The Long Island Gay Men’s Chorus (LIGMC) was founded in 2008. Ten years later, the non-profit, volunteer-run organization has become an integral and well-respected presence in the Long Island LGBTQ community– and beyond. Presenting two concerts per year, the men (and one woman!) of LIGMC use the transgenerational power of music to bring together the LGBTQ and our straight allies, with the more worldly aim of reducing prejudice and discrimination. In addition to their own shows, LIGMC make themselves available to assist other nonprofits by entertaining at their fund-raising events. The Chorus is currently composed of about 15 members. Their core values include comradeship, a passion for music, a sense of family, honoring diversity, acceptance, integrity, excellence, “making ’em, laugh and making ’em cry”, and of course, having fun!
Speaking of fun… What could be more fun than those ageless radio pop hits from the ’80’s? I know, I know… People have made fun of the ’80’s for a long time, mostly because of the decade’s over-the-top fashions. For those who need a reminder, a partial list of those rule-breaking fads included the chunky jewelry, shoulder pads, leg warmers, spandex, and “big hair” for women (Can you say “home perm”?); the acid washed jeans, mesh tops, and “man tail”– a predecessor to the “man bun”– for men; and the the blindingly bright color schemes for both. (Neon and pastels and lime green. Oh my!) The clothes are undeniably dated, but the music of the ’80’s has survived. Pop culture critics like to label a lot of that music as superficial and goofy… but there’s no denying that it was also high-spirited, upbeat, and addictive. If you need proof, just check the wildly popular ’80’s nights at the Pyramid Club in New York City… or dig out one of your old “mix tapes” (ahem…) and give it a whirl with your fellow children of the ’80’s. You can even play silly games as you listen, like asking “Where was the last time you heard THIS song?” while chugging Bartles and Jaymes wine coolers…
Suffolk County native Tony Mazza
is Vice President, Secretary, and Webmaster for Long Island Gay Men’s Chorus. He took the time to speak to me about their upcoming “excellent adventure”:
JR: Hi Tony! As a child of the 80’s, the name of the upcoming show is very titillating: “Revenge of the ’80’s Cabaret”. Where did the idea of honoring that colorful decade come from?
TM: Well, also being a child of the ’80’s, it happens to be a time period that holds a lot of good memories for me. As I often tell anyone who will listen, I usually have a non-stop musical production going through my mind 24 hours a day. Fortunately, being in the Long Island Gay Men’s Chorus has enabled me to harness this ability for the benefit of our Cabarets and Concerts. Having been a huge comic book fan most of my life, I think of it as Spider-Man syndrome: “With great power comes great responsibility’! Or,
at least in this case, a really fun show! The ’80’s were such a fun decade, and music really became so much more visually stimulating in the ’80’s mostly because of MTV. So, it just seemed to be the perfect theme for a Long Island Gay Men’s Cabaret!
JR: Sounds great! So, how long have you been involved with the Chorus? What has the journey as a member been like for you through the years?
TM: I joined the Long Island Gay Men’s Chorus in September of 2015 for our annual Holiday Concert, so this is my fourth year singing in the Chorus. My journey in the Chorus has been life-changing. I had always dreamed of singing and performing, but never pursued that dream because I had allowed those demons that we all have in the back of our mind to get the better of me. Those voices that tell us negative things like, “You’re too old, you’re too fat, you’re not good enough, etc., etc.” Joining the Chorus allowed me to become my true self, as a performer with the Chorus and as a solo artist. The Chorus helped me find my voice both literally and figuratively.
JR: As an Officer of the organization, what’s the most important thing you want everyone to know about Long Island Gay Men’s Chorus?
TM: As Vice-President of the Long Island Gay Men’s Chorus, the most important thing that I want everyone to know is that the LGBTQ community is alive and well on Long Island. I feel that through our singing we are shouting out to the world that we are here, we are queer, and that is something that needs to be celebrated! The Chorus is 10 years old this Holiday Season, and I’m hoping that we continue to grow and enjoy many more years of bringing music and pride to Long Island.
JR: I grew up on Long Island, so I know that there has been a very rich LGBTQ cultural history through the decades. So, without giving too much away, what surprises can we expect from the show on November 3rd?
