By Stan Jenson

 

It was homecoming night at my high school,

Everyone was there, it was totally cool,

I was so excited, I almost wet my jeans,

Cause my best friend, Debbie, was homecoming queen.

Then all of a sudden, somebody screamed

“Look out—the homecoming queen’s got a gun.”

 And so a wacky tale of teen angst, penned and recorded by Julie Brown in 1983, became an indelible part of our pop culture.  As the tale unfolds in song, the police decide to fire a warning shot towards Debbie which, in fact, fatally wounds her, but before she dies, she confides to our singer that she did it “For Johnny.”  Our singer is mystified, since the only Johnny at school is a scrawny kid who always gets food stuck in his braces, creating a musical mystery akin to what it was that Billie Joe McAllister threw off the Tallahatchie Bridge.

There’s a chance we’ll learn more next month as Julie Brown is mounting a staged production “Homecoming Queen’s Got a Musical” at San Francisco’s Oasis Nightclub.  Brown is a very hands-on performer, usually producing, directing, and starring in all of her projects (for a proposed series a few years ago, she even wrote and sang the theme song), so we had to find her and slow her down for a few minutes to chat about this production, and all the other varied projects in her day.

Brown actually studied acting at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theatre, but during her senior year, one of her classmates wrote an original script that was virtually a nightclub comedy routine, and she joined him in performing it.  The enthusiastic audience response was so exciting to her that she gave up the treadmill of Equity auditions, and instead started performing in nightclubs.  One of her favorite onstage characters was a bubbleheaded Valley Girl.  She did a few television spots, but it was when Lily Tomlin spotted her in a nightclub performance and offering her a role in her 1981 film, The Incredible Shrinking Woman, that Brown was launched to national attention.

She put her Val Girl persona to work with a number of novelty recordings, including “Homecoming Queen,” and “Cause I’m a Blonde,” in an EP album called “Goddess in Progress.”  That album also included “Earth Girls Are Easy,” a song that led her to write, produce, and star in a movie with the same title.  Along with Brown, the film starred Geena Davis, Jeff Goldblum, and a couple of gentlemen she discovered doing standup on nightclub stages:  Damon Wayans and Jim Carrey.

In 2008, some 18 years after her last single, she recorded a song called “I Want to be Gay.”  Having been surrounded by gay men throughout her career, she claims in the song that if she were a gay man, it would be easier to get laid!  In chatting with her, it always seems that having fun is a bigger goal than making a lot of money.  “This song was just a nod to ‘my boys,’” Julie said.

“Homecoming Queen’s Got A Musical” enjoyed a sold-out run in Los Angeles late last year, but has a limited exclusive run this February at the new Oasis nightclub in San Francisco, which was recently opened by drag legends D’Arcy Drollinger and Heklina.  The stage show has it all:  singing, dancing, and murder.  We are assured that blood and mascara will run in equal measure, and we’ll certainly revisit that lingering question:  Who is Johnny?

“I’d love to tour the show extensively, but it requires ten actors, and scheduling available time with busy professionals is a nightmare.  The production at Oasis next month will include all ten actors from the LA production, lots of campy costumes and a few set pieces,” Julie tells us.

Following her stage production of “Homecoming Queen,” she hopes to mount a production of “Earth Girls Are Easy.”  Since it would have a smaller cast, she feels they can use live musicians, possibly tour to a wider range of venues.

She will never be the diva who leaves her trailer only when the shot is ready.  She believes in hard work, and lots of it.  In fact, her major issue with past collaborators has been that they rarely meet her level of focus and energy on projects.  However, she continues to love what she’s doing.  I mentioned to her that she’s listed as “American actress, comedian, screen/television writer, singer/songwriter, and television director.”  When pressed to select her favorite, she reluctantly came forth with “Performer.”  What would Julie Brown like to be doing in five years? She said, “Exactly the same as I am right now – but with a lot more money!”

“Homecoming Queen’s Got A Musical” plays at Oasis, 298 Eleventh Street, San Francisco, from February 8 – 11.  Tickets and further information are available at www.sfoasis.com. And for more about Julie Brown, go to www.juliebrown.com.

 

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