When Los Angeles-based jazz singer Pamela Stonebrooke began billing herself as the "Intergalactic Diva," the smoky-voiced chanteuse was not yet renowned for mingling with non-human life-forms. A sign-up sheet for a jazz showcase overseen by a drummer friend asked participants to list their names and instruments--"and just as a joke, I put my name down and I put 'the Intergalactic Diva' under instrument," Stonebrooke remembers. "And that was it: From then on, whenever I went to sit in anywhere, that's what people called me. So it was just a little fluke that stuck with me." She adds, "Oddly now, it kind of works."
And how. On Experiencer, her latest album, Stonebrooke delivers Sade-smooth, Grace Jones-demanding tunes that deal with her alleged communions with aliens. But such esoteric lyrical content has not rendered her a difficult-to-acquire taste. Indeed, she is much in demand; she played the wedding of Hustler publisher Larry Flynt and entertained at several birthday parties for the late Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, who sat in front of Stonebrooke's band and applauded the solos even after most of the guests had gone home. Moreover, she recently inked a cherry publishing deal with Ballantine Books for Experiencer: A Jazz Singer's True Account of Extraterrestrial Contact, a tome she's in the process of completing. In other words, her career is boldly going where it's never gone before.
According to Stonebrooke, her earliest "conscious contact" occurred five years ago, whereupon she found herself aboard an alien vessel in the middle of the night. "It was pretty typical," she grants. "Although I don't know how typical this is: I was taken into a room and presented with my four hybrid daughters who called me 'mommy.'" The event leveled her pre-existing life like a hurricane, she says: "The first year and a half that I had these contacts, I literally couldn't do anything else. I let my music go. As far as I was concerned, I had to figure this out, and it was a primary motivating force in my life. I stopped doing clubs, I stopped doing gigs, stopped writing, and even though I missed it and felt bad that I didn't have that spark of inspiration, there was something more pressing for me to deal with."
That Stonebrooke became estranged from her craft was no trifle; music had been her main animator for decades. As a theater major at Ohio's Kent State University around the time of the infamous antiwar rioting that took place there, she performed with many bands, including, on occasion, Joe Walsh's James Gang. After graduation, she hastened to New York, where she sang in clubs and off-Broadway musicals. Three years later, she decamped for the West Coast, but she didn't stay there long. The newly opened Playboy Club in Tokyo was looking for a singer in residence, and after besting nearly 300 other women in an audition, she crossed the Pacific for what she thought would be three months overseas. She soon learned otherwise. "The band was so thrilled to have a woman who could really sing that after the gig was over at 11:00 or 11:30, they would take me to other jazz clubs and kind of show me off," Stonebrooke recalls. "I would sit in at these other clubs--and because the other clubs loved me, I ended up being booked for the next eight years."
While abroad, Stonebrooke began to pen her own tunes, but she found Tokyo a tough market to crack. "That was very frustrating because, obviously, I couldn't sing my original stuff in Japan. In fact, they wanted to hear the standards--and not even the obscure ones, which were the ones I wanted to sing. Because unless they knew the melody, it didn't mean anything to them. After a while, even though the money was just great, I didn't feel creatively expressed."
The pressing desire to perform her own compositions drove Stonebrooke back to the States, where disco was going full-tilt boogie. "I had several opportunities to join high-profile bands and do disco stuff, but they weren't interested in my original material because it was too weird," she says. "I was doing some dark alternative stuff at that point. But I had real R&B chops, so a lot of people wanted me to join this group or that group that had major record deals. Remember the three-girl groups? There were so many of those. Well, I had so many opportunities to join in on that--because I was the token white girl, basically. But when it got down to the final moment when I was supposed to sign the contract, my spirit wouldn't let me do it."
Instead, Stonebrooke toured Europe as a back-up singer for country crooner Hoyt Axton and spent nearly three years as the featured female vocalist for Sparks, an oddball combo fronted by brothers Ron and Russell Mael. But as she tells it, her varied and serpentine musical career came to a screeching halt after she was introduced to the "Greys," the species of alien commonly represented on bumper stickers and baseball caps. Stonebrooke claims these creatures visited her on a number of occasions, as did the "Reptilians," another type of extraterrestrial that most members of the UFO community prefer to avoid. Acclimating to these unearthly guest appearances took time, she notes, but "when I started to get comfortable with the fact that this was really going on and that it was manageable and was just another experience that I had to process and deal with, I started to write again." However, she adds, "what I started to write was about my experiences, and that's when I wrote 'Heart of the Grey Matter' and 'Resurrected Alien.'"
