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Not your typical beauty queen
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An unlikely CLUB diva if there ever was one, small town girl Kristine W (formerly Kristine Weitz) was Miss Washington in 1981’s Miss America pageant. But her whitebread life ended there; she soon found herself in Las Vegas in “a beatup Cutlass with a hundred bucks in my pocket,” she says, eager to start a career in music.

With twelve years of live performances in Vegas under her belt and nine consecutive number one Billboard Dance hits to her credit -- more than any other artist in history, including Madonna and Janet Jackson -- Kristine’s unlikely path to success has paid off.

The married mother of two has another, even bigger success story to tell. She’s a leukemia survivor, one who was once given a thirty percent chance to live. With the disease now in remission, Kristine is able to joke that “it sure makes all the problems in the music business look small by comparison.”

Kristine spoke to us last week from her home in Las Vegas.

Connect Savannah: You’re a dance club star, which gives you an in in the gay community. But other than that, are you politically active for gay issues?

Kristine W: In my own way I guess I am. I’m not a big one to get out and throw the flag around. But I’m there for them and they know that. I feel for them and love them -- you know, whatever makes them happy they should strive for. But you know, gay rights have come so far. There aren’t a lot of issues left besides getting married. I don’t know why they want to get themselves involved in all that and get all tortured out with it (laughs). I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

Connect Savannah: How did a former Miss America contestant from a farm in Washington find herself in dance music?

Kristine W: I’m not really sure how that happened. All I know is I was dancing around to that type of music at a really young age. Donna Summer was my icon out in a farm town in the middle of nowhere. I called it my happy music. Then I found out it was called disco, which turned out to be a dirty word somehow. I think it was something the record labels did, because disco was selling so many records, and country and rock were selling nothing in comparison. So they said hey, we gotta make this sound bad, so we’ll say it’s gay music. When there’s big money to be made there’s politics. Whenever there’s something good in this country we’ve got to screw it up. I love my country, but it sure seems like whenever there’s something that’s good or happy or cool or fun, we’ll figure out a way to screw it up. In the disco era, there was a real emphasis on music. There wasn’t MTV or all that. You listened to music with your ears not your eyes. Now everybody sees a butt bouncing up and down and they think that’s good music.

Connect Savannah: What did the twelve years of live shows in Vegas mean to you as a performer?

Kristine W: When you play in Vegas you get to be a really good live performer. I played six nights a week, four or five shows a day for 12 years straight.

Connect Savannah: You’re kidding.

Kristine W: I used to play four shows a night -- four one-hour shows. The last five years in Vegas I did two shows a night, a hour and half each.

Connect Savannah: How are the health issues these days?

Kristine W: Better. Way better. It takes time. It’s a slow frustrating comeback, but better that than not being here at all.

Connect Savannah: Your new album is just crazy big.

Kristine W: The new one is Fly Again. We’ve had three number ones off it already. The fourth single comes out Oct. 11, written by John DeNicola. He wrote “The Time of My Life” from Dirty Dancing.

Connect Savannah: Have you been to Savannah before?

Kristine W: Yes, I have. I love Savannah. I love the history, the vibe, it’s such a beautiful place. There’s so much love there. Club One is so cool. One drag queen there gave me a fabulous corset as a gift. It was a leather corset with flames. I rhinestoned it up and it was perfect for a show I did called “Fireball” in Chicago. I mean, who goes and makes you a fabulous corset? And me being this straight mother of two. When I go to cities and I’m with my girlfriends, the first place we go is to a drag bar. It’s good, fun entertainment. I feel sorry for people who don’t know how much fun it is.

Kristine W performs Saturday on River Street as part of the sixth annual Savannah Pride Festival.