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Cabaret in the cabinet
Hilarity at home with the DVD of a millennia-old performing duo
This Valentine’s Day, take your loved one to a wonderful cabaret performance . . . without leaving the house.
What’s that? How can one attend a cabaret performance at home? That’s easy. Pick up a copy of Kiki and Herb: Live at the Knitting Factory, the first live DVD from everyone’s favorite 2,000-year-old lounge singer and her equally old gay pianist.
Apparently, singer Kiki DuRane and her accompanist Herb were “a couple of desert waifs named Naomi and Ishkabibble” back in ancient Bethlehem, present at the manger for the birth of Jesus.
After drinking milk from the cow in the next stall over, they gained eternal life. They now spend their infinite lifespans drinking, commenting on history, current affairs and the like, and, of course, singing.
Kiki sums up her political affiliations quite succinctly. “I’m a socialist,” she says, “I socialize.”
Kiki is, apparently, now a Christian, waiting for the second coming, since she’s pretty sure God has a grudge against her for sleeping with his only begotten son.
Herb, on the other hand, is Jewish. And gay. And, apparently, retarded, like Kiki herself.
When the audience applauds, Kiki chastises them, noting, “When we were growing up, it’s wasn’t trendy to be a gay Jew ’tard as it is today,” to uproarious laughter.
One almost feels sorry for the perpetually smiling Herb--he accompanies her songs, her monologues, her breaks to down copious amounts of alcohol, which invariably delay her train of thought’s departure from the station.
“I was thinking I should say something, but my mind and my hand were listing over to this cocktail,” she notes.
Interestingly, Kiki--real name, Justin Bond--and Herb, aka Kenny Mellman, owe as much to the punk rock scene as they do to the drag scene. Kiki can belt out an impromptu rendition of Patti Smith’s “Horses” that is like a razor blade scraping down the spine. The duo crash from one song into another like the Sex Pistols, while channeling Barry Manilow, Bette Davis and Bette Midler.
In addition to the live show, recorded earlier this year (they were nominated for a Tony Award on the same day that Jerry Falwell died), there are numbers thrown into the DVD’s extras dating as far back as 1993, the early days of Bond and Mellman’s cabaret chaos, as well as a number removed from the final cut.
If there is anything that detracts from the performance it is the makeup, in a theatrical style intended to show old age. Heavy black lines on the forehead and alongside the eyes, that sort of thing. While it might have looked great from the fifth row, it’s just too severe for video.
Unless, of course, that is what they were going for. They are, after all, punk at heart, and that would be a fitting “up yours” to the conventions of the theater.
Another drawback to the DVD is the feeling that will follow the viewer to every drag show they ever attend after watching it. Kiki sings live, so why can’t Ohio’s drag queens?
Regardless of the makeup or the superiority of live singing to lip-syncing, there is little more romantic than an evening of cabaret, so this year, try some--without braving the elements.