By Dustin Fitzharris
Originally published on Advocate.com February 18 2009 12:00 AM ET
She was working in a bridal shop in Flushing, Queens
You know you can finish the rest (although the middle part is
tricky, so do what everyone does and hum it or make up your own
words). Of course, that's the theme from the TV show
starring Fran Drescher. But did you know the woman who wrote
and sang that song has recorded close to a dozen albums, has
written songs performed and recorded by Barbra Streisand, Patti
LuPone and Carole King, and received a Tony nomination for her
role in the Broadway musical
Her name is Ann Hampton
Callaway, and although she has just released a new album called
there is something else she is ready to share with the public
for the first time -- her gay sexuality.
Advocate.com:After all these years you are finally at a place where you
are comfortable discussing your sexuality. How did that come
about?Ann Hampton Callaway:
I've discussed my sexuality with my friends and peers, but I've
never discussed my personal life with the press. I had partners
who weren't comfortable with me being "officially"
out. However, for me, I feel like I'm depriving myself and
friends of just being who I am and embracing the life I've led
and all the pain I've endured.
Was there any significance to coming out at this point in
I'm not only a singer but also a citizen. We have made great
strides in electing Barack Obama, a thoughtful and intelligent
man with a great vision for our country, but we still have
Proposition 8 staring us in the face. Even though we've made
great advances, there is a lot more work to be done, and I want
to be a part of that. It will take all of us to step forward
now and say who we really are. Maybe by me coming out people
will say, "I love Ann Hampton Callaway." It may
change their face as to who gay people are.
What do you think is the future of Proposition 8?
It may be a semantic problem that people have with the word
Some call marriage an act of God, and in all of the very narrow
interpretations of the Bible or whatever their religious book
is, if they take these passages so literally, then they're
never going to accept gay marriage. How do you get people to
see that everyone is a human being and has the right to
celebrate, honor, and sanctify the relationship they have with
someone they have chosen to share their life with?
You have a new CD out called "At Last." Tell me about
It's a collection of love songs for adults, and I say that with
a little wink in my eye. It's the most unbridled and personal
collection of songs that I've recorded to date. I was trying to
capture this moment in my life of finding my great love and
reaching a sense of peace about all the different steps and
missteps it took for me to come to this place. It's a
celebration and embracing all of the hell and gorgeousness of
the emotions and experiences that love puts all of us
Have you found fulfillment in love?
I have. I've had moments in my life where I thought I had found
"the one," but being in the two-year relationship
that I'm in now is a revelation for me. I'm finally with
someone who is the perfect match for me. I feel like the
Goldilocks of love. You know, where she sat down in one chair
and it was too hard. Then she sat in another and it was too
soft. Finally, she sat in a chair that was just right. That's
how I feel about my partner. She's full of love, intelligence,
Earlier this month Etta James said Beyoncé was
going to get "her ass whipped" for singing "At Last,"
the song she made famous, for one of Obama's inaugural balls.
Are you nervous that James is going to come after you next?
What I've noticed about other singers singing "At
Last" is they always copy Etta James's arrangement, and I
What is so hard about finding your own arrangement and
interpretation? Why do you have to copy this great rendition of
a song that's already been done beautifully by the person who
dreamed of it?
My suspicion is if [James] is mad, it's because
[Beyoncé] didn't find her own interpretation. Shame on
Beyoncé if that is, in fact, the case.
Can you tell me about the TV show you have been working on
for PBS called
Singer's Spotlight With Ann Hampton Callaway
It's a television talk-variety show celebrating America's great
interpreters of song. We've done two pilots that aired in
Chicago, and they were beautifully received by the press. We
are in the midst of raising the remaining $2
million to finish the first season, but with this
economy, we are at a standstill. We need a show like this for
Americans -- especially young people who don't know about our
great singers and songs. I know young gay boys who don't know
who Liza Minnelli is. It's inexcusable that people aren't
Your show is different from
in that there is an element of connecting and learning about
the history of the songs performed. What are your thoughts on
I have a love-hate relationship with the show. I love that
Americans are so interested in singers. However, I often think
the emphasis is on the appearance and the gimmick of the
sexiness as opposed to how to really interpret a song and how
to reach into your soul and do something that is original to
you. I think it's turning into a formula, and any time you turn
something into a formula you take the life out of it. It's like
taking a Xerox of a song instead of the real song.
You have written a few songs for Barbra Streisand, including
"I Dreamed of You," the song she sang to James Brolin on
their wedding day. Do you ever just pick up the phone and say,
"Hey, Babs, it's me?"
I've had many wonderful conversations with Barbra over the
years on the phone and in person. But no matter how wonderful
our times have been, I still feel in a state of awe over her.
She's not one of those people you just take off your shoes with
and get all cozy. She's Barbra Streisand! Your heart always
beats faster when you're in the same room. It's like finding
out that Santa Claus is a real person.
And while we are talking about a diva, are you a diva?
I am, but I say it as a joke. I am possibly one of the easiest
people to work with. I know how to comb my own hair, and I
don't ask people to take out the green M&Ms. I do love
hearing those diva stories, though.
You will turn 51 in May. What is the greatest thing about
Learning that not everyone is going to love you. If you spend
your life waiting for the moment when everyone is going to love
you, then you're going to miss out on half of your life. You
don't care as much about pleasing people; you care more about
being your true self.