to see your act, and I didn't want to come to see your act. And now I don't know why I was prejudiced," and you'd have to excuse me, ah, okay, um, I'm sorry, that just took me by surprise, as tears often do. I think in that respect we paved the way for a lot of people, and I think we healed a lot of wounds within families. My family was not pleased when I told them about myself, but I knew I had to tell them, or they'd read it in the paper somewhere, but they eventually healed. And I think there was a lot of that healing going on, simply because we were making people laugh, and we were relaxing people, and I think that we did pave the way for a lot of performers that you now see.
I also get a little angry sometimes now, because people like us, and the people who came before us, are completely forgotten. I saw one of the actors, and I won't mention which one, from "Queer As Folk" being interviewed, talking about what a wonderful thing they're doing, and they are. But he was talking as if in fact he said, "but there was no one before us. There was no one like us, before us." Well, there would have been, if they would have allowed us to be on TV. There was, we were out there. We did get reviewed in major newspapers for an entire decade while this kid was in grade school. And there are times I get a little testy about that, and obviously there are times when I get a little emotional thinking about those years and that they're for us, and they're over and we did affect people positively. It was fun. We had a good time.
How would you like Gotham to be remembered?
[David] As a lot of fun. I would love for us to be remembered as a group of people who made people laugh and put people at ease about the fact that we're gay, and that we were absolutely non-threatening. We were absolutely non-threatening. That's the important thing about the group. We did not go out and beat people over the head with slogans, and being militant.
[Gary] I'm just happy if we're remembered. So many people that have seen us, that were fans of ours, are gone, you know. We've lost a lot of people. So I'm real tickled when I find people that have seen us and are still here. That thrills me.
[Michael] Gee, that's a tough question. It really is a really tough question. How do you want to be remembered? We were very entertaining. No two shows were ever the same. It was always exciting, and whoever was in the audience that night it was their party.
I also asked Gary this one. What's the first thing you think of when I ask, what's your favorite Gotham memory?
[Gary] Ah, my favorite Gotham memory when the three of us were sitting in the dressing room at Carnegie Hall, and we were looking at each other and we were getting dressed and we said, "You know, I think this the room Judy Garland was in when she was getting herself together." We kind of like just all like we were just struck. It was one of those wonderful little things that was ours, you know, so that's the one thing that I'll never forget.
Are there any questions I should have asked you?
[Gary] Did David tell you when Kaye Ballard's lover in Palm Springs came back stage and wanted to beat me up cause I did a dyke joke about Kaye Ballard, and I didn't know that her lover was in the audience. [oh no, well start that story over again, will you?] Oh, we said something we would talk about Kaye Ballard sometimes and, you know, butch Kaye Ballard, and all of a sudden after the one show, in Palm Dessert, California, we heard bang, bang, bang on the dressing room door and we opened it up and there was this big butch dyke standing there and going "Which one of you's talking about Kaye?" And I went, "That's me." "Well, I don't want to hear you talking or saying anything nasty about Kaye Ballard." We had to call the manager, get her dragged out of I said "My God." And of course you know that did. It made us do twenty minutes on Kaye Ballard every night from that point on. But I'll never forget how funny this girl was. She came back ready to tear me up. "Don't you talk about Kaye Ballard."
I've got something special to end the show, but before I tell you about it I want to thank Gary, Michael and David for their incredible help, not only with the interviews but also for enabling me to share some extras with my listeners and visitors to my site. They provided me with lots and lots of photos from their career, and something really special. A video. That's right, for the first time on my site I'm able to provide a video of an act I'm featuring. This one is from 1989 and was from an AIDS benefit show they did at the Bottom Line in New York. The show was in tribute to a nightclub called Reno Sweeney's. So, if your computer is fairly fast, you can also see what Gotham's act was like.
Okay, as always if you have questions or comments about any of the music I've featured, please write me. And I wish you would. And again, my website, logically enough, is at www.queermusicheritage.com and now also at www.queermusicheritage.org. This is JD Doyle for Queer Voices on KPFT in Houston, and I'll be back on the fourth Monday of next month with the next installment of Queer Music Heritage.
All right, I mentioned earlier another treat for the end of the show. Since their two albums did not really capture the spirit of their act, I'm very pleased to let you know that the group has provided me with a recording of one of their live shows. It's from a club in New York City called the Grand Finale, and was recorded in September of 1976. All 45 minutes of the show can be heard on my site, but I'm closing the show with about six minutes of it. I think it really shares the fun of their live act, and their incredible talent. They end it with their version of "Where Did Out Love Go." You'll first hear Michael and Gary tell us about that song.
[Michael] Well, we were working at the time with Bob Esty, and Bob went on to become the producer for Cher's disco album and Barbra Streisand's and Donna Summer's disco duet. They did (sings) "it's raining, it's pouring, my love life if boring me to tears." Anyway, that's all Bob Esty. The first arrangement we did with him was "Where Did Our Love Go?" So the idea was, let's take the number and do it as though it was done in the 1940's, and so it became like a big band swing tune.
[Gary] That was another song that everybody loved because it took them by surprise, because all of a sudden we're doing a Supremes song that the crowd really knew that song really well. And we're dressed in white tie and tails, you know, doing it. It was rather smooth. I liked that song a lot.
And now, from their live act, here's Gary Herb, Michael Pace and David McDaniel. Gotham
Gotham - live act / Where Did Our Love Go
A Very Special