[UNITED STATES ~ 18+]
by Bobby Goudie.
A fixture of New York City’s vibrant downtown performance scene for 30-plus years, Joey Arias is re-opening the doors of the iconic Club 57 for the Adelaide Cabaret Festival. His World Premiere show Three Floors Of Madness, promises to be a spectacle of song, projections, and performance art that claims Devo, Duchamp and Burroughs are still better than disco. Joey Arias is joined on stage by multi-genre maverick Charly Zastrau as musical director.
Prior to his trip down-under, The Clothesline speaks with Joey Arias, via email, about what audiences can expect from his upcoming show, his past Cirque du Soleil performances, Ru Paul’s Drag Race and how his parents almost moved to Australia when he was a baby. We start by asking him to describe Club 57 for those who have not heard of it.
“Club 57 was a little hall downstairs from a Polish Church at 57 St. Marks Place in New York,” Joey begins. “In those days it was a tough Neighbourhood, but I lived close by with my friend Klaus Nomi, so Club 57 became our hangout. It first started out as The Monster Movie Club where they would project B-grade films on a projector and we would laugh, eat popcorn and drink.
“After a month or so Ann Magnuson started to create fun theme nights during the week and this was where a whole cast of young artists like, Keith Herring, Basquiat, Kenny Scharf, John Sex, Katy K and Klaus Nomi began going. It was an out playhouse and anything happened!”
What do you hope Adelaide audiences take away from your show?
“I hope the audience will take away the power they have within themselves and harness the shows creativity and fun. I hope the audience will not be afraid of stepping out of the box and take a chance. The trick is to not over think a situation, but to embrace it and run like the devil with it.”
What music can we expect?
“As Far as music goes, it will be mostly original,” Joey explains. “We’re going to pay homage to Bernard Hermann who composed the soundtracks for Hitchcock and Harryhausen. It was music I grew up with and it really moved me. As well as the original music there will also be some Billie Holiday and other surprises.”
Will this be your first time performing in Adelaide?
“I was there about 3-4 years ago, but I’m no stranger to Australia. I’ve been coming to Sydney regularly since early 1990s and I really love everyone I’ve met throughout the years in Australia.My parents told me that when we were babies they almost moved to Australia. I wish I was there for a month, but the festival have us flying in and out, but who knows maybe one day I will spend more time in Adelaide.”
You originated the role of the EmCee in the Las Vegas Cirque Du Soleil spectacular Zumanity. What was that experience like?
“I was handpicked by my great friend Andrew Watson who was the creator of Cirque at that time,” he says. “I have to say I’ve been a huge fan of Cirque and to finally get a call asking if I would join was quite an honour. It meant one year creation in Montreal and then two years in Las Vegas. I’ll tell you now; it was a lot of work!
“The creation was fun, because it was a new direction for them moving into embracing sex, nudity and sensuality more – all my favourite things! It was a challenge and some didn’t cut the mustard and left or got fired. Nudity was what made some people all nervous.”
Drag has exploded in popularity, thanks to shows like Ru Paul’s Drag Race. How different is drag now from when you first started?
“Drag has always been around for Centuries and has been a taboo or a blessing in the gay community. What I think Ru Paul and World Of Wonder were intending to create was a reality show based on all of the ones before them, but I don’t think they thought it would explode like this into your family home,” Joey says. Personally, I don’t watch Ru Paul’s Drag Race apart from occasionally putting it on to see how they’re carrying on – what people would do for fame! Drag has become more competitive now with queens trying to outdo each other so it’s definitely morphed.
“I’m still known as The Goddess though and we still have the classics like Sherry Vine, Jackie Beat, Lypsinka and more. To me drag should be fun and an expression of who you are as a person.”
Joey Arias – Three Floors of Madness performs at Festival Theatre Stage, Adelaide Festival Centre, from 9pm on Thu 14 Jun.
Book at BASS on 131 246 and bass.net.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.