We Laughed. We Cried. We Met Hillary Clinton.

ben joanne selfieOne of the biggest Pillow Talk fans is my dear friend Ben Church. We met as teenagers at Central Piedmont Community College so we could get high school and college credit on our transcripts. As seemingly the only two queer, homeschooled students on Levine Campus, there was an instant connection — our shadows cast a rainbow on the school’s brick face. We met in our first class around 8:15am, 45 minutes early because, well, that’s what good homeschoolers do: Not realize non-homeschooled students are never on time for class, let alone in their seats before the teacher is there.

The two of us were the happy face and sad face theatrical masks: he turned on the waterworks over wonderful and sad things while I was the buoyant Liza Minnelli of the Student Government Association. He used to punctuate a sentence with, “Kisses, Ben!” when we were supposed to be practicing Spanish in the language lab. He sounded like a walking 8×10 glossy that an MGM starlet might sign in bulk to mail to fans of their movies.

This weekend, we joined forces to meet the (hopefully) future first female president of the United States, Hillary Clinton. 

Hillary was set to speak in support Senator Kay Hagan’s reelection campaign last Saturday at the Charlotte Convention Center. The event invited past and present volunteers. I tore tickets at the front door. Then I wormed my way to the front of the crowd. Hillary spoke last. I was mesmerized by her presidential-esque speech, which was filled with quotables like, “Women’s rights are like the canary in the cave. If you don’t protect them, everyone’s rights are at stake.”

SOBBING.

I almost cried, but I wanted to preserve my makeup in case I got a photo with her. Ben, who was down several people from me, was full-on blubbering. The two eventually came around the front row and shook hands with people. I was squished between a lithe man and a big guyhillary hello who stuck his green-checked shirted arm over my head to shake Clinton’s hand.

Then she was in front of me.

“Congratulations on your granddaughter!” I said.

“Thank you!” she said.

That’s when my head start spinning. Her face was glorious and wise and smiling. I looked at her turquoise beads and earrings.

“Turquoise is your color!” I said, and she laughed. Yes, I made Hillary Clinton laugh. All we needed were two mimosas, a fluffy pink bed and a captain’s hat and we would have been filming an episode of Pillow Talk.

Ben, through tears, told her that she inspired him. Her eyes got glassy. Glassy! They were crying together.

Once the last Secret Service agent disappeared behind the navy curtain, I found Ben. We made a high five Hillary video, and then went out for celebratory nachos and frozen margaritas. We gabbed en route to the restaurant about the quality of Hillary’s handshake.

“It was firm,” he said.

“Her hands were soft,” I noted.

“She exfoliates,” he said, as if he knew this fact the whole time and was just now telling me.

The experience of meeting Hillary is even more special because I did it with my old partner-in-crime. Ben, I can’t wait until Hillary invites us for brunch in the Diplomatic Room someday.

Until next week: What’s the best and/or most exciting thing you’ve done with a best friend? Tell me and follow me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook!

Can We (Pillow) Talk?

Welcome to the Pillow Talk with Joanne blog, published every Tuesday!

When I first started filming Pillow Talk in November 2013, I had only one goal: To get the best and brightest in Charlotte into bed with me. To talk about the issues of the day while wearing caftans and pretending to receive calls on a kitschy rotary phone. To post episodes, co-produced by the fabulous Donald Devet. I was looking to do out-of-the ordinary interviews with guests that were usually seen behind a podium or in a chair — all while wearing a fake captain’s hat.

While I was interviewing other people about their lives, something big was going on in my own: I was struggling with publicly coming out as a queer woman. My family and close friends had known for years, but I otherwise kept my personal life a state secret.

The first episodes of Pillow Talk aired in January 2014. That was the same month I came out on the cover of QNotes magazine. I knew it was the right time for me to come out. I was mentally ready to be out and proud. The only doubt that lingered was how my day job would respond. I was a paralegal at a conservative law firm, one where the only out lesbian partner wore a lot of beige turtlenecks and had the protection of a few high-level partners in the firm. I had no such bodyguard-age. Or surplus of beige turtlenecks.

I was out there for the taking. As one of my former supervisors would later say, being out at the firm would have been “career suicide.” Yes, career suicide.

Pillow Talk was the beginning of a new era for me. I no longer wanted to live a double life of the cardigan-wearing, pearls and let’s-pretend-we-don’t-eat work lunches when I was a fuchsia pants wearing, screaming-through-a-mouthful-of-lunch-cheeseburger kind of person. Plus, the insidious white male privilege of my law firm made me deeply angry. The firm could have all the diversity programs in the world and there would still be a frat boy attorney making a crass comment to another frat boy attorney about what Sally Legal Assistant wore for the firm Halloween party. I wanted to set fire to their bookcases and roll out of there for good.

