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Michael Musto

Gay Awards Mess! Award-Winning Gay Icon!

Melissa Manchester

The OutMusic Awards continue to struggle. But Melissa Manchester serves up serious fun.

The troubled OutMusic Awards seem to be proving once again that gay nightlife was indeed better in the old days. The awards were postponed in January when they had a problem with a sponsor (not the first time the event displayed bad planning disguised as terrible luck). They defiantly announced that people who'd paid for tickets--including nominees--couldn't get their money back, though they were welcome at a party honoring a gay-friendly straight singer (among others), and they could also attend the awards event, if--I mean when--it eventually happens. Sound nervy? What's more, they brought on a publicist, Sabrina A. Taylor, who was supposed to smooth ruffled feathers and calm hurt feelings, though she managed to be inflammatory and inept in the process.

Well, the awards still haven't been rescheduled, but at least one ticket buyer is reporting that he nailed his credit card company to the wall and got a refund. But here's a new wrinkle: Sabrina A. Taylor, who decided I was the enemy because I was aggressively questioning the whole messed-up process, has now had a public falling out with Diedra Meredith, the awards' organizer. Taylor posted on Meredith's Facebook page a message that said, "The saddest thing about BETRAYAL is that it never comes from your enemies." On top of that, she wrote, "I had your back and you try to stab me in mine. #shameonyou."

Taylor's indiscreet message was removed soon enough--I guess she got a refund on it--and observers are too sickened to even want to know what the feud is about. As in-fighting flames on, it's a good thing that more prestigious awards--namely the Grammys--not only happened, they let people in and even gave trophies to Sam Smith. For shame, OutMusic. You don't seem to know how to pick a sponsor, a publicist, or a consistent agenda.


But on to a Grammy winner: Some lovely nostalgia wafted into 54 Below, wrapped in contemporary relevance, when Melissa Manchester performed there last week, serving what she called "serious fun" with a luscious vibrato and spunky spirit. Melissa started out as one of Bette Midler's Harlettes backup group way back in 1971, so she certainly knows from gays. More recently, she wrote "You Are My Heart," a song for two male friends of hers when they announced they were getting hitched, and she even sang it at their wedding. (They cheered and cried when she did it in her 54 Below act.)

At the show, she also served her hits ("Midnight Blue," a potent "Don't Cry Out Loud"), standards from the American songbook (a full throttle "From This Moment On"), and songs from her new album (including the title track, "You Gotta Love This Life," about what it takes to make it in, and to love, the music biz.)

With her shock of curly hair and jazzy "frock," Melissa exploded onto the stage and never let up, her two--count 'em two--musicians sounding like an orchestra (especially when she enhanced them with backing tapes, lol). At one point, she delivered a heartfelt version of "Through The Eyes of Love", the Ice Castles song that was Oscar nominated, and she said that every time its co-writer, Marvin Hamlisch, ran into her, he reminded her that the ditty lost to "Theme From Shaft." Cracked Melissa, "How many of you have been to weddings where the bride was ushered down the aisle to 'Theme from Shaft' "? That was hilarious, even if the Shaft song was actually eight years before the Ice Castles one. Oh, what the hell. People getting married should just hire Melissa to sing "You Are My Heart." She's available! "I can be bought," she said, laughing, as the crowd screamed their approval.

Watch Manchester perform "You Are My Heart" live below:

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

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Michael Musto