Having first cast Michael Vaccaro in a play 20 years ago, in which he was riveting, I'm pleased that our friendship has survived the many years since. Michael has gone on to build up indie cred by starring in such movies as gay auteur Todd Verow's Deleted Scenes and the upcoming The Endless Possibility of Sky.
His roots, though, are in theater, and he has performed in countless shows, both in New York and Los Angeles. He won a MAC award for Outstanding Musical Comedy Performer, and his first CD, Archangel, was a big success. Now he is back with a second CD, Wait for Him, which was inspired by his husband, Antonio Vaccaro, who passed away in 2009.
My interview with Michael is after the break.
Congratulations on your new CD, Wait for Him. What led you to make it?
As you know, my husband, Antonio, died in December 2009 at 38 years old. After about a year of grieving, it seemed that people were tired of me talking about him, but I wasn't ready to stop. So, I had to find some creative way to funnel all those emotions into something tangible. A book, maybe? A screenplay?
Then I realized I could sing songs about him, for him, inspired by him, and as a memorial to him. Having this CD means that I have something to give to people, and then they get to experience him, too. I get to share him, and I don't have to be the only person responsible for keeping his memory alive. He becomes bigger than just my memory of him.
The CD is a testament to how much we loved each other, and what a huge and important part of my life he was and continues to be. My hope is that maybe people can be inspired by the idea that a great love like the one we shared is still possible. And, hopefully, I've created something beautiful out of tragedy.
Tell me about the title of the album.
In 2004, I found a poem called "Wait for Him." It was so beautiful that I printed it out and kept it in my wallet, but I never knew the name of the author. On my first date with Antonio, in 2009, he mentioned that he liked poetry, and I pulled the poem out of my wallet, gave it to him, and told him it was my favorite poem. He took the small, crumbled up bit of paper, read the poem, looked up at me and said, "I wrote this." I was instantly in love.
How did you determine what songs you wanted to perform?
From the day we met until the day he died was exactly 8 months. We were married on our 4 month anniversary. Yes, it was quick, but we knew it was right. So, I decided on 8 songs, one for every month we had together.
The first few songs are about meeting and falling in love, i.e. the old Sam Cooke song, "You Send Me," and "Let Me Just Follow Behind," from my favorite Bette Midler album, Songs For The New Depression. Then we have some songs about staying strong in the face of adversity, like "Hang On" by the brilliant composer Tracy Stark and Rihanna's "Umbrella," which lyrically was exactly what I wanted to say, songs that for me correspond to the period of time when we knew we were in for some difficult times, when we found out he was sick. Then songs representing the end, Karen Mack's "Long Goodbyes," which is one of the most painfully beautiful songs I've ever heard, and "The Promise," written by a wonderful man named Victory Mori.
Aside from singing, tell us more about your other projects. What are you working on right now?
I've written a new web series called Child of the '70s, which I'm trying to get produced. It's the first time I've written anything, and it's very exciting, the prospect of seeing it come alive. The whole process, from starting a production company, to finding financing and locations, casting actors, it's a brand new world for me and I'm loving it.
Also, the indie film that I have a lead role in, The Endless Possibility of Sky, will be released in the spring, and I'm really looking forward to traveling with it all over the US and other countries. I think our first festival will be in Tel Aviv. It's directed by Todd Verow, who is a fascinating and very prolific filmmaker. I play a very bad person who does some very bad things.
Sounds intriguing! If you could pick any role to play, what would be your dream role?
On the stage, it'd definitely be a Shakespearean role. I love the comedies, so maybe "Proteus" in Two Gentlemen of Verona or "Petruchio" in The Taming of the Shrew. In film or TV, being an out gay actor, I feel it's very important to play interesting, compelling gay characters who aren't just the butt of the joke. I'd like to play a gay man who is strong, unapologetic about his sexuality, and who is not a meth addict. I feel like that's all we see now, drug addicts and over-the-top buffoons.
In Child of the '70s, I feel like I've written myself an intelligent, contemporary, complicated gay man with real issues, and I hope that people get to see it one day.
Me, too! In addition to your work, you are also active in the LGBT community. What do you see as the primary issues within the community?
Well, it's shocking to me the lackadaisical attitude nowadays towards HIV & AIDS. Yes, I am thrilled beyond words that people are living long, full lives with this disease, but I also think it's important to realize that people unfortunately still die from it. My husband, Antonio, as I mentioned, died in 2009, and he was doing everything right, everything that he was supposed to do. He was taking his meds, he went to the gym every day, he ate well - he was totally taking care of himself. And he still died. And it happens to more people than we think.
Also, I don't understand barebacking (unprotected anal sex). I don't get why putting on a condom is such a big deal. Is the 12 minutes that you're having unprotected sex really worth a lifetime of taking pills?
I recently did a play called The Infection Monologues which was all about this subject.
Aside from your public life, share with us five things people would be surprised to learn about you.
- I think the greatest film ever made is Annie Hall.
- My new favorite fragrance is Black Orchid by Tom Ford.
- I'd be a happy person if I could live on Toblerones.
- I've had pet rats and I LOVED them. They are fantastic pets.
- I grew up in a Puerto Rican neighborhood in The Bronx, and all of the men I've had major relationships with in my life have been Latino.
Okay, all Latino gay male readers, you know what to do - Google and contact Michael now! Everyone else, please check out Michael's CD and look for his new movie, The Endless Possibility of Sky, coming soon!
(Cross-posted at Kergan Edwards-Stout.)