A Gay, Orthodox Jewish R&B Singer

Oh yeah. That one is very pedophile-y.

I'm singing to a bear, "I love my potbelly bear." And there was another song, "Spend lots of time together, we sit and talk, share toys and pretend."

Oh my God. And then the bear's voice is all low, like, "Helloooo, young man." It's so sick.

It is. And after that, one thing led to the next.

Give us a little rundown of your most famous childhood jingles and appearances.

[singing] "I don't want to grow up, I'm a Toys ‘R' Us kid!" "Kids are big and kids are small, Kids ‘R' Us!" "A is for apple, J is for jacks, cinnamon crunchy Apple Jacks!" "Look what they've done to my oatmeal!" "The good time, great taste of McDonald's!" "Gatorade is thirst-ade for that deep-down body thirst!"

What else?

Cabbage Patch Kids, Jem & the Holograms, My Buddy.

My Buddy! That's the big one. "My buddy! Wherever I go, he goes!"

Jem & the Holograms is the one most people are impressed by. I'm impressed because I love Jem.

Yeah, you were obsessed with it. You would draw her in your notebook over and over and over. And weren't you on a soap opera too?

Briefly, on All My Children.

You were very skinny and scrawny as a kid, but once you came out you got all beefy. Now you look like a buff Hispanic guy.

Well, good. Yeah, I've gotten in touch with my masculinity later on in life. But as a child, I was a pretty effeminate gay boy.

Remember how everyone thought Shuli Weiner was such a slut in seventh grade because there was a rumor that she showed her boobs to her boyfriend and put a pubic hair in a locket for him? I mean, who came up with that? A pubic hair in a locket? And it was the scandal of the century.

It was like, "Will we ever speak to her again?" It was a moral outrage.

It's so twisted! I always tell people these stories, and they're like, "Are you serious?" It's shocking to them.

And all the rules. Just how many rules there are. There isn't a single second of your life that you aren't doing something religious.

And the fact that nobody questions it. This is what I always tell people is the quintessential experience of growing up Orthodox Jewish for me. Remember that class Rabbi Weiser taught? One day he was trying to prove that God existed based on the existence of the dung beetle. The dung beetle is so amazing that only God could have created it, was his reasoning. I raised my hand and I was like, "But..." and I started saying something to argue with him, and suddenly Michael Kule, the most popular kid in our grade -- I'll never forget this -- he turned around in his seat to face me, and shouted, "Just shut up and accept it!"

That's like something out of a bad teen movie.

That's it in a nutshell, right? That's exactly how I feel about religion. Do you keep kosher now?

I keep antikosher. I still get pleasure out of a lobster. It still feels sinful.

That's interesting because I hate shellfish. And it's not because I won't eat it ‘cause it's not kosher, but if you put a lobster in front of me, I'm like, "That is a giant roach with an exoskeleton." Same thing with crabs, shrimp. They're bugs, and they're gross! And everyone thinks that I'm crazy. I guess it's somehow in my mind, because I didn't grow up with it, now it's foreign to me. But there are lots of other things I didn't grow up with that I like now.

Like drugs.

Ha. But yeah, something was internalized in me that these are disgusting things. They're dirty, they're bottom feeders, they eat their own shit.

But I would watch Red Lobster commercials and think it looked incredible and wish that I could eat at Red Lobster. Red Lobster to me was like, "Wow." And McDonald's and Burger King cheeseburgers. I remember my first cheeseburger very, very clearly. It was at Cozy's on Broadway. Near NYU. It was quite a good cheeseburger.

Mine was at McDonald's.

That's a good cheeseburger to have.

It made me queasy. But anyway, whenever there's an article about you in Jewish Week, my mom clips it out for me. Do you have any gay Jewish fans?

I definitely have gay Jews who love what I do, and who appreciate what I do, specifically.

But you could easily not do this Jewish thing. You could also not do the gay thing and just be a normal R&B singer.

Yeah, and I've worked with a lot of big-name producers and record-company executives who all told me not to be gay. They said, "I'll make you a star, but don't be gay and don't be Jewish." This one time, this big-name record producer, who shall remain nameless, told me I should go in the closet and he'd make me a star, and he also Photoshopped the chai necklace out of all my press photos. Oh, and he told me I should change my name to Snake.

4/13/2010 4:00:00 AM
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