Script for QMH, May 2003: Special R&P Show

Prince Charming Tango (1984)

Welcome to Queer Voices on KPFT and this segment is called Queer Music Heritage. I'm JD Doyle and I'm here on the 4th Monday of each month to bring you an hour devoted to our culture's music. Tonight's show is a very special one to me, because I get to honor two of my musical heroes, Ron Romanovsky and Paul Phillips. Of course collectively, they're known as Romanovsky and Phillips and I started the show with a little bit of one of my favorites of theirs, "The Prince Charming Tango," from their first album, from 1984. For almost two decades, they would become one of the most prolific acts of gay & lesbian music, releasing a total of eight albums. And these albums gave us over a hundred songs that, in a way, chronicle gay culture in the 80s and 90s. From 1983 to 1999 they toured extensively, bringing their musical perspective to clubs and colleges around the world.

Ron & Paul always refused to compromise, the lyrics of their songs are way out of the closet, and they used their unique musical talents to explore a variety of subjects, from relationships, discrimination, religion, AIDS, sodomy laws, gay parenting, and much more. And of course the gay community itself was not immune from their gentle ribbing, as they poked fun at its stereotypes and excesses. All of this was done with their perfect balance of wit, sensitivity, humor and charm, and a political passion all their own. They've given us the soundtrack of our lives.

Through a good part of their career they were lovers, and their relationship at times resembled the title of their third album, "Emotional Rollercoaster." These days Ron lives in Santa Fe and Paul's in Boston, so I did separate phone interviews with them. Paul's voice may be a little raspier than usual, because he's had laryngitis for a couple months, which being the talker that he is, must be hell. But he did a great job answering my questions. Oh, and since getting an interview with them is so special, this show will focus mostly on that. I wish I had time to play dozens of their songs, but it's just an hour show.

I asked them both who their musical influences were, and I'll start off with Paul's answer
P 1:27
To be honest with you, they're all over the map. My early influences were actually my mother and really dorky people like the Carpenters and the Monkees, and you know I listened to a lot of musicals and Broadway stuff, because that's what my mother was into, and I also grew up on listening to her sing a lot things from the 30s, 40s and early 50s, sort of old standards and stuff. So, that was sort of the early stuff, and in high school I was definitely a choral person. I sang a lot myself, and in choirs and stuff. And even into college it was more classical than anything. But the people I did listen to once I got out of the house and started discovering my own tastes were a combination of I always loved all of the sort of old soul divas and r&b divas, the Arethas and the Chaka Kahns and Barbra Streisand and all the great sort of divas, you know, Bette Midler and those people. Those were a few of my early icons when I came out. But as far as creatively, it probably has more to do with show tunes, Sondheim, that kind of thing, and earlier writers for the theatre. And I think I think you can tell that in some of my contributions to the Romanovsky & Phillips songbook as it were, because I definitely have that sort of pop show mentality.

And now, Ron's turn
R 2:08
I listened to a lot of female singer songwriters when I was very young, as a teenager, the Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell, Joan Armatrading, all those sort of post-Woodstock female songwriters, and I liked the form of the popular song very much. As soon as I could play any instrument, which was my guitar was my first instrument, I started you know writing songs that were kind of mimicking what I was listening to. And then when I was a little bit older and moved to San Francisco, a friend turned me onto women's music, a lesbian friend of mine. It was right around the time that Holly Near released her 'Imaging My Surprise' album, and she had come out and there was a lot of excitement about this music, and just about having music that really spoke to our lives as gay and lesbian people. I listened to Holly a lot in those days. Meg Christian, Cris Williamson, Margie Adam, they were all songwriters whom I admired very much.

Now they were women's music, do you think that kind of led you to try to make a place for men's music, gay men's music?

Absolutely. Yeah, I had had the idea before, even before I got to San Francisco, because I wanted to be a songwriter and make my living making records and touring. And it had occurred to me because the gay movement was very important to me, that maybe somehow I could merge that. And I didn't see any other men doing it. I had heard of…have you ever heard of an album called "Caravan Tonight" by Steven Grossman? [yes, I have many copies of it] Yeah, it's a great album and it was released, it was so far ahead of its time. I had heard that album and I was very excited by that. But when I got to the Bay Area I didn't really see anyone else doing it. And I think it was after I saw Holly Near for the first time that I started to look for other men who might be interested in creating music that spoke to our lives as gay men.

What happened at the same time is I met Paul, Paul Phillips. We just met and we began dating and it wasn't until about six months after that we'd been going out that we actually started singing together. He ended up being the one that I built the career with of course.

