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RightOutTV Artists share their best stories about being in the entertainment business.
When my song "Venice Beach" was chosen to be the theme song for "Venice: The Series", it was absolutely life-changing for me. The first time I tweeted with the wildly enthusiastic fans of the series, someone tweeted, "Jen - is the song on CD yet? We're old school and would love a hard copy!". So in an off-the-cuff moment, I tweeted back, "Send me $10 plus S&H and I'll burn a cd for you w/ theme & a few extras!" I thought I might get 10 orders at the most, and I had my online assistant create a Paypal button on my website for these orders. The next morning, upon waking up, there were nearly 500 orders waiting. The fans had not only bought the "Special Edition Venice CD"...but they had also bought t-shirts, other cds, dogtags, and bumperstickers...for a grand total of almost $17,000.00 in sales. What an amazing day! Picture me in my living room, on my sofa, burning cds and freaking out that my Mac was going to break :)...then signing the cds, as my girlfriend, at the time, gathered each item for each order and handed them off to my friend, Christy, to write the addresses on the packages...it was like an assembly line we had going, and it took 2 full days of this to get it done. Not to mention the time spent at the post office!
As for the digital version of the song, I was using a service called Bandbox at the time, and the Venice fans literally BROKE the Bandbox site ordering the theme! The president of Bandbox actually wrote me to apologize for the issues and to rectify any losses I might have had due to the site being down. This is a testament to the passion of these fans. As I recall, there were more than a few things the Venice fans broke :)!
How my album, The Scenic Route, got its name.
One of many lessons learned on the road is to never… and I mean never… tour the east coast during the cold months. There is a REASON my musical counterparts are recording in the winter.
Picture it. Philadelphia. February. 2010. We roll into Philly at approximately 3am, fall onto an air mattress in the middle of a loft and pass out like drunken sailors. We need a good 8 hours to be show ready – and the show was that night at The Raven Lounge on Rittenhouse Square.
We awaken to a bright white light. No… it’s not God, and it’s not the beautiful sun shining through the 85 windows that line the loft apartment. It’s snow. 30 inches of it, in fact. What the….?!
So… we gear up and get ready. Summer Osborne does NOT cancel a show. I will travel 50 miles, barefoot, in the snow, uphill, both ways. They will have to pry the microphone from my cold dead hands. (ok… so it’s not THAT dramatic… but pretty damn close) The point is, we loaded up the PT Cruiser with all of the equipment, and we headed for Sansom St. Philadelphia, PA. - regardless of the mounds of snow and ice. Because we are professionals.
Here’s the deal. People in Philadelphia do not care about the rules of the road. They park wherever they want to – even if it is ON the median in the middle of Aramingo Avenue. They will park the wrong way down a one-way street if they can fit their car in there. They use bumpers AS bumpers - to bump the car in front of and behind of their own until they get out their Ford LTD out of space the size of a Geo Metro. AND if they don’t WANT you to take what they deem as “their space”, then they’ll put ANYTHING there to hold the spot… i.e. trash cans, chairs, recliners, ottomans, their first born child. So getting safely down the streets is like Atari’s Donkey Kong on crack.
“They’re going the wrong way!”
We pull up to the venue and realize that we should have put chains on our shoes. The bartender wished us luck as we crossed the street three to four times to get all of the equipment in. Thanks dude… thanks a lot.
There were probably three people in the bar for the show, one being a reporter from a local university. He said, “I’m doing a series of stories for our magazine. Thirty shows in thirty days… I figured if your name was Summer, and you were coming to do a show in the midst of a snow storm, I should probably check you out.”
Thanks… thanks again.
On our way back to the Midwest, we decided to save a few bucks and skip the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Hey, it’s $24 one way. And as independent musicians, you save wherever you can, right?? So we input our destination into Svetlana, our navigation system (that’s what we named her…her voice sounds exotic, and she has big problems with pronouncing certain words… so we’re pretty sure she’s foreign) and check the box ‘Avoid Toll Roads’….
I would like to take this time to advise others: There is a difference between cost and worth. And there is a REASON you pay $24 to use the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The reason is - They have blown holes IN the mountains so you can DRIVE THROUGH the mountains. But I digress…
10 hours later, we are STILL in Pennsylvania, weaving up and down mountains, in the dark, in the snow. The PT Cruiser is cursing me… the engine is cursing me going UP the mountains; the brakes are cursing me coming DOWN the mountains. Moreover, the truckers are cursing me all around, because I REFUSE to go over 30 mph.
