Maria Desiderio – Part of the Lesbian Tide – Out and Proud in 1978

  1. Maria & Zoe Surprised in Love

When, Where and How did Laura Nyro first meet her eventual life partner, Maria Desiderio?

The purpose of this talk page is to stimulate a discussion that might lead to ascertaining when, where, and how these two women first met.

CURRENT UPDATE May 2011.

I believe the evidence, here to date, warrants the following  assumptions.  Laura and Maria met for the first time when Maria, a self-described native of Brooklyn, was 12/13 years old,  taking keyboard lessons from Alice Coltrane. Laura was smitten. “So let the wind blow, Timer …I like her song.” Their “flame” relationship was eventually revealed. “Emmie your mama’s been a callin’ you.” As a consequence of Maria’s tender age of 13,  she  was relocated to Torrance, CA, circa late ’67.  In 1970, Maria and Zoe first meet at Bishop Montgomery High School.  It is likely that “Lauria” rendezvous at a live concert in June 1971, possibly to celebrate Maria’s 17th birthday. Instead of  “cuddling in Mama’s garden,” they do the “wild thing.”  Laura in her personal attribution of “Dèsiree” boasts the occasion and on “the down low” declares Maria Desiderio to be her soul mate. In 1976, Maria and Zoe become lovers and live together as life partners, even exchanging rings. In mid 1978, at the Roxy Theatre, on a fan line with Zoe,  “Lauria” again see each other. Laura is very pregnant. That was all that was needed to rekindle the “flame.”  They begin a correspondence.  Alice was the likely go-between. From 1980 to Labor Day Weekend 1982, “Lauria” were having an affair which Zoe unmasked. Immediately, Maria goes East to live with Laura. It can be fairly stated that Maria Desiderio was Laura Nyro’s soul mate. Maria Desiderio’s passion was painting and her obsession was Laura Nyro. The rest is Herstory.

In 2002, Michele Kort authored the biography of Laura Nyro, Soul Picnic. Kort quotes Wendy Werris’ claims that in the early 1980′s, Zoe Ananda, Maria’s former life partner, told Werris “Oh, Maria moved to Connecticut to live with Laura Nyro.” ibid p. 196.

But this fails to answer the questions of when, where and how the initial meeting occurred. In fact, Kort answers the how question this way. “None of Nyro’s close friends are certain how she met Maria Antonia Desiderio.” ibid p. 196. In her second footnote to page 196. Kort wrote “how she met Maria: I couldn’t confirm the story that they may have met through musician Alice Coltrane, from whom Desiderio supposedly took keyboard lessons.” ibid p. 305. (see also comment 10. by DJ M,  infra)

According to Zoe  Ann “Ananda” Nicholson, Maria’s ex, the following is true.  Maria and Zoe first met in 1970. Zoe claimed that even back then, Maria was already obsessed with Laura Nyro. Zoe and Maria became lovers in 1976.  Sometime in 1978, Laura met Zoe and Maria on a fan line at the Roxy in Los Angeles.  Much to Zoe’s astonishment, sometime in 1980, Laura showed up in the “Gypsy with dog and child” at Zoe/Maria’s Magic Speller bookstore.  Zoe threw Maria out on Labor Day Weekend 1982. Around 1986, Zoe, Laura and Maria reformed a deep friendship until Laura’s death.  Zoe is emphatic that all three: Zoe, Laura and Maria were bisexual, but living in and embracing the radical, feminist, lesbian subculture. (see links below &/or)  Zoe insists Laura told her, expressly, that “Walk the Dog and Light the Light” was about Maria. Zoe confirmed that Maria liked older women both Laura and Zoe were six to seven years older than Maria.  Zoe, “Maria was the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. And she loved me! Surprised in love.” ¹

A puzzling quote is Michele Kort’s claim “Those who knew Maria Desiderio say that she was even more private than Laura…” ibid p. 217.  This is in contradiction to Maria’s picture published in the Lesbian Tide March/April 1978, Community Focus, p. 27. It shows Maria with her mom, Irene, and Zoe Ananda with her mom. All four women are beaming smiles in what could only be described as a “recruiting poster” for PFLAG.   It has always intrigued me as to what prompted this once “out & proud” lesbian back into the closet? In further contrast is the quote accompanying the picture “…Maria…and Zoe…consider themselves the ‘luckiest lesbians alive’ because they have experienced little discrimination regarding their lifestyle…”

http://images2.wikia.nocookie.net/lgbt/images/5/54/Maria_D_Lesbian_Tide-1-.pdf

Surprising is this comment,  by Michelle Kort, discounting “Emmie” as a lesbian love song.  “Emmie” “was a favorite of her mother -  hardly the endorsement one would expect for her daughter’s paean  to her female lover.” ibid , p. 197.  Both Maria’s mom, Irene, and Zoe’s mom were enthusiastic about their daughters’ relationship. They were as “out & proud” as their daughters. They  fully supported the creation of the “Majic Speller,” a lesbian owned/ lesbian friendly bookstore. Laura’s dad said of Maria “She was like another daughter, a lovely woman.” ibid, p. 198. Why wouldn’t Laura’s mom have been proud of her daughter’s creation “Emmie,”  even as a Sapphic paean?

The naysayers can argue all they want, they can’t get around “Désiree.”  Laura’s  July 1971,  recording was her  paean  to Maria, perhaps, to mark Maria’s 17th birthday.  She titled the song in a  unique way, Désiree.  Laura recited her beloved’s name, Désiree, 14 times in 1:48 min/sec. Maria’s last name Desiderio means desire; Désiree means desire.  Kort mentions in Soul Picnic, that Désiree was stripped down to voice, piano, and vibes with “Nyro smoothly harmonizing with herself.” ibid p. 133. Her treatment of this cover was a personal attribution. Laura insured that this song would be  just so. Désiree was her undisguised & open expression of sensual surrender. Laura  is singing of her love reverie for another woman.

