Photo: Andy Scahill, outinamerica.com
Jay Crew (Jen Lindsey) and Maxwell (Shani Scott, in the Sopranos shirt) demonstrate the camp art of the drag king at Dragdom in Columbus on January 18.
Dragdom, held at Woody�s in the Ohio Union, was part of Ohio State University�s LGBTIA Awareness Weeks. The show featured professional and amateur drag kings, including a special appearance by the HIS Kings troupe. The Awareness Weeks series of events continues until January 31; see the calendar.
by Eric Resnick
Huntington, W.Va.--The city of Huntington will be the second West Virginia city to consider an ordinance enhancing the sentences for violent crimes committed due to bias against the victim�s sexual orientation, if a proposal by the mayor is approved.
A Charleston council committee passed a similar hate crime measure January 17, sending it to the full council for a February 4 vote.
The Huntington proposal, which is now being researched by the office of Mayor David Selinton for introduction in city council "in a few weeks," resulted from meetings held January 18 over the way authorities are handling the bashing of Michael Fiffe as he was returning home from a gay bar November 18.
The meetings were called by members of the Huntington lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community who were concerned that a possible anti-gay hate motivation was being swept under the rug.
Gloria McCauley, executive director of the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization in Columbus attended the meetings, as did Human Rights Campaign southern field organizer Diana Mason and HRC staff counsel Sharon Alexander.
They were joined by Scott Britton, chair of the West Virginia Lesbian and Gay Coalition, and Fiffe�s close friends. Following the initial meeting, representatives met with prosecutor Chris Chiles, the mayor, and members of the Huntington Human Relations Council.
"Regardless of whether the crime was a hate crime or not, the community reacted to it as if it was," said Mason. "People really felt vulnerable."
Fiffe remains conscious, but has little awareness of his surroundings following the severe beating by three males as he was walking home from the Stonewall gay bar, a few blocks from his home. (Police previously identified the bar as the Driftwood, two blocks away on the same street.)
The crime occurred in a bank parking lot and was taped by a security camera. Fiffe was robbed of $20 after being kicked and punched a number of times and left for dead. He was found unconsious the next morning.
Police have arrested and charged three suspects, Eric Young, 18, and Scott Hensley, 21, both of Huntington, with malicious wounding. A 16-year-old has also been charged of a lesser crime.
Two more unidentified witnesses who stayed in the attackers� SUV during the beating have not been charged. Of them, the 16-year-old driver reported the crime to police after the bank video was shown on TV news.
According to Mason, the 22 community members who attended the first meeting are satisfied that everything that can be done legally is being done, and that the case will continue to be watched.
Mason said the Huntington LGBT community has been galvanized by the event, and now has something to organize around.
McCauley agreed, adding, "I think we�re on track with this."
McCauley, who said she went to support Fiffe�s friends and chosen family, indicated that lack of communication caused the lack of confidence in the authorities by the LGBT community.
"Huntington had no [LGBT] organizational center and no political groups," said McCauley. "There was no point person."
"The upshot of [the meetings] is that the LGBT community made strides and the Human Relations Commission is hearing their concerns," said McCauley.
"I have to pat the local community on the back," said McCauley, "They are doing what they need to do."
One point addressed was whether or not the crime was committed due to anti-gay bias. Like Ohio, West Virginia has no law making violence against a person because of their sexual orientation a crime.
"It�s a moot point," said McCauley, "because, as the community learned, there is no way it would be investigated differently."
McCauley also pointed out that some of Fiffe�s friends have doubts as to whether the crime was motivated by hate or not.
"I have been the biggest skeptic on that," said Ken Epperly, a close friend of Fiffe, and openly gay man.
"I want proof, and right now, the police are telling us it wasn�t [a hate crime] based on the statement of one of the 16-year-olds," said Epperly.
"But my friends are telling me otherwise," Epperly said.
The 16-year-old driver has returned to school, and his identity is known to other students. He is a star on the wrestling team.
"Ask any detective and they will tell you it was not a hate crime, but ask any high school student, and they will tell you about the wrestler bragging about beating up a little fag," said Epperly.
Epperly is considering offering a reward for any high school student who comes forward with that information.
"If it was a hate crime, I don�t know at what point it may have become a hate crime," said Epperly.
