Quentin: Not-so-Wilde about Oscar... Pissed-off priests... Wanting Joel Grey for ‘Naked Civil 2’... And doing Texas
By DANIEL KUSNER
On Saturday, Oct. 2, 1993, Quentin Crisp and I finally shook hands.
Quentin was in Austin to herald the documentary “Resident Alien.”
In his “New York Diaries,” Quentin described his three-day stay in Texas’ capital, which was spent stuffing his face and — from his Four Seasons’ window — watching campus oarsmen sculling down the Colorado River amidst a landscape of “mostly parched grass and crumbling rock.”
During his Texas trip, I was invited to a dinner party to honor Quentin.
My date was actress, MTV goddess and Charlie Girl-spokesmodel Karen Duffy, whom Quentin worked with on the film “Naked in New York.”
In May 1995, Vanity Fair published Christopher Hitchens’ article commemorating the 100th anniversary of “The Importance of Being Earnest.”
That 1895 Valentine’s Day opening-night was both Oscar Wilde’s greatest triumph and ultimate disgrace: Thug-aristocrat the Marquess of Queensbury made an angry scene at the stage door — hoping to disrupt Wilde’s three-act masterpiece with a bouquet of vegetables.
The play went off without a hitch. But the furious Queensbury departed, swearing vengeance on the man who was “corrupting” his son, Lord Alfred Douglas.
So intense was Queensbury in his defamation campaign that Wilde was led into the greatest mistake of his life — a criminal libel suit to clear himself of Queensbury’s “gay” smear (also known in the London homosexual underworld as the vice of being too “earnest.”)
During the trial, our rebellious playwright had the tables turned on him. Wilde was indicted not only for committing “the abominable crime of sodomy” but also for committing it with a member of the lower orders.
During Sir Edward Carson’s cross-examination, Wilde was trapped by a question about kissing a servant boy while trying to defend “The love that dare not speak its name.”
Wilde was sentenced to two years hard labor.
At the finish of Hitchens’ brilliant article, I remembered that Quentin Crisp was also cross-examined — when he was brought to trial on a charge of solicitation. Quentin successfully defended himself.
So on a weeknight after 8 p.m. — I had a whim. I phoned Quentin and recorded our discussion.
QUENTIN CRISP: Oh, yes?
KUSNER: Hey, Quentin. How are you doing? I’m calling from Texas.
Fine. I’m all right, thank you.
I hope I didn’t wake you or anything.
Well, I’m just reading this article about Oscar Wilde in Vanity Fair. And I was wondering what you thought of Oscar.
Well, I think he was a dead loss.
A dead loss? How come?
He never came to terms with how sordid his life was.
How sordid was it?
He had affairs with Eastenders, whom he only met in Braille.
He never knew what they looked like. He met them in darkened rooms in Oxford.
And they were procured for him by Lord Alfred Douglas.
He was an absolute loss.
So he was taking advantage of young men from the lower classes?
Hmmm. What do you think of the word “foppish?”
Well, it does describe...
See, Americans misunderstand dandyish-ness for effeminacy.
They’re not the same thing at all.
It’s like the Archie Bunker thing: He thinks that all Englishmen must be queer because they add curly brims to their boaters and fold umbrellas and so on. And, of course, they’re very dandyish. But they’re not effeminate at all. They would be horrified if you told them they were.
And that, I think, is part of the trouble — that Mr. Wilde was, of course, deliberately on East Street and all that rubbish. He knew all that terrible verse. And it’s impossible to understand how he was bleating about love and dragging poor old Plato’s name into a case as sordid as that was.
Do people ever compare your wit to Oscar’s?
[Pained voice.] Yes, yes.
I am told I am like Mr. Wilde.
I couldn’t be less like him still.
Yes, it’s true.
And the way I speak is epigrammatic.
Do you think your historical lives run parallel: his court case and your legal battle?
I mean, his was compounded by his trying to be funny in court.
It was absolute nonsense.
Who do you want to play you in the sequel to your life story? Besides John Hurt?
Hey, have you seen the movie “Priest?”
What did you think of it?
“Priest” was shocking.
I don’t know quite why.
