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Out (US)
November 2002

Scarlet Fever

by Ronni Radner

Tori Amos discusses her provocative new album, her late friend Kevyn Aucoin, and the gays and lesbians who've shared her bed.

Lesbians who catch Tori Amos live often envy the piano bench the flame-haired singer-songwriter seductively straddles as she tickles the keys. Amos says she's honored to be a dyke icon. "My feelings for women are deep, from the heart, and sensual. I'm a woman's woman," professes the 39-year-old mother, who married sound engineer Mark Hawley in 1998.

"I'm not sexual with women, but it doesn't mean I don't love them deeply," she says. "I'm a lioness, and I'm going to eat zebra and wildebeests. That's what I do: I hunt. That doesn't mean I don't love other lionesses, and I would stand guard with my life for certain ones I love." Though she's heterosexual, Amos admits that the presence of a sexy woman sometimes makes her briefly question her orientation: "Sometimes I look at another woman and I have to say, 'Right, then!' I don't know if I wish I could sample that. I'm not quite sure." Amos laughs, adding, "That was intriguing. I'm liking the gay questions!"

That's not surprising to Amos's legions of devoted gay and lesbian fans, who have always appreciated her candor, particularly regarding GLBT issues. On Scarlet's Walk (Epic), her new album, Amos condemns hypocritical political leaders, singing in "Pancake": "It seems in vogue to be a closet misogynist homophobe." In the harrowing "Taxi Ride," she addresses the tragic death of gay celebrity makeup artist- and her close friend- Kevyn Aucoin.

"The odd thing about 'Taxi Ride' was that this song was being written before he died, and he even heard that line, 'just another dead fag to you.' I was writing it as part of another song about a gay guy who was dying of AIDS. He miraculously recovered, and the song didn't get written. It started propelling itself again early this year, and Kevyn and I were having conversations, and I didn't know what was coming. But I knew he was in a lot of pain, and he felt betrayed by people who weren't there when he was in need. Then everybody who shows up in his death can give a statement, but they weren't there in the trenches. His death brought up a lot of things in people - some lovely and some despicable and disgusting. 'Taxi' is for Kevyn."

Amos, who as a teenager performed regularly at a gay piano bar in Washington, D.C., says the gay male servers at the club were "instrumental in my development from maidenhood to womanhood." Her Methodist minister father would come to watch her gigs, initially unaware that it was a gay venue. "It was very liberating for him," Amos says. Later, she reminisces, "Kevyn would stay in my beach house with his lovers and my dad would pop by." The hospitable Amos would give up her own bed when Aucoin and his boyfriends visited and also when her lesbian friends were in town with their lovers. But when her houseguests' extended families entered the picture, Amos declared her bed off-limits to all but her queer pals. "Their parents and kids would stay in the other room. I'd say to my friends, 'You guys, knock yourselves out, but I don't want Chee-tos and puke everywhere.'"

[transcribed by Philip Carper]

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