The night of the attack, Fiffe was dressed in what has been described as "flashy clothes."
"Once they saw what he looked like, it may have become a hate crime right then and there," said Epperly.
What Epperly is hearing from the high school students corroborates statements made by a source who was in Davis juvenile detention facility with Hensley and Young in 1999, who said while there, the two were preoccupied with gays while there.
"All the two talked about was hating fags," he said.
Epperly said that the other concern he and the others had was that Young and Hensley are out on bail.
West Virginia law requires bail be offered to anyone accused of crime that brings less than a life sentence. Not understanding that point caused mistrust among gays and lesbians toward law enforcement.
Selinton said his proposed ordinance resulted from his meeting with the LGBT community members.
"This ordinance would only deal with crimes dealt with in municipal court, which are usually misdemeanors," said Selinton. "But it sends a signal that we won�t tolerate intolerance or attacks because of sexual orientation."
Selinton said no West Virginia cities currently have such laws.
"I am ashamed that Charleston beat us to it," said Selinton.
The mayor�s proposal would include enhancements for crimes committed due to bias because of race, religion, political affiliation, age, disability, national origin, and color as well as sexual orientation and gender identity.
"I am getting people on city council lined up to support it, and it should be introduced in the next few weeks," said Selinton.
The mayor said he would write an op-ed piece to rally the community around the ordinance�s passage.
by Anthony Glassman
Titusville, Pa.�A school district will pay $312,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a gay teenager who said school officials did nothing to stop other students from tormenting him.
Timothy Dahle, now 19, said he was pushed down a set of stairs and subjected to other physical assaults as well as hitting, name-calling and obscene jokes.
Dahle said he was harassed beginning in sixth grade in 1994 and was so depressed over school that he attempted suicide in 1998.
The Titusville Area School District said Dahle was belligerent to other students and brought the problems on himself.
The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network believes that this is the second-largest cash settlement made in such a case.
In the first, Jamie Nabozny won a $962,000 settlement in his 1996 suit against the Ashland, Wisconsin school district. Nabozny said officials did nothing to stop verbal and physical abuse from 1988 until he dropped out of high school in 1993, including a beating that hospitalized him.
According to figures published by GLSEN in their National School Climate Survey for the current academic year, 85% of students hear anti-gay remarks often, and over 80% said that the faculty and staff did not intervene. The study also says that around 20% of students will be physically abused because of their sexual orientation.
"Through our years of work on this issue, we have learned that the situation Timothy Dahle faced in school was hardly unique," GLSEN executive director Kevin Jennings said.
"There are clear lessons to be learned by school administrators and staff, too," he continued. "First and foremost, teachers and staff take a risk, a risk that can have dire fiscal implications on their districts, when this kind of maltreatment goes unchecked. Second, that administrators must be proactive in the face of all student harassment, including that which is directed against LGBT students."
Titusville, population 6,500, is about 40 miles east of Youngstown.
by Anthony Glassman
Columbus�An ethics professor at Trinity Lutheran Seminary has been tapped to head the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America�s study on human sexuality.
The study is the result of last year�s ELCA national assembly, when delegates voted for the denomination to study issues such as same-sex commitment ceremonies and the ordination of gay and lesbian pastors.
The end result of the study will be a social statement on those issues, which the denomination currently does not have.
Trinity Lutheran Seminary is located in the Columbus suburb of Bexley.
Rev. James Childs will take a leave of absence from teaching. His efforts on the study and the mission statement start February 1 and are expected to last until 2007.
The ELCA has three "Reconciling in Christ" congregations in the Columbus area, St. Mark�s, Calvary and Redeemer. The reconciling congregations hold that LGBT people are of the same worth as heterosexuals, and are welcome within the congregations and the life of their churches.
Pastor Gene Talley of St. Mark�s is glad the denomination is undertaking the study.
"I�m excited about this one," he said. "We�ve been studying this issue for a few years, and our national assembly mandated a statement on human sexuality, and that�s what this study is about."
Talley admitted that the study will not be an immediate solution to debate in the church, but is optimistic about the effects of it.
"It�s not a huge step forward, but it is a step forward," Talley affirmed. "I�m hoping that the more congregations study this, the more we can move forward."
"I�m excite about Childs because he will be driven by a desire for education and honest dialogue," said Rev. Mark Singh-Hueter, the pastor of Calvary. "I think that can do nothing but help the progressive side."
