By the time this column “hits the street” it will be old news (and I mean OLD!), but on July 24th I turned 48. The simple act of typing that number is quite terrifying. It’s almost as dangerous as typing the word “Scientology” -- ALMOST -- but I feel the need to not only be honest, but downright proud of that number. Let me explain...
As everyone on the planet knows, the supremely talented Amy Winehouse died on July 23rd -- the day before my birthday. Thankfully, I have never had to battle drug addiction (unless, of course, you count double bacon cheeseburgers as “drugs” and, frankly, you should!) so I cannot stand in judgment of Amy or anyone else. But I can realize that, in the grand scheme of things, there are far worse things than celebrating your 48th birthday while in a popular vacation destination, Provincetown, surrounded by beautiful and witty friends such as the uber-talented and oh-so-generous Ryan Landry, Scott Martino (aka Penny Champagne), Justin Vivian Bond and Nath-Ann, Olive A. Nother, Grady West (aka the ridiculously “special” Dina Martina) and one of the funniest people I have ever met, Mr. David Ilku (one half of The Dueling Bankheads, one third of Unitard and 100% she-larious!). And as if that wasn’t enough, I was also surrounded by cold sesame noodles with chicken and peanut butter, glazed pork chops, fresh green beans, jasmine rice with coconut, cupcakes and this reDONKulous cake batter ice cream that Justin brought that nearly resulted in the cancellation of my show that night. Can you say “sugar coma?” But the show must go on -- and it did! And that sums up my life at 48: The show goes on!
Despite needing TWO new hips, I limp to the Art House Theater every night, apply my world-famous, award-winning makeup, “bark” on the street for an hour and then sing my sagging ass off for an hour in my solo show. People, if I end up in a wheelchair, I have news for you: I will bejewel the motherfucker and add a fully-choreographed rendition of “Proud Mary” to my act! “Rollin’, rollin’ rollin’ on the river!” And no, I will NOT do it dressed as a mermaid -- because I am fully aware of the fact that Bette Midler did the mermaid in the wheelchair routine and to do it again would not only be a blatant rip-off, but downright disrespectful! The irony here is that anyone who would stoop that low will probably live to be 99, while a true artist like Winehouse doesn’t even get to blow out 28 candles. That’s right, she was only 27.
Amy joins many other amazingly talented, but doomed performers who died at that same young age -- legends such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison and Brian Jones. Look at that list. I am convinced that these people were not of this Earth. They were truly beyond anything I can comprehend. I know many people who matter-of-factly say, “They were stupid drug addicts,” but I still listen to Janis or Jimi and feel fortunate that we were blessed with those brief 27 years. They were like comets that had to burn out. I am thankful to be a performer, but damn glad that I am not as a rare a gem as these misunderstood and tortured souls. It ain’t worth it. And when people say, “They are so lucky to have died while they were still young and beautiful” I simply have to respond that I would much rather get old and hideous and have to be pushed into my coffin screaming and scratching and fighting to the bitter end. All the physical pain and indignity of growing old, especially in this country and in this profession, are worth just one more laugh with a dear friend or one more kiss on the tender black lips of one of my precious dogs.
I AM 48 YEARS OLD! And avoiding that truth or lying and saying a lower number is no different than denying I am Gay. Same closet, different shelf. This is what 48 looks, sounds and feels like. As Cher says, “I don’t mind getting older when you consider the alternative.”
And now, if you will excuse me, I have to prepare for my show tonight. And after that show, I am going to paint a black star over one of my eyes and go sing a Kiss song with the band Space Pussy -- and I am going to rock it better and harder than bitches half my age! Happy birthday to me!