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My chat with Melissa Etheridge!

I’ve encountered Melissa Etheridge three times face-to-face and each time, I thought she was a pretty cool lady.

The first time was at the Oscar nominees luncheon in 2007, the year she won for best original song, and she seemed a bit overwhelmed to be at an event with so many big movie stars.

Then the next year, I saw her perform at the Democratic National Convention in Denver and she rocked the place. Prior to the concert, I got to ask her a few questions inside this stuffy tent where they had a VIP reception.

And finally, on Saturday night in Long Beach.

Still recovering from a lingering flu, I went to the event and made sure not to touch anyone’s hands or cough in their faces – especially Melissa!

She was the guest of honor at the gala opening of Coming Out in Long Beach, a gala opening for a Historical Society of Long Beach exhibit which chronicles LGBT history in the city dating back to 1914.

Melissa is part of that history. She lived in the city for more than three years in the early 80s and pre-fame, played regularly at the lesbian bar Que Sera.

‘This is the place where I learned about politics,’ she says. ‘I remember being cornered at the bar by those lesbians saying, ‘Are you registered to vote?’ They were organizing. It was the 80s, AIDS was just coming. This town really pulled together.’

The influence the community had on Etheridge was so profound that she knew she wouldn’t ever be able to stay closeted for the sake of her career.

‘It inspired me to be strong,’ she says. ‘Everybody knew I was gay and I wasn’t going to be up there and be famous and go, ‘Oh, I’m not gay.’ It was all about being out. It’s this community that really inspired me.’

She said it was a no-brainer for her to agree to appear at the opening of the historical society exhibit.

‘It’s so hard to find us in history period,’ she said. ‘For a historical society to finally say, ‘Okay you lesbians and gays, you were a part of our history is great. We have a wonderful history.’

FILE UNDER: Lesbian, Music


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