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October 10, 2008

Up close and personal with
Melissa Etheridge

Kucinich benefit offers an intimate gathering
with the singer and the candidate

by Janet Macoska

Clevelanders will be able to spend an evening with rock icon and activist Melissa Etheridge next week, in a benefit for Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s re-election campaign.
The intimate October 22 gathering at Cleveland Public Theater will involve the audience in a wide-ranging discussion with Etheridge and Kucinich on personal, community, national and global issues. Etheridge will not be performing.

The Gay Peoples Chronicle spoke with Etheridge by phone from her home in California. She explained how she became involved in the Kucinich campaign after last year’s Human Rights Campaign and Logo presidential debate.

“HRC and the Logo network gave me an opportunity to take part in a gay forum with the presidential candidates. When Kucinich came into the room . . . there was something almost mystical about him. He understands life on an esoteric level. He has that knowledge, and he is amazingly courageous,” she said. “Your brain might think, when you see him, that he’s a small guy with a funny name, but that’s only how he appears on the outside. Inside, he’s this incredibly intelligent, smart, very feeling, human being.”
All the candidates were asked about their position on the same gay issues. There was more depth to what Kucinich offered, Etheridge explained.

“Gay themes aside, Dennis is straight down the line about human rights. He does what he feels is right in his heart. How he voted on Iraq. How he voted on the PATRIOT Act . . . people have asked him, why did you vote against the PATRIOT Act? He’s answered, ‘Because I read it,’ ” the singer noted. “He’s one of the few people who ever read it. He’s so knowledgeable. He carries around a copy of the Constitution with him. He’s what a leader of this country should be.”

Once it was obvious that Kucinich wasn’t going to win the Democratic nomination, Etheridge still felt compelled to support his congressional re-election campaign.
“Oh yeah. To run for president and know that you’re the long shot is courageous. To stand by your principles is absolutely courageous. When the point came when he had to bow out of the presidential campaign, it was vital to hold onto his seat so that this strong progressive voice could still be heard,” she said.

“Kucinich keeping his congressional seat is so important, that he is the only one I’m doing this for,” Etheridge noted. “I think Barack Obama will be elected with or without me.”

Etheridge is looking forward to the opportunity to lead some stimulating discussions between the Cleveland audience and Kucinich. “I think Congressman Kucinich is so good at illuminating and making clear for us that there is no longer left or right, Republican or Democrat. The huge corporate forces, the multi-national corporate interests, have taken over our democracy,” she opined. “That is the number one issue that I’d like to speak about. There are plenty of others, but they pretty much all lead back to that one.”

She continued, “They are always throwing fears at us, about the gays, about race, religious stuff. They use fear to keep us divided, Republican or Democrat. They don’t care as long as it serves their interest. Dennis has been a victim of this, but he also possesses great knowledge of how to use the Constitution and our democracy to get control back again.”

Etheridge’s fans know that her passions run deep, as expressed in her music and in her life. Is it conceivable that she might consider running for public office at some point in the future?

“I do look at politics as ‘of the people’ and I urge anyone who feels an understanding of serving this country to step up and do so. Politics should not just be about professional politicians. It’s made for involvement of the people. We govern ourselves.” Etheridge said. “I’ll admit that I think about it. I flirt with the idea. It’s not going to be anytime soon . . . maybe in the next decade or so.”

“People individually can make a difference, starting with listening and understanding what is going on. Understand that television is entertainment. There is no news on television. That box in the corner has its own agenda. You have to start looking for your knowledge elsewhere,” she posited. “Personally, I go online to the Huffington Post, all those left-leaning liberal sites. There is a progressive radio station here in Los Angeles that I listen to.”

There are reports that actress Tammi Lynn Michaels, who exchanged vows in a 2003 commitment ceremony with Etheridge, has legally changed her last name.
Melissa’s voice brightens, “Yes, and it sounds great! Tammi Etheridge.”
Will the couple be marrying under California law?

“Yes, we will get the paper. We don’t feel we need to have a wedding or big ceremony, because we’ve done that. We feel married. We definitely want to have the rights we’re entitled to, because that’s what we’re fighting for,” she said. “We have the domestic partnership . . . and four children, so its kind of hard to find the time to go down to the courthouse and get it done, but we’ll make a date and get it done.”

Finally, after her fight with breast cancer, how is Etheridge’s health these days?
“Awesome. Four years clear,” she enthused.

For fans who’ve only been able to see her from the seat in a concert hall, the Kucinich benefit offers an opportunity to get up close and personal with Melissa Etheridge A donation of $250 or $500 includes a private reception with drinks and hors d’oeuvres and the opportunity to have their photograph taken with Etheridge, and Dennis and Elizabeth Kucinich. $1,500 gets an additional invitation to a post-talk dinner with all three. General admission to the event is $50.

All inquiries can be made to Kucinich campaign event coordinator Stacey Singer at 216-889-9000 or at

This material is copyrighted by the Gay People�s Chronicle. Permission is given only to repost the headline, byline, and one or two paragraphs, with the full name of the Gay People�s Chronicle and a link to the full article on our website. Reproduction of the entire article is prohibited without specific written permission.


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