I couldn't resist asking how they met, and Paul gets to tell it. I know you've told this story, you guys told it in the This Way Out interview, but it's a great story, about how you two met
P 2:07
Oh boy, the way we met, the way we were. It was a nice day, a sunny day in San Francisco. I was walking in Golden Gate Park and I was actually done walking in the park, ready to move on and get the bus to go home, and I was walking just the last little strip of road when across the road comes this boy on a bicycle, and he got off his bicycle right in front of me basically and sat down under a tree. I thought he was really cute, but I kept walking because I thought, I wasn't sure what was going on, you know, I guess we sort of cruised but he looked so young that I thought he was jailbait. But I kept looking back and he kept looking at me, so it's definite that there was a cruise thing going on there, our eyes were meeting. So I kept walking and I got to the bus stop and unbeknownst to me he had gotten on his bike and pedaled to the gas station on the corner right across from the bus stop, on the pretext of filling his tires with air, but I didn't even know he was over there. So, just as the bus came I all of a sudden see him coming down the street, coasting down the sidewalk on his bike. And again I couldn't figure out what to do, it was kind of one of those moments where, oh, do I stop and play this silly game or do I just get on with my life. So, I went ahead and got on the bus, and as the bus pulled away, I was walking toward the back of the bus, and I see him pedaling behind the bus. I thought that was really cute, so I got off at the next stop, and again he came coasting up to me on his bike, and said, and I swear to you it's the honest to God's truth, the first words out of his mouth were, "that was only a block, couldn't you have walked?"

Paul, could you tell us about how you started performing together?
P 1:54
Ron had already writing songs, and to be honest with you, I wasn't that impressed with them. They were fairly simplistic songs, very angst-ridden about stuff that he's gone through in his life as a youngster, in high school and stuff you know and he was starting to write more poetic stuff, but I just wasn't that impressed the songs that he had written, until he wrote a song called "Lost Emotions." And the minute he sang it to me I told him, "wait, wait, wait, listen, I want to harmonize with it." And I did and that was kind of the beginning because he fell in love with the sound of our two voices, I fell in love with his songwriting ability, finally. And we heard this club was opening, the Valencia Rose, and we went and auditioned for the owner and they were going to have an open mic gay comedy night. And the guy said, "okay, why don't you come and do a couple of songs, and be the musical break for the gay comedy night?' To be honest with you, we've always said this, we think he felt sorry for us. I just think he couldn't say no to two little adorable waifs like we seemed at that point. We both looked younger than our years. So we had like a three-song repertoire there at the beginning. And we started writing songs together, right from the beginning, pretty much, we started establishing our songwriting partnership. I was sort of the tweaker and the editor

Okay, I want to get into the writing process, how did you write together, did you do both words and music, did Paul come in later and massage it, or what?…
R 2:28
I tend to write lyrics first. I was the primary songwriter. I probably wrote 70 or 80% of our material. I don't there was one song that Paul had no influence on. Basically what we used to say was that I would write a song and he would rewrite it. And he always managed to bring some extra musical trick to it. He always had a way of improving my songs that took them further, just took them over the top and made them really great songs, I think. We were a really good partnership in that way.

What was it he added, was it arrangement or flare or…?

Definitely arrangement, that's probably his strength. I was mostly, I am mostly self-taught as a musician. Paul had a lot more musical training, Paul was playing music and studying piano from the time he was a little kid. He was able to bring that knowledge to my sort of natural ability as a writer I guess you could say. He could tell what I was trying to do musically in a particular style and he would find ways to make it more in that style.

I was going to ask how you ended up writing in so many different styles.

I listened to lots of different kinds of music and I guess that's how I studied music. I listened to stuff and when I like it I want to write something similar, I want to imitate it. That's where most of my inspiration comes for the music. And lyrically the inspiration just comes from things I'm interested in, things that make me angry, things that I find funny, things that I think need to be said, other people's stories that I think need to be told.

Did people come up to you and say, why don't you write a song about such and such?

Oh, yeah, people suggested things, people wrote to us, and there were many suggestions that we used actually. The song "One Of The Enemy" from our "Be Political Not Polite" album was suggested by the person it was about. The person it was about was a gay teacher, and I just tried to tell his story. He actually gave me the title, he said, you know, when I'm in the classroom and when I can't talk anything about gay rights I feel like I have to pretend like I'm one of the enemy.

One of the Enemy

R 1:15 comments on song
As I said it was suggested to me by a friend who was a gay teacher. When he said that he wished he could be more out for the gay students in the class, I knew what he meant and I knew how important and useful that would have been to me, to any of us when we were kids in school. I think when you're growing up and you don't see anybody being the kind of person that you might grow up to be. It's another way that we're kind of made invisible and made to feel that our feelings weren't valid.

And he felt like one of the enemy?

Yeah, he said that often there were kids in his class he was pretty sure that they were going to grow up to be gay, He already had a sense, and not only just them but for anybody he wasn't able to say anything positive about gay rights if the subject came up. And I felt like, I had a lot of compassion…I did have and do have a lot of compassion for gay teachers because the issued of children being around gay teachers is such a charged issue. It freaks people out, people who aren't on our side. And I certainly couldn't say, well you just have to come out at all costs, risk losing your job because that isn't always the best way to handle the situation. So all I tried to do in that song was t tell his story, and with the hope that someday things will get better.

