“Reality shows aren’t real,” says Amy Armstrong, who was given a unanimous thumbs-up by the judges on America’s Got Talent and was promised on air to move on to a third competition in Las Vegas.
The bawdy, full-figured singer/comedienne and her pianist partner Freddy Allen have played for a gay-centric crowd for 18 years. Billed as Amy & Freddy, they claim to have helped raise $15 million for LGBT charities over their 18 years as a team. Their San Diego shows this week will help kick off Pride Fest.
Five years ago the music-and-comedy team (described as a raucous and flamboyant version of Captain and Tennille) wowed the AGT judges. But even though Amy & Freddy were promised a televised Las Vegas showcase, “They called and said we weren’t on the list anymore. Any big corporation can say a contract is null and void if [they decide they] don’t want you. It really messed me up.”
So, why no lawsuit? “We had to sign, like, a 130-page contract. Even though they make it look like a real competition, everything is decided in advance by the producers. Sharon Osbourne [then an AGT judge] said we were the strangest couple she had ever seen. I was, like, ‘Really, Sharon?’ But I don’t think getting bumped from America’s Got Talent stopped me from what I want to do.”
Amy, who is straight, met Freddy, who is not, at an open mic in a club in the Boys Town area of Chicago. “When I first met Freddy, I showed up in overalls and a mini-truck. He thought I was a drag queen. He looked at me at me and said, ‘Are you a lesbian?’ I said, ‘No, are you?’ We just clicked.” He plays piano while she covers songs by Bette Midler, Sophie Tucker, and Koko Taylor and makes most of the between-song jokes. They have released four albums and have played corporate gigs, dinner theater, and about 60 gay cruise-ship tours.
- Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Martinis Above Fourth,
3940 Fourth Avenue #200,
$30 - $40
“I didn’t plan on working in the gay community, it just kind of happened. When we started doing the cruises, we did the small stages. Now we do the mainstage. I always wanted to be like Charo or Ethel Merman, who were on The Love Boat. I got my wish. I’m on the gay Love Boat.”
Armstrong says she has nothing against gender-bending drag singers who imitate Cher, Rhianna, and Katy Perry and who happen to be playing the same night at Lips in North Park. “If I was a drag queen, my name would be Sheeleeta Corndog.”
Amy & Freddy perform July 16 and 17 at Martinis Above Fourth in Hillcrest.