On the June 5, 2009, Debra J. Wolstein posted this comment on facebook.com, concerning Lauria. “Laura & Maria had to have at least tested the waters in the early 70′s for that song to have manifested in ’71 as such a personal tribute of love and desire…because of the unmistakably erotic/romantic quality of that song (again, I agree that she re-wrote it as a subtle reference to Maria “Desiderio”) and other songs to follow,” ²

Désiree – link below

http://music.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=music.artistalbums&artistid=1951040&albumid=8098867

If Maria is the inspiration for “Désiree,” is it such a stretch to trace the origin of the flame back to 1967? This  is especially true as Laura noted the occasion with her songs “Timer” and “Emmie.” Maria was thirteen; Laura was nineteen. “So let the wind blow Timer…I like her song and if the song goes minor – I won’t mind.” The lyrics “oo who stole Mama’s heart and cuddled in her garden? Darlin’ Emmie, la la la, oo la la la…” are a candid description of female intimacy.

To memorialize: Maria n Laura ’67 “carved in the heart of a berry tree,” Laura left us her keepsake of Maria. It is on the back cover of the vinyl dust jacket of Eli. In March 1968, Columbia released the thirteen-track vinyl record. Creativity wise, her recently negotiated four album contract with CBS gave her carte blanche. It was not an exaggeration that Laura listed herself on Eli’s back cover as “the writer, composer, voices, piano and witness to the confession.” As such, she would have been free of any inhibition in witnessing the confession in a graphic way. On May 22, 2007, Gregor von Kallahann, in his review of ”Soul Picnic” for Amazon.com reported, “Even as a teenager growing up in a small town in Maine, some of my friends said knowingly… that Laura was ‘gay’ or ‘bisexual’ …How else could you explain that back cover on ELI…?” On August 12, 2007, Michele Kort posted a rave comment on the von Kallahann review.

There are the other explanations of the silhouetted picture being a double exposure and/or a three-quarter angle of a young Laura. Brian Van der Horst, in his April 1968 review of Eli in the New York Free Press, Critique – 4, p. 8, ingeniously, described it as “representing the parting chrysalis of her old life.” Assuming it true, notwithstanding, the back cover is a memento of her then “flame” and eventual life partner, Maria Desiderio.
N.B. Even though the back cover is ostensibly benign, nevertheless, Google considered the Laura Nyro popmatters image/rendering to contain “explicit sexual content”?  Google is no longer restricting access to the Laura Nyro popmatters image.

The following link is a copy of the back cover of Eli and the Thirteenth Confession N.B.  The image below is available on GOOGLE in all but the safe mode. .

http://lgbt.wikia.com/wiki/Image:ELI_Silhouetted_back_cover.jpg

 CONCLUSION

I believe the evidence, here to date, warrants the following  assumptions.  Laura and Maria met for the first time when Maria was 12 and taking keyboard from Alice Coltrane. Laura was smitten. Their “flame” was eventually revealed. “Emmie your mama’s been a callin’ you.” Maria was relocated to Torrence, CA, circa late ’67.  “Lauria” rendezvous in June 1971, possibly to celebrate Maria’s 17th birthday. Instead of  “cuddling in Mama’s garden,” they do the “wild thing.”  Laura in, her personal attribution, “Dèsiree” boasts the occasion, while also declaring “on the down low” Maria to be her soul mate.  In mid 1978, at the Roxy Theatre,  they again see each other on a fan line with Zoe. Laura is very pregnant. That was all that was needed to rekindle the “flame.”  They begin a correspondence.  Alice was the likely the go-between. From 1980 to Labor Day Weekend 1982, “Lauria” were having an affair which Zoe unmasked. Maria goes East to live with Laura. The rest is Herstory.

 

________________________________________ 

links &/or

Laura living in and embracing the radical, feminist, lesbian subculture.  Thanks denknee

N.B. 0:14 thru 0:20

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNWF2AxThy0

 

“Sappho was a poet, Billie was a real musician, Frida drew the moon.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVtd91jhRcw

______________________________________

 

¹ Comment underscoring photograph 1. Zoe & Maria, opposite page 86. The Hungry Heart by Zoe Ann Nicholson.

² http://www.facebook.com/inbox/readmessage.php?t=1121733134580

³ A curious coincidence, with the year of Maria’s birth, is the 1954 movie Désirée which starred Jean Simmons. She played Désirée, the mistress of Napoleon. The movie was based upon the 1951 historical novel by Annemarie Selinko. The book was about Désirée Clary, a mistress of Napoleon, who eventually became Queen Desideria of Sweden. In 1954 et seq., the name Désirée became all the rage.

36 thoughts on “Maria Desiderio – Part of the Lesbian Tide – Out and Proud in 1978

  1. lesfriendly says:

    cheers to lesbian love and happiness

  2. denknee says:

    “Desiree” is/was an old doo wop song…. probably one that Laura sang in the subway station with the Puerto Rican boys. To assume it is a love song to Maria Desiderio is complete guessing. Please don’t refer to it as fact unless you KNOW that it is fact. From what I’ve gathered, Laura Nyro met Maria at Maria’s bookstore sometime in the 1980s. When exactly, I don’t know. But that is what I have heard thru the grapevine. I am not stating it is fact, it is what I have heard over the years. Unless you have facts that the two met in the 1960s, please don’t post your thoughts as fact.

    And I understand (and have assumed true, since it makes perfect sense) that the back photo of Laura and the girl was intended to display Laura kissing her innocence goodbye. A valid artistic statement if ever there was one, what with the title of the album and the lyrical content within.

    I would be in the front line to stand up for gay and lesbian rights. To bring up questions for discussion is a good thing. To make assumptions and make statements about those who are no longer with us without any hard facts is not only not fair, but is spreading gossip, not fact.

