Did Wendy & Lisa Kickstart Pop-Cultural Lesbian Chic?

Michaelangelo Matos | August 6, 2008 10:00 am

Choire Sicha posted an outtake from his Q&A with Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman, which ran in the L.A. Times on Sunday. In it, Sicha asked the duo–who played guitar (Wendy) and keyboards (Lisa) in Prince’s ’80s band the Revolution and had a heavy hand in Purple Rain and to a lesser extent Sign ‘O’ the Times, and who have been scoring TV shows for the past decade and a half–whether they consider themselves godmothers of lesbian chic.

Sicha: Do you think the surprisingly long-lived lesbian-chic, or bi-chic, trend is directly traceable to [Prince and the Revolution song] “Computer Blue”? Wendy: Holy mackerel! Lisa: Can I just say, yeah, why not? Wendy: Yes. “Lisa, is the water warm enough yet?” You mean that shtick? Lisa: Definitely. And that’s what we intended. We wanted to create ‘The L Word.’ And I want credit.

Sicha has hit a jackpot here. Actually, Anil Dash has–he gave Sicha the question. However you want to dole out credit, the fact remains that someone has finally put on record something I’ve suspected for years. At the very least, they created my lesbian chic. Wendy & Lisa, I’ve realized over the years, helped make me into a dyke mike.

A what? I’ve used the term “dyke mike” for a while now–it’s the reverse of “fag hag.” One ex of mine referred to me as having a “lesbian flotilla,” a phrase that’s stuck among my friends (not least the flotilla). It probably helps that I’ve never fostered any straight-dude illusions about the nature of those friendships, but the truth is that I like lesbians for a reason even more adolescent than your average FFM fantasy: I like them because I think they’re really, really cool.

I almost certainly learned to think that way from Wendy & Lisa. Sure, they were sidepeople to pop’s then-reigning megalomaniac. (All votes for Madonna and Michael Jackson will be counted, of course.) But they were also, in Purple Rain his main foils, which counted for a lot. They humanized him–right, how feminine. But they did it because he came around to them, not because they mollycoddled him. As I grew more fascinated by Prince’s music and began studying his liner notes, I realized that they did a lot of other things besides play guitar and keyboards. They arranged a lot–I didn’t know what that meant when I was 10, 11, 12, but I did know it was important enough to credit, which was good enough for me. And of course as I grew older I began realizing just what they were referring to at the beginning of “Computer Blue.” I just figured it was Prince pushing Puritan buttons again–I didn’t know Wendy & Lisa were a couple until I read it in my 20s. I felt like a fool for not realizing it sooner. Then I decided that it made them even cooler than I’d already thought. And now I think so even more.

Oh man. [Choire Sicha]