Ruby’s Rap by Ruby Comer
I like Ari Gold’s derrière! He must like it too. This r&b pop singer flashes his naked bod everywhere: on the streets of Manhattan, on CD covers, magazines, music videos, and even at events like Night of a Thousand Gowns, a benefit for New York’s GMHC.
After my Helios Facial and celestial double massage (Soul To Sole & Swedish) at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort’s Sunstone Spa here in Palm Springs, I stroll out to the private pool area and park my weary bones in a cushiony lounger. As my fuzzy eyes and wrung-out body settle back to earth, I look across the intimate pool, and with a hazy gleam, espy this god, nearly nude. Boy, he looks familiar, I ponder. Could it be…Ari Gold?
Before I loom toward him, flashes of Ari’s career race through my mind. Raised an Orthodox Jew in the Bronx, he has been singing publicly since he was discovered at the age of five crooning at his brother’s bar mitzvah. When Ari’s debut album was released in 2000, People magazine wrote, “[His music] takes the listener to fresh places.” He’s toured the world alongside Cyndi Lauper, Debbie Harry, and Chaka Khan, and is a recipient of the Independent Music Award. This songwriter even found time to attend Yale University for a while, though he graduated with honors from NYU. The vocalist’s charitable efforts include homelessness, human rights, and HIV/AIDS awareness and research. Ari can usually be found addressing youths around the nation about growing up gay and orthodox, and HIV prevention.
Now feeling more compelled, I gingerly put down Eric G. Meeks’ enlightening book, The Best Guide Ever to Palm Springs Celebrity Homes, and approach this hombre. I’m a lucky girl! It is Ari! He’s gracious, and indeed this hunk is hot—just like the desert. After the introductions, I seat myself at the end of his lounger and he scoots over to me. We shoot the breeze right next to the sun-sparkling pool.
Ruby Comer: Such a nice quirk to find you here! What’s the name of your new record?
Ari Gold: Play My F**kn Remix—and my record label, GOLD18, just released a maxi-single for “Wave Of U 2013.”
I like when you get nasty! [He chuckles.] I guess I just naturally gravitate toward bad boys. What comes to mind when you think of the epidemic?
My father would always say that his father, my grandfather, was not a Holocaust survivor, simply because he was not in the camps. But he lost his entire family. To me, that makes my grandfather a survivor. We are now all survivors whether or not we are living with AIDS in our bodies. The generation that did not see their friends die has no idea how their lives have been affected by AIDS. We were already a people who suffered from homophobia, and then to have AIDS decimate so many vital contributors to society. We are still suffering from the losses in ways that we have not begun to understand.
When did you first become aware of AIDS?
My awareness of AIDS came simultaneously with my awareness of homosexuality. All I knew was that it was something gays had. Some rabbis from my school made it seem like a punishment from God. I’m not sure that I would have had a different perception of it had it not been for artists like Madonna and George Michael.
And were you taught HIV prevention in high school?
We were barely taught any sex education. One only had sex within the confine of a heterosexual marriage. And if you had sex with your wife on the Sabbath, it was a mitzvah.
Can you tell me specifically how you’ve been active in the HIV/AIDS community?
I used to go to ACT UP meetings at the LGBT Center. I’ve done work with GMHC, amfAR, Equity Fights AIDS, and was knighted by the Imperial Court of New York, which in addition to fighting for human rights, has raised money for many AIDS charities. [He rises up and sips water from his bottle that rests beside him.] I’ve also performed at many AIDS fundraisers, and I’ve personally participated in studies for prevention and treatment. I throw condoms out at my concerts.
Bravo! Why is it that you volunteer, Ari?
I see my art as a form of activism. My passion for creating and performing is completely tied into my passion for equality and life. And because we did not have equality for LGBT people, we lost millions of lives that should not have been lost. I stand in much greater freedom today because of what they sacrificed. I feel it’s my responsibility to take advantage of that so I can pave the way for those who come after me. In some ways, I already have. That is the biggest honor.
Any advice to some of your younger fans who may not have witnessed the scourge of AIDS in the eighties?
I really don’t have any ideas that organizations like projectdesign.com haven’t developed already. They need to know that it’s not as simple as just taking a pill. There are also new medicines that are coming out for prevention as well, and we need to educate ourselves about them.
Have you ever dated anyone who was HIV? If so, were there any challenges?
Yes, I have. There weren’t really that many challenges. We had safe sex and that was fine with me.
Have you always worn a condom?
There’s many things that I like to do sexually before using condoms. [He coyly grins and lifts one of his thick brown brows.] I use condoms for anal and oral sex. I have had oral sex without condoms though, and I have been a top and not worn a condom. I have also been in relationships in which we decided not to wear them after being tested. I am aware of the risks and have never taken them lightly.
How often do you get tested?
Once or twice a year—sometimes more, sometimes less. I’ve been seeing someone over the past year and we have both been tested. He’s a doctor.
Mazel tov, it’s nice to have a “dokk-ta” in the house….
Well, we don’t live together.
Ari, you are a role model. Whom do you look up to?
Oprah is my Jesus.
Can’t go wrong with “O!” How does your family feel about your success? You have two brothers, right?
Yes, Elon and Steven. My family has always been a source of support, inspiration, and even collaboration. It’s been a long road and we have worked hard to be as close as we are. My Grammy-winning brother, Steven, has contributed in some way to every project and album I ever released.
I adore that you’re an exhibitionist! Do you think your motivation might stem from rebelling against your Orthodox upbringing?
It seems I’m really into showing my naked ass lately, huh?! [He shoots a killer smile.] Rebelling against my orthodox background is definitely a part of it—especially when I’m wearing tefillin [black straps that wrap around the arms and head during morning prayers] while I perform “My Favorite Religion.” [Watch it on YouTube, darlings.] But my getting naked is also about celebrating my sexuality and allowing the male body to be objectified and penetrable—with consent.
We think alike, sweetie. Who’s your hero in the pandemic?
[His eyes squint from the sun and he instantly replies] Larry Kramer. [Ari glances off and briefly contemplates.] When I think celebrities, I think of Elizabeth Taylor. Other heroes for me are the ones who took care of their loved ones until they passed on. [We’re interrupted by a gust of warm wind that momentarily ripples through the palm fronds above us.] And if I may, I’d like to take this time to thank all the people who work so tirelessly in research, prevention, activism, education, treatment, and folks like yourself, Ruby, who give people a sense of community. I’m glad you approached me today.
It’s all my pleasure, Ari….
More of Ari exposed at www.arigold.com where you’ll find information about his seductive 2014 calendar—$1 of each sale is donated to GMHC.
Ruby Comer is an independent journalist from the Midwest who is happy to call Hollywood her home away from home. Reach her by e-mail at MsRubyComer@aol.com.