An unlikely CLUB diva if there ever was one, small town girl Kristine W (formerly Kristine Weitz) was Miss Washington in 1981s Miss America pageant. But her whitebread life ended there; she soon found herself in Las Vegas in a beatup Cutlass with a hundred bucks in my pocket, she says, eager to start a career in music.
With twelve years of live performances in Vegas under her belt and nine consecutive number one Billboard Dance hits to her credit -- more than any other artist in history, including Madonna and Janet Jackson -- Kristines unlikely path to success has paid off.
The married mother of two has another, even bigger success story to tell. Shes a leukemia survivor, one who was once given a thirty percent chance to live. With the disease now in remission, Kristine is able to joke that it sure makes all the problems in the music business look small by comparison.
Kristine spoke to us last week from her home in Las Vegas.
Connect Savannah: Youre a dance club star, which gives you an in in the gay community. But other than that, are you politically active for gay issues?
Kristine W: In my own way I guess I am. Im not a big one to get out and throw the flag around. But Im there for them and they know that. I feel for them and love them -- you know, whatever makes them happy they should strive for. But you know, gay rights have come so far. There arent a lot of issues left besides getting married. I dont know why they want to get themselves involved in all that and get all tortured out with it (laughs). I wouldnt wish that on anyone.
Connect Savannah: How did a former Miss America contestant from a farm in Washington find herself in dance music?
Kristine W: Im not really sure how that happened. All I know is I was dancing around to that type of music at a really young age. Donna Summer was my icon out in a farm town in the middle of nowhere. I called it my happy music. Then I found out it was called disco, which turned out to be a dirty word somehow. I think it was something the record labels did, because disco was selling so many records, and country and rock were selling nothing in comparison. So they said hey, we gotta make this sound bad, so well say its gay music. When theres big money to be made theres politics. Whenever theres something good in this country weve got to screw it up. I love my country, but it sure seems like whenever theres something thats good or happy or cool or fun, well figure out a way to screw it up. In the disco era, there was a real emphasis on music. There wasnt MTV or all that. You listened to music with your ears not your eyes. Now everybody sees a butt bouncing up and down and they think thats good music.
Connect Savannah: What did the twelve years of live shows in Vegas mean to you as a performer?
Kristine W: When you play in Vegas you get to be a really good live performer. I played six nights a week, four or five shows a day for 12 years straight.
Connect Savannah: Youre kidding.
Kristine W: I used to play four shows a night -- four one-hour shows. The last five years in Vegas I did two shows a night, a hour and half each.
Connect Savannah: How are the health issues these days?
Kristine W: Better. Way better. It takes time. Its a slow frustrating comeback, but better that than not being here at all.
Connect Savannah: Your new album is just crazy big.
Kristine W: The new one is Fly Again. Weve had three number ones off it already. The fourth single comes out Oct. 11, written by John DeNicola. He wrote The Time of My Life from Dirty Dancing.
Connect Savannah: Have you been to Savannah before?
Kristine W: Yes, I have. I love Savannah. I love the history, the vibe, its such a beautiful place. Theres so much love there. Club One is so cool. One drag queen there gave me a fabulous corset as a gift. It was a leather corset with flames. I rhinestoned it up and it was perfect for a show I did called Fireball in Chicago. I mean, who goes and makes you a fabulous corset? And me being this straight mother of two. When I go to cities and Im with my girlfriends, the first place we go is to a drag bar. Its good, fun entertainment. I feel sorry for people who dont know how much fun it is.
Kristine W performs Saturday on River Street as part of the sixth annual Savannah Pride Festival.
Bio: A native Savannahian, Jim has been editor-in-chief of Connect Savannah for ten years. The University of Georgia graduate is also a travel writer, authoring regional guides in the Moon handbook series...A native Savannahian, Jim has been editor-in-chief of Connect Savannah for ten years. The University of Georgia graduate is also a travel writer, authoring regional guides in the Moon handbook series.more