"Pride events are great for building my rebel fan base," says Ricky Rebel of his appearance, his third, at Palm Springs Pride. "When people see me perform they become fans, I have a magic. You can't get that from YouTube. It's like watching porn instead of having sex with me. Come to my show and have sex with me."
"Palm Springs Pride is the latest stop on my Rebel with a Cause tour with my full band The Rebel Mafia and a troupe of dancers. It's a Vegas act I'm working on, a collection of all of my songs from both albums, Manipulator and Blue." And yes Rebel will be performing his hit "Star," of which the Hector Fonseca remix is familiar to the majority of a gay audience. "Somehow the song, the whole album Blue, got into his hands and he called said, 'I love the track. I'd like to remix it and release it on my label.' Hector's great. He's such a humble guy."
Rebel can't afford to be humble, as the nakedly ambitious lyrics of "Star" state, he wants to be a star. And he's been working a long time to achieve that status. A professional dancer and gymnast, he became part of the successful boy band, No Authority, at 15. "They told us what to say, what to wear. There's a big constraint in all that but we had to appeal to the little young girls. We couldn't appear feminine." But isn't it tradition to have a gay member in a boy band? "We had several . . . At the time I was going through my own sexuality thing and if they found out . . . I couldn't be the one who got the band kicked off the label."
There were advantages to being in a boy band. Rebel got a lot of practice singing and dancing, honed his stage presence, and by touring with 98 Degrees, Destiny's Child, and eventually Britney Spears, he saw first hand how the stardust was created out of perspiration and determination. Originally signed to the vanity label overseen by Michael Jackson - and yes Rebel, then Ricky G, did meet MJ: they exchanged dance moves at Neverland Ranch - before being turned over to Madonna's label Maverick.
And then the late-'90s boy-band craze was over.
Rebel rebounded into another manufactured pop product, the rock band Harlow. "I was still producing my own dance tracks in my studio but the producer, this is in 2004, said 'Dance is dead. No-one wants to dance anymore.' Had I stuck to my guns, I'd be in a different place. But I did learn a lot, how to work with a band, it expanded my vocal range."
But it also conflicted with Rebel's burgeoning sexuality. "It was a rock album and the producer locked me in a room with a Bible and some scriptures. He said, 'You'll never make it if you're out.' I wanted to prove him wrong."
Proving him wrong resulted in Rebel's most in-your-face and entertaining single, "You Need a Woman." Rebel is delighted/surprised when I tell him it is my favourite of his videos (though oddly the ability to embed it here has been "disabled by request." It can, for the moment, be found at youtu.be/qEc1ej8gzGg). "That's a great idea for Palm Springs. I need another uptempo. People love it, I have so much energy when I perform it."
Rebel's sexual fluidity in a high energy glampop setting may be something that the masses don't yet know they need. "It's a new kind of pop: glampop. It's a take on Bowie and '70s glam, re-making it for the 21st century." That he can sell it on stage has been proven: Palm Spring Pride has a reputation for booking only the best acts. "Last year we parked our car and the Psychedelic Furs were playing "Love My Way." I almost died, that's one of my favourite songs." This year he's eager to catch Frankmusik's set. And amidst those enjoying 10,000 Maniacs, Candis Cayne, GayC/DC and Wrabel will be lots of gays, and sometimes girls, eager to have sex with Ricky Rebel.