For the past 10 years Bronx native Ari Gold has been rewriting the rules of pop music. Hes been credited as the first openly gay pop star to be out in his music from the beginning of his career. Hes won numerous awards, sold out concerts, graced the covers of magazines around the world, and has been declared a sex symbol. So imagine how Ari Gold felt when he suddenly became a household name -- only because actor Jeremy Piven stepped into the role of a wise-cracking Hollywood agent with the same name on the hit HBO show Entourage.
The character is somewhat homophobic and fits certain Jewish stereotypes, Gold says. Meanwhile, Ive spent my career trying to challenge those stereotypes to show that Jews can be gay and can rock.
Gold will prove it on June 28 when he performs at Joes Pub in New York to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Stonewall. We caught up with the singer to chat about the upcoming show, Adam Lambert, and singing with Diana Ross back in 1984.
Out: We know your music is important to you, and well get to that. But with summer here, we have to know your secret to getting your that body.
Ari Gold: Its a combination of good Jewish genes and eating healthy.
So its all real -- no photoshopping your photos?
Im a naturally hairless Jew, so I havent had to shave for photographs or anything.
Your show at Joes Pub is a Pride concert to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Stonewall. I heard a rumor that Sasha Allen from Broadways Hair and singer Kendra Ross will be your special guests. Is that true?
Yes. I also have my hot dancers.
How do you describe the show?
Its a theatrical experience. Im working with a new costume designer, and its more than just a concert. I think I can safely say that there really isnt an artist out there right now who has a show that epitomizes what pride is. I take people on a journey of what its like being a gay man in this important moment of history. The show goes from really sexy to romantic to scandalous.
I have a song I sing about having an affair with a married man with children called Mister Mistress.
You said the show epitomizes what Pride is. What is Pride to you?
People always say, Why do gay people need a day to celebrate? Why dont straight people have a Pride day? I say, Its really obvious -- its straight pride every day. Its a day for us to celebrate ourselves in all of the different ways that we know how and that we are. We can be free and wild and colorful without having to mute ourselves to become more acceptable to the mainstream.
Do you think with all the parades and the floats and dances its gotten away from its true meaning and become too commercial?
Sure. It has become commercial. But so has Mothers Day and Valentines Day. We live in a commercial and capitalist world. I think, however, if were going to have this commercial day for gay people, its important to try and remember what its about. There are so many messages we get on a daily basis that say were not supposed to be proud of who we are. We need to take this one day to remind ourselves that not only are we equal, but we contribute so much beauty to the world. That beauty doesnt just come from artists, but everyone from doctors to accountants to servicemen.
You came out to your parents by writing an 18-page letter and then proceeded to read it aloud to them. What was that like?
We had never had a family meeting like that before. I called the meeting because I didnt want them to find out I was gay from someone else. My brother was there too. I made them all hard copies and even included additional reading material. When I finished reading, my dad had tears in his eyes. It wasnt because I had come out, but he said it was because of the pain he had caused me by some of the homophobia that was in the house at times. I felt very blessed. After the letter came the journey. Reality sunk in and my parents didnt have an easy time accepting a gay son. The initial response meant a lot to me, though.
Speaking of coming out, you have always been an out artist. What did you think of Adam Lambert coming out after the American Idol season was over?
I think its great. I would like to think that someone like myself has eased the way for people to be comfortable with their sexuality. He was quoted in the press as saying something to the effect that he is a singer and is not an activist. Thats just one area where we are different. I see my art as a part of activism. I think hes saying that because he wants to remain commercial. Thats fine, but whether he accepts it or not, he is being an activist by coming out. Once you say youre gay, that is a political act.
Can you recall a time when you faced adversity in the business because you are so open?
I had submitted my album to Entertainment Weekly last year, and I got an e-mail response saying that they dont cover gay pop. I dont know why I would even have to be under gay pop. Before Adam came out he was on the cover of that magazine. I hope with someone as high profile as Adam Lambert that Entertainment Weekly will now cover what they call gay pop and other artists will be able to benefit. Maybe they will just cover us in their regular music section and wont need to call it gay pop!
Who are your musical inspirations?
I love all the black girls. I love Mary J. Blige. I totally have a thing for Brandy. I think shes very underrated. Of course I love and respect George Michael, Boy George and Elton John. They paved the way for someone like myself.
In 1984 you were just a little boy, but you were already working with legends. What was it like singing background on the Diana Ross record We Are the Children of the World?
When we recorded the song she sat all the kids down and talked to us about all of the kid things she liked. She mentioned how much she loved this one song on the Cabbage Patch Kids album -- and that song was my solo! I dont think there is any better way to be inaugurated as a future gay pop star than Diana Ross telling you that your song is her favorite. I think thats pretty good.
Do you currently have someone special in your life?
I have a lot of love in my life, but I havent found the one love. I also think people are meant to be in your life at particular times. I dont know if I believe that there is only one. Ive had some significant, long-term relationships, but Im currently single, and thats okay.
What would you look for in a man?
They have to have a strong sense of themselves. Im looking for someone I feel can come and meet me where I am.
Whats next for you?
Im editing my next video for the song I Can Forgive You. Its the first Ive done for a ballad, and its directed by [Madonnas brother] Christopher Ciccone. Its always been interesting to me that theres been a gay man behind the worlds biggest gay icon.
And if you're looking for a Pride event on June 27 in NYC, head to OUTmusic Presents Stonewall -- The 40th Anniversary Commemorative Concert and Benefit featuring Colton Ford, Deepa Soul, and other gay artists at the Nokia Theatre in Times Square. To learn more about the event and OUTmusic, visit www.outmusic.com.