Home Hollywood How Lesbian Singer Norma Tanega Took Hollywood by Storm

How Lesbian Singer Norma Tanega Took Hollywood by Storm


In 1973, the day before Easter, Diane DeVillebeth received an uninvited guest at her California home: Norma Tanega, the ballad singer who, a few years earlier, made her debut with the single “Walkin’ My Cat Named Dog” shot to fame. In the early ’60s, Divelbess and Tanega attended Scripps College together and lived together. But the visit was still a surprise for Divelbess, the artist who penned her friend’s new visual biography.

“She drove over and she said, ‘Do you have a seat? Can I come and live here?'” recalls Divelbess. “That’s what she is.” She told the singer yes – as long as she can remove her belongings at her Anglican church before the Easter service. “It was the start of a wonderful long-term relationship.”

Befriending Tanega — the “musical genius” who died in 2019 at the age of 80 — would also be drawn into the period’s queer Tinseltown. (Tanega, though famous herself at the time, dated Dusty Springfield after the U.K. gig.) At one point, Divelbess attended a “true Hollywood party” at her home in Springfield’s Hollywood Hills. “It was a scream, really. [Springfield] Dressed up as Marie Antoinette,” Divelbes said. There she met Lily Tomlin and she was “wonderful.” But this scene was beyond Divelbes’s vision. “I’m the kind of guy who goes to the movies people [doesn’t] Know who the actor is,” confirms Cal Poly educator. “Norma [said] I have to start paying attention to this. “

Through Tanega, Divelbess learned about the pressures gay entertainers faced during that era. “No one could come out to entertain at that time. Dusty in particular was at the peak of her popularity in the UK,” Divelbess said.She recalls Springfield’s former roommate, a writer hollywood reporter, She was “forced” to marry a man after rumours about her sexuality spread. The most “common” arrangement at the time, Divelbess said, was “a lesbian would marry a gay man,” known as each other’s beards. “It’s going to please the audience and let them live their lives.”

“Of course we’re not [out] Activists,” Divelbess said. Even venturing out on Hollywood Boulevard at night carries the risk of arrest — especially for gay men. She recalls how a friend of hers was stopped by the police for venturing out to buy an aspirin at 10 p.m. down.

While they avoided gay bars for fear of raids, Divelbess recalled one gay-friendly venue she and Tanega frequented: a piano bar called Frog Pond. Pianists “would put on headgear and play beautiful songs on the piano. They all had gay lyrics.”

While Tanega may not be parading in the streets, her unique voice and queer worldview influence culture today.hardcore fan what do we do in the shadows Will know that the vampire comedy’s theme song “You’re Dead” was written and sung by Tanega. “I don’t know” why Tanega would write a creepy song that repeats the famous line over and over, Divelbess admits. But “that’s what makes her so fun and interesting.”

Tanega’s legacy continues with new projects: I Am the Sky: Studio and Demo Recordings, 1964–1971 (anthology recording) and visual biography Try telling the fish about the water (anthology edition). Divelbess, who wrote the foreword to the biography, hopes her friend’s music will inspire a new generation “to embrace your life and give it your all. That’s exactly what she does. She smiles at everything.”

this story is part of advocateAdvocacy and Political Issues 2022, on newsstands July 18, 2022.To get your own copy directly, please support Queer Media and subscribe — or download your Amazon, Kindle, Nook or Apple News.

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