So many wonderful Divas helped to define our Disco World and an entire generation. When I got the opportunity to interview Thelma Houston in January 2020, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to speak to such a legend. I have to say in all my life of meeting musicians, I have only been “starstruck” 5 times. I was surprised at how much I was giddy with excitement talking to her. Why her out of so many others? Well, that interview blossomed into one of the most enjoyable pieces I have ever done. No job is too small for Thelma Houston, and she was rearing up to take on a small tour that I was considering making the road trip for. Fill in the blanks from January 2020 until now, (I know you can especially using the letters c,o,v, i, and d).
Houston was booked to play one of the first real gigs into the “returning” (whatever that means, right?), the Utah Pride Center’s “Loud and Queer” event on October 9th. Now, that was my father’s birthday, and he was a fan of her work, and he was a closeted gay man his whole life. So, somehow it all came to some meaning for this to happen.
I got to the gig at 11 pm, and still had an hour to wait until she took the stage. I went backstage and got to shake her hand, and say hello. She posed for a few glamour shots, and played it up, her charm has no end, just accept that.
My wife and I have not really been out for a long time like this, so it just was a good time meeting old friends at this event, and even shaking hands with Lance Black, another Ex Mormon Celebrity in the LGBTQ community.
From the moment we walked in, my wife looked at me, almost with pity and said “You’re so straight,” clearly I was the worst dressed man in the venue. I guess I had to live with that. Meanwhile, she is getting doted on by all these wonderful gay men, we were continually thanked for being supportive of the community. Not sure why that is such a big deal, we just show up to events and have a good time, it’s not a big chore for either of us, we just love the community.
Prior to Houston taking the stage, the crowd was treated to a “Battle of the Houses”, where the “Great Houses” have a “Walk-Off” on the catwalk. It was great to be presented with this competitive side of the art of drag. While the drag queens were strutting their stuff, telling jokes, and having singles thrown at them, all to whistles and catcalls, it all just made life for that moment carefree, for the first time in so long.
The “Loud and Clear” organizers had flown in Matt Easton, the Mormon BYU student who came out as gay while giving his class valedictorian speech at graduation. He was applauded by so many for that moment, it was historic for the LGBTQ Community in the LDS Church. Only to be singled out and targeted by one of the church leaders in the most public and vicious way recently. The move backfired on the Church, and now Matt Easton is the poster child for the gay Mormon community. He got up, and gave a racy comedic rant…. Yeah, it was great to be back everyone.
A hip-hop performer that failed to impress me, and few bad dancers later, came the introduction for the night’s talent. As the MC read off all of the services Thelma Houston has done for the community, I was still shocked, and I even talked to her at length about it. It read like an obituary of service from a wonderful giving soul. Except, she isn’t dead, no, far from it.
She took the stage and came out dancing, and once she began to sing, I can’t explain how impressing it was to hear a woman age 75 and has been singing like this for at least 60 of those years. She sounded as if we borrowed her from 1979 for a few hours, yeah her voice is still intact.
During her set, her son Rodney came out and danced a bit, they played off each other, she still has that, too. She was dancing, kicking away in high heels, swaying and singing like, well, yeah, might as well have been 1979. What a performer, she makes sure to give you everything she has got.
On the 2nd song she was at the end of the catwalk, and someone was trying to hand her a Fiver, and she wouldn’t take it, he kept trying to hand it to her then she said “I don’t take tips, they pay me VERY well to perform here, but I will take donations” then asked for a charity we could give it to, and everyone said “The UTAH PRIDE CENTER” so she announced that is who we could collect donations for. She said “Ok, who wants to be our treasurer?”, she saw my wife and handed her the money (I think it’s cause my wife was the only sober person in sight). So, for the rest of the performance, people handed her bills, and she tossed them to my wife. She played some classics and paid tribute to her friend the late Aretha Franklyn, and other great numbers.
I walked up to Matt Easton in the VIP area, and seemed happy to see me, hugged me, then said “WHERE IS SHE?” I pointed to my wife over by the stage collecting “ones” and he couldn’t get to her, so he made me promise to bring her to see him before we left. My wife is a hit with gay men, I am okay with that, really I am.
Houston gave a huge thanks to everyone to “come out” and support the event. For all of us, it was just great to get out, and have a good time, over the top, loud and carefree. She finished the show with her token disco piece “Don’t Leave Me This Way”, (the extended dance remix). She had everyone singing in chorus with her, a classic song that announces that Houston is the gold standard.
Thelma gave us everything, no one could say otherwise, one hell of a performance. At age 75, I think she has a bright future of singing ahead of her. You get a knock-out performance from Thelma Houston, she sounds just as great now as she ever did.
At the end of the evening, my wife handed over a HUGE pile of cash to the Pride Center, about $130… (mostly singles). Oh, what a night.
So, I guess I will say “Thank you Miss Thelma” I have wanted to see her perform for a long time, and it was worth the wait.