Paul Lekakis might be the biggest tease you know, but sex-talk, ambiguity and big, superhero arms were the stud’s recipe for late ’80s success.
As long as you’d come back to his place he’d “love you” – like he vowed on “Come on Over to My House,” the first single from his 1991 debut, “Tattoo It.” Or, if you were lucky enough to make it into his bedroom, he’d “Boom Boom” with you. That 1987 song, “Boom Boom (Let’s Go Back to My Room),” became his signature song, landing in the top 50 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
He hasn’t recorded much music since (similarly sexed-up-titled singles like “Assume the Position” and “Let It Out” didn’t reach far outside the LGBT community), but he’s been busy – outside of the bedroom – with acting gigs, modeling, writing and speaking out about drugs and HIV. Between The Lines spoke with Lekakis, who lives in West Hollywood, about performing – shirtless! – at Motor City Pride, overcoming a crystal meth addiction and how he likes to boom boom.
Will you be debuting any new music at Pride?
I might be doing a song that I just finished. It depends. I was just looking at that this week and seeing what I wanted to add, so I’m not sure about that yet.
Well, hey, as long as you keep your shirt off during the performance, I think people will be happy. (Laughs)
(Laughs) I’ll try.
I mean, why do you even bother buying shirts?
Well, you know, you can’t stand there for a half hour with your shirt off the whole time.
Sure you can, especially when you look as good as you do. You haven’t aged a bit – you’re like wine. What keeps you looking so young?
Well, I’ve been sober for 11 years. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke – so that probably has something to do with it. There’s actually a sober campaign that I’m doing. It’s actually an anti-crystal meth campaign that’s launching here in West Hollywood called the TweakersProject.org, and they’re on Facebook as well. Basically the campaign is called “Sober Sizzles” and lets people know that you don’t need to be high on crystal meth to have a good time.
So you dabbled in crystal meth then when you were younger?
Yeah, before I got sober I did. (I’ve been sober) for the last three years.
Well, good for you. It must feel great to have overcome that.
Yeah! It’s a thing of the past, my friend.
One of the songs I was revisiting this morning was “Come on Over to My House.”
I imagine you had a lot of dudes at your house after they saw that video (laughs). You’re pretty much inviting everyone over for a big orgy.
Yeah, I’ve been thinking about that. It’s a little bit more – it’s sexy, but it’s a little bit lighter than “Boom Boom.” First I gotta get ’em in the house, and then I gotta –
Then you got to boom boom. That song “Boom Boom,” by the way, was a pretty big deal for you. It hit number 43 on the Billboard charts. Did you have any ambition to duplicate that success?
I had some contract issues – you know, the record business part of it – so that was an issue. My album came out in ’91, so that kind of prolonged it. I think I probably would’ve had more success with “My House” if it came out a year or two earlier – or any of my music for that matter. Ya know, it’s really weird. “Boom Boom” is like a novelty song, so I’m glad that I actually got to have one of those novelty songs.
And you did the 20th anniversary video.
I just really wanted to do a video, and I really wanted to remix it with my manager with our control over it; the times that it was remixed over the years was beyond our control. So we remixed it and then it actually got back on the Billboard charts for seven weeks, and then I actually produced the video myself. I was getting more into filmmaking, and so I’m really fortunate that when I do a project (it’s) like, “Oh, I could produce the whole video myself.” Ya know? That part of it is exciting, too. I could just do other parts of a project. People are like, “What do you do?” I say, “Well, I have to re-do the vocals, I have to get all the mixes done from everybody and then I gotta go create this video with 22 people (laughs) – get the money for it, make it happen, edit it, hire people.” It’s a trip. You don’t just show up on the set and then leave.
You mentioned “Boom Boom” as being a novelty song, and you’re right – no one will ever forget that dirty chorus. The song, for the time, was pretty risque, and I’m sure everyone was wondering, “What makes Paul feel all right in the bedroom?”
I’m just one of those really fortunate versatile people. I think it’s because I’ve had a lot of experience and, you know, I don’t think you have to do back-flips to have a good time. So I’m just fortunate that whatever is done in there – I mean, I have an open mind. A lot of things turn me on and, as I said, you don’t really have to get (laughs) –
You don’t have to be a gymnast.
Yes, you don’t have to be a gymnast! You can have fun for 10 minutes – or 10 hours – and walk out with a smile. So my versatility turns me on, knowing that I can be happy with whatever meal I get, you know what I mean?
Now has anyone ever used that song as a pick up line to get you back in their room?