    It is my firm belief that the writer of the above piece should rewrite it as a possibility rather than as a statement of fact, thank you.

  3. rabdrake says:

    Hi Denknee:

    Thank you so much for the feed back. I have missed you.
    I have tried to substantiate every statement that I have made. I intend to post your comment with this reply.

    My main proof is Laura’s personal attribution of Désiree. The Charts’ versions were done as the 1957 original “Deserie” and the 1967 nostalgia remake “Desiree.” Both versions are available on youtube:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8L4m3-jbsU – Deserie – hwaj5300

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3uSWVKT10cc – Desiree – cc187cc

    I agree with you, Deserie/Desiree are classic doo-wop. Laura was a walking compendium of doo-wop. She would have been aware of both versions and both spellings. Laura’s treatment of the song is a raw, sultry love ballad. The song is an undisguised statement of love. It is an open expression of same-sex attraction, a Sapphic paean.

    In 1954, Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Michael Rennie, and Merle Oberon starred in the movie Désirée. It was based upon the historical novel by Annemarie Selinko about Désirée Clary, the mistress of Napoleon. Eventually, she was crowned Queen Desideria of Sweden.

    Laura Nyro chose to title her song in a completely unique way Désiree. I am sure you know that Laura recited her beloved’s name, Désiree, 14 times in 1:48 min/sec.

    In light of the historical facts, the similarity of names, both Désiree meaning desire and Maria’s last name Desiderio meaning desire, it is too certain to be mere coincidence. Maria was the inspiration for Désiree. Maria was 17; Laura was 23. “So… let the wind blow Timer/I like her song and if the song goes minor I won’t mind.”
    Listen to the song; then tell me I’m wrong. (#3 the g2g love song list)

    Thanks RAB

  4. Maaaan, you know there is such thing in the web like search engine, http://google.com if you don’t, go there to understand why this post is bleep.

    • rabdrake says:

      Anger blocks the mind, galling reason.

      Hi hetriepimarne:
      Thanks for your feedback. If as you imply, you googled, Maria Desiderio, then you noticed that I am currently listed between these two posts.

      The New York Times article “An Enigma Wrapped in Songs.” October 26, 1997.

      http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F05E6DD143EF935A15753C1A961958260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all

      and by American National Biography Online

      http://www.anb.org/articles/18/18-03520.html

      The Times article says in part “Her mother, Gilda Nigro, in a sad foreshadowing, died of ovarian cancer at 49. And she quietly moved into a lesbian social world, meeting Ms. Desiderio in 1977.”

      The American National Biography Online, echoes “Maria Desiderio, a Brooklyn-born painter whom Nyro met in 1977, was her companion until Nyro’s death on 18 April 1997 at their home in Danbury, Connecticut. Like her mother, Nyro died of ovarian cancer at age forty-nine.”

      Neither claim attributes a source for the 1977 meeting. The Times article does extensively quote Maria Desiderio, but not as to when they first met. Curiously, Maria is quoted about, and appears to have first hand knowledge of, the unraveling of the Nyro/Geffen relationship. If she didn’t know Laura Nyro before 1977, how is it she is quoted about events occurring in 1971?

      Assuming arguendo that both women met in 1977, this does nothing to refute: that Laura and Maria began a flame relationship in 1967; that their relationship was renewed in 1971; and that it became a life partnership in the early 80s. Maybe, they reunited in 1977, at a party? What is certain is that Laura and Maria weren’t together then. The “Lesbian Tide” photo shows to whose hip Maria was joined to, from 1976 to 1979, Zoe Ananda.

      Neither claim expressly states that this was their initial meeting. Equally authoritative sources, i.e. Kort et al., state that Maria was Laura’s first woman lover. None of their friends can state exactly when, where, and how they first met. Charlie Calello claimed that every song was about an event in her life, Eli was a former boyfriend. If so, who cuddled in Mama’s garden?

      To summarize, there is “Désiree,” the back cover of ELI, “Timer’ – Eli’s thirteenth confession,” “Emmie’ – Pop’s first lesbian love song” & “Roadnotes’…’Happy Birthday 30′s,” the two Charts’ versions of “Deserie/Desiree” (1957/1967, respectively), and the “Out & Proud” photo from Lesbian Tide.
      LISTEN to “Désiree.”

  5. denknee says:

    Ooooohhhh…. you KNOW I would pipe in, Rabdrake. If we keep this up, people will think you and I are having an online affair. lol. But, if Michele Kort and none of Laura’s friends and associates can name when Ms’ Nyro and Desiderio met, what, prey tell, gives YOU the authority to provide a date?!? Thank goodness you didn’t write Laura’s biography. Obviously, you have an agenda, but no one was buying it. Please, I beg of you… if you must post online, please just state the facts and leave your delusions to fiction writing and leave the peaceful spirits of Laura and Maria alone, thank you.

    • rabdrake says:

      Hi denknee: Hurts so good…. Virtual lovers we are; to us, Laura Nyro es una diosa. BTW Kathy Belge found a cool version of the 1928 Ma Rainey ditty “Prove It on Me Blues.” “I went out last night with a pile of my friends. They must’ve been women cause I don’t like no men.”

      http://lesbianlife.about.com/od/herstory/p/MaRainey.htm?nl=1

      You know why! I’m smitten by this ghostly couple. The Logo channel seduced me with the juxtaposed playing of “Désiree” and “It’s gonna Take a Miracle” from the flick “A Home At the End of the World.” Désiree is the reason. You won’t even discuss it. No one will.

      Google posted the Eli Back cover all over the image pages of Laura and Maria. In May 2007, when I began my quest, only two “highly stylized” renderings were availble. (e.g. Laura Nyro popmatters by donny hathaway). Now the “Back Cover of ELI” is availble for all to, judge. The vinyl back cover is worth a thousand confessions.