I mean, it’s all right to have a priest who is gay.
But whether one prelate says “piss off” to another is very unlikely, I think.
And it does make it worse in a way that isn't necessary.
But was it a good movie?
It was quite a good movie.
When did you get a chance to see “Priest?”
I think I saw it on Monday of this week.
Just recently. So, are you working on anything else?
I’m behaving nicely.
Are you reviewing more movies now?
Yes, if I get the chance, I do movie reviews.
Are you going to review “Priest?”
I have to see a movie with my editor, and he then feeds me.
And then we discover what I should say.
And then I say it.
That’s great. Well, I was just reading this article and thought, “I'd like to call Quentin and ask him about it.” So I did. Hey, do you remember your recent trip to Austin?
I had dinner with you that evening. I was with a young actress in a backyard. Do you remember?
And I interviewed you for my magazine here.
So come to Texas for the next film fest.
I doubt whether I will. But I go where my fare is paid.
Well, I’ll put the word out for you. I’ll tell them to come and get you.
Well, good luck to you. Thanks for your time.
You’re very kind.
‘Sexual Personae’ authoress vamps on Ann Richards’ defeat, Chelsea Clinton’s horrifying dowdiness, Madonna, Courtney Love, Liz Phair and total bisexual experimentation
By BRAD WILLIAMS
On Jan. 11, 1995, feminist provocateur Camille Paglia called me — collect — and proceeded to talk my ear off for more than an hour. Her chattiness can be overpowering and intimidating.
During interviews, Paglia does the heavy lifting: Just throw her an idea. She’ll rant until you interrupt with another idea.
Below is a word-for-word transcript of our conversation’s most interesting portions — minus Paglia’s “Okay?” or “All right?” that punctuate her speed-of-light observations.
If you haven’t witnessed the author of both “Sexual Personae: Sex, Art and American Culture” (Vintage, Aug. 20, 1991, 718 pp.) and “Vamps and Tramps”(Vintage, Oct. 11, 1994, 560 pp., paper) live or on TV, Paglia is a born entertainer — a fact her sullen critics refuse to grasp.
Yes, she’s outrageous. But laced within Paglia’s extreme opinions is a lot of truth.
BRAD: Hello, Camille Paglia.
PAGLIA: Hi. Are we taping?
All right. Let me express my condolences about the defeat of Governor Richards.
I wanted to ask you about that. What’s going on in this country?
I have been prophesying for years. Warning, warning, warning...
I’m a Clinton Democrat: I look forward to voting for him again. I may be the only one in the country who is.
But I’d been warning year after year of the disastrous, self-destructive direction progressive politics were in.
This tired-out way of looking at things — of left versus right.
If this continues, it will ensure the defeat of progressive principles.
Instead, what we need is a period of self-analysis and atonement for past political errors and arrogance on the part of people on the progressive side.
The worst of the errors is this pretending to be leftist without looking to what the people are thinking.
For 150 years, authentic leftism has been about giving voice to the people. Instead, what we have are a bunch of white, middle-class, very comfortable, very smug and complacent people carrying on about how whenever the people as a whole, the working class, disagrees with our positions, then they’re homophobic, bigoted, benighted or ignorant.
Let’s talk about Hillary. Yesterday, The NewYork Times said she’s trying to tone it down. She doesn’t want to be perceived as a bitch anymore.
[Laughing.] I haven’t seen the piece. Someone mentioned it to me.
She has just shown total ignorance of the way television works in this culture, and it has been working for 35 years.
Finally, she had that press conference.
She comes out in her pink suit and sits in a chair like Nancy Reagan.
She’s up on a platform, shrinking back in her chair — I can do this whole thing of her, implying, “Now don’t ask me any tough questions, because after all, I’m just the first lady.”
The press corps swallowed it whole.
They asked her, “Well, your chief of staff Margaret Williams went into Vince Foster’s office. And what documents did she remove?”
[Imitating Hillary] “I am not aware of that happening. I am not aware...”
Give me a break!
If that was her chief of staff — and at that point, after so many months and a year — she doesn’t know exactly what her chief of staff did or knew?
Either she should know, because the buck stops with Hillary, or if Margaret’s not telling her, fire her!
