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Kristine W ready to extend her dance music reign
N.C. Pride club performance set for Sept. 24

by David Stout
Q-Notes staff

Kristine W: ‘The audience thought I was a lip-synching drag queen at first.’

If you asked people to name the artist with the most consecutive number one singles on the “Billboard” Hot Dance Club Play chart, most would probably answer Madonna, Janet Jackson or Cher. Good guesses — Madge and Janet were even tied for the record a few years back with seven hits apiece — but wrong.

The record-holder is actually Kristine W with nine. What’s more, her decade-long streak is still alive. Not too shabby for a Pasco, Wash., native whose early career successes came in beauty pageants. As Kristine Weitz she held the titles of Miss Tri-Cities and Miss Washington and was the non-finalist talent winner at Miss America.

In a telephone interview, the singer — in preparation for a concert at Legends nightclub in Raleigh in celebration of N.C. Pride — told Q-Notes she comes by her musical abilities naturally.

“ When I was little my mom sang in jazz clubs. I would watch her get all dressed up and head out the door to her gigs, She would sing and play the 12-string guitar — she was really fabulous — and I used to think, ‘I’m gonna do that.’

“ I was a little kid and I sang with this really huge voice and everybody loved it. I sang at church all the time during offering, starting when I was about eight years old. Every Sunday I sang a different hymn and I just got better and better.”

Kristine’s voice led her to local talent shows and involvement in community theater, then to the pageant circuit. Following her Miss America appearance, she closed that chapter of her life and moved to Las Vegas to perform professionally. The decision paid off with an enormously successful headlining gig at the Las Vegas Hilton.

Her show at the storied hotel landed her several Las Vegas “Entertainer of the Year” awards and by the time she ended her run there, Kristine had performed more live shows at the Las Vegas Hilton than any other performer in the venue’s history, including Elvis.

In 1995, Kristine hit the top of the dance chart for the first time with the one-off single “Feel What You Want.” On the strength of that release she signed with RCA Records and two years later issued her first album, “Land Of The Living.” The set yielded the chart-topping tracks “One More Try” and the anthemic title cut.

“‘Land of the Living’ is about survival,” Kristine explains. “I wrote the song after the death of my stepfather. It was a devastating time for me. He had always been my mentor and I didn’t know how I could ever go on without him. I discovered a new sense of empowerment through writing the song.”

Along with this new strength came another pair of hits when Kristine’s second album, “Stronger,” was released in 2000. The title track and the follow-up single, “Lovin’ You,” extended her hot streak to five. The blossoming diva’s career seemed charmed, but her personal life was about to suffer another crushing blow.

While touring in support of the new album, Kristine found herself disoriented and weak and she appeared bruised. Medical tests brought devastating news: she had acute myeloid leukemia and her prognosis was poor.

“It was, ‘Happy Mother’s Day, you have leukemia, and you’ll be dead by Christmas,’” she recalled sardonically to the Las Vegas Review Journal two years later.

But the singer ignored the odds and endured the painful treatments, which included chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant on the fateful day of Sept. 11, 2001. Slowly she began to recover. By 2003 she even felt well enough to contribute a track to the “Queer As Folk” season three soundtrack. Her slammin’ cover of “Some Lovin’” became her sixth number one hit.

Last year Kristine celebrated her near-miraculous recovery with the release of her third album, the appropriately titled “Fly Again” on Tommy Boy Records. The project yielded a trio of chart toppers — the title cut, “Save My Soul” and “The Wonder of It All” — proving the singer’s career was back in full swing.

But even so, Kristine was surprised to get the call from Patti LaBelle’s manager informing her that a hoped-for duet between the vocalists was finally set. The idea of the pair remaking “Land Of The Living” had initially been pitched well over a year earlier when both appeared at socialite-songwriter Denise Rich’s annual Angel Ball fundraiser for leukemia research.

The finished track appears on LaBelle’s “Classic Moments” CD, issued earlier this year on Def Jam/Universal. Kristine says LaBelle specifically wanted to cover “Land Of The Living” because she connected with the song’s message.

“Patti understands illness. She has lost loved ones and has battled diabetes. She chose to include ‘Land Of The Living’ on her album because she, too, has found inspiration through its message. I’m extremely proud and honored to have had the chance to remake this wonderful song with her.”

Beyond their personal tragedies and health challenges, the pair are similar in another way. Both have tremendous gay followings and neither could be any happier about it.

“Pivotal,” is the succinct reply Kristine fires back when asked how important gays have been to her career.

“I never even knew I was famous in the gay world for a long time because I was busy playing Vegas six nights a week. Then they asked me to play Sound Factory in New York because they said I had this huge hit in London and I was like, ‘Oh, really?’ They said one of the world’s biggest DJs, Junior Vasquez, had remixed my song [“Feel What You Want”] and I had no idea.

“After I recorded the song in London the label just sort of went on and I had no idea what was happening. So when I got to Sound Factory and saw 3,000 people on the dancefloor freaking out, I was shocked. Of course, they all thought I was a lip-synching drag queen at first so I had to let ’em have it. [Laughs] I started going off the song, singing other things over the melody and talking, crawling down this ramp they had. It was a lot of fun.”

The singer will again be looking for the raucous support of her gay fans when “I’ll Be Your Light,” the lead — and potentially 10th number one — single from her new album drops next month. The song, written by Patti Maloney and John Dinicola, Grammy-winning writer of the hit “Dirty Dancing” theme “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” has been remixed by Tony Moran, Ian Nieman (from Widelife), Wayne G and Jack D. Elliott. An unplugged version with Santana was also recorded but it’s unclear if it will be released.

The crowd at Legends will be treated to an advance live airing of “I’ll Be Your Light,” in addition to performances of the star’s previous smashes. Kristine says she is happily anticipating the show and her return to the club: “I love it there. It’s a great time so I’m really looking forward to it.”

Sept. 24
Kristine W in concert
Legends, 330 W. Hargett St.
Raleigh • 919-831-8888

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