Back to the writing process, I also wanted Paul's take on how they wrote together. In the songbook you wrote: the question of who writes the songs was the most frequently asked and most awkwardly answered…can you elaborate?
P 1:02
Yeah, well, part of it has to do to the fact that I think there were very few Romanovsky & Phillips songs that weren't in some way contributed to by both of us. Even though there are plenty of songs that Ron Romanovsky gets sole credit for, even on those songs, there's always tweaking that I did and wrote and you know created most of the harmonies if not all of them, pretty much all of them. And we kind of had this sort of unwritten rule or code or whatever that it had to seem as if at least that we had both contributed pretty equally to either the lyrics or the music to get a credit for that, a songwriting credit for that on an album and stuff like that. But it was a much more organic process than simply Ron wrote a song or I wrote a song or we wrote a song.

The first Romanovsky & Phillips release was a little-known 8-song cassette, called "In The Outfield." I asked Ron about it. How did the cassette "In The Outfield" come about?
R 1:31
Well, we wanted to make a recording and we didn't really have any money and a friend who had a four-track tape recorder volunteered to record us, a couple of our performances. By that time we had started doing concerts there, at the [Valencia] Rose, full concerts of just us, our own material. And we recorded a couple of those and used the best of that and put out an 8-song cassette, did it for just a few hundred bucks, just to try to get something started. And we actually sold about a thousand copies of it our first tour. [Really? I was about to ask you how many you had pressed.] Yeah, not more than a thousand. [Wow] Our first national tour was in the fall of 1983 and we sold our cassettes and the sound quality was pretty crummy but it was obvious that people really wanted the material and that really gave us the confidence to go further and borrow the money that we needed to make a record, which we did the next year.

There were about three songs on that cassette that didn't appear again, that you didn't rerecord later. [Oh, on the cassette, yeah] "Tell the Children" was my favorite of those. ["Tell the Children," there was a song called "Mrs. Lockhart,"] and "Circle…" something…[Oh, "Circle Around the Sun" yeah, yeah, yeah, we didn't feel like they were the strongest ones. Yeah, we did rerecord all the other ones over]

Well, yes, that was a very amateur recording, but despite Ron disparaging the songs they did not re-record later, I think the song "Tell The Children" was pretty good, and since it's unlikely any of my listeners have heard it, let's take care of that now

Tell The Children

That was "Tell The Children" from their 1983 cassette release.

I next asked Ron to give me an overview of the different albums. I'm going to go through the albums, looking for like general comments about them, like about the production, what was going on that might have influenced that album in your lives and so forth. We heard about "In the Outfield," let's hear about "I Thought You'd Be Taller."
R 2:04
Well, that was our first real album. The reason it was so acoustic I think was because I didn't want to add a lot of production on that album because I wanted it to sound as close to our live performance as possible, I just wanted it to be enhanced. So, we produced that album basically ourselves. We went into a studio and we'd never really recorded before, completely green. Fortunately the engineer kind of took a liking to us and appreciated the politics that we had and really tried to help us make a decent record. But, we kept it pretty simple.

And for "Trouble in Paradise" you enlisted Teresa Trull.
Yes, Teresa had just produced Deidre McCalla's album, which came out really nice, and I think Paul especially want to try hiring a producer to see what somebody else could do with our music, to take it a little further. You know, we were starting to think about things like, how can we be a little more slick in order to get a some more radio airplay, that sort of thing. We wanted higher production values. And, it was really exciting at first, because we got to work with a lot of Bay Area musicians, because they were they were all friends of Teresa's, and they all did a fantastic job, and it was exciting to see our songs sort of grow up very quickly. But at the same time I was really struggling at the time with the fact that I wasn't playing the guitar only on two songs I think, and that I kind of had to let go of that part of it. And so when the album came out I think I was really disappointed in it, but then it got such a good response from our fans that eventually I had to admit that really, she did a great job and she brought out the humor in our songs, I think, by the kind of musical setting, the musical arrangements that she, that she put them in. I mean, so much that I actually asked her to produce my solo album, which I did years later.

Paul also had comments about Teresa Trull as their producer. And then Teresa Trull came along…
P 2:17
And then Teresa Trull. God bless Teresa Trull, amazing woman, amazing woman, with amazing connections, took us to a whole new place. It was an absolutely stunning experience in the studio with her. It was also one of the most terrifying times for us. Because we went from being in total control, even though we didn't know what we were doing, but being able to say, yes, no, yes, no, and why, because I don't like it that way. And so the changes could be made. And then we went into the studio with Teresa Trull, who I might add, does have her share of opinions, and is not afraid to voice them, and, God bless her for it, because she created one of our most popular albums to date [that's "Trouble in Paradise"] "Trouble in Paradise," right, and I mean it was an amazing thing working with her in the studio. She brought in so many incredible musicians, that we would have never been able to go near, were it not for her. It was so much fun, there was so much laughter. It was hard, I thing it was much more difficult for Ron than it was for me [Giving up control?] Yes, definitely. To be honest with you, I still love the album, and I think it's one of our best, but it does have a different feel. It's got a lot more other voices on it than any of our other albums. And I think for what we did, for what we had to work with, for what she was able to contribute to it, I think it turned into a great project. I don't know that I would do it differently. I think I would try to figure out a way to have it be a little more duo-sounding on some of those songs. [So that's what you were after on the next album?] Yeah, yeah, exactly. That's it exactly. When we went in for the next album we definitely wanted it to be a duo type album.

