Ari at 7 years old:
Ari all grown up and in 3D:
Given the recent release of his remix retrospective, Play My F**kn Remix, and the 3D version of the video for its lead single, "Play My F**kn Record," I wanted to talk to recording artist Sir Ari Gold about, among other things, childhood and what it means for him to look back on his career at this point.
Laverne Cox: In preparing to talk to you, I re-watched your performance on The Joe Franklin Show when you were 7 years old. What do you think 7-year-old Ari Gold would think of you today?
Sir Ari Gold: I think he would be proud of me and how far I've come, but also proud because in some ways I haven't changed -- as you were saying to me over the phone.
Cox: There's a consistency. We are who we are. But I definitely think you've evolved.
Gold: One of the things that always strikes me about that performance (at this point, the memory of watching the video is stronger than the memory of how I felt in the moment) is in that last moment. The VHS tape has a glitch on it, and in that glitch I'm bowing, and in my bow this little bit--
Cox: You're so shy.
Gold: My shyness comes out.
Cox: It's beautiful.
Gold: After doing this four-key-change "Yankee Doodle Dandee/Give My Regards to Broadway" medley, my shyness, at the very end, comes out. It's interesting also because the idea to do that song was not mine, obviously, at 7 years old. "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and "Give My Regards to Broadway," especially "Yankee Doodle Dandy," are like these all-American songs, and I was never considered all-American. So here it is, this gay boy, this orthodox Jew boy, singing these songs that I'm not. I was not a Yankee Doodle dandy at all. Well, maybe the dandy part.
Gold: There was lots of gay knowledge there already at 7.
Cox: What does that mean, "gay knowledge"?
Gold: As far as being different, feeling more feminine-identified, already being obsessed with things that were sort of these gay markers: The Wizard of Oz, The Magic Garden. (I'm not sure if my Wonder Woman obsession happened yet.) So yes, he'd be proud of me. He'd be proud of the fact that I embrace my femininity but found a way to get in touch with my masculinity. He'd be proud that I've accepted my sexuality. I've became, in many ways, what that 7-year-old probably didn't think was possible.
Cox: That's powerful. That little kid who was working all the time in show business, got rave reviews in The New York Times for playing Winthrop in The Music Man, sang with Diana Ross, and did all these cartoons for Cabbage Patch Kids and Jem, would be surprised that you're still working in the entertainment business?
Gold: No, no, no! Not surprised I'm still performing and doing that but surprised at being a sex symbol.
Cox: What's this "sex symbol" thing? What does that mean for you? I mean, watching the "Play My F*ckin Record" video, you're in your underwear. You're running around the town naked. I was thinking about that in relationship to that little kid.
Gold: Well, I think it means a lot. You said you wanted to talk about childhood, and you were bullied. I was also bullied a lot, and I never felt accepted by the other boys. My sexuality felt wrong -- not desirable. So to be able to become that object of desire, I'm always struck by what makes somebody decide to go the path of being transgender, or the path that I went on. I felt more identified with female things and stuff, and I was bullied and saw the masculine and the male as the object of desire but, somewhere along the line, made the choice to become that object. And somewhere for you--
Cox: I tried to become like the women I admire, but I just don't desire women sexually.
Gold: Right. When I say "choice," I don't mean "choosing," but that's the fascinating part. When do these things happen so that they become who we are?
Cox: I do believe that when we get older, we become more of ourselves, at least ideally. I think it's wanting to be a girl vs. knowing you are a girl. For me as a trans woman, I very much knew that I was a girl.
Gold: I didn't think that I knew I was a girl. I just knew that I wasn't like the other boys, and I liked things girls liked.
Cox: I am blessed enough to have trans women of color writing to me to tell me that my work, pursuing my dreams publicly, has inspired them. I imagine that in the 13 years since your first album was released, you've inspired lots of folks to be truer to themselves.
Gold: There was a comment online that said, "I love Ari Gold. He made me realize I could accept my religious identity and sexuality at the same time," referring to my "My Favorite Religion" video, even though that video, in a lot of way, seems controversial or blasphemous.
Cox: How does that comment make you feel, that you made someone feel comfortable embracing their religion and their sexuality, like really taking that in?
Gold: A friend of mine read my charts one time, and I'm moon, moon, moon -- triple moon.
Cox: So "moon, moon, moon" means?
Gold: It means that I'm highly reflective, that people reflect their shit onto me. And that made a lot of sense to me. I think I get a lot of positive but also negative response because of that. In some ways I feel I'm this very typical, archetypal gay man. So, therefore, a lot of the internalized homophobia can get shot onto me because of what I represent.
Cox: So then why is that hurtful, if you say that in many ways you're a typical, archetypal gay man?
Gold: I'm trying to elevate us and myself. I get really angry when people say, "Oh, he thinks just cause he's gay, we're supposed to like it." Not at all! You should like it because it's a good song or a good album, or you like my voice and you like the genre and mediums I'm working within. But if you also want to hear stories and see themes that are glaringly absent in pop music, then support my work so that the industry sees there is a need for LGBT stories in all mediums. I work extremely hard as an independent artist, doing all this shit myself, essentially, to produce quality work. And since the beginning, my whole thing has been, "Look, we can be our own pop stars."
Cox: I think that's why my inner-child work is so important. How do I feel about Laverne at my core when the cameras turn off? When there are no fancy directors or red carpets, when I am home alone and my wig is off, no makeup, how do I feel about Laverne? How do you feel about Ari?
Gold: There are times when I really enjoy being home, when I don't shower and I do what I call "simmer in my own juices."
You can download Ari's Play My F**kn Remix
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All the boys keep calling me.
They can't stop whistlin',
The boys keep on whistlin'.
They lovin' it and feelin' it and can't stop whistlin',
The boys keep on whistlin'.
It's one of those songs that makes you feel good about being a girl, those moments when you know you're looking and feeling good, 'cause all the boys are whistling, but it's so not about them. They're not worth our time, anyway, Ms. Jam suggests. "I admit I never, ever look a mess. Damn, I look good in this dress," she sings. Her call for us to put our hands on our hips and roll our necks is a fun dance move that also serves as a kiki rebuff of unwanted advances. Girl power 2012!
I had the pleasure of seeing Mila Jam perform live for her legions of gay fans earlier this month in a concert she did at the New York City hot spot Industry. Mila Jam is one of those artists you have to see live. Get thee to a Mila Jam show. Someone said to me after her concert that night, "Years later, when she's a huge star, we'll say we were at Industry when she blew the roof off the place and announced to the world that she ain't playing." She closed the show with "Whistle" and premiered the music video for the song. The video is effective in relating Mila's girl-next-door sex appeal and the female empowerment of the song. But the magic, energy, and charisma of seeing Ms. Jam perform that song live, dancing full-out with precision choreography and several backup dancers, cannot be replicated precisely in video. You had to be there. Mila Jam has mastered the art of singing live and dancing full-out at the same time, perhaps due to her musical theater background. She performed for years in the international touring company of Rent.
What was most impressive about Jam's Industry concert is that she can go from full-scale production numbers, with dancers and choreography, to simply singing all alone onstage. She's just as compelling doing both. The emotional high point of the show was a tender ballad Ms. Jam penned, called "Lions." When she sang, "We're fighting like lions and growling at each other," it was clear that Mila Jam has experienced real pain. I was brought to tears by her rendition of that song. Her voice has a delicate sweetness. Her vocal tone is like honey, but the voice is also powerful and packs a punch. Mila Jam is an artist and performer that the world should know.
For more info on Mila Jam, go to MilaJam.com.
You can download "Whistle" at
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