Meeting The Disco God Sylvester Was Mighty Real


In 1979, I interviewed Sylvester, the Cockette drag star turned disco singer with the surreally wonderful falsetto and the stunning dance hits like “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” and “Dance (Disco Heat)”.

I expected a fabulous diva in a headdress, surrounded by his Two Tons of Fun backup ladies, all carrying on and being amazing.

But as I wrote:

“He was about as outrageous as styrofoam!

“When I charged into his room at the Holiday Inn, he was lying on the couch, kvetching about exhaustion, a backache, and his root canal session like a bored Queens housewife.

“He sat there lazily peering through his shades as he lisped his jaded answers with a contagious ennui.”

Even more irritatingly, at the outset of the interview, Sylvester placed a tape recorder on the end table in front of me and pressed “Record.”

This was his opening salvo–a defensive attack that said “I don’t trust you and I’m going to keep a record of this,” even though I’d never misquoted anyone in my life and was only there because I worshiped his music.

Then again, this was the height of the cocaine-paranoia ’70s.

Sylvester’s second salvo was even worse: making a point of telling me he wanted to talk about his music, not about who he slept with.

So much for the blazingly out personality he’ll forever remembered as.

Alas, his music talk was rather banal.

Sylvester moaned to me about how his old outfits got in the way; how everyone else got to party, but he had to do interviews; how “I’m the person that must pull the whole group together…When all else fails, there’s only one person that can save the show, and that’s me. It’s because of me that everything happens,” he continued, getting more energetic as the topic turned to his own importance.

“If it were not for me being what I am and doing what I do, there would be no management, no publicity, no band, no show, no records, no nothing.”

Two tape records were turned off and I thought, “Bye, styrofoam. But I still love your music.”

And by the way, the Holiday Inn???

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 17, 2012

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