22 JUNE 25, 2004
www.houstonvoice.com HOUSTON VOICE
eclipse cover story
Jimmy James: Marilyn only did Marilyn for a decade
JAMES, continued from Page 18
one-man show. "Marilyn and Voices"
which he wrote and produced, was
a worldwide smash and toured for
L.A. Eyeworks used a stunning image
of his Marilyn in full-page ads that ran
worldwide. The campaign was featured
in the 20-year anniversary issue of
Interview Magazine. By the mid-1990's,
James began to pursue a career as a
recording artist in New York City by
using his own soulful voice.
James took time out to chat with the
Houston Voice prior to his sure-to-sell-out
shows in Houston,
Houston Voice: Hello Jimmy, welcome
back to Houston!
Jimmy James: Thank you
HoVo: Just for the kids at home, let's
do a little background. You were born in
JJ: Born in Laredo and raised in San
HoVo: From Texas to Times Square
JJ: Yeah, (laughs).
HoVo: You've been performing vocal
impersonations for how long now1*
JJ: Since I was a kid really, I can't really put a date on it, but I have been aprofes-
sional performer since 1983.
HoVo: Your photo scrapbook is amazing! Boy George, George Burns, Eartha
Kitt, Elton John...the list is endless.
What's it like performing for someone you
impersonate, say Eartha Kitt?
JJ: She has a great sense of humor,
she loved it! It's such an honor, you
know some of the people I do are dead. I
performed for her. and have been an
opening act for her, which was a total
thrill! She has a great sense of camp,
really a great lady.
HoVo: Who's your favorite performer
JJ: Everybody asks me that and it's so
hard to choose a favorite, because every
person I impersonate I am a big fan of! I
could say Cher. Eartha, Judy Barbra...
HoVo:You just named the four horse-
Jimmy James as Judy, Marilyn & Bette Davis with supermodel Linda Evangelista on a billboard in Times Square.
Jimmy James as Marilyn posed with George Bums
women of my Apocalypse!
JJ: Ahhh, well I always get nervous
when I do Barbra. The expectation is so
high. If I have an off night due to my
vocal cords, weather, fatigue or whatever,
it's tough. Please God give me a voice to
do this tonight!
HoVo: Tell me about this show.
JJ: Well its called "Divas R 4-Ever."
This is the sell-out show I produced for
Provincetown last year. I loved the show
so much, I didn't want to return to P-
Town and write a new show, I wanted to
share this one, which is a culmination of
all my years. Although I retired from
dresssing up as Marilyn Monroe.
HoVo: Wait...you no longer do Marilyn
Monroe, your signature performance?
JJ: I no longer dress up as her. I don't
dress up at all during the show.
HoVo:You wear your Jimmy James
JJ: I paint my face but I don't dress in
drag because I want the voices to be the
star of the show! I needed to separate that
entity, the drag, from the vocals because
the vocals are my strength.
HoVo: I've never been comfortable
calling you a drag queen because you
actually have the pipes to back it up!
JJ: I have nothing against being in
drag! This show is simply about the voices. Getting in drag just...gets in the way.
Over the years, and remember I'm talking 20 plus, drag blocked my way, and I
wanted to evolve. Lots of performers want
to evolve. I mean how many years can you
do Marilyn? Marilyn only did Marilyn for
a decade or so. I did her for over 13 years!
HoVo: Well you have also added current singers to your show, Macy Gray
and Norah Jones. Do you consciously
consider who you pay tribute to or is it
JJ: Well, I just love them. I start to play a
CD at home, then again and again. Then I
realize, you know, I could add this to the act.
I am the ultimate fan of all the performers I
impersonate. I'm selfish. I had Boy George
in my Divas show for years, even when he
was out of fashion, because I love him.
HoVo: Being a survivor in the music
scene for such a long time, what do you
think of Gay TV: "QE4SG," "Will and
Grace," "Boy Meets Boy," etc?
JJ: I think it's great! I think we'll
probably go through a faze where TV
explores us (gays and lesbians) and then
(the TV public) realizes we're the same
crazy, mixed up, wonderful people, that
HoVo:Any TV plans for you?
JJ: My biggest plans involve breaking
into Las Vegas. I am looking to have a real
Jimmy James show in Vegas. I will say
this about the cultural acceptance of
shows like "Queer Eye," three years ago, I
was considered "too edgy" for Vegas.
HoVo: You were?
JJ: Yes... that no one would want to
see someone who could really sing, without the drag attitude. That was thought to
be a hard sell. Now though, a Las Vegas
producer is traveling to Houston to see my
show and hopefully, it's gonna happen!
HoVo: What about your thoughts (in
JJ: It's not just about having a spouse.
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the topic is bigger than what people are
making it. It's about political rights as
Straight people refer to their marriages as sacred. Well, what about
Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Taylor or
Roseanne Barr? Don't tell me it will
never last. Straights hold the key to it
will never last!
HoVo: A couple of fun questions,
before we go, from the Proust
Questionnaire: What's your motto?
JJ: My motto? Well I guess after living
in NYC I learned, after meeting so many
different people, you can't define people
and put them in a box. You can't say: Gays
as a whole are this way; Jews as a whole
are this way; Hispanics on the whole are
this way. Biggest lesson I've learned.
HoVo: What's your most treasured
JJ: It would have to be my photo-
graphs. That's the most special to me.
HoVo: And finally, Ms. James, what is
your favorite curse word?
JJ: That's so funny! This is what I say
ALL the time: F***ing hell! However way
you spell that!