And, back to Ron. So, then you didn't choose her on "Emotional Rollercoaster"
R 4:08
Well, no, at that point I don't think I was still kind of not completely happy with how "Trouble in Paradise" had turned out. Well, one of the things that on that had bothered me on "Trouble in Paradise" was that there wasn't as much duet singing. You know, and I had felt like our voices, our harmonies, were really the core of our sound. And I really was upset that there wasn't more of that on the record. So I didn't want to work with her on the next album, we used a friend, Marcie Dicterow, who had just produced my friend Judy Fjell's album. We got along with her really well and she seemed to understand what we were trying to do so we did that album in Los Angeles. I feel like that album is actually one of the strongest albums in terms of the material. Basically that album came out pretty well.

Oh, I think it did. So, that was '88, and there was a jump of three years to "Be Political, Not Polite," did it take more time, was it a change in philosophy or what was going on?

I think that we decided that we had three albums under our belts and we didn't need to rush, that we sort of had established ourselves, and that we could maybe rest on our laurels for a little bit before making another album. Although we never stopped touring, every year we went out and did road tours that were two or three months in the fall and then a couple months in the Spring, so we did keep very busy. We had moved here to Santa Fe, New Mexico, actually just before "Emotional Rollercoaster" came out, and it's really nice to be able to spend the winter here, the winters and the summers here and staying home. And "Be Political, Not Polite," each album that we made we kept feeling that we were getting closer to the sound that we wanted, to the compromise between having other instruments, but also keeping some of the feel of our live performances, just the two of us. I think on that album we really succeeded, and we finally got it right. John Bucchino, who a lot of people know of course as Holly Near's accompanist. He's a fantastic piano player and musician and songwriter. We had become friends with him years before that, so he knew our music very well. And John didn't want to muddy up our voices or out guitar playing with a lot of other instruments, so we were very much in agreement on that.

Okay, a year later, "Hopeful Romantic" and this was a solo one and what was going on there?

I think the reason I wanted to make a solo album was because there I had had a long of songs that I'd written that I didn't quite fit into our act on stage, and more than we could put on any of our duet albums, meaning that they were serious songs, they were love songs. Throughout our career I felt, I felt the pressure to write funny songs, which is really harder than writing something serious, and I wanted to rework some of those, and put them out there. I felt like there was maybe sort of a part of me and my songwriting that wasn't, that needed a vehicle that was separate than what I did from Romanovsky & Phillips, and I just wanted to put it out into the world. And I did choose Teresa Trull to do that album, because by that time I was okay with not being one of the studio musicians, just staying the songwriter and the singer and doing the album. I just really wanted the songs to be played as well as they could by good musicians. I guess I was trying to make something closer to a pop album.

On to "Brave Boys"

"Brave Boys." The album of course is a what do you call it, an anthology, a compilation album of mostly, of material from our previous records [but some re-recordings] Yeah we did some re-recordings, we did some updated versions of some of the songs, like "Don't Use Your Penis For A Brain," with updated lyrics, and…

Okay the next all new material was "Let's Flaunt It," in '95

Yeah, we had talked about doing a live album for many years because we felt that our live performance was really special, and the interaction we have with our fans. We wanted to capture that on a record, and we finally felt that we were ready to do it, cause we felt that our performance was polished enough musically as well as the patter in between the songs. We were playing at this great little cabaret in Cathedral City. We used to play there a couple times a year, do like a weekend. So we scheduled these shows and we thought, you know, it was kind of a last minute decision, why don't we just record these shows. And so, that's what we did. I think it does capture our stage performance pretty well.

R&P ID, using "Give Me A Homosexual"

I thank Ron & Paul for humoring me in recording that show ID, especially since they recorded it separately and I had to put their parts together with the magic of editing. I'm using this little break to remind you to be sure to listen to After Hours with Jimmy Carper, every Sunday morning from 1 to 4 am, on KPFT, it's Queer Radio, with attitude. Also, I invite you to check out my website, at where you can view the playlist, and you can also listen to the show anytime. And this month I've gone to extra lengths to try to make my tribute to Ron & Paul really special. There's a complete discography page, and a song list page, and lots of extras. I hope you check it out.

Paul, which album sold the most, any idea?
P 1:04
I believe "Trouble in Paradise" is the best selling. [and, pick your favorite] I don't think I can. Each of them has a very special place in my heart, and each of them for very different reasons. There are things that I love about all of them. Probably the one I'm most proud of would be "Be Political, Not Polite" because there's more of me in that album than on any other album in terms of creativity, creative input, hard work, expanding my talent. You know, I love "Let's Flaunt It" because it actually does capture at least some of the essence of our live performance. I love "I Thought You'd Be Taller" for the innocence of it all, the naiveté, as it were. And certainly "Trouble In Paradise" is a remarkable album, both in the way it sounds and in the subject matter for that time in history

You sang about homophobia, as an act did you also experience it…?
R 1:52
Yes, very much, in fact we had a terrible problem with the "Brave Boys" album. Actually, it wasn't the first time we had problems with a manufacturer. I think it happened on "I Thought You'd Be Taller." There was a tape duplication plant; we'd taken them our master to have them manufacture it and everything was fine. And then we got a phone call a few days later, and they said that after you know having heard the material, that they didn't want to reproduce it because they were a Christian-based organization, or something like that. They were turning down the job. But then the worst thing was when "Brave Boys" came out we had problems with two different…one was the printer and one was the color separator in the printing process. They sent the job back because they didn't want to print it because of some of the photographs and some of the material on the album. The album had songs like "If There's A God, He's A Queen" and "Homophobes in Robes" which talks about the Pope and they didn't want to do the job. So that delayed the release, which was financially difficult.

And then when we finally got the album out, we had printed up a little postcard to send to our mailing list, which was about 10,000 names, and we depended really heavily on our mailing list and mail order sales to keep our business going. And the mail disappeared. We took it to the Post Office; it had been posted and and it never got out to our fans. So people didn't know about that album, and then we went on the road and thought that everybody had gotten information about the album and nobody knew about it. So that was pretty hard to recover as a small business. We never really found out for sure what happened but it seemed pretty obvious that there was homophobia involved. It has a picture of the cover, which of course has both of us naked behind an accordion and a guitar. I mean, it's actually just funny; it's not really risqué when you compare to what else is out there. But somebody didn't like it.

That leads nicely in my asking about your song called "Homophobia"
R 0:18
I think I had just heard the word homophobia for the first time. You know, it hasn't always been around. Somebody finally coined it and people were using it a lot, and I thought there was something kind of musical about it. I just liked the sound of it, and that's where I came up with the {sings} ho ho homophobia. And that was the first song that Paul and I wrote together.

Homophobia (1986)

Okay, I'd like to ask about two more songs, Paul, please tell me about "The Prince Charming Tango"
P 0:29
Completely autobiographical. It was one of the most delightful songs to perform. I love performing that song, never got tired of it. It's pretty gosh darn close to the ultimate autobiographical song about our relationship, and yet not. I personally thought it was the first real love song, one of the first real love songs I'd ever heard, about real love and what it's all about.

We heard a bit of "Prince Charming Tango" at the start of the show. How about the song "What Kind of Self Respecting Faggot Am I?"
R&P 0:54
R: Oh, oh, that song…a good friend of mine, who was a doing stand-up comedy at the Valencia Rose when we were performing there, the punch line of one of her jokes was, something like "I can't fix my car and I don't play pool. What kind of self-respecting lesbian am I?" So I stole the line from her, and just changed it. About being a gay man and not fitting into what was expected of me as a gay man…

P: But the problem is, Ron didn't even know half of the stuff that as a gay man he was supposed to know. So, step in Paul, the big queen who is pretty much the epitome of the stereotyped fag, and I just kept having to give him more and more ideas I think at the beginning

R: He knew his way around the gay community a lot more than I did. That was one of our best collaborations, I think.

What Kind of Self-Respecting Faggot Am I? (1986)

I want to take a break from the songs now to get into another area. In this country people seem to always be fascinated with other people's relationships, and Ron & Paul had a very public one, which, as I said earlier, must have seemed to resemble their song, "Emotional Rollercoaster." So of course I asked them about it. First, Ron… I know my listeners would be interested in your personal relationship, first you were lovers, then you weren't, on, off, could you take us through that? You knew this was coming, you knew this was coming.
R 4:35
No, you don't want to go there. It's the tour of terror, not for the squeamish. We were lovers when we started and we met and began dating even before we sang together and we had many ups and down, you know, what can I say? At times I thought it was because of the pressure of the act that was making it hard to be lovers personally. Other times I thought it was the act that was keeping us together. All in all it was really wonderful to have that, to share that with a partner. I mean, we had a whole life, we didn't just have a relationship, we had a whole life together. I was very young when I met Paul, and I hadn't been out all that long and I hadn't had that many relationships, I hadn't dated very much. And I started getting a lot of attention from men, you know, because I was a performer, because I was out there, and so, I began to stray, and in the summer of '85, yeah, right before we made "Trouble in Paradise," we actually broke up for a few months. But then we got back together and did some more records, and a couple years later we did decide to break up for good.

And it was just really hard each time we broke up because it was really hard for any new boyfriends that either one of us had, because…[because you were together all the time] because we were together all the time. You know, we spent time together but we also just emotionally were very connected. And also you know the creative process I think is so intimate. When it's going well you know it has a feeling that's similar to me, similar to being in love. And so that was very confusing. And it took me a lot of years to sort that out, my feelings for Paul, my feeling for our career, my feelings for my music and creativity. It was really hard and we were very young. But we came through it all, and in fact the last few years before Paul left Santa Fe, we were actually living next door to each other, two separate apartments but next door to each other. And we both had other boyfriends and we finally kind of worked through it. And so I'm glad that we did and today we're still very, very close. We talk on the phone all the time.

How did the shift in your relationship affect your creativity? Harder, easier, more inspirational?

Ah, that's a good question. Well, as I was already saying, it made it more confusing because whenever we would get back together and do writing it kind of felt like old times, like we were together again and it was very hard. It was very hard to find the line between our personal relationship and our professional one. Probably because there really wasn't one. That's why it was so hard for us to break up. We just didn't know where one thing ended and the other started. I think that's probably pretty normal for couples who work together.

Being in a public relationship added stress?

It definitely added stress because a lot of our fans were disappointed that we broke up cause they didn't want to see it. We had become role models [the dreaded role models] the dreaded role models. Not exactly inadvertently, we, we knew what was happening and we tried to accept the job but it's hard. We had to lives, too. And sometimes people would come up to us and say things like "I'm so sorry that you broke up, I would have preferred that you broke up the act and stayed together personally," and just made us feel terrible. [That's a no-win thing] Yeah, kind of. And there were times when we just really didn't want to be together. In some ways I think it made our comedy a little sharper, especially in some of the songs about breaking up, and songs like "Guilt Trip" sort of took on a new meaning.

So, did some of your songs come true?

You could say that, some of them sort of came true. Yeah, yeah. Cause sometimes when I write a song in fact it's not completely what I'm going through. It's what I feel a little bit or what I imagine I might feel in this situation. So, they're not always autobiographical certainly. Sometimes they become autobiographical.

When did you two stop performing together?

Our last concert was in 1999, June, it was in Montana. We knew our career was winding down. We weren't really trying to book ourselves anymore. But we didn't know it was our last concert at the time, but that's what it was.

And, currently are you in a relationship?

I'm seeing somebody. [Just dating?] Ah, yeah, just dating, I live alone and I have come to the conclusion that that's the best situation for me, at least right now. And I'm pretty happy. There's a lot less drama in that department in my life than there used to be, and that's good

And Paul got a chance with the exact same question. I know my listeners would be interested in your personal relationship, first you were lovers, then you weren't, on again, off again, could you kind of take us through that?
P 4:40
Oh, God, could you take ME through it? I don't know that I can take anybody through it, because I don't even know if I'm through it yet. Um, what I can say is that Ron and I to this day are soul mates. We get each other like very few people in this world get me. And I get him like very few people get him. I think he feels the same way. We were together for the better part of seven years, as real live-in boyfriends, partners, lovers, whatever. During that time there were moments when we weren't getting along very well, in bed or as a partnership, as an intimate partnership. But for the most part the first seven years was together. We had our little rifts here and there. Then we had the official break up, which then began several years of on again, off again, on again, off again kind of thing [that emotional rollercoaster?] yeah, and, oh gosh, now we're just the best of friends.

How did the shifts in your relationship affect your creative life?

I think it only enhanced it, every time. It was a challenge to go on stage with your ex-boyfriend standing next to you sometimes. I know that we got some support for our relationship from our audience members. I mean, probably one of the most difficult times was after we had broken up and we continued to tour. For the first few months we didn't tell anybody when we were on stage that we weren't lovers. And we pretty much went on with the act as it was. And then we started talking about it on stage. When we first started telling people, I mean, there was this audible communal sigh from the audience every time we would start talking about it. And it was scary because it felt like it was a real downer, and we didn't want that to happen, but because they had been privy to that all along, we thought it was only fair for them to be privy to it when it had dissolved.

There are times when I felt like we got a lot of support for our relationship on stage, but there were a lot of times when certainly in the gay community, and certainly in that period of time, there was not a lot of support for relationships in general. I mean, I'll be honest with you, there were plenty of people from our audiences who had no issues with going to bed with either one of us, if that were to happen, and it did. So, you know, on the one hand you could say the audience really supported our relationship, but on the other hand there were plenty of individual audience members who didn't necessarily support the relationship.

And where are you now? You're in Boston, right? How did you get there?

Yes, I'm in Boston, Massachusetts, actually I'm in Somerville, Massachusetts, which is two cities away from Boston, but…how did I get here? I flew [I don't mean that]. I think it was probably on some subconscious level somewhat of a reaction to the change in my own life. You know, the fact that suddenly I didn't have a career, and I was kind of bored, and working restaurant jobs and working at a casino, and all that kind of stuff, you know, just, I don't know. [What's your job now?] I'm still bored, no, I work at Trader Joe's, do you have Trader Joe's? No, not in Texas, we're not there yet. Trader Joe's is a unique grocery store, and I'm the manager of it here, in Boston. [Are you in a relationship?] No……..what, are you crazy? No, I've had my relationship. The reality is, when Ron and I broke up, after seven years being together, it's not like we walked away from each other, we stayed right next to each other the whole time. Ron to date has been my one hugely significant relationship, and I can't imagine having any other relationship affect my life in that way. It doesn't mean that I'm not open to love, or to having a new relationship, of course I am. But, is it something I'm searching for? No. Is it something I want? Sometimes. But, is it something I need to make me fully happy? No, because I still have my friendship with Ron. He's my family, always will be.

Well, you're probably wondering what a French version of "Da Doo Ron Ron," has to do with these interviews, well, stay tuned, all will be revealed…
[Johnny Hallyday, Phillips EP 432933, '64]

Ron's latest album project is probably going to surprise a lot of people, because it's so, so different from what they might expect. It's an album of French music, sung in French, with Ron playing the accordion. Tell me about the new album.
R 3:40
Songs from "Je M'Appelle Dadou" (2002)
L'Air Des Rues and Une Chanson Douce

Well, um, I am doing something very different now, I play the accordion and I play mostly French music and this all happened kind of gradually over the last eight years. I started learning the accordion in 1995, just cause it was a thing I had always wanted to do, right around the time that our career was winding down. And I totally fell in love with the instrument. At first I just wanted to learn it, cause I thought it would be fun to do in the act as kind of a joke. Because in this country the accordion is mostly associated with polka music. Well, anyway, I ended up falling in love with French music when I started hearing recordings of French music from the 40s and Musee waltzes, and it ended up that that's what I've been doing to make my living for the last few years. I do a lot of private parties and I play in galleries and I play in restaurants occasionally.

Are you doing performing to support the album?

Well, I really, I decided to make this an album of this music that I'm doing now really just to have something to sell at my gigs, cause I hadn't done a recording for a while and I wanted to. It's very different, because a lot of times I'm playing in the background, not really…I've done a few concerts but most of the time I'm doing background music. And this actually has been a wonderful thing for me because I was really tired, after doing Romanovsky & Phillips for so many years. And to be able to make a living at music and not having to worry about ticket sales or write press releases or do the booking or any of that stuff, has really been wonderful. It's a lot less stressful. So, yeah, I made that record last year just to make a recording of what I'm doing now. I mean I've gotten a lot of nice compliments on it, people really like it. I haven't really tried to promote it nationally, that really wasn't my intention, and it's very different from what I used to do before, so the career that I had before hasn't even really been helpful in terms of promoting this cause it's just a whole other audience.

What's the name of the CD and what does it mean?

The CD is called "Je M'Appelle Dadou," and Dadou is my French nickname. It was given to me by some French people a few years ago when I went and spent a couple of months in the south of France. And I had taken my accordion and I had played a lot for the people that I met there and it was just wonderful, cause they were so delighted to meet an American that knew French music, and I was just delighted that they were opening their homes to me and letting me speak my bad French with them and I had a great time. And they were asking me about my name one night, and I said, you know…cause Ron doesn't sound very French no matter how you say it, right? And then somebody said, "Is it like the song 'da doo ron ron,'" cause they all know that song. There's actually a French version of that song that's pretty funny. And I said, "yeah, yeah, that's it." And somebody else said, "Oh, that's great, we'll call you Dadou, we'll call you Dadou." And that became my French nickname and in fact a lot of my friends today know me as Dadou, not as Ron. So, I just had to call the album, "Je M'Appelle Dadou."

About two thirds of the album is instrumental, pieces that I wrote for the accordion, which I'd never done before. So, there's some really nice pieces that I'm very proud of that I think are very musical and kind of whimsical and fun to listen to. And then there are some old French songs by some well-known French composers and there's one song that I actually wrote the lyrics to in French myself. In English the translation is "Desert Rain," and it's a love song, but that's the first song I had every written in French, so that was very special. It's an album that's light, it's fun, it's very musical. [Listening to it I can sure imagine sitting in some French café, drinking wine, and it's raining.] That's the idea, that's the idea.

I want to go back now for some overview questions, and I wish I had time to play all the songs that Ron & Paul mention in their answers.

Which songs in performances seem to have been the most popular over the years?
R 0:31

"Guilt Trip," people loved "Guilt Trip." We couldn't really do a show without it. [And why do you think that was so?] Oh, I think because it's a funny song and people really can relate to it, and everybody's gone through a break up with a lover and everybody has to admit to having those kind of feelings sometimes. It's just kind of a fun romp kind of a fun fantasy.

And, Paul, what to you think?
P 0:23
Oh, "Don't Use Your Penis"…probably one of the most popular, and why not? Because the audience gets to sing along with you and you get to sing the word penis, you know, what could be more fun than singing out loud about penises in a gay crowd, c'mon?

Okay, pick three songs you're the most proud of.
[R 0:57]
Most proud of? Hmmm, I'm very proud of, um, "These Things," from my solo album. I think that's one of my best songs. And I also like "Love Is All It Takes," which is a song about gay and lesbian parents, from "Be Political, Not Polite." I was very flattered with somebody I was talking to, it was somebody who wanted to quote the song in a book about gay and lesbian parenting…asked me, she said, "so how old are your children?" She just assumed I had children to be able to write that song. It made me feel like I had gotten inside the feelings of gay and lesbian parents pretty well. Of course I don't have children. That song, and, what else? It's really hard to narrow it down. I guess I like "Guilt Trip" a lot, too, I think it's a pretty funny song.

Paul's turn, of what song have you recorded are you the most proud?
P 0:49
Most proud. Well certainly "No False Hope" is one. I think "Living With AIDS" is another one. And that's because I think "Living With AIDS" was one of the, was a song that was born out of a difficult time, that didn't trivialize the time, and didn't trivialize my own personal experience, and wasn't written for the wrong reasons. People were asking us, why haven't you written a song about AIDS? And frankly, just to write it because it's the hot topic didn't make sense, never have, never would to Ron and I. Again, you know, you can't force a song.

