Ohio bred singer-songwriter Baby Dee’s biography reads like a collage of about five people’s lives — five very different people. In her 59 years, she has been, among other things: a street musician, Coney Island sideshow act, tree surgeon, church organist, Gregorian chant enthusiast, and touring harpist for fellow transgender musician Antony Heggarty of the Bay Area’s Antony and the Johnsons. Now Baby Dee is living back in Cleveland and has significantly slowed her job-turnover rate, but not to worry — her big personality and sharp wit haven’t suffered for it.
In preparation for her show at Brick and Mortar Music Hall with Carletta Sue Kay this Friday, I caught up with Baby Dee to chat about her favorite SF tourist spots, Tony Bennett, and her upcoming projects:
San Francisco Bay Guardian Happy Pride Month! Have you done anything to celebrate?
Baby Dee Hooray! Well, lets see... I've been playing the harp all dolled up in a fluffy red dress and big hair and make-up and singing songs about kinky grizzly bears in Mormon underwear. How's that for a start?
SFBG Will you be doing any tourist activities while you're in town?
BD I've always wanted to go to Alcatraz. Do they still do that?
SFBG It's been more than a year since your last album was released. Do you have anything new in the works?
BD I just did an album with Little Annie that comes out in October.
Also, I've started a band called The Big Bumble Bees. Remember the name. The Big Bumble Bees are going to be bigger than the Beatles. We've got big plans. We're hoping to get Tony Bennett to roadie for us. We've already started composing a letter to him. We've got a good beginning but first impressions are everything and we want to win him over to the idea so we're taking our time to make the letter perfect. It's going to start like this.
"Dear Mr Bennett,
You don't know us but.."
Pretty cool, huh? So far so good. We thought we might tell him that we got Barry Manilow lined up for the job as well and that if he wants to do it he'll have to compete with Barry in a fight to the death with Bowie knives. Can you imagine the publicity this would generate? I think it would be a real shot in the arm for both of them.
Our only worry is that while having Barry or Tony for our roady would greatly enhance our own prestige, we don't want them to think it will diminish theirs. That's why we haven't finished the letter to Tony yet. We want to put it to him in the very best light. Perhaps your readership could help us with suggestions about how to win him over to the idea.
San Francisco is so close to Tony's heart.
SFBG If there's one thing readers should know before going to your show on Friday, what is it?
BD Lots of love songs.
SFBG Have you given up street performance for good or can we expect to run into you in a park sometime soon?
BD Well, it's not like I didn't have heaps of fun out there. The streets of San Francisco were really good to me. But I'm a big girl now and I've put away the things of childhood -- no more Shirley Temple dresses and 12-foot-tall tricycles for me. Besides, I couldn't take the hills anymore.