Ever since I saw her landmark stage show “Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore!” when I moved to New York more than 20 years ago, I’ve loved the no-holds-barred honesty of the performance artist Penny Arcade, who has had a foothold in the downtown performance and art scenes since the late 1960s. I’d been wanting to write the first NYTimes piece on her for several years, and finally I got my chance when Penny appeared opposite the John Waters movie actress Mink Stole in an acclaimed revival of the late-stage Tennessee Williams one-act “The Mutilated.” I only wish I’d been assigned three times the word count…it’s hard to do Penny’s amazing life and career justice in 1,200 words.
This feature I wrote (for the October 2013 issue of OUT magazine) has gotten thousands of views, tweets and comments. It’s about the HIV med Truvada, which, taken daily by HIV-negative people, can prevent HIV infection. So then why are so few guys taking it one year after the FDA approved it for this purpose, which means that most health plans will cover it? Read the story and find out.
For my money, Gossip diva Beth Ditto was the star of last night’s French-import tribute to Edith Piaf at the Beacon Theater, which I covered for my After Hours performance blog for the NYTimes’ T magazine. She rocked out to “L’homme à la Moto,” and was among the few performers, American or French, who looked like they were having a blast against the rather stiff filmed-for-French-TV cheese factor of the evening. The African Francophone singer Angelique Kidjo, accompanied only by Afrobeat rhythm guitar, was pretty fierce, too. Meanwhile, Harry Connick, Jr., looked like he was terrified of flubbing the French words to “La Vie en Rose.”
SAYING GOODBYE TO THE ICONIC NYC GAY BAR SPLASH
In August 2013, Splash Bar–which ushered in a whole new era of high-end, snazzy gay bars when it opened way back in 1991–put its famous go-go gods under the shower nozzles for the last time. Here, Michael Musto, Lady Bunny and others recall hijinks at the venue whose tiny stage hosted the likes of Kylie Minogue, Britney Spears and *both* Pattis (LaBelle and LuPone, thank you very much).
MARATHON FILIBUSTERS, VIA A SCARY CLOWN
Rachel Mason is a New York artist who uses sculpture, performance and other media to get inside the heads of political leaders. Recently, she was intrigued by the performative aspects of marathon filibusters delivered by U.S. Senator Rand Paul and Texas Senator Wendy Davis, who spoke for hours on end to stop an abortion ban in her state from being passed. For the NYT’s After Hours, I stopped by Mason’s live lip-sync of (a small slice of!) both bravura orations.
JINKX MONSOON’S RETRO VAUDEVILLE CHARM
Jinkx Monsoon, the 25-year-old Season Five winner of Logo’s cult hit “Ru Paul’s Drag Race,” delighted us on the show with her deep knowledge of old-school references like Edie Beale from “Grey Gardens.” With her pianist sidekick Major Scales, she extends the oldey-timey hijinks to “The Vaudevillians,” her cabaret show packed with Jazz Age redos of pop hits like Britney Spears’ “Toxic” and Queen’s “Fat-Bottomed Girls.”
JOHN KELLY’S INTIMATE NEW STAGE ACT
Cabaret and performance art, strange acts that take place in dark clubs and intimate rooms late at night, are a passion of mine. For my first post for AFTER HOURS, my new blog on that scene for the New York Times’ T magazine online, I caught a new batch of covers at Joe’s Pub from performance icon John Kelly, who made his name channeling Joni Mitchell but whose voice can paint in many colors other than blue.
JOSE PARLA’S HIP-HOP CALLIGRAPHICS
The Cuban-American Brooklyn-based artist José Parlá makes stunning massive murals of his signature calligraphic swoops on vibrant color planes. We hung out recently at the Barclays Center in his ‘hood, for a New York Times Styles section story, where he showed me the piece Jay-Z helped him get the commission for. Then we had Cuban coffee at his studio-home around the corner, an old carriage house where Spike Lee made his first films.
THE VIBRANT STRANGENESS OF FIONA APPLE
Reportedly sick with the flu, Fiona Apple seemed as though she’d never come down from her room at the Soho Grand for our March 2012 W magazine chat to mark her new album, The Idler Wheel… But she finally rallied, accepting the fresh-squeezed OJ I’d brought her, and was weirdly, adorably funny and sweet talking about the onstage meltdowns of her youth–and why she’s a hermit who’d rather spend time with her beloved pitbull, Janet, than with people.
CATHLEEN NAUNDORF’S BEWITCHING COUTURE POLAROIDS
Spring 2012 when I was living in Paris, I spent an afternoon with German photographer Cathleen Naundorf in her sprawling top-floor apartment overlooking the treetops of my favorite Paris park, Butte Chaumont. The occasion was the publication of her book, Haute Couture, and the accompanying show at Paris’ Creative Door, and the assignment was for W.