      In 1968, ELI was released. Prior to this, Maria had probably been staying a lot with Laura “Emmie, your Mama’s been a calling you.” What do I have to do, hit you over the head with a minor chord? Maria was 13 and Laura was 19. “So…let the wind blow Timer I like her song/ and if the song goes minor I won’t mind.” The virtual silence re: “Désiree” is deafening and reassuring. BFN

  6. denknee says:

    And one more thing (since I’m on a roll): Just because Maria is quoted as having knowledge about the unraveling between Laura and David Geffen doesn’t mean she (Maria) was there at the time. I’m sure Laura shared stories about her past with Maria (and vice versa). I happen to know that George Washington was the first president of the United States. It doesn’t mean, however, that I was around at the time, even if I am getting a little up in age, if you catch my drift….. (smile)

    • rabdrake says:

      A cogent point. Perhaps over the 17 years, Maria learned about Nyro/Geffen through pillow talk. Now, who is speculating? My whole series of current replies have been highly precatory and not conclusory. But you keep forgetting or ignoring the fact that I have got the songs “Désiree,” “Timer,” and “Emmie.” Oh, I forgot you like the bowdlerized version of “Emmie.” No “…love my lovething, super ride inside my lovething” (The Confession) nor “oo whole stole Mama’s heart and cuddled in her garden? darlin Emmie, la la la, oo la la la, oo la la la, oo la la la” for you.
      Again thanks.

  7. Zoe says:

    oh my, so many opinions and almost none of them correct. I have no idea why I find myself answering – except I got this most unusual feeling that truths are lingering to be known. I am 60 now and when I die, most of the truths – about all of this will leave with me.
    Once I blogged about Laura just to see how I felt ~ open to the possibility that it was something she would want me to do. I really am not sure.
    I know exactly how they met. I was there.
    Maria left me on Labor Day 1982 and moved in with Laura’s Grandfather on Long Island. Truth be told – when I found out about the affair – I asked Maria to leave. In 1986 they both invited me to the house they had rented in Amhurst where we had a blast and I was their closest friend (non-romantic) until they died.
    Yes – that picture, from my autobiography – is Maria, our moms and me – we were out.
    Without putting too fine a point on it ~ no biography on Laura was/is approved or factual. I will tell you that Laura herself, designed her original website. We did it together in her house in Danbury. She chose the colors, the fonts, the content. She was just beside herself about the big fansite. She asked the owner to take it down – he said he would and never did.
    I was staying with her March & April 1997. I miss her every day. Please know this, Laura & Maria were soulmates ~ it was undeniable (even by me). Eventually, over the years I actually became closer to Laura but we were family.
    Finally, I cannot resist saying, I am glad women still ask about her and her loves. When I hear her music piped in the market or on TV (like Alli McBeal) I just burst into tears. She was all that a heart could hold and Maria adored her.
    Zoe

  8. rabdrake says:

    Hi Zoe:

    Thank you for this beautiful tribute.

  9. Tony S says:

    I’m very late to the party here, but as longtime Laura nut, I like that her work and life are being so scrutinized.

    However, one fact is left out of the discussion of “Emmie.” In Michele Kort’s book, on pages 60-61, Kort states journalist Ellen Sander says David Geffen told Sander the song was about her.

    According to Sander: “When I asked Laura if that was true, she kind of looked down and said, ‘Yeah, it’s kind of a combination of you and someone else.’ But I think she added the ‘someone else’ to take me off the hook.”

    We should see if we can get all those unreleased early songs Kort mentions in her book released on a box set or something — along with the rare single version of “Stoney End.”

    • rabdrake says:

      Hi Tony S:
      Thanks for the feedback.

      There are a number of my pieces on Emmie and Laura Nyro. The LGBT wikia article does expressly mention and cite the Ellen Sander claim.

      http://lgbt.wikia.com/wiki/Emmie_%28Laura_Nyro_song%29.

      Kort is so bi-phobic, when it comes to Laura’s early years and “Emmie” in particular, that you have to take her claims, in this area, with a grain of salt.

      The fact that Laura said that it was Ellen and “someone else” was her way of tamping down the curiousity about Maria Desiderio, who was aged thirteen. Laura’s evasive admission to Ellen was the perfect foil.

      But to you I say, get two Jews (or two Italians) to arguing, and you get three opinions.

  10. DJ M says:

    For approximately a decade Maria Desiderio was just a name handwritten on a batch of used records I bought from a gret store in central CT. In the late ’90s I was going to law school in CT, in my free time I would scour the state for used vinyl records. A favorite store was Integrity ‘n’ Music in Wethersfield. One day I walked in the store and the owner told me that he had just bought a collection of records, some of which he thought might interest me. In passing, he happened to mention that the collection came from a woman who was Laura Nyro’s roommate. I have to admit, at the time I was not too familiar with Laura Nyro, but the story was unusual enough to stick in my memory all of these years. Almost all of the records have Maria’s name handwritten on the jackets. I bought about 5-6 LPs that day. The biggest coup was filling in the gaps in my Alice Coltrane collection; Maria had almost every album recorded by Alice Coltrane, even the rarest and hardest to find titles. I also purchased records by Joe Henderson & Pharoah Sanders from her collection. The only drawback is that the records were pretty well worn, Maria and friends must have really played these records often and hard. The jacket for “Universal Consciousness” is only held together by some unsightly duct tape.

    All this time I assumed that the story the record store owner told me was just an urban myth. But today in AZ, I found a used copy of Laura Nyro’s CD “Season of Lights- Complete Version,” read the entry on Laura on Wiki, and was reminded of Maria’s name on my LPs and google led me here. Thanks so much to rabdrake’s blog and all of the information about Maria. I treasure these albums first of all for the amazing music, but even more so now that I know that the story I’ve hung on to for so long is not a myth. Now, for me, Maria Desiderio is not just a name but a creative person with her own history that I look forward to learning more about.