What are your thoughts about Chelsea? Don’t you think it would benefit the Clintons to let Chelsea do a little interview with a little kiddie show or let her out to do something?
No. No, I don’t. Chelsea’s a mess. Please.
Remember she went out there at the inaugural? They had her at the MTV dance.
They let her out there.
Look, if people want to see an example of bias in the press, they should go back and see the way Time magazine and the other major media treated...
When Chelsea first was revealed to us at the Democratic Convention, we were all shocked to see this orphan in chains: One of the dowdiest creatures to ever walk the earth.
And she’s a dead ringer, by the way, at that period, for Emily Dickinson, who also was suffering under all kinds of familial tensions.
Anyway, please notice how in the ensuing weeks, the way the liberal press treated her. They deliberately did not show her face because they wanted Clinton to be elected. And they knew that if they showed that face — like a horror movie — that he would not get elected.
If it was Reagan’s child, you would have close-ups of everything.
It wasn’t on my list, but Patti Davis...
I adore her. She’s such a bitch. She’s a completely artificial personality.
Is she flogging a dead horse? She’s got how many novels? Whenever I see her on TV, my mouth hangs open. I just watch her.
She is so amazing. It’s extraordinary. She’s a classic California girl. That sexual persona is produced by no other culture in history. She’s like a drag queen.
Now your big peeve is what you call the victimization of modern feminism. What about victimization in the gay community?
There’s an unholy alliance between the feminist community and certain gay male activists. They’re my enemies.
The gay men who like me are generally gay men who are interested in culture. They’re interested in movies. They’re interested in art. They understand what I am doing — that I’m integrating sexuality with culture.
In the lesbian world, there are some of them who do like me. But I would say that most lesbians are frightened. I’m too strong. And despite all their talk about how they want strong women, they really don’t want strong women.
All right, let’s take [lesbian comic] Robin Tyler. I met her in New York at Stonewall 25. We talked about you. She said, “Sometimes Camille likes me. Sometimes she doesn’t.”
Look, Robin Tyler just does not exist on my radar screen except insofar as I had an encounter with her in London.
Didn’t you write something about her generation of lesbians?
Okay, here’s the whole story. I was in London two years ago giving this presentation at the Institute of Contemporary Art. And she comes up to me afterwards and introduces herself.
I had heard her name, and I was aware she was a comedian, but I hadn’t seen her or anything. She invited me to her show — a benefit for AIDS. I went, and we hung around before, during and after the show. She was carrying on about how right I was. She totally agreed with me — that when she goes on these lesbian cruises, because she organizes these cruises...
[Laughing.] Have you ever been on one?
No, listen. Let me stay on this track — I’m telling this story, which is upsetting.
Of course I don’t go on those cruises! You think I hang around with people like that?
So she said that all the feminist leaders privately complain about how paralyzing this problem is with political correctness.
I thought I got along with her because she was a pre-Stonewall lesbian like me. There’s an old-butch quality to her that’s sort of like me. We’re both very forthright, brusque and old-style. So we seemed to be communicating well.
During the show, though, I was a little disturbed by these silly remarks she was making about penises. She told a story about how she dated some guy in high school. They went out for a ride, and suddenly she looked over and there was this like “ugly, purple thing there.”
And he said, “Well, how ’bout it?”
And she said, “Ugh!”
She was inducing laughs from the audience. It disturbed me because I thought, “No gay male comedian could get up there and make such derisive remarks about female genitals — and induce jeering and laughter from the audience.”
Then she also told me things backstage about her family history – I won’t go into them; people seem to generally know them — but some really bizarre things in her family history.
And I thought, “Oh, shit. Here’s another example of one of these homosexuals who is the result — not of being born that way — but from some fucked up family history.”
I’ve always been trying to make alliances with a major lesbian, whether it’s Susie Bright or whatever, and they all are just idiots. Fools!
As it happens I was writing this piece for The Advocate, and I inserted that I tend to get along with pre-Stonewall lesbians.
I said, “When I recently met Robin Tyler in London, we seemed to instantly speak the same language of personal responsibility” — a flattering remark about Robin Tyler.
