When Pat Benatar first emerged on the music scene, circa 1979, she was a far cry from the days when women in song sang about pining for a man who had done them wrong, and changed how women in rock could be perceived. She was a real tough cookie and had something to say in her music.
“It wasn’t solely me,” she recanted humbly. “I was part of a huge movement at that time and I am grateful and happy to have been a part of that.”
Her songbook has included hits like “Heartbreaker,” “Fire and Ice,” “Promises in the Dark,” “We Belong,” “Invincible” and “Love is a Battlefield.” According to Billboard Magazine, the four-time Grammy winner is the most successful female rock vocalist of all time.
“It’s pretty great. I didn’t start out with big aspirations and dreamt small,” she said of the accolade. “I didn’t think I would still be here 30 years later, and that astounds me.”
Another area where Benatar is showing her staying power is in the marriage department.
Benatar and her guitar wielding husband, who she has been married to since 1982 and she termed as “very kind and brilliant,” are very gay friendly, playing at Long Beach Gay Pride, and loved the experience.
“It was a fun day, and we got to do the gay pride parade,” she said.
And Benatar is very much looking forward to being a musical participant at Dinah Shore, as she feels that her music can definitely resonate with a gay and lesbian audience.
“I think for people who have been persecuted and given a hard time, songs can transcend all genders, or whatever people are being discriminated against,” Benatar stated. “My songs have always been about standing up for yourself and not taking shit from anyone, and that applies to all people.”
Another avenue that finds Benatar supportive of our community is through charity, specifically AIDS Walk New York, and she is glad to give of herself and her celebrity.
“It’s really personal, and I pick the ones that mean something to me,” Benatar said. “And I’m particularly grateful to have the opportunity to do so – it makes your life so much better to be able to give back, to share with all.”
Another way Benatar is sharing with fans is by working hard on her autobiography, which she hopes will be out by Christmas. She is also retooling her signature tunes acoustically for a new CD, which will give her lyrical body of work an even rawer, emotional resonance.
That isn’t the only way that Benatar has stripped down, she is really a down-to-earth woman, who seems almost a far cry from the woman that made her reputation on lyrics like “put up your dukes, let’s get down to it,” on “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.”
Benatar explained that she always wore the “tough rocker chick” persona on the outside, but finds that from within, her motivation is really about “being good to each other,” as a whole human race – which is very in tune with Dinah Shore.
If not for a woman in rock, like Pat Benatar, perhaps the door wouldn’t have been left wide open for a group such as the all-female band, The Go-Go’s, to emerge triumphant on the music charts in the ’80s. They are as well known for their catalog of hits, “Our Lips Are Sealed,” “We Got The Beat,” “Vacation” and “Head Over Heels,” as they are for being a pioneering female group.
We talked with one cog in the well-oiled Go-Go’s machinery, Jane Wiedlin, about how the band set the stage for other women to challenge the typically male dominated musical group world, and how they are ready to storm the stage at Dinah Shore.
“The early days of the band were, in my mind, the best times,” Wiedlin recanted. “It was great because people were so supportive and enthusiastic. I don’t think that The Go-Go’s could have made it in any other musical climate than that one.”
Unfortunately, the band did hit a cold spot amongst personality clashes, and creative differences in 1985. By the ’90s, they were ready to put those differences aside, and to start to pick up the creative pieces that had fragmented them years earlier; they released a retrospective CD in 1994, Return to the Valley of The Go-Go’s (which had three new songs), and then in 2001 came God Bless The Go-Go’s, featuring all new material .
Wiedlin shared her feelings with us on how things have changed since they mended fences.
“Well, in some ways we’re more volatile than ever, because we’re five totally different people,” she stated. “And, we still have our issues, and in the past, we would always brush things under the carpet, and then resentments would build. It wasn’t a healthy way to be.
“These days, when someone has a gripe about someone else, it kind of comes up right away with some yelling, and it usually ends in tears, and then hugs, and then it’s over with,” Wiedlin explained. “It’s probably not very pleasant to be around, if you’re not in the band – but for the band, I feel like it’s a step forward, as far as our relationships with each other.”
Each member of the Go-Go’s stayed the musical course after the initial breakup and subsequent reunion, and during that time, Wiedlin released four solo projects, most notably her song “Rush Hour” enjoyed top ten chart success.
Wiedlin also delved into the acting arena in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and was featured on the reality television show, “The Surreal Life.” During that season, it was revealed that she had a “dirty little secret,” being involved in BDSM.