  11. Cody says:

    My goodness, you could present all this as a PHD paper. I had to re-read twice over, it was a bit confusing, putting all the players in my head, but beautifully written after all. Really nice. I just want to know, who was the father behind Laura’s child?
    -Cody

    • den knee says:

      Don’t get your panties wet, Cody. Since the author of this blog chastised Nyro biographer Michele Kort with the above statement: “Kort is so bi-phobic, when it comes to Laura’s early years and “Emmie” in particular, that you have to take her claims, in this area, with a grain of salt.”, I can assure you that the author of this blog has no more authority or concrete information to make MOST of the statements mentioned in said blog. So to quote said blog author TOWARDS said blog author, take anything you read here by this blog’s author “with a grain of salt”. Most of it is fanciful fantasy. A fictional romance novel (as long as the names are changed) is more like it (not enough FACTS for a PHD paper).

  12. rabdrake says:

    Cody,

    I’m flattered by your praise. The “father of her unborn star” was Harindra Singh. Let me confess. This is not my area. My métier is as a lesbian pop historian

    According to wikipedia the album NESTED covers the time period of her pregnancy. The release date was June 1978. Laura was reported to have toured in 1978 right up to the birth. Zoe confirmed their (Laura, Maria & Zoe) meeting on a fan line at the Rozy Theatre in LA. Laura toured right up to her delivery in July ’78.

    See Laura’s biography SOUL PICNIC by Michele Kort, pp. 179, 186, 187, 182 for “Crazy Love” and 183 Laura touring Roxy, et al.

    lyrics viewed from http://www.sing365.com

    “…crazy love, my name is in your blood
    and what your true love’s done to me

    you blew through my life some fleeting years ago
    from the midwest plains and rivers
    to find the peace to grow

    I was burning and you walked soft
    talked soft
    like an animal on silent feet on a block of snow
    you were looking for a true love to light the way

    but it’s all gone
    with your deer’s eyes
    and your ways of steel
    you could travel miles and miles
    in a blind reel
    but I’d know you, crazy love
    and turn my foolish heart away

    oh, my lover, father of my unborn star
    I may ache behind your snake-cold back
    but my will is as strong as you are

    with your deer’s eyes I know so well
    your ways of steel
    I wonder if I ever knew you?

    crazy love, it’s a crazy love

    I’m empty from your weakness
    pregnant with the knowledge
    and the flame of your true love”

    Michele Kort credits Patti Di Lauria’s claim that “Gypsy man” in the song was to and/or about another lover of Laura, Greg Bennett. Kort’s argument re: the lyrics of midwest plains and river certainly reference Ohio.
    Nevertheless, I feel the lyrics, the timing of the pre-release record promotion tour in mid-1978, the oft’ bitterness in her tone of voice, and the downright nastiness and determination of her lyrics, make it just as likely to be about Harindra. Underscoring is Laura referring to her lover as the “father of my unborn star” and “pregnant with the knowledge, and the flame of your true love.”

  13. rabdrake says:

    Denknee, I have missed you. Your abuse and mere conclusory statements

    Cody we have a celebrity. In case you don’t know it, he is the foremost authority on the live musical performances of Laura Nyro.

    Check out Denknee listen for :14-:20. You heard right. Laura liked her men to “superride inside her love thing” the “Confession” and for her woman to cuddle in Mama’s garden. “Emmie.”

    I do have to confess that denknee has me re: “crazy Love.” As I said her men are realy not my main area of interest. In a way maybe the song and lyrics are meant to conjure both of these men.

  14. den knee says:

    It’s not abuse, Ralph. Someone has to play Keith Oberman to your Bill O’Reilly. lol.

  15. release82 says:

    I’ve been checking this blog for a while, and while your claims certainly intrigue me, I think Zoe’s comment is the be all end all, isn’t it?
    I mean how much closer to the subject can you get?

    Nevertheless, reading comments regarding Laura is always fun. What a mysterious woman, although I lost some respect for her when I read the part in Kort’s bio about Harindra.
    I always viewed her as very pure, but that whole saga really bothers me (weird ,I know). Not to mention what a delinquent her son turned out to be…. OKAY, getting off topic. Thanks for the effort you put into these articles.

  16. rabdrake says:

    Release82,
    Thanks for the feedback and the compliment.
    As to her son, he’s just like his mom; he’s got the “Brown” down. And also like her, he’s sees drugs, the street, and the music in a raw, naked and edgy way. Anymore than that I wouldn’t care to say. It’s as you say, off topic.
    I don’t know much about Hari other than what the Kort research and the album NESTED reveal. It seemed to be a struggle of wills. Laura would not succumb to his demands that she return with him to India to be a subservient wife in the “Satchidananda” tradition. Luckily, she had an upbringing with parents where she was taught, especially from her dad, to be true to herself. “Father I’ll never sell my soul, not this soul of mine.”
    You said, “I think Zoe’s comment is the be all end all, isn’t it?” To date, I have six different individual sources touting eight different versions of how “Lauria” first met each other, and ranging from 1967 to 1978.
    When I analyze Zoe’s many insightful and the heretofore, unpublished comments, there is a lot of denial. Talk about selective blindness; it is indisputable that in 1976 Zoe was gaga for Maria. If it weren’t for “Désiree” I would say Zoe is a dispositive source re: a sometime in 1978 meeting on a fan line at the Roxy. But she refuses to explain “Désiree.” I have Zoe on one side describing what she knows and believes, but what she cannot know absolutely, i.e. when “Lauria” first met.
    On the other side, I have Laura’s confession “Désiree.” The coincidence of Désiree and Maria’s last name Desiderio both meaning desire is to say the least, remarkable! The song opens with a long voluptuous sigh of surrender to her belovéd. Laura then continues with an exaltation of her lover’s qualities, a complete thrall. After 13 repetitions of her belovéd’s name, Désiree, the song culminates musically as a crescendo. It is one of most naked expressions of same-sex attraction ever recorded.

