Austin's reputation as the "live music capital of the world" means there is never a shortage of live music. Let YNN's Andy Langer help you decide which shows to watch. Each Thursday Langer gives you his top picks for the week ahead in our
. Langer also takes us backstage of some of the most anticipated concerts music events in Central Texas introducing us to local and world renowned musicians. Join Langer in
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I became intrigued with Madame Scorpio when I started researching local bands playing South by Southwest last March. She explained on her band Scorpio Rising's website that she had breast cancer.
I couldn't do a story with her then, so I jumped at the chance to profile the Madame when October came around for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
After a series of e-mails, I met Madame Scorpio at a show. Scorpio Rising was performing at a fundraiser for Scare for the Cure, a nonprofit haunted house raising money for the Breast Cancer Resource Center of Texas. Having made it to the venue just in time to shoot video, I introduced myself to the most darling woman donned in a purple jumpsuit.
What a fun show! Good, clean dance music. You couldn't help but listen with a smile on your face. Their sound reminded me of a band in the late '90s called Luscious Jackson whose CD I toted around me with me during my college days.
I was an instant fan, but no one got into the music more than the Madame herself. Using up every corner of space on a very small stage, she moved and sang without a care in the world.
Our interview had to wait a week which was killing me. Mind you, I've been waiting to talk with this woman since March, so seven more days felt eternal.
Finally, we met at her workplace, the University of Texas Performing Arts Center, where she manages the ticketing system. Sans super cool purple jumpsuit, the Madame is now Dianne Whitehair, who still screamed pride in her band, sporting a Scorpio Rising t-shirt and a silver scorpion necklace with a little pink ribbon pin attached to it.
It's hard to believe a woman like Dianne had breast cancer: In great shape, self-professed lover of all things song, dance and gymnastics. Despite all that, Dianne knew after a biopsy on a small, irritating lump, it was cancer.
"My husband and I cried, cried a lot, and he was like, 'Oh, you're the only person that I know and love.' He was thinking he was going to lose me,” she said “And I'm like, 'You're not going to lose me. I'm not dying. We're going, can I say it, kick its ass.”.
Boy, did she. She kept her job and her music. She explained to me that has kept her focused on something else other than her illness. When she had no other choice but to be sick, she incorporated it into her music.
She told me about how, after her first round of chemotherapy, she and her husband, Scorpio Rising bass player Wonderbred, shaved her head for the video of the song "Crash and Burn." Sounds pretty innocent, right?
Well, "behind the music," they actually recorded the video after Dianne was hospitalized for neutropenic fever, a dangerously low white blood cell count that caused infection. While she was in the hospital, she noticed clumps of her very long hair falling out. She still put her best foot forward.
"Got suited up, put makeup on and we made the video. We only had one shot because I was shaving my head. One time, so we got it and then I went to bed," she said.
Dianne even scheduled chemo around the band's South by Southwest showcase.
"You know, I hate sitting down in a chair, but I had to sit in a chair for part of, or half the show, because I just couldn't stand up," she said.
That is about the extent of how the disease set her back. Dianne knows how to make lemonade out of lemons because of her incredible sense of humor. She offered music fans a one-of-a-kind experience.
"I was also bald, so I glued mirrors on my head," she said.
Hysterical, but proof of her resilience.
"No, this is not going to take me down. I'm not going to crawl in a corner and suck my thumb and cry all day. I'm not going to let it make me someone else," she said.
I asked Dianne how she thought cancer changed her. She said she stopped drinking, she tried to get as much vitamin D as possible, even if it meant just running out into the sunlight for five minutes and she is more aware of what she eats.
I never really got an answer about how much the diagnosis changed her perspective on life, but that's just it, isn't it? She wouldn't let it.
Oh, and Dianne's goals after recovery: To do a cartwheel, a handstand and a round off flip-flop.
The Scorpio has risen.