She then writes a letter to The Advocate that appears in the next issue attacking me and saying, “We do not agree on most things.”
I was furious!
Distancing herself from Camille?
Yeah, so I immediately wrote a very nasty letter to her and just expressed my complete contempt and disgust of her. I accused her of total hypocrisy.
I have absolutely had it with the toleration of this kind of poisoning of gay discourse by psychotics and neurotics who are wandering around the lesbian landscape and promoting themselves as somehow the voice of the future for young women.
I’m tired of it!
What do you think about On Our Backs, the magazine? I know you had a horrible interview experience with them.
On Our Backs is the greatest proof that lesbians don’t have an eye. Look at the total lack of development of layout and graphics. That magazine is pathetic. And they think they’re so fabulous and hot. They’ve hardly been able to produce a single good photograph in five... How many years now? six years?
Take any gay male magazine off the stands and look at the fabulous photography. The fabulous shots... So erotic.
For instance, I was in Playguy magazine — something about [the documentary] “Glennda and Camille Do Downtown.”
They sent me the issue, and I’m looking through it... Unbelievable! The quality of the pictures — incredible. Shots of just anonymous young men... Beautiful.
I’m going, “Why can’t lesbians take pictures like this?”
One thing I want to ask you about is homosexuality throughout history and in various cultures. You maintain that same-sex adult relationships are something new?
It’s very rare. It’s very isolated. Yeah.
That’s why I get very angry when people start talking about homosexuality.
Let’s take Greek culture, which is very much like modern Arab culture — that is, a man is expected to marry.
He marries. He has sex with his wife. He has children. He goes to female prostitutes. And he has sex with boys.
The idea of having loving adult relationships with another man — that doesn’t happen.
So [modern homosexuality] is a phenomenon of urban culture in a decadent phase. My theory is that it is a response to overpopulation.
What about ancient Greece and Rome? Is it possible that there were adult relationships but it just wasn’t written about?
I would find that very odd because there was no censorship on the poets. There was nothing to stop people from expressing whatever they were doing.
We have an awful lot of wonderful poetry, like Horace and Juvenal talk about the love for boys.
We know that the emperor Hadrian, for example, was in love with the boy Antinous. That’s how little people were censoring expression. He had to marry and have children. He was in love with this young man. The young man died — drowned in the Nile — and Hadrian built shrines all over the Mediterranean to his love.
The point is, they probably could have been in [adult same-sex] relationships, but they simply were not the cultural norm. The young male body was considered ideal. I think that’s healthy.
The Paglia system for the future is total bisexual experimentation across the spectrum. I’m trying to free up the man-boy love thing. I’m trying to focus attention on that to try to say that is not necessarily pernicious — that cultures through history have managed to integrate man-boy love into a larger structure.
I’m sorry, but when I look around the world now — and at American homosexuality — I’m not exactly thrilled by what I’m seeing. I think there are a lot of problems in our culture that contemporary homosexuality is a response to.
It’s not that I am considering homosexuality pathological, but rather I’m saying that the gay activist establishment has been very stupid in denying that there’s a psychological component.
Every example of a gay man that I know is in some sense looking for masculinity, because it’s missing in their lives. It’s not there. 100 years ago America was an agricultural country. It was easy to know how to be a man. You hung around men more. You were with men more. You were with your father more, and your brothers and other men.
I believe there wasn’t a need for homosexuality as much, because you had a kind of companionship with men that you were satisfied with. I think that’s one area gay activists have been totally dishonest about in not realizing the degree to which a lot of gay men are just starved for something which is genuine.
I was on the forefront of this five years ago and going against the feminist line of the last 25 years that masculinity is an illness. Masculinity is a disease. It’s a neurosis. It’s the source of all the disasters of history.
Because of my intimacy with gay men, I got over my repugnance toward men — coming from my battles for authority with men.
And also through my love of art and seeing the beautiful images of men in art — from Greek antiquity on — of male nude bodies.
It was me who started saying masculinity is real, it is beautiful, it is eternal, it is something that every single culture has always seen: the beauty of young men.
I now feel that — I really do feel this, okay?