    I have issued this challenge for more than three years. “Listen to the song then tell me I’m wrong.”
    BTW Patti Di Lauria, Zoe Nicholson, and Michele Kort (e.g. Maineri, et al.) are all certain that Laura considered Maria to be her soul mate.

    I put this to you concerning the July/November 1971 cover of “Désiree.” If Laura had intended to declare “on the down low” Maria to be her soul mate, could she have “attributed” or for that matter have written a more perfect song?

  17. Den Knee says:

    rabdrake: “The coincidence of Désiree and Maria’s last name Desiderio both meaning desire is to say the least, remarkable!”

    denknee: Yes! Finally a slither of truth. A remarkable coincidence it is.

  18. rabdrake says:

    denknee,
    If the cover had not been so unique as to be an attribution, I’d agree absolutely. GTAM was an album of slavish covers. If “Désiree” had been so, I could let go. Even if it was similar to the “Spanish Harlem” original and/or transposed gender references, I’d say you got it. But like it or not the song’s treatment is unique and apart from the other ditties. Even the name is changed as to the spelling and pronunciation being Désiree, not Deserie/Desiree.
    Laura took special care that this song would be just so. You are the one who insists that only Laura’s voice, the piano and vibes are in the mix. Even the Labelle backgrounds harmonies are all but deleted. It’s very personal in that she wanted the song to be only Laura singing. Only Laura singing to her belovéd. Even Kort in SOUL PICNIC, (p.133.) agrees that “Nyro smoothly harmonized with herself…” another personalization.
    “Désiree” is also one of the most naked expressions of the same-sex desire of a woman singing to another woman.
    You have agreed that Désiree and Desiderio are a remarkable coincidence and that’s much more than it being mere coincidence.
    There is the remarkable coincidence in the names. There ia the uniqueness of the name of the beloved Désiree (not Desiree), the special care Laura took to make the song just so, the ultimate surrender to a woman, and the open expression of limerence (high romance), a love paean by a woman to a woman. A song fit for a soul mate. Her soul mate was Maria Antonia Desiderio.

    It’s almost as bad as sitting Shiva!
    Happy Hanukah, Merry Christmas and/or Seasons Greetings

  19. Den Knee says:

    You can repeat your argument until you’re blue in the face and I’m red in the face, but I ain’t buying it until someone comes forward that knew the two of them and actually says they knew each other during the time frame.

    Other than that, “Happy Holidays with love….. “

  20. Release82 says:

    Just out of curiosity, has Michele Kort ever directly responded to your claims?

    Also, have you ever asked Alan Merrill about any of this? He was very close to Laura so I’m sure he would be able to shed a lot of light.

    • rabdrake says:

      Release82, Thank you for your feedback, but your reply above is not on point.

      It was left, “I put this to you concerning the July/November 1971 cover of “Désiree.” “If Laura had intended to declare ‘on the down low’ Maria to be her soul mate, could she have ‘attributed’ or for that matter have written a more perfect song?”

      Since you don’t seem to want to wade in on “Désiree.” Do me a favor why not ask Michele Kort, directly, as to what she believes about my above reply.

      You intimated that Alan Merrill was someone you had simpatico; you would be a much more competent inquirer.

      Come on, your initial comment had gravitas; don’t end up a “Désiree” coward, i.e. being afraid to take on the most intimate song of desire Laura ever sang to/about another woman. For that matter, one could say of all songs ever performed.

  21. release82 says:

    My reply was not a direct reply to my previous comment, I kind of got lost in your exchange with Den Knee, sorry.

    Re Désiree: You make make an eloquent case, but I cannot completely accept it until people truly close to Laura come out and confirm it. It still seems to me to be a very very unique coincidence.

    I think the reluctance to accept “Désiree” as a love song to Maria by those who have commented prior has little to do with it being a song to another woman (I personally find that beautiful). The main cause of opposition, at least in my case, is the thought of a 23(4?) year old adult singing to a 17 year old girl.

    Your points about “Eli…” are also very interesting, but in that case we are talking about an adult romancing a 13 year old girl. Now, you seem to adore Laura so I know you’re not trying to smear her, but that legally makes her a pedophile. I need solid facts before I can even think of dear Laura as some sort of sexual predator.

  22. rabdrake says:

    release82,
    The flame relationship, the soulmate, the crush, and limerence (high romance) have been scientifically documented (see Havelock Ellis ). The phenomenon was common place in the 19th century, particularly in same-sex institutions. The greatest age disparity recorded was in Argentina, and was between 10 years old and 21 years old. The testimony of adult gay and bisexual women confessing to crushes as young women upon older women starts from 11 years old on. I feel it is naive to believe that none of these school girl crushes went unreciprocated by the older love object.
    The LGBT Wikia link “Emmie, Pops, first lesbian love song.” provides an analysis of “Emmie.” Seven of the eleven aspects common to flames can be found in the song.

    http://lgbt.wikia.com/wiki/Emmie_%28Laura_Nyro_song%29

    Let’s put actual identity aside. In “Emmie” the physical, sensual intimacy is alluded to in “oo who stole Mama’s heart and cuddled in her garden? darlin’ Emmie, la la la, oo la la la, oo la la la, oo la la la.” Can we not recognize that what is being described might be as innocent as a “spoons” hug. It is also important to note Laura’s intoning of oo la la la is devoid of the aural “leer of the sensualist” common to other versions, e.g. Eartha Kitt’s and/or Cole Porter’s “C’est Magnifique.”

    Regardless, Laura’s pioneering work in same-sex expressions of love for another woman is significant to popular music. The “g2g love song list” blogs over 100 entries. Historically, of the first twelve same-sex songs listed chronologically from 1968 through 1984, the blog lists four song contributions by Laura Nyro.
    That reason is enough to note her uniqueness and the rest of her work should insure her the honor. And it is our homophobia that likely keeps her out.

