“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.
“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.