There are a lot of gay men today who are identifying themselves as exclusively gay who in fact are simply searching for the masculinity that is lost to our culture. I’m not saying, “Stop sleeping with men.”
Again, I’m always saying, “Self-knowledge.”
Self-knowledge is the key to everything. I feel that the issue here is much bigger than homosexuality. It is what’s happened when we switched.
We have gone into an industrial culture now. People work in offices, and kids are coming out of broken homes. And the fathers have shrunk down, and feminism is making men shrink even further. It’s being actually obstructive here.
What about lesbianism throughout history?
This is my theory: Throughout history, there was the world of men and the world of women. There was a division of labor that began as early as the hunter-gatherer phase of our culture.
From the moment we ceased being Nomads practically — the late-Nomadic Period — it was natural for the sexes to divide for labor.
It wasn’t because of sexism and patriarchy. It was because when women get pregnant, they can’t run. They can’t forage. They can’t hunt. Then they have the baby — they have to nurse.
So what happens: you begin to get that breaking down of women around the hearth, making the food and gathering the berries. And the men are off bonding, in a band, hunting and killing themselves, doing all these dangerous things. I believe that lesbianism was not necessary. The intimate relationships that you had with other women... First of all, it’s always been more physical than men were ever allowed.
See, the reason I can talk like this is that I am just one or two generations from when it was like that. Until very recently, people lived in one room.There was no central heating.
People were all heaped in a bed.You were lucky to have a bed. It would be all six or seven or eight children all heaped in a bed. People having sex in the same room. There would be multiple generations living in the same house.
And you worked all day long for subsistence. You didn’t have time for all this identity crisis shit. A lot of these things have emerged in the modern world.
With more affluence, more leisure, the more you start to get all these things — “What am I? Gay or straight?”— and all that stuff...
Do you believe on some level we are inherently bisexual?
Certainly we all have the potential. Absolutely. Of course we are. But here's what I think: At puberty, the hormones kick in for both sexes. I think the sexes don’t really get along with each other at all.
Why are gay men more promiscuous than lesbians?
Because they're men. Testosterone creates greater libido. Anyone will report this. For example, if you get a transsexual who goes from female to male, and has to take testosterone, they will report a tremendous surge of libido.
It it because male genitals are on the exterior his body?
I said this in the first chapter of “Sexual Personae.” Yes, in fact, Karen Horney originally said that — the great psychoanalyst from the 1920s. In fact, she felt that the externality of male genitals made men more objective. That is, they had to assess things in the external world more. Whereas a woman cannot see her genitals.
In fact, that’s been a problem for me as a lesbian when I have been pursuing, always with a total lack of success, straight women. Because sometimes I would be pursuing someone and you could see they were interested. I’m talking like before I was famous, 15 years ago. And you could see they were aroused, but they didn’t know they were aroused because they didn’t have a penis on the outside to go, “Oh, my God. I have a hard-on.”
It really angered me. It really aggravates me. I know why straight men get so mad at women, I really do, because women have led me down the primrose path repeatedly.
Atheist leader Madalyn Murray O’Hair lives here in Austin. Do you know anything about her?
Oh, she was a huge figure when I was young.
What do you think of the New Age movement?
Well, the music is very powerful: that’s the strongest thing about it.
I identify with it somewhat because New Age has an attitude towards nature, which is coming from the ’60s.
And that is what is sorely missing — that reverence for nature — from social constructionist ideologies like those of feminism and gay activism and Foucault and French theory and all that. There are also some loopy things — New Age people believe in channeling and things like that. And I loved that aspect of the ’60s.
It had to do with like Tarot and palmistry and occult phenomena. That’s very close to me, but it’s a sign of the decadence of our times. It’s like the Roman Empire, when a lot of these things came in very strongly.
What do you think about Shirley MacLaine?
I’m afraid every time she says something, I usually agree with it. [Laughs.]
Like there was a period this year where at every hotel I stayed, there was construction going on outside my window.
Finally, I had a breakthrough.
I said, “This must be a sign that I’m supposed to be under construction.”
She talks like that. And unfortunately, that’s the way I think. I hate to say it. I like Shirley MacLaine a lot.
