Justin Vivian Bond is one of those unique creative forces that makes NYC what it is. A staple in the downtown performance art scene, V (as JVB is known) is a versatile artist. A singer, songwriter, and painter, V has been writing, starring in, and producing- theatrical, cabaret, and art events internationally for over 20 years. What sets the work apart for me is the sense of comedy that runs through every piece. There is an angst and a bitterness that just makes certain performers sparkle and stand out, and V has enough to blind you!
In the early 90's, the East Village of NYC was a still a wonderfully funky place. It was possible to see shows any night of the week that you couldn't find uptown. It was in this environment that Bond built a following. One half of the duo -Kiki & Herb (Kenny Mellman) - fictional over the hill cabaret performers that had stayed too long at the party, Bond was lightning in a bottle on stage. What was originally billed as "a little dowtown drag cabaret show" would come full circle. The duo set the world on fire and performed everywhere from downstairs at Fez in Greenwich Village to uptown at the world famous Carnegie Hall. Not to mention all the international hotspots they would take Kiki & Herb! Bond was nominated for a Tony in 2007 for "Kiki & Herb Alive on Broadway". Not many cabaret acts can say that, but Justin Vivian Bond is not your average cabaret performer. I've seen V perform countless times over the years, in all incarnations, and it is the ability Bond has to seduce the audience in any venue that really deserves accolades.
To be clear, it's not that Bond goes out of the way to please each audience. It's that the performance is so true and powerful, that it can reach any audience listening.
"TANGO -My Childhood, Backwards and in High Heels" marks V's first foray as an author. Published by The Feminist Press, the memoir is as laugh out loud funny as it is touching and poignant. A coming of age story about a little boy dealing with the confusing feelings about being different from other boys. Combined with all those complicated issues that every child deals with about gender, identity, and a sense of sexuality. Little Justin Bond might not have been your average boy next door, but anyone reading TANGO can relate to the feelings of being "different" growing up. As adults we know there are reasons for peoples actions and reactions, but as kids, we think we are the only person in the world feeling strange or alone. The book sheds a light on the struggle that trans gender kids feel from a very young age. Bond's affinity for his mothers lipstick and why she thought it was not appropriate for a little boy to wear it to school is just the beginning..
Fans of David Sedaris will LOVE this book. Both have a tremendous sense of humor. Of course the stories are very different, but both authors tell them from outside the box. I think if Justin Bond and David Sedaris had grown up on the same block, who knows what amazing things would have happened? The world might have seen some incredible invention like a Gay Google or Microsoft on some cosmic level! They at least would have had each other to commiserate with - that is if they would have talked to each other. I'm not so sure.
I hope in addition to all the hipsters, readers, and glitterati that will read this book, that any young mother will also pick it up. (great gift for any pregnant friend- she could use a laugh right now). Mothers should remember and take heart in the fact that children are these amazing little independent spirits that come into our lives. Parents often don't get the child they thought they would, but that is the magic of the experience. Every child is perfect. Loving them, guiding them, and keeping them safe until they can take care of themselves is the job of every parent and family member.
I can't recommend TANGO enough. But don't take my word for it. The book jacket is covered with recommendations from MAJOR artists like Yoko Ono, Sandra Bernhard, & Rufus Wainwright to name a few! The New York Times Book Review also gave it accolades. Buy it now in one of the options below. Also, buy Justin Vivien Bonds albums. They are unique and creative, and there isn't much music out today that you can say that about! click Dendrophile to preview the latest album.