A Q&A with Dre Whitt, singing bartender at Don’t Tell Mama
Thu, Aug 11, 2011 (midnight)
Photo: Bill Hughes
How’d you wind up at Don’t Tell Mama?
I was delivering Review-Journals in Summerlin, 3 a.m., and my best friend got a job at Don’t Tell Mama. He told me to come in and visit. So I did, and I had a drink, and I got up on stage and did a song. Minh and Joanna [Pham]—those are the owners—they offered me a job right there on the spot.
Had you done any professional singing before that?
- Dre Whitt
- Tuesday, Thursday-Saturday, 10 p.m.-close
- Don’t Tell Mama, 517 Fremont St., 207-0788
A decade ago I was in a show called Rock Story. Rock music, juggling, dancing, acrobatics. We played at the Joint and at some showroom in the MGM casino. They had me all dolled up in tight leather pants and stilettos. Yeah, I haven’t worn Stilettos since.
Did your parents encourage your singing?
Definitely. They were both musicians. My father was in a high school band, and my mom was a backup singer for Sergio, who performed at the Aladdin.
What do you remember about Sergio’s show?
I remember not understanding it, because it was in Spanish. And I remember watching it and envisioning myself on stage. But not at a show like that; I saw myself onstage with a rock band behind me and an orchestra behind the band. I’d still want to do something like that.
Well, you seem to be on everyone’s radar now. Have you gotten any serious offers from industry types?
I get people coming in and saying that they want to help finance this or do that, and we exchange information, but usually I don’t hear from them afterwards. But I don’t look at music as a crutch for fame or money—that’s not my goal. My goal is to play my music and have it heard and enjoyed. And I’ve got that right now at Don’t Tell Mama.
Any crazy stories from this past month at DTM?
Yes, actually. Three weeks ago, Saturday night, I was onstage with Michael Spadoni—he’s one of our pianists—and we were doing some Muse song. Some girl in the audience was yelling for him to take off his shirt. He’s kind of known for that. Anyway, he takes his shirt off, and I do too—I’m wearing a bra, I should mention—and then our customers just started taking their shirts off, too. Never seen anything like it.
Do you have some shtick that you’re known for?
Every now and then somebody will ask me if I’m going to get on the piano. So I guess that could be my shtick. I usually do it when I’m singing Gaga. And I’m known for my impressions, too. I do Britney and Cher. When I was younger, I wanted to be a voiceover artist, so I was always doing voices at the dinner table. Chuckie from Rugrats, Gus Gus from Cinderella, Mrs. Doubtfire, Babe the pig.
You must have women throwing themselves at you every night.
I hate to say it, but yes. The thing is, women aren’t really attracted to me; they’re attracted to my voice. Same thing with friends. It started back in junior high. I was always bullied and messed with, and then our choir did a show for the whole school and everybody heard me sing, and all of a sudden everybody wanted to be my friend. Story of my life. I see it night after night: Women will walk in and think, “Who’s the lesbian behind the bar?” and then they hear me sing, and all of a sudden they’re falling all over me.
You sound resentful.
Oh, not really. I’ve learned to use it to my advantage. I think any bartender would admit that a part of the job is performing, and part of the performance is flirting. Don’t appear totally available; don’t appear totally unavailable.
Are you content with your current gig?
This job has brought me out of my shell. I owe so much to Minh and Joanna. I used to be a shy, closed-off person, but now I’m opened up in so many ways. I love it.