Maybe in the beginning. They said it to me in the beginning, but I think it gets a little used after a while.
So not only are you involved the “Sober Sizzles” campaign, but you’re also pretty vocal about your HIV-positive status, appearing on POZ magazine and playing HIV-positive characters in some films. Why’s that?
I’ve been writing a book lately, for the last two years. It’s just one of those things, once you get something like that – I mean, it’s been 20 years, I can’t really get away from it. People want to sleep with me; it’s a sexually transmitted thing. I’ve shut up about it; I’ve cramped up about it; I’ve talked about it, and I didn’t feel good talking about it sometimes. I had mixed feelings about the whole thing, but what else am I gonna do? It doesn’t work for me not talking about it. So, these are my options (laughs). And a lot of people are helped (by me being out); I get a lot of e-mails from people all over the place, even about me being gay. I also get slammed for not being gay enough lately.
Really? Uh, have people seen the videos? I mean, come on (laughs) –
Yeah, they see the videos and they’re like, “Well, I thought he was gay.” And I’m like, “Well, I am gay – so, what?” I just did a gay play: “Two Boys in a Bed on a Cold Winter’s Night.” I was making out with a guy – like what? I think they expect me to be a certain way, and this is show business, and I can’t just be one way. I don’t think anybody that’s gay can just be one way. I think Ellen (DeGeneres) tried that, and she lost her career. I’m the gayest singer in the fucking creation of the world if you know me (laughs). But then there’s like the business part of it – and I like to tease everybody, what can I say? And I help people. People are like, “When I knew you were gay, it was really great to have someone who was a role model.” And then I get e-mails now: “Oh my god – you’re talking about being positive.” I really think that’s important for the gay community, to have people that talk about it, because oh-my-god, if I meet one person soon on the Internet who’s 23, 26, they have it, they don’t want to talk about it and they can’t talk about it – that’s why I’m writing the book about it, because it really is something that … is.
Yeah, some people are really ashamed by it, especially young folks.
Yeah, they’re ashamed, they’re scared and, of course, it’s like, “Ooh, it’s because of sex.” No – straight people have this whole pregnancy thing to deal with that gay people don’t have to deal with. And we have the HIV thing and the STD thing, but those straight people? The abortions and the whatever – everybody’s got to deal with something.
Yeah, crabs are easier to get rid of than a baby.
Now you didn’t come out until the mid-’90s, after “My House,” the video for which you’re crushing on chicks. Do you regret not being yourself then?
I was always myself. I mean, there was a time when the record company didn’t want me to be myself because I didn’t look like Melissa Etheridge. (Laughs) Sorry. I mean, I looove Melissa Etheridge, but I really don’t think there are too many 14-year-old boys pinning her up on walls (laughs). So it’s like, enough said. So when you have a certain something, and they look at you and go, “How are we gonna market this?” And this is pre-George Michael, pre-Melissa Etheridge, pre-whatever, and I didn’t look like Pete Burns from Dead or Alive, so they didn’t know what to do with me. So I was always myself, but the recording company had problems with it. I didn’t really have too much choice in the matter at that time, did I? I wish they would’ve been more supportive of me.
So you were out to them?
Oh, they totally knew I was gay.
You said you’re working on a book, which means now you’ve pretty much done it all – film, music, TV, modeling, a little bit of theater – so what’s left?
I think that’s why the book is exciting for me. It’s a whole other aspect of creativity and artistry, and when you sing and you record it’s one thing, when you act – I had to learn how to do that. I have to learn how to write better. So that part of it is exciting. I think that it’s just important to let people know just how challenging it is – I guess, being (HIV-) positive or how it changes one’s life. I think a lot of people who are young and get it don’t know. I wish I had a book that told me that I could’ve read and been like, “What do I need to look out for? What do I need to ask?”
So this will be the book you wish you had.
This will be that book. Besides the one-hit wonder – and besides the cliche drugged-out recovery part of it – the HIV part and gay part is a big part of the book.
Do you have a working title for it?
No, not yet. I have several – but I’m not gonna tell you. It’s going to take a couple years yet; it’s a long process.
Well, nice talking to you, Paul. Looking forward to seeing you at Pride.
Oh my god, it’s gonna be fun! We’re gonna have a lot of fun (with) “I Need a Vacation,” “My House” …
And “Boom Boom,” right?
Of course! You’re gonna get it all.
And no shirt? (Laughs)
Oh, ya know. It’s summer, it gets hot up there, what can I say? (Laughs)
6:15 p.m. June 7
Motor City Pride
Main Stage, Ferndale