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As summer ended, Dave Koz put down his saxophone and paused to take a breath. He'd just finished a packed concert tour, launched his own line of wines, and auditioned for a "big TV show" that sounds a lot like Dancing With the Stars. (He won't say which "big TV show," since he didn't quite make the cut.)
Now, Koz is home in his native Los Angeles for a little party on the sidewalk outside the Capitol Records building, his musical home for 20 years. Today, with some 60 friends and countless fans watching, Koz gets his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It's an honor he calls "very, very cool, unexpected, and still shocking."
Maybe it's not the first star ever granted to a gay performer who's already out, but finding another example among the 2,000-odd recipients is a needle-haystack proposition. No DeGeneres, no McKellen, no O'Donnell -- and the only Melissa is a Gilbert.
His pink, five-pointed imprint of immortality duly unveiled -- two stars down from Garth Brooks -- it was back into the fray for Koz. He's prepping for his 13th smooth jazz Christmas concert tour, with the original 1997 lineup of David Benoit, Peter White, Rick Braun, and Brenda Russell. In January he hosts the fifth and final sold-out Dave Koz Cruise, followed by the run-up to the release of a new album. Due next spring, it will be his first CD of all-new, original material since he came out in The Advocate in 2004.
"I'm always changing, always morphing," Koz says.
That's easy to believe from a jazz man whose website urges fans to buy wine and "cookies for a Koz" -- both benefit the Starlight Children's Foundation -- on the same page where it urges them to read gay activist David Mixner's eulogy for Sen. Ted Kennedy, a friend and hero to Koz.
He's a one-man industry with his own company, cheekily dubbed Just Koz. He's also "just Koz" in his private life: At 46, he's still single, and still hopeful.
Advocate.com: What's your take on being part of the Hollywood Walk of Fame?
Dave Koz: Growing up in Los Angeles, I used to go with my parents and my brother and sister down there and look at the stars, and my favorite thing to ask my parents was, "Who's this?" So now people will be walking by my star and going, "Who's Dave Koz?"
How did your star come about?
They choose about 25 a year, and I'm sure that they get thousands of applications. Somebody -- I'm still not sure exactly who -- applied on my behalf. It's not like they give you a warning ahead of time. I found out the day that the press announcement was made. The timing is kind of funny. It's synonymous with my 20-year anniversary of record making. My first album came out in 1990 [on Capitol], but it was delivered in 1989. As gay as it sounds [laughs], it's exciting. It's like a little piece of old Hollywood, and I get a chance to have it there, hopefully, forever. And don't you know that if I'm in town I'll be right there, with a bottle of Windex and a rag.
If the star is meant to honor your body of work, has it made you think about where your career is right now? Have you reached a certain level that you're comfortable with? Or do you want to be Kenny G?
I don't want to be anybody other than me, I'll tell you that much. I feel like I could sit here and say, "I've sold a lot of records, I've traveled all over the world, I've met presidents and royalty -- wasn't it wonderful?" Or I can look forward and say, "Yeah, it was wonderful, but my best days are ahead of me." And that's the way I truly feel.
Even with the CD business in crisis mode?
It may not be the CD business. The live business is booming. And I've always looked at new ways to expand that are kind of unusual. [In August] we debuted a brand-new Napa Valley wine, three different varietals, available in 40 Whole Foods stores in California, Arizona, and Nevada, and every dollar that I make goes to my pet charity, the Starlight Children's Foundation, which I've worked with for about 20 years. I know that the people who appreciate my music, generally speaking, love wine as well. So this seemed like a logical next step.
I don't want to do anything that's just comfortable, that I've done before. I want to be stretched and prodded. This morning I got invited to play the Nobel Peace Prize concert with a 60-piece orchestra, and I can't go, because I'm on my Christmas tour. I can't feel bad about it, because I've got a monthlong Christmas tour that's jam-packed. But to me, in a nutshell, that's what my life and career is about right now -- being as open as possible to the new things, the new experiences that push the envelope for me.
Right after you came out in The Advocate, you made People magazine's most eligible bachelors list. Are you still a bachelor?
I am such a bachelor. [Sighs dramatically] Yes, I'm a bachelor.
When's that going to change, Dave?
I don't know. I've thought about this, and it isn't like I haven't had my share of dates and, um, enjoyment of life, if you will, but as far as settling down and having a little quieter life, that may come a little later. I've made peace with that. By the same token, I remain open to it happening at any time.
You had a cameo on Bravo's Millionaire Matchmaker when your brother was featured. Would you be willing to do the gay version?
They asked me to do that. [Laughs] I was mortified. I don't want to parade [my dating life] around on television -- let alone on Bravo, which every single person in the world seems to be watching.
Not long after you came out, you said you noticed the increased visibility of gay fans at your concerts. Has that settled in now? Is there always going to be a little section of Dave Kozdom occupied by your gay fans?
Well, they don't sit in their own section. But I have been seeing that, and nothing delights me more. The thing that kind of energizes me most [during a concert] is looking at the audience and seeing the wide swath of different people. It's the miracle of the concert experience: You've got all these disparate souls, all coming together, with different problems and issues in their lives -- family issues, work issues, romantic stuff, whatever -- and it's the performer's responsibility to take all of that energy, going in a million different directions, and center it all so that the shared experience can be meaningful for all these different people. That's the thing I love most about performing -- that joy of bringing people together for a shared experience you can't get in any other way.
So with all the talk about how iPods and the Internet are isolating people, you believe that the core musical experience is still the collective one.
I really believe that. That's the reason why we'll always have concerts. You can't watch a DVD of some concert and have that same collective experience. And you don't feel the same way in a movie theater.
But in between shows, we still need CDs -- or at least iTunes. Do you have a title yet for your upcoming album?
I don't, but we've been playing one song on our summer tour called "It's Always Been You," which I wrote with Brian Culbertson. I really love that song. You know how you can bang your head against the wall, trying to work through things, and then all of a sudden you get the answer that you've been searching for this whole time, and in that moment you realize it's been in front of me this whole time. And I think that's an emotion that a lot of people can relate to.
That song is putting out into the universe a call for that person in my life -- where all of a sudden he shows up and it's like, it's been right here in front of me this whole time and I never realized it. When it's destiny, you don't have any questions about it. I've not met that person as of yet, but I have faith that he's coming, and it will feel that way when the time is right.