Singh-Hueter noted that, while his does not know Childs particularly well, he does know him to be a scholar and ethicist who pursues the truth, not a specific agenda.
Talley�s and Singh-Hueter�s churches have a vested interest in the study as reconciling congregations. When the Methodist church ruled against gay ordination and unions two years ago, the ensuing debates came close to causing a schism within the church, leaving a rift that has not yet healed.
Lutherans and Methodists are not the only denominations dealing with the issue. Presbyterians are voting in local districts on gay issues this year, as they did last year, and more and more Catholic clergy are chafing at the Vatican�s unmoving stance on the issue. Groups like Dignity, an organization for gay Catholics, and Soulforce, an ecumenical group that protests gay repression at denominational gatherings, are trying to push open doors that have remained closed.
by Anthony Glassman
Charleston, W. Va.�A move to add a hate crime ordinance to the city�s books cleared a major hurdle January 17, passing the rules and ordinance committee by unanimous vote.
West Virginia law enhances the penalties for crimes committed because of race, national origin, religion and other criteria, but does not cover sexual orientation or disability. The ordinance proposed in Charleston includes both.
The bill would increase penalties by up to 30 days in jail and $500 in fines. It would also make Charleston the first West Virginia to expand the state�s hate crime law.
Every member of the committee was present for the vote, and around 50 people attended the meeting to express their viewpoints.
One question asked at the meeting was whether the ordinance would protect white heterosexuals. Committee members answered that, yes, it does protect everyone who is a victim because of real or perceived traits that fall under the ordinance.
Committee members also passed an amendment forbidding prosecutors to use membership in a group like the Ku Klux Klan to prove that something is a hate crime unless the membership was directly related to the crime itself.
According to Councilmember David Molgaard, who introduced the amendment, the addition ensures that the ordinance would not violate freedom of speech or association.
The legislation defines hate crimes as the threat or use of force because of the victim�s real or perceived status in one of the protected categories.
The measure will be picked up the full city council on February 4.
According to FBI statistics, 60 hate crimes were reported in West Virginia in 2000, seven in Charleston. Nineteen were related to sexual orientation.
"I think it�s important symbolically to show that we will not tolerate in our community hate crimes," rules and ordinances committee chairman Charlie Loeb, who introduced the measure, said. "It is also synonymous with being a progressive community to do so."
West Virginia�s gay community has been shocked by anti-gay violence in the last two years. In 2000, Arthur "J.R." Warren was severely beaten, thrown in a car trunk and then run over with the car to make the killing look like a hit-and-run. On November 18, 2001, Michael Fiffe, a Huntington artist, was beaten so severely walking home from a bar that he is still in a coma. Doctors hold little hope that Fiffe will recover. At present, he occasionally responds to outside stimuli.
The perpetrators of both crimes were arrested. Warren�s killers pleaded guilty, one to first-degree murder and the other to second-degree murder. They will both be eligible for parole within 15 years.
Fiffe�s attackers are awaiting trial on charges of malicious wounding, which carries a sentence of 2-10 years. If Fiffe dies within a year because of his injuries, prosecutors can increase the charges to murder. Both of Fiffe�s attackers are free on bond.
by Eric Resnick
Akron--"It has been done. It is now a fact," said Akron Area Pride Collective past president Tom Beck to those who thought the Akron Pride Center would not be possible. Beck spoke at the center�s third anniversary celebration January 19.
Beck served as the center�s second chair in 2000 and 2001. He was joined in speaking by immediate past president Susie Davis, who served until December 31.
Davis told the crowd of 50 at a potluck dinner held at the center that they should all be proud that the center has been there as a home for many different organizations and causes.
New board members were also introduced. The new president is Mark Myers. He is joined by Vice President Joni Christian, Secretary David Marsteller, Treasurer Debbie Ingersoll, and board members Terry Bates, Don Brown, Collin Conaway, Frank Fording, Ken Ilg, Art Kaltenborn, Eileen Schonfeld, Priscilla Smith, and Dan Strimska.
The Pecs Choir, a group of regulars who sing at the piano bar next door to the center, performed.
The Pride Center is operated by the Akron Area Pride Collective as an all-volunteer drop-in center, resource library, and home to nearly all Akron area LGBT organizations.
