Carly Ozard Looks Back on S.F. Cabaret, Freddie Mercury, and Animals Before She Moves to N.Y.
Going away parties mean a lot of things: a fresh start, sad goodbyes, and reflecting on all the wacky stuff that's happened in the place you're leaving. Cabaret performer Carly Ozard is having a going away party this week (she's moving to New York), but it won't be a downer -- rather, it will have just about every person she's worked with in the past six years who's important to her, and they'll all perform. We sat down with her to talk music, her love for animals, and her passion for bringing awareness to HIV/AIDS. Co-hosted by Ozard and Mrs. Trauma Flintstone, the event is also a benefit for PAWS -- Pets Are Wonderful Support -- an organization dedicated to bringing animal companionship to those battling long-term illnesses. The event is called Accentuate the PAWSitive!, and it takes place Tuesday (Feb. 28) at the DNA Lounge.
You began as classically trained musician but became a cabaret performer. Can you describe what cabaret means to you?
It was very gradual process. There used to be a place called the Octavia Lounge, and it needed hosts every Friday night for open mic. Every time I got up there to sing I made people laugh. I realized talking on stage and making people laugh was more for me. I was doing classical music mainly because that was what I was being told to do by my teachers. There is more heart in cabaret, it definitely for some reason is what resonated with me the most.
How has San Francisco affected your style?
I've lived in the Castro for six years now and I'm straight, which makes for a good time to meet guys. Actually, my first one-woman show was about that. A lot of my gay friends had been married to straight people before. One of my first boyfriends was gay, so I kept thinking about the woman who ended up in these relationships. I decided I'm going to do a show about this because it was a recurring trend. Every single show I do has all life experiences I've had. Sometimes I'll even take a friend's experience and do an entire number based on a story they told me. It's to show them that everybody is laughing with you, everybody is feeling alongside you. One girlfriend of mine was always pressured to get married all the time. So I did a song about marriage pressure, and I used some of her exact words. It makes people realize have same problems, so they laugh and relate. My goal is that I want every audience member when they go to a show to be be like, "Totally! I've so been there! Thanks for bringing this up."
Basically, I like to deliver uncomfortable things in a comfortable setting.
What do you hope to accomplish in New York? Why the move there as opposed to Los Angeles or any other place?
I kind of always knew I was going to end up in New York. New York has the most cabaret rooms, the most to offer. It validates cabaret -- not that San Francisco doesn't validate it, but it's nice that New York is just big enough that you can always find a performance space.
What can some of the viewers expect from your final performance in the Bay Area?
Its barely my performance, it's a fundraiser for P.A.W.S. I'm only doing three numbers but the whole idea is my life of six years in one night. I selected these people because they are the people who made my six years here wonderful. It' kind of like, look at how talented they are and let's raise some money for something good. I'll tell stories, funny experiences. I'm tying everything together as tightly as I possibly can.
There are a lot of performers in the lineup (solo and duet numbers).
Every single one of these people is performing because at some point we've created together. I want it to be like having a bunch of people in the room who respect everyone's talents. Like take my friend Peter Sroka. He was there when I learned [the Queen song] "Somebody to Love," and we just played it because we liked it so much. I really found my voice in that song, and we just got up on stage and did it. There was no knowledge of a Freddy Mercury show then. [Ozard performed Someone to Love: My Musical Tribute to Freddie Mercury in 2011.] It's about having people like him with me for the final performance.
Just being with my friends and partying with them on and off the stage -- it's going to be very interactive. I thought it would be fun to use the whole space. I just want my friends to sing and raise money for P.A.W.S.
Many of the performers are friends?
It's like when you read a children book and you meet all the characters. There is no way I could be on this stage if it weren't for these guys. They influenced and guided me. It takes a village to preserve an art that doesn't have a home.
You've had a pretty excellent history when it comes to bringing awareness to HIV/AIDS. What does this cause mean to you?
I was born in 1983, and I was this little baby in Belmont. Just about 30 miles away something terrible that was happening, I mean it was happening everywhere, but a big chunk of it was happening so close by. I felt like even if you can't do something about it, you can always at least try to make something better around you.
There is just something that bothers me that there is this disease that nobody knows about and it literally came to life when I was born. This is just so horrendous, this can happen to anybody, you don't get it, it finds you. Then, close friends of mine in the theater community were either getting it or their friends were getting it. I saw how people lost so much. This can happen to anyone and that's just not fair. So while it's busy being not fair, what can I do? I can't change that but I can try and make their life more comfortable or joyful.
Is this why you chose P.A.W.S. for the benefit?
I've been a dog lover my entire life. I really know every breed, I'm a total nerd, and animals have have always contributed to my life so much. First of all, I'm so glad there is an organization that understands animals can work as a central part of healing. So many people say that animals don't matter, like it's just a dog, but no, it's not just anything. It's something with feelings that brings comfort to someone who needs it.
I want people to have a good time and enjoy all the artists and what they bring to the table. It's really weird, I don't have much of a goal for this performance besides having a party with great singers. We're all just singing and raising money for a good cause. I'm hoping people come and enjoy themselves.
Accentuate the PAWSitive! starts at 7 p.m. at the DNA Lounge, 375 11th St. (at Folsom), S.F. Admission is $20.