Gaga for the Lady

By Louis Virtel

Originally published on Advocate.com November 13 2008 12:00 AM ET

The racy Lady
Gaga, née Stefani Germanotta, entered hard on singles
charts (particularly on iTunes) with the Colby
O’Donis-aided single "Just Dance" off her
recently released debut, The Fame. Now her candor and
showmanship have earned her a Billboard Top 20 album,
comparisons to Madonna, and frequent championing from
that ubiquitous gay force Perez Hilton.

Gaga sees
celebrity behavior as ritualized art form, a Noh drama in
which limousine arrivals, saucy Maxim interview
quotes, and prison mug shots are all equally rehearsed and
mastered. Though Gaga looks like a Gwen Stefani take
on T. Rex, her intentions, to some degree, are as
serious as a textbook. She believes pop music is
vital, never lowbrow. And maybe she would know best, having
worked with and written tracks for Britney Spears, the
Pussycat Dolls, and New Kids on the Block.

The Advocate phoned Lady Gaga to discuss her
influences, her raunchy persona, and the salacious lady she
calls her "total girl-crush." Oh, and the story behind
that highly suggestive "disco stick" she brandishes
onstage like a titanium emblem off a homosexual
spaceship.

You approach fame like a pop archaeologist,
studying its bizarreness and machinations. Now how does
it feel to experience fame so suddenly?
Oh, it’s really overwhelming and very
exciting. It’s interesting, because you usually
think about fame a certain kind of way in your head, but I
really didn't have a real moment of it until I saw myself on
iTunes at number 1. Because that's your music, you
know? So that was a really different moment for me, as
someone who analyzes fame and celebrity obsession and
media culture and, you know, fame as an art form -- it was
kind of a real moment for me to have my first real dose of
it.

Your bluntness and defiance are signature
attributes. What made you this way? Do you always seek
to defy?
No, I guess it’s just that New York girl
in me. I've got a pinch of some punk in my blood. I've
always been that way; I was always pretty bad-ass
growing up, trying to stay out late. I was always in bands
with boys. I just always wanted to be independent,
making music, and a free woman. It’s just kind
of always been in my blood.

You're a fixture on Perez Hilton’s site. Do you
devoutly follow celeb gossip as part of your interest in glamour?
I used to be more in tune with it than I am now.
Now I'm a lot more focused on, you know, my project,
and more focused on articulating how I'm going to
bring all of my ideas about fame into fruition in my work.
But, yeah, I'm certainly up to date on pop culture -- I read
Perez’s site all the time. I have a tremendous
amount of respect for him as a pop culture journalist.
I'm for sure up to date. It’s funny, I do a lot of
research, if anything, on YouTube and the internet a lot.
Kind of seeing what other artists are doing, fashion
overseas, things like that.

What artists are you watching out for right now? Right now I'm excited that Marilyn Manson's
working on his new album. I'm kind of gearing up for
that.

The influences you've cited in past interviews are
totems of gay culture -- Madonna, David Bowie, Boy
George, Sinéad O'Connor, Andy Warhol. What
draws you to these people? What do you glean from them?
They're performance artists. They go much
further and much beyond being a singer and musician.
It’s about being a visionary and a storyteller. I
just use these artists as a template as the kind of artist I
want to be and the kind of figure that I want to be
remembered as. 

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You must have a favorite Madonna persona. Wow ... hmm. Erotica. I loved her in the
latex with the black lips and all that. It’s defiant,
you know? Most remember sort of remember Madonna most
famously for the Like a Virgin bridal gown.
That’s a bit more traditional in my eyes.
There’s something about the erotic look that was
so inappropriate, so unsuitable for television. Even at,
like, 3 a.m.

If you had to role play, would you be more like the
"straight" rocker David Bowie or the "gay" David
Bowie, flanked by an amorous Mick Jagger?
Hello! Gay, gay, gay! Did you even have to ask?
Gay, gay, gay, gay, gay! Yes! With Jagger on the side.

How do the spectacles of your show come together?
And how did your famous prop "the disco stick" come to be?
The disco stick has gone through many a
metamorphosis. Originally it was going to be a cane.
Then we started to talk about the club shows and the
fact that I was going to be moving around, you know, from
country to city to city all the time -- and without a
tour bus for the first part of my tour. So I started
to think about ways that we could have a
self-contained show that was still really powerful and felt
like you were watching an artist who’s been
around for 10 years.

So we started
playing with ideas about light and fashion and how we could
incorporate them into the show. And so the disco stick
became a light-up invention. And from that came the
glasses, and then I came up with the LCD-screen
glasses and iPod glasses. For me, the philosophy was
"trash sophisticated." It was "How do I create a show, a
traveling show, a circus that still feels like they got in
everything?" And then we throw in a microphone plugged into
an amp. Something I can travel with, something
that’s beautiful, something that has strong
imagery that doesn't require a staff of 50 and 80 trucks.
So, you know, for me, it was just wrapping my head
around stuff.

From a fashion
perspective it's incorporating technology into the work.
It's putting stage design into the clothing.

What’s your biggest fashion must? I love my sunglasses. They're just great because
no matter what you freaking have on, if your
hair’s messed up and you've got no makeup on,
just pop those puppies on and you're good.

lady gaga 02 x390 (publicity) | advocate.com 

You hop on a girl’s lap in the video for
"Poker Face." Is sexuality-bending just part of your act?
I would say yes. I mean, I think I'm a
free-spirited woman, and I intend to continue to push
sexual boundaries in my work visually and musically.

Let’s say you're only allowed one decadent
lesbian fling in your life -- who’s it going to
be with? And who dominates during the proceedings?
I would say ... Dita von Teese. I have a total
girl-crush on her. And who’s dominating? I
think it would have to be an equal love-sharing. 

Though your biggest single thus far is “Just
Dance,” you said in an interview that you don't
consider yourself a dance artist. Care to explain?
I think that, especially since the word
dance is in the title, that sometimes, you
know, I've been called a "dance artist" a lot, but I
make pop music. And it’s got a rock 'n' roll heart
and a little R&B flavor in the melodies. The
lyrics are super twisted. I mean, it’s not a
dance record -- if you put it up next to an Ida Corr
record or a Bob Sinclair record, it’s not dance,
it’s pop. I want to challenge people to think
about pop in a less compartmentalized-genre kind of
way and just think of it a song. I think with this album
proving itself in the pop world, we can break out of
boundaries, think outside of the box, and do something
that’s a little bit left of center and still
get played on radio.

I take it we can only expect your gay following to
grow exponentially in the near future?
I want to keep making great music, and what I
love about the gay community and my gay fans is
there’s no getting anything past them. It’s
either great music and a great artist and a great dress or
it’s not, you know? [Laughs] The gays
are never afraid to go, "Honey ... I didn't like that
outfit." There’s a real honesty and trust with my
gay fans. I'm always going to be 150,000% percent loyal.

To me, it doesn't
matter if I make it big-time as a pop sensation, Top
40, playing in clubs, and selling out arenas all over the
world. The gay community is always with me. Always,
always. I'm not moving on or changing. With the gay
community, it’s always and forever.

The Fame is in
stores and on iTunes now.