Lady Sings the Pinks

Self-created disco-diva Pinque: If this is camp, it's camp with a guilelessly straight face

The first time I met Pinque, a Houston-born and -bred female vocalist, she was wearing dyed pink Doc Martens, pink pants, a white cotton shirt, checkered pink-and-white necktie, pink suspenders, a pink linen jacket and a low, wide pink cowboy hat with the left brim shaped into a vertical sweep. She wears only pink and white, on stage, at work, in the mall, at home, though when pressed, she'll admit to the occasional hard-to-avoid pastel highlight.

Actually, Pinque tells me, aside from cutesy children's-wear too small for her slim 30-year-old frame, so much pink is difficult to find. "But everything looks pink when I wear it," she says.

"I walk into a store and usually I just scan the room to see if there's any pink in it. And if there isn't, I leave." Pinque does a lot a dyeing, and if just she and her wardrobe were stranded on a desert island, she figures she could make three pink weeks of it before running out of clothes.

I hear all of this over a lunch-time interview at, duh, the Strawberry Patch.

It would be easy -- maybe too easy -- to dismiss Pinque as a color-coordinated joke. Her elaborate press kit comes through the mail in a flash of pink envelopes and folders, loopy pink handwriting on pink paper, and a phone number with a prefix I won't divulge here, though you can probably guess the word the last four digits spell. But face to face, she's not the grasping sort at all. Anyone who's ever tried to follow the one-time advice of David Byrne (one of Pinque's heroes) -- if you wear the same thing every day, people will always recognize you -- knows that the joke wears thin awfully fast. Pinque isn't joking. In fact, she doesn't even seem particularly self-conscious about what most people would call a desperate gimmick. You might say she wears it well. If this is camp, it's camp with a guilelessly straight face.

So what is the story with the pink?
"I don't know. I mean, it's not a gimmick. It's soothing, beautiful, it's gentle. It's everything I feel. It's splendid. That's what it is. Pink is splendid."

Eight rings, each set with pink ice "gems," adorn the fingers with which she holds a pink pen. In the other hand, Pinque clasps the pink "My Little Pony" lunch box that serves as her purse, containing pink address books, earrings, more pink pens and a key ring holding three different variations of plastic pink pigs. The pigs are a personal favorite, and Pinque tells me that her bedroom at home is filled with an extensive collection of stuffed porkers, and that pig is the only meat she excludes strictly from her diet.

So, is the pig thing related to the, um, color thing?
"I hadn't thought about that, but you know, I bet it is."

The word "obsessive" -- in its harmless and charming sense -- fits Pinque well, but it's not just the aggressively mild color scheme that drives her. If she's obsessive about the color, Pinque is even more dead-set on -- to use her phrase -- "making it." She sings, and she wants to be a star. She shows me a pink memento book she calls her "little star book," filled with photographs of Pinque smiling proudly beside her idols. The B-52s' Kate Pierson, Boy George, George Michael, Laurie Anderson, Nancy and Ann Wilson of Heart, Bobby Brown, Patrick Swayze, Natalie Merchant, members of Erasure in drag, Howard Jones, Chris Isaak, Lene Lovitch, Katrina from Katrina and the Waves, and especially Bette Midler. Kate Bush is next on her photo-op wish list. Ask Pinque what it is about these people that sets her heart atremble, and she bubbles like a bath. They have that special something -- maybe it's star power or just star presence -- and Pinque wants it. She wants it bad. Pursuing it, she is nothing if not persistent.

She started wanting it when she was six years old, singing show tunes in talent contests with her four older sisters. Pink wasn't an all-consuming passion yet, but all five siblings -- calling themselves Little Doll -- wore their hair long enough to serve as conversation pieces. (Pinque's reaches past her waist now.) When Pinque (who absolutely refuses to tell me her real name) was twelve, the group switched from show tunes to a folk/country style, and then, around 1982, to more pop-inflected material. "I really don't like country. I'd never do that again. We didn't know anything about the record business then. I know a lot more about it now. Nobody told us we couldn't make it singing [cover songs]."

If the quintet of singing sisters with long brown hair never made it, they at least learned a lesson in perseverance from Mom, who once waited seven hours outside a studio door to hand-deliver a demo tape to The Tonight Show's Ed McMahon, who later sent a letter to the effect of no dice. On a month-long trip to Los Angeles, the family traipsed into the offices of industry mogul David Geffen, whose secretary, according to Pinque, summarily tossed the girls' press kit and demo tape of pop originals into the trash in front of their very eyes. Telling the story, Pinque doesn't sound so much like a dreamer whose hopes were crushed as she does an optimist who can't believe how naive she was in the early days.

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