By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
If you're looking for some esoteric high culture, keep an eye out for false lashes and hairy legs. Making the classics accessible to the open-bar crowd, HRH Princess Shequida Ryzell de la Nuitsings opera tunes in full drag, a guy named Tatiana Deblockovadoes grand jetés in tutus, and now Armen Ra (who sometimes appears as Princess Layla Sheherezade Dovima Stradivaria Zoriah) prances about in couture, giving exclusive little theremin concerts around town. Thorazine concerts? No, we're talking about the theremin, a fascinating synthesizer wangdoodle, which Ra says "is played by ethereally manipulating electromagnetic sound waves generated by the antenna." You create beautiful sounds and effects without ever touching the thingit's sort of like phone sex!
In male-ish hair and female-ish clothes"I'm a chic lesbian boy"the self-taught performer moves his hands high above the instrument in subtle ways that create a simultaneously relaxing and disturbing wail. "It's Maria Callas combined with Mrs. Miller," Ra says. "Gorgeous yet sci-fi." The there-minx told me his mission is to find the notes with his fingers in the middle of the air, "and pray to God I'm on the right millimeter of airspace. The slightest twitch will affect the outcome." It's like being John Wayne Bobbitt's surgeon! Still, the Iranian-born Armenian's been determined to theremin-ize the world for a while now, "and the makeup really helps."
At Starlight Lounge, where he's doing Thursdays, Ra wore sequined gowns and ruby lipstick as he serenaded us with the suitably haunting themes from The Godfatherand Star Trek. "Am I scaring you?" he asked the crowd, which had been lulled into such a trance they weren't even cruising each other. It was spooky and fabulousno wonder his Dixon Place bio calls him "one of New York's leading aesthetes." Now, where's that Thorazine concert?
More traditional musical eventsyou know, where they have to actually touch the synthesizerhaven't disappointed either, like the Jagger/Richardstribute put on by the Bottom Line's "The Beat Goes On" series, a sort of exalted Losers' Lounge, which gave great (oy) satisfaction. Ricky Byrd, Michael Le Monde, and other pesky pros got to the heart of the wit, sex, and yearning of Mick and Keithand they were sober.
Karen Blackthat culty actress from rentable weirdies like Portnoy's Complaintand Trilogy of Terroris high on life, thank you, so when she took her cabaret act to Joe's Pub the other night, I was right in her face, honey. The PR description alone was riveting, saying that Karen plays characters like a pregnant teen and a black Mississippi Delta woman, using material by Sondheim, Bowie, and Katherine Anne Porter. What's more, the show was directed by her fellow Easy Riderwhore, Toni("Hey Mickey, you're so fine") Basil. Enough said!
The result? I can't decide, except to say that Black throws herself into her characters with such gusto you can't tell if she's unspeakably hammy or utterly inspired. Her voice swoops from a Betty Boop screech to a gravelly bellow, and you wisely start to listen less for musicality than vigor. But when she plays herself and admits, "I lost my sonnot to death, but to my ex-husband," things do get really interesting. (As in Airport '75, she truly lands the plane cross-eyed.)
Joe's Pub, by the way, is a ka-chingpalace, where the bartenders loudly mix cocktails all through the show, disrupting all the tender moments (and my own talking to friends). Even ickier, the second the star exits, an announcement is made urging you to get out so they can pave the way for "another sold-out show." And even press people have to pay for drinks! (At least the star presumably benefits from some of this grotesque penny-pinching.)
I got free drink tickets at the Stonewall Bar, only to find out too late that they're only valid at the bar, not at the tables! Buzzing (and fuming) from my $4 Diet Coke, I went upstairs, where guys were licking whipped cream off a seminude porn star, proving once again that we can be every bit as inane as the heteros. The studone of New York's leading aestheteswas named Caesar, and though I've always loved Caesar's dressing, here everyone was cheering for Caesar's un-dressing, ha-ha-ha.
At Fez, clothes are worn, but clearly name tags are needed. At the underground joint recently, Parker Poseythought Time Out's Cathay Chewas Margaret Choand winsomely started chatting her up. Mid gush, Che broke it to the actress that she's not Cho, prompting Posey to admit, "Iget Mary-Louise Parkerand Kate Beckinsale." (Funny, Iget Star Jonesand Danny DeVito.)
More names? As Page Six reported, HRH Princess Diandrathe drag queen, not Michael Douglas's exjust tussled with David LaChapelleat Lucky Cheng's, creating electromagnetic sound waves that had people running. The fab but excitable Diandra was mad that her image was cut out of a Rolling Stone group shot LaChapelle once took, so she tossed a drink in his face, using his eyeballs as martini olives. (Remember, Diandra's the one who screamed "you hideous has-been woman" at Diana Rossduring Ross's last concert and was dragged off a platform by security.)