Living With AIDS (1988)

What has been your most controversial song?
P 0:34
"If There's A God, He's A Queen" was probably ultimately the most controversial song, in terms of negative response from homophobic people. And another one that wasn't particularly popular among some members of our audience was "When Heterosexism Strikes." Again, some people thought that was…that whole album, "Be Political, Not Polite" got criticized for being too political. [and not polite enough] Isn't that hysterical? It cracks me up.

When I did these phone interviews, it happened that I talked to Ron first, so I had the opportunity to ask him this question about Paul. Okay, this might be kind of different. Given that it's kind of unusual to be interviewing you separately, it gives me an opportunity to ask, is there any particular question or questions I should ask Paul?
R 1:07
[laughs] Ah, ask him what it would take to get him to perform again. Cause he has a lot of talent and he's not doing it at the moment, performing, that is. But, he's extremely musical. I mean, he's really brilliant and he didn't always get the credit he deserved for it because my name appears on most of the songs as the writer, which I was, but I learned so much about what I know about music from working with him all those years. And not necessarily willingly because I used to get very upset when I wrote a song and then he didn't like it, you know, or thought it wasn't there yet, thought it wasn't finished yet. I can't say enough good things about how much I respect and admire his talent and just how great it was to work together all those years. I think we really were a good team. The thing about us is that our talents and our strengths really dovetailed. There's not one thing that both of us were really good at, but together we pretty much have it all covered, so, I think that's why we were successful.

You've heard me talk many times on this show about the organization Outmusic. On June 1st in New York City the third annual Outmusic Awards will be held, and last year they began the custom of giving out the Outmusic Heritage Award, and award initiated to honor those artists who have had a profound influence on the history of our music culture. The first honoree, I thought very logically, was Alix Dobkin. And this year the award will go to Ron & Paul, which is why I've timed this special tribute show to air just a few days before the event. I asked the reaction to being given the award.

Outmusic Awards

How do you feel about being given the Outmusic Heritage Award?
R 0:25
Extremely proud, extremely proud. It really is a wonderful thing to be recognized by your community. We really had a great career, and it was , you know, just due to the great support of our fans, I mean, we really couldn't have done it without them. You know, we did everything ourselves, we never had financial support from a big record company or anything, but we pulled it off, it was really, really exciting.

How do you feel about getting the Outmusic Heritage Award?
P 1:47
I am so delighted. I am so delighted to get this award, and it comes at just the right time in my life, having not performed with Ron for a couple of years now and feeling somewhat isolated from the whole part of my life. Ron and I talk easily several times a week and we occasionally talk about the fact that it's a scary thing to think that when the final chapter is written, we might be written out of it, because the reality is we didn't make as big a splash as, say, k.d. lang or Melissa Etheridge or Elton John or any number of other people have. We didn't play stadium concerts and we weren't splashed across the national media. And anything that's not splashed across the media often doesn't get written about in the history books anymore, and we use that kind of a gauge in this culture unfortunately. And so to get this very honorable mention in what someday will be the written history is a very cool thing. It means that people haven't forgotten about us. You know, there are times when we both kind of wonder, have wondered off and on, if anybody really even remembers us very much, even if we know in our hearts that there are plenty of people who still remember us and think of us fondly and probably still play our music. It's just very nice to have that in there, so I'm very moved, I'm very honored and very proud and very thankful.

For what do you think R&P will be remembered
R 0:17
I think and I hope that we'll be remembered for being out and proud and for telling many of the stories, telling many gay people's stories that haven't been told before in music.
P 0:52
I think we'll be remembered most for helping a lot of individual people come out, be more at ease with their sexual orientation. I think that's first and foremost what we'd be remembered for. Now, in saying that I think, I think ultimately if you draw the lines to their eventual conclusions, I think what we should be remembered for is doing our little part in the grand scheme of things to help bring about change. Change happens one step at a time, one little baby step at a time, and I think we definitely moved it forward at least one little baby step.

Several artists have told me that you two made it feel safe for getting out there and being out musicians

Who said that? [Suede, for one. Jamie Anderson] That's really sweet to hear.

Well, I've about run out of time, but I've got more one R&P song for you to hear, but before we do, I want to thank you all for tuning into the show, and I want to give a huge thanks to Ron Romanovsky and Paul Phillips for granting me such extensive interviews. If you have questions or comments about any of the music I've featured, please write me. And please check out my website. It's, logically enough, at This is JD Doyle for Queer Voices on KPFT in Houston, and I'll be back on the fourth Monday of next month with another installment of Queer Music Heritage.

As a footnote, I got four hours of interview, so editing that down to what would fit on this show was agonizing. There is so much that's just fascinating. There's so much that I could not include that I really wanted to share, so I've got much longer versions of each of their interviews available for listening on my website.

For the closing song tonight I'm going to use an introduction by Ron & Paul from their concert album, "Let's Flaunt It," which should give you just a taste of their live monologues, and I think it's the perfect introduction for a song that is especially topical considering the Texas case currently before the Supreme Court. After the intro, they'll sing "The Sodomy Song"

Wanted: For Sodomy (1995)
The Sodomy Song (1988)


photos by Tracey Schamm, Sydney, Australia, 1990