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Lady Sings the Pinks

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

"I didn't really believe that it was who you know. I thought it was talent. You know, we're talented, what's the problem? But a lot of it really is who you know."

Pinque knows a few more people now. Somewhere around the end of 1985, her obsession with that favorite color kicked into gear, and in 1989 she decided to pursue her receding dream solo, taking "Pinky" as her stage name. If she weren't sitting right there talking in front of you, completely earnest and almost giddy with excitement, you might think her motivations were lifted from a Hallmark card. "I just decided that if I didn't go after it, I was going to spend the rest of my life wondering "what if I'd tried?" So I decided to keep trying." Using money raised by working a string of record-store jobs and selling her 1967 Barracuda (you know what color it was), Pinky released a tape called Almost Picturesque in 1992. It received a bit of airplay on 104 KRBE and sold a few copies in local record stores. At one performance, Pinque says, she positioned pink-painted men wearing vines and crowns of roses on Roman columns to either side of her on the stage, to which she was carried by four weightlifters.

Two years later, after more record-store and window-design work and a name change ("'Pinque' is more modern, less cutesy," she says), she's trying again, having scheduled a January 27 CD release date for hush... The drama. This time around, Pinque's sentimental, atmospheric, almost inspirational dance tracks are available on CD, produced and co-written by Ken Gerhard of the local industrial dance band Bamboo Crisis. Pinque's lush vocals (she writes the words) reflect the influence of the list she handed me (on pink stationery) of her favorite singers (Midler, Bush, Anderson, Grace Jones, Jane Siberry, Annie Lennox, Liza Minnelli). She's backed up by a bank of programmed keyboard tracks and percussion, alongside honest-to-God harp, cello, violin, flute, accordion, Hammond organ, trombone, trumpet, sax and guitar. Pinque calls her music "modern vocal," which is accurate enough, but as far as airplay goes, it leans decidedly toward the dance format.

God knows who decides what "makes it" on dance-oriented radio (or how, for that matter), but hush... may hold a winner. Ironically enough, it's a remake of a country tune that enjoyed massive popularity some years back: "Beautiful Body." Remember? "If I said you had a beautiful body would you hold it against me?" There's nothing that sounds like country in either the "auntie mame radio edit" (including sampled dialogue from the movie), the "pink noise mix" or the "pink noise radio edit," but in a remake-heavy dance-radio culture that lives and dies on topically clever juxtapositions, this little gem of double-edged (if hamfisted) sexual/political commentary just might get Pinque on the air. By her own reckoning, she figures she needs to get the song played 15 times, sell about 5,000 copies, and then the major labels will come to her. And for now, a release on a major label and the money that comes with it define the next stage of "making it." With label support, Pinque says, she could really go nuts with her next project. Maybe work with an orchestra, which she's always wanted to do. Or a boys' choir.

Pinque isn't joking about the boys' choir, either. She wants to do it, and you get the feeling that, one way or another, some time or another, she will. Over lunch, she's excited, maybe even thrilled, at the prospect of an article written about her. She knows from experience how difficult it is to get coverage, and 24 years of knocking on doors has taught her that coverage equals promotion. She's friendly and chatty and apologetic for her own irrepressible digressions, and she wears a happy smile throughout. Behind that, though, is a woman who's determinedly learning what it takes to go pro, and when it comes down to the nitty-gritty details of orchestrating stage help and photo shoots, designing CD covers and hiring musicians, you can tell that Pinque is not some pastel-obsessed flake bouncing off the clouds and waiting for a break that will never come. She doesn't take no for an answer, and she doesn't say yes if yes doesn't fit her peculiar vision of art and show biz. You don't produce a CD on a record-store clerk's salary without a heavy dose of dedication and an equal shot of smarts.

The sort of irrepressible enthusiasm that's gotten her to this point has gained Pinque a lot of friends along the way, including the list of collaborators and friends who contributed their handwritten testimonials (on pink stationery) to her press kit. Words like "determination," "focus," "dedicated" and "drive" appear almost as often as "talented," "positive" and "powerful," and you get the feeling that the only thing that might stop her in her trek toward the top, whether she ever actually "makes it" or not, is a pink bus falling from the sky.

But the odds of that are even less than those of "making it" in the recording industry -- even working, as Pinque is, sans manager or agent. She's got friends in radio, friends at Rich's nightclub -- where she has performed -- a following amongst the gay community (which is thanked in the album's liner notes for its "endless, undying support"), and a commercially healthy sense of self-promotion. (I almost felt bad telling her that our interview would not result in a cover story, but, as she said, it never hurts to ask.)

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