November 14, 2018

All that glitters is Ari Gold

Sir Ari Gold isn’t actually a knight, but the popular singer and LGBT rights activist can be seen in shining armor in photos on his website. His bold and scandalous style, outspoken nature, and catchy music blending dance and R&B sensibilities ensures no one could ever mistake him for Jeremy Piven’s conniving “Entourage” character of the same name.

“My concerts tend to be more about a fantasy,” Gold told the Journal during a phone interview from his home in New York City. “I try to bring an energy to the room in which it feels like there’s no discrimination, there’s no oppression. … I always like to bring this triumphant, positive feeling. It’s almost warrior-like.”

One of Gold’s newest projects is an autobiographical musical, “Pop Out,” which will debut in New York on July 23 at Dixon Place. It traces his journey from a child star singing on shows such as the cartoon “Jem,” to a yeshiva student struggling with his identity, to a proud and out pop star.

“It’s something I’ve been developing for a few years,” Gold said. “When it comes to LGBT people, it’s important to tell our stories because for so long, our stories were not heard.”

Gold recalled how, growing up Orthodox in New York City and attending yeshiva, he was forced to repress himself. Later, he said, “I became very politicized when I was able to leave the bubble of yeshiva and went to college and studied all these amazing ideas I never thought about … things like what you might call ‘pro-sex feminism and queer theory.’ ”

Unabashedly political in his views, Gold cites the second-wave feminist mantra that the “political is personal.” In fact, he may have been too political in early versions of “Pop Out.”

“That political impetus was always very at the forefront for me, but [the director] reminded me that at the end of the day, we’re talking about love and sex and the way we interact on a personal basis,” he said.

Gold was forced to confront tough moments from his own life while creating “Pop Out,” including the death of a former partner and past troubles with his parents. 

“The relationship is incredible these days,” Gold said of his mother and father. “But it was not always that way. There were at least a couple of years in which we were not on speaking terms.”

Gold’s older brother, Elon, a well-known Los Angeles comedian who last year wrote in the Journal about a hate crime he experienced with his family on Shabbat, has been supportive. “I think about the parallels between my work and my brother’s work, too … We both have this strong sense of wanting to be proud, and sort of insist on the specificity of our experiences,” Gold said.

Gold recalled a trauma of his own back in 2011. “I was sitting with a boyfriend at the time on the bus on the way to the Catskills to see my family, and we were sitting arm in arm. That was about the extent of our PDA, and the bus driver told us to sit at the back of the bus.” 

Gold was horrified and tweeted about the experience. The story was picked up by then-Village Voice columnist Michael Musto, sparking outrage that went viral.

But Gold’s story isn’t all lows. He’s enjoyed success on the Billboard charts with songs such as “Where the Music Takes You,” which won the USA Songwriting Competition, and “Love Wasn’t Built in a Day,” a collaboration with L.A.’s own Grammy-nominated Jewish saxophonist Dave Koz that won an Independent Music Award. Of course, the recent legalization of same-sex marriage also is a high point. 

“So many of us [in the LGBT community] do come from religious backgrounds … so to get the support from the priests and the rabbis, that makes a huge difference,” Gold said. “It absolutely is real change … these decisions have a real effect on people, on people who have gotten married in one state and they need their marriage to be recognized in another state, and that’s real.”

He added: “I’ve had the distinct honor of being able to sing at a number of gay weddings. I have this gay wedding song that’s called
‘Bashert,’ so it also incorporates my Jewish identity.”

Some people cautioned Gold that exploring both his Jewish and gay identities in one show might be too much for people to handle, an idea Gold calls laughable. “I always felt very connected to my Jewish identity,” he said, noting that all of us are complex and not made up of just one aspect.

Gold said he is excited to share his show and his story, and he hopes to eventually take “Pop Out” on tour, visiting cities such as Los Angeles.

Gold also is preparing to release his fifth studio album, “Soundtrack to Freedom,” a new collaboration with Dutch producer Subgroover. He’s releasing the album under the name Gold Nation, and it will be dropping later this year.

“I just wanted something that was a little more open,” Gold said of the name. “Anyone can be part of Gold Nation. We are all one Gold Nation Under God, I say.”