Arts & Entertainment
2 min

A drag queen should never ask

Warner music forbids act from including Cher tunes & video

STAR THREAT? Thomas Kirby as Cher; Cher as Cher.

If he could turn back time, London’s Thomas Kirby would bring back what he calls the glamour of drag.

And if he could find a way, he would be showcasing that glamour with his very own tribute show to Cher, a virtual recreation of her farewell tour.

But he’s going to have to believe in a lot more than life after love in order to make his dream come true now that Warner Music Canada and Cher’s management have turned down his requests to use the icon’s music and video footage.

Cher’s people revealed their hearts of stone even after Kirby, 39, and partner Jeffrey Taylor, 48, offered to donate part of the proceeds to the Children’s Craniofacial Association, a pet project of Cher’s.

“They didn’t give a crap about anything whatsoever,” says Taylor. “They just basically said no.”

Says Kirby, who is HIV-positive: “A guy is dying and trying to give away money to sick kids — and you say no? That’s pretty rude.”

Their quest began after seeing Cher’s farewell tour in London, Hamilton and Toronto. Kirby got the idea of recreating the show in London, performing a version of it the last three Prides. Each year the show grew in size as they added costumes (over 40 at last count), professional dancers, lighting and even a papier maché elephant.

“For the ‘Bang Bang’ number, I have the three-foot headdress with red and black feathers, and smoke billows through the feathers as I exit a nine-foot volcano,” says Kirby.

Kirby and Taylor wanted to take their act to the next level at London’s John Labatt Centre, having spent $70,000 on the show. At that point, they needed additional video elements to use just as Cher did in her show. So they sought permission to use footage from Cher’s farewell tour DVD.

Warner Music Canada not only turned down their request, but told them they couldn’t use any of Cher’s music, either.

“We as a company have strong reservations about this production,” Temi Kerr of Warner Music Canada wrote the duo in an e-mail. “We feel that something of this magnitude is best left to the artist herself.”

Says Warner Music Canada’s Steve Waxman: “If he wants to go out and sing Cher’s songs, fine. But no one here is comfortable with him using Cher’s video and vocals for the kind of large-scale show he was planning.”

The pair had even reached out for help from Kathy O’Brien of Toronto’s Hot Pursuit, Canada’s leading agency for clearing and licensing stock footage. After speaking with both Cher’s management and Warner, she wrote to the couple: “They have said that if you did sing Cher’s songs, there would be no problem, that you could go ahead and do your show. But if you are lip-synching, this is her music and Warner is not approving the use of her songs.”

When Taylor and Kirby pointed out to Warner and Cher’s management that they had found Cher tribute shows and drag performances all over the world, their e-mail went unanswered.

Waxman told Xtra there are too many drag queens doing Cher for Warner to keep tabs on.