Bebe Sings the Blues
Bebe Sweetbriar pays homage to Diana Ross
by David-Elijah Nahmod
On Thursday, January 29, local drag star and host of countless nightlife events Bebe Sweetbriar will pay homage to one of the music world's greatest icons. In To Diana Ross, With Love, Sweetbriar will perform twenty of Miss Ross's iconic tunes from her post-Supremes period.
Sweetbriar discussed what Ross means to her, pointing out that her show will be an actual singing performance. Sweetbriar will share her own live vocal stylings when she takes to the stage. The show, along with dinner, can be enjoyed at Balancoire in the Mission.
"I owe a lot to Diana Ross," Sweetbriar said. The drag star said that she would not exist were it not for Ross' presence and magnetism. She pointed out that when Ross first came to prominence around fifty years ago, segregation was still rampant. Artists like Ross and Tina Turner were treated like second-class citizens at venues where they played to packed houses.
"They had to enter through the back door," Sweetbriar said. "They experienced a lot of segregation and racism during their growth periods. But they were able to overcome it."
Sweetbriar watched Ross' growth during her own formative years, and recalls how exciting it was to watch the 1972 Oscar telecast, when Ross was nominated in the Best Actress category for her performance as jazz legend Billie Holiday in the film Lady Sings the Blues.
Ross' talent remains fully intact four decades later, said Sweetbriar, who saw her idol in concert four years ago.
"She hadn't lost her step," Sweetbriar noted. "She's still glamorous, and the voice is still there. She still has the same 'ting' to her voice. Imagine being seventy years old and to still be 'bringing' it."
Sweetbriar also recalls seeing Ross perform in Las Vegas many years ago. Ross chose Sweetbriar as one of the people she reached out to during her rendition of the megahit "Reach Out and Touch Somebody's Hand."
"I'll never forget that," Sweetbriar said. "She was very gracious and kind."
Sweetbriar's tribute show will be, she hopes, a reminder to audiences of Ross' amazing career, which featured one hit song after another. Many of those songs have become classic standards.
"I want to concentrate on her solo years," Sweetbriar said. "I'll be singing twenty songs over a two-hour period. I want to remind people of her amazing career."
Sweetbriar's preparation for the show included watching videotapes of Ross' acts in Vegas.
"My opening is very Vegas and will blow people away!" Sweetbriar promised. She said that she'll be descending from the ceiling. The show will also include a movie medley, featuring songs from Ross' film career. There will also be disco era tunes, such as the gay anthem "I'm Coming Out."
"It will be an amazing time for everyone," Sweetbriar promises, "especially for those who have respect for the icon that Diana Ross is."
To Diana Ross With Love, starring Bebe Sweetbriar; Thursday and Saturday, January 29 and 31, 7pm-10pm, at Balancoire, 2565 Mission. $65, dinner and show. $25, show only. More shows to follow. www.bebesweetbriar.com