Back in the '90s and early '00s, there was no question who the star performer was in Long Beach. Wink Musselman, lounge singer extraordinaire, would definitely be the first to confirm that he, Wink Musselman, was–correction–IS the star wherever he goes.
He's a little Oscar Wilde, a tad Engelbert Humperdink, a smidge Gary Coleman of 'Different Strokes.' But know this: Wink Musselman is all fabulousness.
It's been about 10 years since Wink's carefully groomed mane graced stages in America, but thanks to the urging of at least four or five people, he's ready for his triumphant return to the limelight Saturday, Dec. 14, at DiPiazza's in Long Beach.
OC Weekly caught up with Wink–also known as Anson to his horrified psychotherapist mother who once witnessed him on stage doing shots out of a blow up sheep's naughty bits–to find out what he's been up to.
OC Weekly (Arrissia Owen): First of all, how's your hair?
Wink Musselman: (Laughs smarmily). You must be speaking of my big hair phase. The Turks call it bonus hair. The hair at the moment is quite nicely trimmed. I will have to overcompensate for it with my attire.
Have you already picked out your suit for the show?
My stylist insists on velvet always. So I'm just going through my old accoutrements and rings. Every ring tells its own story. My pinky ring is one of my favorites.
How have you been getting back into shape for your demanding, action-packed stage show?
I've been jogging regularly and cut back to three packs of cigs a day. I'm generally eating a macrobiotic diet. I'm also training with Megan O'Toole, who runs the Jazzercise place in Long Beach. It helps with stamina.
So is this your comeback special?
Yes, Wink is back. Sayeth the Lord.
Is the Lord a fan?
Absolutely. The Lord drew me to music through His love. I've been a conduit. I'm conducting energy from the ether. When I sing Dionne Warwick's material it's His song, His love, and love is His song.
Why is now the right time for a Wink show?
I was at a funeral recently for Don Lee Ellis at DiPiazza's. Don was a man who was very dear to my heart. He was my pianist for years and an award-winning Hammond organ player who retired in the 1980s. He came out of retirement in his golden years for me, but really he was more like my Yoda. He would say things to me like: 'Wink, you sell the sizzle, not the steak.'
When I left the memorial service, Mark (DiPiazza) asked if I would be interested in playing a show. I said 'Absolutely. It's time.'
Don was fabulous. Who makes up the Quartet of Shame these days?
There's Craig Teigen (Afrobeatdown, Thu Winners) on drums, who used to play with Quartet off and on. R. Scott Dibble (California Lions, Helmut Stein Experience) on piano.
There's bass player Adrian Turner, a very accomplished jazz player. Frank Lopez, an excellent tenor sax player. I used to be in bands with him and my musical director/guitarist Brian Gries called Inside Straight and Sonny Boy years ago.
So is this Phase Two for Wink Musselman and the Quartet of Shame?
Absolutely. This incarnation is very different. We still do a few of the original tunes, some bossanova and some lounge standards. But we also incorporated 'Summertime Lover,' a song I originally discovered in a 1988 VHS lesbian porn a friend had.
We are incorporating more sax. It's more Las Vegas and less small cocktail lounge. One of my favorites is 'Up, Up and Away' by the Fifth Dimension. It's so full of wonder and the possibility of tomorrow. And there will be a little nod to Sade and some '80s Tina Turner.
I read an old article about you where writer Pete Brooks described you as looking like 'Peter Brady during his big hair phase, as having the fashion restraint of Liberace and the willfully unhurried phrasing of Dean Martin, by way of Mickey Rourke in Barfly.' Is that accurate?
He absolutely nailed it. It's relatively accurate except I don't have the hair anymore. My fashion sense hasn't changed much. I enjoy a little flair. I like a slightly snug look, to, as Don always said, 'Give the audience what they want.' He would tell me, 'The audience want to love you and be loved by you.' It still holds true.
Did you see the Liberace movie?
Absolutely. Michael Douglas gave an amazing performance. Matt Damon as his manservant was fabulous. It was fascinating to see Michael Douglas in a carnal situation with Matt Damon. The way he puts on the acting, his affected style, he really nailed it.
Are you considering getting a manservant now?
Absolutely. But it's hard to find good help these days.
Take us back to your years as a child star on the sitcom 'What Would the Neighbors Say?' Do you still feel betrayed by Hollywood?
Hollywood gave me everything and then took it away in one fell swoop. There were a few years where I might have felt some resentment, and a little confused because I wasn't sure which family was my real family.
My adopted, wealthy black parents on the show were very convincing. But the courts sorted that out. It's a common story in a sense. It's hard to stay on top forever. But what Hollywood taught me was basically everything. I've forgiven Hollywood.
Hollywood nourished and nurtured me. It was the female dog to my Romulus and Remus. I will forever be in Her debt. Hollywood is a tempermental beast one to be respected, admired and preserved. She bit me once, but I owe Her everything.
I've healed, gone through various religions, which have taken me toward my latest incarnation: Podcasts of guided meditations narrated by me. If I can inspire just one person who is having trouble relaxing, then I have saved world.
I have a masculine rich, melodic voice, and that helps. Thank God for that, and Hollywood. God gave me the rough material. Hollywood glossed it up and smeared lipstick on it.
Wink Musselman and the Quartet of Shame performs with 40 Rod Pop and Madabout Blues Sat., Dec. 14, 9 p.m., at DiPiazza's, 5205 E. Pacific Coast Hwy., Long Beach, (562) 498-2461; www.dipiazzas.com. $5-$10. 18+.