Backstage at (Le) Poisson Rouge, for the opening of Ofri Cnaani’s A Tale of Ends in the club’s art gallery, gangly, vulpine nightlife impresario Earl Dax was waxing grandiloquently about the subversive power of cabaret. He hopped excitedly out of a Louis XIV-styled armchair, made a wide sweeping gesture and kept talking. “Not to say it’s on a par with Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! but…” Matty Crossland—a filthy, canvas-brown carpet bustled around his waist like a bridal train— came prancing by. Waving his hand, he cut Dax off mid-sentence with, “Media bias, yada, yada, yada.” Dax cracked up but was back selling his show, The Tingle Tangle Club, in a matter of seconds. “The Kurt Weill types have been put out to pasture in cabaret land, sequestered,” he said. “There’s something exciting about that outsider, pre-assimilationist queer culture.”Then, to illustrate the mix of styles, he hustled me into the dressing room and walked out, shutting the door behind him. Some half-dressed performers—the Pixie Harlots—were putting on make up, downing tranquilizers and trading bitchy quips. Cabaret crooner Kim Smith, a prissy traditionalist from Down Under, was quietly applying foundation.
Rummaging through a suitcase filled with ratty frills, lace and leather boots, Jonathan Pastrianni said, “gay is so over.” Crossland popped his head out of the bathroom and piped in with, “That’s a huge projection, baby.” OK guys, I’m going to get going. Smith blocked my exit. Waggling a compact in my face, he insisted that I not forget what brand of make-up he used. The first act was starting. It was Rosateresa, a middle-aged woman plunking on a small electronic piano and singing in a saccharine falsetto. Smith came out and sang the Divinyls classic “I Touch Myself.” Then the Pixie Harlots struck poses up and down the catwalk. I spied busty burlesque queen Bridgett Everett checking out drink prices. “You can see some crazy shit for at these things for $25,” she said cheerfully. “I come here because I can’t afford Broadway.”
Dax was loping around in the dark, avoiding an upstage spotlight and introducing the next number, a duet—of “Happy Days Are Here Again”—with the adorably butch belter Jo Lampert. “Come into the light,” a guy sitting at a table hollered out. Dax quipped, “We’ve been in the dark for eight years, what’s another night.” And the stage lights were all brought up.