Late Nights with the Boys: Confessions of a Leather Bar Chanteuse, one of 30 productions in this year’s Frigid Festival downtown, takes the form of a two-person reading from Alex Bond’s same-name novel. Also a noted actress, the novel offers tidbits about her “gay family” in the 1970s in Dallas — a time before AIDS when the very image of a cabaret singer performing in a gay leather bar, wasn’t so much outrageous as an echo of what had gone on earlier in the decade in New York, when the great Bette Midler and her accompanist, Barry Manilow, performed at the infamous Continental Baths.
The novel pivots off a framing device: the chanteuse in question, Anna Zander, hires a fellow named Craig Bauer to help her write about her salad days in Dallas. The project, revealed as passages from the novel are read by Bond and veteran Gotham actor David L. Carson, allows the friendship between the characters to sharpen and deepen, to remove myth from our idea of American gay life in the 1970s and replace it with something more rooted in what really transpired.
Bond and Carson have been performing Late Nights for more than two years; together, they have appeared in the San Francisco Fringe Festival and, back in New York, at the 2009 Fresh Fruit Festival. In the Frigid Festival, there are two more performance remaining — Fri., March 5, at 6pm, and Sun., March 7, at 2:30pm — and we urge you to check it out. Tickets can be purchased online through www.Smarttix.com, by calling 212-868-4444 or in person at the box office of Under St. Marks (94 St. Marks Pl.) a half-hour before the curtain time. The piece runs 60 minutes.
Here, Carson asks Bond, his longtime friend, 5 questions she’s never been asked — and a bonus question:
David L. Carson: What’s the most perceptive question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
Alex Bond: “Did Anna find in Craig a chance to reconnect with the memory of Mario?” To which I replied, “Thank you for getting that.” We often need the present to illuminate the past, and vice versa.
DLC: What’s the most idiotic question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
AB: “Were you ever afraid of contracting an STD hanging out in gay bars all those years?” To which I replied, “You poor (uneducated) thing, you aren’t serious, are you?”
DLC: What’s the weirdest question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
AB: “Were you ever asked to join in sexual acts or perform your songs naked?” To which I replied, “No, but I (fully clothed) did sing to naked men performing sexual acts. I concentrated especially hard on my lyrics.”
DLC: The first time we did the reading there were about eight of us. Since then, it’s just been us two. What made you change to the two-person format, and what do you think has been gained or lost?
AB: David, when I saw what humanity and humor and grace you brought to the Craig character in the first book reading, I knew that you were all that was needed to read the stories from the book and help me fight intolerance. Besides, where was I going to get the money to fly eight people to San Francisco, Provincetown and Dallas? Silly rabbit!
DLC: When we read at the Dallas/Ft. Worth Fringe, we got to read in front of some of the folks who were the “real life” inspirations for the characters in the novel. What was it like reading to the “source material,” and how do you think they reacted to your fictionalization of their story?
AB: It was tough to take my stories back to Dallas. (Before our Dallas/Ft. Worth reading, the last time I was in Dallas was in 2000, when the real-life Mario character died from AIDS.) But the book is a from-the-heart tribute to my Dallas family of friends; and I believe the 1977 friends we saw in Dallas were pleased with the evening’s reminiscences of a magical time that will never come again.
DLC: Everyone who hears the piece seems to want to change it — to a miniseries, a movie, a sitcom, an epic-theater piece, a musical, a two-character drama, whatever. If you could have your dream next step, what, if anything different, would the piece become?
AB: David, you know that all those suggestions just get me confused. I trust that the piece will find its own way if we keep doing readings. My dream is to get the book published so that when people ask for a copy of it after a reading we can give them one. I want us to read for 85 minutes so we can tell more stories, and I want the proceeds to go to AIDS groups and LGBT centers. My knees are too old to march in demonstrations anymore, and I’m not rich. The only way I know to fight intolerance and to give back to my friends is to read from the book. With you by my side, dear David, maybe we can scratch the surface?