Talking to Pamala Stanley, you wouldn’t believe she’s been getting people on the dance floor for over forty years.
“If you want to get a party started, I don’t care what age you are, 80’s dance music is the best,” Stanley proudly proclaims, “and I’m the luckiest person in the world because I’ve got the best of it!”
With regularly sold out shows and an ever-expanding catalogue of music (including, but not limited to Broadway, pop, disco, and cocktail jazz) spanning five decades, she would know.
Born in Pennsylvania in 1952, Stanley moved to New York City in the late 70’s with dreams of becoming a Broadway star. She started working at a gay piano bar, Brothers and Sisters, where her voice caught the attention of a German producer, who flew her to Europe to make an album. Her career quickly took off when “This is Hot,” her first single, reached #16 on the Billboard Dance chart in 1979.
Stanley eventually made her way to Virginia Beach, VA, where she married her husband Chris Kettner ten years ago. With regular bookings in Rehoboth, Stanley and Kettner (who is also Stanley’s manager and lighting/effects operator) ultimately decided to move “across the bridge” to Virginia’s Eastern Shore, where they are currently renovating an old farmhouse near the water. This made frequent drives up and down the Delmarva Peninsula in a tour bus much easier, especially traveling with lights and effects that take six hours to setup and two to tear down.
An indefatigable force of nature, with powerful vocal chords, the warmth of a grandmother of two, and a commanding and springy stage presence, Stanley has amassed an impressive and diverse fan base – with a particularly fierce following in the DMV’s LGBTQ+ community. “She packs the house,” said Freddie Lutz, owner of Freddie’s Beach Bar in Arlington, VA and Rehoboth, DE, “she’s amazing, she knocks it out of the park, and she’s always sold out.” Stanley has been performing at Lutz’s Arlington location for many years, most recently a sold-out Christmas show; she performs at the Rehoboth location every few weeks, having rung in the New Year there earlier this week.
Bill Horten, a long-time Alexandria resident and local LGBTQ+ activist, describes Stanley as a staple for the region’s LGBTQ+ community. Horten, who was one of the producers of Gay Fairfax (a public-access television show that aired in Falls Church and Fairfax in the 1990’s), described Stanley as a “global pop diva,” adding that a significant part of her career has been defined, at least in part, by “her adoration by and long support of the gay community.”
After 50 years of song and dance, Stanley has no plans on stopping. “She’s… she’s FULL of energy,” Lutz laughed, “like, more than the Energizer Bunny!” This is believable, as Stanley seems to be in perpetual motion, taking interviews while on the road headed to shows. “We don’t believe in retiring,” she said of her and Kettner, who plan continuing their performance schedule in perpetuity, “as long as I sing well and look fabulous, I’ll keep going.” When asked what her secret is, Stanley simply observes, “my grandkids keep me young.”
In addition to her tour schedule, Stanley’s recording career is getting busy again, with an album in production in England and several other projects around the country.
Stanley’s next local performance will be at Freddie’s Beach Bar – Arlington this spring.