LGBT-friendly Republicans named to top party positions
by Bob Roehr
Both the Democratic and Republican parties held their winter meetings over the weekend of January 19 and produced results that were seen as positive for the gay and lesbian community.
The Democratic National Committee, meeting in Washington, D.C., passed resolutions calling for the enactment of a federal hate crime law that includes sexual orientation, and the expansion of Social Security to include gay and lesbian families.
"Democrats recognize that gay and lesbian Americans who meet their Social Security tax obligations should enjoy equal treatment from the program in which they invest," said Chad Johnson, executive director of National Stonewall Democrats, an organization of gay Democratic clubs.
"We don�t just talk about it, we do it. Gay and lesbian Americans know that this party will fight for them," said Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Absent from the resolutions was support for offering full benefits, including health care, to the partners of gay federal employees. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., has introduced such legislation beginning in 1997. But it has gone nowhere in the Republican-controlled House, nor was it embraced by the Clinton administration, which cited budgetary reasons for its lack of support.
The Republican National Committeemet in Austin, Texas. It unanimously elected Marc Racicot, former governor of Montana, as its chairman. He is a close friend of George Bush and was pressed by the president to take the position.
Racicot had a fairly gay-friendly record as governor, earning the enmity of the social conservatives. He enacted a nondiscrimination policy for state employees that specifically included sexual orientation; supported an unsuccessful effort to repeal the state�s sodomy law in 1993; and condemned the murder of Matthew Shepard in neighboring Wyoming.
The right also frothed over the selection of Lewis Eisenberg as finance chair, the principal fundraising position in the party. Eisenberg, of New Jersey, chaired the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey--owners of the World Trade Center--and was a leader of the Republican Leadership Council. That group supports gay civil rights and abortion rights and. It has run issue ads opposing the far right and its candidates.
"Eisenberg has made it his life�s work to defeat pro-life candidates and drive the pro-life movement out of the Republican Party," said Ken Connor, president of the Family Research Council. He predicted a split between party bluebloods and social conservatives.
Log Cabin Republican spokesman Kevin Ivers said, "You saw the usual suspects complaining. The difference this time is that they were a tiny and ineffective minority."
Compiled from wire reports by Rex Wockner, Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.
�Straight Pride� shirt was free speech, judge rules
St. Paul, Minn.�A high school violated a student�s constitutional rights last year when the principal ordered him not to wear a sweat shirt with the words "Straight Pride" on it, a judge ruled January 2.
U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank ruled that the school�s dress code was unconstitutional when applied to the student, Elliott Chambers.
Though Frank noted that there are circumstances when a school can prohibit student expression ordinarily protected by the U.S. Constitution, he said Woodbury High School officials failed to demonstrate that Chambers� shirt could disrupt school activities.
Chambers, currently a junior, wore the sweat shirt in January 2001 to show support "for the traditional and wholesome way to approach sex . . . which is God�s plan," his mother, Lana Chambers, said at the time. She also said it was an effort to counteract what she felt to be the school�s promotion of a "homosexual agenda."
Principal Dana Babbitt told Chambers that he could not wear the sweat shirt because it violated the school�s dress code.
Campground attackers get five years
Lihu�e, Hawaii�Two men who pleaded guilty to attacking gay men camping in a state park were sentenced January 17 to five years in prison.
Eamonn Carolan and Orion Macomber entered their guilty pleas to several charges in November in exchange for the removal of attempted murder charges stemming from the Memorial Day weekend attack.
Carolan and Macomber overturned tiki torches, burning one of the tents, and drove a truck at one of the campers in Polihale Beach State Park. The men�s campsite was marked with a rainbow flag, and the two young men allegedly shouted anti-gay epithets during the attack. Nobody was hurt.
Circuit Judge Clifford Nakea used guidelines for sentencing young offenders to give each man half the sentence they would have gotten had they been older. Carolan is 19 and Macomber is 18. Both come from wealthy families and have histories of alcohol and drug abuse.
Early gay activist dies
Chicago�Bruce Scott, an early gay activist and member of the Washington and Midwest branches of the Mattachine Society, died December 26 of Parkinson�s disease. He was 89.
In 1956, at the height of the "Red scare," Scott was forced to resign from his civil service job with the federal government because of his sexual orientation. In the early 1960s he filed suit against the government for reinstatement.