Luckily, I didn’t have to resort to arson. A new day job came in March 2014, thanks to my knight-in-shining armor, Mr. Gold. We did coffee at Amelie’s in uptown while it was snowing outside in February. As he walked outside after our meeting, he did a Lana Turner headsnap, looked at me, and said, “Don’t worry, Joanne. I’m going to get you out of there.”

And he did. His promise to me was as solid as his last name. If I was out of the closet because of the QNotes cover story, Mr. Gold carried me on his shoulders out of that room where the closet was and into the daylight. I was free. I could write about what I wanted as an openly queer woman. I didn’t have to play it straight anymore.

Every Tuesday, you and I are going to (pillow) talk. While full episodes of the show are on hiatus – Donald and I will bring it back better than ever, so no peeking yet – I’m bringing Pillow Talk to you in the form I’ve loved my whole life and pursued professionally since age 13: the written word.

Until next week, I’ll leave you with a mini episode of Pillow Talk: drag queen Roxy C. Moorecox talking about her taffetta gown and being electric in bed. Follow me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook!

Pillow Talk This Weekend! (Video)

Pillow Talk This Weekend! (Video)

PT has its first LIVE show this weekend! 

You are not going to want to miss out — there will be pageantry, drama AND a chance for me to win a $2,000 grant — which The Knight Foundation will match.

I need you there to vote for me.

What does this money mean? It means funding season two of PT and a fabo launch party at a soon-to-be-selected performance space. Mystery! Intrigue!

Get your tickets here. BBQ and drinks will be served.

Thanks to Project Art Aid for selecting me as a finalist for the Queen City Soup grant!

Need more convincing? Here’s a little video to rock (the bed) vote.

 

Pam Ann Takes Flight in Charlotte

Pam Ann Takes Flight in Charlotte

Pam Ann

If any of you know me at all, you realize drag queens are my inspiration for being. That’s why I love Pam Ann so much: She has been mistaken for a drag queen and happens to be a biological woman. Comedian Caroline Reid created the persona of a sassy ’60s Pan Am flight attendent in 1996 and has been performing around the world ever since. She’s coming to Charlotte today with her one-woman show The Pam Ann Cockpit Tour 2013. She took a moment out of her busy flight schedule to chat with me. Check it out in this week’s Creative Loafing, in print and online!

My Night As Andy Warhol

My Night As Andy Warhol

Hi, I'm Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol,
Andy Warhol Visits a Law Firm. 2013. Instagram.

Andy Warhol. What was first a Halloween costume at the office turned into my alter ego for the next two weeks. The best part of all of it — besides making judgmental faces at people and asking them to say words that describe what I want to say — was that the entire costume was already in my closet. I’ve had that long blonde wig for years. I just pinned it up into Warhol’s signature bob. For research, I watched a fantastic three-hour documentary called “Andy Warhol – The Complete Picture” on YouTube. I studied Warhol’s cadenance, his reactions to news and people and of course his pop art.

Check out the results in the Arts Alive section of The Charlotte Observer and an extended version with antics from the cutting room floor. My videographer Donald Devet is everything, by the way.

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New on Huffington Post: Boycotting Barilla? The Top 5 LGBT-Friendly Pastas

New on Huffington Post: Boycotting Barilla? The Top 5 LGBT-Friendly Pastas

Chef Boyardee

Boycotting Barilla because of its recent anti-LGBT comments but still love good pasta? I’ve got the solution for you: My latest on the Huffington Post names the five pastas and one sauce that will have you saying, “I’ll have a side of equality with my rigatoni, please!”

Out of Office Reply

Out of Office Reply

beachfeetSome people have asked me over the last year, “Joanne, why don’t I see your byline as much?” Others have said, “Joanne, why are you always at the beach or eating a hot dog or doing the George Michael in public restrooms?” Still others don’t know my name and only ask if I would like the small or medium curly fry. These are all valid questions and I have one very good answer for the first two.

I am writing my first novel. 

For me, the ongoing process of creating an entire new world filled with engaging characters is a lot like having imaginary friends. You walk down the bread aisle and think, “Would my heroine eat garlic toast as a snack instead of a before dinner carb item?” or “The hero wouldn’t wear those chinos because he would say his ass looks too big in them.” Before I know it, I’m so lost in thought that my Harris Teeter grocery store cashier is asking me for the third time whether I want paper or plastic. They just want to throw my bunch spinach at me, and really at that point I would have it coming.

These are the conversations I’m having with myself these days, which my good writer friend Keia thinks is hilarious, thank goodness. I have allowed myself to scribble notes and stuff them in my purse. I will start to drift off to sleep and realize, “Dang, she should hobble into the room, not crawl.” Then I write it down on the notepad by my bed in the dark, so when I wake up in the morning I am sure not to understand what I wrote at all. It looks like a gremlin has written an illegible note to get more cream of shoe.

