“Hellooo!” came the signature falsetto from the other end of the phone. It was comedienne Judy Tenuta, who will be coming to San Diego on Saturday to headline at the fifth annual “Reunion On the Bay” event hosted by San Diego Human Dignity Foundation (SDHDF) and the San Diego LGBT Community Center (The Center).
You may remember Tenuta, the self-proclaimed “Love Goddess” from her HBO specials, movies and special appearances on talk shows such as “The View,” “Late Night with David Letterman,” and “Larry King Live.”
But her gig on Saturday night is more than just another booking to perform her unique blend of insult comedy and music from her signature accordion.
She is helping to ensure that San Diego LGBT seniors, 50 and better, continue to get the attention and care they need through local programs and support groups provided by The Center.
As our conversation begins, she gives me an example of the wit she’s famous for. She reveals she was just sitting next to another Hollywood celebrity, “I was not far from Pamela Anderson, she’s like a human floatation device,” she laughs.
Tenuta joins the ranks of other female comics who have a large gay following, from Bette Midler to Kathy Griffin. Their acerbic style wit and ‘oh snap’ moments are what keep audiences coming back for more.
Tenuta says that one of her first experiences in the gay community was in a Chicago bath house, but what made it even more interesting is that her parents demanded to come along.
“Chicago Men’s Country, and oh my God I’ll never forget,” she says. “It was Halloween in 1983 I believe. They’re so cute but they’re kinda strict Catholics. So we’re at the bath house and there are all these guys in towels and I’m doing my show and it’s going great and my mom sees this one guy and says, ‘Hey, keep your towel on while my daughter’s talking.’ It was so funny, but they loved it, they had a great time!”
I wondered how long her parents had to sit there, watching her perform amid an audience of half-naked men.
“It’s sort of like when you’re in Vegas, they don’t want the headliner doing more than thirty-five minutes or forty-minutes at the very, very most because they want them out there losing their money, depositing their money in the Casino.”
That was over thirty years ago, her energy over the phone seemed to be as active as it was in the 80’s. She explains that her last name, Tenuta, means to “hold on.” She says that is exactly what she’s doing, “I’m not giving up!”
Her performance on Saturday night is dedicated to the LGBT seniors of San Diego, Tenuta is helping to raise money for a place they can meet without fear of being harassed or discriminated against.
“I’m so excited for this because, you know Human Dignity, they support the LGBT,” she says. “All the programs for the LGBT community, and so anybody that comes to this – it’s really great –not only do I guarantee that you will have a great time with the Goddess you will have a party in your pants. We will just have the most wonderful time. And I can’t wait to celebrate my gays, and my relationship with them.”
I asked her if there was anything funny about getting older. She laughed at the question and recalled one of her personal experiences.
“Oh my god, it’s all funny! I attribute it to the fact that, and I’m not bragging, that maybe my house is too big, because I go into a room, I go upstairs and I go, ‘why did I come to this room?’ There must be a good reason I came to this room, and then I look and my pants are down, and I’m like, ‘oh that’s right, that’s right, I needed to take a leak!’”
The Reunion on the Bay is taking place at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina. There will be plenty of food and drink. Tenuta says one of the things she experiences when she does events where alcohol is served is that people want her to indulge with them,
“I want all my gays to remember that they all may be drinking, but I have to remain vertical during the show,” she laughs, “and they’re going to be trying to feed me those mimosas. And I can have a little bit, but the Goddess must remain vertical.”
Her high-energy attitude seems to keep her moving along in the business. She has just finished a movie called “Scales” with Morgan Fairchild and another one in which she plays a psychologist titled “Celluloid Soul.”
Her event on Saturday is something of which she is looking forward, not only because it’s a good cause, but also because she gets to meet all of her San Diego fans.
“I can’t wait to see my gays, my lesbiterians and of course transgender, and everybody!” she yells through the phone. “By the way, the straights who support them too. Because there will be straights that came – and I love that!”
San Diego Human Dignity Foundation and the San Diego LGBT Community Center’s Fifth Annual Reunion Party is on Saturday, August 6, at 6 pm at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina.
The Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina is located at 1380 Harbor Island Drive, San Diego, CA 92101
Get tickets HERE or by phone via 619-291-3383.