In 1965, the courts ruled in his case that the charge of homosexuality was not adequate grounds for banning people from federal employment. In 1968, the government lost its appeal, vainly attempting to give more specific reasons for his disqualification.
The case, Scott v. Macy, was the first victory of a gay man against the Civil Service Commission�s anti-gay rules, and led to the prohibition on gays being lifted in 1975. The defendant in the case was John W. Macy, the chairman of the Civil Service Commission at the time.
Majority leader comes out
Annapolis, Md.�The House of Delegates� new majority leader is not only the first woman in the state to hold the post, but also the first openly lesbian or gay state legislator.
Del. Maggie L. McIntosh stepped into the role January 9, but came out during a speech to the Women�s Law Center of Maryland on October 29. No press covered the event, and the information only came to the public�s attention through a January 11 Washington Blade article.
McIntosh was talking about the state�s gay-inclusive anti-discrimination law, which was being held up by an anti-gay petition drive. She told the people at the event a story about a lesbian in her hometown in Kansas who told her how hard it was to grow up gay in a small town. McIntosh then told the assembled lawyers that she had grown up in the same town and was also gay.
At the time of the speech, the board of elections had verified the petitions to force a referendum to repeal the anti-discrimination law. Gay rights advocates filed suit to block the referendum, and the group Take Back Maryland eventually acknowledged that it had not collected enough valid signatures.
McIntosh�s support for the legislation is being credited as one of the most important factors in getting it passed, and she was one of Gov. Parris Glendening�s strongest allies in the battle over the bill. The law took effect with the end of the referendum drive.
Better living with HIV?
Cincinnati�The National Institutes of Health gave the University of Cincinnati a $1.5 million grant to follow up on the school�s 1999 study indicating that many people believed their lives had gotten better since being infected with HIV.
The 100-person study found that 49 said their lives had gotten more spiritual, they had started living healthier lives, or reevaluated their priorities.
The new study will involve 200 men and women in various stages of infection from Cincinnati and Washington, D.C. It will examine the same issues in a broader population sample.
According to researcher Joel Tsevat, the purpose of the study is to discover why some people feel improved since their diagnoses to try to help others infected with the virus feel that way.
Different restrooms aren�t enough
St. Louis�The American Civil Liberties Union filed an amicus brief on January 17 supporting Minneapolis Southwest High School�s handling of a teacher�s complaints about sharing a restroom with a transgendered colleague.
Carla Cruzan sued the school district to block Debra Davis� use of the women�s restrooms at the school. When Cruzan complained to the school administration, they made other restrooms available to her, including single-person ones. Cruzan argued that it was not enough.
Cruzan filed a federal lawsuit alleging that Davis� use of the facility violated Cruzan�s freedom of religion and created a hostile work environment.
The federal court ruled against Cruzan, and she filed an appeal with the U.S. 8th District Court of Appeals in St. Louis.
Davis, who works in the school library, is supported by the faculty and staff of the school, as well as by many students and parents.
"Carla Cruzan is the person who thinks there is a problem here, so the school was right to find some other alternative for her," ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project staff attorney Tamara Lange said.
The ACLU says that it is Cruzan, not the school, who is being unreasonable in trying to demand that her personal beliefs dictate Davis� use of school facilities.
Judge okays second AIDS ride
Los Angeles�The California AIDS Ride, a fundraising event that has become a state institution, can expect competition for bicyclists this year, a judge ruled January 14.
Superior Court Judge David Yaffe refused to issue an injunction against the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, which have set up an event to rival the nine-year-old San Francisco to Los Angeles ride.
Pallotta Teamworks, which organizes the AIDS Ride, sued to stop the groups� AIDS Lifecycle ride, arguing that scheduling it two weeks before the Pallotta event would dilute support from the original.
The nonprofit agencies planned the AIDS Lifecycle Ride after accusing Pallotta of overspending and mismanaging last year�s event, which raised $11 million.
The charities said they received just 50 cents of every dollar raised by riders, who spent a week traveling 575 miles down Highway 1. Expenses generally should not exceed 35 cents per dollar, according to the Better Business Bureau.
Pallotta claims that the competing groups owe it hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on preliminary work for the next AIDS ride, an allegation the groups contest. They are scheduled to go before an arbiter to resolve that and other issues.
