In the 80’s and 90’s, my main magazine client was Playboy Magazine. Every publicist in the music business knew that if they gave me access, there was a good chance that their artist would appear somewhere in Playboy. It didn’t hurt if their client was a good looking woman.
So, in August of 2001, a Nashville publicist called me and asked me if I was interesting in driving out to Joliet, Il. (about 60 mines from my house), to photograph Chely Wright, one of her clients. It is a nice ride out to the Rialto Square Theater, a hundred hear old theater with a lobby made for photography. I met Chely backstage mid afternoon, and she told me how nervous she was to appear sexy in a men’s magazine. Seemed that her brother was in the Marines stationed in the middle east, and she was afraid he would take a lot of grief for his sister appearing in Playboy. I reassured her that the pictures would be tasteful, and she went off to do her hair and makeup, while I scouted out location and set up lights. She found me in the lobby and we took some nice photos, which appeared in Playboy a few months later. I never saw her again, but read a lot about her until 2010, when she publicly came out as gay. She appeared as the grand marshall of the Chicago Gay Pride parade that year, and released an autobiography.
This weekend, I watched a movie called “Wish Me Away” on Showtime. The film documents the extraordinary steps she took toward making the public announcement of her sexuality on the Today Show. It shows the remarkable courage it took to pretty much give up her career (The Country Music community doesn’t take well to people outside their “norm”). The first half of the film is filled with her sharing the stage with some of the biggest names in Country Music. Near the end of the film is a slide on the screen that says: “Since her announcement, there have been no invitations from the country music community to share the stage or recording studio.” Except for Rodney Crowell!! She called him when she was deciding what to do, and started sending him songs. He persuaded her to record them, and produced her 2010 album. So at least there is one guy in Nashville that is a mensch!
At the end of the movie, a slide comes on the screen: “She has no regrets.”