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Sinking into a comfy couch situated against the back wall of the Ritz-Carlton, Dearborn’s lounge, Chantal Chamandy can’t decide: White wine or juice?
When the waitress saunters toward the long-locked Canadian, she’s still indecisive. Finally, she ditches the alcohol idea, and settles for a grapefruit/soda concoction.
Turns out, resisting booze was a genius move for the multi-lingual chanteuse. When the convo suddenly meanders, going from gabbing about drag queens to the homosexuality debate and war, she laughs: “I’m glad I’m not having wine.”
It’s also a plus because later, on this particular day back in March, Chamandy’s PBS special, “Beladi: A Night at the Pyramids,” is making its debut – and tonight is the pledge drive. Flashy sets, hot bods and a backdrop of The Pyramids on the Giza plateau in Egypt adorn the glitzy ’07-shot show, now available in full-form on DVD. She’ll re-create that show – or at least parts of it (“I can’t bring the Pyramids here”) – for a gig at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center in Dearborn at 8 p.m. July 3. The last of her several-month tour, Chamandy’s got sky-high hopes on scooting her music from Canada and Egypt through to the United States. And anyone who caught the DVD knows: Her dancers are so hot (and half-naked) they could start a fire.
“(They) are like a family to me,” she says. “They’re coming with me on tour; they’re just amazing human beings who are as passionate as I am.”
In bed, too?
Chantal Chamandy’s got that proverbial diva aura, minus all the demands; so, between Celine, Mariah and Madonna, where do we fit her?
“I think that they’re all doing different genres,” she says. “Mine is a little bit more worldly, eclectic – which is great. So if I met them, I wouldn’t feel like, ‘Oh, God’; I think I’m doing something that’s a little different, a little bit less of the mainstream.
“I think there’s so much room for more artists.”
It might be a tight squeeze, but considering Chamandy’s map-spread music isn’t quite Gloria Estefan, not exactly Celine and miles away from new-millennium Mariah, she’s not fretting on finding a niche in this nation.
“I have a very big gay following,” she says, “because they are – they just get what I do; they love what I do; they understand, I think, the meaning of an artist. … It’s a loyal public.”
With Chamandy’s queer-popular “You Want Me” remixed by Brian Rawling (Cher’s “Believe”), she’s already made a name for herself in Canadian gay clubs. And this weekend she’ll perform at San Francisco Pride.
“I’d do anything for that community,” she says, adding that many of her friends are gay – and legally married.
“I believe in human rights. Period.”
And don’t mistake her for Miss America, but World Peace is on her to-do list, too. On “Peace,” off of her March-released “Beladi,” Chamandy looks to a better tomorrow – without war, without fear, without sorrow.
“If everybody lived comfortably and people were not on welfare and people were not fighting for whatever they’re fighting for – whether it’s land or whatever, it’s religion or – if people were happy and had something to eat and they had good shelter … they wouldn’t be so concentrated on, ‘If we fight, we’re gonna win.’
“There’s nothing to win. At the end of the day, it’s all dead bodies.”
She wrote the song for her son, whom she’s gabbing with in her first-language French just before our interview: “I’m a very scared mom. I don’t like leaving him. I don’t like people driving in the car with him. I’m neurotic!”
But she’s not worried should the day come when he spills his attraction to short, spiky-haired jocks. And we don’t mean lesbians. She reacts as if she hasn’t thought about it (and perhaps it’s a plus she doesn’t have to), stumbling over her words like a car over a pothole-infested road. Taking a detour, she explains that pals – and herself, too – believe nature overrides nurture concerning the homosexuality argument.
Either way, “I’m so not judgmental,” she adds. “I’d love my kid no matter what he was.”
And she wishes every parent could, too. She continues: “People go, ‘You gotta protect the kids.’ I think, ‘Protect them from what?’ You gotta protect them from people who say those things, you gotta protect them from people who speak negative or have a foul way of thinking and a negative way of thinking. That’s the biggest worry, ’cause then they grow up, and they become people of hate.”
Not her son. He, along with her hubby of 15 years, are very open-minded. They really have no choice. When the Egypt-born singer first broke into the music biz at 16, the gays were the first to befriend her, she says – and she has nothing but kudos for them, calling them “trendsetters,” savvy music connoisseurs and pretty damn good in pumps.
During a gig in current hometown Montreal, she witnessed drag queens doing their finest Liza Minnelli and Barbra Streisand impressions. And the singer would be flattered if a guy tried mimicking her look. But, with a walloping laugh and a sassy finger snap, she warns: “He’d better get it right, though; that’s all I can say.”
Ford Community & Performing Arts Center
8 p.m. July 3