  23. tom-s says:

    rabdrake, I must say this is a most fascinating blog, filled with food for thought! Your conclusions are most compelling and your opinions very persuasive. Perhaps they are flights of fancy, as denknee states, but, nonetheless, absolutely stellar flights they are! Further, I now find that if one loves Laura, one also loves Maria. Thanks for this enlightenment. I wish that you were making a film about Lauria-perhaps one day you will!

  24. rabdrake says:

    Tom-s, Thanks for the praise. Most especially major props for having the grace to use the portmanteau “LAURIA’ when referring to the couple.
    btw denknee is often a rascal, but his integrity to the purity of Laura Nyro’s music has so aided me in my quest.
    Zoe Nicholson was Maria’s ex and Laura’s intimate friend. Zoe described Laura ”Don’t be worried about overemphasizing that Laura lived a woman-identified, goddess-driven existence,” Deborah Sontag – NY Times. In Louise’s Church lyrics “Sappho was a poet, Billie was a real musician, Frida drew the moon” are consistent with Zoe’s claim that Laura was bisexual but embracing the radical, feminist, lesbian subculture.
    The 1977 Season of Lights Concert and Tour Album photos show Laura touring with members of the Horn Rock Band ISIS. In 1974, ISIS released an openly same-sex love song “She loves me.”
    Denknee vj covered Laura Nyro’s 1993 concert at Grosse Point State Park outside of Pittsburgh. The following three covers by denknee make manifest Zoe’s claims. There’s nothing like having an assiduous critic for corroboration.
    Laura bisexual yet living in and embracing the radical, feminist, lesbian subculture.

    N.B. 0:14 thru 0:20 that’s right Diane Garisto and Laura in a bit of stage banter over a rather exuberant young woman’s vanity.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNWF2AxThy0

    “Sappho was a poet, Billie was a real musician, Frida drew the moon.”

    “The Wind’…as he lay warm and tender in my arms.”

  25. airstream says:

    I came across your blog recently while looking for Google links to Laura Nyro, and was intrigued — more than intrigued — by the reference to Maria Desiderio, for reasons which I think will be quite clear.

    In 1970 I was 16 and living with my parents in Manhattan Beach, California. I was a high school kickout and a musician who had been playing guitar in various jazz/rock/experimental bands, when through mutual musician friends I met another musician, my age, who was looking to form an avant-garde jazz group. We had many musical influences in common, chiefly Captain Beefheart, John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Sun Ra, and Don Cherry — among others. We soon formed a duo, performing around the South Bay and at other venues. This musician was at that time a student at Bishop Montgomery Catholic High School in Torrance, and in the course of our rehearsing and gigging he eventually told me about his relationship with a fellow student, Maria Desiderio. He was, to put it mildly, in love with her, but was finding it frustrating, to say the least. According to him, she was emotionally very unstable, verging on hysteria, and had been suspended from school more than once when she had threatened to commit suicide. She was, he said, very intelligent and interested in music, and her favorite artist was Laura Nyro. On more than one occasion she had asked him to drive her to the Hollywood offices of Columbia Records (Laura Nyro’s label), where she was in the habit of camping out before a new Laura Nyro release was due to hit the streets. Evidently the front-desk personnel were familiar with her and would save a copy of the new album for her, probably — according to my friend — to get her to leave. He claimed she was totally obsessed with Laura Nyro and that she always hoped to meet Laura one day. I mention this in light of the theory that Laura had somehow met her in 1970; at that point, late 1970-early 1971, I can state definitively that Maria Desiderio had definitely not met Laura Nyro, because my friend and fellow band member was involved in an ongoing relationship with her, and she had been in the South Bay since childhood. I recall my friend saying that Maria’s family was from the New York City area, but that they had been in California for at least ten years at that point, so the idea of them moving to Southern California in the mid- or late ‘60s, whether to remove Maria from Laura’s influence or not, seems problematical.

    I think I can explain where Maria Desiderio came by at least some of those jazz albums referred to in the above comment. My frellow musician collected and had a voluminous archive of jazz albums. On my birthday and at other times, he was in the habit of buying generous gifts of imported jazz LP’s by our mutual favorite jazz artists, and he gave similar birthday and Christmas presents to Maria Desiderio. I remember him at one point showing me about 15 albums by Don Cherry, Sun Ra, Alice Coltrane, and Sonny Sharrock which he was about to wrap and present to Maria Desiderio as a birthday present. Whether Maria Desiderio was fascinated by these artists because she knew they had influenced Laura Nyro, I can’t say. My friend inferred that he had introduced her to progressive jazz and that she hadn’t previously been aware of it. Regardless, I recall clearly him telling me that Maria Desiderio had, in 1970-71, never met Laura Nyro, as much she hoped to do so at some point. I will add that I myself never met Maria Desiderio, although my friend showed me quite a few photos of her and of the two of them together, enough that I can recognize her when I see images of her with Laura Nyro later in life.

    When, many years later, I read Michele Kort’s account in her book “Stone Soul Picnic” of the relationship between Laura Nyro and Maria Desiderio, it came as quite a shock, yet in a sense, not as a surprise. Whether Maria Desiderio — or indeed, Laura Nyro – was straight, bisexual, or gay, seems beside the point. From my friend’s description of her — colored as it may have been by his frustrated relationship with her — I would, however, venture to say that there was more to Maria’s relationship with Laura Nyro than has been revealed. It should be kept in mind that Maria was initially, at least, an obsessive fan of Laura Nyro’s, rather than, as Michele Kort seems to suggest in her book, a fellow feminist whom Nyro met in Desiderio’s feminist bookstore. Beyond that, who knows — and who cares? It’s all in the past, and sadly, both women are no longer with us. But the subject has intrigued me for over 40 years, and seeing this discussion of it, I thought it might be interesting if I shared my knowledge, however limited, of it.