“I knew it would shock people, because I seemed like the girl-next-door type, all sweet and innocent,” she professed. “It was very scary for me to come out of the closet with that – it’s sort of like the last frontier. Coming out of the closet as a gay or lesbian now, of course it’s still hard, but it’s not like the ’50s anymore, it’s gotten a lot better. But as far as being considered a ‘perv,’ forget it – it’s still considered really weird,” she answered laughingly, before getting serious.
“Finally I thought, ‘I’m not ashamed of anything about me, I really am not, there’s nothing wrong about the way I think or live.’ So I decided to do it. I’ve always stated that I’m bisexual for the very same reason, there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s a modern day, man, get over it.”
Being in an all woman band does lend itself to The Go-Go’s having their fair share of lesbian groupies.
“Honestly, no matter what you’ve heard, we have not made a practice of having sex with our groupies, male or female, because we were almost always in relationships,” Wiedlin strongly stated. “For the most part, in the old days, was that boys liked us, but were too intimidated by us as five girls in a gang; the energy was just so crazy, and try to chat us up, whereas girls wouldn’t have a problem with that. I think that’s why there were so many more girls trying to get backstage and meet us than boys.
“And nowadays, pretty much no one tries to get backstage and meet us, unless they’re bringing their kids to get an autograph,” she quipped.
Wiedlin is no virgin to the lesbian Mecca, as far as attending, she is very excited to be in Palm Springs to sow her party girl oats, and to be among the X chromosome set.
“I’m looking forward to being in a town that’s full of people that are there to have the best weekend of their lives,” Wiedlin encapsulated. “And part of that is going to be The Go-Go’s show, and I know that everyone who comes will have a fantastic night.”
From one Jane to another, I also spoke with talented actress Jane Lynch, who has amassed quite a varying body of work, effectively breaking the misnomer that being an out actor equals stereotyping.
“I very rarely view myself as an out actor, as I view myself as an actor,” Lynch asserted. “I just eliminate the word ‘lesbian’ or ‘out,’ and I just become an actor. I’m not so concerned with what other people think; it’s me practicing my craft.”
And apparently practice does make perfect, as Lynch has a variable smorgasbord of all types of characters on her resume.
From her noteworthy comedic turns in the movies of Christopher Guest (Best in Show, and more recently For Your Consideration), playing Will Ferrell’s mom in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby to kiddie friendly fare, like Alvin and the Chipmunks, there is a wide open field of roles for her play, with six movies in the can alone this year.
One of which finds her playing a senator in the comedy, Spring Breakdown, alongside frequent Guest co-star, Parker Posey and “Saturday Night Live” alum, Amy Poehler and Rachel Dratch.
Turning on your television you can catch her on “Two and a Half Men,” and if you listen close enough, you hear her lending her pipes to the animated FOX show, “American Dad.”
And, of course there is her recurring role as Joyce Wischnia on “The L Word.”
Her character of Joyce on “The L Word,” is an unctuous attorney-at-law – which seems at odds with the sweet nature Lynch exuded during our conversation. This led to the question of how is she similar to that particular character.
“In order for me to have to do any character, it has to live in me somewhere,” she said. “And there is an aspect of me that likes to take care, and likes to look like the boss. But I don’t have anywhere near the sexual confidence, or entitlement to happiness that Joyce has. And I learn a lot doing her, I love putting that suit on, and being in that space while I’m acting, like the world is my oyster and nothing can stop me.”
And, that last statement does seem indicative of the faculty that Lynch embodies in her work ethic, and if she had her druthers on procuring a dream role, the actress remained modest as to what it would be.
“Everytime I get a role, I go, ‘Oh my God! This is fantastic!’” Lynch exclaimed. “But I don’t have any agenda. I’ve done much better just walking the path, and I’m not a ‘goals person’ – that doesn’t come to me very naturally. I feel like my dreams come true everytime I get a job.”
As for Dinah Shore, Lynch is no stranger to it, having been a star partaker in the past, and is enthusiastic about her present gig this year. Like Sachs and Wiedlin, it is the bonding of women from many walks of life, reveling together as one, which holds the most appeal for Lynch.
“For a lot of women who come out, it’s nice for them to feel they’re not alone in the world,” Lynch said. “For those who live in parts of the country that don’t have as active a community, there’s not as much access to each other. And, a lot of people travel to Palm Springs every year from all points of the globe, to be apart of this great, little environment.”
These interviews were first published in March 2008