Just a Girl?


By Lisa Kennedy

In August 2003, Out printed this article on jazz diva Lea DeLaria's upcoming album Double Standards, but the release date was delayed indefinitely. Now, with the album arriving in stores this month, we reprise the interview.

Lea DeLaria was polling the audience at the Plush Room in San Francisco. Which Lea had they come for? Broadway Lea? Jazz Lea? Someone yelled, 'We're just Lea fans,' DeLaria recounts on the phone from Los Angeles.

This is no idle boast. DeLaria'who has belted Broadway sideways in On the Town, crooned in nightclubs, and rocked the mike with some saucy stand-up'has a knack for taking her admirers to parts unknown. 'They want to see whatever I'm doing,' she says. A good thing, that, since her next stop is rock and roll.

Sort of. Double Standards takes scat-scaling liberties with an eclectic mix of rock songs. Like DeLaria's previous jazz reclamation act, Play It Cool (that time it was show tunes), Double Standards blows'in the best (OK, second best) sense of the word.

DeLaria swings sweet havoc with the Pretenders' 'Tattooed Love Boys' and Green Day's 'Longview.' 'But this isn't lounge against the machine,' she says. 'This is real music, real jazz.'

She should know. The daughter of jazz pianist Robert, Lea accompanied her dad to nightclubs in East St. Louis, Ill., as a girl. At one point her mom, Jerry (who had been a dancer in the USO and who recently died), put an end to those adventures. 'Little did she know,' says DeLaria, chuckling. 'I was pretty safe.'

In 'Just a Girl,' Robert and Jerry's girl adds her own triumphant spin to Gwen Stefani's coda phrase: 'Oh,' DeLaria wails, 'I've had it up to here.' Oh, yeah.

Lea DeLaria gives us a list of her desert-island discs:

Best of Bowie by David Bowie
'I can't stop listening to it right now.'

Birth of the Cool by Miles Davis
'It changed the face of music. 'Darn that Dream' is one of the prettiest things I've ever heard.'

The Complete Ella in Berlin: Mack the Knife (Live) by Ella Fitzgerald
'You've got to get it. It's going to change your life.'

A Love Supreme by John Coltrane
'I had a hard time choosing between this and Coltrane's Ballads, since it's the album I like to make out with girls to. If I'm alone on a desert island, I don't want to be frustrated, so I chose A Love Supreme'it's a tasty bit of music.'

Largo by Brad Mehldau
'I think Brad kind of crosses quietly into the realm of genius. It's so sexy. It's a make-out record. Or if you just want to meditate on it."