Friday, December 16, 2016

Taking a Ride Aboard Justin Vivian Bond's 'Bipolar Express'

Went to see Justin Vivian Bond's Christmas show at Joe's Pub, "The Bipolar Express," this week -- for free and against my will because Damian was reviewing it for The Daily Beast. Bond and I have been in a long-running feud (that she doesn't know about and couldn't care less) stemming from a friend's attempt to introduce us via Twitter years ago. What started as an innocuous introduction against the backdrop of New York state's battle for marriage equality quickly devolved into a bitter feud in which she kept insisting it was a-OK that Cynthia Nixon was telling the world that she had "chosen to be gay," while I kept pleading with Nixon to clarify that what she meant was that she was attracted to both sexes (i.e., bisexual) and had chosen to act on the same-sex attraction. (Bond doubled-down on her position and grew increasingly irate that I wouldn't just agree with her.) Nixon eventually did clarify her position (that I was right). But by then an inordinate number of people -- a book agent, a publicist, a photographer, a club manager, a D-list celebrity, several journalists and editors -- had come forward with their own horror stories of Bond's being incredibly difficult, so I kind of wrote her off more than I already had given that I never had any interest in the thing she was best-known for, Kiki & Herb. (Longtime readers know I'm more of a TV, movies and music person than a theater, musicals and cabaret guy.)

So after dragging my feet, I ended up going along with Damian for the ride, and must confess that I was pleasantly surprised. Although the cabaret format is still something I prefer in small doses -- and Bond's voice probably wouldn't qualify as a "legitimate" one if not for the shtick associated with its owner -- it's the overall performance that matters. And the quirky songs she selected (Dolly Parton's "Dumb Blonde," Crosby, Stills and Nash's "Almost Cut My Hair," Porter Waggoner's "Mama Ain't That Daddy" with the backing band acting out the lyrics and "Carole King's "It's Too Late" sung as an abortion confessional), endearing personal anecdotes (both our mothers are politically nuts and we're both obsessed with "Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway"!) and her undeniable je ne sais quoi (for better or worse) helped me finally see why she's such a beloved cult figure, and why my friend tried to hook us up in the first place.  

Read Damian's full review of the show for The Daily Beast HERE.

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