What do you think of the British TV show “Absolutely Fabulous”?
Well, I’ve only seen it a couple of times. The one I saw the other night, I was lying in the floor, I was so hysterical — where the women were attacking another car with their purses...
Did you hear that Rosanne has bought the rights to create an American version?
Oh, God... I mean, after what she did to “She Devil?”
What do you think of Rosanne?
I loved early Rosanne. I think she’s very forthright, but she’s become so fucking PC lately. I saw her on... Was it “Montel?"
One of these shows — where she was talking about prostitution. It could’ve been Phyllis Schlafly, talking about the exploitation of women by porn and prostitution. It just makes me sick what’s happened to her.
I hated when she had her facial surgery. I loved the way she looked before.
What is the state of women in rock? How about Courtney Love?
Well, Courtney Love — she’s really smart and talented. But her persona. She calls it the “kinderwhore” persona. It’s in the line of Debbie Harry. I’m still looking for the hard rocker, so for me Chrissie Hynde still has the edge on everybody.
Liz Phair — they put her on the cover of Rolling Stone, and I wanted to throw up. She looked like a 12-year-old girl with her mouth hanging open. She has a couple of great songs like “Supernova.” But please. There are like hundreds, indeed thousands, of talented men in this culture who play better guitar than any of these women yet.
What about, as far as a rock singer, Tina Turner?
She’s not rock. She is someone coming out of soul who had a fabulous album when her British producers set her up with a rock band. But she’s a singer — that’s not what I’m talking about.
I have always said that women have done great as vocalists in rock — Pat Benatar and so on. I’m constantly talking about women playing guitar. That’s what I want.
The only thing I didn’t like in “Vamps and Tramps” was your spiel on Martina Navratilova. I’m her biggest fan of in the whole world. I’m going to be her biographer.
[Laughing.] No, she’s a very important figure. The reason I went after her there was because there was so much schmaltz about her. It was time that somebody had a reality check. But Martina is one of the major, major figures of the modern women’s movement. No doubt about it.
If you’re her biographer, then you call me up, and I’ll talk to you about her in a very positive way. But what I said has to be said: That is, there was this element in her, that long period there... Billie Jean pulled her out of it. Remember when she wanted Billie Jean to be her coach? And Billie Jean read her the riot act and said no more of this, this, this and this. There was an awful lot of sulking and tantrums there in the middle, and you’ve got to be honest about it. You know, that makes a complex person.
Anything new to say about Madonna? Have you ever met her?
No. Every attempt to bring us together has been squelched by Madonna. She’s afraid of me. HBO wanted to do a special two years ago of her and me having dinner, a “My Dinner With Andre”-type format.
She’s just scared shitless.
I get so mad. People fucked it up for us. Early on, when I was writing about her, people started saying to her — I know they did this. In fact, I even know who did it. They would go to her and say, “Oh, have you read ‘Sexual Personae’ yet?”
Now why the fuck should Madonna read “Sexual Personae?” Excuse me? She is an artist. So right from the start there was this problem.
The second problem is, I don’t know if you saw this fabulous Fox network unauthorized bio of her, which was very good. Anyway, the whole last episode — the whole last half hour — is about her tortured relationship with her manager, Camille Barbonne. So there — telling Madonna what to do in her life: two Camilles. That’s an awful lot, to have two bossy Camilles like that. So I think in many ways, I also inherited her problems with her manager. Because she broke off with her manager. They were very close and may have been... who knows what?
Thank you for talking to me.
Great talking to you.
Sexy cult comedian on Paglia, the Menendez Bros. and other ’90s-era excuses for bad behavior
By BRAD WILLIAMS
BERNHARD: Hey, it’s Sandra Bernhard. How are you?
A nervous wreck: I’m interviewing Sandra Bernhard.
Relax. I’m just like everybody else.
Am I part of a multitude of telephone interviews today?
For the past two months until the very end of the “Excuses for Bad Behavior” tour.
I’m working my own last nerve.
Are inside your lovely San Fernando Valley house?
The kitchen: having a sip of water. Then I’ll go back to the living room.
Are you in your bra and panties having a Rémy Martin?