The first of these tunes is among three Stonebrooke efforts slated to be part of the soundtrack for Saucy Flyer, U.F.O P.I., a yet-to-be-made satirical film by Denver-based Andrea Doe and her sister Amy, an actress who works by day as a Westword sales rep. The fledgling moviemakers see a great many parallels between Stonebrooke and the flick's protagonist, a libertine madonna who's been chosen to carry the half-human, half-alien child who will become the new messiah. As for Stonebrooke, who's scheduled to portray an alien doctor in the film, she's all for projects that prepare humans for the possibility of a new world order--and she's agreed to headline a fundraiser for the picture on Saturday, August 22, at the Mercury Cafe (call 294-9258 for more details).
Venturing into other mediums is nothing new for Stonebrooke. Since her abduction and subsequent submersion in UFO culture, she's shared her stories on both television and radio. None of the commentators with whom she's spoken have dismissed her stage persona as shtick, but she says, "I've had problems--a lot of other problems. And most of them have been from the interviews that I've done, because I've been extremely candid about my experiences." As an example, she cites an interview with her that was broadcast on Strange Universe, a television program dealing with the paranormal. On it, she discussed her interactions with the Reptilians (which were sexual in nature and struck her as decidedly pleasurable) in such a vivid way that listeners to Art Bell, host of an immensely popular nationally syndicated radio program dedicated to unusual phenomena, bombarded him with requests to book her. "Basically, they were making fun of it, and [Bell] was really going over the top with the whole sexual aspect before he had talked to me," Stonebrooke says. "So I faxed him and told him that this is really going on--that simply no one will talk about it because of the ridicule factor, the giggle factor." A second interview with Bell, held last February, garnered fewer violent responses, Stonebrooke allows. "I didn't get nearly as many fanatics who were threatened and angry. I mean, I got death threats after the first Art Bell show.
"You have to understand: There are a lot of Christian fundamentalists who listen just to torment themselves," Stonebrooke continues. "This information is literally too frightening for most people to accept. No one wants to tear their belief systems down and reconstruct them. That takes too much time. It might take away from watching reruns of Seinfeld."
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The upcoming Stonebrooke book promises to be just as controversial--and because of the sizable advance she received from Ballantine, both the New York Post and Newsweek have already taken potshots at her over it. "The guy who did Newsweek had never interviewed me," she states. "I don't know where he got the idea I was having sex with iguanas. It is a totally libelous statement, and I've been told I can sue him for that, but litigation is not the sort of thing I relish." Once the book is published, Stonebrooke hopes those who attack it will at least do so based on what's on the pages: "I don't mind defending the truth, but I cannot defend the lie," she says.
Stonebrooke is no ingenue, and she understands the unsettling nature of her message. "How taboo can it get?" she asks. "First of all, you're having interdimensional contact, and then you're having sex with these beings." Yet she is not about to stop talking about her adventures now.
"I've gotten so many accounts back from people who have never talked about their experiences because they trust me," she reveals. "They know that I will understand, so they contact me and tell me their story--some anonymously. Some are in the Bible Belt and their ministers think they are possessed by demons. I've heard from women whose families are trying to put them into institutions. And I have the opportunity to help these people because I've stuck my neck out. I feel very fortunate because I'm turning into a clearinghouse for these accounts. And that's important enough to me to take the hits--that I get the information I need to try to unravel this."
Thus far, the diva has been able to balance her music and her research; while assembling mate-rial for her book, she's contributed vocals to a pair of rave cuts released in Germany and recorded with Agartha, a four-piece act that's climbing the new age charts (part of the proceeds from Agartha's discs are earmarked to benefit Bosnian orphans). But she's loath to predict whether her singing will eventually take precedence over her alien obsession. "I try not to delegate anything as being 'more than' or 'less than,'" she professes. "I don't consciously worry about it because my main goal in life is to follow my excitement in the moment. That's my barometer. Does this excite me? If it does, I'm going to do it.