In a different life, one in which popular meant straight and gay went unmentioned, I used to hang out at Denise's house, hanging out with her brother, and her wonderful, sweet family. They were cool but wonderful, like the Brady Bunch, had they been cool but wonderful. And Mexican. I loved their home; it existed in a place near where I lived, that didn't seem bigoted or self-conscious or conservative or caring about labels. We all partied, went to concerts, swam in the pool late at night, and, most of all, grooved to music. I've not been back in more than 20 years, but now Denise is a big-time singer, Bay Area adult, and, yeah, groovy chick. I thought it would be fun to ask Denise about that time and about now, in just five questions. If I'm off-key, well, she still makes me a bit nervous.
I fled California; you stayed. What do you love about your home state?
I love the Bay Area; more specifically, San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland. I love the diversity of it and the bohemian vibe of it too. I lived in the Central Valley for a few years when I first took off to college and it just felt too "backwards" for me, or perhaps I should say too conservative. Once I started school in SF, I knew I had found my home. I love that the wine country is nearby, the mountains are nearby, the ocean is right here and more importantly, my family is nearby. There's a lot of great culture here too. Everything from artsy fartsy to very urban. I can go to a museum, a jazz concert, the symphony, a rock concert, see a friend perform at a dive club and see a friend's work at a small art gallery all in one month - or week!
I remember you bobbing to Led Zeppelin and The Who. Who are your musical influences now?
Oh yes, I think my blood is made up of music notes rather than hemoglobin. These days I've been listening to an eclectic internet station and have been exposed to many different groups that I otherwise would not have heard on terrestrial radio. I love Porcupine Tree (prog rock), Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (dirgy, shoe gazer type rock), Thievery Corporation (electronica), Iron and Wine (folk). Oh, and I cannot forget Radiohead.
When did you start realizing you had a lot of gay friends?
I didn't think I had met my first gay friends until I started performing in musicals through community theater, which was during the mid 80's (my early 20's). But to be honest with you, I had no inkling that you were gay until I heard about you coming out at a much later date. And it also dawned on me many years later that a few guys I knew at De La Salle (high school) had to have been gay as well, but I just didn't have a "gaydar" back then. I now have many gay friends, both male and female.
What Song Best Represents Your Childhood?
Oh good lord, what song best represents my childhood? There simply isn't one. However, there is a band that truly represents my childhood, and I think you know who they are. THE BEATLES!!!!
If you could dedicated a song to Barack Obama, what would it be and why?
The song that first popped into my head was "What's Going On" by Marvin Gaye and then I started thinking about the entire album. The entire album should be considered as it is a concept album. Here we have a man who's communicating to us, not as a iconic pop star to his fans but as an equal asking us to stop and look around us. Look what we're doing to our environment, to our brothers and sisters, to each other. We need to stop destroying ourselves and each other and start loving and caring instead. Yes, that was a very 60's way of thinking, but I believe that President Obama is in his own way saying the same thing. He is very accessible, he doesn't put himself above us and he wants to have open communication with us. Both of these men seem to be very introspective and that is one of the things that I really like and appreciated about the President. He's very thoughtful and isn't a knee-jerk like some of our past presidents and many of our politicians.
Bonus, Back in Kansas (Kinda) Question
I haven't seen you or your family since we were all high-school age, and we were all hanging out and getting stoned and being teenagers in the suburbs. If you could dedicate a song to those times, what would it be?
The Cars: "Good Times Roll." I was originally going to pick a Zep song, but this popped into my head and it was perfect!
--as is she. Thanks, Denise. I miss those days. Let's have an encore someday.
To find out more about Denise, check out Denise Fraga. And make sure you leave her a big tip on me.
I'm in the book.