Pallotta organizes AIDS rides around the country, and has seen controversy before. AIDS groups received 15% of the money raised by the 1998 Texas ride, and the 1996 Philadelphia to Washington ride gave charities only 8% of the money raised.
Military partners get benefits
Johannesburg, South Africa--Same-sex partners of members of the South African National Defence Force are set to receive all spousal benefits following publication of new definitions of "marital status" and "spouse" in the Government Gazette January 11.
The changes bring the forces into line with South Africa�s post-apartheid constitution, which bans discrimination based on sexual orientation.
For military purposes, spouse is now defined as "a partner (the partnership being either heterosexual or homosexual) in a permanent life partnership, if such partnership was attested before a Notary Public."
Governor honors couple�s 50th
Detroit�Henry Messer, a founder of the Triangle Foundation gay advocacy group, was surprised to receive a tribute signed by Michigan governor John Engler in recognition of his and his partner�s 50th anniversary.
He told the Detroit Free Press in a January 19 story that he couldn�t believe Engler had signed it, because Michigan Republicans don�t generally support gay marriages. The tribute doesn�t specifically refer to his union with Carl House as a marriage.
As it turns out, Engler was surprised by his endorsement, too. Spokesman Matt Resch said the tribute, requested by state Rep. Pan Godchaux, R-Birmingham, was signed on a machine.
Had Engler read it, he probably would have sent it back unsigned, Resch said. But Engler won�t rescind the tribute.
Engler gets hundreds of requests for tributes each month for birthdays, wedding anniversaries and Boy Scout awards. Tribute requests are not screened by the governor�s staff, which relies on sponsoring lawmakers for accuracy.
"I figure all this will accomplish is the governor won�t sign any more tributes from me," Godchaux said.
Vandals pour bleach in church
Denver�Authorities are investigating anti-gay messages scrawled on the walls of a church office as a possible hate crime.
Vandals also poured bleach and cleaning solutions on furniture and musical equipment in the music office at the Columbine United Church in Littleton.
Messages such as "Fag Lover" were scrawled in marker along the walls.
Nothing was stolen, and there were no signs of forced entry, Arapahoe County Sheriff Patrick Sullivan said January 17.
The damage, estimated at $5,500, was found that morning.
The church accepts openly gay members. Choral director Michael Hayes, who is gay, said he said believes he was the target.
Hayes said he has heard slurs and sexually biased comments about the church. He thinks a former member could be responsible for the vandalism.
Sullivan said there are no suspects.
Pastor Steve Poos-Benson said he has been discriminated against because of the church�s open policy, and the church has a reputation among some religious organizations as being too liberal.
If convicted of the vandalism, a person could face up to three years in prison. State law does not allow for sentences to be enhanced for crimes targeting people because of their sexual orientation, but it does address religious discrimination.
Firm to pay judge in defamation suit
Orlando, Fla.�A law firm will publish two apologies and pay a damages to an openly gay former judge who accused the firm of defaming him in a 1994 memo.
Rand Hoch sued the Orlando firm of Rissman, Weisberg, Barrett, Hurt, Donahue and McLain and another firm in 1996. He alleged they had circulated a memo implying that Hoch, then a workers� compensation judge in Daytona Beach, was a pedophile.
Hoch, who now works in South Florida, said that, as part of a planned settlement, he will receive a "substantial amount" of money.
The deal also requires the law firm to publish two half-page notices acknowledging the statements as untrue and apologizing for "any injury that may have been caused to Judge Hoch�s good name and reputation."
Hoch said that the firm had used the memo in seminars meant to "give the dirt" on judges, attorneys and mediators to clients and potential clients.
The other law firm, then called DeCiccio and Associates, was dropped from the lawsuit in 1999.
An interview with Michelle Malone
by Heather Gmucs
With her tenth CD released almost a year ago, Michelle Malone hasn�t quit touring, recording or selling, and probably never will. Hello Out There, released in May 2001 on SBS Records (Malone�s own label) has generated accolades from Atlanta magazine which named it Album of the Year 2001. The CD is in the top ten of many magazines all over the country, including Hits magazine.
The song "Super Ball" from Hello Out There was, much to Malone�s surprise, one of the finalists in the John Lennon Song Writing Contest.