  26. rabdrake says:

    Airstream,
    Thanks for the feedback. Your comments, viz. Maria’s early 1970′s crush on Laura, corroborate my suppositions. Isn’t it curious that Maria who was so obsessed with Laura that she had the wherewithal to camp out for album releases, but never made it to any of Laura’s LIVE concerts? Laura performed repeatedly behind the “Orange Curtain” from 1967 through 1971. Btw the albums which you suggest Maria and your buddy picked up had to be NYT 1969, CATBOS, 1970, and/or GTAM 1971. Why didn’t your generous gift giving buddy take Maria to a Laura concert? Maria’s birthday being June 10th was the perfect time, as Laura regularly performed in the South Bay in early summer?
    Being mindful that you limited your date range to early 1971, nonetheless, the album GONNA TAKE A MIRACLE was released November 1971. Odd that Maria (the obsessed, suicidal & high schooled groupie) never mentioned “Désiree.” This song’s beloved has the same name as Maria, i.e. Desire/Desiderio/Désiree. Surprising that Maria never boasted of the name coincidence. She never mentioned how ultimate and personal was the profession of love!
    Sorry no insult intended (because at 15 & 16, I was one, as well) but considering it was back then, you guys sounded a little like Beavis & Butthead.

  27. airstream says:

    Taking everything into due consideration, I’d have to say that from what my friend and fellow musician told me, Maria Desiderio was, basically, a suburban kid with a crush on Laura Nyro — a teenage girl who had no direct connection to LN, beyond her crush, until she met her some years later. Having known Michele Cort in the ’70s I remember hearing many theories about Laura Nyro’s bisexuality, and wondering how many of those ideas were attributable due to sexual politics and how many to socio-political frustration. Regardless, I think it’s safe to say that any R&B tunes Laura Nyro may have recorded in 1971 had nothing to do with her subsequent relationship with Maria Desiderio. It’s clear from my own experience that Maria Desiderio was involved with a male musician, my friend, in the period 1970-71. I recall that he did accompany her to at least one, and probably other, Laura Nyro concerts during this period. I don’t know the exact conditions under which Laura Nyro and Maria Desiderio met, but it seems clear that their meeting occurred later in the ’70s, and that at that point Maria Desiderio was the pursuer rather than the pursued.

    All this aside, as a person who has been very moved and influenced by Laura Nyro’s music, the question I would raise is, ulltimately what difference does it make whom — male or female — she may have been involved with? Her music is what it is, and its appeal will continue to be universal, and to limit it to time-specific socio-sexual politics would seem to be to rob it of its universality.

  28. rabdrake says:

    Airstream,
    I love to dispute the passage, especially, when it is done with civility and grace. So your memory now jogged, your buddy took Maria to live concerts of Laura Nyro. Michele Kort and innumerable fan comments confirm that Laura was very accessible. Kort as a young woman, circa Maria’s age, gave Laura a tuna fish sandwich, back stage. Kort’s cousin gave Laura a duck. It is incomprehensible for anyone to believe that Maria, so obsessed with Laura would not have been able to meet Laura, in person, with the least effort. QED Maria and Laura likely met at least in June 1971, hence “Désiree.” .
    You disappoint me by taking the role of avoidance of “Désiree.” You don’t dare address the song directly because you know it is Laura’s express soul mate song to Maria, albeit on the down low. Again, I will ask you what about “Désiree”? Your buddy, the frustrated suitor, would have dismissed Maria’s access to Laura’s albums as getting rid of a nuisance. It may be that her access resulted from being specially privileged.
    I would value your input. Please read the “Désiree” post. If there was no prior contact then why did Laura personally attribute the song?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wad3bcQlAU0 Laura Nyro – “Désiree.” – 1971.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8L4m3-jbsU The Charts – “Deserie” – 1957.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIUoKGFxXwQ The Charts – “Desiree” – 1967

    “With the exception of her attribution of the song “Désiree” (originally “Deserie” by The Charts), this was Nyro’s sole album of wholly non-original material,” i.e. covers – wikipedia Laura Nyro re: the album GTAM.

    It is the easy way out to dismiss “Désiree” because your buddy never realized what frustrated him was Maria’s remoteness to all but Laura.
    As to the relevance of her universality, Laura Nyro is nonpareil when it comes to her contributions to LGBT music and history. Between 1968 and 1984, there are 13 popular songs which are open expressions of same-sex attraction by women. Four of these songs “Emmie” ’68, “Timer” ’68, “Désiree” ’71, and “Roadnotes” ’84 were written by Laura, either as originals or a personal attribution. In April 1997, “Emmie” was touted by Alanna Nash as Pop’s first lesbian love song. As far back as June 1968, Pete Johson said of “Emily” “There is a momentary shock at hearing a woman romancing another woman…” At least another half dozen of her songs may also be open expressions of same-sex attraction, e.g. “Walk the Dog and Light the Light“ “Angel in the Dark” and “Sweet Dream fade.” Many women singer-song writers were her peer in the 60′s & 70′s. But when it came to her talent for romancing a woman in song, Laura Nyro is without equal. Surely that uniqueness does matter and should be celebrated

  29. denknee says:

    I would sincerely appreciate it if you would kindly remove the links to any and all of my videos associated with this site and any of it’s pages, please. That includes hotlinks or printed URL information to lead one to any and/or all of my videos. Thank you in advance. I ask for this action to be successfully completed within 48 hours of this (my) posting of this request for removal of all links to my videos. Thank you.

    • rabdrake says:

      denknee, I showed you the courtesy in deleting your video of “Love on a Two-way street.” To carry out the rest of your request would be onerous and arbitrary. I regret I can not comply as I would experience consequential damages. When you avail yourself of youtube you agree to act in good faith in the free flow of comments and ideas.

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