[Laughs.] I wish.
I’m actually in a pair of sweat pants and a big shirt.
You’re returning to Texas. Does that excite or worry you?
I love Texas.
It’s been three years since your last Austin performance.
I miss it, damn it.
Don’t you have friends here?
The Butthole Surfers’ ex-drummer, Teresa Taylor. She’s great.
Say in the interview, “Hi. And I’ll see you in Texas.”
Will you stay with her, or in a hotel?
I’ll be in a hotel, honey.
Austin’s gay film fest is going on right now.
Featuring “Dallas Doll.”
And the documentary “Confessions of a Pretty Lady.”
Two of my least favorite pieces of work.
Will “Dallas Doll” be a wide-release movie?
Nobody would release that dog — that barking dog.
The experience was terrible.
It was filmed in Australia.
How long were you there?
Way too fucking long.
Like two-and-a-half months.
I know people who enjoyed it.
You’re kidding. [Sighs.]
There’s no telling from people’s bad taste.
I mean, I’m not bad in it.
I’m not ashamed of my performance.
It’s just that the film is so poorly edited and looks like shit.
I hated it.
Did you realize that while filming?
But I’d already gotten myself into it.
It was one of those situations where I met the director here in the States, and she represented herself to be somebody quite sane quite interesting.
Then she exploded — or rather imploded — on me.
What about the Steve Antin’s “Inside Monkey Zetterman.”
I liked that movie. It was cute, wasn’t it?
Did anybody see that, besides me?
Oh, fuck yeah.
That move did quite well. Quite well.
What about “Confessions of a Pretty Lady?” That was a documentary for the BBC. It was fabulous.
You liked that?
It could’ve been much more interesting.
You know, all that Chicks on... I mean Dykes on Bikes. Chicks with dicks... [Laughs.]
You didn’t like the Dykes on Bikes parts?
It was absolutely pointless.
What about the interview with your mom?
I liked that shit.
They should’ve showed more of that kind of stuff.
Your Aunt Zelda was fabulous.
They were brilliant, weren’t they?
See? That stuff was good.
But when they went off on these tangents, it was like, “Well, that has nothing to do with my work or my life. What are they doing?”
Camille Paglia talked about you in the film? Are you a fan of hers?
She’s interesting. And I respect her.
But I mean I don’t like... [Sandra gets another call.] Hold on a sec...
Sorry. I’m back.
Was it somebody fabulous?
It was my percussionist, Denise.
I hoped it was Madonna.
Honey... Shut up.
I’m not asking any Madonna questions.
Although I’m dying to. Let me just ask …
No! Behave yourself.
Okay, back to Camille Paglia. When it comes to social commentary, it seems that Paglia’s messages and your performances are in sync.
I agree. I do like her. Even though she’s a little kooky.
Was that the first time you met her: When she saw your show in New York?
Did y’all spend quality time together?
She’s hard to... She’s not somebody you can carry on an intelligent conversation. She’s over the place.
You have a lot in common. Like, the way she’s refused to sexually pigeonhole herself.
A lot of people wonder, if you are bisexual — as if you’re intentionally cultivating an ambiguous persona.
No. I’m a sexual person. And I like sex. I like sexual interaction with different people.
But I’m also a very a committed, loyal person in my relationships.
But people… spark me.
Sometimes it’s men. Sometimes it’s women. But I don’t consider myself bisexual because I don’t quite understand what that means.
Right. So there’s just really not a definite word?
No. There isn’t.
But it’s not necessary to have a word.
I think my work, my humanity and my support of people’s freedom speaks for itself. And that’s just gonna have to be enough.
Do whiny PC lesbians harass you?
But over the years I’ve been harassed by really dry, sober, uptight dykes who can’t like even look at themselves and have a laugh.
I have no patience for that shit. Everybody should be able to look at themselves and have a little sense of humor and go, “Yeah, I’m a geek and a bad dresser. I don’t really understand myself very well, and...” It’s, like, get it together. Have a laugh.
You have more of a gay-male following.
I always did.
Do you think it’s because they understand your sensibility?
It’s because they have a sense of style. They like to laugh. They like to like get dramatic. They like to go along on this kind of cool and healthy journey that I take them on.