With all the hard work she puts in, Malone still finds time to sit down and write, which is what she was doing when called for this interview.
Heather Gmucs: I�m so sorry for interrupting your writing. When are you going to be recording again?
Michelle Malone: Oh it�s okay. It�s about time for me to write a new record. It�ll come out in the summer or fall or something, I�m not sure yet. It depends, I�m still trying to raise some money to put it out. I�m still payin� off my last record.
H: Is there any kind of ritual you have or anything around you when you sit down to write? I usually have a cup of coffee and a few cigarettes rolled when I�m writing.
M: No, no ritual. I just grab my guitar if I feel like it, which is pretty often lately. I know that I need to make a new record soon, so I�m trying to put my nose to the grindstone and writing every day, which is something I don�t normally do. I�m either too busy or too tired because I�m touring.
H: I know your mom, Karyn Malone, is a jazz singer. You both worked on a CD called The Cocktail Sessions. What was it like touring with your mom as a kid?
M: It was mostly touring in the summer; she never took us out of school. I was very young so it was sort of like a vacation. I guess I thought it was normal, that kind lifestyle, to live in hotels and hang out in bars. I suppose that�s why I do what I do now.
H: What was or is one of your favorite venues to play, like one of your favorite spots where you had a great show and a good time?
M: The Grog Shop last August in Cleveland was great. I loved playing there. People in Ohio are so cool and nice.
H: You�re not just saying that �cause I�m from Ohio?
M: (laughs) No, I really mean that. We found really nice people there who put us up in their homes, came to every show, who have always been outgoing and sweet. Oh my God the last time I was there you guys brought the house down screamin� and singin� from the word go.
A lot of other cities are more reserved. We were really touched by our show there last time. Ya�ll showed us a lot of love. I always look forward to coming there.
H: You don�t get up to Cleveland often but you�ll be in Columbus soon. Where will you be?
M: We�ll be near Ohio State [at Club 202] in Columbus on the 26th of January, that�s open to the public. That�ll be a good show, and the Barrelhouse in Cincinnati is really cool. That�s on the 25th [of January].
H: I know on your last CD you did some work with Emily Saliers from the Indigo Girls. Do you get to collaborate with other musicians a lot?
M: The most collaborating I get to do is probably just writing with other people, I don�t get to do that a lot. I do it when I can.
H: Tell me more about SBS Records. What was the driving force behind creating your own label?
M: The record labels that I had been on didn�t seem to know what to do with me. They couldn�t find the niche for my music, they couldn�t pigeonhole me into any particular place. So they weren�t selling a huge amount of records and I wasn�t really making a living at it.
Each time I got out of my deal I would put a record on my label, release it, and sell the same amount of records as they had sold but I would make a living at it.
I think it�s really important at some point to work with a label whether it�s independent or not, just so you can learn the ropes, and know how everything works. Plus you meet a lot of good people along the way that can help you down the road.
It�s called the "music business" for a reason; it�s about selling records. If you don�t really fit into the mainstream then yeah, put your own records out. You can find out about SBS Records at www.sbs-records.com.
H: I know that you have a compilation CD coming out, that you work with a lot of indie artists. Can you tell me more about it?
M: They�re called the SBS Indie Music Samplers. You know bands and musicians send us their CDs and if we like �em we�ll put them on the sampler. Everybody gets 50 CDs to give away or sell, whatever they wanna do. It really helps other people find you that wouldn�t normally hear you. I�m excited about that.
H: How does a musician find out about the sampler?
M: If people are interested, or they know someone who would be they can reach me through www.michellemalone.com. We put them out every couple of months and we�re always taking submissions.
H: It�s been great talking to you this morning, I�m looking forward to seeing you in Columbus on the 26th. Come back to Ohio to get a little love.
M: I really do look forward to it. It�s always a good time there.
It�s clear that the good time is all of Malone�s making. It�s the energy that she puts into her music and into her performances. She can go from sweet loving folk music to breaking out her electric guitar to roll straight into roots rock, stomping on her board of plenty of pedals and assaulting the stage with the soles of her shoes. Pure energy!
Yet Malone is just a regular girl busting her backside for what she loves. The music is her life and as heartbreaking as it can be, it�s doubtful she�d want it any other way.
Heather Gmucs is the lead singer of The Decline, which opened for Malone last August in Cleveland.
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