Most music fans know Nona Hendryx as a member of Labelle, the trio of divas who scored a No. 1 hit in 1974 with “Lady Marmalade.” But the 72-year-old soul sister has worked with everyone from Keith Richards to the Talking Heads over her illustrious career.
For her latest project, she’s working with guitarist Gary Lucas to reinterpret the complex but brilliant experimental rock of Captain Beefheart (they play Joe’s Pub on Wednesday). Here, the long-time Upper West Side resident tells Hardeep Phull about her New York weekends.
I make sure I do my workouts on the weekend. I’m one of those people who actually enjoys it. I move a lot on stage, so aerobic exercises like the treadmill and the stair climber are important to be able to sing and dance at the same time.
But then, I usually undo what I did by having a coffee and a pain aux raisins at Maison Kayser. I know where all of its locations are — it’s my kitchen away from home!
Nona Hendryx and Gary Lucas.Michel Delsol
I like to get all over Manhattan and see people performing in various venues. I saw my old friend Bette Midler recently in “Hello, Dolly,” and she was wonderful. We first met at the Continental Baths (formerly in the Ansonia Hotel). It was a gay bathhouse that would have artists come and play there while guys watched wrapped in their towels — or not! I think that’s where she developed the moniker “The Divine Miss M.”
I live right across the street from the Beacon Theatre. It was great when Labelle used to play there because I could walk from my apartment right onto the stage! In the 1980s, I, Yoko Ono and many other Upper West Side artists helped with the campaign to Save the Beacon because they wanted to turn it into a parking lot or something.
Sometimes I go up to Sugar Bar because Valerie Simpson (of Ashford & Simpson) is an old friend. That’s a great spot if you want to hear good music. Sometimes you’ll hear Valerie doing background vocals for people and playing piano.
I also like to walk by Strawberry Fields and hear the people singing John Lennon and Beatles songs. I knew John from London (where Labelle was based in the early 1970s). I’d bump into him getting international magazines and papers at the newspaper store on Broadway between 71st and 72nd. The store owners put his picture up, to show that he was a patron. When he was alive, John’s picture was up in a lot of places on the Upper West Side!