(Episalla’s interview appeared in Bomb Magazine, Summer 2015.)
In the early 1990s, Justin Vivian Bond lived in San Francisco, and would soon move to New York where we were both part of the cohort living through the darkest times of the AIDS epidemic, changing all of us forever. This was the time of Kiki and Herb, the legendary cabaret duo act created by Bond and Kenny Mellman. Most of my friends had already seen them and regaled me with tales of their genius—I seemed a little late to the party.
The first time I saw Bond perform as Kiki DuRane was a few months after 9/11. On the day of the performance at Westbeth Theatre, my friend, the late painter Frank Moore, who’d been battling AIDS, told me that he now had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. As we talked on the phone, he could tell that I was crying and said, “Dry your eyes, dress in your finery, and get your ass over to see Kiki and Herb. Their magic will lift your spirits, refurbish your engine, and be good for your soul.” Of course, he was right. From the moment Kiki entered—by jumping up onto the bar behind us, singing, snarling, crawling and sashaying across it, making her way up to the stage—I was hooked.
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