TM: Well, I know our wonderful host of the “Revenge of The 80’s Cabaret”, the one and only Joe Mannetti, has some tricks up his sleeve– provided he keeps his shirt on, but we all know that won’t happen. (Laughs) That being said, as ’80’s pop music was so well defined by MTV, I think everyone is going to love some of the homages we will be paying to those iconic videos!
JR: That sounds great! Anything else you want to tell everyone– besides, obviously, “Buy your tickets!”
TM: Yes, please buy those tickets! Tickets for all of these will be available on our website, and you can also follow us on Facebook: Just look us up under “Long Island Gay Men’s Chorus”!
JR: Thanks, Tony!
As Tony said, the show will be hosted by LGBTQ activist and multiple Bear Titleholder Joe Mannetti. As if you didn’t need any more encouragement, Joe spoke to me about why this ’80’s flashback is a trip worth taking:
JR: Hi, Joe! Congratulations on being Host of the upcoming LIGMC show! In the past you’ve lived in New York City, California, and Connecticut. How did you first get involved with the Chorus?
JM: They graciously reached out to me! Actually, it was Tony Mazza who contacted me about hosting their show in November. I was quite surprised and flattered.
JR: That’s great! So, the show is named “Revenge of the ’80’s”. There was a lot of great music from that decade… as well as some really embarrassing clothes! What do the ’80’s mean to you?
JM: I suppose that the 80’s mean different things to different people. I grew up in New York. But, I had moved out to Los Angeles in 1986. I was beginning what would become a remarkable journey in the Southland. I went out there to pursue an acting career. I did. But, I also came out as a Gay man, entered all those Bear contests and won five titles in total, began hosting fundraising events, put myself through graduate school on a tuition reimbursement program and a scholarship, earned a Master of Science degree in counseling, and more. I really became the person identified as “Joe Mannetti” during those 24 years in California. I think that the music of that time reflected a lot of what was going on at the moment. LGBT activism was in full swing, and disco and nightlife was exploding. People were exploring their identities, and they were having fun. I was too.
JR: No doubt! (Laughs) You’ll be hosting the show on November 3rd, but did you ever consider auditioning to be a singer too?
JM: Well, I started out in theater in New York. I was very serious about my learning my craft. I studied at H.B. Studios in New York City, and I was a Drama Studies major at SUNY College at Purchase. I acted, sang, and danced in several New York stage productions. I played Tommy in “The Music Man’ when I was fourteen years old. I was the second to youngest in the cast. I am not known as a singer. But, I can carry a tune. The men of the Long Island Gay Men’s Chorus are an incredibly talented group of individuals. I love working with them on this show. Tony has been wonderful. They all have treated me very well. Who knows? Maybe I will join the LIGMC after this cabaret. I would be in very good company, and it has been a blast getting back to my theater roots after hosting all those fundraisers in all of those bars.
JR: As I asked Tony: Without giving TOO much away (!), what surprises can we expect from the “Revenge of the ’80’s” Cabaret?
JM: Well, you can expect LOTS of fun! There will be delicious food treats served up by chorus member Gregory B. Barbera. The cabaret show will consist of a bevy of songs guaranteed to lift your spirits and get you in the mood to dance. And I will be making several costume changes throughout the evening along with joining in with a song or two. That’s all you get from me. If you want to find out more, PLEASE COME AND SEE THE SHOW!
JR: Anything else you’d like to tell the masses– besides, obviously, “Buy your tickets!”?
JM: This is a great group of guys who really care about their audience and their communities. They always put on a good show. I am happy to be joining them. I hope that you will join us too. I would love to see you! Oh… and they sing good too!
JR: Well, that sounds “totally bodacious”, dude! Thank you, Joe!
Tickets for Long Island Gay Men’s Chorus’ “Revenge of the’80’s Cabaret”
are available to purchase online at LIGMC’s website, www.ligmc.org/events
. Tickets will also be available at the door and are $25.00 for a full evening of entertainment and refreshments at the Sayville VFW
, located at 400 Lakeland Ave., Sayville, New York, on Saturday Nov. 3rd at 8 PM.
LIGMC also has their annual holiday concerts coming up: three concert dates this season, covering both Nassau and Suffolk counties. Their theme this year is “Christmas at the Movies”! The dates and locations are:
Dec. 7th – St. John’s Episcopal Church in Huntington, 8 PM
Dec. 14th – The Cathedral of The Incarnation in Garden City, 8 PM
Dec. 15th – The Universal Unitarian Fellowship in Stony Brook, 8 PM