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Kate Clinton (a.k.a. Lady HaHa) revs up for the fall

by JC Alvarez
Monday Sep 27, 2010

The incomparable Kate Clinton is revving herself up for another round of hilarity! But who could imagine her ever slowing down? She's been on tour for most of the summer, testing out new material for her upcoming benefit performance and limited engagement in New York City's Dixon Place on October 1 - 3, 2010.

Clinton has been a steadfast component of the community for nearly 30 years - certainly having established herself as one of the first advocates speaking out on behalf of the LGBT community and among the initial pioneers performing as an openly lesbian comedian. Her unique brand of straight-forward, frank and satirical political humor has made her one of the most formidable voices on the scene in today. And now she is preparing to challenge her skills further -- Kate Clinton will be using props during the run of her Lady HaHa comedy set. "I've ransacked the house," she said. "I'm very excited!"


Safe house for Lindsey

As I spoke with her, the news that Lindsey Lohan has reportedly fallen off the wagon was all over the Internet, which was enough to move Clinton to offer Lindsey some solace. "I can take care of her," she tells me. "I have a safe house here for Lindsey Lohan."

Clinton’s contributions as an entertainer and personality have solidified her as one of the most relevant figures in the political scheme of things. Many of her most committed fans have relied on Clinton to bring them up to speed on the ever-changing social spectrum of our constantly evolving place in America as openly gay citizens. She does admit that it’s getting better.

"It’s been a really big year for us," she said. And it is: the huge wins at this year’s Emmy’s by very out talent and/or celebrated television series that feature very prominent gay characters, the motion declaring Prop 8 unconstitutional and the efforts being made to bring down Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. All major steps forward.

"And yet the gays complain," she says. "I’m just as impatient as the next person, but democracy -- it takes time," she tells me. "Fascism is faster -- no doubt about it. We saw that during the Bush Years. But," she emphasized, "it takes time. They are moving. There are good things that are happening."


All about the Tea Party

I express my worry we are currently seeing is a rise in very radical behavior by the very loud, very vocal, and very far out New Conservatism (as exemplified by The Tea Party). "It’s not such a new thing," Kate warmly offers to calm my growing paranoia. "There’s always been an extreme movement -- but the megaphone quality of FOX News, Rush Limbaugh -- it just makes it a bigger phenomenon. I only take it as seriously as a Dick Cheney heart attack."

But what about Sarah Palin, Glen Beck and the tea toddling coalition striving to take back America? "I don’t call them the Tea Party Movement -- I call them the Tea Baggers," she says with a hearty laugh. "Do ya think that there might have been a gay man within the movement that might have mentioned, that name wouldn’t be such a good idea?" When I mention Ken Mehlman, Clinton responds: "It’s a good thing he’s using his rolodex for good now!"

She understands that President Obama faces great obstacles and a myriad amount of distraction as he takes a centrist road to governing the country. "I think it’s a lovely idea that the President is choosing to be bipartisan and that he’s reaching across the aisle -- but they’re ready to bite his arm off up to the elbow." No doubt, Clinton and I both agree that the President could use a very health dose of support, as was the case during his election and the early months of his administration. And to their point, the conservatives certainly know how to get a reaction from their base. "Not to diminish it, but I’m jealous," she says about the current mobilization of the Republican Party. "I’d love to have someone funding the liberal movement. I’d love to have people as fired up as those Tea-Baggers!"

Having indulged myself in some political repartee with Kate Clinton, I remind myself again that we have a small matter of business to discuss, specifically her upcoming special engagements at Dixon Place. Her performance on October 1st is a benefit for the fdowntown workshop and rehearsal space. The main stage has hosted some of the most amazing and profound artists of the time and Clinton is thrilled to be showcasing there in New York CIty. "It’s so nice to be able to take the subway to work."

I can’t help but go to the next obvious place: Kate has named her tour Lady HaHa in homage to that other "Lady" currently on our gay radar. We discussed the pop-culture impact of Lady Gaga: "I know... and on the political culture too! She really completely acknowledges that she’s come up through the gay-culture and that the gays have always supported her... like a new-age Bette Midler."


Tofu pants!

Clinton is as obviously taken as the rest of us by the pop-star’s talent. "And the nice thing is that [unlike other pop celebs] I don’t worry she’s gonna OD in front of me." But perhaps Clinton will take a page from Gaga’s recent antics and don a couple of slabs of beef as well. I suggest that she should strategically wrap herself in bacon when she takes the stage at Dixon Place, to which she quipped: "I’m gonna wear some tofu pants!"

But seriously, Kate admits, "I had a wonderful time this summer! The show is practically all new material -- I’m just really happy with it -- I’m really happy and confident!" People are wondering just whom she’s going to target now that Bush is out of the White House, but Clinton immediately chimes in, "I’ll always have the Pope!"

Her talent as a comedian brilliantly established, I was curious if mainstream commercial success is something she has ever been attracted to pursuing. "It’s all about timing," Clinton reveals. "When I started there weren’t a lot of people calling themselves ’lesbian comedians’... and now we’re [fighting] ageism." Yet to look at the whimsically charming Clinton you realize she’s holding up very well. "The thing is, you have to make a lot of compromises -- but I’m very grateful to have been able to do it the way that I’ve been able to do it. I’ve never had to watch what I say. And thankfully so much has already changed."

Referencing a recent article in NEXT Magazine about the differences between the struggles of out gay male comics and their female counterparts, I ask her if women have had it easier in their pursuit of success in the entertainment industry. "Gay men run the business... and maybe they just aren’t supporting their own [talent]; and sometimes to achieve mainstream success you have to distance yourself from the gay culture."

That, though, isn’t the kind of compromise she would adapt to further her career. She has been a role model from the very onset of her career. "There are so many people out there who say they don’t want to be a poster child... well -- you are!"

For tickets and information to Kate Clinton’s Lady HaHa dates: October 1 -3, 2010 at Dixon Place, which the benefit performance on Friday October 1, 2010 @8pm visit the Dixon Place website.

Clinton’s other upcoming dates include: 9.30.2010, Orlando, FL, AARP Life @ 50 Event- Pride Comes in All Ages: Out and Living Life to Its Fullest; 10.8 - 10.10,2010, New York City, NY, CLAGS: In Amerika They Call Us Dykes: Lesbian Lives in the 1970s; 10.14 - 10.16.2010, Provincetown, MA, Crown and Anchor. For more on Kate Clinton, visit the Kate Clinton website.


Native New Yorker JC Alvarez is a pop-culture enthusiast and the nightlife chronicler of the club scene and its celebrity denizens from coast-to-coast. He is the on-air host of the nationally syndicated radio show "Out Loud & Live!" and is also on the panel of the local-access talk show "Talking About".


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