Interview by: Salty Brine
Would you be willing to share the story of your first kiss?
I actually talk about my first kiss in my book TANGO: My Childhood Backwards, and in High Heels. It happened in the basement of The Women's Club on Prospect St in downtown Hagerstown, Maryland. One evening during rehearsals for the first real show I was ever in. I had been cast in "The Sound of Music" which was being presented by The Potomac Playmakers, a community theater in my hometown. I was dared by the boy who was my older brother Friedrich Von Trapp (I played Kurt) to kiss my younger sister "Marta" whose real name was Carrie Whiteley. Carrie was -and still is- an adorable blonde with big doe-eyes and very pretty lips so I wanted to kiss her anyway and we were quickly developing a crush on each other. So I made the older boy (who was from a well-off family according to my mother) pay me a dollar to kiss her. Afterwards I thought it was only fair to split the kitty with her so I gave her 50¢ and we spent our money on soda pops from the machine in the lobby. I think we had TaB. It was the "first kiss" for both of us and we must have enjoyed it because we made out a lot more after that. We are still friends. TaB was banned from the market for a while because it was full of saccharine which was found to cause cancer in lab rats. I don't know what happened to Friedrich.
Your career has always been, and continues to be, full of song. What have you discovered about the power of the human voice as a musical instrument?
Well of course I love the human voice and always have. When I was young my grandmother used to hold me on her lap and we would swing under the willow tree in her back yard and she would sing to me. My grandmother had a powerful voice with a wild vibrato, and I imagine she's where I got my singing voice. When I don't feel well I focus on whatever ails me and hum into it with my vibrato. It usually makes me feel better. It's the best hangover cure- humming.
You're a terrific storyteller.
What is it that draws us to stories... be it movies, books, lyrics, plays, or banter between songs during an evening of live music? What makes us lean in?
I think the reason we crave good stories is because we're constantly trying to figure ourselves out. Hearing other people’s narratives give us the opportunity to compare our perceptions of things with someone else's and hopefully that makes it easier to negotiate our way through this life. A good storyteller is giving us a gift and usually they're also good listeners or they wouldn't know anything so they'd have fuck all to say.
When you were fourteen years old what did your bedroom look like?
I had an antique bed that belonged to my grandfather's side of the family that my dad and I refinished. And I had a huge shelf full of books and a record player. One wall was completely covered with movie star photos and posters from films of the 1940s that I ripped out of a cache of old movie magazines I bought at a yard sale. I also had a few of my own watercolors framed along with a beautiful needlepoint hummingbird made by my best friend Susan when she was in the psych ward. And a reproduction of a Beaux Arts poster given to me by one of the girls who was in the hospital with her. They would take the teenagers from the psychiatric hospital to the mall once a week so they could get out and do something "normal" and I would meet them there. When I admired the poster this very nice, but kind of crazy, girl bought it for me. I still have it rolled up in a tube somewhere.
I think breakfast is marvelous, and fascinating. Whether it be eggs benedict or coffee and a sidecar. So I'm wondering... What's for breakfast?
Today I was terrible. I reheated some crispy fried wontons for myself and then a little while later Sammy Jo, my upstairs neighbor, came by with lavender mango polenta coffee cake. Sammy is my ex and he's an amazing DJ, and one of my best friends. Usually my breakfast choices are much healthier. Most days I make myself a smoothie and oatmeal, but today I just felt like being trashy and cleaning out the fridge so I got rid of those wontons and yes, they were delicious!
Do you wake up in the morning knowing what you're going to wear? Does it find you? Do you tear your closet apart, trying on ten thousand things before you find the right outfit?
If I'm traveling in the morning I lay out my clothes the night before. I'm a list maker. Thanks to my obsession with Joan Didion I'm always prepared to leave town at the drop of a dime. I have two of all my personal items; one on the shelf and one in a bag. If I'm traveling I plan every outfit for the trip in advance. If I'm home I just throw on something comfortable during the day, and get a bit more lavish at night.
Diana Vreeland said, "You gotta have style. It helps you get down the stairs. It helps you get up in the morning. It’s a way of life. Without it, you’re nobody. I’m not talking about lots of clothes.” How do you define style? Is it linked with identity?
I was talking about this will some friends last night. I think style is defined by taste and taste is a reflection of what you've got an appetite for. I love looking a certain way. I am not into being fussy or overdone so I try to keep things simple, elegant and fun because that's what comes naturally to me. Most days I just throw on a cashmere sweater, matching pants, some earrings, and lipstick. I love it when other people just get crazy and flashy and trashy but I never feel honest when I do that unless it's for the stage and even then I hate to feel like I've got to outperform my costume.
People have been building and occupying cities for centuries. What do you think compels us to create metropolises? (I wanted to say metropoli but spell-check says I'm wrong.) Also, do you obey spell-check?
I spell things however I want. Here's one of my recent tweets:
Yisss Botches, Munty mod it hume on hair bee cee clette unt she didn't bite it like Nico. Tonk hew.
My friends thought I was too drunk to ride my bike home. I figured if I could come up with that tweet I would do just fine. I don't know if it put them more at ease or not, but evidently I made it home in one piece.
I live in a metropolair in the East Village and I love it because I need a lot of things to keep me busy because I'm basically a sedentary loner at heart. I love the country but I get very introspective when I'm there.
Didion, Purdy, Tom Spanbauer, Laurie Weeks, Eileen Myles
Your show Mx America is a big hit. You've been touring it around the country and now it's back in New York. Do you discover shows in a new way when you leave New York? What does playing in other cities and towns reveal about your work?
It's really fun to play other cities because I'm something new and unusual to them and that's exciting and refreshing. But I still love my hometown audiences best because we have an ongoing conversation and I'm always so grateful when I get to be at home and working while surrounded by my friends and family.
Do you ever have stage fright?
It has always depended on whom I've been onstage with. So YES! I've been terrified. But I'm not going to name names.
Speaking of naming names, sexiest cab ride?
Weirdly, they don't seem to be as sexy now that those horrible computer screens are in there, but I've definitely enjoyed the full spectrum of sexual peccadilloes in both New York and London cabs. I like a bit of danger on occasion.
What's next for you? Any projects you're excited about that you'd like to share?
I haven't traveled to Europe in a couple of years, but I'm gearing up to tour to the UK and France so that's exciting. I've also got some fun things in the works that I'm not quite ready to announce but I'm bringing Mx America to USC in November and you should be on the look out for my Christmas shows. I'm always performing somewhere. Be sure to buy my perfume and CDs on my website justinbond.com and if you want me to tell you a story, the audio version of TANGO is now available as well.
Since this is Fop magazine, I thought I'd ask... Do you ever feel foppish?
Fops are the most whimsical and adorable spectacles I can imagine. It makes me so happy to see someone walking down the street really feeling themselves. I've always believed that wearing bright colors in winter is like giving a gift to everyone around you. I try to do that whenever I can and I'd be proud to be considered a fop under almost any circumstance.