Camille Paglia is always bitching that she can’t find any glamorous lesbians with a sense of beauty or whatever.
I bitch about that too.
Why do you think that is?
I don’t know, honey. I don’t understand it.
Is it a cultural thing?
If you’re gonna be so political that it takes away all your femininity and ability to allow yourself to express personality’s eccentric side...
I mean, why can gay men be really outrageous and beautiful. But gay women can’t?
I don’t get it.
Maybe it’s because sexuality has become so political with mainstream America telling women they have to conform to a certain kind of beauty.
I think you’re right about that.
Camille Paglia compared you to Lenny Bruce.
He could be seriously angry. But when angry, it’s maybe because of the costume or the way that people feel about you.
There’s a fine line there of whether or not you’re mocking the seriousness and self-righteousness. It’s dangerous to totally commit to something in a self-congratulatory way. So I’m careful about where I stand.
Have you heard from Mick Jagger: What he thought of your version of “Sympathy for the Devil”?
No, I’m waiting.
Are you buddies with Jagger?
Never met him. Can you believe that?
You don’t like to talk about particular relationships.
Amanda Bearse kind of outed your relationship in her interview in The Advocate.
She’s tripped out. I don’t know what her fucking trip is. She’s fucked up.
Is this off the record?
It’s on the record. Say it!
Did you read the Kevin Sessums interview in Out?
My interview with him?
Did it bother you that he talked about your current relationship [with model Patricia Velasquez]?
I thought he took some liberties.
I didn’t talk about it with him. He came up with that shit.
I thought it was kind of intrusive.
I didn’t really dig it. But I’m proud of my relationship. But I don’t want people bugging her. She’s a sweet, vulnerable person, and it’s nobody’s business.
Does it weird you out that your idol Mary Tyler Moore can go on Letterman and talk about her husband ’til the cow comes home. But there’s this cloud over the prospect of you talking about the person in your life?
I don’t need to talk about the person in my life.
What the hell does that have to do with my work?
That should always be separate: If I’m married. If I’m straight, gay, whatever. I don’t think it’s ever germane.
I don’t define myself by my relationships.
I define myself by how hard I’ve worked for the past 20 years and the kind of artistry and creativity I have.
What about your spirituality?
You lampoon the New Age movement. But to what extent do you think New Age helps people?
People get very dependent on these kinds of groups. Once again, it’s like, “extreme anything” bugs me. Just figure it out for yourself. Or go to these things and keep it private. Is it necessary to discuss them in a big public way?
Have you ever dabbled in metaphysics?
But you consider yourself a spiritual person?
Very much. I’m very into my religion — being Jewish — and getting the metaphysical, spiritual aspects of that.
Would you say that your experience working on the Kibbutz is something that’s affected you?
Totally. It was great. Like an old-fashioned work experience. Getting up and going out in the fields and working.
Discipline seems to be rare in this day and age.
Well, it’s number one in my life.
The theme “Excuses for Bad Behavior” is that you’re scared to turn on the news.
That’s a lot of what that piece of work is about — my fear of turning on the news, which I haven’t done for a while.
What about O.J.?
That subject is off limits. It’s just the most disgusting... Bunch of bullshit.
You were fairly vocal about the Menendez brothers.
That was like the beginning of this whole...
Ultimate excuses for bad behavior?
You didn’t like Leslie Abramson?
No! She was a nightmare.
In your wildest dreams, did you ever think you’d become such a big deal?
Have your dreams gone further than what’s already happened?
Sometimes. We all have fantasies that surpass what you have. But I’m happy with where I am and the success that I’ve had.
You’ll at least be remembered as a cult diva. But do you envision yourself as another Tina Turner, Bette Midler or Cher? Visualizing yourself, like, 10 years from now and winning an Oscar or doing something really mainstream and huge?
That scares me. I think of myself more like somebody like Patti Smith. She continued to do her work, had great respect and never needed to like throw herself into some ultra-commercial success to feel good. If that stuff comes my way, I’m not gonna resist it — if it’s good work. But I don’t think that ultimately I need to define myself by that kind of huge overblown media success.