When I first read that rock legend Melissa Etheridge would be performing her first Pride event in my hometown of Pittsburgh, I was somewhat skeptical - why Pittsburgh? I thought it was either money or some sort of unknown fondness for the Steeler Nation.
Turns out, it was money. She told Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's music editor:
She repeated that she played this fest, not ones in LA or New York, because Pittsburgh "showed me the money." It's hard to say she didn't deliver.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Except there sort of is.
Etheridge hasn't done well by her ex-wife Tammy Lynn Michaels. So when she purrs about marriage equality in the midst of her, albeit well received, set, it sets my teeth on edge that she's not so supportive of divorce equality. Fair is fair.
You can visit my blog to read about the myriad of reasons I believe paying a giant amount of cash (more than LA or NY could/would spend) for a concert is not a good investment. In other words, Pittsburgh may be "priding" beyond our means given the state of the state budget and looming cuts for LGBT organizations so essential to the welfare of our most vulnerable residents.
As you can imagine, this does not make me popular with a lot of folks in Pittsburgh. I have nothing against a nice Pride event, but it seems a little like having tea in a room and pretending not to notice the faded draperies, worn furniture and stale cookies.
As for Etheridge - well, she's a rock star, not a LGBT advocate. My partner saw her perform as part of an ensemble concert back in the 1990s and was stunned at how much of a diva she was. When she played our big concert venue a few times in the 2k years, her shows did not do well. I can see her preferring a limited venue and that's fine. It is all fine - I rather admire her frankness about being in it for the money rather than pretending its about loving her fan base and honoring our high holy days and giving back to the millions of Americans who made it possible for her to be a successful openly lesbian rock star.
As beloved as Ellen is, it took awhile for her to move from entertainer to advocate. Now she can be counted upon to make those phone calls on her show and share her thoughts on issues. Even her Mom is an advocate with PFLAG. Still, Ellen gets "shown the money" when she signs on with JC Penney and other major corporations. And we flock to defend her from the "million moms." But with Ellen, it feels like taking the money from JC Penney is a form of advocacy.
Perhaps I'm biased because Ellen doesn't have four children with two different women, both of whom she left. It seems like that matters.
Do celebrities owe us anything? I read a tweet the other day from a gay black man who said something to the effect of "Beyonce needs to support marriage equality. Without her gay fan base, she'd be Kelly Rowland."
There is that.
I was out of town during the concert and Pridefest itself. By all accounts, it was very successful and Etheridge did a fine job integrating some "gay classics" into her set. I'm glad that the show went on well.
I'm also curious if people will speak with her about the "show me the money" comments and convince her to appear at a larger Pridefest in the future. And I wonder how on earth Pride is going to top themselves.
Do you think the community should know how much Etheridge was paid to perform and how much she actually kept (some portion of the proceeds went to the Harvey Milk Foundation)?