Interviewing a woman like Lea Delaria is not easy. Her resume alone is enough to produce an awe-inspired silence. Pair that with her Lenny Bruce-esque reputation for saying exactly what she thinks, and any reporter would be nervous. From stand-up to Broadway, solo performances to soap operas, what do you say to a woman who, called First Lady Hillary Clinton “fuckable” on the steps of the White House and recently had her mic turned off and was pulled off stage at an AIDS benefit in Palm Springs for calling President Bush “pie faced dick nosed son of a bitch. ” Following it up with, “I hate him so much, I hate his twins, but I’d fuck em.”
It would be difficult to find an arena of performance that Delaria has not mastered: stage and screen, film, television, scatting to sarcasm, comedic timing to “The Time Warp,” Delaria is known around the world for the amazing things that happen when she opens her mouth. As a comic, Delaria has produced specials for HBO, SHOWTIME, COMEDY CENTRAL, CBC, and CHANNEL 4, in addition to releasing two live comedy albums: “Bulldyke In A China Shop” and “Box Lunch.” As a singer, she and brought Broadway to its knees as “Hildy” in the first Broadway revival of On the Town at The Public Theatre showcasing her range both as an actor and as a vocalist winning Obie, Drama Desk, Theater World and Fanny Awards and becoming Drama League Honoree. She even wore a dress. It is no wonder The New York Times has called her “Every inch a star!” Other Broadway credits include “Eddie/Dr. Scott” in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Then there are numerous film and television credits. Oh, and don’t forget her packed house Carnegie Hall appearances and three jazz albums released with Warner Brothers.
So what do you say to a woman who has literally done it all? GO! Gave it a whirl…
So, first of all, congratulations on twenty-five years of an amazing career. It’s quite an honor to interview you.
How did it start? How did it all begin?
I was living in San Francisco, which was a hot seat for comedy in United States. I don’t know if you knew that. That’s what everybody did. I had something political to say, and I said it through comedy.
So you would say it was activism that brought you to comedy?
It’s hard to say, chicken or egg. That’s just what you did, the way that today people write music with acoustic guitars, you just did comedy.
Why performance and not neuroscience?
I’ve been doing it my whole life. My mom danced, my dad played the piano. I’ve performed, been singing, dancing, acting all my life. It came naturally to me. I’ve always instituted that into my comedy. I always did everything. I always had music involved, I’ve always involved characters, always involved sketches. I’ve always been more of an entertainer.
What about formal training?
I went to college for about five minutes. I got kicked out for eating pussy. This is a great venue to say that to, huh. I was a notorious lesbian, and too much for a conservative institution, so they found a way to get rid of me.
And you’ve always been out as a performer? Has that been difficult?
They knew when I walked on stage. I called myself fuckin’ dyke. I didn’t even call myself Lea Delaria, I said dyke.
You’ve never tried to pass as straight?
What was your coming out like?
Are we still asking that? It’s 2007, who cares.
We like to ask it here at GO!
It was very, very difficult. Hideously hard. I was in the fucking tiniest little town in the Midwest.
Where are you from?
Oh, I’m from Kansas City.
You know St. Louis? Just go east, and you’re there.
I love the Midwest. Nice and flat.
Do you feel more able to say and do the things that you do because you have such a strong queer base?
I feel empowered to say things I say because I love myself. I love my base so much. I’m hoping to affect changes. That’s the reason that I say these things, because I know people want me to say them. People walk up to me in the streets and tell me that. I don’t give a fuck what mainstream gay community feels is the correct thing for me to do. It’s more important to me that I be true to myself, and my political beliefs, and how I think the world needs to change.
Are you more of an equal opportunity offender, or have you ever toned down what you wanted to say for your queer base?
Never. I’m sure that there are a lot of people in queer community wish I would shut up.
You clearly balance these two identities: activist and entertainer. Do you ever wish you could be less political in your career?
Instead of saying that I just do it, I prove that by having done that. I have three records off a major label. I’ve been on Broadway, film, TV, playing everything from straight, to gay, to men. And I also happen to be a dyke.
I wanted to ask you, we’re so into labels, these days. Is that how you identify, as a dyke?
I’m a butch dyke.
I guessed that was what you were going to say, especially considering the name of your album.
Oh, you mean the comedy album. (Bulldyke in a China Shop)
Yeah, and thank you for being what you are. The loss of butch visibility is horrible in the entertainment industry, and as someone who reads very femme, I appreciate so much that you’re out there, and you’re butch.
I talk about it my show. I blame the L-Word for it. It makes me very sad. [Nobody on that show] eats pussy, nor does anyone strap on a cock and fuck someone’s brain’s out.
So you’re not an L-Word fan?
(Laughs.) They’re not going to change. They’re not gong to do it because straight men are their target audience, and you can’t get a straight man to lick a stamp. They’re threatened. They’re threatened by my penis because my mine’s hard right now, and it’s under my bed in a box.
Do you ever feel obligated to coax your audience into what you want to say, or do you just get out there and say it, and if they get offended, it’s their problem?
I’m not a coaxer. I do what I do. You can come along for the ride, or don’t I really don’t care.
Are there any career goals you have yet to reach? Any major rocks you have yet to unturn?
I am desperately trying to get into Sigourney Weaver’s bed.
I like ‘em tall. It’s like mountain climbing for me.
Do you ever wish you could play America’s Sweetheart?
Fuck no, America’s sweetheart, How boring is that? I’m happy to be a thorn in America’s side any time.
Interviewing someone like you can be intimidating. Having done so much with your career, I’m sure you’ve done a million interviews, and answered the same questions a million times. I wanted to give you the opportunity to go where no reporter has gone and give us a tid-bit about you that has never been reported in the media but you want us all to know.
Hmm. Interesting question. That I’m actually straight. Just kidding, but you totally believed me for a second.
Ha, well, I didn’t want to offend you. So, what keeps you in this crazy business of entertainment when it can be so difficult?
My answer to that would have to be, almost two fold. The first is politics, how important I think politics are. The other thing is just pure—I don’t feel comfortable anywhere else onstage. That to me is home. Being on stage. To me, I just love it so much, it’s the only thing I think I can do, and it brings everything together. It brings politics to me, in a far more interesting ways to banging on doors, and holding up signs. I think that’s why I do it. I’m motivated to change things around me that I think are wrong, but I’m motivated by the pure joy of doing it.
If you could end your career knowing that you changed one thing about our political atmosphere, what would it be?
The pure visibility of who we are as gay people, because I never saw a lesbian on TV unless you count Nancy Kulp and Beverly Hillbillies. Even she always chancing Jethro.
That’s right! You were the first openly gay performer on national television on The Arsenio Hall Show in 1993.
I was on TV for 9 minutes, and I said dyke, fag, or queer 47 times. I didn’t just open that door, I blew it open. I kicked it open. I hand grenade-ed it op