Writing a novel gives you permission to be weird. Well in my case, maybe just a shade or fifteen weirder than usual. It has always been my dream to be an author, the kind that pitches her publisher, gets the green light and then goes off to her beach house for three months to write the book. I am working on this dream every day while in my Andy Warhol t-shirt, typing out words through moments when I’d rather be napping to “Sex and the City” season three.

curlyfries

This would be the part where I’d ask you fine readers what your dream is, but I don’t have time for that. I’m still trying to figure out what I meant by saying my main character should foot the chair muffin.

Oh, and to answer that third question: Medium curly fry.

Little Crittering on Isle of Palms

Little Crittering on Isle of Palms

How was your Labor Day weekend? No, I haven’t had a stroke from licking sand off a hot dog. I realize it’s incredibly gauche to ask about your weekend when it’s the Friday before a new Saturday. I really just want to tell you about my ah-mazing non-laborious holiday. 

How was my weekend? Why thank you for asking! My pretend husband was away on business, so this housewife had to take a solo adventure to the mecca of nachos and pralines: Charleston, South Carolina. My parents worried about me driving alone to meet my friend and her family there. I assured them I don’t always drive with my knees. I only do that when I’m texting. 

Here’s what to do if you decide to drive alone to crash someone else’s family vacation:

1) Blast the gayest music on the planet in the car: I blame doing one too many Richard Simmons workout videos as a child on my love for fabulous with a capital LOUS music. Start your journey with the classics: Cher, Madonna, Donna Summer, Peter Allen. Add Lady Gaga. Stir in drag queen realness from RuPaul and Lady Bunny. Scissor Sisters. Because here’s the deal: It’s just you in that tin can you call an automobile. There’s no one to say, “I want to hear John Mayer now” and make you feel dead inside.

Barb and me2) Endanger the life of your friend’s mother-in-law: My friend’s family planned to eat at the Subway drive-thru for lunch when I arrived. This was unacceptable to me. Vacation is a time to indulge in exquisite food, not cardboard masquerading as sandwich bread. I was going to Taco Boy. My friend’s delightful mother-in-law Barb asked if I wanted company. Considering she had only met me twenty minutes before, I thought it was pretty gutsy of her to jump in the car with a relative stranger. The Folly Beach location had no parking, so we went to the one on Huger Street. Barb soon realized this restaurant was not in the best neighborhood. Her eyes began to well with regret as we drove past crumbling sidewalks and tall weeds growing in abandoned patches of land. She told me it looked like “an industrial area.” My hands were sweating as I insisted the nachos were amazing. A near-death experience would only make them taste better.

3) Get your friend’s mother-in-law drunk so she forgets about said endangering: Once we got onto Taco Boy’s patio with the giant fan, bossa nova music and elephant ear plants, Barb no longer needed whatever the equivalent of an Amber Alert is for seniors. I told her to get the Frozen Screwdriver and we split the nachos. A well-travelled sixty-something, she told me with ultimate certainty that these were the best nachos she’d ever eaten. On the way back to the hotel, my bikini top popped off under my beach shirt and the GPS got us lost in yet another shady part of town. Was Barb in fear for her life for most of this lunch trip? Absolutely. But she also had the best nachos of her life. Worth it.

4) Pretend you like historic houses when you really want pralines: My friend could tour historical sites in the hot sun until you sweated to death. She wouldn’t notice right away if you collapsed behind her because she would be too busy explainingHistoric sitings the difference between a graveyard and a cemetary. My only contribution was saying I liked the pineapple tops on the pillars and a coral front door.

5) Little Critter on Isle of Palms: As a kid, I was obsessed with a computer game starring a fuzzy creature-child named Little Critter. He would eat a hot dog on the beach in a scene I replayed over and over again. He made these satisfied munching sounds that ignited a Pavlovian response inside of me. Thankfully my mom was always ready with a Hebrew National Hot Dog. This time, a middle-aged man who worked at the Isle of Palms County Park concession stand was like my mom, except he charged me $3.50 per wiener. That Nathan’s hot dog and me had our way with each other on the beach that afternoon, as you can see in this video. I call that kind of behavior Little Crittering.

Look It’s Joanne’s After Pride Extravaganza!

Look It’s Joanne’s After Pride Extravaganza!

I knocked something off my bucket list this week: Marching in the Charlotte Pride Parade in white hot pants and a rainbow boa. This was the first pride parade in the Queen City since 1994. With a super fabulous nickname like Queen City, who knows why it took 19 years for the parade to come back — an issue I explore in my latest for Creative Loafing.

If you just want to see me in my hot shorts with fabulous people, head over to my roundup of pictures and extra gossip on the Huffington Post. I won’t judge.

Happy Labor Day! xoxo