Vp Issue 9: "Rachel Maddow Before the Big Time"
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my mission to make prison politics understandable, less mysterious, less hopeless, to the sexy folks in the AIDS movement.
And then you became the first openly out gay U.S. citizen to win a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford where you began your dissertation work on HIV and prisons?
Yeah, I lived in London with this Trannie photographer, and had a bar life... crazy, like Shane on The L Word.
Did you leave a trail of broken hearts like Shane?
No, a trail of happy hearts, hopefully! Then I decided the only way to finish my dissertation was to live somewhere I’d be unhappy so I could focus. It was between living in an Orange County, CA room of one of my dad’s Air Force friends or moving to the Massachusetts countryside. Finally, I moved into a hovel in Northampton with a friend, where we lived like monks and our apartment was full of skunk cabbage. Our heating system was an open flame in one room and we had to sleep in hats. I finished my dissertation.
And from there you started out in radio on Northampton's The River. How did you get into that?
My friends told me I should go to the open audition, and I was hired on the spot. (Rachel stokes the fire.)
Well, you’ve got a great radio voice. Are you ever recognized by your voice?
(Laughs) Well, you’ve seen Susan (Rachel’s partner) and me, very different women! A butch-femme thing going on, which I love! I was in a diner recently, in a booth with Susan. There are these two guys with baseball caps and Susan’s back is to them. They stop talking and are obviously listening to us. One guy finally comes over and says “I recognize you by your voice,” looking at Susan. I said “That would be me. Thanks for listening!” The blood rushed out of his face. He associated pretty voice—pretty girl, and here was this butch dyke!
Speaking of which, I’ve seen you on mainstream TV, Scarborough Country and recently on CNN. What’s it like to actually confront the ‘white boys’ that so many of us refer to in our work?
They see me as a novelty. I’ve slipped through the cracks, this butch dyke. They always try to bring up gay marriage with me. We’re talking about Syria, Bosnia, Rwanda