About every four miles or so, we see a cute little blue sign that says ‘Scenic Route’.
My wife, Lori, road weary and hypnotized by 10 solid hours of snow says, “We’re on the Scenic Route…. at 3am…. in the dark. I hope you can fuckin’ appreciate that.”
Thus became the new album: The Scenic Route
I have had and experienced many wonderful moments as a performer although one in particular rings out as very memorable and extremely fun. As an entertainer I always desire to create something that others can relate to, something that is important to me and shares who I am either from an inspirational place or a theatrical dramatic platform. In 2002 I re-recorded the "Wonder Woman Theme Song" from Lynda Carter's 70’s hit TV Show.
I have always loved Wonder Woman and wanted to be Lynda Carter as a little boy. After recording the fun campy song I had a cover photo shoot for the CD single and decided to dress up as her and feature two sexy wonder boys in the pics. That led to a very campy and gay Wonder Woman music video starring yours truly. I have never thought as myself as a
female impersonator or drag queen but boy was this a hoot. The head of the entertainment for Washington DC’S Gay Pride came across my music video and contacted and invited myself and my dancers out to perform on the main stage in front of the US Capitol Building for a crowd of over 10,000. So here I was in all my glory as Wonder Woman “in satin tights fighting for your rights and the old, red, white and blue” I shared the stage with the amazing Jennifer Holiday (Dreamgirls) and the entire cast of Queer As Folk. A moment in my career that I will always cherish not only as an entertainer but as a childhood dream, to be Wonder Woman, spreading a message of freedom and justice for all!!!
Check out the fun and campy video
THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY
My first time in drag!!
It was a play called Calamity Jane. I played a shyster who rolled into this town in wild west called Frances Fryer. The townspeople hired Frances thinking it was a woman to perform in the local saloon.. So Frances had to dress up like a woman and try to fool the townspeople while performing a song called I’ve Got A Hive Full Of Honey, If You’ll Be My Honey Bee!!
So time comes for the scene. I’m back stage putting on a dress and these ridiculously large fake eyelashes. So big I can hardly see a thing.
I couldn’t find the socks I was to use to stuff my bra, so in a last minute panic, I just grabbed the round makeup sponges and stuffed them in my bra.
I’m out on stage singing this song and at one part of the number, one of the guys tries to grab me to kiss me and I fall on all fours to get away.
Well, as I fall on all fours, I notice something fall and roll. It takes me a couple of seconds to focus my fake eyelashed eyes. I finally realize that the round makeup sponge popped out of my bra. My boob was rolling across the stage!!
Luckily, it played in perfectly with my character. So, being on all fours already, I crawled around the stage after my boob, catching it, standing up, and putting it rightfully back in my bra for all the audience to see. They loved it!! Then I finished the song.
Oh, live theater!! Gotta love it!!
Route 32 was a MESS! The section that ran through my town was possibly the worst stretch of numbered road in the state. Our Board of Selectmen and residents alike were concerned that someone was going to be killed while driving through, even though it was next to impossible to drive more than 35 miles an hour without breaking things on our vehicles.
The town was finally in line for funding to rehabilitate the road, so the word went out through our community newsletter to submit our Route 32 experiences to the Board, and they would forward them to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to help expedite the funding and move the project forward.
The community gladly and prolifically responded, and a professional writer who lives in the neighborhood even wrote a great local take on Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.” I wrote and recorded “Route 32 Blues” as my own statement of the road conditions, and it traveled to our State Senator, to MassDOT in Boston, and, via the head engineer of the project, to a Section Meeting in western Massachusetts.
The local hot AC radio station in the area picked the song up and put it into regular rotation. People in the community were singing along and loving it.
Our local Cultural Council hosts the Royalston Follies at the Town Hall once every three years, so I put together a band called the Car Wrecks to perform “Route 32 Blues.” I included a couple of gay friends as the Doo Wop Boys to help with harmonies, and we dressed the part, including grease rags, wrenches, a tire iron and a hubcap.
As the saying goes, the “squeaky wheel got greased,” and we now have a beautiful SMOOTH road running through my end of town. “Route 32 Blues” still airs regularly on the local radio station, and it was also featured during a break on Car Talk with Click and Clack in November 2012 (episode #1244). The nationally syndicated show airs on NPR stations across the country and has 4 million listeners weekly. Now, how cool is that?