Mister D: This means our own BetteHead, Spencer Brown, is Down Under. Any Betteheads there make sure to go see him and the group….tell him hello!!!! Introduce yourselves….
Boys just wanna have fun
February 25, 2010 – 11:00PM
By day, he’s a highly unconventional lay rabbi. By night, Irwin Keller breaks even more rules, dressing in nerdy drag to sing, rather than lip-sync, everything from sassy doo-wop to stinging satirical songs.
Keller – and the rest of his “dragapella quartet”, the Kinsey Sicks – are visiting Australia for the first time to join this year’s Mardi Gras line-up. The quartet has taken aim at everything from George Bush and Republican politics – “Obama was definitely bad for the comedy industry,” Keller says – to inane television news broadcasters. Their latest show includes original songs and parodies of pop’s biggest stars – think Britney Spears and Beyonce.
The quartet came together thanks to Ben Schatz, who plays Rachel in the Kinsey Sicks (a reference to the Kinsey sexuality scale, where six signifies ”exclusively homosexual”). “Ben used to organise these drag excursions – we were all busy young professionals and activists – and to cut loose, he would say: ‘OK, Friday night we’re all getting in drag and going to San Francisco airport,”’ Keller says. ”It’s not easy to stun people in drag in San Francisco but we tried really hard.”
It wasn’t until they dressed as the Andrews Sisters for a 1993 Bette Midler concert – “We were surprised we were the only drag queens there other than Bette” – that the seed for the Kinsey Sicks was planted. A promoter asked if they’d consider a professional gig, which was when the friends realised they each had great pipes.
“We sat up all night coming up with ideas and harmonising and we thought: ‘Gosh, doing a cappella in drag would be hilarious,'” Keller says. “We spent the next six months putting together our first show and we performed on a street corner but we never starved.
”I was working as a lawyer with the AIDS Legal Referral Panel. Ben was running a national policy program advocating on behalf of lesbian and gay healthcare workers and he was also one of President Clinton’s advisers on HIV policy.”
Schatz went full-time with the Kinsey Sicks in 1999; Keller followed a few years later. “I have to confess that when I finally went full-time with the Kinsey Sicks, there was a twinge there – I’m not done doing this good work – but what we found is doing the Kinsey Sicks is also doing good work,” Keller says.
“Besides carrying a great deal of silliness and raunch, we carry a great deal of message. People are willing to listen to our message and they enjoy hearing it in a way that we could never do when we were wearing suits and being talking heads on TV.”
One message is that everyone should feel comfortable with their sexuality and who they are. “My character, Winnie, who is the lesbian of the group, reveals that her girlfriend has now transitioned and is now her boyfriend,” Keller says.
“She sings a song that I love – it’s a parody of Danny Boy called Tranny Boy . What I love about it is its politics are subtle.
”Winnie sings about the nosy questions people ask and it’s a chance for [non-transvestite] audiences to identify with their curiosity about just those topics, like: ‘Yeah, I want to know that, too! Yeah, how do you have sex?’
”But Winnie doesn’t answer any of those questions.”
Keller preaches what he practises as the spiritual leader for a congregation of 60 families near San Francisco. “I try my best to be who I am when I’m on the pulpit – and a couple of times I’ve done it in skirts,” says Keller, who learnt Yiddish from a Melbourne expat in Israel.
How does his choice of attire go down? “Mostly, everyone wants to know where I got my skirt and, for other people, it gives them a little chance to have the discussion of why is it so terrible, actually, for a man to be wearing a skirt – and that’s a fine conversation. I’m always eager for people to question their assumptions.”
So the congregation’s cool with his other gig? “Everyone is delighted that they are the synagogue with the singing drag queen,” he says. “It is Sonoma County, northern California, former hippies – they love being that offbeat.”
THE KINSEY SICKS:
EACH HIT AND I
Tuesday-March 6 , 7.30pm, Seymour Centre , Chippendale, 9351 7940 or seymourcentre.com.au, $38/$33.
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald