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Ann Hampton
Callaway: Out at Last

Ann Hampton
Callaway: Out at Last


After years of writing for the likes of Barbra Streisand, Patti LuPone -- even Fran Drescher -- Ann Hampton Callaway steps center stage with a new album and an announcement: She's gay.

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 The Nanny, 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 Swing ?

Her name is Ann Hampton Callaway, and although she has just released a new album called At Last, there is something else she is ready to share with the public for the first time -- her gay sexuality. 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 time? 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 marriage. 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. 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 through.

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, and life.

Earlier this month Etta James said Beyonce 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 think, 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 [Beyonce] didn't find her own interpretation. Shame on Beyonce 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 aware.

Your show is different from American Idol in that there is an element of connecting and learning about the history of the songs performed. What are your thoughts on American Idol ? 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 getting older? 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.

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